We are currently going through a difficult situation with the COVID-19 outbreak, so we must make difficult decisions on how to continue providing core services and governing as a state.
To help slow the spread of COVID-19, the House and Senate came together yesterday to announce that the State Capitol will now have limited access to state elected officials, essential Capitol staff, credentialed press, and state employees invited to essential meetings. These are similar restrictions to what’s been put in place at the U.S. Capitol and other capitol buildings nationwide. Committee meetings and floor sessions will still be available for live-streaming online, and legislation will still be made publicly available.
I’m also sad to report that the House Page Program has been suspended until further notice. I was scheduled to have two pages from Lawton High School next week, so although it would’ve been cool to have these students at the Capitol, it’s completely understandable why we need to suspend this program.
The House has adopted a resolution that authorizes the use of emergency contingency procedures that will allow any member to vote by proxy using a member designated by their respective caucus leader only in extremely serious emergency situations.
Because we need to encourage social distancing, which means altering how governmental meetings take place, the House passed an amended version of SB 661 that would temporarily expand public bodies’ ability to teleconference and videoconference under the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act. The termination date for this change has been set for November 15, 2020 or the end of Oklahoma’s statewide emergency designation, whichever comes first.
We have a constitutional requirement of passing a state budget that supports core services provided through our state agencies. We intend to pass a budget for FY 2021, no matter what it takes. In light of an evolving situation with COVID-19, we’ll also prioritize which policy bills move forward, given that we won’t have the opportunity to thoroughly vet as many bills as we normally would during a legislative session.
Let me be clear: COVID-19 should be taken seriously. I’m grateful to leadership in both parties and chambers for rising above hyper-partisan politics to work together and guide us forward.
We learned today that a Senate staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Senators and Senate staff were tested and have currently isolated themselves to wait for the test results.
Difficult times like right now provide clarity on who’s most important in our lives.
Both chambers have adjourned “subject to the call of the Chair,” which is a parliamentary phrase that means we’ll return to the Capitol based on the results of continued monitoring of the state’s health conditions. For the remainder of this week, all House employees have been placed on administrative to be with their families at home.
As always, I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and phone at 405-557-7374.