We’ve now completed 12 weeks of the 2019 legislative session, and hit our April 25 deadline for floor votes on bills that started out in the House of Representatives. Likewise, they were working through bills that began here in the Senate. Heading into this past week, we’d gotten through about 67 out of 226 House Bills that were approved in committee, so this week we had extremely full floor agendas in our chamber.

Among the Senate bills the House has already approved — a measure I authored that will ensure nursing homes provide informed consent before prescribing anti-psychotic medications. Oklahoma nursing homes are among the worst in the nation when it comes to using these drugs on patients. It’s often used as a way to keep patients docile but it can cause numerous physical and mental complications for those individuals.

In both chambers, legislation that continues Oklahoma’s criminal justice reform efforts is moving through the process, and I have authored some of these bills as well.  While much of the focus in this years-long reform effort has been on finding better ways to hold non-violent offenders accountable so that we are not continually growing an already over-crowded prison population, this is just one area that must be addressed. 

We also need to look at what happens after an offender is released. If illiteracy, substance abuse, or mental health issues are factors that may have resulted in that individual’s incarceration, what services are provided to address those? This is important, because without that component, offenders simply find themselves in a revolving door, in and out of prison, which is far more expensive in the long-run and doesn’t provide a path for the person to re-enter the work force and become a productive member of society.

Work also continues on the 2020 state budget. Unlike in past sessions when we faced multiple years of budget shortfalls and downturns, we do have growth revenue this year. The funding requests we have received far exceed available resources, but we do have the opportunity to prioritize needs in our core services, like education and public safety, and make targeted investments that will move our state forward.  

If you have any questions about legislation or other issues dealing with state government, please contact me at 405-521-5592, or email bice@oksenate.gov.  Thank you for allowing me to be your voice in the Oklahoma State Senate.