- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Some familiar topics like abortion and firearms are among those in the more than 2,200 bills and resolutions filed by Oklahoma House and Senate members ahead of the 2017 legislative session that begins Feb. 6.

The 2,242 bills and resolutions filed by this week’s deadline is about average for the first session of a Legislature in Oklahoma. There were 2,091 filed in 2015 and 2,466 introduced in 2013.

While closing a massive budget gap and finding a way to increase teacher pay will be among the priorities for Republican leaders, hot-button issues like abortion, firearms and the death penalty also will be on the agenda.

Despite criticism that those hotly debated topics take lawmakers’ time and attention away from more pressing concerns, including the state’s nearly $870 million budget gap, new Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat said the Legislature is more than capable of tackling numerous subjects.

“I, too, believe the budget is extremely important and paramount, but I don’t think those issues are mutually exclusive,” said Treat, an Oklahoma City Republican who has introduced several anti-abortion measures. “The budget is important in my household too, but we also talk about other things.”

Among more than a dozen anti-abortion measures introduced this year is one Republican Sen. Joseph Silk that seeks to classify the procedure as first-degree murder. A similar bill last year was never granted a hearing on the floor. Tthe GOP-controlled Legislature did approve a bill last year that would have made it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for anyone who performs an abortion, but Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed it, saying it was clearly unconstitutional.

Silk, R-Poteau, said he realizes that if his bill is passed it will face an immediate court challenge as unconstitutional, but said that’s what’s needed to overturn Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

“It’s going to take a direct, full-front assault on Roe v. Wade to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to get them to overturn it,” Silk said.

Other anti-abortion measures would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected , require the state to issue death certificates for aborted fetuses and require the written consent of the father .

Oklahoma’s Republican-led Legislature has passed some of the country’s most far-reaching anti-abortion legislation, and many of the proposed new laws have been thrown out by the courts or temporarily halted while the lawsuits are pending.

“Year after year, politicians in Oklahoma introduce legislation that would chip away at a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, shame or stigmatize women who have decided to end a pregnancy, or outright ban abortion,” said Amanda Allen, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which has successfully challenged numerous anti-abortion measures in Oklahoma. “The Center for Reproductive Rights urges the Oklahoma legislature to end its crusade against safe and legal abortion.”

Lawmakers this year also have introduced dozens of firearms bills, including measures to prohibit people living in the country illegally from possessing firearms, placing armed police officers in private schools and allowing the governor and top elected officials to carry guns.


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