The Oklahoma Senate

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

Monday, March 17th

• The full Senate convened at 1:30 on Monday, however much of their legislative action was focused at the committee level having completed floor action on Senate measures the previous week. Attention now turned to committee consideration of measures coming from the House of Representatives. Among those winning approval on Monday:

-HB 1467 by Sen. Angela Monson and Rep. William Paulk would create the Oklahoma Catastrophic Health Emergency Planning Task Force charged with helping create a plan for dealing with a large scale medical emergency, including the coordinated efforts of medical services. Their recommendations must be submitted no later than December 31, 2003. The measure would allow the governor to declare a catastrophic health emergency in the event of a nuclear, chemical or bioterrorist attack, triggering enactment of the catastrophic health emergency plan. The legislature could disapprove the declaration, but if they do not, it would remain in effect no more than 30 days unless the governor extends it.

-HB 1650 by Sen. Nancy Riley and Rep. Sue Tibbs would authorize public agencies to make out-going 911 calls to notify the public of an emergency or to provide specific information.

-HB 1782 by Sen. Sam Helton and Rep. Lucky Lamons would require vehicle operators to remove the vehicle or its cargo from the regular flow of traffic and allow law enforcement officials to move cargo and vehicles off the roadway without liability.

-HB 1139 by Sen. Maxine Horner and Rep. Darrell Gilbert would authorize county commissioners to determine curfews which would apply to all unincorporated areas of their county. Includes fines for the misdemeanor violation of at least $25 for a first offense and up to $100 and up to 30 days in the county jail for subsequent offenses.

-HB 1058 by Sen. Kenneth Corn and Rep. Jerry Ellis would add talking to members of the print or electronic media, to the governor, members of the Legislature or other persons in a position to investigate or initiate corrective action under the “Whistleblower Act,” as actions not requiring prior notice to supervisors or anyone else in the chain of command.

- HB 1001 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield and Rep. Danny Hilliard allowing a lawfully appointed representative of any deceased candidate to withdraw that candidate’s name from the ballot.

• On Monday House action also focused on Senate measures awaiting committee action. Among those approved:

-SB 423 by Rep. William Paulk and Sen. Robert M. Kerr would require applicants for a driver license or identification card to be finger-imaged for proof of identity.

-SB 696 by Rep. William Paulk and Sen. Dick Wilkerson would require the State Health Department to provide vaccinations to “at-risk” personnel, requiring some personnel to receive those vaccinations and providing exceptions.

-SB 436 by Rep. John Nance and Sen. Owen Laughlin would allow county sheriffs to establish an automated telephone system to privately notify individuals of outstanding misdemeanor warrants.

-SB 325 by Rep. Greg Piatt and Sen. Robert Milacek would include a $1000 fine and/or a year in jail if found guilty of the misdemeanor of not having state mandatory motor vehicle insurance. It also sets penalties for reinstatement of driver license following suspension for failure to have mandatory insurance. The initial reinstatement fee would be $25 and would add a penalty of $150 for the first suspension, $250 for the second suspension and $500 for the third suspension.

Tuesday, March 18th

• The Senate convened at 1:30 and approved SCR 13 by Senator Ted Fisher and Senator James A. Williamson expressing support for Oklahoma troops activated as a result of the war with Iraq. SCR 12 by Senator Nancy Riley which honored Tulsan Toby Meister, 2002 Reserve Drill Master of the Year. Other measures winning approval in committee included:

-HB 1278 by Sen. Cal Hobson and Rep. Ron Kirby calling for a vote of the people on whether to establish an education lottery. The measure included language earmarking funds for education, forbidding the giving or transferring of lottery tickets to minors and authorizing immediate end to the lottery should a court determine its existence would allow Class III tribal gaming.

-HB 1259 by Sen. James Williamson, Sen. Scott Pruitt and Rep. Dale Wells would award visitation rights to grandparents of children if the court rules the parent is unfit or that the child would suffer harm if visitation rights were not granted. The bill would allow the courts to deny visitation if evidence of domestic abuse or child abuse by the grandparents was found.

-HB 1319 by Sen. Randy Brogdon would require the seller of property to provide a written property disclaimer statement relating to the existence of prior manufacturing of methamphetamine.

• The House joined the Senate in approving SCR 13 honoring and supporting Oklahoma troops as well as SCR 12. Among those measures winning approval by committees:

-SB 240 by Sen. Keith Leftwich and Rep. Jim Newport would authorize the attorney general to forward the state’s no-call list to the federal government if a similar national registry is established.

-SB 391 by Rep. Lance Cargill and Sen. Jonathan Nichols would allow a non-certified copy of a judgment and sentence as proof of prior convictions as admissible evidence in criminal preliminary hearing proceedings.

-SB 833 by Rep. M.C. Leist and Sen. Frank Shurden would provide that individuals who damage animal facility property to pay full restitution for damages that could be charged with a misdemeanor with a sentence of up to one year in jail.

Wednesday, March 19th

• On Wednesday the Senate Appropriations Committee 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 convened after the committee concluded action on the measure, approving numerous appropriations measures. Additional committee work on Wednesday resulted in passage of the following bills:

-HB 1382 by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson and Rep. Larry Ferguson would allow the State Board of Education to grant emergency exemptions to school districts during a financial crisis. Those exemptions may not include federal requirements, teacher salary, retirement, licensure, certification, student testing and certain reporting requirements.

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

-HB 1099 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson and Rep. Larry Rice would establish a voluntary vaccination program through the bioterrorism division of the State Health Department for first responders.

• In the House on Wednesday the Revenue and Taxation Committee killed SJR 11 by Rep. Ray McCarter and Sen. Mike Johnson calling for a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment to allow school district patrons to decide whether to increase the local levy for schools from 10 to 20 mills. Other measures that did win support at the committee level included:

-SB 660 by Rep. Fred Perry and Sen. Glenn Coffee which is aimed at unsolicited emails, known as “spam.” Under this measure, it would be a violation of state law to send unsolicited commercial electronic mail messages without the consent of the recipient by the person if there is not an established business relationship. The measure would also require any email containing sexually explicit material or advertising sexually explicate goods or services to use the characters “ADV-ADULT” as the first 10 characters in the subject line.

-SB 386 by Rep. Debbie Blackburn and Sen. Herb Rozell which would raise the fee on a vehicle collision report from $7 to $14. The measure would also raise the driver record fee from $10 to $20.

Thursday, March 20th

• The Senate convened at 9 a.m. on Thursday. The only measure taken up was HB 1748 by Senator Mike Morgan and Representative Bill Nations, allowing OU and OSU to raise tuition to no more than that of the average charged by other Big 12 conference schools. Regional and two-year colleges could raise their tuition to just below the average of their peer institutions. The measure was approved 32 to 9. The Senate will reconvene at 1:30, Monday the 24th.

Other News

• On Wednesday, Democratic leaders of the Senate and House joined Republican Senate leaders and Governor Brad Henry in announcing an emergency funding agreement. The agreement included $7.2 million for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to prevent Medicaid cuts for more than 139,000 Oklahomans. A $9 million emergency appropriation to the Department of Corrections was made to reduce furloughs of prison guards for the remainder of the year. Other emergency funding included $100,000 for the Office of Juvenile Affairs, $1 million for the Office of State finance and $477,000 for the Oklahoma Tax Commission.