BY JOE DORMAN
I have an update on my remaining bills going through the legislative process. I will have three pieces of legislation which will need further work, but I expect good, thoughtful policies to come about from them.
House Bill 2228, the legislation authored by myself and Senator Kyle Loveless, has some additional provisions in which he would like to include for restrictions on changing identities, other than marriage, for those who receive a felony conviction for certain crimes. We have seen instances of people who legally change their identity to avoid people knowing they have committed a sex crime and are on the sex offender registry. We are also trying to narrow down the language regarding background checks on volunteers if the local school board or superintendent feels it is necessary.
House Bill 2231, the legislation I referenced in my column last week, has a conflict with another section of statutes. We need to limit the definition on which entities would be affected from the Senate amendment. I appreciate Senator Anderson working with the various business entities for further consumer protections and we certainly want to make sure this bill has the intended purpose. The primary language establishes a mobile-friendly website to allow people to get correct information in areas with declared disasters.
The final bill, House Bill 2232, the legislation authored by myself and Senator Barrington to create some new income tax check-offs for donations, will combine an additional charity into the bill, which is the Hearts for Hearing program. The bill currently creates a check-off for people to donate to a new fund for assisting the State Attorney General with costs associated with lawsuits based on legislation, along with revising the Lupus Foundation check-off.
I also want to give an update on Workers’ Compensation reform, which passed the House last week. Senate Bill 1062 was presented by Rep. Leslie Osborn and she did an excellent job of answering questions about her intent with the bill and what changes we could see in Oklahoma from its passage. The bill will establish a new level of administrative review which the proponents claim will reduce the excessive litigation, along with creating a form of “opt-out” for companies who feel they can provide better coverage than what is required through the state.
While I think we desperately need to reduce the fraud associated with claims, I worry about some of the consequences remaining with this bill. I feel workers could face increased uphill battles to receive their settlements with potential additional delays. I also am afraid the opt-out portion will drive up costs on smaller businesses who cannot find outside coverage. This program is similar to a high-risk insurance pool, and when large corporations drop out of the pool, this could increase the potential rates on smaller businesses with more labor-intensive jobs. I also think we need to address the ridiculously low rates for injured workers losing limbs or receiving serious injuries. I will agree that the version which passed our body is much better than the original Senate version which did not allow volunteer firefighters to file injured worker claims, so I certainly want to give credit to the House authors for fixing those fallacies. I voted against this legislation, but I hope that it will fix many of problems we experience in the system.
I also want to congratulate the Chickasha Chamber of Commerce on holding a successful program last week with community leaders and the Harlem Ambassadors, a traveling basketball squad that promotes getting involved in the lives of children. Several of us had a great time playing against these athletes who were in much better shape. No injuries were recorded, unlike what we saw last week with Russell Westbrook of the OKC Thunder, and I certainly want to wish our team well in the NBA Playoffs! I also want to congratulate the 25,000 participants in the OKC Memorial Marathon, especially my pastor, Michael Dye, along with the other friends who entered.