Lawmakers prepare for 2023 Oklahoma legislative session
The election is over and the members of the new legislature have now been sworn in and house and senate leaders have been nominated. Capitol Insider looks at where the 59th Legislature is heading when it convenes in February.
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Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider - taking you inside politics, policy, government and elections in Oklahoma. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Shawn, the election is over and the members of the new legislature have now been sworn in and house and senate leaders have been nominated. Do you have a sense for where the 59th Legislature is heading?
Shawn Ashley: What is that old saying? The more things change, the more they stay the same. Republicans still hold supermajorities in both chambers 80 to 21 over Democrats in the House and 40 to 8 in the Senate. So, I suspect we will see some of the same types of measures that we've seen in the past. But it should be noted Democrats did pick up one seat in the House - House District 71 - and Republicans picked up one seat in the Senate - Senate District 34 - both in the Tulsa area.
Dick Pryor: The first bills have been filed. What happens next in the legislative process?
Shawn Ashley: There are a number of things that have to be done before the legislature begins considering legislation in February. Right now, for example, no committees exist. House and Senate leaders have to appoint committee chairs, vice chairs and members to those committees. Most members don't even know which office they're going to be assigned to or where they're going to sit in the chamber. So, all those assignments have to be made. There are a lot of little details that have to be resolved before lawmakers officially begin their work.
Dick Pryor: What are key dates we should be noting as we head toward the new year and the next legislative session?
Shawn Ashley: Lawmakers have until December 9th to submit bill and joint resolution requests and much like we've talked about in previous years, that simply means they are considering filing a bill about a particular subject, not necessarily that they are going to do so. The deadline to file bills and joint resolutions for consideration in the 2023 legislative session is January 19th. That, of course, does not apply to appropriations bills that will go through the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, commonly called JCAB.
Before that, on January 3rd, the House and Senate will meet for organizational day, the first day of the 59th Legislature, and it's there that Representative Charles McCall is expected to be reelected House Speaker and Senator Greg Treat is on track to be elected Senate President Pro Tem.
Dick Pryor: Have you seen any signs that would indicate where the second term of Kevin Stitt as governor may be heading?
Shawn Ashley: Not exactly. Now, we haven't heard much from the governor since election night. In his victory speech, he stressed his focus on limited government, traditional family values, lower taxes, making Oklahoma business friendly, and he made particular mention of continuing to build a school system that he said would meet the unique needs and talents of Oklahoma students. He stressed students should have access to a quality education regardless of zip code or financial resources – a suggestion he will again pursue an educational choice or voucher proposal, much like he did in 2022.
And the day after the election, Governor Stitt appointed Brandon Tatum as his new chief of staff. Tatum is a former vice president and chief of strategy at Oklahoma Christian University, where he helped design alternative degree completion programs, among other things. He also previously served on the statewide virtual charter school board, so he has some experience related to nontraditional educational programs. And, of course, Governor Stitt picked up another advocate for school choice in the 2022 general election when Ryan Walters was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Dick Pryor: So those could be hints. When the State Board of Equalization meets, it looks like members will have some positive revenue figures to consider for certification.
Shawn Ashley: That's right. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) reported Thursday that general revenue fund collections for the first four months of fiscal year 2023 were $2.9 billion. That's $622.3 million or 27.5% above the fiscal year’s estimate, and $496.7 million or 20.8% above prior year collections for the same period. “We continue to be encouraged by the upward trend of revenue collections that indicate the strength of Oklahoma's economy,” state Chief Operating Officer and OMES Interim Director John Suter said on Thursday.
Dick Pryor: Thank you, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.
Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, email them to email@example.com or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @QuorumCallShawn. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.