Week In Review
For the week of Monday, April 6,
1998 - Thursday, April 9, 1998
(Most of the work in the Legislature occurred on
the floors of the respective houses as legislators rushed to beat their next
deadline. That deadline, requiring the 3rd reading of bills in the opposite
house, is April 16th.)
Monday, April 6th
- In an apparent turnaround, Governor Keating
proposed pumping an additional $31 million in general revenue into the Oklahoma
State Employee and Education Group Insurance Board to help offset a recent
rate increase. Earlier this session, Keating vetoed a similar measure which
would have accomplished the same goal using rainy day funds. Senate President
Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor said Keating's proposal would be considered, but
added it didn't make sense to use recurring general revenue funds for a one-time
- The House defeated SB 643 which would have created
the Commercial Property and Casualty Competitives Loss Cost Rating Act. Senator
Mark Snyder's legislation would have allowed commercial insurance companies
to raise their rates greater than 15 percent up or down margin without an
Insurance Commission review. Rep. Bill Settle, who opposed the bill in the
House, claimed it would take away Oklahomans "right to redress a wrong."
- The House and Senate approved similar bills
relating to the sale of life insurance policies to terminally ill patients.
SB 791 and HB 2372 would establish a licensure process for viatical brokers.
A viatical settlement is a transaction between an insurance policy holder
and a buyer. The buyer pays the policy holder a set amount, then collects
the full amount when the seller dies.
- The House unanimously approved SB 1215 which
would make it a crime to obtain or manufacture a device used in the act of
cell phone cloning. Cloning allows someone to use someone else's number and
air time with little ability to trace who made the call.
- The Senate approved HB 2272 which would allow
towing and wrecker services to increase their fees.
- The Senate approved HB 2706 which would transfer
the revenue enforcement section of the motor vehicle division of the Oklahoma
Tax Commission to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
- The Senate approved HB 2701 which would direct
the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to prepare state plan options for implementation
of Medicaid and a State Children's Health Insurance program.
- The Senate approved HB 3292 which would direct
the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to create an insurance program proposal
for low income families with Title 11 funds.
- The Senate approved HB 2448 which would reduce
the marriage license fees of couples who agreed to undergo pre-marital counseling.
Backers contend the measure will encourage such counseling, thus decreasing
the possibility of divorce.
Tuesday, April 7th
- The Senate approved HB 2335 which would allow
each school district board to draft its own rules regarding appeals of short
term suspensions. The measure is designed to create more local control over
the suspension process, clearing up confusion caused by recent law changes
on the subject.
- The House approved SB 1321 which would provide
for Medicaid coverage of smoking cessation. Supporters say a small investment
to help people break the habit could save the state millions of dollars in
health costs in the future.
- The Senate rejected a measure which would have
made it illegal for security guards to wear uniforms that resemble those of
local peace officers. Opponents of HB 2455 argued that it took regulation
- The House approved SB 782 which would refine
and expand the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Act. The program has been credited with
creating more than 60,000 new jobs since its creation in 1993.
- The House approved a committee substitute for
SB 1022 which would force convicted DUI offenders to forfeit their vehicle.
The amended version added municipal courts to the list of bodies which must
report DUI violations. The title was stricken.
- The House approved an amendment to SB 1261 which
would bar homosexual couples from adopting children in Oklahoma. The measure
originally focused on limiting application of records requirements from persons
requesting custody of children.
- The Senate approved legislation which would
allow counties to collect annual payments from cities for land utilized for
municipal water supplies. SB 2420 by Senator J. Berry Harrison would require
annual in-lieu-of-tax payments must be made equal to the average property
tax per acre paid on similar land in the county. Some urban legislators objected
to the legislation, claiming it was unconstitutional to allow one municipal
entity to tax another.
- The Senate approved a measure which would make
it a felony to pay child support with a bogus check. Opponents of HB 2337
argued it would create a "debtors prison."
- The Senate approved legislation designed to
crack down on so-called date rape drugs that incapacitate victims, making
them more vulnerable to attack. HB 2654 would add the drugs to the Schedule
I substance abuse list of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Act.
- The Senate approved HB 2965 which would prohibit
establishment of ambulatory surgical centers in the vicinity of certain municipal
and county owned hospitals. Senate author Trish Weedn says the legislation
is needed to protect rural hospitals.
Wednesday, April 8th
- The Senate approved a floor substitute for HB
2542, the so-called partial birth abortion bill. The floor substitute returned
the bill to its original state before it was amended in the Senate Human Resources
Committee. The measure would ban partial-birth abortions in Oklahoma unless
the life of the mother was in danger.
Thursday, April 9th
- The Senate adjourned for the Easter weekend.
- The leaders of OU and OSU criticized legislators
for overlooking the needs of higher education. Presidents David Boren and
Jim Halligan questioned why lawmakers were allocating funds to roads and prisons
at the expense of state colleges and universities.
- A special task force studying the Oklahoma Teachers
Retirement System issued its report. It recommended options for dealing with
a $4.7 billion unfunded liability in OTRS.
The panel recommended that trying to reduce 80 percent of the unfunded liability
rather than 100 percent in the next 30 years. The pension is currently 42
percent funded. It proposed reducing the current schedule of employer contribution
rates, abandoning the gross production tax on natural gas as a funding source
and replacing it with a more stable source. It also recommended that the state
general fund, not the teacher pension system, fund cost-of-living increase.
It recommended that OTRS be given any uncommitted money in the rainy day fund
and any revenue gains from tobacco case settlements.
More than 110,000 active and retired teachers and school employee part of
- The author of a measure which would allow Oklahoma
motorists to carry loaded weapons in their vehicles sent his legislation to
conference committee. Senator Frank Shurden said Senate President Pro Tempore
Stratton Taylor made the request to reject House amendments and move the bill