Rep. responds to Fallin calling his criminal justice reform claims 'misleading at best'
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
A state representative and Oklahoma's governor are clashing over criminal justice reform.
Governor Mary Fallin accused State Rep. Scott Biggs of stalling and killing reform bills she backed in the last legislative session. Now she's accusing him of making false claims about reform and the bill process.
As the new Oklahoma legislative session draws nearer, Biggs is working on an interim study to help shape criminal justice reform bills that will be proposed.
Biggs sent out a survey on the issue to 150 legislators, law enforcement, victims and individuals, he said.
The survey asks for input on which crimes should be classified as violent, non-violent or crimes that are a danger to the public.
FOX 25 obtained a copy of the cover letter to the survey. In it, he calls last session's proposals "reckless."
The governor responded to Biggs in a letter. In it she wrote, "I have received your survey, as well as the letter enclosed with it that can well be described as misleading at best." Fallin said his "assertions" are "devoid of any basis of fact."
FOX 25 asked Biggs what he thought of Fallin's letter.
"The governor sent a letter refusing to participate in the house's study on criminal justice reform. That's her prerogative. I've been accused of a lot of things, but here recently, I reached out to the other side... they also refused to participate in the House's study," he said. "So it's not just the governor. It seems like everybody that's pushing this reckless reform is refusing to even sit down and have a discussion regarding this criminal justice movement."
He also said he has never met with the governor on the issue because she refuses a meeting.
Governor Fallin, in her letter, disputed the claim. She mentioned several specific examples of meetings with Biggs and offers to meet with him.
She said Oklahomans should not be expected to "support the cost of the steady increase in Department of Corrections numbers when we can be smart on crime and still protect the public." She said he hopes she can still work with Biggs to pass reform.
"We'll be moving forward to define what violent/non-violent crimes are without their input," Biggs told FOX 25.
Biggs is the chair of the House Judiciary - Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee. That committee failed to advance reform bills Fallin supported in the last session, so they never went to a vote of the House.
Biggs explain in his survey letter "each of these bills insufficiently defined what is a violent and non-violent crime in Oklahoma. Some of my colleagues in the House, Senate and Governor's office were completely unwilling to have a discussion about the definitions during the session."
In May, though, Biggs explained he had not advanced the bills because Fallin was "asking Oklahoma to do what Texas took six years to do with their criminal justice reform, in one session and do it with no funding."
In a last-minute committee meeting, he explained to members the bills would not advance because the senate committee had failed to act on them.