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Many Proposed Laws Entered Into Consideration For 2015 Legislature

Oklahoma House of Representatives Chamber

Oklahoma legislators are filing bills for consideration from several directions. There is no indication which of these will be seriously consider, among the over 230 bills filed so far.

The proposed legislation ranges from a prohibition for agency heads leaving office from hiring new employees, to a screening of emergency patients waiting to be transported by EMS teams to determine if they are not stable enough to be transported.

Another draft bill would allow victims of domestic violence to bring forth evidence from other relevant cases to a proposal to eliminate four government agencies.

One proposed law would prevent a family member or caretaker convicted of neglect, abuse, exploitation or other crimes against an “elderly” or disabled person from inheriting from the victim or receiving any portion of their estate. Another draft law would allow teachers to exempt from taxes 25% of their income.

Other bills include a prohibition against lasers if they are pointed at airplanes, a proposal to eliminate the state senate to create a unicameral legislature, a ban on texting while driving, allowing multi-religious symbols in schools for winter celebrations, and allowing legislators to carry firearms after a CLEET course.

SB0129, by Senator Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, would create a hiring freeze for the office or board of a state agency unless the State Election Board certifies the current officeholder is unopposed or re-elect. The bill also provides for those situations where the agency head deems the position is necessary to make a hire, the governing board or cabinet secretary must approve it, but the employee would be on a probationary status after the new agency head takes office.

HB1036, by Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, requires Emergency Medical Services (EMS) stretcher van passengers to be screened before transport to a medically licensed facility. Screening is provided by a certified medical dispatching protocol. The bill states that violation by the transporting company may result in citation, suspension or loss of license. Faught said the idea for the bill originally came to him from the Muskogee County EMS. There are some cases, he said, in which people who are not in a stable condition are being transported by medically untrained workers on a stretcher van service. The purpose of the legislation, Faught said, would be to clarify language to make sure anyone being transported is medically able to be transported without any life-threatening condition.

HB1035, by Rep. Johnny Tadlock, D-Idabel would provide that in a criminal case where the defendant is accused of an offense of domestic violence abuse, evidence from other relevant cases may be considered. It also states that if evidence is offered under this rule, the attorney must disclose the evidence to the defendant at least 15 day before the scheduled date of trial. Tadlock stated that this would allow for the evidence to be scrutinized by both parties, keeping all parties’ rights intact.

SB0001, by Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, would eliminate what its author calls “non-essential governmental spending” by eliminating four different government funded entities. If passed, it would abolish The Space Industry Development Authority, J.M. Davis Memorial Commission, Will Rogers Memorial Commission and the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority, effective July 1. The bill states that all funds in possession or under control of an entity abolished by this act shall revert to the General Revenue Fund and all property or other tangible assets will be transferred to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

HB1031, by David Perryman, D-Chickasha, would prevent a family member, caretaker or other person who has been convicted of neglect, abuse, exploitation or other crimes against an “elderly” or disabled person from inheriting from the victim or receiving any portion of their estate. The property or benefit will instead pass as if the convicted had died before the victim. Perryman said currently there is common law in place that protects those convicted of crimes like murder from receiving inheritance. The purpose of this bill, he said, is to expand those protections against those who abuse or take advantage of an often vulnerable group of people.

SB0093, filed by Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, would exempt teachers from paying state income tax on 25 percent of their income. The reduction would occur for taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2015. The exemption will be given to individuals who have a current certificate issued by the Oklahoma Board of Education to teach any grade level from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and is employed on a full-time basis for a school year which occurs during the taxable year by a public of private school in the state. The bill also specifies that the income available for the exemption would only include that which is earned as a teacher. Mazzei said that teacher pay has been a focus of his since his freshman year in 2004. In his first few years Mazzei said there were a few pay raises given to teachers, moving Oklahoma from ranking 49th in teacher pay to 42nd. 

SB0062, Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, provides someone aiming a beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in flight or at the flight path of an aircraft will be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction punished by a fine of not more than $100. A second or subsequent violation will be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding $500. Stanislawski said he hoped his bill allows local officials to act faster and more efficiently when these cases pop up. He said the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office approached him last month, telling him they had great concern about the number of laser pointer cases that were being reported.

SJR0001, filed by Sen.  Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, would eliminate Oklahoma’s bicameral legislative system, vesting all authority in a single 101-member legislature. If passed, the measure would require a majority vote by Oklahomans before taking effect. Anderson says is passed, the Senate would be eliminated and save the state budget the $16 million each year, he said. “We’re asking state agencies to cut budgets and I think we need to put that same scrutiny on the Oklahoma State Legislature,” said Anderson, R-Enid. “It’s my belief that you can eliminate one of the legislatures and still operate the state without any disruption.”

Three bills addressing distracted driving have already been filed. Two Senate bills, SB0043, by Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, and SB0067, by Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, have been filed. HB1009, by Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, is the House Bill. Oklahoma is one of only six states – including Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana and Texas – that does not have a complete ban on texting or hand-held devices for all drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

SB0040 filed by Sen. Roger Thompson would permit schools to display scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, such as a menorah or nativity scene. According to the bill, the school must display multiple symbols of different traditional winter celebrations. The display must include a scene or symbol of more than one religion or at least one religion and one secular scene or symbol. However, the bill prohibits the display from including a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief. The bill states that school staff and students may offer traditional greetings including, but not limited to, “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” and “happy holidays.

SB0026, by Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, would allow state legislators to carry a firearm anywhere in the state if they have successfully completed a handgun qualification course, and requires the handgun qualification course to be equivalent to the course for court officials as developed by the Council on Law Enforcement and Training (CLEET). “District attorneys are elected and so are judges and they can take a CLEET course so they can carry,” said Allen, R-Spiro. “They’re interpreting the laws that we pass, so as lawmakers we should also be able to carry.”


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