We’ve officially adjourned the 2021 legislative session, and with it, we accomplished many items that will move our state forward. We focused on a number of priorities, including expanding broadband access, protecting the unborn, increasing health outcomes and supporting our law enforcement.
In the beginning of the legislative session, there were about 3,000 measures that were filed for consideration. Of those, only about 590 made it through the legislative process and were signed by the governor, becoming law. One of these was my Senate Bill 335, which provides a way for burial spaces to be resold after no contact has been made with the owner for at least 75 years.
We know the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how important equitable broadband service access is to Oklahomans across the state. We are currently ranked 47th in the nation in broadband connectivity, so increasing access to those who don’t have it is a top priority. In our budget, we allocated $42 million in the form of a tax rebate to incentivize broadband companies to expand and provide service to underserved and unserved areas of the state.
Several pieces of pro-life legislation were signed into law, reinforcing our priority as a state to ensure every child has the right to life. I feel it’s my duty to be a voice for our unborn, which is why I strongly supported the measures we approved to make it even more difficult to have an abortion in our state. I’m proud to live in a state that values life, and am glad we have so many non-profit groups that will step up and help in times of crisis pregnancy.
A highlight of this session was the passage of the Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act. I was proud to be a co-author of this measure to ensure every Oklahoman will continue to have the right to keep and bear arms. Guns and ammunition that are currently legal will always be legal in our state – regardless of future federal policies limit or ban their use.
Increasing our health outcomes remains a priority of the Senate, and we passed several measures to increase access to health care, especially in rural Oklahoma utilizing telemedicine. This type of care has exploded in popularity over the past year due to COVID-19, and is a critical resource in our small towns where access to certain specialists and doctors may be limited. We passed and the governor signed several pieces of legislation dealing with telemedicine this session, including parity for payments from insurance companies for telehealth visits, and law enforcement access to telemedicine specialists while on mental health calls. Increasing access to this type of care will remain a priority moving forward.
We also passed measures supporting our law enforcement, outlawing the closure of churches and places of worship during health emergencies, and banning the teaching of critical race theory in our schools. I’m pleased to report the governor signed all of these measures into law.
Overall, it was a productive session, and I’m proud of the things we accomplished. I appreciate your trust in me to serve as your state Senator, and I hope I’ll continue to make you proud. Please feel free to reach out if there is anything my office can help you with. You can contact me at 405-521-5630 or via email at Roland.Pederson@oksenate.gov.