In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss what's happening at the state capitol ahead of the 2019 legislative session. Over 4,300 bills have been requested, and the majority of Oklahoma lawmakers have two years of experience or less. Listen to learn about some notable bills that have already been filed.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Shawn, the deadline for bill requests in the state House of Representatives and Senate has passed, and lawmakers submitted more than 4300 requests for the 2019 session. That's about 1300 more than last year. Why so many?
Shawn Ashley: First of all, you have a lot of new members who made promises on the campaign trail. So they want to address those issues. Also we had more than 60 interim studies that were heard this past break, and that has generated some legislation already.
Pryor: More than 75 percent of the House members have two years or less in the House at about 50 percent in the Senate have two years or less. With that much inexperience and so many possible bills, is that a recipe for a potential difficult session?
Ashley: Perhaps, but more than anything for those new members what it means is drinking a lot from the firehose. They will be going to a lot of committee meetings where these bills will be pared down and trying to decide which ones are important and which ones are not. And, keep in mind, not all 4300 measures will even be introduced. Generally about two thirds of the requests get filed every year. So we would be looking at a large number of bills and a large number of bills that chair people first have to consider and then the members themselves.
Pryor: Bills are being filed. What was the first bill filed?
Ashley: Senate bill one was filed by Senate President Pro Tem designate Greg Treat. And this comes out of one of those interim studies held over the summer that looked at the idea of a Legislative Office of Financial Transparency. What this agency would do would be to investigate state agencies and look at how they're spending their money, how they're implementing legislative requirements, and essentially try to bring additional information to lawmakers. So, as Senator Treat said, they can make informed decisions rather than working blindly in some instances. For example the Legislative Office of Financial Transparency might look into how the Reading Sufficiency Act, which requires students by the time they are in third grade to read at grade level, is being implemented, what the State Department of Education is doing to implement, as well as individual school districts across the state, and then to see whether or not those programs that they are putting in place to implement the requirement are actually meeting those goals. The office is modeled after an off a similar office in New Mexico which looks into a wide variety of subjects every year.
Pryor: What themes are already developing in terms of potential legislation?
Ashley: Well we've seen several pieces of legislation related to guns in the state of Oklahoma Senator Nathan Dahm has once again filed his permit-less carry bill that would allow individuals over the age of 21 to carry a weapon without obtaining a permit and the training currently associated with that. One of the new members has also filed a piece of legislation that would allow members...That would allow individuals to carry guns into the state capitol, which is currently prohibited. In that case, however, they would have to have a handgun permit. We've also seen a number of pieces of legislation filed by Senator Ron Sharp, a Republican out of Shawnee, related to charter schools, how they're funded, how they spend that money and even how they can recruit other teachers. Once again this was the result of work that was done during the interim, during a series of interim studies that he held.
Pryor: And there's a bill that's been filed regarding elections.
Ashley: That's correct. Senator J.J. Dossett, a Democrat from from Sperry, has filed a bill which would eliminate straight-party voting. This was a big issue during the most recent election where we saw nearly record numbers of individuals simply stamped the rooster or mark the symbols for the other political parties in order to vote just for the candidates in that one party.
Pryor: The eagle or the porcupine...
Ashley: The eagle or the porcupine...
Pryor: ...for the Republican and the Libertarian parties. And what a legislative session be without a bill pertaining to another state icon?
Ashley: That's correct. Senator Casey Murdock has filed a bill which would make the rib eye steak the official steak of the state of Oklahoma.
Pryor: Is that one on the front burner?
Ashley: It very well could be.
Pryor: That's Capitol insider. If you have questions e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on Twitter: @kgounews. You Can also find us online at KGOU.org or eCapitol.net. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.