We’re now in the eighth week of the legislative session. When we began back in February, 746 measures had been filed by members of the Senate, and 952 bills had been filed in the House.
By the time the committee chairs decided against hearing some of those measures, committee members voted against others, and the full chambers voted on the remaining measures filed by their own members, those numbers had been significantly reduced—which is part of the process.
At this point in the session, the bills that were approved by the full Senate cross over the House and vice versa. The whole process starts over again. Of the 746 measures filed in the Senate, 273 have been sent to the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, of the 952 House bills that were filed, 296 made it through their committees and were approved by their chamber and sent to the Senate.
Just as I did with the Senate measures, as Floor Leader, I’ve been going through the House bills, looking at the area of law or public policy they deal with, and assigning each of them to a Senate committee. Again, the chair of that committee relies on his or her judgment as they review each bill and decide which will receive a hearing, and which will not.
The deadline for Senate committees to take action on bills that began in the House is April 7. As House bills are passed out of committee, I’ll begin adding them to our daily floor agenda to get the scheduled for a vote by the full Senate. The deadline for Senate floor votes on House bills is April 21.
At that point, our work is far from over. If a bill is changed in any way by the opposite chamber, it must return so that those changes can be approved. If they aren’t, the author can request a conference committee, which includes conferees from each chamber who must agree on a compromise version that must then be approved by both chambers before it can go the governor for final consideration.
Beyond that, the spotlight always shifts to the budget during the final weeks of the session, although intense discussions and meetings have been taking place even before the session officially convened. We are facing many difficult decisions, just as other oil producing states are. There is no denying the impact of oil prices that fell from $100 a barrel in June of 2014 to $26 a few weeks ago.
We remain committed to doing all that we can to shield our core services like education, public safety and transportation from the very deepest cuts, but the reality is we have a constitutional requirement to write and pass a balanced budget. All our work, including passing the budget, must be concluded by no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, May 27.
Contact Schulz at the State Capitol, Room 418, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, or call (405) 521-5612.