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Press Releases

Showing: February, 2008

State Senator Jim Wilson, (D-Tahlequah) filed several legislative amendments this week in an attempt to make preventative healthcare more accessible to all Oklahomans and hold insurance companies accountable to Oklahoma policy holders.

“Oklahoma is in the midst of a healthcare crisis,” Wilson said. “The health of our state is a critical issue. It is a non-partisan issue. This legislation represents a step in the right direction. It is a win-win for the healthcare providers and their insured.”

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Budget talks began this week at the State Capitol, resulting in the first bipartisan appropriations agreement of the 2008 legislative session.

Governor Brad Henry and legislative budget leaders announced Thursday that an agreement has been reached on supplemental funding for the Department of Corrections and the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

The agreement includes:
Department of Corrections $24,000,000
Office of Juvenile Affairs $2,000,000

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Oklahomans are a step closer to being able to purchase a license plate displaying the national motto of “In God We Trust.”

The Oklahoma Senate approved Senate Bill 1146 on a rare unanimous 48-0 vote. Senator Jay Paul Gumm sponsors the measure.

Under the bill, Oklahomans would be able to purchase an “In God We Trust” license plate for a $15 additional fee; the additional cost covers design and production of the plate, meaning taxpayers would not have to fund the tags’ production or design.

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State Senator Andrew Rice’s effort to convert most of the state government vehicle fleets to compressed natural gas (CNG) was temporarily derailed by Senate Republicans in floor action today, Rice said.

Rice was attempting to add his conversion proposal to a bill (SB 1604) by State Sen. David Myers, R-Ponca City, that directs the Secretary of Energy to create a state energy policy.

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The Oklahoma State Senate passed a key plank of the 2008 Senate Democratic “Vision for Oklahoma” agenda that focuses on opportunity and responsibility. While Sen. Kenneth Corn’s original bill creating “Oklahoma’s Second Century Promise” was not heard before last week’s deadline for committee action, Corn successfully passed the legislation on Wednesday on the Senate floor after attaching the language as an amendment to another Senate Bill.

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The State Senate on Wednesday honored former Harlem Globetrotter and Oklahoma native Marques Haynes with the passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 54, praising Haynes for his achievements and designating February 27, 2008, as Marques Haynes appreciation day in the state of Oklahoma.

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Lt. Gov. Jari Askins had the honor of being acting Governor of the state the day her hometown of Duncan claimed a new title—the Crapemyrtle Capital of Oklahoma. Senate Concurrent Resolution 44, by Sen. Anthony Sykes and Rep. Dennis Johnson, won final passage Wednesday at the State Capitol. Sykes represents Duncan in the State Senate, and said he was extremely pleased that both chambers approved the measure unanimously.

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Burrage Says Program Will Help Curb Oklahoma High School Dropout Rates

A bill that would match at-risk Oklahoma high school students with community mentors, unanimously passed on the Oklahoma State Senate floor by a 47-0 vote today.

Authored by State Senator Sean Burrage, the bill creates a graduation coach model within the Oklahoma State Department of Education that will help students stay on track academically, while setting up an a mentor system to help guide students through with out-of-classroom obstacles that could hinder graduation.

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Autism afflicts one in every 150 children, yet there is no requirement that diagnosis and treatment be covered by Oklahoma health insurance policies.

Tuesday, a group of Oklahoma families joined Senator Jay Paul Gumm at a State Capitol news conference to promote “Nick’s Law.” The proposal, initially contained in Senate Bill 1537, would require health insurance policies cover diagnosis, treatment and therapy for autism spectrum disorders. Currently, at least 17 states – including Texas – have similar mandates.

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Senate Passes Veteran Flag Bill

The Oklahoma State Senate approved legislation Tuesday which would designate the first Monday of each month to honor veterans who are currently serving or were killed in the global war on terrorism. The bill now goes to the House of Represenatives for consideration.

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The Oklahoma State Senate has given unanimous approval to legislation creating special vehicle tags for Oklahomans who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The author of Senate Bill 1138 is Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond.

“I was first approached about creating this special license plate by a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We’ve lost more than 70 Oklahoma soldiers in this cause, including 19 year-old Pfc. Micheal Phillips of Ardmore just this past weekend,” Lamb said. “It is important for us to honor all of the Oklahomans who have risked their lives for our country in Iraq.”

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The State Senate on Monday approved legislation that would reduce the minimum age for correctional officers and guards from 21 to 20.

Requested by the Department of Corrections, SB 1468 is intended to broaden the pool of eligible candidates for employment in corrections facilities and assist an agency experiencing a significant labor shortage.

Sen. Mike Schulz, author of the measure, said the Legislature needs to take swift action in addressing the labor shortage, and work toward a comprehensive plan to deal with the many issues currently faced by the agency.

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State Senate Democrat Floor Leader Charles Laster attacked Republicans in an after-business-hours news release late Friday, criticizing GOP senators for votes on several bills related to health insurance.

Senate Republican Floor Leader Owen Laughlin responded, saying one criticism in particular made him chuckle.

“Senator Laster criticized Republicans for defeating a bill that would have recreated the State Board for Property and Casualty Rates, insinuating that bringing back this government bureaucracy would somehow reduce insurance costs,” said Laughlin, R-Woodward.

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Senate Co-President Comments on Tie Vote

State Senate Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, issued the following statement regarding the first tie vote to occur under the evenly divided Senates power-sharing agreement.

First of all, the process worked as the framers of our constitution intended. There was a tie vote and the lieutenant governor exercised her authority as president of the Senate to break the tie.

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A bill by State Senator John Ford, who represents Craig, Nowata and Washington counties, that will establish a charter school district pilot program passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee by a 10-6 vote.

Currently, certain school districts are allowed to have individual charter schools within their jurisdiction. Charter schools are supported by state funding, but exempt from many state regulations. Senate Bill 2100 would establish a trial program allowing 10 entire school districts in Oklahoma to become charter districts.

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Legislation that would have limited the influence of special interests in Oklahoma political campaigns failed to receive a hearing prior to the February 21 deadline for approval of legislation in Senate committees.

Sen. Kenneth Corn filed three election reform measures, including the Oklahoma Clean Elections Act of 2008. All were assigned to the Rules Committee, where none were heard. Corn said he was disappointed but will use every possible avenue to advance the proposals through the legislative process.

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The Thursday arrest of a Lawton man who threatened to bomb schools in Lawton and Chickasha underscores the need to make schools safer for children and staff, Sen. Todd Lamb said Friday.

Lamb is the author of Senate Bill 1941, the Oklahoma School Security Act. The measure includes numerous provisions designed to make educational facilities more secure, reduce school violence and bullying and involve administrators in an effort to make their schools safer. The measure also eliminates the use of schools as polling places.

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A measure to extend Oklahoma's Back to School sales tax holiday to include more items passed its first hurdle this week. Senate Bill 1149, by State Sen. Don Barrington, adds school supplies, school art supplies and school instructional materials used by students to the list of items already exempt from sales tax during the first weekend in August. Barrington also authored SB 861 that created the sales tax holiday.

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Burn Ban Legislation Advances to Senate

The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a measure this week to give county commissioners the authority to proclaim burn bans in their counties. Currently, the Governor is the only entity with this power, but Senate Bill 1816, by Sen. Don Barrington and Rep. Don Armes, would change that.

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State Sen. Jim Reynolds’ bill to slow down property tax increases received the approval of the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday. It next goes to the full Senate.

Senate Joint Resolution 59 would send to a vote of the people Reynolds’ proposal to cap at 3% the amount that property value assessments can grow each year. Reynolds said the current cap of 5% is too high.

“The number one complaint I hear from my constituents is that their property taxes are growing too fast,” said Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City.

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