Oklahoma House of Representatives gathers for special interim meeting

OKLAHOMA CITY – For the first time in recent history, the entire Oklahoma House of Representatives met Monday (November 2) for hearings on three major issues facing the Legislature when it reconvenes in February.

House members heard testimony on best practices in education in other states and countries which are having successful outcomes for students, drought and the possibility of moving water within the state to areas of need, and on possible reforms to Oklahoma’s court system.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, approved nearly 100 interim study requests in July, with almost all of them being assigned to specific House committees. Four studies, however, were assigned to the Committee of the Whole allowing all House members to hear the presentations and ask questions in the House Chamber.

Hickman said interim studies are designed to give lawmakers the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the benefits and consequences of enacting particular policies and allow ample time for members to ask questions. Assigning four studies to the full House on significant issues allowed all members of the House to engage in policy discussions.

“Interim studies give House members an opportunity to dive into specific issues in a way that is not always possible during the challenging time constraints of the legislative session,” Speaker Hickman said in a release the House staff distributed to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations.

“In particular, these three studies … dealt with complicated issues but often it is the most challenging subjects which are the most critical to moving our state forward.”

The first study, requested by state Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, chair of the Common Education Committee, focused on innovative education ideas and reforms from other states and nations. Speakers from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Southern Region Education Board, along with a leading expert from Paris, presented information to lawmakers on “best practices” from around the globe.

A second study, requested by state Reps. Doug Cox (R-Grove), Health Appropriations Budget Chair, and Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang), Natural Resources Appropriations Budget Chair, focused on drought conditions and long-term options to meet water needs for future generations.

With Oklahoma still under severe drought conditions, despite record-setting rains during the spring and early summer, legislators heard various ideas from water policy experts and agricultural and tribal representatives on how to ensure citizens across the state have adequate water supplies in the coming decades. Members also heard an update from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board on the Comprehensive Water Plan, which guides policymakers in water use and management decisions for the next 50 years.

A third and final study, requested by state Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Edmond, chair of the House Environmental Law Committee, presented an overview of Oklahoma’s court system and how appellate court judges and justices are chosen.

The House will meet again in joint session with the Senate in the House Chamber on Thursday, November 5, from 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. for a study requested by Speaker Hickman and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, to discuss best practices in Capitol management.

With early phases of a restoration project of the Capitol building underway, the hearing on Thursday will focus on a management structure to care for and preserve the building to avoid what leaders said were mistakes made throughout the nearly 100 years since the Capitol was built and allowed to fall into disrepair.