Capitol Insider: Transgender Sports Bill, Voting and Redistricting
At least 35 bills have been introduced nationally that would limit or prohibit transgender women from competing in women's sports events. One of those bills is under consideration in Oklahoma. The issue is especially relevant in states vying for NCAA championship events because the NCAA has indicated it may take the legislation into consideration when selecting sites. Oklahoma City has been the long-time host of the Women's College World Series, which is scheduled to begin this year on June 3 at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss the Oklahoma legislation and more in this week's 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, in the next few days, the NCAA will announce its sites for regional playoffs in softball and baseball. Now, the NCAA has indicated it will require host sites to provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination. It also supports the opportunity for transgender student athletes to compete. A handful of states have enacted legislation regarding transgender athletes’ participation in sports. Which brings us to Senate Bill 2 - Oklahoma's transgender sports bill. What is the status of that bill?
Shawn Ashley: Well, that bill passed the House on April 19th, 73-19 largely on a party line vote. One Republican did cross over to vote against the bill. Now, the Senate has not yet taken it up. This bill, if you will, was sort of transitioned in the House. Previously, it dealt with school safety plans, but that language was eliminated and the “Save Women's Sports Act” was inserted by a House committee. Now, the Senate can either accept those amendments and put it up for a final vote, which would then send it on to Governor Stitt, or it could reject the amendments and send it to a conference committee where it might or might not die. For his part, Governor Stitt said April 26th that he had not read the bill’s specific language, but generally he opposed men who had transitioned to women competing in women's sports.
Dick Pryor: While other states such as Florida and Texas are enacting laws to make voting more difficult and restrictive, Oklahoma is actually heading in the other direction. The legislature has sent to the governor a bill that would expand voting access. What does that bill do?
Shawn Ashley: Yes, House Bill 2663 adds an extra day of in-person absentee voting on the Wednesday before a November general election. Its proponents are hopeful that it will reduce some of the long lines seen at polling places, particularly during the 2020 general election. The bill also contains language that moves up the mail-in absentee request period and deadline. Now, you may remember postal officials had warned back in June that the current deadline to submit a mail-in ballot, which is only one week before the election, probably was not sufficient to ensure ballots would reach county election boards by the close of business on Election Day. This moves that deadline back to two weeks before the election date. And as you said, the bill passed the House and it's now awaiting the governor's consideration.
Dick Pryor: Each House has passed its own redistricting bill and committees have passed redistricting bills from the other chamber. Where does redistricting stand and what is the process for final approval?
Shawn Ashley: Well, it's nearing the end of the process. The House will consider the Senate plan for its district in the coming days and the Senate will consider the House plan for its district in coming days, as well. Once those bills pass the opposite chambers, they will go on to Governor Stitt for his consideration. Generally, when you look at the redistricting maps, what you see are that the urban and suburban districts got geographically smaller because of population growth and concentration and rural districts got larger. Now, the legislature has not yet tackled the Congressional districts because they don't have the actual census count numbers from the Census Bureau. Those are expected in mid-August. The lawmakers will come back in special session in September or October to do the Congressional districts and, if necessary, make any adjustments to the House and Senate districts that they're currently considering.
Dick Pryor: There are more signs Oklahoma's economy is heating up. Gross receipts to the Treasury jumped in April. What is fueling the surge?
Shawn Ashley: Heating up and fueling the surge was pretty good word choice there. Total collections were up about thirty-eight percent and a big driver of that was the gross production tax on oil and on natural gas, which these collections represent February activity when it was very cold and natural gas usage was very, very high. We see overall that those tax collections, the gross production tax, was up seventy-three million dollars or one hundred and twenty percent over collections over a year ago. But at the same time, income tax collections, sales tax collections and motor vehicle tax collections were up as well. So really what you're seeing is a broad-based improvement in our tax collections and overall economy.
Dick Pryor: Briefly, what should we watch for in the week ahead?
Shawn Ashley: Budget, budget, budget. That's the next big step for the legislature and it could be coming very soon.
Dick Pryor: Thanks, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.
Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @ecapitol. You can also find us online kgou.org and ecapitol.net. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.