OKLAHOMA CITY — The Legislature on Friday overrode some of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s vetoes, including one from last year, and called him some names, but it did not overturn his vetoes of key budget items.
Instead, the House unanimously upheld Stitt’s vetoes of the two bills, so that they never went to the Senate, and accepted his challenge to come up with more comprehensive tax relief in a special session.
The end result was the death of a proposed $75 tax rebate for single filers and $150 for joint filers and the continuation of a 1.25% sales tax on all motor vehicle sales.
Stitt said the measures did not provide enough tax and inflation relief to residents and called the legislators back into special session on June 13. Legislators indicated that they may amend the call of their special session to include tax relief.
The final gavel of the regular session fell in the House of Representatives about 4 p.m., followed by the Senate just before the 5 p.m. constitutional deadline to end the legislative session.
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The Senate stoically went about its work Friday without much comment, but the more uninhibited House freely expressed bipartisan annoyance with the governor.
“Racist and hateful” is how Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, described Stitt’s treatment of the state’s Native American tribes.
Stitt’s administration, said Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, is “corrupt and full of cronies.”
“Do you feel like the governor just spread vetoes out like mayonnaise in back, dark, smoke-filled rooms, behind closed doors, and you weren’t invited to the party?” asked Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee.
And, in a written statement, Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, used “excreted” to describe the manner in which Stitt’s comments were issued at a Thursday press conference.
In that press conference, Stitt announced his vetoes of the tax rebate and car tax bills and criticized lawmakers for alleged backroom deals and bad behavior. He then said he was calling a June 13 special session to consider his proposal to cut the top state income tax rate from 4.75% to 4.5% and eliminate the state sales tax on groceries, both of which were considered and rejected by the Legislature this session.
Speaking after Friday’s final adjournment, McCall took Stitt to task, saying he was “appalled” and “disappointed” in the governor’s remarks.
He said Stitt’s remarks undermined the hard work the Legislature put into crafting a budget.
“We work for the people of Oklahoma,” McCall said. “We don’t work for the governor of Oklahoma.”
Rather than answer Stitt’s special session call to address tax relief, McCall said lawmakers will amend the special session call issued by the Legislature for several purposes, including taking control of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Among the vetoes overridden Friday was that of Senate Bill 1695, a measure requiring those appointed by the governor as director of an agency or Cabinet member to file financial disclosure statements.
In his veto message, Stitt said he urged lawmakers to revisit the topic and pass legislation that affects all state officers, whether appointed, elected or subject to retention. On the House floor, Martinez said that was a discussion worth having but not a reason to prevent the provisions of SB 1695 from going into effect.
Lawmakers also overrode Stitt’s veto of Senate Bill 1052, which provided nearly $8 million for private prisons that have state contracts. In his veto message, Stitt claimed that the appropriation was negotiated directly with lawmakers and without the knowledge of the Department of Corrections.
On Friday, House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, said the agreement was reached during a conference call that included DOC Director Scott Crow.
Lawmakers also overrode Stitt’s veto of House Bill 3501, which will require the Department of Public Safety to count convictions in tribal courts when determining driver’s license suspensions.
Stitt, who has been highly critical of tribes, in his veto message said the measure was passed under the guise of public safety but was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” because it would require the state to carry out tribal court adjudications.
It was this override vote that elicited Martinez’s remark about Stitt’s attitude toward tribal governments. Others said Stitt’s well-known animus in that regard was interfering with “good policy.”
One of the overrides was for HB 1090, which Stitt vetoed more than a year ago but which was still in play because bills from the first session of a Legislature carry over to the second.
That bill allows the State Auditor & Inspector’s Office to carry out performance audits without the formal request now required. Potentially, the change could have substantial consequences.
No specific date has been set for the Legislature’s special session.