An interim study at the state Capitol on the impacts of COVID-19 on workers in Oklahoma has become a discussion of policy.
These interim studies are important. They give lawmakers the ability to hear from experts before making decisions on whether to back legislation. And they also give us a preview of what legislation lawmakers are considering.
Representative Forrest Bennett (D) OKC read stories from some of the dozens of constituents who reached out to him.
“We’ll more than likely be evicted. So, what are we supposed to do? How do you explain to kids that are barely able to understand addition that we’re going to lose everything?”
Bennett requested the study to see how state policies are impacting the workforce during the pandemic and discussed ways to help struggling Oklahomans, like restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit; increasing minimum wage; and mandatory paid time off.
“I had no idea that Oklahoma had no state plan for time off,” said Nicole Poindexter with Oklahoma Policy Institute. “And unfortunately I was left home alone, three days later, with four children under three right after a c-section.”
The committee also discussed mandatory masks.
“Now what we have is a patchwork of ordinances, company by company and municipality by municipality,” said Fitz Jennings with United Food and Commercial Workers. “Most of our members have to wear a mask at work, right? Their customers don’t.”
Many of the issues discussed have been pitched by Democrats in the past. News 9 asked if they are using the pandemic to push an agenda.
“Obviously I’m biased, but I don’t think it is our desire to co-opt this moment,” Bennett said. “I do think people across Oklahoma and people around this country are watching lawmakers and asking themselves, are or leaders listening? Are they going to do something to fix this?”
Bills have to be introduced by January 21. The 2121 legislative session begins on February 1.