OKLAHOMA CITY – From debating the merits of a good ribeye steak to tackling licensing laws for felons, lawmakers were busy last session.
On Friday, Oklahomans will start to notice the fruits of lawmakers’ labors when 324 new laws — or the bulk of the legislation passed in 2019 — take effect.
Here’s a look at a few of those measures:
HB 2597 — Constitutional carry
The legislative measure allows anyone at least 21 years old without a felony conviction or other criminal records to carry firearms with no permitting, licensing or training.
Oklahoma will become the 16th state to allow permitless carry, supporters say.
“We expect a fair amount of peaceful, law-abiding citizens going about their day carrying guns without permission from the government,” said Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association.
The bill does not allow people to brandish firearms nor does it change where Oklahomans can legally carry.
It will be illegal to carry firearms at any kind of education facility in Oklahoma, the state Capitol, any courthouse, courtroom, detention facility, federal building or military installation, casinos or other gaming establishments and professional sporting events, Spencer said.
Also restaurants and business owners can prohibit carrying on private property, he said.
HB1071 — Highway speed limit increases
The measure could increase highway speeds to 75 mph on rural segments of the state highway system or to 80 mph on the turnpikes.
But this law won’t be as speedy as the name suggests.
“Drivers will not see any new signs up tomorrow (Friday) or any changed speed limits tomorrow,” said Cody Boyd, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
Any increases won’t take effect for months — if at all, transportation officials said this week.
And, not all roadways will be impacted.
“People think we’re going to automatically raise (them), and we’re not,” said Jack Damrill, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
Damrill said the Department of Transportation is conducting a study of state roadways that’s not slated for completion until the first quarter of 2020. The study will help transportation officials decide where they can safely increase speed limits.
“I can guarantee you we’re not going to raise speed limits on all turnpikes,” he said.
HB1926 — School bus cameras law
The measure allows school districts to install and operate video-monitoring systems on school buses or bus stop-arms to catch people who don’t stop. The legislation allows the buses to record the license plates of vehicles, take a picture of the driver’s face and monitor the time, date and location of the offense.
Offenders already faced a fine of not less than $100 per violation. But in addition, lawmakers have tacked on a special assessment fee of $100. Of that, $75 will go into a fund to purchase and install cameras. The remaining $25 will go to the law enforcement agency.
Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said he doesn’t know if districts will add these cameras. He districts will likely need several months to review the new law, figure out its costs and discuss the pros and cons of it.
“I know schools are always looking to improve safety for their students, but I have not heard of any claims or concerns about this being a problem in Oklahoma,” he said.
HB2325 — Minors and liquor stores
Those under 21 can finally go into liquor stores with a parent or legal guardian. Liquor store owners previously had to turn away parents who were shopping with children or parents had to leave youth outside in a vehicle.
“The Legislature clearly sought to level the playing field between package stores and grocery stores by passing accompanied minor legislation,” said John Maisch, president of the Institute for Responsible Alcohol Policy, in a statement.
“Preventing overconsumption and teen access to alcoholic beverages is still the top priority for most Oklahomans,” he said. “Stakeholders need to work together to ensure that the ABLE Commission allocates sufficient resources to enforce all of the new laws approved by voters and passed by the Legislature.”
SB21 — Ribeye steak
Henceforth, the ribeye shall be the official state steak.
HB2454 — Bicyclists can run red lights
The law allows bicyclists to cautiously proceed through red lights if they’ve made a complete stop, a traffic control signal fails to detect the arrival of a bicycle and no motor vehicle or person is approaching on the roadway.
But the bicyclist will be at fault if they run the red light and cause an accident.
HB1373 — The “Fresh Start”
This law gives people with felony convictions a chance to seek occupational licenses in most trades as long as their offenses are not violent or sexual.
The previous law was vague and required that applicants to be “of good moral character,” said state Rep. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole, in a statement.
“This will give people that have made mistakes in their past a second chance at professional licensing,” he said. “This doesn’t hide a person’s criminal record or require a business to hire them, but it does remove the barrier of restrictive licensing in many cases.”
SB7 — Renames a correctional facility
The Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley will now be renamed the Washita Valley Correctional Center.
Department of Corrections officials said no inmates are housed at the correctional center. The building is used as the K-9 facility and for agricultural services.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.