Oklahoma Senate President Pro Temp Greg Treat announces Interim Studies approved for Republican members

OKLAHOMA CITY – The leader of the Oklahoma Senate released the list of approved studies for the 2020 interim. Senators submitted 64 requests and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said that 39 study requests were approved. 
Treat’s announcement came late last week. Members of both parties area will be “players” in the coming months, in terms of studying substantive policy ideas.

Treat said the interim study requests were assigned to the standing Senate policy committee with jurisdiction over the subject matter of the request. 
Now that the studies have been assigned to Senate committees, committee chairs will determine when to conduct the studies, Treat said.

This legislative interim presents logistical challenges which led to fewer interim studies being approved, Treat said. Due to the ongoing renovation of the Capitol, the Senate only has one available committee room for use this interim. Treat also said the Senate intends to implement social distancing due to COVID-19 which further limits the ability to hold more studies.

“In a typical year, we can accommodate most interim study requests. But this is not a typical year. With only one Senate committee room available for use and the need to implement social distancing due to COVID, we limited each senator to no more than two approved study requests. There are some great topics to cover this year and I look forward to what ideas develop during interim studies,” Treat said.

Republican Pro Temp will guide two key studies 

Treat announced he will guide a study on “Law Enforcement Policies: use of force, de-escalation, and real world applications,” working with the Public Safety Committee.
The President Pro Temp will also guide “A study of the 2020 reforms to the Open Meetings Act and future opportunities to leverage technologies to better serve Oklahomans.” 
That interim study will work its way through the Rules Committee, arguably the most important of all Senate panels.

Two members of the Republican leadership – Kim David of Porter and Roger Thompson of Okemah, will administer the interim study on “Universal training requirements for police officers.” 

Sen. Thompson is also working with Democratic state Sen. Julia Kirt of Oklahoma City to lead a study focused on use of the Pay for Success (PFS) concept in state governance. 

Sen. Paul Rosino gained approval of two studies that will work through the Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee. The Oklahoma City Republican, whose district follows a “U-shape” around the south side of Oklahoma City, will guide a study touching the “Oklahoma Air Service Development Grant Pilot Program: offer financial assistance by grant to private or public entities for assisting commercial air service development.” Rosino is also leading a look at “Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) economic advancement and potential increase for economic development in Oklahoma.”

Senate Adam Pugh of Edmond will work with the Public Safety Committee for “A study on the Center of Excellence and ONENET utilizing tag agents to provide full privatization of drivers’ licensing services.”

Three other Republican members will direct interim studies to be administered through the Appropriations panel.  
Tom Dugger of Stillwater will study the “State Fire Marshal’s Office: the duties and responsibilities of State Fire Marshal’s office and the creation of a state building office for a one-stop place for codes.” 
Chuck Hall of Perry is looking at “An evaluation of the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges Fund.” 
Brent Howard of Altus will guide the “study on prison housing and health care: county jails and expanded Medicaid.”

The Public Safety Committee will consider a cluster of substantive issues for interim study. Kingfisher’s GOP Senator Darcy Jech will guide a look at the Department of Corrections’  “Procedures and Practices During a Health Crisis.” 
Republican Paul Scott of Duncan was approved for a “Discussion of mental health issues that affect firefighters, law enforcement, District Attorney’s, DOC workers, etc. to help create a more supportive work environment.” 
Darrell Weaver of Moore is the leader for a look at “Temporary Personnel Transfers in State Law Enforcement: The study will explore the idea of allowing temporary duty transfers between state law enforcement.”

Sen. Weaver will also guide a Judiciary Committee “study exploring current laws regarding grandparents’ rights to determine if legislative modifications are necessary..” 

Meanwhile, Sen. Scott also has approval to study, in Appropriations meetings this interim period, “Roads and Bridges: to determine funding for maintaining and improving city and county roads.”

Approved studies for Senators Leewright, McCortney, Murdock, Paxton 

Senator James Leewright, R-Bristow has two studies center in Business, Commerce and Tourism, including one on the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) “and Unemployment: How do we learn from the Pandemic and how do we become better prepared?” His second approved study will focus on “Oklahoma lakes: Need for development, barriers from state and federal levels, and how we might build better partnerships between state, federal, and private sectors.” 

Greg McCortney of Ada has responsibility for “Tribal Health and Medicaid Managed Care – how to avoid leaving federal money on the table in managed care contracting,” as well as “Medication Assisted Treatment for drug addiction and the role these drugs could play in making Oklahoma a Top Ten State.” Both of those studies are centered in the Health and Human Services Committee.

In the Agriculture and Wildlife Committee, Republican Senator Casey Murdock of Felt will lead a study on “the rules and regulations on beef processing facilities.”

Senator Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, gained approval for an Energy Committee “Examination of the current statutes regarding surety and financial statements for oil and gas operators as well as disposal well operators in Oklahoma.”

Bergstrom, Dahm and Gann to look at diverse issues

Senator Michael Bergstrom, R-Adair will direct the interim study aiming at an “Evaluation of Career Tech Training Programs: completion rates, long-term success of students in relevant careers, number of programs training skills to earn a good wage,” working through the Education Committee. Bergstrom will also be ramrod for a Health and Human Services panel look at the “Oklahoma Forensic Center: Operations, interactions with local law enforcement, frequency and type of incidents, working conditions, and effects on community at large.”

Senator Nathan Dahm of Broken Arrow and Senator Tom Gann of Inola will shared guidance over a study “To analyze potential improvements, changes, & reforms so the legislature is more involved in the Administrative Rules process.” The two Republicans will do the work through the Rules Committee.

Senators and Representatives share approval to conduct three joint interim studies 

A trio of studies will include both a Senator and a member of the state House of Representatives at the helm. 

Senator John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, and Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, take the lead in the Retirement and Insurance Committee’s study “Exploring options for increasing access to retirement savings programs to encourage Oklahomans to secure their financial future.”

The Appropriations Committee has two interim studies in areas requested by State Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Broken Arrow, and state Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa. These include a look at “Education funding: Bilingual funding, testing, qualifying, school procedures, transparency and accountability” and “Transportation funding in changing virtual environment, funding for schools utilizing city transit systems & 1.5-mile rule for transportation.”

The full list of approved studies is available at the state Senate website. When meetings for the interim studies are scheduled, Senate committees will send hearing notices, which also will be published on the Senate website.

The Interim Studies led by members of the Democratic caucus are reported in a separate story posted today. 

Treat said interim studies must be completed by Friday, October 30.

NOTE: Publisher Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.