The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, March 24 to Thursday, March 27, 2003

Monday, March 24th

• The Senate convened at 1:30 p.m. on Monday. Although the Senate was in the second week of committee consideration of House measures, there were measures awaiting floor action. One that was not approved on Monday was HB 1467, which is the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act by Representative William Paulk and Senator Angela Monson. The final vote was 24 to 20 with Senator Monson making a motion to reconsider the vote on a future legislative date. Among those measures receiving approval from the Senate on Monday:

-HB 1241 by Sen. Mike Morgan, Sen. Ben Robinson, Rep. Bill Mitchell and Rep. Jack Bonny contained emergency supplemental appropriations, including $9 million for the Department of Corrections, $477,000 for the Oklahoma Tax Commission, $100,000 for the Office of Juvenile Affairs and $1 million for the Office of State Finance.

-HB 1245 by Morgan, Robinson, Mitchell and Bonny also dealt with emergency appropriations for the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System by transferring $600,000 from the Judicial Fund.

-HB 1246 by Morgan, Robinson, Mitchell and Bonny would transfer $7.2 million from the Department of Human Services to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

• The House continued working on Senate measures awaiting committee action, but also approved the following measures in the chamber on Monday:

-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 589 by Rep. Paul Roan and Sen. Jeff Rabon would direct the Department of Human Services to provide government surplus food to senior nutrition sites.

Tuesday, March 25th

• On Tuesday the Senate continued working through House bills awaiting committee action. Among those winning approval:

-HB 1385 by Sen. Robert Milacek and Rep. Larry Ferguson calls for a vote of the people on whether to pass a temporary fuel tax increase to be phased in over a period of two years for gasoline and three years for diesel. The funds would be earmarked for transportation.

-HB 1014 by Sen. Kevin Easley and Rep. Robert Worthen would require licensed retail sellers of low-point beer kegs to affix an identification seal that displays an identification number and any other information required by the Oklahoma Tax Commission to each beer keg. The tag could be used to determine where the keg was purchased should it be found in the possession of a minor.

-HB 1734 by Sen. Ben Robinson and Rep. Dale Wells would create the Bryar Wheeler Act. Under the legislation, convicted felons, alcoholics, drug addicts and the mentally unstable would be considered unfit guardians of children.

-HB 1707 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson and Rep. Dale Turner requiring law enforcement and the district attorney to notify the superintendent of a school district of the arrest and any charges filed against a student or employee. The district would be able to take any action deemed necessary providing it is in compliance with the requirements of the Family Education Right to Privacy Act of 1974.

• The House of Representatives gave approval to Senate Bill 325 on Tuesday by Senator Robert Milacek and Representative Greg Piatt. The measure would increase fines and punishment for driving without adequate vehicle insurance. Various House committees continued working through Senate measures. Among those approved :

-SB 835 by Rep. Randall Erwin and Sen. Frank Shurden calls for a vote of the people on whether to amend the statewide ban against cockfighting to reduce the penalties for violators from a felony to a misdemeanor.

-SB 565 by Rep. Mike Reynolds and Sen. Glen Coffee would require computer technicians to report any instance of child pornography they discover while repairing a machine.

-SB 833 by Rep. M.C. Leist would require that individuals found guilty of damaging an animal facility property to pay full restitution for those damages. Those individuals could be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail.

-SB 288 by Rep. Paul Roan and Sen. Jay Paul Gumm would establish a moratorium on issuance of temporary permits for the use of groundwater. Existing permits would not be affected by the legislation.

Wednesday, March 26th

• On Wednesday, the full Senate considered House Bill 1278 by Representative Ron Kirby and Senator Cal Hobson which would refer to a vote of the people a measure creating a statewide lottery with proceeds earmarked for education. The measure was approved 26 to 19, but will be held on general order for up to three legislative days after Senator Mike Fair made a motion to reconsider the passage of HB 1278 on a future legislative date. Other measures approved included:

-HB 1467 by Sen. Angela Monson and Rep. William Paulk creating the Oklahoma Catastrophic Health Emergency Planning Task Force won approval on a second vote, having failed to win the support necessary on Monday.

-SCR 16 by Sen. David Myers expressing concern for citizens dependent on the waters of the Chikaskia River and supporting efforts in the State of Kansas to prevent location of any solid waste landfill within a five-mile radius of the river.

-HB 1542 by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm and Rep. Joe Sweeden would extend the State Board of Examiners of Psychologists through July 1, 2009.

• Measures winning approval in the House of Representatives on Wednesday included Senate Bill 429 by Rep. James Covey and Sen. Owen Laughlin which would create tax credits for ethanol production plants. The measure was amended to provide that clean air mandates by the EPA on oil refineries be subject to a tax credit. Other measures winning approval in committee:

-SB 231 by Rep. Kevin Calvey and Sen. Jim Reynolds relates to revenue and taxation and would exempt from lien tax sale certain property of individuals defined as totally disabled.

-SB 520 by Rep. Barbara Staggs and Sen. Ben Robinson would allow the State Regents for Higher Education to create a program aimed at providing tuition grants to state students attending private higher education institutions. Language in the measure provides the program would not be implemented until funds are available.

-SB 596 by Rep. Al Lindley and Sen. Keith Leftwich would allow students graduating from Oklahoma high schools to qualify for resident tuition rates at state colleges and universities regardless of their parents’ immigration status.

-SB 267 by Rep. James Covey and Sen. Gilmer Capps would determine the value of property for the purpose of determining qualification for tax credits for space transportation vehicle providers.

Thursday, March 27th

The Senate met briefly before adjourning so that committees could continue hearing legislation. Deadline for committee action on measures from the House is Thursday, April 3rd. The Senate will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 31st.

Other News

• Governor Brad Henry and Democrat and Republican leaders of both chambers announced they had reached an agreement to refinance state bond debt. The officials projected the refinancing agreement could save the state as much as $90 million which could be used in other areas to help replace funds lost as a result of the budget shortfall.

• Former state Senator Gene Stipe was charged in U.S. District Court on Wednesday with felony counts of conspiracy and perjury as well as a misdemeanor count of conspiracy. The charges are a result of an investigation into former State Representative Walt Roberts’ 1998 congressional campaign. The counts focus on illegal contributions of $250,000 and the attempt to conceal the source of those funds.