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By Sen. GEORGE BURNS
This past week was a momentous one in our state’s history. Governor Stitt signed Senate Bill 631, which officially makes Oklahoma a Second Amendment Sanctuary State. I was proud to co-author this measure, which sends a strong message to the federal government that the right to keep and bear arms here in our state shall not be infringed.
Under the bill, any federal, state, county or municipal law, act, executive, administrative or court order, rule policy or regulation intending to buy-back, confiscate or take away firearms, ammunition or gun accessories from law-abiding citizens of our state is unlawful. This means that any gun, ammunition or accessory that is currently legal in our state always will be, regardless of the threat or passage of further gun restrictions by the federal government – or any other entity – for that matter.
The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed in our Constitution. Limiting the use or purchase of firearms only hurts those who follow the law – not the criminals. We must protect this right so Oklahomans can continue to keep themselves and their families safe by owning a gun, if they so choose.
Additionally, two more of the measures I authored made it to the governor’s desk and will become law. The first increases the penalties for those who steal the identity of a child, making this crime a felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $100,000 dollars, or both prison time and a fine. This will go into effect on Nov. 1 this year. The other gives a sales tax exemption for the purchase of certain forestry equipment bought in our state. This is important to ensure people are buying their equipment in Oklahoma and not going across the border to Arkansas and Texas to make these large purchases. This will become effective as of Jan. 1, 2022.
I’ve spoken about the importance of telehealth and utilizing telemedicine before, and I’d like to share a measure that was passed by the Senate this week to ensure the continuity of these types of medical appointments. Typically, insurance companies pay doctors at a lower rate for telemedicine visits versus in-office visits. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine visits have exploded. During 2019, SoonerCare members had nearly 12,000 telehealth visits. In 2020, that number topped 333,000 visits – a jump of nearly 3,000 percent. Under the bill we passed, insurance companies would be required to pay doctors the same for in-person and telemedicine visits. While this was required under the state of emergency declared by the governor, this emergency won’t always be in place, and we want to ensure this practice continues.
Telemedicine is an important tool to increase health outcomes, especially in rural Oklahoma where access to certain specialists may be limited. I’m glad we took action on this measure, and I look forward to the governor signing it into law.
I mentioned redistricting last week, and I wanted to update you all that the redistricting measure was passed in committee this past week. Next, it’ll move to the Senate floor for full approval. Once again, if you’d like to look at the proposed maps, you can do so at www.oksenate.gov/redistricting.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you. If you have any questions about legislation, or need assistance with an issue, please contact me by email at [email protected] or by phone at 405-521-5614.
Every 10 years, the Oklahoma Legislature is constitutionally required to redraw legislative and congressional district boundaries using the latest U.S. Census data. For more information about the Oklahoma Senate’s redistricting process, visit www.oksenate.gov, or submit your redistricting questions at [email protected].