Monday, May 12, 2014

Cockroft Column: Finalized Legislation, Veto-Overrides, and Budget Negotiations

Budget negotiations are underway and state lawmakers are awaiting a final agreement. Key areas of dispute are whether or not to fund Capitol repairs through direct appropriation or a bond proposal and the amount of money given to essential services.
We have agreed to a supplemental appropriation for the Department of Corrections. Senate Bill 2126 will provide a $13 million supplemental appropriation to the agency.
The Oklahoma Legislature has sent a bill to the governor’s desk to ensure caregivers are informed about when a patient is being discharged and given follow-up care instructions. Senate Bill 1536 allows hospital patients to designate a lay caregiver upon formal admission.  The hospital must also notify the designated caregiver of the patient’s discharge and consult with the caregiver about aftercare.
According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, in fiscal year 2013 the agency spent almost $63 million for hospital readmissions with 30 days of discharge for Medicaid patients. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that preventable hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge costs Medicare approximately $17 billion each year.
In addition to the trooper pay raise, Gov. Mary Fallin has signed legislation into law that will lower the age limit for commissioned officers within the Department of Public Safety from 23 to 21 years of age and provide educational credits to those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Senate Bill 1372 also modifies the number of hours of accredited college or university experience to include military service. Applicants can use up to three years of military service to count a total of 30 hours towards the education requirement.
The governor also signed a measure requiring public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at least once a week. Senate Bill 1143 would allow students to opt out if they do not wish to say the Pledge of Allegiance, but would require that schools hold a pledge recitation.
Republican members of the House elected House Speaker Jeff Hickman as Speaker-designate for the 55th Oklahoma Legislature in 2015 and 2016. The speaker has done a good job in a year which he was not able to prepare for due to his sudden election in February.
The Oklahoma Transportation Commission voted to sell the Sooner Sub to the Stillwater Central Railroad. The Stillwater Central Railroad is the current operator of the Sooner Sub, a 97.5 mile stretch of railroad line the state has owned for the past 16 years. This vote concludes a six month process passed by the Oklahoma Legislature last year. I believe that more rail opportunities will always be positive for the line's surrounding areas. Economic growth and opportunities from productive rail lines affect not only the immediate area, but reaches for miles around. A win-win for everyone!

Finally, the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto of a Second Amendment rights measure. This was the first override by the legislature while Governor Fallin has been in office. An override should never be taken lightly, and while I feel this action was hasty and rushed before having more communication with the Governor's office, I was proud to support this second amendment legislation. House Bill 2461 requires a sheriff or chief of police to execute any request for documents relating to the purchase of firearms defined by the National Firearms Act within 15 days if the purchaser is not prohibited of possessing a firearm.
The bill essentially requires chief law enforcement officers to sign off on applications for tax stamps for NFA items such as silencers, suppressors, short barreled rifles and shotguns and automatic weapons.
The measure will now become law on Nov. 1.
It is an honor to serve you. It matters not if you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent; I am here to serve you. Please visit my website to see where I stand on any range of topics at and my policy blog at Communication is important to me. I want to know how to I can better serve and lead for our district and our state. I am always a phone call away at: (405) 557-7349.

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