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Oklahoma lawmakers call for a concurrent special session to buy time with looming deadlines

 The Oklahoma State Capitol
Jackie Fortier
The Oklahoma State Capitol

Oklahoma lawmakers are buying themselves some extra time by calling for a concurrent special session.

The Oklahoma Constitution says lawmakers must have the upcoming fiscal year’s budget done by the final Friday in May — this year, May 26. That typically is the last day Senators and Representatives meet for the year.

But in the wake of a contentious fight over an education budget compromise only unveiled this week, they’re asking for a bit more time.

Edmond Sen. Adam Pugh, who largely shepherded the Senate’s education package, said it’s been a grueling process.

“It sounds corny, but I say to myself every day, ‘tension is a feature of our system and not a flaw.’ But we try to treat it like a flaw because it doesn’t mean we get everything we want, and it can be contentious and clunky, and sometimes we can grate and grind on each other,” Pugh said at a press conference announcing the budget deal.

In their request, lawmakers say they will consider addressing state budget appropriations, other legislation and federal American Rescue Plan money.

As for Democrats, House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson panned the move in a written statement.

“We've had four months to address the state budget, and with plenty of money to do it,” she said in the statement. “The call made by the supermajority demonstrates the continued dysfunction in state government.”

Because of a Republican supermajority in both chambers, Democrats have generally been shut out of budget negotiations.

By adding extra time, lawmakers can also override any of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s vetoes that they may not have otherwise. Stitt has vetoed dozens of bills this session and could be posed to veto more.

Among other things, Stitt has vetoed bills that ensure greater access to overdose-reversing drugs, fund public television, and bring Oklahoma in line with other states on Name, Image, Likeness regulations for college sports.

Veto overrides require a high approval of at least 2/3rds of both legislative chambers, and it's unclear if or when any of Stitt’s vetoes will be overridden.

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Copyright 2023 KOSU. To see more, visit KOSU.

Robby Korth joined StateImpact Oklahoma in October 2019, focusing on education reporting.