Sen. Taylor: Legislative session comes to an end

Sen. Zack Taylor

Last week, the 2021 legislative session came to a close. More than 540 bills were signed into law, and we’ll be going over many of those in the coming weeks. I’d like to go over some of the major accomplishments.

Our first concern last year was how the ongoing pandemic was going to impact our economy. Fortunately, we are a state of hardworking individuals who refuse to be kept down by any crisis or disaster. Oklahomans rose and went to work, fueling our economy and making it one of the strongest in the nation.

After a tumultuous 2020, we barely had time to catch our breath before we were hit with the historic arctic storms in February that wreaked havoc across our state and much of the nation. The record-breaking cold temperatures resulted in the state accumulating more than $4.5 billion in energy generation costs. The legislature took immediate steps to secure that debt to protect families and businesses from astronomical utility bills. We passed two bills that will help spread those costs over the next decade, and work is ongoing to see how we can avoid such a crisis in the future.

We updated human resources management in our state government by eliminating the outdated merit protection system. This will allow agency heads more freedom in rewarding and promoting good employees while also attracting good applicants. 

Oklahomans take their freedoms seriously, especially when it comes to their right to bear and keep arms. We are now a Second Amendment Sanctuary state, meaning any future federal legislation banning firearms or ammunition currently legal won’t apply in Oklahoma. We follow the Constitution, which clearly states that our Second Amendment right shall not be infringed.

We also fought to protect our freedom of religion with passage of the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act. The bill prohibits any governmental entity from declaring or deeming a religious institution and any activity directly related to the institution’s discharge of its mission and purpose to be nonessential. It further prohibits the closure of such institutions for health or security purposes if those actions are greater than what is imposed on any private entity facing the same or similar health or security conditions.

Several education initiatives were also passed to empower parents regarding school choice for their children by approving the open transfer, expanding the Equal Opportunity Tax Credit, and modifying the school funding formula, so public funds follow the student. These are important changes that will modernize funding and ensure Oklahoma students get the education they need to succeed and reach their full potential. All of this was coupled with the largest appropriation in state history for common education at $3.16 billion to ensure every student gets the high quality education they deserve.

While we finished our constitutionally required work to redraw state legislative districts based on population changes following the 2020 census, we still have to complete congressional redistricting. Congressional districts have to be based on the official 2020 census results, so we can’t use the U.S. Census Bureau population estimates that were used for the state legislative districts. However, the redistricting committees are starting work on congressional redistricting by hosting several meetings around the state this summer to gather public input on the process and answer questions. The first will be held at the Capitol on Thursday, July 8, at 6 p.m., the closest one to our district. Then there will be two virtual ones on Tuesday, July 13 at 6 p.m. and Tuesday, Aug. 3 at 6 p.m. You can learn more at 

https://oksenate.gov/redistricting.

This holiday weekend, I hope everyone will take a moment to remember the many American soldiers who have laid down their lives in the name of peace and freedom since our great nation’s founding. Memorial Day is about honoring the service and sacrifice of those in uniform so that we might all be able to get an education, worship, vote, work, and live our lives, however, we choose. Our freedom was bought and continues to be protected by the blood of those brave individuals so this Memorial Day weekend, let’s pay tribute to America’s heroes. God bless them and the U.S.A.

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.