Archive for the ‘OK Legislature’ Category

Screw 3: Doing It TO the Children?

May 5, 2008

Scuttlebutt at the Capitol indicates a move underway to seriously address budget problems within the endowed chairs program, but with an across the board mentality that could seriously hurt sick Oklahomans.

Right now the state provides a dollar match for every dollar raised in the private sector, but a large backlog of unfunded monetary obligations, rumored to be in excess of $150 million, is causing some state senators to consider moving the state’s obligation to a 50-cent match. Further, those same lawmakers appear to be considering a bond issue to clear out the backlog. State Sen. Glenn Coffee appears to be taking the leading in the deliberations on the issue.

Critics say University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren’s aggressive pursuit of endowed chairs has put health-related endowed chairs programs at risk. “An endowed chair in music or art is simply not as important to the public good as those that labor to cure cancer or diabetes. Among other items, this proposal will gut research into children’s diseases here in Oklahoma City” one observer, who asked not to be identified, tells OKPNS.

We at OKPNS agree: you can’t enjoy the arts if you’re dead. Oklahoma ranks 43rd nationally for child mortality; the babies of Oklahoma’s teenage mothers are 1.5 times more likely to be low birth weight than adult mothers, and Oklahoma is 44th in the nation for teen births. Death rates for teens are 80 per 100,000 in Oklahoma; 66 per 100,000 is the national average.
Twenty-three percent of Oklahoma’s children live in poverty, which is a risk factor for a long list of health care problems.

There’s got to be a better way than to treat all endowed chair programs the same. OKPNS will monitor this situation, and its impact on sick Oklahomans, as we receive more information.


SCREW Update: Embattled Peterson’s Bill Still Reeks of Scam

May 5, 2008
“Grabbin’ the Ankles”

Capitol observers are reporting some positive modifications in the effort to defeat the SCREW-ing Old People and Charities Act.

The bill, which is headed for conference, was ostensibly an effort by Big Insurance to eliminate so-called Stranger Originated Life Insurance (STOLI) scams, but was actually a back-door way to eliminate ‘life settlements,” an investing tool that gives Oklahoma Seniors and charitable institutions options for estate planning purposes. Big Insurance wants to eliminate ‘life settlements’ in order to pad their obscene profit margins. The bill, authored in the House of Representative by embattled insurance committee chair Ron Peterson, was on a rocket sled to the governor until the OKPNS story and some subsequent stories by other Oklahoma media pulled the covers off the scam. While Big Insurance has lost the element of surprise, many of the onerous items in the bill remain.

Sources say that the Senate, under pressure to fix some of the more outrageous aspects of the SCREW job, have agreed to fix some of the provisions that dictated just how much senior citizens had to receive for their policies lest they face felony charges.

One item that insiders say must be fixed is the power Oklahoma’s incompetent Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland has over such policies. Right now Holland, a toady for Big Insurance, has far too much discretion over the types of companies who would buy life settlements, and could be a backdoor way to stop the life settlement business even if the bad provisions are removed through legislative action. “Holland, who is every bit as big a tool for Big Insurance as Peterson, but far less knowledgeable, could harass and badger companies who want to do life settlement business in Oklahoma, providing yet another way for Big Insurance to prevail, so nothing is fixed just yet,” one observer says.

S.C.R.E.W. (Selfish Companies Reaping Excessive Windfalls) Figure Nailed in AP Story

May 5, 2008

A House member implicated by the Oklahoma Political News Service in the SCREW-ing Old People and Charities Act, also known as SB 1980, has been slammed in a story by the Associated Press.

“They can say I’m the devil and I’ve been bought off. It’s absolutely not true.”

OKPNS first told you in April that Rep. Ron Peterson was carrying water for the American Council for Life Insurance (ACLI), who wanted to slip the bill past the public before anybody noticed. After the OKPNS story, the bill slowed down somewhat, but it appears more people are indeed noticing. Here’s the AP’s take on what OKPNS told you last month. Try to keep from laughing too hard when Peterson, the insurance industry’s flunky, denies that he is the insurance industry’s flunky!

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A state lawmaker who has blocked legislation that would require health insurers to cover a variety of medical procedures and conditions has accepted thousands of dollars in donations from individuals or political action committees with ties to the insurance industry, records show.

Rep. Ron Peterson, chairman of the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee, has received a total of $64,600 in election campaign contributions since Jan. 1, 2007, according to records filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Of the total, $20,075 came from people or PACs with ties to the insurance industry.

Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, is the former owner of a property and casualty insurance agency and his wife is a part-time independent insurance agent. Peterson said the campaign contributions and his close ties to the industry have not influenced his position on insurance mandate legislation.

“They can say I’m the devil and I’ve been bought off. It’s absolutely not true,” Peterson said. Peterson said he opposes insurance mandates and believes they drive up the cost of health insurance, making it unaffordable for many Oklahomans. Read more…

Term Limits Issue One Step Away From Ballot

April 17, 2008

Oklahomans are just one legislative vote away from being able to vote this November on enacting term limits for statewide office holders, Oklahomans for Responsible Government (OFRG) said today.

By a 56-44 vote, the House approved Senate Bill 1987. The bill, which would allow voters this fall to decide whether to enact 12-year term limits for secondary statewide offices such as attorney general, state auditor and state schools superintendent, now goes to the full Senate for final consideration.

“Term limits ended the ‘good old boy’ system in the Oklahoma Legislature and allowed a new group of Republican and Democratic leaders to come to power. Those leaders ushered in much-needed reforms and policies that have helped to move the state forward,” said state Rep. Trebor Worthen (R-OKC), House sponsor of SB 1987. “I hope my colleagues in the Senate will give Oklahomans the chance to vote on this important issue. I thank OFRG for their hard work and dedication to seeing SB 1987 passed.”

OFRG Executive Director Curt Price said, “Today’s outcome is a victory for Oklahoma voters. This issue is overwhelmingly popular with voters. OFRG encourages the state Senate to follow the example of their House colleagues by giving Oklahoma voters a chance to express their voice on this important issue.”

Previously, SB 1987 passed the Senate 31-17, with seven Democrats joining their Republican colleagues in support of the bill. “With this important bill one step away from being on the November ballot, it is important senators don’t waiver in their support for SB 1987 the second time around. OFRG will continue to work to ensure that SB 1987 makes it to the ballot,” Price said.

A July 2007 Pulse Opinion Research survey of 1,000 likely voters found 77 percent of those surveyed would vote for a measure setting term limits for executive offices. A December 2007 poll by the Tulsa World and KOTV found 73 percent of those surveyed supported the idea of term limits for executive offices.

Video: "Rally for Sally" Kern at Oklahoma Capitol

April 14, 2008

Hat tip: Westend10000

See Also: ‘Sally Rally’ Largely a Success

Another Screw Job?

April 8, 2008
While much of the public’s attention has focused on the corporate welfare orgy being orchestrated by public officials in connection with the move of Seattle’s basketball team to Oklahoma City, insiders say another ‘screw job’ designed to pad big life insurance companies’ profits at the expense of older investors is stealthily making it’s way through the legislature.

Insiders say if the effort is successful, some current investment practices, mostly those made by sick and elderly Oklahomans, will become felonies. As incredible as it sounds, the proposed law would have made at least one investment decision made by Ronald Reagan in his last years a crime.


Group Urges Legislators To Approve Term Limits Bill

March 4, 2008

Praises House Rules Committee for Action on HJR 1078

(OKLAHOMA CITY) – Oklahomans for Responsible Government (OFRG), a newly formed taxpayer advocacy group dedicated to promoting fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency in state government, today urged the Oklahoma House of Representatives to quickly approve a term limits bill.

By a 5-4 vote Monday, the House Rules Committee approved House Joint Resolution 1078 by state Rep. Trebor Worthen (R-Oklahoma City). Worthen’s bill would let Oklahoma voters decide whether to establish term limits for the offices of Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor and Inspector, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Insurance Commissioner, State Treasurer, Labor Commissioner and the members of the Corporation Commission.

“The full House of Representatives has a chance to act quickly on this important issue. This truly is an issue that enjoys wide bipartisan support across Oklahoma and we hope the Legislature allows Oklahomans to have a say on term limits this November,” OFRG Executive Director Curt Price said. “An overwhelming majority of Oklahomans support term limits because they know it fosters accountability in government. Term limits have fostered new reform-minded leadership from both parties at the Legislature and Oklahomans should be allowed to decide whether we want to continue to move the state forward by supporting term limits for other career politicians.”

Polling data shows overwhelming support among Oklahoma voters for extending term limits to statewide office holders. A July 2007 survey of 1,000 likely voters by Pulse Opinion Research found that 77 percent of Oklahoma voters would vote for a measure setting term limits for executive offices. A December 2007 poll from the Tulsa World and KOTV found 73 percent of those surveyed supported setting term limits for statewide office holders.

Price also commended House Rules Committee Chairman Shane Jett (R-Tecumseh) for voting in favor of the measure and ensuring the bill had a fair hearing before the full Rules committee.

“We thank Chairman Jett for his leadership on this issue and for his support of allowing Oklahomans to have a say in this issue,” Price said.

Editor’s Note: The Senate is considering a similar term limits bill on its agenda. Senate Bill 1987 by Senator Owen Laughlin (R-Woodward).

Tip Line: "Interesting Events at the Capitol"

February 21, 2008

The new speaker’s appointments are drawing lots of concern at the Capitol. Insiders are questioning John Trebilcock’s appointment to the energy committee, probably the most sought-after committee in all the house where oil money contributions flow.

And now, questions are coming up about Speaker Benge’s appointment of Tad Jones as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee while letting Jones keep his chairmanship over the education budget committee too. People who have been around the Capitol a long time say it’s the first they have ever heard of one person having two chairmanships, especially such big ones. Can one person really handle both jobs? Overseeing the details of the education budget, which is over half of the entire budget, plus staying in the loop about all the other parts of the budget as vice chairman of the A&B committee, will be a tough job.

Some Republican members, especially the freshmen and sophomores, think this was the perfect chance to let other, younger members share some responsibility and power. But the hitch is that Jones is Speaker Benge’s closest friend. Some lobbyists are laughing that it was always obvious Cargill took care of his friends, but even he didn’t take it to this level.

But the biggest loser in the new situation is Rep. Lee Denny. Word is some sort of arrangement had been made with her to let her be the next AB Vice Chair to keep her from running for the Senate, but Speaker Benge refused to honor the commitment. But its too late for Denney now because the former president of OSU has already entered the senate race.

Alliance for Oklahoma’s Future: "Tax Incentives, Rainy Day Fund Must Be on Table"

February 19, 2008

David Blatt, Chair of the Alliance for Oklahoma’s Future, issued the following statement in response to the new revenue estimate certified by the State Board of Equalization showing that the Legislature will have $195 million less revenue for the coming fiscal year than initially estimated.

“It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the revenue reductions resulting from the tax cuts of recent years are fully kicking in just as the state’s economy is showing some initial signs of weakness. The revised revenue numbers, certified today by the Board of Equalization, are a clear and sobering indication that this is going to be an extremely difficult budget year that will strain the state’s capacity to keep schools, prisons, roads and hospitals properly funded.”

“The recertification numbers create the strong likelihood of targeted and even across-the-board budget cuts in the coming year. When so many of our critical public services already lack adequate funding, further budget cuts would have a real and damaging effect on Oklahoma’s citizens, communities and economy. In order to keep basic programs and services operating, legislators will have to be open to exploring all options for balancing the budget. This must include carefully scrutinizing the tax system for unnecessary and unintentional loopholes and exemptions, as well as reviewing and prioritizing existing spending programs and tapping into the Rainy Day Fund where appropriate.”

"Diminutive" Lobbyist Due Ethics Probe?

February 14, 2008

Sources tell OKPNS that an ethics complaint into the tactics of a lobbyist/lawyer may be ahead due to the lobbyist’s alleged “strong-arming” of legislators who oppose weakening or repealing HB 1804, the immigration and reform bill.

At many as a dozen house members are upset that the lawyer/lobbyist, who says he represents a wealthy Oklahoma City business owner and a large energy company, is telling house members that future campaign donations from the industries he lobbies for are contingent on the lawmakers committing to him to weaken or repeal HB 1804.

“The tactics smack of extortion,” one member tells OKPNS, “and we’re going to see if the law has been violated.”

Several members declined to name the lobbyist, other than to say he is a “diminutive” Democrat lawyer. “The little runt’s mouth is writing checks that his butt better be able to cash. It’s outrageous, and we’re going to thoroughly check into it,” another member tells OKPNS.