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Capitol Insider: Lawmakers Advance Spending Bills Through Procedural Moves

State of Oklahoma

Even in a spring break-shortened week, Oklahoma legislators stayed ahead of schedule in moving bills closer to floor debate and possible passage.


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, Governor Stitt has signed the first bills of the session. All six came out of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget – JCAB. We use that term a lot in covering state government. What is JCAB?

Shawn Ashley: Well, the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, JCAB, was created back in 2011. Now, prior to that, the bills used to write the state budget were subject to the same deadlines as all other bills. And what that meant was several dozen, if not more than 100 bills, with absolutely no financial numbers in them would have to be heard in each chamber before each floor deadline. Oftentimes, it was like an auction going through the bills as quickly as possible. (Mm-Hmm.)

Now, the JCAB process permits the House and Senate Budget chairs to file bills whenever they need to deal with a budget issue and then move those bills through both chambers, which is what we saw with six bills over the last two weeks. I should note it's called the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, but it actually does not meet jointly. The House side and the Senate side each hold separate meetings.

Dick Pryor: So, it helps expedite matters. One of the bills, HB 4463, requires the State Department of Health to regulate and enforce programs of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. What is the significance of 4463?

Shawn Ashley: When lawmakers wrote the current year's budget, they appropriated additional funds to the Oklahoma Health Department to fund additional compliance efforts at the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, which is technically within the State Department of Health. And those additional funds were supposed to be used for a variety of measures, including adding new compliance officers. The bill reaffirms the Legislature's desire to see those compliance efforts enhanced. At the current time, there's legislation moving through the process that could potentially eliminate the need for bills like this because it would make the OMMA, the Medical Marijuana Authority, a standalone agency.

Dick Pryor: Now, that bill went into effect immediately upon governorship signature, but other laws don't go into effect until July 1st or later. How does the timing of effective dates work?

Shawn Ashley: Yeah, this is really an interesting process. First of all, a lawmaker must decide when he wants the bill to take effect. Now they may ask themselves, “does the bill need to take effect immediately or can it wait a bit longer?” Or perhaps, “does the public or a state agency that will be implementing the bill need time to prepare for the bill to take effect?” Now, the Constitution says a bill cannot take effect until 90 days after the Legislature adjourns sine die unless it has an emergency clause, which simply states that the bill needs to take effect sooner rather than later. A bill with an emergency clause and no specific effective date like House Bill 4463 takes effect immediately upon the governor's signature.

A bill with an emergency clause and a specific effective date, which is usually July 1st, less than 90 days after adjournment, will take effect on that specific date. Now, most bills have a specific effective date, such as November 1st or January 1st, so they don't need an emergency clause and they take effect on that date. Now, the fun group of bills are those with no effective date and no emergency clause because they don't take effect until 90 days after the Legislature adjourned sine die, but we don't necessarily know when that will be. So, the bill will take effect 90 days from the day the final gavel falls, somewhere in August.

Dick Pryor: Speaker of the House Charles McCall waived the committee deadline for four bills that did not get a hearing before the March 3rd deadline. Now, we know there is a lot of flexibility built into the legislative process. So, so when are deadlines not really deadlines?

Shawn Ashley: Well, really there are two types of deadlines - joint deadlines, which are part of the joint House-Senate rules, such as Thursday's deadline for bills to be heard in their chamber of origin. Most other deadlines, like the committee deadlines, are set by leadership in each chamber. Sometimes they even differ and therefore they can be waived, which is what Speaker McCall did.

Dick Pryor: Thursday is the day for bills to be heard in their chamber of origin. Lawmakers worked only two days to allow time for spring break. Does that put them behind?

Shawn Ashley: Actually, it doesn’t. In fact, they're probably a little bit ahead. Lawmakers moved back the floor deadline to March 24th, a joint deadline, and then they worked Monday and Tuesday. Therefore, they picked up two extra days of work while taking off two days of work. I guess it's only in the Legislature that you can take time off and still work more.

Dick Pryor: That is for sure. Thanks, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: We would like to hear from you. E-mail your questions to news@kgou.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @QuorumCallShawn. For more information, go to quorumcall.online. Find audio and transcripts at kgou.org. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

Dick Pryor has more than 30 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November 2016.
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