Capitol Insider: Under-The-Radar Bills To Watch
While some bills gain a lot of attention during the legislative session because of their provocative content or passionate debate, many more "under the radar" bills address government programs and policies that affect large numbers of people and their everday lives. Some of these are "request bills" that are proposed to a lawmaker by their constituent and others seek to fix a problem or update a law that has become outdated. This week, KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley highlight four bills to watch that have received little attention but that could have a consequential impact on quality of life in Oklahoma.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and government. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol news director, Shawn Ashley. So far, this legislative session has been highlighted by several bills that may have important implications but have received attention in large part because of their political shock value. There's been a lot of posturing on social issues, but these kinds of bills often generate more heat than light and wind up not becoming law. So rather than give more oxygen to those bills, today let's talk about some substantive legislation that may not be getting attention but could affect a lot of people. Shawn, first, an update is in the works for the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program.
Shawn Ashley: Yes, there is. Now, the Quality Jobs Program was created back in 1993, and it provides an incentive for businesses to expand and create jobs in Oklahoma and has really paid out somewhere around a billion dollars to businesses across the state. But there's never really been a complete update to the programs. There's been some tinkering here and there. Things have been added and subtracted, but not a comprehensive overhaul. Senate Bill 936 does that. Among some of the things that it does is it creates an umbrella program for the main Quality Jobs Program and then some of the smaller programs that are modeled after it. It also makes the application and the review process consistent for the Department of Commerce, and it updates some of the program's qualifications, the industries involved, the income levels that are involved. And it expands the program to help local communities be more competitive in economic development efforts.
Dick Pryor: That can be a big deal. Next, motor vehicles.
Shawn Ashley: Senate Bill 998 directs the Oklahoma Tax Commission to implement a program for the electronic filing and storage of motor vehicle titles. Now, anyone who's bought a car or sold a motor vehicle probably remembers the hassle involved in locating their car title and then getting the necessary notarization and all the other work that's involved. This would make that process digital. The bill requires the Tax Commission to work with an outside vendor to sort of develop the infrastructure for the system and for the program. There are several different companies across the country that are already working with other states to do the exact same thing.
Dick Pryor: State parks.
Shawn Ashley: This is an interesting story. Last year, the Department of Tourism and Recreation implemented an admission fee program at a number of its parks across the state. Some people were not happy with that. Now, the money they generate from this program goes to improve the parks and for their operations. House Bill 1681 and Senate Bill 804 don't eliminate that program, but what they do is create a single park annual pass at a reduced rate for Oklahoma residents. They also create a similar pass for out-of-state residents at an increased price. So, if you like a particular park like I do, I'm only eight miles from Thunderbird State Park and I like to go there from time to time, or if you have a favorite park you like to visit often such as Roman Nose or Broken Bow State Park, you could do so at a little lower cost. And even if either of these bills don't become law, really what this has done is put the Department of Tourism and Recreation on notice that the public and lawmakers would like to see some changes in their program and they have a suggested way to do it if they want to move forward with that
Dick Pryor: And one that is very big, potentially, Medicaid managed care.
Shawn Ashley: This is a very big issue, particularly for Governor Stitt, who proposed that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority contract with private companies to manage the state's Medicaid program. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has picked four private insurers to do just that. But some legislators, like Representative Marcus McEntire, a Republican from Duncan, fear it will increase costs and reduce services. Now lawmakers never voted to authorize this program, nor have they voted to prohibit it. What McEntyre has done is to shuck language in a bill and put in new language in Senate Bill 131 that would give them that chance. It directs the Health Care Authority to create, implement and administer its own managed care program. And really, that program is like the one Governor Stitt proposed in 2020. But then the governor vetoed that legislation because he said lawmakers had not provided sufficient funding for the program.
Dick Pryor: So those are some other bills to be watching. Thanks, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.
Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @eCapitol. You can also find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net. Until next time with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.