Reporters, lawmakers and legislative observers have spent plenty of time reading in recent years. 

More than 3,000 bills and joint resolutions were filed in the House and Senate leading up to last Thursday’s 4:30 p.m. filing deadline. 

While we now have a better sense of what lawmakers wish to accomplish, the picture still isn’t entirely clear. Appropriations bills and resolutions may be filed throughout the session, which begins Monday, Feb. 6 and runs through late May. 

There are also hundreds of vague shell bills that will need to be significantly altered in rules committees before they can advance. For instance, 19 House bills and joint resolutions titled the “Oklahoma Elections Reform Act of 2023” have been filed. All lack any kind of substantial policy proposal. 

I spent several hours last week combing through bills that seek to alter Oklahoma’s election laws and citizen initiative process. Keep an eye out an upcoming story that takes a deep look at these proposals and what’s at stake for democracy in Oklahoma. 

Here’s a sampling of five election bills that caught my attention: 

  • Senate Bill 481 by Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa. Makes threatening or intimidating an election official a felony offense. 
  • House Joint Resolution 1018 by Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore. Raises the required signature threshold for citizen-led constitutional amendments from 15 to 20% of registered voters. Also requires an equal distribution of signature collection in the state’s five congressional districts. Would require majority approval among Oklahoma voters to take effect. 
  • House Bill 2012 by Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater. Eliminates the straight-party voting option. 
  • Senate Bill 1016 by Shane Jett, R-Shawnee. Eliminates no-excuse absentee voting and requires voters to select a reason why they are not able to vote in person. 
  • House Bill 1916 by Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City: Establishes that if a political party has two nominees for office and no other political party has a nominee, those candidates should bypass a primary election and advance to the general election ballot.

These proposals face a March 2 deadline to advance out of committee in their chamber of origin. 

Notice a bill that Oklahoma Watch should examine? Please send your thoughts, comments and story ideas to me at kross@Oklahomawatch.org

And if you haven’t already, I invite you to take my brief reader survey, which asks what issues you’d like to the Legislature address this year.

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What I’m Reading This Week

  • A ‘Culture of Silence and Secrecy,’ New Oklahoma Tourism Director Says of Troubled Agency: The Oklahoma State Department of Tourism and Recreations lacks financial checks and balances and is recovering from a toxic environment, its recently appointed executive director Shelly Zumwalt told lawmakers in a hearing last week. [The Oklahoman]
  • New Oklahoma AG Seeks to Slow Pace of Lethal Injections: In a motion filed last week with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, Drummond said the pace of executions is unsustainable long term and placing an undue burden on corrections personnel. [The Associated Press]
  • State Senator Pitches ‘Bold’ Plan For Education Reform: Sen. Adam Pugh, a Republican from Edmond who serves as education chair, said his $541 million plan would improve education outcomes and help the state recruit and retain qualified teachers. [CNHI News]

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