Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon is planning to release a list of legislative studies that lawmakers will take up before the 2014 Legislature convenes in February.
Shannon is expected to release the list on Friday, the deadline for study requests by lawmakers to be approved or denied. Former House Speaker Kris Steele approved studies on 59 topics out of 89 individual requests last year.
Interim studies give lawmakers an opportunity to receive testimony and examine issues in depth to decide whether to draft legislation on a particular topic.
Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Monday a sweeping overhaul of the way Oklahoma treats workers hurt on the job. Senate Bill 1062 changes the state’s court-based workers’ compensation system to an administrative plan.
Lawmakers have until the end of this month to complete their work, including the passing of a state budget. The adjournment date might come sooner with the announcement of an agreement on how to spend the state’s money.
The budget to pay for Oklahoma’s government will be $7.1 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1, under an agreement between Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders. For most state agencies the amount of money they’ll receive in the new budget year is the same as last, but Fallin says the largest increase in the budget is for public schools in Oklahoma.
The Republican leaders at the State Capitol gathered in the Blue Room Tuesday to announce what they’re calling major agreements on several key proposals before lawmakers this session.
Gov. Mary Fallin, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa) and House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) each took turns describing the plan to cut state income taxes, change the workers’ compensation system and repair the State Capitol.
House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) says the moratorium is necessary because Oklahoma has raised fees by more than $100 million since 2007. During the recession, it was the easiest way Oklahoma had to raise revenues to fill budget gaps. Increasing taxes in Oklahoma requires a three-fourths supermajority in both houses of the legislature, or a vote of the people.
It's already nearly impossible to raise taxes in Oklahoma. Now, the legislature is poised to ban raising fees for drivers' licenses, state parks and other state services, too. A bill placing a moratorium on fee increases through 2016 has passed both houses of the state legislature.
House Democrats started off the week by gathering members of their caucus and supporters of an expansion to the Medicaid insurance program. House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City) says Oklahomans have sent approximately $27 billion in taxpayer dollars to the federal government.
“We come together as a community of Oklahoma citizens today and call upon our governor and our legislative leaders to just bring some of those $27 billion back to Oklahoma to take care of those people who desperately need healthcare.”
Last month, Gov. Mary Fallin announced her plans to support an initiative petition in 2014 to change the way tobacco is regulated in Oklahoma.
“A direct vote to the people is very new, and is a dramatic new tactic to repeal tobacco control preemption in Oklahoma,” said Michael Givel, a University of Oklahoma political scientist and the co-author of the upcoming book Heartland Tobacco War, out this summer.