The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
Monday, February 28 to Thursday, March 2, 2000

The majority of action took place on the floors of the House and Senate as lawmakers rushed to beat a March 16th deadline for reporting all bills out of their house of origin.

Monday, February 28

  • The full Senate worked long hours as it attempted to sort through hundreds of bills advanced by various Senate committees. Senators approved 86 appropriations bills that will ultimately used to write the final state budget. The measures are currently in "shell" form, meaning they contain no actual funding. Money totals will be added later in the session as legislators reach agreement on various budget issues.

  • Senators approved legislation that will continue certain incentives to the Oklahoma oil industry. SB 1048 by Sen. Kevin Easley would extend the expiration date for gross production tax exemptions that expire July 1st.

  • Legislation that would expand the number of commemorative license plates Oklahomans can purchase was passed by the Senate. SB 831 by Sen. Charles Ford would provide for Oklahoma Statehood Centennial License Plates and Education Supporter License Plates.

  • Legislation designed to expand Oklahoma's Quality Jobs Act was approved by the full Senate. SB 1326 by Sen. Ted Fisher would create a three-tiered system to dispense the economic incentives. The first tier would address the state's two major metro areas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa; the second tier would cover economically "distressed" areas in both rural and urban areas; and the third tier would cover the rest of the state.

  • Senators approved legislation that would make it easier to extend early childhood certification to certain professional already working in the field. 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 full House also worked through a heavy schedule, passing a total of 25 bills off the floor. Among the legislation approved was a proposal to create a tobacco settlement trust fund. HB 2022 by Rep. Loyd Benson is similar to a bill that was vetoed by Gov. Keating last year. The legislation does not address how tobacco money should be spent, but creates a savings account in which to deposit the proceeds of the state settlement. House members also approved HB 2349 by Rep. Scott Atkins, which prohibits the use of electronic devices or computers to make lewd proposals to a child. The legislation is aimed at pedophiles who prey on children via the Internet. The title on the measure is intact, meaning it will go directly to the Governor for his signature if the Senate passes the legislation without changes.

Tuesday, February 29

  • In another busy and long day, the full Senate approved more than 30 bills. One piece of legislation that didn't make the cut was SB 1541 by Sen. Mark Snyder. Among other things, the bill would have increased fees for electrical licenses. Many lawmakers took exception to the proposed fee increase, comparing it to a tax hike. When the final vote was taken, SB 1541 was defeated on a 0-42 vote. Also failing to receive a majority vote from the Senate was SB 891 by Sen. Ben Brown. That legislation would expand the ages of children who are required to wear seatbelts in vehicles. With a 23-21 vote, the bill failed to receive the necessary 25 votes constituting a Senate majority. Both bills were kept alive on motions to reconsider, meaning the authors have three days to bring the bills back up for another vote.

  • Senators approved a measure that would ease restrictions on the horse racing industry. SB 1175 by Senator Lewis Long would allow horse track owners to race their own horses.

  • The full Senate approved legislation designed to combat violence in the public schools. SB 520 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield would make it a felony to commit assault and battery on school officials or students. The measure also requires schools to post a sign stating that such a crime is a felony offense. Some members questioned whether the bill would hit students with felony charges simply for being involved in a minor scuffle. Sen. Crutchfield agreed that the bill may need additional work, but added that he felt it was an important step to prevent school violence.

  • Senators passed legislation designed to foster electronic commerce throughout the state of Oklahoma. SB 1598 by Senator Glenn Coffee would create the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, removing archaic legal barriers to e-commerce. Sen. Coffee said the bill has been lauded across the nation as good legislation.

  • The Senate also approved legislation designed to help municipalities and other entities collect sales tax on Internet sales. SB 1340 by Sen. Angela Monson is modeled after recommendations made by the National Conference for State Legislatures and the National Governors Association. The bill would allow Oklahoma to join with other states to develop a voluntary, pilot program in an effort to ensure that states, counties and municipalities are able to collect sales tax from e-commerce.

  • The Senate approved two pieces of companion legislation designed to give public schools more flexibility to purchase transportation equipment. SB 1349 by Sen. Bruce Price would authorize the creation and use of a transportation equipment fund to be financed by a millage election in a school district. SJR 38, also by Sen. Price, proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing school districts to hold ad valorem elections for such a transportation fund. The latter proposal must also be approved in a statewide vote.

  • Senators approved two pieces of legislation that would revise HB 1759, the education reform act approved by last year's Legislature. SB 1319 by Sen. Mike Johnson would address the so-called dual diploma mandated in HB 1759, requiring school boards to issue a standard diploma to all students who complete the course requirements for a diploma of honor, but do not maintain the necessary grade point average. SB 1313 by Sen. Johnson would delete a provision of HB 1759 relating to school dress codes.

  • Senators approved legislation that would create a new category and stiffer punishments for certain DUI offenders. SB 1443 by Sen. Ben Brown would create the offense of "extreme" DUI for offenders whose blood alcohol content is higher than .15 percent. The current legal limit is .10 percent.

  • The full House approved legislation that would overhaul HB 1759, the education reform act approved last year. HB 2728 by Rep. Loyd Benson and Sen. Stratton Taylor would address a number of problem areas in the new law, ranging from the controversial dual diploma to curriculum standards for graduation. Speaker Benson has indicated that Governor Keating supports the legislation. House members also approved legislation that would extend the life of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission. The 56-38 vote on HB 2468 by Rep. Don Ross divided mainly along party lines.

Wednesday, March 1

  • The full State Senate approved a $2,000 pay raise for state employees. HB 2021 by Sen. Stratton Taylor now goes to conference committee for more work. Sen. Larry Dickerson, who handled the bill on the Senate floor, said lawmakers wanted to be very careful not to leave any state workers out of the pay raise bill and the additional examination in conference committee will ensure that. The measure passed 45-0. The legislation would cost an estimated $62 million a year to implement.

  • Senators approved legislation designed to ensure that state privatization efforts will truly save money before they are implemented. SB 1049 by Sen. Jeff Rabon would require a cost-benefit analysis of privatization proposals. The legislation is patterned after a Virginia state law and is supported by the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.

  • Another bill designed to overhaul the controversial 1999 education reform act was approved by the Senate. SB 1020 by Sen. Keith Leftwich would modify curriculum requirements in HB 1759, allowing economics courses to be counted toward a student's graduation requirements. Sen. Leftwich said the bill would help correct some of the oversights in last year's legislation.

  • Legislation that would require a live person to answer the telephones at state agencies was given approval by the Senate, despite concerns that it might cause problems at smaller agencies. SB 824 by Sen. Jim Maddox would prohibit the use of telephone answering machines during regular business hours.

  • Senators approved legislation designed to give dental hygienists more flexibility in treating patients away from the setting of a dentist's office. SB 1013 by Sen. Lewis Long would allow hygienists to perform work at nursing homes, group homes, juvenile facilities and other locations if approved by the State Dental Board.

  • On a motion to reconsider, House members succeeded in attaching the emergency clause to legislation that would prolong the life of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission. Without the emergency clause, Rep. Don Ross, author of HB 2468, said commission members would not be able to begin work immediately.

Thursday, March 2

  • The Senate continued to work long hours on the floor and in committee as they rushed to beat their next procedural deadline. Lawmakers have until March 16 to pass all bills out of their house of origin. Bills that don't beat the deadline are considered dead for the session.

Other News

  • Senator Penny Williams returned to the Senate floor for the first time since she was injured in a fire at her Tulsa home. Receiving a standing ovation, Williams thanked friends and family for their support.

  • Twenty State Senators asked Governor Keating to retract and apologize for his recent statements suggesting that 8 out of 10 college graduates cannot pass a company's entrance examination. The Governor first attributed that remark to a "Fortune 500 CEO," but was later contradicted by officials at the company and a college president who produced information showing that the "8 out of 10" statement was inaccurate. When reporters questioned the Governor about his statement and the requested apology, he became visibly angry, grabbing a reporter by the arm and poking him in the chest to emphasize a point. Gov. Keating later denied that he touched the reporter, even though the incident was witnessed by several people.

  • State employees rallied at the State Capitol to boost their bid for a pay raise. When Governor Keating addressed the crowd, he was booed several times as he ticked off planks of his legislative agenda and blamed Democrats for the low state employee pay. Even though he did not propose an increase in his budget, the Governor has indicated that he will sign the pay raise legislation when it reaches his desk.