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COLUMN: State Rep. Kevin Wallace

From the office of State Representative Kevin Wallace who represents District 32, in Lincoln County. The Oklahoma Legislature reconvenes on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021.

Oklahoma City, Jan. 29, 2021 – Over the last few weeks, the House held Appropriation and Budget Subcommittee meetings with agencies under each committee’s purview. The meetings gave committee members and the public the opportunity to hear a brief overview of the scope of programs and services offered to Oklahomans with state appropriated dollars. Such overview gives insight into agency budget requests for the next fiscal year as well as an accounting of how prior funds were spent.

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The overall House Appropriation and Budget Committee also asked the six state agencies that receive the largest share of state appropriations to appear in public meetings held in the House Chamber on Jan. 25, 26 and 28. These meetings gave representatives the chance to ask questions and receive a much deeper accounting of funds appropriated to these agencies.

We heard from the state Department of Education, the Regents for Higher Education, the Oklahoma Department of Human Service, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. The Board of Equalization will meet Feb. 16 to certify revenue figures for Fiscal Year 2022. This will give us the specific amount we can use to draft our final state budget.

Jan. 21 was the deadline for introduction of House bills and resolutions for the coming session by most lawmakers. The speaker of the House and the speaker pro tem can file bills at any time during session. But for those that had to meet the deadline, there was a total of 1,942 House Bills, 44 House Joint Resolutions and two House Resolutions filed. This is almost 600 more bills than last session, but some are measures that did not pass last year because of the COVID shutdown. The Senate filed a total of 1,035 Senate Bills and 26 Senate Joint Resolutions, roughly the same number as last year.

Leadership now is assigning bills to various committees. Bills assigned to the full A&B Committee will be reassigned to A&B subcommittees for first consideration. The subcommittees will start hearing bills most likely the first week of session, which begins Feb. 1.

On a final note, I want to give an update on COVID-19 vaccinations. Oklahoma has been ranked near the top 10 for distribution of vaccines with nearly 300,000 residents already receiving the first dose. 

Still, the supply of vaccines from the federal government has not been able to keep up with the demand now that we are in phase 2, in which every adult over 65 is eligible to receive one. The state receives notice of how many vaccines will be available only one week at a time.

The priority groups eligible for vaccine appointments in this phase are:

  • Healthcare workers including expanded healthcare worker groups such as allied health fields and general outpatient health service (i.e. behavioral health, dentists)
  • First responders
  • Oklahomans age 65+

If you are in one of these groups, you can sign up for the vaccine at https://vaccinate.oklahoma.gov. This site also gives additions information about the current vaccine phase.

Even if you are not in this current phase, please consider helping family members and others who may be eligible but who have not yet gotten online to get an appointment. You can also keep checking the portal for updates on the current phase and when you will be eligible to register.

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