October 30, 2014

Changes recommended for PASS standards
The process and findings of a review of Priority Academic Student Skills standards by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the Southern Regional Education Board was presented Thursday before the Oklahoma Standards Steering Committee, revealing some recommended changes. Gov. Mary Fallin signed HB3399 in June, repealing Common Core standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and math and temporarily replacing them with the PASS standards state educators used in 2010. The Oklahoma Standards Steering Committee is tasked with developing a new set of standards by 2016. Earlier this month, Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education declared PASS standards to be college and career ready. Dr. Blake Sonobe, vice president of academic affairs for the state Regents, said separate committees for ELA and math composed of 15 members each, representing state community colleges, regional universities and research universities, were assembled to review PASS standards. The committees used ACT College and Career Readiness Standards to evaluate PASS standards because, Sonobe said, the ACT exam is one of the primary tools of assessment by local and national colleges and universities. bk

October 30, 2014

250-plus bills take effect November 1
More than 250 bills take effect Saturday morning when October turns into November. Nov. 1 has become a popular choice in recent years for bills to take effect, in part to allow agencies to prepare for implementation of the new laws, members have said in committee and on the floor. At least one of the bills – HB1020 – got its start in the 2013 legislative session. HB1020, by Rep. Arthur Hulbert, R-Fort Gibson, and Sen. Kimberley David, R-Wagoner, amends language pertaining physical therapy and to the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision. The bill establishes conditions under which a physical therapist is permitted to treat human ailments except for workers compensation claims without prior referral of a licensed health care practitioner for up to 30 days. The bill requires that treatment beyond 30 days be performed under the referral of a person licensed as a physician or surgeon with unlimited license, or the physician assistant of the person so licensed, and Doctors of Dentistry, Chiropractic and Podiatry. The bill made its way to the House floor in 2013 but was never heard. It was revived in 2014, following an interim study on the issue, and was passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin. bk

October 30, 2014

Work Commission okays self-insurance assessment
The Workers Compensation Commission approved an assessment Thursday on private self-insurers to help generate revenue for the Self-Insured Guaranty Fund. The move came after the commission voted to transfer more than $450,000 out of the fund and a report from the Oklahoma Tax Commission that shows its balance dropping below the $1 million statutory minimum. According to a report from Barney Welch, chairman of the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurance Guaranty Fund, the fund currently has a balance of approximately $981,000. But the commission approved the transfer of $450,000 of that money to a create a special account from which to pay workers compensation claims related to the bankrupt Arrow Trucking Company and another $200,000 is expected to be spent in 2015 to pay other claims. That would leave a balance of $330,001 in the account. “We don’t do this lightly,” Chairman Troy Wilson said prior to the commission vote on approving the 1 percent assessment. The assessment was approved unanimously. bk

October 29, 2014

Committee examines efficiency of county jail trans
County jails are inadequate holding facilities for those with long-term criminal sentences, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton said Wednesday during an interim study. The House Appropriation and Budget Committee’s hearing on Interim Study H14-072 was called by Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus, to examine prisoner transfers from county jails to DOC facilities. A report prepared by House staffer Joshua Maxey said the daily required payment by the DOC to the counties is $27 per day plus medical costs for each inmate. The total money paid by the DOC in fiscal year 2013, he said, was $26.3 million. The costs covered 1,700 inmates currently awaiting transfer to DOC facilities. As of this month, there is a backlog of 240 inmates. bk

October 29, 2014

Study highlights conflict between insurance
The Senate Insurance Committee listened Wednesday at Treasurer Ken Miller, representatives of the Oklahoma Insurance Department and a spokeswoman for a national life insurers group argued about the application of the state’s unclaimed property laws to unclaimed life insurance benefits. Miller would like to see legislation passed that requires the companies to compare their records to the Social Security Administrations death master file. Miller’s proposal would apply to all policies since approximately 1992, when most insurance records became electronic. The insurance industry, said American Council of Life Insurers Vice President for State Relations Brenda Nation, agreed with that proposal, except the organization and its members would like the law to include language that provides the state’s unclaimed property law does not supersede its insurance code. In particular, Nation said it is important that requirement for verifying a life insurance claim – a valid certificate of death – be maintained. The comments, which were sometimes contentious, came during the committee’s consideration of Interim Study S14-058, concerning reporting procedures for life insurance policies as related to unclaimed property. bk

October 29, 2014

DOC maintains meeting legal
The Department of Corrections maintains its October board meeting was legal although it was held in a building different than the one listed on the agenda. “We think we’re fine,” DOC Director of Internal and External Communications Terri Watkins said Tuesday. According to the agenda posted on the Department of Corrections website and distributed at the meeting and a notice filed in March with the Secretary of State’s Office, the board was to meet Oct. 23 at the “Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center” located at “10 N. Broadway.” Instead, the board met across the street at the Cox Convention Center, which is located at 1 Myriad Gardens. bk