April 28, 2011 »

May 5, 2011

05/06/11 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome

     We are in the last month of our session with no budget talks or mention of any.  The legislative leadership is stalling over the budget because they want to balance the budget with over $200 million in bonds that they want us to commit to support.  As I have previously reported to you, we cannot borrow ourselves out of debt.  Evidently a majority of the House members feel the same way, because four weeks ago our Leadership trotted out a $15 million bond to do repairs to the Capitol, and it was soundly defeated.  They figure we probably wouldn?t go for a $200 million package, and they are thinking right.

            I honestly feel that we need to turn our attention away from ?hot button issues? and back to issues to create jobs and make life better for the citizens of Oklahoma.  This will not happen until Legislators quit filing bills that they think will get them re-elected and go after less glamorous issues that will create a better way of life for all of us.

             We also have to quit killing or trying to kill bills just because someone from the ?other? party is the author.  There are two bills this session that I voted for, where I was the only member of my party to vote yes.  I absolutely don?t regret either one of these votes.  

In the past three months I have asked for your opinions on several issues, and after we adjourn I will continue to send out these same questions because, so far, they have been either defeated or not brought up yet, so please keep responding to these questions.

 So far this session, no legislation has been brought up for transfer or sale of any water in the State, particularly Sardis water.  The tribes (Choctaw and Chickasaw) have done a good job of letting the Governor and Legislature know that there will be legal action taken in regard to movement of water out of SE Oklahoma.   I, along with several other Legislators, will be watching for amendments or conference committee reports (bills) that may sneak language into our statutes to affect adversely our Oklahoma water law.  I will not only be watching Title 82, which is statute on water law, but I will also be keeping a watch for municipal bills.  If a bill comes up to give a municipality free reign to sell utilities without the Governor?s approval, that could be water from Oklahoma City heading south!  These are just some of the things about which we must be vigilant in these final May legislative days.

 Our new Federal Healthcare Law, which is a misnomer (it should be called the Insurance Reform Law) requires states to operate an ACA compliant exchange by a January 2014 deadline.  ACA stands for Affordable Care Act.  These insurance exchanges are information sites, whether they are a website or a state agency, for people to shop for insurance and compare premiums.  This also allows for the boards of these exchanges to deliberate on complaints brought by citizens against insurance policies or insurance companies.

 The Federal Government has allocated $54 million to each state to set up these exchanges.  In Oklahoma, our Governor and Legislative Leadership at first accepted this money, then rejected it to set up, at the Oklahoma taxpayers? expense, this new exchange.  It came through SB 971, which is non-compliant with federal requirements in a number of ways.  First, it does not meet public accountability and transparency requirements.  SB 971 specifically designates governing board slots for insurance industry representatives and contains no prohibition on conflicts of interest.  Talk about the fox guarding the hen house! 

 Second, it denies the exchange the regulatory authority to determine qualified insurance plans. Third, it provides no mechanism to review rate and premium increases or to censure insurance companies that spend most consumer premium dollars directly on medical care, not overhead or administration.  If we are not compliant, then we will fall into federal intervention and receivership.

 It doesn?t make sense to pass a bill that sets the State of Oklahoma up for failure.  This bill has been sent to committee and, hopefully, it will not come out until these deficiencies are corrected.

 Visitors this week were Kent Towne from KTC and Raymond Wilson with Puterbaugh TSA students, Brett Weeks, Connor Mayes, Joey Schoggins, Nicholas Santine, Robby Stephens and Joseph Savula.  It was also good to have Carol Ervin and Pogo Thomson here representing the Main Street program from both McAlester and Wilburton.  Last week we failed to mention another of our firefighters who spent some time here at the Capitol ? Heath Marco ? a belated thanks for coming by.

 Hebrews 3:13


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