The Legislative Digest is your weekly look at the happenings of Oklahoma’s state legislature and the bills and politics you need to know.
According to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the House has finished filing its bills for the upcoming legislative session with a total of 1,733 House Bills (HBs). The Senate, meanwhile, filed 1040 Senate Bills (SBs). Together, the Senate and House filed 21 joint resolutions.
Joint resolutions “express the will, wish or direction” of both chambers, according to the Oklahoma state legislature. Each chamber files their own, although the content is the same at the beginning for both. Simple enough? Let’s look at a couple bills that are coming through the pipeline for this legislative session:
SB253: Senator Young (D) moved from his position as a Representative to a Senator this year. He authored SB253, which requires some legislation to have a racial impact statement made. Legislators will have to submit the statement when submitting bills that create new offenses, “significantly” change offenses or change the penalty or “sentencing, parole, or probation procedures” for an offense.
When a bill is revised, a revised racial impact statement would also be required. SB253 is a great way to make legislators (predominantly white legislators, especially in Oklahoma, it bears noting) reflect on the racial impact of the legislation they’re trying to pass. It’s also got some great mechanisms for finding out the racial impact and weighing out acceptable consequences.
HB1269: This bill makes State Question 780 retroactive. SQ780 made the possession of some drugs misdemeanors instead of felonies, which reduces the amount of time people would be imprisoned if convicted. Essentially, people convicted of felonies that would have been misdemeanors if it had occurred after the implementation of SQ780 would be able to appeal their sentences. New sentences would not result in longer incarceration and the time already served would count toward their new sentence.
Most interestingly, the bill was authored by Representatives Dunnington, a Democrat, and Echols, a Republican. Bipartisanship isn’t uncommon in a state legislature, but it is surprising to see a bill that lightens sentences authored by both sides of the aisle. But I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. The bill lets people serve less time for a nonviolent crime, which would make our justice system that much more compassionate.
SB811: Authored by Senator Smalley (R), SB811 amends recent marijuana legislation. It would exempt “biomedical and clinical research [on marijuana], which is subject to federal regulations and institutional oversight,” from State Department of Health oversight. That makes a certain amount of sense — it would free up budgets and time. The bill also cleans up some language and adds other parts.
For example, it changes the wording on an article that makes it illegal for schools and landlords to “penalize” a person because they are a “medical marijuana license holder,” unless, of course, doing so would cause the employer to lose money or have other problems caused by the move. The updated language adds that the employer can penalize the medical marijuana license holder if working with them has the “potential” to cost the company. This would give employers some breathing room to weigh the benefits and costs of making allowances for medical marijuana users, but in the end, it should be assumed that medical marijuana users have a medical reason for their medicine. Regardless of the outcome, it’s an interesting insight into how marijuana laws will continue to develop and adapt in response to its legalization in 2018.