The Legislative Digest is your weekly look at the happenings of Oklahoma’s state legislature, upcoming bills and the terms to know.
We’re back with the latest and greatest (for a given definition) legislation passing through Oklahoma’s legislature. Bills, once introduced, are then passed off to different committees to be considered more in-depth by people who are (usually) more familiar with or passionate about that subject area. Here’s a quick look at some of the more interesting bills circulating in legislature right now:
SJR52: This Oklahoma constitutional amendment, if passed by Congress and then approved by Oklahoma voters, would lower the number of votes necessary to pass a revenue bill or lower tax rates from 75 to 60 percent of Congress. This is great if you trust 60 percent of Congress with your finances and not the other 40 percent. But I have a general rule: if you need to lower the number of people who must agree with you to get something done, you should take a long, hard look at what you’re doing. There’s a reason revenue bills are hard to pass, and it’s because they’re important. You shouldn’t have to rely on only one political party or faction to change laws about money.
SB1097: The first four pages of updates to this piece of legislation are just changes from “State Penitentiary” to “Department of Corrections” and using the uncapitalized “district attorney,” so never say government doesn’t keep up with the times. It goes on to add important clauses, such as not allowing prior convictions of possession of a controlled substance to impact current sentencing. Some second-time felonies would be limited to no more than the maximum sentence plus a quarter of the maximum for the first offense. Second offenders can serve up to 125 percent of the maximum time for a first offense. A cap on sentences, while probably too high for most crimes, can only be an improvement, as many people are sentenced to long stays in prison for relatively inoffensive crimes. The bill has been referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
SB1045: Oklahoma government compensates used tire facilities for their services, which is logical and surprising all at once. The bill, which in the past has allocated money to used tire facilities in other ways, would update the amount given from $54 to $75 per ton of processed tire material. (It takes around 100 tires to make a ton, maybe more if they’re used.) Inflation affects tires and the economy, and government’s taken notice. Leftover funds that used tire facilities could have used for equipment would no longer be available for use. The money still benefits the companies in other ways, even if it doesn’t go directly to the equipment. Because the bill centers on money, it was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
SB919: The Parole of Aging Prisoners Act is a new piece of legislation that would allow the Pardon and Parole Board to parole prisoners over 70 years old if they are not a threat to public safety. Aging prisoners would be eligible for parole if they’ve served ten years or at least a third of their sentence, whichever is shorter. If my grandmother were in prison, I’d be cheering for this bill. As she’s not, I’m still cheering, there are just fewer tears involved.