1 in 10 children in Oklahoma (that’s 96,000 kids!) have at one point in their life experienced a parent incarcerated. Last November, Oklahoma took a bold step in passing State Questions 780 and 781, reclassifying some drug possession crimes as misdemeanors rather than felonies. Before this can even go into effect, legislators are already attempting to dilute the vote of the people. House Bill 1482, authored by Representative Biggs, seeks to “re-reclassify” drug possession as a felony.
Representative Bigg’s bill is harmful to children and families, particularly children and families of color. The trauma of being separated from a parent, along with a lack of sympathy or support from others, can increase children’s mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and hamper educational achievement. When fathers are incarcerated, family income drops by an average of 22 percent. Furthermore, a child experiencing parental incarceration is 7 times more likely to experience incarceration themselves. Because of these facts and the data we track in our KIDS COUNT database, OICA has taken a firm stance against HB 1482. In conjunction with TEEM, lead by former Speaker of the House Kris Steele, we held a rally at the State Capitol Thursday, March 2nd.
Although the rally was scheduled mid-morning at 11:30 A.M., session had let out early, so most of the legislators were not there. It was still a successful rally for our cause and many people showed up as well as the media, but it would have been more powerful still had our supporters had the opportunity to meet with legislators.
Those of you learning advocacy vicariously through this blog, here’s a new rule to remember; schedule your rallies and advocacy events at the capitol close to the times you know legislators will be there. Trying to schedule before or shortly after session is your best bet. It is difficult to schedule after session because you never really know when it will end. Looking at the day’s agenda beforehand can help give an idea of how long session may last, but unfortunately the agenda won’t be published until 24 hours in advance- so there’s no way to know when planning what session will look like the day of your event. There is however, a set schedule for when session begins each day:
Here’s the floor session schedule:
Monday and Wednesday have afternoon sessions starting at 1:30 P.M.
Tuesday and Thursday have morning sessions starting at 9:30 A.M.
Friday there is no session.
I hope this information is helpful to you and may your advocacy events be a success! As always email me or post below if you have any questions! If you want to join me for a day at the capitol and see what it’s like to sit in on a floor session don’t hesitate to reach out!
Lani Habrock is the director of KIDS COUNT at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. As a former contender for the State House of Representatives she believes legislative advocacy is an important work we must all take responsibility for in order to create positive change for all children in our state on a population-wide level.