With only one week left to go, and billions of dollars of the state budget still to be allocated, there are bound to be several late nights (or early mornings) for State Capitol news reporters.
However, before we dive into the details, a historic moment for Oklahoma! This past week members of the CAIR Oklahoma team spent time at the first ever Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Advocacy and Entrepreneurship Day, hosted by the Greater Oklahoma City Asian Chamber of Commerce.
With over 5,000 Asian-owned businesses in the city, and 55% of the state’s Asian population residing in the greater metro area, the Asian Chamber of Commerce and AAPI caucus in the legislature are working to bring greater representation across the state.
The AAPI community was honored on the House floor with a concurrent resolution from Congress that acknowledged the impact and contributions of this community in our home. Authored by Rep. Cyndi Munson. sponsored by the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and carried by Sen. Kay Floyd in the Oklahoma Senate, the resolution honors the the impact of AAPI citizens “serving in vital roles as state and national leaders, starting businesses, making breakthroughs in science and technology, serving in our military, excelling in sports, arts, education, and more.” In a time of increasing violence against AAPIs following the COVID pandemic, as well as increasing anti-Asian and anti-Chinese rhetoric from state leadership, we are very glad to see political leaders who honor the contributions of AAPIs in Oklahoma and beyond.
Now, for the rest: here is a our weekly update for some of the bills we have been tracking!
On the House floor:
In a refreshing, rare move, a House Bill (HB) was rejected last week. HB 1976, referred to as Oklahoma’s Patriot Act, would have granted additional authority to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). The commissioner of DPS is also appointed by the governor. The bill would have expanded investigative power to anyone “reasonably believed to be engaged in terrorism” or threats to public safety, in addition to sharing this information with other law enforcement agencies of local, state, and federal levels.
CAIR Oklahoma is staunchly against such initiatives, as the current federal watchlist has put thousands of Muslim Americans livelihoods in jeopardy. Efforts like HB 1976 are unconstitutional and primarily target minorities.
With committed questions raised from Democrats, the bill failed 30-63, with dozens of Republicans sealing the deal voting against it.
On a less positive note, HB 2153 passed, which would allow for felony convictions on repeat drug possession charges. This is contrary to measures that were voted on with State Question 780 in 2016. State Questions 780 and 781 were state-wide ballot initiatives voted on by Oklahomans to reclassify simple drug possessions and other crimes to misdemeanors which helped lower Oklahoma’s prison population. However, HB 2153 is one of many attempts by the legislature to roll back criminal justice reform and neglect Oklahomans wishes.
In more negative news, while this bill originated in the House, it passed the Senate last week with only one no vote from Sen. Julia Kirt. HB 2903 would direct the Department of Education to establish a School Resource Officer program that would increase firearms in schools, instead of counselors.
Studies have shown efforts like these have disproportionate effects on when it comes to race and disability status of students. Schools need more access to mental health instead of hyper-focusing on criminalizing students.
On the Senate side:
Senate Bill (SB) 254 passed through the Senate and has been sent to the Governor. This bill would require insurers to charge the same for out-of-network care as in-network if the services are not obtained in a timely manner. Everyone deserves equitable access to treatment in an appropriate timeframe.
SB 108 which would also roll back efforts to reform Oklahoma’s criminal justice system was referred to a House conference committee last week. This bill looks to create increased penalties for repeat drug charges.
SB 126 which would charge law enforcement with notifying school districts of students arrested for a violent crime, and to include such information on record to be shared during transfers, was also referred to a conference committee.
Another harmful bill, SB 397 is also still floating around in the Senate that would impact many communities across our state. This bill would censure library materials and leave these restrictions up to Legislative approval.
Signed by Gov:
With Gov. Stitt still favoring his veto pen, a few bills we have been tracking did make it into law last week.
HB 2054– A bill related to criminal justice (or lack thereof) would increase offenses related to solicitation for sex and related online reviews.
HB 2888- Related to the Department of Veteran Affairs, provides appropriations to advance construction of facilities.