From the Desk of Sen. Zack Taylor
We have one more week of committee work on House bills. The Senate closed on Good Friday in observance of the Easter holiday. The legislature has always done this as we work on President’s Day since it falls on a session day. There have been nearly 175 House bills approved and sent on to the Senate floor. Overall, we still have around 240 House bills left to consider in our various committees.
Of my 24 Senate bills, eight have been approved in House committees and will be considered by that body in the next few weeks. Four of the 17 House bills I am carrying have made it to the Senate floor, and the Governor signed HB 2078 Wednesday just hours after the Senate approved it.
Legislative leaders, Appropriations, and Appropriation Subcommittee Chairs from both chambers continue working on the budget framework. This year, we have just over $9.6 billion to spend, which will be the largest state history budget. However, over $1 billion of that is one-time funds, not to mention must be spent on one-time expenditures as we may not have that extra money in coming years.
The most recent federal stimulus package will need to be discussed and its impact on the state budget. Oklahoma is set to receive an estimated $6.4 billion. Still, that money is split between state agencies, local governments as well as specific public services like education, mental health, and childcare. Overall, the state will get over $2.17 billion while local governments will reach $1.3 billion.
Besides working on the budget and passing legislation, every decade following the U.S. Census, the legislature also has the constitutional responsibility of redrawing districts for State House and Senate districts as well as congressional districts. Constitutionally, each specific district must have the same number of citizens. For example, state Senate districts each have around 78,153 citizens based on the 2010 Census, while House districts have about 37,142 citizens.
Like everything else in the last year, the pandemic has caused delays in census data. Oklahoma’s constitution requires that redistricting be complete by the end of session, set as the last Friday in May. We recently learned, however, that the process will be delayed. Federal law requires that the U.S. Census submit population counts to states by April 1 sowe can get our work done on time. However, they’ve informed states that the data won’t be delivered until later this year. This will force us to return for a special session this fall, probably around October, to complete our redistricting work.
For this reason, the joint Legislative Redistricting Committee will use population estimates from the 2015-2019 American Community Survey data collected by the Census Bureau as guidance for the new state district lines. Then, once the updated census figures are received, the legislature can make any special session adjustments. Congressional district lines are constitutionally required to be based on the updated census figures. With that, we plan to be working in the special session and any adjustments to state legislative districts.
The redistricting process has been more open and transparent than ever before. The committee held more than 20 virtual and in-person meetings around the state to gather public input and accept redistricting map submissions from the public.
As we celebrate the rising of Christ and the hope that comes with this holy season, may our spirits be renewed, and our hope and faith restored after this challenging past year. I hope everyone has a blessed Easter and gets to spend some quality time with their loved ones.
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Zack Taylor, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 446, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at Zack.Taylor@oksenate.gov or call (405) 521-5547.