Oklahoma Watch
September 25, 2023
Democracy Watch

Interim Studies in Full Swing at State Capitol

The Oklahoma State Capitol dome is seen. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

By Keaton Ross | Oklahoma Watch

The 2024 legislative session is more than four months away, but one mechanism that helps shape policy is well underway at the state Capitol. 

Last week House and Senate members hosted four interim studies, with topics ranging from regulation of the hemp industry to the criminal prosecution of mothers with substance abuse during pregnancy. Over the past two weeks I’ve reported on election-related interim studies examining ranked choice voting and the ballot initiative process

Any legislator can submit an interim study request to legislative leaders. This year Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall signed off on a combined 146 requests. 

There are things to note regarding these informal study sessions. Lawmakers who host a study decide which speakers to call, which can occasionally raise concerns of credibility or bias. Former Rep. Sean Roberts, a Hominy Republican who previously chaired the House Public Health Committee, drew criticism in September 2020 for inviting two anti-vaccine doctors to present at a study on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Like committee hearings and floor proceedings, interim studies typically aren’t open for public comment. But in-person attendance at a study presents a good opportunity to learn more about an issue and connect with lawmakers and stakeholders. If you can’t make it to the Capitol, House interim studies are live-streamed and recorded

Interim studies don’t always lead to bills being filed or laws being changed, but they sometimes signal what lawmakers intend to prioritize in the upcoming session. For instance, Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, hosted a study on funding State Question 781 in October 2022. The Legislature this year finally allocated money to the voter-approved County Community Safety Investment Fund, which had sat empty for nearly seven years. 

Here are some interim studies I’ll be keeping an eye on over the next several weeks: 

  • Publishing Arrest Photos for Profit by Sen. Jo Anna Dossett, D-Tulsa: Scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 25. 
  • Examining the Effectiveness of Oklahoma Court Diversion Programs and Court Fees by Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City: Scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3. 
  • Food Insecurity in Oklahoma by Reps. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa and Jared Deck, D-Norman: Scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24. 
  • Child Labor Laws by Rep. Judd Strom, R-Copan. Scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24. 

What interim studies are you interested in? Is there a way you think the interim study process could be improved upon? Let me know at Kross@Oklahomawatch.org

What I’m Reading This Week:

  • Board Recommends 17% Judicial Pay Raise to Legislature: Higher pay in the private sector and rising costs can make it difficult to get and keep judges on the bench, speakers told the Oklahoma Board on Judicial Compensation last week. [NonDoc]
  • Advocates Push for Increased Hemp Regulations in Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s hemp production is primarily used in cannabidiol (CBD) products and seed production, but it could expand to fiber used to make consumer products like clothing, straws and disposable plates, one industry expert told a legislative panel. [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Oklahoma Executes Anthony Sanchez, the 10th Death Sentence Carried Out in 23 Months: Sanchez, 44, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006 for killing Juli Busken, a 21-year-old dance student at the University of Oklahoma. Before his execution, Sanchez said he “didn’t kill nobody,” then disparaged his former attorneys. [The Frontier]
In Focus
Magon Hoffman’s life was in danger and her unborn daughter wouldn’t survive. She had to drive 600 miles for an abortion. Hoffman and her husband, Lane, are seen holding an ultrasound image. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

Her pregnancy was non-viable and her life was at risk but Oklahoma Law Prevented an Abortion

Fourteen weeks into her pregnancy, Magon Hoffman found out she had a life-threatening blood clot. Six weeks later she learned that her fetus, developing without a skull, had no chance of survival. She had to travel to New Mexico for care. [Read More]

The Latest
State Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, asks a question during an interim study on improving the state’s ballot initiative process. (Keaton Ross/Oklahoma Watch)

Study Examines Ways to Improve Oklahoma’s Ballot Initiative Process

An extended signature collection window, verification deadline and ban on foreign contributions in initiative campaigns would benefit Oklahomans, one lawmaker says. [Read More]

Long Story Short: Oklahoma Woman Forced to Travel 600 Miles for Emergency Treatment

Whitney Bryen reports on an Oklahoma woman forced to travel 600 miles for emergency medical care; Lionel Ramos talks about his upcoming story on Oklahoma debtors; I dive into ranked-choice voting. Shaun Witt hosts. [Listen]

Support our newsroom

Oklahoma needs high-quality investigative journalism. That is our mission at Oklahoma Watch. We produce stories that hold government and public officials accountable and that make transparent what some prefer to keep secret. We depend on financial support from readers like you to sustain our coverage. Help us make a difference.

Support our publication

Every day we strive to produce journalism that matters — stories that strengthen accountability and transparency, provide value and resonate with readers like you.

This work is essential to a better-informed community and a healthy democracy. But it isn’t possible without your support.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.