State Capitol
9:54 am
Wed March 13, 2013

Oklahoma Capitol Almanac: Abortion, Workers' Comp and More

Lawmakers in both the state House and Senate are passing lots of bills ahead of a deadline Thursday. Legislation has to win approval in its chamber where it started to keep alive. This round-up from the Associated Press reflects many bills on their way to passage through Tuesday night and some that failed.

Topics include: abortion, prison worker pay, the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, privatization of workers' compensation insurance, pay increases for special education teachers and more requirements for people running for office.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A pair of bills that make it more difficult for girls younger than 18 to have an abortion without notifying their parents have easily cleared the Oklahoma House.

The House on Tuesday approved the bills that would limit the ability of teenage girls to have a judge allow them to get an abortion without parental consent.

The first bill by Democratic Rep. Rebecca Hamilton of Oklahoma City would require parental notification in all cases, except for medical emergencies or if the girl was a victim of sexual or physical abuse by a parent. It passed 80-12.

The second bill by Edmond Republican Randy Grau would require judicial waivers be sought in the district where the minor resides. It passed 81-13.

Online:

House Bill 1588: http://bit.ly/YbbnT0

House Bill 1361: http://bit.ly/13U8fSa

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The Oklahoma House has approved a proposal to add more than two dozen questions that abortion providers must answer as part of a questionnaire gathered by the state.

The House voted 79-15 on Tuesday for the bill that modifies the Individual Abortion Form, an extensive questionnaire that includes more than 40 main questions and dozens of other, smaller questions. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Hominy Republican Rep. Sean Roberts sponsored the bill. He says his goal is to update the reporting requirements to reflect changes in abortion law and help state policymakers determine why abortions are sought.

Opponents argued the measure is an attempt to intimidate abortion providers and that legislators should not be interfering with the practice of medical doctors.

Online:

House Bill 2015: http://bit.ly/14R1nSZ

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A bill to provide a 5 percent pay increase for Oklahoma's prison workers has stalled in a House committee.

The House Calendar Committee on Tuesday tabled the bill by Darcoma Republican Rep. Jeff Hickman. Aside from a 5 percent pay hike for all prison workers, the bill would have boosted the starting pay for correctional officers from $11.83 per hour to $14 per hour. It would have cost about $12.2 million annually and was the top request by the Department of Corrections for additional funding.

The newly created Calendar Committee is a final stop before bills are presented on the floor for consideration.

The committee approved a separate bill by Hickman to increase the pay of Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers.

Online:

House Bill 2145: http://bit.ly/YprASQ

House Bill 2146: http://bit.ly/WZmRLW

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The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation that would transfer management of the unfinished American Indian Museum from the museum's board to another agency.

The Senate voted 26-20 for the measure Tuesday and sent it to the state House for consideration.

As written, the measure by Republican Sen. Greg Treat of Oklahoma City would make the incompleteOklahoma City museum a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. But Treat says the bill is likely to be amended to authorize the facility's transfer to the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.

The state has spent about $90 million on the project over the last decade. Museum officials say they need an additional $80 million to finish the project, including $40 million from the state that would be matched by private donations.

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The Oklahoma Senate has overwhelmingly defeated legislation that would have given commissioned police officer status to investigators for the state Board of Osteopathic Examiners.

The measure by Republican Sen. Kyle Loveless of Oklahoma City was rejected Tuesday by a 6-40 vote.

Loveless says investigators for some other state agencies have been given commissioner police officer status to help them do their jobs. But a majority of senators said they disagree with authorizing police status for state investigators who do not report to the Department of Public Safety or some other recognized law enforcement agency.

Lawmakers voiced concern after the Oklahoma Insurance Department spent more than $180,000 on shotguns, bulletproof vests and seven police-package vehicles that agency officials said were needed to fight criminal insurance fraud.

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The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation to privatize the state's nonprofit workers' compensation agency.

The Senate passed the measure Tuesday by a vote of 36-11. It heads to the House, where a similar bill is pending.

The bill by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman of Sapulpa would convert CompSource Oklahoma from a state entity to a private company owned by its policyholders. Supporters say a state agency should not by competing with private insurers.

State law requires employers to have insurance to compensate injured workers. CompSource was created by the Legislature in 1933 as an insurer of last resort. It has thousands of policyholders, including state, county and municipal government agencies, and it writes 35 percent of the workers' compensation policies in the state.

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Public school teachers in Oklahoma who teach students with severe disabilities and autism would receive a 10 percent pay hike under a bill approved in the Oklahoma House.

The House voted 95-3 on Tuesday for the bill that is expected to cost about $4.3 million when fully implemented.

Lawton Republican Rep. Ann Coody sponsored the bill. She says there's a "serious shortage" of special education teachers in Oklahoma.

Her bill would apply to those who teach children with disabilities in the "severe-profound range" or children with emotional disturbances or autism. Teachers who stay with a district for five or more years would get an additional 5 percent pay hike.

Education officials estimate the bill would apply to 2,100 certified teachers.

Online:

House Bill 1233: http://bit.ly/YXLYhb

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Legislation that requires candidates to disclose if they have a criminal background has been approved by theOklahoma Senate.

The Senate voted 43-0 for the measure Monday and sent it to the House for action.

The bill by Sen. Susan Paddack of Ada would require additional information on declaration of candidacy forms. Among other things, office-seekers would be required to disclose if they've ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense or if they are currently named in an outstanding warrant for arrest in any state.

Paddack says current forms ask little more than a candidate's name, address, age and what office they're seeking. She says the public has a right know if a candidate has been in trouble with the law.

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