Closing out the legislative regular session as special session looms
Governor Kevin Stitt has been taking action on various bills passed during the 2023 regular session, including vetoing two bills related to state-tribal compacts.
Capitol Insider sponsored by the Oklahoma State Medical Association, physician members who are committed to better health for all Oklahomans. Learn more 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, Thursday was the deadline for Governor Stitt to sign or veto bills passed in the special session. What has he done?
Shawn Ashley: Governor Stitt neither signed nor vetoed most of the bills. Now, because the legislature adjourned the special session May 26 to the call of the chair and not Sine Die, Governor Stitt had five days excluding Sunday to act on the bills and those he did not act on become law absent his signature. The governor did something similar in 2022 - acting on a few of the bills that implemented this fiscal year budget, but allowing most of them, including the general appropriations bill, to take effect absent his signature.
Dick Pryor: The only two bills he acted on related to compacts with Native American nations, and he vetoed both of them. What was the governor's reasoning?
Shawn Ashley: Those bills would have allowed the tribes to extend their tobacco and motor vehicle tax compacts through December 2024, essentially for a year. Stitt wrote in his veto messages that “the bills circumvented the governor's authority to negotiate compacts, noting the bills were passed in the special session, not the regular session.” He pointed out that the Bills did not match the legislature's call or agenda for the special session, which focused on the FY 2024 budget and appropriation of the state's remaining American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA funds. Finally, he raised what I thought was kind of an interesting point. The bills were passed during a special session that met at the same time as the regular session, Governor Stitt wrote, “While a special session may have run concurrently with the regular session before, it does not mean such an occurrence is constitutional.
Dick Pryor: So how much longer does the governor have to sign or veto bills passed in the regular session?
Shawn Ashley: The governor has 15 days from Sine Die, including Sundays, to sign or veto the bills passed during the final five days of the regular session. And because the regular session adjourned, Sine Die on May 26th those bills the governor does not act on by June 10th will be considered vetoed, a pocket veto.
Dick Pryor: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has found two Oklahoma anti-abortion laws to be unconstitutional. Where does that leave abortion law in the state now?
Shawn Ashley: This is really sort of fascinating. Wednesday's decision, combined with the Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision at the end of March that another anti-abortion law passed in 2022 was unconstitutional, turns back the clock, first to June 24th, 2022. That's when the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Roe and Casey decisions that made abortion legal in the US. And it was on that day that then Attorney General John O'Connor certified that Oklahoma's existing statute that bans and criminalizes the performance of abortions could once again be in force. And that statute turns the clock back even further to 1910 when abortion was made illegal in the state of Oklahoma.
Dick Pryor: There were not many anti-abortion bills presented in the just completed regular session. Could that change next year?
Shawn Ashley: I think it could. Some lawmakers, such as Senator Julie Daniels, who was the Senate author of the two laws found unconstitutional Wednesday, had hoped to clarify those laws so that they would not be found unconstitutional through Senate Bill 834. But that bill did not make its way all the way through the legislative process. “I'm gravely disappointed and saddened that we stood silent,” Daniels said on Wednesday and added, “we still have options. We must work quickly and we must work together.”
Dick Pryor: Next year, censures of state Representatives Mauree Turner and Dean Davis will carry over. Both were censured in March and lost their committee memberships for more than half the session. What makes the continuation of their censures possible?
Shawn Ashley: A legislature is made up of two regular sessions, one in the odd numbered year and one in the even numbered year. And a lot of what happens in the first session carries over into the second session, including, we were told. Turner and Davis's censures. Under the terms of the motion approved by the House the duo will need to formally apologize to the chamber to have their censures lifted and their committee memberships reinstated.
Dick Pryor: 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.
Announcer: From an Iraq war cover up to towns ravaged by opioids to the roots of our modern immigration crisis, Embedded explores what's been sealed off and undisclosed. NPR's original investigative podcast reveals why these stories and the people behind them matter. Listen to the Embedded podcast only from NPR.