More than 60 new laws take effect in Oklahoma on Nov. 1
The 2020 legislative session has begun at the Oklahoma Capitol building in Oklahoma City. In Oklahoma, about 60 laws have become effective on Nov. 1. (Kevin Blair/The Vista)

More than 60 new laws take effect in Oklahoma on Nov. 1

Normally hundreds of new laws go into effect every year in Oklahoma, however, only about 60 laws have become effective on Nov. 1 as legislators weren’t able to meet as often as usual due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One law that took effect Sunday to modernize court trials was propelled by the pandemic. House Bill 3756, authored by Rep. Nicole Miller, will now allow video-conferencing in all stages of criminal and civil district court proceedings, except in jury trials or trials before a judge. 

Two new laws from House Speaker Charles McCall updates the state’s petition process. House Bill 3827 requires initiative petition programs to report their finances beginning almost immediately after filing with Oklahoma’s secretary of state. Until now, campaigns weren’t required to report their funds until the governor sets an election date.

House Bill 3726 requires the circulator for initiative and referendum petitions to gather additional information from signatories so their names can be verified with the state’s voter database. 

Another law, House Bill 2871,  will allow participants in Oklahoma’s Address confidentiality program, such as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to sign initiative and referendum petitions without revealing their real address. The program provides participants with an alternative address in order to protect their actual home address. Under the new law, they will be able to use the substitute address to sign initiative petitions. 

One new law, authored by Rep. Jon Echols and Rep. Denise Brewer, reclassifies several domestic charges as violent crimes.

House Bill 3251, reclassifies domestic abuse by strangulation, domestic assault with a dangerous weapon, domestic assault, and battery with a dangerous weapon, or domestic assault and battery with a deadly weapon. 

The Personal Privacy Protection Act, or House Bill 3616, will prohibit any public agency from publicly disclosing any personal affiliation information, with the exception of certain information from the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

Under the new law, the requester must show a “compelling need” and obtain a protective order barring the disclosure of the information to anyone not directly involved in the lawsuit. Any person who alleges a violation of this act may bring a civil action for injunctive relief and damages.

House Bill 4157, states that over $2.7 million of the funds for the Department of Mental Health and the Substance Abuse Services will be dedicated to program growth, and an additional $1 million will be allocated toward suicide prevention, the establishment, and maintenance of five pilot programs that offer treatment for opioid and alcohol-dependent offenders who are currently incarcerated or are phasing out of the system. 

House Bill 3967, regarding Oklahoma trade, says that the state of Oklahoma will not enter into business partnerships with companies that advocate boycotts against Israel. It also declares Israel as a prominent trading partner of Oklahoma. The secretary of state can offer exemptions if they determine it is necessary.

Another law, House Bill 3242, is intended to improve the buyer’s understanding of Medicare and the policies and insurance coverage that are available. The Commissioner of Insurance may require an informational brochure and notice provisions to clarify Medicare supplement coverages. The bill also allows the Commissioner to conform Medicare supplement policies and certificates to federal law.

The Porch Piracy Act of 2020, also known as House Bill 2777, makes it unlawful for a person- defined as an individual, partnership, corporation, company, or association- to take and conceal or destroy mail from another person or mailbox. The punishment for violating the Act is jail time or a fine and must pay restitution to the victim. 

The Professions and Occupations Act, as stated in House Bill 1799, gives the secretary of state authority to annually compile the Oklahoma Constitution, Oklahoma Statutes, and Oklahoma Session Laws into an electronic format. The public will be able to access this online publication free of charge. This does not nullify the existing contracts with the state for the printed publication of the aforementioned documents.

House Bill 3223 allows for tissue from cadavers to be used for the purpose of training dogs to search for human remains. Schools, colleges, and persons designated by the Anatomical Board are authorized to retain and donate this tissue, but it must be well documented and the tissue cannot be sold or transferred for any reason other than canine training. Any loss or theft must be reported.

The Oklahoma Meat Consumer Protection Act, House Bill 3806, prohibits the misrepresentation or mislabeling of the cut, quality, weight, grade, or brand of meat or meat products. The use of USDA-quality grades is specifically meant for meat that has passed the United States Department of Agriculture inspection, and products not graded by USDA may not use their grade. Plant-based items must label themselves as such in a way that is equal in size to the product’s name to prevent misrepresentation.

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