Oklahoma State Senate approves Ida’s Law, measure moves to House of Representatives

Legislation to address the issue of unsolved cases of missing and murdered Native American people has been approved unanimously by the full Senate. Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, is the principal author of Senate Bill 172, known as Ida’s Law

The measure is named for 29-year-old Ida Beard from El Reno. A citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, she went missing in 2015 and has never been found. Legislators from Oklahoma City have assumed leading roles in advancing the proposed law. 

Rosino said there are currently more than 220 missing American Indians in Oklahoma, with about 14 of those from his own Senate District.
“It’s a national problem, and it’s a problem right here in Oklahoma. One of the biggest issues is the lack of solid data, which is exactly what Ida’s Law would help us address,” Rosino said. “We had tremendous momentum for this legislation last session, but it was another of many important bills that the clock ran out on due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m encouraged and grateful for the Senate’s support this session.”

S.B.172 directs the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) to coordinate with the United States Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department to obtain federal funding to create a database. The measure would also create the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons under the OSBI. 
The office would work with tribal, state, and federal authorities on missing persons and homicide cases, provide guidance to victims’ families, facilitate training, promote best practices, and consult with community organizations to promote community relations.

Also advocating for the legislation as it moves through the legislative process have been state Senator Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, and state Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton. In a recent “Point of View” commentary for The Oklahoman, Pae and Hicks explained the utility of the data base the law envisions: 

“In Oklahoma, 9.4 percent of the population is Indigenous, and we’re one of the Top 10 states in the nation for missing or murdered Indigenous women. Without guidelines and with limitations in data collection and reporting, it’s impossible to fully understand how many Indigenous members of our community are missing or murdered every year.” 

The measure next moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, is the House principal author.

Note: Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.