Anti-science legislation in 2017 Oklahoma legislature
Update: The 1st Regular Session of the 56th Legislature adjourned Sine Die on Friday, May 26, 2017. No anti-science education legislation was passed.
The two anti-science bills introduced for the 2017 Oklahoma legislative session are dead for now. Neither SB 393 nor SB 450 were passed this session. They could be brought up again during next year’s session. Thanks to all who sent messages to the committees. Numbers DO count!
SB 393 was not heard on the House floor before the April 27 deadline and is dead for now. Thanks to all who sent messages. Numbers DO count. SB 393 passed the House General Oversight and Accountability Committee April 13 by a vote of 4-3. SB 393 passed the Senate by a vote of 34-10 on March 22. SB 393 passed the Senate Education Committee on Monday, February 27. The vote was 13-1. SB 393 by Josh Brecheen, the Oklahoma Science Education Act. The bill says public school officials shall “endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” This is standard creationist language to allow anti-science information into the classroom. The bill is nearly identical to SB 1322 introduced last year which was never heard in the Senate Education Committee. More info at NCSE and the Sensuous Curmudgeon. The bill is very similar to a bill defeated in the South Dakota Senate. Opponents of that bill are calling it the “Alternative Facts Bill”. You may want to use that terminology for SB 393 as well. Letters in opposition to the bill have been sent by AIBS, NSTA, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, NABT, and the National Coalition Against Censorship. See this analysis of the bill for newer talking points. Other new talking points here. Additional talking points here and here. Coverage of the House committee hearing at Huffington Post, US News and World Report, E&E News, Okie Funk, the Oklahoman, and many other venues. Other coverage of the bill at Vice News and High Plains Public Radio.
SB 450 passed the Senate by a vote of 41-3 on March 22 with only Senators Floyd, Pittman, and Sparks voting against. the bill. SB 450 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 21. SB 450 by Allen, creating the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act. Although the bill does not specifically address science education, it could possibly be used to allow non-scientific answers to science questions The bill is unnecessary to protect student expression of religious viewpoints, because most of the provisions of the bill already exist in current law. It sets forth rights already guaranteed by the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitutions and federal and Oklahoma state law, as well as recommendations made in federal guidelines. A similar bill passed in Texas several years ago, but has not been acted upon by any Texas school district. See this analysis of a previously introduced bill for additional talking points. Additional talking points here. The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary – Civil and Environmental Committee. The bill was not heard in the House committee before the deadline and thus the bill is currently dead. Thanks to all who sent messages. Numbers do count.