For the week of Monday,
April 26, 1999 - Thursday, April 29, 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
before appropriations subcommittees, trying to justify
their requests for additional funds.
Four 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
- Governor Keating signed 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.
- The Governor signed
legislation designed to give school administrators and
teachers greater freedom in disciplining students. HB
1370 would prohibit a school board, administrator or
teacher from being held civilly liable for taking
disciplinary action authorized by law. Supporters claim
many schools are currently afraid to discipline
disruptive students for fear of legal action. Keating
applauded the legislation, saying it "will allow schools
to properly and fairly discipline students through
suspension without the fear of lawsuit."
- Character education may
soon be a staple in many school districts, thanks to a
bill signed into law by the Governor. HB 1765 authorizes
local school boards to implement a comprehensive program
for character education in grades kindergarten through
6th. For example, the program may include the voluntary
recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The
implementation is to begin in the 1999-2000 school
- The Governor approved legislation designed
to discourage inmates from filing frivolous lawsuits. SB 575 will
allow courts to fine prison or jail inmates up to $500 if they are
convicted of filing a malicious or frivolous lawsuit. Supporters contend
inmates abuse the legal system, often filing lawsuits over trivial
or non-existent matters.
- Members of the House
Appropriations Subcommittee on Mental Health criticized
Governor Keating's plans to downsize Eastern State
Hospital and cut almost 300 jobs at the Vinita facility.
The Governor wants to privatize a forensic unit for the
criminally insane and move other mentally ill patients
into community-based treatment. Rep. Don Ross accused the
Governor's office of trying to usurp legislative
authority by encouraging the state mental health board to
take the action without legislative input. The board had
scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday night to
discuss the proposal, but that meeting was postponed.
- The Oklahoma
renewed its call for a 4 percent raise for state
employees, but also offered legislators a possible
alternative for funding the $50 million salary action.
OPEA is proposing that the bulk of the funding, some $40
million, come from state employee contributions to their
pension system with the remaining $10 million coming from
the general revenue fund. OPEA, which represents
approximately 10,000 workers, contends Oklahoma state
employees are among the lowest paid in the country.
- 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.
- Senators gave final approval to a bill
which would give expanded authority to the State
Fire Marshal's division. SB
419 by Sen. Keith Leftwich gives the fire marshall the right to issue
citations for code violations. The measure is designed to encourage
businesses to be more conscious of fire dangers. The legislation now
goes to the Governor.
- The full Senate approved legislation
designed to protect the sanctity of grand jury proceedings. SB 479
by Sen. Brad
Henry would prohibit the copying,
reproduction and disclosure of content of grand jury transcripts without
permission of the court. Violators would be liable to contempt charges.
- The Senate
approved the Governor's nomination of Mike Hunter as
of State. Hunter
replaced Tom Cole, who left last month to take a position
with the Republican National Committee in Washington, DC.
Hunter is a former state representative who now serves as
one of Governor Keating's top advisers.
- The Senate
approved three gubernatorial appointments: Don
Kilpatrick's reappointment to the Oklahoma
Troy Higgins reappointment to the Oklahoma Credit Union
Board and W. Carlisle Mabrey III to the State Banking
- Governor Keating
appointed James "Jimmie" Harrel of Leedey to the
State Regents for Higher
will fill the seat currently held by Frederick McCann.
The action requires Senate confirmation.
- OU President David Boren
and OSU President James Halligan announced their support
for a $350 million dollar higher education bond issue.
Governor Keating and legislative leaders are currently
grappling to agree a funding mechanism for the bond
program. One proposal calls for an 11 to 13 cent
cigarette tax increase to raise the revenue necessary to
retire the bonds.
- Published reports
indicated that members of the Oklahoma County State
Senate delegation oppose the expenditure of any more
state funds on a trial for convicted Oklahoma City bomber
Terry Nichols. In a letter to Senator Stratton Taylor,
members expressed that no additional funds be allocated
to a state trial, noting that Nichols is already serving
a life term for a federal conviction on bombing charges.
The Senators complimented Oklahoma County District
Attorney Bob Macy for his work on the Nichols case, but
questioned whether it was a wise use of state resources
given the state's current budget constraints. Macy has
since indicated he can prosecute the case with existing
funds and will not ask for additional financial
- House and Senate budget
leaders made the formal allocations to the General
Conference Committee on Appropriations subcommittees.
Lawmakers will have only $52 million in additional money
to allocate to state services in the coming weeks,
compared to approximately $200 million last year. The
bulk of the state budget was allocated when legislators
passed the $4.8 billion general appropriations bill
earlier this month. The GCCA subcommittee allocations are
There is $148 million available for appropriation in the
state rainy day fund, but the bulk of that has been
committed to the state's ongoing road construction
- Senators passed final legislation cracking
down on so-called "identity theft." SB 421 by Sen. Keith
Leftwich makes it unlawful
for anyone to willfully and fraudulently obtain vital information
about a person with the intent to sell it or use it to obtain credit
or other services. The measure now goes to the Governor.
- The Senate approved
legislation that could help clear the way for a new
veterans center in Lawton. SB 77 by Sen. Sam
of Veterans Affairs
to enter into agreements with public trusts to issue
bonds for construction. Last year's bond issue allocated
funds for the Lawton project, but that bond package is
currently being challenged in the State
- The full Senate
confirmed the nomination of Secretary of State Mike
Hunter (see above). Others appointments receiving Senate
confirmation included Jerry Perry of Cleveland to the
River Dam Authority,
Kenny Monroe of Leflore to the State
Mary Nichols of Tulsa to the State Board of Education,
Stan Clark of Stillwater to the Oklahoma
Will Jones of Edmond to the Oklahoma
Julie Kruger of Tulsa to the Oklahoma
Janis Ricks of Edmond to Oklahoma
and W. Carlisle Mabrey III of Okmulgee to the State
- House members gave final
approval to legislation which would encourage more men to
get prostate exams. HB 1210 would require health benefit
plans to make such screenings available to their
customers. Opponents argued that the measure would raise
insurance rates, but supporters contended any impact
would be negligible. The measure now goes to the
- The Senate met briefly
on the floor and then adjourned to continue work on
budget matters and conference committee reports.