Last week marked what is called the “House of Origin” deadline for the Oklahoma House of Representatives. This means that nearly every bill not heard on the House floor before March 23 will not continue in the legislative process this session. The same goes for Senate bills being heard in that chamber.
We had some long nights last week as we considered and debated more than 130 bills over the course of three days. It was our intention to do as much as we could to advance worthy bills over to the Senate, and we stayed late in the evenings to make sure that happened.
We heard bills that furthered Oklahoma’s dedication to criminal justice reform. We passed legislation aimed at strengthening our state’s DUI laws by increasing penalties for certain offenders. We voted unanimously to send the Senate a bill that lessens surprise medical bills after someone visits a hospital or care center and unknowingly sees an out-of-network provider. These are all things that make Oklahoma a better place to raise a family and own a business.
After we briefly met on the House floor on Thursday, we moved straight into budget briefings with our specific committees. These mid-session hearings are new this year, and they gave every representative a chance to hear from agencies on their expenditures and cost of operations. These meetings were important; they provided me with a better understanding of what it takes to operate a state agency. I am confident I will be able to make more informed decisions on budget issues because of these hearings.
Now that all the House bills have moved to the Senate and vice versa, we’ll begin evaluating Senate bills during committee meetings. I have a handful of bills that I have coauthored, and I’ll shepherd them through the committee process and floor hearings just like I did my own bills.
From here on out, the House will be primarily focused on filling that $878 million shortfall in next fiscal year’s budget. We have always been devoted to the budget and work has been done on the budget this entire time, but now it will be even more central for everyone, and I suspect it will take up the majority of our time until the end of session in May.
Any revenue-raising measures will be heard in the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, or JCAB. Budget leaders from both the House and the Senate will meet to discuss budget issues starting in mid-to-late April. These are formal meetings that are open to the public. Bills that make it through JCAB will then be heard and voted on in both chambers.
We’re halfway through session, but there’s still much work to be done. As always, I encourage you to reach out if you feel strongly about any piece of legislation. Email me at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov or call my office at (405) 557-7327. Thanks and God bless.