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Oklahoma Legislative Roundup

 

With new right-wing dominance of the state legislature, the Oklahoma session was dominated by tax giveaways to business, extreme social legislation, threats to consumer rights and one of the most anti-immigrant laws in the country.

  • The legislature accelerated the effective dates for implementing a previously passed giant cut in income taxes and eliminated the franchise tax on small businesses.
  • New legislation, SB 139prohibits all abortions in state medical facilities or by state employees, unless the life of the mother is threatened or in the cases of rape or incest. An even worse bill was vetoed by the governor because it hadn't even allowed exceptions for rape and incest.  
  • Despite his own fears of its punitive features, Gov. Brad Henry signed a sweeping anti-immigrant law that requires employers to screen job applicants for legal status, denies state services to undocumented immigrants, and makes it a crime to harbor an undocumented immigrant.

The governor did veto a "tort reform" bill that would have undercut consumer rights and gutted corporate accountability for injuries to the public.

On the positive side, the state dedicated permanent funding to a higher education program, Oklahoma's Promise, which provides free tuition to college students with parents making less than $50,000 per year, although the law also toughened the academic standards needed for students to qualify.

And most positively, the state enacted SB 424, the “All Kids Act,”? to expand children's eligibility for Medicaid from 185 percent of the federal poverty line up to 300 percent-- enough to add 42,000 kids to the system-- and expanded subsidies to help small businesses get health insurance for their employees.