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The First Regular Session of Oklahoma's 54th Legislature Sets its Agenda to Address Controversial Issues in 2013

With the First Session of Oklahoma's 54thLegislature beginning this week, a flood of more than 2,500 proposed bills and resolutions are put on the legislature's 2013 agenda. While the majority of the proposed bills concern issues involving firearms regulation, health care, and workers' compensation reform, other issues involving cell phone use while driving, election polls, and welfare assistance restrictions are obscured.

For the last five years in Oklahoma, the Republican party has had the majority in both the House and the Senate, and it is no different for 2013. Fueled by bitter opposition to anything President Obama, Oklahoma voters have elected a veto-proof Republican majority in both the House and Senate. In the Senate, there is a 36-12 Republican majority, and in the House, there is a 72-29 majority.

Like the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the political party that holds the majority in the Oklahoma legislature almost always determines the ideological values underlying a piece of legislation. With controversial issues of firearms regulation and implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") on the legislature's agenda, the debate regarding state's rights is sure to be center stage.

ISSUES:

Firearms regulation > 100 bills proposed

  • Elimination of application fees
  • Concealed-carry in: government meetings, schools, professional sporting events
  • Background checks using federal databases for court-adjudicated mental health cases
  • Removal of certain exemptions for felons and mentally unsound
  • Exemption for local firearm or munitions manufacturers from federal regulation
  • Prohibit anyone from confiscating guns from a resident (including state officials)
  • "Shell bills" that call for a new state firearms act
  • Revision of the law requiring gun carriers to inform police officers that they are carrying a weapon to instead require gun carriers to disclose if and when they are asked
  • Permit state legislators to carry a firearm anywhere in the state
  • Elimination of so-called 'gun free zones'

Health care > 200 bills proposed

  • Relief from penalties for businesses for not offering employees health care insurance
  • Proposal that would make Obamacare illegal in Oklahoma

Worker's compensation > 100 bills proposed

HB 1546

  • Creation of new administrative system by replacing judges with three-member Worker's Compensation Commission

HB 1362

  • Creation of new administrative system as a division of state Insurance Department
  • Appoint a Commissioner of Workers' Compensation Insurance

SB 428 & 485

  • Creation of new administrative system with three-member commission
  • Creation of Workers' Compensation Fraud Investigation Unit in state Insurance Department

HB 1752

  • Authorizes employers who meet certain qualifications to opt out of the state's workers' compensation system and adopt their own benefit plans for injured workers

HB 1255 Revisions to conditions when employers must pay benefits.

  • Caps the length of time for permanent partial disability at 520 weeks
  • Exemption when an injured worker voluntarily failed to use safety devices that were furnished for their protection
  • Cuts the amount of compensation to an injured worker by up to half when the worker's injury/death caused, in whole or in part, by the worker's failure to obey any state or federal law that was enacted for the protection of employees or the public
HB 2054 Exempts employers from paying benefits for:
  • Workers who test positive for alcohol, illegal drugs or illegally used chemicals following an accident.
  • Workers who refuse to take drug or alcohol tests
Current Oklahoma law provides employers an exemption from paying benefits in cases where illegal drugs, chemicals or alcohol are deemed the "major cause" of the accident.

OTHER ISSUES:

SB 310

  • Notification to universities about on-campus violent and sexual crimes

SB 816

  • Prohibition on minors using tanning beds

HB 1375

  • Prohibit smoking cigarettes with a child in vehicle

Texting & driving

Election poll process reform

  • Increase early voting period
  • Widen pool of individuals who can work as election personnel
  • Nonpartisan county elections

Restrictions on social assistance to residents that do not pass drug tests

Salary increase for certain state employees

Although there are several far-reaching proposed bills, according to a NewsOK article , approximately 2.7 % of proposed bills were passed in both the House and Senate and signed by Governor Fallin in to law last year.

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