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Senate Panel Passes Insurance Dept Bill (Feb 18, 2013)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A Senate panel has passed a bill that would prohibit the Oklahoma Insurance Department's anti-fraud investigators from using police vehicles.

The Senate General Government Committee voted unanimously on Monday for the bill by Seminole Republican Sen. Harry Coates that prohibits the department from using ``specialized motor vehicles.''

Several state legislators voiced concern after The Associated Press reported in November that the Insurance Department spent more than $180,000 on shotguns, bulletproof vests and seven police-package vehicles that agency officials said were needed as part of its expanded focus on criminal insurance fraud.

Insurance Commissioner John Doak has defended the purchases as important for the safety of his officers and noted they were funded not from state appropriations but from a revolving fund that receives money from fees, fines, penalties and settlements.

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