Thursday, April 19, 2012

Weekly Capitol Wrap

Lawmakers Target Drug Crime
Legislation approved by the House this week would allow a larger group of law enforcement officials to participate in anti-drug efforts.
            Senate Bill 1544 exempts state officers who are also reserve special agents for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control from the prohibition against dual office holding.
            As a result, the legislation would allow a county officer to be dual commissioned his employer and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, giving local authorities greater ability to be involved in anti-drug efforts.
            Senate Bill 1544 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 65-22 vote today and now goes to the Governor’s desk to sign.

House Approves Improved Data Gathering
Legislation that would help lawmakers with appropriation and policy decisions was approved unanimously this week by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
            Titled the Oklahoma Program Performance Budgeting and Accountability Act, Senate Bill 1451 would require state agency strategic plans to include an analysis of the appropriated level needed to achieve certain listed measures for each of the five fiscal years of the plan.
            The legislation will now return to the Senate. If House amendments are approved, it will continue onto the governor’s desk.

House Approves Bill to Increase Career Tech Opportunities
Legislation that would help increase trade-specific industry certifications was approved unanimously by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
            Senate Bill 1056 would allow technology center school districts to establish pilot programs to increase the number of students obtaining trade-specific industry certifications. The districts would be able to spend general funds to cover the costs of trade-specific industry certification examinations and licenses related to the program of study.
            The legislation now proceeds to the governor’s desk.

Severe weather liability policy in development
House lawmakers are developing a comprehensive liability protection policy for Oklahomans who offer shelter to others during severe weather.
House Bill 2296, which would offer liability protection to mobile home park owners who allow residents to seek shelter in their offices during severe weather, was recently vetoed by Gov. Mary Fallin, who cited concerns about possible unintended consequences.
To address the governor’s concerns, House lawmakers are working on a more comprehensive liability protection policy that will be included in an amended version of House Bill 2419. The amended version of HB 2419 will offer liability protection to any individual who offers shelter to another during severe weather rather than offering protection only to mobile home park owners.
The proposed compromise measure will offer more protection to more people.

Lawmakers Send Lake Murray Lodge Bill to Governor
Legislation approved by House lawmakers would authorize $15 million for the construction of a new lodge in Lake Murray State Park.
            Senate Bill 1913 would allow the Department of Tourism to draw on the State Park Fund, which in turn receives money from mineral lease payments, royalties and other payments associated with oil and gas in state parks.
            The 12,496-acre Lake Murray State Park, the largest state-owned park in Oklahoma, currently draws an average 13,000 vacationers annually. Those visitors contribute an estimated $1 million to the economy.
            However, the existing lodge has deteriorated badly and a new facility is needed to maintain and even increase the number of visitors to the area.
            Senate Bill 1913 was approved by a vote of 75-16 and sent to governor’s desk to be signed into law.

House Votes to Increase Insurance Options
Oklahoma citizens would have the ability to purchase insurance policies from companies across the nation under legislation approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
            Senate Bill 1059 would create the “Health Care Choice Act.” The measure would allow the state of Oklahoma to enter compacts with other states that allow the sale of insurance products across state lines.
            Under the legislation, the state insurance commissioner would be authorized to negotiate compacts with other states that allow insurers domiciled those states to sell accident and health coverage in Oklahoma.
Each compact would be subject to disapproval by a majority vote of both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature, or the governor could disapprove a compact through an executive order. 
Out-of-state insurers covered by the compacts would not be required to offer or provide state-mandated health benefits required by Oklahoma law, potentially allowing less expensive basic policies to be sold to Oklahomans.
Senate Bill 1059 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives today on a 57-35 vote. The bill now returns to the Senate for consideration of House amendments.

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