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The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, February 17 to Thursday, February 20, 2003

Monday, February 17th

  • The Senate convened at 1:30 p.m. on Monday. Shawnee Attorney Charlie Laster was sworn in to office to complete the remaining two years of the District 17 seat vacated by Governor Brad Henry. The Senate adjourned shortly after the ceremony to allow committees to continue working through measures. Among those receiving approval:

    -SB 826 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson creating the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security. Senator Wilkerson explained it was important to have an official at the state level who was authorized to receive information from the federal government and to coordinate efforts in the event of an attack on American soil.

    -SB 696 by Sen. Wilkerson would require the Department of Health to provide vaccinations to "at-risk" personnel and require those individuals to receive vaccinations.

    -SB 595, committee substitute, by Sen. Keith Leftwich aimed at so-called "zero-tolerance" policies by requiring school suspension policies to consider specific factors when decided whether to suspend a student.

    -SB 375 by Sen. Sam Helton would create the "Oklahoma Speed Trap Law." The measure would prohibit municipalities from setting up speed traps strictly to raise revenue. The measure was approved with the title stricken.

  • Although the House also focused attention on measures awaiting committee action, they did approve six bills on the floor on Monday including the following:

    -HB 1408 by Rep. Susan Winchester would allow two or more school districts to enter into a cooperative agreement for the purpose of forming buying pools and purchasing cooperatives.

    -HB 1133 by Rep. Joe Eddins would allow school district personnel to recommend medical evaluation to parents or legal guardians without being liable for associated costs. The recommendation evaluations must concern a student found not to be reading at the appropriate grade level in a situation when educators are concerned that an undiagnosed health problem could be a factor.

    -HB 1259 by Rep. Dale Wells would award visitation rights to grandparents after a showing that the parent is unfit or that the child would suffer harm or potential harm if visitation rights were not granted. If evidence of domestic abuse or child abuse by the grandparents is found, those visitations could be denied.

Tuesday, February 18th

  • On Tuesday, the State Equalization Board met to give its final certification of available revenue for the FY '04 budget. The board certified $4,357,629,227 would be available for the legislature to appropriate. With that certification, lawmakers must deal with a budget shortfall of $677.6 million dollars.

    Numerous measures were considered by Senate committees on Tuesday including:

    -SJR 22 by Sen. Cal Hobson proposing a vote of the people to ensure funds generated as a result of a possible state lottery would be earmarked for education.

    -SB 539 by Sen. Glenn Coffee creating the "Use of Credit Information in Personal Insurance Act." The measure would forbid insurance companies to make decisions about rates or coverage solely based upon the client's credit rating.

    -SB 616 by Sen. Jerry Smith would require victims and witnesses to be informed on commutation of sentence including commutation of a sentence of life without parole. The measure was approved with the title stricken.

    -SB 283 by Sen. Charles Ford would create a tax credit for teachers who use their own money to purchase supplies for the classroom. The measure was approved, with the title stricken.

    -SB 353 by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson would allow the manufacture, wholesale and retail sales of low-point beer and the brewing and wholesale of beer 3.2 and higher. The committee substitute was approved, with the title stricken.

  • The House approved a measure to use $25.5 million from the state's "Rainy-Day Fund" to ease budget cuts in common education. The measure passed 98 to 0 without debate. Among those measures winning committee approval on Tuesday:

    -HB 1562 by Rep. Fred Perry would make it a felony punishable of a fine of not less than $500 and imprisonment for not less than 30 days for a person who downloads any obscene material or child pornography. The committee substitute was approved.

    -HB 1105 by Rep. Thad Balkman, committee substitute, would authorize open containers in the passenger area of buses and limousines.

    -HB 1419 by Rep. Joe Hutchison, committee substitute, would increase the amount of lifetime fees pertaining to fishing, hunting and combination hunting and fishing licenses. It would also raise the replacement fee for any lifetime license that is lost or destroyed.

Wednesday, February 19th

  • The Senate continued to focus attention on measures still awaiting committee action, with the Appropriations Committee Agenda including more than 50 measures. Other bills approved by Senate Committees on Wednesday included:

    -SB 835 by Sen. Frank Shurden, committee substitute would change the penalties included in the state ban on cockfighting approved by voters last November. Under the bill, all violations would be a misdemeanor and the fines would be no more than $200 for spectators and all other violators would be fined no more than $500 and could face up to one year in a county jail. Those violators would include promoters, breeders and those placing bets.

    -SB 542 by Sen. Rick Littlefield would remove the prohibition on collecting fees to enter state parks. The measure was approved, with the title stricken.

    -SB 706 by Sen. Scott Pruitt would require prisons to test convicted rapists for venereal diseases. All victims of sex crimes would then be notified if the perpetrator tests positive for a sexually transmitted disease. The measure also stipulates that the victim would incur no costs for the tests, delivery or treatment of the disease.

    -SB 789, by Senator Dick Wilkerson, committee substitute, would allow judicial review and sentence modification, including treatment in lieu of incarceration for convictions relating to dangerous substances, alcohol, low-point beer or any intoxicating substance.

    -SJR 11 by Sen. Mike Johnson would call for a vote of the people asking for a raise in the cap on millage that may be levied for local support of schools upon approval of a majority of voters in the school district.

    -SB 401 by Sen. Kenneth Corn would create the Oklahoma Animal Control Officer Certification Act and the Oklahoma Animal Control Officer Certification Council. It would authorize the council to adopt a training program for certification of animal control officers and a proficiency examination.

    -SB 596 by Sen. Keith Leftwich, committee substitute, proposing that the children of undocumented immigrants graduating from Oklahoma high schools would be eligible for a waiver of non-resident tuition and would not be disqualified from receiving financial aid or scholarships because of their immigration status.

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

    -HB 1748 by Rep. Bill Nations, committee substitute would allow tuition at state colleges to be based on the regional averages of similar institutions and provide for expanding financial assistance to students.

    -HB1385 by Rep. Larry Ferguson would direct that the majority of revenues raised as a result of a possible vote of the people on an increase in fuel prices be directed to state highway construction and maintenance.

    -HB 1460 by Rep. Carolyn Coleman would allow consumers to buy caskets at retailers other than funeral homes.

    -HB 1014 committee substitute by Rep. Robert Worthen, would require licensed retail sellers of low-point beer kegs to affix an identification seal. The seal would display an identification number and any other information required by the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

    -HB 1726 by Rep. Judy McIntyre, committee substitute, would prohibit the eligibility for tax credits or benefits by businesses or employers who have been found to be in violation of any state or federal law concerning unfair labor practices. McIntyre requested her name be removed as author. Rep. Opio Toure requested his name to be added as author.

    -HB 1430 by Rep. Lance William Cargill, committee substitute, would increase the fine for having an open container from $50 to $500.

Thursday, February 20th

  • The Senate met briefly before adjourning so that committees could continue hearing legislation. Thursday marked the final day for committee consideration of measures originating in the Senate. The full Senate will reconvene on Monday, February 24th at 1:30 p.m.

Other News

  • An estimated 2000 public employees gathered at the State Capitol on Monday to draw attention to how the current budget crisis could impact state employees and the services they provide to Oklahomans. On Tuesday, Oklahoma veterans held their annual legislative day. Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson said completing the new veteran's center in Lawton was a top priority.

  • Senator Charles Ford, President of the State Capitol Preservation Fund, Inc. officially dedicated two new paintings. On Tuesday, the painting "Whitetail Deer in Choctaw Country" was unveiled. The painting given in memory of the late State Senator John McCune by his family. On Wednesday "Game Birds at Glass Mountain" was unveiled. Each of the artworks commissioned by the organization depicts contemporary or historical Oklahoma scenes, events or personalities and is created by Oklahoma artists.