This week saw lots of activity “under the dome” as contentious bills brought protestors to speak out against problematic bills. However, at this time many people feel that legislators are not listening to the needs of their whole constituency and are instead pushing policy that might be categorized as “a solution without a problem.” Take a look at Week 3’s movement and see if you agree.
In the House:
House A&B Sub: Education
This committee saw one bill advance of interest. HB 1376, authored by Rep. Boatman, would require schools to provide free school meals to certain kids. With an amendment to move the threshold from 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL) to 250% it passed unanimously.
House County & Municipal Government
Hb 2165, which entered as a shell bill, was heard this past week. It seeks to add fines, education component and community service to previous bill that puts a ban on children smoking and vaping. It was passed but laid over for further work.
House Common Education
Education, a popular topic this session, saw two bills we are tracking. HB 2546 unfortunately passed, which would put bans on education on certain topics for kindergarten-5th grade. Bills like this contribute to a dangerous precedent of what can and can’t be taught in classrooms, as highlighted by questions from Rep. Rosecrants in committee. Rep. Provenzano also expressed concern about the need for children to be educated on certain topics that they will almost certainly experience throughout their lives, such as puberty and development.
However, HB 1035, which would allow students exemptions from school absence requirements for mental health assessments and therapy. We support measures that increase students’ ability to access these vital services.
House General Government
Three bills advanced from this committee. HB 1616 would require elected officials to disclose any conflict of interest regarding marijuana businesses. HB 2108 which we support, would require hospitals or birth centers to report maternal deaths in a timely fashion. This aims to provide better statistics to help solve the exiting problems that cause Oklahoma to lead the nation in maternal mortality.
HB 2108, also a good one by Rep. Pae, would allow locally elected public bodies to hold meetings virtually.
House Public Safety
The House Public Safety committee heard three bills we are tracking, all related to firearms, and all we are opposing. HB 1762, HB 2136, and HB 2149 all advanced, but not without questions and a no vote from Rep. Goodwin from Tulsa. HB 1762 would make owning a firearm as a convicted domestic abuser a felony. While preventing domestic abusers from owning firearms is certainly a positive step to protect survivors, the fact remains that felonization does not solve the problem of abuse, and measures such as these are weakened by our lax regulations on who can purchase and obtain firearms in the first place. HB 2135 and HB 2149 expand areas to carry firearms to city and town buildings and schools.
House Government Modernizations and Technology
HB 1030 passed from committee unanimously. It seeks to create standards on consumer data privacy and autonomy.
HB 1503, started as a shell bill, but deals with auto insurance minimums to go from 50,000 to 100,000. There was concern that we would be ahead of other surrounding states, but the bill passed.
House Criminal Justice & Corrections
Met last week, but key bills we are tracking were not heard.
The most (un)popular committee of the week. HB 2186 sparked peaceful protests in the rotunda and outside the committee meeting hallway. It seeks to put restrictions “certain performances that fall under definition of adult cabaret” and drag story hour.
Both definitions are problematic and vague with drag performer meaning “male or female performer who adopts a flamboyant or parodic feminine or masculine persona with glamorous or exaggerated costumes and makeup”. This could include many theater performances, cultural dances, and culturally significant apparel, in addition to drag performances.
While Rep. West argued it was focused on protecting children, Rep. Strom and Rep. Lowe highlighted there are already laws in place on indecent exposure. Rep. Strom also remarked on the constitutionality of it, that it limits freedom of expression and starts us on a slippery slope.
Rep. Strom and Rep. Lowe were the only no votes, and the bill passed.
Rep. Humphrey introduced two bills that both passed. HB 2530 reduces crimes on cockfighting to a misdemeanor and HB 2537 on internal policy violations to no longer be criminal charges. We oppose both bills.
HB 2789 by Rep. Stinson, which seeks to correct on oversight in previous statute on allowing anyone to apply for VPO, when this bill seeks to limit it to cases where there are chances for further victimization.
All bills heard passed, including one that seems to take step backwards in criminal justice reform. HB 2054 would increase the charges in cases of soliciting sex workers. Secondary requests would be case for registering as a sex offender, and multiple solicitations would be case for felony charges. We oppose this measure because all studies show that criminalizing sex work does not erase its existence; on the contrary, it drives sex workers further into the shadows and ironically makes their lives less safe, as they cannot access services for health or protection without fearing prosecution.
House Public Health
A shell bill revealed: HB 1449 aims to “reaffirm that sex is a biological term”. Rep. Ranson from Stillwater asked for clarification on gender and sex and having separate but equal categories. The answers were not very affirming, and this legislation seems to provide further opportunity for discrimination.
HB 2175 creates a funding loan repayment plan for mental health providers (support) and HB 2181 passed, which modifies quarantine procedures, especially regarding headlice and school illnesses.
HB 2773, by Rep. Munson passed from committee. It looks at provisions on expungement of records and liabilities on wrongful incarceration. Criminal legal reform, particularly measures which ease reentry for those who have served their time for wrongdoing, remains a contentious topic, but in recent years more positive movement has issued from the Capitol.
In the Senate:
Two positive bills of note passed out of this committee this past week. SB 385, which improves wages for participants of Quality Jobs Program, and SB 1063, which creates a tax credit for businesses that create childcare support options on-site. This seeks to keep child caretakers in the workforce.
SB 175 creates a youth suicide prevention task force (support), while SB 397 is one of several library censorship bills. Both passed committee.
SB 124, by Sen. Kirt, passed, giving voters better control over absentee ballot process. It passed, along with SB 420 that looks at criminal justice reform questions regarding filing certain claims.
Senate Retirement & Insurance
By Sen. Garvin, SB 254 seeks to cap patient out of pocket costs if timely care is not provided. It was advanced from committee (support).
SB 364 by Sen. Pugh on maternity leave passed committee. Additionally, SB 1046 was advanced. This looks at domestic violence towards a pregnant woman being raised to a felony. We oppose domestic violence, but we do not support bills of this nature. Many bills that aim to increase penalties towards abusers do not solve or break the cycle, but further cripple our faltering and overburdened justice system.
SB 842 also passed which would prohibit government entities from entering into contracts with groups that “discriminate against firearms”. (Oppose)
Senate Public Safety
A busy committee, this past week heard several bills focused on criminal justice reform and more. All passed.
SB 379 advanced unanimously and with considerable support. It adds mental health wellness training to CLEET certification. On the other hand, SB 108 (oppose) increased sentencing requirements on drug-related offenses.
SB 480 by Sen. Young prohibits first responders from sharing photos of deceased individuals from any incident scene except for law enforcement purposes.
SB 720 prohibits bans or restrictions on firearm suppressors made in state.
SB 272, which we oppose, prohibits state of emergency declarations from including activities in places of worship. While we staunchly support freedom of religion, times like COVID have shown that sometimes it is necessary to worship not alongside one another. State of emergencies serve to protect everyone, no matter their religion, and it is important to uphold these decisions. However, the bill advanced.
Senate General Government
This committee saw a few of our tracked bills that seem suspicious. One, SB 404 by Sen. Daniels passed which “deems it a substantial burden” to exclude persons from government funds based on religious affiliation. (Passed)
SB 503 also passed, which would prohibit political subdivisions from allowing public displays of lewd acts or obscene materials where minors could be present. Subject to a felony.
Senate Health & Human Services
HB 286 limits the use of mechanical restraints to a patient in transport. It includes instances when they are a harm to themselves or the transporter, and the bill had heavy consultation with the Department of Mental Health.