A week after sending its final bills of the legislative session to Governor Kevin Stitt for his consideration, Oklahoma lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Friday with vetoes on their minds. Six gubernatorial vetoes, to be exact. In short, breathtaking fashion, the legislature overrode vetoes on six bills the governor had vetoed just a few days before. The action came fast, even though the legislature is not legally required to conclude its work for another week, on the last Friday of May.
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. And, the legislative session is almost over. The House and Senate went back in session on Friday to consider overrides of gubernatorial vetoes. Shawn, what did they do?
Shawn Ashley: Well, in the end, lawmakers overrode six of the governor's vetoes that had recently been issued. These dealt with a variety of issues, ranging from higher education funding to how tag agents are hired and fired. In the House, there was much more discussion of the vetoes as they walked through them in more detail in the Senate. They simply took them up and voted them through.
Dick Pryor: Remind us, though, it's extraordinary to override a veto, much less six in one day.
Shawn Ashley: Six in one day is probably a record for the Oklahoma legislature. If you look back to Governor Mary Fallin, there were very few attempts to override her vetoes. The most in any one session was two. Of course, already we had seen four of governor Stitt’s vetoes overridden, those related to the budget. So, it seems like lawmakers may have an interesting relationship going forward with Governor Stitt when it comes to signing and vetoing legislation.
Dick Pryor: And the idea of coming back, not adjourning Sine Die earlier would allow the governor to sign or veto bills and also allow for the legislature to have time to take action to override, if they so chose.
Shawn Ashley: That's right. On May 15th, lawmakers chose not to formally adjourn the session Sine Die and we said that left Governor Stitt with just five days to act on those bills that were passed on the final day. It also gave them time, as you said, to return and to potentially take up those vetoes if they chose to do so, which in fact, they did.
Dick Pryor: Among the vetoes was the governor's rejection of SB 1046, which would have provided funding for his own SoonerCare 2.0 Medicaid expansion plan. What was his rationale for that veto?
Shawn Ashley: The governor had a couple of reasons for vetoing that piece of legislation. First, he noted that it would not provide enough money to fully fund Medicaid expansion. Secondly, he also pointed out that it would only be applicable to the upcoming fiscal year fiscal year 2021, and it was unclear how it would be funded going forward after that.
Dick Pryor: Did the legislature override that veto?
Shawn Ashley: That was one of the vetoes which lawmakers did not take up during their special Friday session. A main reason for that is that those votes were rather tight. They did not have veto-proof majorities, and that would have made it tough to win approval of a veto override.
Dick Pryor: The governor vetoed two bills that would create the Rural Broadband Expansion Council to study rural broadband access in Oklahoma and make recommendations for improvement. Funding from the Digital Transformation Revolving Fund to support the administrative expenses of that council was one of the sticking points between the governor and legislative leaders during state budget talks. Now, this is a very complicated deal. Where does this stand now?
Shawn Ashley: Well, both those pieces of legislation, House Bill 4018 and Senate Bill 1002, were overridden by lawmakers when they met on Friday. So those bills now become law and the council is created and any administrative costs will be borne by the Digital Transformation Fund. In vetoing those pieces of legislation, the governor pointed out that Secretary of Digital Transformation David Ostrowe has formed his own task force that is looking at rural broadband in the state and has already begun working on a number of projects in that area. And then as you mentioned, the second issue was that of funding, the fact that the Digital Transformation Fund had approximately $6.5 billion swapped from it in the budget process. And the money that was remaining likely will be spent, and that means there'll be no money left for administrative services to support the new council, which has now been created.
Dick Pryor: Governor Stitt has signed into law an anti-red flag bill, making Oklahoma the first state in the nation to enact such a law. There's been a lot of talk about that. What exactly does this new law do?
Shawn Ashley: Well, it's one of those issues you and I have talked about several times, and that is preemption. It gives the state legislature preemptive authority in making laws related to red flag alerts or extreme protective orders. And what these are are instances where law enforcement officers - because an individual's considered a high level of threat for one reason or another - would be able to confiscate their firearms either from their home or from their motor vehicles. It also prohibits local municipalities and other political subdivisions from accepting grant money or any other kind of funding to support extreme protective orders or red flag ordinances.
Dick Pryor: Thanks, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.
Dick Pryor: And, that’s Capitol Insider. If you have questions email us at email@example.com 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.