It was a challenging week at the Capitol as we finalized priority policy and took swift action to fulfill the needs of our state agencies and core services. Unfortunately, the governor chose to veto a series of budget bills that sent money to our public schools. The legislature came together quickly and somberly to override his vetoes with a two-thirds majority—without it, education would’ve been left with a $291 million cut.
While the budget isn’t perfect, it addresses the core needs of our state during this pandemic and reduces the cuts to 4.1 percent or less, which will have much less damage than the seven percent cuts suggested by the governor after he announced the state had a $1.3 billion budget shortfall for 2021.
The Senate looked out for rural Oklahoma last week by passing House Bill 4018, which creates the Rural Broadband Expansion Council to study internet access across the state and determine costs to improve access. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the major connectivity divide between rural and urban communities in our state, especially when it comes to distance learning. Moving forward, we should make it a priority to improve broadband access and level the playing field for all Oklahomans. This bill is a step in the right direction. It’s now awaiting the governor’s signature.
House Bill 2008 was another great “win” for rural Oklahoma. It allows the Oklahoma Department of Ag to establish standards that would allow our beef and bison producers to sell their meat directly to market. COVID-19 continues to cause issues in packing and processing plants across the state and nation, which has drastically slowed meat production and can cause shortages at the grocery store. This bill is a win for our ranchers and consumers because it allows meat to be bought and sold directly. I hope this market will continue to expand even when the supply chain is stable again.
Finally, I’d like to remind you to complete the 2020 census, if you haven’t already. Federal funding, like money Oklahoma has received from the CARES Act, is distributed based on population data collected by the census. If we don’t get a full count, we’ll lose out on our fair share of funding for the next 10 years.
As of May 13, Oklahoma ranked 44th in the nation with a response rate of 52.9 percent, which is much lower than the national average of 59.1 percent. Across District 7, Haskell County’s response rate was 38 percent, Hughes’ was 38.2 percent, Latimer’s was 35.5 percent, Okfuskee’s was 31.1 percent, and Pittsburg’s was 28.7 percent.
We must get a full count so our state isn’t shortchanged over the next decade. If you’ve already completed the census, thank you. If you haven’t, it only takes a few minutes. You can return the questionnaire by mail, by phone at 844-330-2020 or online at2020census.gov.
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Larry Boggs, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 530, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at Larry.Boggs@oksenate.gov, or call 405-521-5604.