Capitol Insider: 2020 Legislation Filed
Lawmakers will consider more than 4,000 bills and joint resolutions when they return to the Capitol for the start of the 2020 legislative session. Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss what lies ahead.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and government. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley. Shawn, the bill filing deadline has passed for the upcoming legislative session. What's the count?
Shawn Ashley: Well, it looks like there were just over 2,000 new bills and joint resolutions filed for consideration during the 2020 legislative session. Really, more than half of those came in on Thursday. And combined with what was carried over from the 2019 session, about 2,300 measures there. That means we have great more than 4,300 bills and joint resolutions that could be considered when lawmakers reconvene.
Dick Pryor: And you and your team are poring over the bills so far. What stands out?
Shawn Ashley: Well, you know, every year when I look at what's filed, I see something for everyone. And again, that's the case this year. There are bills that do things that modify the definition of tobacco, clarifying what smokeless tobacco is versus smoked tobacco and eliminating use of the word stogie. There's a bill that would eliminate the death penalty. There are changes proposed for how Oklahoma regulates distillers. We've done a lot of work in the area of beer and wine makers in the last few years. But those who make whiskey, vodka and gin haven't seen the law reformed in the way that those other spirits have. And there's some big legislation related to occupational licensing, something lawmakers have been working on for a number of years, particularly related to those individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their ability to obtain licenses to perform jobs in Oklahoma.
Dick Pryor: In looking at the bills, is there a theme developing? Sometimes there is a theme.
Shawn Ashley: Yeah, sometimes there is. But at this point, I would not say, based on the filings, that you can really say that when you look back at some of the issues that have been talked about the last couple of years, issues like criminal justice reform and various firearms legislation. More recently, of course, regulation of medical marijuana. And, of course, education itself. We're seeing a lot of bills in these areas. But in terms of a theme itself, I think it's too early to say. That probably will become more apparent once lawmakers arrive at the Capitol in February and begin their consideration of these measures.
Dick Pryor: With the total of 4,300 bills and joint resolutions, an obvious question is why are so many filed each year?
Shawn Ashley: Well, part of that answer is that's what we pay lawmakers to do. And if they do that, because they hear from constituents who have a particular concern or are aware of his situation, and they say there ought to be a law for that. In some cases, lawmakers are carrying in legislation for state agencies that face a similar situation. Some regulation needs to be imposed or modified or changed in some way. And it takes a piece of legislation to do that. In other cases, it may be a particular incident or situation that the lawmaker is aware of. And in some cases, we have lawmakers who take the time to read through the statute books, read through the legislation, and they see things that that need to be changed. Maybe they're simply outdated, no longer utilized, or maybe they need to be updated in some way.
Dick Pryor: Or maybe we need to eliminate the use of the word stogie.
Shawn Ashley: That might be the case, as well.
Dick Pryor: Figures for December General Revenue Fund collections show a year over year increase from December of 2018. Now, this is the halfway point of the fiscal year. Is the state on track to meet revenue projections?
Shawn Ashley: Well, it looks like they are. For the first six months of the year, general revenue fund collections came in twenty-eight-point- three million or point-nine percent above the six month estimate. The estimate for the first half of the fiscal year. Keep in mind, when the Board of Equalization met in December, they told us that total collections would actually come in more than likely three point five percent below the estimate. Now, that might seem concerning that it would set the stage for a revenue failure. But you have to remember that lawmakers are not allowed to spend 100 percent of the estimate. There's a 5 percent cushion built in there. So that three point five percent below the estimate is within that cushion - the difference between the total amount expected to be collected and what lawmakers are allowed to spend.
Dick Pryor: What should we be watching for next at the Capitol?
Shawn Ashley: Now that the bill filing deadline has come and gone, there will be a series of budget hearings in the coming weeks where lawmakers will talk to state agencies about their financial needs for the next fiscal year. And then on February 3rd, the legislative session gets underway. Bills will be assigned to committee where they will be heard later in the session and eventually they'll make their way to the House and Senate floor.
Dick Pryor: Thanks, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.
Dick Pryor: That's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, email us at news@KGOU.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.