This week has been a whirlwind of activity at the Capitol. Not too long ago, all of the bills the Senate passed were sent to the House, and all the bills the House passed were sent to the Senate. This week marked the deadline for those bills to be passed out of the opposite legislative chamber.
In total, the House heard 291 Senate bills and joint resolutions. Two failed, so we passed a total of 189.
Bills passed without being amended go to the Governor's desk for his signature or veto. A total of 277 bills from both House and Senate have gone directly from the floor to the governor; another 15 will go to him Monday.
Bills not heard are still alive for next year. Bills amended will go back to their chamber of origin to have those amendments accepted or rejected by the bills' authors. If amendments are approved by the chamber of origin, bills undergo a fourth and final reading. If passed, they move to the governor. If amendments are rejected, the bills can be sent to a conference committee to work out the details. Many bills languish there, but some will be able to escape if the authors agree to changes made in conference. There are many hurdles before a bill can become a law.
In the meantime, budget negotiations between the House, the Senate and the governor’s staff have gone smoothly, for the most part. There are always hiccups, but both chambers are working hard to settle their differences. Once the House and Senate reach an agreement, the budget is taken to the governor for his modifications and approval. It’s been helpful that all three bodies are working together during the process.
I am the chairman for the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Healthcare. It has been a challenging, but gratifying experience to be entrusted with this budget. The health budget is roughly a third of our overall appropriations budget.
The governor tasked the Legislature with saving $200 million this year. I knew if I massaged this large health budget the right way and applied a little creative thinking I would be able to save taxpayer money for use when our economy takes a downturn. Without getting into the weeds, I am proud to report that I found a way to save over $70 million in the health budget this year while increasing health provider rates. A savings account will be created specifically for use in healthcare during economic downturns. The best thing is, we will be able to save even more next year. I appreciate Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace for allowing me – a second-term representative – the freedom to work this budget and believing in me enough to accept my ideas, input and recommendations. Of course, this is not final, but is a very promising inclusion toward meeting the governor's goal.
In other news, what will potentially be State Question 802 was filed to be on the ballot in 2020. The State Question seeks a vote on whether to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma. This question will cause considerable debate. For some, it is welcome; for others it causes anxiety. I will submit another article this week explaining this state question and its potential impact on the Legislature and our state.
As always, I will keep you updated as the session progresses. Please feel free to reach out to me with your questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling my office (405) 557-7327.
Marcus McEntire represents Oklahoma House District 50.