Two weeks into the legislative session, lawmakers have wasted little time moving bills through committees. 

This includes several proposals affecting Oklahomans’ voting rights and ability to access public records. Though some bills must clear appropriations committees due to lingering fiscal questions, most are eligible for a full vote in their chamber of origin.

Most bills considered during last week’s House Election and Ethics Committee meeting advanced on party-line votes. The exception was the unanimous passage of House Bill 1629 by Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, which would clarify that formerly incarcerated people who receive a commutation are eligible to vote.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has met twice and considered election and transparency bills. Proposals to boost pay and protections for voting precinct officials have advanced, along with Senate Bill 89, which seeks to require written notice when public records cannot be provided within 10 business days. 

Lawmakers face a March 2 deadline to get their bills out of committee and to the opposing chamber. 

Here’s a breakdown of how notable election and transparency bills: 

Senate Bill 481 by Dave Rader, R-Tulsa: Makes threatening an election official a felony. It unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously.

Senate Bill 290 by Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain. Nearly doubles the rate of daily compensation for precinct officials. It unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 1415 by Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont: Establishes that federal election provisions shall only apply to federal elections. It cleared the House Elections and Ethics Committee on a 5-2 vote. (Last week I wrote about the potential implications of this proposal)

House Bill 2504 by Mark Lepak, R-Claremore. Requires the State Election Board and other agencies to notify the governor and legislative leadership upon receiving election-related communication from the federal government. It passed the House Election and Ethics Committee on a 5-2 vote. 

Senate Bill 518 by Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville. Increases protest time for initiative petitions and raises the filing fee to $750. Also changes requirements for signature verification. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on an 8-3 vote.

House Bill 1768 by Tom Gann, R-Inola. Requires prospective voters who lack a government ID to produce a utility bill, bank statement or another document that verifies their name and address. It cleared the House Elections and Ethics Committee on a 6-2 vote. 

House Bill 1629 by Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa. Establishes that a person convicted of a felony may register to vote upon the discharge of their sentence, receipt of a commutation or obtaining a state or federal pardon. It unanimously cleared the House Ethics and Elections Committee.

Senate Bill 89 by Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City. Requires written notice when records cannot be provided within 10 business days. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 10-2 vote.

What bills are you watching? Have questions or concerns about a proposal? Let me know at Kross@Oklahomawatch.org or DM me on Twitter.

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We're 15 days away from the March 7 special election to decide State Question 820, which proposes legalizing recreational marijuana.

Busy on Election Day? You can request an absentee ballot using the OK Voter Portal until 5 p.m. today, Monday, Feb. 20. In-person early voting is also available on Thursday, March 2 and Friday, March 3 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What I'm Reading This Week

  • After Banning Abortion, Oklahoma Lawmakers Eye Expanding Maternal Health Care and Other Supports: Many of the bills pull directly from recommendations from the HELP Task Force, which Gov. Kevin Stitt formed last year after the state enacted one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans. [The Frontier]
  • ‘Petty Childish Bullshit’: Veterans, Staff Exhausted by ODVA Drama: Executive Director Joel Kintsel, who challenged Gov. Kevin Stitt in the Republican primary last June, has recently refused to attend board meetings, claiming the board was illegitimately formed by the governor. Employees and observers say the drama has stalled progress on issues facing veterans. [Nondoc and The Frontier]
  • Senate Approves Ban on Gender-Affirming Care for Minors: Medical providers who violate the prohibition would face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $100,000 and the revocation of their medical license, and they could be sued civilly. Senate Democrats and LGBTQ+ groups condemned the vote. [CNHI Oklahoma]

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