Thursday, February 14, 2013

Oklahoma House of Representatives Weekly Wrap

Bill to Reduce Frivolous Unemployment Claims Clears Committee

A bill aimed at preventing frivolous unemployment benefit claims passed out of the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee this week.

House Bill 1911, by House Speaker T.W. Shannon, would modify the Employment Security Act of 1980 by requiring applicants for unemployment benefits to sign an affidavit stating the he or she does not meet any specific criteria that would disqualify the applicant from eligibility to receive benefits.

The measure also lays out a list of actions that would be “misconduct” on the part of an employee if done during the course of employment and that would disqualify a person terminated for any of those actions from receiving unemployment benefits.

Finally, the bill shifts the burden of proof from the employer to the terminated employee to show that the action that led to his or her termination was not misconduct that would disqualify him or her from receiving benefits.

HB 1911 passed the committee in an 8-4 vote. It now proceeds to the House Calendar Committee, which will determine if the measure will be heard by the full body of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Legislation Would Ask Voters to Further Limit State Spending

State Rep. Elise Hall is concerned that without a more appropriate spending limitation, Oklahoma’s public sector could grow too fast in “boom” years.

House Joint Resolution 1011 would ask voters to approve a constitutional limit on appropriations that would lower the current limit of a 12 percent increase on the previous year’s appropriations when adjusted for inflation.

The legislation has been approved 14-9 by the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

State government growth has regularly exceeded private sector growth in Oklahoma since voters approved a 1985 spending limitation, according to Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs fiscal analyst Jonathan Small. State employment grew by 8.57 percent from 2000 to 2010 while private sector employment grew by only 6.07 percent. Government expenditures have grown 72.20 percent from 2001 to 2010 while private earnings have grown by only 40.71 percent.

Rep. Wood’s Electronic Monitoring Bill Clears House Committee

A bill that would require inmates being monitored electronically to make arrangements to pay fines and restitution easily cleared the House Public Safety Committee this week.

House Bill 1766, by state Rep. Justin Wood, would require an inmate assigned to the Electronic Monitoring Program to report within 30 days of being placed into the community to the court clerk and the district attorney of the county where the judgment and sentence resulting in incarceration arose to address the payment of any fines, costs, restitution and/or assessments owed by the inmate.

HB 1766 passed the committee on a bipartisan 12-0 vote. It now proceeds to the House Calendar Committee, which will determine if the measure will be heard by the full body of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Committee Approves Aerial Hog Hunting Bill

Legislation that would allow aerial hunting of feral hogs has been approved unanimously in a House committee.

House Bill 1920, as amended by state Rep. Dustin Roberts, would allow a permit for any landowner or any person who has contracted with a landowner to engage in the management of depredating animals by use of aircraft on the land of the landowner.

House Bill 1920 was approved by a 13-0 vote by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Agriculture and Wildlife Committee. If approved by the House Calendar Committee, the measure will be available for a hearing on the House floor.

Committee Approves Abortion Reporting Bill

Legislation would add expand abortion reporting law was approved by a House committee this week.

House Bill 2015, by state Rep. Sean Roberts, would add additional questions to the Individual Abortion Form completed by the abortion provider, add additional reporting measures to the Annual Abortion Report issued by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and allow registered voters to initiate legal proceedings against an abortion provider who fails to comply with the reporting requirements.

Roberts said the intent of the bill is to update reporting requirements to reflect law passed since the Statistical Abortion Reporting Law took effect in 2010.

For example, House Bill 2015 requires that an abortion provider report whether or not they complied with the provisions of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which lawmakers overwhelmingly enacted two years ago, he said.

The Oklahoma House of Representative Public Health Committee approved the legislation by a vote of 7-3. If approved by the House Calendar Committee, the measure will be available for a hearing on the House floor.

Bill to Wind Down Questionable Welfare Program Passes Committee

The Children First Home Visitation Program is a “moribund” government program that is wasting funding that could better serve the targeted population, according to one state lawmaker.

House Bill 1063, by state Rep. Mark McCullough would disband the Children First Program, return federal Affordable Care Act funding and suspend three smaller home visitation programs until an audit could be performed.

McCullough said he is a proponent of home visitation, when done right, which intervenes in the lives of fragile and broken families.

McCullough said that the number of individuals served by the program has fallen drastically and the qualitative results of those served is marginal. Despite receiving only 11 percent less in funding than in 2001, the agency now serves 56 percent fewer individuals (a drop of approximately 4,500 individuals). Father involvement in the families served by the program decreases by 10 percent over a 6 month period when while other qualitative measures, at best, show small improvement over the control group.

McCullough said that in past two years he tried to work with the program to make changes, but his bills died in the legislative process likely due to lobbying by those associated with the program.

McCullough said critics will likely be shocked by his proposal and will argue that we are dropping a service for thousands.

Home visitation is an excellent way to send a professional into the homes of families that have multiple risk factors for child neglect and catch people early in the social service process before those risk factors balloon into full-blown crises. This program uses nurses where paraprofessionals are becoming the new standard. The health of the child and the mother are affected by multiple risk factors  that can be more effectively monitored and addressed by better, more modern interventions.”
After studying these programs for four years and at two extensive seminars, he said there are numerous new models, which would likely yield far better results.

Legislation Calls for Reducing Waste and Improving Safety in Unregulated Prescription Drug Delivery Industry

Legislators gathered at the state Capitol this week to bring attention to unnecessary waste in pharmaceutical spending and the need to evenly regulate pharmacy benefit managers.

State Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, and state Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, introduced House 2100, to bring pharmacy benefit managers under the regulation of the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy.

Derby said pharmacy benefit managers have increasingly become direct deliverers of prescription drugs to patients through out-of-state mail-order systems, but have yet to be regulated in the same way as their licensed colleagues practicing in the Oklahoma retail community pharmacy setting.  To protect patients under industry confidentiality standards and to minimize wasteful prescriptions in a costly industry, House Bill 2100 would extend well-meaning regulation to this larger prescription drug delivery industry.

Research shows that patients adhere to their doctor-recommended drug regimens better when they receive their medications from a local pharmacy rather than through a mail-order system, with compliance rates much higher for life-threatening and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma.

Bill that expunges human trafficking records passes Public Safety Committee

House Bill 1058, authored by State Rep. Sally Kern, was passed by the Public Safety Committee last week.

The bill passed the Public Safety Committee on a 10-0 vote. The bill would allow those kidnapped and forced into human sex trafficking who have had a charge or conviction of prostitution filed against them to have their record expunged from law enforcement and court records.

House Bill 1058 will now move to the House for approval.

Native American Caucus Elects New Co-Chairs

The Native American Caucus has elected the co-chairs of the caucus and the caucus secretary for the 54th Legislature.

The purpose of the caucus is to identify and address state policy that affects Oklahoma’s 39 federally-recognized tribes, and to facilitate state-tribal communications and policy processes pertaining to sovereignty.

The caucus was established in 2006 through the foresight of state Rep. Lisa Billy and former state Rep. Shane Jett. The National Council of Native American Legislators was formed in the 1980s and was reformed as the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators in 1992.

Billy said Oklahoma is unique because it is home to so many tribes.

As a bipartisan caucus, members elect a Republican and Democratic co-chair to head the caucus. State Rep. Dan Kirby was re-elected to serve as the Republican co-chair. State Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman was elected to serve as the Democratic co-chair.

State Rep. Seneca Scott was elected to serve as secretary of the caucus.

Kirby, an enrolled member of the Creek Nation, said he is committed to ensuring tribes have a strong voice at the Oklahoma Legislature. Kirby currently serves as the chair of the House Insurance Committee.

Pittman, an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation, previously served as secretary of the caucus for most of its existence. She said she looks forward to serving the caucus as a co-chair. She is currently the vice chair of the House Human Services Committee and the chair of Health and Human Services committee for the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators.

Scott is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and also secretary of the National Conference of State Legislatures Native American Caucus.

Scott said he was honored to serve the caucus as secretary.

Pittman said the caucus also serves brings national Native American issues to the Oklahoma Legislature.

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