Bills hitting deadline in OK legislature

House leaders say they need to get an average of 40 bills a day completed. Photo OK House video.

 By Joel Dean
The Duncan Banner

With only a week left to present bills to the Oklahoma House and Senate floor’s, lawmakers are fighting to get their bills heard.

So far, both sides of the legislature have passed several bills on a wide variety of subjects including the House of Representatives passing a bill to use nitrogen gas executions if lethal injections are outlawed, a bill allowing ministers to refuse to perform gay marriages and a bill creating sexual assault and prevention response training to schools.

The Oklahoma Senate may not have passed as many headlining bills, but it has pushed several notable bills through. The Oklahoma Senate passed a bill allowing liquor stores to sell refrigerated products and the Senate passed a bill allowing employers to create direct primary care insurance agreements.

The Senate and House deadlines for reading bills in open session is Thursday. The 55th legislative session closes on May 29. The remainder of March, April and May is set aside for bills to be heard in the opposite house.

State Sen. Corey Brooks (R-Washington) said in a recent press release that the Senate has more that 200 bills left to hear this session. Lawmakers will be hard pressed to fit in everything.

“Work is going to be fast and furious,” Brooks said. “Five more of my bills were approved last week by the full Senate and were sent on to the House. This week, I have five more on the Senate agenda to be heard.”

Brooks previously said addressing Oklahoma’s over $600 million deficit would be a big part of the 2015 session.

“All state agencies are going to be facing cuts but have to be careful to ensure that we protect vital state services while still balancing the budget,” he said. “We met with the Department of Corrections last week and, in the coming weeks, will meet with the Department of Education, Higher Education, Career Tech, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Department of Human Services, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Office of Juvenile Affairs, Department of Public Safety, Department of Health and the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.”

State Rep. Dennis Johnson (R-Duncan) spoke on the frantic nature of deadline week on the House’s side.

“We can go as late as Thursday at midnight. We were told today we will not come back on Friday,” Johnson said. “(Monday) I know we had 90-something bills on the floor agenda. We started at 10 a.m. and finished our first bill at 2:30 p.m.”

Johnson said they have a lot to get through before this half of the session closes Thursday night.

“We are on bill number 13 or 14 and they said we are needing to get an average of 40 a day completed to get everything done by Thursday,” he said. “With one bill taking four-and-a-half hours, it ate up a lot of our time.”

Johnson said there is always some collateral damage when everything comes down to the wire, but for bills left unheard it is not the end of the world.

“A good bill this year will be a good bill next year,” Johnson said.

Copyright 2015, The Duncan Banner,

The Gayly – March 10, 2015 @ 9:15am.