Friday, May 24, 2013
2013 Legislative and Policy Highlights: Pro-Growth Policies That Move Oklahoma Forward
The 2013 legislative session has been successful and historic. Governor Mary Fallin worked with the Legislature to deliver a fiscally conservative, balanced budget that includes targeted increases for core services, while also cutting taxes for all working Oklahomans. Additionally, she worked with lawmakers to pass landmark reforms in the areas of workers’ compensation, government efficiency, mental health, child welfare, public safety, education and more.
Finally, in the wake of the tragic May tornadoes, Governor Fallin worked with legislators to deliver a disaster relief bill that will help municipalities affected by natural disasters to recover and rebuild.
The tornadoes that struck several Oklahoma communities in May were devastating. Oklahoma is currently in an all-hands-on-deck effort to recover and rebuild. The governor and Legislature are dedicated to ensuring that communities hit hard by storm and tornado damage will have the support they need moving forward.
· Natural Disaster Recovery:
o SB 249: Transfers $45 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to the Emergency Fund. The funds will be administered by the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management and used to reimburse local governments for relief efforts related to natural disasters, including the May tornadoes.
Promoting a Business-Friendly Environment
Governor Fallin and the Legislature delivered historic reforms that will bring more high-paying, high-quality jobs to Oklahoma, such as reducing the state’s personal income tax and overhauling the workers’ compensation system.
· State Income Tax Reduction:
o HB 2032: Reduces the state’s top personal income tax rate by 0.25 percent, to 5 percent, starting in 2015, and lowers that rate even further to 4.85 percent for tax year 2016, if growth in the General Revenue Fund is estimated to cover the cost of the final 0.15 percent reduction. In its first fully implemented tax year, this tax cut will pump more than $235 million back into the private sector. HB 2032 is a responsible, meaningful tax cut that will let Oklahoma families keep more of their hard-earned money while spurring job growth and business expansion in Oklahoma.
· Comprehensive Workers’ Compensation Reform:
o SB 1062: Transitions Oklahoma’s court-based system to an administrative system, thereby reducing the adversarial nature and time needed to process claims while allowing injured employees to recover and get back to work faster. In addition, SB 1062 reduces legal costs, medical costs, and excessive payouts by an estimated $260 million annually by reducing the waiting period for employees to receive Temporary Total Disabilities, lowering the cap from 100 percent of the state’s average weekly wage to 70 percent, deferring Permanent Partial Disabilities if employees return to work at the same or equivalent job, requiring the use of the Official Disability Guidelines across the board for all medical treatment, expanding the use of vocational rehabilitation, and more.
· Economic Development Pooled Finance Program:
o HB 2000: Strengthens long-term economic growth and financial efficiency by combining the state’s successful Infrastructure Pool and the Economic Development Pool. Together, they create a $200 million pool, maximizing overall economic benefits. HB 2000 ultimately streamlines economic expansion and ensures adequate infrastructure for future growth.
· Quick Action Closing Fund:
o In 2011, Governor Fallin and the Legislature created the Quick Action Closing Fund, allowing for economic development expenditures when funds would likely be a determining factor in locating or retaining high-impact business projects or facilities in Oklahoma. The Fiscal Year 2014 budget appropriates an additional $3 million in new funding for the closing und. This year, Governor Fallin announced a $110 million investment by GE Oil and Gas to open a global research center in Oklahoma. The governor’s closing fund played an integral role in this new investment in Oklahoma by one of the world’s top international corporations.
· Tort Reform:
o SB 404: Creates the Personal Injury Trust Fund Transparency Act, which permits governmental and other entities to create trusts for the purpose of compensating individuals alleging personal injury claims against that entity. SB 404 creates a process to file claims against the trust, should one be created, and creates provisions governing the discovery pre-trial information gathering process and the valuation of trust claims.
Saving Taxpayer Dollars through Government Reform and Modernization
Since taking office in 2011, Governor Fallin has continued to make streamlining state government and eliminating waste a primary focus of her policy and legislative agenda. This legislative session, the governor eliminated or consolidated more than 75 boards and commissions, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money annually, while making government smaller, smarter and more efficient. Additionally, the governor signed into law key legislation addressing the state’s long-term infrastructure needs. Not only will these improvements help save money, they will make our state government more modern and more responsive to the needs of its customers, the Oklahoma taxpayers.
· Right-sizing Government:
o HB 1455:Eliminates 27 boards and commissions that are defunct, duplicative, or no longer necessary to include in state statutes. By eliminating travel reimbursements and staff resources dedicated to these boards, HB 1455 will save more than $50,000 annually.
o HB 1467:Consolidates 28 boards and commissions into seven new boards that will be overseen by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). The elimination of reimbursements and staff resources related to these boards is estimated to save more than $300,000 annually.
o HB 1469:Consolidates the Joint Committee on Interstate Cooperation and the Governor’s Committee on Interstate Cooperation into the Oklahoma Commission on Interstate Cooperation.
o HB 1481:Eliminates the Oklahoma Linked Deposit Review Board.
o HB 1482:Eliminates the High-Hazard Dams Study Group.
o SB 621:Consolidates the Oklahoma State Bioenergy Center into the Oklahoma Energy Initiative.
o SB 767:Consolidates the Commission for Marginal Wells into the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board.
o SB 1011:Eliminates and consolidates 16 different boards and commissions within the oversight purview of the Secretary of Agriculture.
· State Infrastructure and Asset Management:
o HB 1910:Creates a long-term infrastructure plan by forming the Long-Range Capital Planning Commission to develop an eight-year plan to address state property and maintenance needs. The commission’s plan will create a system for maintenance to address state needs without incurring unnecessary debt and other costs. It will also include recommendations on reallocation, reuse or liquidation of state properties.
· Mutualizing CompSource:
o HB 2201: Places CompSource, an important source of workers’ compensation insurance for many employers in Oklahoma, on more equal footing with other private carriers through mutualization. CompSource will continue its role of assuring small business access to workers’ compensation insurance at competitive rates and will bring CompSource under regulation by the Oklahoma Insurance Department.
· Maximizing Efficiencies through Shared Services:
o HB 1002: Allows the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) to combine financial services of inefficient or poorly performing agencies if deemed feasible. HB 1002 provides service to a wider area of agencies than before and ensures the most cost-effective approach is taken to the financial services of these agencies.
o HB 1987: Allows counties to use purchasing cards as part of the state program, which will streamline the county level purchasing process and provide savings through cash-back rebates. HB 1987 will produce estimated annual savings of $7.9 million to counties and require proper usage training for county purchasing officers to ensure accountability.
· Promoting Privatization:
o SB 1008: Directs OMES to create and maintain a repository of the best privatization and surplus asset sales practices. SB 1008 allows OMES to review areas for privatization, evaluate proposals of these areas and oversee the selected privatization efforts as needed.
Improving Health and Human Services Outcomes in Oklahoma
Improving the health and well-being of all Oklahomans is one of Governor Fallin’s top priorities. Research shows 70 percent of illnesses facing our citizens are preventable and related to issues like smoking, substance abuse, obesity and illnesses like Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. In addition, mental health issues continue to negatively impact many Oklahomans. Governor Fallin signed into law a number of measures to help address these issues. An additional $17.4 million was also appropriated for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) to support initiatives including suicide prevention, prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment, counseling for children with mental illnesses, and “smart on crime” initiatives like the Justice Reinvestment Act.
· Mental Health:
o SB 295: Allows for increased access to treatment through affordable certification of comprehensive community addiction recovery centers, adds private recovery organizations to the list of “Certified Services for the Alcohol and Drug Dependent,” removes barriers for certain faith-based and residential recovery-based programs, and allows ODMHSAS to inspect facilities.
o HB 1532: Requires the Lottery Commission to transfer an additional $250,000 annually to ODMHSASfor program treatments of compulsive gambling disorder. HB 1532 utilizes funds from unclaimed lottery winnings to combat the serious gambling addiction problem in Oklahoma.
o The FY 14 budget includes $1 million for the ODMHSAS to annualize the two crisis centers established in FY 13 and an additional $2.5 million to add a third crisis center, providing Oklahomans throughout the state with more access to emergency mental health care.
· Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention:
o Prescription drug abuse continues to be a major detriment to Oklahoma’s health rankings and economy. Currently, 81 percent of drug-related deaths in Oklahoma are caused by prescription drug abuse. To combat this problem, Governor Fallin and the Legislature provided ODMHSAS with $1.2 million for new prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment initiatives.
o HB 1781: Allows ODMHSAS to access key, non-identifiable information regarding prescription drug use from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD) for research purposes, in order to identify areas where drugs are being overprescribed and abused in order to help aid in the prevention of prescription drug abuse.
o HB 1782:Allows first responders to administer opioid antagonists to persons experiencing an opioid overdose without a prescription. The bill also allows healthcare providers to prescribe an opioid antagonist to an individual to use on a family member exhibiting signs of opioid overdose. Health care professionals must provide opioid antagonist instructional information to family members.
o HB 1783:Prohibits automatic refills on hydrocodone-containing products (Lortab, Vicotin, etc.). Hydrocodone-containing products would remain a Schedule III controlled substance.
· Suicide Prevention:
o Suicide is too prevalent in Oklahoma, particularly among groups who should be receiving support and care, such as active duty military and veterans. The FY 2014 budget includes $500,000 for ODMHSAS to develop suicide prevention initiatives.
· Pro-life Initiatives:
o HB 1361:Requires a parent who consents to a minors abortion to show government-issued identification and written documentation that he or she is the lawful parent of the minor before the abortion is performed. HB 1361 ensures abortion-providing physicians are in compliance with consent requirements and have given necessary procedural risk information to patients and parents, if the patient is an unemancipated minor.
o HB 1588:Requires 48 hours to have passed after written notice of a pending abortion to a parent before an abortion is performed or induced upon an unemancipated minor. HB 1588 helps ensure the parent of an unemancipated woman seeking an abortion is informed of the decision.
o HB 2015:Adds questions to the Individual Abortion Reporting Form that is completed by a physician performing an abortion. HB 2015 protects women and children through updated language on the medical form and allows for OSDH investigation into physicians not in compliance.
o HB 2226:Makes the “morning-after” emergency contraceptive unavailable to women under the age of 17 unless they have a prescription from a doctor. HB 2226 increases the likelihood that unemancipated women facing potential pregnancy will receive medical attention before taking the contraceptive.
· Infant Mortality:
o The FY 13 budget included $1 million to address the high rate of infant death in Oklahoma. One focus of this funding was the development of a statewide collaboration to eliminate non-medically necessary elective births prior to 39 weeks, a practice which has been shown to increase health complications and endangers the lives of infants. This voluntary program has been adopted by 55 of 59 Oklahoma birthing hospitals, leading to a remarkable 66 percent reduction in the rate of non-medically necessary inductions prior to 39 weeks in one year. The FY 14 budget includes an additional $700,000 to aid the OSDH efforts to expand implementation of an evidence-based prevention program to improve infant health outcomes.
o HB 1347:Requires all inpatient or ambulatory health care facilities licensed by the OSDH to perform a pulse oximetry screening on every newborn before discharge from the birthing facility. This will determine if any heart defects exist in the newborn, which will determine the need for treatment and will help prevent infant mortality resulting from heart defects and related concerns.
· Improving Child Welfare:
o The FY 14 budget includes an additional $44 million for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS)to support operations, including the implementation of the Pinnacle Plan -- the state’s plan to improve DHS’ child welfare program -- and the reduction of the waiting list for developmentally disabled services.
o HB 2166: Allows courts to sentence child support obligators who have failed to pay child support and are willfully unemployed. The bill also grants the courts power to assign the obligator to a maximum 16 hours of weekly community service.
· Increasing Access to Health Care:
o SB 765: Creates insurance coverage parity for orally administered chemotherapy agents and traditional chemotherapy. SB 765 allows for easier care of patients in rural areas with less access to hospitals and can reduce costs, since oral chemotherapy pills are often more affordable than conventional chemotherapy options.
o Because of mandates within the Affordable Care Act, thousands of Oklahomans who are currently eligible for Medicaid but are not enrolled will likely enroll in the coming years. The state has a legal obligation under federal law to extend Medicaid benefits to those qualified individuals who choose to enroll in the program. Because of this obligation, combined with the rising cost of medical care, administrative costs and other fixed costs, the FY 14 budget includes $39.7 million for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to cover those costs and other costs associated with Medicaid.
o SB 272: Directs the OHCA to conduct a feasibility study of care coordination models among those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare, and to explore options for cost containment and delivery alternatives, which are consistent with the mission of the agency. SB 272 will help find discrepancies or overlap within the system, helping Oklahoma better and more efficiently serve Medicaid enrollees.
· Wellness Programs:
o HB 1113: Allows counties to adopt voluntary wellness programs and reward county employees excelling in those programs. Incentives are to be paid out of general county funds and also through grants, donations, contributions and gifts from public or private sources.
o HB 2191: Allows employers under the Small Employer Health Insurance Reform Act to establish wellness programs for their employees and incentivize participation. Similar to HB 1113, this program allows for wellness to be encouraged, incentivized and rewarded at a personal level.
· Reducing the Impact of Secondhand Smoke:
o SB 501: Makes it illegal to smoke on state-owned or leased property and allows cities and counties to set their own local smoking policy on city and county owned property. SB 501 puts the governor’s executive order banning tobacco products on state property into statute and helps ensure a safer and healthier environment for all on state property.
· Reducing Access to Harmful Substances:
o SB 619:Requires the Oklahoma Tax Commission to cancel the tobacco license of anyone convicted of a controlled dangerous substance violation, including the selling of synthetic drugs in retail stores and gas stations. SB 619 ensures those who break drug laws, such as selling these products to minors, are blocked from selling illegal and dangerous products.
· Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
o SB 887: Clarifies illegal transfer of food stamp benefits and allows for the removal of convicted defendants from food stamp rolls. SB 887 helps ensure funds from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are used appropriately and go to those truly in need.
Supporting Education and Workforce Development:
Initiatives signed into law this year by the governor increase accountability, promote increased access to education, and support college diploma and career certificate attainment in Oklahoma. Additionally, the FY 14 budget provides more than $120 million in new funding for education, including new appropriations to continue funding and implementing reforms passed into law in 2011 and 2012.
· Common Education:
o The governor and Legislature provide $91 million in new appropriations for common education, including $74 million in FY 14 to support reform efforts and place more resources in classrooms, and a $17 million supplemental appropriation for common education to fund teacher health benefits and other costs in FY 13.
o HB 1038:Transitions from “seat time” requirements to “competency” requirements to determine a student’s mastery of a subject. HB 1038 allows students to advance through course work more quickly, if competency standards are met, in order to move on to more challenging material or potentially graduate from high school early.
o HB 1658: Simplifies the A-F grading calculation while maintaining high standards for schools. HB 1658 instates a new calculation based more heavily on academics, similar to the previous API grading system. The overall grade calculation will be based 50 percent on whole school performance, 25 percent on whole school growth, and 25 percent on bottom quartile student growth. Changes from HB 1658 also replace the GPA system with a numeric scale (for example, 90-100 = A), and count any factors not directly related to state assessments as bonus points.
· Improving Standards and Creating Accountability:
o SB 91: Requires a school district board of education member to obtain instruction on education issues of at least 12 hours in the areas of school finance or legal issues, which include, but are not limited to, employment, due process, new laws, ethics, the Oklahoma Open Records Act and the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act, and duties and responsibilities related to special education.
· Increasing Educational Opportunities for People with Developmental Disabilities:
o HB 1756:Allows schools to give students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) an alternative method of passing the End of Instruction (EOI) assessments required under the Achieving Classroom Excellence Act. In order to receive a standard diploma, the students must meet certain criteria, such as completing remediation, repeating course work and maintaining a C average. HB 1756 helps educators assess the subject knowledge of certain students in more conducive ways to the student’s skill set and creates better opportunities for student success.
· Higher Education:
o The governor and Legislature are providing $33 million for higher education and $3 million for the Career Technology system to support operations and continue efforts toward the goal of awarding more degrees and career certificates.
Improving Public Safety and Protecting Oklahoma’s Children
Improving public safety and protecting Oklahoma’s children remain key priorities to Governor Fallin. Bills signed into law this year address a number of key issues, such as comprehensive school safety reform and human trafficking.
· School Safety:
o SB 256:Requires schools to administer two additional emergency drills per school year. In addition, SB 256 requires principals, under the direction of their superintendent, to conform to written plans and procedures adopted by the district to protect students against tornadoes, severe weather, natural disasters and other potential emergencies. Districts must document each drill and keep the records for at least three years.
o SB 257:Creates the Oklahoma School Security Institute division within the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security. The Institute is to act as the central contact repository for public and private elementary and secondary schools for information on resources to enhance school security and assess risks to school campuses. The FY 14 budget provides $522,000 to fund the institute.
o SB 258:Requires schools to create and annually update plans for emergencies, man-made and natural disasters, and to submit those plans to the appropriate emergency response authorities. SB 258 ensures school districts are prepared for emergency situations and will allow for increased safety in Oklahoma schools.
o SB 259:Requires school authorities to report the discovery of a firearm on any student or upon any other person not authorized by law to possess a firearm on school property. SB 259 keeps local law enforcement informed and engaged with firearm issues on school property, which will ensure proper action is taken and potential threats are addressed.
o SB 283: Requires school district courts to notify the State Board of Education when a district employee is charged with a felony or violent misdemeanor and when the employee has received sentencing. SB 283 requires districts to notify the State Board of Education after the dismissal of an employee as a result of criminal sexual activity.
· Improving Rural Public Safety:
o HB 1871:Closes law enforcement gaps in rural parts of Oklahoma by making CLEET trained and certified tribal law enforcement officials peace officers within the State. HB 1871 also expands tribal officers’ powers within Indian Country to enforce state law.
· Juvenile Affairs:
o EO 18:Establishes the Juvenile Justice Reform Committee to study Oklahoma’s juvenile justice system and recommend organizational improvements. Executive Order 18 allows for close examination of current juvenile justice issues, including effectiveness, recidivism, diversion programs and others.
· Human Trafficking
o HB 1067:Requires any peace officer who comes into contact with a victim of human trafficking to inform the victim of the emergency hotline number and hand the victim notice of certain rights. HB 1067 also requires if a child may be a victim of human trafficking or sexual abuse, the officer shall notify OKDHS and the child shall be accepted into OKDHS custody.
o HB 1508:Allows OBNDD the ability to issue investigative subpoenas for human trafficking cases. HB 1508 helps OBNDD better complete investigative duties and gain vital information in the fight against the human trafficking situation in Oklahoma.
o SB 889:Ensures persons subject to Sex Offender Registration remain registered for the entire term required by law and allows the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to retain the offender on the registry until the total time has been completed. SB 889 decreases instances of offenders not completing total time legally required on the registry and increases safety precautions by retaining violator names for the correct amount of time.
Promoting Oklahoma’s Agriculture and Natural Resources
Oklahoma has a rich and vast array of natural resources. Promoting the state’s agriculture industry and supporting energy production is a vital element of the governor’s policy agenda. This session, the governor signed several measures enhancing local agriculture, supporting compressed natural gas, and protecting Oklahoma’s water resources.
· Protecting Oklahoma’s Water Resources:
o SJR 35:Approves Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) rules that establish primacy over Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations for state drinking water testing. SJR 35 maintains state control of water testing and blocks federal overreach in the environment sector.
o A $1.5 million supplemental appropriation for FY 13 was directed to the DEQ to maintain control of Oklahoma’s drinking water status and implement the state primacy created by SJR 35.
· Drought Relief:
o The FY 14 budget provides $3 million to the Drought Relief Fund for additional drought-related assistance across the state. With many of the devastating effects from the recent drought are still evident, this funding will continue recovery and support for agricultural producers and others still in dire need of assistance.
· Supporting Made in Oklahoma Products:
o HB 1039: Removes the special events license requirement for farmers’ markets, promoting participation among agricultural producers and allowing for the sale of more Made in Oklahoma products.HB 1039 makes farmers’ markets more affordable for local producers to participate, and encourages the opportunity for more interaction between consumers and agricultural producers.
o HB 1638:Promotes agri-tourism business creation and growth by eliminating customer injury liability at the venue, as long as the agri-tourism professional posts and maintains a warning notice at the venue entrance.
· Compressed Natural Gas:
o HB 2005:Extends the income tax credit for qualified clean burning motor vehicle fuel property to January 1, 2020. HB 2005 is a valuable investment in Oklahoma’s economy as it incentivizes energy investment, creates jobs and increases CNG utilization throughout the state.
o HB 1718: Increases safety by requiring businesses using qualified clean-burning motor vehicle fuel tax credits to have their fueling infrastructure installation completed by a certified alternative fuels technician and allowing the Corporation Commission to inspect CNG pumps.
· Promoting Pipeline Safety:
o EO 19:Establishes the Pipeline Safety Task Force to study potential hazards and damage prevention in Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry. Executive Order 19 helps Oklahoma retains primacy over its pipeline safety by ensuring it meets federal regulations set forth through the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety Act of 2006.
Supporting Our Veterans
It is incredibly important to Governor Fallin that we continue to pursue policies honoring and recognizing the sacrifice made by Oklahoma veterans. Initiatives implemented this year will help veterans continue to seek education, obtain quality jobs and have quality facilities for care. Our veterans deserve nothing but the best, and we will continue seeking just that.
· Creating Educational Opportunities for Veterans:
o SB 22: Allows veterans who meet or exceed performance standards and are employed by the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to participate in educational and training opportunities free of charge, as long as they remain employed with ODVA.SB 22 encourages continued education and removes financial barriers for ODVA employed veterans.
· Improving Accountability at Veterans’ Centers:
o SB 629:Requires veterans’ centers be inspected by the Department of Health, ensuring veterans living in long-term care facilities are safe and receiving high-quality care and services.
o SB 235:Centralizes the management of veterans’ centers from the purview of the War Veterans Commission to the ODVA. SB 235 gives ODVA greater flexibility in managing operations at the centers, addressing the inconsistencies in quality highlighted in the ODVA audit.
Expanding Gun Rights and Defending the Second Amendment
Governor Fallin continues to be a strong advocate for the constitutional right to bear arms. This session, she signed a number of bills strengthening gun rights in the state, including the implementation of open carry, allowing for judicial carry, and aligning gun license laws.
· Protecting Gun Owners and the Second Amendment:
o HB 1413: Allows an armed private investigator to carry an unconcealed weapon on or off duty. HB 1413 maintains provisions of law requiring possession of a valid driver’s license and valid armed private investigator license.
o HB 1242: Allows district, municipal or retired judges to carry a firearm anywhere in the state for personal protection if the judge has CLEET training.