Court asked to suspend ruling on budget bill

Monday, December 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Supreme Court was asked Monday to pull back until Feb. 15 its order that knocked out a $70 million funding bill for state agencies.

The request was made by all parties in the case, including state House Republicans, who successfully challenged the constitutionality of the funding measure.

Rep. Ray Vaughn, R-Edmond, said plaintiffs did not want their lawsuit to cause any disruption in state funding allocations or the cost of a special session.

``I think it's a prudent decision,'' Rep. Danny Hilliard, D-Sulphur, House Democratic majority leader, said of the joint effort to have the court stay the effectiveness of last week's order.

Joining in the request were defendants Tom Daxon, director of the Office of State Finance; Robert Butkin, state treasurer; and Senate President Pro Tem Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, who was allowed to intervene in the case.

Monday's motion was filed one day before Daxon's office planned to allocate more than $300 million to state agencies. Spokesman Shawn Ashley said unless the ruling is stayed, the finance office will be required by law to shift millions of dollars among agencies, causing significant funding reductions in some areas.

The motion asks the court to stay the order until Feb. 15 to allow the Legislature time to correct the problem. The regular legislative session is scheduled to start on Feb. 4.

``This will give us an opportunity to do what we need to do to fix the situation and to do it in the regular session,'' Vaughn said.

Last week, Gov. Frank Keating amended a special session agenda to permit lawmakers to address the issue in a meeting that officials predicted would last at least five days.

The special session is currently in recess indefinitely, but Keating wants it to reconvene in January to act on a tax overhaul plan he is scheduled to announce on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court ruled that a so-called ``reconciliation'' bill passed near the end of the legislative session was unconstitutional because it contained more than one subject.

Lawmakers had used similar bills in recent years to make final budget decisions.

Republicans have long argued those measures violate the state constitutional prohibition against ``logrolling'' together bills covering different subjects.