I recently discussed the many education laws that went into effect on July 1 and August 2.  This week, I’d like to touch on some of the other new laws that have gone into effect. 

            This Fall, Oklahoma’s wine and liquor laws will be updated.  One of the laws (SB 929) authorizes a wine and spirits wholesalers who has been designated by a manufacturer as a distributor of its wine or spirits to post those products by line-item. It allows a bonded warehouse license to receive and store nonalcoholic beverages.  The new law also allows an applicant for a retail wine and/or retail beer license from maintaining a separate mixed beverage, caterer, mixed beverage/caterer combination license, and/or an on-premise beer and wine license, if the retail wine and/or retail beer license is not situated within or adjacent to the same physical space wherein the on-premises license is maintained.

            Tourism is one our top revenue creating industries.  SB 1579 creates the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department Reimbursement and Donation Revolving Fund which will consist of donations, insurance reimbursements, Federal Emergency Management Agency payments and other reimbursement monies received by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.

            Sooner Care reimbursement rates have also been a topic of much discussion at the Capitol.  SB 1605 directs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA), through agency administration savings and efficiencies to increase the current reimbursement rates for Sooner Care-contracted long-term care facilities by three percent and for all remaining Sooner Care-contracted provider types/ groups by two percent (with CMS approval) with the following exemptions: services financed through appropriations to other state agencies, durable medical equipment prosthetics, Orthotics and supplies, non-emergency transportation, services provided to Insure Oklahoma members, payments for drug ingredients/ physicians supplied drugs, Indian Health Services/ Indian/Urban Clinics, FQHCs, Program for the All-inclusive Care for the Elderly and rural health centers. All rate increases must be in compliance with state and federal law as well as state cost reimbursement methodologies.

            Efforts have also been made in recent years to reform our state’s criminal justice system.  HB 3706 stipulates the Department of Corrections (DOC) maintain per diem rates for private prison medium security beds at $43.30 (annual total ~$2.8 million). The only rate currently below this is a single facility which DOC pays $40.28/day.  It also directs the agency to utilize up to $4.8 million (included in the agency’s FY’19 appropriations) to coordinate with OMES in the implementation/upgrading of a statewide offender management system.  This will help DOC better keep track of offenders, which will be a tremendous tool in making future policy changes to lower incarceration rates and reduce recidivism. 

            Helping protect our youth is one of the greatest responsibilities of the legislature.  This session, we approved SB 1081, which establishes the “Children’s Trust Fund of Oklahoma” to be administered by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth. The fund will consist of donations and interest earned on investment of the fund. The State Treasurer will be responsible for investing monies in the fund pursuant to statutory guidelines. Grants from the fund will be made for the purpose of stimulating innovative programs, activities or research or evaluation that will improve the well-being of Oklahoma children.

            HB 1270 requires the OHCA to contract with an independent vendor(s) to verify aspects of an individual’s initial eligibility for Medicaid and to report information quarterly that might affect recipients’ continued eligibility.  This is an effort to ensure efficiency in the use of these public funds and that no money is being wasted on individuals no longer eligible for this state assistance program.

            You can learn more about these and other new laws on our Senate website. 

            To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Ron Sharp, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 429, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at sharp@oksenate.gov, or call (405) 521-5539.