Democrats, who make up 30 percent of the state House, have had about 10 percent of their bills heard by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, frustrating members of the minority party who had hoped for better results under a new procedure to have bills heard on the floor.
The House Calendar Committee, formed under rules approved by the House last month, reviews all bills that are passed out of committees. House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said it's part of his goal to give all voices in the House a chance to be heard. Republicans outnumber Democrats 72-29.
But as the House completes its fifth week of work, 148 Republican bills have passed the House, compared with 16 Democratic measures through mid-Wednesday afternoon, according to the speaker's office.
“The session started off well with a good tone to it, we were working well together,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City. “I think the speaker is still intent upon making that happen, but our caucus is growing ever more concerned by the fact that fewer and fewer bills with House Democratic authors that made it out of committee.
“We're hoping that in the next few days ... that trend will reverse itself,” Inman said.
The House Calendar Committee, made up of five Democrats and 13 Republicans, voted Wednesday to advance 67 measures to the House floor. Of those, only two were measures authored by Democrats.
A Republican bill was added later; Democrats tried to get three other measures advanced to the House floor, but Republicans thwarted that effort by voting to table those measures.
Time is running out
The deadline for House bills to be heard in the House and passed on to the Senate is March 14.
Joe Griffin, Shannon's spokesman, said Democrats could have more of their measures heard if they didn't take part in parliamentary procedures that delay proceedings.
“Just because we haven't heard them yet doesn't mean that we're not going to hear the Democrats' bills,” Griffin said. “It will be up to the Calendar Committee ... when those will be heard and if the Democrats would stop making frivolous arguments and wasting time, we may be able to hear more of them.”