State Legislature's Special Session May Prove Not That Special

Tuesday, July 27th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The state capitol is usually quiet in the summer. But this year, the building is undergoing renovation and the legislature has work left undone. They hammered into order today for another week of meetings with low expectations from legislators. "I think we had plenty of time in the regular session to do these things. I think we could have even gotten out earlier. We just dragged our feet. The whole legislative process was bogged down to the end. We tried to get some things at the end and then it was too late then," says state representative John Sullivan, (R) Tulsa.

Legislators plan to again delay a costly truth in sentencing law. Two years after it first passed, some aren't sure now if it's even needed. "There is a lot of the modifications to the original truth in sentencing. It's not as broke as we originally thought it was," says Hopper Smith, Republican state representative from Broken Arrow.

Legislators will probably spend time debating how to get more money to fund education, possibly $500 million through a bond issue. But Senate leaders warn the infusion of money is far from certain. "I don't think it's a sure thing. It's never a sure thing in this building," said state senator Ted Fisher of Sapulpa.

Another uncertainty is how to pay for the defense of Terry Nichols. The money earmarked for Nichols defense was given to victims of Oklahoma tornadoes last week. The governor wanted a decision this week, but the legislature may wait. "The guy got a life sentence there's no need to prosecute him twice," says president pro tem and Democratic state senator Stratton Taylor of Claremore.

No one at the capitol expects a decision on anything this week except truth in sentencing which may be delayed another year. Legislators will talk about the bond issue and debate how to pay for the Terry Nichols trial, but plan to wait until August to make the final decisions. The legislature plans to adjourn Friday. Each week of the special session costs an estimated $100,000 to pay for staff and supplies.