Saturday, March 6, 2021
Capitol Watch

As Oklahoma Lawmakers Move to Floor Votes, Another Legislative Deadline Looms

At Gov. Kevin Stitt’s State of the State address on Feb. 1, 2020, several members of the Oklahoma legislature did not wear masks on the House floor despite strict social distancing protocols in place for members of the public, the media and legislators watching from the gallery. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

By Trevor Brown | Capitol/Investigative Reporter

After the first committee deadline passed in late February, work at the State Capitol has largely moved to floor.

Both the House and Senate were busy taking up bills on the floor. My unofficial count shows nearly 250 bills have now passed the third reading in either chamber.

Almost all of them have more steps to go before they potentially reach the governor’s desk. Just one bill — a proposal to temporarily allow government meetings to continue to be held virtually — has been signed into law.

Now another deadline is approaching: Bills need to be heard and passed on third reading on the floor in their originating chamber by Thursday or they will be held over until next year.

According to a tweet from eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley, who tracks legislation unlike anyone else in the capitol press corps, more than 600 legislative proposals remain on general file (meaning they have passed out of committee and are awaiting a floor vote).

That’s a lot of bills! And remember, the Legislature is only in session Monday through Thursday so expect some long floor sessions, possibly going into the evening some nights, if lawmakers want to make a dent in that number.

Data Watch

Interactive Data: Tracking Floor Votes

While there is plenty of work left, lawmakers have already passed almost 250 bills off the House or Senate floor. I wanted to see which were the most contentious so I downloaded and cleaned data off the House’s website to get a list of the 213 bills that have passed on third reading in the Oklahoma House of Representatives as of March 4.

Using a dot to represent each bill passed off the floor, I created a scatter-plot graph so the bills with the highest level of support appear on the top left quadrant and the bills that received the least support appear on the bottom right. Click on the graph to hover over each dot to see a brief description of the legislation, who sponsored it and the lead sponsor’s party. [Explore the Data]

Tweet Watch

How to Make Your Voices Heard

If you want to let lawmakers know how you feel about bills moving through the legislative process, now is the time.

Unlike a number of other states, Oklahoma does not require or usually take public comments during committee hearings before bills reach the floor. (By the way, keep an eye out for deep dive on this issue that I’m working on for Sunshine Week coming soon).

But this Tweet from former state representative and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman gives another way to reach out to lawmakers. Calling or emailing, especially during a pandemic, can still be one of the easiest and most efficient ways to contact lawmakers. So make your voice heard!

Around the Web

What I’m Reading This Week

  • A bill that would modify State Question 780, a 2016 voter-approved ballot initiative that reclassified several drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and has helped reduce Oklahoma’s prison population, has advanced past committee and is eligible for a Senate vote. Our own Keaton Ross takes a deeper look into the proposal. [Oklahoma Watch]
  • In case you missed it, Oklahoma Watch’s Jennifer Palmer also did a comprehensive breakdown of one of the more controversial education proposals this session. She explains the complicated, but potentially consequential, push to revamp how the state funds its public schools. [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Like many previous sessions, Republican lawmakers are pushing a series of bills this year to make it harder to get an abortion. With a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court poised to review Roe V. Wade and other abortion-related measures, these bills are carrying increased significance this year. [The Frontier and StateImpact Oklahoma]
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt praised a move Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made last week to lift mask mandates and other restrictions in his state. But as Stitt continues to tout his early reopening policies, controversy remains on whether that was the best call. [The Oklahoman]
  • The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve a bill that would require internet technology companies to obtain explicit permission to collect and sell personal data. Oklahoma, however, isn’t the only state tackling data privacy laws as several other states are looking at similar proposals. [Security Magazine]

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