Will the 57th Oklahoma Legislature Effect Change

Will the 57th Oklahoma Legislature Effect Change - November 18, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

          Oklahoma convenes a new legislature every two years. 2019 will mark the opening of the 57th legislature. When the dust settled after the November 6, 2018, elections, not much changed.

Of the 101 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, 76 will be Republicans and 25 will be Democrats. Currently, there are no Independents or third party members in the House.

At the end of last session, there were 73 Republicans and 28 Democrats in the House. The percentages that are most interesting relate to emergency enactments and rules suspensions. Both of those procedures require 68 votes. What that means is that in the last legislature there were enough Republicans to pass any law that they want and to adopt an emergency effective date that they want and to suspend any legislative rule that they want.

This session, with the addition of three more Republican legislators, their power is expanded.

Because of State Question 640, adopted in 1992, no revenue bill could become law without the votes of at least 75% of the members of both the House and the Senate. Therefore, the only thing that the Republicans could not do last session was increase taxes without at least three Democrats joining in the effort.

State Question 640 became a real issue last session when the oil and gas industry and its cohorts tried to ram the StepUp Plan down the throats of the legislature. StepUp was an attempt to cap the Gross Production Tax at only 4% and throw a bone at enough teachers to take the pressure off the industry and ignore the fact that public education had received 28% in cuts over the past decade. When the Democratic caucus refused to let the oil and gas industry continue to name its own tax rate, and held out until the GPT was raised to 5% so that public education, including textbooks, teachers and support personnel would take a step toward adequate funding, the effect of State Question 640 made the Republicans work across the aisle.

With a 76 member supermajority in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, that will no longer be the case.

The situation in the State Senate is very similar. At the close of the last session, there were 8 Democrats in that 48 member body. This year, 9 Democrats will be seated in the Senate. The fact that the number of Republicans in the State Senate went from 40 to 39 will have little effect since that chamber’s 75% Republican supermajority is not in jeopardy.

Legislators will begin pre-filing legislation over the next few weeks. When the final language of the bills is filed in mid-January, the Speaker of the House will sort the Bills out among Committees. Each Committee will have a Republican Chairman and a Republican Vice-Chairman who will determine which Bills will be heard and which will not receive a hearing.

What is clear is that the people of the State of Oklahoma have spoken. Our state has a Republican governor and every statewide office holder is a Republican and both houses in the legislature are held by a Republican supermajority. The most urgent questions surround whether the legislative agenda of the 57th Legislature will be a repeat of the four prior legislatures under Governor Fallin and whether Oklahomans will notice.

Questions or comments, contact David Perryman at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.