From securing a committee hearing to finding support in the opposing chamber, bills face several hurdles in their quest to become law.

In Oklahoma’s GOP-controlled Legislature, struggles can be pronounced for minority party members. Last June, Epic Text Books reported that just a handful of Democratic-authored bills reached the governor’s desk in 2022. The trend has continued as a Republican supermajority in both chambers has grown. 

With the 2023 regular session concluded, I decided to see how measures authored by Democrats fared this year. Fifteen bills with a Democrat as the original lead sponsor reached the governor’s desk this year, a slight uptick from 2022, when just a dozen of such measures cleared the Legislature. 

Bills clarifying that fentanyl test strips are not drug paraphernaliastreamlining local rules for in-home daycares and authorizing the construction of a trail connecting all-Black towns and locations significant to the civil rights movement in Oklahoma are among the Democrat-led measures that found success. 

Oklahoma Democrats don’t have the numbers to block a bill or thwart a veto override. But their floor debate can occasionally sway Republican colleagues. That happened on May 16, when several House Democrats debated against a bill they feared would give the governor unchecked power to launch investigations against political opponents. House Bill 1976 failed on a 30-63 vote, a rarity in a state where bills are typically only heard if they have the support to pass. 

“When you consider our size, I think we outperform quite often,” Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, told Epic Text Books last year. “Our debates are pointed, they are researched and even though we can’t sway a vote, it doesn’t mean our constituents aren’t being heard and it doesn't mean we can’t sway public opinion on occasion.”

As we wind down from the 2023 regular legislative session, I have plans to report on the impact of what lawmakers did and didn’t do. What bills taking effect this year do you think will benefit Oklahomans? Is there any legislation you’re concerned about? Let me know at kross@Oklahomawatch.org

What I'm Reading This Week

  • AG Says Abortion Still Illegal After Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Two Abortion Bans: While the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that two 2022 legislative measures allowing for citizen-enforced abortion bans are unconstitutional, the Attorney General’s office said a 1910 law prohibiting abortion in the state remains in effect. [CNHI Oklahoma]
  • For Those Too Sick For the Homeless Shelter, Few Options in Oklahoma City: Statewide, discharges to homelessness from hospital emergency rooms increased nearly 45% between 2020 and 2022. A state task force had been studying the problem and looking at ways to use Medicaid funding to expand care options in the state, but efforts stalled after Gov. Kevin Stitt disbanded the Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness in April. [The Frontier]
  • Fossil fuels ‘boycott' law could cost Oklahoma retirement fund $9.7M: The retirement system could face several million in taxes, fees and commission costs if it is forced to divest from BlackRock, Wells Fargo and Co., JPMorgan Chase and Co., State Street Corp. and Bank of America, OPERS Chief Investment Officer Brad Tillberg told members of the pension system’s board of trustees on Thursday. Those five financial firms are among the 13 firms State Treasurer Todd Russ said do not meet the requirements of a 2022 state law that bans the state from working with companies that “boycott” oil and gas. [Tulsa World]

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