Legislative Update: Rep. Miller studies reinstatement of drivers’ licenses, Sen. Dahm promotes tax credits for safety, Rural schools honor Sen. Pemberton

In recent legislative news, an interim study on easing steps for formerly incarcerated persons regaining drivers’ licenses, proposed income tax credits for persons completing gun safety courses, and rural legislator of the year honors for a Republican senator. 

Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, hosted an interim study this past week before the House Public Safety Committee. The study examined possible steps that could be taken to help get drivers licenses reinstated after being involved in the justice system.
In a press release, Rep. Miller said the study time examined the impact possessing a valid drivers license has on a person’s life after they conclude time in the justice system. The study also focused on the current process in place for those whose licenses have been suspended or expired.
Introducing the hearing, Miller asked, “Are these laws working as intended? Are we getting the results that we expected? Does the law need to be reformed to ensure that there is a less cumbersome path for drivers license reinstatement while still preserving the safety of the public?” 
She continued, “These laws, we know, have been amended and changed countless times in the last decade, and what we’re really left with today is just a series of laws and administrative code that has been cobbled together over time.”

Miller said the issue came to her attention through Judy Mullen Hopper, a constituent whose stepson went 15 years without a license after his was suspended due to a 2004 conviction of simple drug possession (now considered a misdemeanor under State Question 780 and House Bill 1269). The stepson’s lack of a license was only resolved payment of high fines and fees, hours of course instruction and other steps taking six months, Hopper said.

A second speaker, Liz Dunaway, participates in ReMerge, a diversion program to help pregnant women and mothers transition from incarceration into society. She described attempts to get her license reinstated after two DUI charges in 2011. She said she wasn’t made aware of a 10-day window from the charge of her first DUI to appeal suspension.
Dunaway couldn’t get a license until she had a breathalyzer installed on a vehicle, but she couldn’t get a vehicle until she had a drivers license. It was difficult to find work without a car or the ability to drive, which made paying her $1,800 license reinstatement fee all the more stressful.

Erin Brewer shared her experience as a second chance employer in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown, where she owned RedPin and witnessed the struggle her employees endured to become a contributing member of society again. RedPin employed about 160 people a year who walked from nearby halfway houses. She found the employees consistently reliable, eager and hardworking.

Other speakers included Kate Barbarick, an education and employment coordinator with ReMerge; Doug Young, director of driver compliance at the Dept. of Public Safety; Sean Wallace, legislative liaison for the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Derek M. Cohen, director of Right on Crime and the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy foundation; and Tricia Everest, chair of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority.
Miller expects to address this issue through legislation this coming year. A Republican, Miller serves District 82 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Edmond, Oklahoma City and Deer Creek.

In recent news from the upper chamber of the Legislature, Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, filed legislation last week to create an income tax credit for Oklahoma citizens who successfully complete the gun safety training course required to get a concealed carry permit.

“Since Constitutional Carry has gone into effect, many people have expressed concerns about no longer forcing people to undergo government-mandated training in order to exercise their rights. Even though we haven’t had any major incidents, I encourage everyone to exercise their rights in a safe and informed way. This bill will allow those who wish to take the training course to do so and then claim an income tax credit for the costs of the course,” Dahm said. 

Senate Bill 1090 includes several provisions, including a tax credit for those who complete the course, a tax credit to cover the fingerprinting, pictures, and licensing costs for those who get their concealed carry, as well as a tax credit for those who renew their existing carry permit.

The Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS), at the group’s recent Fall Conference, recognized Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, as Rural Legislator of the Year. 
Expressing appreciation for the recognition, Sen. Pemberton said, “It is my pleasure to represent rural schools and advocate on behalf of their specific needs, not only in my district but across the State of Oklahoma.  In rural Oklahoma, the local schools are the life blood of the communities so it’s important that we do all we can to protect them.” 
A former teacher and administrator, Pemberton has 36 years of experience in education.