For the week of Monday, March
5 to Thursday, March 8, 2001
| Tuesday | Wednesday
| Thursday | Other News
- In a day of heavy floor activity, the
full Senate worked through approximately 40 pieces of legislation.
Lawmakers are rushing to beat a March 15th deadline for passing all
bills out of their house of origin. Any legislation that does not
beat the deadline is dead for the session. Some of the bills approved
-SB 741 by Sen. Jim Dunlap would expand
the treatment of breast and cervical cancer for low-income Oklahomans.
The measure would modify the Medicaid Reimbursement Act to provide
coverage to women at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty
level. Sen. Dunlap estimated that the expansion of coverage will
cost the state about $900,000, but he noted that the expenditure
would also attract federal matching funds.
-SB 157 by Sen. Ted Fisher would require
juvenile sex offenders to register with the state. The measure was
prompted by the murder of 7 year-old Kristi Blevins and the rape
of her 12-year old friend. Another juvenile is accused in the offenses.
Robert Rotramel had a record of several sex crimes in his juvenile
file. Under the proposed legislation, juveniles between 14-18 years
of age who are convicted of rape or sodomy would have to register
with the state annually. At the request of prosecutors, a juvenile
could be transferred to the adult sex offender registry upon reaching
21 years of age if a judge determines that he or she is still a
threat to the public.
-SB 9 by Sen. Angela Monson would repeal
a new law that requires individuals with professional licenses to
pay their state taxes before they can be re-licensed. Sen. Monson
said the language approved last year was vague and needed to be
clarified. If no agreement can be reached on the language, she said
she would push to repeal the new section of law entirely.
-SB 35 by Sen. Bernest Cain would cut
taxes on low-income Oklahomans. The measure would provide for a
state earned income tax credit of up to 10 percent of the federal
earned income tax credit. A recent study by the Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC indicated that Oklahoma
is one of the harshest states in the nation when it comes to taxing
-SB 477 by Sen. Frank Shurden would allow hunters and fishermen
to go online to get their licenses. The measure would authorize
the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife to sell licenses over the internet.
The State House approved approximately
60 bills and resolutions during a long day of work. One measure
defeated by House members would have required low-income Oklahomans
to pay a $5.00 "co-pay" for each medical visit covered
by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority's Medicaid program. According
to Rep. John Wright, the author of HB 1112, the purpose of his measure
was to remind Oklahomans that there is "no free lunch,"
even when it comes to health care. Opponents, however, argued that
the measure simply punished Oklahoma's poorest citizens for taking
advantage of government health care programs. The bill was defeated
on a 36-59 vote. Legislation approved by the House included:
-HB 1355 by Rep. Ray Vaughn would expand
provisions of the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act to allow public comments
on any subject, whether they related to issues on a published meeting
agenda or not. Rep. Vaughn said a number of public bodies currently
restrict comments to only those items on their agenda.
-HB 1641 by Rep. Abe Deutschendorf
would allow "math-challenged" students to take four units
of math in high school, including 2 years of Algebra I if necessary.
Currently, state law requires students to take Algebra I and at
least two other units in order to graduate. To qualify for the math-challenged
program, a student's math grades would have to be in the lowest
10 percent in his or her school.
-HB 1361 by Rep. Stuart Ericson would
make operators of illegal methamphetamine labs responsible for their
clean up. The measure would require convicted offenders to pay the
costs of cleaning up their illegal operations. OSBI officials estimate
that it costs approximately $2,500 to clean up a single meth lab.
State law enforcement officials investigated almost 1,000 meth lab
complaints last year alone.
Tuesday, March 6th
In a full day of work,
the Senate approved approximately 50 bills and resolutions, including:
-SB 486 by Sen. Jeff Rabon
would make it illegal to knowingly disseminate falsehoods about
a candidate during a political campaign. Offenders would face a
misdemeanor charge, up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. SB 486
failed to receive enough votes to pass the Senate on its first run
last week, but was approved on a motion to reconsider on Tuesday.
-SB 446 by Sen. Herb Rozell
would allow the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission to assess campsite
fees for the first time. The measure would allow fees of six dollars
to be charged against campers, and would also authorize the commission
to increase the one-dollar river float fee to two dollars. The commission
oversees the Illinois River, Flint Creek and Barren Fork Creek.
-SB 345 by Sen. Bernest
Cain would severely limit the gifts that nursing home residents
could give to their caregivers. The measure would make it illegal
for a caregiver to accept anything valued at more than one dollar.
According to Sen. Cain, the Attorney General's office believes that
the defrauding of nursing home residents is a major problem in Oklahoma.
-SB 757 by Sen. Scott
Pruitt would allow retailers to be prosecuted for renting or selling
violent video games to youths under 17 years of age. The penalty
for a first offense would be a fine up to $200, with penalties rising
with each offense. Sen. Pruitt contends that violent video games
lead to aggressive behavior in young people and should be regulated.
-SB 405 by Senator Angela
Monson would provide a cost of living increase to state retirees.
The measure would provide a 5 percent COLA to retirees and increase
the monthly health subsidy from $105 to $180.
-SB 439 by Sen. Jim Maddox
would allow campus security officers to remove certain individuals
from campus and prohibit them from returning. The author said that
the measure would only apply to people who are causing a disturbance.
The bill was requested by campus security directors.
-SB 182 by Sen. Paul Muegge
would create the Oklahoma Farmland Protection Act - a measure designed
to protect prime farmland from urban sprawl.
-SB 767 by Sen. Kathleen
Wilcoxson would provide a pay raise for Oklahoma's veteran teachers.
The measure would extend the current step pay program for teachers
from 26 years to 30 years.
House members approved
approximately 25 bills, including a measure that would do away with
annual vehicle inspections. As initially drafted, HB 1144 by Rep.
Leonard Sullivan would have raised the cost of motor vehicle inspections
from $5 to $12 in an effort to encourage more service stations to
offer the service. The measure was amended, however, to repeal vehicle
Supporters of repeal claim that inspection stickers serve little
purpose other than a nuisance for motorists, but opponents contend
that the annual inspections help remove unsafe vehicles from the
The House also approved
legislation designed to strengthen state sex offender laws. HB 1351
by Rep. Fred Morgan would require convicted sex offenders to notify
the state Corrections Department and local law enforcement agencies
at least three business days before they relocate, as well as after
they move to a
new address. Failing to register as a sex offender is a felony that
carries a maximum five-year prison term and $5,000 fine.
- Senators approved more than 30 pieces
of legislation during a long day of work. One of the measures passed
by the Senate was a scaled down version of a liquor tax reform bill.
As originally written, SB 501 by Senator Mike Morgan would abolish
the current 12% tax on total gross receipts at restaurant and clubs
that serve liquor and replace it with a per liter sales tax at the
wholesale level. The measure was amended to raise the proposed per
liter tax from 50 cents to 72 cents. Sen. Morgan said he removed the
new per liter tax to keep the bill moving through the legislative
process in hopes of reaching an agreement on the tax legislation later
in the session. Sen. Morgan is attempting to reform the state's current
liquor tax system that employs a complicated "depletion"
audit to determine the taxes for clubs and restaurants that serve
- The State House approved a major supplemental
appropriation bill, but failed to attach the necessary emergency clause
that would make the measure become law immediately upon the governor's
signature. HB 1564 by Rep. Mike Mass would allocate an additional
$96.7 million for education, health care, prison beds and programs
associated with emergency heating assistance, among other things.
-$21 million for winter heating assistance
with natural-gas, propane and electricity bills. The appropriation
includes funds for public schools, colleges and universities and
-$4.8 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
(LIHEAP). The program helps working families and senior citizens
pay their heating bills;
-$1.4 million to the state Tourism
Department for damage related to the recent winter storms;
-$13.7 million for additional prison
beds for the state Corrections Department;
-$9 million for endowed chairs at state
institutions of higher education;
-$200,000 to hire 17 more surveyors
at the state Health Department to help with nursing home inspections;
-$3,250,000 to University Hospitals
Authority for graduate medical education programs at state institutions
of higher education, including Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa;
-$4 million to the Oklahoma Military
Department for replacement of weathered roofs on armories throughout
-$6.7 million to the Oklahoma Educational
Television Authority, to provide for digital conversion of equipment;
-$10.2 million for debt service on
capital improvement bonds for the Quartz Mountain State Lodge and
-$2.4 million to honor commitments
the Department of Career and Technology Education has made through
its Training for Industry Program;
-$31,000 to the State Labor Department
to pay for inspections of boilers in schools, hospitals and nursing
homes throughout Oklahoma;
-$14,656,439 to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, for enrollment
growth in public health care programs and to pay a rate increase
toproviders of services to aged, blind and disabled Oklahomans;
-$2,575,000 to the state Agriculture
Department for rural fire departments and other entities;
-$420,000 to the State Department of
Education to provide incentive funding for teachers who obtain national
-$1,691,000 to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
-$350,000 to the Oklahoma Water Resources
Board for weather modification;
-$158,000 to the Conservation Commission;
-$106,710 to the Centennial Commission, for employee salaries.
The supplemental appropriations bill
was approved on a 52-46 vote. The vote on the emergency clause was
53-45, falling much short of the necessary two-thirds margin.
Thursday, March 8th
- 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 15th to pass all bills out of
their house of origin. Bills that don't beat the deadline are considered
dead for the session. Approximately 130 bills remain on the agenda.
The Senate will reconvene at 1:30 p.m., Monday, March 12th.
- Governor Frank Keating ordered a stay
of execution for death row inmate Phillip Dewitt Smith. The 30-day
stay was granted at the request of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole
Board, which is seeking clemency for Smith. Gov. Keating said he issued
to stay so that board members could provide him with further explanation
on the type of clemency that they believe should be granted. Smith
is facing the death penalty for a 1983 murder.