Session Ends With Critical Legislation Passed
June 4, 2020
The session officially came to an end Friday evening per the state constitution deadline. Last week, I talked about the bills I filed so now I'd like to tell you about some of the bills I coauthored that were signed into law.
Again, we had to set aside hundreds of bills this session in order to finish the session and protect everyone's health. Those measures will be taken up next session.
I was pleased to coauthor several measures that made it through the process – many of which were brought about to address issues from the health crisis.
Unfortunately, there are some disturbing issues that we have to address in today's society. SB 1290 is one of those and was necessary to protect health care professionals from violence in their workplaces. A 2018 study by the Joint Commission found that healthcare workers are four times more likely to be victimized than those in private industry. It's so bad that the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) verifies that workplace violence is a recognized hazard in the healthcare industry. Overall, an estimated 75% of all workplace violence occurs in health care. In Oklahoma City hospitals alone, 5-10 assaults are reported every day.
Action was needed to protect those Oklahomans working in our hospitals and other health care facilities. SB 1290 makes it a felony to assault any medical provider. Those convicted of assaulting a medical provider will be imprisoned for between two to five years. Health facilities are directed to display a sign notifying individuals of the crime and to report annually to the State Department of Health on assaults.
We're losing too many talented health care professionals, and workplace violence is one of the top contributors. Oklahoma is in desperate need of more health care workers, especially in rural Oklahoma, so hopefully this will help increase our numbers while creating a safe work environment for these public servants.
Continuing the legislature's efforts to modernize state services and utilize state funds more efficiently, we approved SB 1422 this session. The bill modifies the Central Purchasing Act, which sets limits on agency spending. While the legislature has amended certain parts of these statutes in the last two decades, there hasn't been a comprehensive and uniform review of the Act since 1998.
The bill will update agency spending limits to account for the higher prices of goods and services as well as modernize other aspects of the Act. It will provide agencies more flexibility in their daily operations while improving accountability and oversight of their spending. SB 1422 gets rid of unnecessary bureaucratic red tape, will increase training of purchasing officers and will provide more comprehensive audits of agency spending.
Another common sense bill that was signed into law was HB 3068. This bill was essential to protect state employees throughout this pandemic and other unexpected life issues while ensuring the state eventually gets its back taxes.
HB 3068 modifies the penalty for state employees who don't pay their state income taxes. Currently, they're fired after three notices of noncompliance. While we want and encourage all citizens to be fiscally responsible, there are circumstances that can arise unexpectedly leaving individuals unable to pay their taxes. Firing them ensures it will take even longer for the state to get its money. This bill directs state agencies to simply garnish employees' wages until they have paid all their back taxes. It's a win-win for the state and the financially strapped employee.
Next week, I'll discuss some more of the upcoming new laws that I coauthored.
In closing, please don't forget to fill out your census form. You can do it online at 2020census.gov, by phone at 1-844-330-2020 or by mail.