Oklahoma lawmakers file more than 3,000 pieces of legislation as session heats up
Now, the fun starts. Thursday was the bill filing deadline for the 2023 Oklahoma legislative session, and a late push saw lawmakers break the 3,000 mark.
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Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider - taking you inside politics, policy and government in Oklahoma. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Shawn, have you read any bills lately?
Shawn Ashley: Oh, just over 3,000.
Dick Pryor: (Laughs)
Shawn Ashley: Thursday was the deadline for House and Senate members to file most of the bills they want to be heard during this year's session, and a total of ,3079 were filed: 1,116 Senate bills, 18 Senate Joint resolutions, 1,901 House bills and 44 House joint resolutions. Now, that's a lot of legislation, but it's about what we expected when we saw more than 3,700 requests back in December.
Dick Pryor: We can generally predict certain themes in the bills filed, but at the start of the bill consideration process, we see a lot of different ideas presented.
Shawn Ashley: Yes, I've said it before, and I'll say it again - there's something for everyone among those more than 3,000 bills and joint resolutions that were filed. Of course, there are bills addressing the hot topics like education, taxes, guns, abortion and a new popular one, a medical marijuana. But then there are proposals regarding e-bikes and electric charging stations for electric vehicles. Agriculture is a big industry in Oklahoma. So, there are bills about meat and poultry inspections and slaughterhouses. There are bills that create new specialty car tags and name bridges and roads for noteworthy individuals, as well. And if good fences make the best neighbors, some lawmakers want the state of Oklahoma to be a really good neighbor. There are two similar bills, almost identical, one by a Republican and one by a Democrat, regarding the maintenance of fences around state owned property.
Dick Pryor: All right. We'll be watching for that. There are so many bills and so little time, so lawmakers have a lot of sorting and culling to do. What's next in the process?
Shawn Ashley: Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg McCortney and House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols will now review all those bills and joint resolutions authored by members in their chambers and decide which committees to assign them to. The bills usually are formally assigned during the first full week of the session in February. Then it's up to the committee chairs to decide what gets heard and what doesn't. And that can involve some persuasion from the member who authored the bill. Maybe input from lobbyists, state agencies and other stakeholders and legislative leadership can also play a role in determining what actually moves forward. The deadline for bills and joint resolutions to be heard in a committee of their chamber of origin is March 2nd.
Dick Pryor: This is also the time of year state agencies meet with lawmakers to discuss their budgets for the upcoming year. Over the last four years, the Stitt administration has encouraged agencies and departments to keep their budgets flat. Are you seeing that again this year?
Shawn Ashley: Yes, we are. Some state agency leaders have openly stated that the governor's office encouraged them not to ask for additional appropriations this year, and many are not seeking additional funds. Those that are requesting additional money are usually doing so for specific projects or to continue to fund programs that were implemented by the legislature in recent years.
Dick Pryor: Shawn, costs continually go up. So, when budgets are kept flat, it effectively amounts to a cut. How's the “flat budget” approach going down with agencies this time?
Shawn Ashley: Well, this is something that is being mentioned from time to time and some legislators are even asking about it as well. There's no question rising prices and inflation are having an impact on state agency budgets. Administrator of the Courts Jari Askins explained Thursday, for example, that the court system is purchasing new computers using Federal American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, money it received from the legislature. But from the time when the courts first put that project together, computer prices have gone up, so Askins said the court is working on a way to fund and complete that project, the one that outlined for lawmakers when it requested the money.
Dick Pryor: People should remember that bills filed now may look a lot different I, and when, they become law. Case in point: Right now, there are competing ideas in the legislature about what time it is or what time it should be.
Shawn Ashley: (Laughs) That's exactly right. Two lawmakers have proposed two different bills that would lock the clock, as they say. One would make it Standard Time year-round in Oklahoma and the other would leave it on Daylight Saving Time all the time. Similar bills have been filed before and never made it to the governor's desk. But sometimes it takes a few tries to get a bill there. And of course, that probably won't happen before March 12th when Daylight Saving Time begins. So be prepared to set your clocks forward at least once more.
Dick Pryor: Fun times. Thanks, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.
Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.