April 24, 2014

JNC changes fail passage in the House
A bill attempting to make changes to the makeup of the Judicial Nominating Committee failed passage in the House after nearly three and a half hours of discussion and debate. SJR0021, by Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, requires six attorney members of the Judicial Nominating Commission to be appointed three by the House Speaker and three by the President Pro Temp, effectively removing the Oklahoma Association from making the decision. Asked why the change was necessary, McCullough said it was because of the bias that has been developed over the years via the JNC, whom he believed to have become “too liberal.” The resolution failed by a vote of 31 to 65.

April 24, 2014

Third time’s the charm for Quality Workforce Act
A bill aimed at improving the quality of workforce in Oklahoma via business incentives earned approval from House members Thursday after having been defeated once previously and laid over a second time. 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. Hall withdrew amendments to the bill as previously discussed, telling members those changes would be added in conference should the bill pass out of the House. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, who has stood against the bill in the past, argued that the language members are asked to vote for is as is and should not take the word of the author that amendments will be added in conference. “What I’m debating against is language in the bill, not the theoretical language that someone makes us as a guarantee that will be included in some theoretical future,” Reynolds said from the podium. Hall said the bill is a “brilliant free market solution” found by the State Chamber of Commerce to help the quality of workforce of the state. “I will not bring this bill back to the floor if the five amendments discussed are not added,” Hall assured the members. The bill was adopted without amendments 53 to 44 and will head to conference.

April 24, 2014

Senate sends $160 million bond issue back to House
The Senate stripped the language from Speaker Jeff Hickman’s resolution calling for a vote of the people on a $120 million bond issue to fund Capitol repairs and replaced it with Senate language authorizing the issue of $160 million without a vote of the people to fund the repairs. The floor substitute for HJR1033, by Hickman, R-Dacoma, and Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, passed 33 to 9, with its title and resolving clause restored. The resolution’s new language authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue up to $160 million of bonds for the renovation, repair and remodeling of the State Capitol. The bill establishes procedures for the bond issue. Previously the resolution called for a vote of the people to authorize a $120 million bond issue to fund State Capitol repairs. Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, presented the floor substitute on behalf of Marlatt. Asked by Sen. Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow, whether he thought the same language would pass after previously being rejected, Treat said, “I don’t try to predict House votes.” There was no debate on the resolution prior to its approval.

April 24, 2014

Senate completes work on House bills
The Senate completed its work on House bills Thursday morning, considering and passing 13 measures. Thursday was the deadline for bills to be heard in the opposite chamber. Only one bill was debated, HB3365, by Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. The bill addresses product liability lawsuits. Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, called the bill “a solution looking for a problem” and noted businesses and manufacturers would not be held liable for faulty products “if they meet the regulations of a federal government agency.” Loveless, however, counted that the bill contained exceptions, such as when the regulations were not stringent enough or the manufacturer failed to disclose problems or withheld information. The bill passed 34 to 8. Burrage, who is not seeking reelection, noted Thursday’s debate likely was his last on a tort reform-related measure. The bill now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin for her consideration.

April 23, 2014

Senate to resend $160 million Capitol bond languag
The Senate plans to resend language calling for a $160 million bond issue to fund State Capitol repairs back to the House, which voted down that language Tuesday. Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, told reporters Wednesday afternoon an amendment would be filed to House Speaker Jeff Hickman’s HJR1033 but he would not say what the amendment would do. The resolution, coauthored by Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, proposed a constitutional amendment authorizing a $100 million bond issue to fund State Capitol repairs. Marlatt’s amendment, which was filed later in the afternoon, replaces the resolution’s language with the language from SB2044. That bill, by Bingman and Rep. Skye McNiel, authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue up to $160 million of bonds for the renovation, repair and remodeling of the State Capitol. The bill establishes procedures for the bond issue. The bill failed 34 to 62 in the House on Tuesday.

April 23, 2014

House approves bill dealing with uninsured motoris
A one sentence change to an insurance bill sparked debate among House members Wednesday. SB0991, by Sen. Gary Michael Stanislawski, R-Tulsa and Rep. Glenn Mulready, R-Tulsa, prohibits insurers from increasing the limits of liability by the stacking of policies, where coverage of multiple motor vehicles is combined to increase the payment limits for owners of multiple vehicles involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist. “Stacking is not a new phenomenon,” Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Choteau, said. “Please understand that this applies in situations where the wrongdoers, the people who drove against your vehicle, have no insurance.” He added that stacking is to protect the innocent driver and the language in the bill is for the benefit of the insurance companies to pay less than the consumer. “Passage of this will not result in 37 percent decrease in automobile uninsured motorists,” he said. “It’s an outright gift to insurance companies that have been paid pursuant to a contract of insurance to not pay what they’ve been told by the consumer.” Speaking in favor of the bill, Rep. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, said current law dictates all policies be treated equally regardless of what one can afford and is often unfavorable to those who need the coverage. The bill, he said, would result in lower premiums. The bill passed by a vote of 73 to 21.