When Monday dawned at 23rd and Lincoln, it marked the beginning of a deadline week. Each chamber of the 56th Legislature faced more than 200 bills in what’s known as the general order.
Bills that go unheard after deadline week could, with some maneuvering, become tacked onto otherwise viable legislation down the road or simply fade into oblivion.
In a laudable show of determination, the House stayed late Wednesday night and managed to get through its entire queue. The Senate was still slogging away Thursday, however, with about 18 items to hear.
The following represent some of the more notable pieces that managed to move forward past the second crucial deadline of the session.
Passed the Senate on Thursday
SB 643: Impaired Driver Elimination Act 2 (IDEA2)
On Nov. 1, 2016, the Impaired Driving Elimination Act (IDEA) became law in Oklahoma. IDEA strengthened some punishments for driving under the influence while also increasing flexibility for district attorneys to develop treatment programs. It also established a statewide database to track repeat offenders.
Thursday, IDEA2 gained Senate approval. IDEA2 piggybacks on last year’s IDEA by focusing on first-time offenders and allowing them to enter a program that would escape the punishment of driver’s license revocation (although an ignition interlock device would still have to be installed on the offender’s vehicle).
“A majority of these first-time offenders simply weren’t thinking and used bad judgment,” stated Sen. Kim David (R-Porter), the bill’s primary author, in a press release. “The program is much more severe on repeat offenders. The final intention is to identify those who need treatment for their addiction and get them off our roads.”
Passed the House on Wednesday
HB 1549: Would prevent a woman from having an abortion solely because genetic abnormalities are detected in the fetus
Debate over HB 1549 was impassioned Wednesday.
So impassioned, in fact, that comments from Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee) managed to make international news — but not necessarily in a good way.
When pressed by Rep. Cory Williams (D-Stillwater) to state whether he believed rape and incest were the will of God, Faught struggled to keep his religious fanaticism in check. The father of three, who bills himself as a “Christian. Conservative. Carpet Cleaner.” on his (locked) Twitter account, said that he disagreed with the notion that God is not sovereign and couldn’t use “anything and everything in someone’s life.”
HB 1549 eventually passed 67-16. It models itself on similar legislation that appeared as early as 2013 from the conservative Americans United for Life, which is an ALEC-type policy machine.
“Life is a gift from God,” Faught stated in a release following passage. “Today, I am thankful that the members of the House of Representatives chose to protect that gift.”
Passed the Senate on Tuesday
Eight Senate bills related to criminal justice reform gained approval Tuesday. In a related press release, Gov. Mary Fallin stated these reforms would save the state $1.9 billion.
Among others, the measures include reforms such as:
- programs for better reintegration of inmates into society;
- expanded eligibility for alternatives to jail;
- better training for law enforcement officers when dealing with victims of domestic violence;
- establishing a framework for training and certifying professional victim advocates;
- separating violent and nonviolent offenders when handing out enhanced sentences for repeat offenders;
- reforming qualifications for certain expungement categories;
- granting judges and prosecutors more options for diverting people from prison to treatment and supervision programs;
- and the creation of a council to monitor the effectiveness of criminal justice reform efforts.
All but two of the eight bills passed without a single nay vote. For the two that did receive opposition, three votes were cast against SB 689 (sentencing provisions), while 19 votes were cast against SB 786 (burglaries and punishments).
Passed the House on Tuesday
More criminal justice reform bills
Similar to the above, Fallin praised lawmakers in the House for passing a trio of legislative acts that would “safely and prudently fix our criminal justice system,” as she put it in a related release.
The three House-approved criminal justice reforms would:
- modify parole training, qualifications and supervision requirements;
- create tiers of penalties for some crimes;
- and expand the objectives of drug court programs.
These and the aforementioned Senate bills were created through the recommendations of the 17-member Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force Fallin created in August 2016.