Ford Passes 12 Bills to Senate
poncacitynow.com - April 4, 2022 6:03 am
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, passed a dozen bills out of the House this session that have now been assigned to various Senate committees.
Many of the measures focus on public safety enhancements and pay and compensation benefit changes for law enforcement or first responders. Others seek to improve public process and transparency.
“As a former police officer, I’ve seen first-hand the devastation caused by certain crimes, and I also understand the willing sacrifice law enforcement and first responders make every day to preserve public safety,” Ford said. “Measures to improve the peace and safety of our citizens and to ensure those who protect them are adequately compensated and, should the worst happen, that their surviving spouses receive the benefits they deserve are a priority.”
Ford said he also focused on legislation that sprang from constituent requests.
Three of Ford’s bills have been referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee:
House Bill 4371 provides that weekly workers’ compensation income benefits payable to the surviving spouse of a municipal police officer or firefighter, county sheriff, deputy sheriff, state trooper, or emergency medical technician will continue whether or not the surviving spouse remarries.
House Bill 4373 modifies the elements of third-degree burglary to include the theft of tires, wheels, and catalytic converters, and increases the penalty for such thefts to felony offenses with fines up to $10,000.
House Bill 4375 prohibits a person previously convicted of larceny of a catalytic converter from possessing any combination of two or more of the following tools: battery-powered reciprocating saw, reciprocating saw blades, pliers, wrenches or vehicle jack.
Ford said these the stiffer penalties and restrictions are an attempt to stem the tide of recent thefts of vehicle parts that cause considerable hardship for vehicle owners.
House Bill 4376 creates the crime of “smash-and-grab burglary” which is when a person intentionally enters a mercantile establishment with the intent to commit a theft that results in discernible damage to the business in excess of $500. Punishment is a felony subject to two to 10 years of imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Second and subsequent convictions would result in up to 20 years imprisonment, fines of up to $20,000, or both.
Ford said these crimes also are on the rise and must be stopped by the threat of increased punishment.
House Bill 4386 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The measure would grant a 35% pay increase to each commissioned Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper effective July 1. Ford said it’s been seven years since troopers were given a raise, and their pay lags behind many other law enforcement agencies. With an increase in older troopers retiring, it’s imperative to offer greater base pay and benefits for new recruits, he said.
Two bills have been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee:
House Bill 4374 modifies the definition of “family or household member” and defines “living in the same household” for the purpose of obtaining a victim protective order. Ford filed this bill after the tragic loss of life of one of his constituents, Stephen Bernius, who was killed by a man living in his home who was not a relative. Despite repeated threats, Bernius was unable to secure a protective order because of the limits of current law. This will provide broader protection.
House Bill 1606 establishes a 30-day timeline for cities and towns to enact decisions of arbitration unless both parties agree to an extension or receive a court injunction. Ford said without the timeline municipalities are able to drag out implementation of arbitration decisions. This measure would grant the winning party more immediate relief.
Ford’s House Bill 4370 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee. The bill requires school boards of districts with more than 5,000 students to provide livestream of all public board meetings. The board shall publish instructions for accessing the livestream on the district’s website and social media accounts. Ford said this would allow more transparency and greater citizen engagement in school board proceedings without creating undue burden on smaller districts that might have limited technology.
Three of Ford’s bills now await consideration by the Senate Retirement & Insurance Committee.
House Bill 2065 allows for the reinstatement of retirement benefits for members of the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System for those who were hired on or after Nov. 1, 2021, or May 24, 2013.
House Bill 2745 changes the computation of the disability benefit for a member of the Oklahoma Police Pensions and Retirement System (OPPRS) who sustains an injury from a violent act in the line of duty. The measure directs OPPRS to compute the benefit by either using the compensation paid to the highest paid nonsupervisory patrol officer in the employment of the same municipality or to grant 100% disability based on the member’s final average salary, whichever results in the highest benefit.
House Bill 2758 provides hazardous duty benefits for new hires and increases retirement benefits for those in the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) who are serving as a military police officer or emergency medical service personnel.
Ford’s House Bill 3615 awaits consideration in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. The bill would change the compliance deadline relating to vapor manufacturers reporting to the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission and changes the deadline for the ABLE Commission to post the manufacturer’s directory on its website. This is a bill that ran last year. It changes the dates from 2022 to 2023 so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will have more time to approve these products.
Ross Ford, a Republican, serves District 76 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes part of Tulsa County.