Launched for the 2019 Oklahoma legislative session, our Monday Minute newsletter previews the week ahead at the State Capitol. This morning, we distributed the first edition of Monday Minute for the 2020 session, and for today we have reproduced it below as a sample of what subscribers can expect in their inbox to start each legislative week from February through May.
If you would like to sign up for our FREE Monday Minute newsletter, please do so here. As always, thank you for reading no matter how much time you have.
If you have …
30 seconds: State of the State speech today
Today marks the start of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature’s second regular session, which will begin with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s annual State of the State address at 12:30 p.m. in the House of Representatives’ chamber.
In keeping with tradition, Stitt will reveal his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, signaling to lawmakers and the public what initiatives he would like the Legislature to pursue this session. But that doesn’t mean lawmakers will ultimately follow the governor’s suggestions.
To view Stitt’s State of the State speech, tune into OETA on your television or online. OETA also provides its live-stream of the annual event to Oklahoma’s commercial news stations as well.
1 minute: Let’s talk about money
In December, the Oklahoma Board of Equalization estimated that lawmakers will have about $9.4 million more to appropriate than they did last year when teachers received a raise for the second straight session and more than $500 million in additional monies were spread across state agencies.
During his first State of the State address last year, Gov. Kevin Stitt called for lawmakers to designate substantial dollars to “savings,” a proposal that initially seemed unlikely to many in the Capitol. But when the year’s budget agreement was announced, Stitt had his $200 million in additional savings and a significant policy accomplishment for the businessman-turned-governor who wants the state better prepared for economic downturns.
Since that $200 million was not spent last year, some or all of that money could be appropriated this year. The Oklahoma Policy Institute framed the December Board of Equalization numbers as an indication of lawmakers having at least $200 million “more available funds” they could appropriate. But with Stitt and his Secretary of Budget Mike Mazzei having preached fiscal caution over the past year, it seems likely the executive branch will again ask the Legislature to hold back some of the year’s projected revenue.
State Treasurer Randy McDaniel’s January report emphasized the state economy’s anticipated slowdown, and executive branch budget leaders said at the December BOE meeting that gross production taxes from natural gas wells is expected to fall by about 50 percent. The BOE will meet again later in February to certify a final budget estimate, 95 percent of which the Legislature will ultimately be able to allocate.
2 minutes: How hard will Stitt push SoonerCare 2.0?
Last week, Stitt announced his intention to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma while simultaneously seeking a federal waiver to implement a block grant model with additional program flexibility.
From Carmen Forman’s report for The Oklahoman:
In the coming weeks, the state will submit a Medicaid state plan amendment to CMS along with applications for Healthy Adult Opportunity waivers to charge some Medicaid beneficiaries modest premiums and impose work requirements that will require them to hold a job, attend school or be involved in the community. That will ensure Oklahomans have “skin in the game,” Stitt said.
Brooklyn Wayland of the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord News program covered Stitt’s SoonerCare 2.0 announcement from Washington where the governor made his announcement and where Gaylord News embeds student reporters each semester.
But how much detail will Stitt reveal about his administration’s waiver application during today’s State of the State address? It could be interesting to watch how directly Republican lawmakers and the governor take aim at State Question 802, which would establish a new Medicaid eligibility figure in the Oklahoma Constitution.
3 minutes: Abortion portion of session could linger beyond Rose Day
On Wednesday, Feb. 5, opponents of abortion will rally at the State Capitol for the annual Rose Day advocacy event starting at 8:30 a.m. As they hand out roses to pro-life lawmakers and legislative/executive assistants, attendees will push for greater restrictions on abortion access in the Sooner State. Some will even call for the passage of legislation that criminalizes the performance of an abortion. HB 2900 by Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-Lane) would do just that, and similar measures could also be pushed by advocates. (In 2017, Humphrey made international headlines during his first month in office when he was discussing an abortion-related bill and used the word “host” to refer to pregnant women.)
Whether any Senate bills on abortion restrictions receive committee hearings could be interesting to watch. While it has yet to be reflected on the Senate website, Sen. Greg McCortney (R-Ada) is the new chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee following the resignation of Sen. Jason Smalley (R-Stroud). In 2019, Smalley declined to hear SB 13, which would “abolish” abortion in Oklahoma. Supporters of the proposal canvassed Smalley’s hometown with fliers and put up other signs criticizing him for the decision.
In her preview of the 2020 session, Barbara Hoberock of the Tulsa World listed five newly filed measures on the topic of abortion:
- SB 1721 (Unborn Person Equality Act)
- SB 1728 (Unborn Person Wrongful Death)
- SB 1786 (precludes doctors from performing abortions upon penalty of license revocation)
- SB 1959 (prohibits abortions if a fetal heartbeat or brainwaves are detected)
- HB 4116 (makes abortion a felony punishable by 40-50 years)
- HB 2900 (makes abortion murder)
4 minutes: Committee work begins Tuesday
While this blurb might be shorter than the ones above, getting up to speed on the Legislature’s committee schedule — and this week’s agendas — will take you some additional time.
The Senate’s standing committee schedule lays out the typical times and dates for more than a dozen committees. Wednesdays are slated to be full of appropriation meetings.
The House’s standing committee schedule, on the other hand, notes multiple weekly slots for potential Appropriations and Budget Committee meetings, including bright and early Monday morning.
If a handy dandy phone app aimed at putting #okleg information at your fingertips sounds helpful, learn more here.
Bonus: Come to our Happy Hour!
What better way to wind down the first week of legislative session than with a Friday happy hour with your favorite local news publication? From 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, we will be hosting a casual happy hour — complete with a brief board meeting of our new Sustainable Journalism Foundation — at the 51st Street Speakeasy, 1114 N.W. 51st St. in Oklahoma City.
Come learn more about NonDoc, our new nonprofit board and how you can help make independent media sustainable in your community.
10 more seconds?
Encourage your colleagues and friends to sign up for the Monday Minute today!