OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A push to criminalize loitering on county-owned property made its way through the House and is on its way to Senate for committee consideration.
The bill is House Bill 2536.
It stated that any person willfully loitering in “critical infrastructure” could face up to 6 months in jail.
Critical infrastructure is defined as places like, oil refineries and water treatment plants. It also covers county-owned properties including, courthouses and jails.
The author of the bill, Rep. JJ Humphrey (R-Lane), said it’s designed to get transients and homeless Oklahomans away from courthouses.
“They’ll set up tents. They’ll defecate on the property, use drugs, needles, that kind of thing,” said Humphrey. “People can’t get through to go to the public buildings and use the public buildings like they need to.”
The word “transient” is not in the bill.
Democrat Andy Fugate of Oklahoma City said it could have unintended consequences.
“So oftentimes here at the Capitol, we talk about the myth and what we want bills to do versus the reality of what bills do and when we pass something into law, it’s the actual text that goes into law,” said Fugate.
Critics have said this bill would open up the opportunity to arrest protesters.
Humphrey said he does not agree.
“The word loiter means a person who is hanging about with no purpose or no intent. And, you know, you’re protesting. You have an intent, you have a purpose,” said Humphrey. “That’s constitutional. I am a person that believes in the Constitution.”
Fugate also scoffed at the general use of “county-owned property” as critical infrastructure.
“County property includes things like county fairgrounds. And it was ridiculous listening to my colleagues try to come up with ways that a county fairground is somehow critical infrastructure,” said Fugate.
It passed the House and moves to the Senate for committee consideration.