Typical of an election year, there were only 88 interim study requests in the House of Representatives this year compared with 146 last year. The Senate has not published its interim study requests. In the House, studies must be approved by the Speaker then scheduled by the chairman of the committee to which they are assigned. In the Senate all requests are passed on by the Pro Tempore to the committee chairs who have the choice to hear them or not. Studies usually begin around August.
Interim studies usually last 1-2 hours and give proponents and sometimes opponents an opportunity to present information on issues. They can be of value, if they are well attended, to generate interest in the issue being studied. Most interim studies do not produce written reports with findings and recommendations. As usual, there is a wide range of requests this year reflecting the diversity of issues that interest legislators. Some requests reflect current events such as the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, and civil unrest.
For example, Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane, requested a study to “look into possible ways and legislation that would protect all law enforcement.” Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, wants to study “the infrastructure of our law enforcement agencies, especially involving access to military weapons, vehicles, and supplies and what role they play in our local communities.”
Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, and Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, have requested studies on the use of deadly force by police. Nichols has also requested broader studies on “state investment in entrepreneurship to re-start the state’s economy post COVID-19” and “public/private social change partnerships.”
Other requests involve issues that would be on the legislative agenda without the current turmoil. Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, Chair of the Education Committee, wants to study “connectivity of broadband in relation to Oklahoma schools/E-Rate federal grant” that makes telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries. Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, wants to study the effectiveness of school suspension versus mental health treatment for students who have suffered adverse childhood experiences.
Rep. Tammy West, R-Oklahoma City, has requested a study on restorative justice as an alternative to the traditional criminal justice model for non-violent offenses. Another interesting request is by Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, to study medical-legal partnerships addressing legal issues that drive poor health outcomes and contribute to population health inequities.