The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, February 22, 1999 - Thursday, February 25, 1999
Most of the legislative work moved to the House and Senate floors as lawmakers rushed to beat their second deadline of the session. All bills must be passed out of their house of origin by March 11th.


Monday, February 22nd
  • The full Senate approved 72 bills in a lengthy afternoon session. Among the bills receiving passage were measures which would expand fishing licenses and ban the use of horsemeat in products for human consumption;

  • SB 18, Sen. Lewis Long, would increase the number of exemptions to the list of vehicles for which a certificate of title may be issued without payment of the vehicle excise tax;

  • SB 38, Sen. Mike Morgan, would authorize certain entities to dispose of obsolete equipment to entities with the state higher education system;

  • SB 84, Sen. Dave Herbert, would modify the types of lights which may be used on emergency vehicles;

  • SB 95, Sen. Maxine Horner, would modify the terms of fishing licenses, making them valid for a full year after purchase. Currently, all fishing licenses expire at the end of the year, no matter when they were purchased.

  • SB 196, Sen. Penny Williams, would amend the Oklahoma Tuition and Grant Act, removing cap limits on the program and giving the State Regents discretion to set the caps based on availability of funds;

  • SB 450, Sen. Dick Wilkerson, would provide officials with the Office of the Attorney General with the powers and authority of peace officers;

  • SB 632, Sen. Frank Shurden, would prohibit the use of horse meat in food products intended for human consumption;

  • SB 714, Sen. Ted Fisher, would expand the number of satellite math and science schools in Oklahoma if and when funding becomes available for the initiatives. There are currently three schools which offer advanced math and science courses to Oklahoma high school students. Fisher would like to expand the number to twelve;

  • SB 724, Sen. Keith Leftwich and Sen. Gene Stipe, would require the Transportation Commission to adopt rules regulating the spacing between outdoor advertising structures and parks;

  • SB 726, Sen. Brad Henry, would exempt the Council on Judicial Complaints from the provisions of the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act;

  • SJR 19, Sen. Henry, would call for a statewide vote on a proposed constitutional amendment addressing millage limits on building fund levies for local schools.

  • The full House approved 36 bills in floor action, including one which would prohibit the use of unmarked police cars in traffic enforcement. Backers of HB 1212 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 measure was approved on a 62-37 vote.

  • House members approved an amended version of HB 1138, altering the bill to prohibit the state from using private prisons if state-owned facilities had available space.

  • The House approved HB 1420 by Rep. Bill Graves, legislation spawned by the so-called "Tin Drum" controversy in Oklahoma City. Under the bill, evidence that a film or book had artistic or literary merit could no longer be used for a defense in child pornography cases. Oklahoma City authorities were criticized last year when they seized the Oscar-winning German film "The Tin Drum" from area video stores, claiming it was obscene and contained child pornography. A federal judge later ruled police violated a federal privacy law when they seized the tape.

  • House members approved the so-called "covenant marriage" bill. HB 1001 would allow couples to voluntarily sign a document agreeing to undergo marital counseling and wait at least 18 months before divorcing.


 Tuesday, February 23rd
  • The full Senate approved legislation which would legalize the tattoo business in Oklahoma. Senator Lewis Long, author of SB 44, noted that Oklahoma is one of only two states which currently bans tattoo parlors. He argued that the tattoo industry's current outlaw status encourages unsanitary practices that spread disease. The measure passed on a 28-19 vote.

  • Senators defeated a measure designed to clear the way for Amtrak's return to Oklahoma. SJR 12 by Sen. Dave Herbert calls for a statewide vote on an increase in the gasoline and diesel taxes. The measure would ask voters to boost the gas tax by one-half cent a gallon and diesel by two cents, earmarking part of the revenue for costs relating to passenger rail service in Oklahoma. The measure failed on a 24-23 vote, but may be brought up for a reconsideration vote. It needs 25 votes to pass.

  • The Senate approved legislation designed to crack down on sex offenders. SB 733 by Sen. Mark Snyder would allow individuals to be held in mental institutions for treatment after their release from prison if they are determined to be "sexual predators." They would only be released into society after a mental health professional determined they were rehabilitated. The measure passed unanimously.

  • The full Senate approved approximately 50 other bills during their Tuesday session, including:

    • SB 20, Sen. Paul Muegge, would prohibit commercial earthen pond construction within five miles of city limits;

    • SB 31, Sen. Dave Herbert, would provide for the refund of income tax overpayments by federal retirees;

    • SB 65, Sen. Ted Fisher, would require districts to forward education and disciplinary records within three business days of the receipt of a request from the school district in which a student is currently enrolled;

    • SB 332, Sen. Trish Weedn, requiring a service program for developmentally disabled clients to be implemented at the Enid and Pauls Valley resource centers;

    • SB 447, Sen. Jim Maddox, would prohibit rules restricting the people to using less than seven rods while fishing. The bill would also allow motorized boats on the upper Illinois River while prohibiting jet boats;

    • SB 562, Sen. Frank Shurden, would remove fingerprint requirements and certain record checks from regulations involving handgun license renewal;

    • SB 715, Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, would require that teacher preparation programs and staff development include the study of classroom safety.

    • The full House approved legislation cracking down on drunk drivers. HB 1783 by Rep. Jari Askins would make DUI an automatic felony if the person had been previously convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter in a DUI case within the past 10 years. Another provision would allow authorities to seize the vehicles of repeat DUI offenders. Similar legislation is also advancing in the Senate.

    • House members also approved a measure designed to ease the burden of vehicle excise taxes. HB 1734 would eliminate the excise tax on vehicles and replace it with a sales tax, something that would allow car buyers to roll the tax cost into their overall finance charges. The measure was also amended to cut the sales tax applied to vehicle purchases from 4.5 percent to 1 percent.

    • The House also gave its approval to another tax cut, one which would eliminate the corporate franchise tax on business. HB 1278 would cost the state approximately $43 million in revenue annually.


Wednesday, February 24th
  • In a reconsideration vote, the full Senate approved a measure designed to bring passenger rail service back to Oklahoma with the help of a gas tax increase. SJR 12 by Sen. Dave Herbert would ask state voters if they wanted to raise the gas tax and earmark some of the revenue to help bring Amtrak back (see above). The measure passed on a 28-18 vote.

  • A bill targeting "speed traps" received approval from the full Senate. 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.

  • Senators approved legislation designed to increase the educational opportunities of children who are being schooled at home. SB 449 by Sen. Brad Henry would allow those children to attend up to one-half day of classes at a public school. It would allow home-schoolers to receive course instruction that they might not be able to provide on their own.

  • A bill which would have required motorists to turn on their headlights during rainstorms fell one vote short of passage. SB 328 by Sen. Jerry Smith failed on a 24-22 vote. A bill must have a majority, 25 votes, to pass.

  • Senators killed legislation which would have given security officers more authority in ejecting transients from state college campuses. SB 517 would allow officers to remove homeless people and ban their return for up to one year. Opponents argued that the bill provided unnecessary authority to campus officers because state trespass laws can already be enforced on college campuses. It was defeated on a 20-28 vote.

  • A bill designed to prevent young Oklahomans from running up huge credit card debts received narrow approval from the Senate. SB 23 by Sen. Robert Milacek would prohibit credit card companies from issuing cards to Oklahomans under the age of 21. Opponents argued the measure amounted to a governmental intrusion into the lives of young people, but the bill passed 26-21.

  • Oklahoma's vehicle inspection laws may be revamped under legislation approved by the full House. 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 House also passed its version of a "speed trap" bill. HB 1215 by Rep. M.C. Leist would allow the State Transportation Commission to void a speed limit set by a town on a state highway if it is found to be designed primarily to increase local revenues, not to improve traffic safety. The measure would also prohibit insurance companies from raising auto insurance premiums if a violator exceeded the speed limit by 10 mph or less.

  • House members approved a workers compensation reform aimed at reducing permanent disability cases. HB 1425 by Rep. Jari Askins would amend the workers comp schedule to prohibit anyone whose injury does not prevent them from returning to work with the same employer at the same rate of pay from receiving a permanent disability award. The bill passed 99-1.

  • The House killed a bill which would have authorized wireless telephone providers to charge 50 cents a month per client to help implement a new 911 emergency system for their customers. Opponents of HB 1228 argued that the fee was too high.


Thursday, February 25th
  • The Senate continued to work long hours in floor session in an effort to beat an approaching legislative deadline. Members have until March 11th to pass bills out of their house of origin.


Other News
  • The State Board of Education voted to beef up curriculum requirements for Oklahoma high schools students. The panel added two more years of required courses, one in science and one in social studies. The new requirements will begin with freshmen in the fall of 2000 and will be required for graduation in 2005. Under the new program, students will have to take four years of English, three years of math, three years of science and three years of social studies.