Week In Review
For the week of Monday, May 11, 1998
- Thursday, May 14, 1998
(Most of the work in the Legislature occurred behind
the scenes in budget meetings or conference committee. House and Senate budget
writers are trying to reach agreement on the distribution of funding allocations
to various agencies. Budget leaders are also meeting with members of the Governor's
staff, trying to reach agreements with him. Three weeks remain in the legislative
session. Lawmakers must adjourn by 5pm Friday, May 29th)
Monday, May 11th
- The Senate approved legislation which would
place new regulations on the poultry industry. In addition to putting new
rules in place, SB 1170 will require chicken integrators to pay $150,000 for
waste regulation training for growers the first year, followed by $50,000
payments for the next three years. Much of the debate in the Senate focused
on whether the poultry industry should pick up the full tab of the regulatory
bill. Critics argued successfully that higher fees would simply be passed
on to the chicken growers who sell their product to the large poultry processing
firms. The measure now goes to the House where approval is expected.
- The Senate rejected the conference committee
report of a measure which would have modified the definition of a bogus check
to include child support. Opponents of HB 2337 argued the proposal would create
a "debtors prison," with parents being jailed for inadvertently bouncing a
check on child support.
- The Senate approved two companion measures designed
to promote cooperative business ventures between the private sector and state
colleges and universities. HB 2863 and HJR 1073 would create the Oklahoma
Technology Transfer Act, authorizing state higher education institutions to
have an ownership interest in technology, business enterprise or private entity
if the technology is the result of research conducted by the institution.
Because the proposal would change the State Constitution, it must also be
approved in a vote of the people.
- Governor Keating signed a bill into law which
will allow retirement checks to be garnished for delinquent child support
payments. HB 2568 by Rep. Laura Boyd exempts retirement funds from all other
garnishments except court-ordered spousal or child support. Other bills signed
by the Governor include:
- HB 3108 creating a task force to the study
the needs of the Dept. of Mental Health;
- HB 2208, creating the advisory task force for Sooner Care;
- HB 2948, prohibiting the use of social security numbers on the rear of
implements of husbandry;
- HB 3244, modifying licensing requirements for speech pathology and audiology
- SB 1317, relating to the Northeastern Oklahoma Public Facilities Authority;
- HB 3159, adding the Indigent Defense System under provisions for travel
- Members of the Black Legislative Caucus expressed
their disappointment again with Governor Keating, citing his failure to appointment
an African-American to the State Board of Education. The Governor has instead
named a long-time Republican from Stillwater to serve. Rep. Kevin Cox said
this is the fifth time Keating has passed up the opportunity to appoint an
African-American to the board. The Governor has said it is difficult to find
qualified blacks who support his conservative agenda.
Tuesday, May 12th
- Legislative leaders announced the details of
a $40 million pay and benefits package for state employees. Under the terms
of the agreement, state employees will get either a $1,250 or 4% pay increase
whichever is larger starting January 1, 1999. The maximum pay raise which
could be earned would be capped at $2,000. The pay portion of the program
will cost $20.2 million.
In addition to the pay hike, the agreement also includes funding for an increase
in dependent health coverage. It will total $19.8 million.
For a state worker who is married and has two children and earns $25,000 a
year, the State of Oklahoma will pay an additional $172.78 in insurance premiums
each month to help provide insurance coverage for the spouse and children.
That amounts to an increased benefit of $2,073 per year.
- The House approved a measure which would crack
down on the sale of liquor over the internet. HB 2807 prohibits the sale of
alcohol through the internet to minors. The measure originally addressed only
the sale of low point beer, but it was upgraded in conference committee to
cover liquor and wine as well.
- The Senate approved six executive nominations.
Barbara Conner to the GRDA, Jan Kunze to the Oklahoma Mining Commission, Jack
Penner to the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and A.M. Alloway, Tom Hull
and Steven Goetzinger to the Commission on Marginally Producing Wells (reappointments).
- The Senate approved a measure which would allow
sheriffs in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties to hire their own general counsels.
Supporters of HB 2245 claim sheriffs need the latitude to hire outside counsel
because the local district attorneys don't have the manpower to address all
their legal needs. The bill now goes to the Governor.
- Mental health advocates rallied at the State
Capitol in support of SB 1059, the so-called mental health parity bill. The
measure would require insurance companies to cover mental illness as they
do physical illness. Governor Keating vetoed the bill. It has been overridden
in the Senate, but it is still awaiting action in the House.
- Governor Keating threatened to call the Legislature
into special session if lawmakers don't reach a compromise on the truth-in-sentencing
law which is set to go into effect on July 1st. The Governor said he either
wants the bill strengthened or its implementation delayed. Critics contends
the Governor's proposed changes would ultimately cost hundreds of millions
of dollars, ultimately robbing education and other vital state services of
Wednesday, May 13th
- The Senate and House approved a $1.72 billion
budget for common education, containing $101 million in new funds. The additional
cash in SB 901 will finance new classroom technology, fund basic school needs
and a teacher pay and benefit package. The details include:
- All teachers will receive a set sum of money
of $57 a month, outside their base salary, which will pay for approximately
1/3 of the cost of health insurance. Cost of $29.45 million
- All full-time support personnel will receive a set sum of money of $85
a month, outside their base salary, which will pay approximately 1/2 of
the cost of health insurance. Cost of $22.97 million
- Appropriates $40.1 million through the school funding formula with enough
funding, $23 million, to adjust the minimum teacher salary to equalize the
steps. The remaining money through the formula pays for the new growth in
The remaining is to provide funding for other programs such as alternative
education, Reading Sufficiency Act, and other minor programs.
-There is also an agreement to appropriate $17.0 million from the Rainy
Day Fund for Technology in the Classroom.
The measure goes to the Governor. Although it proposes a greater investment
in education than Governor Keating proposed, he is expected to sign it.
- Legislative leaders announced an agreement on
a law enforcement pay hike. The $4.8 million pay program will provide salary
increases to state troopers, correctional officers, OSBI agents, narcotics
agents, lake patrol officers and communications group employees. On top of
that, those law enforcement officers will also receive an across the board
pay hike for state employees, ranging from $1,250 to $2,000. Under the legislative
agreement, average pay raise for law enforcement officers will range from
$2,500 to $14,000 depending on their agency, length of service and type of
On average, raises for individual officers should break down as follows:
-Highway Patrol.....$ 7,150
- The House approved SB 1170, legislation that
would regulate the poultry industry (see Monday). It now goes to the Governor.
Governor Keating has indicated he will sign the legislation, although he says
he would prefer that it require chicken integrators to pay the cost of their
- The House failed to override Governor Keating's
veto of the so-called mental health parity bill. The attempted override of
SB 1059 failed on a 54-42 vote. The measure would have required insurance
companies to cover mental illnesses as they do physical illness. Critics contended
the proposal would result in large premium increases, but supporters cited
statistics which indicated any hikes would be minimal.
- Both the House and Senate approved a measure
which would require legislative approval before the state could buy railroad
trackage. HB 3273 now goes to the Governor. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation
currently has the authority to make those purchases, but supporters of the
latest bill claim they have made some ill-advised buys recently.
- The House approved legislation which would give
the Governor's office a slight budget increase. HB 3007 contains a 2.4 percent
hike for the Governor for a total budget of $3.6 million.
Thursday, May 14th
- The Senate continuef budget negotiations and
conference committee work after adjourning for the week. It will reconvene
at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. Only two weeks remain in the legislative session.
- Revenue collections were up again during the
month of April. According to the Office of State Finance, receipts were 17
percent higher than last year and 8.5 percent above the estimate.
- The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority opened bids
to sell $350 million of revenue bonds, garnering an interest cost of 5.16
percent. The bonds will finance the construction of new toll roads in Oklahoma
City and Tulsa. Lehman Brothers won the purchase of the bond issuance.