Lawmakers Push For Special Session To Decide How To Allocate $1.8 Billion In Federal COVID Funding

Wednesday, May 18th 2022, 4:17 pm


An eight-page petition for a special legislative session was circulated among lawmakers late Wednesday afternoon, taking aim at Gov. Kevin Stitt and his control over federal COVID-19 relief funds. 

The call says to "maximize the value of the federal funding for the citizens of the State of Oklahoma... the Legislature should continue to exercise controls over and involve the public in the decision-making process regarding those funds..." 

“I promised Oklahomans that I would run state government in an efficient and transparent way, so I greatly appreciate the Legislature’s commitment to work through the summer to distribute ARPA funds with full transparency. I expect comprehensive, strategic ideas that make a generational impact rather than piecemeal projects driven by special interests and lobbyists,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement.

The state has $1.87 billion in American Rescue Plan funds. Sources tell News 9 that the call for special session does have the support of Republican leadership in the House and Senate.

"Oklahoma established a strong process, driven by the public, to place the legislative and executive branches in a partnership to listen to the public's wishes for ARPA dollars. This action simply keeps that train on track," said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka.

House Democrats also support the special session.

“House Democrats have consistently warned against giving the executive branch excessive authority. Today, legislative Republicans listened and are now calling for a special session to reclaim Governor Stitt’s unchecked authority. I appreciate Speaker McCall and Senate Pro Tem Treat for acknowledging the shortcomings of the governor and committing to a transparent, open process to disburse these funds," said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin D-Norman in a statement. 

The special session call also covers appropriations related to Project Ocean, a transformational economic development project considering Oklahoma for a major manufacturing operation. Under legislation introduced this session, $698 million would be allocated under the large-scale Economic Activity and Development Act (LEAD Act) to pursue Project Ocean.

The concurrent session will officially begin Wednesday, the day it was announced. House leadership said the session will reconvene when the ARPA spending plan is final, or action is needed related to the LEAD Act or PREP Fund. The regular session must adjourn by Friday, May 27.

Under the state's constitution, the Legislature may call itself into session when two thirds of the members of each chambers sign a call for special session. The signed call for each chamber will be publicly filed Wednesday.

This is a developing story.