Under strict health and safety measures, the Oklahoma Legislature convened for a historic special session on Monday, April 6 to respond to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s statewide health emergency declaration.
Both the House and Senate affirmed the governor’s unprecedented emergency actions as legislators entered the severely restricted state Capitol for the first time since March 17.
Now in effect, the declaration allows the executive branch to centralize state and county health department response efforts, let first responders know if they are responding to a location with a COVID-19 patient, and the governor to waive certain laws and rules for the purpose of the pandemic response, according to a release by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
The House and Senate also briefly reconvened the 2020 regular session to stabilize the current fiscal year’s budget. A combination of factors related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and recent downturn in oil prices has led to a projected $416 million revenue shortfall. Three bills were passed that shift state funds from reserve accounts into accessible locations so that state agencies will be able to meet their obligations for the rest of fiscal year 2020.
At the conclusion of Monday’s activity, the Legislature again adjourned to an uncertain future date. Remote work will continue away from the state Capitol and the session is not likely to reconvene until an agreement is reached on the fiscal year 2021 budget. At that time, a limited number of policy bills are expected to be considered, but the situation remains exceptionally fluid.
Oklahoma Farm Bureau leaders and staff continue to monitor any legislative action on behalf of its members. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the OKFB public policy staff at (405) 523-2300.