Local & Regional
8:06 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Major Accomplishments of 2013 Oklahoma Legislature

Major items passed by the Oklahoma Legislature, which was working Friday to wrap up its 2013 session:

— Tax Cut: Lawmakers adopted legislation that reduces the state's top income rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2015, with a second cut to 4.85 percent set for 2016 if state revenues continue to rise. The measure has been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.

— State Capitol Improvements: The tax cut bill also diverts $120 million in income tax revenue over the next two years to a fund that will finance improvements and repairs to the State Capitol building. Built between 1914 and 1917, yellow barricades now ring the building's south plaza to keep pedestrians from walking beneath pieces of a limestone facade that has crumbled from the building.

— Budget Bill: The Legislature adopted a $7.1 billion general appropriations bill to fund state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The bill increases spending by nearly $270 million over the current year's budget, with funding growth focused mostly on education, health care and human services.

— Worker's Compensation: Fallin signed legislation to overhaul the state's workers' compensation system. The measure changes Oklahoma's current court-based system to an administrative structure. Supporters say the change will dramatically reduce workers' compensation costs to businesses.

— CompSource: Lawmakers also passed a measure that converts the nonprofit CompSource Oklahoma into an independent mutual company that will be known as CompSource Mutual Insurance Company. The agency writes about one-third of Oklahoma's workers' compensation policies.

— Rainy Day Appropriation: Within days of devastating tornadoes that struck Moore, Shawnee and other areas, lawmakers approved using $45 million from the state's constitutional reserve fund to help communities recover from the damage. Among other things, the money will help pay for repairs to local infrastructure damaged by the tornadoes and the overtime costs of first responders. A total of 24 people, including 10 children, died in the Moore tornado and two other people were killed in the Shawnee tornado.

— Pension Changes: Lawmakers passed legislation to reduce the unfunded liability of Oklahoma's pension system for firefighters. The bill requires new firefighters to be at least 50 years old and have worked for 22 years, instead of the current 20 years, to be eligible for benefits. New firefighters also would not become vested until they had worked for 11 years, instead of the current 10 years. The bill also increases the amount that firefighters, municipalities and the state pay into the system each year.

Oklahoma House members are working late to wrap up a legislative session that saw Gov. Mary Fallin advance her agenda to reduce taxes and reform the state workers' compensation system.

State senators went home at midday, but House members worked into the evening on routine budget bills and other measures that were delayed by parliamentary maneuvering.

Fallin this year saw legislators reduce Oklahoma's top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, beginning in 2015. A deeper cut will be triggered in 2016 if state revenues increase.

Also, legislators changed the workers comp system to one the governor says will be less expensive for businesses.

Legislators could have stayed until next Friday. Leaving early is expected to save the state $140,000.