Monday, May 15 to Thursday,
May 19, 2000
Lawmakers worked a long week
in an effort to wrap up all remaining business before the constitutionally
mandated adjournment day of May 26. House and Senate budget leaders
continued to meet in an effort to get final agreement on the remaining
pieces of Oklahoma's $5.2 billion state budget. Only one week remains
in the 2000 session.
- House and Senate budget talks were derailed
when House Speaker Loyd Benson threw yet another new demand on the
negotiating table. Before committing to an additional $40 million
for higher education and other pressing budget issues, Benson asked
that Senate leaders sign off on a list of road projects drawn up by
members of the House. Even though House and Senate leaders have been
meeting for weeks on budget issues, Monday marked the first day that
Speaker Benson brought up the issue of specific road projects for
Phase II of the state's CIP road construction program. Senate President
Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor said Benson was simply increased the likelihood
of a special session each time he made a new demand in the budget
- Senator Dave Herbert made one last plea
to pass a temporary one-cent gas tax to finance expanded passenger
rail service in Oklahoma. The proposed statewide vote on a gas tax
hike passed the Senate earlier this session, only to die in a House
committee. Sen. Herbert said Oklahoma would lose millions of dollars
in matching federal funding if it didn't begin raising money for passenger
rail service. The Midwest City legislator asked his colleagues to
give SJR 37 one more chance before the conclusion of the legislative
session. The language for the proposed statewide vote has been placed
in SB 1096.
- An effort to expand Oklahoma's bogus
check laws was defeated by the State Senate. HB 1921 by Sen. Mike
Morgan would added to the definition of bogus checks any check used
as a down payment for the purchase of any item of which the buyer
is taking immediate possession. Sen. Morgan said it was designed to
prevent the practice of writing a hot check as a down payment on equipment
and then returning the equipment when the check bounced. Opponents,
however, argued that Oklahoma's bogus check laws were already strict
enough. The measure failed to receive the necessary 25 majority votes,
falling on a 24-22 vote.
- Senators approved legislation that would
expand the state liquor agency's duties to include education. SB 1038
by Sen. Ted Fisher would add to the list of duties performed by the
Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission (ABLE) to include the
education of bartenders and others in licensed establishments to recognize
and prevent intoxication. The measure calls for particular emphasis
on provisions prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors.
- The House and Senate approved legislation
that would officially change the name of the State Board of Vocational
and Technical Education. HB 2128 by Sen. Mike Morgan renames the entity
the State Board of Career and Technology Education. Board members
requested the change, saying it better reflects the mission of the
department they oversee.
- The House gave final approval to 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
- Oklahoma school patrons may soon have
the option of doing away with annual millage elections if the Legislature
gets its way. The House and Senate approved HJR 1019 by Sen. Trish
Weedn, legislation that would put that question to a statewide vote.
If approved, individual school districts would have the option of
asking their local voters to discontinue the annual millage elections.
Supporters say the annual votes simply reaffirm current property tax
levels and therefore, are an unnecessary waste of time and money.
- Senators approved legislation designed
to stop the practice of "racial profiling." SB 1444 by Sen.
Maxine Horner would prohibit law enforcement officers from making
traffic stops based solely on the race or ethnicity of the driver
or his passengers. Under the legislation, racial profiling offenses
would be a misdemeanor. Complaints could be filed with either the
local district attorney or the Human Rights Commission.
- The Senate approved legislation that
would change the face of the Oklahoma Textbook Commission. SB 1139
by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield stipulates that no more than six members
of the board can be certified at the elementary level at any one time.
It would also prohibit any commission member from serving back to
- Senators officially went on record in
favor of saving some Tulsa jobs that are headed for China. SCR 98
by Sen. Lewis Long urges Zebco to reconsider its decision to lay off
approximately 240 Tulsa employees and ship its manufacturing facility
to China. Officials with Zebco say the move is designed to cut costs
at their company.
- For the second year in a row, Governor
Keating vetoed legislation designed to deliver car tag relief to Oklahoma
motorists. In his veto statement, the Governor called HB 2663 by Sen.
Jim Maddox "seductive," but charged that the legislation
was unacceptable to him because some used car buyers would initially
pay higher excise taxes before reaping tag savings in the years to
come. However, figures from the Oklahoma Tax Commission indicate that
75 percent of Oklahoma motorists would have saved money immediately
under the bill because most vehicle transactions are tag renewals
rather than car purchases.
Under HB 2663, annual tag fees would have been a flat rate ranging
from $85 to $15, depending upon the age of the vehicle. The legislation
would have also changed 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. The measure would have resulted
in a $22 million tax cut for Oklahomans. House and Senate leaders
say they may bypass Governor Keating and put the issue to a statewide
- The House and Senate gave final legislative
approval to an education reform clean-up bill designed to correct
problems in school legislation approved last year. HB 2728 by Sen.
Stratton Taylor revises a number of others sections in last year's
HB 1759, correcting deficiencies identified by state lawmakers and
education officials in recent months. The changes include:
Repeals the dual diploma system,
returning to one standard diploma;
Revises the Oklahoma Higher Education
Learning Access Program, raising the income eligibility level from
$32,000 to $50,000;
Revises the Oklahoma Tuition Scholarship
Program, deleting the controversial "diploma of honor" requirement
and setting new criteria, including a minimum ACT of 26, minimum GPA
of 3.25 and a ranking in the top 15 percent of a high school graduating
Revises required core curriculum courses,
providing students with greater flexibility to take advantage of vocational-technical
Revises certification requirements
for middle school math teachers, allowing certification through passage
of a competency test or professional development courses;
Stipulates that provisions of the
Open Transfer Act do not apply to students who transferred prior to
Clarifies that school dress codes
are decided by local officials, not the state;
Requires common education, vo-tech
and higher education institutions to coordinate spring break dates
by the 2001-2002 school year.
HB 2728 received overwhelming legislative
approval, passing the House 96-4 and the Senate 47-0. It now goes
to the Governor for his signature.
- The Senate approved legislation ensuring
that sex offenders would not be allowed to work on public projects
while in Department of Corrections custody. DOC policy already prevents
such offenders from working on public projects, but Sen. Lewis Long,
author of HB 2315, said he wanted the prohibition added into state
- Governor Keating 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.
- Senate and House leaders reached a
tentative agreement on budget allocations for state agencies. The
agreement is allowing appropriations subcommittees to complete work
on the final pieces of the state budget. Lawmakers have already approved
the bulk of the $5.1 billion budget for next fiscal year. The general
appropriations bill, passed in April, allocated $4.8 billion to state
agencies and programs.
- The Senate approved legislation that
would open the books on deferred prosecution agreements between prosecutor
and offenders. District attorneys came under fire from the Oklahoma
Press Association recently for not disclosing the details of those
agreements to the public. SB 1451 by Sen. Brad Henry would make the
pacts part of the public record, requiring district attorneys to provide
the name of the accused and other identifying information to any member
of the public that requests it.
- Senators approved legislation that will
expand the size of motorcycle that can be operated under a restricted
license. HB 2324 by Sen. Kevin Easley would increase the size from
125cc to 250cc. Sen. Easley said the change was needed because 125cc
motorcycles are no longer being manufactured.
- The Senate approved a bill designed
to extend Oklahoma's public smoking ban to common education facilities.
HB 2529 by Sen. Ben Robinson would prohibit smoking K-12 public schools
and in educational facilities that offer an early childhood education
- Lawmakers continued to work on conference
committee reports and budget items in an attempt to prepare for the
final week of the legislative session.
- The Oklahoma Black Legislative Caucus
called on Governor Keating to apologize for and retract racially charged
remarks he made Thursday at the State Capitol. In a media event staged
by the Governor, Keating told reporters that Senator Angela Monson
and Democratic leaders would be making a "racist statement"
if Monson did not advance the appointment of Russell Perry as Secretary
of Commerce. As chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator
Monson controls the appointment of Perry. She has decided not to confirm
Perry, saying she questions whether the job created for Perry is a
good expenditure of taxpayer dollars. Both Perry and Monson are African-American.