As you may recall, for the past few sessions, I’ve served as co-chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. This is a bipartisan organization, and our members work within our chambers and with outside organizations to promote conservation and Oklahoma’s outdoor heritage, including hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping. This past week, we hosted a caucus meeting and reception at Wilshire Gun in Oklahoma City to help celebrate our mission and recruit new members from the Legislature to join us.
We were honored to welcome two former members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation to our event, including former U.S. Representatives Bill Brewster and Dan Boren. Bill Brewster served as the first national co-chair for the Sportsmen’s Caucus back in the 1990’s, and more than a decade later, Dan Boren served as a national co-chair. It was an honor having them with us.
We’ve now passed the April 22 deadline for floor votes on bills from the opposite chamber, and many measures that were approved by both chambers have already been signed into law, including two that I authored. Senate Bill 853 gives the Oklahoma Military Department greater flexibility in the purchases of heraldry items, such as medals, badges and other items that are used to honor the accomplishments and advancements of our Oklahoma military members.
The governor also signed Senate Bill 860. Under this legislation, the 45th Infantry Division Museum will be renamed the Oklahoma National Guard Museum. The measure also authorizes the museum to sell military artifacts, books and maps, and use the proceeds to fund artifact purchases and museum upgrades. The bill was requested by the Military Department and the Oklahoma National Guard. This change will in no way diminish the proud legacy of the 45th, and we have the support of veterans organizations for this measure.
Here’s where the focus will be in the closing weeks of the session. Any bills that were amended by the opposite chamber have to go back to the chamber of origin for approval or rejection of those changes. If the amendments are accepted, the bill then goes to the governor for approval. If they are rejected, the author can request a conference committee, which is where members work out differences between the two versions of a bill. If they reach agreement, the final version of that legislation then must return to both chambers for a final vote before being sent to the governor.
Although work on the budget has long been underway, even before the session officially began, that work now is front and center. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to advocate for education as a top priority.
Legislation to redraw Senate district maps to account for population changes as determined by last year’s census have been approved by committee and are now headed to the floor. Due to delays from the pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau’s release of the final, official data won’t come until the end of this summer, so we’ve utilized multi-year estimates that were also prepared by the Census Bureau. We will return in special session in the fall after we have the final, official count, and make any adjustments to those maps as needed and complete congressional redistricting at that time.
I welcome your comments on state government and the issues before us. Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator J.J. Dossett at the State Capitol, Room 531.1, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105; call me at (405) 521-5566.