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5.11.22 – KGOU – Capitol Insider

All eyes on budget talks as end of legislative session draws close.

By law, the legislative session must end by 5:00 p.m. on the last Friday in May, and the last big item on this year’s agenda is the release of the fiscal year 2023 budget agreement.


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and government. I’m Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Just a couple of weeks remain in the session and there appears to be a chance this legislative session will end early, on May 20th. That would not be unusual, Shawn, given the legislature’s practice over the last few years. What’s the procedural calculus involved in that approach?

Shawn Ashley: If they finished their work May 20th, they probably won’t adjourn Sine Die. If they do what they’ve done in the past, they will adjourn to the call of the chair. And if they don’t come back before May 27th, when they are constitutionally required to adjourn, they will automatically adjourn on that day. That means Governor Stitt would have just five days to act on any bills they pass rather than the 15 days he has after they adjourn Sine Die. And that means lawmakers would have a few days that last full week of May to override any vetoes he might issue.

Dick Pryor: Of course, any decision about Sine Die adjournment would be contingent on a budget agreement. As far as you can tell, where does the budget for fiscal year 2023 stand now?

Shawn Ashley: Signs point to a budget agreement having almost been reached or actually having been reached. House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee chairs met late Thursday morning to discuss where budget talks stand, and the House and Senate Republican caucuses met separately Thursday afternoon, reportedly to talk about the status of the budget. Some Senate Republicans were at the Capitol until after 5 p.m. on Thursday, the day they usually leave shortly after noon to return to their districts and to their homes. And I’m hearing other rumblings that representatives of the governor’s office have been meeting with legislative negotiators in the past week to hammer out the final details.

Dick Pryor: Governor Kevin Stitt has been signing bills and vetoing some, too. One of the most recent vetoes was House Bill 3501, which would require the Department of Public Safety to recognize traffic convictions in tribal courts. That bill received overwhelming support in the House and Senate, with only four “no” votes total. Why did the governor veto?

Shawn Ashley: Well, it really appears to come back to the McGirt decision (McGirt v. Oklahoma), the U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the state does not have the authority to prosecute Native Americans who commit certain crimes on reservation lands. Stitt wrote in his veto message, “If this bill had required of tribes, what is expected of all legitimate governments, namely transparency, accountability and reciprocity among others, perhaps I would have signed it. But as it reads now, this bill further erodes more than 110 years of settled state jurisdiction and sovereignty.”

Dick Pryor: The legislature is dominated by lawmakers who say they favor small government and want government to stay out of the affairs of private business. The free market idea. So, explain some recent actions by the legislature that require businesses to conform to particular political standards.

Shawn Ashley: Well, lawmakers have passed or are considering bills that either permit businesses to be sued or prohibit the state from doing business with those companies if they do not adhere to those certain political standards. Senate Bill 1503, for example, the heartbeat bill which prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, allows people to sue abortion providers and those who assist women in obtaining an abortion. I asked Representative Todd Russ, the House author of the bill, if businesses that provide assistance to women to go out of state to get an abortion could be sued. He said, “Absolutely.”

Now, Governor Stitt recently signed House Bill 2034, which prevents the state from doing business with companies that won’t do business with the oil and gas industry. And lawmakers are considering House Bill 3144, which would prohibit the state from doing business with companies that won’t do business with the gun and firearms industry. And it appears they intend to enforce these bills once they’re passed.

In 2020, lawmakers passed a bill prohibiting the state from “doing business with and investing in companies that refuse to do business with Israel.” Earlier this month, the House passed a resolution notifying the state treasurer and state pension funds that Unilever, the multinational consumer goods maker, is violating that 2020 law and it encourages the pension funds to divest any stock they hold in the company.

Dick Pryor: The last few weeks at the Capitol have been rather calm. Do you have a sense this session will end quietly?

Shawn Ashley: It might. It might not. It has been so quiet I feel we’re waiting for the storm to appear on the horizon. Whether that happens or not, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Dick Pryor: Thanks, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You’re very welcome.

Dick Pryor: We would like to hear from you. Email your questions to news@kgou.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @QuorumCallShawn. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I’m Dick Pryor.