OK State Legislature Wraps Up Week, Lawmakers' Tempers Running High

Thursday, February 25th 2016, 5:20 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

State lawmakers are showing some frustration not just over the estimated $1.3 billion dollar budget shortfall, but also with each other.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman said republicans are not letting any democratic bills advance. 

“Many of our members have gone to other members of the majority party and said ‘What’s going on? Why aren’t our bills being put on the calendar and being put on the floor?” said Inman.

“Apparently because of…our refusal to raise taxes on middle class families they’ve decided to make sure that our legislation won’t get heard on the house floor,” he continued.

But it's not just a partisan issue. This week, Republican Senator Anthony Sykes refused to hear a bill that would prevent the controversial practice of law enforcement seizing property without criminal charges.  The bill's author, fellow republican Kyle Loveless, said Sykes won't return his calls or e-mails. 

2/24/16 Related Story: Newly Proposed Civil Asset Forfeiture Bill Won’t Be Debated

“You would prefer that communication among members take place,” Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Brian Bingman said. 

But Bingman said he has had bills not make it to committee too, like a bill to consolidate some school services.  He admitted it wasn't very popular. 

“I could show you a stack of several hundred emails I got from people who say that I have voted for you before but I’ll never vote for you again. I mean, the passion,” said Bingman.

Committees did manage to push some bills through, including several on criminal justice reform and rolling back the income tax rate decrease. Bingman disagreed with that bill. 

“Effective January 1 of this year that tax cut went into effect. Everyone’s paycheck should reflect you’re paying your state income tax 5%.  So any way around it, any change in the legislation you’re going to be raising taxes,” said Bingman.

Democrats said with that $1.3 billion dollar budget shortfall looming, cuts will have to be made and republicans will have to live with their decisions. 

“The policies they’ve made have put them in a position where they have to make those cuts,” Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks said, “They need to stand up and say these are the cuts to education I’m most proud of. These are the cuts to transportation I’m most proud of. These are the cuts to the department of corrections that I’m happiest to make.