The Legislative Digest is your weekly look at the happenings of Oklahoma’s state legislature, upcoming bills and the terms to know.

Legislative Digest

HB 1674:
This bill establishes legal punishments for acts related to protests. These acts include unlawfully “obstruct[ing] the normal use of any public street” and assembling to “resist the execution of any statute of this state or of the United States.”

Obviously, this is another bill authored in response to the wave of Black Lives Matter protests last summer. It brings to mind SB 560, which establishes legal protections for people who injure others while driving vehicles into protest groups. The right-wing backlash against Black Lives Matter comes in many forms, though all of them refuse to actually address the issues that bring crowds out to protest.

As always, conservatives are infuriated by large and passionate protest movements. They can’t accept that massive groups of people in America see deep-rooted flaws in our nation. Laws like these are one way of attempting to quash protest movements. They distract from the issue at hand and redirect the argument to how one ought to protest, not how one ought to reduce police violence.

Another clause of the bill states that “If an organization is found to be a conspirator with [these criminals] … the conspiring organization shall be punished by a fine that is 10 times the amount of said fine authorized by the appropriate provision.” It’s hard to parse precisely what this provision is targeting, though activist organizations would certainly be a target. Fundraising is an essential element of any powerful organization, and hefty fines can greatly weaken their power.

This bill has already been passed by the House with a 79-18 party line vote. It’s hard to estimate the actual impact of this bill; there’s certainly plenty of precedent to argue that these kinds of actions are already heavily persecuted. Either way, it’s important to remember that a primary goal of Republicans is to fight tooth and nail against social progress.

HB 1662:
This bill outlines the legal process for firearm killings in self-defense. One particularly curious stipulation of the bill was added in an amendment, which changes the standard for justifying self-defense killings from “beyond reasonable doubt” to “by clear and convincing evidence” for bringing cases to trial. This is a clear lowering of the standard for what qualifies a killing as self-defense.

The author of the bill claims this change in language is in accordance with what the Oklahoma District Attorneys desire, and I don’t doubt it. District Attorneys are only an extension of our police state, an already incredibly right-wing organization. I’d much rather trust a jury to determine self-defense than the District Attorneys.

The debate on the House floor over this amendment was a particularly unique one. Rep West first pretended to be unable to hear Rep Mauree Turner “because of the mask” when she was clearly completely audible. Then Representative Regina Goodwin debated against the bill in an impassioned 10 minute speech, calling the bill a “license to kill” and highlighting the way it enables racial and police violence.

Both this bill and HB 1674 were authored by Republican Representative Kevin West. This bill also passed in the House on a 77-19 vote, with only two Representatives breaking party ranks. Hopefully both of these bills experience more resistance in the Senate, or at least less will to be passed.

Post Author: Justin Klopfer