The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, April 1 to Thursday, April 4, 2002

Monday, April 1st

  • In anticipation of the committee deadline for action on measures from the opposite chamber on Thursday, April 4th, the Senate concentrated most of its efforts on Monday in consideration of legislation at the committee level. Among those measures winning approval:

    -HB 1923 by Sen. Keith Leftwich creates the Oklahoma No-Call List Act which requires the Office of the Attorney General to establish a directory of consumers who do not wish to receive unsolicited telemarketing calls.

    -HB 2371 by Sen. Grover Campbell makes it unlawful for a telemarketing practice to use telephone equipment or systems which will call more than one person at a time while allowing only one line at a time to be connected to the seller.

    -HB 2765 by Sen. Ben Robinson would delete a statute which exempts out-of-state motorists from Oklahoma child seat restraint laws. Currently children under four years of age weighing less than 60 pounds are required to be seated in a secure child car seat. Children between the ages four and 13 are required to be in either a child restraint seat or a seatbelt.

    -HB 2312 by Sen. Penny Williams would allow advanced science and math courses taken at technology centers to count as credit for high school graduation.

    -HB 2215 by Sen. Rick Littlefield would create the Bully Prevention Act, requiring policies to prevent bullying in schools.

    -HB 2772 by Sen. Owen Laughlin would require voters to present picture identification before voting. A provision in the bill exempts those with a physical disability. The bill also states that "If a person is unable to produce any of the items of identification, such a document containing a photograph of the voter, issued by the state, the federal government, a country, a municipality a federally recognized Indian tribe or an employer of the voter, the person may sign a statement under oath in the form approved by the Secretary of the State Election Board swearing or affirming that the person is the person identified on the precinct registry and shall be allowed to vote. False swearing under oath would be a felony.

  • Likewise, attention on the House side was focused at the committee level on Monday. Among those bills winning approval:

    -SB 900 by Rep. Ray McCarter would remove the 18-month service requirement from legislation that allows school districts to grant high school diplomas to veterans of World War II and the Korean Conflict.

    -SB 1328 by Rep. Joan Greenwood would create the Oklahoma Educational Interpreter for the Deaf Act, which sets out the standards to be used by public schools in hiring deaf interpreters.

    -SB 1553 by Rep. Ray Vaughn, originally would have mandated a complete ban on smoking inside the Capitol, but was amended to allow smoking areas in the Capitol, providing those areas are ventilated to the outside of the building.

    -SB 1537 by Rep. Ron Kirby requires blood or saliva samples to be collected for the DNA Offender Database and includes certain offenses in the mandatory DNA sample and authorizes reimbursement to the OSBI for illegal drug laboratory site cleanup, providing that a certain percentage of funds collected by retained by court clerk.

    -SB 1471 by Rep. Carolyn Coleman would require an applicant for employment with a school district to sign a statement authorizing the disclosure of unprofessional conduct, provide immunity from liability, and prohibit employment without a signed statement. The committee substitute deleted language referring to a moment of silence.

    -SB 1731 by Rep. Barbara Staggs would provide mathematics remediation for certain third through eighth grade students.

Tuesday, April 2nd

  • The Senate continued to focus on action at the committee level on Tuesday, giving approval to the following measures:

    -HB 2641 by Sen. Owen Laughlin sets out the provisions of the covenant marriage. The bill would require couples to undergo premarital counseling at least 15 days before getting married and limits the reasons for which a divorce could be granted.

    -HB 2216 by Sen. Glenn Coffee would allow the use of murder victim's photographs during criminal homicide prosecution. An amendment to the bill gave the judges more discretion in approving photographs.

    -HJR 1036 by Sen. Stratton Taylor would send to the voters a constitutional amendment that would authorize the board that oversees the tobacco money to spend up to 5.5 percent of the average market value of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund. Currently only the earnings of the fund may be spent.

    -HB 2041 by Sen. Angela Monson eliminates the state franchise and estate taxes, provides for a flat rate income tax of five percent, and raises the state sales tax from four and one-half percent to six and one-quarter percent. The enacting clause was stricken.

    -HB 2895 by Sen. Kevin Easley would establish a two-year moratorium on the sale or exportation of surface or ground water outside of the state. The measure would also prohibit any state or tribal compact from authorizing the sale or exportation of water for a two-year period.

  • The following measure were among those approved by various House committees on Tuesday:

    -SB 1502 by Rep. Al Lindley would increase the penalties for prostitution in Oklahoma. A first time offense would result in a fine of $2,500, a second offense would be $5,000 and subsequent offenses would be fined $7,500.

    -SB 1425 by Rep. Stuart Ericson would change the punishment for a second offense of rape, forcible sodomy, lewd molestation or sexual abuse of a child to life without parole.

    -SB 1638 by Rep. David Braddock would require DNA evidence samples to be taken and entered into the OSBI DNA database for felons convicted of bestiality and engaging in prostitution while HIV positive.

Wednesday, April 3rd

  • The Senate continued to work toward the April 4th deadline for committee action on bills from the opposite chamber. Among those measures winning committee approval on Wednesday:

    -HB 1968 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield enacts the Larry Dickerson Education Flexible Benefits Allowance Act, which requires school districts to pay an increased portion of health care coverage for its employees, beginning with 50 percent in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2002 up to 100 percent for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004.

    -HB 2074 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson clarifies language relating to anhydrous ammonia, adding "pipeline" to the list of anhydrous ammonia paraphernalia that may not be tampered with by any unauthorized person, makes "attempted theft" of anhydrous ammonia a punishable offense and creates a minimum imprisonment of five years for person tampering with anhydrous systems.

    -HB 2084 by Sen. Sam Helton adds offenders "who are under arrest or detained for federal felony or misdemeanor violations, or detained for a violation of immigration laws" to the list of those who may be held in a minimum security private prison.

    -HB 2921 by Sen. Scott Pruitt authorizes an address confidentiality program for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.

    -HB 2765 by Sen. Angela Monson creates the Catastrophic Emergency Health Powers Act, calling on the governor to appoint a Public Health Emergency Planning Commission, and requires the development of a public health emergency response plan.

    -HB 2836 by Sen. Charles Ford increases the penalty for stealing construction equipment and adds larceny of construction and farm equipment to crimes, prohibits receiving stolen construction equipment, and establishes a penalty.

  • The House continued working through measures still awaiting committee action on Wednesday, but also turned attention to those ready for full floor votes. Among those measures winning approval by the House:

    -SB 1420 by Rep. Ron Kirby requires a person subject to the Sex Offenders Registration Act to register with the security and police of institutions of higher learning.

    -SB 1661 by Rep. Debbie Blackburn expands the circumstances and specifies time frames under which a district attorney is required to file a petition for termination of parental rights, modifies the time frame for a judicial review of a case of child alleged or adjudicated to be deprived, requires a determination of the most suitable permanency plans based on specified factors, and specifies the conditions and terms under which the department of Human Services may place a child in an emergency situation.

    -SB 1319 by Rep. Todd Hiett clarifies the definition of eligible age for juvenile sex offender, adds offense, modifies language and clarifies the type of agency to receive juvenile sex offender information. The bill modifies references, reduces the number of treatment professionals required to make evaluation, changes criteria for releasing information to the public, and directs the release of certain information to the public by specified law enforcement agencies.

    -SB 950 by Rep. Jim Newport creates the Telemarketer Restriction Act and requires the Attorney General to establish a directory of consumers who do not wish to receive unsolicited telemarketing calls.

Thursday, April 4th

  • The Senate met briefly Thursday morning before adjourning to continue working on bills still awaiting committee action. The full Senate will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 8th.

Other News

  • On Tuesday, legislative leaders announced they had reached a budget agreement aimed at sparing public schools, including common education, higher education and career technology along with health care services from anticipated budget cuts. Most other state agencies will be forced to reduce their budgets by 5 percent from fiscal year 2002, a total reduction of about $276 million. The agreement also calls for a raise in the amount of health insurance premiums paid by school districts from the current 50 percent level for teachers and 90 percent for support personnel to 75 percent for teachers and 100 percent for support personnel, with an estimated cost of $35 million. Low natural gas prices and the nationwide recession have created budget problems for the state, with an anticipated $350 million shortfall predicted for the 2003 fiscal year.

  • The State Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of the 1998 tax law triggering an income tax hike when state revenues dropped below a set level. The lawsuit had challenged the Board of Equalization's authority to certify funds available for legislative appropriation. The Attorney General's office successfully argued the board was a constitutionally recognized body charged with certifying available funds and that there was no unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority.

  • Also on Tuesday, the State Supreme Court declared that an initiative petition to make English the state's official language would unconstitutionally restrict residents of limited English ability from communicating effectively with their government. Under the petition, English would have been mandated for use in all official documents, transactions, proceedings, meetings or issued publications by the state and all its political subdivisions. The measure also called for all state money appropriated for state business in a language other than English to be returned to the general revenue fund. The proposal would have allowed the legislature to then use those funds for English language programs.