Difference between revisions of "Oklahoma State Legislature"

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::''See also: [[Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions]]''
::''See also: [[Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions]]''
In 2013, the Legislature was in session from February 4 to May 31.
In 2013, the Legislature was in session from February 4 to May 24.
====Major issues====
====Major issues====

Revision as of 12:47, 31 July 2014

Oklahoma State Legislature

Seal of Oklahoma.svg.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   12 cumulative years in both chambers combined
2015 session start:   February 3, 2014
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Todd Lamb (R)
House Speaker:  Jeff Hickman (R)
Majority Leader:   Mike Schulz (R) (Senate),
Charles Ortega (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Randy Bass (D) (Senate),
Scott Inman (D) (House)
Members:  48 (Senate), 101 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art V, Oklahoma Constitution
Salary:   $38,400/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 6, 2012
24 seats (Senate)
101 seats (House)
Next election:  November 4, 2014
24 seats (Senate)
101 seats (House)
Redistricting:  Oklahoma Legislature has control
The Legislature of the State of Oklahoma is the biennial meeting of the legislative branch of the Government of Oklahoma. It is bicameral, comprising the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma State Senate, with all members elected directly by the people. The House of Representatives has 101 members, each serving a two-year term. The Senate has 48 members, each serving a four-year term. Members of both houses are elected from single member districts of equal population. Senators serve a staggered term, such that only half of the senate districts have elections in any election year.

The Oklahoma Constitution vests all legislative powers of the state government in the Legislature. The powers of the Legislature are limited to those enumerated in the Oklahoma Constitution; all other powers are reserved to the people, namely initiative and referendum. The Legislature may regulate and define what is an unlawful monopoly in restraint of trade, levy taxes, maintain the Oklahoma State Militia, regulate pensions for the state’s firefighters, and certain other "necessary and proper" powers required for carrying into effect the provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution.

The Senate and House of Representatives are co-equal houses. However, there are some special powers granted to one chamber only. The Senate's advice and consent is required for gubernatorial appointments to high-level executive positions. Bills for raising revenue may only originate in the House of Representatives. All bills approved by the Legislature must by sent to the Governor of Oklahoma for approval.

The Oklahoma Legislature meets in the Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City.

As of May 2015, Oklahoma is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.

See also: Oklahoma House of Representatives, Oklahoma State Senate, Oklahoma Governor


Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution establishes when the Legislature is to be in session. Section 26 of Article V states that the Legislature is to meet in regular session on the first Monday in February of each year, and it is to adjourn its regular session by the last Friday in May of each year. Additionally, Section 26 also states that the Legislature is to meet for organizational purposes on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in January of each odd-numbered year.

Section 27 of Article V contains the rules for convening special sessions of the Legislature. Section 27 allows a special session to be called by the Governor of Oklahoma or by a written call signed by two-thirds of the members of both legislative houses.


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from February 3 through May 23.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2014 legislative session included tax cuts, the budget, prison funding, employee compensation and judicial reform.[1]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from February 4 to May 24.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2013 legislative session included changes to the state pension system and workers compensation funds, tax cuts, and increased funding for education.[2]

Lawsuit reform

In September 2013, the legislature held a five-day special session where both houses reenacted a lawsuit reform bill. Republicans in the state legislature settled on 23 provisions with the effect of reestablishing key provisions of a 2009 lawsuit reform bill, which was struck down by the state Supreme Court in June 2013. Senate President Pro Temp Brian Bingman is a strong supporter of lawsuit reform.[3]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in session from February 6 through May 25.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature was in session from February 7 through May 27.[4]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature was in session from February 1 to May 28.[5]

Role in state budget

See also: Oklahoma state budget

The state operates on an annual budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[6][7]

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in August of the year preceding the start of the new fiscal year.
  2. State agencies submit their budget requests to the governor in October.
  3. Agency hearings are held from October through December. Public hearings are held from December through May.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature in February.
  5. The legislature typically adopts a budget in May. A simple majority is required to pass a budget. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Oklahoma is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[7]

The governor is legally required to submit a balanced budget proposal. Likewise, the legislature is legally required to pass a balanced budget.[7]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Oklahoma was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[8]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[9] According to the report, Oklahoma received a grade of B- and a numerical score of 82, indicating that Oklahoma was "advancing" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[9]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Oklahoma was given a grade of D in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[10]

Requirements to hold office

Section 17 of Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution established the requirements a person must meet in order to become an elector in either House. Members of the Senate must be at least twenty-five years of age, and members of the House of Representatives twenty-one years of age at the time of their election. They must be qualified electors in their respective counties or districts and must reside in their respective counties or districts during their term of office. To file as a candidate for the House of Representatives or the Senate in any representative district, a person must have been a registered voter in such district and a resident residing within such district for at least six months immediately preceding the filing period prescribed by law.

Restrictions on office holding

Section 18 of Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits members of the Legislature from also serving as another officer of the United States or Oklahoma State government. The same Section also provides that no person is eligible to election to the Legislature who has been adjudged guilty of a felony. Also, Section 17A of the same Article implements a twelve-year term limit, restricting legislators to a total of 12 years in the Oklahoma Legislature. Years in Legislative office need not be consecutive and years of service in both the Senate and the House of Representatives are added together and included in determining the total number of legislative years in office. The years served by any member elected or appointed to serve less than a full legislative term to fill a vacancy in office are not included in the 12-year limitation; but no member who has completed 12 years in office is thereafter eligible to serve a partial term.

To prevent the Legislature for engaging in activities or having interests which conflict with the proper discharge of their duties and responsibilities, the Constitution requires the Legislature to enact laws barring such behavior.

In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature, the Governor issues writs of election to fill such vacancies.


See also: Redistricting in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the state legislature is in charge of redistricting. If the state legislature fails to agree on a map by its deadline, then redistricting becomes the responsibility of the Oklahoma Reapportionment Commission. Although the legislature is given latitude, Oklahoma laws regarding redistricting require that the cores of existing districts are maintained, other political subdivisions remain intact, 'communities of interest' should be respected and combined, and the state must explicitly comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act protecting the representation of minority populations.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oklahoma's population increased from 3.45 million to 3.75 million between 2000 and 2010.[11] The population was densest around Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Growth rates were highest in the suburban and exurban areas surrounding these cities, while rural Oklahoma counties grew slowly or lost population. Of Oklahoma's 77 counties, 23 registered a drop in population between 2000 and 2010.[12] The state's overall growth rate was 8.7 percent, which was below the national average of 9.7 percent, but not low enough to cost the state a Congressional seat, as occurred as a result of the 2000 Census.[13]

Oklahoma officials received detailed Oklahoma results from the Census in February. The legislature formed steering committees in each chamber to draft the maps before the May 27, 2011 deadline. The House of Representatives completed its work relatively quickly, producing a map that avoided putting any incumbents in a district together by early May.[14] Discussions in the Senate were more heated and partisan, and the Senate did not produce a map in mid-May.[15][16][17] The House map was passed overwhelmingly in its initial vote, while the Senate encountered minority opposition. However, opposition eased on the second round of votes, and the Governor Mary Fallin signed the bills into law seven days before the deadline.[18][19]



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Oklahoma Legislature are paid $38,400/year during legislative sessions. Legislators receive $147/day per diem tied to the federal rate.[20]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Oklahoma legislators assume office November 17th.

Legislative procedure


Under Article 5 section 26 of the Oklahoma Constitution legislative terms begin at noon on the first Monday in February of every odd-numbered year. However, in odd number years (years following an election) the Legislature must meet on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January for the sole purpose of determining the outcome of the state wide-elections. The first session of the Legislature shall not exceed one hundred and sixty days. Also, the first session shall be finally adjourned by no later than five o'clock p.m. on the last Friday in May of each year.

Legislatures are identified by consecutive numbers and correspond with the election of the members of the House of Representatives. The current 2006 session is designated as the Second Session of the 50th Legislature. The 2007 session (following the 2006 elections) will be the First Session of the 51st Legislature, the 2008 session will be the Second Session of the 51st Legislature, and so on.

At the beginning of each new term, the entire House of Representatives and one-half of the Senate (those who were chosen in the previous election) are sworn in. The House of Representatives also elects a Speaker to preside over debates. The President pro tempore of the Senate, by contrast, holds office continuously; normally, a new President pro tempore is only elected if the previous one retires, or if there is a change in the majority party.

The Oklahoma Constitution forbids either house adjourning for more than three days, without the consent of the other house. The provision was intended to prevent one house from thwarting legislative business simply by refusing to meet. To avoid obtaining consent during long recesses, the House or Senate may sometimes hold pro forma meetings, sometimes only minutes long, every three days. The Constitution prevents the Legislature from meeting any place outside the Oklahoma Capitol. However, the Governor is empowered to convoke the Legislature at or adjourn it to another place, when, in his opinion, the public safety or welfare, or the safety or health of the members require it. However, such a change or adjournment requires consent by a two-thirds vote of all the members elected to each branch.

The Legislature may be called into special session by a written call for such purposes as may be specifically set out in the call, signed by two-third of the members of the Senate and two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives when it is filed with the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall issue jointly an order for the convening of the special session. However, the Legislature may not prevent the calling of a special session by the Governor.

In cases of a disagreement between the two houses of the Legislature, at a regular or special session, with respect to the time of adjournment, the Governor may, if the facts be certified to him, by the presiding officer of the house first moving the adjournment, adjourn them to such time as he shall deem proper, not beyond the day of the next stated meeting of the Legislature. The consent of both bodies is required for the Legislature's final adjournment, or sine die, at the end of each legislative session. If the two houses cannot agree on a date, the Constitution permits the Governor to settle the dispute.

Bills and resolutions

A proposal may be introduced in the Legislature as a bill, a joint resolution, a concurrent resolution, or a simple resolution. Most legislative proposals are introduced as bills, but some are introduced as joint resolutions. Joint resolutions are the normal method used to propose a constitutional amendment. On the other hand, concurrent resolutions (passed by both houses) and simple resolutions (passed by only one house) do not have the force of law. Instead, they serve to express the opinion of Congress, or to regulate procedure.

Bills (and other proposals) may be introduced by any member of either house. However, the Oklahoma Constitution provides that: "All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives." As a result, the Senate does not have the power to initiate bills imposing taxes. Furthermore, the House of Representatives holds that the Senate does not have the power to originate appropriation bills, or bills authorizing the expenditure of state funds. Historically, the Senate has disputed the interpretation advocated by the House. Although it cannot originate revenue and appropriation bills, the Senate retains the power to amend or reject them.

Each bill goes through several stages in each house. The first stage involves consideration by a committee. Most legislation is considered by standing committees, each of which has jurisdiction over a particular subject matter, such as Agriculture or Appropriations. The House has twenty-six standing committees; the Senate has seventeen. In some cases, bills may be sent to select committees (which tend to have more narrow jurisdictions than standing committees. Each standing and select committee is led by a chairman (who belongs to the majority party) and a ranking member (who belongs to the minority party). Committees are permitted to hold hearings and collect evidence when considering bills. They may also amend the bill, but the full house holds the power to accept or reject committee amendments. After considering and debating a measure, the committee votes on whether it wishes to report the measure to the full house.

A decision not to report a bill amounts to a rejection of the proposal. Both houses provide for procedures under which the committee can be bypassed or overruled, but they are rarely used. If reported by the committee, the bill reaches the floor of the full house. The house may debate and amend the bill; the precise procedures used by the House of Representatives and the Senate differ. A final vote on the bill follows.

Once a bill is approved by one house, it is sent to the other, which may pass, reject, or amend it. In order for the bill to become law, both houses must agree to identical versions of the bill. If the second house amends the bill, then the differences between the two versions must be reconciled in a conference committee, an ad hoc committee that includes both senators and representatives. In many cases, conference committees have introduced substantial changes to bills and added un-requested spending, significantly departing from both the House and Senate versions.

After passage by both houses, a bill is submitted to the Governor who may choose to sign the bill, thereby making it law, or veto it, returning it to the Legislature with his objections. In such a case, the bill only becomes law if each house of the Legislature votes to override the veto with a two-thirds majority. Finally, the Governor may choose to take no action, neither signing nor vetoing the bill. In such a case, the Constitution states that the bill automatically becomes law after five days (excluding Sundays). However, if the Legislature adjourns (ends a legislative session) during the five day period, then the bill does not become law. Thus, the President may veto legislation passed at the end of a congressional session simply by ignoring it; the maneuver is known as a pocket veto, and cannot be overridden by the adjourned Legislature. No bill may become a law after the final adjournment of the Legislature, unless approved by the Governor within fifteen days after such adjournment.

Quorum and voting

The Oklahoma Constitution specifies that a majority of members constitutes a quorum to do business in each house. The rules of each house provide that a quorum is assumed to be present unless a quorum call demonstrates the contrary. Representatives and senators rarely force the presence of a quorum by demanding quorum calls; thus, in most cases, debates continue even if a majority is not present.

Both houses use voice voting to decide most matters; members shout out "aye" or "no," and the presiding officer announces the result. The Oklahoma Constitution, however, requires a recorded vote on the demand of one-fifth of the members present. If the result of the voice vote is unclear, or if the matter is controversial, a recorded vote usually ensues. The Senate uses roll call votes; a clerk calls out the names of all the senators, each senator stating "aye" or "no" when his name is announced. The House reserves roll call votes for the most formal matters; normally, members vote by electronic device. In the case of a tie, the motion in question fails. In the Senate, the Lieutenant Governor may (if present) cast the tiebreaking vote.


Under the Oklahoma Constitution, members of both houses enjoy the privilege of being free from arrest in all cases, except for treason]], felony, and breach of the peace. This immunity applies to members "during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same." The term "arrest" has been interpreted broadly, and includes any detention or delay in the course of law enforcement, including court summons and subpoenas. The rules of the House very strictly guard this privilege; a member may not waive the privilege on his own, but must seek the permission of the whole house to do so. Senate rules, on the other hand, are less strict, and permit individual senators to waive the privilege as they see fit.

Aside from benefits directly facilitating their legislative work, members enjoy a number of other perks. As of 2006 rank and file Legislators received a salary of $38,400. The President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives are paid an additional $17,932 annually. The appropriations committee chairmen, majority floor leaders and the minority floor leaders of each house are paid an additional $12,364 per year.

Board of Legislative Compensation

In order to regulate compensation paid to the Legislature, the Oklahoma Constitution creates the Board on Legislative Compensation. The board shall be composed of five members appointed by the Governor, two members appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and two members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The members appointed by the Governor must be from religious organizations, communications media, nonstate-supported educational institutions, labor organizations, and retail business. The members appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate shall be from agricultural and civic organizations and the members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be from manufacturing and from professional fields not otherwise specified.

No member of the Legislature may be appointed to or serve on the Board. In addition to the members above provided for, the Chairman of the Tax Commission and the Director of State Finance shall serve as ex officio nonvoting members of said Board. The Chairman of said Board shall be designated by the Governor. Members of the Legislature shall receive such compensation as determined by the Board on Legislative Compensation. The Board on Legislative shall each two years review the compensation paid to the members of the Legislature and shall be empowered to change such compensation. Such a change is to become effective on the fifteenth day following the succeeding general election. The members of the Board shall serve without compensation, but shall be entitled to receive necessary travel and subsistence expense as provided by law for other state.


See also: Oklahoma State Senate

The Oklahoma State Senate is the upper house of the Oklahoma State Legislature. The total number of Senators is set at 48 by the Oklahoma Constitution. Each member represents an average of 78,153 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[21] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 71,889.[22]

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 8
     Republican Party 40
Total 48

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Oklahoma State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Oklahoma State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The Oklahoma House of Representatives is the lower house and larger body of the two houses of the Oklahoma Legislature, the other being the Oklahoma Senate. Originally, each county in Oklahoma was represented in the House proportional to its population, but after a court case in the early 1960s, the state has been divided into 101 House districts of equal population. Representatives serve two-year terms. Each member represents an average of 37,142 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[21] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 34,165.[22] The presiding officer of the House is known as the Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 28
     Republican Party 71
     Vacancy 2
Total 101

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Oklahoma State House.PNG


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Oklahoma
Partisan breakdown of the Oklahoma legislature from 1992-2013

Oklahoma State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Oklahoma State Senate for the first 15 years while the Republicans were the majority for the last five years. The final three years of the study depicted a shift in the Oklahoma senate with all three years being Republican trifectas.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Oklahoma State House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Oklahoma State House of Representatives for the first 13 years while the Republicans were the majority for the last nine years. Oklahoma was under Republican trifectas for the final three years of the study.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Senate and the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Oklahoma state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Oklahoma state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. During the years of the study, Oklahoma had both Democratic and Republican trifectas. Its Democratic trifectas occurred from 1992-1994 and from 2003-2004. Its Republican trifectas occurred from 2011-2013. Oklahoma's SQLI ranking was in the bottom-10 for many years of the study, finishing 44th in 1994 at its lowest. In more recent years of the study, however, the state's ranking improved, finishing 31st in 2011 at its highest. Oklahoma's worst ranking occurred during a Democratic trifecta, and its best occurred during a Republican trifecta.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 41.80
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 31.50
  • SQLI average with divided government: 40.64
Chart displaying the partisanship of Oklahoma government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

See also

External links


  1. www.tulsaworld.com, "2014 Oklahoma Legislature: Budget challenges, leadership matters await as session begins," accessed February 3, 2014
  2. Muskogee Phoenix, "State House Republicans unveil 2013 legislative agenda," February 1, 2013
  3. WatchDog.org, "OK special session puts lawsuit reforms back in place," accessed October 25, 2013
  4. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 6, 2014(Archived)
  5. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 19, 2014(Archived)
  6. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  8. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  10. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  11. U.S. Census Bureau, "2010 Census: Oklahoma Profile," accessed July 21, 2014
  12. USA Today, "Oklahoma City, suburbs see 'significant growth'," February 18, 2011
  13. The Express-Star, "State's congressional representation to stay the same," March 7, 2011
  14. Tulsa Today, "Not Kumbaya, but close: House reapportionment headed to a peaceful end," May 10, 2011(Archived)
  15. Tulsa World, "Redistricting draws criticism: One senator says lawmakers shouldn't be involved in the process," April 24, 2011
  16. News-Star, "House redistricting moves forward, Senate plan stalls," May 10, 2011
  17. NewsOK, "State Senate releases maps for proposed districts," May 12, 2011
  18. Real Clear Politics, "Fallin signs House, Senate redistricting bills," May 20, 2011
  19. The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signs redistricting bills," May 21, 2011
  20. NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  21. 21.0 21.1 census.gov, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  22. 22.0 22.1 U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001