58th Legislative Session Begins With State Of The State, Anti-Abortion Bills & Watchdog Report


Friday, February 5th 2021, 5:18 pm
By: Storme Jones


OKLAHOMA CITY -

The first full work week of the 58th Legislature began with Gov. Kevin Stitt delivering his third State of the State address in the House Chamber.

The week ended with accusations from a watchdog organization, saying Stitt's team misspent federal COVID-19 relief funds.  

“The State of our State is strong,” Stitt declared before a joint session of the legislature on Monday.  

In his 38-minute speech, Stitt laid out what he calls "the people's agenda” and said reopening businesses earlier than in other parts of the country helped save the state’s economy. 

“As COVID-19 rages in Oklahoma, January was our worst month yet,” House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said. “No state wishes that they would have responded to this pandemic the way that Oklahoma has.”

On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee advanced a bill limiting the governor's firing power on the state Board of Education.  

“When someone gets appointed by the governor, approved by this body, I think there needs to be cause for them to be removed before their term is up,” said Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, the bill’s author.  

On Wednesday, a Senate committee advanced five bills related to abortion, including one to outlaw abortion except when the life of the mother is at risk. 

Later in the week, a legislative watchdog group published a draft report putting Stitt on notice over how his team spent more than $1 billion in federal COVID-19 CARES Act funds. 

“We had difficulty getting to the point where complete data was available for us to utilize,” Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) Executive Director Mike Jackson said.   

The governor's team blasted the report and called it an "agenda-driving document."