Last-Minute Drama Colors End Of Oklahoma Legislative Session

Thursday, May 23rd 2019, 7:10 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

State lawmakers closed out the legislative session Thursday, but not without some last-minute drama. 

The Senate initially refused to hear a bill that would make lowering penalties for non-violent crimes retroactive, potentially freeing 500 inmates.

"Four weeks ago, we thought everything was going to happen.  It’s... I don’t really know how to explain it," said state Sen. Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma City), Minority Leader.

Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said he had concerns about the bill.

"I’m a little bit concerned in that DOC’s data is terrible, and we haven’t improved that yet. So we are going to be making some decisions on real human lives," he said.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said, “I just met with the Pro Tem and the Speaker, and I said, 'Hey, this is part of our negotiated deal on this budget. This is supposed to be across the finish line, and so it needs to be heard."

In the end, the Senate caved and passed the bill. It includes having cases submitted to the Pardon and Parole Board.

"At that point, the Pardon and Parole board would be able to recommend those names to the governor for parole,” state Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City).

House Bill 1269 also allows for easy expungement of felony records. Criminal justice reform advocates say it’s a good start, but they say lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have really lowered the prison population, like bail reform and post release supervision.

"But the reality is, the sad reality is even with the passage of House Bill 1269, our prison population is going to continue to grow, and Oklahoma will continue to be the world leader in incarceration," said Kris Steele of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.

As for the budget, the governor said he plans to sign it Friday or early next week.