For the week of Monday, February
14th to Thursday, February 17, 2000
The majority of action took
place in House and Senate committees as lawmakers rushed to beat a February
24th deadline for reporting bills out of committee.
Monday, February 14th
- The full Senate approved legislation
authorizing a $3,000 across-the-board teacher pay raise. HB 2653 would
deliver the salary increase to all certified education personnel including
teachers, principals, supervisors, counselors, librarians and school
nurses. As amended by the House, the legislation also contains a $2,500
pay raise for state employees and additional funding for a prescription
drug program for the elderly, but the amendments are expected to be
removed in conference committee. Senator Frank Shurden argued that
the state employee pay amendment should remain in the legislation,
noting that state worker salaries rank 50th in the country. Others
pushed for a "clean" bill that contained only a teacher
pay raise, with the understanding that state employee pay would be
addressed in another bill later in the session. A final vote on the
teacher pay raise bill is expected Wednesday.
- The Senate Education Committee approved
a number of bills in on its agenda. SB 849 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield
would allow any person with a child development associate credential
and at least five years of experience in related career experience
to be certified in early childhood education for state employment
purposes. The panel also approved SB 1157 by Senator Brad Henry, legislation
that would allow schools to place interest income in the fund from
which the investment was made, the general fund, the building fund
or the sinking fund. Also given a do-pass recommendation was SB 1313
by Sen. Mike Johnson. The bill deletes the dress code provisions approved
in last year's education reform act. The committee also approved a
bill designed to give school districts more flexibility in building
construction. SB 1532 by Sen. Keith Leftwich was prompted by the failure
of a bond issue in the Oklahoma City school district.
- The Senate Labor Committee approved
legislation that would create a new commission to regulate various
trades. SB 1234 by Sen. Mark Snyder would establish the Construction
Industries Commission to regulate the plumbing, electrical, mechanical
and alarm industry, building and construction inspectors and workers
who install sprinkler systems. Snyder said the bill would have no
fiscal impact because the commission would be supported by licensing
fees. The panel passed SB 838 by Sen. Paul Muegge, legislation that
would authorize the provision of animal chiropractic diagnosis and
treatment. Among other things, the bill would establish standards
and training for such chiropractic physicians and require them to
carry at least $1 million of additional malpractice insurance.
- The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee
on Public Safety and Judiciary approved SB 846 by Sen. Keith Leftwich,
a measure strengthening qualifications for the State Fire Marshall
and some of his employees. Also approved was SB 1053 by Sen. Keith
Leftwich. The bill would increase penalties for littering, raising
the maximum community service hours from 20 to 100. SB 1455 by Sen.
Frank Shurden would also increase the community service hours for
littering, in addition to boosting fines from $200 to $5,000.
Tuesday, February 15
- The full Senate approved legislation
designed to keep some high-paying jobs in Oklahoma. SB 1019 would
provide new ad valorem and sales tax exemptions to the General Motors
Plant in Oklahoma City if it converts to truck manufacturing as planned.
The conversion is expected to cost GM anywhere from $500 million to
$800 million. According to Senator Dave Herbert, who handled the legislation
on the Senate floor, the legislation will amount to a $42 million
tax break over five years.
- A conference committee reported out
a final version of HB 2653, the teacher pay raise bill. The joint
panel removed House amendments from the legislation, making it a "clean"
$3,000 teacher pay raise.
- The Senate Finance Committee approved
several pieces of legislation designed to increase local funding for
the public schools. SJR 40 and SB 1386 by Sen. Brad Henry would raise
the bonded indebtedness cap for school districts from the current
10 percent level to 15 percent. The proposal would also require approval
in a statewide vote. SJR 39 and SB 1387 by Sen. Henry would do away
with the current 60 percent super majority required for local school
bond issues, switching to a 50 percent simple majority. If it clears
the Legislature, the proposal must also be approved in a statewide
- Legislation that would allow patients
to sue HMO's for failure to exercise "ordinary care" was
approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 1206 by Sen. Brad Henry
would hold HMO's liable for any damages that may result from their
decision to deny care to members. Senator Henry acknowledged that
managed care providers were lobbying heavily against his bill, but
said he was simply trying to hold them accountable for their actions.
- The Senate Veterans, Military Affairs
and Public Safety Committee approved legislation designed to encourage
more parents and children to use seatbelts. SB 891 by Sen. Ben Brown
would require all children from ages 4 to 12 to buckle up. The panel
also passed SB 885 by Sen. Jerry Smith, legislation designed to make
it easier to spot school buses in adverse weather conditions. The
measure would require buses to have flashing white or amber warning
lights displayed when weather conditions caused reduced visibility.
- Another effort to allow county home
rule was defeated, this time in the House County and Municipal Government
Committee. HB 2591 by Rep. John Bryant would have called for a statewide
vote on a statute creating the County Government Reform Act. The legislation
was defeated on a committee voice vote.
- The House Science and Technology Committee
approved legislation designed to crack down on sexual predators who
use the Internet. HB 2349 by Rep. Scott Adkins would prohibit the
use of an electronic device or computer to make lewd proposals to
Wednesday, February 16
- The House and Senate gave final approval
to a $3,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers. HB 2653 by Sen. Stratton
Taylor and Rep. Loyd Benson will provide the salary increase to approximately
46,000 public school teachers and certified personnel such as principals,
counselors, librarians and school nurses, 2,000 vo-tech teachers and
teachers at the state schools for the blind and the deaf. The measure
will cost an estimated $165 million annually. Governor Keating has
indicated he will sign the Legislature's pay raise bill, even though
he has been advocating a $2,000 merit pay program for teachers.
- The full Senate approved a supplemental
appropriation of $9.3 million to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority
and a $1.2 million supplemental appropriation to the State Auditor's
and Inspector's Office. The OHCA funds will go to the medically needy
program, Medicaid coverage for children and pharmaceutical costs.
The funding for the State Auditor will be used to upgrade the office's
computer system to federal standards.
- The House Revenue and Taxation Committee
approved two measures designed to cut the costs of car tags in Oklahoma.
HB 2663 by Rep. Ron Kirby is almost identical to a bill passed by
the Legislature last year and vetoed by the Governor. It would reduce
tags to a flat annual fee and raise excise taxes on car sales to offset
the lost revenue. The panel also approved HB 2702 by Rep. Todd Hiett,
also a carbon copy of last year's vetoed bill, except that it doesn't
alter excise tax rates. Because there is no offset mechanism as in
the Kirby bill, the Hiett legislation would ultimately cost the state
$130 million in revenue each year.
- The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee
on Public Safety failed to pass legislation that would have reduced
the legal blood alcohol content on drunk driving. SB 1497 by Sen.
Dick Wilkerson would have lowered the DUI threshold from .10 to .08,
but the legislation received a deadlocked vote of 3-3 and failed to
clear committee. The panel did approve a bill that would create a
new category for DUI offenses. SB 1443 by Sen. Ben Brown would charge
anyone with a blood alcohol content of .15 or more with an "extreme"
DUI. Offenders would face stiffer punishment than a regular DUI offender
and would have to undergo substance abuse treatment. Committee members
also approved SB 992 by Sen. Mike Morgan. That legislation would provide
a salary increase for Department of Public Safety employees. Members
also gave a do-pass recommendation to SB 1444 by Sen. Maxine Horner.
The bill would prohibit so-called racial profiling in law enforcement
Thursday, February 17
- The Senate met briefly before adjourning
for the weekend. Senate committees continued to meet to discuss pending
legislation. Lawmakers are facing a February 24th deadline to pass
bills out of committee in their house of origin.
- Senator Penny Williams is recovering
from injuries suffered in a fire at her Tulsa home. The Tulsa legislator
suffered broken ribs and a broken heel when she jumped from a second
floor window to escape the blaze. Officials in the Tulsa Fire Marshal's
office are attributing the fire to faulty wiring in a garage apartment
- State revenue collections were up in
the month of January, according to the Office of State Finance. Collections
were $9 million or 2 percent more than the same period last year and
$26 million or 5.8 percent higher than the estimate. Collections for
the first seven months of the fiscal year are approximately 5 percent
higher than the previous year and 2.4 percent above the estimate.
- Senator Jeff Rabon urged Governor Keating
to test his ideas for cutting school administration in a Tulsa pilot
project. The Governor has suggested that schools consider sharing
superintendents and transportation services to cut costs. In a letter
to Gov. Keating, Sen. Rabon indicated that the Tulsa and Tulsa Union
Public Schools would be a good pilot project for several reasons:
The districts are literally next door to each other in the same city;
they have two of the largest budgets in the state, increasing the
opportunity for significant cost savings; and Tulsa recently announced
its school superintendent was leaving, making it a perfect time to
employ a shared superintendent system.
Teacher Pay Raise Facts
HB 2653 - Teacher Pay Bill
- Provides a $3,000 across the board
pay raise for teachers. This is a permanent raise, NOT a one-time;
- All certified personnel are eligible
for the raise, including teachers, principals, supervisors, administrators,
counselors, librarians and registered nurses (superintendents not
- Receiving pay raises are approximately
46,000 public school teachers and personnel, approximately 2,000 teachers
at state vocational-technical schools, and instructors at the state
schools for the blind and deaf;
- The program will cost approximately
$165 million and will be funded by growth revenue produced by the
state's growing economy. The total includes funds for FICA and teacher
Evidence Supporting a Teacher Pay
- Oklahoma ranks 48th in teacher pay,
according to the most recent report from the National Center for Education
- Recent media reports indicate Oklahoma's
low salaries have prompted many teachers to leave for more lucrative
jobs in Texas, Kansas and other surrounding states. According to state
education officials, almost 900 educators have left their Oklahoma
teaching positions during the last six months, exacerbating an already
existing teacher shortage.
- The Texas Legislature and Gov. George
Bush approved a $3,000 teacher pay hike last year, increasing the
salary disparity between Oklahoma and the Lone Star State. On average,
a veteran teacher in Texas makes $8,000 more than his or her counterpart
- Because of Oklahoma's reputation for
producing good teachers, out-of-state recruiters target Oklahoma,
raiding schools with offers of better salaries and signing bonuses.