Legislature passes ARPA relief proposals; Governor signs 8, vetoes 3, while 21 others pass into law without his signature (Capitol Update)

The legislature recessed its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) special session on Sept. 29, giving the governor until last Wednesday (Oct. 5) to act on the bills. Gov. Stitt, largely uninvolved in allocating the $1.8 billion in ARPA funding, had three choices: Sign the bills, veto the bills, or allow them to become law without his signature. During the three-day session, legislators passed 32 measures appropriating and regulating the federal ARPA funds, along with some state funds that had earlier been deposited into the Progressing Rural Economic Prosperity (PREP) Fund

The governor acted on only 11 of the measures, signing eight and vetoing three bills. He allowed the remaining 21 bills to become law without his signature. Two of the bills he approved were “process” bills establishing procedures for spending the money. So, he approved only six appropriations bills. One of them, Senate Bill 3 contained the language prohibiting expenditure of the funds for treatment of transgender children at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Among the many projects in the bills becoming law without the governor’s approval were such projects as: 

  • $2.53 million to the Department of Public Safety to equip two mobile wellness units to provide support for post-incident trauma experienced by first responders; 
  • $25 million to construct needed facility upgrades at an industrial park located in southern Oklahoma to increase economic development in the region; 
  • $15.0 million to establish a grant program with Northeastern State University to recruit, educate, and stabilize Oklahoma’s health care workforce; 
  • $5 million to the Department of CareerTech Education to build a training program for broadband infrastructure installation to create a workforce to serve broadband needs in underserved areas and $6.2 million to establish a truck-driving workforce-training program targeting unemployed or underemployed workers; 
  • $1,088,437 to the Office of Juvenile Affairs for expansion of Youth Services of Creek County’s physical location; and 
  • $7,740,000 to build a new Emergency Youth Shelter at the Youth and Family Services in Lawton that is currently operating in a nursing home built in the 1940s. 

One must wonder why the governor would not want to approve such projects as well as the many others contained in the 27 appropriations measures.

ARPA: What’s That? [OK Policy]
Lawmakers’ recommendations on ARPA spending starting to take shape (Capitol Update)

Each of the three bills the governor vetoed appropriated federal ARPA funds. They provided: 

 The Arts Council and OETA appropriations are easy targets. Vocal critics are sometimes offended by programming that may occasionally be presented on OETA or depictions in various works of art. If that’s the target audience, a veto makes sense. Vetoing the emergency management funding is a little more difficult to understand except that it may reinforce the governor’s efforts to downplay the consequences of the pandemic. 

As it ultimately played out, Gov. Stitt was only peripherally engaged in the important work of allocating the $1.8 billion in ARPA funds that came to Oklahoma from federal taxpayers.   


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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