Do you know how a “shell bill” works? If the party in power wants to pass a bill quickly and without too much scrutiny by the voters, an existing bill that was introduced earlier in the legislative session, but never taken up, will be gutted and the smelly legislation inserted. Often, several innocuous sounding bills will be introduced early in the session just so they’ll be available later if such a need should arise. Those are shell bills.
That was standard procedure during the many decades that the Democrats controlled the Oklahoma legislature. Now that the Republicans are in control . . . well, standard procedure continues. It is disappointing, but not surprising.
What is surprising is that State Senator Nathan Dahm (R) has recently engaged in the practice. This time, the shell bill was HB2416. When it was originally introduced in the House in February, it merely modified the termination date of the State Board of Examiners of Certified Shorthand Reporters. Not much to see there, right?
But Sen. Dahm proposed an amendment to the Senate version of the legislation, which seeks to remove Pawnee County from its current 14th Judicial District that it shares with Tulsa County, and moves it into the 10th Judicial District with Osage County. It might still not seem like much to shout about, although it certainly has nothing to do with shorthand reporters, but it certainly got a rise out of the judges and members of the county bar associations in Pawnee and Osage Counties, who were not consulted before the new version of HB2416 was voted upon and passed by the State Senate. (This article in the Cleveland American provides further details, although it is incorrect when it suggests the legislation has not yet been considered by the Senate.)
To more fully appreciate the depth of the deception, follow this link to a page on the Oklahoma legislature’s official website, reporting the passage of the bill in the Senate. It shows that the bill passed by a vote of 36-10, and that the title of the bill is: “Sunset; State Board of Examiners of Certified Shorthand Reporters; re-creating Board; modifying termination date.”