Interim thinking: Speaker Steele approves dozens of Interim Studies

Departing Speaker of the House Kris Steele has approved 59 interim studies, allowing members of both political parties to dive into issues both obscure and highly salient in the balance of 2012. 

Speaker-designate T.W. Shannon, a Lawton Republican, got the green light for three studies. Few details are yet available on the trio of issues, other than the simple listing of subject matter on the House website. 

Shannon’s study 12-088 will focus on “state agency loss of federal funding contingency plans,” and study 12-089 will examine “strong families.” Shannon’s final study (12-089) will scrutinize an issue that continues to raise the ardor of rural legislators in both parties: “Oklahoma Small Business Development Center and Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma.”

Steele, a Shawnee Republican who will leave office this winter due to legislative term limits, noted in a press release that the approved issues include “education, government modernization, veterans’ issues, public finance, pensions, public safety, corrections, health care and more.” The complete listing is available here

Of broad interest will be a trio of studies led by Rep. Jason Murphey of Guthrie, focused on vehicle fleet reform, a study of implementation of historic modernization reforms, and an effort to establish priorities for further modernization, including possible agency consolidation. 

Leading a significant pair of interim studies on pension issues is state Rep. Randy McDaniel of Oklahoma City. 

Some interim studies do not yield substantive legislation, but occasionally the focus of the summer and fall sessions each year lead to significant changes in the statute books.

In a release sent to CapitolBeatOK Friday (July 13), Steele observed, “We’ve done a good job lately of using interim studies to prepare for productive sessions. This year’s interim studies will ensure that practice continues. Just like last interim, this House is going to stay busy studying policy issues that will truly make a difference in the lives of Oklahomans.”

Under transparency reforms put in place in 2011, reporters and the general public can gain more information than ever in state history about interim studies before, during and after the process unfolds. All formal documents and presentations to interim study committees are posted on the state House website, and enter the website’s permanent archive. Audio is streamed live during hearings and goes into the archive, as well. 

A total of 70 House interim studies were archived after 2011’s work, and 59 study requests have been approved for this year. 

Interim study hearings begin August 7, and will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the call of the committee chairman to whom a particular study is assigned. Under House rules, the interims will be completed by November 1.