Rep. Ryan Kiesel's 'progressive' memo decries Oklahoma legislative trends
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Published: 08-Aug-2010

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 08-Aug-2010

NOTE: This memorandum was prepared by state House minority staff at the request of state Rep. Ryan Kiesel, a Seminole Democrat who is leaving office. A copy of the memo was provided to CapitolBeatOK by a source who requested anonymity. It is being posted in our style, but with no content changes or editorial comments, and with links intact. The McCarville Report Online first reported on this memorandum's existence.


Progressive Victories and Defeats in the Oklahoma 2010 Legislature

Revenue Shortfalls, Budget Cuts, and Political Gimmicks Mark 2010 Session

Plummeting state revenues and across the board cuts to state agencies welcomed legislators back to the Oklahoma Capitol Building for the 2010 legislative session.  Just one year before, legislators approved cuts and standstill appropriations for several state agencies, but legislators were able to mitigate the worst effects of the downturning economy with budget stabilization dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Even those efforts to minimize the negative impacts to agency budgets were obliterated when revenue estimates -- that the FY ’09 budget was based upon -- missed their mark, coming in an average of 23.1% below their estimates between January ’09 and February ’10.[1]  In the wake of these shortfalls, the Office of State Finance instituted monthly 5% across the board cuts to state agencies’ FY ’09 budgets, increasing the across the board cuts to 10% beginning in December. 

Early in the 2010 session voices from the right called the shortfalls an opportunity to reduce waste in government.[2]  Democratic Governor Brad Henry called on using the state's rainy day fund (left untapped during the ’09 legislative session), remaining federal stimulus dollars, and a variety of revenue enhancement tools to stave off the worst cuts.  Even targeted tax increases were not considered because of an amendment to Oklahoma’s Constitution that makes it virtually impossible to raise taxes in the Sooner State.

Progressives, fearful of the short and long term consequences of gutting state services -- particularly for those services that protect vulnerable populations -- seized on an issue brief published by the OK Policy Institute suggesting that nearly $5.4 billion dollars of revenue is lost each fiscal year by tax expenditures (tax credits, deductions, etc.); a colossal sum relative to the actual FY ’10 budget of $7.2 billion. Progressives charged that cuts to services in a struggling economy would make it even more difficult for Oklahomans to recover and would stall progress in key areas of education, health care, and infrastructure. While raising taxes was not an option, progressive argued the state should at least consider repealing, capping, or modifying the hundreds of tax expenditures on the books.

Progressives can claim victory in highlighting these revenues and softening the cuts made to important services.  In the end however, the final budget only modified a handful of these tax expenditures, leaving billions on the table.

Despite hopeful signs that state revenues are recovering, tax cuts set to kick in FY ’11, reduced rainy day revenues, and the absence of federal stimulus dollars mean legislators in the 2011 session will again have an incentive to revisit the state’s tax code and potential revenue generating options.  It will be up to progressives to serve as a voice in defense of vital state services in the face of an inevitable call to gut government by a legislature dominated from the right. 

Despite the scale of the budget troubles, budget negotiations were conducted behind closed doors by only a handful of elected officials and staff, leaving the remainder of the legislative agenda to focus on politically charged issues and platitudinous grandstanding.  With majorities in the House and Senate, the Republican caucuses infested the legislative agenda with frivolous and divisive issues including:  multiple efforts to nullify the federal health care reform legislation, impossible restrictions on convicted sex offenders, laughable efforts to invoke state sovereignty, and passing the nation’s most onerous and reprehensible affronts to reproductive freedom.

Progressive legislators and their proposals often found themselves marginalized and the target of bipartisan opposition.  Progressive bills routinely died in committee without a hearing, and progressive opposition to politically charged legislation usually failed to even approach a majority. This should come as no surprise.  Oklahoma is arguably one of, if not the most, conservative state in the nation. Even Oklahoma’s Democratic Governor Brad Henry, who used his veto pen more this legislative session than in his past seven years, saw some of his vetoes overridden with Democratic votes among the tally.

The informal Progressive/Liberal caucus did have a few moments for celebration. Below you will see progressive legislation that was signed into law and those bills in which progressives played a key role in defeating.  In addition to those bills highlighted below, evidence of growing support for progressive ideas should give hope to progressives living in Oklahoma:

1.      The budget crisis has emphasized the importance of adequate funding for state services

2.      Emerging progressive advocacy groups and new coalitions based on funding needs are becoming more    vocal and organized

3.      Continued victories in the courtroom

4.      Increased editorial backlash against the extreme right wing direction of legislation

ISSUE AREAS

Criminal Justice

·        Progressive Victories

Approved by Governor

HB2998 –Creates a pilot program that establishes reentry and diversion programs to allow non-violent offender parents to receive community-based rehabilitative services in lieu of incarceration. The bad news is the pilot program is contingent upon funding from private donations and the legislature, and there was no money earmarked for the program in the state’s FY ’10 budget.

·        Progressive Victories by Defeat of Bills

SB2041 – Would have required county jail inmates who “intentionally” injure themselves to pay for their own medical care. It’s important to point out that Medicaid does not cover costs of individuals while they are in custody, and most inmates are uninsured and unable to pay for treatment out of pocket.  As a result, inmates who suffer from mental illness or those who have diabetes, epilepsy or other medical conditions that might lead to an injury, will suffer yet another cost of incarceration.

HB2941 – Would have required any person, upon arrest -- not conviction -- for a felony offense or certain misdemeanor offenses to submit DNA at the initial court appearance.  Also sought to provide “absolute” immunity from civil liability to any OSBI employee who discloses DNA information in violation of the law.  This legislation was defeated on the House floor by a coalition of progressive democrats and far right republican legislators.  While these two groups will not be partners in a permanent alliance, it is important for progressives, especially those operating in minority caucuses, to recognize those issues where temporary coalitions are possible and encourage those coalitions by appealing to those few points the two groups share in common. 

HB2266 – Sought to restrict the role of the Indigent Defense System by requiring them to defend indigents who are in custody, meaning a defendant who posts bail so they can return to their job, take care of their children, etc., would not be eligible for representation by the indigent defense system.  In the event a district court offered representation for defendants not in jail, HB2266 would have required the local court fund to pay for the cost of representation.  This legislation would have required criminal defendants to choose between legal representation and bail (i.e. keeping their job), potentially packing already crowed local jails.  Courts would be faced with the choice of breaking their jail or breaking their already taxed court fund. HB2266 would have also exempted the state from providing a rap sheet, date of birth, or social security number of any witness who is currently certified as a law enforcement officer when responding to a disclosure request from the defense in a trial.

HJR1080 – Proposed to transfer all duties and powers of the Pardon and Parole Board to the Department of Corrections.

           Progressive Bills Stalled

SB2263 – Sought to exempt those convicted of public urination from registration under the Oklahoma Sex Offenders Registration Act.

SB2200 – Sought to expunge nonviolent felonies from a person’s criminal record if the person did not commit a crime for 10 years.

HB3321 – Sought to address consensual text messages between minors by offering reduced penalties instead of applying the same penalties for adult offenders.

SB2208 – Sought to create an Oklahoma Commission on Wrongful Conviction charged with identifying the systemic causes of wrongful convictions and identifying policies and procedures demonstrated to minimize the likelihood of wrongful convictions.

Progressive Setbacks by Passage into Law

              HB2331 - Requires law enforcement to verify insurance coverage during a traffic stop or accident investigation, and if unconfirmed, authorizes the officer to issue a citation and to seize the vehicle.          

HB2968 - Amends the Sex Offenders Registration Act by adding that a mappable address and zip code must accompany the registration of where the offender is currently residing.  Also adds ‘property or camp site used by an organization whose primary purpose is working with children’ to places where a registered sex offender may not reside within a 2000-foot radius.  This is one of several measures legislators considered this session targeted at homeless sex offenders. 

Civil Rights

·        Progressive Bills Stalled

HB2339 – Sought to extend domestic partner benefits to state employees.

SB2131 – Sought to require institutions within the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education to consider and maintain plans and goals for ensuring equitable cultural and ethnic inclusion when reductions in faculty and staff are required.

HB2309 - Sought to include sexual orientation in the class of people legally protected from malicious actor harassment. 

Government Transparency & Accountability

Republicans consistently voted down attempts to expand transparency in government, including using procedural tactics to defeat an amendment removing the legislature’s exemption from the Open Records Act.  On the issue of transparency, Progressives and the press were natural allies.  Even the editorial pages of publishers typically characterized as friends of conservatives voiced their opposition to Republican efforts to close the doors of power.

·        Progressive Victories by Defeat of Bills 

SB1753- Would have exempted public employees’ dates of birth from the Open Records Act.

SB481- Limit the amount of information county assessors have access to.

HB3155- Would have given District Attorneys the authority to decide whether or not autopsy reports are made public.

SB2008- Would have replaced the Attorney General with the legislative leadership as the party responsible for writing ballot titles and explanations. This blatant power grab was an attempt to further politicize the ballot.[3] SB2008 was vetoed.

  Progressive Victories

HB3422- Oklahoma’s tax code is riddled with dozens of tax credits. As the legislature began to consider the possibility of modifying those credits to recoup billions in lost revenue, the question became one of effectiveness.  Is this tax credit serving its purpose?  In some cases it is difficult to determine whether the credit is effective because it is not entirely clear who is receiving the credit. HB3422 will require the Office of State Finance to publish the identities of those claiming state tax credits, and to include the identity of all taxpayers or organizations having any part in the chain of custody or claim to the credit at any time during the credit’s existence from the initial claim of the credit, through the time the credit is claimed on a tax return.

·        Progressive Bills Stalled

SB1671 – Sought to create a felony and fines for any member of the Legislature who knowingly has a personal or private interest with the intent of realizing a gain in any measure or bill, proposed or pending before the Legislature, and who does not disclose such fact to the House of which he or she is a member.

SB847 - States that no Member of the Legislature can receive any compensation or reimbursement from any person for personally engaging in lobbying for a period of two years after the member’s term of office has expired, nor can any member be eligible to register as a lobbyist during such time period.

Immigration

·        Progressive Victories by Defeat of Bills 

HB3384 – A clearly unconstitutional measure was one that would have created the Quality of Education Assessment for Oklahoma Citizens Act of 2010.  Under the act every elementary and secondary school would have been required to determine if students enrolling were born outside the jurisdiction of the United States and if they qualify for an English as a Second Language remedial program.

HB3341 - Illegal Immigration Act - Would have prohibited non-citizens and undocumented immigrants from possessing any kind of firearm or being in a vehicle or living in a residence where there is any kind of dangerous or deadly firearm.  Persons who have been issued a concealed handgun license and intentionally allow an illegal alien to possess or have control of a handgun will be charged with a felony and subject to a fine and revocation of their handgun license.                                                                     

HB2674 – Sought to create the Official English Language Implementation Act declaring English as the official language in Oklahoma.  The state would be required to preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language. Provided that requiring a private employer to permit the use of a language other than English on the job or sanctioning a private employer for requiring the use of English on the job shall be presumed to diminish or ignore the role of English as the official language of Oklahoma.  Bilingual or bicultural education programs which maintain a student in a language other than English shall be presumed to diminish or ignore the role of English as the official language of Oklahoma.  Despite the defeat of this legislation, Oklahoma voters will still decide on a state question this November that would declare English as the official language of Oklahoma.[4]

Voter’s Rights

·        Progressive Bills Stalled

HB1350 – Sought to clarify qualifications of voters to allow those convicted of a felony to be allowed to vote once their sentence, including incarceration, parole or probation is completed.  The measure allows a convicted felon to be eligible to vote if a court issues a deferred sentence, provided all other requirements are met.

SB1608 – Sought to clarify when a convicted felon could reclaim their right to vote. Opponents of the measure claimed the existing law was clear enough, but when pressed they could not agree on what the law requires of felons upon release. 

·        Progressive Setbacks by Passage into Law

SB1921 – This is a setback only insofar as it legitimizes the baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. SB1921 increases the maximum punishment for felony and misdemeanor violations of the election code, increasing felony punishments from a fine of $5,000 to $50,000 and from two years to five years imprisonment. It increases misdemeanor punishments from a fine of $1,000 to $10,000.

Workers’ Rights

·        Progressive Victories by Defeat of Bills

HB2554- Would have amended the Municipal Employee Bargaining Act by eliminating certification procedures for employee organizations that represent municipal employees in collective bargaining without an election actually being held.

SB2052- Sought to limit the state’s health maintenance organization offering to one, statewide HMO plan, and would have reduced the amount of health insurance benefits available for state workers and their families. SB2052 was vetoed.

Guns

·        Progressive Victories by Defeat of Bills 

Bills regarding the right to bear arms cropped up all during session, and efforts to allow open-carry (HB3354) or exempt Oklahoma from the federal regulations of firearms, firearms accessories and ammunition (HB2994 & SB1685) were soundly defeated by strong Democratic opposition who united to successfully sustain the governor’s veto.

Other attempts, such as asserting that Oklahoma citizens are not required to participate in any international, state or federal firearms registration program or be subject to confiscation (HB3157) or to allow concealed weapons on technology center school district property (SB2230) were stalled this session.

Marriage

·        Progressive Victories by Defeat of Bills 

HB2543 – Would have required that in all actions for divorce the parties seeking divorce must, before filing the petition, receive one hour of counseling from a licensed therapist or a faith-based counselor. 

HB2634 – Would have abolished common law marriage, created covenant marriage, and required premarital counseling. 

HB1053  -  Attempted to change how military pension is regarded in divorce from “property” to “alimony”, which would allow the state to favor one class of citizens (military service members and retirees) over another class of person (military spouses), which is a move no other state in the nation has taken.

HB2279 – Would have forbidden a divorce being granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences if the wife is pregnant or there are minor children involved.  However, the judge may grant divorce under those circumstances if either party files a written objection to the divorce and the parties live apart for two years, or both parties agree to the divorce and the parties live apart for one year.  Seriously.  This was a bill.

Child Welfare

·        Progressive Victories

Approved by Governor: HB1741 authorizes each district court to establish a family drug court for the purpose of treating children adjudicated as deprived and their families in cases where the parent has a substance abuse disorder. 

Consumer Rights/Protection

·        Progressive Victories

Approved by Governor: SB2180 requires roofers to be licensed and carry liability insurance. Given Oklahoma’s predisposition to tornadoes and now hail storms, citizens need to be protected from shoddy, fly-by-night home-repair companies.

Vetoed: SB1903 sought to deregulate the home service warranty industry in Oklahoma, and would have eliminated the State Insurance Department’s oversight authority.

 Energy & the Environment

·        Progressive Bills Stalled

HB2916 sought to create the “Oklahoma Beverage Container Recycling Act” which would require every deposit beverage distributor to pay the Oklahoma Tax Commission a deposit of five cents on each deposit beverage container manufactured in or imported into the state.

HB3028 is a shout out to the oil and gas industry disguised as a renewable energy bill.  Its proposals demonstrate, at best, a lackluster commitment to renewable energy.  HB3028 establishes a voluntary goal of increasing the installed capacity of electricity generated from renewable sources to 15% by the year 2015.  It then goes on to declare that a nonrenewable fuel, natural gas, is the preferred choice for generating electricity. 

Reproductive Rights

Oklahoma has become a battleground for reproductive freedom.  Anti-choice activists have a sympathetic legislature that has proven time and again it will approve anything branded “pro-life” regardless of how hateful, demeaning, unconstitutional, or inefficacious it may be.  Small bands of pro-choice legislators in the House and Senate admirably fight these bills, only to find themselves in a shrinking minority.  Governor Brad Henry, who has vetoed some of the most severe anti-choice legislation in past sessions, vetoed several measures in the 2010 session, but Democrats and Republicans joined together to override his veto on every anti-choice bill but one (in that instance the legislative session came to an end before an override attempt could be provided). 

·        Progressive Victories by Defeat of Bill 

·        Vetoed: HB3290 – Sought to prohibit all qualified health programs offered both through the state exchange and outside the state exchange but operating from within the state from including elective abortion coverage.  Women would be required to purchase a separate elective abortion rider for their health insurance.  Not that many women purchasing health insurance would pay extra for elective abortion coverage, a search of providers in Oklahoma found that these riders are not even available for purchase.  Women who experience complications during a pregnancy, leading to the termination of the pregnancy, would have been required to pay out of their own pockets unless they purchased optional coverage for an elective abortion. 

·        Progressive Setbacks

Veto Overridden: HB3284 requires physicians who perform abortions to require their patients to answer a lengthy and invasive questionnaire and submit the information to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. This law is the subject of a legal challenge.

Veto Overridden: HB2780 - This legislation has been accurately portrayed as the most despicable anti-choice legislation in the nation.  HB2780 requires an obstetric ultrasound at least one hour prior to an abortion and requires the physician to display the image to the woman and explain to the woman what she is looking at.  The woman may avert her eyes.  This affront to women and the doctor-patient relationship is the subject of a legal challenge spearheaded by the Center for Reproductive Rights.  On July 19th an Oklahoma County District Court Judge continued an order preventing the law from going into effect.  

Veto Overridden: HB2656 - Prohibits a civil cause of action for wrongful life.  No plaintiff may recover damages for any condition that existed at the time of the child’s birth if the claim is that the defendant's act or omission contributed to the mother not having an abortion.  The result is that now physicians can lie to their patients about the health of their fetus without any liability. 

Approved by Governor: SB1902 created a new law making it illegal for a person to provide or administer RU-486 for the purpose of inducing an abortion unless the person is a qualified physician.

Tax and Budget

Progressive Victories

Vetoed by the Governor. SB1589 - In the waning days of a legislative session mired in budget woes, the telecom lobby passed a sweetheart tax break through both chambers only to find their deal killed by a veto.  SB1589 would have reduced the ad valorem rate on all new telecommunications property from 23% to 12%.  

Vetoed by the Governor. SB2163 - Part of the tort reform package passed in 2009 included a promise to create the Health Care Indemnity Fund, which is supposed to act a type of supplemental malpractice insurance policy for Oklahoma doctors.  Oklahoma’s new tort reform statutes cap non-economic damages at $400,000, but if certain conditions are met a jury can exceed that cap.  However, any jury award over that amount does not come from the doctor personally or from the doctor’s insurance provider.  Instead, the excess would be paid out by the Health Care Indemnity Fund that would be funded exclusively by tax dollars. SB2163 was the legislative vehicle that would have established that fund and allowed the state to begin to accept bids from indemnity policy providers.  The fund is estimated to require $20 million in state appropriations.  It is also important to note that the newly created caps on non-economic damages do not go into effect until the fund is established. 

·        Progressive Setbacks

HB2432 - The budget agreement between Republican legislative leadership and the Governor originally included a measure to provide a moratorium on Gross Production Tax rebates for horizontal & deep well drilling.  The measure that actually passed instead is a two year deferral on the rebates, after which the rebates must be repaid over a 36 month period.  If revenue shortfalls prevent a timely payment, the state will be assessed a 9% penalty interest rate to accrue for each day that a required payment is not made by the end of the month for which payment is required. Also in the fine print of this bill was a change which created an additional boon to oil and gas companies, who will for their hardship now benefit from the elimination of the project payback period, which previously was restricted to 24 months in which rebates could be claimed from the initial production date. Given this elimination, an additional $13 million dollars is projected to be squandered in state revenue beginning in fiscal year 2015 and beyond.

·      Progressive Legislation Stalled

HB2796- Would have called for a revised estimate of expected revenues to be prepared and sent within 30 days to the governor and both houses of the legislature, whenever a revenue shortfall is declared by the director of the Office of State Finance, or when that office reduces agency funding due to a shortfall. The requirement would apply whenever such a revenue shortfall occurs prior to the last day of the tenth month of a fiscal year.  It doesn’t make sense to wait until halfway through the fiscal year to begin thinking about budget adjustments if new information is available indicating revenue problems ahead. The longer we wait to make needed cuts, the more drastic and painful the effects of those cuts tend to be.

Health Care

·        Progressive Victories

HB2437- Creates the Health Carrier Access Payment Revolving Fund. The fund calls for a 1 percent access payment to be paid by health insurance providers on claims until January 1, 2015. The revenue raised by these payments will be used by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to leverage federal matching funds available to the state.  It is projected to bring in $78 million in additional health care revenue over the coming year. Oklahoma’s Democratic Insurance Commissioner, Kim Holland, recently announced her intention to challenge these fees in court, claiming they are an unconstitutional tax increase. 

SB1251- Prohibits health benefit plans from justifying a decision denying coverage, refusing to renew, or canceling a person’s health benefit plan on the basis that the customer was a victim of domestic abuse. Under SB1251, domestic abuse can no longer be considered a preexisting condition.

·      Progressive Victories by Defeat of Bill 

HB2544- would have required medical providers to collect a copayment in the amount of five dollars from patients who are on Medicaid.  The bill’s proponents said it would make the Medicaid patients feel good to pay the copay.

HB1574- sought to expand the list of people who can ask a court to civilly commit an individual.  Under current law, only an immediate family member or a guardian over the age of 18 can ask a court to determine whether a person is a danger to themselves or others and in need of treatment.  HB1574 would have granted this authority to anyone who has a close personal relationship with the individual.  

·        Progressive Bills Stalled

HB3238 would have specified that Health Savings Account funds may be used to cover any medically necessary procedure, including bariatric surgery.

HB2688 sought to require mammography coverage to any female under thirty-five years of age, provided that the treating physician prescribes the screening because of physical findings or a genetic predisposition to breast cancer.

SB1269 sought to require state-regulated insurance plans to cover treatments for autism.

SB1294 sought to prohibit health insurance companies from paying bonuses for denying care or establishing cancellation quotas.

SB1302 sought to prohibit hospitals from charging for care when a patient is readmitted and the readmission was preventable.

SB1306 sought to limit hospital charges if there is a significant difference in the health outcomes of insured and uninsured patients.

SB1310 sought to prohibit emergency departments from charging more for procedures than they would cost in a nonemergency setting.

SB1353 sought to require health insurance companies to spend at least 85 cents of every dollar on care or modify premiums.

SB1300 sought to prohibit pharmacies from charging a copayment for prescription drugs that is greater than the cash value of the prescription drug.

·        Progressive Setbacks

In keeping with their strategy of not adding anything productive to the health care reform dialogue and in the run up to campaign season, Republican legislators offered a slew of anti-federal health care reform proposals.  Republican primaries have watched legislators tripping over themselves to say they are more against President Obama’s health care reform than their opponent.  We can only expect more of the same as we head into November. But just in case candidates don’t talk about President Obama or health care on their own, legislators placed a question on the November ballot asking the people of Oklahoma to authorize the legislature to hire lawyers and sue the federal government.  In the state where President Obama recorded his worst electoral performance, these gimmicks are sure to be helpful at the polls, but in terms of policy, they were nothing more than an ostentatious waste of time and resources that were unfortunately legitimized by Democrats as well as Republicans voting in yes in lopsided majorities.

Vetoed by the Governor. HJR1054 sought to opt out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and to authorize the President Pro Tempore and the Speaker to employ legal counsel to file a lawsuit against Congress, the President and the U.S. Secretary of the Human Services.

Filed with Secretary of State. SCR64 authorizes the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to employ legal counsel to file a lawsuit against the federal government to prevent the provisions of the PPACA from taking effect.

Filed with Secretary of State. SJR59 brings to a vote of the people on this November’s ballot a constitutional amendment to prohibit a law or rule from compelling any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system.

Public Health & Safety

·        Progressive Victories

Approved by Governor:

HB1888 – To improve ambulance coverage in rural Oklahoma, this measure requires each county with a population of 500,000 people or less to present an emergency medical services plan to the Oklahoma Department of Health by April 1, 2011. The legislation also creates a petition process to allow registered voters to create an ambulance service district in their counties. The legislation requires licensed ambulance services in the licensed area to respond to all emergency calls, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. This ensures that individuals who may not be able to pay for the service are helped in an emergency.

SB1908 - Prohibits any driver operating under a learner’s permit or an intermediate driver’s license (class D) from using a hand held electronic device to talk or text when the car is in motion.  It is important to note that efforts to expand prohibitions on texting to all licensed drivers were stalled.          

HB2957 - Prohibits public transit drivers from using a cellular phone or electronic communication device to write, send, or read a text-based communication while the vehicle is in motion.

SB1715 - Oklahoma has the ignoble distinction of being home to large number of puppy mill operators.  For years a bipartisan group of legislators have fought the puppy breeding lobby to bring regulation and licensing requirements to the industry in hopes of cracking down on deplorable conditions these animals are forced to live in.  SB1715 is far from perfect and its provisions have been substantially weakened in order to ensure passage, but it is a step in the right direction.  SB1715 creates the Commercial Pet Breeders Act to be administered by the newly created Board of Commercial Pet Breeders acting under the authority of the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. The board is charged with enforcing the new licensing procedures, training and qualifications for inspectors, standards of care for animals, and procedures for sale of animals. Procedures include prohibiting marketing in retail, public, or private parking lots and that a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian must accompany each sale. The board is required to maintain a website listing the commercial pet breeders licensed in Oklahoma and those commercial pet breeders whose licenses have been denied or revoked. Commercial breeders are defined as entities that have eleven or more female animals for breeding dogs or cats for sale. The board is required to annually inspect each facility of licensed breeders.

HB3021 – Requires landlords to notify prospective tenants if a rental unit or any part of the premises was used in the production of methamphetamine.

HB2774 - Existing law required restaurants that wanted to offer a smoking section to build a specially designated smoking room, which must conform to certain ventilation and separation requirements.  HB2774 authorizes the State Department of Health to offer a rebate to those restaurants that built separate smoking rooms because of this requirement, if the restaurant becomes totally nonsmoking.

Workers’ Compensation

·        Progressive Setbacks by Passage into Law

HB2650 – Prohibits continuing medical maintenance from being awarded unless recommended by the treating doctor or there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Ends pay for permanent total disability cases once the employee reaches the age of 100 percent Social Security retirement or for a period of fifteen years, whichever is longer. Decreases the payment for permanent partial disability for loss of digits, limbs, sight, or hearing, permanent disfigurement, hernia, and soft tissue injuries – to not more than $323 per week. 

HB2652 - Requires the advice and consent of the Senate for gubernatorial nominations to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court.  If the Senate fails to confirm within 90 days, the Governor is authorized to select from the two remaining nominees or request additional nominees from the Judicial Nominating Commission.  Supreme Court appointments will also require the approval of the Senate.

Education

·        Progressive Bills Stalled

SB1381 – Would have required sex education curricula and materials to be medically accurate.

·        Progressive Setbacks by Passage into Law

HB3393 – Establishes the Lindsey Nichole Henry Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program. Provides a scholarship to a private school of choice for students with disabilities who have had an individualized education program developed in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

HB2321 - Allows school districts to teach non-religious courses about the Bible.  This class is right after the one where they teach a non-Nascar class about Dale Earnhardt.

HB3029 - Eases several mandates on school districts and the state for two fiscal years. School districts may spend textbook allocations, professional development funds and library media program funds for school operations. Suspends the National Board certification payment of $5,000 for any teachers obtaining certification during those two years.

SB509 - Allows school districts with more than 30,000 average daily membership the option to release teachers from permanent positions at schools identified for school improvement for four consecutive years and employ the teachers as substitutes for two years.

SB2330 - Gives districts the authority to waive certain mandates if they have an approved empowerment plan with the State Department of Education.

 [1] Oklahoma Policy Institute, Budget Overview: Trends and Outlook (July, 2010), http://www.okpolicy.org/fy-10-fy-11budget-information.

[4] Enrolled HJR1042 which created State Question 751, to declare English as the official language of Oklahoma https://www.sos.ok.gov/documents/questions/751.pdf?4,7


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