Week 13 Legislative Recap

For the remainder of the session, we will focus on bills that have been signed or vetoed at the Governor’s desk as well as the upcoming bills that deal with the budget.

Criminal Justice

A number of criminal justice-related measures passed the Governor’s desk and will become effective this year. SB 1367, which criminalizes the distribution of medical marijuana products to someone without a medical license, was signed into law. This bill represents a troubling walkback from the victory of State Question 780 and 781, which reduced penalties for some marijuana-related offenses and released hundreds of non-violent offenders out of prison and back into society, and it becomes effective immediately on its signing. HB 3026 increases fees that sheriffs may charge for fingerprinting from $5 to $15, which may seem a small amount but can pile up on top of other fines and fees and cause an individual to be held solely for inability to pay. HB 3383, an unnecessarily burdensome limitation on filing for post-conviction relief – a response to the successful commutation of Julius Jones’ sentence earlier this year – passed and was signed, coming effective this November.

SB 1691 was a positive step for defendants who seek state licensure for certain occupations, as it makes past criminal charges grounds for denial of such licenses only if the crime is related to the business or occupation. This makes employment after incarceration more possible for many offenders who only wish to rejoin society and work. HB 3053 allows for deferred sentences for offenders who have been convicted to their first felony but have completed drug court. Some fines and fees related to juvenile offenders were removed with the passage of HB 3205, and HB 3316, a big step forward for expungement-seekers, was also signed into law. HB 3957 expanded funding for the use of courtroom interpreter services and removed the associated fines and fees for these services. This move is additionally welcome due to the influx of Afghan Oklahoma City residents, many of whom have limited English proficiency, in addition to the other non-English speakers in our community. Parole eligibility was expanded for some inmates with HB 4369. SB 1370 requires that CLEET core trainings include education on how to recognize an individual needing mental health treatment, which hopefully will encourage fewer tragedies at the hands of uneducated law enforcement officers.

Public Health

The Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, SB 1503,  was signed and became effective May 3. This bill disallows abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected – which according to anti-choice legislators, begins as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy – and allows for an unprecedented right of civil action against any provider of abortion access. SB 1555, a Roe trigger ban, was also signed into law, meaning that if the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion will immediately become illegal in the state of Oklahoma. Work continues on fighting these bills and ensuring that medical privacy is protected for those who wish to determine their own reproductive futures; for more information, contact the Government Affairs Department at vLaizure@cair.com .

Civil Rights

In an unexpected move in favor of tenants’ rights, HB 3409 was signed, enabling tenants to make repairs for things that materially affect their health and deduct the cost of repairs from their rent. This is a needed move to provide more protections to tenants whose landlords fail to make necessary repairs, such as fixing A/C in the summer or heat in the winter. However, this victory is offset by the passage of HB 3092, which hides the censorship of materials available in school libraries behind a spurious concern for community standards. We should all remain cautious when books and other educational materials are restricted – who makes the decision about community standards, and whose voices are being silenced by these lawmakers?