Hang on!

As we reach one week until the scheduled adjournment of the Oklahoma Legislature on May 22nd, we can only share the advice offered by Bette Davis in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

The Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn at 5:00 pm on the last Friday in May. But earlier this session, both chambers passed a resolution to move that date up one week. At this late stage in the process, a huge amount of important work remains on the Legislature’s plate. Most obviously, an agreement on the FY ’10 budget has yet to be reached between the Legislature and Governor, with the most recent indications being that the two sides remain a good distance apart. There may still be enough time remaining to pass the budget; however, with each passing day, the chances that there will be time for legislators, the media, advocates, and the public to become informed about the myriad decisions and details contained in the budget bills grow slimmer. Once an agreement is reached, bills containing appropriation language, budget limits, FTE authorizations, and other legal matters must be written, signed out of conference committee, and granted final passage in both chambers for each of the state’s 80-plus appropriated agency. For many agencies, the bills that go whizzing through the process will reflect budget cuts and include the use of federal stimulus dollars.  With such a tight schedule, it is likely to be well past the end of session before anyone other than the few key legislators and staff involved in the actual budget negotiations know what has been decided.

A similar story holds true for other important areas of legislation where final agreements remain on legislators’ plates, or in many cases, are still in the process of being cooked. Legislators are considering a major overhaul of the state’s child welfare system, but the initial conference committee report for the 89-page bill implementing the changes has been rejected and will need to be reintroduced. The agreement on tort reform announced earlier this week was translated into a 189-page bill on Wednesday and passed by the House 24 hours later.  There are certain to be one or several major tax bills emerging in the final days that will make multiple changes to the tax code and perhaps affect next year’s revenue collections. There is much talk of legislation to grant authority to negotiate agreements on the sale of water rights.

Whether the Legislature meets its deadline for early release, falls back to the 29th, or ends up back in Special Session to take care of unfinished business remains to be seen. However, any hopes that the 2009 session would ease to a smooth stop seem already out the window.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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