Insurance Commissioner’s Office
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak is calling for a moratorium on all insurance non-renewals, cancellations and terminations for affected areas in the wake of the tornado and severe storms that occurred in central Oklahoma May 19-20.
“This is just a small, administrative step that we can take to help ease the burden of the victims of this devastating storm,” said Doak. “Our goal is to help ensure that insurance policies that were in effect will remain in effect while numerous families go through the recovery process.”
The bulletin released today requests insurers to not cancel, non-renew or terminate coverage while the Disaster Emergency Executive Order 2013-20 remains in effect, allowing consumers to take actions necessary to keep their policies in force. Additionally, any rate increases for insurance policies in affected counties dated on or after May 19, 2013 are to be deferred during the pendency of this emergency with coverage remaining in effect at the previously established rate.
“Many families have lost everything, so anything we can do to eliminate even the smallest stressors will go a long way in the days to come,” said Doak. “We encourage affected residents of the recent tornados to rely on us to be a support for their insurance-related needs.”
Recent protocol put into place by the Oklahoma Insurance Department is requiring any licensed public adjuster performing services in the affected counties to exhibit their adjuster license to a prospective client before entering into contract. If approached by an adjuster without adequate proof of license, please call the OID Anti-Fraud Unit at (800) 522-0071.
Insurers are also being requested to allow policyholders in these areas to obtain refills of their medications under their prescription drug coverage even if recently filled.
To view the complete official bulletin released today, please visit www.oid.ok.gov.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Concurrent Resolution 1023, a measure which limits the continuation and expansion of Insure Oklahoma.
Earlier this session, it was revealed that the federal government would not continue the healthcare funding of 9,000 Oklahomans who received benefits under Insure Oklahoma. This drop in coverage comes after promises from the Obama Administration that everyone would be covered under ObamaCare. The Obama Administration withdrew their funds and left the State of Oklahoma responsible for a $50 million program.
“This is what happens when government gets into the health care business,” said House Speaker T.W. Shannon. “Taxpayers are burdened and promises to the insured are broken at the will of politicians. I cannot support the expansion of inefficient government run health care. Government has no place having its hands in people’s health care choices.”
HCR 1023 calls for the state to no longer seek federal funds or waivers for Insure Oklahoma. If Insure Oklahoma is to continue to exist, HCR 1023 does not allow any new state funding sources to be directed to the program and the eligibility of people in its service cannot be expanded.
“The answer to this problem is not further intrusion by the federal government,” said Rep. Glen Mulready, author of HCR 1023.”This is a clear message that we need to find a better solution and we will not follow the example of Washington, D.C.”
The Senate ended the 2013 legislative session today.
Senate Communications Division
Each year as the legislative session draws to a close, leaders of each caucus are asked to grade the session and discuss which measures they see as victories or defeats. But as the Senate approached final adjournment, President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and Minority Leader Sean Burrage agreed that analysis should come later. For now, they said, it was important to remain focused on supporting fellow Oklahomans who were still hurting from May’s deadly tornadoes.
Over the course of two days, 26 people were killed, including 10 children. Hundreds more were injured, and thousands left homeless. The projected cost of the Moore tornado alone is expected to be more than $2 billion.
“The events of the past week have reminded us all of the importance of family, of community, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with one another in the face of tragedy,” Bingman said. “Politics as usual seems so trivial in this moment. Thankfully, the Legislature has united to send immediate disaster relief assistance to these communities, and to provide appropriate tax credit assistance to the families struggling to piece their lives back together. These are small but meaningful steps. They will make a difference in people’s lives, and frankly, other hot button political topics can wait. There will be a time to talk politics – but that time is not now. For today, the members of the Senate want to set aside the traditional end-of-session critique, and instead, direct our thoughts and prayers to our fellow Oklahomans.”
In the final days of the session, members of the Senate moved quickly to approve Senate Bill 249, authorizing the use of $45 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for tornado relief. That was followed by the passage of Senate Bill 330, which authorized tax credits to offset the cost of replacing homes and vehicles destroyed in the storms, as well as measures to assist businesses impacted by the tornadoes and those donating to victims.
“We will have plenty of time to tally up political wins and losses. Today, the only losses that matter are those borne by our fellow Oklahomans who have felt first-hand the impact of these devastating tornadoes,” Burrage said. “As Senators, we are public servants. But our service to Oklahoma has been dwarfed by the work of the first responders, teachers, volunteers, and even survivors who came forward to help their neighbors in this time of inconceivable need. I’m sure I speak for many when I say our thoughts and prayers for safety, comfort, and peace are with those who have suffered such great losses in the recent days.”
Oklahomans wishing to help with the ongoing relief efforts can contact the American Red Cross in Oklahoma City at 405-228-9500 or in Shawnee at 405-273-8800 or online at www.redcross.org. Donations are also being accepted by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma at 405-972-1111 or by going to www.regionalfoodbank.org. They can also donate to the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund for long-term needs of tornado victims by calling the United Way of Central Oklahoma at 405-236-8441, or donate online at www.unitedwayokc.org.
Senate Communications Division
The Senate has approved a package of tax relief measures to help Oklahoma tornado victims. Senator Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, is the author of Senate Bill 330. He represents the district hardest hit by Monday’s EF5.
“We know that thousands of Oklahomans have lost everything, including their homes and their vehicles. Even with insurance, there can be a tremendous personal expense for replacing these things,” Sykes said. “This package of credits will help offset some of the cost for replacing homes and vehicles, and help businesses that were impacted.”
The tax relief measures contained in SB 330 include:
· A credit against the cost of motor vehicle registration for those replacing vehicles destroyed as a result of a tornado.
· Businesses that make donations from inventory to assist tornado victims may claim an exemption from the requirement to remit sales tax on donated inventory.
· Businesses affected by the tornado are protected from being penalized for a report filed late due to the storm.
· A credit for tornado victims who purchase a replacement vehicle against the cost of motor vehicle excise tax.
· Homeowners who are victims of federally-declared disasters can claim an income tax credit equal to the difference between ad valorem taxes before the tornado and taxes after the property is repaired or rebuilt.
· Modifies the “January 1st in residence” requirement for homestead exemptions for those who lost homes and buy a replacement home.
· Impacted homeowners may file a homestead exemption after the statutory deadline of March 15th and until June 1st.
After being approved by the House, SB 330 will go to the governor for her signature.
House Media Division
Four members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives are joining together to help provide storm shelters or safe rooms for state schools.
In the wake of the devastation of the recent tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma, resulting in 26 lives lost and countless destruction to buildings – including two schools in Moore – state Reps. Jon Echols, Mark McBride, Richard Morrissette and Eric Proctor are forming a 501(c)(3) organization for the purpose of helping provide storm shelters or safe rooms for existing schools.
Most buildings in Oklahoma do not have basements because of the porous red clay soil that makes underground rooms problematic due to structure stability issues. But smaller underground shelters and above-ground safe rooms have gained popularity in recent years.
“After the horrific tornado in Moore and southwest Oklahoma City, we are reminded just how important it is to be as prepared as possible to ride out these storms,” said Rep. Echols, R-Oklahoma City. “When it comes to safeguarding our children while they are at school, it must be a top concern for us all.”
“The lives of our children are precious and need to be protected to the fullest extent possible,” said Rep. Proctor, D-Tulsa. “The people of Oklahoma have the biggest hearts in the nation and I am hopeful we can join together to ensure that our children have a safe haven in times of extreme weather.”
“This tornado took the lives of eight elementary school students – seven at Plaza Towers and one at Briarwood,” said Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore. “We are all mourning the losses of those children and want to do more to protect our school-aged children moving forward. That’s why we are forming this 501(c)(3) – we have to provide every school with shelters that can withstand the brunt of tornadoes like this one. Hiding in the interior of a building won’t cut it when faced with a tornado on the massive level of the one that hit Moore.”
“The damage done in south Oklahoma City and Moore is unbelievable,” said Rep. Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. “It was heartbreaking to learn of the deaths at the schools in Moore. To ensure the safety and security of our school-aged children is paramount. I believe this project is a great idea to get safe rooms and storm shelters in schools as quickly as possible.”
Rep. Echols said Oklahoma City University’s School of Law has volunteered to do pro bono legal services. Also, the Oklahoma City law firm Crowe and Dunlevy is assisting on the formation of the 501(c)(3).
Kevin D. Gordon, president of Crowe and Dunlevy, said: “We’re honored and happy to help in creating a charitable organization through which the state can safeguard our public schoolchildren and protect them from disasters like the terrible tornado in Moore.”
“It means so much to me that Crowe and Dunlevy have volunteered their legal expertise in this matter,” Rep. Echols said. “We want to get this moving as quickly as possible and having the assistance of this firm will speed the process along considerably. I thank Kevin and his firm for taking part in this very important project.”
Apache Corp., which has called Oklahoma home for many of its employees since the company’s first well was drilled there more than 50 years ago, has pledged $500,000 to seed the fund.
“Our hearts go out to those who have suffered due to this horrific storm,” said Rob Johnston, Apache Central Region vice president. “We hope this pledge of $500,000 will not only help to provide safety for the children of Moore but also lend some comfort to families when they send their children off to school.”
Apache bases its Central Region operations in Tulsa and has 369 employees throughout the state. Many Apache employees have close ties to family, friends and schools in the Moore area.
“I am beyond grateful and appreciative of Apache Corp. for providing such a large donation to get this project off the ground,” Rep. McBride said. “My hometown has been devastated by this storm and knowing that this company is willing to help out so much is heartening and I thank them so very much.”
“We hope many other organizations will follow our lead to help address this issue,” Rep. Echols said. “It will take a team response from the entire state.”
President Obama will tour tornado-damaged areas this weekend.
No schedule has been announced.
House Media Division
The House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 249, a measure that will provide relief in response to the May 2013 tornadoes.
SB 249 will direct $45 million from the Rainy Day Fund to the Office of Emergency Management for immediate tornado relief. These funds will match a portion of the federal funds that have been allocated to local governments for their relief efforts.
“We lost 26 Oklahomans and hundreds continue to suffer due to this tragedy,” said Representative John Echols, R-Oklahoman City. “It is of the greatest priority that we come together as a legislature and provide help when our people are most vulnerable. We are a strong state made of strong people. We will overcome this tragedy and we will rebuild.”
“Tragedy has once again fallen upon our great state,” said Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore. “Communities have been destroyed and lives have been ended, all too soon. The world has been watching and Oklahoma and has proven that we are a brave people able to unite and rise above this challenging time. I give my thanks to my fellow lawmakers for their votes.”
News outlets are predicting the total dollar amount in damage to exceed the May 3, 1999 tornado, which was greater than $1 billion. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak has made early predictions that damage could be well over $2 billion.
“The devastation that has fallen upon my district and this state is indescribable,” said Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore. “Oklahomans are facing a great hardship and the road to recovery will be long. I applaud my fellow lawmakers for their united compassion.”
“The people of Oklahoma have placed their trust in us as elected officials,” said Rep. Jason Nelson, author of SB 249. “With that trust comes the responsibility to do what is right. By opening our hearts and through God’s guidance, I believe this chamber’s unanimous passage of this measure reinforces our commitment to the people of this state. This legislature is united. We are Oklahomans.”
SB 249 will now go to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin to be signed into law.
Congressman Cole’s Office
Congressman Tom Cole has reiterated his support for the Keystone XL pipeline.
He issued the following statement supporting passage of H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act. After 1700 days awaiting application approval from the State Department, this legislation would finally allow TransCanada to begin building a pipeline that would extend from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast and include a port in Cushing, Oklahoma.
“I am pleased that my colleagues in the House continue fighting for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” said Cole. “Not only is the project a wise investment in the future of American energy production, but it also strengthens our national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil. Through TransCanada’s willingness to invest $7 billion to begin construction, this pipeline project would directly create 20,000 jobs without expending any federal dollars. Through this expansion with our allies in Canada, the pipeline would be a vital step toward creating much-needed jobs, tightening our national security and lowering fuel prices.
“Members on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate have voted numerous times to approve TransCanada’s application and permit construction of the pipeline. Research has already been done that ensures no harmful effects on the environment from its construction, so needless regulations and time delays must be lifted. It’s time for the State Department and White House to acknowledge the value of this project and approve its construction.”