What started out as a productive session may possibly end soon (due) to the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. As of Tuesday, March 17, we are heading home with no idea if and when we will return to the people’s house. We are not closing government, and the Legislature will still meet in some fashion, at the very least to draft the state budget. But, we may be voting by proxy because we cannot right now safely gather as a whole body in one place. Right now we’ve limited access to the Capitol to only elected state officials, essential employees, credentialed press and those state employees invited for essential meetings.
In times of crisis like this, it really makes one re-prioritize what is truly important and what really isn’t.
Several pieces of legislation we did pass off the house floor that I believe to be significant include a couple that re-affirm our belief that our local tag agents still play a vital role in our state government. We passed legislation again that would give our state retirees a 4% COLA for those that have been receiving retirement benefits for five years or more and 2% for those retired two years but not yet five. This group has not seen a pay increase in the last 12 plus years.
We also passed House Joint Resolution 1027, which changes the method of signature collections for our state questions before they are placed on a state ballot. This would require signatures to be obtained from each congressional district rather than a sum total statewide, I feel this will increase rural Oklahoma’s presence in state questions.
We were able to stop one bill that would have added to the requirements by which property taxes could be leveed and spent. However, bear in mind, if the Senate does not act upon these bills they are finished and would have to be brought back next session.
As we move forward into the uncharted waters ahead, I will attempt to keep the general public aware of what’s going on in our state government. At this point, I believe the main thing we can do is practice social distancing and prayer. We will get through this crisis as we have many times before.
Once again, I thank you for allowing me to serve. Never hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at Jim.Grego@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7381.
Jim Grego is the District 17 state representative.