Monday, January 23, 2012

“Oklahoma All Payer All Provider Claims Database Act”

“Oklahoma All Payer All Provider Claims Database Act”

SB1005 instructs the Insurance Department to develop policy regarding the collection of health care data and is authorized to share information and data with Oklahoma universities as well as other state public agencies for the purposes of conducting research, policy analysis and preparation of reports describing the performance of the health care delivery system from public, private and quasi-public entities.
The Department may contract with an organization experienced in health care data collection to collect the data from the health care payers and administrators in order to build and maintain the database.
The following entities shall file health care data with the Insurance Department as prescribed by the Department:
1.  State-regulated commercial group insurance plans;
2.  Employer-sponsored plans; and
3.  Third-party administrators.
There are privacy and security standards and concerns with such a database, we have seen in other states and with the federal government’s idea to create such a database. The bill is in its early stages and is rather vague on the data to be collected and to who will have access to the data.

Legislation Would Require Online-Only Retailers to Charge Sales Tax

OKLAHOMA CITY (January 23, 2011) – Legislation authored by state Rep. Pat Ownbey would level the playing field between “brick and mortar” businesses and online-only companies.
House Bill 2586 updates Oklahoma statute to define what constitutes a “physical presence” to ensure the definition includes businesses that are based in the state, but do not have a physical storefront.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that businesses who have a physical presence in the state are required to charge sales tax,” Ownbey, R-Ardmore, said. “My legislation clarifies what that physical presence means so that companies understand what they owe and cities and towns receive the sales tax they are due.”
Online-only retailers should be commended when they cut out costs and overhead, but should not be allowed a tax advantage,” Ownbey said.
“Brick and mortar retail businesses that have e-commerce sites are required to collect sales tax online at the point of purchase,” Ownbey said. “Meanwhile, online-only retailers with a presence in the state are not required to collect sales taxes. This creates an unfair advantage of one business over another in our law. This legislation would help level the playing field so that all businesses charge the same tax for the same product purchased by the same consumer.
“If an online-only retailer can beat other Oklahoma retailers on price because they’ve figured out a way to cut out supply chain costs, cut overhead and reduce labor or other costs – that’s fine, it’s the American way. But competition requires a level playing field and current law is putting its thumb on the scale in favor of online-only retailers and that only hurts Oklahoma’s top job creators – small businesses.”  

OK Texting and driving bill

Senate Bill 1027 states that no person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a public road or highway of this state while using a wireless telecommunication device to write, send, or read a text-based communication.  A person shall not be deemed to be writing, reading, or sending a text message if the person reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in a wireless telecommunication device for the purpose of making a telephone call.
Exemptions are any law enforcement officer, firefighter, or operator of an authorized emergency vehicle while engaged in the actual performance of official duties;
An operator of a moving motor vehicle using a wireless telecommunication device to:
A.            report illegal activity,
B.            summon medical or other emergency help,
C.            prevent injury to a person or property,
D.            relay information between a transit or for-hire operator and that operator's dispatcher, in which the device is permanently affixed to the vehicle, or
E.            navigate using a global positioning system; or
A physician or other health care provider using a wireless telecommunication device to communicate with a hospital, health clinic or the office of the physician, or to otherwise provide for the health care of an individual or medical emergency through a text-based communication.
The first violation is punishable by a fine of not more than $175.00. Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $500.00.
Any violation of this law will constitute a moving violation.  A law enforcement officer shall enforce the provisions of this section only as a secondary action and shall not stop a motor vehicle solely for failure to comply with this section.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Broad Coalition of State Lawmakers Team Up to Phase Out Income Tax

OKLAHOMA CITY (January 20, 2011) – A coalition of state lawmakers announced today they have filed legislation to phase out Oklahoma’s personal income tax in such a way that the state would have the lowest overall tax burden in the continental United States.
The lawmakers said their proposal, while still a work in progress, would phase out the personal income tax in a responsible manner over 10 years and would not necessitate raising other tax rates or cutting funding to core services currently provided by state government.
“Our goal is to transform Oklahoma into the best place to do business, the best place to live, find a quality job, raise a family and retire in all of the United States. Not just better than average, but the very best,” said Rep. Leslie Osborn, one of 23 members of the state House of Representatives who have signed on as principal authors of House Bill 3038.
“In the past decade, Oklahoma has made great leaps toward becoming a more prosperous state with a more vibrant economy,” Osborn said. “Now, we should take the final steps to guarantee that people can keep more of the fruits of their labor in Oklahoma than they can anywhere else.”
The coalition of 23 House members — which equates to over one-fifth of that legislative body — consists of representatives, both rural and urban, from all four quadrants of the state.
While Oklahoma has moved up in recent years from being one of the poorest states in the nation to now beating the national average in many economic indicators, the authors of the bill believe it is important to continue lowering Oklahoma’s tax burden.
“The personal income tax is still our biggest dis-incentive in Oklahoma to work and produce at a higher level, to relocate a company to Oklahoma or start up a new one here, to create jobs, to pursue a better job, and to save and invest,” said Rep. Tom Newell, another author of the bill.
“These are the things that drive a state’s economy. When we remove the barriers preventing people from engaging in these kinds of activities, we empower individual Oklahomans of all income levels to pursue a new level of prosperity for themselves and their families, which leads to increased prosperity for our state as a whole.”
Without the state personal income tax, the average Oklahoma family of four would save over $1,300 a year, and the average individual filer would save nearly $1,000 annually.
“That’s a pretty decent pay raise for most Oklahomans,” said Rep. Charles Ortega, also a principal author of the legislation. “That extra income will give Oklahomans greater economic freedom, and our improved business climate and improved job market here in Oklahoma will give them a better shot at achieving the American dream.”
The proposal would not require raising or expanding any other existing tax rates, such as property or sales taxes, nor would it require introducing any new forms of taxation.
Should the state personal income tax be phased out in this manner, Oklahoma would have the lowest overall tax burden in the continental United States. Of the 50 states, only Alaska would have a lower tax burden.
“We shouldn't raise a tax to cut a tax,” said Rep. Jason Murphey, another of the bill’s sponsors.
“A rising tide lifts all boats. When the government has the courage to use tax reform to allow its residents to keep their money, that money will be used to provide jobs and economic activity. This expands the tax base and makes even more tax reform possible.”
Oklahoma already has a low cost of living compared to most states. By pairing this attribute with the lowest overall tax burden of the lower 48 states and other pro-growth reforms made by Oklahoma policymakers in recent years, the state would have one of the best economic climates in the nation, sponsors said.
Current efforts in Kansas, Missouri and elsewhere to eliminate personal income taxes in those states may serve as additional motivation for Oklahoma to do the same.
“Now is the time for Oklahomans to take a bold, transformational step toward increased prosperity and greater opportunity,” said Rep. David Derby, another author of the legislation.
“By making Oklahoma a no-income-tax state, we will have put together a winning recipe for business investment, new job opportunities and economic growth in Oklahoma.”
By phasing out the personal income tax over a full 10 years, state government entities would be given ample time to make adjustments, and growth revenue from other revenue sources would support core state services such as education, transportation, public safety, and the safety net for the truly needy.
As the phase-out took effect, the increased economic activity within Oklahoma’s borders would result in a broadening of the tax base and increased tax collections overall.
"In the past decade, states without a personal income tax outpaced Oklahoma in economic growth and job creation," said Rep. David Brumbaugh, himself a principal author on the bill. "Those states also doubled Oklahoma’s rate of state and local tax revenue growth. Basically, as those states attracted productive individuals, those individuals gave more to state and local governments through sales and property taxes and the like."
Rep. Harold Wright, also a member of the coalition sponsoring the bill, said, "Even though this bill is still a work in progress, I think all of us are united in our desire to find a way to responsibly phase out Oklahoma's income tax.
"For many of us, lowering the tax burden for our fellow Oklahomans was one of the key issues that inspired us to run for office in the first place. We know the benefits for our state will be significant and that we can achieve our goal and still maintain the core services Oklahomans utilize every day."
The 23 initial primary authors of HB 3038 are, in alphabetical order:

Rep. Don Armes, Faxon
Rep. Gus Blackwell, Goodwell
Rep. David Brumbaugh, Broken Arrow
Rep. Josh Cockroft, Tecumseh
Rep. Marian Cooksey, Edmond
Rep. Lee Denney, Cushing
Rep. David Derby, Owasso
Rep. George Faught, Muskogee
Rep. Randy Grau, Edmond
Rep. Elise Hall, Oklahoma City
Rep. Corey Holland, Marlow
Rep. Mike Jackson, Enid
Rep. Dan Kirby, Tulsa
Rep. Randy McDaniel, Oklahoma City
Rep. Glen Mulready, Tulsa
Rep. Jason Murphey, Guthrie
Rep. Tom Newell, Seminole
Rep. Charles Ortega, Altus
Rep. Leslie Osborn, Mustang
Rep. Mike Sanders, Kingfisher
Rep. Sue Tibbs, Tulsa
Rep. Steve Vaughan, Ponca City
Rep. Harold Wright, Weatherford

Senators introduce 'Laffer Plan' to phase out income tax

Four first-term Senators have jointly filed a bill to implement the plan proposed by legendary economist Dr. Arthur Laffer to phase out the Oklahoma income tax.
SB 1587 is authored by Senators David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, Greg Treat R-Oklahoma City, Rob Johnson, R-Oklahoma City, and Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate. It would lower the Oklahoma income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 2.25 percent in 2013, and then gradually lower it until the rate is zero in 2022.
"We hope that by introducing the Laffer Plan, we're ensuring that its ultimate goals remain part of the debate, not just this year, but beyond," Holt said. "All four of us recognize that this bill is just the beginning of a conversation, and it's not presented as a final product. We are committed to making sure Oklahoma's government delivers on its core missions, but we also cannot ignore the economic growth happening in states without income tax."
The first reduction in the income tax rate is paid for by cuts in nonessential spending, along with the elimination of most personal tax credits, exemptions, deductions and exclusions. Further reductions in the rate are paid for by natural revenue growth and dynamic economic growth that would occur as a result of the initial reduction. It would not be necessary to cut core services or increase any other tax rates, including property and sales tax.
The legislation introduced by the four senators is based largely on a study conducted in late 2011 by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and Arduin, Laffer & Moore (ALM), the econometrics firm co-founded by economist Dr. Arthur Laffer, once a key advisor to President Ronald Reagan. OCPA and ALM demonstrated in the study that states without personal income tax tend to enjoy economic growth that far surpasses the states that levy a personal income tax.
The full report on the Laffer Plan can be found at:

Legislation filed to ensure assaults of children are reported to police

Legislation filed to ensure assaults of children are reported to police

Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, has filed Senate Bill 1312. The measure makes it a crime if a person witnesses the sexual assault of child but fails to report the incident to police.
“In Oklahoma, if you witness a child being molested, you are required to report it to the Department of Human Services,” Marlatt said. “That simply isn’t enough. Until the perpetrator is arrested, there’s nothing to stop him from abusing that child or seeking out other victims. My legislation would require the person witnessing such a crime to call the police or local sheriff.”
According to the bill, failure of a witness to report the incident to law enforcement will result in a felony if convicted.
Any employer, supervisor, or administrator who discharges, discriminates or retaliates against the employee or other person shall be liable for damages, costs and attorney fees.
Any person who knowingly and willfully makes a false report or a report that the person knows lacks factual foundation may be reported to local law enforcement for criminal investigation and, upon conviction thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Studies indicate that as many as one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood, although most experts agree that the great majority of child sexual assaults are never reported. The emotional scars from child sexual abuse can last a lifetime.
“There have been too many stories in the media about institutions being more interested in protecting their reputation at all costs—even if it means turning a blind eye to something as terrible as the sexual abuse of children,” Marlatt said. “I cannot imagine someone failing to come to the aid of a child in such a circumstance—but if that happens, my bill would make sure the adult who witnesses the crime and fails to act is held accountable.”
Marlatt’s legislation will be considered when the 2012 session convenes in February.

American Indian Cultural Center and Museum Funding

Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, today filed legislation that would allow Oklahoma voters to decide whether the state should take on an additional $40 million in debt to fund the completion of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM) in Oklahoma City.
AICCM, a state agency, last year requested a $40 million bond to complete construction of the facility. If approved, the bond would have brought the state’s total investment in the project to $107 million, all of which has been funded through bond issues.
“If the Legislature is going to consider obligating Oklahomans to another $40 million in debt on a non-essential function of state government, the taxpayers of this state should at the very least be given an opportunity to have their voices heard,” said Treat. “While I’m personally opposed to the state going further into debt, I think it would be wise for state leaders to make a decision on this issue as early as possible in the upcoming legislative session. The Legislature should be focused on more serious concerns, like eliminating waste and finding ways to make government more efficient, lowering the tax burden for Oklahomans and pursuing reform in the Department of Human Services.”
Treat noted a 2008 press release from AICCM indicated no more state money would be required for completion of the facility. The release was issued a day after the Legislature approved a $25 million bond for the project. However, the executive director of AICCM was recently quoted as saying the agency needed an additional $80 million to complete the cultural center, with the hope that the state would provide $40 million of the total amount required.
Oklahoma’s fiscal year 2012 bond debt payment on the project is $5,459,118. Treat said that if approved by the Legislature, an additional $40 million bond issue would increase debt payments on the project by approximately $3.5 million, pushing annual obligations as high as $9 million.
“I applaud recent comments by AICCM’s new executive director indicating a renewed interest in private fundraising by the agency,” Treat said. “Given that they are now making a concerted effort in that regard, I’m confident they’ll have continued success raising money. I’m simply proposing an alternative to the Legislature arbitrarily burdening Oklahomans with an additional $40 million in debt on this project.”

Bills filed to deter public assistance fraud

Every year, millions of taxpayer dollars are doled out to help Oklahoma families in need through public assistance programs. Some of these funds are given to individuals through fraudulent means who do not qualify for them. Sen. Josh Brecheen plans to help address some of the waste through two bills filed this week.
"Public assistance fraud costs our state millions of dollars each year. That is money that could be used for other vital state services like education or public safety," said Brecheen, R-Coalgate. "As legislators and public citizens, it's our duty to be good stewards of tax dollars and these bills will help ensure that money is only given to families who qualify for the funds and desperately need them."
SB 1010 is an effort to remind citizens about an existing program that provides financial incentives to those who report Medicaid fraud. The Oklahoma Medicaid False Claims Acts provides that any person who reports a false claim made under the Medicaid program may be entitled to receive between 15 and 25 percent of the recovered amount. The bill calls for posting signs at all county Department of Human Services (DHS) offices to remind them of the incentive program. The sign would include the hotline citizens can call (800) 784-5887 to report fraud.
SB 1011 would authorize DHS to conduct random drug testing for those enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which is the cash assistance program formerly known as “welfare”. The federal program provides up to five years of support in meeting basic needs, job training, employment services and childcare assistance for qualified families with children.
Currently, in Oklahoma, all applicants for TANF benefits are screened for substance abuse using a written questionnaire. If there is an indication of possible substance abuse, the individual is referred to a contracted treatment provider who conducts a more extensive evaluation that may include a urine test. If there is a recommendation for treatment, that service is incorporated in the self-sufficiency plan. Compliance with the self-sufficiency plan is required by all adult TANF recipients to continue to receive the TANF benefit.
“Over 21,000 Oklahoma families enrolled in the TANF program last year. The point behind this bill is not to harass those recipients but simply to prevent any abuse of the system. Currently, individuals are only drug tested if their answers on the questionnaire raise suspicion at DHS. But it’s easy to lie and mislead DHS when caseworkers aren’t meeting face to face with these families on a regular basis, if ever,” said Brecheen. “If applicants have a drug or alcohol problem that has led them to need government assistance, of course they’re going to lie on the questionnaire and do all they can to prevent DHS from finding out why they can’t get or keep a job. By blindly giving them free money we’re not helping solve the problem, we’re just further enabling these individuals. We need to help these people get treatment for their addiction.”
There are three states that have passed TANF drug testing bills: Michigan, Florida, and Missouri. The Michigan and Florida laws were challenged and not upheld in court. The Missouri law is less restrictive and has not been challenged.
Brecheen pointed to the fact that six Senate bills in all have been filed on creating a random drug testing program for TANF recipients showing what an important issue this is to legislators and their constituents.

Bill proposes garnishing personal income tax refunds to pay public housing authority debt

A bill filed Thursday could help public housing authorities collect debts owed to them by tenants. Senate Bill 1019, by Sen. Earl Garrison and Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, would allow public housing authorities to file claims with the Oklahoma Tax Commission to deduct debts owed to them from tenants’ personal income tax refunds.
“Rent in public housing is based on one’s income so there is no excuse to not to be able to pay it yet every month housing authorities around the state are left holding the bill when tenants skip out on their rent. A majority of those properties are also usually damaged leaving landlords with even more expenses to cover,” said Garrison, D-Muskogee. “This bill would help housing authorities be able to recover at least some of their losses by garnishing people’s personal income tax refunds.”
State agencies, municipal courts and district courts currently collect debts, unpaid fines and costs of final judgments of at least $50 from personal income tax refunds through the Warrant Intercept Program. SB 1019 would allow housing authorities to participate in the program.
Under the proposed bill, a public housing authority would send notice to the debtor’s last known mailing address letting them know that their debt would be collected from their income tax refund. The debtor would have sixty days to contest the claim by sending a written request to the public housing authority requesting a hearing. If the debtor failed to apply for a hearing within that time period, the debt would be collected from the refund.
SB 1019 was requested by the Muskogee Housing Authority and is supported by the state chapter of the “National Association of Housing and Redevelopment”. J.D. Foster, the Executive Director of the Muskogee Housing Authority, said passage of SB 1019 would help housing authorities around the state recoup some of their financial losses.
“People who receive assistance like that given to them by housing authorities should be responsible for their rent and any intentional damages they cause, but unfortunately many tenants are not and it causes a tremendous financial burden for housing authorities,” said Foster. “Sadly, when people skip out on their rent or damage property, it not only hurts the authority, it also takes away opportunities for other families in need of housing assistance. Being able to recoup our losses will ensure that we’re able to continue to help as many Oklahoma families as possible.”
There are 107 housing authorities throughout Oklahoma.
Over the years, the Tulsa Housing Authority has accrued just over $5.5 million in outstanding debt due to unpaid rent and damages. During 2010 and 2011 alone, the Oklahoma City Housing Authority has a combined outstanding debt of $575,000.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Coates: Mississippi controversy highlights need to remove governor from parole process

Coates: Mississippi controversy highlights need to remove governor from parole process
On his way out the door, Gov. Haley Barbour approved full pardons for nearly 200 people, including 14 convicted murderers, according to documents the Mississippi secretary of state's office released Tuesday.
A Mississippi judge Wednesday evening issued a temporary injunction forbidding the release of any more prisoners pardoned or given clemency by outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour, whose actions created uproar.
The pardons include four convicted murderers and a convicted armed robber who were released Sunday. The five now must contact prison officials on a daily basis as their fate is adjudicated.
The pardons are "a slap in the face to everyone in law enforcement and Gov. Barbour should be ashamed," said state Attorney General Jim Hood.
Oklahoma Legislative Reaction
After a Mississippi judge this week blocked the release of 21 inmates pardoned by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Oklahoma Sen. Harry Coates on Thursday pointed to the resulting controversy as a textbook example of why Oklahoma should remove the governor from the parole process.
While the Legislature in 2011 approved a measure to remove the governor from the parole process for most nonviolent crimes, Coates has filed a bill to remove the governor completely from the process. Senate Joint Resolution 46 would send the issue to a vote of the people.
“Given the numerous responsibilities of the office, it makes little sense that the governor also be burdened by involvement in the parole process,” said Coates, R-Seminole. “The current controversy in Mississippi highlights the potential drawbacks associated with having a governor in this position. This is a common sense effort to mitigate any such risks by allowing the qualified and experienced members of the Pardon and Parole Board the opportunity to determine the best course of action in each case.”
Coates noted that if his measure was approved, the governor would still exert significant authority over the Pardon and Parole Board, retaining the authority to appoint a majority of its membership.
“Relieving the governor of this responsibility will give our state’s chief executive more time to focus on her agenda for economic development and job growth,” he said.

President’s rejection of Keystone project

“Media reports of the president's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline confirms what Oklahomans already know: Obama cares more about his re-election prospects than our nation's energy independence and the hundreds of thousands of jobs this project would create.
“Pandering to far-left environmentalists might please the president's friends at, but it won't help relieve the glut of crude oil in Cushing, won't create jobs for Oklahomans, and certainly won't make America's energy future secure." Pro Tem Bingman said in a statement on the President’s rejection of Keystone project .
The Obama administration today formally rejected a bid by Canadian energy company TransCanada to build a $7 billion oil pipeline linking the tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
The Keystone XL project, which was estimated to create thousands of U.S. jobs, became an election-year lightning rod, embroiling President Obama, congressional Republicans, labor unions and interest groups in a heated debate over jobs and the environment.

Newberry files debt reduction proposal

Sen. Dan Newberry has filed legislation aimed at reducing Oklahoma’s long term fiscal burden by guaranteeing a percentage of spillover funding is dedicated toward paying the state’s pension liability debt.
Senate Bill 1264 would take effect after the state’s Rainy Day Fund is full. The measure would then ensure that 33 percent of any spillover funding is applied toward the reduction of pension liability debt. Once pension liability is funded at 80 percent, the same percentage of spillover funding would be dedicated to reducing the state’s bonded indebtedness.
“Faced with budget shortfalls, the Legislature in recent years has streamlined state government and reduced waste,” said Newberry, R-Tulsa. “With recovery on the horizon, it only makes sense that we also focus on assuring the long-term fiscal viability of state government. With capital fleeing other states that have failed to control their long-term debts, it’s important we take action to prevent such a scenario.”
Newberry noted that while recent reforms have set the state on a path toward long-term fiscal stability, his proposal would further strengthen Oklahoma’s retirement systems.
“In order to assure our long-term economic health, we must reduce our debt,” Newberry said. “When debt grows, taxes grow. We want to grow jobs and one of the nation’s strongest economies. Proposals like this are an important part of that effort.”
Rep. Randy McDaniel said pension reform will protect Oklahoma from the financial problems many other states have faced.
“Reducing our pension liability debt is critical to ensure the long-term viability of the state pension system,” said McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City. “This legislation ensures that we take care of our past obligations before new spending proposals are considered.”

Flawed SOPA Bill Not Headed to House Floor

OGR hearing planned for Wednesday postponed following assurances, removal of DNS provisions

Washington, DC – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa today announced that a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, which was to examine the impact of Domain Name Service (DNS) and search engine blocking on the Internet, has been postponed following assurances that anti-piracy legislation will not move to the House floor this Congress without a consensus.
"While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House.  Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote,” said Chairman Issa.  “The voice of the Internet community has been heard. Much more education for Members of Congress about the workings of the Internet is essential if anti-piracy legislation is to be workable and achieve broad appeal.”
"Earlier tonight, Chairman Smith announced that he will remove the DNS blocking provision from his legislation.  Although SOPA, despite the removal of this provision, is still a fundamentally flawed bill, I have decided that postponing the scheduled hearing on DNS blocking with technical experts is the best course of action at this time. Right now, the focus of protecting the Internet needs to be on the Senate where Majority Leader Reid has announced his intention to try to move similar legislation in less than two weeks."
Chairman Issa intends to continue to push for Congress to heed the advice of Internet experts on anti-piracy legislation and to push for the consideration and passage of the bipartisan OPEN Act, which provides an alternative means for protecting intellectual property rights without undermining the structure and entrepreneurialism of the Internet.  Learn more about Rep. Issa and Sen. Ron Wyden’s alternative the OPEN Act at
Lamar Smith, Representative from Texas said “After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision. We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers.
“Current law protects the rights of American innovators by prohibiting the illegal sale and distribution of their products by domestic websites.  But there is no equivalent protection for American companies from foreign online criminals who steal and sell American goods to consumers around the world. Congress must address the widespread problem of online theft of America’s technology and products from foreign thieves."
He also stated that said that he expects the Committee to continue its markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act in February. “I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to send a bipartisan bill to the White House that saves American jobs and protects intellectual property."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Health Insurance Options Now Available for Children

New Health Insurance Options Now Available for Children
Statewide open enrollment period ends Feb. 29

OKLAHOMA CITY – New health insurance options are now available for Oklahoma children age 1 through 18 who need their own individual policy. A special initial statewide enrollment period is open until Feb. 29 for these “child-only” policies. While coverage has always remained available for children through family insurance plans, child-only policies are needed for the small percentage of children who are without private coverage for the entire family and who don’t qualify for government programs.
“This is a great opportunity for parents and guardians looking to insure their children with child-only health insurance products,” said Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. “I am extremely pleased these policy options are now coming back to Oklahoma.”
The lack of child-only policies in the Oklahoma marketplace was an unintended consequence of the federal Affordable Care Act. Governor Fallin recently signed an emergency rule that enables insurance companies to offer these much-needed child-only products in the local marketplace. In addition to the special enrollment period from January 1 through February 29, the usual open enrollment period will run from June 1 through July 31 each year.
“This segment of the market is important, even though it is small,” said Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “For example, grandparents on Medicare might be guardians of their grandchild. While they don’t need a family health insurance policy, they do need an individual policy for that child.”
In response to this change in the marketplace, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma launched a new child-only health insurance policy: Blue PathwaySM. Additionally, CommunityCare Managed HealthCare Plans of Oklahoma will now offer child only coverage through its Individual Health Plan (IHP) policy options. The new policies provide coverage for children ages 1 through 18, when the child is the primary insured.
“It’s our desire that all children have health coverage in Oklahoma, and we believe there are coverage options for everyone,” said Bert Marshall, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma president. “Products like Blue Pathway will help Oklahoma take a major step in the right direction.”  The first effective date for Blue Pathway policies is Jan. 15. Complete information about Blue Pathway is available at or by calling 1-866-303-2583.
 CommunityCare is proud to have worked with the Governor’s office and the Oklahoma Department of Insurance to make individual health insurance options available to children in Oklahoma once again,” said Richard Todd, President and CEO of CommunityCare.  Information regarding CommunityCare’s Individual Health Plan (IHP) options for children is available by calling 1-877-321-0022.
As always, there are various public and private options available for Oklahoma children from birth to age 1. Options include family coverage through individual and employer group health plans, as well as coverage under the state and federal High Risk Pools. SoonerCare offers coverage for children who meet certain income qualifications. It also provides emergency coverage for newborns within a certain birth weight.

2011 Brought Improved Economic Health to Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s economy quickened the pace of its recovery during 2011, State Treasurer Ken Miller said today as he released the state’s monthly gross receipts report.
“December was 11.1 percent better than the prior year, the fourth quarter was 10.5 percent ahead of the final three months of 2010, and total year collections surpassed the previous year by 9.6 percent,” Miller said. “We saw healthy growth each month ranging from four to 16 percent with an average at the double-digit mark.”
Miller said December was the fifth time in the past eight months that collections rose by more than 10 percent over the prior year and marked the 22nd consecutive month of growth.
“Twelve-month collections now stand more than $1.3 billion higher than in February of 2010. Since we hit the trough almost two years ago, more than 68 percent of the revenue lost from our peak in December 2008 has been recovered,” he said.
Miller said sales tax collections indicate a happy holiday shopping season in Oklahoma. December collections, reflecting sales between mid-November and mid-December, were $20.42 million or 6.3 percent higher than the last Christmas shopping season.
Looking forward
National and state-specific forecasts point toward continued economic improvement.
Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data list Oklahoma with year-over-year employment growth of three percent, surpassing all surrounding states. The closest competitor was Texas with growth of 2.2 percent.
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report shows Oklahoma with the nation’s fourth lowest unemployment rate, adding jobs 3.5 times faster than the national rate in 2011.
During the past 12 months, figures from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and Bureau of Labor Statistics show the number of jobs grew by almost 16,500, while the labor force grew by just more than 3,000. During that time, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.9 percent to 6.1 percent.
Nationally, The Conference Board reports consumer confidence grew in December from the month before and now stands at levels not seen since April. Closer to home, the Creighton University Economic Forecasting Group anticipates Oklahoma in 2012 will have the second highest growth in gross state product in the nine-state Mid-America region at 4.6 percent. North Dakota is forecast to grow at 6.8 percent.
December collections
The revenue report for December shows gross collections at $960.81 million, up $95.9 million or 11.1 percent from December 2010.
Gross income tax collections, a combination of personal and corporate income taxes, generated $372.73 million, an increase of $82.08 million or 28.2 percent from the previous December.
Personal income tax collections for the month are $279.83 million, up $37.46 million or 15.5 percent from the prior year. Corporate collections are $92.9 million, an increase of $44.62 million or 92.4 percent.
Sales tax collections, including remittances on behalf of cities and counties, total $344.53 million in December. That is $20.42 million or 6.3 percent above December 2010.
Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas generated $71.41 million in December, a decrease of $5.01 million or 6.6 percent from last December. Compared to November reports, gross production collections are down by $3.87 million or 5.1 percent.
Motor vehicle taxes produced $59.58 million, up by $9.32 million or 18.5 percent from the prior year.
Other collections, consisting of about 60 different sources including taxes on fuel, tobacco, horse race gambling and alcoholic beverages, produced $112.56 million during the month. That is $10.92 million or 8.8 percent less than last December.
Fourth-quarter collections
The fourth quarter of 2011 generated $2.602 billion, an increase of $247.18 million or 10.5 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010.
Gross income tax collections totaled $883.45 million, up $140.83 million or 19 percent from the previous fourth quarter. Personal income tax collections generated $756.19 million, a $83.66 million or 12.4 percent increase. Corporate collections brought in $127.25 million, an increase of $57.17 million or 81.6 percent.
Sales taxes totaled $990.39 million for the quarter, an increase of $68.21 million or 7.4 percent from the same quarter of 2010.
Gross production taxes generated $215.05 million during the fourth quarter, down $7.31 million or 3.3 percent from fourth quarter of 2010.
Motor vehicle collections are $160.88 million for the quarter, up $20.86 million or 14.9 percent from the October-December period of 2010.
Collections from other sources totaled $352.08 million, up $24.6 million or 7.5 percent from 2010’s fourth quarter.
2011 collections
During 2011, gross revenue totals $10.681 billion. That is $938.55 million or 9.6 percent higher than collections in 2010.
Gross income taxes generated $3.709 billion for the year, reflecting an increase of $449.12 million or 13.8 percent from the prior calendar year.
Personal income tax collections total $3.193 billion, up by $280.16 million or 9.6 percent from 2010. Corporate collections are $515.77 million for the period, an increase of $168.95 million or 48.7 percent over the previous year.
Sales taxes for the period generated $3.841 billion, an increase of $262.61 million or 7.3 percent from the prior 12-months.
Oil and gas gross production tax collections brought in $1.037 billion during the 12 months, up by $91.72 million or 9.7 percent from the previous period.
Motor vehicle collections total $663.05 million for the period. This is an increase of $57.26 million or 9.5 percent from the trailing 12 months.
Other sources generated $1.432 billion, up $77.85 million or 5.7 percent from the previous calendar year.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

McDaniel Seeks to Stop Unemployment Benefit Fraud

OKLAHOMA CITY (January 10, 2012) – State Rep. Randy McDaniel has filed legislation intended to reduce fraud and abuse regarding unemployment benefits.
“It is important to keep unemployment insurance taxes as low as possible. One way to accomplish this goal is to mitigate deceptive practices,” said McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City. “My legislation provides the necessary penalties to deter individuals from gaming the system.”
Under House Bill 2204, those who knowingly continue to receive unemployment benefits after securing a new job would be required to pay back all of the falsely obtained benefits plus a penalty equal to 25 percent of the overpayments.
The money raised by the penalties would go back into the unemployment trust fund which helps keep taxes low, while a portion will be used to pay for fraud investigations.
The bill also requires those who file for unemployment to provide documentation of job search efforts within one week of obtaining benefits.
“The new timeline will make it more difficult for individuals to receive unemployment checks without actively seeking other job opportunities,” McDaniel said. “Unemployment benefits are meant to be a safety net for those truly in need, not a hammock for those who do not want to work.”
The bill also includes a provision that will eliminate paperwork costs in the system. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) will afford employers and unemployed workers the option of receiving e-mail notifications instead of physical paper copies of all documents.
“The e-mail notification proposal continues the government modernization efforts that have saved millions of dollars in unnecessary expense over the past few years,” McDaniel said.
House Bill 2204 can be taken up by lawmakers after the start of this year’s legislative session in February. The measure is expected to be first heard in the Economic Development, Tourism & Financial Services Committee, chaired by McDaniel.
“At the end of the day, small businesses pay the price when we do not weed out double-dealing,” McDaniel said. “By providing for better enforcement, we can ensure helping the truly needy while keeping taxes low for job creators.”

Report outlines comprehensive public safety approach

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 11, 2012) – After more than half a year of intensive analysis and collaboration, a bipartisan group of Oklahoma leaders today released a report on how to reduce violent crime statewide by 10 percent by 2016 and provide post-prison supervision for all felons while containing growth in prison costs.
The report recommends a number of strategic reforms in criminal justice policy  projected to save $249 million over the next decade, making it possible to allocate more than $40 million to local law enforcement agencies to implement proven crime-fighting initiatives while reinvesting additional savings in strengthening victim/witness services, , probation supervision, drug treatment and other programs.
The report is a product of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a data-driven analysis of the state’s criminal justice system led by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center in partnership with the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The JRI process was guided by a 20-member working group of state and local criminal justice stakeholders established by the governor and legislative leaders following last year’s legislative session.
House Speaker Kris Steele, co-chairman of Oklahoma’s Justice Reinvestment Working Group, plans to carry legislation next session based on the group’s findings.
“Oklahoma has just been given a blueprint for a surgical strike against crime based on comprehensive facts, data analysis and proven strategies. The policy proposals are tough, smart, strategic and fiscally sustainable all at once, so I intend to get to work immediately with all stakeholders to develop legislation based on these findings to consider next session,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “Throughout this process, the resounding message we’ve heard is Oklahoma must find a better way to address crime if we are truly serious about increasing public safety. We think we’ve found that better way, which is fantastic, given that the path we’ve been on is unsustainable no matter how you slice it.”
Gov. Mary Fallin was among the state leaders who requested that Oklahoma conduct a justice reinvestment analysis of its criminal justice system.
“Increasing public safety is a top priority of this administration. Protecting our citizens and keeping Oklahoma safe is a core function of government and a key component to bringing growth, jobs and families to Oklahoma. For that reason, I am looking forward to reviewing the report and seeing what policy recommendations come out of it,” Fallin said. “I’d like to thank the working group and Speaker Steele for their efforts and for soliciting the input of dozens of elected officials, district attorneys, police chiefs, sheriffs, crime victims and others who have participated in this process. They have done a great job starting this important conversation about public safety and helping our corrections systems to operate in a way that is more efficient and effective.”
Don Millican, a business leader who is chairman of the Oklahoma Christian University Board of Trustees, co-chaired the working group along with Speaker Steele.
“This plan presents innovative strategies that can improve return on investment for the shareholders of this state, who are ultimately Oklahoma’s taxpayers,” Millican said. “Having just undergone the most comprehensive criminal justice system analysis in state history, my hope now is to see these proposals put into law, not put on a shelf.”
The policy recommendations in the report address a number of gaps within Oklahoma’s criminal justice system that were revealed through JRI’s comprehensive analyses and over the course of more than one hundred meetings involving approximately 350 experts and stakeholders around the state.
The report suggests the state can close those gaps by reinvesting a portion of state dollars that would have otherwise been spent on the growing prison population in strategies that research demonstrates will be more successful in increasing public safety. The proposed reinvestment is $6 million in the first year and up to $13 million annually until fiscal year 2021. The reinvestment would go to law enforcement grants, increased funding for victim and witness services in DA’s offices, more effective probation supervision and additional substance abuse treatment.
Specific findings and recommendations in the report include:

·        Help local law enforcement prevent violent crime with state grant funding for technology, overtime, crime analysis, and community partnerships. Unstable funding and increased demand has forced many agencies to simply triage calls for service rather than working proactively to prevent crime.

·        Require supervision for all felony offenders following their prison sentences. Currently, 51 percent of people exiting prison do so with no supervision.

·        Increase availability of substance abuse treatment. There is inadequate access to programs for people on supervision who are determined to be at a high-risk of reoffending and who have acute substance abuse problems.

·        Improve support provided to crime victims and witnesses through district attorneys’ offices. Victim-witness coordinators are key service providers that assist crime victims through the judicial process, but fluctuations in federal funding and local cuts have strained capacity in some jurisdictions.

Marshall Clement, division director for state initiatives at the CSG Justice Center, said the policy framework could increase public safety while constraining the growing cost of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system.
“This process began as a corrections initiative, but it’s become something much more comprehensive. Through this process, Oklahoma has crafted a statewide public safety plan to reduce violent crime, hold offenders more accountable, and control prison costs,” Clement said.
If legislation based on the report is successful, Oklahoma will join more than a dozen other states, including Texas, Kansas and North Carolina, that have successfully used the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to increase public safety by reallocating resources to address serious public safety threats, reduce recidivism and contain costs.
“Oklahoma is demonstrating to states everywhere how to bring together stakeholders and generate effective solutions,” said Richard Jerome, manager, Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project. “This framework does a great job of showing how an inclusive, research-based process can produce policies that will cut crime and costs.”
“This data-driven, justice reinvestment approach allows a state to utilize the most up-to-date strategies in criminal justice while using existing funding and resources. That is a critical element in any bipartisan effort of this scale,” said Denise O’Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sykes responds to federal appeals court ruling on State Question 755

Sen. Anthony Sykes today offered the following comment on the Court ruling upholding an injunction against SQ 755, which would prohibit state courts from considering Sharia law.
“On Tuesday the federal appeals court in Denver attempted to silence the voice of 70 percent of Oklahoma voters. At some point we have to decide whether this is a country of by and for the judges, or of by and for the people. How far will the people let them go? This ruling is right along with legalizing abortion and forced busing of school children.”
“The issue raised by this constitutional amendment is very simple – you are either for Sharia law or you are against it.”
“This is just the first battle in an ongoing effort. Although the courts have attempted to silence the voice of the people, I won’t let that happen. I’ll continue fighting to restore government to the people.”

Usurpation of the Constitution

On December 23, 2011 President Obama sent a letter to congress titled Statement by the President on H.R. 2055. In the letter he writes “The Congress has also included certain provisions in this bill that could interfere with my constitutional authorities in the areas of foreign relations and national security. Section 113 of Division H requires the Secretary of Defense to notify the Appropriations Committees of both Houses of Congress 30 days in advance of "any proposed military exercise involving United States personnel" that is anticipated to involve expenditures of more than $100,000 on construction. Language in Division I, title I, under the headings International Organizations, Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities, disallows the expenditure of funds "for any United Nations peacekeeping mission that will involve United States Armed Forces under the command or operational control of a foreign national," unless my military advisers have advised that such an involvement is in the national interest, and unless I have made the same recommendation to the Congress. In approving this bill, I reiterate the understanding, which I have communicated to the Congress, that I will apply these provisions in a manner consistent with my constitutional authority as Commander in Chief.”
According to the United States Constitution Article1 Section 8 Congress alone has the power "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; to raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years".
With respect to authority as Commander in Chief, Article 2 Section 2 states “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States”.
The constitution is clear that the congress has the power to send the military to war and to make appropriations for the military, not the president. I fail to see how this could interfere with his constitutional authorities.
However, in 2001 John Yoo wrote an opinion titled "THE PRESIDENT'S CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY TO CONDUCT MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST TERRORISTS AND NATIONS SUPPORTING THEM". in it he concluded "In light of the text, plan, and history of the Constitution, its interpretation by both past Administrations and the courts, the longstanding practice of the executive branch, and the express affirmation of the President's constitutional authorities by Congress, we think it beyond question that the President has the plenary constitutional power to take such military actions as he deems necessary and appropriate to respond to the terrorist attacks upon the United States on September 11, 2001. Force can be used both to retaliate for those attacks, and to prevent and deter future assaults on the Nation. Military actions need not be limited to those individuals, groups, or states that participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon: the Constitution vests the President with the power to strike terrorist groups or organizations that cannot be demonstrably linked to the September 11 incidents, but that, nonetheless, pose a similar threat to the security of the United States and the lives of its people, whether at home or overseas. (32) In both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution, Congress has recognized the President's authority to use force in circumstances such as those created by the September 11 incidents. Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make." This claim gives the president the power to use military force whenever he deems necessary. Is this what the constitution says?
John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”
James Madison, widely known as the father of the Constitution, might have been more skeptical. “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.... [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and ... degeneracy of manners and of morals.... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
When they drafted the Constitution, Madison and his colleagues wrote their skepticism into the text. In Britain, the king had the authority to declare war, and raise and support armies, among other war powers. The framers expressly rejected this model and gave these powers not to the president, but to Congress.
The Constitution does make the president “commander in chief,” a title President Bush often invokes. But it does not have the sweeping meaning he suggests. The framers took it from the British military, which used it to denote the highest-ranking official in a theater of battle. Alexander Hamilton emphasized in Federalist No. 69 that the president would be “nothing more” than “first general and admiral,” responsible for “command and direction” of military forces.
We have heard a lot lately about the president making statements about usurping congressional authority, including items on youtube. In recent remarks he said “Now, I’ve said I will continue to look for every opportunity during the course of this year to work with Congress to move this country forward and create jobs.  But we can’t wait. When Congress -- whenever this Congress refuses to act in a way that hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, I’ve got an obligation as President to do what we can without them. I’ve got an obligation to work on behalf of you and the American people. I’m not going to let members of Congress put party ideology ahead of the people that they were elected to serve -- not when there's this much at stake.”
Again at Shaker Heights High School in Ohio on January 4th 2011 he said “But when Congress refuses to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as President to do what I can without them. “ This is clearly in response to his appointment of Richard Cordray without the approval of congress.
"The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing."
John Adams
"We the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts--not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution."
Abraham Lincoln
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by the gradual and silent encroachment of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpation."
President James Madison (1751-1836) speech, Virginia Convention, 1788

Coates files bill to create Guest Worker Program

Coates files bill to create Guest Worker Program
Press Release
In an effort to stimulate Oklahoma’s economy and allow the state to be more competitive with out-of-state companies, Sen. Harry Coates filed the Oklahoma Guest Worker Program Act Monday. Senate Bill 995, which is similar to Utah efforts, would allow illegal immigrants to legally work in the state providing a boost to sales and tax revenues. The bill will stop workers from continuing to flee to surrounding states such as Texas as well as attract hundreds of workers back to jobs that are chronically unfilled in the state.
“Since the passage of House Bill 1804, we’ve seen a mass exodus of undocumented immigrants who have taken up residence in Texas and other surrounding states where they pump millions of dollars into those economies,” said Coates, R-Seminole. “House Bill 1804 did little more than put Oklahoma companies at a disadvantage by sending dedicated, knowledgeable workers to competing companies in other states. Losing that workforce has been devastating for many of Oklahoma’s industries including agriculture, energy and construction.”
Coates explained that out-of-state companies are now coming to Oklahoma, competing for and winning contracts with the workforce that was driven out of the state by HB 1804. He pointed to the 2010 hail storms in Oklahoma City where much of the repair work was performed by Texas companies, simply because in-state businesses could not supply an adequate workforce.
“While the authors of HB 1804 perhaps originally had good intentions, we’re seeing that the bill has put millions of dollars in the pockets of out-of-state companies who have eagerly welcomed the workforce we chased away,” said Coates. “Until the federal government steps up and passes meaningful immigration reform, we’re only shooting ourselves in the foot by not figuring out a way to keep these workers, who contribute so much to our economy.”
Under Coates’ bill, the state Department of Labor would administer the program which would allow undocumented individuals, 18 years of age or older, to stay in the state legally if they purchase a guest worker permit for $2,000. Individuals would also have to find a guest worker program sponsor who would agree to hire them as well as provide them with basic health insurance coverage. Should a worker lose his or her job, they would have 30 days to find another employer to sponsor them.
In order to be eligible, workers would have to agree to a criminal background check and not have a felony on their record. They would also have to provide a residential address as well as a phone number in order for officials to be able to keep in contact with them.
SB 995 would also establish an immediate family permit that would provide protection to the immigrant’s immediate family members including spouses and children. Each family member would be required to purchase a permit for $500.
Coates explained his bill would accomplish several things. First, it would provide a way for undocumented individuals to legally work here and provide for their families as well as contribute to Oklahoma’s economy. Second, it would allow the state to track illegal immigrants. Next, it would hold businesses that hire undocumented individuals accountable and mandate severe penalties for those who do not follow the law. Businesses found violating the new law would face a $5,000 fine, per individual, for each incident of noncompliance. Lastly, it would provide health benefits to undocumented workers, saving taxpayers from having to pay for the medical costs of emergency room visits. Often that is the only place illegal immigrants can get medical care being that doctors are constitutionally required to treat anyone seeking help regardless of their citizenship status.
“The federal government won’t take care of the immigration issue so it’s up to the states. This program is about supporting good, hardworking people and their families while avoiding any financial burden on taxpayers. All they want is to earn a living and provide for their families and this bill would help them do that without fear of being deported,” said Coates. “By stimulating our local economies this program will generate additional jobs and business opportunities for all Oklahomans. It’s a win-win for the state and these families.”
The federal government would need to grant a waiver to allow for the Oklahoma Guest Worker Permit Program.

Difference between Oklahoma and Utah Guest Worker Program legislation:
- SB 995 requires an employer sponsor
- SB 995 dictates permit fees and penalties for noncompliance
- SB 995 limits the definition of immediate family to spouses and children
- SB 995 allows for revocation of permits for workers convicted of a felony as well as any immediate family members convicted of a felony
Additional notes on the bill
The person applying for the permit will be covered by a basic health insurance plan, and agree to have no medical debt that is past due during the term of the permit; and provide evidence satisfactory to the Department that the undocumented individual will not drive a motor vehicle in the state.
An application fee of $2,000.00 and a $2,000.00 for the guest worker permit; and an application fee of $500.00 for each qualifying immediate family member for an immediate family member permit must be paid.
The permit lasts two years.
The author Senator Coates is a construction consultant whose firm operates throughout the United States and the Caribbean. He has worked in the construction industry for more than 40 years.

Senate Task Force on Comprehensive Tax Reform completes final report

OKLAHOMA CITY –The task force charged with recommending reforms in Oklahoma’s tax system has completed its work. Copies of the report were given to Gov. Mary Fallin, President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and Speaker Kris Steele on Friday.
Senator Mike Mazzei served as Co-chair of the task force. He told the governor and legislative leaders that as they and members of the Legislature consider the panel’s proposals, it was his hope that the taxpayers of Oklahoma would be the main priority throughout the process.
“The non-partisan Tax Foundation has rated Oklahoma’s overall tax structure 30th in the nation when rating our job creation environment,” said Mazzei, R-Tulsa. “We must transform the tax code; it is simply wrong when a special interest group benefits from an obsolete or ineffective tax preference at the expense of hardworking Oklahomans who deserve to keep more of their hard-earned income.”
The report includes recommendations on reforms which will enable reductions in the top income tax rate from 5.25 to 4.75 percent over a two-year period as well as reducing corporate income taxes from 6 to 5 percent. Additional recommendations would offset those reductions through the elimination of select tax credits and a thorough review of existing tax preferences with an expectation of reduction or elimination of a number of tax credits.
Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, served as Vice-chair of the task force.
“These reforms are aimed at simplifying tax law and reducing rates for individuals and businesses,” Brinkley said. “The overall goal is to grow our economy while continuing to make crucial investments in core government services such as education, transportation and public safety,” Brinkley said.
The final recommendation of the task force stresses that other important reforms must be examined should the Legislature consider making Oklahoma a no income tax state.
Throughout the interim, the task force heard from a variety of speakers, including representatives from the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, the Oklahoma Policy Institute, the National Conference of State Legislatures, state and local chambers of commerce, economists, specialists in tax and business law and the National Federation of Independent Business.
“I want to thank the members of the task force and all those who participated for their hard work throughout this process,” Mazzei said. “This report is a blueprint that will benefit Oklahomans while attracting the jobs and businesses that will result in the kind of economic development necessary to boost per capita income and quality of life throughout our state.”