Proposed hate-crime bills resurface

Wednesday, March 12th 2008, 7:54 pm
By: News 9

By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9

Critics of an Oklahoma lawmaker are hoping the Sally Kern controversy is the perfect opportunity to help pass new state laws.

Right now, there are a number of hate-crime bills stuck in committee.

Thursday is the deadline for lawmakers in the House and Senate to have their legislation voted on. If it doesn't happen, the measure basically dies for this session. For lawmakers hoping to pass through hate-crime legislation, they admit there is little hope.

Representative Sally Kern continued work as usual Wednesday despite the controversy surrounding her recent comments. For Kern and her fellow House members, there are a lot of bills left to be heard and little time to focus on the scandal.

"It's not being discussed; maybe in the hallways a comment or not," Rep. Richard Morrissette (D) District 92 said. "I have not heard a single word in that chamber. We've been here since 9:00 a.m. I haven't heard a single Legislator talk about the issue with Representative Kern."

Morrissette is one of several lawmakers who introduced hate-crime legislation. His bill, and the others, is stuck in committee.

"Rules is the like the deep six south 40 of wasteland of bills," Morrissette said. "They don't want to hear it, because he majority here don't want to hear this type of legislation."

"My bill died before it saw sunlight," Rep. Al McAffrey (D) District 88 said. "And we knew it would be."

Most of the hate-crime bills under consideration say a person can't be targeted because of their race, religion, disability and sexual orientation.

"I would like to see the state of Oklahoma take the step in the right direction to say we don't condone, we don't endorse any crimes, but even more so, those based on hate," Rep. Mike Shelton (D) District 97 said.

The lawmakers who spoke to NEWS 9 said it's highly unlikely the Kern controversy will have any impact on chamber debate, but bills that appear to be dead could soon be revived.

"What you can't do through front door many times go through the back door to get it done," Morrissette said.

House Speaker Chris Benge, who is a republican like Sally Kern, declined to comment on her remarks and the legislation.

Representative Mike Shelton is trying to get his hate crime legislation passed through as an amendment. He's attached his proposal on about 20 existing bills. Some of those bills have yet to be voted on.

To view full coverage on Sally Kern, click on our extended coverage page.