In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss the start of Oklahoma's 2019 legislative session, including a proposed bill that would allow residents who meet certain requirements to carry a handgun without a permit.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley. Shawn, legislators concluded the first week of the 2019 legislative session on Thursday. The House ended with a devotional, recognition of pages and reassignment of some bills to committees, and the Senate ended with a short session.
The Senate adopted one resolution on the floor during the week. The House adopted a couple of resolutions. The time spent on the floor each day was short, but legislators are busy. What are they doing at this point in the session?
Shawn Ashley: Well, right now most of the work at the legislature is taking place in committees. By the second day of the legislative session, most bills--but not all--had been assigned to committee. The committee chairs are deciding which bills to hear and then on those meeting days they are considering those pieces of legislation. That will be the case for much of the first month of the legislative session.
Pryor: The permitless carry bill appears to be on the fast track to becoming law. It's passed a House committee and both houses are inclined to pass it and send it to the governor, who has said he will sign such a bill. First, what will it do? And second, why do the authors believe it is necessary?
Ashley: Well, permitless carry, sometimes called "constitutional carry," would allow anyone 21 years of age not convicted of certain felony crimes to carry a weapon. If you're a military veteran or a member of the military, at 18 you would also be able to carry your handgun, concealed or unconcealed, without first obtaining a permit from the state of Oklahoma.
Now, that's sort of the key reason why they say it's necessary, is that nowhere else in the Constitution is someone required to obtain a permit to exercise their constitutional rights.
Pryor: House co-author Rep. Sean Roberts told the committee the bill has no fiscal impact. That cannot be true...?
Ashley: Well, in fact, when Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations Director Ricky Adams appeared before a joint meeting, he expressed some concerns about the possible passage of constitutional carry. Those permits generate about $6 million in revenue for the OSBI. Now they use $2 million of that to support the program of running the background checks and checking the fingerprints. But the other $4 million goes to other programs within the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, where because of budget cuts, like so many other agencies, they've grown to depend on that additional revenue just to operate their agency.
Pryor: So there is some degree of fiscal impact.
Ashley: Up to $6 million, it appears.
Pryor: The joint medical marijuana working group is moving quickly to resolve issues arising from State Question 788. What are they doing?
Ashley: That's correct. As many people will recall, back during the summer and the fall, this working group looked at what was in State Questions 788 and some of the holes that were there. And everybody, including the proponents of the measure, said there were some gaps that need to be filled.
Those proponents came forth with the so-called "Unity Bill." It was about 225 pages in length. It was reviewed by the working group and since October, they've been working on turning that into legislation. There is now a 93 page bill that the working group will review on Wednesday and it appears from there it will move quickly to House and Senate committees and then to the House and Senate floor for possible fast tracking and early passage.
Pryor: Gov. Stitt made a bit of news in his first week in office when he visited a handful of agencies. It's a small gesture but an indication this is going to be a different kind of chief executive in the governor's office.
Ashley: Yeah, we seem to be seeing that just day by day with Gov. Stitt. Keep in mind, Gov. Stitt comes to the governorship with no previous political experience. He doesn't have knowledge about these agencies on an intimate level. So he's going out and visiting them.
We also see him showing up from time to time on the fourth floor to meet with legislative leaders or simply to visit groups that are there visiting the Capitol itself. It's something we have not seen in a while. And in fact, during his State of the State address, Gov. Stitt was just very excited to be in the well of the House delivering his first State of the State address.
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