Caretaker Abuse, Workers’ Comp Coverage for Roofers,

Protecting Children, Elderly and Veterans Debated by State House

OKLAHOMA CITY – Pointing a laser beam at an airplane or helicopter in flight would be a state offense as well as a federal crime under legislation the House of Representatives endorsed Tuesday.

Other measures considered by the House would provide protections for senior citizens, military veterans, and for children, for employees of roofing contractors, and celebrate the 800th anniversary of a document that’s a foundation of our democratic government.

Watch Where You Point That Thing

Pointing a laser beam at an aircraft flying overhead would be a state misdemeanor offense, under Senate Bill 62. An initial violation could be punished with a fine of up to $100; the penalty for a second or subsequent offense would be a fine of up to $500 and/or a six-month county jail sentence.

Aiming a laser beam at a flying aircraft is a felony offense under federal law, a crime subject to investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. However, making the act a misdemeanor state offense would allow local authorities, such as a police department or a county sheriff’s department, to investigate the crime, the House sponsor of the measure explained.

The bill was approved by wide margins in both the House and the Senate and will be sent to the governor for her consideration.

No Rewards for Caretaker Abusers

Anyone convicted of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a senior citizen, a developmentally disabled individual, or any other vulnerable adult, would be barred by Senate Bill 725 from profiting from the victim’s estate, investments, joint accounts, jointly held property, life insurance or disability benefits.

The House embraced the measure, 87-0, and it also passed the Senate unopposed, 44-0.

SB 725 is similar to House Bill 1031 by Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, which died in the House Judiciary and Civil Procedure Committee, and House Bill 1349by Rep. Wade Rousselot, D-Okay, which received a “do pass” recommendation from the same committee.

Defining ‘Failure to Protect’ a Child

Legislation that its author said “gives a bright-line definition” of failure to protect a child from abuse was endorsed by the House.

Senate Bill 292 modifies the statutory definition of “failure to protect” to mean failure to take reasonable action to remedy or prevent abuse, or lying, concealing, or failing to report the identity of a person known to be committing abuse and/or neglectful acts.

Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, an attorney, suggested that the term “responsible” would be more appropriate than “reasonable” action.

And Rep. Ben Loring, D-Miami, cast the lone vote against the proposal. “I agree with the bill in principle, but I convicted plenty of folks under the existing language,” the former county prosecutor said.

The measure sailed through the House, 98-1, and was sent back to the Senate for consideration of a relatively routine technical amendment.

Fraud Prevention

Senate Bill 338 will allow the state Tax Commission to disclose an individual’s confidential tax information to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, to enable the HCA to determine whether an applicant qualifies for Medicaid benefits.

The House passed the proposal by an overwhelming margin, 86-8; every “nay” vote was cast by a Democrat. The bill, which previously breezed through the Senate, 40-0, was sent to the governor for her signature.

Safeguarding Military Veterans

Criminal background checks would have to be performed on nurse aides prior to their employment at medical foster homes in which care is provided exclusively to three or fewer veterans, and which is approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, under Senate Bill 115.

The proposal passed both the House and the Senate without a dissenting vote and was sent to the governor for her signature.

Workers’ Comp Coverage for Roofers

All contracts for commercial roofing projects, and any maintenance or repair to an existing residential structure, would have to require all employees working on that job to be covered by worker’s compensation insurance “as employees of the person registered under the Roofing Contractor Registration Act.”

No roofing contractor required to be registered with the state Construction Industries Board would be allowed to hire any out-of-state company or individual, or use any person or independent contractor, unless they have worker’s compensation insurance coverage.

SB 378 also provides that “in no event” could a homeowner be held liable for injury or death to anyone who is working for a registered roofing contractor that’s required to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for all of its employees.

Those conditions are proposed in Senate Bill 378. The bill narrowly passed the House on Tuesday, 53-43, and was sent back to the Senate for consideration of an amendment.

Notaries Must Be Law-Abiding Legal Citizens

An applicant for notary public would be required by Senate Bill 215 to be a U.S. citizen who has never been convicted of a felony, and is capable of reading and writing English. The proposal also would allow the Secretary of State to refuse to authorize or renew, or even revoke, a notary commission. The legislation also would prohibit an applicant from notarizing any document until the bond, seal and oath have been approved and returned by the Secretary of State.

The bill was approved by the House, 77-1, and by the Senate, 44-0, and was sent to the governor.

Overweight Truck Limits

Certain vehicle weight limit calculations would be changed by Senate Bill 638 from a schedule to a formula, requiring total gross weight to be determined using the Federal Bridge Formula. The legislation provides for an annual special overload permit that could be purchased, at a cost for $350, for vehicles hauling certain materials under certain conditions.

Vehicles transporting certain aggregates, oilfield equipment, or raw agricultural products, are currently required to purchase a special overload permit each year from the Corporation Commission, at a cost of $100. This fee is apportioned pursuant to the Oklahoma Vehicle License and Registration Act.

Under SB 638, operators of those same vehicles would be required to pay a $350 overload permit fee to the Department of Public Safety, and the funds would be deposited into the State Highway Construction and Maintenance Fund.

Besides redirecting the apportionment of the fee revenue, the change also would likely result in an increase in total collections, House analysts reported. Assuming the same number of permits issued in 2015 as in 2014 at 2,487, multiplied by the fee of $350, would produce fee revenue of $870,450 – an increase of $621,750 over 2014. This figure would increase or decrease depending on the number of permits issued.

SB 638 was approved by the House, 70-12, and was sent back to the Senate for consideration of an amendment.

Commemorating the Magna Carta

House Concurrent Resolution 1005 notes that this year marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

The Magna Carta “gave expression to a political settlement between rebellious English barons and a recalcitrant king,” but since then this historic document “came to be considered a ‘talisman of liberty’, giving impetus to the rule of law and constitutional government,” the resolution relates.

The Magna Carta was one of the earliest written expressions of natural and inalienable rights, “laying some of the theoretical groundwork” for the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the American Declaration of Independent in 1776, the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights, and the Oklahoma Constitution.

The Oklahoma State Capitol is hosting the “Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy 1215-2015” exhibit through April 5. The event is free and open to the public. The exhibit is displayed in the Supreme Court Hallway on the second floor of the State Capitol.

The Magna Carta is considered to be the founding document of English liberties and hence of American liberties. Because of the Magna Carta, the divine right of kings was superseded by government of and by the people and legal principles such as habeas corpus.

The Magna Carta stands at the heart of English and American law and has influenced the legal systems of many other democratic nations. For example, it “embodied the concept of right to due process of law” and “contained the idea of consent of the government, leading eventually to representative government,” HCR 1005 notes.

“There’s a direct link between the Magna Carta and our state government,” Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge said.

HCR 1005 was adopted by the House without dissent and was referred to the Senate for their consideration.




Media Director, Democratic Caucus

Oklahoma House of Representatives

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