by Rep. Kevin Wallace, Oklahoma House District 32
In the House of Representatives we have a different kind of March madness. Much of February is dedicated to committee work – hearing hundreds of bills and determining which are suitable to pass to the next step of the legislative process. In March, we turn full attention to hearing those bills on the House floor. We have until March 12 to pass bills in their legislative chamber of origin. This past week, we considered 174 measures on the House floor and passed 172 of those over to the Senate. We’ll hear an equal number if not more before the third-reading deadline.
This is a flurry of activity in a short time. It leads to long days, including some evenings, lots of negotiations and some flared tempers, but we pass a lot of good legislation by the end of it.
Once this third-reading deadline is past, the House will begin hearing Senate bills in committees and then on the floor, and the Senate will consider House bills.
All the while, we are working on the state appropriations bill. Right now, Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee chairs and vice chairs are meeting with state agency heads and their staff to continue discussions on their budget needs. As I’ve previously mentioned, this will be a flat budget year meaning we will have roughly the same amount of money to appropriate as last year. The Legislature’s appropriating authority this year will be $8.2 billion. Some agencies have turned in budget requests that are lower this year as they’ve been able to find some efficiencies and savings in their budgets. By the end of session, we will craft a budget that continues funding state core services and will likely save taxpayer dollars as well.
Also at this time, leadership in both the House and Senate are continuing to work with health care providers, hospitals and the governor on the specifics of the governor’s SoonerCare 2.0 Medicaid expansion plan. The governor wants to expand Medicaid to include healthy adults that fall under 138% of the federal poverty limit, but he would like to put some parameters around that such as low premiums or copays and work requirements. One of the main questions is how to pay for the state’s $150 million share of this expansion to match the roughly $1 billion in federal funds we would receive. One proposal would be to use Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program (SHOPP) funds that are paid from hospitals to help offset at least part of the state’s cost. Hospitals would see more money with the increased federal matching rate, but we are working with them on the exact details of our proposal. I expect an announcement on the final agreement within the next week or so.
Kevin Wallace is the state representative for House District 32, which includes all of Lincoln County and a small portion of Logan County. He is the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and also serves on the house Natural Resources and Wildlife Committees. 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.