Staff | March 15, 2019
Bills moved forward or enacted this week
This week marked a major deadline for measures moving through the legislative process at the Oklahoma Capitol. Here are some important bills that either cleared the initial hurdle or were enacted into law. Several listed below are top priorities of OCPA:
Enacted into law
After reaching an agreement with legislative leadership, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law five bills this week to increase accountability at some of the state’s largest agencies.
Collectively, these bills change the leadership structure of five major state agencies: the Office of Juvenile Affairs, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Health Care Authority, and the Department of Transportation.
Instead of being chosen by unelected boards, directors will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. OCPA has called for these reforms since the Brad Henry administration.
Raise the cap
SB 407 raises the cap on the Equal Opportunity Scholarship program. The vote was 27 for to 20 against.
Liability insurance for teachers
SB 750 provides liability insurance for all state public school teachers and education employees at no cost to them or to the districts that employ them. The vote was 26 for to 17 against.
Federal funding transparency
SB 271 will require state agencies to disclose funds received from the federal government.
As OCPA has mentioned many times and in many places, the appropriated budget passed each year by the Legislature is only a portion – in some cases, a small slice – of the total amount of dollars available to many agencies. Many receive much of their funding through other means, whether that is direct tax dollars, fees, or federal tax dollars. The vote was 31 for to 13 against.
SB 1 creates the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT), designed to bring more clarity over state agency budgets. This new office would be run by a bipartisan committee and would conduct performance audits on multiple state agencies. The vote was 38 for to 10 against.
Possession with intent to distribute
SB 421 defines the specific criteria necessary for the state to charge someone with drug possession with the intent to distribute. It would also reduce the maximum prison sentence from seven to three years for those convicted of possessing certain drugs. The vote was 44 for to 4 against.
Making State Question 780 retroactive
HB 1269 applies the sentencing reform changes from State Question 780 to offenders who were convicted before the law took effect. The vote was 76 for to 22 against.
SB 252 would not allow bail to be set in excess of what a person can pay and would allow nonviolent defendants to be released on their own recognizance at a judge’s discretion. The vote was 40 for to 8 against.
SB 101 limits the extent to which state licensing boards can apply blanket license bans for those with a criminal record. The vote was unanimous with 46 for and no opposition.
A similar bill, HB 1373, passed the state House of Representatives last week on March 4. The vote for HB 1373 was 96 for and only 2 in opposition.