Week In Review
For the week of Monday, March 9,
1998 - Thursday, March 12, 1998
(Most of the work in the Legislature occurred on
the floors of the House and Senate as workers rushed to beat the March 12th
deadline for passing bills out of their house of origin. The next deadline is
March 26th. It requires committees to take action on bills of the opposite house.)
Monday, March 9th
- Governor Keating signed 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. Meanwhile, the special joint legislative
committee on animal waste met to continue work on the substantive legislation.
- The Senate approved SB 793 by Senator Lewis
Long which proposes a $60 million reduction of the state unemployment tax.
The legislation would also increase benefits for unemployed workers.
- The Senate approved SB 1120 by Sen. Ged Wright.
The legislation would provide a sales tax exemption on certain purchases to
private golf courses which are open to the public.
- The Senate approved SB 997 which would allow
sexual assault victims to assume pseudonyms in certain court documents in
an effort to protect their privacy rights. The legislation by Sen. Sam Helton
requires the District Attorneys Council to develop and distribute a special
pseudonym form to law enforcement agencies.
- The Senate approved legislation prohibiting
the transfer of chamber loaded firearms in a vehicle on a public roadway.
SB 1049 also requires any person carrying a firearm in a vehicle to immediately
make its presence known if detained by a peace officer.
- The Senate approved SB 1129 which would create
an uninsured motorist identification database program to be administered by
the Department of Public Safety. The legislation would help track and verify
motorists who had not complied with the compulsory liability insurance requirements.
- The Senate approved SB 1137 which would require
the State Historical Society to establish an Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History
in observance of the state centennial in 2007.
- The House Public Health Committee approved the
so-called optometrists bill. SB 1192 would allow optometrists to perform certain
kinds of laser surgery which had been struck down in a recent lawsuit.
- The House approved a bill revamping travel procedures
for state officials and employees. HB 2602 by Rep. Russ Roach would require
that frequent flyer credits got to state agencies, not employees for personal
use. He contends the legislation would save up to $6 million a year.
Tuesday, March 10th
- The Senate approved SB 1175 which would implement
new regulations on animal feeding operations in Oklahoma. The measure focuses
primarily on swine farms and is a companion bill to another piece of legislation
focusing on the chicken industry. Among other things, SB 1175 would address
standards for waste lagoon construction, watershed analysis and odor abatement,
increased setback requirements and an indemnity fund for waste clean up. Senate
author Paul Muegge said he believes the one-year moratorium on hog farms could
be lifted after the latest measure is enacted. Meanwhile, a special joint
committee on animal feeding operations continued its deliberations on recommendations
issued by a gubernatorial task force.
- The Senate approved SB 1426 which would revamp
the higher education system in Tulsa. The legislation by Sen. Charles Ford
would make OU and OSU the lead universities there, create a graduate research
center in Tulsa and make Rogers University a four-year school in Claremore.
The Senate has already approved legislation authorizing a freestanding, four-year
school in Tulsa.
- The House approved the so-called optometrist
bill, sending it to the Governor for his signature. The legislation would
allow optometrists to perform certain types of laser surgery, a practice which
had been struck down by a recent court decision.
- The House approved HB 3207 which would allow
companies to claim of portion of their job training expenses as a credit on
their state income tax returns.
- The House approved HB 2532 which would require
state agencies to allow employees to submit proposals for improving agency
operations before contracting to privatize such a function.
- The House approved HB 2533 which would add the
executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees to the OSEEGIB board.
- The House approved HB 2975 which would permit
municipalities to remove weeds on agricultural property if they presented
a traffic hazard.
Wednesday, March 11th
- The Senate approved SCR 50, a concurrent resolution
which addresses the recent intervention of the federal courts into state tax
issues. The move is in line with other states which have are petitioning Congress
for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit federal courts from ordering
the state to levy or increase taxes.
- The Senate approved SB 984 which would create
an exemption from county and municipal inspection fees for rural water districts
and non-profit corporations.
- The Senate approved SB 832 creating the Telemedicine
- Acting on information obtained through an Open
Records Act request, Senator Lewis Long accused the State Regents for Higher
Education of circumventing the open meetings and open records acts in their
drafting of a Tulsa higher education plan. The Regents held closed door meetings
at a private office building and a ranch near Guymon to formulate a proposed
shake-up at Rogers University in Tulsa. According to their internal memos,
they also directed that public documents be kept "confidential" during the
process. Senator Long is seeking an explanation.
- The House approved a bill which would prohibit
partial birth abortions in Oklahoma. Under HB 2542, physicians who perform
such a procedure could be fined $10,000 or imprisoned for up to two years,
unless it is done to save the life of the mother. The measure passed 98-0.
- The House approved the so-called "Assisted Suicide
Prevention Act." HB 2440 would allow family members and other to seek injunctive
relief against any person who is believed to be about to violate a state law
Thursday, March 12th
- The House approved a replacement measure for
the "truth-in-sentencing" measure approved by last year's Legislature. The
latest proposal would authorize prison time for more crimes than the original
law and no longer restrict judges to a complex sentencing matrix to determine
prison terms. It would delay implementation of truth-in-sentencing until January
of 1999. The new law is supposed to go into effect in July. House leaders
have not revealed the price tag of their latest proposal, but it is expected
to cost more than $200 million to implement.
- Two national, non-partisan organizations gave
Oklahoma low tax rankings. According to the National Conference for State
Legislatures, Oklahoma ranks 42nd in per capita state and local tax burden
and 37th in tax burden as a percent of personal income. NCSL said Oklahoma
was "a low tax state by national standards."
The Washington, DC-based Tax Foundation, meanwhile, ranked Oklahoma 45th in
per capita tax burden and 41st in tax burden per $1,000 of personal income.
The latter rankings were used more current data than NCSL.
- Statewide employment increased by almost 3 percent
in January. According to the Oklahoma State Employment Commission, the state
added 39,200 new jobs from January of '97 to January of '98. Oklahoma City
and Tulsa accounted for 24,500 of those jobs.
- State revenue collections were down during the
month of February, 9.2 percent below official estimates. The Office of State
Finance blamed the decline on expedited tax refunds.