Leftwich and Hamilton Question Motive Behind Last-minute Resolution
After defeating a two-year effort to protect the rights of women by refusing to allow an up or down vote on the Victim’s Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) last week, House Rules Committee Chair Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, offered a resolution on the floor of the House Monday containing watered down language from the bill. Her actions have two members of the Legislature demanding an explanation.
“We’ve seen an outpouring of support for women over the past two years as literally hundreds of individuals and organizations have fought to protect the rights of victims to seek medical and legal help without fear of losing their jobs,” said Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City. “It is an insult to Oklahomans that after blocking good legislation, Rep. Tibbs would then offer a meaningless resolution. This is just an effort to hide what she’s done.”
VESSA sailed through the State Senate last year without a single opposing vote but failed to overcome corporate special interests in the Republican-controlled House.
“I want to thank the hundreds of people who worked so hard to persuade Rep. Tibbs to do the right thing and allow VESSA to come to a vote in her committee,” Hamilton said. “VESSA died as a result of a two-year fight by the House leadership to kill it. They were working for powerful corporate interests. Those of us who support VESSA are working for justice and the basic human rights of victims of domestic violence and rape. I want everyone who stood with us to know that the fight for VESSA is not over. It is just beginning.”
VESSA, authored by Sen. Debbe Leftwich and Rep. Hamilton, would protect the rights of victims of rape and domestic violence to see their doctor, attorney, testify in court, relocate or seek counseling without fear of losing their jobs. It would also have extended job security protection to pregnant women who needed to visit their doctor for pre-natal care.
“I think it was a travesty for the House to refuse to even hold a committee vote on VESSA and then to turn around the next week and pass a resolution asking businesses to protect the jobs of these victims knowing full well the resolution means nothing. This has zero enforcement power and does nothing to protect Oklahoman women and children,” Leftwich said.
VESSA has been endorsed by Oklahoma Conference of Churches, Oklahoma’s Catholic Charities, the Oklahoma City YWCA and the Oklahoma City Firefighters’ Local 157, the Interfaith Alliance, the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault, and others.