The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
Monday, April 24 to Thursday, April 27, 2000

Lawmakers worked a long week to beat one of their last procedural deadlines. Legislators had until April 27th to reject amendments and request conference committee deliberations on bills and resolutions. In the coming days and weeks, the focus will shift to appropriations as legislators try to put the finishing touches on Oklahoma's $5.2 billion state budget. Only four weeks remain in the 2000 legislative session. It adjourns on Friday, May 26.

Monday, April 24

  • Senators gave final approval to legislation designed to hold HMOs accountable for their health care decisions. SB 1206 by Sen. Brad Henry would allow members of health plans to sue their HMO if it improperly denied them medical treatment or made other health care decisions detrimental to them. Currently, public employees can hold their HMO legally responsible and Sen. Henry said his bill would simply extend that right to people in the private sector. The law is modeled after a similar statute that was approved by the Texas Legislature and Governor George Bush three years ago.

  • The Senate gave final approval to legislation that would curtail the standard practice of conducting autopsies on inmates after they are executed. SB 1069 by Sen. Glenn Coffee would give the State Medical Examiner the option of conducting an autopsy if deemed necessary by the "public interest." Current law mandates autopsies after executions.

  • House members gave final approval to legislation that would allow the State Board of Vocational and Technical Education to take advantage of video technology to help conduct its meetings. HB 2028 by Sen. Jim Dunlap would allow the board to conduct meetings by teleconferencing, giving panel members the ability participate even though they might be in different locations.

  • Governor Keating signed a $4.8 billion "general appropriations" bill to fund state government. HB 2260 by Sen. Kelly Haney finances agencies at a standstill level and acts as a protection against a government shutdown in case legislators are unable to reach agreement on other budget items when the session adjourns at the end of May.

  • Governor Keating approved legislation that would crack down on Oklahomans who illegally purchase car tags from other states. HB 2332 by Sen. Mike Johnson raises the current fine for illegal car registrations from $100 to $500. Supporters are hoping the measure will help discourage Oklahomans who have been illegally registering their cars to obtain cheaper license plates.

  • More Oklahoma children will be required to use seatbelts under a bill signed into law by Governor Keating. SB 891 by Sen. Ben Brown would require all children 12 years old and younger to buckle up. The legislation simply expands current law that requires children 4 years old and younger to use safety restraints. Violators of the new seatbelt law will face fines and court costs totaling $25.

  • Governor Keating vetoed legislation that would have restricted efforts to privatize some state transportation services. SB 1117 by Sen. Gene Stipe would have prohibited the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority from soliciting or entering into agreements on the privatization of highway maintenance that is now performed by state employees. The Governor claimed the legislation would jeopardize efforts to make government more cost efficient.

Tuesday, April 25

  • The Senate approved legislation that would raise the education requirements for Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers. SB 992 by Sen. Mike Morgan would require people who join the Highway Patrol after July 1, 2004 to have either a bachelor's degree or an associate degree and two years of experience as a Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) law officer. Sen. Frank Shurden argued against the bill, claiming the education requirements would exclude many good candidates, but the legislation was approved on a 25-17 vote.

  • After brief debate on the Senate floor, Senator Johnnie Crutchfield agreed to reject House amendments to legislation relating to false identification cards. The measure is headed for conference committee. SB 1406 is designed to prevent an individual under the age of 21 from compiling a criminal record for attempting to acquire a fake ID. The bill would decriminalize such an offense, requiring an administrative penalty instead. Under the legislation, anyone who attempted to obtain a fake ID could have his or her driver's license suspended for two months.

  • House members gave final approval to legislation designed to provide consumers with additional protections when information is requested about them. HB 2492 by Sen. Frank Shurden would require individuals who request consumer reports for employment or insurance purposes to first notify the person who is the subject of the report. The notice would inform the consumer that such a report is being requested and would allow the consumer to request a copy.

  • Governor Keating signed legislation designed to cut down on underage drinking, extending laws that ban such drinking in public to private property as well. HB 2188 by Sen. Ben Brown would make it illegal for anyone under 21 to drink 3.2 beer on private premises. An exemption is provided for underage drinkers who are under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian.

Wednesday, April 26

  • The Senate approved legislation that would exempt hunting, fishing and shooting competitions from state gambling laws. SB 812 by Sen. Frank Shurden would add those events to a list of activities that are exempt from gambling statutes. Sen. Shurden said he decided to author the legislation after an Attorney General's opinion raised questions about the legality of such events. The measure now goes to Gov. Keating for his signature.

  • Senators approved legislation designed to better ease ex-convicts back into everyday society. SB 1241 by Sen. Ben Brown would authorize 90 days of transitional living for non-violent inmates who are about to complete their sentences. Sen. Brown said the measure would allow prisoners to find jobs as they attempt to readjust to society and would help them pay for their final days under state supervision. The measure now goes to the Governor.

  • The Senate approved legislation designed to give school districts more disciplinary history about incoming students. Current law requires disciplinary records to be forwarded to the new district upon request, SB 1533 by Sen. Mark Snyder would include language, stating that "Disciplinary records shall include but not be limited to all information that relates to a student assaulting, carrying weapons, possessing illegal drugs including alcohol, and any incident that poses a potential dangerous threat to students or school personnel." The measure now goes to the Governor.

  • House members gave final approval to legislation that would boost penalties for so-called "identity theft." HB 2066 by Sen. Glenn Coffee would make identity theft punishable by up to two years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. Identify theft involves the use of another individual's personal information such as social security numbers to obtain information or material under false pretenses. The bill now goes to the Governor.

Thursday, April 27

  • The Senate continued work on budget matters and conference committee reports before adjourning for the weekend.

Other News

  • The Oklahoma Republican Party will hold its annual convention in Oklahoma City this weekend.

  • A tag reduction bill advocated by Governor Keating would hit education hardest, delivering an annual cut ranging from $76 million to $84 million to public school budgets, according to a Senate budget leader who is advocating a more responsible tag cut. The Governor is pushing a tag bill that would cut $139 million out of the state budget pie, the largest slice of which is reserved for education, said Senator Cal Hobson, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. Currently, vehicle revenues are earmarked for several areas including public school districts and county roads. If the Republican tag bill were implemented in its current form, the following entities would lose vehicle revenue.
Recipients of Vehicle Funds+
% Share
Funds Lost to GOP Tag Bill
Gen. Revenue Fund*
$64.9 million
School Districts
$48.7 million
County Highway Fund
$ 9.7 million
County Road Fund
$ 4.9 million
Cities and Towns
$ 4.2 million
County Matching Fed. Road Funds
$ 3.5 million

+The state transportation fund, law enforcement retirement fund, county governments and the wildlife conservation fund receive the remaining 2.33 percent of vehicle revenues.

*Because education receives approximately 55% of general revenue funds, a $64.9 million reduction of general revenue dollars would cost education $35.5 million. When combined with the direct cut of $48.7 million under the GOP tag bill, the total loss to public education would be approximately $84 million annually.

If the motor vehicle revenue is protected and the tag revenue loss is absorbed through the general fund, the following entities would lose money under the Governor's tag proposal:

General Fund Recipients
% Share
Funds Lost to GOP Tag Bill
$76.1 million
Transportation & Gen. Gov't
$14.0 million
Health & Social Services
$12.5 million
Human Services
$16.8 million
Natural Resources
$ 3.5 million
Public Safety
$15.0 million
REAP, Capital, Deferred Savings
$ 1.1 million

Because of the impact on education and other services, Senator Hobson and other legislative leaders have advocated a more responsible tag bill that reduces license fees without significantly reducing state resources. HB 2663 would cut tag fees to $85, $45 and $15, but would lessen the impact on education and other services by increasing the excise tax slightly. The end result would still be $11 million in savings for Oklahoma motorists.