It’s time again for the annual migration of lawmakers from across the state of Oklahoma to the State Capitol to take part in the legislative session, which starts Feb. 3. The governor will open the session with his second State of the State Address in which he will outline his budget hopes and his priorities for the coming fiscal year. It will be up to the Legislature, however, to draft the final state budget, determining how much in appropriations each state agency will receive to deliver programs and services to all Oklahomans.
All indications are this will be a flat budget year. With oil and gas revenues slowing down, we will be unable to increase most agency budgets as we have the past two years. The good news, however, is that we are still sitting on a record-high amount for the state budget – $8.3 billion as of the last figures released from the State Board of Equalization. The board meets again in February to give us final certified numbers for how much we should expect to appropriate for Fiscal Year 2021. While we will not have large increases for state agencies, we should be safe from needing to cut anything except for areas where we find efficiencies. We also intend to save more money this year to offset future downturns.
This session looks to be a busy one for a variety of reasons. For one, we had 2,240 new bills filed between the House and Senate. This is in addition to the 2,192 carried forward from the first session of the 57th Legislature. Only a fraction of these bills will become state law, however. But this means both legislative chambers will have much work to do to sift through each bill to determine its merits before advancing it through committee hearings and onto the floor for a vote. Once measures are passed in their chamber of origin, they must go through this process in the opposite chamber. Only the bills that survive get sent to the governor for his consideration of final passage into law.
The Legislature goes through this weeding-out process each year. Your input on bills helps me and other lawmakers determine what is important to you and what should be left on the editing room floor.
One of the areas of intense focus for me this year will be health care policy. State Question 802 – started by an initiative petition of voters, not lawmakers – continues to put pressure on the Legislature to deal with the issue of Medicaid Expansion. No ballot measure to expand Medicaid has failed in any state where it has been proposed. SQ802 seeks to expand Medicaid constitutionally to able-bodied adults who qualify. The governor has promised to unveil his alternative health care plan very soon, which may put a dent in the state question’s popularity. My committee already is prepared for either scenario. We must do everything we can to ensure any health care plan can be paid for, operated in a fiscally responsible way, and help Oklahomans become healthier.
Please feel free to reach out to me with your questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or (405) 557-7327.