Capitol Insider: New Alcohol Law Provides For Drinks "To-Go"
New laws change the way some state agencies spend their money and how people can order alcoholic drinks. KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss new laws in this Capitol Insider.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and government. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol news director, Shawn Ashley. Shawn, more than 20 bills went into effect as new laws in the last few days. One of them allows alcoholic beverages “to go.” How will that work and be enforced?
Shawn Ashley: Well, House Bill 2122 permits mixed beverage license holders to sell these alcoholic beverages to go. Now, it requires that the cocktail, mixed drink or single serve wine be placed in a sealed container. And it also requires the server who delivers the drink to verify that the customer is 21 years old and it requires that the sealed container be placed in the trunk of a vehicle or if there is no trunk (then) in the vehicle's rear compartment that is not readily accessible to the passenger area. Oklahoma ABLE Commission, the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission, has also adopted administrative rules consistent with the law. And I am sure that law enforcement will be on the lookout for those who may decide to imbibe before they get home.
Dick Pryor: Yeah, another new law is not about “to go” services. It allows “at home” hairstyling by licensed barbers and cosmetologists. How did this bill come about?
Shawn Ashley: Well, when Senate Bill 850 was considered on the Senate floor, Senator Nathan Dahm told the story of a constituent who asked their stylist to come to their home in order to provide a haircut. But the stylist said they could not do that because it was illegal under existing law, which led to Senate Bill 850 and the change it contains.
Dick Pryor: Does the new law change regulations for hairstyling practices?
Shawn Ashley: Yes, it does, because it involves a licensed provider going into someone's home the Board of Cosmetology and Barbering is prohibited from conducting inspections or implementing administrative rules or regulations related to those home-provided services. Now, that is something some of the board members have expressed reservations about.
Dick Pryor: Shawn, most of the new laws tell state agencies how to spend money they receive from the legislature. Agencies have been given rather broad discretion, but that is changing. Does this indicate a shift in philosophy in the legislature?
Shawn Ashley: You know, I think it does. For several years, agencies were given that broad discretion to spend their money as they needed and as they saw fit. Often this was because the legislature was implementing budget cuts and the feeling was that those within the agency knew best how to allocate those funds under those restricted situations. Several years ago, Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson told me that they would probably begin implementing more of these budget limit bills. And now they have done that. They're requiring some agencies to provide certain levels of funding to specific programs.
Dick Pryor: Shawn, how’s the legislature determining how those agencies should spend their money?
Shawn Ashley: It depends from agency to agency. We see some agencies with absolutely total discretion. They were not told how to spend a single dime. In other cases, such as the Health Care Authority where Medicaid expansion is taking place, we saw that lawmakers directed millions of dollars towards those efforts and also told the agency how to fund certain other programs as well.
Dick Pryor: States have finally received 2020 federal census figures. How will these new numbers affect Oklahoma's ongoing redistricting process?
Shawn Ashley: Those numbers were received on August 12th, and they'll serve as the basis for the new congressional districts, which have to be based on those actual population counts. Now, those same numbers are also being plugged into the legislative districts that were approved during the 2021 regular session. And there is some thought that they may lead to some adjustments being made there as well as urban and suburban growth may have been more than previously was expected.
Dick Pryor: State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye has expressed increased concern over the dramatic rise in COVID cases reported in Oklahoma, but Shawn, those numbers may actually be misleading because they understate what is happening.
Shawn Ashley: That's right. Dr. Frye pointed out August 20th that some people are now using the at-home testing kits that had been introduced, which likely means the numbers the Health Department reports each weekday undercount the actual number of active cases in the state. And I have also heard anecdotal reports of people who showed symptoms of COVID-19, including losing their taste and smell, who simply assume that they then had COVID and did not get tested, but chose to isolate at home for 10 to 14 days. So, there are probably many more cases out there than we actually know.
Dick Pryor: Thanks, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.
Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @ecapitol. You can also find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I’m Dick Pryor.