(This week’s update was written by our Spring Policy & Advocacy Intern Gabriela Dodd!)

Last week was a tumultuous time for House and Senate floor hearings as bills sought to meet the third reading deadline. From bills attacking undocumented immigrants and unhoused individuals, to bills reinforcing the gender binary and racial profiling, the floor was filled with political maneuvering and public outrage.

House Side

After a peaceful rally filled with impassioned speakers and beautiful signs, HB 4156 by Rep. Charles McCall (HD 22, Atoka) and Sen. Greg Treat (SD 47, OKC) was heard on the Senate floor with a packed gallery. Senator Michael Brooks attempted to pass a “voluntary registration” amendment on the bill, which would create an exception to the criminal consequences if you voluntarily registered with the state and ensured that you have paid all your taxes, offered your most recent address, and fingerprints to then obtain a state identification card. Sen. Treat did not approve of the amendment however, and after debate from both him and Sen. Brooks, the amendment failed. The second amendment was then motioned to be tabled by the Senate author, which passed. After a lengthy period of questions and debate of the bill’s impact on undocumented children, law enforcement’s ability to review documentation, and the role of racial profiling, the bill then passed through the Senate along party lines with a vote of 39 aye and 8 nay. It has now been sent to the Governor and is awaiting his decision.

SB 1854 by Sen. Darrell Weaver (SD 24, Moore) and Rep. Chris Kannady (HD 91,OKC) aims to prohibit the establishment of unauthorized camps on public lands. This bill essentially seeks to criminalize unhoused individuals for being unhoused. When given the context of the current Pro-Palestinan encampments being created on college campuses around the world though, this bill could be seen to have another underlying factor to its enactment. On the House floor, democrat representatives extensively questioned and debated the bill with Rep. Kannady to address its impact on the unhoused, but it passed the House with 77 aye and 18 nays, essentially along party lines. It was signed into law by Governor Stitt on the 26th.

On the House side of things, SB 1579 by Sen. Warren Hamilton (SD 7, McCurtain) and Rep. John George (HD 36, Newalla) aims to allow the Commissioner of Public Safety the ability to collect information on certain individuals who are involved in activities deemed as “terrorism”. With vague language and an emergency enacting clause, this bill dangerously targets individuals who fit a presumed description. As it was making its way through the House chamber however, it was unable to meet the deadline for the third readings of bills, thereby making it dead pursuant to the rules. This does not mean that we will not see this bill in the future however, as it will more than likely be refiled in the next legislative session, but this serves as a welcome gift amongst a session filled with horrific bills.

SB 518 by Sen. Lonnie Paxton (SD 23, Tuttle) and Rep. Mark Lepak (HD 9, Claremore) seeks to amend the state referendum process by creating new requirements for the collection and publishing of information, increasing the number of data points from three to four, and creating a verification process for signatures. By altering requirements, more barriers are being created for the people to be able to initiate change of their own accord. It was signed by Governor Stitt on the 23rd.

In better news, SB 1933 by Rep. Nicole Miller (HD 82, Edmond) and Sen. Kay Floyd (SD 46, OKC) seeks to create the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Board within the office of the Attorney General to review the practices surrounding the use, preservation, and collection of evidence kits, and create resources to improve these procedures. This bill passed unanimously in both the House and Senate floors and was signed into law on the 26th.

Senate Side

On the Senate side, HB 2109 by Rep. Daniel Pae (HD 62, Lawton) and Sen. Brent Howard (SD 38, Altus) is an anti-retaliation bill that seeks to prohibit landlords from retaliating against tenants for complaints or notice for justified corrective action. It aims to enhance certain legal remedies that are available to tenants in situations. In a similar situation to SB 1579, this bill was also unable to make the third reading deadline and has found itself dead pursuant to the rules.

HB 1449 by Rep. Toni Hasenbeck (HD 65, Elgin) and Sen. Jessica Garvin (SD 43, Duncan) attempts to enshrine binary definitions of male and female into law. It seeks to conflate gender identity and sexual organs together in order to exclude transgender, non-binary, and intersex Oklahomans. Utilizing discriminatory language, the Senate author and Senator Daniels continually denied trans women their identities and attacked the Biden administration for “erasing the existence of the female sex” by affirming trans women. Senators Kay Floyd and Mary Boren questioned the bill and its Senate author without rest, but it passed the Senate on a party line of 35 to 7.

As we head towards the last month for this legislative session, please remember to contact your legislators and Governor Stitt to ensure that YOUR voice is being heard. Advocacy work cannot succeed without the help of the people.