State Senator George Young, D-Oklahoma City, issued the following statement in response to his absence at the Oklahoma State Senate’s organizational day held Tuesday at the state Capitol.
“The State Department of Health reported 1,497 new positive cases and 19 deaths today. Today, the Oklahoma Legislature met for what is called ‘organizational day.’ The legislature convenes on this constitutionally mandated organizational day at the state Capitol, where each body formally votes for its leaders and to seat elected members. The House and Senate also adopt rules ahead of the new legislative session that begins Feb. 1.
“I am the duly elected Senator for Senate District 48 in Oklahoma City. I am 66 years old and I have been very much involved in the work of keeping people informed in the fight against the COVID-19 virus. The CDC has been clear that gatherings of larger than nine and held indoors are problematic for this struggle against the virus. The possible number of individuals that would be present at this day is 149 – 48 Senate and 101 House members. There were some members who chose not to attend, and I was one of those.
“Senate leadership put out a memo that stated social distancing would be in effect and masks were strongly encouraged. With over 300,000 positive cases, 2,571 deaths and hospitals and hospital personnel stretched to the limit in our state, it causes me to wonder why state leaders would put so many people at risk to this horrendous disease? Do we even need to talk about the new strain of the virus that is more transferable? We finished last session with virtual access, and I would think we could have found some way to keep legislators safe in the same manner today.
“Since I chose not to attend, I was excluded from voting on the proposals that were presented. This disenfranchised the voters of Senate District 48 from having representation for this legislative day. Surely, I would have voted against the leadership slate because of the lack of concern for the welfare and safety of the members.
“The pictures and reports reflected almost half of those in attendance did not wear masks and social distancing by all accounts was a myth. This seemingly unconcern for the welfare of our members is discounting that we are in the midst of a pandemic and causes me grave concern about the leadership of our two chambers.
“My district elected me to represent them, and I am sure that they never thought that I would be asked to take a chance on adding to the overwhelming weight of this virus.
“Please, unlike the leadership of these bodies, I am encouraging each of you to respect the work of healthcare professionals who are stretching themselves to the limit by following CDC guidelines. Please wear masks, social distance, stay in when possible, wash hands frequently and keep gatherings down to less than nine or household units.
“I would hope that we would quickly move to make virtual meetings our basis for the session that starts in February.”