With many last-minute agendas, and only four days left to go, committee hearings are likely to be packed with the next deadline upcoming.

House Side

Last week, one of our key bills we oppose was heard in committee. Senate Bill (SB) 1579 by Sen. Warren Hamilton (SD 7, McCurtain) and Rep. John George (HD 36, Newalla) which seeks to prohibit the release of information gathered through the agencies in the Oklahoma Fusion Center, also referred to as the Oklahoma Counter Terrorism Intelligence Center. This center exists outside of statute, as a central information hub between multiple agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and various local law enforcement agencies.

This session has seen efforts to put this agency into law, and to criminalize information shared from it outside of prosecutorial and law enforcement agencies. The language in the bill focuses on individuals “reasonably suspected of terrorism” or violent crimes. A similar bill was run last year and failed on the house floor. This year there are bills in either chamber focusing on this center.

Nationwide, fusion centers exist and have continually undermined Americans’ privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. The agencies participating in these centers also consistently apply disparate focuses on communities of color.

Another side of a bad pair of bills was heard in House Rules last week. SB 1854 Sen. Darrell Weaver (SD 24, Moore) and Rep. Chris Kannady (HD 91, OKC) would prohibit the establishment of camps on state lands. The initiatives in this bill and its companion, HB 3686, are being lobbied by a national organization that has pushed aggressive measures criminalizing poverty. Some of the talking points supporting the bill focus on that first time offenders will not receive a citation unless they resist assistance by the arresting officer.

However, much of the assistance cited is already beyond maximum capacity, and this puts a burden on that officer to know these options and provide the assistance.

SB 1677, by Sen. Julie Daniels (SD 29, Bartlesville) and Rep. Denise Crosswhite-Hader (HD 41, Yukon) has received a fair amount of discussion this session. The bill would prohibit the Department of Human Services from requiring adoptive parents to affirm or support government policies which conflict with their beliefs. The author argues that it prevents the loss of potential foster parents.

However, language such as this opens this door for blatant discrimination supported in state law. Rep. John Waldron (HD 77, Tulsa) led with questions clarifying if there was a need for this law, and if parents had lost the ability to foster based off “sincerely held religious views”. It passed with two no votes from Rep. Waldron, and Rep. Amanda Swope (HD 71, Tulsa) who also asked the only questions.

A positive bill passed the House Judiciary – Criminal committee last week. SB 325, by Sen. Daniels and Rep. Collin Duel (HD 31, Guthrie) seeks to reduce the maximum time a person can be held in jail after the initial appearance for court. It passed the Senate floor unanimously and passed House Judiciary committee unanimously as well.

Senate Side

House Bill (HB) 3214, by Sen. David Bullard (SD 6, Durant) and Rep. Kevin West (HD 54, Moore) would protect medical professionals from objecting to non-emergency procedures due to their ethical, moral, or religious beliefs. The author claims that the focus is on procedures, not people. There were several questions on both sides regarding what conscientious procedures would be involved, and concerns about the Hippocratic Oath. As it is focused on “non-emergency” procedures, that are not listed, the author claims it is not contradictory. There were concerns raised around birth control procedures and mental health care. The language in the bill would also not provide for prevention of refusal of treatment based off race. In a bi-partisan effort, strongly supported by advocates working behind the scenes, the bill failed in a tie vote 6-6.

Senate Public Safety heard many key bills last week. One such bill, HB 3098 by Rep. Toni Hasenbeck (HD 65, Elgin) and Sen. Jessica Garvin (SD 43, Duncan) would criminalize the known spread of certain sexually transmitted infections. Sen. Carri Hicks (SD 40, OKC) led questions, and highlighted concerns on the additional diseases added which includes HPV. Currently only women can be tested for HPV, and about 85% will contract HPV in their lifetime. The bill passed 8 to 1.

Another, HB 2535 by Rep. Danny Williams (HD 28, Seminole) and Sen. Blake Stephens (SD 3, Tahlequah) would seek to increase punishments on “intentional exposure of minors to harmful materials” with a focus on obscene material. With several rounds of questions, the author claims this is focused on repeat offenders as a misdemeanor has not been successful, even though there was no information on the crimes happening. This could put many people at risk, including retail stores and more with the current language. It received 3 no votes, and had title struck to continue working on language. This bill continues a trend of censoring language that has been seen in the capitol this year.

HB 3097 by Rep. Hasenbeck and Sen. Jerry Alvord (SD 14, Lone Grove) follows this trend, it is the house companion for an adult content internet restriction bill that would require age verification. Advocates have been concerned about this impact on youth who depend on online communities, as it would impact access and require identification to be scanned to access sites.