Last week saw a flurry of activity to get bills passed on the floor of the House. Bills that do not receive a committee hearing and a vote from the full Oklahoma House of Representatives by March 16 will effectively be dead for the remainder of this legislative session.
Building on last year's program to improve Oklahoma 's roads, the state House voted overwhelmingly to advance a new House plan to double the investment in Oklahoma 's transportation needs.
House Bill 2940, by state Rep. Mark Liotta (R-Tulsa), represents the next step in the $300 million House plan that will double investment in road maintenance and repair over the next four years. The new money will come on top of an extra $111.8 million provided for road maintenance and bridge repair during the 2005 legislative session.
Under the more aggressive House plan in HB 2940, the 2005 appropriation for roads will double in four years. The total amount of new road money guaranteed over the next several years would increase from $170 million to at least $270 million. The plan also includes a $70 million annualization of the debt service on bonds that the Department of Transportation has had to pay in the past.
All fuel tax dollars from gas and diesel that currently go into the state's general revenue will be redirected into a new high priority bridge fund.
The plan also includes a separate plank to pay for repair of county roads and bridges. Currently, county governments receive 15 percent of revenue generated by motor vehicle registration fees. Under the House plan, the counties' share would double to 30 percent, providing an extra $85 million to $100 million per year.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will administer those funds. The additional money would come from the state's general revenue fund and would not require cuts in any other programs.
The full House passed historic legislation to replace Oklahoma 's outdated and expensive Medicaid program with a new patient empowerment system.
House Bill 2842, by state Rep. Kris Steele (R-Shawnee), would implement significant reforms and also provides an additional $93 million to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates to Oklahoma 's healthcare providers.
HB 2842 reforms the current Medicaid system by moving away from a “one size fits all” program to one that is tailored to an individual patient's needs. Under the new system, recipients would choose from a menu of options and services to match their own needs. The new program would be phased in, and components of the existing Medicaid system would provide a safety net for those who are otherwise uninsurable.
Additionally, participants would be able to opt out of Medicaid and use their state-allocated Medicaid “premium” to participate in an employer-sponsored health care plan. The new system would also provide financial incentives to encourage people to live healthier lifestyles, and to be responsible with health care spending.
Other portions of HB 2842 direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to implement personal health accounts for program participants; e-prescribing to help improve quality of care and patient outcomes; and a comprehensive disease management program to improve the quality of life for recipients and better manage the cost of care.
Boise City News