Capitol Insider: Bill Deadline Passes, What's Next?
In the first month of the legislative session, lawmakers have cut the number of bills under consideration in half. Dick Pryor and eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley discuss the action at the first bill passage deadline in Capitol Insider.
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, Thursday was the deadline for bills and joint resolutions to be passed out of committees in their respective chambers. How many bills are still alive?
Shawn Ashley: Well, as we've talked about before, lawmakers began with well over 4,000 pieces of legislation available for consideration. It looks like with Thursday's deadline, that just under 17-hundred remain alive. Now, that includes some bills carried over from the 2019 legislative session and some of those filed in the Joint Conference Committee on Appropriations and Budget related to budgetary matters.
Dick Pryor: What happens to those that did not pass? Are they dead?
Shawn Ashley: Nothing is ever dead at the State Capitol. Bills that didn't make it out of committee because they were not considered. Or maybe even because they were voted down. Language from those bills can be picked up and used as an amendment - in another piece of legislation that's moving through the process, either on the floor or in committee. It's really difficult to kill a piece of legislation at the state legislature.
Dick Pryor: Of those that advanced, what stands out?
Shawn Ashley: You know, when we began this legislative session I said there's something for everyone with all those bills out there. And I think that's still the case. I think it's interesting that two pieces of legislation related to capping attorneys fees when the attorney general hires outside counsel are still alive. We saw a new bill pop up on Thursday, which brings the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services inside the Oklahoma Health Care Authority as a division of that agency, essentially eliminating it as an independent agency in the first bill filed for consideration in the 2020 session. Senate Bill 1081, the anti-red flag bill also passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and goes to the Senate floor. It's been amended to say that Oklahoma will abide by federal anti-red flag laws, but it still maintains the language related to state and municipal prohibitions.
Dick Pryor: Apparently in order to expedite passage of bills out of committee the House Rules Committee adopted a novel approach. What did they do and how did it deviate from the norm?
Shawn Ashley: Well, this was very unusual. I've been at the Capitol almost 24 years now and I've never seen anything quite like this. As Thursday's meeting began, Chairman Zack Taylor (R-Seminole) said they were going to do something a little different, something novel, as you said. And the first thing he asked them to do was by unanimous consent, adopt new language for more than 20 bills that were to be considered by the committee that day. Now, this is language that had been filed as late as Wednesday night, perhaps even Thursday morning, that members had not had a lot of time to review its committee substitutes. And the committee agreed by unanimous consent to adopt that language. Taylor then asked that the committee, by unanimous consent, approve all of those bills, not consider them individually, but to give them “do pass” recommendations en masse.
Dick Pryor: This was without discussion.
Shawn Ashley: Without discussion, without debate, without questions. Doing nothing but making this motion and passing them. He gave members an opportunity to object to any bills individually on the list that they might want to pull off. And Representative Andy Fugate, a Democrat from Oklahoma City, did object to four of those measures. His counterpart, Representative Matt Meredith (D-Tahlequah), then asked if bills could be added to that list and several bills were added. In the end, you ended up with a list of 21 bills which lawmakers did not ask questions about. They did not discuss. They did not debate. And the committee approved them. Then, by unanimous consent, sending them on to the full house to be considered during the next two weeks.
Dick Pryor: Governor Kevin Stitt has proposed a fix for Medicaid, which he calls SoonerCare 2.0. The plan needs funding to implement. But House and Senate leaders did not put the funding bill up for a vote. Why not?
Shawn Ashley: Oh, it's, it's a very interesting situation. The indication has been that the governor wanted this resolved by the end of the week. But there's a split within Republicans, those who want to see Medicaid expanded, particularly given the support in the public for Medicaid expansion, and those who don't want to see it expanded. And now you're adding funding to that equation. And there was some dispute over the funding. So when all was said and done, Senate Bill 1046, one of those JCAB (Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget) bills that was carried over from last year did not get heard. It remains alive and can be taken up and amended again and considered at another time. It seems likely that in the next couple of weeks we will hear something on funding for the governor's Medicaid plan and that will be put to a vote.
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.