For the past couple of weeks, Senate Committees have been meeting virtually to work through executive nominations—these are appointments by the governor to various posts in state agencies and on boards and commissions. These nominations must be approved first in committee and then by the full Senate.
Now that May has arrived, we’re in the final month of the session and the spotlight returns to completing work on the budget—a task made far more difficult because of the downturn in the economy as a result of the pandemic. That situation caused further reductions in already low energy prices, which has also changed the budget picture. Tough decisions will have to be made, but our priority is to do all we can to protect resources for core functions of government.
We’ll also be prioritizing the legislation that was still making its way through the process when the session was paused. There are some measures that must be acted on this year due to time constraints. There may be some bills that are good public policy but that can be deferred until next year. Without a doubt, the pandemic is making an impact on the 2020 session in ways we couldn’t have foreseen when we first convened back in February.
Another recent change in Oklahoma is the movement by cities and the state to open businesses and activities back up again. As we move through this process, please remember to follow CDC guidelines on social distancing and hygiene. Testing for COVID-19 is now available to anyone who wants to be tested, even if you do not have symptoms. Please contact your health care provider or take advantage of drive-through testing offered by our local county health departments. You’ll need to call ahead to make an appointment. In Kingfisher County, call 405-375-3008. In Login County, the number is 405-282-3485. In Noble County, call 580-336-2257, and in Pawnee County, the number is 918-762-3643 in Pawnee or in Cleveland, 918-358-2546.
Health care is one of the areas the federal government provides funding for, and it’s distributed to towns, counties and states based on population. Those population figures are determined by the U.S. Census, which is conducted just once every 10 years. The 2020 U.S. Census is currently underway, and we need every single Oklahoman to be counted so that we don’t miss out on critically needed funding for not only health care, but our schools, water systems, nutrition programs, transportation, mental health and substance abuse programs and so much more. If you don’t turn in your census form, our population is undercounted, and we get shortchanged on funding for these vital services and programs.
As of April 30th, the national average response rate was 55.6%, while Oklahoma’s was 49.8%. Here in Senate District 20, Kingfisher County had a response rate of 43.7%. It was 55.6% in Logan County, 51.2% in Noble County, and in Pawnee County, 35.1%. Looking at some of our local communities, Pawnee’s response rate was 38.5%. It was 56.4% in Perry while Guthrie had a response rate of 55.7%. It was 48.2% in Hennessey.
The census results will affect our federal funding for the next ten years. Our state is already facing significant economic challenges due to the pandemic. Getting a full count has never been more important for Oklahoma.
If you’ve received a census form at your home you can respond by mail, or if you haven’t gotten one, you can still complete your census over the phone by calling 1-844-330-2020, or you can respond online at 2020census.gov.
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be your voice in the Oklahoma Senate. Please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at Chuck.Hall@oksenate.gov.