Gov. Stitt Responds To Push For Special Session From Lawmakers Over Federal COVID Funding

Thursday, May 19th 2022, 7:10 am


State lawmakers call a special session to take back control over how Oklahoma will spend almost $2 billion dollars in COVID-19 relief.

Related Story: Lawmakers Push For Special Session To Decide How To Allocate $1.8 Billion In Federal COVID Funding

This move for a special session means lawmakers are going to change who will decide how to spend around $1.8 billion in COVID-19 relief funds dedicated to Oklahoma.

It comes after lawmakers say that the state's been too slow to distribute the pandemic aid.

Lawmakers initially gave Gov. Kevin Stitt authority to spend the money, with the advice of a joint group of lawmakers from both the House and the Senate.

Legislators are considering taking the process into their hands, putting the projects to a vote as part of the legislative process.

Gov. Kevin Stitt also responded, giving News 9 this statement.

“I promised Oklahomans that I would run state government in an efficient and transparent way, so I greatly appreciate the Legislature’s commitment to work through the summer to distribute ARPA funds with full transparency. I expect comprehensive, strategic ideas that make a generational impact rather than piecemeal projects driven by special interests and lobbyists,” Stitt said.

House Democrats also responded with a statement saying in part,

"They have consistently warned against giving the executive branch excessive authority. Today, legislative Republicans listened and are now calling for a special session to reclaim Gov. Stitt’s unchecked authority.”

The constitution requires special sessions to be at least five days long. 

To make that process faster, the House and Senate will do some maneuvering this week and next.

This will be to pass “shell bills” so that whenever they have places for this money to go, they can slide in new language and only bring lawmakers back for one day of special session, having already met the five-day requirement by meeting this week and next.

Leadership says to not read into language, dollar amounts or recipients placed in the shell bills, that will all change.

Senate Floor Leader Greg McCortney says Oklahoma is “extremely” behind in distributing its ARPA funds. Speaker Pro Tem. Kyle Hilbert says not a single dollar of the state’s $1.8 billion has been spent.