Legislative Digest

7 March 2017
Raven Fawcett, Apprentice Editor

The Legislative Digest looks at the bills and resolutions passed by Oklahoma’s state legislators in the last week.

Legislation, in the form of bills (a term which here means rules people have to follow) and resolutions (a term which here means “Congress knows a thing, see how much they know about it”), is read during Congressional sessions. To oversimplify a bit, Congress votes on legislation or passes it to committees who have more time for and expertise on relevant subjects and who can then give the larger governing body an opinion on how they should vote. Committees are a battleground for bills.

SR 3: Last week, football got a standing ovation in the form of Senate recognizing the state championship winners. This week, Senate shows their diverse interests by passing a resolution to acknowledge the Wilburton Diggers’ Academic Team Championship win. The government might not be passing legislation to keep schools afloat, but at least they still recognize academic achievement.

HB 1845: REAL IDs are finally here in Oklahoma, caps lock and all. IDs that are compliant with the Department of Homeland Security’s REAL ID Act have more security measures, such as physical details that make fake IDs easier to spot, and include all necessary personal information that administrators can use to keep track of potential fraud Their status is clearly marked on the ID itself. Noncompliant IDs are less secure (they do not have the same small marks or technological integration) and not accepted as proof of ID for federal procedures after 2020 in Oklahoma, as the state has a limited extension from the federal government to institute these changes. Noncompliant IDs are still okay to use in voting procedures, but people will likely need to bring an alternate form of ID or a compliant ID with them to airports starting January 22, 2018, the deadline the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has decided upon. The bill is 33 pages and dictates the allocation of funds raised from IDs and policy nitpicking.

SB 349: Republican Senator David Holt proposed a failed pre-registration act that would allow 16-year-olds to register to vote in elections when they turn 18. Before they can truly understand the horror of the mid-semester summons for jury duty, kids could fill out the paperwork to vote starting at 16 years old. The paperwork would stay on file and applicants could change their details (address, for instance) as necessary with a driver’s license or other form of identification. Those who participated would not have to do anything once they turned 18. Instead, they would automatically be registered to vote. Was the bill vital to the functioning of our democracy? Absolutely not. But it would have given people a better chance to register in time for their first election and maybe increase voter turnout.

SB 37: The committee on education failed a bill that would require schools to have classes at least five days a week except on weeks with holidays, weather permitting. The questions we have to ask ourselves here are why did Republican Senator Kyle Loveless feel the need to write a bill like this, and why did the education committee not more seriously consider it? Most pressingly, what is being done to help schools in Oklahoma, as they are clearly suffering? Time will tell how the education system will survive, but it seems Oklahoma congresspeople won’t be the ones to do the talking about possible solutions.

SB 611: Senator Gary Stanislawski introduced the failed Senate Bill 611, which would have allowed charter school students to participate in extracurricular activities at their local public school. No mention was made about scheduling conflicts or transportation guidelines in the bill itself. Would charter students have to leave classes early to try out for sports at a public school? Would they have enough interested students to create a separate team? The bill does not address key issues that one would expect a legislator, who is paid to think about these things, to take into account. Inevitably, red tape would spring up if the bill had been passed. Recreational leagues organized by the city are also real and available to charter students. Bills like this serve no purpose and only serve to waste governmental time, even if they do make the bill’s writer seem more productive to constituents.

SB 747: The failure of Senate Bill 747, proposed by physician-turned-legislator Senator Ervin Yen, is a loss for him but a win for uterus-havers statewide. The bill aimed to limit the presence of midwives during births where the parent had a cesarian section for a previous child. Women could still give birth at home, but midwives — who are trained to help people give birth, even in cases where there is an increased risk of problems due to a previous c-section — would not be legally allowed to be present. There are better ways to ensure safety during childbirth, ones that do not increase the medical risk of births.