Chamber of origin deadline brings heavy workload this week (Capitol Update)

Note: Capitol Update is a guest column from former Oklahoma House Speaker Steve Lewis’ weekly newsletter focused on major events occurring in the state capitol.

Last week was a short week for the legislature. Both the House and Senate adjourned for spring break after session on Tuesday. I don’t recall exactly when legislative spring break became a thing, but it reflects the more family friendly culture found in the work world these days. In fact people who can, seem to be taking more vacations these days. It’s almost downright European! With only two days of legislative action last week, there’s not a lot to report, but this week—deadline week for passage of bills off the floor of the chamber of origin—will produce a heavy workload.

By the end of the week, it could be possible to start reflecting on what will be some of the major issues that will land on the negotiating table for House and Senate leadership and the governor at the end of session. To have a serious chance to be included, a proposal normally must show it had the support of its chamber of origin.

For example, you can expect Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, to put school vouchers on the negotiating table at the end of session. Although House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, has made it clear publicly that the House will not hear Treat’s voucher bill, Treat knows never doesn’t always mean never. If he can get the bill sent to the House, it becomes leverage to get more private school voucher funding in some form. But to do that, he needs to get his voucher bill passed in the Senate first, then wait. Thursday is the deadline to get that done.

Last year, the Senate made clear it was opposed to any large general tax cuts. But Speaker McCall’s proposal to cut corporate income taxes by two percent and personal income taxes by a quarter of a percent (at a cost of about $530 million) passed the House in March 2021. The bills were dead on arrival when they were double assigned and never heard in Senate Committee. But at the end of session, both proposals came back to life as part of a leadership “budget deal.” I’ve heard different versions of what the Senate got in return, but you’d have to have been in the room to know for sure.

By the end of this week, we’ll have a better idea of what really good things and what really bad things could be in an overall deal to end the session in May. It’s an interesting and sometimes scary process.


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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