With holiday festivities all but wrapped up, it’s time to shift focus toward what lies ahead in 2023. 

Bill filing is still underway, with the legislature facing a Jan. 19 deadline to introduce bills and joint resolutions. But through public statements and initial filings, lawmakers have started to signal what their priorities will be in the coming months. 

Here’s a preview of the kinds of proposals lawmakers will likely consider this session: 

Tax Cuts a Republican Priority 

Reducing taxes appears to be top of mind for legislative leaders.

During a State Chamber public forum last month, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said lawmakers would focus on tax reform in 2023. During a special session in June, the House approved a bill proposing a permanent 0.25% personal income tax reduction, but the Senate blocked the proposal. 

With a supermajority in both chambers, Republicans have the power to push such proposals to the governor’s desk. They’ll just need to reach a consensus that squashes concerns about a potential revenue shortfall. 

Will Voting Bills Gain Traction? 

While we’re less than months removed from the November midterm election, the next cycle is fast approaching. Lawmakers aiming to pass voting legislation ahead of the 2024 presidential primary will need to do so this year.

State election officials reported a smooth electoral process last year, with just a few minor procedural errors uncovered during a series of post-election audits. But election security and integrity remain top issues for Republican lawmakers.

One specific voting access issue to watch: Oklahoma’s long-awaited online voter registration has still not fully launched due to technical issues. Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, filed legislation last week that proposes a Dec. 31 deadline for getting the system up and running.

Proposals to Restrict State Questions Resurface

Proposals to require a higher vote threshold or increased signature collection garnered some legislative support last year but flamed out in the final weeks of the session.

This year, as voters consider a citizen ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, lawmakers appear poised to consider similar proposals. Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, issued a press release in November stating he plans to carry a bill that would require a two-thirds majority for state questions to pass.

An important note: Any legislation on ballot initiatives must be sent to a vote of the people, as it modifies the state constitution. 

School Voucher Issue Reemerges

A proposal last year to allow families to use state funds to cover private school costs fizzled out, in large part because of opposition from rural lawmakers. 

Gov. Kevin Stitt, as well as dozens of state legislative candidates, campaigned on getting school voucher proposals through the legislature in 2023. But details on a plan to generate rural support remain scarce, according to reporting from Kayla Branch of The Frontier

In a statement to The Frontier, McCall said a compromise will require “finding a policy that gives all parents and children the same opportunity regardless of geographic location.”

Help Oklahoma Watch Report on Democracy in 2023

As we plan out our coverage for the first half of 2023, I’m asking for your help. I’ve created a survey that asks what bills you’d like to see advance this session and whether or not you feel well-represented at the State Capitol. I’d appreciate your response. 

Want to share a story tip or idea with me directly? I’m reachable at kross@Oklahomawatch.org. 

The Democracy Watch Newsletter is sponsored by:

What I’m Reading

  • This Attorney Has Become a Valuable Tool for Journalists Fighting for Public Records: Kathryn Gardner, a Tulsa-based lawyer for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is helping Oklahoma journalists and news organizations navigate the legal battle for public records. Gardner is representing Oklahoma Watch in a lawsuit seeking details of an incident that resulted in the violent arrest of a woman experiencing a mental health crisis.  [The Oklahoman]
  • Rep. Ryan Martinez Charged With Felony for Alcohol-Related Arrest: Edmond police were dispatched to The Patriarch bar late Oct. 26 after a patron called 911 to express concern that Martinez was intoxicated and preparing to drive away. Martinez was charged with a felony due to a prior DUI case in 2014. [NonDoc]
  • As Questions Swirl, Ryan Walters Focused on School Choice, Ideology: Newly elected State Superintendent Ryan Walters continues to serve as director of an educational reform organization that supports school choice, raising conflict of interest questions. In an interview with NonDoc, Walters declined to say if intends to step down from his role with Every Kid Counts Oklahoma before taking office on Jan. 9. [NonDoc]

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