From the Desk of Sen. Zack Taylor
What a week as we raced to meet the committee bill deadline on Thursday while also addressing damage from the historic winter storms and the incredible increase in energy prices and their impact on consumer utility bills.
Before I get into the legislative business, I want to urge everyone who sustained damage or injuries during the snowstorms to please report those at www.damage.ok.gov as soon as possible. While the governor requested Federal Individual Assistance for all 77 counties, only 16 have been approved. For the remaining counties to receive this assistance, they must meet a financial threshold based on individuals’ damage reports. This includes any damage to your home, rental property, or business resulting from the storm, like flooding from roof damage or busted pipes and broken equipment or appliances from power surges. You’ll also need to report if you were without water, electricity, or gas and if you had to vacate your premises. Personal injuries from slip and falls are also included under this category.
As for utility bills, state officials are working to ease the impact of historical natural gas prices on gas and electric bills in the coming months. There’s talk of possibly spreading the extra costs out over months, and even years if necessary, to lessen consumers' financial burden. OG&E has already applied with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to move forward with this plan. Serving nearly 900,000 customers in 267 towns, the company estimates that they spent around $1 billion during the winter storm, which is more than they spent for fuel throughout 2020. They would like the additional expense spread out over the next decade.
The attorney general has asked utility companies to suspend auto payments and use manual payments to protect consumers. I’d suggest you do the same if you use autopay through your utility company or bank to be safe.
While we’re in the State of Emergency, please remember that our price gouging laws are in effect. The price of products and services can’t increase more than 10% during the declaration, which began on Feb. 12. Complaints can be submitted to A.G.’s Consumer Protection Unit at (405) 521-2029 or email@example.com.
As for my legislative business, SB 462 was unanimously approved on Monday to create the Oklahoma Right to Shop Act. It authorizes insurance carriers to offer a shared savings incentive program to enrollees who shop healthcare providers for the best price.
I also attended the Senate Republican Caucus lunch and A.G. Hunter spoke about the winter storm and energy prices.
After serving as Presiding Officer again in session, I presented SB 522, directing the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to contract with third-party services to provide licensing services. The bill passed 7-3.
That evening, I had the pleasure of having dinner with Gov. Stitt to discuss legislative issues.
On Tuesday, the Education Committee heard the last of our assigned bills. There are some great measures that I’m looking forward to seeing get to the governor’s desk.
That night, I attended the Seminole Chamber Banquet at the SFA. Congratulations to all the award recipients.
SB 656 passed unanimously out of Appropriations Wednesday. It removes the sales tax exemption for electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are becoming ever more popular, and it’s important that all Oklahomans contribute to the maintenance of the roadways we all use.
Wednesday evening, I spoke to the Seminole State College Government Class via Zoom about the legislative session and how their State Government works. It’s essential that students learn about the legislative process and how their involvement can bring about change for higher education, Seminole State College and the State of Oklahoma.
Back in the district, I attended the Lincoln County GOP meeting in Chandler on Thursday evening. Then on Friday morning, I hosted a legislative breakfast with Rep. Danny Williams at the Seminole Chamber of Commerce. I hope you can join us in the future for one of these public events. Information is on my Facebook page.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call (405) 521-5547.