Another deadline and longstanding controversies in the Legislature (Capitol Update)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Photo by Becky McCray / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Photo by Becky McCray / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The grind continued for legislators this week with the deadline to get all legislation passed in both houses occurring yesterday.  These “floor action” weeks make for long days with a lot of debate and votes.  This week the absence of Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-OKC) who termed out last year, was probably be noticed more than once.  Mike was at his strongest during deadline weeks when he could bring floor action to a halt by raising points of order and questioning rulings of the chair. 

As time marched toward the final deadline on Thursday evening, leadership had to make decisions about which bills would get heard with the limited time remaining.  Bills that didn’t receive a hearing would be dead for the year, sowing an element of discontent among their sponsors.  Depending upon whether you were hoping to see a bill die or hoping to get a bill heard you would consider Mike’s antics a blessing or a curse.  But now he’s rejoined the ranks of the governed, and most House members are grateful no one has stepped up to claim the gadfly mantle.

A couple of bills that are a continuing part of lengthy controversies made the cut and passed their respective houses last week.  The first is SB 782, which among other things extended the establishment of charter schools to rural counties.  Heretofore charter schools were only allowed in larger counties.  The bill also tightened the requirements for charter schools.  The whole charter school movement has been going on in Oklahoma since the 1980s with gradual growth of the movement.  Charter school advocates say they allow for innovation while those opposed say charter schools take money away from the other public schools.  In my opinion charter schools in themselves are neither good nor bad.  The problem comes when they are claimed to be a cure for what ails public education.  It’s a form of avoidance, a way to talk about fixing education without spending any more money.  It can’t be done.      

The other bill that extends a continuing controversy is HB 1566 about managed healthcare.  HB 1566 started as a bill directing the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority to develop a pilot program for managed care in Oklahoma.  Proponents say managed care is a way to save money.  Opponents say it just creates another level of healthcare management that takes a cut of the healthcare dollar without providing any actual healthcare services. As the bill passed the Senate it is now a bill telling the OHCA to seek proposals for “coordinated care” models for aged, blind and disabled, except in nursing facilities, which will follow in 2 more years. 

A third bill that has generated a good deal of discussion is Speaker Hickman’s HB 2180, a proposal to require college students receiving “Oklahoma’s Promise” scholarships to carry a full load of 30 hours per semester.  The bill, as it passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, was changed to require 24 hours per semester and excluded students who work at least 15 hours per week.  Proponents of the bill say a student is more likely to actually get a degree if she is taking enough hours to graduate in 4 years.  Opponents say students who need the scholarship often can’t carry a full load because of work, family obligations or other reasons.  They won’t graduate if they lose their scholarship.  The bill was approved on the Senate floor without title, so further work must be done in conference committee for it to become law.


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

2 thoughts on “Another deadline and longstanding controversies in the Legislature (Capitol Update)

  1. Re HB 1566. I am told that Oklahoma tried managed care in the early 1990’s and that it was an expensive failure. How about an article on this point. Or send me some references for starting places and I will try researching it myself.

    Joe Peters

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