Bill Watch: Next week in #okleg | April 6, 2018

In our weekly Bill Watch post, we discuss what happened and what to look for in the bills we’re following most closely in the Oklahoma Legislature. Next Thursday (April 12th) is the deadline for House bills to make it through Senate committees and most Senate bills to make it through House committees. Bills assigned to the House Appropriations and Budget committee have until April 19th. See our advocacy alerts page for more ways to take action on these issues. 

Budget and Taxes

Legislative activity in the coming days will likely remain focused on measures aimed at fully funding the pay raise and school funding bills passed last week and generating additional revenue for school operations. As early as today, the Senate is expected to give final passage to HB 1019xx, which expands tax collections on online sales through third-party sellers. A companion measure awaits final passage in the House — SB 337, which requires online retailers to report on customer sales to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The Senate today is also expected to approve HB 1013xx, modifying state-tribal gaming compacts to allow for non-house banked table games, commonly known as ball and dice games. Education advocates have also pushed hard this week for House passage of SB 1086, which repeals the capital gains exemption, but House leadership continues to refuse to allow the bill to be heard. 

There is only one proposal left standing to revise the state’s three-quarters supermajority requirement for tax increases. SJR 61, which would lower the threshold to 60 percent for sales and use tax increases only, has been assigned to the House Rules committee and must be heard next week to stay alive.

Two measures that have been moving through the process aim to allow Oklahoma’s budget to better manage the ups and downs of the energy industry. SJR 35, which awaits a hearing in the House Rules committee, proposes a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment to create a new reserve fund for a portion of gross production taxes. HB 1400 would create the Oklahoma Vision Fund, which would also receive a portion of gross production taxes. It must be heard next week by the Senate Appropriations committee. 


One of the key committees responsible for education bills was roiled Wednesday when Senator Jason Smalley resigned as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. Senator Smalley did not give a specific reason for his resignation, but he said that his views did not line up with the Senate Republican Caucus or leadership. Senator Smalley had been supportive of new revenue measures to fund schools in recent years.

Besides the revenue bills discussed above, SB 1398 could see a vote on the House floor in coming days. This bill would remove the requirement to keep schools building and operations fund separate from the general operating fund, potentially allowing schools to use more money from property taxes for general operations. This bill also depends on the passage of the state question created by SJR 70, which would send to a vote of the people the Constitutional Amendment needed to allow this change. SJR 70 is awaiting a hearing in the House Rules committee. Notably, this amendment would not increase the cap on how much school districts can raise permanent property tax levies, and it would not apply to the bond funds typically used for new construction or other capital investments, so the impact of this change may be limited.

Health and Human Services

In good news this week, SB 1030, which would have terminated health care coverage for more than 43,000 Oklahoma parents, died when it was voted down 5-2 in the House Appropriations and Budget Health subcommittee. SB 1179, which would cut SoonerCare coverage for parents who fail to work enough hours in a given month, passed through that same committee and has until Thursday, April 19, to be heard in the full House Appropriations and Budget committee. Another SoonerCare work requirements bill, HB 2932, was laid over in Senate Appropriations earlier this week but could be taken up again before its deadline on Thursday, April 12.

Three other significant health care bills similarly await action in Senate Appropriations. HB 2758 and HB 2754, which would create and fund a respite care program for caregivers for people with developmental disabilities, have not yet been placed on an agenda. Also not yet on the Senate Appropriations agenda is HB 3036, which would assign the power to appoint and fire the head of the state Department of Health to the Governor. It’s the last of a raft of health care agency appointments bills filed this spring.

Criminal Justice

There has been very little movement on criminal justice legislation in the last week. The Justice Reform Task Force bills, revised in conference committee to overcome District Attorneys’ objections, still await final approval in the full chambers. SB 793 (reform oversight task force), SB 786 (burglary sentencing reform), SB 649 (habitual offender reform), SB 689 (evidence-based supervision), and HB 2286 (administrative parole) are all on that list.

Some other important reforms, including a bill to remove District Attorneys from their role as gatekeeper to drug courts (HB 2881) and another to increase access to public defenders (SB 1021) must pass committee this week. With virtually all attention focused on the teacher demonstrations, legislators must not neglect to take these important steps in the coming week.

Economic Security

There’s good news and bad news for economic security bills this week. First, the good news. HB 2771, a bill that would create an online database of occupational licenses in the state, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee with a unanimous vote and can now be considered by the full Senate.  Two other bills to reform occupational licensing (HB 2894 and SB 1475) are still awaiting committee action.

As for the bad news, HB 1530 was narrowly voted down by the Senate Business, Commerce, and Tourism Committee. This bill would have stiffened the prohibition on gender wage discrimination in Oklahoma, and it’s defeat makes it very likely that Oklahoma will continue to have a wider-than-average wage gap.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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