The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, March 29, 1999 - Thursday, April 1, 1999
Legislative work shifted back to the floors of the House and Senate as lawmakers rushed to beat their next deadline of the session. All bills have to be passed off the floor by Thursday, April 15th.

 

Monday, March 29th
  • The "mental health parity" bill was approved by the House, but with a notable concession to Governor Keating. SB 2 was amended to include tax credits for companies which are hit with a premium increase because they offered mental health coverage to employees, a provision requested by the Governor. The measure would require companies to offer insurance which would cover several forms of treatable mental illness. It also includes a sunset provision which would require the Legislature to revisit the issue in 2003 and determine if it should be renewed.

  • The so-called "unmarked car" bill was given final approval by the House on a 62-37 vote. The next stop for HB 1212 is the Governor's desk. The final version of the legislation was a compromise with officials in law enforcement. As it was originally written, the bill would have banned municipal law enforcement agencies from using unmarked cars in routine traffic enforcement, but the compromise version allows unmarked cars to be used as long a specific combination of lights are displayed on the vehicle with the occupant wearing a police uniform. Supporters contended the unmarked cars cause confusion among motorists who cannot be sure if they are being stopped by an actual law officer or a criminal impersonating an officer. Opponents claimed the unmarked cars have helped reduce aggressive driving and related accidents. Governor Keating is expected to sign the legislation.

  • The House approved a measure which would prohibit the use of horsemeat in products for human consumption. State law currently bans the mixing of horsemeat with a number of products, but SB 632 by Sen. Frank Shurden would extend the prohibition to turkey and chicken.

  • House members passed legislation designed to crack down on "speed traps." A committee substitute for SB 234 would create the Oklahoma Speed Trap Law, allowing the commissioner of Department of Public Safety to determine if municipal law officers are abusing their authority by setting speed limits to raise revenue rather than to control traffic flow.

  • Legislation aimed at deadbeat dads was approved by the House. SB 473 would make it a crime to write a bogus check for the payment of child support. The measure was amended to extend the prohibition to vehicle purchases.

  • A measure designed to encourage food service establishments to immunize their employees for Hepatitis A received House approval. SB 644 by Sen. Angela Monson would provide a tax credit to businesses which pay for their employees' immunizations against the disease.

  • The Senate approved legislation designed to make telemarketers more user friendly to the public. Among other things, HB 1147 by Sen. Mike Morgan would require telemarketers to announce their purpose at the beginning of the call, giving the consumer an opportunity to hang up.

  • Senators approved a shell bill, SB 1300 by Sen. Brad Henry, that could be used as a vehicle for workers compensation reform. Several reform proposals are currently advancing through the legislative process, but a final decision will ultimately be made in conference committee.
Tuesday, March 30th
  • The full Senate approved legislation designed to make it easier to get a vehicle inspection sticker in Oklahoma. HB 1268 by Sen. Kevin Easley would chance the inspection fee from $5 to $10 and require inspections to be conducted every two years instead of annually. The measure would give businesses more money for conducting the inspections as an incentive to offer the service. Many gas stations and auto service centers have discontinued inspections in recent years, saying the current $5 fee is not enough to cover their expenses. Some Senators, however, raised concerns that the two-year delay between inspections might increase the number of unsafe vehicles on the roads.

  • Senators approved legislation designed to protect officials who try to save the lives of heart attack victims. HB 1190 by Sen. Lewis Long would provide civil liability immunity for individuals who use automated external defibrillators to treat victims in most situations. The measure was requested by Red Cross.

  • Another bill targeting telemarketers was approved by the full Senate. HB 1715 by Sen. Mike Fair would prohibit telephone solicitors from blocking detection on caller identification devices. Sen. Fair asked that the title be stricken in expectation that the legislation might ultimately be combined with several others bills relating to the telemarketing industry.

  • The Senate passed legislation which would encourage more men to be screened for prostate cancer. HB 1210 by Sen. Maxine Horner would require health benefit plans to offer coverage for the screenings. The measure would apply to men over 50 and at-risk men over 40. A $65 cap would be placed on the testing cost.

  • Senators approved a shell bill for truth-in-sentencing legislation. HB 1003 will ultimately be used for whatever compromise is reached on the controversial issue. The TIS act of 1997 is scheduled to go into effect on July 1st, but a bipartisan panel of lawmakers is currently working to draft alternative legislation to address concerns raised by law enforcement officials and others. TIS would require violent offenders to serve longer sentences while assigning non-violent offenders to community-based punishments such as county jail time and community service.

  • The Senate approved a measure designed to combine all trauma-care advisory commissions and require the development of a strategic plan for trauma patients. HB 1158 by Sen. Larry Dickerson was sparked in part by recent problems some areas of the state have experienced in regard to trauma care.

  • Senators approved a measure that would set up a fund for the dispersion of money coming from the national tobacco settlement. HB 1002 by Sen. Ben Brown would establish the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Fund, establish a board of trustees and require legislative approval of expenditures.

  • The Senate also approved a shell bill that may be used for a tuition adjustment. HB 1296 by Sen. Cal Hobson is being kept alive in the event that legislators decide to increase state tuition rates. The State Regents and Governor Keating have proposed a tuition hike.

  • The Boxing Commission would become a freestanding state agency if a bill approved by the House ultimately becomes law. SB 600 would take boxing oversight duties away from the State Labor Department and create an independent agency to handle the regulatory responsibilities. Supporters claim the Labor Department has killed the boxing industry in Oklahoma by making it difficult if not impossible to stage events here. No professional boxing matches have been held in the state in the past two years. Opponents raised concerns about the cost of establishing a new agency.

  • A measure designed to make workers in the DHS Adult Protective Services Division more accountable was approved by the full House. SB 768 by Sen. Frank Shurden would require DHS to notify local law enforcement whenever the division begins an investigation, and in some cases, the family. The entity traditionally investigates charges of abuse and neglect of the elderly. Senator Shurden said he drafted the legislation after receiving several complaints about elderly people being forcibly evicted from their homes. The issue was also the subject of an interim study.

  • The House approved several resolutions, urging Congress to take action on certain issues. HCR 1016 would memorialize Congress to take action against the European Union for its ban on American beef products. HCR 1019 would memorialize Congress to enact legislation restoring the safety net for agriculture. HCR 1020 would memorialize Congress to enact legislation requiring mandatory price reporting.

  • The House did kill one measure on the floor. SB 462 would have modified speed limits in school zones to 20 mph below the limit in effect immediately before the school property.

  • Governor Keating signed three measures into law:

    -SB 659 by Sen. Billy Mickle will ultimately give the State Treasurer full responsibilities over the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act. The authority now resides with the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

    -HB 1196 by Sen. Frank Shurden will allow the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission to promulgate rules to facilitate and promote uniform, reciprocal occupation licensing with other jurisdictions.

    -HB 1275 by Sen. Dave Herbert reduces the distance from 300 to 100 yards in which a scuba diver may dive from a functional boat ramp.

 

Wednesday, March 31st
  • The Senate met briefly before adjourning for the Easter weekend.

 

Thursday, April 1st
  • The Senate was in recess for Easter.

 

Other News
  • An organization which wants the Confederate flag to fly at the State Capitol has appealed a judge's ruling barring the controversial banner. Earlier this year, a district judge ruled that the state was not required to fly the flag on the Capitol grounds. The Claremore chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans has appealed the ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in hopes of getting the banner restored to the Capitol flag plaza which now displays the banners of 13 other nations which at one time ruled Oklahoma. The group is basing its fight on a 1988 legislative resolution which requested that the flag be flown, but both the district judge and the Attorney General have said the resolution isn't binding. The Confederate flag used to fly above the State Capitol, but was removed and never restored when the flag plaza was renovated in 1987.

  • The slump in crude prices is starting to show up in state employment numbers. According to the Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission, Oklahoma has lost 8.5 percent of its oil and gas extraction jobs in the past year. Employment in that sector totaled approximately 28,000 in February, down about 2,600 jobs from the previous year.

  • Veteran lobbyist and editor of Town Talk magazine Lou Gatti died after a bout with lung cancer. He was 68.

 


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