Of the 1,934 bills filed this past legislative session, only a small fraction of those saw any significant action by legislators. Most bills are never heard by a committee, and almost all of them fall short of a hearing on the floor of either legislative chamber. This post reviews the bills from this session that OK Policy provided commentary and analysis on, some in-depth and some in passing, and reveals how far they made it through the legislative process.
As we previously noted, there were far fewer bills this session targeting immigrants than in previous legislatures. HJR 1088, sponsored by Rep. Terrill would have denied bail to a person who has entered or remained in the country illegally. It was not heard in committee. Another Terrill bill, HB 3014, was a draconian proposal to implement English-only restrictions. It was similarly denied a committee hearing.
Out of a wave of bills targeting the poor and people receiving public benefits, only a handful were successful. HB 2388, a bill to drug test welfare recipients that we criticized early on, was substantially revised (for the better, for the most part) and eventually passed both chambers.
On the healthcare front, Sen. Bingman introduced a bill to create Oklahoma’s health insurance exchange, a required component of the federal health law. We pointed out that SB 1629 would not have been compliant with federal law and wouldn’t be implemented in time to meet statutory deadlines. The bill received a Senate committee hearing but was shelved by leadership after pressure from grassroots groups and strident opponents of the health law. A bill that would have repealed minimum coverage standards for Oklahoma health insurance plans, including coverage of mammography and diabetes treatment, was approved by the House and the Senate. However, SB 1059 didn’t receive enough votes in conference committee to stay alive. SB 1208, a bill to reinstate coverage for newborn babies after an emergency rule from the Insurance Department locked them out of the child-only individual market, was not heard in committee.
Sen. Shortey and Rep. Murphey urged House and Senate committees to advance SB 1569, a bill requiring candidates for public office in Oklahoma to also present a birth certificate and a photo ID with their filing paperwork. While the authors denied that this was a “birther” bill, Shortey told a Senate committee that he filed the legislation because “there was a question nationwide about President Obama’s natural born citizenship status.” Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax told a House committee that a non-citizen had never filed to run for office in Oklahoma. While the bill was approved by a landslide in the Senate, it wasn’t given a hearing in the House.
Almost all of the bills we blogged about in an early-session roundup blog post of the “weird & wacky” were not given a hearing in committee. However, HB 3093, made it all the way to the governor’s desk and is now law. Rep. Williams’ bill to change the way canoes, kayaks and paddle boats are treated by the tax code seems like it was a winner with legislators. One OK Policy Blog commenter put it this way:
It is about stopping the ridiculous process that the state of Oklahoma has of treating Canoes and Kayaks (even the inflatable varieties) as boats even sometimes charging them a tax because they are “capable” of being propelled by a motor. Ultimately, in OK, you can purchase a $300 canoe that is paddled not motor driven and immediately have to pay $150 to register it. It must be tagged annually just like your car! It doesn’t take much for the taxes to cost more than the canoe.
HB 3052, which is the result of Oklahoma’s participation in the Justice Reinvestment initiative, passed both chambers by large margins and was signed by Governor Fallin. OK Policy summarized what the bill does and identified some areas that need further action to meaningfully ease the burden on overcrowded prisons in Oklahoma. Guest blogger Mike Connelly raised more questions we should be asking about corrections reform going forward.
And of course, the bills we spent the most time on this session were the various proposals to further reduce or eliminate the state income tax. None of these bills made it out of the Legislature. For a recap on how this happened, see this recent blog post and OK Policy Director David Blatt’s interview with StudioTulsa.