Session Wrap-Up 6/25/2020
The second half of the 57th Session of the Oklahoma House of Representatives has drawn to a close. It has been a very productive session with many pieces of legislation becoming law that help everyday Oklahomans. As promised, I focused my work during this session on these main areas: Education, criminal justice reform, health care and specific constituent issues. Many good pieces of legislation were put on hold due to the COVID-19 crisis so we could help with immediate, critical needs. However, many were successful. Below are key pieces of legislation that I am proud to say I authored or helped become law.
HB3350: Provides a long overdue Cost-of-Living-Adjustment for retired first responders, teachers and state employees. HB3400: Provides the opportunity and funding for schools across the state to offer at least four (4) Advanced Placement (college-level) courses per high school. HB3142: This provides a “grandfather clause” for those education professionals who were working towards superintendent certification prior to the law changing in 2005 and helps fill the coming staffing shortage due to a large number of retiring educators.
HB4139: Creates the pathway for a new veterans facility to be established in downtown Tulsa at the current Kerr and Edmonson office buildings.
Transparency in Government Spending
HB4142: Grants the state legislature the right to examine all state agency contracts and requires analysis and methodology rationale be provided upon request.
The plan and accompanying funding bill to pay for “SoonerCare 2.0” which would have expanded Medicaid was proposed by the Governor and subsequently removed by him from consideration this session. Now, the opportunity to expand Medicaid and accept the federal dollars at a $1 (state) to $9 (federal) match will be voted on by the people in the form of SQ802, which will appear on your June 30th ballot.
With the drastic drop in oil prices and the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 Oklahoma Budget brought cuts to many state agencies. You likely are aware of the several budget bill vetoes issued by the Governor, with some overridden by the legislature. I was glad to see our Common Education budget held “harmless,” although we had to jump through some hoops to get that done. While I am happy we have the money needed to pay for our schools, I was not pleased with the plan of borrowing from retirement dollars to pay for the gap in education funding. We should not be taking from our seniors to pay for our children. We can do better.
One veto that I supported was to a fifty percent (50%) cut to the budget to the Affordable Housing Credit. This would have impacted young families as well as home builders. Thankfully, there was no effort to overturn this veto.
The COVID-19 pandemic has touched us all. The health care, infrastructure and technology systems in our state have been subjected to the same lack of attention as education due to a decade of cuts - and we are feeling the pain. I have spent more time talking to constituents than ever before and getting them connected to support systems. So many are worried. So many are struggling. Biggest concerns: Access to health care. The loss of a job. Making payroll. Paying the mortgage. Being a parent, teacher and employee from home all at the same time and worrying that you aren't doing any of it right. I've also spent much of my time asking the tough questions of our state agencies and leadership and not letting up until we get the right answers. One thing has become very clear- my work here is far from done.
Goals for Next Session
Over the summer and fall, I will be working in the district to connect with residents and see what issues and problems I can help solve. If reelected, this will drive the focus of the pieces of legislation I propose for next session. I also plan to revisit issues that got put on the “back burner” this session because of the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, I will revisit these four areas: 1) Student Loan Borrower’s Bill of Rights, 2) Criminal Justice Reform – fines, fees and the cash bail system, 3) Transparency in Health Care billing (ending surprise billing) and 4) Public Safety Districts – ending the reliance on sales tax as the sole funding stream for municipalities.
Keep in Touch!
Our weekly Sunday office hours have been put on hold until it is safe to meet in person again. In the interim, you can reach me by emailing me at Melissa.Provenzano@okhouse.gov or calling our capitol office number at (405)557-7330. In Tulsa you can reach me at (918)289-9630. Please let me know if I can come speak to your neighborhood association, PTA, special event or any other group that works and serves in House District 79.
Thank you for the honor of serving as your Oklahoma State Representative. We still have much work to do, it is time to get to it!
Representative Melissa Provenzano
Education Policy Chair, Minority Party
Hello neighbors! I hope you and yours are well and safe. It has been a very busy time, even as legislators work from home. In this issue, I'll be highlighting Covid-19 updates and tools you can use, legislators returning to the capitol, and my bid for re-election.
More time now than ever before has been spent talking to constituents and getting them connected to support systems. So many are worried. So many are struggling. Biggest concerns: access to health care, the loss of a job, making payroll, and paying the mortgage. For many, another layer: being a parent, teacher, and employee from home all at the same time and worrying that you aren't doing any of it right.
I've also spent much of my time asking the tough questions of our state agencies and leadership and not letting up until we get answers. Where are the supplies our healthcare workers need? How do we get them into their hands faster? Where can people get a test without being turned away? Are we spending taxpayer dollars in a responsible way? (Click for the story)
I am deeply thankful to our healthcare workers, our first responders, and those who continue to serve us in essential businesses while putting their own lives at risk each and every day. Our gratitude will never be enough.
- VISITORS must pass entry point screenings, visits to legislative offices are by appointment only, and social distancing guidelines will be strongly enforced throughout the building.
- Visitors are strongly encouraged to bring and wear MASKS.
- DISINFECTION will be done daily under clinical setting cleaning standards.
- The House and Senate lobbies will be closed. Events, tours and large group visits remain PROHIBITED.
- For health and safety, officials urged people to watch proceedings ONLINE from home unless they feel they must be at the Capitol.
COVID-19 Update 3/18/2020
As you may have heard, a senate staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. We were already planning to adjourn for an indefinite amount of time, but it was still a sobering moment. Working closely with 100 other representatives when the CDC recommends only gathering in groups of 10 or less does not set a good nor responsible example.
I'll be working from my home office as a safety precaution for now.
Before leaving, we voted on measures that will allow voting by proxy, as well as new rules to allow meetings by teleconferencing (for this session only). This is new territory - never before has it been done.
The work of the State Legislature must and will continue. When it’s safe to gather in numbers larger than 10, we will resume our usual routine. Our main constitutional requirement is to pass a budget. This will be one of the top priorities. I'll be sharing updates regularly.
In the meantime - if you have questions, concerns, or comments: please contact me here or via email/social media:
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. If you experience symptoms, call your doctor or the Hotline number below. Practice social distancing and remember that even if you don't have symptoms, you may be carrying the virus and could pass it to others.
Stay safe out there, my friends. Oh, and WASH THOSE HANDS!
NewsThursday, June 25, 2020 12:42 PM
For the 2020-2021 school year, the House Democratic Education Policy team is requesting a waiver for state testing.
“Our teachers have a monumental task this fall that they have already begun preparing for: determining how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted learning and developing the best plan to meet the unique needs these uncertain times will demand. It's time to put authentic assessment squarely into the hands of these skilled professionals who will be working directly with our children." - Rep. Provenzano
Tuesday, May 26, 2020 12:47 PM
Rep. Provenzano provides a wrap-up from session to discuss COVID-19, unemployment, and health issues affecting Tulsans.
Monday, May 4, 2020 2:05 PM
In the end, I could not support the proposed budget, and the Supreme Court ruling from that day was overturned by actions two days later.
Sunday, May 3, 2020 9:16 PM
Oklahoma state Rep. Melissa Provenzano, a Democrat from Tulsa, said the state’s purchase shows that Gov. Stitt’s actions don’t follow his claim that he relies on data to drive his decisions.
“Two million dollars is a lot of money to waste, especially when we have unemployment claims approved yet going unpaid, health care professionals without proper protective equipment, and diagnosed cases and deaths continuing to rise,” Provenzano said.
Tuesday, April 14, 2020 9:19 PM
“Right now so many in our public school system have limited access to the resources they need to learn effectively from home during this time of crisis,” Provenzano said in a statement. “Let’s use those funds where they will do the most good - purchasing the supplies and technological resources that allow even those in the most remote locations, as well as the underserved urban centers access to the education they so desperately need."