Legislature to meet Saturday as budget negotiation talks continue

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Legislators will come back to the capitol Saturday for a rare weekend session as party leaders continue budget negotiations.

The house and house budget committee adjourned shortly before 9:00 p.m. Friday after a marathon day of waiting for word if a fix to the state's $878 million budget hole had been reached.

House and senate majority and minority leadership said talks will resume Saturday, with the senate convening in the morning and house at noon. It will be the first time the legislature has met on a Saturday since 2007.

Rumors of legislators returning for a weekend session buzzed around the capitol Friday afternoon for hours until Majority Floor Leader Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, confirmed house members would need to stick around in the event an agreement is reached.

"It`s been a hurry up, sit around and wait kind of day," said Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, as he and other house members waited into the night.

"It`s very important that we put this budget together," said Sears, who also served in the house the last time a Saturday session was called in 2007.

"People are negotiating; I`m confident that when the weekend is over, that we`ll pull something together and it will be well worth to start hammering out the budget and finish this job for the people of Oklahoma."

Friday was the last day to hear revenue raising measures before the end of session next week. But legislative leaders say returning to the capitol Saturday -- and potentially Sunday -- does not count against the budget deadline.

Friday proved to be yet another late night for legislators this week.

With party leaders and those part of the negotiations locked in their budget talks, house members could be found roving the hallways and rotunda of the state capitol for hours Friday. Waiting for word that a deal had been reached and votes would be needed on the floor.

"It`s an unfortunate situation right now, it`s one that I think could have been avoided if there had been good faith negotiations with both sides early on," said Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City. "We signed up for this job and I'm willing to stay here until we get a deal done."

"We`re going to order pizza, so if you have a particular flavor in mind," Bennett said jokingly, "let us know."