Gov. Brad Henry signed legislation Friday to restrict the sale of violent video games to children. The governor also signed bills reforming the state's Medicaid system, ensuring repeat child molesters could face the death penalty and reorganizing the Office of Juvenile Affairs, which includes granting special privileges to nonprofit Oklahoma youth services agencies. House Bill 3004 will prohibit selling video games to minors that feature inappropriate and gratuitous violence. "The violence in video games has grown to epic proportions," the governor said in a statement. HB 2842 includes reforms that expand state funding for Medicaid reimbursement for doctors and hospitals, creates a database of medical records and a system of online prescribing and forms a graduated reimbursement rate plan for nursing homes. It also creates a system to deter abuse and reduce errors in Medicaid billing, payment and eligibility. House bill author Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, who headed a bipartisan task force last year on Medicaid reforms, said the bill moves the Medicaid system from a "one-size-fits-all" program to one that is tailored to each patient's needs. The new program will be phased in, and components of the existing Medicaid system will provide a safety net for those who are otherwise uninsurable, he said. The measure also increases the number of Oklahomans with health insurance coverage. It expands the Insure Oklahoma program passed in 2004 that helps small businesses with up to 25 employees provide health insurance for their employees. HB 2842 expands the program's eligibility to businesses with up to 50 workers. Senate Bill 1800 will allow a jury to consider life without parole or the death penalty for those convicted of a second offense of child sexual abuse. State law defines that as rape, incest and lewd or indecent acts or proposals made to a child. Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, who proposed the legislation, said the measure's passage makes Oklahoma one of the first states to enact the death penalty option for repeat child molesters. HB 2999 grants a number of special privileges to existing youth services agencies that contract with the state and the Oklahoma Association of Youth Services, which represents their interests. Provisions in the bill were secretly written by a lobbyist for youth services agencies, a legislator said. Other bills signed Friday by the governor include: HB 2955, which expands the state's agritourism program. HB 3115, which creates an online insurance verification pilot program in Oklahoma that would allow law enforcement officials to immediately identify uninsured drivers. Under the bill, the verification system will be installed and operational no later than July 1, 2008. Friday was the deadline for Henry to sign bills passed in this year's regular session.
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