Monday, April 10 to Thursday,
April 13, 2000
Most of the action continued
to take place on the House and Senate floors as lawmakers worked to
beat their next procedural deadline. Legislators have until April 20th
to pass all legislation out of the opposite house of origin. The 2000
legislative session adjourns on Friday, May 26.
Monday, April 10
- The full Senate approved legislation
that would revamp the education reform act approved by last session's
Legislature. HB 2728 by Sen. Stratton Taylor and Rep. Loyd Benson
would eliminate a controversial two-tiered diploma system for high
school students, adjust curriculum mandates, modify requirements for
middle school math teachers and expand a college scholarship program
for high school students, among other things. The legislation is supposed
to address concerns raised about HB 1759, the 1999 education reform
- The full Senate also approved another
piece of legislation designed to address flaws in HB 1759. HB 2128
by Sen. Mike Morgan is currently a "shell" bill that can
be used as a vehicle to address changes in the reform act. The legislation
is aimed at the two-tiered diploma and will only be used if attempts
to pass HB 2728 are unsuccessful.
- Senators passed legislation designed
to improve literacy efforts across the state of Oklahoma. HB 2117
by Sen. Maxine Horner would allow the establishment of a toll-free
statewide literacy services referral system, provided funds become
- The Senate voted to add two more exemptions
to its list of state sales tax exemptions. HB 2681 by Sen. Brad Henry
would exempt goods and services purchased by YMCAs and YWCAs. Senators
also approved HB 1870 by Sen. Jeff Rabon, legislation that would place
a sales tax exemption on tangible personal property or services purchased
by qualified children's homes on church-owned property.
- Senators gave their approval to one
of several "sales tax holiday" bills currently moving through
the legislative process. HB 1870 by Sen. Jeff Rabon would allow Oklahoma
consumers to buy clothing and footwear sales tax free during a 10-day
period in August. The legislation is designed to give Oklahomans a
break when they are buying back-to-school clothing for their children.
It is patterned after a similar law in Texas.
- The House gave final approval to legislation
that would crack down on offenders who attempt to elude law enforcement
officers. SB 1383 by Sen. Dave Herbert would make it a felony for
someone to endanger others while attempt to elude the police. Anyone
found guilty of such an offense would face up to five years in prison
and a maximum $5,000 fine. The measure now goes to the Governor for
Tuesday, April 11
- On a 24-23 vote, Senators defeated a
procedural motion designed to bring right to work to the full Senate
floor for action. The proposal had been defeated earlier this session
in the Senate Business and Labor Committee.
- Senators approved legislation that would
crack down on sex offenders who use computers or the Internet to facilitate
their crime. SB 2349 by Sen. Jeff Rabon would prohibit the use of
electronic devices or computers to make lewd proposals to a child.
- After lengthy debate, the Senate approved
legislation that would change the continuing education requirements
for school board members. HB 1932 by Sen. Jeff Rabon requires board
members to take three hours of continuing education for each year
they serve on the board. Currently, members are required to take 15
hours of continuing education. Opponents argued that school board
members needed more education to adequately prepare them for the job,
but Sen. Rabon said the legislation was designed to encourage more
people to participate in the process and was requested by the Oklahoma
State School Boards Association.
- Senators approved legislation designed
to prevent Oklahoma motorists from being charged twice for drivers
license reinstatements. SB 2425 by Sen. Herb Rozell would waive the
reinstatement fee if a motorist could prove that such a fee had already
been paid once. Sen. Rozell said there are some cases where drivers
with suspended licenses can be billed twice under the current system.
The legislation was requested by the Department of Public Safety.
- The House approved legislation that
would hold HMOs legally responsible for their health care decisions.
SB 1206 by Sen. Brad Henry would allow people to sue their HMO if
it improperly denied them medical treatment or made other decisions
detrimental to their health. State employees already have the right
to file such lawsuits and the legislation would simply extend that
right to people in the private sector, according to the measure's
supporters. The bill is patterned after a similar law that was passed
by the Texas Legislature and Gov. George Bush. SB 1206 and a similar
piece of House legislation are headed for conference committee.
- House members voted to roll back some
of the pay raises included in a state employee salary bill that was
recently signed into law. A floor substitute for SB 967 by Rep. Loyd
Benson would revoke a pay raise for state elected officials and reduce
a pay hike for judges to $3,000. Laws passed in 1994 and 1997 linked
the pay of elected officials such as the Governor to the salaries
of state judges. Hence, when lawmakers voted to give judges a pay
raise earlier this year, elected officials received one too. SB 967
would dissolves the link between the pay plans, in addition to revoking
salary hikes for elected officials and reducing the judges' increase
- Governor Keating handed down his first
vetoes of the year. The Governor axed three bills: SB 1137, SB 1456,
and HB 2561. SB 1137 would have allowed a judge to finish certain
business undertaken in a state court prior to election or appointment.
SB 1456 would have prohibited the State Corporation Commission from
promulgating or enforcing rules regarding pipelines that are inconsistent
or more restrictive than federal regulations. HB 2561 related to the
Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act, applying to third party administrators
who acted as insurance carriers.
Wednesday, April 12
- Senators approved legislation designed
to eliminate the expense of annual millage elections in school districts
around the state. The annual votes are required by the constitution,
but more often than not the votes simply reaffirm the existing property
tax levels. Schools officials have argued that the annual votes are
simply a waste of time and money. HJR 1019 by Sen. Trish Weedn would
call for a statewide vote on whether each school district should have
the option of discontinuing the annual elections.
- In an effort to protect health care
workers and others from the dangers associated with accidental needle
sticks, Senators approved legislation that would create a Needlestick
Injury Prevention Committee. Among other things, the panel would examine
the use of "needleless" technology in areas that are considered
high risk for accidental needle sticks. Such accidents can transmit
dangerous blood diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV.
- The Senate approved legislation aimed
at improving safety on amusement park rides. HB 2115 by Sen. Lewis
Long directs the State Labor Commissioner to promulgate rules for
the safe installation, repair, maintenance, use, operation and inspection
of all amusement rides for the protection of the general public. The
measure also increases the amount of liability insurance needed by
an amusement park from $300,000 to $1 million. The legislation was
sparked in part by a fatal accident at Bell's Amusement Park in Tulsa.
- Senators approved legislation designed
to protect disabled Oklahomans from assault. HB 1902 by Sen. Keith
Leftwich would expand the definition of assault to include the unauthorized
touching of an individual's assistive device, such as a wheelchair
or a cane.
- Senators voted to send SB 967 to conference
committee. The legislation addresses pay raises recently approved
for state judges (see above).
- House Republicans blocked the two-thirds
vote required suspend rules and reconsider flawed baby abandonment
legislation that is headed for the Governor's desk. HB 1577 by Rep.
Debbie Blackburn and Sen. Bernest Cain would allow mothers to abandon
their newborn babies at hospitals without fear of prosecution. After
the bill was approved by the Legislature, its authors discovered a
glitch that might allow mothers who sexually abuse their babies to
be free of the threat of an abandonment charge. House Republicans
admitted they knew about the glitch and voted against the bill on
final reading, but didn't inform their Democratic counterparts. House
Democrats complained that the incident was a case of election-year
"gotcha" politics and that their Republican opponents will
try to use the vote against them in the upcoming elections. The House
GOP leadership indicated it was upset because Republican authors were
not allowed to be part of the legislation. It has asked Gov. Keating
to veto the bill.
- After lengthy and divisive debate, the
full House approved a $4.8 billion "general appropriations"
bill to fund state government. HB 2260 finances agencies at a standstill
level and acts as a protection against a government shutdown in case
legislators are unable to agree on other budget items when the session
adjourns at the end of May. The debate on the bill broke down along
party lines with Republicans arguing against the legislation and Democrats
for it. GOP members argued that funding government at the same level
as last year would reduce the possibilities of significant tax cuts,
given the fact that lawmakers had already approved pay raises for
teachers and state employees. Democratic members argued that the measure
did not rule out tax reductions and pointed out that it simply prevented
the possibility of a government shutdown. The legislation passed 60-38,
but House Republicans implied that Governor Keating would veto the
Thursday, April 13
- Senators continued work on the Senate
floor. Lawmakers have until April 20 to pass all bills out of the
opposite house of origin.
- State revenue collections increased
during the month of March, according to the Office of State Finance.
March collections topped the previous year by 5.3 percent and this
year's estimate by 6.0 percent. Collections were also up for the first
three-quarters of the current fiscal year, 4.5 percent above last
year and 2.1 percent above the estimate. If trends continue, OSF officials
say the state will produce enough surplus revenue this year to make
a deposit in the rainy day fund.
- According to a new report from the State
Regents for Higher Education, remedial education is not the problem
at OU and OSU that some have purported it to be. The regents' study
indicates that only 8 percent of remediation in the Oklahoma higher
education system takes place at the two comprehensive state universities.
The vast majority of remedial courses, some 75 percent, are taught
at Oklahoma's two-year junior colleges. The study also found that
non-traditional adult students were more likely to need remediation
than those who attend college directly after high school. According
to the study, the remedial needs of students are usually limited to