With the deadline passed for bills to be voted out of the opposite chamber (House or Senate), the legislative session enters the final weeks for bills to become law. In a strange limbo with only select committee hearings occurring, and only amended bills awaiting a final vote before heading to the Governor’s desk, the claws come out after months of somewhat abated tempers. 

 There are still dozens of budget bills filed that lack language, so during the next few weeks, advocates are still watching to see what will end up filling those blank pages. 

For last week, here are some of the bills that made it to the final stages and what the outcomes were.  

Senate Bills: 

Senate Bill (SB) 397, a library censorship bill, passed through the House previously, but contained amendments. In the final stages, if a bill is voted on with amendments or title stricken, it must have those amendments approved by the chamber of origin. Last week, the Senate rejected the House amendments, so the bill is stalled. Hopefully it becomes dormant and Oklahomans can maintain some freedom from increasing education attacks. 

In an extremely disappointing move, Gov. Stitt vetoed SB 429 which would have protected Indigenous student’s right to wear tribal regalia during graduation ceremonies. Gov. Stitt, who touted his Cherokee Nation citizenship during his election campaign, continues to actively work against Oklahomans Native tribes.  

Gov. Stitt has already vetoed several bills that would help move Oklahoma to his wish of being a Top 10 state. However, he continues to promote legislation that takes steps backwards in many areas. One area is criminal justice reform, where he recently signed SB 537 which removes the intent stipulation from assault and battery cases and makes it a felony.  

Another move to push us further into the bottom 10, Gov. Stitt signed into law SB 613 which would ban gender-affirming care for minors. Everyone deserves to make decisions about their own bodies alongside licensed healthcare professionals, not to have it mandated by the government what is permissible. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against the State of Oklahoma regarding this, citing that it is a violation of rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.  

House Bills:  

A welcome new piece of legislation passed into law last week, House Bill (HB) 1077, which creates the Kasey Alert Act. This alert system is aimed at bettering implementing systems to protect missing Native American or Indigenous persons, who experience violence and go missing at an alarmingly high rate.  

Oklahoma currently ranks Top 10 in murdered Indigenous Peoples cases.  

HB 2041 also was signed, which would remove requirements of law enforcement officers when encountering someone with an outstanding warrant and permit the use of a verbal warning over an arrest. In a state with a leading incarceration rate, this is a positive step. However, several more pieces of legislation advanced that move towards further felony charges for Oklahomans. 

Gov. Stitt vetoed HB 2608, which had passed through both chambers unanimously. It would have closed a loophole for sex offender registries according to some advocates, requiring offenders in tribal jurisdictions to also register with tribal authorities. It could have produced better collaboration between tribal nations and state authorities.  

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. shared in a statement that protecting religious freedom, health and public safety are (some) of the “core responsibilities of good governments everywhere” and says how instead Gov. Stitt has chosen to prioritize his political agenda and take it out on the people of Oklahoma.  

HB 2775 and HB 1935, the infamous teacher pay raise and tax credit bills by House Speaker Charles McCall, remain afloat in a Conference Committee. With disagreement between House and Senate leadership on the formula and funding options for schools, these bills have been the focus of the stalemate that has ended up stifling many other good pieces of legislation over the session. 

The next few weeks will be critical to see the future of our state.