With only three weeks left in the regular session, there is still a lot of work to be done. Any bill, passed from this point, will go through the conference committee process. The main work of the legislature, which is crafting the budget, still needs to be done.

All this must be done before the final adjournment of the legislature, which by the Constitution must be by 5:00 on the last Friday in May. This sine die adjournment will occur on or before the 25th of May this year.

In an attempt to find common ground with the Governor, the House and Senate passed individual agency appropriation bills. These five individual agency bills mirrored exactly the budget submitted by the governor back in February. These agencies had the exact same amounts in the Legislative General Appropriation bill and the Governorís. However, the Governor also vetoed these five bills. Although he has stated that he agreed with 90% of the budget bill, he still refuses to state which part he disagrees with. From the vetoes, it is apparent that he also disagrees with his own budget bill.

However, the House and the Senate are continuing with the budget process. Each is meeting with the standing committees that appropriate money to individual agencies. These committee meetings will distribute the final 56 million that is left remaining from the General Appropriation Bill. Some money from the spillover fund will be available for one time funding also. This amount will be about 200 million dollars.

With time running out on the process, the prospect of another special session is appearing more and more likely. However, this would be an irresponsible waste of taxpayerís money. Both the House and the Senate passed a bipartisan budget bill back in March. However, as was the case last year, one part of the legislative process can sabotage the whole process. There is still time to finish the budget process if everyone involved gets serious about the process.

This past week at the Capitol was a slow week in passing legislation, but a busy week in rejecting amendments from the opposite chamber. Most of the amendments that were rejected were those that struck the title and rendered the bill useless. This forces the bill to go to a Conference Committee and through a different process in coming to the floor.

All the bills that go into the Conference Committee report will have passed through the regular committee process during the first part of the year. This part has been part of a public process and oversight from the media and interested parties.

During the conference committee process, however, new or rejected legislation can be inserted into the conference committee report without public knowledge until the bill appears on the floor. Sometimes these changes are minor, but they can also contain major changes to legislation.

That is why it is especially important for legislators to read the bills before voting on the bills these final weeks of session. The time allowed before the bill is heard on the floor is also shortened. The bill may be voted on 24 hours after being distributed on the memberís desk. This year in informal policy is trying to allow at least 46 hours notice before this vote is taken however. The last few weeks of the session are like the last two minutes of a ball game. The game can be won or lost in those final critical moments. The success or failure of this legislature depends on these last couple of weeks. Hopefully, the Governor can join the bipartisan efforts of the Senate and the House and make Oklahoma a winner this session.

If you would like to comment on this column or if I may be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me at my office, 800-522-8502, Ext. 384 or by email at gusblackwell@okhouse.gov .