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It is that time again

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Last August, I compared the final days of legislative session to a spring storm in Oklahoma and told of the many Oklahomans who have learned over the years to predict stormy weather. During the early afternoon hours prior to an evening outbreak, we can sense impending storms by the atmosphere, humidity, color of the sky or the heaviness in the air.

State Reprenstative Jason Murphey

State Reprenstative Jason Murphey

A few years of experience at the Capitol allows one to also predict upcoming legislative storms. During the middle part of May, the experienced observer can walk through the Capitol and almost immediately sense the rising tension which occurs every year in late May as the legislative session comes to a close. During this time, lobbyists and politicians are busy negotiating the final details of the upcoming tempest.

It’s that time again. The storm starts this week.

In the next few days, lawmakers will learn about the specifics of last-minute proposals that are usually accompanied by tremendous pressure and any number of doomsday-related predictions. “Either/or” situations will abound.

The worst policy is that policy made in the urgency of session’s final week. The immediacy of impending deadlines creates a strange policy bubble where specifics are unrealistically debated in a way that is far removed from the real world that will be impacted by the policy.

This year, unfortunately, an important safeguard has been removed from the legislative process.

Frequent readers may recall my articles of last fall when I explained how a group of special interests and their lobbyists attempted to reverse a key anti-corruption reform during the final week of session. They shucked an already existing bill and dropped in their proposal.

Their attempt failed when the House Calendar Committee refused to schedule their bill for a vote. In years past, this group could have gotten their way simply by meeting behind closed doors with the Speaker of the House or other influential legislators. The bill could have been quickly placed on the agenda for a vote.

Not so last year when the House Calendar Committee had the authority to place bills before the House and public meetings were held so everyone would have advance notice of the bills coming up for a vote.

I intended to fight the placement of the shucked bill and let it be known that as a member of the Calendar Committee I would force a vote on scheduling the issue in the public meeting of the committee. This helped prevent the bill from coming forward last year.

Now, however, this important committee has been abolished. Not only will the safeguard be removed, but bills will now be placed on the agenda without the benefit of the advance notice which the Calendar Committee previously afforded. Without this notice, members of the public and legislators will be forced to scramble against the clock to understand the impact of the proposals.

I hate to see this reversal and it is my hope that legislators will re-create this or a similar important safeguard when creating the rules for next session.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions. 

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