For the week
of Monday, May 10, 1999 - Thursday, May 13,
continued to take place in committee and meeting rooms as
lawmakers tried to put the finishing touches on both the
state budget and substantive legislation. Agency heads
have been appearing before appropriations subcommittees,
trying to justify their requests for additional
Two weeks remain in the 1999 legislative session.
Lawmakers will spend the final days tying up loose budget
ends and attempting to resolve differences over
substantive legislation in conference committee.
- The Senate approved a
cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers. HB 1005
by Sen. Mike
authorize a 5.4 percent increase in benefits beginning
July 1st. Funding for the increase will come out of the
said lawmakers would like to do more for retired
teachers, but the condition of OTRS would not allow it.
The legislation was approved 40-6 and now goes to the
House for consideration.
- A bill designed to prohibit price gouging
during tornado relief efforts was returned to conference committee
for some additional fine-tuning. SB 69 by Sen. Ted
Fisher will set guidelines
for certain disaster-related retail services in an effort to prevent
victims from being overcharged for construction supplies and repairs
related to storm damage.
- The Senate approved
legislation cracking down on drug dealers who practice
their trade near schools. HB 1203 by Sen.
the penalties for transporting with the intent to
distribute a controlled dangerous substance to a person
within 2,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school.
Current law targets drug traffic within 1,000 feet of
- The State Senate
approved the State
Regents for Higher
appointment of Jimmie Harrel of Leedy. Although the vote
was unanimous on the nomination, Sen. Maxine
Horner did point
out that with Harrel's appointment, the State Regents
would be composed entirely of white males. Governor
Keating named Harrel to replace regent Frederick McCann,
the only African-American on the State Regents board.
- Legislation which would
tap the Internet for student tutoring resources was
approved by the House. HB 1647 would provide grants for
the development of Internet homework tutoring chatrooms,
creating a pilot program for on-line tutoring as funding
became available. Under the legislation, students who
were not at school could receive instructional assistance
from teachers by contacting them through the Internet.
Rep. Abe Deutschendorf estimated it would cost
approximately $25,000 to create an on-line chatroom in a
- The full Senate and House approved
legislation designed to prevent unscrupulous contractors and retailers
from taking advantage of tornado victims. SB 69 by Sen. Ted
Fisher outlaws price gouging
on goods and services related to disaster recovery. Among other things,
it prohibits price increases of 10 percent or more on such goods and
services for 30 days after the issuance of a declaration of disaster.
The measure does make an exception if the price increase is attributable
to factors unrelated to the emergency and does not include any increased
profit for the seller. The time limit on price increases is extended
to 180 days for home construction and remodeling materials, and for
renting and leasing dwelling units and storage space. Violators face
up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine, in addition to restitution
and other penalties. The proposal applies to all counties included
in the disaster declaration and residents in adjacent counties.
- The full Senate approved a bill designed
to pave the way for a multi-million dollar NASA
project at the old Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base in Burns Flat. SB
720 by Sen. Gilmer
Capps would establish the
Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority. Supporters are hoping
the feds will designate the Burns Flat base as a landing site for
the new space shuttle and are trying to get the state in a position
to compete for such a facility. A companion bill, SB 719, would provide
income tax credit for investments made in projects related to aviation
and aerospace. It remains in conference committee.
- Senators approved legislation designed
to protect counties from liabilities associated with land acquisitions.
SB 29 by Sen. Dave
Herbert would prevent counties
from being held liable for environmental problems which existed on
property prior to their purchase or ownership of it.
- The Senate approved legislation designed
to protect the privacy rights of domestic violence and sexual assault
victims. SB 457 by Sen. Jim
Dunlap would prohibit a court
from ordering disclosure of the location of any person seeking or
receiving services from a domestic violence or sexual assault program.
- Oklahoma may soon have a freestanding
boxing commission if the Senate gets its way. Senators approved SB
600 by Sen. Brooks
Douglass which would establish
Professional Boxing Commission,
separating it from its current home in the State
Department of Labor. Supporters
contend the labor department has mismanaged regulation of the sports
industry, driving boxing promotions out of Oklahoma.
- The full Senate passed legislation
designed to encourage teens to take drivers education and become safer
motorists. SB 413 by Sen. Keith
Leftwich, the so-called "Graduated
Drivers License" bill, would require restricted drivers licenses for
16 year olds who have not completed a drivers education course. The
restricted license would allow teens to drive only during daylight
hours , except when driving to or from work, school, school activities
or church, or if a parent or guardian was accompanying them. The restrictions
would only apply to school districts which offer drivers education
courses. Sen. Leftwich said his legislation is designed to limit "joyriding"
by inexperienced drivers who are at higher risk of an auto accident
because of their failure to take drivers ed. Opponents, however, argued
the bill would create an enforcement nightmare for law officers. It
passed on a 26-16 vote.
- The Senate approved
Governor Keating's appointment of Jimmie Harrel to the
Board of the Oklahoma State
Regents for Higher
- The House approved the
"Oklahoma Agriculture Enhancement and Diversification
Act," legislation designed to encourage innovation and
experimentation in the production and marketing of
agricultural goods. Under the provisions of HB 1197,
grants and loans would be allocated to farmers, ranchers
and others who provide assistance to projects dealing
with new or expanded uses for agriculture products.
Project money would come from the State
through gifts, grants, appropriations and other sources.
- The full Senate and
House approved legislation which will close a loophole in
the state's current farm tag law. HB 1409 by Sen.
prohibit the use of the special $30 tags on sport-utility
vehicles or vans. The discounted tags are supposed to be
used for farm vehicles like pick-up trucks, but because
SUVs and vans are built on a truck frame, they
technically qualify for the special farm tag rate. Sen.
Price said an estimated 8,000 Oklahomans have obtained a
farm tag even though their vehicle is not used for farm
- Senators shot down a proposal which,
according to supporters, would have stopped outsiders from harassing
students on state college campuses. SB 517 by Sen. Jim
Maddox would have authorized
the head of such a public institution to eject from campus anyone
who loiters and interferes with daily business. Opponents argued the
legislation could be abused, allowing people to be kicked off campus
simply because someone disagreed with their opinion. Senators declined
to adopt the conference committee report, effectively killing the
bill for the session.
- The full Senate
confirmed the reappointment of Tax Commissioner Don
Kilpatrick of Oklahoma City. The former State Senator was
nominated to another six-year term by Governor
- The House approved SB 720, legislation
which would allow Oklahoma to compete to be a NASA
"space port" site (see above).
- House members approved
legislation designed to crack down on annoying
telemarketers. HB 1715 would prevent telemarketers from
blocking caller ID devices, a technique they currently
employ to persuade unsuspecting people to answer the
phone rather than ignoring the call.
- House members approved the "Graduated
Drivers License Bill," SB 413 by Sen. Keith
Leftwich (see above).
- Legislation slashing car
tag fees was approved by the full House. HB 1734 by Sen.
Maddox would base
annual tag fees on a flat rate, instead of the current
percentage based on the value of the vehicle. Under the
legislation, tag fees would be $85 for the first five
years of registration, $45 for the next five and $15 for
all years after that. In order to make the bill revenue
neutral, the legislation raises the vehicle excise tax
from 3.25 percent to 4.5 percent. Instead of being based
on the sticker price of the vehicle as is the current
practice, the tax would be applied to the sale price
minus any vehicle trade-in value.
- Despite vetoing similar legislation
two times before, Governor Keating signed the so-called mental health
parity bill. SB 2 would require health insurance and health benefit
plans to cover treatable mental illnesses, such as major depression,
manic depressive illness, schizophrenia, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive
disorder and schizoaffective disorder. Opponents contend the legislation
will drive up insurance costs and the premiums of ratepayers, but
supporters say other states have implemented similar laws without
significant cost increases. Under the terms of SB 2, if rates do rise
significantly over the next three years, the law will phase out.
- Governor Keating signed SB 69, legislation
outlawing price gouging in tornado-damaged areas of Oklahoma (see
- The Senate adjourned
floor action for the weekend, but continued work on
budget matters and conference committee reports.
- Governor Keating
appointed former State Senator Bill Gustafson of El Reno
to the Oklahoma Historical Society Board of Directors.
Gustafson served in the Senate from 1991 to '98, holding
the position of minority leader during his last two years
- State revenue
collections were up in the month of April, 3.3 percent
higher than the previous year and 1.1 percent above the
estimate. Collections for the entire fiscal year,
however, are running slightly behind projections.
- Four Senators who are
drafting distribution plans for Oklahoma's share of the
national tobacco settlement are adding another area to
their list: child abuse.
Just two weeks ago, Senators Angela
Cain unveiled a
proposal which would deposit half of the state's tobacco
settlement in an interest-earning trust fund and
distribute the other half to programs ranging from before
and after school programs to expanded health care
opportunities for the elderly, the disabled and the