The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, March 10 to Thursday, March 13, 2003

Monday, March 10th

  • With just four days remaining to complete Senate action on measures from the house of origin, more than 100 bills remained on General Order. The Senate convened at 10:00 a.m. and worked until nearly 5 p.m. on those measures. Among those approved:

    -SB 566 by Sen. Ben Robinson would prohibit smoking in public places with exemptions for such things as stand-alone bars, cigar bars and 25 percent of hotel rooms. The measure passed on reconsideration by a vote of 35-15 after being narrowly defeated the previous week.

    -SJR 21 by Sen. Cal Hobson also would prohibit smoking in public places with specified exemptions. As originally introduced, the measure would have referred the proposal to a vote of the people. The current version would require approval by both chambers and the governor to take effect.

    -SB 216 by Sen. Owen Laughlin would allow teachers and superintendents to contract with more than one school district in a year.

    -SB 447 by Sen. Daisy Lawler would prohibit insurance companies from using telephone solicitation to modify a customer's existing coverage.

    -SB 785 by Sen. Angela Monson would direct the state Commissioner of Health to assemble a task force on Hepatitis C to address issues such as public awareness, testing and treatment as well as funding sources and the legal issues of public exposure.

    -SB 799 by Sen. Penny Williams would create the "Task Force 2007 Act." The panel would be charged with preparing a long-range plan for improving educational opportunities in Oklahoma by the year 2007.

  • While there was speculation that Representative Ron Kirby's lottery bill could be brought up for reconsideration on Monday, the measure was not heard. Among those measures that were voted on and approved:

    -HB 1353, floor substitute by Rep. Carolyn Coleman would allow the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission to charge park entrance fees for day users. The bill was approved but the emergency failed; Rep Coleman lodged a motion to reconsider the vote on the emergency on a future legislative day.

    -HB 1430 by Rep. Lance Cargill would increase the fine from $50 to $500 for people who drive with open containers of alcoholic beverages in their vehicles.

    -HB 1675 by Rep. Debbie Blackburn calls for the State Board of Education to create a central purchasing program. All school districts would be required to coordinate school bus acquisitions through the purchasing program.

Tuesday, March 11th

  • The Senate convened at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, with more than 90 bills on General Order still awaiting action. Among the legislation winning approval:

    -SB 835 by Sen. Frank Shurden, calling for a vote of the people on whether to change penalties for violating the statewide ban on cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor.

    -SB 762 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson would restore a statute aimed at reducing prison crowding by letting inmates out at least 60 days early. Under the "Capacity Activated Powers Act," or "Cap" law as it was once known before it was repealed, The Department of Corrections would request the governor to declare a state of emergency if population in the prisons exceeds 95 percent of state-owned bed space for 30 consecutive days.

    -SB 288 by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm would establish a moratorium on issuance of temporary permits for use of groundwater.

    -SB 373 by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson would require title companies to provide copies of all recorded covenants.

  • The House also had a full agenda. However much of the days attention was focused on a more than three hour debate after Rep. Ron Kirby tried for a second time to win passage for HB 1278. The measure was finally approved by a 52 to 49 margin. Other measures willing approval by the House on Tuesday included:

    -HB 1710 by Rep. Larry Roberts would allow only non-fiscal retirement bills to be heard in the first session of the Legislature. The measure was approved 98-1 with the title stricken.

    -HB 1496 by Rep. Joe Sweeden would allow agencies to acquire items as needed for agency operations from local suppliers when it is more efficient or economical than suppliers on a state-wide contract.

    -HB 1151 by Rep. Dale Smith would add language to the teacher preparation program for administrators to have skills in effective classroom management and student discipline.

Wednesday, March 12th

  • On Wednesday the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education approved a measure to allow Oklahoma colleges and universities to raise their tuition. HB 1748 by Representative Bill Nations and Senator Mike Morgan would allow those institutions to raise their tuition to that of the average of schools in the Big 12 Conference. The full Senate continued working toward the Thursday deadline for floor action on measures from the house of origin. Among those winning approval:

    -SJR 22 by Sen. Cal Hobson calls for a vote of the people on proposed constitutional amendment earmarking proceeds from an education lottery, if one is approved.

    -SB 625 by Sen. Daisy Lawler would broaden existing laws for dropping objects off overpasses onto vehicles. The new language would expand the existing felony to throwing objects off bridges as well as overpasses, or throwing objects onto non-moving vehicles on roadways and adds a fine of up to $10,000 to the existing 10 year prison sentence.

    -SB 212 by Sen. Angela Monson would allow state employees to take up to six months unpaid leave to run for office.

    -SB 706 by Sen. Scott Pruitt would require that all victims of sex crimes be notified if the attacker tests positive for sexually transmitted disease and that the victim would incur no costs for tests, delivery or treatment of the disease.

    -SB 715 by Sen. Kenneth Corn would make the requirements for contracts for employment of a teacher or administrator more uniform, as well as requiring pay information to employees more specific.

  • The full House also continued to focus on bills still awaiting floor action. Among those measures winning approval:

    -HB 1385 by Rep. Larry Ferguson would call for a vote of the people on a proposal to raise the motor fuel tax on gasoline and diesel to address highway needs throughout the state.

    -HB 1720 by Rep. Chris Hastings would create the "Nursing Facility Mediation Act." The proposed measure would allow district courts to appoint and specify certain authority of an impartial mediator for civil cases brought under the "nursing Home Care Act."

    -HB 1790 by Rep. Jerry Hefner would prohibit any organization under the Oklahoma Charity Games Act from expending more than a certain amount of the total revenues collected in conducting charity games, excluding salaries and payouts, for expenses. The measure passed with the title stricken.

Thursday, March 13th

  • The Senate convened at 9:30 a.m. to conclude work on measures still on General Order. The Senate will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 17th.

Other News

  • State Senator Gene Stipe resigned his District 7 seat on Tuesday issuing the following statement to the media:

    "I feel it is time I leave the Senate and concentrate on other pending matters. Though this decision was difficult for me personally, I will not permit this to be a time of sorrow or ill feeling. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to serve my state and my party for more than half a century. While the past year has been one of heartache for me and my family, I choose to spend this time reflecting on the many positive advancements I helped enact on behalf of my constituents and, for that matter, neighbors throughout the state."

    "The legislature of Oklahoma, both the House and the Senate, in which I have served all my adult life, are dedicated and strong to well represent the people of Oklahoma. I will leave with best wishes and God's speed to the government of the great State of Oklahoma."

    "In the meantime, I have stories to tell and books to write."

    Stipe's resignation came in the midst of a Federal campaign investigation into former State Representative Walt Robert's unsuccessful 1998 congressional bid.