By Rep. Mike Sanders
The Oklahoma State Legislature adjourned Thursday night, May 3, after the House passed its final pieces of legislation for the year. The governor is in the process of signing the bills into law.
One of my bills signed into law this year is House Bill 3330, which will keep sex offenders from moving within 2,000 square feet of family home child care centers. Other places, such as schools or churches, are protected from predators, but the smaller child care centers were inadvertently left off the original list when the Oklahoma Child Care Facilities Licensing Act was signed into law several years ago. This new law closes that loophole and will better protect our children and childcare workers.
House Bill 2932 also was signed into law. This creates 20-hour-a-week work requirements for about 8,000 able-bodied adults who receive Medicaid benefits. Those with disabilities are exempted. This matches the work requirement for those receiving food assistance through the state. Many of the people who receive these benefits are capable of working to help provide for their needs, they just have low incomes and need some assistance for the short term. Helping them to get jobs is a step toward helping them toward full independence.
House Bill 1340 is another measure recently signed into law. This bill will give stipends to state retirees, including firefighters, teachers, police officers, Highway Patrol troopers and other former state employees. Stipend amounts will depend on a retiree’s years of service and the funding status of the retirement plan of which they are a member. This is a responsible measure that will ensure the long-term stability of the retirement plans for current and future beneficiaries, but it will also give some needed relief to those currently receiving benefits. This is a very good step in the right direction and gives us a snapshot of what we can do with a full-blown Cost of Living Adjustment in the near future.
In my last column I gave a number of details about the $7.6 billion state budget that was passed by the Legislature and signed into law. This week, I wanted to provide a few details about the transportation budget. We were able to increase funding for the state Department of Transportation by 4.3 percent for the next fiscal year – almost $165.9 million vs. $154.1 million in FY18. This added money will keep the department’s eight-year plan intact and assist with building and maintaining county roads and bridges. Infrastructure is a key driver in keeping our economy running and our families safe. It’s an area I fight hard for each year, and I’m thankful we were able to devote more funding this year. In addition, I want to reassure our county commissioners that we did not touch the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges Fund as we have in the past few years. We are not balancing this year’s state budget on the back of transportation.
On another note, I’m grateful that homeowners and business owners affected by recent wildfires in Dewey, Woodward and Blaine Counties may now receive low-interest disaster assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The designation allows those receiving the loans to replace any property damaged by the fires that was not covered by insurance or other assistance programs.
More than 70 homes and businesses were affected by the fires and may be eligible for SBA’s program. Two deaths and multiple injuries were attributed to numerous wildfires that burned more than 350,000 acres statewide in April. Donations are still being accepted. Please contact your local fire chief to ask what is needed. They know best. For additional ideas on how to donate, I will repost several links mentioned previously.
- American Farmers & Ranchers: https://www.americanfarmersandranchers.com/news/wildfire-relief
- The Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association: http://www.okcattlemen.org/wildfire-relief-fund
- Oklahoma Farm Bureau: http://okfarmbureau.org/index.php?action=news.newsdetail&rowid=1005
Finally, I’m pleased to report the legislative session ended early this year. This will save taxpayers thousands of dollars, allowing us to recoup some of the costs from our two special sessions, which started last year.
In the meantime, if I can help you with anything, please feel free to contact me. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.