OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A battle over education reform and a controversial censure defined the fifth week of session.
On Tuesday, Rep. Mauree Turner, D-OKC, was censured by the House Republicans because of keeping the door locked while state troopers looked for a protester involved in a scuffle at the Capitol a week before.
On Feb. 28, the House passed a bill which would end all gender-affirming health care for trans-youth.
Protesters were in the Capitol that day and one of them was arrested for dumping water at a state lawmaker and physically struggling with state troopers during an arrest.
That individual was immediately arrested and put in the back of a trooper’s vehicle.
Another individual was involved and left the scene to allegedly hide in Turner’s office.
That other person was later identified as Austin Ross.
Turner is the only non-binary legislator and goes by they/them.
When troopers came to Turner’s office, they kept the door locked, preventing the troopers from speaking to Ross. However, the door was eventually opened, and the troopers did speak to Ross and said charges would be filed out of custody.
Speaker of the House Charles McCall explained the censure was called because Turner “harbored a fugitive wanted for questioning.”
“There has been no investigation,” said House Democrat Leader Cyndi Munson, D-OKC. “There has not been any report from law enforcement. And so as of right now, this is the opinion of a supermajority.”
Right now there are no charges against Turner.
Democrats hit back against Republicans by referring to two current members, Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) and Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R-Catoosa), who are both in House leadership but each carry felony charges.
“There are active members in the Republican Party who have been indicted by grand juries, with felonies on their record, that have never been censured,” said Rep. Turner. “They get to chair, they get to preside over the floor.”
McCall vs Treat 2.0
Last year, Speaker McCall said the House would not hear any Senate legislation on school choice vouchers.
The Oklahoma Empowerment Act would have set up education savings accounts for Oklahoma students. It was authored by Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat.
It never made it to the House chamber.
On Thursday, Speaker McCall went all in on his two education bills, HB 1935 and HB 2775.
“We expect those to be heard as is,” said McCall. “If the Senate actions are to amend those bills, we’ll make it very clear – we made it clear to them – they are voting to kill the legislation.”
Technically, if the Senate amends the bills and passes them, it would be the House that chooses to ignore them or vote them down, but the Speaker made it clear what his chamber wants.
“If they want to change something that’s in the House bill, we can talk about that. But it needs to be in a trailer piece of legislation,” said McCall.
Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat did not respond kindly to the threat.
“Asinine is the only word that comes to mind,” said Treat. “We won’t be bullied into a position.”
The leader in the Senate does not appreciate McCall’s attempt at a checkmate move.
“It’s setting the trap to be able to blame me for school choice dying,” said Treat. “I am telling you that if they say that education reform is dead, if we make any amendments, then they are killing education reform.”
Senator Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) spent months crafting his education plans.
Some of which include, 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for teachers and raising the state’s minimum pay scale by $3,000.
According to McCall, other education reform bills from the Senate would have to wait until his two education bills are heard first.
“There’s that’s not the way this process works. We all know that. He knows that,” said Treat.
The Governor weighed in during his weekly press conference.
“It’s a great package, I think cooler heads are going to prevail, and I wish that rhetoric wouldn’t happen,” said Stitt.