Capitol Week In Review: Lawmakers Pass Hundreds Of Bills; Face Budget Uncertainty
State lawmakers wrapped up the second deadline week of the session, killing off hundreds of bills and preparing for what could be a difficult budget.
On Monday legislation to end child marriage failed the house. Two days later it was heard again and passed 78-16. The house passed a bill to merge the State Department of Mental Health and the healthcare authority.
Representatives also passed an incentive bill for teachers to help them pay back student loans.
“Oklahoma teachers often retire still carrying student debt,” said Representative John Waldron (D) Tulsa.
On the Senate side, a last ditch effort to pass a bill outlawing abortions in Oklahoma died -- with senators refusing to even hear the bill.
“So Senate Bill 13 the Abolition of Abortion Act in Oklahoma this year is dead,” said Senator Joseph Silk (R) Broken Bow.
The state Senate passed a bill that could cut down on the number of traffic tickets you get as police try to fill quotas.
“Whether it’s local police officers, county sheriff’s and deputies, the troopers have been supportive of this as well,” Senator Nathan Dahm (R) Broken Arrow said.
For the first time in 12-years, state retirees could be getting a cost of living adjustment. The House voted unanimously to give the raises.
“Today we stand here united. Not as Democrats. Not as Republicans. But as Oklahomans,” Representative Emily Virgin (D) Minority Leader said.
The bill now goes to the senate where it stalled last year.
Meanwhile, an oil price war will have an impact on budget negotiations. The state, which relies heavily on tax revenue from Oil and Natural gas is bracing for the worst.
“It’s very concerning,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) President Pro Tempore. “First off we’re trying to figure out how long term is this change.”
Another possible blow to the budget: The state attorney general ruled the governor cannot divert gambling revenue from tribal casinos into an escrow account while a battle over gaming compacts is fought in federal court. Last year the tribes paid the state $150 million in fees, the bulk of that going into education funding.