Week In Review
For the week of Monday, May 25,
1998 - Friday, May 29, 1998
(The Legislature adjourned the regular 1998 legislative
session after passing the final portions of the budget for FY 1999. Lawmakers
will not return for their next legislative session until February 1, 1999)
Monday, May 25th
Tuesday, May 26th
- Senators Angela Monson and Cal Hobson urged
Governor Keating to sign a cost-of-living increase approved for state retirees
on Friday. Among other things, SB 1307 would grant COLAs to retired law enforcement
officers, state employees, firefighters and teachers. The Governor has indicated
he may veto the bill.
The COLA's would range from 5.6 to 17 percent for members of the various retirement
systems, with the amount varying for each individual retirement member, depending
on their length of service, average salary and other factors. Some example
cases are listed below.
- State employee in the Oklahoma Public Retirement
System, retired in 1988, who currently receives a monthly pension of $875
would get $1,050 under SB 1037, an increase of $175 per month;
- Law enforcement officer in Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System,
retired in 1989, who currently receives a monthly pension of $1,580 would
get $1,800 under SB 1037, an increase of $220 per month;
- Firefighter in the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension Retirement System, retired
in 1986, who currently receives a monthly pension of $1,250 would get a
$1,500 under SB 1037, an increase of $250 per month.
- The House approved legislation prohibiting the
use of genetic testing to discriminate against individuals seeking health
insurance or employment. HB 3169 would prohibit insurers from requiring or
requesting any idividual to obtain a genetic test for the purpose of establishing
eligibility, premiums, etc.
- The Senate approved legislation that would require
some companies to compete for income tax credits if they locate in entreprise
zones. HB 3204 would allow only 5 companies per zone to qualify for tax incentives,
instead of the unlimited number allowed in current law. Communities may now
qualify for an enterprise zone if a geographical area meets criteria related
to unemployment, labor surpluses and population loss.
- The Senate rejected the conference committee
report of HB 3328, which would have made it a felony to commit a second violation
of a court protective order. Opponents argued that such court orders are often
sought frivolously and making violations a felony would simply compound the
- Governor Keating signed the state trooper pay
hike into law. HB 3160 by Sen. Mike Morgan will raise trooper pay from 50th
in the country to 24th. Other bills signed by the Governor included:
- (The Legislature adjourned the regular 1998 legislative session after passing
the final portions of the budget for FY 1999. Lawmakers will not return for
their next legislative session until February 1, 1999)
- Governor Keating vetoed HB 2314 which would
have prohibited the selling of stop-loss or excess-risk insurance below a
Wednesday, May 27th
- Governor Keating vetoed an $11 million appropriation
to the Department of Human Services. The funds were earmarked for welfare-to-work
programs and senior citizen initiatives.
- Governor Keating signed the state employee pay
raise and benefits bill, HB 2928. The legislation will give state employees
a $1,200 or 4 percent pay hike &endash;whichever is larger&endash; with a
cap at $2,000. The measure will also increases dependent health care benefits.
- The Senate defeated a measure which was designed
to speed the trial process. Critics of HB 3104 successfully argued the bill
would actually create even longer delays. The measure proposed that any person
charged with a crime and held in jail must be brought to trial within one
- The Senate killed a proposal which would have
required roofing contractors to be licensed. SB 1148 was designed to crack
down on unqualified roofer, but opponents argued the new requirement would
harass legitimate operations more than the bogus ones.
- The House approved HB 2571, a measure designed
to crack down on people who use the Internet to promote hate speech. It prohibits
the use of computers to commit hate crimes which is defined as an act that
would intimidate, harass or incite violence.
- Governor Keating vetoed a bill designed to protect
rural hospitals from competition from surgical centers. The Governor claimed
HB 2965 would restrain trade and inhibit the free enterprise system.
- A coalition of officials representing common
education, higher education and vocational-technical education rallied at
the State Capitol, urging 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.
Thursday, May 28th
- The Senate and House approved legislation regulating
Oklahoma's growing hog industry. SB 1175 requires varying distances of "set
backs" between swine facilities and their neighbors, depending upon the size
of the operation. Those can be waived if the producer is granted approval
from the neighbor in question. The measure requires monitoring wells to be
installed around hog waste lagoons to check for potential contamination. It
also sets fees on swine producers to help pay the cost of regulation.
The 32 cent per hog fee is expected to raise $517,000 annually. The bill also
repeals a moratorium on new swine operations which was enacted at the beginning
of the legislative session. Governor Keating has indicated he will sign the
- Governor Keating threatened to call lawmakers
back into special session if they did not delay the implementation of the
state new truth-in-sentencing law for another year. The Governor contends
the statute isn't tough enough, even though it forces violent criminals to
serve 85 percent of their sentences. Senator Cal Hobson, however, accused
the Governor of political posturing, noting Keating had not taken an active
role in ongoing discussions on the bill. A bipartisan panel of House and Senate
legislators has been working to improve the measure for the past several months.
- Senator Darryl Roberts and Senator Bill Gustafson
were honored by members of the Senate. Both are retiring from the Legislature
- The Senate approved SB 27 instructing the State
Corporation Commission to use a single division to administer reguatlions
relating to spills and releases from petroleum storage tanks.
- The Senate approved SB 420 authorizing the state
school board to award one or more competitive grants to establish arts academies
in the public schools;
- The Senate approved SB 565 authorizing the study
of deregulation of the natural gas industry with a plan to implement such
deregulation by the 2001 if found to be appropriate by the Legislature.
- The Senate approved SB 848 requiring that .8
percent of gas tax revenues apportioned to the state transportation fund be
deposited to the Oklahoma Tourism and Passenger Rail Revolving Fund to help
finance the purchase of rail lines.
- The Senate approved SB 911 which appropriates
$96,000 to the Court of Criminal Appeals to employ temporary personnel to
relieve a backlog of cases, $1.6 million to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, $1.2
for the Court of Civil Appeals, $313,000 for the Workers Compensation Court.
- The Senate approved SB 1010 creating a special
committee to study the statewide implementation of a 911 emergency system.
- The Senate approved a measure cracking down
on repeat drunk drivers. SB 1022 by Sen. Kevin Easley will allow prosecuters
to seize the vehicle of a DUI offender after their second conviction on such
a charge. The vehicle would be sold by the Department of Public Safety with
proceeds going to drug and alcohol abuse education and prosecuters.
- The Senate approved HB 1822 which enacts major
reform of the central purchasing process. The most significant reform raises
the threshhold for required competitive bidding from $2,500 to $25,000. The
change is expected to save money that is often squandered by bidding small
Friday, May 29th
- The Oklahoma Legislature approved a $104 million
dollar tax reduction package. The key elements include:
- Grocery sales tax rebate: Provides a $40
rebate to eligible families and senior citizens. Currently, Oklahomans who
make less than $12,000 qualify for the rebate on their income tax form.
The latest program would expand that over a two year period, ultimately
providing the rebate to single Oklahomans who make less than $20,000 and
families and senior citizens with incomes of less than $50,000.
- Income tax cut: Reduces the income tax by one-quarter of a percent. It
cuts the top rate on Method 1 from 7% to six and three-quarters percent.
- Inheritance tax cut: Provides an increase in the estate tax exemption
for lineal heirs over an 8-year period, bringing Oklahoma in line with the
federal tax exemption on inheritance.
- College Savings Plan Interest Income Tax Exemption: Exempts from the income
tax interest received from an account established for college savings.
- SBA Guarantee Fee Credit: Provides an income tax credit in the amount
paid to the U.S. Small Business Administration as a guaranty fee.
- Governor Keating and legislative leaders agreed
to a $315 million bond issue. The two-phase program would devote $144.6 million
to statewide projects in the coming year, including $35 million for capital
improvements in higher education, $32 million for a state history center and
$12 million for a veterans center in Lawton.
The second phase would focus on regional capital improvement efforts, with
lawmakers and the Governor determining projects next year.
- Governor Keating and legislative leaders also
agreed to a $154 million withdrawal from the Rainy Day Fund, with funds earmarked
for higher education, vocational-technical education, classroom technology,
the road construction program and the Murrah bomb memorial in Oklahoma City,
among other things.
The allocation for higher education guarantees the state college and university
system will get a record budget for the third consecutive year.
- The Senate approved a bill settling the dispute
over Rogers University in Tulsa. Under the compromise hammered out by the
Governor and legislators, Tulsa would get an undergraduate branch of Oklahoma
State University, a graduate center operated by the University of Oklahoma
and OSU, and continued offerings from both Langston and Northeastern State
University. The former two-year college in Claremore would become a four-year
school known as Rogers University.
- The Legislature adjourned the 1998 session.