Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) and a handful of other conservative Oklahoma legislators are circulating a petition among their peers to call a third special session of the 56th Legislature.
Frustrated by a series of vetoes from Gov. Mary Fallin, Dahm and others are seeking the support of 68 House members and 33 senators to trigger a special session call authorized under Article 5, Section 27A of the Oklahoma Constitution.
“It originally started actually last fall when Gov. Fallin in the first special session line-item vetoed the budget she said she would sign and kind of caught everybody off guard, so we started looking at the possibility of, ‘Can we call ourselves back in for a veto override in an additional special session?'” Dahm said in an interview today. “With the recent vetoes of SB 1212 and several other bills she has vetoed, I started looking at all the legislation she has vetoed over the years, and there have been quite a few pieces of good policy that I feel like the majority of Oklahomans would be supportive of.”
He said multiple political events could trigger the need for a third special session called by Fallin, but the Legislature calling itself back in would allow lawmakers to set the parameters of the “extraordinary” session.
“In thinking that we might be going back into special anyway (if) State Question 788 passes to revisit that and maybe create a regulatory scheme for that, or if Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite successfully repeals the tax increases, there are a couple of opportunities where we might be going back into special session anyway, so I figured if we were going back in, it would give us an opportunity to revisit some of the legislation she has vetoed over the years,” Dahm said. “Since we will be there anyway to be working on legislation for those things, it wouldn’t be anything extra to call ourselves in and do a concurrent special session to address language that she previously vetoed.”
Faught: ‘A chance to correct those problems’
Dahm referred specifically to Fallin’s veto of SB 1212, which would have allowed the open carrying of firearms without the state’s current permit process.
He noted Fallin’s veto of SB 86, which attempted to create a system of local approval for highway projects in response to a controversial proposed spur of U.S. Highway 69 that some residents in Muskogee believe will harm the town’s economy.
“A veto override special session would give Muskogee another chance at stopping the U.S. 69 bypass, and give input and protections to communities in the U.S. 69 corridor and across the state from future bypass projects,” said Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee) in a press release Wednesday. “Gov. Fallin has failed Oklahoma citizens by vetoing legislation that is important to the Muskogee area and the state as a whole. This veto-override special session would give us a chance to correct those problems, advance Oklahoma in a positive direction, and protect citizens from government overreach.”
Montgomery said Monday that he had not yet signed Dahm’s petition.
“I’m open to that discussion,” Montgomery said. “But once we’ve gone out of session, there are competing opinions as to whether we can take back up a veto override. I want to make sure I understand the mechanical issues before I sign it.”
Dahm also said there is uncertainty on exactly how the Legislature could address vetoed bills in this manner.
“There is a question on that. There is an AG’s opinion that you cannot do that, but back in the 1990s they did something similar so there is precedent for that,” he said, adding that lawmakers could craft their call to allow for consideration language contained in all bills that Fallin has vetoed as governor.
He included a drafted third special session call with his press release:
Dunnington: ‘The public is tired of political grandstanding’
Dahm issued a press release Wednesday that listed 12 House members and four Senate members who he said had already signed the proposal since its origin Tuesday:
- Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy)
- Rep. Greg Babinec (R-Cushing)
- Rep. Bobby Cleveland (R-Slaughterville)
- Rep. Jeff Coody (R-Lawton)
- House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-OKC)
- Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee)
- Rep. Tom Gann (R-Inola)
- Rep. Lewis Moore (R-Arcadia)
- Rep. Zack Taylor (R-Seminole)
- Rep. Kevin West (R-Moore)
- Rep. Rick West (R-Heavener)
- Rep. Mark Lawson (R-Sapulpa)
- Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow)
- Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-Coalgate)
- Sen. James Leewright (R-Bristow) and
- Sen. Anthony Sykes (R-Moore)
“Rep. Echols is very much supportive of it and has already signed on,” Dahm said.
Echols did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment, but Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-OKC) offered his thoughts as a member of the House Democratic Caucus.
“As if the majority party hadn’t wasted enough taxpayer dollars last May by passing unconstitutional fees forcing the Legislature into two special sessions, now Republicans are asking for another expensive special session to take up overrides of Gov. Fallin’s vetoes of their own bills,” Dunnington said. “The public is tired of political grandstanding and ready for some new members willing to solve problems not create more of them.”
Not all House Republican Caucus members appeared to be on board Wednesday, either.
“The last thing the state needs is another special session, especially a superfluous one,” said a House Republican who asked to remain anonymous because he had not yet spoken with House GOP leaders about the matter. “These members and all members need to be in their districts explaining the last two years.”
(Correction: This story was updated late Wednesday, May 16, to reflect that two-thirds of Oklahoma House membership is 68 people and two-thirds of the Senate membership is 33.)