Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Special, Regular Sessions Merge

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Special, Regular Sessions Merge

Article excerpt

Next week the Oklahoma Legislature will meet in concurrent special and regular sessions, an unusual but not unheard of turn of events.

The last time it occurred was in the last week of May 1995, the final week of the regular session, when the two houses also met in special session to consider emergency funding needs after the federal building bombing. That session recessed with no substantive action taken because damage estimates had not been finalized. Later, federal and private funding became available to cover some property losses and to help victims and their families.

Both houses have recessed a special session called to enact a tiered gross production tax for the flagging oil industry. As things now stand, no new floor sessions will be scheduled until the House and Senate agree on how to cut agency budgets to make up the $29 million the oil-tax cut would cost this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Lawmakers reconvene the 1999 legislative session at noon Monday, moving immediately into four months of tough budget-cutting decisions for fiscal year 2000, which begins July 1. Before the session adjourns on May 28, legislative budget leaders need to close a projected $217.4 million funding gap, much of it generated by financial obligations approved last year. Of the total, $14.2 million is a reduction in the State Equalization Board estimate of revenue available for appropriation this session. In late December, the board certified a total of $4.78 billion. This included $4.158 billion in general revenue, $216 million in other certified funds, $118 million in cash and $359.2 million in education reform -- House Bill 1017 -- funds. The board certified $160.5 million more in general revenue funding than was available last year, but about $112 million comes from a change in how revenues accrue to the Teachers Retirement System of Oklahoma. New law requires the Legislature to make an appropriation to the pension system, which has an unfunded liability of about $4. …

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