Budget, managed care remain major items as session winds down (Capitol Update) 

Time is closing in on legislators. The constitutional deadline for sine die adjournment is the last Friday in May, which this year May 28. But in the past few years the Legislature has recessed before the deadline to give itself the opportunity to return and override gubernatorial vetoes. Bills sent to the Governor must be signed or vetoed by the Governor within five days or they become law without his signature. But if the legislature adjourns before the five days passes, the governor has 15 days after adjournment to sign or veto the bill. Last year, the Legislature overrode several vetoes, including the state budget.

So, working back from May 28, if legislators follow recent practice — which I think is likely — they would have only this week and next to finish their work. The major broad public policy issues left on the agenda are Medicaid managed care and the state budget for Fiscal Year 2022 that begins July 1. Managed care — contracting out management of the state’s Medicaid program to four private out-of-state insurance companies — is the governor’s proposal, and I think it’s safe to say a majority of the Legislature opposes the plan. 

Back on April 20, the House inserted language in Senate Bill 131 by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, and Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, that would leave Medicaid managed care with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, but the Senate has yet to act. It can either accept the House amendments to SB 131 and send the bill to the Governor, reject the amendments and send the bill to conference committee, or do nothing, leaving the Governor’s actions in place. Or the legislative leadership could introduce an entirely new Medicaid proposal in the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget. Any legislative action will likely face a veto and attempted override.  

On the budget, from all appearances, the House and Senate are near agreement. Preliminary budget numbers were circulated to members early last week. Meetings continue for the purpose of finalizing those numbers. It’s likely the Governor’s staff has been involved in those meetings. One wild card on the budget would be whether the managed care issue leaks over into budget negotiations. Either way, it is reasonable to expect some action on both budget and Medicaid this week. 

Although education has not been a front burner issue this year, separate actions by the State School Board and the Multicounty Grand Jury may cause some legislative action before adjournment. There is a bill in the works, SB 229 by Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, and Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, reacting to the State School Board action that gave local and state moneys to charter schools. The multicounty grand jury issued a blistering report last week on its Epic Schools investigation with recommendations for legislative action. I would be surprised to see significant Epic action in the time the Legislature has remaining this session. Charter schools and virtual charter schools will likely be unfinished business for this year.


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.

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