For the week of Monday,
March 29, 1999 - Thursday, April 1, 1999
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.
Tuesday, March 30th
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
-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.
- The Senate met briefly
before adjourning for the Easter weekend.
- The Senate was in recess
- 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.