agency spending limits
On left, Senate Appropriations and Budget Chairman Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) conducts the Senate JCAB meeting on the morning of Monday, May 11, 2020. (Tres Savage)

The Oklahoma Legislature launched into joint appropriations meetings this morning, moving forward 14 bills that set agency spending limits. Those bills are expected to hit the full House and Senate floors for consideration this week, which could conclude the 2020 regular session.

HB 4153‘s budget mandates for the State Board of Education drew some opposition in the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget meeting.

“The school districts I’ve communicated with have a problem with the new line items like Imagine Math,” Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso) said. “This has been brought to me by different school districts. There is frustration that we are picking specific vendors that they are not going to us at the same time we are cutting (other program funding.)”

The bill moved 14-5 in Senate JCAB despite Dossett’s objections.

“It’s hard when you have to take $1 million out of reading sufficiency and $1 million out of alternative education, and you have to trim these different programs,” Sen. Dewayne Pemberton (R-Muskogee) said after the meeting. “But it could have been a lot worse if we hadn’t had some flexibility in the testing dollars. It could have been really bad. We were able to take about half of that and offset some of those cuts we had to make.”

Pemberton said the line items had to remain within a set budgetary amount, and he noted an increase in flexible benefit allowances that needed to be offset.

Both the Senate and House JCAB meetings recessed instead of adjourning, meaning lawmakers could come back later today and address two bills that were held over:

  • HB 4161 directs the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to spend $1.25 million for 9-1-1 services on Oklahoma Turnpikes;
  • SB 1932 makes numerous directions and authorizations to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services;

In all, the bills that advanced Monday morning in both House and Senate JCAB were:

  • HB 4153 directs a series of expenditures for the State Board of Education, including re-institution of $1 million for Imagine Math at the request of the House, according to Pemberton;
  • SB 1925 also concerns designation of funds within the Oklahoma State Department of Education, adding $9 million for the Teachers’ Retirement Credit;
  • HB 4154 directs $1.9 million for the Pay for Success program, with 75 percent of that money to be spent evenly among cities with at least 350,000 residents;
  • HB 4155 concerns the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and federal funds;
  • HB 4157 directs expenditures of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services regarding suicide prevention and opioid and alcohol addiction treatment in county jails;
  • HB 4158 concerns the Oklahoma Historical Society;
  • HB 4160 directs four expenditures within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, including hepatitis C treatment and pay raises for correctional employees, private prison employees and teachers employed by the department;
  • SB 1930 redesignates $3 million of Opioid Settlement Fund money from the Supreme Court to the District Courts for support of mental health courts, drug courts and veterans courts;
  • SB 1058 directs specific expenditures by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, including money for sickle cell anemia, the Athletic Commission, $2 million for continuing the Choosing Childbirth Act and $1.9 million for federally qualified health centers, which provide medical, dental and behavioral health services to those with insurance and those without on a sliding cash-payment scale;
  • SB 1936 directs $2.4 million for upgrades of the aquatic center for the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur and $149,000 for the Oklahoma School for the Blind;
  • SB 1939 directs the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation to make certain obligation payments and spend $794,000 on operations of the Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center and Nature Park;
  • SB 1940 directs the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to use at least $1 million for the statewide branding initiative;
  • SB 1942 directs the Oklahoma Military Department to use $2 million for flood remediation and other deferred maintenance;
  • SB 1943 directs the State Election Board to make certain expenditures, including $160,000 for personal protective equipment for poll workers.