Session full of victories

The Oklahoma State Senate adjourned last Friday capping off a year of legislative victories that will mark the most successful session for government reform and conservative goals in the history of the state according to officials.  Leading an ambitious caucus that aggressively delivered on goals that have been on Republicans’ agenda for decades, President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said he was proud of the accomplishments.

“I am very happy about this session and all that the Senate accomplished this year,” said Bingman.  “As a state, Oklahoma is moving in the right direction.”

Mentioning the sweeping reforms passed into law this session, Bingman said that the Senate began its work with an aggressive agenda.  “Our Republican caucus agenda was big and bold; it was easy to criticize because it went after so many reforms that conservatives have pushed for decades in Oklahoma but have been unable to accomplish until now because of our GOP majority and Republican governor.”

The current legislature is the most Republican in state history, which along with a Republican governor has given the GOP an opportunity that Senate Republicans did not pass up.  “We live in a conservative state, the people have spoken and we are listening,” said Bingman.  “Our priorities were to reform state government in a way that eliminates inefficiencies and duplication so that government size and costs are reduced.  The federal government should follow our lead in cutting government, including the tax cuts that we enacted.”

“When is the last time the legislature saved as much as it spent,” asked Bingman referring to the massive cost savings that resulting in this years historic pension reform that erased more than $6 billion from the unfunded pension liability.  “Oklahoma is an example to the rest of the country; the days of no fiscal accountability and liberal tax and spend policies that left our state with billions of debt are over.  We cut taxes despite the $500 million budget shortfall.  We then balanced a budget that is the same size as the amount of money we saved on pension reform.”

Bingman included praise to the Senate Democrats.  “I firmly believe that this is a body of 48 valuable members that have all added greatly to the process this year.  While we have a majority and a minority caucus, both have contributed by offering their life experiences and expertise as a unique perspective and conscious on every issue that we addressed.  Our strong finish is a result of diligent work from Democrats and Republicans alike.”

“I cannot thank my colleagues enough; they all did such a great job this session working hard and diligently to the end.”

Senate Republican agenda items passed this session include:

Job Creation and Economic Development

•   SB862 – Ends joint and several liability, removes section on joint tortfeasor.  Signed by Governor on 4/5.
•   HB2128 – Limits noneconomic damages to $350K.  Signed by Governor on 4/5.
•   SB865 – Jury shall be instructed that no damage award for personal injury or wrongful death is subject to income tax.  Signed by Governor on 4/5.
•   HB2023 – Requires that the actual amount paid for certain medical bills will be admissible at trial, instead of the amounts billed for expenses incurred.  Signed by Governor on 4/18.
•   HB2024 – Periodic payment of damages.  Signed by Governor on 4/5.  
•   SB878 – Workers’ compensation reform, complete re-write of current law.  Sent to Governor.  
•   HB1008 – Reinstated aerospace engineering tax credits.
•   HJR1002 – Limits ad valorem increases to 3% annually.  Filed with Secretary of State on 4/25.
•   Lowered taxes by allowing the top income tax rate to be reduced from 5.50% to 5.25%.
•   HB1909 – Corporation Commission is authorized to allow multiunit horizontal wells under certain conditions, and may unitize a shale reservoir for the drilling of horizontal wells under certain limited circumstances and conditions.  Signed by Governor on 4/13.  

Reforming Oklahoma Government

•   HB2170 – General Appropriations bill, created a balanced budget with prioritized spending.  Sent to Governor on 5/18.
•   SB541 – State agencies may accept electronic payments for licenses and permits.  Director of the OSF shall publish a financial services cost-performance assessment documenting each appropriated state agency’s cost for providing financial services.  Those in the bottom 10% of cost performance audit for shared financial services.  Signed by Governor on 5/16.
•   HB1601 – Establishes business licensing one-stop shop program.  
•   HB1304 – Consolidates all state information structure, operations and purchasing procedures under the direction of the Chief Information Officer within the Office of State Finance.  
•   HB2140 – Consolidates Dept of Central Services, Office of Personnel Management, Employees Benefits Council, and the State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board into the Office of State Finance.  
•   HB1207 – Establishes State Government Conferences Web-based Transparency pilot program.
•   HB1086 – Payments from Treasury shall be conveyed electronically.  Establishes OK State Government Open Documents Initiative.  Establishes a website in which all state forms may be downloaded.  State agencies shall enter into a shared services agreement with OSF for payroll processing.  State shall develop employee performance metrics.  
•   HB1044 – Agency rules must cite federal or state law, court decision, or other authority.  Rules which establish or increase fees must be approved by the legislature.  Signed by Governor on 4/14.
•   SB377 – Establishes investment committee for Teacher Retirement System.  Signed by Governor on 5/10.
•   HB1007 – Teacher Retirement System administered by the State Dept of Education.  Signed by Governor on 4/18.
•   HB1010 – Modifies the age which justices may be eligible for retirement benefits.  Signed by Governor on 5/10.
•   SB891 – Public schools increase retirement rate for teachers who return to employment after retirement.  Signed by Governor on 5/18.
•   SB347 – Municipal officers convicted of crimes lose their retirement benefits.  Signed by Governor on 5/10.
•   SB794 – Changes normal retirement age for employees participating in the OK Public Employees Retirement System to 65 for those whose date of enrollment follows 11/1/11.  Signed by governor on 5/10.  
•   HB2132 – Cost of living adjustments for public employee pensions must be funded.  Signed by Governor on 5/10.  

Infrastructure and Transportation Improvement

•   HB2171 – $70M transportation bond that supports the ongoing commitment to the ROADS fund and eight year plan.  

Public Safety

•   SB923 – Increases fine and jail term for those soliciting others to join a gang. Persons committing gang related offense in assoc with street gang are guilty of felony. Immunity for school personnel reporting gang activity of students.  Signed by Governor on 5/3.
•   HB1652 – Allows for those with concealed carry licenses to keep firearms in vehicles when parked at career tech.
•   SB529 – Erin Elizabeth Swezey Act.  Those who receive a DUI are required to install inter-lock devices in their vehicles.  
•   HB1319 – Strengthens penalties for DUI offenders.
•   SB674 – Strengthens requirements for those seeking an application for a child care facility and those who are employed in child care facilities.  Signed by Governor on 5/18.


•   HB1380 – Removes trial de novo.  Signed by Governor on 4/12.
•   SB664 – Reduces the percentage that school districts may expend for administrative costs. If the districts exceed those percentages, the excess is deducted from next year’s state funding.  Signed by Governor on 5/2.  
•   HB2115 – Allows expenditure from School Consolidation Assistance Fund to school districts that have entered into a mutual contract for a superintendent.
•   HB1372 – Adds elementary principals and assistant superintendants to the administrative expenditure cap.  Signed by Governor on 4/20.
•   SB256 – Charter schools choosing to lease property shall be eligible to receive current government lease rates.  Signed by Governor on 5/9.
•   SB445 – Charter schools are allowed to enroll emergency transfer students.  Signed by Governor on 5/9.
•   HB1456 – Allows schools to be graded on A-F scale.  Signed by Governor on 5/4.
•   SB346 – Mandates reading proficiency assessments in early grades. Students not reading at grade level by 3rd grade must be retained.  Signed by Governor on 5/4.
•   SB969 – Creates OK Equal Opportunity Scholarship Act. Credit for any taxpayer who contributes to an eligible scholarship granting organization.  Signed by Governor on 5/16.  
•   HB2139 – Allows the Supt. of Public Education to oversee the Dept. of Education.  The Board of Education oversees public instruction.  Signed by Governor on 4/8.  
•   SB435 – One member of the Board of Education is appointed from each congressional district along with one at-large member.  The board members serve at the pleasure of the Governor.  Sent to Governor on 5/18.

Affordable and Accessible Health Care

•   Supported the Governor in the decision to reject $54M early innovator federal health care grant.
•   Enacted lawsuit reform to lower malpractice rates.  SB862, SB865, HB2023, HB2024, and HB2128.  
•   SB679 – OK Health Care Authority may administer sanctions to Medicaid recipients who abuse state Medicaid program.  Signed by Governor on 5/17.  
•   HB1381 – Helped rural hospitals by passing the Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program Act.  Signed by Governor on 5/13.  

Traditional Values

•   SB547 – All qualified health plans offered through an Exchange established in the state are prohibited from including elective abortion coverage. Signed by Governor on 4/20.  
•   HB1888 – Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.  Prohibits abortions after 20 weeks except in certain circumstances.
•   HB1970 – Physician must examine patient before providing RU-486.  RU-486 must be supplied congruent with FDA guidelines.  

Governor Fallin praises historic 2011 Legislative Session

The last pieces of Governor Mary Fallin’s legislative agenda passed and were sent to her desk as the historic 2011 session came to a close. While the legislature will officially declare the session over next Friday (5/27), legislative leaders have indicated that no more bills are to be considered this year.

In what was one of the most productive legislative sessions in Oklahoma history, Governor Fallin signed into law hundreds of bills, and received on her desk landmark legislation focusing on:
•    Creating more and better jobs by promoting a business friendly environment
•    Building a smaller, smarter government that better serves our citizens
•    Fighting the federal health care law while pursuing Oklahoma solutions for better health
•    Improving Oklahoma schools and delivering quality education
•    Protecting children and the lives of the unborn
•    Protecting gun owners and defending the Second Amendment

Governor Fallin and legislative leaders also reached an agreement on a fiscally responsible, balanced budget that closed a $500 million revenue shortfall without raising taxes. While making cuts of up to 9 percent for various government agencies, the budget agreement makes lesser cuts to areas of government dealing with core services like education, health and human services, public safety and transportation.

“At the beginning of this legislative session, I asked lawmakers to focus on legislation that would bring more and better jobs to Oklahoma, make government smaller and more efficient, and improve our quality of life,” said Fallin. “I’m happy to see they responded by sending a series of important, landmark bills that accomplish these goals. This has been a historic legislative session that will lay the groundwork for long term prosperity and job creation in Oklahoma. It was perhaps the single most productive legislative session in state history, and one which every conservative lawmaker can be proud of.”