Criminal justice reform legislation

Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall announced the format for studying the remaining criminal justice reform bills from this session during the interim.

McCall approved several interim study requests on criminal justice reform issues and assigned those requests to the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety, chaired by State Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw. State Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Tulsa, who carried several of the criminal justice reform bills during the 2017 legislative session, will preside over the interim studies.

McCall said the format was the best impartial approach to ensure the issues receive a fair treatment and that all sides are equally heard. Multiple bills recommended by Governor Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force were passed and signed into law this session. However, lawmakers had concerns about the impact of other bills recommended by the Task Force in their current format.

“These are very emotional issues, and they are issues that could have an enormous impact on both public safety and the state budget,” said McCall, R-Atoka. “Our incarceration rates are among the highest in the nation, which puts a lot of pressure on our budget. We have to make sure we get this right, so we can protect the public from violent offenders and also be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars. We are trying to accomplish in two years what it took Texas six years to do. These interim studies will allow all those who are interested to have their voices heard, and we will take what we learn and work on these bills in 2018.”

McCall said that his intention was always to ensure the bills received a hearing during the 56th Legislature, which goes through the 2018 legislative session.

The committee meetings will be open to the public and streamed live online. Interim studies may be held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only to maximize time and reduce travel costs. The studies can begin August 1 and must be completed by November 8.