April 12, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – “For the Children” Weekly Column
Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117
For the Children: A Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, CEO – OICA
This Shucking Legislature…
We are going to “get in the weeds” this week on a rule once rigidly followed in the Oklahoma Legislature.
In prior years when a bill was cast aside, not considered in committee, or not brought up in a legislative chamber, that was it – the bill was dead. This year, lawmakers are using a practice called “shucking” to resurrect ideas that failed to advance.
“Shucking” is not a typo or mispronounced dirty word. “Shucking” is a process the 2019 Oklahoma House of Representatives Legislative Manual called “a measure which has been so greatly changed from its original subject that the current language bears no relation to the original.”
Historically, lawmakers and legislative observers frown upon shucking. It is bad practice, allowing ideas to avoid public scrutiny by skipping steps in the legislative process. It makes it difficult for advocates to follow an idea when a bill is publicized by its number to identify merits and it suddenly becomes something completely different. This is confusing and frustrating for those not watching the process closely; it also costs time and money to educate citizens about the change.
In the past, only the most extreme situations when a large majority of lawmakers agreed to contend with something emergent was shucking employed, and rarely on something controversial. One example happened in 1999 when the entire Legislature agreed to appropriate emergency funds to help recover from a devastating tornado. This bipartisan effort to strip language from another bill and allocate emergency funds for aid was justified.
Another happened in 2010 on a tort reform compromise to allow for “loser pays” legislation when that portion was left out of the primary bill. A bill was shucked to complete the agreement.
This year, much of the shucking puts language into a different title of state law; normally not allowed because such an amendment is not “germane.” Amendments containing subject matter not adequately related to the subject of the measure under consideration are ruled “non-germane” and are not allowed unless two-thirds of lawmakers vote to suspend the rules. Even amendments in the same title of law can be non-germane if they are not close to the same concept as the original bill.
A bill was “shucked” last week OICA strongly supported. A good potential law was replaced with something that had nothing to do with the bill except both dealt with schools.
Advocates interested in the original bill supported the work done by the bill’s author and were caught off-guard when it was gutted with language from another bill that died earlier. “Frustration” does not adequately express our feeling over losing a bill which could help save young lives.
We ask lawmakers to resist the temptation to “shuck” bills with noble ideas in the rush to resurrect dead bills, worthy or not. Instead, we ask they work with each other to find bills more in line with the original concept and file a germane amendment, or work with House and Senate leaders who can file bills anytime through a relatively new process allowed under current rules.
We asked lawmakers to restore the original Emergency Action Plan language, and fortunately they did, although placing it in House Bill 1801. OICA strongly supports House Bill 1801 that will, as amended, help save students’ lives in classrooms and at sporting activities.