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INTERIM: Oklahoma lawmakers to study many issues

INTERIM: Oklahoma lawmakers to study many issues

CAPITOLMeth labs, school year length and veterans will be among topics

Published: June 27, 2009

State House members will tackle more than 100 issues before the next legislative session starts in February. House Speaker Chris Benge approved 120 interim studies that are expected to be conducted before the session starts.

Issues covered by the studies include the incidence of "shake and bake” methamphetamine labs, extending the school year for public schools, government modernization and a study looking at post-traumatic stress disorder cases and whether the Department of Veterans Affairs prepared to handle the number of cases. Benge also approved a study that will look at privatizing foster care and welfare services.

"This year, we have a good set of studies that will help to find ways to make our government more efficient, all while providing vital government services to the people of our state,” said Benge, R-Tulsa.

"These studies will help ensure our taxpayers are getting the most out of their money in government services and programs,” he said.

Benge approved nearly twice as many interim studies as he did in 2008, when 120 studies were requested and 68 were approved. This year, 167 studies were requested.

The studies are given to committee chairmen who will oversee research and testimony on the issues. Lawmakers who participate in the studies are paid $25 a day and 55 cents per mile round-trip from their home to the Capitol, said Jennifer Monies, House press secretary.

About the studies
The list approved by Benge also includes a review of laws that regulate sending explicit pictures on cell phones. That study was requested by Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. The study would look at ways to develop training for parents and teachers on how to deal with "sexting,” a practice common among teenagers. Currently, it’s a felony to send a sexually explicit picture of a minor. People convicted of the crime could be made to register as a sex offender.

Benge’s office rejected 43 studies, while four with withdrawn, Monies said. Some of the studies rejected included a request to analyze the cost of care for children with autism, a study requested by Rep. Randy Terrill and other lawmakers looking at the leadership structure at the Department of Public Safety and a study to allow certain nonviolent felons to have a firearm.

In the Senate, all 34 interim studies requested were approved by Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, including two studies requested by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, to examine the cost of providing insurance to children with autism or the cost of requiring insurers to cover treatment for autism.

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