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State budget heads legislative agenda for last week of regular session

KGOU - Dick Pryor

With education funding bills now approved, the House and Senate are working quickly to draft the state budget for the next fiscal year.


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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. For months dispute over additional education funding held up a lot of the work at the Capitol. After the speaker of the house, senate president pro tem and governor announced an agreement last Monday, those bills are now moving, Shawn. Where do the education bills stand?

Shawn Ashley: The bills received final approval in the House and Senate on Friday morning and are on their way to Governor Stitt’s desk. The governor is expected to sign them, perhaps as early as Tuesday, since he helped broker the deal. Now, the agreement and the bills include $500 million in new money that will cover a teacher's pay raise, six weeks of maternity leave for teachers, and more money in the classroom. The deal also includes an additional $125 million for the Redbud program that helps school districts that do not have much local property tax revenue with school building and other infrastructure projects, $150 million for a three-year school safety pilot program that focuses on hiring school resource officers and physical improvements to make schools safer, and $50 million for a three-year literacy pilot program.

Dick Pryor: With just a week left in the regular session, there is a concurrent special session ongoing to work on the budget. The state budget is the one thing legislators are required to do each year, but with time running out, they still have not finished it. What is their plan to draft and pass the state budget?

Shawn Ashley: I think we will be hearing something about a budget agreement pretty soon, particularly now that the education funding issue is settled. Now, what we will see is that these bills no later than Tuesday will go through the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget process. Then they will be heard on the House and Senate floors on Wednesday and then in the opposite chambers on Friday. If they can move that up to earlier consideration, it would give them that much more lead time to get the work done. Now, legislative leaders realized they were not going to be able to get an agreement and pass the budget in time to override any gubernatorial vetoes in the regular session. That's why they called the special session, with the budget bills being considered in special session lawmakers can come back in June to override any budget bill vetoes Stitt issues, and their plan appears to be to come back probably one day in June for just that purpose.

Dick Pryor: There are also substantive policy bills to deal with relating to non-budget items that need to be handled. Those will not be taken up in the special session. So realistically, how many of them can the legislature address in the final week?

Shawn Ashley: Well, in the final week we actually have two sessions taking place simultaneously, the regular session and the special session and the House and Senate will switch back and forth between those two throughout the course of each day. There's no doubt the budget will eat up a lot of that time, and that leaves less time for the non-budget bills to be considered. House Majority Floor Leader John Echols and Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg McCortney will really earn their money making sure all the budget bills get passed and the policy bills that need to be considered get heard. Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg McCortney said on Friday, “be prepared to work a lot next week,” he told those senators.

Dick Pryor: That's for sure. What's the status of potential overrides of gubernatorial vetoes?

Shawn Ashley: Legislative leaders have said they are discussing Stitt’s more than 40 vetoes - trying to decide which ones will get overridden and which ones might not. McCortney told members on Friday morning that how busy they are on May 26th, and he pointed to that day specifically, depends on what the governor does between now and the last day of the regular session.

Dick Pryor: Legislators do have a lot of work to do quickly in the final week of the session, but as we've seen before, there could be surprises.

Shawn Ashley: Yeah, we've seen it in the past. Big pieces of legislation that we've not seen before or we thought were not going to make it through the legislative session suddenly popping up right at the very end. It's definitely a possibility and it's one of the things that makes the last week very, very exciting.

Dick Pryor: It does, and we're staying right on top of all of it. Thank you, 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, and listen to Capitol Insider where you get your podcasts. 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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