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As of May 20, 2020

We made it! We’ve gotta say, that was a fairly deflating and anti-climatic ending to what we hoped would be a productive legislative session. Having convened only 36 days, the legislature adjourned(ish) Sine Die last Friday, which (mostly) signals the end of this year’s legislative session. Over the next couple days, we’ll be keeping an eye on the bills sent to the governor’s desk (over 150 of them, significantly less than usual) awaiting his signature or veto, as well as any veto override action (more on that below).
So, what happened last week?
 
Before they left, both chambers passed SCR12, a resolution allowing the chambers to be adjourned for more than three days while also allowing them to return to the Capitol for any unfinished business that arises this week. If they do not return (rumor is the House plans to come in on Friday to override any vetoes from the governor, since that’s a thing they’re adept at now), session adjourns automatically at 5 pm on May 29th, this year’s constitutional deadline. So, will they come back or not? Well, that depends on what Governor Stitt does with the bills lawmakers put on his desk last week before the left Friday night. The governor has 5 days upon receipt of the bills to either sign or veto them. As of now, he has signed 59 bills into law and vetoed 11 – we expect to see some action from the legislature to override a few of these as the Speaker of the House, Rep. Charles McCall, and the governor continue their increasingly interesting feud.
 
Wondering why the Governor vetoed the package of budget bills passed by both chambers of the legislature? Wondering what the heck a veto override is? Trying to appreciate how truly rare it is for a legislature to override a veto on 4 bills in one evening? Us too. Here’s what went down: on Friday, Governor Sitt vetoed SB1922 (an appropriations bill that Stitt said did not reflect the values of Oklahomans) and HB 2741HB 2742, and HB 2743 (a series of bills that comprise the legislature’s attempt to limit funding cuts for education). The legislature responded by overriding all four of the vetoes. Legislators from both sides of the aisle criticized Stitt for the budget whiplash, calling for efficient governance in this time of crisis. 
 
Where do we stand now? Following the overrides, the budget will automatically go into effect. This means the budget reflects the priorities of the legislature, not the governor. (Feel free to take a minute if your head is still spinning.)
So, what bills made it through this bizarre and truncated legislative process?
 
We wish we had all good news. Unfortunately, some members of the House and Senate used the absence of advocates and watchdog groups to bend the rules and push through some pretty frustrating policy. There were a few bright spots, but mostly, we were disappointed with the misguided priorities of some of our legislative leadership. We’ll give you the bad news first.
 
A few not-so-good things on the Governor’s desk:
 
The legislature passed what may be the nation’s first “anti-red flag law,” which is designed to prevent Oklahoma cities and towns from “enacting policies that would allow a court or other entity to restrict gun access to people deemed to be an imminent danger.” Arguing that red flag laws violate the Second Amendment and due process, SB1081’s proponents ignored other legislators who pointed to the judicial process red flag laws entail and the redundancy of the legislation itself, which ignores the fact that the state already preempts localities from regulating firearms. Risk protection orders can help those at risk of self-harm or domestic violence. The governor signed SB1081 into law on Tuesday.
 
SB1728 is what’s called a TRAP law, which stands for Target Regulation of Abortion Providers. Put simply, these laws create unnecessary restrictions and liabilities for abortion care providers. This specific policy would hold physicians performing “fraudulent” abortions (abortions performed without legal consent) responsible for the wrongful death of the fetus. As of 2:30 p.m. on May 21, 2020, the governor has not yet signed or vetoed this bill.
 
SB1102: What started out as a criminal justice reform bill that provided accused domestic abusers with counseling and treatment was transformed into a rewrite of the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act when the bill’s carriers replaced the language. Its final version would have “sharply curtailed local governments’ ability to control responses to public health emergencies.” Thankfully, this bill was not taken up by the Senate.
We’ll leave you with some high points:
 
SB1823, also known as Shepherd’s Law, would establish licensure for midwives under the State Department Health. The bill, signed by Governor Stitt on Monday, would ensure that midwives are held to a statewide standard for their practice.
 
HB3350, or the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) bill, was sent to the Governor last week. The bill would give raises to state retirees for the first time in over 12 years. Beneficiaries include firefighters, law enforcement, and teachers.
 
HB2760: Giving credit where it is due, the Governor vetoed a bill that would have cut the affordable housing credit in half. The veto ensures that low-income Oklahomans will continue to have access to housing and that their needs will not be overlooked as the legislature attempts to rectify budget shortfalls.
It would be an understatement to say that this legislative session did not turn out like we thought it would. In addition to criminal justice reform legislation, we weren’t able to pursue all of our policy objectives relating to improving health education in schools, improving access to sustainable income for women, or finally ratifying the ERA. We’ve been happy to do our part by focusing on Oklahomans’ most urgent needs this session, but these policy and reform topics will be at the top of our list as we head into planning for next year’s session.
 
We aren’t done yet and we aren’t giving up. We’ll keep you posted on any progress or action taken by the Governor or the legislature this week, but know that in the interim we will prioritize amplifying your voices and needs. 
 
Thanks for sticking with us on this wild ride, and don’t be a stranger! We’d love to hear from you about your goals for this season and how we can help. Remember to keep taking care of you and yours. We’re in this together.

Week of  May 4-8, 2020

Is it a coincidence the legislature reconvened and our stress levels shot through the roof this week? We think not. We knew it sounded too good to be true when we were assured House and Senate leadership would focus solely on legislation responding directly to the coronavirus and their obligation to pass an FY21 budget. If you haven’t been following along on the emotional rollercoaster this week, we’ve provided the high (and low) points below:
First the (extremely short-lived) good, then the bad.
 
We started the week with refreshingly positive news: the OK Supreme Court struck a notary requirement for absentee ballots, making mail-in voting a lot more accessible and equitable for Oklahomans. The suit marks a big win for the League of Women Voters and ensures that Oklahomans won’t have to choose between voting and keeping themselves healthy.
 
We had around 24 hours to bask in our restored faith in the ability to access our fundamental rights before the legislature got to work undoing and rolling back this monumental ruling. The bill, authored by Rep. Kannady, would require that absentee ballots be notarized unless an emergency declaration is in effect. The bill’s goal is to “prevent voter fraud” — a rare occurrence that shouldn’t be prioritized over providing Oklahomans with access to their fundamental right to vote without putting their health and the health of others at risk in order to exercise this right.
 
As pressure from the public mounted, the bill’s number was changed THREE times, finally landing within SB210.  According to the bill’s language, if an emergency declaration is in effect within 45 days of an election, absentee voters would not be required to get ballots notarized but would be required to send in a photocopy of their driver licenses as proof of identity. Democrats pushed back, saying not everyone has access to the technology needed to make a photocopy of their ID.
 
After lengthy questioning by Democrats, on Thursday afternoon, the Senate passed SB210 and it headed to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto. Within hours, the governor signed SB210 thus concluding a week of emotional whiplash on a fast-moving effort to create unnecessary hurdles to voting (especially during a pandemic).
 
You may recall, we joined a statewide coalition of partners urging state leaders to ensure every Oklahoman has access to vote during this pandemic without putting themselves at risk, and our work is not over.
Oh yeah, the budget.
 
In the midst of this demoralizing series of events, House and Senate leadership managed to turn budget negotiations into an agreed-upon package of 12 budget bills. While some legislators believe the $400 million proposed cut constitutes a win for Oklahomans compared to Stitt’s estimated $1.3 billion, others (including House Minority Leader Emily Virgin) are critical of the proposed cuts to core services while $800 million from the federal CARES Act is still on the table. For a summary of the bills and figures, click here
 
Meanwhile, Stitt is still reviewing the budget deal proposed by the Legislature. Expressing concerns over cuts to some agencies and increases in the budgets of others, Stitt is prepared to veto the budget deal if he doesn’t think it’s the best choice for Oklahomans. Where would that leave us? Well, that would depend on the legislature’s next move. As always, we’ll keep you updated on where this goes from here.
Say his name.
 
On February 23rd, an unarmed black man named Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while going for a run in his Brunswick, GA neighborhood. This week, after cellphone footage of the killing was released, a national outcry for justice began to swell. Supporters across the country are planning a run dedicated to Arbery today (Friday) – what would have been his 26th birthday. Using the hashtag, #IRunwithAhmaud, folks are running 2.23 miles in his honor, marking the day he was killed. We are grieving; we stand in solidarity against violent, anti-black racism and will work to champion restorative justice in our home state and beyond.
Anger into action
 
We know this week’s news was a lot to absorb, so we’d like to give you a few opportunities for turning your frustration into action:
 
Are you as angry as we are about DeVos’ gutting of Title IX in favor of the accused? Join Know Your IX’s nationwide movement in support of ending campus gender-based violence.
 
May 5th was the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). This is a good place to start educating yourself and advocating: https://www.nativewomenswilderness.org/mmiw and https://www.csvanw.org/mmiw/
Believing the policies and outcomes in our state can and should be better takes courage. Believing our voices can influence this change requires hope and grit. We know, like us, you are probably feeling beat up and demoralized by the events outlined above, and others we didn’t mention. It can be overwhelming – we will keep going, together. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and we’ll be advocating for you every step of the way.

Week of  April 19-24, 2020

Welcome back, friends! Congrats on making it through another week. We are living through a bizarre and difficult time, aren’t we? The disparities and inequity that existed before coronavirus have continued to become even more exposed and intensified as a result of the pandemic. There may be some of us who want things to return to “normal” – here at OWC, we hope this crisis is the catalyst for true social change on the local, national, and global level. We can’t afford to go back to business as usual, and we all have a responsibility to advocate for the change we want to see. Let’s all work together to join and amplify the voices calling for radical change – we need it now more than ever.
 
There’s a lot happening here in our home state (it was a BUSY news week), and it can be overwhelming enough just trying to make it through another day. We’re working to provide the most relevant highlights so you can stay up to speed while trying to balance all the other things going on in your world right now. We’ve recapped a few of this week’s highlights below:
The budget saga continues…
 
If you thought the tension between the governor and the legislature might have simmered down this week, you were wrong (it’s okay… no one can predict this stuff). At the Board of Equalization meeting, state leaders determined that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic would “impact the General Revenue Fund negatively by approximately $1,366,288,860.” It is still unclear what this means for core agencies and services, but leaders did agree that maintaining education funding would require doubling budget cuts in other areas. Stitt’s leaving the “details and weeds” to lawmakers, who may be forced to return Oklahoma’s appropriation levels to FY 2016 and FY 2017 levels, according to Oklahoma Tax Commission director Jay Doyle. Read more about Monday’s somber meeting here.
 
As for legislators heading back to the Capitol for session, we’re anticipating an early May return given the governor’s new guidelines on reopening the state (see more below). Will they only focus on the budget and then Sine Die? Will they take up other policy bills? Will the public be allowed back under the dome? Unfortunately for now, we have a lot of unknowns and not a whole lot of clarity. We promise to pass along the scoop as soon as we hear more – rest assured, we will continue to monitor any action while working to ensure gender equity and our policy priorities are a part of the ongoing conversation.
Back in the news.
 
Remember the major conflict between the governor and Oklahoma tribes regarding the negotiation of the tribal compact renewal that wasn’t that long ago but feels like long ago? Well, it’s back in the news and is providing additional fodder for the ongoing feud between the governor and the legislature. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall condemned the Governor’s recent gaming compacts with the Otoe Missouria Tribe and the Commanche Nation. According to Treat and McCall, the Governor doesn’t have the legal authority under the Tribal Gaming Act to enter into gaming compacts with the tribes.
 
We have to say, it’s unusual for us to see this degree of public and united pushback from legislative leadership against the governor in their own party. Strange times, indeed. Don’t worry – we’ll keep you updated as the situation continues to unfold.
The latest on COVID-19 in Oklahoma:
 
As of this morning’s OSDH media advisory, there are 3,121 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 188 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 across Oklahoma.
 
On Wednesday, Governor Stitt announced his plans to reopen Oklahoma in stages. Citing downward trends in cases and hospitalizations (?), Stitt plans to allow some businesses and services to open up late next week, including restaurant dining rooms, movie theaters, gyms, and places of worship. The plan requires these businesses and services to adhere to “strict” social distancing and sanitation guidelines. That’s only the first stage of a three-stage process, where Stitt will gradually reduce restrictions on bars, sports, and gatherings of more than 10 people, among other activities and businesses.
 
Local businesses have mixed reactions to the plan. While some expressed trust in the Governor and state leadership, others cited concerns about personal health and low consumer confidence. Some Democrats, including House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, believe that Stitt should hold off on plans to reopen the state until Oklahoma has better data and more testing. Representatives from the Oklahoma State Medical Association are also critical of the plan. (Ehem, so are we).
 
We have to say, it’s unusual for us to see this degree of public and united pushback from legislative leadership against the governor in their own party. Strange times, indeed. Don’t worry – we’ll keep you updated as the situation continues to unfold.
In case you missed it…
 
The governor *finally* set a date for when we can vote on SQ802! SQ802 will be on the June 30 primary election ballot. If passed, the measure would expand Medicaid for working Oklahomans up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level and place the requirement in the Oklahoma Constitution. Don’t forget: you can request your absentee ballot here. We’ve changed our usual message of “Get Out and Vote!” to “Stay Home and Vote!”
 
On that note… we joined a statewide coalition of partner organizations and individuals who have come together to ensure no one has to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote during a pandemic. Read more here about this effort and how to join the cause.
 
We teamed up with our partner organizations to call for action from state leaders to keep families and child care programs economically stable during this challenging time by ensuring our state’s child care assistance policies are responding to the realities and needs of families, providers and staff.

We’re sending you all kinds of good vibes for the weekend and the week ahead. Hang in there! And as always, reach out to us with any questions or concerns you have. We’re here for you.

Week of  April 13-17, 2020

Remember last Friday when we told you things were getting interesting at the Capitol? Well, pull up a comfy chair and grab your favorite quarantine snack because this week’s developments gave Oklahoma political nerds (us included) plenty of fodder for the Zoom call small talk we’re all trying to adjust to. We’ve outlined most of the highlights below, but be sure to check back in next week as things are sure to evolve quickly. Here’s what we know today:
Capitol Drama – they did not save it for their mama (that was bad, sorry).
 
This week, Governor Stitt signed 2 of 3 budget bills: SB617 and SB1053, both of which are designed to make sure the state has the resources it needs to deal with the pandemic. The governor did not sign SB199, which would appropriate $302,339,481 from the Constitutional Reserve Fund (the Rainy Day Fund) to the General Revenue Fund. The appropriation outlined in SB1 199 can’t happen until the Board of Equalization declares a revenue failure — and if you were here last week, you know that Governor Stitt postponed the Board of Equalization meeting until the legislature agrees not to cut his Digital Transformation Revolving Fund. 
 
In response to the legislature’s decision to not backfill the fund, Stitt accused members of playing “Washington D.C. politics.” We know — *shiver*. In a videoconference call, Senate Appropriations and Budget Chairman Sen. Roger Thompson and House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Rep. Kevin Wallace blamed Stitt’s surprised reaction to the Digital Transformation Revolving Fund cut on miscommunication between Stitt and Secretary of Budget and Finance Mike Mazzei, who’s been representing the governor in budget negotiations. (By the way, this is not how budget negotiations usually go down — the governor is normally in the room.) What’s abundantly clear at this point is that Governor Stitt’s honeymoon phase with the legislature is officially over. Hungry for more? Read all the details.
The legislature strikes back.
 
Legislators are hoping to force the Board of Equalization to meet and declare a revenue failure through the bold move of filing a lawsuit. According to the suit, the Board of Equalization isn’t allowed to hold up the Legislature’s appropriations power — if the board fails to act in the timeframe set by the state constitution, the Legislature can bypass it.
 
What exactly does this mean? Well, the Supreme Court ordered the Board of Equalization to respond by noon Monday to the lawsuit, and the court also scheduled a telephonic hearing of arguments on Tuesday before a Supreme Court referee. Meanwhile, the Board of Equalization scheduled a special meeting to be held via videoconference Monday afternoon. As of now, an agenda for this meeting has not been posted online…seems like relevant timing to schedule a meeting though? We’ll be tuning in for the action and will keep you posted along the way.
The latest on COVID-19 in Oklahoma:
 
As of this morning’s OSDH media advisory, there are 2,465 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 136 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 across Oklahoma. 
 
Governor Stitt extended his “Safer at Home” order to May 6 for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable populations, including the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. In the meantime, Stitt is working on plans for when to reopen the state.
 
A group called ‘OK Back 2 Work’ is urging Governor Stitt to open the state before his “Safer at Home” order ends, citing the need to help unemployed people and businesses that are struggling. Basically, this was a rally against social distancing that mostly adhered to social distancing while talking about how we shouldn’t be required to practice social distancing — you can’t make this stuff up.
It’s candidate filing season!
 
After last week’s candidate filing deadline, 46 out of 157 incumbent legislators will be re-elected by default — meaning no one filed against them. This means that only 126 legislative seats are up for election in 2020. We recommend reading this article from Tres Savage at NonDoc. It provides a super helpful breakdown of what could change at the legislature — and what’s definitely not going to change.

Take care of yourselves, wear masks when you go to the store, get some sunshine and exercise, and remember to reach out to friends and family who live alone. We’re all in this together, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.

Week of  April 6-10, 2020

Even though the legislature only convened on Monday, there managed to be enough action packed into one day to sustain us for the week. There was even some drama… buckle up.
So, what happened?
 
Remember from last week’s update, the legislature was required to meet to affirm or reject the governor’s health emergency declaration per the Catastrophic Health Emergency Act. As expected, the House & Senate approved HR1001X during Monday’s special session, affirming the governor’s declaration. These floor sessions were unlike anything we’re used to seeing — members wore masks and gloves and voted in waves of small groups with only a few staff and legislators present on the floor at a time.
 
The House and Senate also convened regular session to discuss and vote on a package of three budget-filling bills to address this year’s revenue failure — these bills would protect state agencies from cuts before the new fiscal year starts on June 30. Honestly, the discussion and vote was a welcome display of bipartisanship in both chambers. Members rallied together with a common goal of addressing the revenue shortage to ensure core services are preserved during a time when Oklahomans need access to support and resources the most. The three bills (SB 199SB 617 and SB 1053) passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming support.
Here’s where things got interesting.
 
Governor Stitt said cutting funding to state agencies by 1 or 2 percent during this time of crisis would be “very reasonable.” House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat did NOT feel the same way. Lawmakers sent Stitt bills that are intended to avoid state agency cuts, but SB 617 would omit the restoration of funding for Oklahoma’s Digital Transformation Program, of which Stitt has been a champion since assuming office. Since then, Stitt has said that this proposed cut is part of his reasoning for postponing the upcoming Board of Equalization meeting. This matters because, without this meeting, the state can’t officially declare the revenue failure. If this happens, not all provisions in the bills will be triggered. The hitch? The estimated cut in funding is only about $250k — Stitt is holding up this hugely important package for what amounts to… well, not much.
 
For his part, Stitt believes that elements of his Digital Transformation Program would make it easier for Oklahomans to access crisis services. Minority Leader Emily Virgin wasn’t so sure: according to a quote from NonDoc, Virgin said, “It appears to me that the digital transformation fund right now has about $8 million in it, and I’m failing to see how that is inadequate to do what needs to be done like shore up the services of an agency like the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission … After a day where the Legislature and both chambers showed so much cooperation and bipartisanship for the state in an uncertain time, it was truly shocking the governor would do something like this.” Read more about how the drama unfolded here.
 
Bottom line: this is not the time for a power struggle — we’re in the midst of a pandemic and our state leadership has an obligation to ensure all Oklahomans have access to the core services they depend on, especially during this unprecedented crisis. 
 
If you’re interested in learning more about the legislature’s special session, read this great article from NonDoc.
The latest on COVID-19 in Oklahoma:
 
As of this morning’s OSDH media advisory, there are 1,794 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 88 deaths as a result of COVID-19 across Oklahoma. 
 
The governor issued a new executive order Wednesday that modified his state of emergency declaration, exercising his expanded powers under the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act. Executive Order 2020-13 ensures that “first responders who work for state agencies guaranteed paid time off if they contract Covid-19.” In addition, the order also allows more medical professionals to be on the front lines by easing licensing requirements for certain professionals and increasing opportunities for students and recent grads to practice despite not being fully licensed. Finally, it allows closed health care facilities to be re-opened with fewer regulatory burdens and expands operations for stretcher vans. Read more here.
And finally, a bit of good news!
 
This week, a federal judge partially blocked Stitt’s ban on abortions, which aimed to designate abortions as elective surgeries amid the coronavirus impact. Brandon Hill, president and CEO of Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains said, “Abortion is an essential and time-sensitive medical procedure that should not be caught in the crosshairs of political agendas—especially during this public health crisis.” We couldn’t agree more.
As always, we hope you and yours are staying safe and healthy. Please check out our Covid-19 resource page, which we’re updating almost daily. The page is organized by our issue areas, so we’ve got plenty of good information about Health & Wellness, Economic Security, Criminal Justice Reform, and Violence Prevention & Response. We’re here for you!

Week of  March 30-April 3, 2020

Welcome back, friends! We hope you’re staying well. As we move forward into this unprecedented time, we’ll continue to stay on top of news that impacts women in Oklahoma so you can focus on taking care of you and the people you love. There’s been some movement this week, and we’ve provided an overview of the highlights below. Remember, you can reach out to us anytime if you have questions, a need to be met, or just something to say.
They’re back…sort of. 
 
Governor Stitt declared a health emergency which statutorily triggers a special session — that’s right, the OK legislature will convene at the Capitol first thing Monday morning. From what we understand, the main purpose for convening is to affirm or reject the governor’s declaration of a health emergency, which both the House and Senate have confirmed they will vote to affirm. When the governor invokes a health emergency, the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act requires the legislature to approve or reject the declaration (FYI, this is the first time the act has been invoked since it was passed in 2003). Learn more here.  
 
As a result of COVID-19, access to the Capitol is still limited to elected officials, essential Capitol staff, the press, state officials invited for critical meetings, and construction personnel. The legislature will take certain measures with the goal of ensuring everyone’s safety. Each member will have their temperature taken before going inside the building, and there will be no more than 10 people allowed in any room at a time — including the House and Senate chambers. This means members will listen to proceedings in their offices and will be brought into the floor and committee individually or in small groups to vote, ask questions, debate & present legislation in order to comply with orders limiting gatherings of ten or more. We have been assured that all proceedings will be livestreamed in both the House and Senate (on the floor and in committees).
 
The Capitol underwent a deep cleaning after several working there tested positive in previous weeks. At this time, the public will still not be allowed into the building, so we’ll be tracking proceedings via livestream to ensure accountability and access to information straight to you as quickly as we receive it.
Got questions? We have answers. 
 
Q. What does the health emergency declaration mean?
A. Stitt’s declaration will activate the disaster response and recovery aspects of the various emergency plans that are in place around Oklahoma. These plans may include provisions to authorize the use of forces or the distribution of needed supplies and equipment. In terms of Stitt’s powers, he’ll be able to suspend regulations on the conduct of state business as needed, utilize all state resources (including the resources of the state’s political subdivisions), change functions of state departments and agencies, mobilize the National Guard, provide and receive aid from other states, and seek aid from the federal government. Need more details? Click here
 
Q. What else could the legislature be up to during this crisis?
A. Good question! For now, the only thing the legislature is statutorily required to do is pass a balanced budget by the last day of session (Sine Die). While Governor Stitt and some legislators insist that the state’s efforts to increase savings last year make Oklahoma more capable of sustaining the loss of revenue associated with tanking oil prices, legislators will be working hard to ensure that core services like education don’t see cuts in funding. Read more here
 
The legislature also plans to use this mandated return to the Capitol to address the pending FY20 revenue shortfall. The Board of Equalization will meet via videoconference Monday afternoon at 1 pm where they are expected to declare a revenue failure (revenue failure = more than 5% short) – some projections state Oklahoma’s revenue failure is around 9%, equal to $250 million, which would equate to a roughly 3.5%-4% budget cut across agencies if additional resources were not secured. The report from the Board of Equalization will direct the Legislature on how deep the revenue hole is, and then the Legislature will most likely look at using the Rainy Day Fund (which has a current balance of $806.2 million) to fill the gap in revenue to protect agencies against cuts.
The latest on COVID-19 in Oklahoma:
 
As of this morning’s OSDH media advisory, there are 988 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 38 deaths as a result of COVID-19 across Oklahoma. 
 
On April 1st, Governor Stitt expanded his executive order, which requires non-essential businesses to close and high-risk individuals to stay home. The order now applies across the state until April 30th, not just in counties with positive cases.

f Equalization will direct the Legislature on how deep the revenue hole is, and then the Legislature will most likely look at using the Rainy Day Fund (which has a current balance of $806.2 million) to fill the gap in revenue to protect agencies against cuts.

What else is going on?
 
We’ve joined with partners across the state to call for action that urges Governor Stitt to enact a series of recommendations that will protect staff and incarcerated people in our state’s jails and prisons. It is especially important that we protect justice-involved Oklahomans, who have higher rates of underlying health issues than members of the general public, including higher rates of respiratory disease, heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions that suppress immune response. Read the full statement here.
 
We’re also asking the governor to grant more than 200 unsigned commutations to reduce the risk of an outbreak in Oklahoma prisons. The virus will easily overwhelm the state’s overcrowded prisons, where incarcerated people have less access to basic hygiene items, cannot social distance, and live in many communal spaces. Read the full statement here.
 
Included in Gov. Stitt’s executive order outlining essential and nonessential businesses was a ban on elective surgeries, including abortion. Our friends at Planned Parenthood and Center for Reproductive Rights have filed suit against Oklahoma for exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to cut off abortion access. Given the time-sensitive nature of abortions and the life-altering impact of being denied access to abortion, we believe clinics must be allowed to continue providing care. We will continue to track and report on developments with the lawsuit. In the meantime, visit the OCRJ site for the latest information on resources and the right places to ask questions.
Thank you for taking time last week to respond to our survey. We heard from so many of you, and your feedback was super helpful as we work to curate content to share with you during this difficult time. You asked for resources for mental health and self-care, guidance on social distancing and quarantine best practices, and access to virtual support groups or online interaction/hangouts – we’re working hard to bring this to you and more in the days and weeks to come.
 
What really stood out to us? So many of your comments centered on how we can work together to help folks who were already experiencing disparities in access, equity and safety prior to this crisis — those who need our help and advocacy now more than ever. We will continue to work to be a hub connecting you to opportunities to support calls to action and direct service where and when it is needed most.
 
Keep a lookout on our social media for the content you asked for – we’ll be back next week to provide an in-depth update on what’s happening at the Capitol and beyond. Take care of yourself.

Week of  March 23-27, 2020

Happy Friday, friends! We hope you’re taking good care of yourself and the people around you. Adding to the stress of a deadline week at the Capitol, we know many of you are also feeling the panic associated with the coronavirus pandemic, the effects of volatility on the stock market and economy, and the anxiety of the unknown (us too). Crises always hit our most vulnerable populations the hardest, so we will continue to identify ways to leverage resources with our partners to make sure our neighbors are taken care of. 
 
We gotta be honest: there were very few bright spots amidst a lot of downright terrible legislation that passed ahead of yesterday’s deadline, but we’ll do our best to share the positive progress made on some of our support bills while also keeping you informed on the bad and the ugly.
What’s happening under the Dome?
 
Well, for now, not much. Both chambers of the legislature adjourned on Tuesday, March 17th until “call of the chair”, and legislative leadership have said they do not know yet when they will return. Before they left, the Legislature did amend the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act to expand teleconferencing and videoconferencing opportunities for all public bodies in the state. The House also amended its rules to allow for emergency “proxy” voting, and the governor signed both bills last week shortly after they were passed.
 
So far, 5 folks in the Oklahoma legislature have tested positive for COVID-19 (three legislative staffers, Senator Rosino, and Representative Lowe).
 
What does this mean for our priority bills? Right now, we are all on hold, but we are still in communication with our friends in the House and Senate on a daily basis. We will continue to monitor and report out on any happenings to ensure full transparency and accountability during this unprecedented time. 
What’s the latest on COVID-19 in Oklahoma?
 
As of this morning’s media advisory from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), there are 322 positive cases of COVID-19 across the state. So far, 8 Oklahomans have died as a result of COVID-19. With the number of cases rising each day, the OSDH urges the public to follow the Governor’s “Safer at Home” executive order advising vulnerable populations and those over the age of 65 to stay home until April 30 and for non-essential businesses in counties with COVID-19 cases to temporarily suspend services until April 30. (FYI: The US officially has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other nation.)
 
 
If you, like us, believe our state leadership could and should be doing more to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there’s a Facebook group for that, and they’re calling on all of us to contact the governor personally and urge him to act to #SaveOurState. 
A request from one of our partner organizations:
 
Variety Care is asking for all of us to check our cabinets or garages for N95 masks and/or disposable gloves. They are serving some of our most vulnerable and any supplies you can donate will help them continue to keep their staff safe as they help patients in crisis. You can drop off supplies directly at their administrative offices: 3000 N. Grand Blvd in Oklahoma City. 
 
If you, like us, believe our state leadership could and should be doing more to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there’s a Facebook group for that, and they’re calling on all of us to contact the governor personally and urge him to act to #SaveOurState.
Be sure to follow us on social media if you don’t already – we’ll be sharing details on virtual meet-ups and creative ways for us to support one another during this time. In the meantime, don’t forget to spend some time on our resource page or drop us a line if you have questions, needs, or suggestions. We’re here for you, and we want to help. 

Week of  March 9-13, 2020

Happy Friday, friends! We hope you’re taking good care of yourself and the people around you. Adding to the stress of a deadline week at the Capitol, we know many of you are also feeling the panic associated with the coronavirus pandemic, the effects of volatility on the stock market and economy, and the anxiety of the unknown (us too). Crises always hit our most vulnerable populations the hardest, so we will continue to identify ways to leverage resources with our partners to make sure our neighbors are taken care of. 
 
We gotta be honest: there were very few bright spots amidst a lot of downright terrible legislation that passed ahead of yesterday’s deadline, but we’ll do our best to share the positive progress made on some of our support bills while also keeping you informed on the bad and the ugly.
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Let’s get the negativity out of the way:
HJR1027: the House moved forward with a dangerous proposal that infringes on the cornerstone of the democratic process in Oklahoma. If enacted, the resolution could take away the power of Oklahoma voters to implement common-sense policy and hold legislators accountable. The joint resolution would require citizens to meet percentage thresholds for signatures in each of the Five Congressional Districts to qualify for the ballot, creating the most restrictive initiative petition process of any state in the country. The resolution now heads to the Senate. Read the full ACLU OK statement here.
SB1587: In an effort to undo the will of the people (who overwhelmingly voted in support of SQ780) the Senate passed SB1587 on Wednesday evening, attempting to change the time period for retail larcenies to be aggregated into felonies from ninety days to one year. Crime is down in Oklahoma — and increasing the aggregation period will not drive it down any further. SB1587 will make Oklahoma’s larceny laws even more severe and further worsen the state’s incarceration crisis. Title is off on this bill (a demonstration that work and negotiation on the language are ongoing), and we will be working with fellow criminal justice reform partners to protect your voice.
The Senate also passed SB1674 as another rollback of SQ780, acting against the vote of their constituents (in an election year!). Here’s what our partners at Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform had to say: “Safeguards remain in place under current law to protect children from individuals found guilty of distributing drugs. Data show that SQ780 is safe, smart and works. If enacted, 1674 would effectively make felons of people who need treatment and support without any public safety benefit. We can’t become a top ten state if we remain a top incarcerater.”
SB1859: Thursday afternoon, the Senate passed what essentially amounts to an unconstitutional abortion ban in an effort to make Oklahoma one of the most restrictive states in the country for abortion access. Read the full statement from our friend and fearless pro-choice leader, Tamya Cox here. We have an opportunity to stop this in the House – stay tuned for action alerts if this issue progresses.
Remember those few bright spots? We’re going to rapid-fire some really positive progress from this week: 
HB2848, authored by Representative Daniel Pae, passed the House. This bill will require CLEET enforcement training on cases of MMIP to increase training for law enforcement on missing and murdered indigenous people (YES!).
HB3028, authored by Rep. Carol Bush, passed the House. This bill allows licensed professionals to perform syringe service programs approved by the CDC with the purpose to reduce dirty-needle proliferation and drug use. This bill is a step in the right direction of much-needed harm reduction.
HB3640: Congrats to our friend, Representative Cyndi Munson! This bill, which passed the House this week, establishes and expands Oklahoma’s Handle With Care Program. Click here to learn more about how this program works with law enforcement and school districts to reduce adverse childhood experiences and trauma for Oklahoma kids.
HB3088: We’re celebrating this huge win for Representative Ajay Pittman and women of color across Oklahoma. This bill implements implicit bias training for health care professionals in an attempt to lower our high maternal and infant mortality rates that are proven to disproportionately affect women of color. Representative Pittman rocked debate and questions and kept calm and cool under a tremendous amount of pushback and bias…we are so grateful for her tenacious leadership on this issue.
SB1425: In the midst of some attacks on previous criminal justice reform wins, we did see some reform progress this week. This bill, which passed the Senate this week, would change the approach to fines, fees and costs with the goal of consistency and equal treatment across districts. Essentially, it would ensure that no one would be incarcerated for the inability to pay. Eliminating debtor’s prisons…yep, let’s do that.
Things that were almost really bad but ended up being great after all:
SB13: This was another unconstitutional anti-abortion, “would have criminalized abortion as murder” bill. This week, there was an attempt to bring the bill back up via a Senate procedural move. This attempt was immediately shut down by the majority of the Senate, which voted to NOT suspend the rules to hear the bill. This vote against SB13 effectively ends its last-ditch effort to move forward. To learn more and receive updates directly from the advocates working tirelessly to defend our agency, click here. (And consider donating to their efforts while you’re at it!)
HB3873: This was *almost* really depressing news. Earlier in the week, the House voted down a measure to ban child marriage in Oklahoma…yep, that’s right — 60 representatives voted against protecting minors from (often forced) child marriages. But in a positive spin, the measure was  brought back before the House and passed with 78 votes in support later in the week. This came after consensus was reached on an amendment to allow parental consent for minors over 16 while still banning marriage for those 15 and younger. This is a really sad, weird thing we have to legislate, but we have to celebrate the wins when we can (we’ll temporarily ignore the part where 16 people voted to uphold child marriage).

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As of now, the House and Senate plan to convene on Monday and Tuesday then take the rest of the week off for spring break. We’ll be paying close attention to audibles called in response to ongoing concerns around coronavirus – in the meantime, be sure to follow us on social media for live updates on the latest happenings at the Capitol, along with other helpful information to consume during social-distancing and self-quarantining. Thanks for the energy you put into making our state a better place for all of us even when it’s really tough. Let’s take good care of ourselves and each other.

Week of  March 2-6, 2020

Happy weekend! This was the first week of full floor hearings, which means fewer bills are still in the race and things will really start getting serious from here on out. As we progress, there will be fewer bills to report on, but engagement around these issues will be more important than ever. We’re working hard to pass equitable policies and stop bills that would set us all back (there are lots of them right now — thanks, election year pandering). This week brought a few policy wins we’ll highlight below along with some disconcerting progress on a bill that just needs to go away.
Celebrations!
This week brought a huge win on one of our priority bills, SB1253. The bill passed the full Senate unanimously on Tuesday (which never happens to us)! This means we’re one step closer to passing mandated comprehensive, integrated health education for all students in Oklahoma. Next, the bill is headed to the House to start the process all over again with the House Common Education Committee. Great news, though: the Committee Chair, Representative Rhonda Baker, is our House bill author! It always helps to have good friends.
Ida’s Law (HB3345), which would create the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP), passed the House floor 92-4! Native organizers made this possible, and we honor the tireless advocacy and work they have put in to influence the legislature to finally prioritize MMIP. Read more about this victory here
SB1823, aka Shepherd’s Law, passed the full Senate floor this week and now heads over to the House! The bill would create the Advisory Committee on Midwifery and guidelines for the licensure and practice of certified midwives.
Not-so-happy happenings… Actually, they’re downright bad.
SB1728, which would create burdensome and medically unnecessary regulations for abortion clinics that are written with the goal of forcing them to shut down, passed the Senate floor this week with a 37-9 vote. Authored by Senator Bullard, this bill is what we call a TRAP bill, or a targeted restriction on abortion providers. The bill will now head to the House, where we need to stop this dangerous legislation in committee. Stay tuned for ways to contact your legislator if this progresses. You can read more about TRAP bills here.
Trauma-turned-advocacy HIGHLIGHT:
Nothing fills our advocacy-loving hearts up more than when people turn their trauma into advocacy and change for themselves and others.
A friend of ours, Nicole Poindexter, works as the Outreach and Legislative Liaison for OKPolicy and we’re celebrating with her on the passage of HB2871 off the House floor. Nicole has personally led the effort on getting this issue prioritized, translated into legislation, and now moving through the legislative process this session. So what does HB2871 do? Well, domestic violence victims who seek services at a recognized shelter are eligible to enroll in a confidential address program through the Attorney General of Oklahoma. Those enrollees are assigned a PO Box to use on all legal documents. Unfortunately, current state statute does not allow these individuals to sign initiative petitions, a fundamental right of anyone registered to vote in Oklahoma. This bill would allow victims and survivors to sign the petitions, thus giving them full civic rights, an important step in healing and regaining their voice. Way to go, Nicole!
Before we let you go, we have a few odds and ends:
 
Under HJR1027, Oklahomans’ right to petition could be under threat. If passed, citizens could be tasked with gathering significantly more signatures in order to get their petitions on the ballot. According to Representative Andy Fugate and other opponents (us included), this legislation takes power away from the people. Read more about it here.
 
The House passed a bill this week that would require “In God We Trust” to be displayed in all state buildings, along with a price tag to taxpayers. (We’re wondering if they’ve ever even heard of separation between church and state.) Read more about HB3817 here.
 
After Super Tuesday, we’re also wondering if we’ll see a woman president in our lifetimes – you too? Read NonDoc’s coverage of the results here.

Week of  February 24-28, 2020

We survived deadline week! (Cue bags under our eyes.) This legislative session started with more than 4,560 active bills and now less than 1,700 remain after this week’s deadline (see?! more cutthroat than The Bachelor or Survivor or other terrible shows that are somehow still a thing). We stopped some bad bills from moving forward, but we also lost some great bills that didn’t get heard. While our load will be lighter going forward, things will get more intense as we transition to floor hearings in the House and Senate. As always, we’ll keep you informed as we go along. 
Our Coalition Bills (sometimes we call them ‘our babies’, which is weird, we know):
SB1253, which would promote integrated health education in schools, made it through the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee with strong support. This means we’ve cleared the first two hurdles for this legislation and it’s now eligible to be heard on the Senate floor as early as next week. Be on the lookout for action alerts as we work to get the bill scheduled for a vote.
HB1298 would prevent the state from suspending, revoking, or refusing to renew driver’s licenses for unpaid fees. This bill passed the House Public Safety Committee last week and we’re working with our partners to reach a consensus on bill language as we push to get it heard on the House floor. We’re engaged in an ongoing conversation with the Department of Public Safety, the Sheriff’s Association, district courts, and the District Attorney’s Council and are very close to finalizing an agreement. We’re really starting to see a pathway to success for this bill, which could have a major positive impact for folks reintegrating after incarceration. EXCITING!
Even after we had hundreds of advocates and supporters clogging up the senators’ voicemail inboxes, SJR25, or the Equal Rights Amendment, didn’t get heard in Rules committee before the deadline. We are working with Senator Kay Floyd and staff to find an alternate vehicle to keep the ERA alive and moving this session. Stay tuned for updates because we will need your help driving home the significance and necessity of the ERA. We’d also like to give a special shoutout to all of those who took time to make calls — because of you, this issue is still alive. We’re applying pressure to Senate leadership, and they’re paying attention. Keep it up!
Good news! Lots of bills we’re tracking and supporting made it through the committee deadline – here are a few we’re particularly excited about:
HB1310, authored by Representative Marilyn Stark, passed through Public Safety committee this week. This bill would create the Inmate ID Act of 2020, which would require the Department of Corrections to coordinate with the Department of Public Safety to provide ID cards to all folks who don’t have a state-issued ID prior to their release. This came as the result of Representative Stark’s summer interim study and is a great first step in providing necessary assistance to folks transitioning out of prison and reintegrating.
HB3873, authored by Representative Jason Dunnington, would ban child marriage for anyone under 18 years of age. This bill passed through the Judiciary Committee. Don’t get us wrong, we’re excited — but how is this a thing we have to legislate in 2020? And don’t even ask about the 6 people who voted no….
HB3345, or Ida’s Law, would create the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP). This bill, authored by Representative Mickey Dollens, passed the Judiciary Committee unanimously! We want to toast Dollens for working intentionally and closely with tribal nations, native organizers, tribal elected officials, and families directly impacted by MMIP. Of course, we also want to toast these native advocates, officials, and families for all the work they do. Finally, we’d like to shout-out Representative Chelsey Branham for presenting the bill and representing indigenous folks in the legislature. This is a really big deal.
HB3088, authored by Representative Ajay Pittman, passed the House Public Health Committee. This bill seeks to lower infant and maternal mortality rates by requiring hospitals and birthing centers to implement an implicit bias training program. The bill, which is desperately needed, is intended to lower the disproportionate rates of maternal and infant mortality rates within minority communities.
It wouldn’t be a deadline week without a few weird and concerning things happening under the dome. Here’s what’s up:
SB1046 was introduced as a tool to implement the Governor’s Medicaid expansion plan and popped up on a Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget agenda scheduled to take place on Wednesday. The catch: the meeting was never called, which led many to believe that the Governor didn’t have the votes to pass it. Read more here.
The House Rules Committee gave “Do Pass” recommendations to 18 bills by unanimous consent on Thursday without hearing descriptions of or discussion around any of them. Several of these bills had committee substitutes, or new language, that had not been previously discussed. This understandably made most people feel kind of gross. While the committee chair, Representative Zack Taylor, said this was allowed in the rules, even Capitol veterans said they had never witnessed such a move.
Oh, and also. SO. MANY. GUN. BILLS. Michelle Gajda at Everytown compiled this list to help keep us all informed. The list does not include HB1002, which guts the penalty provisions for not leaving a business with a firearm when asked (specifically, it takes away jail time for this offense). That bill passed the House Judiciary Committee, but we’ve been told by Floor Leader Echols that it won’t be heard on the House floor. Thanks to everyone who attended or called in yesterday to make your voices heard!
We also want to give a special shout out to all the Moms Demand Action advocates who were at the Capitol every single day this week fighting against dangerous gun bills. (We’re also wondering how many red shirts they all own. Do they wash them every night? It’s super impressive, regardless.)
Before you go, we have one last celebration: HB2545, which would have changed Oklahoma’s homicide statute to include abortion patients and providers, was a secret “shell bill,” which means it was introduced without substantive language. Substantive language was added only the day before the bill was scheduled to be heard in committee (not awesome). Thanks to all the advocates who applied pressure, the bill was pulled from the agenda and was not heard before the deadline. Props to pro-choice advocates who work tirelessly to protect our agency – thank you!

Week of  February 17-21, 2020

This last week was a DOOZY. It was the third week of session, which means all bills have one week remaining to be heard in committee before Thursday’s deadline. 23rd and Lincoln also saw a variety of visitors this week – including advocates from Moms Demand Action, abortion abolitionists and pro-choice advocates, anti-vaxxers and pro-vaxxers, and a group of bikers that had the audacity to tell Liz to smile more amid the chaos (it didn’t go over well).
 
We’ve had some long days with packed committee agendas, so we’re going to give you a quick rundown of what happened with some of the (thousands of) bills we’re tracking, along with a quick note about what comes next.
First, progress on our priority bills:
 
SB1253: Hooray! Our bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee with only one nay vote. This bill would promote student health and relationship education in schools. Next week, the bill heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Be sure to contact the members of this committee early next week and tell them to vote YES!
 
HB1298, which would prevent the state from suspending, revoking, or refusing to renew driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees, passed the House Public Safety Committee with a vote of 11-1. This important legislation is now eligible to be heard on the House floor.
 
SJR25: We expect this ERA ratification resolution to be heard in the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday, but we can’t be sure. Contact Senator Jech, the committee chair, and ask him to hear this bill by adding it to Wednesday’s agenda. Freshen up on your ERA talking points here.
Here are some updates on bills we’re watching and supporting (get ready, there’s a lot, which is awesome):
SB1427, authored by Senator John Montgomery, would allow victims of domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking to terminate a lease without penalty. It would also allow the landlord to hold the perpetrator civilly liable for any economic loss incurred as a result of the early termination. This bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is now eligible to be heard on the Senate floor.
SB1823, a.k.a. Shepherd’s Law, would create the Advisory Committee on Midwifery and guidelines for the licensure and practice of certified midwives. This bill, authored by Senator Brenda Stanley, passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is now eligible to be heard in the full Senate.
HB3028, which would increase the safe recovery and disposal of used syringes and sharp waste and reduce the spread of infectious diseases related to injection drug use, passed the House Public Safety Committee with a vote of 7-5. Authored by Representative Carol Bush, is now eligible to be heard in the full House.
HB3640, or Handle With Care, would allow law enforcement to contact a student’s school in order to inform the school that the student had been involved in a potentially traumatic incident. The school would then be able to exercise trauma-informed care to ensure that student receives adequate support while at school. This bill, authored by Representative Cyndi Munson, passed the House Public Safety Committee unanimously.
HB2848, authored by Representative Daniel Pae, passed the House Public Safety Committee and is now eligible to be heard by the full House. This bill would provide training for law enforcement on missing and murdered indigenous people.
HB3892 would require law enforcement to “collect detailed biographical and contact infomration for all involved parties, including the reporting party, any alleged suspects and the alleged missing or involved child.” Authored by Representative Merleyn Bell, this bill passed the House Public Safety Committee and is now eligible to be heard by the full House.
HB3357, which would have rolled back the “constitutional carry” policy signed by the governor last year, failed in committee and is not eligible to continue this session. To learn more about the link between this policy and domestic violence — and the reasons we supported HB3357 — click here. HB3357 was authored by Representative Jason Lowe.
Next, updates on bills we are watching closely because they’re not good and we oppose them:
SB1859, which would make abortions illegal as soon as the embryonic or fetal heartbeat can be detected, passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee and is now eligible to be heard in the full Senate. This bill is authored by Senator Paul Scott.
HB1111, while barring patrons from bringing guns into establishments where the consumption of alcohol accounts for more than half of the business’ revenue, this bill would permit guns in the bar areas of restaurants if management allows it. This bill, authored by Representative Kevin West, advanced off the House floor and is now eligible to be heard in Senate committee. (Guns and booze… What could go wrong?!)
Great news! SB1674, which seeks to treat simple drug possession as a felony and would add sentence enhancements to simple drug possession crimes, would have repealed SQ780 — a measure voted on and approved by the public. With constituent pressure, Senator Thompson, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, withdrew the bill. Let’s celebrate this reminder of how much power we have when we reach out to our legislators and use our voices!
And finally, an important question: Do you frequently find yourself craving a sno cone in the middle of January? Well, good news for you… HB3747 would allow sno cones serving hot beverages to apply for a $200 multi-season license so that they can stay open year-round. The bill passed unanimously out of the House Public Health Committee. Read more here.

Week of  February 10-14, 2020

This week was the second full week of committee meetings as we approach the committee deadline on February 27th. We’ve also heard through the rumor mill that some committees will only meet once more during this upcoming week, so we’re working extra hard to make sure our priority bills are making it through this next hurdle and bad bills are stopped.
First off, we’re celebrating! SB1253, a bill we’re running that would promote student health and physical literacy in schools, is being heard in the Senate Education committee on Tuesday morning! Because Oklahoma currently falls behind in a variety of health categories, including child obesity (39th in the nation), youth electronic cigarette use (39th), and youth suicide rates (41st), this policy change is vitally important. We need your help to make sure the members of the committee vote yes on SB1253. Ready to take action? Contact the members of the Senate Education committee. 
HB3872, a bill that would ban the use of conversion therapy against LGBTQ Oklahomans, passed out of the Children, Youth and Family Services committee with a 10-4 vote. It’s now eligible to be heard on the House floor. This bill would protect LGBTQ youth from the harmful practices of therapists who falsely claim they can alter sexual orientation. To learn more about conversion therapy and the ways it hurts LGBTQ youth, visit this article. You can take action through contacting Representative Echols, House floor leader, and Representative McCall, Speaker, to ask them to add this bill to the agenda. 
HB3371 passed out of the House by a vote of 93-0. This bill would add strangulation to Oklahoma’s list of violent crimes as well as increase punishments for those convicted of strangulation. To read more about this bill, click here

SJR25, or the ERA, has been assigned to the Senate Rules committee. Reach out to committee chair Senator Jech and ask him to confirm our request to have the bill heard in committee next Wednesday. You can find Senator Jech’s contact information, including his office address, phone, and email, through this link. And before we all inundate Senator Jech’s office with calls and emails, be sure to read up on why we need the ERA here.

If you’re just as excited about the ERA as we are, be sure to RSVP for our ERA parties! If you plan to attend in Tulsa, use this link. If you’re coming from the Oklahoma City area, click here. We can’t wait to see you there!
We’re on track to accomplish so much this session, and we’re only getting started. Thank you for being right there with us! As always, reach out with any questions, concerns, or feedback you have. We’d love to hear from you. 

P.S. — Did you catch the new state branding that was unveiled this week? If not, we got you. When asked about the rebrand, Governor Stitt wrote, “If we don’t define Oklahoma’s brand, 49 other states will.” You can read more about the rebrand process and view images of the new brand here.

Week of  February 3-7, 2020

We made it! Today wraps the first week of the 2020 Legislative Session, and we got right down to it. We’ll be spending every day this session at the Capitol and keeping a close eye on the legislature’s progress as bills start getting assigned to committees in the days to come.
 
You can view legislative deadlines for the House and Senate through these hyperlinks. Before the February 27th committee deadline, we’ll be working to ensure our priority bills are heard. We’ll also work hard to make sure bills that would set women back in our state are stopped.
 
Monday’s State of the State
 
During his State of the State address on Monday, Governor Stitt asked lawmakers to help him in his efforts to make Oklahoma a “top ten state.” If you didn’t get a chance to watch, here are a couple of  highlights relevant to our work:
  • Criminal Justice Reform: Stitt thanked lawmakers for passing legislation that allowed the Pardon and Parole Board to take on more work without increasing its funding or number of employees. In order to complete his plan for agency consolidation, Stitt asked lawmakers to pass legislation that absorbs the Board’s operations into the Department of Corrections.
  • Medicaid Expansion: The governor spoke briefly about his choice to expand Medicaid through the Trump administration’s block-grant model called Healthy Adult Opportunity. This comes as an alternative to the Medicaid Expansion question SQ802, which voters support. To read more about why Stitt’s proposition isn’t the way to expand access to healthcare in Oklahoma, check out OKPolicy’s statement here.

You can read an annotated copy of Stitt’s speech here.

We’re Trackin’ With Ya
 
Throughout the session, we’ll keep you updated on the bills we’re leading and also those we are tracking/supporting – we’ll also provide alerts and ways for you to engage with your legislators as important issues make their way through the legislative process. This session, we’re leading:
  • SJR25, or the Equal Rights Amendment, which would ensure women’s rights are incorporated in and protected under the Constitution as an overarching norm no longer vulnerable to inconsistencies in interpretation. If passed, Oklahoma would be the 39th state to ratify the ERA. This bill was introduced by Senator Floyd.
  • SB1253, which adds health and physical education to the list of curricular standards to be taught in Oklahoma’s public schools. Oklahoma falls behind on many student health metrics, and this could greatly improve student health literacy, healthy behaviors, and academic achievement. This bill was introduced by Senator Haste.
  • HB1289, which would prevent the state from suspending, revoking, or refusing to renew driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees. Debt-related suspensions not only prevent Oklahomans from earning the money they need to pay these fees, but also undermine their ability to support themselves and their families. This bill was introduced by Representative Nicole Miller. Read more about the goals of the bill here.

We’re also paying close attention to HB1182, a disconcerting anti-abortion bill which passed the House this Thursday with a 71-21 vote along party lines. The measure revokes for one year the medical licenses of doctors performing abortions, except when the woman’s life is in danger. To learn more, read this article by the Tulsa World. The bill, originally authored by Representative Olsen, is now eligible to be heard in the Senate.

Finally, we’re excited to announce the launch of the Legislative Tracker. We’re proud to partner with Metriarch to provide you easy access to updates on all bills relating to women’s health and wellbeing this session. We’ll begin uploading and tracking these bills starting next week.

 

If you have any bill’s you’d like us to pay special attention to, please let us know. And, as always, reach out to us with any questions and concerns you have about specific bills, the session, or our work. We’ll make sure your voice is represented at the Capitol this session.

 

Here we go!

Check back for weekly updates at the Capitol every Friday during session.