The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
Monday, May 8 to Thursday, May 11, 2000

Lawmakers continued to work on conference committee reports and the remaining pieces of Oklahoma's $5.2 billion state budget. House and Senate leaders also continued discussions on final appropriations, trying to reach agreement on where uncommitted state resources would be allocated. Two weeks remain in the 2000 session. It adjourns on Friday, May 26.

Monday, May 8

  • Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor and House Speaker Loyd Benson unveiled a compromise tag reform proposal that would deliver at least $22 million in savings to Oklahoma motorists. The substitute version of HB 2663 by Sen. Jim Maddox would make annual tag fees a flat rate, depending upon the age of the vehicle.

    -$85 for vehicles 1 to 4 years old;
    -$75 for vehicles 5 to 8 years old;
    -$55 for vehicles 9-12 years old;
    -$35 for vehicles 13-16 years old;
    -$15 for vehicles 17 years and older.

    Unlike previous versions of the bill, the measure would not raise the excise tax rate, leaving it at the current 3.25 percent. It would change the way excise taxes are assessed, levying the tax on the actual sales price of a vehicle rather than the higher sticker price as current law requires. Used car buyers would be addressed in a slightly different fee structure that would require them to pay $20 on the first $1,000 of the sales price and 3.25 percent on the remainder. The $1,000 total would be raised to $1,250 and $1,500 in subsequent years, giving used car buyers a larger tax break. The measure would also protect vehicle revenue earmarked for services such as education and road maintenance, stipulating that revenue losses be made up out of the state general fund.

  • Governor Keating announced that he was backing away from his proposal to cut Oklahoma veterans programs. In his executive budget, the Governor has proposed an 8 percent reduction for the Department of Veterans Affairs, claiming it was full of "administrative bloat." The action drew protests from state legislators and veterans organizations that contended the funding was needed to boost staffing levels at the state's six veteran centers. The Governor announced he was dropping his budget cut idea the day before veterans were scheduled to rally against the proposed reductions at the State Capitol.

  • The full House went on record in support of asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to rehear a case involving development incentives. House members approved SCR 87 by Sen. Ted Fisher, a non-binding resolution that urges the high court to grant the request for a rehearing on a case involving a 1990 constitutional amendment. The amendment authorized the Legislature to grant political subdivisions the ability to provide tax incentives and exemptions for certain purposes and allow those subdivisions to use local taxes and fees for specific public investments.

Tuesday, May 9

  • Governor Keating signed legislation establishing new guidelines for the donation of human embryos. HB 1338 by Sen. Bernest Cain authorizes embryo transfers by licensed medical practitioners provided that they have the written consent of the husband and wife desiring to receive the embryo transfer. The physician must also have the written consent of the husband and wife donating the embryo. Documentation of such consent must be filed in court, but is not open to the general public, only to persons with a "legitimate interest." The legislation also states that the embryo donors have no legal parental responsibilities for the children that may be produced.

  • The Governor approved legislation that forbids hunters from using silencers on their weapons. HB 2178 by Sen. Frank Shurden prohibits the use of "any device which noticeably suppresses noise from a firearm, commonly known as a silencer." The bill exempts employees of the State Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Agriculture.

  • Governor Keating also signed legislation designed to protect fishermen from poachers. HB 2387 by Sen. Frank Shurden prohibits anyone from taking fish from a trotline, throwline, jugline or limbline without the permission of the owner. The measure would assess fines ranging from $25 to $100.

  • The Governor approved legislation that will increase the education requirements for future state troopers. SB 992 by Sen. Mike Morgan will require any person appointed to the Highway Patrol Division of the Department of Public Safety after July 1, 2004 to have a bachelor's degree or an associate's degree and at least two years of appropriate law enforcement experience. The measure was requested by DPS.

  • Governor Keating approved legislation that would refine the process by which the State Insurance Commissioner makes appointments. SB 1278 by Sen. Ben Brown would prohibit the commissioner from appointing certain individuals who are related to the commissioner "within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity" or entering into contracts with them. Sen. Brown indicated the bill was prompted by the action of a former insurance commissioner

Wednesday, May 10

  • After lengthy debate, the full House approved HB 2663, the car tag reform bill (see above). The measure passed on a 62-39 vote. All Democratic members and one Republican, Rep. Tony Kouba, voted for the bill. All no-votes were cast by Republican House members. Supporters argued that the legislation would deliver major tag relief to all Oklahomans, but opponents contended the tag reduction wasn't large enough and that some used car buyers might not enjoy the same benefits as new car buyers. The measure now goes to the Senate.

  • The Senate approved legislation that would make it easier for retired teachers' organizations to retain members. SB 1239 by Sen. Keith Leftwich would require the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System to provide application for retired teachers' groups and allow membership fees to be deducted from retirement benefits.

  • Senators approved legislation that would strengthen state guidelines for the siting of municipal garbage dumps. HB 2720 by Sen. Herb Rozell would prohibit the Department of Environmental Quality from issuing a permit to establish a solid waste landfill at any location that is within a locally fractured or cavernous limestone bedrock, and that is within five miles of any water well owned by a rural water district. The measure now goes to the Governor.

  • The Senate formally asked the Oklahoma Board of Geographic Names to take a close look at some of the terms used to describe sites throughout the state. SCR by Sen. Berry Harrison directs the panel to work with local officials to rename geographic features that contain derogatory terms in their geographic names.

Thursday, May 11

  • On a 42-3 vote, the Senate approved the car tag reform bill, HB 2663 by Sen. Jim Maddox. The measure now goes to the Governor for his signature.

Other News

  • Former State Senator Butch Hooper was named administrator of the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board (OSEEGIB). He succeeds Odie Nance, who retired in January. Board members selected Hooper on a unanimous vote.

  • Governor Keating announced that he was dropping plans to cut state veterans programs this year. The Governor had been pushing for an 8 percent reduction at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he scrapped the idea on the eve of a veterans rally at the State Capitol Tuesday.