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Advocacy Alerts

Thursday, February 23

Legislators have the opportunity this session to help ensure that Oklahomans convicted of crimes have a fair shot at rebuilding their lives. They need to hear that you support these efforts.

People convicted of crimes face enormous fines and fees that they often can’t pay, trapping them in a cycle of debt and incarceration. SB 689 would require that judges set monthly payments on that debt according to a defendant’s income, so that their families don’t have to choose between paying their court debt or buying groceries. It also waives court fines and fees for those who seek to better themselves through higher education or workforce training.

What You Can Do

All of SB 689’s provisions dealing with fines and fees – including income-based payment plans, pilot programs, and education incentives – were removed in the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections committee, but they can be put back in either on the House floor or in conference committee. Please call House Speaker Charles McCall (charles.mccall@okhouse.gov; (405) 557-7412), as well as your representative (Find your legislator), and urge them to restore the bills to their original form and ensure that Oklahoma takes bold steps on criminal justice reform this year.

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Tuesday, February 21

Click here for our fact sheet on HB 1482.

Last year Oklahomans voted by a large margin to approve SQ 780, which changed drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors punishable by no more than 1 year in jail. Voters also approved SQ 781 to direct the savings from reduced incarceration into county mental health and addiction treatment. Oklahoma voters’ choice aligns with plentiful research and experience showing felony charges and incarceration are costly and ineffective at dealing with the problems created by drug abuse and addiction, and reducing felony charges would save lives and free up resources to address the real problem.

HB 1482 would ignore the evidence and the will of the voters by reinstating felony charges for drug possession across virtually all of Oklahoma City and Tulsa and large parts of the rest of the state. The bill claims to be aimed at protecting children, but the expansive definition it uses for drug possession “near children” would effectively nullify SQ 780. It also ignores that a parent or caregiver facing felony charges and incarceration can often be far more damaging to a child’s well-being than taking a smarter approach to substance abuse.

What You Can Do

HB 1482 has been assigned to the Senate Public Safety committee. Contact Chairman Jack Fry and ask him not to hear HB 1482, and let the other committee members know why you oppose the bill.

  1. Sen. Jack Fry (Chair), (405)521-5584, fry@oksenate.gov
  2. Sen. Wayne Shaw (Vice Chair), (405)521-5574, shaw@oksenate.gov
  3. Sen. Josh Brecheen, (405)521-5586, brecheen@oksenate.gov
  4. Sen. J.J. Dossett, (405)521-5566, dossett@oksenate.gov
  5. Sen. Tom Dugger, (405)521-5572, dugger@oksenate.gov
  6. Sen. Darcy Jech, (405)521-5545, jech@oksenate.gov
  7. Sen. Kevin Matthews, (405)521-5598, matthews@oksenate.gov
  8. Sen. Greg McCortney, (405)521-5541, mccortney@oksenate.gov
  9. Sen. Lonnie Paxton, (405)521-5537, paxton@oksenate.gov
  10. Sen. Roger Thompson, (405)521-5588, thompson@oksenate.gov
  11. Sen. Ervin Yen, (405)521-5543, yen@oksenate.gov

You can also find your Senator here and tell him or her to vote NO on HB 1482.

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Monday, February 20

Even while policymakers scramble to find ways to address the state’s continued budget crisis, expanding tax credits that primarily benefit low- and moderate income working families and seniors should be part of the tax policy discussion. Lawmakers should undo last year’s cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit as well as increase the Sales Tax Relief Credit.

Several bills were introduced this session that would expand tax credits for working families:

The bill to increase the Sales Tax Relief Credit, HB 1383, passed the House Finance subcommittee but was not heard by the full Appropriations and Budget Committee. None of the EITC bills were heard. These bills are dead for this session. However, there may still be a chance to include an increase in the Sales Tax Relief Credit or Earned Income Tax credit as part of the overall budget plan between legislative leaders and the Governor.

Please let your legislators know that you support strengthening working family tax credits as part of this year’s budget.

You can look up your Senator and Representative here, call the House switchboard at 405-521-2711, and call the Senate switchboard at 405-524-0126.

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Wednesday, February 15

Young Oklahomans (ages 18-29) vote less often than any other age group, and at among the lowest rates in the nation. SB 349 (Sen. David Holt – R. Oklahoma City) aims to boost voter turnout by young Oklahomans by allowing for 16 and 17-year olds who will turn 18 by the time of the next election to pre-register to vote.

Where Things Stand (as of 3/1/17)

SB 349 failed to pass the Senate Rules committee on Wednesday, March 1st and is dead for the remainder of the session. 

Talking Points

  • SB 349 would  allow for voter registration at already established points of contact for young people, such as during civics classes or when going to get a driver’s license.
  • An engaged and active electorate is critical to the health of our democracy. 
  • SB 349 would allow for young voters to become familiar with the process before turning 18, allowing them to make informed, calculated decisions. 
  • This is a non-partisan measure that will increase voter turnout across the board. 

You can look up your Senator and Representative here, call the House switchboard at 405-521-2711, and call the Senate switchboard at 405-524-0126.

See our Advocacy Toolkit page for more information and resources.

Wednesday, February 15

In Oklahoma, deferred deposit loans, better known as payday loans, are advertised as a way for people to get emergency funds for a short-term loan. In practice, these loans prey on low-income borrowers by charging annual interest rates over 350 percent and by creating a cycle of debt that can be nearly impossible to break out of.

HB 1596 would enact sensible reforms to payday lending by limiting borrowers to one outstanding payday loan at a time, requiring a 1-day wait period between loans, and limiting borrowing to a  maximum of 90 days over the course of a year.

Where Things Stand (as of 3/3)

HB 1596 was assigned to the House Business, Commerce and Tourism committee. Committee Chair Rep. Elise Hall refused to allow the bill to be heard and it is now dead. HB 1596 or a similar measure could be taken up in 2018. (more…)

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