Due to the COVID 19 public health emergency, the Oklahoma Legislature was not in session for at least seven weeks last spring.
As a result, very few important pieces of legislation were acted on, including those supported by Tulsa County. With the 2021 Session set to begin Feb. 1, we will bring back legislation which we believe will improve county government operations and services to the citizens of Tulsa County.
Property and Building Code Enforcement
There are tens of thousands of citizens who live in the unincorporated areas of Tulsa County. This means that the enforcement of the health and safety codes on these properties is outside the code enforcement jurisdiction of the cities in Tulsa County. Therefore, Tulsa County is responsible for the adoption and enforcement of the building and property codes. To provide Tulsa County’s Division of Inspections with the necessary code enforcement tools, legislation will be introduced which will provide enforceable penalties for those who violate these codes.
Following the horrific flooding of 2019, the legislature convened a special panel to conduct an “after action” review of all the damage that resulted and what could be done in the future to be better prepared. It was clear from this review that an insignificant amount of resources to mitigate and prevent damage from natural disasters is available. While some funding is available after the disaster, more could be done before disasters strike to protect citizens and their property. In that effort, the Hazard Mitigation Assessment District bill has been introduced. This would provide counties with the option of presenting to the voters, for their approval, a small assessment on their property in order to fund the capital improvements necessary to protect lives and property.
Misdemeanor Drug Diversion
It is all too common for law enforcement to engage with a person who is under the influence of drugs or has a small amount of drugs in their possession.
Currently, what follows is an arrest and detainment in the county jail. A tremendous amount of law enforcement time and costs are expended on these minor offenses.
With the growing number of alternative treatment options now available for minor drug possession offenses, the District Attorney and Sheriff are proposing legislation which would allow them to collaborate on developing a misdemeanor drug diversion program.
Under this legislation, the law enforcement officer who encounters this individual would have the option of transporting the person to an evaluation center where medical and mental health professionals would intervene to development an appropriate treatment response.
Exempting Police Officers From Jury Duty
Each month, hundreds of citizens are summoned for jury duty for the District Courts. Unless a citizen is exempt by law from jury duty, they must report and serve.
Often times, included in the group summoned are law enforcement officers. Currently, law enforcement officers are not exempt from reporting to court once they receive a jury summons.
This places an undue operational and fiscal impact on the city where the officer works. In reality, due to their profession, a police officer is seldom, if ever, actually picked to serve on a jury due to the perceived bias they would have. This bill would allow the law enforcement officer to be excused from reporting to jury duty.
Unlike cities in Oklahoma which have broad self-governing powers, counties are still dependent upon the legislature to provide the permission for governing reforms and the means by which these reforms can be implemented even when there is no fiscal or operational impact upon the state.