[US] Oklahoma Legislation on Vital Records and Dismantling the Historical Society

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

Several years ago the Oklahoma Legislature enacted legislation that addressed vital records. Last year when a professional genealogist tried to obtain a copy of a death record it was found out that the law only permitted the named person-the deceased- to request their own death record. The law also made it a felony if  a Department of Health Services employee provided the death certificate to anyone other the named person.

This year’s legislative session there was supposed to be amendatory legislation to address this one “glitch”.  However, the legislature decided to proceed with inserting the Model Vital Records Act embargo dates for birth, marriage and death records instead. 
SB 448 permits access to the death records 75 years from date of death; birth certificates 125 years from date of birth . There is no mention of marriage records in the bill.  The bill still makes it unlawful to permit inspection or disclosure the information to any person other than the person who is the subject of the record unless a court of competent jurisdiction permits before the 75/125 embargo dates.

The bill passed the Oklahoma Senate on 45-0 on March 4 and is now in the Assembly awaiting action.  To read the bill as it passed the Senate  go to:

HB 3028 consolidates three departments: Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and the Oklahoma Arts Council into one agency named the Department of Tourism, History and Cultural Affairs. It is an emergency bill which would take place immediately upon enactment and the governor signing the bill into law. The bill was originally introduced as a “shell” so that it could be “filled in” at a later date. The Oklahoma Historical Society is essentially dissolved, along with its board of directors and a new Oklahoma Historical division is created within the new Department of Tourism, History and Cultural Affairs.  To read the bill see: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2013-14%20FLR/HFLR/HB3028%20HFLR.PDF
On February 27 it passed the Government Modernization Committee 6-5.  The bill has to be scheduled for a full vote by the House. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, if the bill is not scheduled by March 13, it dies.

The Oklahoma Historical Society has 10,000 members and the new proposed division within the Tourism, History and Cultural Affairs apparently would not have members. House Bill 3028 converts the OHS Board of Directors to an advisory group with no authority and transfer all its assets and funds to the Tourism Department. The Society has been around for 120 years.

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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