This year's legislative session was an interesting and productive one for the American Heart Association. We started off the session with a new Government Relations Director whose first day was also the first day of session.
She went to work immediately on our AED good samaritan legislation, smoke free Oklahoma, and the D.I.N.E. taskforce. It was obvious from the start that this session would yield positive things for AHA.
Our first large victory came on April 20th when Governor Henry signed into law SB745 which provides immunity to anyone who, no matter their training, uses an AED. We did not get as lucky with our smoke free Oklahoma or D.I.N.E. bill but we made great progress and used this session to educate lawmakers on these two issues. Our hope is that we can come back next year and successfully pass both pieces of legislation.
Below are some other AHA victories this session:
· Stopped legislation that would have created a ballot initiative to take TSET money and give it to adult stem cell research. Early this session, HJR 1035 was filed calling for a vote of the people to amend the Oklahoma Constitution taking away 10% of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust earnings (master settlement funds) and diverting it for “adult” stem cell research. If the legislation passed and with an affirmative vote of the people to amend the Constitution it would have permanently appropriated 10% of the earnings to stem cell research eliminating funding for current tobacco control, fitness, and nutrition programs, as well as set precedence for other groups to raid the trust fund. This bill moved all session with great momentum and it appeared as if it could not be stopped. As of last week, the conferees denied all amendments to HJR1035 which essentially kills the bill. The issue will not be on the ballot this November and TSET’s funds are protected so they can be used for their original intention.
· Passed HB1678: This bill spells out a more detailed and expansive list (37 in total) of those medical professionals who are provided immunity under the Volunteer Medical Professional Services Act. This bill also provides immunity under this Act to persons participating in the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps who are assisting in disaster drills and community service events endorsed by a government entity.
· Passed SB399: This bill designates the Oklahoma Department of Transportation as the agency to implement the Safe Routes to Schools program. The Director is authorized to form a Safe Routes to School advisory committee, and, in consultation with the Safe Routes to Schools Advisory Committee, must establish safe routes to schools program to assist communities in identifying and reducing barriers and hazards to children walking or bicycling to and from school. It also creates a revolving fund in the State Treasury to pay for expenses.
· Passed SB1166: This bill creates regional emergency 911 districts to more efficiently provide services to the citizens of Oklahoma.
· Passed SB757: This bill creates the Oklahoma Health Information Infrastructure advisory board. The purpose of this board is to monitor and study barriers to the adoption of health information systems.
· Passed SB608: This bill will not only crack down on the retail-to-retail sales, but it will require the Creek nation to now pay 100% of the current tax rate to the state, except for on those sold to tribal members. Instead of giving noncompacting tribes the easy route of just paying 75%, this will make them pay 100% and then justify any legal tax-free sales to tribal members.