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Criminal justice reform: State representative says HB 1482 is an insult to voters

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Last November, voters answered State Question 780.

"They voted to move drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors for a lot of drug offenses," said Representative Forrest Bennett, a Democrat.

But then HB 1482, known as the "Keep Oklahoma Children Safe from Illegal Drugs Act of 2017" recently passed the house. Bennett voted against it.

"The intent, clearly, is to roll back a lot of what 780 did," said Bennett.

The bill would add a provision to 780 and says any person found with any drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, park or in the presence of a child under 12 would guilty of a felony.

For the first offense, a person would spend less than five years and prison and be required to serve at least half of their sentence.

A second offense would be less than 10 years.

We reached out to the bill's author, Representative Scott Biggs, a Republican, by phone and text, but didn't hear back.

Previously, on the topic of State Question 780, he said, "I believe there is a large group of voters that didn't understand that this state question would essentially decriminalize drugs in schools, parks and playgrounds."

He went on to say, "I am all for cleaning up our books to have a more efficient justice system but not at the expense of our children."

But Bennett says the bill is an insult to voters.

"House Bill 1482 sends the message that, 'hey voters, we see what you decided. We don't care,'" said Bennett. "It says 'we know you voted for this, but we don't believe you were intelligent enough to understand what you voted for.'"

The bill passed the Oklahoma House with a vote of 51-38. It now heads to the Oklahoma Senate.