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Heading into session's final three weeks, no budget deal done


Squabbling over competing education funding plans leaves lawmakers without a budget agreement as the 2023 legislature's adjournment looms on May 26th.


Announcer: Capitol Insider sponsored by the Oklahoma State Medical Association, committed to fostering health care in rural Oklahoma through education and public and private partnerships. More on OSMA at okmed.org.

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, the legislature is just three weeks away from the day legally required for adjournment. In the last week, the House passed one bill and the Senate passed zero bills. How close are lawmakers to completing their work, including the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st?

Shawn Ashley: There's still really a lot of work to be done. Lawmakers have more than 340 bills that they could consider that are not related to the budget. And that by itself is a lot of work. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat told reporters Thursday that budget negotiations are ongoing, but those talks are taking place under the cloud of the disagreement between the House and the Senate regarding additional funding for common education – the largest part of the budget.

Both Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall have said in the past how hard it is to write a budget when there is no agreement about its largest piece. It should be noted some work has been accomplished. More than 230 bills have passed both chambers and been sent to Governor Kevin Stitt for his consideration. He has signed 195, allowed five of those to take effect without his signature and vetoed 35, including the 20 Senate bills he vetoed April 26th as part of the dispute over education funding.

Dick Pryor: The Senate has voted to override four of Governor Stitt's vetoes. There's a decent chance additional vetoes will be considered for overrides. At this point in the session, how does that process work and how long does it take to override a veto?

Shawn Ashley: Well, procedurally, veto overrides begin in the chamber of origin for a House bill such as House Bill 2820, the bill that reauthorizes the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, or OETA, that process begins in the House. For a Senate bill such as Senate Bill 429, the bill that protects public school and college students’ rights to wear tribal regalia at on-campus and institutional functions like graduation, the process starts in the Senate. Now, a veto of a bill without an emergency clause needs a two-thirds vote in each chamber. That's the case for House Bill 2820, for example. Senate Bill 429 has an emergency clause, and that requires a three-fourths vote to be overridden. And that emergency clause would allow the bill to take effect earlier than 90 days after the legislature adjourns Sine Die. In this case, on July 1st.

As we saw in the final day of the 2022 regular session, vetoes can be overridden rather quickly. Six of Stitt's vetoes were overridden on the last day of that session, but it does take a bit of time and coordination between the chambers. The House thus far has not taken up the overrides for the vetoes of the four bills that have been overridden by the Senate. The first of those was overridden on April 19th.

Dick Pryor: One bill the governor has signed is already being challenged in court.

Shawn Ashley: That's right. A group of families with transgender adolescents and medical providers who support trans youth filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court that challenges Oklahoma's new law banning gender transition medical care for minors, Senate Bill 613, just one day after the bill was signed into law by Governor Stitt. The lawsuit alleges the bill unjustly and unfairly targets them in gender affirming health care in violation of their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The bill took effect immediately upon Stitt’s signature Monday, and the plaintiffs are asking the court to stop it from being implemented. But the court has yet to issue a decision on that request.

Dick Pryor: What do you expect in the week ahead?

Shawn Ashley: I wish I knew. Normally, at this point, lawmakers would spend their time on their chamber’s floors, considering some of those more than 340 bills, as well as the bills that will implement the fiscal year 2024 budget. They didn't do that this past week and it's unclear if they will in the week ahead. If they don't get that done, they could be looking at a special session to finish their work. Asked Thursday if that was a possibility, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said, “I certainly hope not, but I'm afraid we will see.”

Dick Pryor: And that is a term we don't really like to hear - special session. Thanks, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. For more information, go to quorumcall.online. You can find audio and transcripts at kgou.org. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

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Dick Pryor has more than 25 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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