Week 5 Recap
The fifth week of the legislative session was short due to the legislature’s spring break, but important movement was still occurring as we get closer to the third reading deadlines in the House and the Senate.
The House passed a positive bill, HB 3720, which would empower teachers to provide detailed information on the Holocaust. In a time of rising white supremacy, education on the tragedy of the Holocaust is more vital than ever, and it was heartening to see this bill pass 80-5.
Further positive movement was the passage of HB 4224, which protects juvenile victims of human trafficking from being prosecuted for crimes committed while they were being victimized.
In the Senate, a bill that would include an updated phone number for the suicide prevention lifeline and crisis text line be printed on student ID cards passed 39-4. Unfortunately, Oklahoma youth die by suicide at higher rates than the national average – it is the second leading cause of death for the 10-24 age range, and the rates have been increasing in the past 10 years. Increasing access to suicide prevention measures could save many students’ lives.
Criminal Legal Reform
Criminal legal reform was a hot topic in the Senate as well, as movements to reduce fines and fees (SB 1458, a good measure), increase access to competency hearings in advance of the application of the death penalty (SB 1738, problematic), and allow security guards to carry powerful rifles during their duties (SB 1839, very dangerous).
A topic of current interest was brought forward in SB 1282, which would have a risk screening assessment tool used by the Office of Juvenile Affairs prior to the consideration of incarceration. These risk assessment tools, however, often use faulty data that is subject to racist bias, and their use often blocks judges from making compassionate, smart decisions instead of subjecting youth to the abusive and traumatic carceral system. Any application of these tools in a system that regularly shows evidence of bias should be met with extreme caution.