Do you remember those Reader’s Digest articles with lists of strange laws in America? There were things like, “it’s illegal to walk an alligator down the street in Florida”, or “you can’t walk backwards while eating a hamburger in Oklahoma”, etc…? This is going to blow your mind…
When bills are written they are assigned to committees. Each committee has chair. The chair of that committee decides on whether or not to hear it. If the chair decides to not hear the bill- it’s dead in the water.
If the chair does put the bill on the agenda then the members of that committee will vote. The bill must get a majority of votes from that committee to move on to the House or Senate floor- depending on which side the bill originated.
The Speaker of the House or the President Pro Tempore of the Senate decides if they want to hear the bill. If they do not want to hear it, then again, the bill is dead in the water.
If the bill passes the floor on one side it then goes through the same process and on the other side. Once the bill passes both sides of the legislature it goes to the Governor to be signed or vetoed. That’s a simplified version of the legislative process.
Each step of the way there is opportunity for a bill to get shut down. It’s amazing when any one bill makes it through all these steps of refinement to become law. It’s also dumbfounding when you think of the crazy stuff that does stand the test of committees, floors, and Governor to become law. Did you know in our state it is illegal to wear your boots to bed? Whaling is also illegal in Oklahoma, by the way. These bills, at one time, literally went through several serious discussions back and forth across the aisle and made it into law!
March 2nd was the deadline for bills to be heard in committees. This means if a legislator’s bill did not get chosen to be heard in committee by the 2nd, it’s now dead and won’t come up again this session. From now on, my job gets a little easier in that many bills have been weeded out and I won’t be rushing around between committee meetings anymore, rather I will only have to worry about what’s happening on the House and Senate floors. As discussed in a previous week’s post, these floor sessions have set schedules. (click here to see the schedule)
Now is the time it gets serious. There are only a few more opportunities to promote good bills or stop harmful ones before they go to the Governor’s desk. At the Institute we track all bills concerning the well-being of children. Visit our Oklahoma Legislative Action (OKLA) page to view bills organized by Education, Health, Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, and Early Childhood. Call or text me at 405-532-3944 if you have any questions about a piece of legislation or want to get plugged in as a child advocate volunteer!
It only takes 4 calls to your Representatives for them to realize an issue is important to their district. When you call you won’t even have to talk to anyone, you will only need to leave a voicemail stating your zip code (so they know you’re one of their constituents) and if you support or do not support a bill. (Click here to find out who your reps are.)
Your voice is stronger than you know.
Lani Habrock is the director of KIDS COUNT at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. She collects data on the well-being of children in Oklahoma and uses that data to drive and inform policy. As a former contender for the State House of Representatives she believes legislative advocacy is an important work we must all take responsibility for in order to create positive change for all children in our state on a population-wide level.