The atmosphere was light and fun as state Reps. Pat Ownbey and Tommy Hardin and state Sen. Frank Simpson talked about deadline week at the capitol during the April 27 legislative luncheon at the Ardmore Convention Center.


The atmosphere was light and fun as state Reps. Pat Ownbey and Tommy Hardin and state Sen. Frank Simpson talked about deadline week at the capitol during the April 27 legislative luncheon at the Ardmore Convention Center.

 

“It looks like a lot of chaos, and it is,” said Harden, R-Madill. “It’s kind of a contact sport I think sometimes.”

 

He’s referring to the footwork he had to perform to help save a bill that was in jeopardy. The bill’s author was out of town and Hardin was asked to carry it for the author.

 

Hardin said SB 259, a tourism bill, would be amended to establish a plan to address blue green algae issues at Oklahoma lakes.

 

He said lawmakers have met over the course of the last few weeks trying to figure out a policy for Oklahoma regarding testing for the algae. Hardin said the Corps of Engineers would honor what ever plan the state came up with.

 

“What we’re trying to do is educate the public, so they can go online before they go to the lake and see the numbers and counts for the lake,” he said.

 

Ownbey, R-Ardmore, said deadline week “had been a crazy week, but had been managed well.”

 

He went on to touch base on a number of bills:

SB 1111 would change the name of Ardmore Higher Education Center to the University Center of Oklahoma. The bill will return to the Senate, which can vote to either send the bill to conference committee, or send it to Gov. Mary Fallin SB 1913 would authorize the Department of Tourism to utilize $15 million from the State Park Trust Fund to build the new lodge at Lake Murray. Ownbey said Gov. Fallin should sign off on it sometime this week SB 1433 said life begins at conception and has become better known as the Personhood Bill. Ownbey said that last year, the bill easily passed out of Senate and was voted on by the House. But senate chairman Brian Crane, R-Tulsa, killed the bill by not allowing it to be heard. This year, Crane drew an opponent for election, and, according to Ownbey, reintroduced the bill as an author.

“We were told by the pro-life groups this was a statement and wouldn’t affect the law,” he said, “but there were some issues we were concerned about when it came to in-vitro fertilization, that it might actually put that in jeopardy. We certainly do not want that.”

 

Ownbey said a pro-life group threatened legislators stating that if legislators stopped the bill, the group would label them pro-abortion legislators.

 

“Oklahoma is the most pro-life state in the country,” he said. “Since I’ve been a legislator we’ve passed 23 pro-life measures.”

 

Sen. Simpson, R-Springer, spoke some on tax cuts, saying there isn’t a movement in the Senate to cut taxes this year. He said there is still work to be done on the current tax cut bills. And that most of the work in the next few weeks will be reconciling the bills in both Senate and House.

 

Simpson said that the bigger issue for the state’s economic growth is the state’s workers’ compensation system.
“Last year we passed some legislation that made cosmetic changes to workers’ comp, but nothing to really get to the core of the problem with the system which is the judicial makeup of that system,” he said. “It’s not conducive in creating a level playing field for employees and employers. The major benefactors of our system are the trial lawyers that make tons of money off our worker’s comp system.”

 

House Bill 2155 would allow qualified employers to offer alternative workers’ compensation insurance as long as the benefits to employees were similar or better than the state’s plan.

 

The House defeated the measure 50-42.