OK Legislature adjourns for the year

State Capitol Building in Oklahoma City

Analysis: Democrats are damning and Republicans are praising the end of the 2018 Oklahoma Legislative session. Governor Mary Fallin has several bills, including Constitutional Carry, still to sign that may determine if she is remembered as a Liberal or Conservative, but to quote Oklahoma’s beloved Will Rogers, “It’s getting so if a man wants to stand well socially, he can’t afford to be seen with either the Democrats or the Republicans.”  

President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, Republican said, “The 2018 session will go down as historic for the accomplishments that will have a long-term impact on the growth and success of our state. Senate Republicans proved their commitment to our students and teachers through the largest teacher pay raise in state history, helping us retain and recruit classroom teachers who will help our students succeed. We also secured a 19 percent increase in overall education funding. Investing in our students and teachers will pay dividends long-term by ensuring Oklahoma has the skilled and talented workers and leaders it needs to grow the state’s economy.”

Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks said, “For the first time in recent memory the legislature acted on new revenue and the enacted budget does not include cuts to state agencies. While this is an improvement, we should not be celebrating simply because we are beginning to repair the damage.”

Governor Mary Fallin.

Will Rogers said, “Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, they don’t hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous.”

Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, Republican said criminal justice reforms will slow the growth of the prison population, currently at 113 percent of capacity, “We can invest the significant savings we expect to see from reduced incarceration costs in other core services like education, mental health and substance abuse programs, and intervention and diversion programs that will further reduce crime and incarceration rates. But more than that, we will keep families together and keep more people as taxpaying citizens and productive members of society. This really is a balanced approach that keeps our communities safe while getting treatment — rather than long prison sentences — for offenders with substance abuse or mental health issues.”

Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks said, “Too many new revenue options were left on the table. Repealing the capital gains tax deduction would have brought in an additional $100 million. Restoring the 5.25% income tax rate could generate $150 million annually.”

Apparently to prove Republican Leadership doesn’t understand or appreciate communication or how to build constituency in an age of near universal attention deficit, they released legislative highlights of 2018 even long-form journalism readers are unlikely to read. We have bolded highlights, added humor and hope you will consider in total what is now law for you and your family in Oklahoma.

(* denotes bills awaiting action by the Governor)

BUDGET
• HB 1010xx (special session) increased the cigarette tax, motor fuel taxes, and the gross production tax on oil and natural gas and HB 1011xx (special session) modifying the income tax code to generate new, recurring revenue to fund pay raises for teachers, support staff, and state employees.
• A series of budget limit bills to provide legislative oversight of agency spending:
HB 3706: budget limit bill Dept. of Corrections
– HB 3707: budget limit bill Dept. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
– HB 3708: budget limit bill Dept. of Human Services
– SB 1604: budget limit bill Dept. of Career and Technology Education.
– SB 1605: budget limit bill Oklahoma Health Care Authority
– SB 1606: budget limit bill Dept. of Agriculture.
– SB 1607: budget limit bill Dept. of Commerce.
• HB 3598 (TREAT): authorizes Agency Performance and Accountability Commission to contract with AG’s Office for legal advice.*
• SB 1583 (DAVID): modifies the Revenue Stabilization Fund.*
• HB 3225 (THOMPSON):  directs Oklahoma Tax Commission to make tax credit data available on its website.*
• SB 1606 (DAVID): provides $3.40 million for the Rural Fire Operational Assistance Grants and $325,000 for the 80/20 Reimbursable Grant Program.

EDUCATION
• Passed the largest teacher pay raise in state history, giving teachers raises from $5,000 to $8,000 based on years of experience, a $6,100 on average teacher pay raise.
• $52 million for support staff raises
• Appropriated $2.9 billion to common education in FY’19, an increase of 19 percent
– $24.6 million increase to fund teacher health benefits
– $480 million total spent on health benefits for teachers and support staff
– $33 million for textbooks
– $17 million in new state-aid funding formula
– $7.5 million increase for concurrent enrollment ($8.42 million total funding)
SJR 70 (BICE): lets Oklahomans vote on whether to let local school boards have flexibility by allowing property tax dollars currently reserved “building funds” to be uses for other purposes.
• SJR 72 (STANISLAWSKI): adopted the computer science academic standards for K-12 schools.
• SB 929 (STANISLAWSKI): Changes various definitions associated with weighted points assigned to students with learning disabilities in the state school funding formula.*
• SB 980 (GRIFFIN): Creates a tiered certification program for teachers, including initial, career, mentor, and leadership certification.*
• HB 3220 (SMALLEY): authorizes State Board of Career and Technology Education to develop certification system for teachers and instructors who teach in technology center school districts.*
• SB 1196 (STANISLAWSKI): stipulates that eligible high school students can participate in any concurrent enrollment program regardless of location in the state. *
• SB 1198 (STANISLAWSKI):  reauthorizes the Public School Classroom Support Revolving Fund income tax check-off.
• SB 1604 (SMALLEY): pay raise for teachers and support staff in the Career Tech system.*
• HB 3311 (BERGSTROM): requires inclusion of elements of the U.S. naturalization test in state standards on civics.

ECONOMY
• HB 3562 (SCHULZ):  keeps wind farms from interfering with the flight paths of military installations thereby protecting the work and mission of Oklahoma’s military bases.
• SB 1475 (PUGH): creates the Occupational Licensing Advisory Commission which will review each occupational or professional licensing once every four years and make recommendations to the Legislature.*
• SB 1537 (DAVID): Fixes issue with carriers receiving penalties for unknowingly violating provisions governing wine shipment.
• SB 1585 (DAVID): creates income tax credits designed to incentivize qualified employers and employees in the vehicle manufacturing industry. The tuition reimbursement and payroll tax credit is capped at $3 million per year. The employee engineer tax credit is capped at $2 million per year.
• SB 1171 (JECH): Creates the Work-based Learning Program under the supervision of the Governor’s Council on Workforce and Economic Development.
• HB 2578 (ROSINO): creates the Aerospace Commerce Economic Services (ACES) program under the Department of Commerce to bolster the state’s second-largest industry to promote job creation, economic growth and increased tax revenues for our state.*
• SB 1607 (DAVID): authorized Commerce to spend $445,000 to implement the ACES program.*
• HB 2772 (PUGH): eliminates “hairbraiding technician” from Cosmetology Board regulations and merely requires certification.
• HB 2913 (PAXTON): creates the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program overseen by state agricultural leaders to study the economic potential of industrial hemp farming in Oklahoma.
• HB 2933 (DAVID): Directs licensing boards to grant a one-year waiver of fees associated with licensure or certification to a low-income applicant.*

PUBLIC SAFETY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
• SB 649 (TREAT): reduces enhanced sentences for certain repeat nonviolent felonies.
• SB 650 (SHAW): authorizes offenders of no more than one nonviolent felony to apply for expungement if they have no new convictions or pending charges within the last seven years.
• SB 689 (TREAT): creates risk and needs assessment as a tool for sentencing; requires intervention programming on certain domestic violence convictions; failure of offender to pay fines and costs may not serve as a basis for revocation, other than restitution and willful nonpayment.
• SB 786 (SHAW): eliminates the mandatory minimum and allows a judge to sentence up to the current maximum sentence of seven years in prison for burglary in the second degree. Creates a new felony offense, burglary in the third degree (defined as breaking into a vehicle), punishable by up to five years in prison.
• SB 793 (TREAT): changes the penalties for commercial drug offenses, and distinguishes conduct by possession with intent to distribute, distribution, and manufacturing.
• HB 2281 (TREAT): would create a tiered penalty structure for property offenses by value.
• HB 2286 (TREAT):  would create an administrative parole process for nonviolent offenders who comply with case plans in prison so that the Pardon and Parole Board can focus on more serious offenders.
• SB 1203 (SYKES): caps the costs and fine for a speeding violation between 1-10 mph over the limit at $100.*
• SB 1590 (DAVID): authorizes bonds to fund repairs at various Department of Corrections’ facilities.*

FIGHTING THE OPIOD EPIDEMIC
• SB 1446 (SYKES): addresses the over-prescription of opioids by requiring doctors and chronic-pain patients to enter into a treatment agreement. Requires a patient be staged through a limited initial prescription, a limited second prescription, and then be formally advised that continued opioid use can result in addiction.
• SB 937 (Standridge):  includes tribal governments on the list of entities that can be investigated by the OSBN.
• SB 939 (STANDRIDGE):  includes the salts, isomers, and salts of isomers of methyphenidate under schedule II
• SB 940 (STANDRIDGE): Adds various compounds of fentanyl to Schedule I.
• SB 1078 (GRIFFIN):  adds fentanyl to the list of trafficked substances; adds penalty of $100,000 to $500,000.
• SB 1367 (YEN): States that a law enforcement officer may not take a person into custody if the officer was contacted by the person in question for medical assistance (either for themselves or another person).*
• HB 2795 (GRIFFIN): Directs medical facility owners that prescribe opioids to patients on a monthly basis to register with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control annually.*
• HB 2798 (GRIFFIN): creates the Opioid Overdose Fatality Review Board.*
• HB 2931 (GRIFFIN):  requires the use of electronic prescribing for all scheduled drugs.*

PROTECTING CHILDREN AND VULNERABLE ADULTS
• SB 1166 (DAVID): Reauthorizes tax donations to programs  for the benefit of programs to recruit, train, and supervise volunteers as Court Appointed Special Advocates.
• SB 1517 (GRIFFIN): Creates the Task Force on Trauma-Informed Care to create a list of best-practices for children and their families at risk of adverse childhood experiences.
• HB 3300 (GRIFFIN):  Breanna Bell Act, a bill to protect people with disabilities from sexual assault.
• HB 1124 (LEEWRIGHT):  Justice for Danyelle Act, prohibiting sex offenders from loitering within 1,000 feet of victims’ home
• HB 3328 (PUGH):  creates the Commission on the Prevention of Abuse of Elderly and Vulnerable Adults.*
• HB 2552 (GRIFFIN): establishes rights for children in the custody of Child Welfare Services.
• HB 3104 (GRIFFIN): modifies the definition of “drug endangered child” by removing newborns who test positive for a controlled substance; clarifies that DHS must report any infant who is diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.*
• HB 3330 (GRIFFIN) Requires DHS to develop and disseminate a form to all providers of group home services, residential services and vocational and employment services for incapacitated persons or vulnerable adults to notify direct-care staff that they may be prosecuted for having sexual contact with someone in their care.

VETERANS
• SB 922 (SIMPSON): establishes the Oklahoma Women Veterans Program to count the number of female veterans in the state and create a list of gender specific needs for legislative consideration.
• SB 931 (SIMPSON): authorizes ODVA to receive gifts given for the benefit of Veterans’ programs.
• SB 932 (SIMPSON): Authorizes ODVA employees to receive administrative leave for volunteer services. Must be related to the Department’s core mission.
• SB 1053 (SIMPSON): Authorizes ODVA to obtain certification through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and accept payments and reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid.
• HB 3042 (SIMPSON):  directs Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to create long-term care facility to replace the Talihina Veterans Center

GOVERNMENT MODERNIZATION AND ELECTION REFORM
• HB 2082 (PUGH):  sets the date of election for school board members to the first Tuesday of April each year (aligning with municipal election, increase turnout and participation).
• SB 1403 (QUINN):  Adds fire districts to the list of entities not allowed to call an election except on the authorized dates.
• SJR 66 (PUGH):  calls for a vote of the people to have the governor and lieutenant governor run for election on a joint ticket.
• SB 1400 (PUGH): consolidates the Department of Commerce under the Lieutenant Governor’s office.*
• HB 3036 (TREAT): Authorizes the Governor to appoint the health commissioner and makes the board Board of Health advisory.*
• HB 3603 (TREAT):  authorizes the governor to appoint the executive director of the Tourism and Recreation Department and makes the tourism commission an advisory board.*

HEALTH CARE
• SB 972 (SIMPSON): directs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to examine the feasibility of submitting a state plan amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to enable the Oklahoma Medicaid Program to reimburse providers for diabetes self-management training.
• HB 2932 (PUGH):  Creates work requirements to access Medicaid. Exempts those under 19, over 60, pregnant, disabled, or the parent of someone below the age of 1. Requires ODH to obtain permission from the federal government.*
• HB 2987 (YEN): measure expands the Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment Program to include physician assistants.*
• HB 1270 (LEEWRIGHT):  HOPE Act, directing Oklahoma Health Care Authority to contract with an independent vendor to verify eligibility prior to awarding assistance.

Governor Fallin will have 15 days to consider the legislation on her desk. Any bill she doesn’t sign within those 15 days will not become law – otherwise known as a “pocket veto” and shows an absence of political courage.  The good news is that as the Governor is ending her career in this office, she has the opportunity to secure a legacy with several issues passionately supported within the state.

Will Rogers would have liked much of the reform and education funding in this years session, but there is much to be done as Republicans reform 100 years of Democrat control.  Expect crisis and controversy manufactured and real as elected officials struggle to spring Oklahoma forward.  As Rogers said,  “There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the entire government working for you.”

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