The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, March 12 to Thursday, March 15, 2001

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Other News


Monday, March 12th

  • With the March 15th deadline for passing all bills out of their house of origin, there was heavy floor action in both chambers. Any legislation not acted on by the March 15th deadline is dead for the session. Among the more than 50 bills acted on by the Senate Monday:

    -HB 1524 by Sen. Kelly Haney contains $66 million in supplemental funding for various state entities including:

    • Heating Assistance -- $25.8 million
      ($4.8 million for low income heating aid)
      ($5.5 million for state agency heating bills)
      ($5 million for college and university heating bills)
      ($10 million for K- 12 public school heating bills)
      ($500,000 for career technology heating bills)

    • State Health Dept. nursing home inspectors -- $1.8 million
    • Ice storm damage repair (tourism) -- $1.8 million
    • State bond issue payments -- $1 million
    • Health care programs for needy and elderly -- $21 million

      The measure was approved 28-18, but failed to get the 32 votes necessary to attach the emergency clause that would make it become law immediately upon the governor's signature.

    -SB 752 by Sen. Ben Robinson would have prohibited smoking in all public buildings, as well as restaurants and bars, although a provision in the bill would have allowed those business owners to apply for an exemption with the State Health Department. Opponents argued businesses should have the right to decide whether go smoke-free rather instead of having it mandated by the state. The measure failed 19-27.

    Other measure approved by the Senate included:

    -SB 511 by Sen. Keith Leftwich creates the Telemarketer Restriction Act. Individuals not wanting to receive telephone solicitations would be able to register with the State Attorney General's Office. The bill was amended by the author to exclude sales calls in which a face-to-face interview was arranged and to add some cleanup language.

    -SB 803 by Sen. Mike Morgan creates the Long-Term Care Reform and Accountability Act. Morgan explained the bill would add abuse of an elderly "vulnerable adult" to the list of crimes for which 85 percent of a sentence must be served.

    -SCR 16 by Sen. Cal Hobson recognized the University of Oklahoma football team for winning the national championship.

    -SB 133 by Sen. Bernest Cain would require child advocacy centers to be full members in good standing with the National Children's Alliance in order to qualify for state funds.

    -SB 661 by Sen. Glenn Coffee relates to charter schools and deems arbitrators and mediators to be state employees for the limited purpose of availability to legal representation.

    -SB 162 by Sen. Paul Muegge, D-Tonkawa would create the Producer Protection Act. Muegge explained the bill is designed to protect agricultural producers from unfair contracts or contracts not negotiated in good faith.

    -SB 743 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson would require uniform reporting standards for reporting criminal offenses to information systems within the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center.

    -SB 422 by Sen. Robert Milacek would allow retiring school district board members to participate in the state insurance program.

    -SJR 3 by Sen. Brad Henry would call for a statewide vote to authorize the Lt. Gov. to name his or her successor if he or she assumed the office of the Governor.

  • The State House considered more than 30 pieces of legislation on Monday, including a bill that would require public schools and libraries having Internet access to have a filter or other method of blocking material that is considered "obscene, child pornography or harmful to minors." Written by Representative Bill Graves, HB 1864 was approved after lengthy debate by 92-2. Other measures approved by the House included:

-HB 1663 by Rep. Frank Davis relates to use of prison labor on private property, authorizing inmates to voluntarily perform certain work.

-HB 1035 by Rep. Gary Taylor would enable county commissioners, in specific situations, to meet outside of the county courthouse. Those meetings would still be subject to the Open Meetings Act, and no actual decisions could be made in meetings held outside the county courthouse.

-HB 1234 by Rep. Jari Askins relates to computation of cost-of-living adjustments in the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System. The amendment doesn't allow an adjustment when the cost-of-living is below 85 percent. The measure passed with the title stricken.

-HB 1530 by Rep. Barbara Staggs relates to a minimum salary schedule for state teachers, and provides that any salary increases would be tied to teacher performance.

-SCR 16 by Rep. Bill Nations congratulates the Oklahoma Sooners on winning the National Championship.

Tuesday, March 13th

  • In a full day of work, the Senate considered more than 40 bills and resolutions. Among those measures approved:

    -SB 574 by Sen. Owen Laughlin that would require Oklahomans to present a photo I.D. when voting in order to prevent fraud. The measure passed 31 to 13 after the title was stricken.

    -SB 751 by Sen. Maxine Horner is a vehicle for recommendations of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission. Horner explained the bill would create an economic development enterprise zone in Tulsa's Greewood district, where much of the rioting took place. The author told members the bill would not be used to insert language relating to reparations for victims or their families.

    -SJR 4 by Sen. Dave Herbert would call for a vote of the people on a one-cent gasoline tax to improve and expand passenger railroad service in Oklahoma.

    -SB 796 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson would lower the minimum age for correctional officers from 21 to 18. Wilkerson amended the bill to add language expediting the process involving the release of terminally ill prisoners.

    -SB 518 by Sen. Robert M. Kerr calls for a vote of the people on a proposed one-cent sales tax increase to fund the Educational Capital Improvement Fund.

    -SB 402 by Sen. Frank Shurden would give judges and juries the option of sentencing a convicted sex offender to chemical castration and would allow for voluntary asexualization.

    -SB 437 by Sen. Owen Laughlin would add felony offenses committed with the use of a firearm to the list of crimes under the 85-percent sentencing guidelines.

    -SB 4 by Sen. Stratton Taylor would add rural fire protection districts to the list of those exempt from excise taxes on leased vehicles.

    -SB 687 by Sen. Keith Leftwich increases leave benefits for state employees.

  • House members considered approximately 50 bills and resolutions Tuesday, including HB 1177 by Rep. Don Ross, relating to malicious harassment based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability and eliminates certain time periods for reporting crimes to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The measure passed 88-9. Other legislation approved included:

    -HB 1008 by Rep. Carolyn Coleman, R-Moore, which would provide tax-exemption from sales tax for parent-teacher associations and to certain community-based literacy organizations. The measure also exempts from taxable income certain health insurance costs for self-employed individuals. The bill passed 94-0 with the title stricken.

    -HB 1009 by Speaker Larry Adair enacts the Oklahoma Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Act.

    -HB 1138 by Rep. Dan Webb requires revocation of driving privilege for use of a fraudulent driver license.

    -HB 1369 by Rep Joe Sweeden requires persons adjudicated as delinquent for a sex offense to register as a sex offender.

    -HJR 1032 by Rep. Todd Heitt calls for a vote of the people on a proposed constitutional amendment exempting certain agricultural-related property from ad valorem taxation. The title was stricken.

Wednesday, March 14th

  • Senators considered almost 30 pieces of legislation on Wednesday, including SJR 1 by Sen. Dave Herbert, which calls for a vote of the people on right to work. After two hours of debate, the full Senate approved the measure 31 to 16. However a provision that would have allowed the state question to be placed on a special election ballot on August 28 failed to get the two-thirds vote necessary. Without the special election feature, the right to work question will not appear on a ballot until the November 2002 general election. SJR 1 now moves to the House for further consideration.

    -SJR 10 by Sen. Penny Williams called for a statewide vote on the elimination of the state sales tax on groceries. In order to make the change revenue neutral the measure would increase taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, cigarettes, clothing and footwear priced at more than $200, lodging priced at more than $100 per night and on motor vehicles and vessels priced at more than $50,000. SJR 10 was killed on a 16-24 vote.

    Measures approved by the Senate Wednesday included:

    -SB 440 by Sen. Kevin Easley would eliminate the July 1,2002 startup date for electric deregulation and creates a blue ribbon task force to make recommendations to the 2003 Legislature.

    -SJR 18 by Sen. Brad Henry calls for a statewide vote on whether to allow school patrons in local districts to vote a new five-mill levy for school technology.

    -SJR 19 by Henry calls for a vote of the people on whether to allow a district to increase its bonded indebtedness to 15 percent of the total property valuation in the district. The current cap is set at 10 percent.

    -SJR 20 by Henry calls for a statewide vote on whether to allow local districts to vote on additional millage up to five mills for the building fund.

    -SJR 21 by Henry calls for a statewide vote to change the requirement of a 60 percent "super majority" for the approval of school bonds to a simple majority.

  • The State House considered more than 40 pieces of legislation, including HB 1693 by Rep. Russ Roach which would create the Procedures for Abortion on Minors Act. The bill requires abortion clinics to notify parents of minors who are seeking an abortion. The legislation passed 96-1 with the title removed. Other bills approved by the House Wednesday included:

    -HB 1081 by Rep. Richard Phillips, preempts counties and cities from passing laws regulating use of cell phones in cars, denies double taxation on roaming charges and requires use of certain monies for the Oklahoma Statewide Public Safety 800 MegaHertz communications System. The bill passed 98-1.

    -HB 1148 by Rep. Frank Davis clarifies application of nepotism in state statutes.

    -HB 1149 by Davis makes school district litigation files and investigatory reports confidential.

    -HB 1045 by Rep. John Wright prohibits persons from interfering with the right of another to make an anatomical gift.

    -HB 1934 By Rep Opio Toure creates the Disproportionate Imprisonment Task Force. The task force would examine why a disproportionate share of minorities and poor people are imprisoned in Oklahoma.

Thursday, March 15th

  • The Senate continued to work through remaining bills on general order on the final day to pass all bills out of their house of origin. For the next two weeks Senators will concentrate on committee work. March 29th is the deadline for committee action on bills originating from the House. The Senate will reconvene at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, March 19th.

Other News

  • Governor Frank Keating ordered the Office of State Finance to advance the Oklahoma Health Care authority $11.1 million to head of a funding disaster. This after a supplemental appropriations bill failed to get the votes necessary to make funds for OHCA and other state entities available immediately. However Senate President Pro Tem Stratton Taylor said OHCA confirmed the action would do nothing to address the current financial crisis because state law prevents the agency from overspending its budget regardless of a funding advance.

  • U.S. Rep. Steve Largent is the first official candidate for governor in 2002. The former pro football player filed his first report with the State Ethics Commission this week. He also said he was considering resigning in the middle of his current congressional term in order to run for governor, although he said no final decision has been made.

    Republican Jim Denny, father of two children injured in the Murrah Bombing has also announced his intentions to run for governor.

    Although Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin had been considering a run at the top state office, last week she announced she would instead seek re-election as lieutenant governor. Among those also considering a run for the second spot are former State Representative Laura Boyd and Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau Wynn. Republican Representative Tim Pope announced on Tuesday that he would be a candidate for the labor commissioner post in 2002.

  • Services were held Tuesday in Rush Springs for former Lt. Gov. Spencer Bernard who died Friday, March 9th. Besides serving two terms as lieutenant governor, Bernard also served in the legislature for 18 years.

  • During ceremonies on Monday, four bronze relief sculptures representing the western and eastern tribes of Oklahoma were unveiled. Sculpted by State Senator and full-blood Seminole artist Kelly Haney, the roundels were the latest effort of the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc., headed by Senator Charles Ford. The sculptures will be placed at the entrances of the House and Senate chambers.