Week In Review
For the week of Monday, February
9, 1998 - Thursday, February 12, 1998
(Most of the work in the Legislature occurred
behind the scenes as lawmakers rushed to beat a February 19th deadline for
reporting legislation out of committee in its house of origin.)
Monday, February 9th
- Oklahoma veterans rallied at the State Capitol
in support of full-funding of state veterans programs. House Speaker Loyd
Benson cautioned that the tax cut program pushed by Governor Keating could
impact veterans services.
- A survey released by the Department of Corrections
indicated 95 percent of violent felons would receive tougher sentences under
truth-in-sentencing than under the current system. The cases in the study
ranged from 2nd degree murder to armed robber to child abuse. Of the 65 cases
chosen at random, 62 would have received tougher sentences under truth-in-sentencing.
- Governor Keating vowed to veto any attempt to
repeal a pay raise for district attorneys and judges. Several House legislators
suggested they may roll back the pay raise if truth-in-sentencing were repealed.
- The Senate Business and Labor Committee approved
a proposed reduction in the state unemployment tax. SB 793 by Senator Lewis
Long could save businesses some $60 million.
- The House Government Operations and Agency Oversight
Committee postponed a hearing on HB 2227, legislation which would keep alive
the Commission on Marginally Producing Oil and Gas Wells. Governor Keating's
Secretary of Energy Mike Smith argued the commission has already accomplished
its mission and should be abolished.
- The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture announced
that Seaboard Farms Inc. had agreed to pay fines of $88,200 for violations
related to the improper disposal of hog carcasses.
Tuesday, February 10th
- By more than a 2 to 1 margin, Oklahoma voters
defeated a proposal to allow casino gambling in Oklahoma.
- The Senate confirmed the nomination of Jerry
Johnson for the position of Oklahoma Tax Commissioner.
- A Senate analysis commissioned by Senator Lewis
Long indicated a new state university could be created in Tulsa without additional
appropriations if the State Regents would use funding currently earmarked
for Rogers University. According to the analysis, Rogers currently receives
$18.3 million, the third largest allocation of the state's 11 regional universities.
Rogers also has the third highest enrollment of the regional schools.
- Tulsa area Senators objected to the State Regents'
decision to begin hiring new administrators for a proposed OU/OSU-Tulsa, even
though legislation creating such an institution is still awaiting action in
committee. The legislators called on the regents to concentrate on expanding
academic offerings first before they begin building a new bureaucracy.
- The House Energy and Environment Committee defeated
two bills aimed at strengthening regulations on the hog and poultry industries.
HB 2764 would have required a two-mile setback between hog farms and neighbors
homes, among other things. HB 3279 would have assessed a fee of a half-cent
per chicken against poultry companies. The resulting $1.2 million would be
used to transport chicken litter out of watersheds threatened by high levels
- The House Common Education Committee defeated
a bill which would have implemented Governor Keating's so-called 4 by 4 education
plan. The measure would require all high school students to take four years
of math, science, social studies and English. Opponents point out individual
school districts already have the power to require such a mandate, arguing
the decision should be left at the local level.
- The House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources
Committee voted to advance HB 2610, legislation which would increase fines
for "slamming" telephone consumers. Under the bill, fines for switching customers
long distance service without their knowledge could go as high as
- The House Commerce, Industry and Labor Committee
approved HB 2237 which would require roofers to be licensed by a state board.
Wednesday, February 11th
- Senator Darryl Roberts released a Senate analysis
indicated education would be the biggest casualty of Governor Keating's tax
cut program. According to the analysis, education would lose $597 million
annually by the time the cuts were fully implemented. Corrections would take
an annual cut of $82 million while health and social services would lose $174
million a year.
- Chancellor for Higher Education Hans Brisch
testified before the Senate Education Committee, answering questions on the
State Regents plans for Tulsa. Senators wanted specific information on new
academic programs the Regents would be pursuing in Tulsa as part of their
plan to restructure Rogers University, but Brisch was unable to offer any
specifics or commitments. The Senate Education Committee is expected to take
up two bills on the subject next week. One would create a free-standing, four-year
university in Tulsa; the other would create an institution called OU/OSU-Tulsa,
provided those schools were willing to offer a set number of courses in the
state's second largest metro area.
- The House Education Committee approved a so-called
"school choice" bill, one of the planks in Governor Keating's education platform.
The legislation would allow parents to choose the public school their children
- Former gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Kobyluk announced
he would run for governor again in 1998, this time as a Democrat. Kobyluk
has made previous unsuccessful bids as a Republican. He joins Reps. Laura
Boyd and James Hager in the Democratic Primary.
Thursday, February 12th
- The House and Senate met briefly before adjourning
for the weekend. Work continued in committee to beat the approaching February
Oklahoma 2000, an arm of the Oklahoma State Chamber
of Commerce, released it plan improving the state economy Wednesday. Its highlights
- Invest in higher education and increase the
number of college graduates in Oklahoma;
- Reduce taxes on business;
- Evaluate a right-to-work law;
- Invest in highways;
- Target high-growth industries such as printing,
electronics, plastics, industrial machinary, etc.
- Increase labor force by educating people who
are on welfare;
- Enact programs to improve health services and
community involvement, while decreasing teen pregnancy and crime.