The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, March 26 to Thursday, March 29, 2001

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Other News


Monday, March 26th

  • The Senate continued to work toward the March 29th deadline for voting on bills originating in the House of Representatives. Though a brief floor session was held, the focus remained on committee action. Among the legislation winning approval by Senate committees:

    -HB 1291 by Sen. Penny Williams eliminates straight-party voting and modifies the process for providing electors. The bill provides that one nominee for presidential elector shall be selected from each congressional district and two nominees chosen at large. The bill also provides that presidential electors selected from congressional districts shall reside in the congressional district from which they are selected.

    -HB 1767 by Sen. Jim Dunlap would create the Oklahoma Partnership for School readiness act. The bill would create a 29-member board to promote early childhood education and function as a statewide public-private early childhood partnership.

    -HB 1253 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield require notification of criminal history information about school employees and would require the filing of a criminal history record for teacher licensure.

    -HB 1662 by Sen. Glenn Coffee relates to technology and establishes a state portal system. The legislation would provide uniformity to state agency web sites and allow agencies to charge a convenience fee for online transactions.

    -HB 1409 by Sen. Frank Shurden directs the Department of Public Safety to provide alternate testing to those who cannot read or face a language barrier. The bill also states those applying for a driver's license need only to be able to "interpret," not "read" highway signs.

    -HB 1034 by Sen. Bruce Price would allow boards of county commissioners to prohibit the erection of communication towers on unincorporated land in the county.

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

-SB 412 by Rep. Randall Erwin would change the Oklahoma Public employee Retirement System (OPERS) from a 90-year system to an 80-year system. Under current law, state employees hired after July 1, 1992 can retire when their age and their years of service total 90. SB 412 would allow those employees to retire when their age and years of service total 80. State Employees hired before 1992 are already under the 80-year system.

-SB 421 by Rep. Randall Erwin would make a new provision in the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System allowing firefighters and their families to receive benefits when the firefighters contract infectious diseases. Under an amendment offered in the committee, the list of infectious diseases was narrowed to hepatitis, HIV, meningitis and tuberculosis.

-SB 401 by Rep. J.T. Stites would allow OPERS to pay death benefits up to $10,000 without those funds being subject to probate.

-SB 743 by Rep. Terry Ingmire would create a uniform reporting standard to be used by all criminal justice information systems within the state for all data relating to arrests, charges, custody, adjudication, conviction and disposition of criminal or juvenile matters.

-SB 384 by Rep. Clay Pope relates to the Public Warehouse and Commodity Indemnity Act. The bill clarifies language relating to electronic documents and gives them the same legal status as paper documents.

Tuesday, March 27th

  • Various Senate committees continued to deliberate bills originating in the House of Representatives, although a brief floor session resulted in passage of HRC 1014 by Sen. Maxine Horner, authorizing a Medal of Distinction for survivors of the Tulsa Race riot of 1921. The measure was brought directly to the calendar and adopted. Other measures approved by Senate committees Tuesday included:

    -HB 1203 by Sen. Angela Monson contains provisions to cut the personal income tax and eliminate the sales tax on groceries and nonprescription drugs, as well as eliminating the franchise tax for companies earning less than $30,000 gross income annually.

    -HB 1185 by Sen. Glenn Coffee, which would extend the definition of a deprived child in Oklahoma statutes to include an unborn viable child whose mother tests positive to alcohol or a controlled dangerous substance if the health or life of the unborn viable child is determined to be at risk due to the exposure.

    -HB 1062 by Sen. James Williamson would set out a state policy in statute giving non-custodial parents priority over other relatives and foster care when determining the placement of children.

    -HJR 1008 by Sen. Frank Shurden would send to a vote of the people a proposal to implement a one-and-a-half percent sales tax on the sale of hunting, fishing and wildlife watching equipment. The legislation is designed to address funding shortfalls for Wildlife Conservation Commission programs as well as enhancing wildlife resources.

    -HJR 1025 by Sen. Jim Maddox calls for a vote of the people on a proposal to allow counties to vote to approve up to five additional mills to be dedicated for an economic development fund.

    -HB 1097 would allow voters in unincorporated areas in a county to vote on whether to implement a 5 percent lodging tax. The bill would only apply to counties with a population of 200,000 or more.

    -HJR 1028 by Sen. Maxine Horner enacts the Distressed Areas Restoration and Development Act of 2001, designed to provide tax incentives for economic development in the Greenwood district in Tulsa, which was destroyed during the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.

  • During Tuesday's session, the House of Representatives approved SB 488 by Rep. Randall Erwin, which would create a sales tax holiday on clothing and footwear. Work also continued in various house committees on Tuesday. Senate Bills approved included:

    -SB 796 by Rep. Kenneth Corn. Originally would have established a new minimum age of 18 for corrections employees, however the bill was amended in committee to restore the minimum age to 21.

    -SB 568 by Rep. Opio Toure would raise auto insurance liability limits. Currently, liability covers up to $10,000 for bodily injury or death of one person in an accident, $20,000 for two persons in an accident and $10,000 for destruction of property, a formula referred to as ""0-20-10."" Under this legislation the new limits would be $25,000 for injury to one person, $50,000 for two persons, and $25,000 for property, making the new formula 25-50-25.

    -SB 711 by Rep. Jari Askins allows women over the age of 40 to receive mammography screening at no charge. The bill passed with the title stricken.

    -SB 733 by Rep. Askins requires all insurance contracts to provide colon cancer screening services. The bill was amended to delete mandated clinical trials.

    -SB 716 by Rep. Carolyn Coleman raises the age of consent between teachers and students to 18 years of age, amended to stipulate that the teacher must be from the same school as the student.

Wednesday, March 28th

  • In a brief floor session, the Senate unanimously approved HB 1637 by Sen. Ted Fisher that would provide a sales tax exemption for supplies purchased for small museums throughout the state. The bill would only apply to museums that were open at least 120 days a year with regular posted hours. Senate committees continued working toward the March 29 deadline for acting on House measures. Measures winning committee approval on Wednesday included:

    -HB 1177 by Sen. Bernest Cain relates to hate crimes and malicious harassment based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability. The bill would eliminate a 72-hour time period for reporting racial profiling crimes to OSBI. The bill would require agencies to report those crimes monthly.

    -HB 1351 by Sen. Glenn Coffee would toughen the Sex Offenders Registration Act by increasing the penalties for failure to comply and requiring notice be given to law enforcement officials prior to moving.

    -HB 1266 Sen. Jerry Smith would authorize the forfeiture of computer equipment for cases in which minors were solicited for sex over the Internet. The bill would also raise the fines and increase the prison sentence for such crimes.

    -HB 1007 by Sen. Billy Mickle would establish the Oklahoma Aeronautics and Space Commission as a state agency separate from the Department of Transportation.

    -HB 1072 by Sen. Angela Monson requests the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma to establish a cancer treatment and research program. The project requires a $25 million commitment from the state to begin a $60 million endowment.

    -HB 1073 by Sen. Jim Dunlap would exempt sheriffs from paying for the medical care of inmates for self-inflected injuries. Under the provisions of the bill, inmates would be required to pay hospitals for their own medical care for self-inflected wounds after their release from jail.

    -HB 1189 By Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield would allow members of the Teachers' Retirement System to come back into the system after an absence of up to three years.

  • On Wednesday, the House Small Business committee approved SJR 1 by Rep. Jack Begley. The legislation was amended to allow a special election to be called on right to work in August 14 of this year, rather than on placing the state question on the General Election ballot in November 2002. Other legislation approved in various House committees Wednesday included:

    -SB 738 by Rep. Barbara Staggs provides for unannounced inspections of residential care homes by the Oklahoma State Department of Health .

    -SB 674 by Rep. Kenneth Corn creates the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program, which allows for a 15 percent rebate on documented expenditures made in Oklahoma directly attributable to film or television production in the state.

    -SB 501 by Rep. Lloyd Fields, which was introduced as a committee sub, modifies the assessment of tax on alcoholic beverages in Oklahoma. Fields said all language to remove the "liquor by the drink" tax and replace it with a tax at the package store level was removed in the committee substitute. CS SB 501 would remove the $1 stamp on liquor at the restaurant level and replace the lost revenue with an increase to 13.5 percent on drinks at the restaurant level.

Thursday, March 29th

  • After a brief floor session, Senate committees continued to consider legislation from the State House. This marked the final day for committee consideration of bills from the opposite chamber. The Senate will reconvene at 10:30 p.m. on Monday, April 2nd.

Other News

  • Senate President Pro Tem Stratton Taylor unveiled a proposal calling for a statewide vote on whether Oklahoma should replace its current tax system with the one currently used by Texas, resulting in the elimination of state income tax and the sales tax on groceries. Senator Taylor has asked economists at OU and OSU to do a study of the Texas system, and what would be entailed if Oklahoma were to adopt it. That report when then be presented to lawmakers, after which legislation would be drafted to allow for a statewide vote and make the necessary statutory changes.

  • Governor Keating signed the $5.3 billion dollar General Appropriations Bill which included emergency funding for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, as funds to help low-income Oklahomans pay for skyrocketing heating costs. However the Governor line-item vetoed some $300 million in various agency appropriations. Items vetoed in HB 1564 included:

    • Governor's Office -- $2.8 million
    • House of Representatives -- $18.7 million
    • Senate -- $13.1 million
    • Oklahoma Educational Television Authority -- $6.7 million
    • Oklahoma National Guard armory roof repairs -- $4 million
    • Oklahoma Arts Council -- $4.1 million
    • State Auditor -- $6.2 million
    • State Office of Central Services -- $14.9 million
    • State Election Board -- $7.5 million
    • Oklahoma Tax Commission -- $51.2 million
    • Oklahoma Department of Commerce -- $20.3 million
    • Department of Human Services -- $17 million
    • Oklahoma Department of Agriculture -- $26.2 million
    • Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation -- $29.9 million
    • Oklahoma Water Resources Board -- $3.9 million
    • Oklahoma Historical Society -- $9.5 million