Oklahoma Senate OKs spending limits for Insurance Commissioner's Office
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
2/27/13 at 3:32 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would clamp down on the purchasing practices of Insurance Commissioner John Doak.
Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, passed by a vote of 39-5 and heads to the House.
Coates said he wrote the bill after learning that Doak had bought police-type vehicles for his anti-fraud unit, which Coates said was unnecessary. Doak also bought weapons and uniforms for the unit.
Coates said his bill would force the agency to sell the vehicles but would let its investigators carry sidearms.
Coates said Doak is trying to create a police force, essentially expanding government.
Oklahoma Insurance Department spokeswoman Kelly Collins said: "We continue to believe our anti-fraud officers must protect themselves in what are sometimes difficult circumstances. They are fully trained to use the least possible force in every situation."
The investigators are certified by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training.
Collins said insurance fraud is a serious problem that costs $369 billion nationwide each year.
Coates, who has criticized Doak's travel and other purchases, said he thinks the agency is "overreaching."
The agency's old cars were good enough for the former insurance commissioner, he said.
Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, debated against the bill, saying fraud investigators work on dangerous cases.
"We need to protect these guys," he said.
Sen. Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow, also argued to defeat the measure, saying those who commit insurance fraud are bad.
But Coates said the agency's investigators can work with state and local law enforcement officers.
Sen. Cliff Aldridge, R-Midwest City, argued for the bill, asking what was to stop other regulatory agencies from creating their own police forces.
State cowboy song: The Senate also narrowly passed SB 50, also by Coates, which would direct the Oklahoma Historical Society to hold a contest to name the state's cowboy song. The vote was 25-14. It takes 25 votes in the Senate to secure approval.
Original Print Headline: Bill to cap spending of state insurance commissioner OK'd
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Sen. Harry Coates: He said a decision by state Insurance Commissioner John Doak to buy police-style vehicles amounted to turning the agency's anti-fraud unit into a police force, which he considers an un- necessary expansion of government.