Legislative Update

I have a special place in my heart for the men and women who defend our freedoms. As someone who witnessed firsthand the terrible tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, I thank them for their efforts on behalf of our country.

I am pleased to co-author a bill that passed unanimously to allow the families of fallen military servicemen and women to attend Oklahoma colleges and universities for free. The bipartisan bill would provide in-state tuition waivers to the dependents of Oklahoma military servicemen and women killed in the line of duty for up to 48 months.

On Friday, March 6, state Sen. Bryce Marlatt and I toured Dewey County to survey the damage caused by the wild fire. County officials led the tour of the thousands of acres of damage that were burned, causing the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to shut down U.S. Highway 183 between Putnam and Taloga because of the smoke. I was proud to hear of the efforts of local firefighters from several departments to contain the fire and would like to thank them on behalf of my constituents who benefitted from their protection.

I also recently met some young but very creative constituents from the Kingfisher Regional Hospital Student Governing Board. I was impressed by their approach in generating some new legislative ideas and will be looking for ways to implement those ideas. Hospital administrator Damon Benson and Rachel Cameron, School Nurse for Kingfisher Public Schools, led the group that included Robert Walker and Bryce Crawford of Kingfisher, Katie Beebe of Okarche and Nikki Bomhoff of Okarche, and Evan Shimanek and Callan Bregenzer of Hennessey.

Meanwhile, House legislators continue to pass a number of reforms meant to improve the quality of state government services in Oklahoma. One, which I believe is especially important, concerns Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services. The department has come under fire for not doing enough to keep Oklahoma families together. An extensive audit showed many ways to improve how the state handles child abuse and neglect reports. Following recommendations of the audit, the House passed a bill that would require law enforcement to consult with DHS before removing a child and would create a program to allow information about a child’s physical and behavioral health and education needs to be available electronically. The bill would also phase out public shelters and establish a centralized statewide hotline for reports of child abuse and neglect.

The loopholes that have allowed lawbreaking politicians to retain their taxpayer-funded benefits were addressed in the House this week. The legislation was passed with former state Sen. Gene Stipe in mind. The former legislator was allowed to keep his benefits despite having committed a felony because he did not get convicted while in office. I am proud to say that I voted with other legislators to close these loopholes.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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