October 29, 2014

Committee examines efficiency of county jail trans
County jails are inadequate holding facilities for those with long-term criminal sentences, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton said Wednesday during an interim study. The House Appropriation and Budget Committee’s hearing on Interim Study H14-072 was called by Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus, to examine prisoner transfers from county jails to DOC facilities. A report prepared by House staffer Joshua Maxey said the daily required payment by the DOC to the counties is $27 per day plus medical costs for each inmate. The total money paid by the DOC in fiscal year 2013, he said, was $26.3 million. The costs covered 1,700 inmates currently awaiting transfer to DOC facilities. As of this month, there is a backlog of 240 inmates. bk

October 29, 2014

Study highlights conflict between insurance
The Senate Insurance Committee listened Wednesday at Treasurer Ken Miller, representatives of the Oklahoma Insurance Department and a spokeswoman for a national life insurers group argued about the application of the state’s unclaimed property laws to unclaimed life insurance benefits. Miller would like to see legislation passed that requires the companies to compare their records to the Social Security Administrations death master file. Miller’s proposal would apply to all policies since approximately 1992, when most insurance records became electronic. The insurance industry, said American Council of Life Insurers Vice President for State Relations Brenda Nation, agreed with that proposal, except the organization and its members would like the law to include language that provides the state’s unclaimed property law does not supersede its insurance code. In particular, Nation said it is important that requirement for verifying a life insurance claim – a valid certificate of death – be maintained. The comments, which were sometimes contentious, came during the committee’s consideration of Interim Study S14-058, concerning reporting procedures for life insurance policies as related to unclaimed property. bk

October 29, 2014

DOC maintains meeting legal
The Department of Corrections maintains its October board meeting was legal although it was held in a building different than the one listed on the agenda. “We think we’re fine,” DOC Director of Internal and External Communications Terri Watkins said Tuesday. According to the agenda posted on the Department of Corrections website and distributed at the meeting and a notice filed in March with the Secretary of State’s Office, the board was to meet Oct. 23 at the “Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center” located at “10 N. Broadway.” Instead, the board met across the street at the Cox Convention Center, which is located at 1 Myriad Gardens. bk

October 28, 2014

DOC discussing possible nursing home for aging
The Department of Corrections has begun preliminary talks with a nursing home operator concerning the possibility of contracting with a facility to house aging state inmates, the Senate Public Safety Committee was told Tuesday. Dr. William Cooper, the department’s chief medical officer, said the department was approached by a nursing home operations firm about the possibility of contracting with the department. The discussions are in the very early stages. According to Wes Bledsoe, a nursing home client advocate with the group A Perfect Cause, legislation passed in 2008 permits the department of contract with a nursing home for the housing registered sex offenders. “That could be expanded to cover other offenders,” he said. The men testified during a hearing on Interim Study S14-039, a study on the impact of an aging prison population at the Department of Corrections. The study was requested by Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove. bk

October 28, 2014

Committee discusses monitoring
State officials are gathering scientific information as they consider what action, if any, to take to address the increase in earthquakes experienced in the state. During an interim study Tuesday, the committee members were told it is likely some of the quakes are the result of high pressure injection wells used by the energy industry to dispose of wastewater. “It is extremely difficult scientifically to claim the set of earthquakes in Oklahoma is natural,” Oklahoma State University Professor Todd Halihan said. Halihan walked the committee through a review of literature related to induced seismicity, man-made incidents that resulted in earthquakes. As early as the 1960s, he said, scientists discovered that certain activities, many related to energy production, resulted in seismic activity. Halihan’s comments came during the House Utility and Environmental Regulation Committee hearing of Interim Study H14-002, concerning Corporation Commission injection well data monitoring. The study was requested by Reps. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, and Cory Williams, D-Stillwater. bk

October 28, 2014

House committee looks into transparency of mining
Members of the House Utility and Environmental Regulation Committee looked into the permitting process for non-coal mining in Oklahoma after attempting legislation last session to change and balance the process. Lawmakers heard from the Department of Mines on the current application and appeals process before hearing from citizens, who express their concerns with the department’s informal conference process. The informal conference process takes place after an application is filed by a mining operation and public notice is given in a newspaper, said DOM Executive Director Mary Ann Pritchard. Following an informal process, the department takes commentary into consideration before making a departmental decision. Should further issues ensue, the department has a process in place for a formal conference and an appeals process which involves ligation. bk