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Special Session: What does it mean?

Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report
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OKLAHOMA CITY- Per executive order, Gov. Mary Fallin signed the approval for the special session back in June. It began on Sept. 25th at the Oklahoma Capitol and Special is to last for 10 consecutive days to allow for alternatives to the budget crisis to be proposed and signed into action.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate were sent back to the Capitol to fix the $215 million budget deficit for the state left by the previous legislative session.

The final gavel rang throughout the capital in May leaving many Oklahomans questioning the future of the state’s budget security. Legislators left a $215 million budget gap for the next legislative session in February of 2018.

In order to gain revenue, a $1.50 tax was made for every pack of cigarettes sold in the state.

This tax was then ruled unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Attorney Robert McCampbell wrote in a petition to the court that Senate Bill 845, “flagrantly violates the Oklahoma Constitution.”

A total of 56 agencies across the state felt budget cuts. Organizations like the Department of Health Services and various school boards had cuts at the minimum of 10 percent. It went as far as the Oklahoma Public School systems attempting to sue the Oklahoma Legislature.

Board of Education member Mark Mann said in a public meeting they will look into law firms that will take the case and create a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Legislature.

“When they undoubtedly go into special session this fall they can fix the old convinced revenue measures that have been struck down, or will be struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court,” Mann said.

This statement was said back in late August.

What does this mean for the average Oklahoman?

While Republicans and Democrats struggle for a bipartisan agreement on the issue of the budget, Oklahomans must deal with the fallout of the decision either way. The house is controlled by the Republicans so any plan proposed must come be made by the left and accepted by the right and left.

Regardless of political affiliation, Oklahomans are in dire straits in many avenues. In national rankings, the state is 47 in education and 50 in healthcare. Without any course of action besides a tax that will fill only half the budget fall, Oklahomans look down the barrel of economic despair.

Taxpayers will feel the impact of the special session before the final day is over. According to Capitol documents, each day spent in session will cost the Oklahoma taxpayer $30,000.

On September 26, the meeting to vote for the new proposed plan was set to be voted on. Republicans had over a month to come up with a new plan.

Instead, the Democrats received the new plan just three minutes before the meeting was to take place. It was called House Bill 1099 and it involved parts of the old cigarette tax with revisions to favor the healthcare system.

Despite various debates from either side, the vote was cast: 19 to 9.  

The next vote was 10 to 2.

The following day, House Speaker Charles McCall called for an unpaid recess for the special session.

“While we are closer to an agreement, we are not going to waste $30,000 a day negotiating,” the speaker’s announcement read. “We pledge to continue negotiating in good faith with the governor and Senate…When there is an agreement in place, we will return and take care of the people’s business.”

As of the time of this report, the recess of the special session is still in effect.

With each passing day, the possibility of the budget increasing rises. No revenues coming into the state, a $215 million budget fall could rise to $400 million.

The next legislative session scheduled is in February and, by Oklahoma law, the special session is only able to last for 10 days. 

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Brandon King

Brandon King is a journalism student at OCCC, working towards becoming a professional writer....

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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