Oklahoma lawmakers had it coming.
First, we all know that revenue-raising measures must start in the House.
Second, we know lawmakers can’t pass revenue-raising measures in the last five days of a session.
Third, we know tax increases must clear the supermajority threshold in both houses to pass or be approved by the people.
We at Chicken-Fried News call this The ABCs of Oklahoma Lawmaking.
It looks like the 79 lawmakers — both House and Senate members — who voted “yea” on Senate Bill 845, the Smoking Cessation Act of 2017, need to review their Oklahoma Constitution, specifically Article V, Section 33.
To be fair, there were 61 lawmakers who voted against the act and 9 who didn’t vote at all.
Last week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the Smoking Cessation Act, which called for a $1.50 per-pack cigarette fee, as unconstitutional. (Ahem. Those who know The ABCs of Oklahoma Lawmaking saw this coming!)
If you’re up for a good read, check out the justices’ opinion on Naifeh v. State. Not only does the opinion outline the faculty lawmaking practices, but it reviews the 2017 Legislative Session, in which lawmakers faced declining revenues and encountered trouble in efforts to balance the budget.
SB 845, unveiled with the end of the legislative session looming, called for the cigarette fee to reduce incidences of smoking. Of the $257 million expected in new revenue, $1 million was earmarked for preventing underage tobacco use.
The court called the fee a “revenue raising measure” that passed in violation of the law in the final days of the session and without the supermajority vote.
Now, Oklahoma’s $6.8 billion budget is missing $215 million that was earmarked for health and human services agencies.
Oklahoma lawmakers could do nothing and allow cuts to take effect or meet in a special session to rebalance the budget and enact revenue-raising measures.
Whatever they do, let’s hope they learn their ABCs and avoid situations like this in the future.