- Associated Press - Monday, November 2, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Legislature would join neighboring Arkansas and six other states that spend every other year focused exclusively on discussing and writing a budget under a proposal a Senate panel considered Monday.

The issue would go before voters if approved. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, who sponsored a resolution that passed the Senate last year, said he’d like to see more members engaged in budget discussions and not distracted by the sometimes thousands of policy bills introduced each year.

“I think the primary purpose of the Legislature is the appropriation of funding, and this would allow us to definitely do that, to spend a whole session working on the budget,” said Bingman, a Republican from Sapulpa.

The idea has been discussed for years, but picked up momentum last session with Bingman’s support. Still, the measure stalled in the House after passing a House committee and never received a full hearing. In 2014, a similar measure passed the House and stalled in the Senate.

Republican Rep. Randy Grau of Edmond, who sponsored the resolution in the House earlier this year, said several of his colleagues who initially supported the bill reversed course because they were concerned they would be ceding some of their power.

“The only explanation that I’ve heard from those who aren’t sure about their support is whether they may be hamstringing the House, since we limit the number of bills we introduce each year to eight,” Grau said.

Under the proposal, the Legislature would still meet every year, but spend every other session dealing strictly with the budget and appropriations bills. Legislators would take up both policy and budget bills the following year.

If a legislation emergency arose that lawmakers needed to address during a budget-only session, they could do so with a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.

Republican Sen. David Holt of Oklahoma City said in doing policy bills every year, the 149 members of the Legislature “simply don’t have enough time to invest in the budget process to the extent that it should require.”

Seven other states already limit their sessions every other year to budgetary matters - Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wyoming, said researcher Brenda Erickson with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Former Arkansas state Sen. Bill Pritchard said lawmakers there used to meet every two years before deciding they needed more time to focus on the Legislature, particularly as term limits caused an influx of members with little experience working on the budget. He said the idea was overwhelmingly supported by voters in 2008.

“It appears to have worked very well,” Pritchard said. “It was far more focused, and you didn’t have all the horse trading going on.”

The resolution that passed the Senate last session remains eligible for the House to consider when the 2016 session convenes in February.

___

Online:

Senate Joint Resolution 30: http://bit.ly/1AAR1tJ

___

Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy .

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide