Week In Review
For the week of Monday, May 18, 1998
- Friday, May 22, 1998
(The Legislature passed the final portions of the
budget for FY 1999, giving them the final week of the legislative session to
attempt overrides of any vetoes of appropriations measures. Work on substantive
bill also continued on the floors of the respective houses and in conference
committee. One week remains in the legislative session. Both houses will observe
the Memorial Day holiday and begin the final week on Tuesday. Lawmakers must
adjourn by 5pm Friday, May 29th)
Monday, May 18th
- Governor Keating signed the so-called technology
transfer bill. HB 2863 by Sen. Ben Robinson would encourage research partnerships
between state universities and the private sector, allowing schools and their
faculty members to own technology and profit from research, something currently
prohibited by the state constitution. Because the proposal changes the constitution,
a companion measure, HJR 1073, must also be approved in a statewide vote.
Proponents of the initiative claim it will generate additional funding for
higher education in addition to acting as an incentive to retain high-quality
- The House GCCA approved HB 3160, the measure
authorizing a pay raise for state troopers. The troopers are part of a larger
pay agreement which sets aside $4.8 million for law enforcement pay hikes.
- Senator Paul Muegge said Senate conferees were
ready to report out a bill regulating the hog industry. SB 1175 is apparently
running into trouble on the House side, however. Rep. M.C. Leist said he wasn't
optimistic about getting the signatures needed to report the bill out of committee.
The apparent sticking point is the fees that will be assessed against swine
producers to help pay for the cost of the new regulations.
- The House approved legislation designed to crack
down on caretakers who sexually abuse their adult clients. HB 2252 would add
sexual abuse to the list of prohibited acts by a caretaker against a vulnerable
adult. The measure is now awaiting the Governor's signature.
- The Senate General Government Committee approved
three executive nominations: Clyde Petete of McAlester to the Oklahoma Department
of Libraries Board, James Carter of Broken Arrow to the same panel and Albert
Ashwood of Chandler as Director of the Department of Civil Emergency Management.
- The Senate Education Committee approved six
nominations: Jerry Dansby of Valiant to the Board of Trustees for the McCurtain
County Higher Education Program, Laura Dobson of Newkirk to the State Textbook
Committee, Former Sen. Bill O'Conner to Board of Regents of the Northern Oklahoma
College, Barbara Olson of Checotah to the Teacher Retirement System Board
of Trustees, Georgia Tate of Heavner to the Board of Regents of Eastern State
College and Martin Van Meter of Durant to the Board of Regents of Murray State
Tuesday, May 19th
- The House approved a revamped bill designed
to protect rural hospitals. HB 2965 gives local voters veto power over surgical
centers in counties with populations less than 65,000. The measure is designed
to protect rural hospitals from surgical centers which "cherry pick" the most
lucrative patients away from them. An earlier bill on the subject, HB 1665,
was rejected earlier this session. It did not contain the provision calling
for a county vote. HB 2965 now goes to the Senate for approval.
- The Senate approved a number of executive nominations,
including those approved by the Senate Education and General Government Committees
on Monday (see above).
- The Senate approved SB 873, a measure requiring
insurance coverage for symptoms associated with prostate cancer. The bill
is designed to cover the cost of such new drugs as Viagra which are being
used to treat impotence.
- The approved a resolution designed to attract
the space shuttle program to Oklahoma. SCR 72 by Sen. Gilmer Capps proposes
making Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base near Burns Flat an alternative launch
and landing site for NASA. The federal space agency is seeking a home for
its new "Venture Star" vehicles which will replace the current space shuttle.
Oklahoma has been working with Florida to establish tandem launch/landing
sites for the space craft.
- The House and Senate both approved a series
of agency budget bills.
Wednesday, May 20th
- Governor Keating signed new regulations on the
poultry industry into law. In addition to putting new rules and licensing
requirements 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. Other key provisions include:
-A requirement that all growers register annually
with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and pay a $10 registration fee
prior to construction for new operations;
-Annual certification of all private litter applicators every five years;
-Authority for the ODA to prohibit litter application in nutrient-limited
-ODA spot-check inspections of all applicators;
-ODA annual inspections of all registered poultry feeding operations;
-Authority for the ODA to suspend certifications and fine applicators;
-Requires poultry companies to contribute a combined $150,000 the first
year to a waste management education fund for poultry farmers and up to
$50,000 for three additional years;
-Requires soil and litter testing every three years (annually in nutrient-threatened
- Governor Keating signed a $101 million budget
increase for the public schools. 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 Governor vetoed HB 3273 which would have
required legislative approval before the state could buy railroad trackage
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation currently has the authority to make
those purchases, but supporters of the latest bill claimed it had made some
ill-advised buys recently. In his veto message, the Governor claimed the bill
would infringe on his constitutional authority to administer the executive
- The Senate approved HB 2965, a measure designed
to protect rural hospitals by restricting the creation of ambulatory surgical
centers (see above). The bill now goes to the Governor.
- Both Houses approved legislation authorizing
a pay and benefits increase for state employees. Under the measure, workers
will get either a $1,250 pay hike or 4 percent, whichever is larger, with
the total capped at $2,000. Employees will also receive an increase in dependent
- The Senate approved a revision of the Quality
Jobs Act, designed to boost personal income in Oklahoma. SB 782 would set
a wage floor for companies in Tulsa and Oklahoma Counties, requiring them
to pay employees at least $18,720 to qualify for Quality Job benefits. It's
designed to bring higher-paying jobs to areas of high employment. The bill
also allows airlines to qualify for benefits if they locate their corporate
headquarters and reservations center in Oklahoma. It exempts them from the
requirement that 75 percent of sales come from out-of-state customers.
Thursday, May 21st
- The House gave final approval to legislation
which will set up a one-stop master licensing system for businesses. SB 667
by Sen. Ted Fisher would give businesses the option of applying at one place
for al of the licenses they need to operate. It establishes a Business License
Information Office within the State Commerce Department to act as a clearinghouse
for licensing information.
- A measure dealing with electronic commerce was
approved by the House. HB 3287 would establish a pilot program for the use
of digital signatures in state government. It also creates a committee charged
with establishing standards for using electronic commerce and select the state
agencies to participate in a pilot program.
- Senator Kevin Easley agreed to recall SB 888
from Governor Keating's desk after conferring with the Governor. The two agreed
to compromise on a bill provision dealing with appointments to the Grand River
Dam Authority. Under their compromise proposal, legislative leaders will nominate
a list of possible appointees and the Governor will make an appointment from
Friday, May 22nd
- The Senate defeated SB 565, the so-called Natural
Gas Restructuring Act. Among other things, the measure would have altered
the way the Corporation Commission regulated the natural gas industry.
- The Senate approved a cost-of-living for state
retirees. The legislation is designed to increase retirees purchasing power
enough to make up for recent years when COLAs were not granted for budget
- The Legislature adjourned for the Memorial Day
weekend. The Senate will return for the final week of the 1998 legislative
session at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Issues to be Resolved
In the final week of session, lawmakers will attempt
to address the higher education and vocational-technical education budgets,
a capital improvement bond issue, hog farm regulation, truth-in-sentencing,
Rogers University and any other remaining legislation.