Thursday, May 3, 2012

Weekly Capitol Wrap


Bill to Deter Drunk Driving Signed into Law
Under legislation signed into law, a drunk driver who caused an accident resulting in great bodily harm could face a maximum of 10 years in prison.
            House Bill 2568 increases the current five-year maximum sentence for personal injury accidents involving a DUI that result in great bodily harm.
            More than 3,000 injuries took place in Oklahoma in 2010 as a result of drunk driving, according to data from the National Highway Safety Administration and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.

Firefighter Legislation Signed into Law
Legislation signed into law will create a better firefighter tax credit system.
            House Bill 1835 changes the firefighter tax credit system to better adhere to the training needs of rural fire departments.
            House Bill 1835 requires a volunteer to complete 12 initial credit hours toward the State Support or State Basic Firefighter or Firefighter I, an equivalent or other training approved by the Council of Firefighter Training in order to receive a tax credit.
            The legislation also allows local fire chiefs to approve volunteer firefighter training and requires volunteer firefighters to annually complete six hours of State Support or State Basic Firefighter or Firefighter I.
Volunteers who have completed these courses must complete six hours of Intermediate or Advance Firefighter or Firefighter I to be eligible for the tax credit.
The measure modifies the membership and appointment requirements of the Council on Firefighter Training, increases the number of annual meetings of the council to six and makes the council responsible for consistent basic and continuing education programs for all ranks and positions.

Bill to Sell Unneeded State Properties Signed into Law
Legislation recently signed into law authorizes the sale of unneeded state properties and directs that the money generated be used to maintain other buildings.
House Bill 2262 creates a Maintenance of State Buildings Revolving Fund, which will receive the revenue generated by proceeds from the sale of state-owned land and buildings. Money in the fund would then be used to maintain and repair other state properties and buildings.
In addition, the bill requires that the state’s Long Range Capital Plan include an index ranking state buildings based on maintenance needs. Money in the Maintenance of State Buildings Revolving Fund would be allocated to projects based on those with greatest need.
The new law builds on the Oklahoma State Government Asset Reduction and Cost Savings Program, a measure signed into law last year. That legislation required the Director of the Department of Central Services to identify 5 percent of the most underutilized state-owned properties on a yearly basis with an eye toward liquidating them.
Recent estimates indicate there are thousands of state-owned properties, but no one knows how many the state owns for sure.
Lawmakers Vote to Increase Women’s Safety
Physicians could face a felony if they prescribe a pill known as RU-486 or milfepristone for the inducement of an abortion without being physically present under a bill approved by House lawmakers.
House Bill 2381 is needed because current law would allow physicians to give an exam and prescribe the pill over the Internet, according to the bill’s author, state Rep. Josh Cockroft.
State Rep. Sean Roberts, a co-author, said a proper examination is needed to check for ectopic pregnancies and other contraindications which would make the abortion pill potentially dangerous.
Felonies are punishable by a fine of $1,000 or up to two years incarceration in the Department of Corrections. The legislation would also make physicians liable for damages.
House Bill 2381 now proceeds to the Senate for consideration.

Pittman Promotes May Rally and Documentary on Bullying
State Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman today urged students, parents, educators and other organizations to participate in a May 11 rally to raise awareness about bullying.
Pittman urged potential participants to see the film Bully, which includes the story of Ty Field-Smalley, an 11-year-old Perkins boy who shot himself after bullying incidents that ultimately resulted in his suspension despite his being the victim.
Field-Smalley’s story is among a handful of stories in the film, which includes the story of Kelby Johnson, who grew up in Tuttle, and Alex Libby, who now lives in Edmond after being bullied in Sioux City, Iowa.
The May 11 rally will take place at the Oklahoma State Capitol, on the North steps from 10 a.m. to noon. It will feature artist and speaker Richard Hight, Kirk Smalley with Stand For the Silent, Michael Allen and student testimonials.Registration will take place on the Fourth Floor Rotunda at 9:30 a.m. Visiting booths on the Fourth Floor Rotunda will take place beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Gun safety will be among the topics and Pittman said she hopes to include the National Rifle Association.
The rally is free and open to the public. If you plan to attend, notify the office of state Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman at (405) 557-7393 or anastasia.pittman@okhouse.gov.

Holt’s Community Service Legislation Heads to Governor’s Desk
Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, praised the final passage of Senate Bill 1875, a measure allowing counties in Oklahoma to create community service programs for convicted criminals, putting offenders in position to make a positive contribution to their communities while serving their sentence.
The legislation, authored in the House by Rep. Gary Banz, R-Midwest City, was named the “Safari McDoulett Community Service Act,” after an employee in the office of Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan.
Maughan’s SHINE program is the model for the bill, and McDoulett helped administer the program until her untimely death earlier this year. SHINE stands for Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere.
Holt’s legislation gives counties the authority to create a community service program, and then authorizes judges to assess a fine on criminals they sentence to community service. That fine would then pay for supervisors and equipment so local governments can put those offenders to work removing graffiti, picking up litter or doing other projects to enhance the community.
SB 1875 was approved unanimously in the Senate by a 41-0 vote and now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

Legislators Praise Governor’s Signing of Pro-Life Measure
State Representatives Josh Cockroft and Sean Roberts praised Gov. Mary Fallin for signing into law yesterday a significant pro-life bill.
House Bill 2381 would make it a felony for a physician to prescribe a pill known as RU-486 or milfepristone for the inducement of an abortion without being physically present.
Cockroft said the legislation is needed because a loophole in a measure passed last session allows physicians to give an exam and prescribe the pill over the Internet. That measure required physicians to provide an examination and set up a follow-up appointment before prescribing RU-486 for the inducement of an abortion.
State Rep. Sean Roberts, who co-authored the bill, said a proper examination is needed to check for ectopic pregnancies and other contraindications that would make the abortion pill dangerous and potentially lead to serious complications such as hypotension, cardiac problems or hemorrhaging.
Felonies are punishable by a fine of $1,000 or up to two years incarceration in the Department of Corrections. The legislation would also make physicians liable for damages.
The measure will be effective November 1, 2012.

House Sends Informed Consent Remedy Measure to Governor
A measure protecting women from being coerced or misled into having an abortion passed out of the House of Representatives today and now awaits the governor’s signature.
House Bill 2561, by state Rep. Paul Wesselh√∂ft, provides that if a physician negligently fails to obtain a woman’s informed consent in violation of state law and causes the death of an unborn child through an abortion, then the woman would have the same civil and criminal remedies available to her as she would if the physician failed to obtain her consent at all.
The measure provides that no physician would be liable for performing an abortion unless the physician violated Oklahoma’s informed consent or parental consent laws.
House Bill 2561 passed out of the House by a vote of 89-0 and now heads to the governor’s desk to await her signature.



Governor approves funding for new Lake Murray State Park lodge
Construction of a new lodge in Lake Murray State Park will soon be underway following the Governor’s approval of Senate Bill 1913 Tuesday. The legislation by Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Pat Ownbey, authorizes the Department of Tourism to use $15 million from the State Park Trust Fund for the construction and maintenance of the new facility.
Gov. Fallin praised legislators for their quick action on the important tourism legislation.
Now that the bill has been signed, Department of Tourism officials can begin the process of finding an architect and engineer. Construction will begin next year and the lodge is expected to be completed by September 2015.
Lake Murray currently attracts over 13,000 vacationers a year who contribute $1.4 million to the local economy. Local officials expect those numbers to increase after the new lodge is constructed.
Ownbey noted that the self-sufficient project will be of great benefit to local communities and the state’s tourism efforts.
Oklahoma operates 41 state park properties and owns another 14 state parks. Royalty payments from the parks owned by the state are used for capital improvements at all of the parks. With nearly 12,500 acres, Lake Murray State Park is larger than all the other state-owned parks combined. The park has brought in over $15 million worth of royalty payments. SB 1913 will allow that money to be used for the construction of the lodge as well as any maintenance costs through June 30, 2020.
SB 1913 will go into effect July 1, 2012.

Lawmakers Send Bingman Energy Conservation Bill to Governor
Legislation sent to the desk of Governor Mary Fallin on Wednesday by the state Senate would initiate an energy conservation program for state agencies, institutions and assets that would result in hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars being saved. Senate Bill 1096, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, creates the Oklahoma State Facilities Energy Conservation Program and directs all state agencies and higher education institutions to achieve an energy efficiency and conservation improvement target of at least 20 percent by the year 2020.
SB 1096 was given final approval in the Senate Wednesday with a unanimous vote of 42-0. Bingman said the program is inspired, in part, by an energy conservation program that began in 2007 at Oklahoma State University (OSU). Since initiating a behavior-modification energy efficiency program, OSU has decreased energy consumption campus-wide by 19 percent, resulting in some $19 million of savings.       SB 1096 sets a cumulative energy savings target of at least 20 percent by the year 2020 when compared to 2012 fiscal year utility expenditures. Conservative projections show the state could potentially reduce energy consumption by 20 to 30 percent, resulting in approximately $300 to $500 million in net savings over ten years.
Under the Oklahoma State Facilities Energy Conservation Program, the Director of the Office of State Finance, or an OSF designee, would oversee development and implementation of the energy conservation program. The measure ensures all costs associated with the implementation of SB 1096 would be fully funded by savings generated as a result of energy conservation.
Derby Methamphetamine Reduction Bill Sent to Governor
Oklahoma state Rep. David Derby (R-Owasso) released the following statement today after the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to accept Senate amendments to House Bill 2941 and send it to the governor:
“If signed into law, House Bill 2941 will give pharmacists and law enforcement officials a critical tool to block illegal pseudoephedrine sales and track down meth criminals. Meth is a drug that destroys families and is far too prevalent in Oklahoma. We are seeing explosions from the production of meth in Tulsa County. This bill will enhance Oklahoma’s electronic tracking system and will improve our meth offender registry, ensuring that criminal data is being provided to law enforcement up to the second. I am very pleased to see this legislation on its way to Governor Fallin’s desk.” – State Rep. David Derby (R-Owasso)
House Bill 2941 is designed to curb methamphetamine production in Oklahoma by targeting meth criminals and protecting law-abiding consumers’ access to safe and effective medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) such as Advil Cold and Sinus and Mucinex-D.
Under the legislation, the electronic tracking system will issue a stop-sale alert if the completion of the sale would violate quantity limits. Persons violating the limit would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000. It also allows pharmacists to establish service charge that is kept if the purchaser shows up on the meth registry, but otherwise will go towards the purchase price.
HB2941 lowers the quantity of pseudoephedrine product a person may purchase to 3.6 grams per day, 7.2 grams per 30-day period or 60 grams within a 12-month period. Persons with a prior conviction of manufacturing or attempting to manufacture meth will be guilty of a felony if they attempt to purchase pseudoephedrine and would face a minimum of 14 years in prison.

Resolution Disapproving A Through F School Grading System Clears Committee
A resolution that would disapprove recent administrative rules written by the Department of Education that relate to the A-F Grading system for schools and teachers passed out of the House Administrative Rules & Government Oversight Committee today.
            Shelton said the promulgated by the Department of Education do not reflect the intent of the Legislature when it approved the grading system last year and are convoluted, difficult to understand, read or follow.
For example, the rules assign a score of 93.7 percent as an “A,” which Shelton said is misleading.
Shelton said during the rule writing process, calculations ran by the Department of Education resulted in too many schools receiving a grade of “A” when the corresponding score was set at 90 percent.
Following the committee vote, Gov. Mary Fallin released a statement indicating that she had already approved the rules.
Shelton said, however, that the Legislature has the power to disapprove agency rules by resolution regardless of any action taken by the governor.

Numerous educators and school administrators attended the committee meeting today in support of the resolution.
House Joint Resolution 1125, by state Rep. Mike Shelton, cleared the committee by a vote of 9-1 and now moves to a vote in the full House.

Measure Aimed at Reducing Unemployment Benefit Fraud Heads to Governor
Legislation that could significantly reduce unemployment benefit fraud and abuse passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives today and now awaits the governor’s signature.
House Bill 2204, by state Rep. Randy McDaniel, provides that anyone who knowingly continues to receive unemployment benefits after securing a new job would be required to pay back all of the falsely obtained benefits plus a penalty equal to 25 percent of the overpayments. The money raised by the penalties would go back into the unemployment trust fund which helps keep taxes low, while a portion will be used to pay for fraud investigations.
The bill also requires those who file for unemployment to provide documentation of job search efforts within one week of obtaining benefits and includes a provision that will eliminate paperwork costs in the system. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) will afford employers and unemployed workers the option of receiving e-mail notifications instead of physical paper copies of all documents.
In addition, the bill provides that employers that terminate employees who test positive for drugs or alcohol will not be required to provide those terminated employees unemployment benefits.
House Bill 2204 passed out of the House by a vote of 83-7 and now heads to the governor to await her signature.

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