Here’s the Latest:
As of February 5, 2021
Welcome back, friends! We’re relaunching our weekly legislative updates now that the first year of the 58th Oklahoma Legislative Session has officially begun. We made it through the first week, even if we’re a little worse for wear. Remember, there was a record-breaking number of bills and joint resolutions filed (over 3,000), so the next few weeks of committee meetings ahead of the first deadline on February 25th are going to be a bit overwhelming. As always, we’ll be with you every step of the way to ensure you know the facts about what is happening on the ground at the Capitol.
Because we can’t possibly cover all of the bills we’re tracking at this point (68 pages -front and back!), this week we’re going to highlight two key policy areas where we either saw some movement or expect to see action early next week.
What’s going on with criminal justice reform?
Well, there are now more committees to hear bills related to the criminal legal system than ever before (House Judiciary-Criminal, House Criminal Justice and Corrections, House Public Safety, Senate Judiciary, and Senate Public Safety), alas, reform does not appear to be the priority for members of the legislature. On Monday 2/8, the Senate Public Safety Committee is set to meet at noon to hear 25 bills, among which include three efforts to rollback reforms from SQ 780 (SB 670, SB 814, and SB 334). Going into session, we anticipated legislation that would target civil rights and representation in response to the movement across the state and country in support of Black Lives Matter, and three of those bills are set to be heard as well (SB 560, SB 648, SB 806). These are blatant attempts to undo progress made by key efforts in legal reform impacting the lives and families of thousands of women. Join us in contacting members of the Senate Public Safety committee ahead of next Monday’s meeting and asking them to vote NO on these six bills.
While you’re at it, you can also ask these committee members to vote YES on 2 key bills (yay, good news!). SB 172, or Ida’s Law, is a grassroots-led effort to respond to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic. SB 320 by Freshmen Senator Jessica Garvin expands the opportunities for medical parole. In the face of a catastrophic health emergency, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board has only heard a single medical parole docket, only considering 14 people for release. COVID-19 has been especially rampant in women’s prisons in Oklahoma, and the lack of mitigation available to people who are incarcerated mean many people have died or will face life-long health complications, which could have been avoided with medical parole.
Remember last session’s Coalition priority bill aimed at reforming drivers license suspension for failure to pay fines and fees? Well, we’re back again this year with Representative Nicole Miller authoring HB 1795, which will reduce the barriers to accessing a drivers license and reduce the situations in which a drivers license can be suspended as a result of failure to pay fines and fees. How can women work and take care of themselves if they are trapped in the cycle of inability to pay court costs without access to a drivers license to get to work? Contact the members of the House Public Safety Committee and ask them to vote YES on HB 1795.
Hey, how are things going with our bodily autonomy, agency, and access to necessary medical care?
Welp, not great. The Senate Health & Human Services Committee wasted no time this week attacking our rights to healthcare, hearing six bills which would criminalize, reduce or ban access to reproductive healthcare including abortion. Of the six bills, five bills passed committee and are now eligible to be heard on the Senate floor as early as next week.
Our partners at Metriarch prepared this handy summary of these six bills, including some of our concerns should five of them continue to make their way through the legislative process. Be sure to check it out so you can know exactly what is in play, what’s at stake, and why we’re involved in the work to share this information and defend our rights.
We are no strangers to these attacks on our reproductive healthcare each year, but that doesn’t make this any easier. Let us provide this gentle reminder: you are loved, you are seen, and you are deserving of care.
We’ll be back next Friday with updates on our priority bills and the bills we’re watching (the good, the bad, and the ugly) in health and wellness, legal reform, gender-based violence prevention, and economic security. Be sure you’re following OWC on social media for the latest information and action alerts in live time from the Capitol.
We are YOUR megaphone — are there bills you’re watching, advocating for/against, have questions about? Drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you on how we can be a resource and amplifier for you throughout this year’s legislative session. In the meantime, carve out some time to take care of yourself this weekend – rest is revolutionary.
**Special shout-out to our friends at Metriarch for their reproductive health legislation round-up, and our resident legal reform expert, Nicole McAfee, Director of Policy & Advocacy at ACLU Oklahoma, for her bill analysis and contribution to this week’s update.**
Check back for weekly updates at the Capitol every Friday during session.