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State Legislative Update June 6, 2011 

2011 New State Laws 

State agencies; consolidation of functions

HB-2140 (Steele; Bingman)  This law consolidates several agencies into the Office of State Finance.  Agencies merged into OSF include the Office of Personnel Management, Department of Central Services, State Employee Benefits Council and Group Insurance Board.  OSF is asked to demonstrate a 15% savings from the consolidation.

Information technology consolidation

HB-1304 (Derby; Jolley)  This law is called the Information Technology Consolidation and Coordination Act.  It consolidates the Information Technology (IT) functions of state agencies and centralizes them under the control of the state’s Chief Information Officer.     Some parts of the law were slated to take effect July 1, but because the emergency clause for HB-1304 was not approved, the law becomes effective 90 days from the end of the legislative session.  (Note: It is uncertain the extent to which this bill could impact employees, clients and consumers with disabilities who require specialized technology services, devices and programs.) 

Key provisions of HB-1304 as finally approved:

  • The law defines “information technology assets” as any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or  reception of data or information.  The term shall include computers, ancillary equipment, software, firmware and similar procedures, services, including support services and consulting services, software development, and related resources, and shall further include telecommunications fiber networks used for conveying electronic communication or information systems to multiple physical locations.
  • “Information technology position” is defined as any jobs related to computers, IT, network management, IT purchasing, data management and databases, programming, etc., and includes help desk, software training and technical support.
  • From the effective date of the Act, the law forbids any state agency from procuring any information technology assets or initiating any IT-related project without the prior written approval of the Chief Information Officer in the Office of State Finance.
  • 30 days after the law takes effect, each agency must submit to the Chief Information Officer (OSF) a list of all their information technology assets and IT positions that are integral to “agency-specific” functions and the citations of federal or state law that require or authorize them to perform these functions.
  • By December 1, 2011 and each year thereafter, agencies must supply lists of all their IT assets and positions that are not integral to agency-specific functions.  All of these assets along with the funds to support them, equipment, furniture, vehicles, etc. will be transferred to the Office of State Finance on January 1, 2012.  IT-related positions will be transferred to OSF on February 1, 2012.  Agencies will still be responsible for the costs associated with these assets and positions until July 1, 2012.
  • Starting July 1, 2011 (this date may be postponed since the law does not become effective until 90 days after the Legislative session ended), all appropriated state agencies (agencies that receive state funds through legislative appropriation) will be required to use these OSF services and systems for all agency functions: OSF Data Services Center, networking system, communication system, email system, and data and network security system.
  • On July 1, 2011 (or after the law takes effect) all state agencies will have to use OSF systems for payroll, human resources, employee leave, accounts receivable and payable, purchasing, budgeting, asset management, and grants, projects and contracts including those that involve federal billing.
  • A state agency may apply to the Chief Information Officer for an exemption from any part of the Act if it determines that compliance would cause it to be in violation of federal law or regulations or state law, cause loss of federal funds or create an impediment to the performance of a unique agency function that is not duplicated by another state agency and is required by law.
  • Agencies must provide written documentation of reasons for seeking an exemption.  The Chief Information Officer will decide whether to grant the agency’s request, or the OSF Director will make the final decision is there is any conflict.
  • There is a statement in the law that the Act shall not jeopardize confidentiality or compliance with federal or state laws or regulations.
  • After the effective date of the law, any IT-related contract entered into by a state agency which has not been approved by the Chief Information Officer acting as the state’s purchasing director for IT and telecommunications will be deemed to be unenforceable and the contractor will not be paid.  The law also amends an existing provision requiring written approval of the Chief Information Officer for IT-related purchases over $10,000.  HB-1304 states that any such arrangements made without the OSF CIO’s permission will be unenforceable and payments agreed to shall not be made.

Agency operations; financial services consolidation

HB-1207 (Murphey; Sykes) creates the Oklahoma Innovation, Efficiency and Accountability Act of 2011.  The measure authorizes state agencies to accept an electronic signature in the application process for any license or permit and requires the Office of State Finance (OSF) to maintain a website providing public access to documentation of all federal stimulus funds expended by state agencies.

Under the new law, state agencies must include along with their budget request information submitted to OSF in the fall, a detailed listing of all their personnel involved in financial functions such as payroll, claims, procurement and other financial operations. 

The bill also requires the Director of OSF, by January 1, 2012, to publish a financial services cost performance assessment that documents each appropriated state agency’s cost for providing financial services.  Agencies that rank in the bottom 10% of the cost performance assessment will be required to contract with OSF for the provision of shared financial services if the Director of OSF determines that it will result in cost savings to the agency.

The law requires copies of any audit or related report that is required to be filed with the State Auditor and Inspector to be submitted in electronic format and made available to the public on the Auditor’s website.  The law further directs the Superintendent of Public Instruction to publish on a website a listing of all expenses paid by the Department of Education necessary to sponsor or participate in meetings or training sessions and limits the cost of food for certain persons attending the meetings to the total daily rate provided for in the State Travel Reimbursement Act.

State agencies

HB-1086 (Murphey; Jolley)  This law addresses state financial operations.  It also requires a website with agency forms on it.  As amended in the Senate, the measure requires a number of central websites where state agency forms and other documents would be posted and specifies the formats to be used.  The law requires other administrative and operational changes on the part of state agencies, emphasizing the use of information technology and central websites to make information available to the public.

The law amends existing law related to the State Governmental Technology Applications Review Board.  The Board is directed to establish performance reporting metrics for each state employee who begins participating in telework following the

effective date of the act.  Prior to acquiring additional office space, state agencies will have to obtain certification from the Board that no employee jobs in that agency can be performed through telework.

State employee retirement

SB-794 (Mazzei; Randy McDaniel)  This law changes the rules for state employee eligibility for retirement.  The standard retirement age is raised from 62 to 65.  A House amendment provides that a state worker must be at least 60 in order to start drawing retirement, even if the employee has met age plus years of service criteria before reaching age 60.  Current state employees would not be affected by this change. The law’s House author projects it will result in savings of $400 million to the Oklahoma State Public Employees Retirement System.

State employee retirement

HB-2132 (Steele; Bingman)  This law requires the Legislature to fund any cost-of-living adjustments for state retirees, rather than letting such increases be taken from the state pension system itself.  The bill’s authors predict this move will reduce the unfunded liability in the pension system by $5 billion. The change would also make it less likely that state retirees will receive cost-of-living increases in the future, since finding the funds to use for this purpose could prove extremely difficult for the Legislature.

Workers compensation

SB-878 (Sykes; Sullivan)  This is a 200+ page rewrite of the state’s worker’s compensation law.  It was unveiled in the last days of the legislative session and passed unanimously by the Senate and 88-8 by the House, This major revision of worker’s compensation was developed over several months by a group that included representatives of insurance companies, business and industry, attorneys and the medical profession.  The new law is said to include a reduction in medical reimbursement rates and provisions for using nationally-recognized treatment guidelines for treating specific work-related injuries.  The law is also said to contain new restrictions that reduce benefits for some types of injuries.  Bill authors indicated major goals of the legislation were to reduce costs and speed up employee return to work. 

The law instructs the Administrator of the Workers Compensation Court to hire or contract with a director of Vocational Rehabilitation to oversee the Court’s program to help injured workers return to work.   An injured worker could receive VR services at his/her request or by order of the Court.  An evaluation to decide the feasibility of rehabilitation and return to work would first be conducted at the employer’s expense.  If rehabilitation is recommended and the worker refuses it or fails to complete it, the evaluation and training costs could be taken out of the worker’s benefits if the Court so orders.  The law provides that no injured worker shall be determined to be permanently and totally disabled without first having an evaluation of the feasibility of vocational rehabilitation.  Section 38 of SB-878 addressed vocational rehabilitation services. 

Advantage Program

HB-1363 (Peters; Jolley) This law directs creation of a presumptive eligibility process for elderly and physically disabled adults who apply for at-home long term care services through the Advantage Program.  The hope is that this will allow individuals to quickly receive less costly in-home care instead of being forced into a nursing home. 

At the same time, the law restricts Advantage eligibility for physically disabled adults to persons determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration.  Thus under this new law, physically disabled adults who need nursing home level of care but who are not drawing SSDI or SSI would not be able to receive needed long-term care outside of a nursing home.  (Note: Not all people with severe disabilities go through SSA disability determination, for varied reasons.  Some are just not insured under SSA Title II or financially qualified for Title XVI (SSI), so they get turned away before a disability determination is even initiated by SSA.)  Currently the Advantage Waiver does not require prior SSA determination to qualify a person for Advantage.

Ironically, the requirement of SSA determination as a criterion of eligibility for Advantage may also postpone Advantage services for adults with physical disabilities if they are recently disabled and have just begun the SSA application process.  Disability determination by SSA can take months to years.  If an individual needs immediate long-term care, but has to wait many months before qualifying for Advantage, he/she will likely be forced into a nursing home.  Although the creation of a presumptive eligibility process will speed up eligibility for some, the link to SSA determinations could have the opposite effect for some individuals with severe physical disabilities. 

SORC and NORC

HB 2184 (Sears and Scott Martin)  HB 2184 repeals Title 56, Section 3051 requiring legislative approval before state facilities for persons with developmental disabilities can be closed.  The new law requires the Department of Human Services to develop a plan by January 1, 2012 for the future of the facilities.  If the plan is not specifically disapproved by the legislature, it will go into effect on March 1st, 2012.  DHS must confer with parents and employees in devising the plan. 

Sheltered workshops

HB-1228 (Ownbey; Simpson)  This law authorizes the Department of Human Services to inspect and license sheltered workshops that do not already contract with DHS through the Developmental Disabilities Services Division.  The legislation lets DHS enforce basic standards for sheltered workshops and applies only to workshops for persons with developmental disabilities.   It requires criminal background checks for all employees of a sheltered workshop.  The law takes effect November 1, 2011.

Transportation; Eastern Flyer Task Force

HB-1686 (Morrissette; Crain)  This law creates the Eastern Flyer Passenger Rail Development Task Force which will study the potential for establishing passenger rail service between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.  The Task Force will consider how a public-private partnership may be used to fund this connection, and will examine both conventional rail and high speed rail options.  Task Force members will include government and transportation officials as well as citizens.  A report on study recommendations is due 18 months after the panel starts meeting, probably in the summer.

Department of Rehabilitation Services

HB-1047 (Faught; Garrison)  This law authorizes the Department of Rehabilitation Services to request national criminal background checks for employees.

Civil rights; disability discrimination

SB-837 (Jolley; Sullivan)  This law amends Title 25 of the Oklahoma Statutes with respect to discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. It adds the stipulation that protection against employment discrimination for individuals with disabilities is not available if an employer can demonstrate that an undue burden would result by accommodating the individual.  The measure also defines genetic information and bans employment discrimination on the basis of genetic information.

Mental illness programs

HB-1377 (Holland; Crain)  This law directs the Commission for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to establish standards and certification for mental illness service programs.  The Commission is authorized to establish fees for certification.  Standards set must be compatible with requirements of CARF and specific other certifying bodies.

Long term care

HB-1554 (Kern; Anderson)  This is the Oklahoma Options for Long-Term Care Counseling Act.  The law provides legislative backing for a DHS Aging Services Division program that partners aging agencies and centers for independent living in provision of options counseling to help seniors and persons with disabilities find long-term care options that best meet their needs. 

Prosthetic devices; Medicaid

HB-1655 (Enns; Rob Johnson)  The law directs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to study possible Medicaid coverage for certain prosthetics, principally artificial limbs. 

Hospitals; uncompensated care

HB-1381 (Cox; Myers)  This law assesses a fee for certain hospitals, the fees to be used to draw federal funds which can be used along with the accrued fees to pay hospitals for provision of care for uninsured persons and to help Oklahoma Medicaid maintain hospital reimbursement for care to Medicaid recipients.  Under the bill the fee would end in 2014.

Students with disabilities

HB-1744 (Nelson; Anderson)  This law makes adjustments to last year’s law that provided for use of state and local school funds for students with disabilities to attend private schools of their parents’ choice.  The measure provides that the State Department of Education’s special education section will dispense the assistance rather than local education agencies.

Mental health

HB-1271 (Coody; Barrington)  The law modifies the definition of a person requiring mental health treatment.

Mental health

HB-1638 (Ortega; Fields)  This law allows the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to contract at any time with doctors, pharmacists and licensed mental health professionals who have previously been employed by the Department.  This provides an exception from existing law that prohibits state agencies from contracting with former employees until a year after they stopped working for the state.

State agencies

HB-1034 (Murphey; Aldridge)  Allowing interagency purchases and professional services contracts to be paid using the P-Card.

State agencies; administrative rules

HB-1044 (Faught; Sykes)  The law requires the Legislative  to specifically approve of all state agency rules that raise fees or deal with issues in Title 59 of Oklahoma Statutes (Professions and Occupations).  For these two categories, Legislative approval is necessary before the rules can go into effect.  (Note: Other proposed agency rules can be disapproved by the Legislature, but if the Legislature does nothing, these rules can still go into effect.)

State agencies; state employee travel

HB-1035 (Murphey; Jolley)  This law provides that each state agency must use the DCS Trip Optimizer system to calculate the vehicle mileage travel reimbursement for a state employee that drives his/her own vehicle for work-related travel.  Any time a mileage claim is submitted for daily travel over 100 miles, it must be accompanied by the calculation from the Trip Optimizer system, and the employee will be reimbursed at the lower of the two calculations.  An exception is made for agencies that do not receive any state appropriated funds. The bill eliminates the current exceptions from use of the Trip Optimizer system for state employees whose work involves travel. 

Business Enterprise Program

HB-1634 (Ortega; Shulz)  (Note:  Most blind vendors are not affected by this law but a few may be, if they have their own machines in a non-governmental location.)  The law lowers the annual vending machine fee from $150 to $75.

Social workers

HB-1715 (Peterson; Brinkley)  This law modifies social worker licensure provisions and requires national criminal history checks for all licensure candidates.

Personal injury

HB-2128 (Steele; Sykes) The law lowers from $400,000 to $350,000 the cap on noneconomic damages that can be awarded to a plaintiff in a civil action brought for a claim of bodily injury.  The limit on noneconomic (punitive) damages would not apply in cases where gross negligence or intention to harm is proven.