tribal casino
Impassioned but respectful debate preceded passage of the contentious HB 1482, which would undo some of the measures voters approved in SQs 780 and 781 last November. (Screenshot)

(Correction: This story was updated to reflect the amended version of HB 1482 that passed the Oklahoma House.)

A flurry of activity marked this week at 23rd and Lincoln. Several high-profile measures have passed their respective committees and now gained House approval. Meanwhile, Gov. Mary Fallin signed off on an education-reform measure as well as a proposed tribal casino near Guymon.

(There are 99 active members in the House. Vote totals below reflect only the Yeas and Nays counted while excluding those absent or otherwise not voting.)

Passed in the House on Thursday

HB 1482: Making some drug offenses felonies

HB 1482, as amended, would give district attorneys the option to file felonies on simple drug possession within 1,000-foot proximities of schools.

Passage of Rep. Scott Biggs’ (R-Chickasha) bill ostensibly flies in the face of the passage of SQs 780 and 781 this past November. Drug dealing within certain proximities of designated areas remains a felony under 780 and 781. Those criminal justice reform measures sought to reduce incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders charged with simple possession.

Impassioned debate over the measure Thursday morning pitted Democrats’ appeals to reduce prison populations with Republican desires to protect children. The bill barely passed, 51-38.

HB 2298: Modifying tax credits for zero-emission facilities

This bill would move up the date for a sunset on tax credits for zero-emission energy facilities, in particular wind facilities. Currently, zero-emission facilities in place before July 1, 2021, would receive a tax credit. This bill would move the sunset date up to July 1. The measure passed 69-25.

HB 1693: Reconfiguring A-F rankings for schools

This measure would replace Oklahoma’s current A-F rankings for schools, which NonDoc’s resident #oklaed commentator John Thompson has criticized in the past as being both “ridiculous” and “nutty.”

This bill passed 69-17.

Shortly after the vote, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister’s office issued a release praising the new guidelines, calling them “a strong and dynamic system that reflects the hard work of a broad-based coalition of education stakeholders.”

Robert Ruiz, with pro-school choice parents’ group Choice Matters, decried the new system as racist to KFOR on Wednesday. In the same story, Millwood Public Schools Superintendent Cecilia Robinson-Woods expressed approval, saying it would “level the playing field.”

Passed the House on Wednesday

HB 1306: Blue Lives Matter bill

This measure would increase penalties for those convicted of killing police officers and other law enforcement agents. An offender convicted of first-degree murder of such an agent “shall be punished by death, by imprisonment for life without parole or by imprisonment for life,” according to the bill’s text as of Thursday morning.

It wound up passing 73-21.

In the five-year period between 2008 and 2012, a total of 13 law enforcement and corrections officers were killed in the line of duty, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. More recently, that number has decreased to zero during 2016 and 2017 to-date.

In 2015 alone, law enforcement shot and killed 32 people in Oklahoma, according to the Washington Post, which keeps an ongoing database of civilians shot by police.

Approved by Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday

HJR 1028: Revised school assessments

This House Joint Resolution grants approval for the recommendations outlined in last year’s HB 3218. HB 3218 created new assessments for students from third grade through high school. These assessments are required by the federal government.

“As one more action in the many pro-education steps my administration has taken, I am delighted to sign House Joint Resolution 1028,” Fallin stated in a press release Tuesday, which was the deadline for approval.

The new assessments have been criticized by some lawmakers who say the plan has moved forward without proper scrutiny and that questions remain unanswered owing to the uncertainty of Oklahoma Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s future, according to Public Radio Tulsa. Hofmeister currently faces four felony charges related to alleged conspiracy and violations of campaign rules.

Approved: Shawnee Tribe’s casino proposal near Guymon

In January, NonDoc reported on the Shawnee Tribe’s request to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to build a casino near Guymon, in the Oklahoma panhandle. The federal agency approved that request, and now Fallin has concurred, thus completing the two-part approval process.

“I concur with the secretary of the interior’s determination that the Shawnee Tribe’s proposal will provide economic development to the Guymon and surrounding area, bringing in out-of-state dollars as it will draw from population centers outside our state,” stated Fallin in a related release Tuesday.

Some leaders and locals in the Guymon area opposed the tribal casino, citing potential social and economic negatives like gambling addiction and increased crime. The casino’s approval marks an historical first for the granting of casino land to a tribe with its headquarters outside of the county.

Passed the House on Tuesday

HB 1114: The teacher-pay raise plan

The teacher-pay raise plan seeks to increase teachers’ salaries by $6,000 over three years. When compared to the six states surrounding Oklahoma, average teacher salaries would increase from dead last to No. 2 under the plan. Meanwhile, the minimum teacher salary would shoot to No. 1 among comparison states, according to data provided Tuesday by the bill’s author, Rep. Michael Rogers (R-Broken Arrow).

It passed 92-7.

Although House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) endorsed the bill in January, revenue and other mechanisms by which to fund the measure remain nebulous.

“We’re going to make this happen, no matter what we’ve got to do,” Rogers told KOKH in February.

HB 1837: Oklahoma Lottery rejiggering

This bill would increase the Oklahoma Lottery’s contribution to education by $110 million over the next five years.

It passed the House 70-25.

Since 2005, the lottery has generated more than $750 million to education funding. Current profit requirements, which HB 1837 would remove, have decreased contributions during the period. The Oklahoma Education Coalition endorsed the bill Monday.

HB 1680: Victim notification bill

This legislation would seek to notify victims of a crime when their transgressors are released from state custody. Notifications would be made through the VINE system.

It passed 87-0.

Issuing notifications would be the responsibility of the Department of Corrections, with assistance from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Passed the House on Monday

HB 1623: The Bryan Young Act

This bill would protect special needs students from corporal punishment in schools. The students would need to be enrolled in an individualized education plan (IEP) to qualify for exemption.

The passage of this bill 89-0 is made poignant in light of Norman attorney Bryan Young’s murder earlier this year. Young was killed during a double-homicide in Norman that eventually led to the suspect committing suicide in a Tecumseh field after being surrounded by law enforcement.

“Bryan had been fighting diligently these past few years on the behalf of students with disabilities who had been harmed by school personnel using corporal punishment,” stated Rep. Bobby Cleveland (R-Slaughterville) in a release Monday. “It’s a great honor for me to carry this piece of legislation, and I know Bryan would be proud to see Oklahoma lawmakers taking steps to ensure the safety of our students.”