Oklahoma lawmakers overrode vetoes of several bills Thursday, including one to preserve the charter for the state’s public television station and another to allow students to wear tribal regalia at graduation.
But they failed to override Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto of a bill that would change how attorney fees are awarded in civil suits regarding free speech rights. The override of House Bill 1236 failed by a vote of 36-61 in the House. Several groups, including the Oklahoma Press Association, Freedom of Information Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, supported Stitt’s veto of the bill.
The veto override attempts were in response to Stitt’s record number of vetoes in this year’s legislative session. Stitt has vetoed 46 bills this year, more than twice the number of vetoes he’s issued annually since his first legislative session in 2019.
Twenty of Stitt’s vetoes came on a single day in April, when the Republican-controlled House and the Senate were in the middle of a dispute over education funding. The chambers eventually resolved their differences with the help of a mediator, but the bills remained vetoed. Among that group of vetoes was one that updated protections of athletes signing name, image and likeness deals and one allowing students to wear tribal regalia at school graduations.
The April vetoes were almost all Senate bills. Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, acknowledged the governor’s veto power, but said Thursday he remained unhappy about it.
“I’ve said publicly, and I’ve said privately to him that I thought it was beneath the dignity of his office,” Treat told reporters. “I haven’t wavered on that opinion. It doesn’t mean that I can’t work with him or have good relations with him. We’ve moved on. We have a role to play, and he has a role to play. We exercised our ability to override today.”
Stitt’s veto message for the OETA authorization mentioned he thought the idea of public television was outdated and no longer needed. His office later singled out several children’s TV shows and news segments that it said were “indoctrinating” children.
Many in the House clapped and cheered when the chamber overrode the OETA veto on Thursday morning by a vote of 73-23. The Senate later voted 38-6 to override the veto.
In all, the House and Senate successfully overrode 13 bills on Thursday. Five were House bills and eight were Senate bills. Veto override votes need two-thirds of each chamber to become law. They were:
- HB 1843, which moves enforcement of a retail pharmacy law, the Patients Right to Pharmacy Choice Act, to the attorney general’s office from the Oklahoma Insurance Department.
- HB 2255. It was this session’s main license plate bill, which also allowed several specialty license plates.
- HB 2863, which creates the Oklahoma State University Veterinary Medicine Authority.
- HB 2820. It extends the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority until July 2026.
- HB 2263, which changes the board appointments of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. It gives the House, Senate and governor two appointees each to the six-member board. Previously, the governor had all six appointees.
- SB 429, which allows students to wear tribal regalia at graduation.
- SB 840, which deregulates the ability of college athletes to sign name, image and likeness deals. It removes a previous requirement that any agent or representative of an athlete must be licensed or registered.
- SB 299, which extends the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Indian Education until 2026.
- SB 563. It makes changes to the SoonerCare rates for reimbursing anesthesia.
- SB 623, which makes changes to Service Oklahoma, the state’s new one-stop-shop for driver license services.
- SB 712. It directs the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to provide hospitals with overdose drugs like naloxone to patients at risk of opioid overdose.
- SB 775, which gives flexibility to county commissioners in determining how employees qualify for continuing education programs.
- SB 951. It increases monthly travel allowances for county officers.
Paul Monies has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2017 and covers state agencies and public health. Contact him at (571) 319-3289 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pmonies.