The Legislative Digest is your weekly look at the happenings of Oklahoma’s state legislature, and the bills and politics you need to know.
Oklahoma’s legislature has passed a stunning seven pieces of legislation since its start in February. Most have been recognitions of important dates or people, or emergency measures that help with the budget or small changes in wording of already-existing laws. Instead of dithering over these easily-passed and easily-forgotten bills, here’s a look at some of the more controversial bills that are worthy of debate and more difficult to pass.
SB1140: The Committee of Health and Human Services recommended that this bill pass, which is an outrage. It would allow child-placing agencies to discriminate against people for “moral or religious” reasons. And let’s be honest here: that’s a way to let agencies not allow queer parents to adopt or foster children. It would allow them to discriminate against non-Christian families as well. The same is true for LGBT+ youth in need of a home. A loving home isn’t defined by someone’s gender, sexual orientation or religion. It’s offensive that the state legislature would seek to protect this kind of preferential and narrow-minded thinking. To be clear, this bill isn’t yet passed, nor should it be. But the fact that our legislators believe in this bill and are advocating for a culture that suppresses people that aren’t like them is troubling, to say the least.
SB337: This bill would require out-of-state businesses to provide Oklahoma with the amount spent by purchasers in Oklahoma from the year that consumers did not pay taxes on, which Oklahoma could then tax purchasers on. If companies didn’t provide that information, they’d be fined $10 for each purchaser’s information that they did not provide. The specifics of what they bought would not be revealed (although there are some places that are specific enough that it might as well be an itemized receipt). It’s a carryover from last year’s legislative session, where it didn’t pass but also wasn’t voted down. Regardless, Oklahoma could gain more revenue in a move that wouldn’t be likely to hurt business, making this a bill that stands a fair chance of actually helping Oklahoma’s economy.
SB1367: This bill was engrossed by the Senate (meaning they passed the bill and gave the House the final form of it; the House can still amend it and send it back to the Senate, or they can accept this bill as-is). Police wouldn’t have to take into custody people who had abused prescription pills, so long as they needed help and cooperate with authorities. They wouldn’t necessarily be charged, either. And this is great! People shouldn’t be punished for their addictions, they should be helped. But let’s not forget that this includes people who aren’t white, or middle class, or both. Laws like this would disproportionately affect white people, even if it’s just that police would be more likely to extend this clemency to white people than non-white folks. So, while I like this bill, I’m left feeling disappointed in our legislature for not extending this bill to include all drug-related offenses and working harder to make this apply to all citizens.