Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gov. Henry names Pettit new CIO

(Oklahoma City) Gov. Brad Henry announced today he has appointed Alex Pettit as the state’s new Chief Information Officer. Pettit, who has information systems experience in both the public and private sectors, will begin his duties on April 5.

A new law approved by the 2009 Legislature authorized the governor to appoint a chief information officer to oversee all state computer information and technology operations. Today’s announcement follows a national search for qualified candidates.

Republicans Continue Charter School Progress

Committee gives bipartisan approval to reform measure

The Senate Education committee advanced House Bill 2753 by President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee (R-OKC) and Representative Lee Denney (R-Cushing), moving the charter school agenda forward.

HB 2753 removes many restrictions that previously prohibited the advancement of charter schools. Coffee says this is a positive stride in giving charter schools the freedom to provide quality choices to parents and students across our state.

Lawmakers Vote to Improve School Audit Oversight

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 24, 2010) — In light of recent financial scandals at state schools, a House committee unanimously voted today to improve oversight of school audits.

Senate Bill 2034, by Rep. Dan Sullivan, would place the Office of the State Auditor and Inspector in charge of reviewing school district audits.

"More accountability and oversight is clearly needed to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent in the classroom, not padding someone’s pockets," said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. "This legislation would simply put in place additional accountability so Oklahoma taxpayers can have confidence in school expenditures in the future."

Legislation Moving Medical Examiner’s Office to UCO Forensic Science Institute Passes House Committe

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 29, 2010) — The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner would receive a new facility near the world-class University of Central Oklahoma’s Forensic Science Institute if legislation passed by House committee today becomes law.

Senate Bill 1337, by Rep. Randy Terrill, would require that the ME’s office be located in "close proximity" to the Forensic Science Institute in Edmond. The title is off the bill, meaning it is still a work in progress and will go to conference for further work.

"We have been working to restore public confidence in the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, and I believe relocation to the newly-opened Forensic Science Institute, which is training sought-after pathologists, is a perfect fit for the office," said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. "The University of Central Oklahoma has built a nationally-renowned forensic science program with a new state-of-the-art facility, which will help bring the medical examiner’s office into the 21st century."

The bill passed the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Judiciary and Public Safety today with a vote of 9-1. It will next been considered by the full House.

"We have been working on this issue for the better part of a year so this isn’t something we decided lightly. There were a multitude of options and the consensus seems to be that UCO will be the best place for the new office because it will create a unique, one of a kind forensic science synergy unlike anything else in the country. If this bill becomes law, it will be something Oklahomans can be truly proud of," said Terrill, R-Moore and chairman of the committee.

NOTE: For accompanying video, go to http://www.okhouse.tv/ViewVideo.aspx?VideoID=265

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Video of HB3393 House Debate

Here is the video link to the questions and debate of House Bill 3393 on the House floor March 4th.

HB3393 is a developmental disabilities education and services reform measure.

The video is 1 hour, 10 minutes long.

DHS Audit Recommendations Implementation Showing Results, House Committee Members Told

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 24, 2010) —Officials with the Department of Human Services today presented evidence to a House committee of progress made by the agency since the passage of legislation implementing recommendations from a groundbreaking audit of the department.

House Bill 1734, authored by Rep. Ron Peters, was signed into law last year. The legislation implemented many of the recommendations of an audit of the Department of Human Services, including a requirement that law enforcement consult with DHS before removing a child; the creation of a passport program to allow information about a child’s physical and behavioral health and educational needs to be available electronically; implementation of a phase-out of public shelters; establishment of a centralized statewide hotline for all reports of abuse and neglect of children; and a reorganization of the department offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma Counties.

Human Services officials testified today to the Children’s Services Oversight Committee that progress has been made in all of those areas of state-based care.

Some of the significant progress seen at DHS includes:

  • Record level of adoptions in the last two federal fiscal years and an all-time high finalized adoptions for a state fiscal year
  • Reduction of over 3,700 children in out-of-home care since July 2007
  • Worker retention continues to increase
  • Lowest number of children per responsible worker in years
  • Lowest average daily shelter population in years
  • Established 449 agreements with law enforcement agencies for joint response
  • Oklahoma County Human Service Center reorganized in Oct. 2009
  • Tulsa County Human Service Center was reorganized in May, 2009
  • Round-the-clock centralized hotline roll-out began in Nov. 2009 and is expected to extend statewide by the end of 2010.
  • Official development of a medical health passport (which is an accessible and comprehensive medical and educational record for all children placed in out-of-home care through DHS) began in Feb. 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gov. Henry releases review of ME Office

Oklahoma City — Gov. Brad Henry today released an independent review of the State Medical Examiner’s Office, saying the report’s recommendations will assist the agency as it attempts to regain national accreditation and get back on track.

Last month, the governor tasked Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Terry Cline to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the agency after a series of controversies culminated with the dismissal of the chief medical examiner after less than a year on the job.

Among other things, Cline has recommended additional resources and improved facilities for the ME’s office along with structural changes to strengthen the agency’s governing board and empower a full-time administrator to run the agency’s day-to-day business while the chief medical officer focuses on the office’s medical and clinical work.

Sunday Morning News 9 Interview About HB3393

Here is the link to the in-studio interview about House Bill 3393 from Sunday, March 21.

News 9 Interview

Monday, March 22, 2010

Legislative Leaders Call for Legal Action Against Federal Health Care Reform

Honorable Drew Edmondson
Oklahoma Attorney General
313 N.E. 21st Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Dear General Edmondson,

As you know, the United States House of Representatives met yesterday in a rare Sunday session. By a count of 219-212, the House passed the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, frequently referred to as “Obamacare.” No members of Oklahoma's delegation supported the legislation. As you also may know, we have raised constitutionality questions about this measure for some time. We have outlined those concerns in Senate Joint Resolution 64, which passed the Oklahoma State Senate on February 24 and is pending in the House. Senator Orrin Hatch, a distinguished lawyer and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee has expressed similar concerns as published in the Wall Street Journal on January 2, 2010. A group of Republican Attorneys General have also stated they believe this bill is outside the scope of the enumerated powers granted to Congress by the Constitution.

As we have pointed out numerous times over the preceding months, this legislation will burden our state budget with tens of millions of dollars in new, unfunded health care mandates – money that Oklahoma simply doesn’t have. If the measure becomes law, it will wreck Oklahoma’s already fragile state budget and place undue economic hardships on the people and businesses of our great state.

Some of the provisions of the bill that are likely unconstitutional include: requiring ALL Americans to purchase health insurance and fining or jailing them if they don’t; special arrangements for states contained in the reconciled version of the legislation (e.g., Louisiana and Florida) are inconsistent with the protections afforded by the Constitution against arbitrary legislation; and the requirement that states establish benefit exchanges runs counter to constitutional limitations that forbid the federal government from commandeering any branch of state government to administer a federal program.

As Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma, you are in a unique position to seek redress against the federal government. We urge you and your staff to immediately begin preparations to file suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of our state to challenge the constitutionality of yesterday’s enactment.

We had hoped to send a joint resolution signed by the Governor to formally present this request. However, the actions of Congress yesterday require a more timely approach. The people of our state do not want it. The taxpayers of our state cannot afford it. We urge you to act quickly to defend Oklahoma against the efforts by President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid to burden our state (indeed, our entire nation) with their partisan plan for government-run health care.


Glenn Coffee Chris Benge
President Pro Tempore Speaker
Oklahoma State Senate Oklahoma House of Representatives

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Special Needs Scholarship Bill Clears House

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 4, 2010) – Lawmakers voted today to provide scholarships and increased educational opportunities to children with special needs.

"This legislation acknowledges the fact that children with special needs have unique challenges. If those needs are not properly addressed in their assigned local school, I believe we should give those families the opportunity to attend the school that provides the best learning environment for their children," said state Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City.

House Bill 3393, by Nelson, creates the Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program.

Under the bill, students with disabilities (such as those with Down's syndrome or autism) who have an individualized education program (IEP) would qualify for a scholarship to attend any school (public or private) that meets the accreditation requirements of the State Board of Education.

The scholarship program would not require new spending during the downturn, but would merely redirect existing funds that are currently being spent on the student.

A group of parents and advocates for special-needs children were present for the House vote, including representatives from Trinity School, a private school that serves children with learning disabilities in the Oklahoma City area.
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