April 17, 2014

House Government Modernization, Accountability fai
The House Government Modernization and Accountability Committee did not meet Thursday as scheduled. The only bill scheduled to be heard – SB2080 -- did not meet the House’s original committee deadline but obtained the necessary signatures for a hearing. Rep. Ken Walker, R-Tulsa, who had planned to take authorship of SB2080, received signatures from 12 of the committee’s members to allow the measure to be heard. No explanation or notice of cancellation was sent out to the public prior to Thursday’s scheduled meeting. The few committee members present walked out immediately following a telephone discussion. Chair Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, was not in attendance. Walker, who was among those present, announced the committee would not be meeting and left the room without further explanation. He was not available for comment following the meeting. SB2080, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow and Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, creates the Memorandum of Understanding Act. The bill states when a state agency enters into a Memorandum of Understanding or Agreement and the legislature is in session, the agency will provide the chair of the appropriate legislative committee with a copy of such understanding or agreement and publish an annual report online of all such items. It states an agency will not publish a report on such if privileged to the Open Records Act, but that the report may still indicate entities subject to the memorandum or agreement and its duration.

April 17, 2014

House tackles workforce act for second time
The House took up a handful of bills Thursday morning and most were approved without lengthy discussion or debate. Only one bill received debate and extensive discussion, SB1639. SB1639, by Sen. Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa and Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, creates the Quality Workforce Act, which provides a rebate to certain businesses for payment of an employee's tuition and materials for approved license, certification or degree programs. The bill was brought back up for reconsideration successfully after having failed passage Tuesday. Hall made a motion to rescind the bill from third reading in order to add an untimely filed amendment, which she hoped would clarify some of the issues members had with its previous form Tuesday. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Reynolds, said the proposed modifications to the bill does not change the goal. Reynolds expressed distaste for the process in which the bill was brought up, saying it was only changed and compromised to acquire more votes. “Is it compromise if you can’t get your way? You’re willing to comprise when you lose,” he said. “This bill is a bad idea. Why in the world should we say the changes are good enough to pass?” After debate Hall’s motion to rescind was approved 56 to 18, as was her motion to rescind from general order, which was approved by acclamation. However, her motion to suspend the rules for an untimely filed amendment failed by a vote of 63 to 21, prompting Hall to lay the bill over. The bill remains on House general order and has until next Thursday to be brought back up for consideration.

April 16, 2014

House discusses veteran smoking bill, approves sev
The House passed a series of measures Wednesday without much contention or discussion. Only one bill received discussion, SB1777, which would allow Oklahoma veterans to smoke in designated smoking rooms in veteran centers. House author Pat Ownbey said the bill would allow veterans time to seek cessation methods rather than just “quit cold turkey.” Ownbey said approximately 250 veterans were affected by the smoking ban, leading to many of them seeking extreme measures to smoke. He told members of his visit to a veteran center, where a veteran said he was going out to the highway to smoke. “We didn’t feel that was right,” Ownbey said of his and Sen. Frank Simpson’s decision to sponsor the bill. “It was quite frankly, ridiculous.” He added to appease concerned members that “all existing smoking rooms in these centers are well ventilated to the outdoors and are tested twice a year.” Still, many of the members had concerns about placing any restrictions on veterans and expressed their dislike for the timeline set. Under the bill, veterans would cease smoking on state property in 2018. Ownbey acknowledged their concerns but said this bill was agreed upon language by several parties, including the Oklahoma Veterans Council, Gov. Mary Fallin’s staff and Ret. Maj. General Rita Aragon, who serves as Fallin’s Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs. “This is what we came up with that we could all agree on if in the future someone wants to come back and do something different that’s up to each Legislature,” Ownbey said.

April 16, 2014

Attorney General notification bill fails passage i
A bill that would have required notification to the Office of the Attorney General on cases dealing with constitutionality failed passage in the House Wednesday after extensive discussion and debate. House Democrats rallied against SB1907, questioning its House author Rep. Scott Biggs, on why the bill was even needed in the first place. Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, argued that the AG’s office already has the prerogative to become involved in such cases at any level in the proceedings. She further said there would be compliance issues, because the relatively short bill does not specify who must provide notification. She noted that this bill would not only increase case work for the AG’s office but has the potential to increase costs. But Biggs argued that he was told the bill had no financial impact to the AG’s office. Biggs clarified that they have the option to be involved, but they don’t have to be. Members were still unclear as to whose responsibility it was to bear the costs of notification.

April 16, 2014

Senate will be dark Thursday, approves social medi
The Senate worked through a series of bills Wednesday with no major discussion or debate and will not work Thursday. Senators were informed late Wednesday morning that the House had approved its request to not meet for three days or more. That means the senators will not report to the chamber Thursday, although their offices and staff will be on duty. Both Senate and House offices are scheduled to be closed Friday. During floor action Wednesday, the Senate gave its approval to a bill prohibiting employers from requesting or requiring current or prospective employees to give them access to their personal social media accounts. HB2372, by Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow, and Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, prohibits an employing entity from requiring, or forcing a current or prospective employee to disclose or access his or her social media account, a username and password or authentication. The bill prohibits an employer from taking retaliatory personnel action that materially and negatively affects the terms and conditions of employment against an employee who refuses to give the password and user name to the employee's personal online social media or refusing to hire an individual for the same reason. The bill allows an employer to request name and password information if any computer system or device is subsidized by the employer, it is used for business purposes and other stipulations in the bill. The bill states if an employer violates the bill, an employee or prospective employee may bring civil action within six months after the alleged violation occurred, seek injunctive relief and recover damages up to $500 per violation; but, not emotional or punitive damages or recoverable. It stats not business or employer is liable in any regard for not reviewing an employee's personal online social media accounts and will not be held liable for not requesting or reviewing. The bill passed 41 to 0.

April 15, 2014

Aldridge urges House, governor to consider other s
Sen. Cliff Aldridge urged the House and Gov. Mary Fallin to consider the state’s other financial needs, particularly roads and education, before supporting a bill that would provide $40 million from the Unclaimed Property Fund to complete the Native American Cultural Center and Museum. “I stand here (Tuesday) still opposed, not to the cultural center but for us using any more government money to finish this museum,” Aldridge, R-Midwest City, said in a State Capitol press conference. Aldridge noted there remain 465 structurally-deficient bridges in the state and education officials say they need more money. “It amazes me that we as a Legislature turn our ears away from the general public that says, ‘No more money for a cultural center,’ and give them more money when we have things such as transportation and education that need attention and funding,” Aldridge said. Aldridge said the Senate’s approval of SB1651 shows it places the cultural center over transportation and education. “I’m hoping the House will think a little bit harder about the decision on what’s most important for the citizens of Oklahoma. I hope the governor…thinks very hard about what’s important to the citizens of Oklahoma,” Aldridge said.