Oklahoma Legislature Considers Legislation
After legislation was filed, it had to be reported out of Subcommittee in the chamber of origin (House or Senate) by February 18, and the full Standing Committee in the chamber of origin by February 25. The deadline for Third Reading (and passage) of Bills and Joint Resolutions in the Chamber of Origin was March 11. After approval in the chamber of origin, the legislation had be reported out of the Subcommittee in the opposite chamber by March 29, and the full Standing Committee in the opposite chamber by April 8. The deadline for Third Reading of Bills and Joint Resolutions from the Opposite Chamber was April 22. Legislation failing to get a vote by the deadlines are dead for this year’s session. These deadlines do not apply to appropriations bills. Resolutions and Concurrent Resolutions can be filed throughout the session. Upon a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the membership of both chambers, a measure can be exempt from all cutoff dates in both chambers. Legislation must receive final approval in both chambers by the end of the session which must occur no later than May 28. Here is a look at some of the measures that were filed and their status following the April 22 deadline:
Save Women’s Sports Act
Senate Bill 2 by Sen. Michael Bergstrom (R-Adair) and Rep. Toni Hasenbeck (R-Elgin) would require certain athletic teams to be designated based on an athletes’ biological sex. “Senate Bill 2 is legislation that protects opportunities for women and girls in athletics by ensuring they are not forced to compete against biological men playing on women’s sports teams,” said Hasenbeck. According to Senate Bill 2, any student who is deprived of an athletic opportunity due to a violation of this rule, shall have a cause of action for injunctive relief against the school. Any student who is subject to retaliation by a school, athletic association, or intercollegiate association for reporting a violation of this rule, shall have a cause of action for injunctive relief against the school, or athletic association. The measure also prohibits the State Board of Education, the State Regents, and any athletic association from entering a complaint, opening an investigation, or taking any other adverse action against a school for maintaining athletic teams for students of the female sex. It passed the Senate 38-8 on March 1. It was amended and passed the House 73-19 on April 19. It was returned to the Senate for consideration of the House amendments.
Restore Abortion Prohibition
Senate Bill 918 by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) and Rep. Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City) would, in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the central holdings of Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey, restore the state’s authority to prohibit abortion. The bill passed Senate 38-9 on March 10 and the House 72-19 on April 21. It was sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt for consideration on April 22.
Revoke Medical License for Performing Abortions
House Bill 1102, authored by Rep. Jim Olsen (R-Roland) and Senator Julie Daniels (R-Bartlesville) directs the Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision and the State Board of Osteopathic Examiners to revoke the licenses of physicians who perform an abortion for at least one year. The bill provides an exception for abortions performed to save the life of the mother. The bill passed the House 81-18 on March 9 and the Senate 37-10 on April 20. It was sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt for consideration on April 21.
Ban Abortion After Detectable Heartbeat
House Bill 2441 by Rep. Todd Russ (R-Cordell) and Senator Julie Daniels (R-Bartlesville) would stop abortions from being performed once an unborn child is determined to have a detectable heartbeat. “A physical heartbeat is proof that a baby is alive and deserves all the protections afforded every other living person,” Russ said. The measure also would require any facility where abortions are performed to post a sign in a conspicuous place stating that it is against the law for anyone to force another person to have an abortion and that abortions induced by medication using a two-step process may be reversible if the second dosage has not been taken within the first 24 hours. The bill passed House 80-19 on March 9 and the Senate 37-10 on April 20. It was sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt for consideration on April 21.
Senate Bill 778 and Senate Bill 779, both by Senator Julie Daniels (R-Bartlesville) and Rep. Mark Lepak (R-Claremore) would provide safeguards surrounding the use of abortion-inducing drugs. The bills would codify in Oklahoma law safety protocols which have been required by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the past 21 years. It is fully expected that these federal regulations will soon be revoked by the Biden Administration, which has been systematically dismantling numerous pro-life policies of previous administrations.
The abortion industry is aggressively lobbying to have the FDA safety regulations revoked. Chemical abortions are more profitable and more efficient for the abortionist than surgical abortions, and an ever-increasing percentage of first-trimester abortions are now chemical rather than surgical, even though chemical abortions have higher complication rates. SB 778 passed the Senate 38-9 on March 10 and was amended and approved in the House 75-18 on April 21. SB 779 passed the Senate 38-9 on March 10 and was amended and approved in the House 76-19 on April 21. Both bills were returned to the Senate for consideration of the House amendments.
Require Abortions Be Performed by OB-GYNs
House Bill 1904 was authored by Rep. Cynthia Roe (R-Lindsay), a nurse practitioner with 37 years of experience. Roe said under current statute, abortions can be performed by any licensed physician in the state of Oklahoma. The bill would require any physician who performs an abortion in the state to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology and be board certified. “There is no doubt that this procedure, when it is performed, is best performed by physicians who have the education and training to better handle an emergency or adverse effects that may arise during or after the procedure.” The bill passed the House 80-19 on March 2 and the Senate 36-10 on April 20, where it is authored by Sen. Jessica Garvin (R-Duncan). It was sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt for consideration on April 21.
Trafficking in Fetal Body Parts
Senate Bill 584 by Senator Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) and Rep. Jim Olsen (R-Roland) would prohibit state funding or funding from any political subdivision of the state for any healthcare provider found guilty of trafficking in fetal body parts. The bill passed the Senate 36-9 on March 10 and the House 77-17 on April 21. It was sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt for consideration of April 22.
Prohibiting Forced Closure of Places of Worship
House Bill 2648 dictates that closing places of worship would be considered a substantial burden on people’s freedom of religion. The bill was authored by Rep. Brian Hill (R-Mustang) and Sen. David Bullard (R-Durant). “People came to this continent seeking religious freedom and to escape a tyrannical government, and our country’s founders had the wisdom to specifically outline the freedom to worship in one of our founding documents,” Hill said. The bill passed the House 80-18 on March 3 and the Senate 38-8 on April 20. It was sent to Gov. Stitt for action on April 21.
Prohibit Declaration of Religious Institutions as Nonessential
Senate Bill 368, would prohibit governmental declaration of religious institutions as nonessential. The bill was authored by Sen. David Bullard (R-Durant) and Rep. Brian Hill (R-Mustang). “The fact that many churches, nation and statewide, were essentially and unconstitutionally shut down or threatened must be addressed and our freedoms must be protected,” Bullard said. SB 368 prohibits any governmental entity from declaring or deeming a religious institution and any activity directly related to the institution’s discharge of its mission and purpose to be nonessential. Additionally, it prohibits the closure of such institutions for health or security purposes if those actions are greater than what is imposed on any private entity facing the same or similar health or security conditions. The bill passed the Senate 37-9 on March 11, and the House 72-20 on April 20. It was sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt for approval on April 22.
Prohibiting Vaccine Mandates
House Bill 2335 by Rep. Jay Steagall (R-Yukon) and Sen. Shane Jett (R-Shawnee) prohibits discrimination and penalties against any person who declines a vaccination or declines to vaccinate his or her children. The bill passed the House 71-25 on March 9, but failed to get a vote in the Senate by the legislative deadline.
Minors to Wear Seat Belts
Senate Bill 339 by Sen. Roland Pederson (R-Burlington) and Rep. Ross Ford (R-Broken Arrow) would require any child 17 years old and younger riding in the back seat of a passenger vehicle to wear a seatbelt. Oklahoma requires the driver, front seat passenger and child passengers under the age of eight to wear a seat belt, but has no requirements for children ages eight to 17. “Oklahoma is the only state in the entire country that doesn’t require seat belts for kids over the age of eight, and it’s no coincidence that vehicle fatalities are the number one cause of death for children over this age here in our state,” Pederson said. The bill was one of many approved by the Senate last year, but stalled in the House due to the shortened session caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pederson re-introduced the bill this legislative session. It passed the Senate 25-19 on March 8 but failed to get a vote in the House by the legislative deadline..
A bill that would prohibit the courts from extending the terms of tenancy failed in the House on March 11 on a vote of 26-51. House Bill 1564 by Rep. Tom Gann (R-Inola) would have allowed a landlord to immediately apply to a sheriff for enforcement of the right to possession upon the entry of a judgment. The measure limits the amount of a late payment fee to 15% of the monthly rent. The measure provides that the provisions in the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act are enforceable even during a catastrophic health emergency.
Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act
Senate Bill 631 by Sen. Warren Hamilton (R-McCurtain) and Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) states that any federal, state, county or municipal act, law, executive order, administrative order, court order, rule, policy or regulation ordering the buy-back, confiscation or surrender of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from law-abiding citizens of this state shall be considered an infringement on the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Article II, Section 26 of the Constitution of Oklahoma.
“Senate Bill 631 ensures that the State Legislature will protect the unalienable right of Oklahomans to keep and bear arms as guaranteed to them by the Second Amendment,” said Roberts. “Recent action and rhetoric from the federal government has shown just how important this bill really is.” It passed the Senate 38-8 on March 9 and the House 78-17 on April 20. It was sent to the governor’s desk for consideration on April 21.
Authorizing School Personnel to Carry Firearms
House Bill 2588 by Rep. Sean Roberts ( R-Hominy) and Sen. David Bullard (R-Durant) would authorize the carrying of a handgun onto school property by school personnel if the person possesses a valid handgun license and meets other requirements authorized by the board of education of the district. “For the protection of our students and school staff, our boards of education must be given the ability to set policies that are proper for their school districts. This bill doesn’t mandate policies across the state, rather it provides for local control in regards to this very important public safety issue,” said Roberts. The bill passed the House 79-19 on March 9, but was not acted on in the Senate by the deadline.
Prohibiting Public Meeting Interruptions
Senate Bill 403 extends current statutes regarding the disruption of state meetings to cover school boards, county and municipal governments. Violating the law is a misdemeanor. If a person is found guilty of interrupting a public meeting, they could face a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill was authored by Sen. Brenda Stanley (R-Midwest City) and Rep. Robert Manger (R-Oklahoma City). “Because these boards, commissions and other entities are acting on behalf of the citizens they serve, the people have a right to access those meetings,” Stanley said. “This legislation is aimed at ensuring those meetings can be conducted in a civil, orderly way.” The bill passed the Senate 36-9 on March 2 and the House 74-15 on April 14. It was signed into law by Governor Stitt on April 21.
Protecting Drivers Escaping Riots
House Bill 1674 by Rep. Kevin West (R-Moore) and Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman) gives civil and criminal liability protection to drivers who are trying to escape a riot and unintentionally injure or kill someone. The bill makes blocking roadways during a protest a misdemeanor and holds the protestors responsible for any damage. The measure also addresses organizations found to have conspired with persons found guilty of committing crimes under rioting statutes. Those organizations shall be fined 10 times the amount authorized by the appropriate provision. “This is an important protection for citizens who are just trying to get out of a bad situation. When fleeing an unlawful riot, they should not face threat of prosecution for trying to protect themselves, their families or their property,” West said. The bill passed the House 79-18 on March 9 and the Senate 38-10 on April 14. It was approved by Gov. Kevin Stitt on April 21.
Education Reform Bills
Two education reform bills gained final passage and were signed by the governor on the same day. House Bill 2078 passed the House 68-30 on February 24 and the Senate 27-19 on March 31. Senate Bill 783 passed the Senate 32-15 on March 2 and the House 65-30 on March 31. Later that afternoon, Governor Kevin Stitt signed the education reform measures into law.
HB 2078 by Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow) and Sen. Zack Taylor (R-Seminole) reforms the state school funding formula basing the per-pupil funding on the most recent enrollment data. The previous formula used three years of enrollment to calculate funding for a school.
SB 783 by of Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) and Rep. Brad Boles (R-Marlow) allows for more student transfers by amending the Education Open Transfer Act.
“This is a monumental day for education reform in Oklahoma,” said Stitt. “Education is not one-size-fits-all, and these bills allow parents and students to have the freedom to attend the best public school for them regardless of their ZIP code. Additionally, modernizing the funding formula ensures funding follows the student, not the school.”
Redbud School Funding Act
Senate Bill 229 creates the Redbud School Funding Act which proposes using medical marijuana taxes and the Common School Building Equalization Fund to provide annual per-student funding grants to eligible school districts and charter schools. The bill seeks to correct funding disparities for brick-and-mortar public schools in low property value areas while addressing charter school funding. The bill by Sen. John Michael Montgomery (R-Lawton) and Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow) came after the State Board of Education’s recent settlement with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association to grant charter schools access to local property tax dollars that at present only traditional public schools have the ability to access. If unchanged, the decision would shift tens of millions of local property tax dollars away from traditional public schools and into public charter schools.
That decision was made in part because charter schools receive $330 less per student in non-chargeable local revenue because they do not have access to these dollars. (Non-chargeable dollars are dollars that do not count against a school district for the purposes of state aid.) Charter schools also cannot pass bonds. It was also discovered that students in 334 traditional Oklahoma school districts receive below average funding for their education from annual local tax revenue. This measure would allow the Oklahoma State Department of Education to use grants to equalize funding for those districts as well as the charter schools. It passed the Senate 37-8 on March 11 and was amended and passed the House 88-0 on April 22. It returned to the Senate for consideration of the House amendments.
Liability Insurance for Educators
Senate Bill 634 by Sen. Julie Daniels (R-Bartlesville) and House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell (R-Catoosa) would provide liability insurance coverage to all full and part-time school employees up to $1 million per occurrence. Liability insurance would be administered through the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and appropriated by the Legislature. The bill would also require school employees wishing to have payroll deductions made to professional organizations or for political contribution to renew their requests annually with their district. O’Donnell said this is not unlike employees that have to sign up each year for health insurance or changes to their retirement plans. Making this an annual requirement ensures educators willingly are choosing to have professional dues and political contributions deducted from their paychecks, and that they have been made aware of the costs. The bill passed the Senate 25-21 on March 4, but did not receive a vote in the House by the legislative deadline.
Senate Bill 222 by Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman) and Rep. Daniel Pae (R-Lawton) creates the Hope Scholarship Program Act, providing scholarships to attend a private school of choice for students who have experienced bullying. Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, the scholarship could be awarded to a student if they’ve been the victim of harassment, intimidation or bullying a minimum of three times within a school year. There must be written documentation with confirmation from a licensed mental health professional or physician. The bill passed the Senate 44-1 on March 11 and was amended and approved by the House 53-35 on April 21. It returned to the Senate for consideration of the House amendments.
Governor to Appoint U.S. Senator to Fill Vacancy
Senate Bill 959 by Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle) and by Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow) would change the way Oklahoma would fill a vacancy in one of its two U.S. Senate seats. Currently, the law dictates that a special election must be held. The legislation could save taxpayers millions by allowing the governor to appoint someone to fill the seat. However, a special election would be held during the next regularly scheduled general election. The appointee must be registered in the same party as the person leaving office for at least the previous five years. The appointee would not be eligible to run in the special election to fill the vacancy.
“According to the State Election Board, holding a special election to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat would cost taxpayers around $4 million. These types of elections are extremely expensive and inconvenient for voters,” Paxton said. “Allowing the governor to temporarily appoint someone to the empty seat and coordinate the special election with the next regularly scheduled general election would help avoid a nine-month void of representation, which is what it would take to run a complete special election cycle. This change is even more important right now due to the 50/50 split in the U.S. Senate.” The bill passed the Senate 34-11 on March 9 and was amended and passed by the House 68-15 on April 21. It was returned to the Senate for consideration of the House amendments.
Insulin Price Cap
House Bill 1019 by Rep. Rande Worthen (R-Lawton) and Sen. Frank Simpson (R-Ardmore) caps the price for a 30-day supply of insulin to $30 and $90 for a 90-day supply for each covered prescription. Currently, copays are based on individual insurance plans. “Approximately 200,000 Oklahomans have Type I diabetes, requiring daily usage of insulin. Unfortunately, because of continually increasing prices, many diabetics ration their insulin or go without, putting their health and lives at further risk,” Simpson said. Under HB 1019 the Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner will be authorized to enforce the price cap. The bill passed the House 94-2 on March 9 and the Senate 32-15 on April 13. It was approved by Gov. Stitt on April 20.
Driver’s License Backlog Bill
House Bill 1059 by Rep. Brad Boles (R-Marlow) and Sen. Jessica Garvin (R-Duncan) is meant to address the driver’s license backlog currently plaguing Oklahoma motorists and truck drivers. The measure gives tag agents more authority concerning REAL ID compliant and non-compliant license issues. “House Bill 1059 introduces several changes to help make the process of getting or renewing REAL ID compliant and non-compliant licenses, especially CDLs, more efficient by allowing tag agencies to process them rather than just the Department of Public Safety (DPS). This will help companies and industries get more drivers on the road while also reducing the number of people standing in lines at DPS,” Garvin said. “The pandemic and introducing REAL IDs have created a perfect storm that has overwhelmed DPS and tag agencies. HB 1059 also aligns state law with federal law concerning commercial learner permit holder training and testing. Third Party Examiners will be allowed to test anyone with a CDL permit, not just their students. The measure also removes a fee cap for administering a Class D skills test.” The bill passed the House 91-2 on February 23 and the Senate 38-5 on April 12. Gov. Stitt approved on April 19.
Syringe Service Exchange Programs
Senate Bill 511 by Sen. John Michael Montgomery (R-Lawton) and Rep. Carol Bush (R-Tulsa) allows medical practitioners, law enforcement, tribes and registered social service entities to administer harm reduction syringe service exchange programs with oversight by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. No state funds will be spent to conduct these programs.
Montgomery said, “Creating needle exchange and harm-reduction services is a big first step in providing rapid health care and testing to those the most at risk of infectious disease transmission due to hypodermic needles.” Bush said the pandemic exacerbated the addiction crisis causing an increase of about 50% in the number of deaths from synthetic opioid overdose in Oklahoma since the pandemic began. She also pointed out that the Institute of Medicine estimates that each program may produce up to $50,000 in savings per person preventing the spread of HIV. The bill passed the Senate 28-18 on March 3 and the House 70-23 on April 13. It was signed by Gov. Stitt on April 20.
State-Run Medicaid Plan
Last June, Oklahoma voters passed a state question that expanded Medicaid in the state to include low-income adults between the ages of 18 and 65 whose income does not exceed 133% of the federal poverty level, beginning this July 1. State budget leaders estimated this would cost about $164 million this year. The Legislature last session passed a measure known as SoonerCare 2.0 that would have required the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to oversee the expansion. The governor vetoed that bill and directed the OHCA to adopt a privatized managed care plan. The governor announced that he and the authority selected four managed care organizations to run the program: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Complete Health, Humana Health Horizons and UnitedHealthcare. If nothing is done legislatively, that plan will take effect this fall.
Senate Bill 131 by Sen. Jessica Garvin (R-Duncan) and Rep. Marcus McEntire (R-Duncan) would replace the governor’s managed care plan and require the OHCA to implement a state-run internal managed care plan for Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. The governor has criticized the bill. It passed the Senate 45-0 on March 2 and was amended and passed 73-17 on April 20. It was returned to the Senate for consideration of the House amendments.
Driving on Road Infrastructure with Vehicles of Electricity (DRIVE) Act
The Driving on Road Infrastructure with Vehicles of Electricity (DRIVE) Act of 2021 by Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow) and Sen. Zack Taylor (R-Seminole) will ensure all vehicles – fuel-powered and electric – that use Oklahoma’s state highways are contributing to the cost of maintaining the infrastructure. House Bill 2234 enacts a three-cent tax per kilowatt hour to charge an electric vehicle (EV) at a public for-profit charging station – capturing funding from out-of-state drivers. There would be no tax for EVs that charge at home. The measure would charge registration fees for EVs based on the vehicle’s weight and type and would provide an income tax credit to Oklahomans for charging taxes paid at a charging station, not to exceed the EV registration fee. The bill combined with SB600 will exempt low-voltage and free charging stations from charging the tax.
The revenues from this bill will be placed into the DRIVE Fund, which will supplement the state’s current ROADS Fund. The ROADS fund has been instrumental in taking Oklahoma from bottom ten to top ten in the country in bridge conditions. The bill passed the House 90-7 on March 11 and the Senate 43-3 on April 15. It was approved by Gov. Stitt on April 22.