Christmas is less than two weeks away. It seems like just yesterday we were adjourning session, yet the 2nd Session of the 57th Legislature starts in less than two months.
A lot of work goes into preparing for the legislative session. Publicly, you only see the four months that we’re debating and voting on bills. But you don’t necessarily see the months of interim studies, the thousands of meetings we, as legislators, have with constituents, agencies and other organizations or the weeks that legislative staff spend researching and drafting the thousands of bills requests they receive each year.
Interim studies have concluded, and Friday was the deadline to have our bill requests turned in. We will now spend the next month working closely with staff to craft language for our bills. Drafting bills requires hours of research as well as calling agencies and others to ask questions to figure out how best to address an issue. Then the bills go through the proofing and editing process, which not only checks for spelling and grammatical errors but cross-references against current law and our staff attorneys make sure they’re constitutional. A bill may be rewritten numerous times before it’s filed.
Legislators are also holding the state agency budget and performance hearings. The Appropriations Subcommittee on Education will start meeting with the 11 agencies and other entities that we oversee financially.
On Wednesday, Jan. 8, we’ll meet with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technical Education, the Commissioners of the Land Office and the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability.
On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and OETA will present their budget requests.
Then we’ll hear from the Physician Manpower Training Commission, the Oklahoma Arts Council, the Oklahoma School of Science and Math and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
We will meet with the Department of Education and the Regents for Higher Education on Thursday, Jan. 30.
These and other budget hearings are public meetings and can be viewed Live on the Senate website.
Our LOFT Oversight Committee meetings are ongoing. We’re in the process of picking the executive director. There were 28 applications and the Senate and House members have been asked to rank their top three candidates.
We adopted our proposed amendments to the Legislature’s Joint Rules at our Dec. 10 meeting for how the agency will work. Our rules are like those used by New Mexico’s joint Legislative Finance Committee. The proposed rules include a section requiring LOFT to submit a proposed work plan to the oversight committee for approval as to how they will address requests for action. Under the proposed rules, the work program can be revised with approval by the committee.
Another major concern addressed in the proposed rules is that no individual legislative member can use the office to conduct investigations or audits. It must be a group request.
We also included that every vote will require approval by four members of the committee from each chamber, rather than simply a majority vote. This way there should always be bipartisan, bicameral approval not just one chamber out-voting the other.
The full Legislature will vote on the proposed rules in February as an amendment to the 57th Legislature’s Joint Rules.
Some other events I’ve attended recently included the Higher Education Fall Legislative Forum, the Grand Opening of the Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center and the Cherokee Elder Care Administrative Building. I also toured NSU’s Optometry College and attended the Republican Caucus Retreat in Stillwater. I participated in the Save the Batfish trivia night fundraiser and joined my colleague Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson for a Connors State College President’s Leadership class legislative Q&A session.
I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas and New Year!
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Dewayne Pemberton, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 429, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, or call (405) 521-5533. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.