If there’s a silver lining to the ongoing budget crisis facing Oklahoma, it’s that, almost certainly, change for the better will come.
To wit, Gov. Mary Fallin signed four criminal-justice reform bills into law Wednesday. Besides instituting common-sense methods of determining punishments for various low-level offenses, these measures will likely result in savings on the state’s already overburdened corrections system.
Still, it’s a shame things had to get this bad before such legislation became palatable enough to be authored, pass through the various channels, and get signed into law.
WTF: Of consciousness and sodomy
Outdated language in an Oklahoma statute regarding sodomy has had far-reaching WTF consequences after an Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals judge ruled in late March that an unconscious person cannot be the victim of forcible sodomy under current law.
OklahomaWatch latched onto the story April 23. Then, the UK-based Guardian ran with the story Wednesday (to the tune of of almost 56,000 shares on social media), with Slate, Vice and Cosmo running their rehashed takes Thursday.
To the credit of Oklahoma leadership, former state prosecutor and current Rep. Scott Biggs (R-Chickasha) issued a press release Tuesday stating his intention to amend his own, unrelated legislation and “… define forcible sodomy in a way that includes unconscious victims.”
The bill is expected to correct the problem.
FTW: Some reform in civil asset forfeiture
On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Fallin signed into law a bill authored by Sen. David Holt (R-OKC) and Rep. Randy Grau (R-Edmond) that would allow the recovery of attorney fees for those whose forfeiture of civil assets has been ruled unjust. The measure passed its final House vote 78 to 6.
A press release issued Thursday about the bill cited a case in which a Christian band from Southeast Asia had $53,000 seized in Muskogee County. The money was returned after The Washington Post ran a story about the incident.
So, rather than waiting for a national media organization to come to your aid after the cops take all your cash, at least those with the up-front scratch to hire a lawyer can pursue legal avenues more readily, perhaps.
In the meantime, cross your fingers for Stephen Tyler Holman.
WTF: Convention of states
Libertarian-leaning lawmakers at 23rd and Lincoln think it would be a good idea if Oklahoma joins a national movement calling on the U.S. Congress to call a convention of the states, aka an Article V convention. The stated purpose of SJR4 would be to amend the U.S. Constitution with regard to “… balancing the federal budget, imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government, limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limiting the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”
An Article V convention requires 34 states to pass similar bills (or 38 states, to hear Tom Coburn tell it), and, so far, 28 states have committed. A group calling itself Citizens for Self-Governance, led by Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler, is marshalling the national push.
It would be a great way for the states to exert power over the federal government, but an Article V convention has never happened before. Even if it did, there’s little hope the states applying to participate could balance a pencil on their collective noses much less put a dent in the national deficit.
To reiterate from the intro: Don’t we have enough problems at home?
Tidbits from the Capitol
According to eCapitol reporter Shawn Ashley, a little more than 360 bills remained alive as of April 22, with 151 already having been either signed or vetoed by Gov. Fallin. Meanwhile, 36 bills regarding the budget for fiscal year 2017 will be filed through the joint calendar for appropriations and budget.
Sen. Mike Schulz designated next Pro Tempore: A farmer from Altus has been named the upper house’s top leader.