Below are edited notes taken during the House Floor Session on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. It is not a complete transcript of everything that was said. For that you can go to the House webpage and view the video. Links provided take you to more information about the bill including the actual language and vote details
SB1796 by Sears: allows school districts to use same investment programs as the State Treasurer
Russ: how do they invest now? Sears: this gives the same options as the Treasurer, opens up opportunities. Russ: will this require same level of collateral in securities? Sears: it’s my understanding it will.
Ritze: I’ve heard concerns from teachers that this will affect teacher retirement funds, is that true? Sears: That’s never come up in any of the conversations.
Bill passes unanimously.
SB1111 by Ownbey
Bill fails 40-38
SB1052 by Liebmann
Liebmann: moves DCS into Office of State Finance. Will supposedly save money
Reynolds: do they currently have to generate reports to the legislature? Liebmann: to the best of my knowledge, DCS never has. Reynolds: so there are Capitol Improvement District? Liebmann: yes and under this we’d get reports from OSF. Reynolds: what are the contents of the CID reports? Liebmann: needs of new equipment, status of buildings. It comes out once a year and we’ve never done anything with it, really, because we’ve never had the money.
McPeak: does OSF have a construction division that gives them experience in this field? Liebmann: no, DCS is being moved in to make it more efficient. McPeak: we worry DHS is too large, is there a concern OSF will become too big with this consolidation? Liebmann: I think they can delegate authority.
J. McDaniel: it says this will cost $100K to be offset, what does that mean? Liebmann: we were told that moving departments into OSF would save money.
Shelton: can you explain how much efficiencies have already been realized? Liebmann: I can’t answer that, I don’t know if any have been realized yet. Shelton: so if no money has been saved, how will we pay for this? Liebmann: out of efficiencies they allegedly say will happen. Shelton: Mr. Speaker I request a ruling on whether this is a correct impact statement. Chair: it is a proper statement.
Bill passes 56-29. Emergency Clause fails.
SB1664 by Johnson
Johnson: request bill from Board of Equalization. I ask that you pass this and send it to conference so we can work on it.
Bill passes 85-1 (Hamilton opposed)
SB1234 by Dank
Dank: back in 2009 we suspended payment of the deep well incentive. That was estimated to be $150M and it turned out to be nearly $300M. This extends the payments out to six years rather than three.
Brown: when we made the agreement, there was a 9% interest penalty if we didn’t make the payments on time. Does the agreement take care of that? Dank: we’re talking about the whole concept, no agreement has been reached. There’s no title or enacting clause on the bill. You’ll get to see this again. Brown: it’s hard for me to vote for something if I don’t know what the terms are, wouldn’t you agree? Dank: I would, but this is just beating a deadline.
McPeak: are there any triggers on this that it can be adjusted? If we commit to pay this and then cut taxes, couldn’t we be in a situation we can’t handle? Dank: that concerns me as well. We’re going to have to sit down with the industry to talk about the credits.
McDaniel: if we paid the $100M over three years, would we pay interest? Dank: no, the interest is only if we miss payments.
Brown: would you say it was a good policy that we did this and how many jobs did we create? Dank: I don’t know where we draw the line on credits and incentives. But oil and gas is a bedrock industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people.
Reynolds: if it’s not going to generate any additional money for them, how does that protect them? Dank: I don’t know that it is. As far as I’m concerned, it’s going to have to be agreed to with the industry and if not, we’re going to have to come up with another $50M per year over the next three years.
Bill passes 68-21
SB1436 by Dank
Dank: eliminates the franchise tax in Oklahoma. It’s a business-friendly bill.
Bill passes 88-2 (Hamilton, Renegar opposed)
SB1040 by Armes
Armes: motion to suspend rules for untimely amendment.
Motion passes 79-0
Armes amendment: everybody who has a stake in the water game will sit down and determine what the criteria are if a community needs a water project. After they write the rulebook, it will disband. We’re taking this to conference.
Amendment adopted by unanimous consent.
Bill passes unanimously.
SB1523 by Jackson
McPeak: we’re actually taking out a step so we can pay folks more directly? Jackson: true. McPeak: so for one time we’re actually for smaller govt? Jackson: I agree.
Proctor: Are we increasing a fee? Jackson: no, we’re just moving it from General Statute to the Secretary of State.
Bill passes 87-4
SB1811 by Enns
Enns: increases fine for people obstructing emergency crews during a disaster.
Bill passes unanimously
SJR52 by Dank
Dank: sends to a vote of the people a constitutional proposal that puts the intangible tax back to what it was before the Supreme Court ruling. If this isn’t done, it will amount to biggest tax increase on businesses in the state.
Renegar: how much would this affect our budget? Dank: not at all, it’s essentially a property tax.
Blackwell: isn’t it true this tax has never been assessed before so we’ve never received money from it? Dank: that is correct. Blackwell: and in the two years since the Supreme Court decision there has been no money collected because there was a moratorium? Dank: yes
Resolution passes unanimously.
SB1797 by Denney
Denney: consolidates Teacher Prep and Office of Accountability
Holland amendment: the board has seven members, two of which are business members. I replaced one of those with an additional teacher.
Amendment adopted by voice vote.
McPeak: there is a communique that says the State Superintendent will be in charge of this. Is that true? Denney: that is not true. it says the State Department of Education takes over professional development.
Thomsen: the group ROPE has concerns about this and tying us to Common Core. Does the Superintendent plan to do that no matter what? Denney: right, if we adopt Common Core it will be the decision of Superintendent Barresi.
Wesselhoft: are you satisfied with replacing a business leader who would be objective with a teacher who has a self-interest? Denney: I think our teachers want kids to do well. There’s a good mix on the board. Sometimes schools can’t be run like businesses.
Holland: if you have someone running this new commission with one viewpoint and the State Superintendent with a different one, could it be a harmful environment? Denney: we have set up that results of accountability is provided annually to the legislature. We must keep an eye on what we created. We have the ability to intervene as necessary. Holland: I like the idea of Higher Ed making suggestions, but will the rules be subject to legislative oversight? Denney: yes, and also subject to the State Board of Education. Holland: Do you think this will empower Teacher Prep to have more leverage with higher Ed institutions to impact teaching programs? Denney: it absolutely will. Since I’ve been here, Teacher Prep has been fighting to survive. This gives them an opportunity to do best practices at our state universities.
Cannaday: when these rules are made by the commission, what is the likelihood or authority of the State Board of Education to change them? Denney: I’m not in their brain, I don’t know.
Bill passes 61-22
SB1083 by Nelson
Nelson: requires certain agencies to provide debriefing and counseling to state employees.
Brown: is there a fiscal impact? Nelson: yes, it’s $88 per session. Brown: so we need to provide mental counseling if they have a problem? Nelson: no, there is a list of state agencies and if, on the job, they experience a violent or traumatic event, these services have to be provided.
Bill passes 67-16
SB1325 by Richardson
Richardson: prevents the severance of surface water and groundwater for purposes of sale.
Blackwell: is title on? Richardson: yes.
Bill fails 35-54
SB1734 by Jordan
Jordan: allows Bureau of Narcotics to investigate money laundering and human trafficking cases as well.
Shelton: they can’t do this now? Jordan: no, they can only deal with drugs and drug trafficking. This says if they come across money laundering or human trafficking during that investigation, they can continue with that.
Bill passes unanimously
SB1525 by Armes
Armes: request from AG’s office. Should federal govt overreach on endangered species, it gives AG standing in court.
Bill passes 82-1 (Ritze opposed)
SB1690 by Derby
Derby: cleanup language for the Board of Dentistry.
Bill passes 84-3 (Morgan, Reynolds, Sherrer opposed)
The following House bills had Senate amendments rejected by unanimous consent:
HB2330 by Moore.
HB2242 by Denney.
HB2254 by Sherrer.
HB2286 by Virgin.
HB2288 by Virgin.
HB2300 by Peterson.
HB2576 by Ownbey.
HB2577 by Ownbey.
HB2736 by Peters.
HB3093 by Williams.
HB2494 by Denney.
HB2621 by Johnson.
HB2258 by Sherrer.
HB2607 by Blackwell.
HB2741 by Peters.
HB3053 by Murphey.
HB3079 by Murphey.
SB1716 by Armes
Armes: says on the 2nd conviction of maliciously cutting a fence, it’s punishable by $1,000 and is a felony.
Kouplen: what is good cause to cut a fence? Armes: if there was a fire. There’s a short list. Kouplen: if my cattle get out and I have to cut the fence to get them, is that a good cause? Armes: it could be. Remember it has to be two convictions.
Inman point of order: According to House Rules, this bill can’t be heard for a few minutes until 2:04
(after a few introductions)
McCullough: would you admit this is a felony on a property crime? Armes: I understand, but if you had the investment in animals some of these folks had and a prize bull or racehorse got out and killed because someone cut a fence. This is a deterrent.
Inman: I believe there are 96 pages of felonies, just shy of 1,000 felonies. Arson, endangering a human life, gang offenses… why couldn’t we make this an onerous monetary penalty rather than adding to the cost of criminal justice? Armes: what is the monetary level of a theft that becomes a felony? Inman: I’ve got a list of occupations that if you’re a felon you can’t get work in. Is cutting a fence twice worth denying them a job in those fields? Armes: I think supporters of this bill would say yes.
Renegar: would you say for us rural folks that our fence is like our front door. Armes: absolutely.
Sherrer: if I cut your fence two times, intentionally, that’s a felony? Armes: potential felony, yes. Sherrer: that happens independently whether a bull is injured or anything gets out? Armes: I would think you could be if maliciousness could be proved.
Bill passes 59-37
SB1253 by Faught
Faught amendment: they can do performance audits, but at request of governor or agency head, this adds at the discretion of the State Auditor.
Williams: did we have a House Bill that had this same language? Faught: I filed one, but it was never heard. Williams: where will the money come from to pay for this? Faught: the bill creates a revolving fund. Williams: so the state agency getting audited will pay for the audit? Faught: I believe when an audit is requested, they do pay for part of it. Williams: if the agency being audited has to pay for it, do you think there’s an inherent conflict of interest by the Auditor raising money for his or her office? Faught: there is statute on how the audits can be performed.
Kouplen: when a school requests an audit, don’t they pay for it now? Faught: that’s my understanding. Kouplen: it seems we’ve created a bunch of revolving funds. Where does the $ come from to put into that? Faught: that goes more to the bill than the amendment.
Brown: does it say that if the Auditor feels he is not adequate to perform the audit, he can outsource that? Faught: the only change in the amendment is allowing the State Auditor to perform an audit at his own discretion. I’ve not heard he’s wanting outside help.
Amendment adopted by voice vote.
Morrissette: are you concerned this gives powers to the State Auditor that he’s never had in the history of the state? Faught: it allows him to look into agencies that maybe the agency head does not want looked into. Morrissette: do you agree that the history of the state and its constitution is about decentralizing power and that an individual can do a lot of damage in four years? Faught: I agree and add that they can do a lot of good in four years. Morrissette: Where’s the evidence that that is true? Faught: if you’ve talked to the current auditor and how much progress has been made
Rousselot: I like the idea, but I just see this one line that says “or from funds available.” This seems to open it up – what does the Auditor have in mind with this language? Faught: Auditor receives funds for providing continuing education, so if they can put that into a revolving fund, they can do those audits without more appropriations from us.
Williams: I have two problems. One, there’s a conflict of interest when the agency doing the inspecting and charging for it has no accountability. My other part is whenever we have these revolving funds we lose control of government. We’re allowing government to grow with no checks and balances.
Morrissette: we’re marching more and more towards concentrating power. A trumpet of caution: the author said there are elections every four years. Yes and a lot of damage can be done in those four years. Why does the power the Governor has does not provide the checks and balances necessary? Slow down on your march to change the way govt is operating. When you break down the structural frames of the house, you’ll have problems. Maybe not today, but tomorrow. Respect the founding fathers of our constitution and limit the damage we’re doing.
Faught: this is a good bill despite what you’ve heard. We’ve heard problems with schools and agencies that need audits. This adds the State Auditor to the discretion of when to do an audit. I think elections cause us to be responsive. Let the State Auditor do his job. We’ve had too many problems in the past because no one had accountability over how tax dollars were spent.
Bill passes 60-32.
Debate on Emergency Clause
Russ: maybe it is an emergency and maybe not. A lot has happened in the past that if this law was in place wouldn’t happen. Most people think our State Auditor can already do this. This is a step in the right direction.
Morrissette: here we go again. I can assure you this is not an emergency. The state constitution says an emergency measure shall include only measures that are immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace – nope – health – nope – or public safety – strike three. I understand the Senate sticks Emergency Clauses on everything they touch. Let’s not do this. You swore to uphold the constitution so vote against this.
Faught: if you’re doing something wrong, you’re not going to ask the auditor to come in. Our govt has a checkered past because we’ve not been doing our job right all the time. Let’s bring accountability to government.
Emergency Clause fails 62-28
SB1071 by Jackson
Jackson: reinstates a checkoff for CASA volunteers.
Inman amendment: allows for a checkoff for regional food banks.
Amendment adopted by voice vote.
Bill passes 88-5
SB46 by Coody
Coody: allows surviving spouses of 100% disabled veterans to keep sales tax exemption up to $1,000 per year
Morgan: is it the responsibility of the surviving spouse to notify the Tax Commission if they remarry? Coody: yes it is. Morgan: what is the penalty if they don’t? Coody: I don’t know that.
Brown: would you agree the spouse stayed faithful all their life and now we’re reducing that benefit to one-sixth? Coody: I’d like it to be half, but we can’t afford it. I hope we can increase these as the economy improves. Brown: this has a $106K impact, don’t you think we could reduce any planned income tax cut by the amount to restore this full benefit? Coody: there are so many demands on the money, I don’t know that I can answer this. But if we can get our foot in the door, we can increase it in the future.
Proctor: but why is there any fiscal impact if the widow got the exemption while the spouse was alive? Coody: because we are extending this to all surviving spouses, not just the new widows or widowers.
Reynolds: move to suspend rules for an untimely-filed amendment.
Motion fails 45-35
Proctor: earlier today we passed a bill that will pay $300-million to oil companies, but we can’t afford another $600K for widows? Coody: all I know is that a little is better than none and this will help our widows. Proctor: don’t you think this is a question of where your heart is and priorities are and this should have passed three or four years ago? Coody: I wish it had, yes.
Johnson: if the maximum with the spouse alive was $25K and now we’re going to $1K, I don’t see how there’s a negative impact on state finances. Coody: again, it’s because the benefit would go towards those who are already widows right now, not just the new ones.
Reynolds: how does one prove they are a widow of a 100% disabled veteran? Coody: there is a card they get.
Bill passes unanimously.
DeWitt: motion to allow the Senate to adjourn for the week today.
Dorman: how many House bills have they refused to hear? Chair: I don’t know.
Motion fails 42-49
SB1242 by Armes
Armes: allows AG to get some investigative costs reimbursed for white collar crimes.
Peters amendment: makes sure we’re in compliance with federal laws.
Reynolds: but this really has nothing to do with the subject of this bill, does it? Peters: same section of law.
Reynolds: if the Senate didn’t want to hear the bill, fine. This is going to violate the single-subject rule. I doubt someone will litigate it, but it’s clearly unconstitutional.
Peters: the bill passed out of here 80-13. The Senate didn’t understand it. They will pass it now. Please vote for it.
Amendment passed by voice vote.
Morrissette: your new language would require a post-conviction hearing? Armes: it would. Morrissette: Has the AG given you any idea on how much time it would take to answer on those hearings? Armes: subpoenaing records costs money that they have to eat as well. They’re trying to recoup those for white collar criminals like Bernie Madoff. Morrissette: do you know how many fees are already being paid by criminals in the court process? Armes: I wouldn’t know that, no.
Shelton: are discrimination cases considered white collar crimes? Armes: I don’t know, but wouldn’t think so. I’m thinking a Ponzi scheme or bank fraud. Shelton: are you aware the AG’s office is now the home of the Office of Civil Rights? Armes: I think we have a bill on that tomorrow. Shelton: if someone comes and asks the AG’s office to help in a discrimination case, who pays the bill? Armes: I don’t think I can answer that and I don’t think that fits this bill.
Brown: let’s say the DA has racked up a decent sum of money against the family, is that where we’re headed? Armes: it says as long as it doesn’t cost a manifest hardship. Brown: so if that does happen, you’ll work to fix it? Armes: I will.
Shelton: are you aware white collar crimes are only about 1% of all those tried? Armes: I don’t know, but I’ll take your word for it.
Morrissette: I know you’re carrying this and it’s a Senate bill. I can tell you that in criminal cases white collar crimes are less than 1% of the crimes and if they wanted this restricted to those, it should have been written that way. Right now the average case has $800-$1,200 in fees associated with it. We don’t fund things adequately, so we have a bunch of fees rather than violate Grover Norquist’s pledge. I can assure you that in 98% of the cases I’m going to file an appeal for a hardship hearing. And a judge will rule in my favor 9 out of 10 times. So why are we doing this through the back door rather than the front door? The AG has to investigate criminal activity. They are given an appropriation to do that. If they are underfunded, let them come to the legislature and make that argument. This will never stop.
Armes: If I thought this bill was about the poor and downtrodden, that would be different, but that’s not what we’re doing here. It might not be a lot of cases, but it can be expensive when the flim-flam man comes to town. All we’re trying to do is have our state agency perform the mission we ask them to do.
Bill passes 56-30
Senate amendments to HB2155 by Jordan
Morrissette: how is this different? Jordan: allows companies to opt out of Workers Comp to provide the same services at a lower cost. It was limited to businesses with less than 50 employees. Morrissette: what are they talking about with the non-codified language? Jordan: if you go around the state and ask employers what the worst thing about doing business here, they say Worker’s Comp which is bleeding companies dry.
Inman: you said we wanted to allow businesses to opt out of worker’s comp to provide the same services at lower cost. Wouldn’t you agree there are different protections than Worker’s Comp has? Jordan: they’re different protections and better protections. Inman: well worker’s comp has more vocational rehabilitation and other caps that are more beneficial to workers. If we really believe injured workers are OK, why are we taking a whole class of businesses out of this? Jordan: if vocational rehab is all we’re here to talk about, we might as well go home. Why is this needed for these businesses? Because they’re paying exorbitant premiums that have nothing to do with workers getting healed and back to work. These are companies with experience in Worker’s Comp and a way to provide an incentive to stay in OK. This is about getting workers better faster and back on the job.
McCullough: wouldn’t you agree a key provision is to make sure when an employee gets hurt, they get immediate treatment and an employer denies that treatment at great peril? Jordan: you’re exactly correct.
Virgin: if an employer opts out, what system governs their insurance or worker’s comp claims? Jordan: It’s governed by state law. Each employer has to have an ERISA system in place and an appeals process. Ultimately there’s the court system. Virgin: currently state law governs all Worker’s Comp claims and if there’s an opt out ERISA federal law takes over? Jordan: yes and no, We’re putting the provisions into state law. They can sue in state court. Virgin: what if an employer goes bankrupt? Jordan: they will have to have a bond with the insurance Department
Ownbey: does this let the employer opt out completely? Jordan: it’s up to the employer to develop a plan, but that plan has to have the minimum coverages outlined in the bill. Ownbey: is there a requirement that an employer carry any insurance? Jordan: there is a requirement that they carry insurance.
Morgan: so there will be two sets of systems, one in District Court and the other the Worker’s Comp court? Jordan: yes. Morgan: who determines the jurisdiction? Jordan: depends on the rules for civil procedure. Could be where the injury occurred or where the employee lives or where the business is located. Morgan: the Insurance Commissioner determines the bond amount, but what if a mistake is made? Jordan: I don’t think the commissioner will put such a small bond amount on this. Under the current system, companies can go bankrupt and not pay. We have to have assurances the commissioner will do the right thing.
Kern: we passed a Worker’s Comp bill last year and I’ve been told we shouldn’t pass this, that we should let the reforms from last year have time to do their work. Jordan: This entirely new system is going to be used by companies that qualify. So the reforms we passed last year will still apply to that system.
Stiles: in Texas the ruling is that employers can move the cases to federal court of which few attorneys are licensed. Jordan: That is a possibility, but I can’t speak to what will happen in each case.
Inman: I talked with Gov Fallin at the beginning of session and she was thrilled that we came together last year to support the Worker’s Comp bill. She says we need to let it run its course and have no other Worker’s Comp bills this year. Why should we fly in the face of the governor and tinker with this? Jordan: with respect to the Governor, the legislature is supposed to do what it thinks is right and so far, the House, Senate and now the House again thinks this is a good idea. I hope the reforms we did last year work. This is about doing better for the worker. Inman: you make this sound like a rosy scenario. It makes me wonder why we create a special class for certain businesses. Understanding how insurance works, the more people in the pool, the better the rates. So would this not raise worker’s comp rates for the companies left behind? Jordan: you’re taking out the large, heavy claim companies out of the system, so in theory, rates for those left should go down.
Steele: would you be surprised to know that for the last four weeks, the Senate and Governor and I have talked about this issue? Jordan: I believe that.
Proctor: some companies can opt out and others can’t, right? Jordan: that’s right. Proctor: so does this provide an unfair advantage for some companies over others? Jordan: no because these companies are claim-heavy. Proctor: so do you think the Governor will veto this like she vetoed my bill on the argument that it gave some companies an unfair advantage? Jordan: I can’t speak for the Governor, but I would hope not.
Terrill: you may have employees in same or similar industries where one employer has opted out and another hasn’t so where is the rational basis argument for that? Jordan: by having benefits greater than or equal to Worker’s Comp benefits it meets the standard. Terrill: does a government agency meet the definition of an employer that can opt out? Jordan: I don’t believe so. Plus ERISA benefits are not available to government entities.
Kouplen: this is over my head. I don’t understand much about it. If this is so great, why not have this for everyone? Jordan: that’s something that could happen way down the road. But the businesses that choose to opt out have to have experience in Worker’s Comp cases. This is to get the ball rolling and see how it works.
Reynolds: how many House bills have come back for us to vote on? Jordan: I believe this is the first. Reynolds: why do this today when we have all these Senate bills that have to be run by tomorrow? Jordan: The Speaker obviously thought it was important enough to bring up today.
Stiles: I swore I heard you say ‘we need to get the ball rolling and see how this works.’ Don’t you think that’s a dangerous precedent to set? Jordan: Don’t you think that’s what we do with every law we pass?
Inman: one can assume these employers have not created a safe working environment to prevent injuries, right? Jordan: I disagree. Many workplaces are dangerous situations. We’re not talking about saving a buck at the expense of the worker, it’s about getting the worker treated so he can get back on the job.
J. McDaniel: is Texas the only other state that’s done this? Jordan: they’re the only state with a complete opt out. But this is a better bill. We’ll be breaking ground and setting the standard.
Blackwell: we have until sine die to hear this. Why are we doing it today? Jordan: I don’t know.
Blackwell: if this is such a great system, why not apply it to all? Jordan: this is a new program that’s never been tried before, so we want companies with experience, knowledge and manpower to do it right and then we can expand it.
Virgin: you stated we wouldn’t give up local control, but the case will most likely go to federal court, so explain how that’s not giving up local control? Jordan: what’s the definition of local control? You have OK statutes governing this. You have OK employers sending workers to OK doctors. The first court after all administrative remedies is district court. Yes, it could then go to federal court, we’re not hiding that. Virgin: what happens if the bond runs out?
Morrissette: this language has never gotten a hearing in committee so the public would have access? Jordan: correct.
Terrill: you aren’t disputing that this will be for very large businesses, right? Jordan: no. it’s possible there’s a mom and pop outfit that could qualify and they’re free to do so.
Morgan: I’m confused as to who determines the extent of care the employee would get. Jordan: the administrator along with health care providers.
McCullough: there is no disguising that this is a fundamental change to not just our Worker’s Comp system but the nation, right? Jordan: correct. McCullough: so wouldn’t you agree that necessarily there are questions as to the constitutionality, how it will be administered, and that there’s no way of predicting how that will happen? Jordan: correct
Inman: the body was told that whatever was on the books in current Worker’s Comp laws will be in effect here and that’s patently false. ERISA standards are far inferior to OK Worker’s Comp law so can you show me where what you said exists in the bill? Jordan: it doesn’t say that exactly, but if you look at the requirements you’ll see they are greater.
Stiles: wouldn’t you agree that the Senate heard the Speaker’s criminal justice bill about 30-seconds before we heard this one? Jordan: I have no idea what was going on in the Senate.
McCullough: adopt the amendments so we can move the bill forward. It’s an original, groundbreaking effort. All of the benefits are included, internal and external appeals methods, reduces need for litigation, provides more protections to employees to get benefits. There are many who have a vested interest in the current system. Instead of chasing a check, we’re going in the opposite direction.
Brown: not many of you have to write that check to worker’s comp. but I’ve done that for 37 years. I know what it’s like to pay a claim and have a fraud case against you. But when you reduce the pool, you hurt small employers. I hope we don’t drive companies underground where they operate without insurance because that’s the worst thing we can do. Send it back. You can always have a bill to work on. This is an awful big bite and big chance we’re taking.
Steele: this is an issue we’ve all campaigned on. The number one issue for job growth is Worker’s Comp. No one thinks the current system can’t be improved. This is a game-changer so we can create a job environment that is healthy.
Morrissette: this bill has not been fully vetted. This is a special interest bill, pure and simple. This was written by big business and special interests. When I ran for office, no one in my district mentioned this. If you want to get rid of the Worker’s comp system, just do it and make it quick. If insurance costs are the problem, why don’t we address insurance premium issues? This was a political exchange. There’s a bill over there by the Speaker that got heard in exchange for this garbage.
Speaker: I believe my integrity and motives have been impugned. There has been no exchange. It’s simply not true.
Morrissette: let’s not play politics with the lives of the men and women that get injured on the job. I don’t think the majority – I’m not even sure I do – understand what’s going on here.
Jordan: We keep calling this the opt-out bill. That’s not the case. The more appropriate term is alternative coverage. OK is ranked 47th in the country for Worker’s Comp. no wonder we have trouble getting businesses to come here. This may not be perfect. But we need to take a bold step forward. Let’s be a ground-breaking state.
Senate amendments pass 35-31
McDaniel moves to advance the question. Terrill moves to table that motion.
Motion to table is approved.
Virgin: I wouldn’t debate if I didn’t feel strongly about this. I can’t let you believe ERISA is good for workers – it is not. Ask anyone who practices in insurance law and they will tell you it emboldens employers to deny benefits. The mployer is going to remove the case to federal court because they have the advantage there. The author says we have to do something because we’re 47th in the state. What about all the other areas we’re 47th in? We’re 49th in public health funding, but there are no bills on that. We only care about this issue because there are certain interests behind it. We are 48th in mental health spending. Why don’t we address that?
Sherrer: maybe 3 weeks ago I attended an event in the Gov’s conference room where a big company made a big announcement about spending a half-billion in investment. The Sec of state talked about the great advancements in the business climate. Then the Governor talked about the great climate we have for business. I believe we have a good climate which is why a big company came in for round 2 of investment. The Worker’s Comp system is NOT “bleeding employers dry.”
Stiles: this is not a statement against the Chamber. It seems my job here is to sit down and shut my mouth. But I told my wife that I’m not going to practice that after getting misled on tort reform. This is an opportunity for all of us to regain our principles. This bill picks winners and losers. It only allows a few corporations to opt out. That’s why the NFIB is against this bill. We need Worker’s Comp reform. We need tax reform, too, but this is like exempting the top 1% from tax. I campaigned that I’m against Obamacare. This remedy will be in federal court every time. If you vote for this you’ll be portrayed as supporting ObamaComp. Texas’ Worker’s Comp has been opt-out since 1917, how many other states have adopted it?
Terrill: this is the most colossal step backwards since the early 1900’s. The current system is complex and lengthy. This isn’t Worker’s Comp reform, it’s Worker’s Comp deform. This is a direct attack on state’s rights. It allows employers to opt out and ERISA takes over. We’re federalizing our Worker’s Comp system. This violates the state constitution against special legislation.
McCullough: I appreciate the passion my colleagues are speaking with. Whenever we approach significant change, there is risk and we begin to react. Our minds want to find an easy way to resolve something that is very difficult. Our complex problem is balancing the liability of employers with the needs of workers. In OK, it’s a very expensive system where the employee’s needs are not being met. I’ve tried to see what the core problems are and reasonable solutions to them. I’ve supported opt-out for years. I’ve consistently believed it could work. There’s no template for this, so you do the best you can. Thousands of people are covered by ERISA. There is a built-in mechanism for the employer to not want to go to court.
Morgan: when Speaker Hiett and Fred Morgan brought the most comprehensive Worker’s Comp bill ever and said we’d save millions I said we wouldn’t. And we didn’t. Now I’m seeing it all over again. The problem is, we’re not shooting at the right target. I pay more in Worker’s Comp than anyone in this building. If you want to see where the costs are, look at the reports. Claims are down, but our workforce is older so it takes them longer to heal. We can’t solve that with this bill.
Steele: no one debating hasn’t admitted that the Worker’s Comp system isn’t in need of reform. This is about competition, options, increased efficiencies and services. This increases chances of a worker getting services in a timely manner. It introduces competition into the system. There are people who expect someone to fix the problem and some who will roll up their sleeves and work on the solution. Where are the suggestions to fix the system? They’re here in this bill. I’ve been told by NFIB they do not oppose this bill.
Inman: I appreciate the time offered to ask questions. This is special legislation for special businesses proven to hurt their employees more than anyone else in the state. Do you see a problem with that? How many times do people have to get hurt before you fix the system not at the courthouse but the job site? The Speaker said no one has admitted the system is great and he’s right. He asked where the solution is and I’ll tell you: last year a 220-page bill passed this body 88-8. The Governor called it a fine piece of legislation. The solution was voted for a year ago. The big folks asking for this bill were asking us last year for that bill. Are you kidding me? They told us last year that bill was so great and now they want us to change it. Let’s run down the reasons this is a bad deal: we’re told it has to maintain current standards of coverage, but that’s wrong. There’s nothing that minimum standards have to be what’s in statute now. This is a reduction of benefits for employees, period. In this legislation, these special folks now want to go back to the courthouse. Do you think it’s because they will pay more? No, ERISA is so difficult for the worker, injured employees will get the screws put to them. What about those left behind who have to pay Worker’s Comp rates? We’re told this is fantastic, but only a few folks can take advantage of it. Really? All of their comp rates are going to go up.
Jordan: we’ve just crossed the 2.5 hour mark. I don’t know I could say anything to change your mind at this point. You can spin it any way you want, but it’s not going to solve anything. OK is 47th in the country in Worker’s Comp costs, but we want businesses to come here? We need to do something revcolutionary, plow new ground. We can’t give you answers to every scenario. But what I can tell you is it’s an honest effort to fix the broken system. First, it gets the workers the care they need faster. There are no doctor-shopping issues. It’s about getting the injured worker fixed and back to work. The Worker’s Comp system in OK is about hitting the lottery to see how big of a check you can get at the end of the day. There will be less litigation. The chance of getting to court is very slim. I think the right choice is putting OK at the forefront of Worker’s Comp reform.
Bill fails 42-50
Reynolds motion: suspend House Rules to bring SB1433 to the Floor immediately
Chair: which rule? Reynolds: 9.10a sorry, that’s 9.2
Chair: House precedent says has to be scheduled through the Floor Leader so the motion is not in order.
Terrill point of order: he’s not challenging a ruling, he’s asking to suspend the rules. Chair: it’s custom of the House to schedule this through the Floor Leader. Terrill: you’re creating a Catch-22 where you can never get a bill to the Floor around the Floor Leader.
Reynolds: we’ve adopted new rules for this session and you’re applying precedents from a previous session. I challenge your ability to do that. Chair: the rules in this area have not changed so we can still rely on those precedents. Reynolds: and the rule you’re relying on to schedule things through the Floor Leader is…? Chair: it’s the custom of the House.
Terrill: Is a suspension of the Rules in order at any point after the fact? Chair: if a member wants to make a proper motion, the Floor Leader has to do that. But new business would not be a proper motion.
Reynolds: I object the ruling of the Chair. Chair: requires 15 standing seconds. I don’t see 15 standing seconds. (challenge fails for a lack of standing seconds)
Christian: would a motion to vacate the Chair have to be run through the Floor Leader? Chair: yes it would.
Floor leader: move to allow the Senate to adjourn for more than three days in a row.
Motion passes 54-17
Reconsideration of HJR1119 by Armes
Motion passes 52-31
Resolution passes 57-32
Reconsideration of HJR1116 by Liebmann
Reynolds: how much money does ODOT spend on artwork and wouldn’t that far exceed the amount we’re talking about here? Liebmann: I believe that’s 1%. Reynolds: isn’t it optional for highway projects? Liebmann: I do not know that.
Motion to reconsider passes 56-16
Resolution passes 63-23
SB1439 by Kirby
Bill passes 76-10