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Outlining work schedule as legislators move into session's second half

The middle of March is spring break time for lawmakers. We look ahead at the work to be done in the tumultuous final weeks of the 2024 legislative session.


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. Lawmakers are near the midpoint of the legislative session. And today we want to talk about what's coming up in this process of lawmaking from here to the end of the current regular session. So, Shawn, what's next?

Shawn Ashley: Well, the House and the Senate have just completed their chamber of origin work, hearing bills first in committee and then on the floor. Those bills that passed off the House floor now move to the Senate. And the bills that passed off the Senate floor will move across the rotunda to the House for consideration there in committees and on the floor again.

Dick Pryor: We always take note of bills that don't advance past the approval deadline. It's assumed the language in those bills has died if the bills are not approved and do not move forward. Now, that's mostly true, but sometimes language in those bills can be resurrected and continue. How does that happen?

Shawn Ashley: Well, according to House and Senate rules, language really isn't dead until it is voted down. Only a few bills were voted down in committee, and a couple of those were even rewritten and passed. So, they continued their way through the legislative process. Only a few bills failed on the floor, as well. So that language is dead. But if a bill is simply not heard, its language remains alive and can be added to another bill at any time in the process as a committee amendment or as a floor amendment, or even later on in the process in the conference committee hearings.

Dick Pryor: That's another reason why we have to keep watching.

Shawn Ashley: Exactly.

Dick Pryor: Beginning this Monday the legislature will be on their spring break schedule. So how much work will get done in the week?

Shawn Ashley: We really won't see a lot of activity either on the chamber floors or in committees, although there probably will be a few committee meetings. Legislative leadership will spend most of the time assigning the bills and joint resolutions from the opposite chamber to their own committees for hearings after spring break week.

Dick Pryor: After lawmakers return from spring break the process really accelerates. What do they have to do in the second half of the session?

Shawn Ashley: Well, the first part of that process is hearing those bills from the opposite chamber in their committees and on the floor. There's also the work to be done on the budget, which takes up a large part of that time. The Senate has embarked on a new budget process. Already we have seen agencies present their budget requests to subcommittees in both the House and the Senate. But the Senate has taken those and made recommendations at the subcommittee level, and then again at the full Senate appropriations level, which will become part of a resolution that will stake out the Senate's budget position as it enters negotiations with Governor Kevin Stitt and with the House.

Dick Pryor: What's the purpose of this new process?

Shawn Ashley: The purpose of the process, according to Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, was to bring greater transparency to the writing of the budget. And in fact, we have seen that. Normally we don't know what the position of a particular chamber is as it enters those negotiations. Now, we will know exactly how much the Senate would like to appropriate to the State Department of Education, for example, or any other agency as it begins those talks. And later, when the budget is approved, we can see how different it is from those original recommendations.

Dick Pryor: The legislature is constitutionally required to end the session no later than the last Friday in May, which is May 31st this year. So that's the day for Sine Die adjournment. Why is Sine Die so important?

Shawn Ashley: It's an election year, so members will need to get out and campaign. But probably the most important reason is that bills without an effective date and without an emergency clause cannot take effect until 90 days after the legislature adjourns Sine Die. There will be a big stack of bills that fall into that category. And the biggest one, of course, is the state grocery sales tax reduction.

Dick Pryor: Absolutely. Thanks, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: For more information, go to quorumcall.online. You can find audio and transcripts at kgou.org and look for Capitol Insider where you get podcasts. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

Listeners like you provide essential funding for KGOU’s news reports, including Capitol Insider, available in podcasts, online, and on the air. Information on how to contribute is at KGOU.org.

Dick Pryor has more than 30 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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