GUEST

From the desk of Sen. Zack Taylor

The Shawnee News-Star

This week the Senate Legislature has completed House bills in the Senate committees, passing nearly 325 bills on to the full chamber. The following two weeks will be spent debating those measures on the Senate floor to meet the next deadline on Thursday, April 22.

As we enter into this next phase, 10 of my Senate bills and 15 of my House bills will be moving forward.

Finding ways to better address the mental healthcare needs of Oklahomans has been a significant focus of this session. Rep. Kevin Wallace and I are working on HB 2877, which is an effort to get Oklahomans the mental health treatment they need while helping our hardworking law enforcement officers. Currently, peace officers must transport those suffering a mental health crisis to an evaluation. If a higher level of care is needed, the officer must transport the individual to a secondary location with a mental health bed. This is causing law enforcement officers to spend several hours and shifts transporting individuals instead of patrolling the streets.

Under this bill, the officer would still take the individual to get an evaluation; however, if they need a higher level of care and more than 30 miles from the law enforcement headquarters, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will take the individual. This will also allow for telemedicine assessment of individuals if the officer has the equipment/capability to complete it. It will also enable law enforcement to directly transport a medically stable individual to urgent recovery centers (URC) instead of other assessment facilities. Officers will also no longer have to return these individuals to where they were found if they don’t need treatment once the assessment is done. Finally, it ensures that law enforcement is transporting individuals to Oklahoma's facilities, not across state lines. Currently, some individuals are being taken across state lines in those counties bordering other states. This is an important issue, and many legislators filed similar bills to this one.

I’m proud to be working with Rep. Trish Ranson and Rep. Danny Williams on two important consumer protection measures. The continuous phone calls, scam emails, and text messages need to come to an end.

HB 1759 prohibits using malicious computer programs, like spyware, viruses, or ransomware, among others, on a computer or computer network and makes it illegal to willfully solicit another of any acts prohibited by the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act.

HB 1891 prohibits a commercial telephone seller or solicitor from causing misleading information to be transmitted to the call recipient’s caller identification service or devise or to misrepresent the origin of a telemarketing call otherwise.

These are both billion-dollar industries, and thousands of Oklahomans fall victim to these crimes each year. We must do what we can to stop this illegal activity.

April is also when we start considering the governor’s appointments to his cabinet and state commissions and boards. These are important positions, and there must be proper checks and balances, which is why these nominations must be confirmed through the Senate committee process and then by the entire body.

This past Tuesday, it was my honor to carry the nomination of Ryan Pitts of Wewoka to the Board of Regents of Seminole State College. His nomination was unanimously approved by the Education Committee and will soon be taken up by the full Senate.  He will serve an unexpired term ending July 1, 2023, succeeding Paige Sherry.

As we get closer to May, more bills are making their way to the governor’s desk. So far, he has signed five into law, but that number will quickly increase as both chambers begin giving final approval to measures this coming week.

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.