by Rep. Kevin Wallace
The legislative session started Monday, Feb. 3, when a joint session of the House and Senate convened to hear Gov. Stitt give his second State of the State Address.
While the governor outlined his budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2021, it is important to remember the Legislature actually appropriates the money that comes into the state’s General Revenue Fund to state agencies to deliver core government services such as education, transportation, health care, public safety and more. The remaining portion of state dollars – about 60 percent through apportionments, fines, fees and federal funding – goes directly to state agencies, with much of this dedicated to education and transportation.
The governor highlighted several moves by the Legislature last year that put the state in a better economic position. One was the decision to save $200 million to bring the state’s savings account to $1 billion. The governor would like to see us save another $100 million this year. That is a position many conservative lawmakers favor. It will help us protect core services in the event of a future economic downturn and protect our taxpayers. Our savings also has improved our state’s credit rating.
The governor also highlighted several government accountability measures taken last year that we expect to build upon this session. The Legislature last year gave the governor direct appointment power of the directors of five state agency governing boards as well as gave the House, the Senate and the governor more appointment power over the membership of those boards. We expect to study additional agencies this year where such changes would be beneficial. This move allows the governor to act more like the state’s CEO and gives the Legislature more direct oversight of the spending of taxpayer dollars.
The governor also detailed areas where he’s been able to streamline some bureaucracy and asked the Legislature to consider several changes in law to broaden that work moving forward. His requests will certainly be examined in depth. Anything we can do to shrink government without hurting the people it serves is a good idea.
Better education outcomes, an Oklahoma solution to Medicaid expansion with flexibility for healthy but impoverished adults and continued criminal justice reform efforts were also among the governor’s priorities for this year. Those are all areas of focus for the Legislature as well.
Now that the legislative session has started, the House has first and second read the almost 1,400 bills and resolutions filed this session and assigned many of those to committees. Committee work started this week. A bill must pass in committee before it is eligible to be heard on the House floor. The deadline for bills and resolutions to pass out of an Appropriations & Budget subcommittee is Feb. 17. We have until Feb. 27 to pass measures out of regular committees. We then have until March 12 to vote on House bills before passing them to the Senate. Then we start the process of hearing Senate bills in committee and on the floor.
In addition to the bills filed this session, we are able to consider bills from last session as well. Usually there is a reason these bills didn’t pass, but it’s possible that during the interim a lawmaker worked to rectify a problem with a bill and we will be able to consider any changes in open committee meetings or session.
Kevin Wallace is the state representative for House District 32, which includes all of Lincoln County and a small portion of Logan County. A lifelong Lincoln County native and Wellston High School graduate, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1993. Kevin founded American Cellular Service and Dynatek Development Services, which he sold in 2000. That same year he founded SWT Construction, where he continues to serve as a manager. He also owns an equipment rental company and a small investment firm. Kevin is co-owner of The Wilderness Refuge, a hunting reserve, and Wallahachie L.L.C., a whitetail deer and cattle breeding operation. He is an active member of First Baptist Church of Wellston.