The Oklahoma Supreme Court has refused to hear a legal challenge to a law passed last year that authorized a statewide virtual charter school and $30 million for textbooks for public schools.
State attorneys argued that Senate Bill 1816 is legal because both items in the measure fall under the subject of education. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 not to hear the challenge.
Jerry Fent, an Oklahoma City attorney, said the measure should be struck down because it violates a constitutional prohibition on placing multiple subjects into a single bill.
“I'm very disappointed they denied it because it was a simple issue of logrolling,” he said. “This was an appropriation based with a substantive law for charter schools. It was obviously a multisubject matter which is a violation of the constitution.”
State attorneys said it did not violate the one-subject rule in the state constitution because it is an education bill; the textbooks directly relate to public education of children and the charter school provision relates to education. They said the measure was a special appropriation to the state Education Department.
Fent also argued the state constitution requires that general appropriation bills should consist of nothing but allocating money for the state and other appropriations must be made by separate bills.
What is logrolling?
The Supreme Court in recent years has struck down several laws because they contained multiple subjects, a practice known as “logrolling.”
Lawmakers added the funding amendment to SB 1816 in the final hours of last year's session.
The $6.8 billion state budget that legislators approved the final week of the session was said to contain $33 million for textbooks for public schools, but several legislators expressed frustration that state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi told Board of Education members on the second-to-last day of the session that she planned to use $11.5 million of the $33 million for other purposes.
The House of Representatives on the last day of the session passed SB 1816, which included language requiring the Education Department, which received a $2.3 billion allocation from legislators, to spend $30 million on textbooks for public school districts. The bill also authorized a statewide virtual charter school, a measure that barely passed earlier when it received the minimum 51 votes needed for passage. With the textbook funding amendment, the bill passed 84-10.