Another chaotic week at the Oklahoma State Capitol. With the education standoff between the chambers taking center stage, advocates are struggling to find energy for other meaningful legislation to find its way to a committee hearing.
However, groups are still pushing hard to get the work done. CAIR Oklahoma’s government affairs team got to experience this work, attending the ACLU’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol on the death penalty. With an incredible panel of speakers, it was an inspiring day on some of the excellent work happening in Oklahoma.
With a week left to get bills from the opposite chamber heard in committees, it’s going to be a busy one!
On the House Side:
In the House A&B Subcommittee on Education Senate Bill (SB) 11 was voted for, which would remove the statutory ban on blocking incarcerated students from receiving tuition grants.
The House Election and Ethics committee heard some choice voting bills, all of which passed. SB 426 would allow GPS to check if a registered voter is in their supposed district. SB 410 expands prohibited activities at polling sites (electioneering) and seeks to prohibit non-voters at election enclosures.
SB 376 clarifies that in cases of an affidavit used for absentee voting, it should be the voters name signed, not the person filing it.
Voting is not an attractive or fun topic for people. However, it is the core aspect of our democracy. Many people do not get to vote. CAIR Oklahoma opposes bills like SB 426 and 410. Voter turnout is poor enough in Oklahoma, and we do not support measures that increase surveillance and restrict access to polling places to residents of our state.
SB 193, passed from a subcommittee by Sen. Garvin, would provide 6 weeks paid maternity leave for birth or adoption for state employees.
In the realm of firearms, a favorite in our state, SB 978 advanced. It would permit carrying firearms on maritime vessels and broaden scope of use. We oppose this measure. Boating in Oklahoma already has high casualty rates from carelessness and lack of education. The last thing we need to do is add guns to situations on-water where alcohol is often present as well.
SB 537 passed from House Judiciary Criminal Committee; it aims to remove the intent stipulation from domestic abuse situations. Another bill on the surface that seems promising, it seeks to further criminalize many Oklahomans caught in situations that are not always straightforward.
On the Senate Side:
A positive bill on the Senate side, House Bill (HB) 1035 passed from committee. It would provide exemptions for students seeking therapy or mental health assessments.
HB 1144 also advanced, which would authorize the commissioning of one member from either chamber’s security teams as peace officers. Hotly debated on the floor prior to crossing over, many opposed this measure as it further arms and militarizes security at the capitol.
A good bill for transparency efforts, HB 2108 moved out of Senate Judiciary committee. It would adjust the Open Meeting Act to include digital participation.
There are two bills regarding TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits, HB 1931 and HB 1932 that were voted from committee. The first would remove disqualifications due to substance abuse and provide for treatment and counseling. The other, HB 1932 remains a bit suspect as it would extend the same benefits to pregnant persons as if the child were born. It raises concerns on the risks of what may happen if the pregnancy is not seen through. With all the heightened language around unborn children and the right to privacy of care, advocates are concerned this could criminalize the pregnant person.