Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cockroft Column - March Wrap-Up

March Legislative Update


March marked the midpoint of the legislative session. The Oklahoma House of Representatives sent a number of bills to the state Senate. Many reflected the concerns that I hear about on a daily basis from constituents.


I want to begin by reporting that government modernization bill I authored is close to becoming law. House Bill 2954 was approved on the House floor in February. In March, Senate committees greenlighted the measure for a consideration on the Senate floor. The legislation provides a funding mechanism to aid counties in the conversion of their vehicles to compressed natural gas, which will reduce their fuel costs considerably. The bill will also provide for an increase in state infrastructure devoted to CNG fuel stations.


We sent the following bills to the Senate:


House Bill 2589 adds morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and benzodiazepine to current drug trafficking laws. Carrying 1,000 grams of a morphine mixture, 400 grams of an oxycodone mixture, 50 grams of an oxycodone substance or 15 grams of an benzodiazepine mixture would carry a penalty of up to $500,000 fine and prison time. This bill has also been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.


House Bill 2539 redefines the use of deadly force in defending a third party.Current law only authorizes the use of deadly force in defending one’s “husband, wife, parent, child, master, mistress or servant.” This measure replaces it with language allowing for a person to use force necessary to prevent death or bodily harm to anyone or to terminate or prevent the commission of a forcible felony.


House Bill 2676 will make Oklahoma Highway Patrol dash cam footage open to the public.


House Bill 2541 reduces the penalties for teens exchanging sexually explicit messages and photographs via electronic devices, a practice better known as “sexting.” In Oklahoma, anyone convicted of sexting-style offenses are immediately labeled sex offenders and receive a felony conviction. This bill reduces the penalty for individuals under 18 years of age who “sext” with another minor over the age of 13 to a misdemeanor. The measure also empowers the court to order the offender and his or her parent or guardian to complete an education course regarding the legal and social consequences of sexting.


House Bill 2625 would replace automatic retention with a team made up of a parent or guardian, teacher, school principal and a reading specialist who would decide whether or not to promote or retain the child. The legislation has since been changed in Senate committee to allow a superintendent to veto a decision by this team.


House Bill 2377 raises the monthly expense allowance for all commissioned law enforcement offices of the Department of Public Safety from $150 a month to $300 a month. Troopers are required to purchase multiple items for their job, from duty ammunition and footwear to uniform tailoring and weapons cleaning supplies. The bill also raises the monthly expense allowance for cadets, law enforcement personnel on provisional or probationary status as well as all other uniformed department members from $100 a month to $200 a month.


House Bill 3294 will streamline a process in place to protect employees from unreasonable termination. The current system includes a lengthy and complicated hiring process that would be simplified with consistent practices across all agencies when implemented. The current grievance process for state employees is a 15-step process and would be streamlined to a 4-step process under the bill.


House Bill 2596 requires a person convicted of human trafficking to register as a sex offender if the offense involved trafficking a minor for commercial sex.


House Bill 2329 legalizes the possession of a handgun in locked cars in school parking lots, provided the gun owner is properly licensed.


House Bill 2851 would make property used in or derived from violations of the Oklahoma Antiterrorism Act subject to forfeiture. The bill also allows a person injured as a result of a criminal offense under the Oklahoma Antiterrorism Act or law enforcement agency or other governmental agency that participated in an investigation under the Oklahoma Antiterrorism Act to file a claim for costs or damages against such seized property.


House Bill 3293 would set aside 3 percent of the previous fiscal year’s payroll costs for salary adjustments each year. The bill would also remove salary structures from statute and give authority to the Office of Management Enterprise Services to set pay structures and determine if targeted pay band adjustments are necessary, rather than the state doling out across-the-board pay raises as in years past.


House Bill 3085 would exempt sales of tangible personal property or services to the American Legion, whether the purchase is made by the entity chartered by the United States Congress or is an entity organized under the laws of this or another state pursuant to the authority of the national American Legion organization.


House Bill 2642 would create the Securing Educational Excellence Fund for the State Board of Education. The money in the fund would be used to increase the per-pupil expenditure through the state aid formula. Contingent upon a Oklahoma Board of Equalization estimate of an increase of 1 percent in revenue to the General Revenue Fund, the Securing Educational Excellence Fund would receive $57.5 million in fiscal year 2015. The amount would increase by another $57.5million in each subsequent fiscal year, dependent upon a 1 percent estimate increase in revenue, up to $575 million.


House Bill 3399 calls for the state of Oklahoma to opt for Option B under No Child Left Behind. Option B allows states to create elementary and secondary school standards that are certified by state higher education institutions to be college and career ready. If signed into law, HB 3399 would order the State Board of Education to adopt education standards that are college and career ready by August 1, 2016. By adopting Option B of No Child Left Behind, the State Board will maintain independence from any national or state compact standards, and school districts will control the learning materials and curriculum adopted to meet the new set of standards.


In late March, we began work on Senate bills in committee. The House Judiciary Committee passed two bills favorable to noncustodial parents. Senate Bill 1784 allowsfamily court judges leeway in suspending or revoking professional licenses of parents who are in arrears on child support payment. Current law gives judges no choice in the matter. Senate Bill 1620 allows noncustodial parents to seek relief from child support payments if a custodial parent refuses to comply with visitation orders. Both bills are nowavailable on the House floor for consideration.


The House Human Services Committee approved a measure to reduce Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to adults who violate state and federal prohibitions against the use of TANF debit cards in casinos, liquor stores and adult entertainment establishments. On March 31, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to send Senate Bill 1706 to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The House Agriculture and Wildlife Committee approved measure to protect our children from domestic animal attacks. Senate Bill 1591 restricts commercial pet breeders from setting up shop within 2,500 feet of a school or day care facility in a municipality with a population of more than 300,000.


The House Public Safety Committee approved a measure to make buying guns more difficult for mentally ill people. Senate Bill 1845 requires state courts to notify the FBI of adjudications involving serious mental illness. Those records would be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database, which is used to verify retail gun sales in the United States. State and federal law bans mentally ill people from gun ownership, but the FBI database often lacks information on such judgments. The legislation provides an appeals process for modifying or expunging mental illness findings from the FBI records. The National Rifle Association supports the bill.


The House General Government Committee approved a bill to preempt cities or counties from establishing their own minimum wage requirements.


I look forward to telling you about more progress in a future update.

No comments:

Post a Comment