Rehabilitation and Disability Issues
April 12, 2013
State Bills of Interest
This bill would exempt rehabilitation counselors from the Licensed Professional Counselors Act and provide that the State Department of Rehabilitation Services may license and contract with or hire rehabilitation counselors from rehabilitation counselor programs that are nationally accredited and certified by the Commission on Rehabilitation Services as meeting standards. This bill passed the Senate 37-0 and was sent to the House Public Health Committee, which has declined to hear the bill this year. SB-182 will remain the property of the House Public Health Committee and could be revived next year if there is support for it.
OSB and OSD; student testing
As it evolved during the legislative process, SB-251 provides that OSB and OSD may directly order and administer End of Instruction tests and receive student test results. The measure will make the testing process more efficient for students and teachers at these two schools for blind and deaf students. The bill was approved by both houses of the legislature and has been signed into law by the Governor.
DRS; Disability Determination Division
This bill increased the number of unclassified positions allowable in the DRS Disability Determination Division. The bill passed the House. In the Senate the bill’s content is expected to be placed in a larger bill that addresses unclassified positions for many agencies.
DRS employee safety
This bill would make it illegal to commit assault or assault and battery against DHS social workers and DRS employees while they are performing their duties. The House approved this bill 63-29 but it appears the Senate will not take up the measure. HB-2060 was assigned to two Senate committees, Public Safety and Appropriations, and will remain in these committees where it could be considered next year.
State employee retirement
Randy McDaniel; Brinkley
This bill provides that for state employees hired after July 1, 2013, retirement benefits will be based on the highest five years of compensation out of the ten years before retirement. Currently these benefits are calculated based on the highest three out of the last ten years’ compensation. The bill has passed in the House and cleared the Senate Pensions Committee. It is ready for a Senate floor vote.
State employee compensation
This bill has changed somewhat as it has passed through the legislative process. In the version soon to come to the Senate floor, salary ranges for executive officers of all Executive Branch state agencies, boards and commissions are to be recommended and periodically reviewed by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. The bill no longer mentions the topic of a state employee compensation study to be initiated by the Governor either this year or next. HB-1717 still provides for a one-time $1,000 performance payment to be given November 1 for any state employee receiving “meets standards” or better on their PMP, except for any employees who have had a skill based salary increase in the past year or so. A full Senate vote on this bill should come soon. It is possible that a final version of this measure will be decided by a conference committee.
State employee compensation
Provides a $1,000 performance payment on November 1, 2013, to state employees who have received a “meets standards” or better on their performance evaluations. The payment would apply regardless of whether an employee had recently received any skill-based pay adjustment. The bill does not indicate how the payments will be funded. HB-1794 is ready for a full Senate vote.
State employee retirement
As it goes to the Senate floor, this bill creates the option for new state employees hired after July 1, 2014, to choose a defined contribution pension plan instead of the defined benefit plan currently offered to state employees. The Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System Board would administer the defined contribution system. New employees would have to decide within three months from starting employment whether they want to utilize the defined contribution or defined benefit plan. If the employee failed to decide, he/she would be placed in the defined contribution system. In this system the employee contribution would have to be at least 3%, with the agency matching at 3%. The employee could contribute up to 7% of salary with a like match from the employing agency.
State agency policies - Administrative Procedures Act
This bill initially repealed the state’s Administrative Procedures Act (APA) but has been amended to instead make changes to the way in which proposed state agency rules (policies) are finalized. The bill now before the Senate requires legislative approval of agency policies before they can go into effect. Committees in both houses would review proposed agency policies and decide whether to approve or disapprove them. An omnibus joint resolution would be prepared to indicate legislative approval of proposed agency policies and to specify any rules not approved. If an agency’s proposed rules are received by the legislature before February 1, the rules will be dealt with during that legislative session. However, the legislature would have until the end of session in the following year to consider any agency rules it receives after February 1, substantially delaying the effective date of any such rules.
Extends termination date of Rethinking Special Education, Competency and Transition Task Force until May 31, 2014m with a report due January 1, 2014. DRS is represented on this task force. As it goes to the Senate floor, the bill also transfers administration of the Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Childhood Intervention from the Commission on Children and Youth to the State Department of Education. The bill has cleared the Senate Education Committee and is ready for a Senate vote.
Special education teachers
The bill authorizes a minimum 10-percent pay increase for public school teachers who teach children with severe-profound intellectual disabilities or children with emotional disturbances or autism. It also provides that special education teachers who stay with a school district for at least five years teaching special education classes shall be given at least a 5-percent pay increase. This would apply to all special education teachers, regardless of the disabilities of the children they teach. Officials estimate the bill would apply to 2,100 teachers and cost about $4.3 million when fully implemented. HB-1233 also provides for a provisional certification for teachers in special education. The measure addresses the serious shortage of special education teachers in Oklahoma. HB-1233 has passed the House and two Senate committees. It now goes before the full Senate.
Student safety; firearms
Allows for lawful carry of firearms in private schools and onto private school property or in any school bus or vehicle used by a private school if the school adopts a policy to authorize it. The bill makes private schools immune from any liability for any harm resulting from adoption of a policy allowing firearms at school and on the school bus. The bill also reduces the penalties for violating the law regulating the carrying of firearms on school property. The penalty for violation would be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, with monetary and jail time also reduced. The bill passed the House 87-4 and has passed the Senate Education Committee. It now goes for a full Senate vote. A substitute bill to be offered on the Senate floor defines “private school” as any school not operated by government. This version also deletes the reduction in penalties for taking firearms onto public school property.
Two Senate committees have failed to consider this bill, which is titled the Medicaid Reform Act. The bill is now dormant for this session. It would have made Oklahoma Medicaid a managed care system for all covered services, including long-term care. Medicaid eligible persons with access to private health insurance would have to enroll in that, with Medicaid assistance provided in the form of a premium subsidy. Participants in the medically needy program would have to enroll in a managed care plan and pay their share of the premiums. Home and community based long-term care and residential long-term care would also be placed in managed care plans under contract with the OHCA, which would be advised in this process by the DHS Aging Services Division. HB-1552 remains in the Senate Public Health and Senate Appropriations Committees, and could be revived next session.
The Senate Rules and Appropriations Committees have failed to consider HB-1021, a bill that states the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) and certain other federal health care law shall be null and void in Oklahoma and the state will not comply with any provisions of the law. The bill is dormant for this session.
Dennis Johnson; Sykes
Mandates that health care providers not deny life-preserving care to patients on the basis that extending the life of an elderly or disabled patient is of lower value than that of a younger or nondisabled patient. This bill has passed both House and Senate.
This bill provides the ACT, SAT and certain other tests can be used as an alternative to the End-of-Instruction tests to demonstrate subject mastery. An amendment to be offered on the Senate floor will specify which EOI tests are mandatory.
Providing a tax refund check-off for Hearts for Hearing, an organization that sponsors cochlear implants for children with hearing loss. The bill has passed the House and awaits a Senate floor vote.
Requiring Department of Human Service to ensure that an entity producing services to former residents of NORCE and SORC will be evaluated annually by the Developmental Disabilities Services Division quality assurance program to ensure compliance with their contracts as well as standards or service and care. Passed the House 90-3. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed the measure but it was also referred to the Appropriations Committee, which did not act on the bill. It is dormant for this session.
State agency use of federal funds
Creating the Task Force on Management of Federal Funds. The Task Force would study how state agencies get their federal funding and specifically evaluate and report upon any conditions imposed pursuant to federal statute, federal administrative rules, federal executive order or other source of federal law with respect to the receipt and expenditure of the federal funds received by any state agency. The group would study anything the agency or Oklahoma has to comply with as a condition of receiving the federal funds. It would analyze any possible impact on business or individuals. (Note: The measure is of interest due to the federal funding for many disability services including rehabilitation, Medicaid, special education and much more.) The bill passed the House 66-22, but was not taken up in the Senate, so it is dormant.
Student safety; firearms on school premises
This bill would allow teachers or administrators who have gone under reserve police deputy training to carry a loaded handgun in public elementary and secondary schools. The bill passed the House 68-23 but the Senate Education Committee did not consider the bill, so it is dormant for this session.
Requiring state agencies to annually provide a program management and performance report to legislative leaders and OMES. Contents of the reports are specified. Such reports would be posted on a website. The bill is now up for consideration on the House floor.
Update prepared by
DVR Legislative Information Rep.
Department of Rehabilitation Services