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 will outlast our semester. That’s no measure of how productive they’ve been, of course. As ever, the purpose of this article is not only to convey news and reactions to the legislature (that you are welcome to agree or disagree with) but also to remind you that your actions matter.
Your vote, your volunteer hours to a candidate’s campaign and your calls to elected officials’ offices to express your opinions on these bills matter. Think carefully about the bills you see and the ones you don’t (all available online, both on the official Oklahoma Legislature’s website and places like LegiScan). With that in mind, here’s the latest in state law.
SB1503: The bill, passed and signed by the governor, concerns Oklahoma Pleading Code. It adds female pronouns to the act, so there’s a lot to unpack there. Oklahoma: ready to let men and women alike plead in court within certain parameters. On the one hand, more inclusive language is necessary, and the point of a democracy is that our legislation is sensitive to these needs. But is this really how our venerated leaders should spend their time and effort? It’s a fine and frustrating line. The other change to the law would double the amount of time a party has to an amended plea, either within the time remaining or within 20 days as opposed to the original 10.
HB3300: Some bills slap you in the face with their obviousness. If they weren’t law before, they should have been, and only because they’re common sense wrongs that people will absolutely do anyway. Coincidentally, that’s exactly how I feel about HB3300, which creates a new act, the Breanne Bell Act. It requires staff members and providers of care for vulnerable adults — people with mental or physical disabilities — to sign a form that informs them that they can be charged if they have sexual contact with their charges. The law is based on the case of 22-year-old Breanne Bell and her family’s subsequent experiences. It was passed by both chambers and signed by the governor.
SB1091: While I’ll never defend driving under the influence, I do believe that people shouldn’t be penalized both for driving under the influence and for not having enough money to get a better sentence. This bill limits the district attorney’s discretion in sentencing DUI cases, so that DUI sentencing will hopefully apply more equally to all citizens. In any case, it restores a modicum of power to the judges in our justice system, which theoretically creates a fairer and less partial system, as they general have more experience and are more impartial in their decisions. The bill has been signed into law and goes into effect on November 1 of 2018.