Combing through legislation

Lawmakers still sorting through thousands of proposals

Yukon Progress, Yukon Review, Oklahoma House of Representatives
Rep. Brian Hill (left) and Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader (right)

By Alyssa Sperrazza
Staff Writer

The beginning of the legislative session saw 1,772 bills submitted by the House and 1,068 bills by the Senate.

Over the last several months, legislators have heard bills in committee, have sent hundreds to the House and Senate floors and are now preparing to send all approved bills to the opposite chamber. The Senate will hear 390 House bills and the House will hear 460 Senate bills in the coming weeks.

For Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader (R-41) the number of bills that have passed the House has been good but also slightly concerning. Crosswhite Hader said she’d prefer a longer time to deliberate and consider a bill, but with hundreds of them to be heard and a looming deadline, that isn’t always an option.

“I tend to vote ‘no’ more than many because I want more time to think about it, consider it,” Crosswhite Hader explained. “But most legislation takes a long time to happen anyways. That’s why changing the form of governor from a weak governorship to a strong governorship was huge because that was quick.

“But Governor Stitt talked about it on the campaign trail for a year, plus it’s something many of us have been thinking about for a long time. This is where crisscross of going from Senate bills to House bills and back and forth will be very important.”

Less concerned about the number of bills, Rep. Brian Hill (R-47) was encouraged by how many the House was able to sort through, reducing it to nearly a fifth of what was initially submitted.

“That’s why the process works… because it actually reduces the number of bills down,” Hill said. “And it’s extremely difficult to get a bill through the legislature.”

Overall, only six bills failed their initial chamber, two in the House and four in the Senate. And so far, Governor Stitt has signed only 11 bills, nine from House and two from Senate.

The initial number of bills submitted was higher than previous sessions and Hader attributes some of that to the many new legislators. But more bills meant more legislation to go through in a relatively short amount of time, and even with those tight deadlines, the legislature doesn’t move fast enough for some constituents.

“I think you have a lot of freshman and a lot of sophomores… 78 percent have less than two years of experience,” Crosswhite Hader said. “So I think a lot of people felt they had certain things they ran on, they had certain things people asked them to do, that they wanted to put forth… But I have a lot of people come to me and say, “I want this done quickly” and I’m like, ‘if I can do it, I can take it.’ I don’t want that authority, I don’t want the government to have that authority, because that’s where the deliberation, the slowness, matters.”

It’s a difficult balance, finding that sweet spot between efficiency and a good dose of caution as legislators decide which bills should be put into law. Crosswhite Hader said, when considering a bill though, there’s more to read than what meets the eye.

“I’m a natural pessimist and it actually serves me well because when I sit and am reading a bill, you’re not just reading it for the content, you’re reading for what’s not in there or the unintended consequences,” Crosswhite Hader said. “And even with that in mind, you can’t think of all of them, so if it moves quickly, you might miss something. With the slowness, it gives you the opportunity for someone else to come in from a different vantage point and explain to you why that might be a drag on something.”

Hill echoed similar statements, admitting the process can seem like a lot but it’s what the state government needs.

“Is the process very strenuous?” Hill asked. “Yes. But is that good for democracy? Heck yes. Otherwise, you’d have 1,772 in the House and 1,068 in the Senate new laws. And we don’t need 2,840 new laws. And a lot of those [House bills[ are clean-up bills… So, I think by the time we get done, I think you come to a much better place that projects local ideals and protects liberty for our citizens and that should be all our goal in this building. I think it’s a good moment for Oklahoma.

“I think we’ve got a group of legislators that are extremely committed to the cause which we were sent here for which is to protect liberty and take care of locals, get things moving… and I think with those 11 bills that you’ve already seen signed into law by our governor — everything from constitutional carry to the five agency heads giving executive authority — those are huge, those are massive undertakings. And I’m just grateful to be here in this specific moment to see these type of things happening.”