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Bills To Move Talihina Veterans Center, Expand Gun Rights Fail In Oklahoma Legislature

Apr 7, 2017

 

With a little less than two months until the end of this legislative session, the Oklahoma House and Senate are considering bills covering a wide range of topics, from gun rights to teacher pay raises.

Bill to loosen Oklahoma gun laws failed in Senate

House Bill 2323 would have allowed a citizen 21 or older, without a felony, to carry a loaded gun in their vehicle without a valid handgun license.

eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley said the bill was hotly debated in the legislature.

“A number of members expressed concern that an individual without a Self Defense Act license would not have proper gun training and, therefore, it would create a dangerous situation,” Ashley said in his weekly interview with KGOU.

Opponents also questioned whether allowing college age individuals to carry without a license would supercede laws that prohibit weapons on many college campuses.

Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, author of the bill, argued all Americans have a second amendment right to bear arms, but Oklahoma statutes make it seem as if the opposite is true.

Bill to move Talihina Veterans Center failed

Senate Bill 544 would have begun the process to move the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina to a more populous area, where there would assumedly be better opportunities to hire staff members, according to Ashley.

The Talihina center has faced problems after a Sapulpa man choked to death while in their care, as reported by the Tulsa World. The building is also old and in need of repair.

Some residents at the center had told their legislators they want to stay at the center, and legislators expressed concerns about how leaving would affect Talihina’s economy.

Rep. Tommy Hardin, R-Madill, said there will be an interim study done on the center this summer, but was not specific what legislators will look for.

Teacher pay raise bill passed out of Senate committee

HB 1114, also known as the House’s “1-2-3 plan,” passed the Senate’s Subcommittee on Education on Tuesday. This bill gives teachers a $6,000 pay raise over a three year period.

Some Senators oppose the bill because they say there is no money to pay for it.

“One of the questions that remains and one of the issues that was brought up in the committee meeting is how is this going to be paid for - an issue that the legislature has yet to resolve,” Ashley said.

 

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On Sen. Brecheen’s argument for HB 2323

Sen. Brecheen pointed out that, as Oklahomans, and as Americans, we all have a second amendment right to bear arms. However, if you look at the Oklahoma statutes, he said, it seems to begin from the premise that the opposite is true. That carrying weapons is, in fact, illegal, and it creates a number of conditions and premises under which you can do that.

On funding a teacher pay raise and the state of the Oklahoma budget

Ashley: No revenue raising measures have come through and no funding source has been identified.

Pryor: And we’re expecting a report on the general revenue fund from Preston Doerflinger soon.

Ashley: That’s right. We heard from treasurer Ken Miller this past week indicating that revenues for the month of March were down compared to the prior year. It depends on which taxes are involved, how that affects the general revenue fund, but we should get an idea from Sec. Doerflinger this next week.

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Dick Pryor: Shawn, House Bill 2323 by Sen. Josh Brecheen is a bill expanding gun rights. Now it failed. What would it have done and why did it fail?

 

Shawn Ashley: Well, this bill would have addressed the issue of having a loaded gun in a car, particularly for someone who does not have a Self Defense Act permit. It would have permitted someone to carry a loaded weapon in their vehicle. Otherwise, they would be violating state law and would be subject to a fine. This bill was hotly debated in the Senate Public Safety Committee on Thursday. A number of members expressed concern that an individual without a Self Defense Act license would not have proper gun training and, therefore, it would create a dangerous situation. Others were concerned about the fact that it had an age of 21 in it, when many people are still in college. And as we know, there’s a prohibition on people having weapons on college campuses and there was concern that it might supercede that law.

Pryor: What was Sen. Brecheen’s argument?

Ashley: Sen. Brecheen pointed out that, as Oklahomans, and as Americans, we all have a second amendment right to bear arms. However, if you look at the Oklahoma statutes, he said, it seems to begin from the premise that the opposite is true. That carrying weapons is, in fact, illegal, and it creates a number of conditions and premises under which you can do that. However, that was not enough to sway the committee and the bill failed. Like any measure before the legislature though, nothing is dead until the end, so it’s possible we could see that language again.

Pryor: Another bill that failed was one that potentially could have moved the Talihina Veterans Center.

Ashley: Right. This has been a controversial measure throughout the legislative process this year - Senate Bill 544. What it would have done would be to begin the process of moving the veterans center that is located in Talihina to somewhere else in southeast or east central Oklahoma, probably the Poteau area. The center there is quite old. It was originally built for some other purpose, is three stories tall and in need of repair, and unfortunately has been the site of at least one resident’s death. A number of issues were raised as to why this bill should not move forward, ranging from the fact that many of the residents have told their legislators that they’re quite happy there, to concerns about the effect on the local economy.

Pryor: Does this vote say anything about the legislature’s overall approach toward veteran centers?

Ashley: I’m not sure that it does in terms of all the veteran centers. I think what it does reflect are concerns about that one center, in particular. Moving forward, Rep. Tommy Hardin indicated that their would be an interim study on the issue, more than likely. So we will get a better sense of where lawmakers stand on the issue of veteran centers in general, and that one in particular, this summer.

Pryor: The House version of a teacher pay raise bill passed.

Ashley: That’s right. The Senate appropriations subcommittee on education approved House Bill 1114 on Tuesday. This bill is the 1-2-3 plan. It provides for a $1,000 raise, a $2,000 raise and then a $3,000 raise. One of the questions that remains and one of the issues that was brought up in the committee meeting is how is this going to be paid for - an issue that the legislature has yet to resolve.

Pryor: Still no idea on that.

Ashley: That’s exactly right. No revenue raising measures have come through and no funding source has been identified.

Pryor: And we’re expecting a report on the general revenue fund from Preston Doerflinger soon.

Ashley: That’s right. We heard from treasurer Ken Miller this past week indicating that revenues for the month of March were down compared to the prior year. It depends on which taxes are involved, how that affects the general revenue fund, but we should get an idea from Sec. Doerflinger this next week.

Pryor: That’s the Capitol Insider. eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley, as always, thank you.

Ashley: You’re very welcome.

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