How HB 1888 came back from the dead this session (Capitol Update)

No idea introduced into the legislative process is ever truly dead until the legislature has adjourned Sine Die. Living proof exists this year in House Bill 1888 by Rep. Danny Williams, R-Seminole, and Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant. HB 1888 says that “no public body shall conduct any form of gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.” Public body is expansively defined to include everything from a department of state or local government to a study group supported by public funds. Absent in the bill, however, is any definition of “gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.”

When HB 1888 came up for consideration on the House floor on March 3, it ran into trouble and was laid over. The deadline for passing House measures from the House floor later expired without HB 1888 being brought back up so the bill is dead for this session. However, in the meantime SB 627 by Sen. Bullard and Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, passed the Senate and was assigned to the House Utilities Committee. Sen. Bullard and Rep. Roberts, both representing districts on the border with Texas, had introduced the bill to re-create the Red River Boundary Commission, apparently for the purpose of resolving boundary issues between Oklahoma and Texas.  

Not to be denied of his idea prohibiting gender or sexual diversity counseling, Rep. Williams went to work. Although a freshman, he served several years in the House in the 1980s and 1990s, so he knows his way around the process. Williams managed to replace Rep. Roberts as the House author with himself, to get SB 627 reassigned to the General Government Committee that had passed HB 1888 earlier, and to file a committee substitute replacing the Red River Boundary Commission language with his sexual diversity counseling language. As now written, SB 627 is almost the same as what was once HB 1888. It does exempt sexual harassment training from the prohibition and allows for “voluntary” counseling.

This week will be the deadline for passing bills from committee in the body opposite that in which it originated. The House formerly had a strict “germaneness” rule that prevented amending bills to completely change the content, but there are now so many exceptions that, as a practical matter, the germaneness rule no longer exists. So those who opposed bills earlier in the session and thought they were dead must take heed. Unless they were actually voted on and defeated, they can reappear in another bill until the legislature goes home for the year.


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

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