January 22, 2013

How Does the Oklahoma Legislature Work?

How do OFTA, the Arts Community and the Legislature fit together?

Oklahomans for the Arts helps connect artists, patrons, business leaders and others with a state in arts and culture to their legislators. We monitor action at the Capitol so we can inform our members and the public about policy issues and legislation related to the arts. We share what’s happening, how to advocate for the arts and who to call. We also talk directly with legislators as bills move through the legislature. 

Rep. Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville) meets with his constituents during Arts Day at the Capitol | April 2012

Arts advocates from all over the state also talk to their legislators about the arts and why they should support arts education and the Oklahoma Arts Council. Legislators can then vote on arts issues knowing why their constituents believe the arts are important.

How does the legislature work?

Legislators and the Governor work hard to make friends in their districts, raise money for their campaigns, and get elected. It’s important that arts folks get involved in the campaigns of both parties so even more legislators will be our friends. The Legislature has a Senate (48 members) and a House of Representatives (101 members). You live in the district of one Senator and one Representative.

There are a lot of issues to be discussed and voted on each year, so the House and Senate split up into committees, just like most nonprofit boards do, to get most of their work done. The Chairs of the committees have the most power. Arts advocates need to educate these leaders about the importance of public funding for the arts.

During the legislative session, the state’s budget is split into pieces and sent to the committees for discussion and votes, including the arts budget. We pay most attention to the committee assigned to the Oklahoma Arts Council, the Education Committee. In both the House and Senate, once committees decide how much money they will spend, they send their piece to the floor where the whole Legislature can vote on it.

The Senate and House then have to agree with each other in a conference committee how the final bill will read. When the Senate and House have passed the bill, the budget goes to the Governor to sign.

Arts advocates work to educate the Governor about the arts so she won’t veto the budget. When the budget is signed, the money goes to the Oklahoma Arts Council who makes grants all over the state to arts and cultural organizations and public schools. 

How Do I Find My State Legislators?
The Oklahoma Legislature provides a tool for finding your legislator. Visit http://www.oklegislature.gov.

Screenshot | Oklahoma Legislature's website