Week In Review
For the week of Monday, March 2,
1998 - Thursday, March 5, 1998
(Most of the work in the Legislature occurred on
the floors of the House and Senate. The next deadline, this coming Thursday,
March 12th, requires lawmakers to pass bills out of their house of origin.)
Monday, March 2nd
- The Senate approved the so-called "trailer bill"
for the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 1997. The latest legislation is designed
to strengthen the truth-in-sentencing provision and other aspects of the act.
- The Senate approved legislation that would mandate
the castration of some convicted rapists. The measure would allow a judge
to order surgical castration of first and second-degree rapists if two of
eight aggravating circumstances exist. The bill now goes to the House.
- The House approved a bill to regulate body piercing.
HB 2547 would empower the State Health Department to license body piercing
- The House defeated legislation which would have
given poultry and swine farmers the ability to form associations to negotiate
contracts with food companies. HB 3142 by Rep. Laura Boyd was designed to
protect the family farmer, but Tyson Foods and the Oklahoma Broiler Council
claimed it would violate fair trade practices.
- The House approved legislation to create a State
Office of Technology. The measure would use existing resources and staff from
the Office of State Finance to create the new entity.
- The Senate approved SB 798, legislation designed
to increase the number of college graduates in the state. The bill by Senator
Gene Stipe would provide an income tax credit for eligible student loan payments.
- The Senate approved SB 811 which would prohibit
security guards from wearing uniforms similar to those of local law enforcement.
- The Senate approved SJR 30, a proposed constitutional
amendment which would authorize a $300 million capital improvement bond issue
for higher education.
Tuesday, March 3rd
- The Senate approved SB 1170 which would place
new regulations on the Oklahoma poultry industry. The measure would create
licensing and restrictions for poultry growers, in addition to providing reimbursements
for the removal of poultry waste.
- The Senate approved SB 1225, legislation which
would prohibit outpatient surgery centers from opening near some rural hospitals.
The bill would restrict licensing of new ambulatory surgery centers within
10 miles of indebted city-owned or county-owned hospitals in counties with
a population of fewer than 100,000. The measure by Sen. Trish Weedn is designed
to protect community-owned hospitals from other facilities which "cherry pick"
- The Senate approved legislation encouraging
schools to provide drivers education. During the amendment process, however,
lawmakers inadvertently approved a provision which would change the legal
driving age to 18. Senate author Keith Leftwich said the mistake will be corrected
when the bill reaches the House.
- The Senate approved a measure requiring health
insurance companies to cover severe mental illness. SB 1059 would include
health plans to include some mental disorders in their coverage under the
same conditions as physical disorders.
- In a letter to a hog farmer, Governor Keating
appeared to contradict his earlier support of a one-year moratorium on new
swine operations. Keating told the farmer the moratorium was an idea pushed
by Democratic lawmakers, but he had to go along with it to get reasonable
restrictions on the hog industry.
- In a letter to the federal government, the Office
of State Finance appeared to support a recent legislative action that would
have begun the process of pumping an additional $35.9 million into the state
health insurance fund. The Senate gave final legislative approval to SB 1089
last week, but it was vetoed by Governor Keating. The legislation was designed
to offset a recent health insurance premium increase for state employees.
Among other things, the bill expresses intent to add an additional $35.9 million
to the reserves of the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance
Board (OSEEGIB), rescind a freeze that locked state employees to their present
insurance carrier and allow participating health insurers to lower their rates.
- The House approved HB 2571 which would extend
Oklahoma's hate crime statutes to include computer and electronic messages.
Wednesday, March 4th
- Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor
asked Governor Keating for a firm commitment on the proposed hog moratorium,
citing conflicting statements from the Governor. Keating's Agriculture Secretary
Dennis Howard circulated a letter from his general counsel suggesting there
should be exceptions to the moratorium, but Senator Taylor said he would resist
amendments to the measure.
- The Senate approved SB 762, the "Oklahoma Tourism
Development Act" by Senator Jeff Rabon. It would provide a sales tax credit
for tourism projects that attract at least 25 percent of their business from
out of state.
- The Senate approved SJR 21, a proposed constitutional
amendment that would remove the current 10 percent cap on rainy day fund deposits.
Removing the cap would allow larger deposits to the fund in good economic
- The Senate approved a bill expanding a sales
tax rebate program for lower and middle-income families. SB 239 by Sen. Penny
Williams now goes to the House.
- The Senate approved legislation designed to
improve safety on Oklahoma roadways. SB 794 would require a driver who is
passing another car to complete the maneuver within a distance of one mile
and without impeding the normal flow of traffic.
- The Senate approved SB 995, legislation which
would make it legal for landowners to hunt feral hogs and coyotes on their
private property by the use of "headlighting."
- The Senate approved SB 1416 providing for district
attorneys to notify school district officials if an employee is charged with
- The House approved HB 1822 which would reform
state purchasing laws. Among other things, the bill would increase the threshold
for Central Purchasing acquisitions from $2,500 to $25,000. A similar bill
has already passed the Senate.
- The House approved an amended bill which would
lower the intoxication level for DUI offenders from .10 percent blood alcoholic
content to .08 percent. President Clinton has suggested to the decrease. A
similar bill died in the State Senate earlier this session in part because
of opposition from the Public Safety Commissioner Bob Ricks.
- The House approved HJR 1088 which would allow
the use of facilities at public colleges and universities in connection with
research ventures with private companies. The measure must also be approved
in a statewide vote.
- The House also approved HB 3204 which would
provide a 10-year property tax exemption for manufacturers of certain computer
Thursday, March 5th
- The Senate approved HJR 1093, placing a one-year
moratorium on the licensing of hog feeding facilities. Legislative leaders
are hoping to rescind the moratorium later this session when comprehensive
hog and poultry regulations are approved. Governor Keating has indicated he
will sign the moratorium, despite conflicting statements from his office earlier
in the week.
- Child abuse deaths increased in Oklahoma in
1997, according to the Department of Human Services. Last year 42 children
died of abuse or neglect, 13 more than in 1996. That's also more deaths than
in any year since 1985.
- Simmons Foods Inc. announced it had temporarily
halted the discharge from a Missouri poultry plant. A malfunction there may
have killed fish and polluted water in two Grand Lake tributaries near Grove.
- Oklahoma corrections officials decided to remove
174 state inmates from a private prison in Texas after reports of prisoner
uprisings at the facility.