The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
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 and anti-business.

  • 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 road.

  • 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 citizens."

  • 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 55 mph.


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 origin.

  • The Senate will reconvene at 1:30 pm, Monday, February 22nd.


Other News
  • 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.