Yes and no: Gov. Henry issues 22 vetoes, closes book on 2010 session
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Published: 11-Jun-2010

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 11-Jun-2010

Gov. Brad Henry today officially closed the book on the 2010 legislative session, completing work on all bills passed during the final days of the annual four-month meeting of state lawmakers.

In an email to CapitolBeatOK from his communications director, the state’s chief executive announced he had vetoed a total of 22 bills. In one day, the governor formally issued more vetoes than in any one prior year.

Having already vetoed 18 measures this year, the governor shattered his previous record for turning “thumbs down” on legislation. His previous high water mark for vetoes was the 2009 session, when he vetoed a total of 21 bills.

In all, 522 bills and resolutions were sent to the governor for consideration during the legislative session.  The governor struck down 40 bills with his veto pen. Three vetoes of abortion legislation were overridden, but the rest of the governor’s vetoes were sustained.

H.B. 3032, one of the vetoed measures was a major proposal from House Speaker Chris Benge, a Tulsa Republican. Co-sponsors of his bill included state Rep. Mike Jackson of Enid and state Sens. Patrick Anderson of Enid and John Sparks of Norman. Jackson, Anderson and Benge are Republicans, while Sparks is a Democrat. David Blatt of the Oklahoma Policy Institute had praised the proposal boosted by the Speaker.

He approved all of the remaining pieces of legislation sent to his desk.

“Because of the historic budget crisis and other difficult issues, this was an extraordinarily challenging legislative session, perhaps the most difficult during my tenure as governor,” said Gov. Henry. “We had to make many painful but necessary decisions to balance the state budget, but we were able to protect core services from the deepest cuts and better position Oklahoma for economic recovery. 

“I want to thank all of the lawmakers who worked together in a bipartisan manner to address the many challenges that confronted us.” 

In the closing round of executive consideration of bills passed in the 2010 Legislature, the governor vetoed the following proposals: House Bills 2266, 2310, 2370, 2375, 2463, 2475, 2483, 2658, 2886, 3032, 3161, and 3338; and Senate Bills 828, 1073, 1589, 1686, 1903, 1960, 1961, 2046, 2052, and 2163.

As a service to readers, CapitolBeatOK has pasted below the complete and unedited texts of all 22 veto messages provided to news reporters today. We have include links included to three stories on bills that cleared the legislative process but were felled by the governor’s veto.

“ENROLLED SENATE BILL NO. 828: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 828. This bill is not in the best interest of Oklahomans, particularly landowners. It essentially makes it easier for out-of-state companies, including non-public utility companies that contract with a public utility, to have eminent domain rights over the lands of Oklahomans. This is a major policy shift that will cost property owners in Oklahoma. It requires extensive study and deliberation and should not be enacted in the final days of the legislative session.

“ENROLLED SENATE BILL NO. 1073: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 1073. This legislation could trigger unintended consequences jeopardizing federal tax credits for Oklahoma employers. Additional study is needed before such a proposal could be enacted into law

“ENROLLED SENATE BILL NO. 1589: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 1589. Ad valorem revenues are a critical funding source for public education and county governments, and significant changes to state laws governing property tax assessment policies require in-depth study and deliberation.  A new state statute has authorized the creation of a task force to review such issues and help determine future policies on this complex and difficult question. It would be more appropriate for this task force and affected stakeholders to thoroughly research and debate the changes proposed in SB 1589 to determine if they are in the best interest of the state and should be enacted into law. Furthermore, during my tenure as governor, I have placed the highest priority on the advancement of public education and have done my best to direct the necessary resources for success to teachers, students and classrooms. Quality education remains the single most important issue in our continuing efforts to ensure future prosperity for our state and its people, and I cannot in good conscience support any initiative that potentially detracts from this goal.

“ENROLLED SENATE BILL NO. 1686: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 1686. This legislation erodes homeowners’ rights by increasing the aggregate claim amount required for pre-lien notices from $2,500 to $10,000.  Senate Bill 1686 also repeals the state law that requires contractors to provide notice to homeowners about the lien process, eliminating an important safeguard for these consumers.

“ENROLLED SENATE BILL NO. 1903: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 1903. One of government’s many important roles is to protect consumers, particularly senior citizens, from disreputable or deceptive business practices. Senate Bill 1903 would essentially deregulate the home service warranty industry in Oklahoma, repealing oversight functions currently performed by the State Insurance Department and allowing companies to operate in the state with little more than a registration requirement.  While there are many reputable home service warranty companies doing business in Oklahoma, there is no compelling reason to deregulate the industry and reduce consumer protections.

“ENROLLED SENATE BILL NO. 1960: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 1960 because it is duplicative of HB 2919.  All of the language in this bill is contained in HB 2919, which I have signed. Therefore, signing this bill would create duplicate sections of law and cause an unnecessary and unwise waste to taxpayer dollars to later fix.

“ENROLLED SENATE BILL 1961: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 1961. This legislation would impair the Human Rights Commission in its efforts to amicably resolve employment-related disputes and protect employees who have legitimate discrimination claims.  Among other things, SB 1961 eliminates the commission’s ability to conduct administrative hearings on employment discrimination and triggers unintended consequences that could force more unnecessary litigation and jeopardize the agency’s federal funding. 

“ENROLLED SENATE BILL NO. 2046: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 2046.  Senate Bill 2046 would enact a major policy change with regard to health insurance regulations by allowing out-of-state companies, unlicensed in Oklahoma, to sell policies in this state. Some contend consumers would benefit from shopping for health coverage in other states, but consumer advocates have raised legitimate concerns to the contrary. For example, they say it would be easier for companies to cherry-pick low-risk customers that are more profitable to their bottom line while denying or pricing out of coverage higher risk groups.  Firms could also establish their headquarters in states with the fewest regulations and mandated treatments, resulting in fewer consumer protections and less effective coverage. Policyholders who had complaints or concerns about their coverage would have little regulatory recourse in holding their insurer accountable and would ultimately be harmed by such an arrangement. While federal health care reform might provide future safeguards to protect consumers in such scenarios, those protections are still several years away. Accordingly, this legislation could prove costly to and is not in the best interest of Oklahoma consumers at this time, and such a major policy shift requires extensive study and deliberation and should not be enacted with little discussion in the final days of the legislative session.

“ENROLLED SENATE BILL NO. 2052: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 2052. Senate Bill 2052 seeks to implement a major, complex policy shift in the administration and operation of the state’s health insurance and benefits program for teachers and state employees.  Despite the scope of the proposed changes, the final draft of this 289-page bill was not revealed to state legislators or other stakeholders until the final hours of the legislative session. While supporters’ goals of an improved system and more manageable costs are laudable and desirable, there is no supporting evidence to confirm that SB 2052 would accomplish those goals and there are legitimate concerns that it might actually create a less responsive system with less manageable costs. For such a sweeping policy change to be enacted into law, it must be thoroughly researched and debated throughout the four-month session with all stakeholders at the table, not unveiled and passed in the hectic and often chaotic final moments before adjournment.

“ENROLLED SENATE BILL NO. 2163: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 2163.  While I support and signed into law the 2009 tort reform bill and the provision establishing a health care indemnity fund, this legislation is not consistent with the agreement that created the original reform measure, is not in the best interest of the state of Oklahoma and its citizens and is constitutionally flawed.  Specifically, paragraph E of Section 1 of the bill authorizes legislative leaders and the attorney general to personally intervene and present evidence in cases involving the indemnity fund, thereby unfairly tipping the scales of justice against the average citizen who is on the opposing side of the case.  Under the U.S. Constitution, every person is guaranteed equal treatment under the law, and nowhere is that treatment more important than in our justice system. This legislation is unfair to the citizens of this state and unconstitutional under the laws of the land.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 2266: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 2266. While this legislation contains some positive provisions, it also places a costly, unworkable unfunded mandate on local court funds, requiring payment from local court funds of the cost of certain indigent defense cases. Those court funds were not established for that purpose, and the resources do not exist to fulfill such obligation without dramatically and negatively impacting court operations.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 2310: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 2310. While House Bill 2310 contains some positive provisions, it contains a fatal flaw. By giving the Office of State Finance the authority to conduct performance assessments of agencies and then requiring low-scoring agencies to enter financial services contracts with OSF, the legislation creates an untenable conflict of interest.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 2370: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 2370. This legislation contains several mistakes with regard to individual agency’s FTE limits that make it impossible to implement.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 2375: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 2375. This bill takes money from school formula funds used for all schools and redistributes these funds to a few schools. The state's obligation to the ad valorem reimbursement fund should be funded in full but should not come at the expense of all other schools.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 2463: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 2463. This legislation transfers funds from the Drug Money Laundering and Wire Transmitter Revolving Fund to a state agency without any  justification for doing so or any explanation about the ultimate use of the  funds. This transfer was not part of the state budget agreement and does not  contain sufficient information to merit approval.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 2475: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 2475. This legislation transfers funds from the Drug Money Laundering and Wire Transmitter Revolving Fund to a state agency without any  justification for doing so or any explanation about the ultimate use of the  funds. This transfer was not part of the state budget agreement and does not contain sufficient information to merit approval.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 2483: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 2483.  This legislation transfers funds from the Drug Money Laundering and Wire Transmitter Revolving Fund to a state agency without any  justification for doing so or any explanation about the ultimate use of the  funds. This transfer was not part of the state budget agreement and does not  contain sufficient information to merit approval.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 2658: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 2658. Currently, all state agencies may obtain workers compensation insurance coverage from an insurer other than CompSource Oklahoma if it can be demonstrated that the policy will result in lower costs.  This legislation, however, could lead to short- and long-term increases in state agencies’ workers compensation premiums because the requirement to demonstrate lower costs is removed, forcing state lawmakers to shift funds from other important state programs in order to pay the higher costs. It would be poor public policy to enact legislation that unnecessarily increases state workers compensation insurance premium costs, particularly in a time of budget crisis.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 2886: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 2886. This legislation is a companion bill to HB 2658, which I vetoed because it increases state costs.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 3032: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 3032. The concept of an Energy Stabilization Fund has merit, but in the rush to pass this legislation in the final hours of session, numerous technical errors were made in the construction of HB 3032, making it difficult if not impossible to implement in its current form. The next Legislature should revisit this concept and carefully draft legislation that can be implemented without question or concern.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 3161: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 3161. Although Oklahomans voted overwhelmingly in 2004 to establish a state lottery for public education, opponents have continued to campaign against it with the help of the Oklahoma Legislature.  Proposals to boost lottery proceeds for education have routinely been ignored at the State Capitol while measures that would hinder the administration of the program have been advanced.  HB 3161, for example, would prohibit lottery advertising campaigns from featuring the very students who benefit from the program. This mandate would effectively kill an ongoing and successful promotional effort and waste the time and money invested in it.  The greater impact of this legislation would be to further tie the hands of the Lottery Commission and impede its efforts to effectively and efficiently administer a program created and sanctioned by voters to raise funds for public education. During its short history, the lottery has generated more than $330 million for schools, keeping at home Oklahoma dollars that had previously been spent on other states’ lotteries and education systems. Lawmakers should respect the wishes of voters and work to enhance the lottery, not pass legislation that hinders its operations and reduces funding for public school students in the process.

“ENROLLED HOUSE BILL NO. 3338: This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 3338. This legislation would authorize a top state officer, the fire marshal, to solicit and receive compensation for another job or task performed outside his or her state duties, an arrangement currently prohibited under state law. The first and foremost responsibility of a state officer is to uphold the Oklahoma Constitution and serve the citizens of this state. This responsibility could be compromised if a state officer must answer to another authority outside of state government.”

NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.

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