The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, March 19 to Thursday, March 22, 2001

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Other News


Monday, March 19th

  • Floor sessions were relatively short this week as lawmakers worked toward the March 29th deadline for committee action on legislation from the other chamber. Numerous Senate committees met on Monday to take up legislation originating in the House. Among the House bills approved by Senate Committees on Monday:

    -HB 1092 by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson would lift a state mandate prohibiting wireless communications devices on school grounds. The bill was amended to include language allowing districts to suspend for up to one year any student who threatens “to shoot, kill, maim or cause bodily harm to any student or school employee.” After that time period the school board would examine the case and determine if the student should be allowed to return to school or remain suspended. The bill would also require that school districts provide some sort of alternative or in-home education for students suspended for over five days.

    -HB 1728 by Sen. Sam Helton modifies the time periods for notifications regarding impounded vehicles. The bill would decrease from five to three the number of days allowed to notify the owner.

    -HB 1239 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield would add the Department of Veterans Affairs to the list of state agencies authorized to purchase vehicles with state funds.

    -HB 1394 by Sen. Dave Herbert authorizes the use of non-lethal weaponry by jailers.

    -HB 1329 by Sen. Rick Littlefield authorizes the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, boards of county commissioners and municipal governing bodies to establish “reasonable fees” up to $500 for services they provide in the administration of their responsibilities under the Oklahoma Floodplain Management Act.

    -HB 1166 by Sen. Rich Littlefield, committee substitute, makes a number of changes related to the Tar Creek Superfund site. The bill authorizes the use of county funds and resources for environmental remediation and provides for permits for baling waste tires.

  • Various committees in the State House considered legislation originating in the Senate. Those winning approval included:

    -SB 373 By Rep. John Nance would amend state law to provide, “The State Board of Education may grant an exemption from certification requirements for superintendents to any district with an unweighted average daily membership over 25,000.”

    -SB 128 by Rep. Dale Wells designates November 11 as “Veterans Day in and for the public schools of the state.

    -SB 543 by Rep. David Braddock proposes taking away much of the liability from farm and ranch owners willing to allow their land to be used for recreational purposes.

    -SB 710 by Rep. Larry Rice relates to the Board of Juvenile Affairs, creating the position of Judicial Advisor.

    -SB 628 by Rep. David Braddock prevents court reporters from doing business that may affect the confidentiality of court documents.

Tuesday, March 20th

  • While the Senate continued to consider House measures in committees, the full Senate considered a $5.3 billion general appropriation bill, including $96 million in emergency funding. HB 1564 by Sen. Kelly Haney contained a number of emergency supplemental appropriations, including:

    • Heating Assistance -- $25 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)
      ($500,000 for career technology heating bills)

    • State Health Dept. nursing home inspectors -- $200,000
    • Ice storm damage repair (tourism) -- $1.8 million
    • State bond issue payments -- $10.3 million
    • Health care programs for needy and elderly -- $21 million
    • Corrections department (prison beds) -- $7 million
    • Endowed chairs for higher education -- $9 million
    • Education Leadership Oklahoma Program -- $420,000. Funds will pay $5,000 stipend to 84 teachers who attained National Board Certification for the 2000-2001 school year.
    • OETA for costs associated with Digital Television Conversion -- $6.7 million
    • Military Dept of State of Oklahoma for replacement of roofs to Army National Guard Armories --$4 million

      In addition to the supplemental appropriations, HB 1564 also included the following general appropriations items:

    • Base appropriations for all agencies, with one-time funding from FY ’01 removed -- $5.2 billion
    • Annualization of the FY ’01 state employee pay increase -- $13.3 million
    • Annualization of the 2001 Healthcare Initiative -- $14.7 million
    • Funding due to the decrease in federal participation rate for state health agencies -- $11.1 million
    • Funding to meet the state’s FY ’02 Debt Service obligation for Phase I of the 1999 Statewide Bond issue -- $15.8 million


  • After lengthy debate, HB 1564 was approved 31-15. Senate committees also passed several bills on Monday:

    -HB 2001 by Sen. Dave Herbert, introduced as a committee substitute, would eliminate sales tax on articles of clothing less than $100 for a three-day period in August. While the sales would be exempt from both state and local sales taxes, the state would reimburse the local governments for lost revenues. Total cost to the state including reimbursement of cities and towns would be approximately $5 million.

    -HJR 1001 by Sen. Jim Reynolds would exempt storm shelters and tornado safe rooms from property tax assessment. The exemption would only apply to the original owner who installed the shelter and would be eliminated after the property was sold.

    -HB 1336 by Sen. Keith Leftwich provides a sales tax exemption on housing materials purchased by charitable organizations involved in housing constructions, such as Habitat for Humanity, which builds houses for low-income families.

  • The House of Representatives also continued to focus on committee work on Tuesday, although a brief floor session resulted in the passage of HCR 1014 by Rep Don Ross, authorizing the striking of an Oklahoma Medal of Distinction for the survivors of the Tulsa race riot in 1921. Other measures approved in committee included:

    -SB 45 by Rep. Rep. James Dunegan would allow the police to confiscate any property, including cars and airplanes, used to commit arson. The measure was amended to exclude stolen property from confiscation.

    -SB 46 by Rep. Ray McCarter would make assault and battery on a school employee a felony. The measure was amended to exclude fights between two students from felony prosecution.

    -SB 397 by Speaker Larry Adair would lower the acceptable blood-alcohol content level to 0.08 percent to comply with new federal laws. The effective date was changed from November 1 to September 30 to fit the time frame for receiving federal money.

Wednesday, March 21th

  • Senators committees continued working toward the March 29 deadline for acting on House measures. In a brief floor session, lawmakers approved HB 1092 by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson, which would allow schools to suspend students up to one year for making violent threats against classmates or school employees. The suspension could also apply to students creating so-called “hit-lists.” Measures winning committee approval on Wednesday included:

    -HB 1765 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, increases the penalties for misdemeanor assault on a school employee or student and makes aggravated assault a felony. The bill only applies to assaults of school employees while they are in the performance of duties related to school or school activities.

    -HB 1308 by Sen. Herb Rozell, introduced as a committee substitute, establishes a new digital driver license program within the Department of Public Safety, which would become fully effective in 2004. The bill also includes language creating a voluntary fingerprint identification program for children.

    -HB 1361 by Sen. Jonathan Nichols authorizes courts to require convicted meth manufacturers to reimburse OSBI for the costs associated with the meth lab cleanup.

    -HB 1593 by Sen. Kelly Haney, which is a vehicle to be used for pay raises for Department of Corrections personnel. The enacting clause was stricken.

    -HB 1351 by Sen. Glenn Coffee amends the Oklahoma Sex Offenders Registration Act to require the notification of local law enforcement before the offender moves.

    -HB 1823 by Sen. Gilmer Capps would create the Oklahoma Zero-Based Budgeting Act. The Act would require that the budgets of all state agencies be appropriated from nothing. Currently, most agencies begin with a base budget, generally the previous fiscal year’s budget, and then those agencies present requests for increases to the legislature. With zero-based budgeting, an agency would be required to justify all of its expenses. The enacting clause was stricken.

    -HB 1374 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson authorizes the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate computer crimes and makes it a felony for an individual to forge his or her criminal record.

  • On Wednesday, the State House of Representatives approved the $5.3 billion general appropriations bill already approved by the Senate. Shortly after the 58-42 vote, Governor Keating announced that he would sign the bill, but that he would likely line-item veto some items. Other legislation approved in various House committees Wednesday included:

-SB 25 by Rep. Bill Nations provides a sales tax exemption on admission for entertainment or sports events at a public institution of higher education.

-SB 488 by Rep. Randall Erwin provides a sales tax holiday on clothing and footwear purchases of up to $100 to be held the first weekend in August.

-SB 612 by Rep Joe Hutchison would allow the Grand River Dam Authority to issue bonds in hopes of purchasing fireboats to protect houses on state lakes.

Thursday, March 22th

  • After a brief floor session, Senate committees continued to consider legislation from the State House in anticipation of the March 29th deadline for action on those bills. The Senate will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, March 26th.

Other News

  • A new poll conducted jointly by the Oklahoman and the University of Oklahoma found that more than two-thirds of Oklahomans think the state should have a lottery, and more than three-fourths favor a lottery if the funds would be earmarked for education. Although 60 percent of voters rejected a state lottery question in 1994, the new poll finds:

    -Sixty-eight percent favor a state lottery to run money
    -Seventy-six percent said they would support a lottery if its revenues were earmarked for education
    -Only 22 percent said they think that lotteries are immoral.

    A proposal calling for a vote on a state lottery to raise funds for education died in the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this session. Opponents expressed concern that a lottery would hurt low-income Oklahomans.

  • Citing questionable billings to the Department of Human Services, Senator Kevin Easley has called for the suspension of a marriage-initiative contract with an Oklahoma City-based public relations firm. Among the items Easley questioned:

- Viewing a video tape of a potential speaker for a marriage conference -- $437.50
“Crowd building” for a media event in Oklahoma City -- $93.75
- Media calls to encourage coverage of OKC event -- $146.20
- Read the book “A Case for Marriage” -- $732.50
- Wrote a book report on “A Case for Marriage” -- $137.50

Mary Myrick, head of Public Strategies, an Oklahoma City-based public relations firm, was the only bidder on the one-year $400,00 contract awarded last October.

  • Although spokesmen for the Governor’s office initially played down the possibility of first lady Cathy Keating running for Congress in 2002, Mrs. Keating now says she is giving it serious consideration, saying it would depend on what 1st District Congressman Steve Largent decides to do. The former professional football player has already announced that he will run for Governor in 2002, and may resign before his term expires to concentrate on the election. If he does resign, a special election would be held to fill the remaining term. Others also mentioned as possible candidates for the U.S. House seat include State Sen. Scott Pruitt, Rep. John Sullivan, Republican Party Chairman Steve Edwards, Former Tulsa City council member Dewey Bartlett Jr., Gov. Keating chief of staff Howard Barnett, former University of Tulsa football coach Dave Rader, and former Cherokee Nation principal chief Ross Swimmer.