By Carol Mowdy Bond
District 41 State Rep. Denise Crosswhite-Hader, R-Yukon, is gearing up for the second regular session of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature which convenes next Monday, Feb. 3.
“I am pleased with last year’s success,” she said. “We were able for the first time ever to give teachers back-to-back raises along with savings of an additional $200 million for the next downturn in the economy. The 2020 session will be very different than last year.
“I am excited about Gov. Stitt’s idea to attack over regulation. We must have a business-friendly environment. While this year’s budget will likely be flat, that doesn’t mean the State of Oklahoma will just fund agencies at the same level. We will work to continue to prioritize the needs of all citizens.”
Rep. Crosswhite-Hader filed six bills for this year’s session.
Her Firearms and Weapons bill, HB 3015, is the Defensive Display bill that was first enacted in Montana over 10 years ago.
“Now in Montana, a citizen may use a firearm in self-defense without actually firing it,” Crosswhite-Hader said. “Previously a threat, or motion to produce a firearm, even when threatened by an attacker, could lead to assault charges against an innocent gun owner.
“This clarifies that a proper defensive reach for, or announcement of firearm possession, is an acceptable element in the continuum of self-defense, and should not be charged as a crime. The threat of a charge can be used to coerce a plea agreement, and now this is balanced with a specified stipulation of proper display of a gun without firing at a potential assailant.”
When she authored HB 3016, the Tornado Safety/Hotel bill, Crosswhite-Hader used an idea she received from a constituent. The bill addresses the issue of what people should do and where they should go, when staying in an Oklahoma hotel and a tornado warning is issued.
“Hotels are required to put information on room doors for fire safety,” the first-term state legislator explained. “This would add information for tornado warnings. This legislation would not add regulations to existing hotels. It would be for new construction. Existing construction would have to update as they update fire safety information.”
Requiring the State Board of Health to promulgate certain rules regarding tornado safety, part of HB 3016’s language reads:
“The Board shall promulgate rules requiring hotels to conspicuously post tornado safety information in every room and common area in the same manner as fire evacuation information. The tornado safety information shall be designed by the Board and posted immediately by all hotels under new construction and by existing hotels as those hotels’ safety information is updated.
“At a minimum, the tornado safety information shall list the county the hotel is in, the hotel’s location on a state map, information regarding what a hotel guest should do to stay safe during a tornado and, if applicable, the day and time of community tornado siren testing. This act shall become effective November 1, 2020.”
Of her HB 3017 Mental Health Prisoners bill, Crosswhite-Hader said, “This is a companion to another bill (HB 1181-2019) that Gov. Stitt signed last year regarding the location of mental health prisoners. It gave the Department of Corrections the flexibility to best determine where mental health prisoners would be located.
“HB 3017 will give the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse the flexibility to clarify the purpose of psychiatrists used for mental health prisoners.”
Her HB 3018 – the Abandoned Property bill, addresses a tax burden on innocent taxpayers.
“Currently when land is abandoned by failing to pay past taxes, taxpayers in that county become the owners,” Rep. Crosswhite-Hader said. “Therefore, when the property isn’t maintained, the county, AKA taxpayers, are on the hook for the cost of upkeep. We had an interim study regarding this issue during fall 2019.”
Canadian County Commissioner Marc Hader, along with Cleveland County Commissioner Harold Haralson, both addressed this issue. Commissioner Haralson noted that Cleveland County alone paid over $38,000 in 2019 to mow the properties. That $38,000 burden falls on the county taxpayers.
“The goal of HB 3018 is to give flexibility to counties to determine if they are willing to take on that responsibility or force the landowner to continue to be responsible,” the HD-41 representative said.
Crosswhite-Hader’s HB 3019 is a transportation shell bill.
“A shell bill is a placeholder in a specific title of law,” she explained. “That way, if at a later date something in that title of law becomes an issue, that was unseen prior to bill filing, there will still be an avenue for action.”
Her HB 3020 is a juvenile justice shell bill.
There is “a lot activity for the upcoming session,” Crosswhite-Hader said.