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State Sen. Blake Stephens, R-Tahlequah, was one of few lawmakers who remained in the chamber after a morning adjournment Friday, May 27, 2022, the final day of the legislative session. The piles of paper on his desk are printed out versions of the session’s bills. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

5.31.22 – Oklahoma Watch

After months of long days, tense floor debates and the passage of a flurry of new laws, Oklahoma’s Legislature finally reached its end when legislative leaders issued the sine die adjournment call shortly before the 5 p.m. Friday deadline.

But that doesn’t mean this won’t be a busy spring, summer and fall for politics in Oklahoma.

The Legislature is already in one special session after lawmakers wanted to make a new process to spend $1.87 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds under the American Rescue Plan Act. 

That special session was called concurrent with the regular session that ended Friday. But unlike the constitutional sine die deadline for the general session, there will be no deadlines for the special session so lawmakers will be able to return to the Capitol over the coming months to pass bills outlining how the relief money will be spent.

Gov. Kevin Stitt then announced last week he will be calling lawmakers in for another special session, starting June 13, to provide “real tax relief” to Oklahomans.

Stitt, who was left out of budget discussions, vetoed several budget items and called on lawmakers to do more to address the rising inflation. The governor wants the Legislature to slash income tax rates and to eliminate the state’s grocery tax. But whether lawmakers will heed his calls remains uncertain.

And finally, the next few weeks and months will be busy for incumbents and challengers who are running for election. Because of the rising number of uncontested races, 54 incumbents and two newcomers have already won their races by default.

Many of the rest face a June 28 primary, with the possibility of an Aug. 23 runoff, followed by the Nov. 8 general election.

Before we move along, I’ve been spending some time looking at what the Legislature did over the past four months.

Keep your eyes out for my latest article that will be posted on Oklahoma Watch Wednesday. Here is a preview: Of the more than 430 bills making it to the governor’s desk during the four-month session, just a dozen bills had a Democrat as the original lead sponsor.

That’s the lowest amount in a long time, perhaps ever.

Tell me what you thought of the recently concluded session. Were there passed bills that upset you or rejected proposals that you support? Email me at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org or finding me on Twitter at @tbrownokc.

Tweet Watch

This tweet would usually be cause for celebration for lawmakers, staff, journalists, lobbyists and others who are more than ready for the four-month session to end.

But as I wrote above, two special sessions and an election season are right on the horizon. So after the three-day weekend, it will be back to the grind for many of us.

What I’m Reading This Week

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt rebuked Republicans lawmakers Thursday, saying their budget was shaped by “backroom deals” and doesn’t provide “real inflation relief” for struggling Oklahomans and called them back into special session next month to pass what he called “real relief.” [Enid News and Eagle]
  • A group of abortion providers in Oklahoma filed a legal challenge Thursday to a new law that bans nearly all abortions in the state. [The Associated Press]
  • Prosecutors have declined to charge former state Rep. Jose Cruz with sexual battery over an incident with a lobbyist New Year’s Eve at her Oklahoma City apartment. [The Oklahoman]
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday asked a judge to strike from a grand jury report a finding that he placed “improper political pressure” on his appointees to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. [The Oklahoman]
  • The Cherokee Nation is taking steps to ensure that dark money doesn’t pour into the tribal nation’s elections and influence voters. A new law designed to reform the tribal nation’s election code was signed into law last week. [KOSU]