The Oklahoma Senate
Week In Review
For the week of Monday,
February 22, 1999 - Thursday, February 25,
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- SB 20, Sen. Paul
Muegge, would prohibit
commercial earthen pond construction within five miles of city
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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