2023 Oklahoma Legislative Session begins
Now that Governor Kevin Stitt has delivered his State of the State address and executive budget, the work picks up in the Oklahoma legislature.
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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, Governor Kevin Stitt delivered his State of the State address last Monday. It included statements of philosophy and several goals in the first week of the session. Are you seeing movement on any of the governor's priorities?
Shawn Ashley: There has been some, but not a lot. Bills were assigned to committee on Tuesday and more than 100 were heard. But those were mostly less controversial measures that were easier to get passed.
Shawn Ashley: Democrats have long called for the elimination of the state sales tax on groceries and the governor wants that. Can everybody get along on that one?
Shawn Ashley: I think the answer is maybe. House Democrat Leader Cyndi Munson said she was happy to see the governor embrace the idea for a second consecutive year in his State of the State speech. Senate Democrat leader Kay Floyd was a little more cautious. She said her caucus supported eliminating the state sales tax on groceries, but wants to know what strings might be attached, what other tax cuts might be involved. House Speaker Charles McCall, speaking Thursday to the Oklahoma Press Association, once again expressed his support for eliminating the state sales tax on groceries, along with reductions of the individual and corporate income tax rates. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat's comments at the Press Association meeting were a little more reserved. Treat said the Republican caucus wants to enact tax reform, which he has said in the past would be more than simply eliminating a specific tax or cutting rates. And something I noticed: Treat joined other Republicans in a standing ovation when Stitt said in his State of the State speech, “Let's cut taxes.” But Treat did not seem to rise to his feet with McCall and other Republicans when Stitt mentioned the grocery, income, and corporate tax rates.
Dick Pryor: Governor Stitt placed additional money for education savings accounts, vouchers, in his executive budget. Is that an idea where the governor is going to run into legislative opposition?
Shawn Ashley: That does seem likely. Democrats flatly opposed the idea. Pro Tem Treat, who carried the bill last year that failed in the Senate, said Thursday he remains a huge believer in improving public schools by fostering more competition for them. However, he said he is not sure many senators will support the idea again this year. McCall, who announced his opposition to Treat’s bill at the Press Association's conference last year, said Thursday, “The House view today is much like it was last year. Everybody sees it still the same way this year,” he said. McCall added, “I don't think you're going to see that come out of the House. The House looks at things in terms of "will a piece of legislation do something for a student in all parts of the state?”
Dick Pryor: The governor prominently called for the legislature to ban all gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors. That is something on which the legislature has taken quick action.
Shawn Ashley: That's right. The Senate Rules Committee advanced a bill Wednesday that prohibits health care professionals from providing most gender transition services to children under 18 years of age. Senator Julie Daniels, the bill's author, said, “This legislation speaks to what we in the legislature believe is the best policy for our state to protect children under the age of 18 from these irreversible medical transitions.” Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, however, noted in questions and debate on the bill that the legislature is and I quote, “interfering with a parent's right to make medical decisions for their child. And that's a very slippery slope.”
Dick Pryor: Shawn, in the week ahead, what are the plans for hearing bills on the floor?
Shawn Ashley: Senate Majority Leader Greg McCortney hopes to begin hearing bills that have made it out of committee on the Senate floor. And the Senate will be meeting twice daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. And it's not unusual to see the House start taking up bills in the second or third weeks of the session.
Dick Pryor: Okay. Thanks, 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.
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