Week In Review
For the week of Monday, April 27,
1998 - Thursday, April 30, 1998
(Most of the work in the Legislature occurred behind
the scenes in budget meetings or conference committee. House and Senate budget
writers will spend the coming days trying to reach agreement on the distribution
of funding allocations to various agencies.)
Monday, April 27th
- The House gave final legislative approval to
the so-called airplane bill. HB 3226 would ban the use of the state aircraft
to attend an event sponsored by a political party, a political action committee
or a political candidate. Additionally, the craft cannot be used to transport
someone to an event for which they will receive a fee. The bill was the result
of a legislative investigation of Governor Keating's alleged misuse of the
state aircraft for partisan fundraising activities during the 1996 elections.
Keating is still facing ethics charges before the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The Governor has indicated he will sign the bill.
- Governor Keating signed SB 1333 into law. The
legislation by Senator Angela Monson would require truth in advertising among
behavioral health care workers contracting with state agencies.
- A coalition of officials representing common
education, higher education and vocational-technical education urged the Legislature
to propose a constitutional amendment which would ultimately earmarked 62
percent of the state budget for education. Citing Oklahoma's low national
ranking in education funding, the coalition offered the proposal as a way
to boost the state in the competition for new jobs. Education currently receives
54 percent of the state budget, a percentage which has been declining in recent
years. Governor Keating said he doesn't like the idea of earmarking additional
funding for the public schools.
- Advocates of the hog industry lobbied legislators
to relax some of the provisions in pending regulatory legislation, claiming
it would "kill" their industry. Officials with ProAg objected to three provisions:
1) Prohibition of effluent application within 300 feet of a water well;
2) Increased setbacks for new hog farmers from three-quarters of a mile to
one and one-quarter mile;
3) Allow the denial of applications based on the effect on neighbors property
within two miles.
Legislators are currently working on two separate bills in conference committee
which would address regulatory issues of both the hog and poultry industries.
In addition to the issues above, lawmakers and industry leaders are also wrestling
over a proposed fee schedule which would finance regulation.
Tuesday, April 28th
- State Senator Darryl Roberts announced he would
be making a bid for the 3rd District Congressional seat, forgoing a re-election
bid to his Senate seat. Roberts is hoping to fill the void left by the unexpected
retirement of Congressman Wes Watkins. The Ardmore Democrat lost a close race
to Watkins in 1996.
- Governor Keating and Republican legislators
requested the recall of SB 973, the measure which would provide $25 million
to OSEEGIB to offset premium increases for state employees, retirees and teachers.
The Governor said it was too early to tap the rainy day fund as proposed in
the legislation, and asked that it be recalled from his desk. Senate President
Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor said it was up to the Governor to sign or veto
- Governor Keating signed 28 bills into law, including
HB 2792. That measure cuts unemployment taxes on business by $136 million.
It is the third such tax cut in the past four years.
Other bills signed by the Governor included:
- HB 2619, prohibiting the hunting of white deer;
- HB 2335, relating to out-of-school student suspensions;
- HB 2978, adding certain actions, particularly those of -out-of-state florists,
to the Oklahoma Deceptive Trade Practices Act;
- SB 840, providing for revocation of don-resuscitate consent for a minor
- SB 1072, exempting certain people from security checks at the Tulsa County
- The House approved legislation requiring teenagers
to pass an 8th grade reading proficiency test to get a drivers license. House
members accepted Senate amendments to HB 2889 and sent the measure to the
- The Senate approved SB 1284 by Senator Bill
Gustafson. The measure requires the auditor to inspect expenditures of the
county sales tax revenues to make sure they are spent according to law.
- The Task Force on Centrally Assessed Property
issued its final report. It offered the Legislature five options for achieving
tax equity: 1)revise the definition of public service corporation so it will
be clear who will be centrally assessed; 2) create a single commercial class
of taxpayer; 3) eliminate differential assessment ratios and value all property
at 100 percent of value; 4) craft an over-arching tax levy against which credit
would be given for other taxes paid, creating equal tax burdens for business
entities; 5) leave the existing system unchanged. The 23 member task force
was created by the Legislature last year.
Wednesday, April 29th
- For the second time this session, Governor Keating
vetoed a bill which would have offset a large health insurance increase for
state employees, retirees and teachers. The measure expressed legislative
intent to appropriate $25 million from the rainy day fund to OSEEGIB. Governor
Keating vetoed a similar bill earlier this session, saying he didn't want
to subsidize state employee health premiums. Attempts to override the first
veto in the Senate were unsuccessful, but the latest measure does not contain
the emergency clause which means it requires only a two-thirds majority to
override, rather than three-fourths. An override attempt is expected.
- House and Senate leaders announced an agreement
on funding allocations for budget subcommittee. A total of 446 million will
be distributed for appropriation, including $149 million from the rainy day
fund. The subcommittee allocations include:
$122 million ( plus $60 million from Rainy Day Fund)
- Gen. Gov't
$2.1 million ( plus $952,000 " " " ")
$37.9 million (plus $60 million from Rainy Day Fund)
- Natural Res.
- Pub. Safety
$40 million (plus $3.0 million from RDF)
- Def. Savings
- Cap. Bond Issue
- Empl. Pay
- Add. Supplement.
$ 3.4 million
--- ($25 million from RDF)
The funding totals will be added to the $4.4 billion general appropriations
bill which was passed earlier this session. That measure, in effect, funded
all entities of government at their current level for the fiscal year. The
GA bill allows government to keep functioning, even if legislators and the
Governor are unable to agree on how the remaining funds detailed above should
- Governor Keating signed 12 bills into law, including
the so-called airplane bill. HB 3226 will ban the partisan political travels
for which the Governor came under fire in the 1996 elections. Other bills
- HB 2404, allowing the Wildlife Commission
to designate certain days as senior citizen deer hunting days;
- HB 2524, authorizing the State Department of Rehabilitation Services to
purchase autos or buses;
- HB 2746, increasing the number of senior utility rate analysts employed
by the Corporation Commission;
- SB 789, exempting from dual office holding prohibition school board members
who are also members or officers of a volunteer fire department;
- SB 865, modifying harvest limits for mussels.
Thursday, April 30th
- The Senate adjourned for the weekend. It will
reconvene at 1:30 p.m. on Monday.
- State Schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett unveiled
a plan to impose stricter high school graduation standards for Oklahoma students.
The program would require Oklahoma school districts to incorporate the ACT
core curriculum which includes four years of English, and three years of math,
science and social science. Governor Keating applauded the Garrett program,
saying it almost goes as far as his 4 by 4 program.