The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
Monday, March 16, to Thursday, March 19, 2015

Monday, March 16

• Monday, the Senate considered only one measure.

-SB 831, by Sen. Anthony Sykes, aligns all statutes approved the previous year that affect the same section of law. It amends, merges, consolidates and repeals duplicative sections of law. The bill and its emergency clause passed 37-0.

-The Senate also adopted SR 18, by Sen. Ron Justice, congratulating Mike Kubicek on his retirement as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Peanut Commission.

-Several executive nominations were also approved on Monday.

• Several bills passed out of Senate committees on Monday, including:

-HB 1749, by Rep. Tom Newell, prohibits a state agency from making payroll deductions on behalf of an employee for membership dues in any public employee association or professional organization that collectively bargains on behalf of its membership.

-HB 1612, by Rep. Katie Henke, modifies the definition of the Interlocal Cooperation Act.

-HB 1776, by Rep. Charles McCall, permits the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to contract with a third party to provide transportation services.

-HB 1437, by Rep. John Pfeiffer, modifies the purpose of the Oklahoma Agriculture Enhancement and Diversification Act, allowing agricultural event grants or loans to be given for expansion or creation of events that benefit and further the public interest in agriculture. The bill changes the procedure in which preference is given to those applying for grants or loans, and modifies the eligibility for the grant or loan program.

• The House convened shortly Monday, unanimously approving one resolution.

-HR 1010, by Rep. Cory T. Williams, recognizes the third week of March as TBI Raiders Week, an organization that benefits those in the state who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

• The following Senate bills were passed this week in House committees, including:

-SB 726, by Sen. Brian Crain, would allow any county with a population over 500,000 to administer a five-year pilot program of a Family Safety Center to provide certain domestic violence program services, contingent on funding. The bill establishes the services to include assistance obtaining emergency protective orders, assistance and resources to children exposed to domestic and family violence, forensic medical documentation, basic medical assessments and legal support.

-SB 459, by Sen. Kay Floyd, would reduce the fee assessed on civil cases and deposited in the Council on Judicial Complaints Revolving Fund to $1.55 from $2. It would also add a 45-cent fee to be credited to the State Judicial Revolving Fund to be used for access to justice duties and responsibilities imposing on the courts under the Supreme Court. An amendment to the bill was also added in the subcommittee, changing the amount of the fee benefiting the Council on Judicial Complaints.

-SB 707, by Sen. John Ford, would require the State Board of Education with input from multiple other entities, to develop recommendations for the requirements a student must meet to earn a high school diploma. The bill requires the Board to hold public meetings and seek public input, designate assessments to determine college readiness, and consider alternative assessments. The bill allows the Board to adopt the requirements by May 1, 2016 and a timeline to implement the other requirements.

-SB 708, by Sen. John Ford, prohibits the State Board of Education from developing and administering tests for grades three through eight not required by federal law. The bill removes the requirement for testing in social studies and writing of English.

Tuesday, March 17

• The Senate met briefly Tuesday, taking only one formal action. The Senate agreed to the House's request to be adjourned for more than three days, allowing the House to take off Thursday. Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Schulz also announced the House had granted the Senate's request made Monday to be adjourned for more than three consecutive days. That means both chambers will not meet Thursday.

• The House met for 30 minutes Tuesday but did not hear any bills. Members did, however, formally request from the Senate four consecutive days off, beginning Thursday, March 19. The House also unanimously approved a similar request from the Senate for four days off, also beginning this Thursday.

• The following legislation was approved by House committees on Tuesday:

-SB 111, by Sen. Clark Jolley, would increase the amount of fines, plus costs, fees and assessments at which a right to a jury trial is granted to $500 from $200.

-SB 725, by Sen. Mike Schulz, prohibits an individual who has been convicted of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult from inheriting funds or receiving any interest in the estate of the victim.

-The committee substitute for SB 180, by Sen. A J Griffin, modifies the responsibilities of a guardian ad litem in relation to duties required by the courts.

-SB 292, with the title restored and as amended, by Sen AJ Griffin, modifies the definition of "failure to protect" under the Oklahoma Children's Code. The amendment clarified an error.

• SB 763, by Sen. Randy Bass, requires the Department of Human Services, in conjunction with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, to provide parents and legal guardians of foster youth with information on the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) including, but not limited to, eligibility, application guidelines, academic requirements, and any other information required by the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Act for participation in the Program.

Wednesday, March 18

• Senate committees considered several bills on Wednesday and gave a do pass to the following:

-HB1406, by Rep. John Pfeiffer, repeals a statute relating to fire-resistant insulation materials.

-HB1717, with title stricken, by Rep. Doug Cox, permits the Grand River Dam Authority to utilize volunteer reserve officers. It also allows any law enforcement officer of the district to receive, upon retirement, the continued custody and possession of the sidearm, badge and vest carried prior to retirement.

-HB1860, by Rep. Harold Wright, authorizes the submission of notarized affidavit in purposes related to the issuance of driver licenses.

• House committees considered several bills on Wednesday and the following bills were given approval:

-SB 299, by Sen. Eddie Fields, makes the larceny of livestock or implement of husbandry a felony punishable by not less than three and more than 10 years imprisonment. The bill sets the fine for the offense at an amount three times the value of the stolen animals. It states two-thirds of this restitution should be paid to the owner of the stolen animals and one-third should go to the State Department of Agriculture Revolving Fund for the benefit of agriculture law enforcement agents. This bill states each individual stolen animal will count as a separate offense punishable by a separate violation. The bill passed committee by a vote of 6 to 3.

-SB55, by Sen. Kim David, modifies language related to assault and battery upon a law enforcement officer. The bill provides that assault and battery upon law officers includes any attempt to reach for or gain control of the firearm of any police officer, sheriff, deputy sheriff, highway patrol, corrections personnel or any peace officer employed by any state or federal governmental agency to enforce state laws. The bill provides that the language does not supersede any other act or acts, but will considered be cumulative. The bill also provides that aggravated assault and battery upon law officers includes physical contact with and in attempt to gain control of the firearm of any police officer, sheriff, deputy sheriff, highway patrolman, corrections or any peace officer employed by any state or federal governmental agency to enforce state laws.

-SB 62, by Sen. Gary Michael Stanislawski, provides that anyone who knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in flight or at the flight path of an aircraft will be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction, punished by a fine of not more than $100. The bill provides that a second or subsequent violation will be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $500. The bill modifies the definition of "laser" and adds "laser pointer" to mean a device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to indicate, mark or identify a specific position, place, item or object.

-SB 685, by Sen. Anastasia Pittman, redirects the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women to include focus in the studies of the issue of recidivism among the incarcerated population of women in Oklahoma and alternatives to prison for women, the research and development of an intake risk and needs assessment tool to assist with preparing women for a successful transition out of custody, and advise on opportunities for incarcerated women prior to release from prison.

-SB 346, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, creates the Governor's Transparency Act of 2015.

-SB 417, with title restored and as amended, by Sen. Eddie Fields, authorizes the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry to take possession of, store, and dispose of certain abandoned and stolen property.

-SB 660, by Sen. Eddie Fields, authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture to allow food vendors to sell food and Made In Oklahoma products in the parking lots of state agencies or state buildings.

Thursday, March 19

• The House and Senate were not in session on Thursday and no committees met.

Other news this week

• Governor Mary Fallin, in cooperation with state agencies and local organizations, will host the initial Oklahoma Job and Resource Fair on March 26 in Elk City. The event will connect job seekers with employment opportunities and resources and is scheduled from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. at the Western Technology Center, 301 Western Drive, in Elk City. The governor has directed Secretary of Education and Workforce Natalie Shirley and Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Deby Snodgrass and their staffs to work with the energy sector and non-profit organizations to help displaced workers transition to new job and career opportunities while also meeting the immediate needs of families.

• The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) entered into a formal partnership with the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) late last week to recruit top-quality candidates to fill positions within the agency. DHS Director Ed Lake and UCO President Dr. Don Betz signed the Memorandum of Understanding during a formal ceremony on the UCO campus, stating the ultimate goal is to recruit from a wide audience of UCO students for all available positions with DHS.

• A Tulsa County man pleaded guilty to two felony counts of workers compensation fraud after charges were brought by Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s Workers Compensation, Social Security and Insurance Fraud Unit. Joseph Max Hutton, 20, a first-time offender, will serve a five-year deferred sentence and is ordered to pay more than $7,000 in restitution. Hutton claimed he was struck by a vehicle driven by a co-worker while working for a car dealership in June 2013. He claimed his back, left leg, hip and tail bone were all injured, but while skipping a scheduled doctor’s appointment, Hutton was videoed playing golf and swinging a golf club without showing any sign of injury. An agent with the attorney general’s office showed the video to an orthopedic doctor and physical therapist who had previously treated Hutton for his injuries. Both medical professionals confirmed Hutton’s actions on the golf course were inconsistent with the physical presentation he made at each of their offices.

• The Office of Management and Enterprise Services on Monday issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the purchase or lease and redevelopment of the historic Oklahoma State Capital Publishing Company building in historic downtown Guthrie. The 50,000 square foot building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The release of this RFP is a direct result of legislation that came into effect Nov. 1 , 2014, allowing the state the option to invite written proposals for the purchase or lease and redevelopment of state-owned properties that are considered underutilized when sale of the properties through sealed bid auction is not in the state’s best interest.

• Attorney General Scott Pruitt and 22 other state attorneys general are urging the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to permanently discard a proposed ban on M855 5.56 x 45mm ammunition. On March 10, ATF shelved the proposal after an outpouring of opposition, including from the law enforcement community.

After shelving the proposal, ATF indicated it would continue to take public comment until March 16. In a letter submitted to ATF on Monday, Attorney General Pruitt and the other attorneys general maintain that the proposed ban is arbitrary, unnecessary, and could easily lead to bans on a wide range of rifle ammunition. The letter was also signed by the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.