OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Legislature convenes Monday for its regular legislative session. Gov. Mary Fallin will present her executive budget proposal and deliver the State of the State address at noon to a joint meeting of the House and Senate.
A rundown on the session and how to follow the lawmakers' activities:
WHAT'S AT STAKE? — The biggest issue facing lawmakers is how to spend roughly $6.9 billion in available revenue, which is about $300 million less than the state-appropriated budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Because of depressed oil prices, that $300 million budget gap is expected to grow larger by the time a final revenue certification is made next month. Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican leaders are warning state agencies to prepare for budget reductions next year.
WHO'S IN CHARGE? — Republicans control every statewide elected office in Oklahoma and have super-majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. The GOP captured four Democratic Party-held seats in the Senate and now holds a 40-7 advantage, with one seat vacant. Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, begins his third two-year term as Senate leader. Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton, is the Senate minority leader. In the House, Democrats held their ground in November's elections to hold 29 seats in the 101-member body. Speaker of the House Jeffrey Hickman, R-Fairview, begins his second session as House leader, while Rep. Scott Inman, D-Oklahoma City, heads the House Democrats.
HOW LONG WILL IT LAST? — About four months. The Oklahoma Constitution says the regular legislative session shall begin at noon on the first Monday in February and end no later than the last Friday in May.
WHO'S MY LEGISLATOR? — Both chambers have sites where you can find your legislator by putting in your address and ZIP code. The Senate website is http://www.oksenate.gov and the House site is http://www.okhouse.gov
CAN I MAKE A DIFFERENCE? — Definitely, if you take the time. You can track bills and legislative activity at http://www.oklegislature.gov
CAN I WATCH? — Yes, you can watch in person or online. The House and Senate both broadcast floor proceedings live online. The House also archives its daily floor sessions so you can go back and listen to debate or discussion on specific bills. Most House and Senate committee meetings also are streamed live online. At the state Capitol, the House and Senate galleries are open to the public, and there is seating for the public at committee hearings. Full schedules of committee hearings and agendas can be found on the House and Senate websites. The governor's State of the State speech at noon Monday will be broadcast live on OETA, the state's public television outlet.
Sean Murphy is the Oklahoma Capitol correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy