(The Center Square) - A bill that would merge the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security (OOHS) with the Department of Emergency Management (OEM) passed the Senate on Monday by a vote of 38-3.
Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, said Senate Bill 488 addresses an issue already accomplished through an executive order issued by the governor.
Gov. Kevin Stitt issued the order in Aug. 2020 to consolidate the locations of the two departments. At the time, Stitt said the move was meant to “create operating efficiencies and better use of taxpayer dollars” and said co-locating the two agencies would improve response and coordination, among other things.
An earlier version of the bill would have made the governor the chief officer of the Office of Homeland Security, but the version passed by the Senate on Monday makes the director of the Department of Emergency Management the chief officer. It also gives the director the authority to appoint a Homeland Security Advisor.
The bill is not expected to have a negative fiscal impact as long as existing appropriation bases for both departments are maintained and consolidated into one appropriation, according to staff analysts.
It states the Homeland Security Director will have the power to develop and coordinate implementation of a statewide strategy that will be integrated into the emergency operations plan. The breadth of the statewide strategy to “secure the State of Oklahoma” will span from public health emergencies to acts of terrorism, cyberterrorism and weapons of mass destruction, according to the bill.
The director, advisor and other designated agency staff would be commissioned as peace officers.
SB488 also provides for the creation of a revolving fund in the State Treasury for the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security Department and the Department of Emergency Management. The fund will not be subject to fiscal year limitations and consists of money received from reimbursements, grants, state agencies, entities of the state government, federal government sources, and money appropriated by the state, among other sources, according to the bill.
It also sanctions the creation of another fund designated as the Oklahoma School Security Revolving Fund, which will go toward the Oklahoma School Security Grant Program. The grants are expected to be made each year to “institutions of higher learning, technology center schools, public schools and private schools,” the bill said.
The grant program’s goal is to incentivize participation in school security training programs, increase awareness of risks, threats, and vulnerabilities of school campuses, and assist schools with initiating school security plans, according to the bill.
via Oklahoma's Center Square News