For the week of Monday,
April 19, 1999 - Thursday, April 22, 1999
shifted from the floor to the committee room again as
lawmakers began the final process of drafting the state
budget for next fiscal year. Agency heads are appearing
trying to justify their requests for additional
Five weeks remain in the
1999 legislative session. Lawmakers will spend the final
weeks tying up loose budget ends and attempting to
resolve differences over substantive legislation in
- The Senate approved legislation which
would make it easier for law enforcement officers to obtain a "no
knock" search warrant. SB 580 by Sen. Dick
Wilkerson would expand the
circumstances under which such a warrant could be issued. For example,
the bill would allow "no knock" warrants when:
- Such warning would allow destruction of evidence;
- Such warning would increase the likelihood of resistance or escape;
- Such warning would inhibit the effective investigation of a crime;
- Such warning would be a futile or useless gesture.
Current law allows "no knock" warrants to be issued only when there
is reasonable cause to believe that such a warning would pose a significant
danger to human life. Opponents argued the legislation simply gave
law enforcement officers another tool to infringe on the rights of
property owners, but supporters countered that the decision to issue
a "no knock" warrant would be made by the courts, not law officers.
Senators approved SB 580 on a 28-16 vote.
- Senators approved legislation designed
to keep others from outlawing the use of multiple fishing poles on
Oklahoma lakes and streams. SB 447 by Sen. Jim
Maddox would prohibit the
promulgation of rules restricting a person to using less than seven
fishing rods. The measure also allows motorized boats on the upper
- The Senate confirmed
Christy Everest of Oklahoma City to the OU Board of
Regents. She will serve a seven-year term. Senators also
approved the appointment of Fred Harlan of Okmulgee to
the Board of Regents for the A&M colleges. Harlan
will serve an eight-year term.
- Legislation designed to
prevent students from filing discipline-related lawsuits
against school districts was approved by the House. HB
1370 would prevent school boards, administrators and
teachers from being held liable for disciplinary action
taken against students. Supporters claimed many schools
are currently afraid to discipline disruptive students
for fear of legal action.
- House members approved
legislation requiring district school boards to develop
and make available character education programs. HB 1765
would require the programs to be developed for grades
K-6, with an emphasis on students' development of
character traits. For example, the program may include
the voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
- Senators approved legislation which
would exempt the transportation of household goods and property from
rules and regulations relating to the wrecker and towing services.
SB 533 by Sen. Jeff
Rabon is designed to make
it easier to move such goods without having to adhere to rules crafted
for professional towing operations. The legislation now goes to the
- The Senate passed SB 505 by Sen. Penny
Williams, legislation which
would allow state employees and officers to have their travel reimbursements
directly deposited to their bank accounts.
- House members approved
legislation designed to make it easier to convert funeral
benefits. HB 1663 by Rep. Danny Hilliard would allow
member organizations of the Oklahoma Prepaid Funeral
Benefit Trust Fund to convert trust-funded prepaid
funeral benefits to insurance-funded funeral benefits.
The conversions would also have to be approved by the
State Insurance Commissioner.
- The House approved
legislation revising the permitting process of the
Oklahoma Clean Air Act. HB 1781 by Rep. Larry Rice, a
request bill from the Department of Environmental
Quality, would eliminate a current 180-day on DEQ
investigations, allowing the agency five years to examine
the record of a permit application. Supporters claimed
the current limit is too restrictive because DEQ loses
jurisdiction if action isn't taken within 180 days. The
measure would also allow the DEQ to issue minor permits
without requiring annual renewal.
- The Senate made an unsuccessful attempt
to override Governor Keating's veto of legislation expanding the state
employee leave-sharing program. SB 323 by Sen. Paul
Muegge would have allowed
departing state employees to donate their remaining annual or sick
leave to qualified employees under the state's leaving sharing program.
The program currently allows only active state employees to donate
leave time to eligible employees. To be eligible to receive donated
leave, an employee must have exhausted his/her leave time and be suffering
or have a family member suffering from a severe illness or injury
which could cause the employee to take unpaid leave or quit their
job. According to Sen. Muegge and other supporters, expanding such
a program to include departing state employees would have provided
much-needed assistance to a number of their colleagues. In his veto
message, however, Governor Keating claimed SB 323 would create "a
potential for abuses by persons leaving state service." Sen. Muegge
disagreed, pointing out that leave time could only be donated if a
need existed at the time an employee was leaving state service. The
veto override attempt failed on a 31-14 vote, with all Republicans
voting to sustain the veto and all Democrats voting to override it.
The Governor vetoed similar legislation last session.
- The Senate approved legislation which
would require health insurers to provide coverage for audiological
services and hearing aids for children up to 13 years of age. Based
on his discussions with the state insurance commissioner and insurance
providers, Sen. Bernest
Cain, author of SB 685, estimated
the coverage could result in a premium increase ranging from 60 cents
a year to an overall 1 percent increase. The measure was approved
on a 29-16 vote.
- Senators voted to recall SB 441 from
the Governor's office. The legislation by Sen. Ben
Robinson addresses state employee
benefits, increasing basic term life insurance offered by the State
and Education Employees Group Insurance Board.
- The House approved
legislation designed to protect people who are trying to
save the lives of heart attack victims. HB 1190 would
provide immunity from civil liability to those who use a
defibrillator in an attempt to save a person's life. To
qualify for immunity, the legislation specifies that a
person be "qualified... and, who in good faith and
without expectation of compensation, renders emergency
care or treatment outside a medical facility by the use
of an automated external defibrillator..." A
defibrillator is a device that delivers an electrical
impulse to the heart. Medical experts contend it can
increase a heart attack victim's survival rate by two or
- Area legislators, mental
health workers and the Oklahoma Public Employees
Association held a news conference to protest Governor
Keating's proposed downsizing of mental health facilities
like Eastern State Hospital in Vinita and Griffin
Memorial Hospital in Norman. They argued that Keating's
proposal would severely damage Oklahoma's mental health
programs and their clients, in addition to putting state
employees out of work. OPEA urged Governor Keating to
study a similar action in Kansas which resulted in an
increase in homelessness and other negative impacts on
the mentally ill. Four legislators joined OPEA at the
news conference, including Sen. Rick
D-Grove, Sen. Jim
R-Bartlesville, Rep. Wallace Collins, D-Norman, and Rep.
Joe Eddins, D-Vinita.
- The House and Senate
approved legislation appropriating additional to the
State Department of Corrections for medical services. The
$7.2 million is designed to head off one aspect of an
ongoing lawsuit against the DOC. Among other things, the
lawsuit accuses state prison officials of offering
inadequate medical services to its inmates.
- The Senate Tourism
Committee approved the appointment of Jane Jayroe as
Secretary of Tourism and Recreation. Governor Keating
appointed the former Miss America to the position earlier
this year. She replaced Ed Cook.
- Oklahoma economists are
predicting even better economic growth than expected in
1999. Robert Dauffenbach of the OU Center for Economic
and Management Research said re-evaluation of recent
employment numbers shows that job growth was
underestimated in 1998, leading him to believe that '99
growth was also underestimated. The state's general
business index has also registered an increase.
- Personal bankruptcies
are on the decline in Oklahoma's western district,
dropping 10.5 percent in the year's first quarter.
Statewide, bankruptcy petitions fell by approximately six
percent. Despite the decline in Oklahoma, analysts
believe bankruptcies will continue to grow nationally in
the next few years. Many attribute the national growth to
the wide availability of consumer credit, namely credit
- Published reports
indicated that Governor Keating and legislative leaders
are considering a $350 million higher education bond
issue. The Governor and lawmakers are reportedly
pondering an 11 cent increase in the state cigarette tax
to finance the bond issue.
- State Boxing
Commissioner Jim Gasso announced his resignation after a
rocky two- year stint on the job. A number of legislators
had been critical of Gasso's administration, claiming he
had made it impossible for promoters to stage
professional boxing events in Oklahoma. His resignation
came at a time when lawmakers were still deliberating
legislation which would remove the boxing commission from
the State Labor Department and create an independent
agency. SB 600 is now in conference committee.