General Revenue Fund Collections Over Estimate for First Time Since July 2015
The Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported this week that General Revenue Fund (GRF) collections in March were higher than the estimate for the first time since last July.
March GRF collections of $394.2 million were $3.1 million, or 0.8 percent, above the official estimate upon which the Fiscal Year 2016 appropriated state budget was based, and $30.1 million, or 7.1 percent, below prior year collections.
Governor Signs Charter School Measure
Gov. Mary Fallin this week signed into law a measure that would clarify state law that allows public schools to convert existing schools into "conversion schools," which have the flexibility of charter schools.
House Bill 2720, by state Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman), amends the Charter School Act to clarify the governance, funding and personnel flexibilities afforded to a charter school. Under the measure, conversion schools are still managed by the local school district and receive the same funding as traditional public schools. Conversion schools have access to all of the flexibilities currently afforded to charter schools in Oklahoma. The bill also clarifies that the local school board is the only entity to approve or disapprove a plan to create a conversion school.
Senate Passes Autism Insurance Coverage Bill
The Senate this week passed a bipartisan measure that would require health insurers to cover autism treatment for children.
House Bill 2962, by state Rep. Jason Nelson and co-authored by a bipartisan coalition of more than 30 House Republicans and Democrats, would require a health benefit plan offered in Oklahoma to provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of an autism spectrum disorder in children. The bill would limit the yearly maximum benefit to $25,000, but would place no limits on number of visits.
The Legislature last considered an autism insurance reform bill in 2008. Nelson said since then 43 states have implemented some form of reform to health plans to provide treatment for autism disorders.
House Bill 2962 passed out of the Senate by a vote of 36 to 5 and now returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.
Cattle Rustling Bill Headed to Governor
Legislation on its way to the governor's desk after being approved unanimously in the Senate will further deter cattle rustlers, according to its proponents.
House Bill 2504, by state Rep. John Pfeiffer, increases the fine for theft of livestock and implements of husbandry to three times the value of animals and machinery, not to exceed $500,000. It also gives district attorneys more options when prosecuting cattle rustlers.
Pfeiffer, who is the chair of the bipartisan House Rural Caucus, said cattle rustling remains a problem in rural areas throughout Oklahoma.
State Employee Suggestion Box Bill Signed into Law
Legislation signed into law by the governor this week would expand a State Employee Suggestion Program enacted in 2015 by the same author.
The 2015 law authorizes state agencies to financially reward an employee when that employee makes a suggestion that results in a direct cost savings to the agency of $5,000 or more. The reward is limited to 20 percent of the cost savings.
The 2015 law only applied to agencies with more than 10 full-time employees. House Bill 2471, by state Rep. Ken Walker, removes that limitation.