10.31.22 – Oklahoman
From criminal justice reforms to updates to medical marijuana rules and government transparency measures, more than 200 new state laws will take effect Tuesday,
The new laws run the gamut from setting age limits for motorized scooters to ensuring health insurance coverage of diagnostic mammograms.
Here are the highlights.
Government transparency measures take effect
Cabinet secretaries and state agency heads appointed by the governor will soon have to file financial disclosure forms that provide some details of their business interests and employment income.
Although Gov. Kevin Stitt initially vetoed the bill, state lawmakers overturned the veto on the final day of this year’s regular legislative session.
The state Ethics Commission will determine when gubernatorial appointees must file the forms that detail income derived from their employment and investments and any ownership interest they have in private businesses or publicly traded companies.
State elected officials are required to file the forms annually by May 15, but the Ethics Commission could require gubernatorial appointees to complete the forms sooner in light of this new law taking effect.
Another new law will increase scrutiny of state government contracts with private attorneys. In addition to other transparency measures, Senate Bill 984 institutes public request-for-proposal requirements when legal costs associated with hiring outside counsel will exceed $1 million.
Divesting from banks that boycott fossil fuels
Oklahoma’s state treasurer will be tasked with carrying out a new law that requires the state to divest from any banks or financial companies that boycott fossil fuel energy companies.
The change comes as some companies are putting more emphasis on addressing climate change while facing pushback from some Republicans who say businesses should not be taking political stances on hot-button topics like fossil fuels, abortion or guns.
An oil well pumpjack is shown near homes on NE 8 at Martin Luther King Avenue.
The treasurer will compile a list of financial institutions that boycott fossil fuel companies, which will then be shared with governmental entities for review. Any state government entities working with financial institutions on the list will give those businesses a chance to clarify or change their position before the state divests its assets.
Texas and West Virginia have implemented similar laws.
Changes coming to medical marijuana industry
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority will become a standalone state agency after years of legislative discussions about moving it out from under the banner of the Oklahoma Health Department.
This is just one of a handful of changes to the state’s medical marijuana laws.
The governor gets to appoint the executive director of the OMMA, and Stitt recently announced current Director Adria Berry will continue in that role.
Other legal changes include:
- Marijuana growers will have to post signage at their commercial grow operations.
- Outdoor medical marijuana production facilities must register with the Department of Agriculture, and Forestry.
- The OMMA can revoke the business licenses of anyone directly involved with the diversion of cannabis for illegal use.
- Increased financial penalties for illegal cannabis transfers and fraudulent reporting.
- Beginning in 2024, the OMMA will require employees of medical marijuana businesses to apply for and receive a credential authorizing them to work in the industry.
Autonomous vehicles get green light
Oklahoma will join 29 other states in allowing self-driving vehicles on state roadways.
Individuals can operate an autonomous vehicle without a human driver so long as they meet certain conditions and submit certain information to the Department of Public Safety, which will be tasked with crafting rules surrounding the new law.
Regulating library resources, online materials
A new law requires all school library materials to reflect “community standards” through age-appropriate materials.
Although lawmakers filed numerous bills this year to regulate content in school libraries, which have become a flashpoint in the ongoing culture wars, only a couple of bills became law.
Another new law requires all digital and online library resources provided by schools, universities, public libraries or state agencies to have technology protections or filters so K-12 students can’t send, receive or view child pornography and obscene materials. It also says employees of schools, state agencies, public libraries and colleges are not exempt from prosecution for “willful violations” of state law that prohibits indecent exposure to obscene material or child pornography.
Ensuring insurance coverage of women’s health care
Insurance companies will be required to cover diagnostic mammograms ordered by a physician.
Although many insurance companies already cover the costs of standard mammograms, a new law will require them to cover more precise breast imaging, as well. In other words, women will no longer have to pay out-of-pocket costs should a doctor order diagnostic breast imaging, such as an ultrasound or MRI.
Limiting spam phone calls
A new law aims to give residents some reprieve from annoying spam phone calls.
Oklahoma will prohibit spam phone calls that occur before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m., and those that use automated dialing systems, alter the voice of the caller or block the caller’s contact information.
Those who violate the detailed provisions of the law could be sued.
The measure will not stop all robo-calls, though, because state lawmakers cannot regulate out-of-state callers.
Criminal justice reforms provide a clean slate
The state will pave the way for the automatic expungement of some criminal records.
Although it will take several years to implement, House Bill 3316 outlines a process for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to periodically identify individuals who should have their records automatically expunged, or effectively sealed from the public.
The new law doesn’t change who is eligible to have their criminal record expunged, but it will make the process easier because individuals typically have to hire an attorney to get their record sealed.
Another new law allows former inmates to reduce their time on parole by demonstrating good behavior and maintaining employment.
Expanding newborn screenings
A new law from Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, will expand the number of rare genetic disorders screened for in newborns.
Oklahoma newborn screenings will conform to the federally Recommended Uniform Screening Panel that tests for 61 deficiencies and disorders. The state currently screens for most, but not all, of those disorders.
Landlord-tenant law get an update
A change decades in the making will give renters more power to make essential home repairs without having to foot the bill.
Facing home problems that threaten their health or safety, renters will be able to make repairs if their landlord has not remedied the situation within two weeks.
In a major change, the renter would then be able to deduct the repair costs from their rent, but could not exceed one monthly rent payment. Since 1978, state law has only allowed a tenant to deduct up to $100 in repair costs.
Age limits coming for motorized scooters
As electric scooters have popped up on sidewalks and street corners in major metropolitan areas across the country, a new state law limits who can take them for a ride.
Motorized scooter riders must be at least 14 years old, although localities could implement more stringent age restrictions if they wanted. The law also sets a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour.
Publicizing mental health hotline
By this summer, school districts and charter schools will be required to print the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on student identification cards for children in seventh grade or higher. Anyone can call the 988 number at any time to get immediate mental health help.
The new law also encourages, but does not require, colleges and universities to include the hotline and the phone number for campus police on student ID cards.
Election laws changing
District attorneys will be tasked with investigating possible voter registration violations under a new law.
Every year, the State Election Board will have to query the voter registration database. Addresses with more than 10 registered voters will be passed along to local district attorneys who will investigate to determine if there is any violation of the state’s voter laws.
Cracking down on catalytic converter thefts
Oklahoma is taking steps to reduce catalytic converter thefts that are on the rise.
The theft of catalytic converters, tires or wheels from a vehicle could result in a third-degree burglary charge, punishable by a $5,000 fine or five years in prison.