For the week of Monday,
February 15, 1999 - Thursday, February 18, 1999
(Most of the legislative work
continued to take place in committee as lawmakers rushed to beat their
first deadline of the session. All bills had to be passed out of committee
in their house of origin before Thursday, February 18th or they were
dead for the session. The next legislative deadline is March 11th when
bills must be passed out of their house of origin)
Monday, February 15th
- The full Senate approved pay raise
legislation for state employees. SB 353 by Sen. Larry Dickerson would
grant an annual 5 percent pay hike to state workers with no raise
exceeding $2,000. The legislation did not contained funding for the
proposed salary increase. Budget writers will determine later in the
session whether there is enough money to grant such a raise.
- The Senate Business and Labor Committee
approved legislation which would legalize the tattoo business in Oklahoma.
Senator Lewis Long, author of SB 44, noted that Oklahoma is one of
only three states which currently bans tattoo parlors. He argued that
the tattoo industry's current outlaw status encourages unsanitary
practices that spread disease. The committee failed to approved legislation
regulating another industry, that of alternative medicine. SB 360,
the Oklahoma Naturopathic Licensing Act, would have constructed a
tiered licensing system to distinguish the varying degrees of expertise
among practitioners of alternative medicine.
- SB 747, charter school legislation,
was approved by the Senate Education Committee. The measure would
lay the groundwork for the creation of charter schools. The panel
also approved SB 706, a "shell" bill for a possible tuition hike requested
by Governor Keating. Also approved by the panel were SB 34, a shell
bill for early childhood program legislation and SB 7, a "house cleaning"
bill designed to clarify several points in the OSU-Tulsa legislation
approved by last session's Legislature.
- The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee
on Public Safety and Judiciary approved legislation which would allow
judges to sentence people convicted of rape or sodomy to submit to
chemical castration. SB 454 by Sen. Frank Shurden now goes the full
Senate Appropriations Committee. The panel also approved SB 423 or
"Greg's Law" by Sen. Kevin Easley. The legislation would allow authorities
to seize the vehicles of some DUI offenders. Also receiving a do-pass
recommendation was SJR 26 by Sen. Dave Herbert which would ask state
voters to decide whether a crime victim should be seated on the State
Pardon and Parole Board.
- The House Agriculture Committee approved
a bill designed to curtail the growth of corporate farming in Oklahoma.
HB 1150 by Rep. Clay Pope, billed as a work in progress, is supposed
to protect family farmers, but opponents labeled it anti-agriculture
- The House Commerce, Industry and Labor
Committee rejected another right to work bill, an action that could
end debate on the issue for the session. HB 1091 by Rep. John Sullivan
failed to receive the votes necessary to advance for floor consideration.
It's the second right to work bill killed by the House this year.
- The House Community and Family Responsibility
Committee approved a parental notification bill. HB 1379 by Rep. Russ
Roach requires a minor seeking an abortion to notify a parent and
provides for "nonjudgmental" counseling. The bill includes exceptions
for medical emergencies or cases of sexual abuse. The measure was
the combination of four separate bills on the subject. The panel also
approved HB 1180, a measure which provides for discounted marriage
license fees for couples who agree to undergo pre-marital counseling.
- The House Public Safety Committee approved
legislation restricting the police practice of using unmarked cars
to crack down on unsafe drivers. HB 1212 would prohibit the use of
unmarked cars for routine traffic enforcement. Backers of the bill
claim the unmarked cars encourage people to impersonate law officers
and make it difficult for law-abiding citizens to know when they are
being stopped by a real police officer. Law enforcement officials,
however, contend the practice of using unmarked cars for traffic enforcement
has been a great success and has reduced dangerous driving on the
- The House Criminal Justice Committee
approved legislation designed to crack down on methamphetamine labs.
HB 1404 would add the precursor substances used to produce "meth"
to the list of controlled dangerous substances. The committee also
approved another anti-drunk driving measure. HB 1088 would require
people who received a suspended sentence on a DUI charge to have an
ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle at their own
expense. Such devices will not allow a person to start their car if
they are deemed intoxicated.
- The full House approved income tax
credits for farmers and teachers. HB 1256 would allow farmers to claim
tax credit for the guarantee fee paid as a requirement of participation
in the Farm Service Agency program. An amendment to the bill would
also allow public school teachers to receive a tax credit for personal
money spent on classroom supplies.
Tuesday, February 16th
- The full Senate approved SJR 22 on
a reconsideration vote. The proposal would ask state voters to decide
whether individual school districts could ask their patrons to change
the current supermajority required to approve a bond issue to a simple
majority. Senators also approved bills designed to pave the way for
a $30 million NASA project at the old Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base
in Burns Flat. SB 720 by Sen. Gilmer Capps would establish the Oklahoma
Space Industry Development Authority. The companion bill, SB 719,
would provide income tax credit for investments made in projects related
to aviation and aerospace.
- The Senate Finance Committee approved
legislation which would slash both license tag fees and vehicle excise
taxes. SB 1 by Sen. Lewis Long was amended to include language of
several other bills on the subject. The committee also gave a do-pass
recommendation to SB 23 by Sen. Robert Milacek which would prevent
credit card companies from issuing a card to people under the age
of 21, unless they written permission from a parent. Also approved
was SB 314 by Sen. Jeff Rabon which would allow counties to levy a
tax on gasoline or diesel fuel. The bill was amended to limit the
tax to no more than one-cent a gallon.
- The House Revenue and Taxation Committee
shot down a bill designed to cut the vehicle excise tax. HB 1380 by
Rep. Russ Roach drew objections from members because it proposed to
increase a tax on agriculture. The panel approved a measure which
would cut inheritance taxes again. HB 1465 by Rep. Ron Langmacher
would allow an estate tax exemption for collateral descendants.
- A bill targeting "speed traps" were
advanced by the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and
Public Safety. SB 234 by Sen. Herb Rozell would create the Oklahoma
Speed Trap Law, allowing the public safety commissioner to determine
if municipalities were encouraging enforcement officers to abuse their
power and set up "speed traps" targeting out-of-town motorists. The
panel also approved SB 660 by Sen. Sam Helton which would create a
central database on suspected drug labs and operators at the OSBI.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee approved
legislation designed to clear up confusion regarding charity raffles.
SB 671 by Sen. Jim Maddox, Sen. Frank Shurden and Sen. Robert Milacek
would give non-profit entities the ability to sell raffle tickets
to raise funds. A recent Attorney General's opinion had called that
practice into questioning, indicating such actions might be in violation
of state laws which prohibit lotteries.
- The Senate Deregulation Committee approved
an amended version of SB 376 by Sen. Keith Leftwich. The proposal
outlines guidelines for the privatization of state services, requiring
that any such action is "cost effective and in the best interest of
- The House Education Committee derailed
an effort that would have given State Regents authority over future
tuition hikes. Currently, the Governor and the Legislature must approve
any tuition increase, but HB 1131 would have turned that role over
to the State Regents. A revised measure of the bill would have allowed
lawmakers to override tuition hikes mandated by the regents, in addition
to setting limits on the increases, but opponents prevailed and killed
the legislation for the session. In other action, the panel approved
the education reform plan advanced by House Speaker Loyd Benson and
his leadership team. HB 1759 includes charter schools, a scholarship
program and curriculum reform among other things.
- The House Committee on Energy, Environment
and Natural Resources approved legislation designed to crack down
on out-of-state telemarketers using deceptive methods to raise money.
HB 1269 would require telephone solicitors to provide their organization's
name, telephone number and street address. Anyone violating the provision
would be subject to felony charges.
- The House Insurance Committee approved
a mental health parity bill. HB 1285 would require insurance companies
to include coverage for severe mental illnesses. Similar legislation
has also advanced in the Senate.
Wednesday, February 17th
- The full Senate approved SB 685 by
Sen. Bernest Cain. The measure would require health insurers to provide
coverage for audiological services and hearing aids for children up
to 13 years of age. Also approved was SB 69 by Sen. Ted Fisher, a
measure designed to crack down on telemarketers who offer prizes and
awards in the process of soliciting credit card or bank numbers. Senators
passed SB 479 by Sen. Brad Henry. The bill would prohibit the copying
or disclosing of contents of certain grand jury transcripts without
the permission of the court. An effort to prevent people under the
age of 18 years old from riding in the backs of pickup trucks was
sidelined temporarily. Senator Ben Brown asked that SB 70 be laid
over after it was amended to delete the sections dealing with the
pickup truck prohibition.
- The Senate Appropriations Committee
approved 77 bills, advancing them to the floor for action. Among them
was SB 800 by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson, legislation which carries Governor
Keating's "4x4" curriculum proposal. The measure was amended to delay
its implementation until Oklahoma reached the regional average for
per-pupil funding. Currently, only Arkansas spends less on its students
than Oklahoma. Also approved by the committee was a proposal to create
a new scholarship program for aspiring college students, SB 787 by
Sen. Mike Morgan. The panel also approved SB 423 by Sen. Kevin Easley,
a proposed crack down on repeat DUI offenders (see above). Also receiving
a do-pass recommendation was SB 454, a bill authorizing chemical castration
for certain sex offenders. Committee members also gave a do-pass recommendation
to SB 562 by Sen. Frank Shurden, a measure which would prohibit municipalities
from suing gun manufacturers.
The only bill defeated by the committee was SB 722 by Sen. Mark Snyder.
That legislation would have turned authority over future tuition hikes
to the State Regents. A similar bill was also defeated in a House
committee this week.
- The House Judiciary Committee approved
legislation adding homosexuals to the list of protected minority groups
under Oklahoma's hate crimes law. HB 1211 by Rep. Don Ross would also
increase the penalties for hate crimes that involved assault, hiking
fines by 25 percent. Currently, fines range from $1,000 to $10,000.
The panel also approved two truth-in-sentencing bills, HB 1003 by
Rep. Loyd Bensen and HB 1460 by Rep. Fred Morgan. Lawmakers are currently
try to resolve differences over truth-in-sentencing. The original
law, passed in 1997, is set to go into effect in July of this year.
- Oklahoma's vehicle inspection laws
may be revamped under legislation approved by the House Appropriations
Committee. HB 1268 by Rep. Phil Ostrander would require motorists
to get their vehicles inspected once every two years for a fee of
$10, instead of the current annual inspection for $5. Supporters complain
that many gas stations have stopped offering inspection stickers because
their share of the $5 fee isn't enough to cover their expenses. The
panel also approved HB 1296, a shell bill which can serve as a vehicle
for the tuition hike requested by Governor Keating.
- The full House approved legislation
which would raise the speed limit for school buses. Currently, buses
are limited to 50 mph on highways, but HB 1258 would raise that to
Thursday, February 18th
- The Senate met briefly before adjourning
for the weekend. Senate committees continued to meet in an effort
to beat the February 18th deadline to pass bills out of committee
in their house of origin. The next procedural deadline facing legislators
is March 11th when all bills must be passed out of their house of
- The Senate will reconvene at 1:30 pm,
Monday, February 22nd.
- Lawmakers will have an additional $29.7
million to appropriate in the coming fiscal year, according to the
State Equalization Board. The oversight panel raised its initial budget
estimate on Tuesday, citing larger than expected income tax collections.
Even with the additional money, lawmakers will still be hard pressed
to meet a number of financial obligations coming due this year. The
tab for road construction, new prison beds and other initiatives will
cost an estimated $200 million in additional funds.