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OKG Newsletter


All quiet at the state capitol

By Scott Cooper July 23rd, 2008

It's very quiet at the state capitol right now.

No legislative session keeping lobbyists and staffers scurrying around.

No gavel banging debates between representatives over important issues like whether the toaster oven or the crock pot should be the state's official cooking ware.

Even the computer keyboards in the press room have fewer clicks with several reporters taking vacations.

But don't be fooled. Behind some doors, important work is being done.

This week, the state Senate released their approved request for legislative studies. They may be deemed as fact-finding assignments, but the requests are simply a routine matter for a legislator to push forward a proposal in the next session. They just need a study to back it up.

Senate leaders approved 33 studies, ranging from plastic surgery in ambulances to what makes a judge.

Some of the studies will continue heated dialog which took place during the previous session.

Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Atoka, requested a study on health insurance coverage for autism. This became a hot item towards the end of the last session. Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, chairman of the House Economic Development & Financial Services Committee, held up a bill mandating insurance companies provide coverage to parents with autistic children. Gumm led a vocal group of parents around the capitol for days trying to convince Peterson to let the bill get through for vote. The bill died but Peterson took a hit. He decided not to run for re-election. Several news stories pointed out Peterson's campaign fund was heavily stocked with insurance company contributions who opposed the bill.

Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, will get to study expanding passenger rail transit while fellow Oklahoma City Democrat legislator in the House Rep. Mike Shelton will be studying Oklahoma's railroad system. The two lawmakers are hammering at better mass transit options in the metro area from both ends of the track.

Sen. Mike Shultz, R-Altus, was given permission to look into termite prevention while Sen. Charles Wyrick, D-Fairland, will be next door studying termiticide. Two studies of termites? That has to be a first. I guess the Republican view is to possibly provide tax credits to termites, while the Democrat take is to stop legislation preventing termites from suing exterminators.

Should be a lively session in 2009.

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