The Legislative Digest is your weekly look at the happenings of Oklahoma’s state legislature and the bills and politics you need to know.
The legislature has passed a few bills this year, and more are on the way. To explain the process a bit, when a bill has been approved of by both houses, it’s passed on to the governor for enrollment. Before that, though, a bill originates in one chamber. If it’s passed, it becomes engrossed; the bill with all of its corrections and amendments as dictated by that chamber is passed on to the other house. If a bill is amended and then passed in the new chamber after it’s been engrossed, it becomes re-engrossed and sent back to the first chamber. Here are a few engrossed bills in the works this week.
HB1940: On its first reading in the Senate, this House bill defines the reasons that an absence would be justified. Those reasons include “any school-approved activity,” extracurriculars that have been approved by the principal or board of education and “any other reason deemed appropriate by each local school district.” While it would still depend on the principal or the board of education to approve of extracurricular absences, this law would save many high schoolers a lot of grief when trying to get absences excused and trying to work with their teachers to make up missed assignments. As ever, I’m all for education reform that works to make life easier for students.
SB969: This bill does two main things: it would allow people who prove that they were “incarcerated or otherwise detained by law enforcement at the time of the failure to appear” to avoid a misdemeanor charge for not appearing in court when they should have been. It also switches the law to “gender neutral” language. The first is a common-sense law and should absolutely be adopted. The second is progress, but frustrating nonetheless. Many laws, when the legislature revises or changes them, are edited to include “he or she” in the recent past, rather than the traditional “he.” It’s like the lawmakers of years past thought that women were first allowed out of the kitchen some time in the ‘90s, so it makes sense that they’d only refer to police officers, defendants, teachers and all other people referred to in bills as he. Similarly, today’s legislators seem to think that the word “they” only came into the cultural lexicon post-Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.”
SB798: We don’t talk about the beauty of bureaucracy enough. The red tape that so frustrates is also often the only thing standing between an innocent person going to prison, a customer getting food poisoning and a hundred other problems that fall between. Senate Bill 798, which is now in the House, formalizes and codifies procedures for eyewitness identification of subjects. Investigators would have to use methods that decrease the chance that their suspicions influence the witness’ memory of who had committed the crime, which has been known to occur (purposefully or not) in investigations. The bill outlines several encouraged methods and requires that police forces adopt and formalize the policies they’ll use in these situations.