2018 Session: Week 1 Recap

Hey guys! Since we recorded our weekly episode of #LetsPodThis early this week for Governor Fallin’s State of the State Address, we put together a quick blog post to make sure you’re up-to-date with what has been a pretty busy first week of session.

Currently the Legislature in concurrent session, trying to wrap up the 2nd Extraordinary Session of 2017 and beginning the First Regular Session of 2018. Most of the action this week has been taken on bills filed as part of special session and most of that has been in the House.We’ve got all the details for you down below.

Don’t Miss This

There is so much news and noise being created these days it can be hard to know where to look for good information. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here is a list of the the articles, podcasts, blog posts and more from this week that you don’t want to miss.

1.     This editorial from the Tulsa World is a must-read. It is the best call to action we’ve seen in the run-up to this legislative session, both for lawmakers and citizens.

2.     Governor Fallin gave her State of the State Address on Monday, February 5. In case you missed it, the great folks at Oklahoma Watch have the full text for you here. Even better, they’ve annotated the speech to give some context and analysis. This is definitely worth a read.

3.     Oklahoma is making national and international news this week. This short piece from The Economist highlights our state budget crisis with a focus on education, highlighting where we’re at and how we got here. Hat tip to Grant Hermes from News9 for putting this article on our radar.

4.     The Washington Post got in on the action with this admittedly partisan op-ed that takes a critical look at the idea of supply-side (aka “trickle down”) economics as it has been employed in Oklahoma and positing what it might look like on a national scale. Lots of Twitter buzz for this one throughout the week. See what you think and let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

5.     The New York Times has a fantastic podcast called The Daily hosted by Michael Barbaro that you should absolutely make part of your podcast routine. Last Friday’s (02/02/2018) episode is a really interesting interview with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, formerly the Attorney General of Oklahoma. While the focus of the interview is not on Oklahoma politics per se, rumor has it that Mr. Pruitt has his eye on another statewide office in OK, possibly running for the US Senate. So, we thought this was worthy of 20 minutes of your time.

6.     After you listen to Scott Pruitt’s interview on the The Daily, you may want to take a look at this article from Politico Magazine. This is an in-depth look at the Tar Creek SuperFund site in northeastern Oklahoma. Tar Creek has been in the news lately as Mr. Pruitt is accused of revealing the findings of an audit of the clean-up to the subjects of the audit.

Legislative Watch

Early in session it can seem like nothing is happening. The late nights, major bills, Twitter drama and impassioned floor speeches typically happen in the last weeks of April or May. Not this year. With the budget crisis, concurrent sessions and the Step-Up Plan, there is A LOT going on this week.

The Step-Up Plan is getting all of the attention early in session. Several bills have been filed dealing with the both the revenue and government reform portions of the plan:

●      HB1033XX: House Bill 1033, this is the big one. This is a general revenue bill that combines a number of new taxes. The bill raises taxes on tobacco products, motor fuels, increases the gross production tax on oil and gas, and taxes energy production from wind. The bill passed the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget and passed Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget shortly thereafter. We will spend some time talking through the details of this bill on next week’s podcast. We will delve into why this bill doesn’t (or at least, may not) violate the single subject rule as well as the impact this new revenue will have on our current budget crisis.

●      HB1037XX: House Bill 1037 started its life as the bill representing the income tax changes proposed by the Step-Up plan. However, immediately before the bill was brought to committee it underwent a dramatic rewrite. The final bill is a restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit and makes changes to the standard deduction. The folks at OKPolicy seem to think this is a good change, but we still have a ways to go regarding income tax reform in Oklahoma.

●      HB1027XX: House Bill 1027 is the first of the Step-Up Plan’s government reform bills. The bill authorizes the Governor to make some appointments to state boards. 

●      HB1029XX: House bill 1029 creates the Office of Government Accountability. This another of the Step-Up Plans government reform bills. How much it would actually reform government is another question. We’ll delve into this next week.

There were other bills considered and passed out of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget. In particular, the committee passed new caps on deductions used by the coal, railroad and wind industries.

Next Week…

First up on the House floor on Monday is HB1033XX.We can’t really say what else will happen next week because so much depends on this first vote. We anticipate the vote will actually open later in the day after lots of off-the-floor deal-making, arm twisting and vote counting. This will likely be a long vote, and no one knows for sure whether it will pass. The bill requires a 75% supermajority in both chambers. The committee votes both met this threshold but the full House vote on the floor is another matter entirely.

If the bill passes, it will be followed by a series of votes throughout the week on the other, arguably less contentious, votes on the other measures of the Step-Up plan. If the bill fails, the rest of the Step-Up plan bills will not be heard on the floor. At that point, what happens next is anyone’s guess. Stay tuned...Monday is a big day.

We’ll see you next week for the latest edition of #LetsPodThis. And remember: Decisions are made by those who show up!