Legislators plan to examine everything from lethal injection alternatives to better monitoring of prescription drugs in interim studies approved Friday.
House Speaker Jeff Hickman approved more than 80 studies to be conducted in the interim period before the Oklahoma Legislature begins its session next year.
Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, asked for the study on requiring doctors to check an online database before writing narcotic prescriptions. This is intended to cut down on fraudulent prescriptions for highly addictive drugs.
His bill to do just that failed to gather support last legislative session amid opposition from doctors who said it would be time-consuming and take away from time they can spend with patients.
Oklahoma’s Prescription Monitoring Program requires pharmacies to log every new controlled dangerous substance prescription within five minutes of filling it.
But doctors are not required to check the registry to make sure their patients aren’t obtaining prescriptions from other physicians, a practice known as doctor shopping. And many doctors don’t bother to voluntarily check the registry.
Last year, 788 Oklahomans died from overdoses, and 593 of those deaths involved at least one prescription drug, according to a preliminary tally by the state Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.
Another study that was approved will look into alternative methods of executions.
State Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, requested the study after the botched lethal injection of Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett on April 29. Lockett died 43 minutes after the execution began after trouble developed with how the drug was being administered in a vein in his groin.
Christian said a firing squad could be a good second option to lethal injections if needed. The study also will look into whether inmates should be allowed to select a firing squad.
Another study that was approved would examine whether people arrested for serious crimes should be required to submit DNA samples for a law enforcement database before conviction. They now must submit such samples only after conviction.
Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, is backing that study. She has failed to gain legislative support in the past for the enhanced requirement.
Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, won approval for a study on the eastern red cedar, an invasive tree that heavily consumes water and poses a fire danger.
“Oklahoma’s water is disappearing into the oily leaves of eastern red cedar at a rate, depending upon weather conditions, of 40-80 gallons per day, per tree, and there are now tens of millions of cedar, with greatest canopy density in Dewey County,” he said in his request for the study.
“Western Oklahoma is suffering with extreme drought and weather influenced by surface conditions exacerbated by cedar infestation. Urban and rural wildfire remains a steady source of property loss, and in 2014 a loss of human life, to cedar fueled fire.
“Both livestock grazing land and wildlife habitat have taken a major hit from uninterrupted expansion of cedar with contiguous quail habitat all but lost and the prairie chicken now on the endangered list.”
Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, wanted a study about laws that are passed by the Legislature and later found to be unconstitutional.
“For more than a decade, many measures passed into law by the Oklahoma House of Representatives have been contested in court, only to fail the constitutionality challenge,” she wrote in her request for a study.
“Is there a place in the budget of taxpayers for these bills? Do taxpayers fully understand the scope of impact upon limited state resources to pursue these issues in court? This interim study will provide a comprehensive review of the cost-versus-benefit, to date, for processing unconstitutional measures, ultimately overturned by the Oklahoma courts.”
Hickman turned down her request for the study.