Bill Watch: Next week in #okleg | March 30, 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. See our advocacy alerts page for more ways to take action on these issues.

Budget and Taxes

This week the Legislature passed not only landmark legislation to pay for raises for teachers, state employees, and school support staff, but also approved the Department of Education’s overall funding bill for FY 2019, HB 3705. Work will now begin on reaching agreement on the rest of the FY 2019 budget, which lawmakers are hoping to wrap up quickly.

This week’s agreement made passage of various other bills more or less probable. SB 1086, which repeals the capital gains exemption and passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, ran into opposition from the State Chamber of Commerce and was not included as part of the revenue package. Its prospects now seem doubtful, although OK Policy will continue to push for it as a sensible source of additional revenue. Conversely, SB 337, a bill intended to expand collection of use taxes on online sales by requiring out-of-state retailers to share sales information with the Oklahoma Tax Commission, is now viewed as a source of additional revenue that can help pay for the funding package after the proposed lodging tax was rescinded. 

HJR 1050, a bill to lower the supermajority threshold for tax increases from three-fourths to two-thirds, was defeated this week. This leaves just one measure still alive – SJR 61– which would lower the threshold to 60 percent for sales tax increases only. It has been assigned to the Senate Rules committee.

Finally, HB 2991, which would have the Oklahoma Tax Commission prepare a biannual study of the tax system showing the taxes paid by each income group, is eligible to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee. 


As was mentioned above, the House this week approved an overall FY 2019 appropriation for common education in HB 3705 and sent it to the Senate. The bill authorizes about of $2.912 billion in funding for the State Department of Education, which is about $480 million (19.7 percent) about final FY 2018 levels. That includes a $407 million (21.8 percent) increase to the state aid formula to pay for a teacher raise and reverse some of the cuts to school programs and support staff of the past several years.

The Legislature also approved and Governor Fallin signed HB 1023xx to increase the minimum salary schedule for all teachers by 15 to 18 percent, depending on a teacher’s degrees and experience. The Senate also approved this measure after amending it to require all districts to provide this pay increase — even those that already pay above the required minimum.

Importantly, this budget and pay raise will only hold together if the state brings in enough revenues to sustain them. After pushback,the Legislature has already moved to repeal parts of the revenue plan they approved this week. Teachers are moving forward with plans for a walkout to begin Monday, and it’s increasingly clear that teachers will need to ask for more revenues to satisfy what lawmakers have already promised in these budget bills, besides the other needs identified by the Oklahoma Education Association.

Health and Human Services

Two bills with major implications for health care access are on the agenda early next week. SB 1030, which would eliminate Medicaid coverage for more than 43,000 parents by slashing the income eligibility limit, and SB 1179, which would terminate coverage for SoonerCare parents who fail to work a certain number of hours per month, are both on the House Appropriations Health subcommittee agenda for Tuesday, April 3 at 4:30pm. HB 2932, which would also cut Medicaid coverage for parents who don’t work enough hours per week, passed the Senate Health and Human Services committee earlier this week, and will next advance to the Senate Appropriations committee, which includes the full Senate. 

More positively, HB 2758, which would create a needed respite program for caregivers of people with developmental disabilities, passed the Senate Health and Human Services committee and goes next to Senate Appropriations along with its funding mechanism, HB 2754. HB 3036, which would transfer the power to appoint and fire the head of the state Department of Health from the agency board to the Governor, has also been assigned to Senate Appropriations. It’s only bill remaining of a number that would have changed appointment authority for state health agencies.

Criminal Justice

Several of the bills based on the proposals of the Justice Reform Task Force were signed out of conference committee on Thursday. Among that group are SB 689, which implements evidence-based supervision standards, but excludes the important fines and fees provisions from its original form, and HB 2286, a much-needed update of parole practices whose impact was reduced during the committee process.

The bills are definitely a step in the right direction and will divert thousands of people from incarceration, but they unfortunately leave a lot undone and won’t completely stem the unsustainable flow of inmates into overcrowded prisons. As legislators signal an openness to building new prisons, it’s imperative that lawmakers keep working to reform our broken justice system.

HB 2881, a proposal to remove the ability of prosecutors to block a person from participating in a drug court program, passed the House and is assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services committee. This is a good step towards ensuring that those in the justice system who need help can get it.

SB 1021, a bill to make indigent defense more accessible, has been assigned to the House Judiciary committee. The bill was watered down considerably from its original form, now disallowing posting bail as the sole factor in determining eligibility instead of removing it altogether. It’s still possible to restore the original language, but chances appear slim.

Economic Security

There was very little movement on bills in this area this week as the Legislature was more focused on budget bills and the impending walkout by teachers and state workers. But HB 2771, a bill that would created a searchable database of occupational licensing requirements in Oklahoma, passed the Senate Business, Commerce, and Tourism committee with a unanimous (9-0) vote and has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations committee for further consideration. Two other occupational licensing reform bills (SB 1475 and HB 2894) are still awaiting committee action.

Three other bills that we are tracking closely are also still waiting to be heard by committee. SB 1572 would require regular reports on payday lending in Oklahoma and was assigned to House Judiciary. HB 1530 would prohibit wage discrimination based on gender and has been assigned to both Senate Business, Commerce, and Tourism and Senate Appropriations. And SB 1581 would create a paid family leave bank for state employees and has been assigned to House Appropriations and Budget.

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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.

One thought on “Bill Watch: Next week in #okleg | March 30, 2018

  1. It seems the legislators once again are finding it easier to warehouse people in prisons instead of providing programs to deal with mental illness, addiction, poverty, and other contributing causes to the problem. Just like in education they like to stack ’em deep and keep ’em cheap without care for what is needed to solve the problems that brought them there.

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