The Oklahoma Senate

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

Monday, March 3rd

  • The Senate continued to work toward the March 13th deadline for floor action on bills from the house of origin. More than twenty measures were considered. The legislation that resulted in the longest debate was Senate Bill 423 by Sen. Robert M. Kerr. The bill would require a finger print for a driver license or identification card as proof of identity. Opponents argued the measure represented further government encroachment on personal privacy. Supporters countered the addition of the finger print could help reduce identify theft. The measure was approved 25-17. Among the other measures winning approval on Monday:

    -SB 576 by Sen. Bernest Cain would allow a judge or drug court team to determine eligibility and final admission to drug court at the initial appearance. It would also allow the judge to amend plea agreements to lesson the penalties.

    -SB 249 by Sen. Jonathan Nichols would create the Oklahoma Voter Hall of Fame. Oklahoma voters participating in at least 15 consecutive November General Elections would be eligible for the Voter Hall of Fame.

    -SB 300 by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm would revise a manufacturing facility ad valorem exemption which had expired and tighten requirements for qualifying for the exemption.

    -SB 437 by Sen. Jeff Rabon, amended by Sen. Glenn Coffee to provide a trigger for repeal of the income tax for retirees based on a specific level of revenue growth.

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

  • The House also considered more than twenty measures on Monday, rejecting four including a proposal that would have increased annual permit fees for convenience stores and restaurants that sell low point beer. HB 1106 by Rep. Thad Balkman was defeated 66 to 35. Among those measures that were approved:

    -HB 1026 by Rep. Ray Miller would allow the name of the person filing a complaint against a child care facility to be an open record.

    -HB 1146 by Rep. Thad Balkman would require state environmental agencies and public utilities to keep information provided by persons relating to vulnerability assessments of critical assets in both water and wastewater systems confidential.

    -HB 1646 by Rep. Larry Ferguson would allow school districts to release individual student records from previous school districts for the purpose of evaluation of educational programs and school effectiveness.

Tuesday, March 4th

  • The Senate convened at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, with lengthy debate on a measure to greatly reduce smoking in places. Senate Bill 566 by Senator Ben Robinson who argued the bill would eventually save the state money by reducing medical costs as a result of smoking, or from those suffering the effects of second-hand smoke. Opponents argued private businesses should have the right to decide whether to go smoke-free rather than having a government mandate. The measure failed, 22 to 24. Among those measures winning approval on Tuesday:

    -SB 353 by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson would allow the manufacture, wholesale and retail of low-point beer (3.2 or ) under and the brewing and wholesale of beer above 3.2 in Oklahoma.

    -SB 554 by Sen. Jonathan Nichols would create a safety zone around elementary and junior high schools, public parks and playgrounds from those convicted of lewd molestation, rape or sodomy of children 13 or younger. The measure was amended to include childcare facilities to the list of areas covered by the bill, and to increase the fine for violations from $500 to $2,500.

    -SB 833 by Sen. Frank Shurden would require that individuals who damage animal facility property to pay full restitution for damages. The crime could also result in a sentence of up to one year in county jail.

    -SB420 by Senator Jim Reynolds would require all state voting precincts post the penalties for voter fraud.

  • The House also had a full agenda, approving several measures including the following:

    -HB 1297 by Rep. Dale Turner would require members of the State Board of Career and Technology Education to have a high school education and some tie to career technology. The measure was approved with the title stricken.

    -HB 1105 by Rep. Thad Balkman would allow open containers of alcoholic beverages for passengers in limousines or buses.

    -HB 1570 by Rep. Dan Boren would authorize the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to establish a program to assist with grant applications with an emphasis on agencies with populations of 3,000 or less or areas with 20,000 or less.

    -HCR 1004 by Rep. Forrest Claunch would encourage the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to review policies on residency to assist military dependents.

Wednesday, March 5th

  • On Wednesday morning, Senator Kenneth Corn took a few moments to pay tribute to Senator Larry Dickerson. Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of Senator Dickerson's final day in the chamber before losing his battle with cancer. Sixteen white roses were placed in the chamber in remembrance of Senator Dickerson's 16 years of service in the legislature.

  • The Senate continued working through measures on general order. Among those gaining approval:

    -SB 235 by Sen. Penny Williams would allow school districts more flexibility in addressing funding shortfalls. The legislation directs the State Board of Education to identify all state laws and rules that would not affect academic standards or safety standards.

    -SB 565 by Sen. Glenn Coffee would require computer technicians to report any instance of child pornography they discover while repairing computers. The title was removed.

    -SB 616 would require victims and witnesses to be informed on commutations of sentences including commutation of sentence of life without parole.

    -SB 721 by Sen. Nancy Riley would require any document that must be available for public inspection, copying or mechanical reproduction to have social security numbers blocked or removed from the document before being made available to the public.

    -SB 733 by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm would allow the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission to contract with concessionaires to reduce lease or rental agreements over a five-year period to repay repairs or improvements.

    -SB 837 by Sen. Frank Shurden would allow certain charitable and non-profit organizations to engage in fund raising activities without being in violation of state law.

    -SB 799 by Sen. Penny Williams would create the "Task Force 2007 Act," to be composed of 25 members appointed by the governor for the purpose of creating a long-range plan for improving education in Oklahoma by the year 2007.

    -SB 546 by Sen. Owen Laughlin would allow county sheriffs to establish an automated telephone system to privately notify persons of outstanding misdemeanor warrants.

    -SB 391 by Sen. Jonathan Nichols would allow proof of prior convictions as admissible evidence in criminal proceedings.

  • After a heated debated, the House of Representatives voted down HB 1278 by Representative Ron Kirby, better known as Governor Brad Henry's Education Lottery proposal. The measure would have called for a vote of the people on whether to establish a statewide lottery to benefit education. The bill was held on a motion to reconsider. Under House rules, Representative Kirby would have until Tuesday, March 11th to bring the measure back before the chamber. Among those measures that were approved on Wednesday:

    -HB 1707 by Rep Dale Turner would require law enforcement and the district attorney to notify the superintendent of a school district of the arrest and/or charges filed against a student or school employee.

    -HB 1781 by Rep. John Smaligo would deny compensation to anyone convicted of running from law enforcement and as a result is involved in an accident.

    -HB 1607 by Rep. Curt Roggow would allow the State Board of Education to waive the requirement of Oklahoma History for students who have completed and passed a state history or government course in another state.

Thursday, March 6th

  • The Senate convened at 9 a.m. and continued working through the measures on general order in anticipation of the March 13th deadline for final action on Senate bills. The Senate will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, March 10th.

Other News

  • Governor Brad Henry held a press conference following Wednesday's House Vote on the Education Lottery proposal. Henry told reporters the vote did not mark the end of his fight to get a vote on a state lottery before the people, pointing to recent opinion polls and editorials as evidence the public wanted the opportunity to decide the issue. The governor said the possibility of getting the measure on a statewide ballet by legislative referendum was still alive until lawmakers adjourn Sine Die in May. He also said an initiative petition drive remains a viable option.

  • Lt. Governor Mary Fallin issued a statement saying the House vote reflected the deep concerns in both parties about the issue of state-run gambling and said the focus should instead be on other avenues for boosting the economy and reforming education.