March 18, 2017 Weekly Wrap
Bill increasing court safety passes House
Legislation allowing permitted county officials to carry firearms inside a courthouse passed Monday out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a vote of 85 to 11.
House Bill 1104 would allow elected officials with a valid handgun license issued pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act to carry a firearm within the courthouses of the county in which he or she was elected. The official must be acting in the performance of their official duties and would not be allowed to carry into a courtroom.
House Bill 1104 is endorsed by the National Rifle Association. It now proceeds to the Senate for consideration, where state Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, is the author.
House Legislation Strengthens Firefighter Pensions
Legislation that strengthens the pension system for Oklahoma firefighters has passed the House with a vote of 93 to 0.
House Bill 1705 addresses the interest distribution for the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. The changes in conjunction with this year’s proposed administrative rules changes are projected to produce $1 billion dollars in savings over the next 30 years.
The purpose of the DROP is to provide a good way for municipalities to keep their most experienced firefighters in their workforce. Some of Texas’ fastest growing cities, like Dallas, Houston and Austin, are having major problems with their pension plan because, among other reasons, the DROP benefit provisions have become unsustainable.
According to the most recent actuarial report, the firefighter pension system has a funded ratio of 65.9 percent, with an unfunded liability of nearly $1.2 billion.
Praise for the legislation was shared by the director of the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System.
The legislation must now pass through the Oklahoma Senate before heading to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Bill Restoring Daily Pledge of Allegiance Passes House
A bill requiring public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives by a vote of 93-1 on Monday.
House Bill 2277 by state Rep. Terry O’Donnell would require students in all public schools to recite the pledge to the flag of the United States of America once every school day rather than once a week as now required by law. The state statute, in accordance with federal law, authorizes an exemption for students “who do not wish to participate” in the pledge.
State law also requires history and etiquette relating to the United States flag be taught in one or more grades in every school district in Oklahoma.
Members of the House Common Education Committee earlier unanimously approved the bill. The measure now moves to the state Senate for approval.
Bill potentially lessening DOC population clears House
A bill authorizing certain inmates to request a medical review in front of the Pardon and Parole Board passed Tuesday out of the House of Representatives with a vote of 73 to 16.
House Bill 1338 by state Rep. Greg Babinec permits an inmate who is 50 years of age or older and is medically frail to be considered for medical parole review. The inmate must be serving time for a nonviolent offense.
Elderly inmates are often some of the most expensive to care for because of the medical conditions that come with increased age. For inmates between the ages of 50 and 69, the Department of Corrections spends an average of $1,353 per inmate every six months. This number climbs to a biannual cost of $7,879 per inmate who is above the age of 80.
The decision on early release will remain up to Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board.
DOC Director Joe Allbaugh praised the passage of the legislation, saying it was a step in the right direction for fixing the ailing prison system.
House Bill 1338 now proceeds to the Senate for consideration, where Sen. Tom Duggar, R-Stillwater, is the author.
Babinec represents House District 33, which includes portions of Logan and Payne counties.
Caldwell Streamlines State Bond Office
Legislation that looks to provide efficiency to the Oklahoma State Bond Advisor’s Office and transparency in the bond underwriting process has passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a vote of 84 to 0.
House Bill 1583, authored by Rep. Chad Caldwell, would consolidate the Oklahoma State Bond Advisor Office so that it would fall under the purview of the Oklahoma State Treasurer’s Office. The legislation would also require financial agents, banks, and underwriters to disclose financial contributions to individuals or organizations that may play a role in the bond issuance process.
Oklahoma Senate Approves Resolution Imposing Punishment on Senator Ralph Shortey
The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution imposing punishment upon Senator Ralph Shortey pursuant to provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution.
Oklahoma Senate advances bipartisan veterans bills
The Oklahoma Senate on Monday overwhelming approved a series of bipartisan bills dealing with veterans’ issues, including a measure that protects the contractual and financial rights of service members that are mobilized or deployed.
Senate Bill 227 by Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, offers increased protection of service members’ contractual and financial rights by allowing them to cancel certain contracts, like telecommunications contracts and health club memberships, when they are deployed are mobilized.
Among the other measures were:
SB 233 by Sen. Simpson which specifies that hourly employees shall not miss out on the first 240 hours of their pay when called to active service.
SB 456 by Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Tulsa, which aims to help curtail fraud in a program that offers a sales tax exemption to 100-percent disabled veterans and their spouses by documenting those who are eligible for the program.
SB 642 by Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, which designates a section of Interstate 44, from SW 119th Street to SW 149th Street, as the LCPL Trevor A. Roberts Memorial Highway, an Oklahoma City Marine who was killed while deployed to Iraq in 2007.
SB 42 by Sen. Simpson which updates references to the federal “The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003″ in state law.
SB 76 by Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton, which designates a bridge near Fort Sill as the CPL Wilfred Flores Jr. Memorial Bridge to honor Flores, who was killed while deployed to Iraq in 2007.
SB 76 by Sen. Bass, which creates the Prisoner of War and Missing in Action license plate.
Bill repealing state income tax cut trigger clears Senate
The full Senate has given approval to a measure that would repeal an economic trigger that would lower the state’s top income tax rate from 5 percent to 4.85 percent. Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, is the author of Senate Bill 170 which was approved by a wide margin in the Senate on Monday.
Thompson, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance, said when the Legislature began cutting income taxes several years ago under then-Governor Brad Henry, the state had a surplus of funds. But after facing revenue shortfalls of $600 million two sessions ago, $1.3 billion last session, and $878 million this year, Thompson said ending the trigger is the right thing to do.
SB 170 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Full Senate approves measure creating registry for disabled vets
A bill aimed at reducing the number of individuals fraudulently claiming to be disabled veteran has cleared the full Senate. Sen. Joe Newhouse is principal author of Senate Bill 456, which directs the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to create and administer a registry of 100 percent service-disabled veterans. The agency would also be charged with verifying all information provided through the registry.
Among the benefits offered to veterans in Oklahoma is a sales tax exemption for 100 percent disabled veterans and their spouses and widows. Newhouse said the number of individuals taking advantage of the program is far greater than the actual number of 100 percent disabled veterans in the state.
Senate Bill 456 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Gov. Fallin Appoints Former Governor Frank Keating to OU Board of Regents
Governor Mary Fallin today announced the appointment of former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating to the University of Oklahoma (OU) Board of Regents. Keating will succeed A. Max Weitzenhoffer and will serve a seven–year term, pending confirmation from the Oklahoma Senate.
Keating is a senior partner in the international law firm of Holland & Knight. He served two terms as governor, from 1995 until 2003; after that, he served seven years as the president and chief executive officer of the American Council of Life Insurers and then five years as president and CEO of the American Bankers Association (ABA).
“Frank Keating has a long and distinguished service with the state and federal governments,” said Fallin. “I’m so pleased he has agreed to again serve the state of Oklahoma in this important capacity. Governor Keating is known as an effective governor, and a strong and compassionate leader.
“In Washington, Frank guided the banking industry through a very difficult public policy environment. He was the right person at the right time to help lead ABA and to help the banking industry, which was in need of a credible, well-regarded leader after the 2009 recession and bank failures. Frank is the right person at the right time now to help lead OU, and to increase educational attainment and make it easier for students to graduate in a timely manner.”
Born in St. Louis, Keating grew up in Tulsa. He received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from OU. His 30-year career in law enforcement and public service included stints as an FBI agent, U.S. attorney and state prosecutor. He also served in the Oklahoma House and Senate.
He served Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the treasury, justice and housing departments. In 1993, Keating returned to Oklahoma to run for governor. He won a three-way race by a landslide and was easily re-elected in 1998.
As governor, Keating won national acclaim in 1995 for his compassionate and professional handling of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. In the aftermath of the attack, Keating raised more than $6 million to fund scholarships for the nearly 200 children left with only one or no parents. His accomplishments as governor include winning a successful public vote on right-to-work, tort reform, tax cuts, and major road building and education reform.
He is also the author of four award-winning children’s books – biographies of Will Rogers, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington and Standing Bear, the Ponca tribal chief who argued Native Americans deserve the same rights as white Americans. And a fifth, a biography of Abraham Lincoln, was recently released in January.
Keating and his wife, Cathy, live in Oklahoma City. They have three children and 10 grandchildren.