Week 10 at the Capitol, another deadline week! This past week was the final chance for (most) bills to be heard in a committee in the opposite chamber. For those who did not make it to a hearing, they are now dormant for the session, unless they are related to the budget.

On the Senate side:

One of the key bills we have been tracking and advocating for is House Bill (HB) 2109. The bill would create protections for renters in instances of landlord retaliation due to habitability complaints. It would also protect all Oklahomans, including landlords, from predatory out-of-state investors. Heard in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee, it was fraught with indecision and failed amendments. An amendment failed that would have provided further protections and aid, and the enacting clause was struck, but the bill did pass by one vote. Without the clause, it will fail to become a law even if it passes through the Senate floor, unless the clause is reenacted.

We still need your help to contact your Senator about this bill!

Another good bill also survived, HB 1028 by Rep. Talley, would ban corporal punishment for students with cognitive disabilities. It had the enacting clause struck, but there is still a chance for it to be re-added via an amendment if it can get a floor vote.

It is not often that a bill outright fails (does not receive enough votes) but happily one bad bill did. HB 2218 would have prevented governmental entities from contracting with businesses that “discriminate” against firearms industry businesses. While just a foolish bill on the surface, it would also sacrifice much needed business in our state to help private industry. Additionally, a similar measure passed in Texas and is now costing taxpayers over $500 million dollars. It did not pass committee.

However, there were other heinous bills that did advance. HB 1202 would remove the prohibition on transporting firearms on maritime vessels, in addition to changing the language from gun specific (pistol, handgun, shotgun) to firearm which is all-encompassing of any gun type. In a time when gun violence is a regular news topic, and hundreds are mourning murdered children at schools, it is deeply disappointing to see the expansion of gun policies in our home. Furthermore, boating is a dangerous activity, with thousands of accidents each year and nearly 700 deaths. The last thing we need to add on board is a deadly weapon.

Two other problematic bills heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee passed, HB 1976 and HB 2161. HB 1976 would put the Department of Public Safety at the head of a multilateral agency that would operate as an “intelligence gathering organization” in addition to permitting DPS to authorize attorneys involved in this work to carry handguns.

HB 2161 alters the membership of a Citizen Review Board for law enforcement officer misconduct to consist of two-thirds law enforcement officers. As Sen. Matthews and Sen. Brooks remarked in committee, this defeats the purpose of a citizen review board and lowers public confidence.

In the House:

A positive move out of the House committees is Senate Bill (SB) 147 which would permit schools to stock and use lifesaving diabetes medication for students. In the same committee, SB 429 passed unanimously which permits students to wear tribal regalia during graduation ceremonies. With 39 Native American tribes recognized in Oklahoma (and that are entire country lives on Native land) this is a huge win for civil rights.

In a potential step back from criminal justice reform, SB 108 passed the House Public Safety Committee. If it passes the House floor, it will create felony charges for multiple time drug-related offenses. Criminalizing addiction, especially on a felony level, will not help people heal.

Members of the legislature continue to file inflammatory measures that target already marginalized groups in our Oklahoma community. SB 1056 surfaced as another measure to target “adult performances”. Previous versions of this bill had aimed to target drag performers or anything deemed flamboyant. Rep. Lowe pushed back, highlighting that the legislature has been obsessed with taking away people’s rights. There are already obscenity measures in law, and the broadness of the language will only serve to target freedom of expression.

In further discrimination attempts, SB 408 also passed through committee. It amends language on the definitions of male/female, man/woman, mother/father and more. These are terms that should be left to an individual to decide for themselves, not to be written in state law. The language also excludes people who do not fall into these discriminatory binary categories.

In a similar vein, SB 613 seeks to ban gender affirming care for any person under the age of 18. With staunch opposition from Rep. Ranson out of Stillwater, she emphasized the need for less government involvement in personal choices, in addition to the need to keep these decisions between the parents, individual and doctor, not lawmakers (who are not physicians).

With little over a month left to go, it is unlikely to be smooth sailing until the end. This legislative session has brought out some outrageous commentary, action and more. However, through it all, there are still those pushing to make Oklahoma Top 10.