FRIX: Legislature convenes with a full workload

The first session of the 58th Legislature Convened Monday, Feb. 1.

We first heard from Gov. Kevin Stitt who delivered his annual State of the State address. Gov. Stitt detailed the state’s many efforts to address COVID-19 while keeping businesses open, workers employed and the state running – all in an effort to keep our economy strong even while working to keep our citizens safe.

The governor detailed his priorities for the coming year and touched upon several areas where he and legislative leaders have found common ground. Those include keeping burdens low on our taxpayers; supporting our energy industry and protecting it from radical policies; fighting for our farmers and ranchers and the Oklahoma way of life; enacting business friendly policies; protecting the rights of unborn children and standing up for the personal and religious freedoms of Oklahomans.

We will be tackling many of those issues through legislation this year. Committee work has already started, and over the next month we will be hearing House bills on the floor.

At the same time, we have been working on our state budget. The state Board of Equalization in December estimated the Legislature would have $8.4 billion in revenue to build the state budget for Fiscal Year 2022. Some of that will go to pay back non-appropriated funding sources we directed into the budget last year. In addition, we continue to see low oil and gas prices and the economic effects of the pandemic, so we may end up with less than that for the final budget. We will get certified revenue figures Feb. 16, and we’ll have a clear picture at that point of how much we are working with.

House Appropriations and Budget subcommittees met in January to hear budget requests and performance reviews from each of the agencies under their purview. The overall Appropriations and Budget Committee also held hearings at the end of the month with the six agencies that receive the most in state appropriations. These are the state Department of Education, the Regents for Higher Education, and the Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. These hearings gave lawmakers an opportunity to ask questions and hear a deeper dive into needs for the coming fiscal year. By the end of session, I’m confident we will have a strong budget that supports all of our core services.

Avery Frix serves District 13 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7302 or via email at avery.frix@okhouse.gov.

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