Rep. Danny Williams: Deadline passes, state opens vaccines to everyone over 16
The Legislature’s deadline to pass bills out of committee in the opposite chamber was this week. With this deadline behind us, we’ll once again turn our attention to the House floor, where we’ll spend many hours voting on legislation. We’ll have some lengthy days on the House floor over the next two weeks to hear the remaining bills.
Five rural broadband expansion bills the House passed have now been approved by their Senate committees and are available to be considered by the full Senate.
The bills lay the groundwork for comprehensive improvements to the state’s lagging internet infrastructure over the next decade. Together, they offer state incentives and grants to broadband providers; establish ways to maximize existing and future infrastructure; update broadband terms in state law; and add important stakeholders to the Rural Broadband Expansion Council, formed last year, which is developing long-term broadband plans.
It’s good to be taking these first steps. Oklahoma has been behind in this effort, ranking 47th nationally for rural access to broadband, with approximately 30% of Oklahoma households having no type of internet connection at home. Only 48% of rural households are connected, compared to 78% of urban households. This gap between rural/urban is bigger than any of our surrounding states, and that hurts us competitively when attracting businesses to grow our economy and in areas such as education and health care.
The goal is to get faster, cheaper internet to all Oklahomans – especially those in rural areas with no Internet at all. This is a multi-billion dollar, multi-decade endeavor. Of course, it won’t happen overnight, but legislators are committed to doing their part to deliver broadband to all Oklahomans.
For Oklahomans who are interested in receiving their COVID-19 vaccine, the state recent began allowing anyone over the age of 16 to receive the vaccination. On Wednesday, the deputy state Health Commissioner Keith Reed announced that vaccine appointments would now be available to residents of other states as well.
Oklahoma has administered more than 2.1 million vaccine doses. While our focus will continue to be on vaccinating Oklahomans who want one, we’ve now reached the point where we have enough supply to offer vaccines to non-residents.
I want to thank the State Health Dept. for their exceptional job managing the vaccine rollout. Oklahoma has continually ranked near the top for vaccines distributed in our state, and that is thanks in large part to the efforts of our State Health Dept. leaders.
If you choose to receive the vaccine, you can find an appointment near you at https://vaccinate.oklahoma.gov/en-US/. Also, I want to make clear that the state will not be requiring vaccine — this is a highly personal health choice that each person should make for themselves.
As always, please feel free to contact my office if I can be of any assistance. It’s an honor to represent District 28 at the State Capitol!
Rep. Danny Williams, a Republican, represents House District 28 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes Seminole County and northern Pottawatomie County.