Special Session begins

Posted on: 9/28/17

This past Monday afternoon, members of the Oklahoma Legislature entered into Special Session called by Gov. Mary Fallin primarily to address the budget deficit resulting from the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s August ruling that the cigarette “fee” passed by the Legislature in the last week of regular session is unconstitutional. HB 1099X was introduced in an attempt to pass a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase similar to several regular session bills that failed to receive the required 75 percent favorable vote last spring. OHA was successful Tuesday in gaining an amendment to HB 1099X to ensure that cigarette tax proceeds would be placed in a State Health Care Enhancement Fund beginning next July (proceeds during the current fiscal year must go to the General Revenue account). Over the past few days, Republicans and Democrats have made partisan comments leading to speculation as to whether votes could be garnered to pass the tax.

Wednesday afternoon, seven health care executives, representing the OHA board and hospital systems, joined OHA president Craig Jones in separate meetings with House Speaker Charles McCall and House Democrat Leader Scott Inman to impress upon each the absolute criticality of passing the $1.50 cigarette tax increase, citing specific consequences to their organizations, including to rural hospitals, if additional Medicaid rate cuts must result from failed revenue-raising measures. It was clear from these discussions legislators realize solutions must be found. 

Later that afternoon, we learned House Republicans had been called back into caucus to hear of a potential “packaged deal” legislative leaders and the governor had discussed, a deal that included the $1.50 cigarette tax increase and other revenue-raising measures. OHA will be sending to members summary points and any additional Legislative Action Alert that may be necessary. (Craig Jones)