Multiple options for how special session might play out (Capitol Update)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

It’s a reasonable and prudent thing for legislative leaders and the governor to be attempting to develop a plan for what they would do in a special session before actually going into special session. It’s also reasonable to wait until the Supreme Court rules on two more pending challenges to bills that provided significant funding for this year’s budget. But predicting the ultimate outcome of a legislative proposal before bills are even filed, if that’s what they expect to do, is a real challenge.

I’d guess that sooner or later the Legislature will have to go into special session without knowing if they have the votes to do what they hope to do. That’s the fault of no one. It’s just the way representative democracy works. Legislators, after all, represent their constituents, and they will have to have a concrete public proposal before them and the opportunity to gauge the reaction of their constituents before they can commit to how they might vote. When it comes to revenue and budgets, constituents will have strong opinions.

Even after leadership and the governor have agreed on a budget proposal, there will be negotiations, changes in the proposal, and then a final product to vote on before legislators will make an iron-clad commitment on how they will vote. It’s nearly impossible to do this before revenue bills are even introduced. For the rest of us, it’s hard to make a guess as to what will happen.

What I’m hearing from public statements and a few private conversations is that some legislators are leaning toward trying to do as little as they can in a special session to just patch the budget holes that were created when the Court ruled one or more of the revenue producing measures to have been illegally passed. Then they would plan to address the structural budget problem next session. This would likely require “borrowing” from certain funds, relying on supplemental appropriations during the 2018 regular session, and possibly redistributing some of the cuts. Frankly, I don’t think this is going to be too well received.

An option I think might be better would be to call the special session, have legislators go to the Capitol for one or two days to adopt rules, etc., perhaps introduce “shell” bills, and then adjourn at the call of the Speaker and Pro Tem. When there’s an actual proposal on the table, members could be called back into session to hold committee hearings, debate, and ultimately vote. This would allow the legislative process to move forward without the expense of daily sessions.

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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.

2 thoughts on “Multiple options for how special session might play out (Capitol Update)

  1. I support a 1 cent per oz. on all soft drinks. The usual “sin” taxes and gasoline already pay a fair share. Soft drinks, flavored waters, caffeine drinks, fountain, bottled or canned are not necessary or healthful and are bought with disposable income by the demographics that use the most state services. I also favor raising the Gross Production Tax to parity with surrounding states.

  2. My legislators have shown no regard for their constituents. They don’t answer phone calls, email or traditional mail. Why would they behave differently now?

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