Accomplishments of the Legislature

This year has been a historic one for Oklahoma. Numerous reform measures have been signed into law and the fact that so much was accomplished this year is a tribute to the many Oklahomans who voted for change at the state level in this past election. I thank you for your vote and am proud to outline what has been accomplished.

Let me begin with my own legislation. House Bill 1473 was signed into law May 11 and will make tracts of agricultural land that were annexed into a city prior to July 1, 2003 exempt from having to follow laws passed by the city. House Bill 1470 was signed into law in April and will allow county commissioners to pay a reward up to $1,000 for any evidence leading to the arrest or conviction of anyone who vandalizes county property. House Bill 1467 also became law and beginning July 1, elementary school teachers teaching kindergarten through fourth grade classes will now be eligible for professional development through the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation. Senate Bill 1066 was signed into law May 22 and will increase the amount of money that can be reimbursed to county governments for road and bridge projects. Senate Bill 854, which will also increase the reimbursable amount counties can spend on road and bridge projects, was passed out of both legislative chambers and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Lawsuit Reform
After years of seeking to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits in Oklahoma, we brought everyone to the table and were able to get lawsuit reform signed into law. More than two thirds of medical lawsuits are frivolous and thrown out of court, yet millions are spent in defense of these bogus lawsuits. Oklahoma’s new law will limit the amount that can be awarded for non-economic damages except in cases of obvious negligence or permanent injury. It will also limit court-shopping and require a certificate of merit before a professional negligence case can advance. Oklahoma will now be able to attract more doctors, especially into the rural areas of our state.

Voter ID Reform
Oklahoma citizens will have the chance to opt for required voter identification now that the Legislature has sent it to the 2010 ballot. Legislation requiring voters to provide their voter registration card or any document with their photograph issued by a state, federal, county, municipal or tribal government was vetoed by the governor. If Oklahomans vote to require voter identification in 2010, the state will have a means to address potential voter fraud.

Responsible Budget
Lawmakers put together a $7.2 billion budget using both revenue collected by the state and from the stimulus funds. We used the stimulus money to increase education funding and for Medicaid obligations under the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. Without that funding our budget would be $6.51 billion, a decrease in spending from last year’s $7 billion budget. Rural legislators also ensured the continuation of REAP funding, which was briefly in jeopardy in the last days of session.

Pro-Life Legislation
Oklahoma children cannot be targeted for abortion because of their gender under new legislation this year. The Legislature was also able to secure $5.5 million in funding for adult stem cell research.

Elected Officials Who Commit Felonies
Loopholes in Oklahoma law have made it possible for politicians convicted of a felony to still receive taxpayers-funded benefits. A new law created this session will close those loopholes.

Government Modernization
Lawmakers will save an estimated $70 million by freeing the Department of Central Services to negotiate the best possible terms and prices for state contracts. Another measure will centralize the state’s computer security of taxpayer data and streamline services to taxpayers by requiring an option to renew permits and licenses online.

Upping Trespassing Penalties
Because farm land and commercial hunting grounds are especially susceptible to taking great losses from theft and poaching, lawmakers strengthened penalties for trespassing on those properties. The new law will help to protect rural Oklahomans by deterring would-be thieves and poachers.

DHS Reform
A new law created this session will reduce the number of children needlessly coming into the foster care system by improving the training of Department of Human Services workers in risk and safety assessment. The law also requires that information about a child’s physical and behavioral health and education is available electronically to foster parents.

Alternative Energy Reform
Oklahomans will have access to a newly created tax credit to offset the cost of converting a vehicle to run on compressed natural gas or other alternative fuels and a $2,500 tax credit for installing home-fueling CNG stations. In addition, new law allows the Department of Central Services to provide public access to alternative fueling infrastructure in underserved areas unless a private provider locates within five miles.

Help for the Uninsured
Lawmakers pushed through legislation that will promote the Insure Oklahoma program, which has shown success in enrolling uninsured Oklahomans. It also creates a cheaper core benefits package for young, healthy Oklahomans.

It’s been an honor to serve you at the Oklahoma State Capitol in the 52nd Legislature. I promised to be a strong voice for Western Oklahoma and have now fulfilled that promise. In the interim, I look forward to spending more time with you as I travel the district. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407 or at my home phone at (405) 375-5442.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.