Today is the last day for the State House to hear its own bills and HB2134 is not on the agenda. That means that HB2134 is dead for the year. It could come back again next year, but it will be competing with a whole new lot of bills that will be introduced for that session, reducing the chance that it will be heard.
Earlier this week, it became apparent that the reason HB2134 had not been and would not be heard was because Speaker Shannon did not want it heard. In an email, HB2134 author Representative Hickman wrote:
I made another pitch to one of the floor leaders to try to get HB2134 added to the agenda to be considered by the Calendar Committee at their last meeting at 1130a today. He likes the bill and talked to Speaker Shannon about adding it but the Speaker said no. Sorry we weren’t able to get it heard. I will see what I can do to help with SB668 since it will be coming to the House next week. Thanks again for your interest.
This combined with a recent news report from NewsOK that any bill that doesn’t strictly adhere to the Republican agenda is having trouble being heard doesn’t breed much confidence in HB2134 being heard next year.
On Tuesday March 12, 2013, a good number of people called the offices of Speaker Shannon and Calendar Chair Peterson to ask them to support HB2134 and pass it to the Floor for a vote. I appreciate all the help from those who called and those who wrote letters. Your efforts did not go unnoticed, even if those efforts went unheeded.
On Wednesday March 13, 2013, I had the pleasure of joining Oklahoma Libertarian Richard Prawdzienski in a meeting with Shannon aid Rick about the status of HB2134. While Rick was sympathetic to the plight of new parties, having worked on several petitioning drives in the past, he was plain in stating that ballot access reform was just not a priority for Speaker Shannon. With all the evidence showing just how important this legislation is, you have to really wonder what exactly are his priorities.
At this point, the only hope for reform this year is SB668. SB668 as it is currently written only removes the Presidential elections from the 5% signature calculation. Under this language, new parties will not have any real relief. As you look back over the last three Presidential elections, in which new parties could form based on the Governor election calculation, alternative parties had not been able to gain access to the Presidential ticket despite their best efforts. This shows that even this proposed hurdle is still too high and will continue to deny Oklahoma voters real choice in the elections.
However, there are still advantages to letting it pass as written. Based on recent reform efforts, the Senate is unwilling to pass anything lower than 5% of the last Governor election. While passing the bill with that language won’t provide any real relief, it will change the psychology of the Legislature, making future reform efforts easier. The introduction and passage of reform bills this year and in years prior show that the Legislature recognizes that reform is needed and wants to pass reform. Yet, due to some kind external or internal pressure, they can’t bring themselves to pass anything of substance. Once something like this passes and they realize that it is not the end of the world, future reform would be easier for them to handle.
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