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House to take close look at workers' compensation bill

The bill to overhaul Oklahoma's workers' compensation system is among measures being passed to meet last week's deadline for measures to pass out of their originating chambers.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: March 2, 2013 at 12:51 am •  Published: March 3, 2013

“We have significant concerns with the Senate bill, primarily because it looks like in their effort to move to an administrative system, what they've essentially done is cut benefits for injured workers, period,” Inman said. “If that's how they want to improve the system, they'll see pushback from the House Democratic caucus.”

Inman said some House Republicans also might side with Democrats in opposing the measure. Republicans outnumber Democrats 72-29 in the House; measures need 51 votes to pass the House.

Other key issues

Other key issues advancing this session were two bills concerning the slaughter of horses and the sale of horse meat.

SB 375 would revoke the state's 1963 law banning the sale of horse meat, and allowing horse slaughtering and the sale of horse meat, but only if it is meant for human consumption outside of the U.S.

House Bill 1999 would allow horse slaughter but would continue the existing ban on the sale of horse meat for consumption in the state.

Also advancing is HB 1062, which would allow public school teachers or administrators who successfully complete a special school resource officer course to bring loaded handguns to school. The Oklahoma Commission on School Security, which has been meeting to propose legislation to improve school security, is expected to hold its final meeting Tuesday.

An anti-smoking proposal that would have let cities and towns craft their own anti-smoking laws was stopped cold turkey when a Senate committee voted down the bill. The 6-2 vote not to pass SB 36 ensures the proposal is dead for the next two years.

Proponents said cities and towns should have the right to pass their own anti-smoking laws. Opponents said the bill would have been unfair to restaurants that built separately ventilated rooms and that they should not be penalized for playing by the rules.

A measure on a topic that created a ruckus last year didn't raise a whisper this year. The personhood legislation, which holds that individual rights and constitutional protections begin at conception, did not get a committee hearing.

The House failed to pass the measure after two days of emotional debate. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, author of HB 1029, also authored legislation last year that sought to put similar language on a ballot to let voters decide the issue. The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled it was unconstitutional because it would interfere with a woman's right to an abortion.

Reynolds, who is working with other states trying to get the U.S. Supreme Court to look at their personhood measures, said he heard from other members that the chairman of the committee to which his measure was assigned said he wasn't going to hear it.

“He's never bothered to visit with me about it,” Reynolds said. “That's the dictatorial powers the speaker has given to committee chairmen.”

Shannon said the personhood issue wasn't a top priority by an Oklahoma anti-abortion group and the constitutionality question likely had a bearing on it not being heard.

“Our job is to evaluate bills as they come on their merits and I'm glad that our committee chairmen are doing just that,” he said.