Here’s the Latest:
As of May 7, 2021
Budget Negotiation Games Ramp Up As Sine Die Is In Sight:
We’re in the final month of the legislative session, and it’s a familiar cadence that feels steady on the surface, as all of the politics of the budget move frantically in meetings and negotiations up at the Capitol. Many are guessing that legislators will be meeting right up until they sine die on May 28. Why wouldn’t they take every possible minute in their work on behalf of Oklahomans? If the legislature wraps up their work by May 21, and send those bills to the Governor, but don’t yet sine die, then the Governor has just 5 days to sign or veto those bills, and lawmakers can override vetos as they see fit. Once the legislature has adjourned sine die, however, the Governor has 15 days to sign or veto bills passed during the legislative session. And those vetos stand until the legislature is back in session.
Enough trying to guess what strategy is going into the future. Here’s what you need to know about what happened this week.
HB 1775 made a reappearance on the floor on Monday. As you likely recall, HB 1775, a bill that was shucked in Senate Education Committee and then made worse with a floor amendment that adopted language from a Donald Trump Executive Order that sought to impose an unconstitutional ban on “divisive concepts,” passed just last week after rules were suspended in order to hear the non-germane version of the bill. The bill immediately received a lot of critical pushback for all of the ways it censors history and reality by disrupting critical conversations about racism, gender discrimination, and lived equality, and as we approach only 100 years since the Tulsa Race Massacre no less. As OWC board member Bailey Perkins notes, “The concern is that these core pieces of our history won’t be told to students and we’re creating a systemic barrier for having those conversations that could lead to reconciliation and enlightenment to a lot of students.” Unfortunately, the bill did not return because members of the House saw the error of their ways. Instead, it was a procedural matter, and a concerning one at that. It seems that during last week’s hearing, there was a ghost vote, one by a member who was not present, cast that was a deciding factor in whether or not rules would be suspended to hear the amended bill. Had that vote not happened, the dangerous amendments couldn’t have been brought to the House floor. But, House leadership just redid the vote, and rather than seeing anyone show some common sense or bravery, this time around HB 1775 passed entirely on party lines, without a single Republican member casting a vote to stop this bill.
As expected, we saw movement on the relevant redistricting bills this week. HB 1198 and SB 1066, each are moving speedily through the process, now eligible to be heard on the floor in the opposite chamber. A reminder to all of us that these maps should not be final. The draft legislative maps contained in these bills do not use the 2020 census data, and it will be on us to hold the legislature accountable to update maps accordingly when they have that census data in hand.
HB 2663, a bill that’s being called early voting expansion, saw a weird pathway this week. After the House rejected senate amendments Wednesday, they then recalled it from conference committee and concurred with those same amendments on Thursday. What this legislation ultimately does is make it so Oklahoma voters have one less week to request absentee ballots. It does mean that in some elections there will be a little more time to early vote, but one extra weekday (Wednesday from 8-6) and one hour tacked on to the early end of Saturday early voting, especially without addressing the key issue that early voting is typically at only one, and occasionally two, locations in a county…well, let’s just say this bill is patting the legislature on the back for expanding voting access while not actually addressing the needs of Oklahoma voters.
What’s going on with criminal justice reform?
Criminal Justice Reform Reversals Continue To Be Pushed:
HB 1795, the legislation related to drivers license revocation for inability to pay fines and fees, saw conference committees appointed this week. A small bit of hope for one of the only remaining criminal legal reform bills that could land on the Governor’s desk this session. Representative Miller filed a related resolution, HCR 1009, that would ensure Oklahoma could move the legislation without seeing federal penalties.
SB 334 saw the Senate members of its conference committee named. This is the last remaining attempt this session to overturn the will of the voters from SQ 780 by doubling the amount of time over which the felony theft threshold can be aggregated, further criminalizing poverty in Oklahoma. And a few of the relevant folks we need to direct our advocacy towards are Conference Committee members Senators Paxton, Treat, Coleman, Jech, Garvin, Matthews, and Floyd.
TRAP Wolves In Sheeps Clothing Hit Conference Committee:
SB 778 and SB 779, the pair of companion TRAP laws creating unnecessary barriers around access to medication used for abortion care saw Senate Conference Committee members named (Senators Daniels, McCortney, Simpson, Rosino, Hicks, and Jo Anna Dossett) . While these bills are being touted as necessary restrictions in line with FDA standards, they are absolutely not. There instead is no overlap with Federal REMs, and these are entirely new requirements for the state which results in an unfunded mandate to the Board of Pharmacy to draft a set of arduous processes to do nothing more than make it difficult for providers to receive medication necessary for abortion care.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Get Signed Into Law:
Governor Stitt signed a few more bills. This week those include:
HB 1567, a bad bill which newly criminalizes and recriminalizes drug use and related behaviors
SB 200, a good bill that’s been a long-time effort to ensure that if someone needs to break a lease because they are being subjected to interpersonal violence, they can do so without receiving penalties from a landlord
These bills did not make a reappearance this week, but they’re still on our radar:
Despite being eligible to be heard after being placed on the House agenda Monday, HB 1236 did not make a reappearance this week.
SB 2, the bill attacking transgender school children and requiring annual gender oaths, has not yet appeared on a Senate agenda.
What we’re reading/watching/and listening to this week:
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.