Oklahoma legislation authorizing statewide virtual charter school challenged

The measure contains an amendment, which violates a constitutional prohibition on placing multiple subjects in a single bill, a lawsuit filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court contends. The amendment requires the state Education Department to spend $30 million on textbooks for public schools.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: November 1, 2012
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A measure that authorized a statewide virtual charter school should be struck down because it violates a constitutional prohibition on placing multiple subjects into a single bill, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

An amendment was added to Senate Bill 1816 in the final hours of this year's session which requires the state Education Department to spend $30 million on textbooks for public school districts.

The Supreme Court in recent years has struck down several laws because they contained multiple subjects, a practice known as “logrolling.”

A hearing on the lawsuit before a Supreme Court referee is set for Dec. 4.

Jerry Fent, an Oklahoma City attorney who filed the lawsuit, said time is of the essence for the justices to rule on the matter because the legislation became effective at the start of this fiscal year, July 1, and money continues to be spent.

It is not too late to stop the measure because the state constitution requires money be allocated to state departments on a monthly basis, Fent said.

SB 1816 also is unconstitutional because the state constitution requires that general appropriation bills should consist of nothing but allocating money for the state and that “all other appropriations shall be made by separate bills, each embracing one subject,” he said.

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