The State Senate has taken action to address a variety of emergency needs in Oklahoma, passing a general appropriations bill Tuesday that contains funding for heating assistance for the elderly, nursing home inspections, public education and health care, among other things.
Republican lawmakers blocked the emergency funding last week, but the latest action ensures that the money will be appropriated if and when Governor Keating signs the legislation.
"Some elected officials wanted to behave irresponsibly and try to score political points with this issue, but we felt it was important to do the responsible thing and address our state's emergency needs without delay. We just hope that Governor Keating agrees to put politics aside and sign the legislation. People out there are hurting and shouldn't be punished because some officials would rather play politics than address real needs," said Senator Stratton Taylor, President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate.
Some of the emergency items in HB 1564 include:
By placing the emergency funding in the "GA" bill, legislative leaders were able to negate the opposition of Republican lawmakers who voted to block the all-important emergency clause on similar legislation last week.
Unlike the previous bill, the "GA" legislation will become law immediately upon the governor's signature and does not require the emergency clause.
"We would have preferred to address the state's emergency needs with last week's bill, but the opposition we encountered really left us with no other choice. Political posturing wasn't going to solve the problems of Oklahomans who need health care coverage or help paying their heating bills," said Senator Taylor.
In addition to funding emergency needs, the "GA" bill also finances state government at the same level as the current fiscal year, appropriating approximately $5.3 billion to existing state programs. The "GA" measure is passed every year as a protection against a possible government shutdown.
If lawmakers and the governor are unable to reach final agreement on budget issues before the legislative session adjourns in May, the "GA" bill acts as a safety net, allowing government to continue operating without interruption.
"No one wants a government shutdown and no one wants to ignore the emergency needs facing our state. By addressing both of those issues with this legislation, we guarantee that government continues to operate in an orderly fashion. Hopefully, this will put an end to all of the political shenanigans and allow us to move forward to address other important issues
facing our state," said Senator Taylor.