The Oklahoma House of Representatives: Where Good Bills Die
After the 2020 election, GOP leaders bragged that Republicans held 82 of 101 seats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Yet House leaders have repeatedly refused to pass major bills this year.
A press release issued by House Speaker Charles McCall at the end of the 2022 regular session provided sad confirmation of this problem. About half of the publication focused on last years achievements, not measures that have advanced in 2022.
A quick review explains why. The Chamber was often the chamber where good bills went to die.
The need for greater parental influence in public schools is obvious. Yet the House killed a bill pursuing that goal by simply moving school board elections to the general election ballot in November, increasing voter turnout.
Oklahomans resent the outsized influence of teachers’ unions on local school policy. But the House killed a bill to bring state law into line with the values underlying U.S. Supreme Court rulings by requiring schools to obtain explicit annual approval before withholding union dues. on teachers’ paycheques.
Oklahoma’s judicial nominations process has long been criticized for allowing a group of unelected individuals to orchestrate the selection of top judicial nominees. But that secretive process remains intact because the House killed off a reform proposal aimed at bringing transparency to the process by allowing public gubernatorial appointments with public legislative confirmation.
Parents overwhelmingly support school choice, including allowing funds to follow a child to any school. But McCall’s and House Education Committee Chair Rhonda Baker immediately spoke out against the proposal at the start of the legislative session and House leaders reportedly even lobbied against the bill at the start of the legislative session. Senate.
For more than a decade, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program has helped children with special needs, enabling them to attend private schools that serve them better. A flaw, however, is that families must send their children to public school for a year before they can qualify, forcing a lost year for many children. The House killed a bill to remove this counterproductive restriction.
The same happened to a sentencing reform measure that would reduce the state’s prison population by increasing the use of alternative sentencing for nonviolent crimes.
Notably, none of the above measures are controversial, based on public polling. In fact, most are extremely popular. The Senate has advanced many of these measures. But the House has often killed bills without a hearing.
What the House leadership advanced instead included an attempt to gut successful pension reforms that have saved taxpayers billions. Notably, the move would also have increased lawmakers’ own pension benefits in addition to a recent $12,000 legislative pay raise. (That bill was ultimately killed in the Senate.)
When House leaders are reduced to touting past successes rather than current accomplishments, it sends an unspoken message that Oklahomans should worry that the best years of House leadership are behind them.