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The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, February 3 to Thursday, February 6, 2003

Monday, February 3rd

  • The Oklahoma Legislature formally convened its 2003 session, gathering in a joint Senate-House meeting to receive the annual State of the State address. Governor Brad Henry outlined his goals for meeting needs in key areas such as education and health care, while streamlining other services to offset the budget shortfall. Among some of his recommendations:

    -Protect public education from additional cuts while increasing the state's investment by $110 million.

    -Protect health care from additional cuts, increasing funds for Medicaid programs by $53 million.

    -Streamline government and consolidate agencies and programs to save $220 million or reallocation to other services such as education and health care.

    -A vote of the people on an education lottery with funds earmarked for school programs.

Tuesday, February 4th

  • With attention focused on getting measures assigned and heard by committees by the February 20th deadline, the Senate met briefly on Tuesday, giving approval to SCR 3 by Senator Gilmer Capps and Senator Cal Hobson praising the seven astronauts lost on the Columbia space shuttle. The measure, co-authored by Representatives Jack Bonny and Larry Adair was also approved by the House.

  • Numerous measures were considered by Senate committees on Tuesday including:

    -SJR 1 by Sen. Robert Milacek which calls for a special election to increase the tax on gasoline and diesel fuels beginning July 1, 2004 and ending July 1, 2029. However due to questions as to whether the measure was eligible for a special election, Senator Milacek agreed to lay the bill over for one week.

    -SB 721 by Sen. Nancy Riley requires that social security numbers on documents available for public inspection or copying would be blocked or removed before being made available. The aim is to reduce identify theft. The measure passed with the title stricken, 6 to 0.

    -SB 428 by Sen. Mike Morgan exempts interest earned in an Oklahoma College Savings Plan from forced sale to pay for debts. The bill passed 4 to1.

    -SB 532 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield adds physician assistants to the Good Samaritan Act. The measure was approved 6-0.

  • The House on Tuesday heard second reading of bills, with committees considering several bills, including the following measures:

    -HB 1733 by Rep. Dan Boren and Rep. Danny Morgan would give the Oklahoma Corporation Commission the authority to appoint appraisers and resolve disputes between property owners and oil drilling operations. The local county court currently has that authority. The bill would also set the maximum compensation paid to the surface landowner at one and one-half times the fair market value of the per-acre valuation. The measure also calls for disputes to be resolved at hearings, rather than jury trial. The measure was laid over.

    -HB 1434 by Rep. Glen "Bud" Smithson would modify the criteria for collection of the 911 emergency wireless telephone fee. At present, the 50 cent tax for 911 services goes to the community in which the phone was purchased. However Smithson said this was a problem in some communities where the phones were purchased in nearby Arkansas, but actually used in Oklahoma. The author proposed collecting the tax based on the full zip code. The measure was laid over.

    -HB 1544 by Rep. Joe Sweeden would remove the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Training, Treatment and Rehabilitation Authority from a list of entities to be terminated on July 1, 2009, and adds the Ottawa Reclamation Authority to the list. The measure received a do pass recommendation.

Wednesday, February 5th

  • Attention continued to be focused on committee action on Wednesday, with committees considering numerous measures, including the following:

    -SB 386 by Sen. Herb Rozell would raise the collision report fee from $7 to $14 and driver record fee from $10 to $20. The fee increase could raise an estimated $13 million in additional revenues for the state. Senator Rozell proposed the funds be used for education. The bill received a do pass recommendation.

    -SB 554 by Sen. Jonathan Nichols would create a safety zone around elementary and junior high schools, public parks and playgrounds from persons convicted of lewd molestation, rape or sodomy if the victim was less than 13 years old. An amendment increased the fine for violating the safety zone from $500 to $2,500. The measure was given a do pass recommendation, with the title stricken.

    -SB 625 by Sen. Daisy Lawler proposes that anyone who throws or drops any object from a bridge or overpass onto a highway or road resulting in damage to property or injury of a person would be guilty of a felony. An amendment raised the maximum fine from $1000 to $10,000. The measure received a do pass recommendation. The title was stricken.

    -SB 642 by Sen. Kenneth Corn allows for employees to have a voluntary furlough option and allows members of extended employee organizations to take up to a year off of work.

    -SB 1344 by Sen. Maxine Horner relates to the Tulsa Reconciliation Education and Scholarship Program, modifying scope of program by defining borders of the Greenwood area, and modifying award criteria.

    -SB 1631 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, provides mathematics remediation for certain third through eighth grade students, requiring satisfactory mathematics ability at the eighth-grade level to obtain driver license.

  • The House also focused on committee action, and approved the following measures:

    -HB 1106 by Rep. Thad Balkman would increase low-point beer permit fees and license taxes. The measure would increase permit fees to retail dealers of low-point beer from $300 every three years to $900 every three years. The measure would also increase license taxes from $150 every three years to $750 every three years. The cost for licensure for convenience stores selling beer would increase from $10 to $100 a year. Rep. Balkman said the increase could raise up to $1 million in new revenues which would be used to create the Community -based Substance Abuse Revolving Fund. The fund would be appropriated to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for the purpose of contracting with private facilities and organizations to provide treatment, counseling, rehabilitation and other related services directed toward alcohol and drug-dependent persons.

    -HB 1315 by Rep. Bill Paulk relating to application of Mechanical Licensing Act. The committee substitute was approved.

    -HB 1342 by Rep. Abe Deutschendorf creates a task force to study and prepare recommendations concerning the accessibility for the disabled to publicly produced and provided electronic and information technology; the bill received a do pass recommendation.

    -HB 1624 by Rep. Mike Reynolds would require state agencies, boards and commissions to recover costs associated with contracts for the development of a portal system or Internet-based electronic transactions or applications through a convenience fee. The measure, which received a do pass recommendation, was amended to provide that the fee's collection could be continued in order to maintain the system.

Thursday, February 6th

  • The Senate met briefly before adjourning so that committees could continue hearing legislation. The deadline for final action by committees on legislation from the house of origin is February 20th. The full Senate will reconvene on Monday, February 10th at 1:30 p.m.

Other News

  • Senator Keith Leftwich took personal privilege on the floor to thank fellow members, his wife and his executive assistant for their support during his fight with cancer last year. He disclosed that doctors had successfully located the primary site and would soon begin aggressive treatment.

  • Senator Charles Ford, President of the Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. dedicated another painting as part of the organizations ongoing effort to create original artwork for the Capitol depicting scenes from Oklahoma history and created by Oklahoma artist. The painting "Dugout Soddy on the Prairie," was painted by internationally known western artist Wayne Cooper and was a gift from the Kerr Foundation. The painting will be permanently displayed outside the chamber entrance to the House of Representatives.