OKLAHOMA CITY – Although lawmakers are still in recess for the second special session to fix the state’s budget shortfall, the political gears of the next regular session are already turning.
More than 2,000 pieces of legislation were filed by both the House and the Senate for the upcoming regular session by Thursday’s deadline. That leaves a little more than two weeks before the 2018 regular session begins.
But one of the measures is already drawing the eye of LGBTQ advocates, who are concerned another “bathroom bill” could be making its way through the legislative process.
“We’re tracking nine right now,” said Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson. “We’ve got over a dozen that we’re concerned about.”
One of those is HB 2680. The bill’s text doesn’t say much, other than it relates to bathrooms and creates the “Bathroom Guidelines Act.”
When reached KFOR reached out to the bill’s author by phone Friday afternoon, State Rep. Chuck Strohm, R-Jenks, said he didn’t have time to talk and wanted to withhold commenting on his legislation until later in session.
“We know what it is,” said Stevenson. “We know what’s coming.”
Stevenson is concerned the bill is yet another attempt to pass legislation regarding the use of restrooms, and by whom. Bills that limited who could use bathrooms based on their gender identity have been introduced in the past, often resulting in condemnation from businesses and chambers of commerce, as well as transgender advocacy groups.
Those bills have ultimately failed here in the state.
“It is absurd. It has done vast damage to Oklahoma’s reputation across the country,” said Stevenson. “Why they continue to do the same thing over, and over, and over again, there’s only one answer: They’re trying to distract from the fact they can’t do their jobs.”
Legislators were unable to find recurring revenue to fix a multi-million dollar budget shortfall last fall and used cash and agency cuts to fill the hole. However, Gov. Mary Fallin mostly vetoed that plan and called legislators back to the Capitol for a second special session.
At this point, it appears there is no end in sight for the second session. On Friday evening, Gov. Fallin amended her call to lawmakers to find recurring revenue for the state, supporting suggestions that mirror ideas put forward by business and community leaders last week.
The 2018 regular session begins Feb. 5.