Week 12 Recap (May 2)
Bills continued to fly this week as they passed the Governor’s desk for signatures.
Some very good news in the criminal justice realm came through as the Governor signed some positive bills. HB 3316, which makes automatic expungements for certain offenders; SB 1613, establishing a mental wellness division at the Department of Public Safety; and HB 3002, which removes certain barriers to professional certification for some prior offenders, were all signed by the Governor. These moves will help heal some of the deep damage done to our society by a harshly punitive criminal legal system. SB 1370, which would require law enforcement officers to do training on recognizing individuals who need mental health services, rather than violence, also passed with the Governor’s signature.
However, the Governor also signed some troubling bills aimed at those seeking a respite from the death penalty. SB 1738, HB 3383, and SB 1742, which all restrict the ability of defendants who are sentenced to death to access full and meaningful appeals, were all signed by the Governor – many believe this is in a reaction to the highly publicized case of Julius Jones, whose sentence was commuted only hours before his scheduled execution.
Predictably, anti-abortion provisions are being debated, passed, and signed into law. SB 1503, a total ban on abortions after six weeks – before many pregnancies are even detected – was signed on May 3. A number of provisions are still continuing through the process, so we can anticipate this will not be the final attack on reproductive autonomy to pass this session.
HB 3046, which may have the impact of weakening smaller counties and voting precincts from fully staffing their elections, was signed on May 4. This bill’s stated purpose is to protect election integrity; however, during debates, it became clear that many smaller precincts use private funding to host elections. This funding does cannot come from partisan sources but often is instead provided by organizations such as the League of Women Voters or other statewide NGOs that allow for the elections to be run.
A bill that signals good news for renters was sent to the Governor’s desk to hopefully be signed. HB 3409 permits tenants to make repairs to their units for things that materially affect health, as long as the costs are equal to or less than their monthly rent. They then can deduce these costs from their future rent. This is a good move because many tenants face health-threatening conditions such as the loss of heat in winter, the loss of air conditioning in the summer, or disrupted plumbing, and must wait for a landlord to handle repairs or pay for repairs out of their pocket. Oklahoma’s landlord and tenant law affords few rights to tenants, so allowing tenants to protect themselves and their families in life-threatening conditions is a strong move in favor of vulnerable Oklahomans.