Senate approved Coffee’s single subject bill

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 04-May-2010

The State Senate today (Tuesday, May 4) overwhelming approved Senate Bill 213 by President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, which requires every bill to contain a separate provision that clearly expresses the subject of the bill.

Pro Tem Coffee explained that S.B. 213 resulted from a court ruling that found the Freedom of Conscience Act, enacted last year, violated the one subject rule.  The Supreme Court gave no indication as to the multiple subjects contained within the measure.

As a result, S.B. 213 now requires a court to provide written findings detailing each of the multiple subjects in a bill if the court finds the measure to violate the one subject rule.

“Senate Bill 213 creates a legislative record that a particular piece of legislation has been debated and defended, in committee and on the floor, regarding its single subject,” said Coffee.  “Regardless of what subject matter a bill deals with, this legislation will create a way for courts to give us guidance in how to improve legislation, by citing specific areas we did not comply with Oklahoma law.”

Senator Coffee, an Oklahoma City Republican, has been critical of the court in the “single subject” arena. In last Thursday’s weekly briefing for Capitol reporters, Coffee said the state court “gave no guidance as to how to avoid the same legal deficiency, as defined by the court, in other areas.”

Coffee said the Legislature is making every effort to respect the legal precedent, but he is not certain the full implications of the decision are understood if it is applied to all of state government. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, “you could need a single bill for every section of law being changed.”

He pointed to education reforms, agency consolidation and other issues that might be impacted by the court’ “single subject” precedent.

Senate Bill 213 now heads to the House of Representatives for final passage.

NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.