Legislative Session Review: Oklahoma

By Tae Aderman | May 24, 2018

Oklahoma - Adjournment Graphic

Oklahoma adjourned its 2018 legislative session sine die on May 3, several weeks ahead of its statutorily prescribed deadline of May 25. A shorter schedule did not diminish the legislature’s productivity. Lawmakers passed a $7.6 billion state appropriations budget, the largest ever, which increases funding throughout the government. This amount contrasts sharply with the prior year’s $6.8 billion budget, but is explained, in part, by $479 million (or an almost 20-percent increase) in allocated funds to the public school system.

Governor Mary Fallin (R) used her executive veto powers to stop the following bills: (1) The Reading Sufficiency Act that set student academic standards and had received overwhelming legislative support, (2) a bill that would have consolidated the Oklahoma Department of Commerce under the lieutenant governor’s office, and (3) a bill that would have established the Oklahoma Native American Day contemporaneous to Columbus Day.

Legislative Highlights

  • Educators, supported by parents and unions, flooded the Capitol for nine days to demand higher salaries. The much-publicized movement garnered a $6,000 annual pay raise per teacher, along with other funds for support staff, textbooks, and general school funding. Although the pay raise fell short of the$10,000 that protesters sought, legislators were able to respond to the movement by passing a comprehensive tax bill that will fund the increases in education spending.
  • The tax bill sets forth consumption taxes on tobacco products (the amount varies according to the type), motor vehicle fuel ($0.06 on diesel fuel and $0.03 on gasoline), and hotels ($5 per night, though it was later repealed).
  • This session’s legislature was not immune to controversy. The governor signed a bill (HB 2177) to categorize the Biblical Ten Commandments as a historical document, thereby allowing its display on public grounds. Additionally, the legislature passed a “constitutional carry” bill (SB 1212) that would have permitted unlicensed firearm carrying, though the governor later vetoed it. Finally, lawmakers adopted a bill (SB 1140) that allows private adoption agencies to refuse to place a child in a home if it “would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies,” which some LGBTQ groups say could lead to discrimination

Election Preview

Governor Fallin will be term-limited this November. Over a dozen gubernatorial candidates will compete in a June 26 primary election, followed by the general election on November 6. In addition to the governor’s seat, voters will also select all 101 state representatives and 24 of 48 state senators.

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