Carl’s Capitol Comment: Budget talk underway

I wanted to talk about the state budget this week, but negotiations are still underway.

As you can imagine, when you have three bodies of power – the House, the Senate and the executive – all led by people with their own vision and their own sense of priorities, negotiating something as significant as the state budget takes more than a minute.

My hopes are that we will get to a point of unity soon; we have to. A balanced budget is the one duty the Legislature is constitutionally bound to pass each year, and end of the legislative session is looming near. Instead of the budget, I’ll tackle another big topic from this session. The House and the Senate this week approved House Bill 1198, which contains the House redistricting plan. Redistricting is something the Legislature is required by law to complete every 10 years following the U.S. Census. As population shifts, we must redraw legislative and congressional district boundaries to ensure the same number of people are represented in each. In the state House, the ideal number is 38,939 for each of the 101 districts.

I was pleased to serve as the chair for the Redistricting Subcommittee for Northwest Oklahoma this year. We held a public meeting in Woodward where people were invited to attend and ask questions or submit suggestions for the redistricting of our area. We held similar meetings across the state, including several virtual meetings. We also asked for public map submissions.

All of this work helped in redrawing our district boundaries. I’m grateful that we were able to keep all our rural legislative seats. These rural legislative seats are very crucial to insuring our rural concerns have a voice at the Capitol.

For House District 58, we’re losing some of the non-metro area west of Woodward to House District 61, but we’re keeping all of the city. We’re extending into Garfield County as far west as Hillsdale, and picking up Carrier, Lahoma, and Drummond. We had to expand east because the Panhandle representative had to pick up more people, and pushing into the western portion of Woodward County is really the only direction for him to go. He is bordered by Texas, Colorado and Kansas.

Major, Alfalfa and Woods counties remain the same. Woodward County will now have three representatives and Garfield County will have four. Because final Census data was delayed by the federal government until Sept. 30 due to the pandemic, the Legislature will have to hold a special session this fall to complete congressional redistricting.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you for allowing me to serve you at the State Capitol. You may reach me by email at carl.newton@okhouse.gov, or phone me at 405-557-7339. May God Bless you and the State of Oklahoma.

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