Dick Prior: Meet Capitol Insider, your weekly look at Oklahoma politics, politics and government. I’m Dick Pryor with Shawn Ashley, editor of Quorum Call. Shawn, a busy week on Capitol Hill was marked by the defeat of one of the most debated bills of the legislative session. SB 1647, drafted by Senate Pro Tem Chairman Greg Treat and Rep. Chad Caldwell, would allow parents to use their taxes to pay private school tuition. The bill failed in the Senate by three votes. The opposition was made up of Democrats and rural Republicans, which we don’t often see. Why did this happen on this bill?
Shawn Ashley: I think that illustrates the main concern with the bill. Rural Republicans fear the bill will benefit their constituents and potentially negatively impact schools and their districts, as some of the overall education funding is diverted to private schools. And this last point is the main concern of the Democrat. Diverting funds to private schools will undermine public school funding, which they have been promoting for years and years. Together, of course, this led to the defeat of the bill.
Dick Prior: Governor Stitt is a strong supporter of this bill, and President Pro Tem Treat says he will continue to push the idea.
Shawn Ashley: Yes, Stitt and Treat said Thursday they were disappointed with the bill’s failure, but Treat said it believed giving parents choice in education providers, and at least partially funding that choice, is was a private school, could be transformative for families and their children. . He said it was his second priority, behind only ending abortion in the state. Thus, he plans to continue to pursue it this year, and if he does not succeed this year in the next legislative session.
Dick Prior: Another bill that we are following closely would redefine criminal offences. We have seen similar efforts to reclassify crimes and shorten the Criminal Code over the past 30 years, and they have ended in failure. Is this bill different from previous efforts and, more importantly, are the conditions more favorable for its passage this time around?
Shawn Ashley: I think so. First, the bill is the result of nearly three years of work by a task force, the Criminal Justice Reclassification Coordinating Council, which included prosecutors, defense attorneys, members of the law enforcement, representatives of social agencies, legislators and others. Many contributions have been made to these recommendations, which were made in 2021. Secondly, I think there is a little more willingness to at least consider criminal justice reform ideas, such as the commutation of penalties for low-intensity drug and property offenses that were previously approved, and changes to the structure of fines and charges for criminal offenses that are currently under consideration. But it’s not going to be easy, as we’ve seen in past controversies, and it certainly won’t be unanimous, as we saw when the bill passed through the Senate and passed.
Dick Prior: Various tax bills have moved on to the next stage of the process. The one closest to final passage would eliminate corporate income tax. Why is this one moving the fastest?
Shawn Ashley: Well, first of all, it’s a priority for House Speaker Charles McCall. The president won approval for a bill that cut the corporate tax rate by a third in the 2021 session, and he said he wanted to see it eliminated. And as we’ve talked about before, this bill passed with its title, which is the requirement for it to be presented to the governor and signed into law, a point that House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, took note during the speech debate on the measure. This means it only needs a vote in the Senate before it can be forwarded to the governor. I suspect, however, that he will go to a Senate committee where his title will be struck out and he will eventually find himself in budget negotiations with heavy pressure from the Speaker of the House.
Dick Prior: The first social policy bill of the session has arrived on the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 2. Its wording “prohibits any male person from participating in women’s sports”. The goal is to limit the participation of transgender athletes. How did this bill get to the governor so quickly?
Shawn Ashley: Well, it was a bill carried over from the 2021 session. It was a Senate bill that was amended by the House in 2021 and was not picked up by the Senate. Now remember that bills must be passed by both houses in the same form with the same language, title and enactment clause before they can be forwarded to the governor. That bill was there, and the Senate elected on Thursday to accept those House amendments and vote on it — passing it and now sending it to Stitt for consideration. That’s why it’s important to remember all those bills carried over from the previous year’s session, as well as new bills that lawmakers are currently considering.
Dick Prior: Thanks Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You’re Ost welcome.
Dick Prior: Email your questions to [email protected] or connect with us on Twitter @kgounews and @QuorumCallShawn. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I’m Dick Pryor.