March 11, 2014
Supreme Court upholds CompSource mutualization mea
The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld a 2013 measure Tuesday that will convert the state workers’ compensation agency into a mutual company.
Tulsa Stockyards, Inc., challenged HB2201, which passed and was signed into law in 2013 but does not take effect until January 1, alleging that CompSource is a state agency and its money and other assets, valued at about $265 million, are assets of the people of Oklahoma and its conversion to a mutual company would be illegal.
In a unanimous ruling, the court held that “… CompSource's monies and other assets are held in trust for the benefit of the employers and employees protected by the insurance issued by CompSource; the Oklahoma Constitution does not prohibit the Legislature from placing CompSource's money and other assets in trust with a domestic mutual insurer; and when transferred to CompSource Mutual, the trust impressed upon CompSource's money and other assets will continue.”
March 11, 2014
House debates pension reform, pay increases
The House conquered two measures Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Dacoma, said would be presented back-to-back on the floor: pension reform and state employee pay. The House spent more than two hours questioning and debating HB2630, which creates the Retirement Security and Freedom Act.
During debate on the bill, many referenced HB3293, which creates the State Employee Pay Program within the executive branch. Yet, House members did not question or debate the measure.
Rep. Randy McDaniel, author of HB2630, said the House is trying to change the model.
“They [state employees] want higher pay and more flexibility,” McDaniel said. “The issues are connected and they will only go forward if both issues are addressed this year.”
March 11, 2014
Senate passes 20-plus bills, fails one in morning
The Senate took up more than 25 bills Tuesday morning, passing all but one of them.
SB1839, by Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, failed 23 to 20. The bill requires staff providing direct support or supervising at any level the delivery of direct support to those with developmental disabilities support to complete in person and no later than 30 days following the date of hire the first available Developmental Disabilities Services Division approved foundation training course and effective teaching course. The bill also requires direct support staff providing services to recipients with protective intervention plans to complete an approved in-person behavior support course.
A handful of members express a variety of concerns about the bill. Some, such as Sen. Bill Brown, R-Owasso, argued facilities were already providing the training and additional regulations were not needed. Others, like Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, were concerned that some of the training would be offered online, rather than in a hands-on setting.
Crain stressed that the bill was still a work in progress and asked members for their support.
Following the bill’s failure, Crain served notice to reconsider the vote by which the bill failed. That notice will have to be exercised Tuesday under a rule invoked Monday that requires reconsideration notices to be taken up the same day they are served.
March 10, 2014
House debates gun measure, passes more than 15 bil
The House continued to steam roll through measures Monday afternoon during House floor, questioning some and debating even less.
One of those measures debated and questioned was HB2329, by Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, which permits a handgun on any property set aside for the use or parking of any vehicle, by a public or private elementary or secondary school and requires the handgun be stored in a locked motor vehicle when the motor vehicle is left unattended on school property. A point of contention for several members was changing punishment for violation of the act from felony to misdemeanor.
“That is changed because it should never have been a felony in the first place to peaceably carry your firearm,” Kern said. “We’re making it consistent with other statutes.”
March 10, 2014
Senate considers, passes more than 40 bills
With Thursday’s deadline for consideration of measures in their chamber of origin, the Senate considered and passed more than 40 measures Monday with very little discussion and almost no debate.
The bill that generated the most discussion and debate was the floor substitute for SB1445, which relates to fees under the Nine-One-One Wireless Emergency Number Act. Under the floor substitute, counties would be able to hold a vote of the people to set the wireless fee rate, ranging from 50-cents up to $2.25.
Opponents of the bill, like Sen. Cliff Aldridge, R-Midwest City, feared voters would be asked to approve a rate of “up to $2.25” and commissioners initially would implement a lower rate but increase it over time.
Paddack said she did not believe commissioners, who work closely with their constituents, would take that approach.
The bill passed 41 to 4.
March 10, 2014
House debates no bills, passes 10 in morning sessi
The House passed a series of measures Monday morning without any debate and little discussion, including a bill that proposes to double the monthly stipend cost of incidentals for state troopers.
HB2377, by Rep. Steven Vaughan, R-Ponca City, and Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Ardmore, amends per month expense requirements relating to the Department of Public Safety. The bill allows a $300 per month allowance for various items for all commissioned law enforcement officers of the Department of Public Safety. The bill allows a $200 per month allowance for various expenses for cadets who are members of a patrol academy and law enforcement personnel on provisional or probationary status. The bill allows a $200 per month allowance for various items for all other uniformed employees of the Department of Public Safety.
Some members expressed concerns with the bill, saying it would give those employees “double pay raises” should a trooper pay raise bill pass both chambers. Reps. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, and Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, questioned Vaughn on pay increase for other state employees like Department of Corrections. Others defended the bill, admonishing the state for not covering those incidentals fully.
“I would like to see us moving this one [bill] as a House through if nothing happens on the [Senate] side,” Vaughn said on the trooper pay raise bill. “We want to send the message that we stand with your troopers, we believe in what you’re doing.”
The bill passed by a vote of 84 to 3.