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Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat comments on 2020 session

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, made the following statement as the 2020 legislative session wound down Friday:

“All sessions are unique for a variety of reasons, but no one could have expected the events that unfolded during the 2020 session. The Senate closed in mid-March after a positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed. We worked remotely serving our constituents and connecting them with important services while closed. When we eventually returned to the Capitol, we enacted strict social distancing policies, held virtual hearings, and allowed senators to participate remotely for the first time in history. Through it all, the Senate staff and its members remained committed to serving our great state. I very much appreciate the professionalism and hard work of the staff and members of the Oklahoma Senate for their ability to continue conducting the people’s business as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted our daily lives and schedules.

“Writing a state budget is the most important job of the Legislature each year. At the beginning of the session, the Legislature expected a relatively ‘small’ budget hole of approximately $85 million. That normally would mean few, if any, cuts to ensure a flat budget. Then the coronavirus pandemic and plummeting oil and gas prices crippled our state’s economy eventually leading to a projected $1.3 billion budget hole.

“While some predicted cuts as high as 7.5 percent across the board, we were able to protect public education and other core services and limited cuts to no more than 4.1 percent. Education will actually see more money when you factor in federal coronavirus relief funding. Our budget agreement is far better than anyone could have predicted given the unprecedented financial circumstances. When the budget was vetoed, the Legislature took steps to protect public schools and other core services by overriding the veto.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there were many fewer policy bills considered. But we did take important actions like providing liability protections to doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus fight and businesses working to reopen safely to get our economy going again. We passed election reform measures to protect the integrity and ensure the safety and security of our free elections. Given all the circumstances, this was a successful legislative session and one that myself and senators can be proud of for what we achieved to move Oklahoma forward.”

Veto overrides Friday:

  • SB 1002, authored by Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, adds two members representing telecommunications and rural cooperatives to the rural broadband task force created by HB 4018. Veto overridden by a vote of 44-1.
  • HB 3819, authored by Sen. Treat, ensures contracts by state agencies shall be open to inspection by any member of the legislature. Veto overridden by a vote of 45-0.
  • HB 4049, Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, modifies the process of online renewal of car tags. Veto overridden by a vote of 44-1.
  • HB 4018, authored by Leewright, creates a task force to study broadband access in rural Oklahoma. Veto overridden by a vote of 43-1.
  • HB 2749, authored by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, caps state investment in the endowed chairs program for higher education. Veto overridden by a vote of 44-1.
  • HB 2750, authored by Thompson, allows bonding for endowed chairs up to the cap set in HB 2749. Veto overridden by a vote of 44-1.

Previously, the Legislature overrode vetoes on four other bills:  SB 1922, HB 2741, HB 2742, HB 2743.

The 2020 session officially adjourns 5 p.m. Friday, May 29. The special session, initiated by the governor’s catastrophic health emergency declaration to address COVID-19, is set for adjournment on Sunday, May 30.