As the 2020 legislative session is nearing an end, cooperation and disagreement highlighted what will likely be the last full week before Sine Die Adjournment. KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley found some of the week's events, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to be unlike any other year in recent memory.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma Politics, policy and government. I'm Dick Pryor with wCapitol news director Shawn Ashley. These are extraordinary days at the state Capitol as lawmakers try to wrap up the session early. Shawn, it's always hectic in the final days and hours of the session, but what we've seen in the last few days is unprecedented and at times just wild.
Shawn Ashley: It certainly is. Remember, this session has been compressed because they were out of the Capitol for the better part of six weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of that, they lost the time that they would normally have in committee, and then on the floor to hear bills for the first time there. What we have now are bills that are being worked like they would be in committee very much on the floor. So, you have 47 members of the Senate getting a first look at some of this language and trying to make suggestions for improving it in some cases. We've seen multiple versions of a bill be considered before it is finally passed, but they are moving at an incredible amount of speed and sending a good number of bills to the governor for consideration.
Dick Pryor: Indicative of the unusual situation at the Capitol is the governor's veto of the state budget on Wednesday and the historic legislative override of that veto and three others relating to the budget. Just a few hours after he had issued them.
Shawn Ashley: That's right. No sooner had we gotten word that those vetoes had been issued than we had action taken on both the House and the Senate floor to override them. Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson made the first motion for the General Appropriations Bill, Senate Bill 1922 to become law, notwithstanding the governor's objections. There was no discussion. There was no debate. Only Senator Thompson addressed the issue. And what he noted was an exact opposite to what Governor Stitt had said in his veto message, where the governor had claimed that this bill did not represent the fiscal will of the Oklahoma people. Senator Thompson said it represents the constituents and it represents the priorities of the state of Oklahoma, and the veto was easily overridden. The scene was much the same for the other three measures. And when those vetoes went across chambers to be considered in the opposite chamber and they now become law and there is a budget for fiscal year 2021, which begins on July 1st.
Dick Pryor: And Shawn, we've been covering the Capitol for a long time, but the verbal exchanges between the governor and the legislative leaders have been stunning.
Shawn Ashley: They certainly have. I mean, they have stopped just short of name calling. And we saw on Thursday, however, that the governor took a bit of a step back. He said that the vetoes were behind him and he was moving forward. But he did add that the legislature would have to answer to the Oklahoma people for the budget which they have passed. Lawmakers have sort of been retorting in their own way with similar comments related to his veto of the bills. What was particularly interesting was that they overrode four vetoes in the matter of a couple of hours.
Dick Pryor: That's incredible. That just doesn't happen.
Shawn Ashley: That's right. Mary Fallin only had three vetoes overridden in her entire gubernatorial career. Two came in one year, not on the same day. It was incredible to see the legislature act that way as it did when they overrode those vetoes.
Dick Pryor: A bill to fund Medicaid expansion under governor states Sooner Care 2.0 plan has passed the House and is now on its way to the governor. Among others, the Oklahoma Hospital Association had opposed this bill. What will SB 1046 do and how is it intended to affect the vote on Medicaid expansion in June?
Shawn Ashley: The bill provides for an increase in what is known as the SHOPP fee. This is a fee hospitals agreed to several years ago in order to bring more federal matching funds into the state to support the state Medicaid program. This bill increases that rate by 1.7 percentage points and dedicates that money to Governor Stitt’s SoonerCare 2.0 plan. In terms of State Question 802, Governor Stitt announced pretty much a year ago that he was looking at putting together his own Medicaid plan as an alternative to what was then being talked about as an initiative petition to expand Medicaid in the state of Oklahoma. So really what you have here are two competing plans - that of Governor Stitt under the new Medicaid rules adopted late in the year by the federal government and the proposal to expand Medicaid essentially under the Affordable Care Act approved several years ago.
Dick Pryor: It's been quite a session. Thanks, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You’re very welcome.
Dick Pryor: And, that’s Capitol Insider. If you have questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews. You can also find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I’m Dick Pryor.