Capitol Insider: Late Surge In Bill Filing As Legislative Session Nears
Bills were flying fast and furiously on Thursday as lawmakers rushed to file legislation ahead of the bill filing deadline for the 2022 Oklahoma Legislative Session.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and government. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Shawn, the bill filing deadline for the 2022 legislative session passed on Thursday. More than 2,300 bills have been filed, and lawmakers filed the majority of them, 1,600, Thursday. Why did they wait so long?
Shawn Ashley: Well, you know, there really are a variety of reasons. Members may have been fleshing out their thoughts to come up with the language to do what they really wanted to do in that legislation. A large, complex bill simply takes time to draft, and it may go through a number of iterations before it is finally final. The work may not be done really until that final day. And we should remember all of these bills that were drafted were drafted by a small group of House and Senate staffers, each one who was likely responsible for 100 or more bills and joint resolutions. So, my hat's off to them for the work they put in to get ready for the 2022 legislative session.
Dick Pryor: For sure, they do a lot of work. How many bills can lawmakers file each session?
Shawn Ashley: Well, you know, there's no limit to the number of bills a member of the Senate can file, and some people sometimes say there's a limit of eight bills in the House. But that's not exactly true. A rank and file member of the House is permitted to be principal author on up to eight measures. That means they can have eight measures working their way through the legislative process at any one time, but they can file an unlimited number of bills and then pick and choose which of those they want to move through the process.
Dick Pryor: Some of the bills are virtually identical every year. How do those come about and why are they filed separately?
Shawn Ashley: You know, once again, there are a variety of reasons for that. The two members may have attended the same interim study or perhaps the same conference, and thought a particular idea was a good one. So, they had legislation drafted to do that. The final product may be slightly different or identical to what one of the other lawmakers is working on. Ultimately, the legislators will work together, and usually we see just one version of those virtually identical bills moving forward, rather than multiple competing versions.
Dick Pryor: It's very early. You are evaluating bills, but what recurring themes are you already seeing?
Shawn Ashley: Well, from a policy standpoint, like I've said in years past, there's really something for everyone. There are a lot of bills filed that deal with those issues we often talk about a lot like education, criminal justice, taxes and of course, now medical marijuana. But I did notice something interesting on the drafting side of things in the House. Rather than a large number of very lengthy and complex bills, we see a lot of shorter bills being filed in the House. Many are just one section and then an effective date. Now what that could mean is that more bills will be heard in committee, considered on the floor and passed on to the governor. On the other hand, what we might see are some of those shorter bills combined into one omnibus bill that then becomes a large piece of legislation to consider near the end of the legislative session.
Dick Pryor: Shawn, a fair number of bills will generate a lot of controversy and headlines, but people should remember only about a fourth of the bills filed, at most, will make it to the governor's desk. A lot can happen to bills over the next four months.
Shawn Ashley: That's true. I mean, it is very rare that a bill ends up being signed in the same form that it was filed before the session begins. The bills first have to be heard in committee, then on the floor of their chamber of origin. Then they go across the rotunda and are considered in a committee in the opposite chamber and then on the opposite chamber floor. Chances are that bill is going to be amended since it was approved in its chamber of origin. So, the original chamber takes another look at it. It may pass the bill or it may send it to conference, which means it will have to be voted on again in both chambers. In other words, most bills have a lot of eyes on them multiple times before they end up on the governor's desk.
Dick Pryor: Are there any new innovative ideas popping up and legislation filed this year that bear watching?
Shawn Ashley: You know, one thing that has caught my attention is that there were several shell bills filed related to cryptocurrency. Now, a shell bill doesn't have any substantive language in it, but it shows that a number of lawmakers are interested in the issue of cryptocurrency and see a potential role for the state related to it. There were a couple of other bills that also caught my eye that moved the driver's license functions out of the Department of Public Safety and the motor vehicle registration functions out of the Tax Commission and combined them into one agency, sort of like a department of motor vehicles, but under the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. I'm interested to see how that plan develops and whether it ultimately advances.
Dick Pryor: Now that bills are filed, what's next in the process?
Shawn Ashley: The next big step will come the first week of the legislative session, when we will see which bills get assigned to committee and which committees they get assigned to. This is the first step of that review process we talked about earlier, and it can determine whether a bill has a chance of moving forward or not.
Dick Pryor: Thanks, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.
Dick Pryor: And we'd like to hear from you. Email your questions to email@example.com or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @QuorumCallShawn. For more information, go to quorumcall.online. You can find segment audio and transcripts at kgou.org. Until next time with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.