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Lawmakers on pace to wrap up session early

The approval of three major issues and the quickness of a budget deal make it likely Oklahoma lawmakers will adjourn at least a week before the scheduled May 31 deadline.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: May 11, 2013 at 3:27 am •  Published: May 12, 2013

With three key issues passed and the state's $7.1 billion budget bill halfway through the Legislature, lawmakers are on pace to finish up several days earlier than the May 31 deadline.

Several lawmakers hinted, perhaps hopefully, they could finish their work by Friday, but legislative leaders believe that may be too ambitious.

“Realistically anywhere from the 17th to the 24th is very reasonable to expect,” said Senate President pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “We still have some unfinished business, but all our major items have all been agreed to.”

Leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature reached an agreement with GOP Gov. Mary Fallin in late April on three major issues: an income-tax cut, an overhaul of the workers' compensation system and a long-range plan to repair the state Capitol and other state buildings.

They reached an accord on the budget in early May. It was one of the quickest budget accords reached in recent years.

All but the tax-cut measure, House Bill 2301, have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate and have been signed by Fallin. Fallin has yet to sign HB 2301, which would reduce the top rate of the personal income tax from 5.25 percent to 5 percent in 2015 and provide $120 million over the next two years to repair the nearly 100-year-old Capitol.

The House last week passed House Bill 2301; the Senate is to take it up early this week and the measure should be to the governor by the end of the week.

Lawmakers aren't tackling two issues that could bog them down — consolidating the staff, boards and offices of several pension plans into one and developing a plan to provide health insurance coverage to uninsured Oklahomans.

House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, believes the progress lawmakers have made on key issues “does open the door for us possibly getting out early,” said his spokesman, Joe Griffin.

“Any time we can get things done efficiently and save the people of Oklahoma money, that's a good thing,” Griffin said.

The Legislature meets from the first Monday in February to the last Friday in May. Usually sessions last 16 weeks, but because of the way the calendar worked out this year the session could run 17 weeks. Lawmakers have rarely gone that long the past several years.

Ahead of schedule

Legislative leaders were hoping all along to finish by May 24, but the speed in which agreements were reached on the budget and the three major items make it likely lawmakers will wrap up their work before then.

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