The Oklahoma Senate
Week In Review
For the week of Monday,
February 1, 1999 - Thursday, February 4, 1999
Monday, February 1st
- The Oklahoma Legislature formally convened
its 1999 session, gathering in a joint Senate-House meeting to receive
the annual state of the state address. Governor Keating emphasized
the goals first spelled out in his inaugural a few weeks earlier,
adding a few additional details on budget proposals. The Governor's
-Reach the national average in per capita personal income by the year
-Exceed the national average in ACT scores by the year 2005;
-One out of three Oklahomans will have a college degree by the year
-Cut the divorce rate by one-third by the year 2010;
-Reduce the out-of-wedlock birth rate by one-third by 2010;
-Cut illegal drug use in half by the year 2010.
To reach the proposed goals, Governor Keating offered a variety of
-Right to Work legislation
-"4x4" education reform
-Workers compensation reform
-School choice/charter schools
-Bonuses for science/math schools
-Cut 2,000 jobs from state government
The Governor also proposed
a major tax reduction. The plan would cut $64 million from the
coming fiscal year budget, eventually reaching an annual total
of $153 million. Among other things, the Keating program would
reduce the personal income tax from 6.75 to 6.5 percent, cut the
estate tax and provide tax credits for financial contributions
- Legislative leaders gave the Governor
high marks for the bipartisan nature of his address, but questioned
whether the reality of the state budget situation would allow him
to keep the many promises he made during the 30 minute speech. Senate
leaders pointed out the state is starting the budget year $200 million
in the hole because of previous commitments to fund road construction,
prison beds, pay raises and other initiatives. Lawmakers, who already
facing the prospect of cutting budgets just to make ends meet, questioned
their ability to pass a major tax hike during such lean financial
- House and Senate budget leaders continued
meeting, trying to iron out their remaining differences in an oil
industry relief bill and accompanying budget cut legislation. Lawmakers
are trying to wrap up a special session on the oil price crisis which
convened two weeks ago. Legislative leaders have agreed to pay a tax
cut to help ailing crude producers, but they are still trying to determine
which state budgets will have to be cut to pay for the reduction.
Tuesday, February 2, 1999
- The Senate approved both HB1001x and
HB1003x, companion measures which will cut the current fiscal year
budget to finance a special tax cut for the ailing oil industry.
HB 1003X, the oil tax cut, was approved on a 42-6 vote. It's main
1) A "three step" tiered system of gross production tax collection:
-Greater than $17 per barrel...................7% tax rate (current)
-$14 to $17 per barrel............................4%
-Less than $14 per barrel.......................1%
2) Advance the date of the gross production tax refunds for "at risk"
oil leases from July 1 to April 1.
3) When oil prices reach $14 a barrel, the first $100 million in resulting
tax revenues would be deposited into several funds with earmarked
purposes: 30% for higher ed capital needs, 30% for tuition assistance,
30% for common ed classroom technology, 5% for county road and bridge
improvements and 5% for REAP.
HB 1001X, the budget cut bill, was approved on a 37-10 margin. The
measure cuts approximately 1.2 percent from the current budgets of
- The Senate Judiciary Committee took
action on a number of bills, giving them a "do pass" recommendation
and sending them to the floor for action. SB 479 would make people
who release grand jury transcripts to anyone but their attorney liable
to contempt charges. SB 803, the "Administrative Hearings Act", would
provide for an independent appellate agency to hear people's appeals
on decisions from such agencies as the Oklahoma Tax Commission and
the Department of Transportation. SB 70 would prohibit people under
the age of 18 from riding in the back of a pickup.
Wednesday, February 3rd
- The House approved HB 1001X (97-3)
and HB 1003X (87-13), the oil tax cut and budget reduction bills,
and sent them to the Governor for his signature.
- Some members of the Senate Education
Committee unveiled their improvement program for Oklahoma's education
system. The key components of the 19-point plan included:
-Creation of a special oversight committee to set standards and demand
accountability in the public schools;
-A scholarship program that rewards high school students who take
additional core courses and meet grade point requirements;
-Replace "social promotion" with "contingent promotion," requiring
failing students to improve their skills through tutoring or summer
school before they could advance to the next grade;
-Enhanced school safety;
-School deregulation and "Academy Schools";
-Expanded teacher training/development;
-Improved classroom technology;
-New satellite math and science schools.
- The House Common Education Subcommittee
approved the House leadership's program for education reform. Among
other thing, HB 1759 stresses expanded college scholarship opportunities,
alternative education and before and after-school programs.
- A bill which would require all public
school students to take drug tests was introduced in the House Mental
Health Committee. HB 1604 would make Oklahoma the first state in the
nation to require such drug screenings. Under the legislation, students
who tested positive would be suspended from extra-curricular activities
and required to attend drug education classes after school. Second-time
offenders would be suspended from school. Third offenses could result
in criminal charges. The measure is being pushed by the director of
the Office of Juvenile Affairs, Jerry Regier.
- A bill proposing county-option right
to work was shot down by the House Commerce, Industry and Labor Committee.
HB 1032 by Rep. Leonard Sullivan would have allowed right to work
in any county where a majority of voters approved it in a special
election. Opponents argued that the county-option aspect of the bill
Thursday, February 4th
- The Senate met briefly before adjourning
for the weekend. Senate committees continued to meet to discuss pending
legislation. Lawmakers are facing a February 18th deadline to pass
bills out of committee in their house of origin.
- Oklahoma posted strong job growth during
the month of November, according to the Blue Chip Job Growth Update
published by Arizona State University. The state's growth rate was
the eighth highest in the country.
- Despite pleas for clemency, convicted
killer Sean Sellers was executed at the State Penitentiary in McAlester.