The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, February 2 to Thursday, February 5, 2004

Monday, February 2

• The second session of the 49th Oklahoma Legislature formally convened, gathering in a joint Senate-House meeting to receive the annual State of the State address. However, before the Senate adjourned to the House of Representatives, State Senator Sam Helton struck SB 1130 from the Senate agenda. The bill pertained to mandatory pet spay and neutering.

• In the State of the State address Governor Brad Henry outlined his goals to enhance Oklahoma’s education system as well as continue efforts to drive positive economic growth.

Among some of his recommendations:

-Improve the state’s teacher compensation package by increasing salaries to the regional average, fully funding health care benefits for educators and pay for national certification bonuses. Henry also proposed a $1,000 stipend to teachers who complete a summer program that enhances teacher development in math and a $2 million appropriation for the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness.

-Full funding of the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), which provides college scholarships to students who do well in high school and stay out of trouble as well as full funding of endowed chairs at state colleges and universities.

-Enhance health care services such as the expansion of Medicaid coverage to include breast and cervical cancer treatments; the creation of a world-class cancer treatment center; as well as the enhancement of the statewide trauma care system.

-The increase of the cigarette tax by $0.52 to help fund the cancer research center.

-Tax relief to include the elimination of the capital gains taxes on Oklahoma-based property, increase retirees' income tax exemptions and permanently reduce the state income tax rate to 6.65 percent.

-Tort reform was also mentioned in the Governor’s address and centered around a comprehensive initiative that will abolish frivolous lawsuits as part of an effort to make Oklahoma’s civil justice system a model for the nation.

Tuesday, February 3

• With attention focused on getting measures assigned and heard by committees by the February 19th deadline, the Senate met briefly on Tuesday.

Numerous measures were considered by Senate committees on Tuesday including:

-SB 1290 by Sen. Bruce Price would require a test for HIV and hepatitis C upon request of either party obtaining a marriage license. The title was stricken and the bill passed 6-0.

-SB 1091 by Sen. Glenn Coffee would require computer images of children engaged in sexual conduct to be reported to a local law enforcement agency by any computer or computer systems technician, repair person, maintenance person or installer that may find such images. The bill passed 6-0.

-SB 1220 by Sen. Jonathan Nichols would clarify existing law and require the governor to set a new execution date under circumstances such as grounds for claim of ineffective counsel. Sen. Nichols said the bill does not change the time frame of the execution dates. The bill passed 6-0.

-SB 1509 by Sen. Jerry Smith would allow the Oklahoma Sentencing Commission to recommend rules for the Oklahoma Drug Court Act. The title was stricken and the bill passed 5-0.

-SB 1186 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson would allow county commissioners to set curfews and have violators prosecuted in certain municipal courts. The bill would prevent counties from setting criminal law as well as allow them to assess civil penalties instead of jail time. The measure was laid over.

• The House on Tuesday heard second reading of bills, with committees considering several bills, including the following measures:

-The House passed House Resolution 1030, which commends Oklahomans who are stationed stateside and overseas in the armed forces for their service in the war with Iraq. The resolution singled out former state Rep. Hopper Smith who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade.

-HB 2136 by Rep. Ray Miller would create the “Construction Defect Remediation Act.” The measure pertains to homeowner complaints about defects in a newly built house. It would allow homeowners and contractors to reach an agreement on the repairs so as to avoid a civil lawsuit. HB 2136 has been assigned to the House Committee on Judiciary.

-HB 2215 pertains to E-mail solicitations. It would require any unsolicited commercial E-mail message to include an automatic return mechanism to enable the recipient to send a reply without retyping the sender’s email address. The bill is an extension of last year’s HB 1691 that requires senders of unsolicited E-mail spam to remove recipient’s addresses upon request. A similar bill was signed last year in the Senate – SB 660 among other things also requires any sender of sexually explicit material or advertising to include “ADV-ADULT” in the subject line. HB 2215 was assigned to the Science and Technology Committee.

-HB 2284 by Rep. Kevin Cox and HB 2503 by Rep. Fred Perry both pertain to identity theft and would make it illegal to use personal identifying information of another individual, living or dead, to avoid summons, arrest, prosecution or to impede a criminal investigation. “Personal identifying information” includes name, date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account numbers, credit/debit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs), etc., that can be obtained to act as identification. Both measures were assigned to the Criminal Justice Committee.

Wednesday, February 4

• Attention continued to be focused on committee action on Wednesday, with committees considering numerous measures, including the following:

-SB 1256 as amended by Sen. Ben Robinson would adjust penalties and provide for suspension of the tobacco license for three or more violations of the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act by employees. The penalty would apply to the employee who sold the tobacco product to minors and any penalty incurred by the owner of the establishment would come after the employee was found in violation three times at the same location. The bill passed by voice vote.

-SB 1096 by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm would decrease the time for a person to register under the Sex Offenders Registration Act and also require the offender to register if their spouse lives in this state. The measure passed by voice vote.
-SB 1136 by Sen. Kenneth Corn would provide a veteran’s preference over non-veterans who have equal retention points if an agency implements a reduction-in-force. The title was stricken and the bill received a do pass.

-SB 267 by Gilmer Capps would extend the amount of time from Jan. 1, 2007 to Jan. 1, 2009 the tax credits already in place for space transportation vehicle providers could be utilized. The bill was granted conference and conferees were named.

-SB 1172 by Kenneth Corn enables the Oklahoma District Attorney to prosecute for child endangerment if any physical evidence of methamphetamine by-products are found on an article of the child’s clothing, toy, etc. If the accused is convicted of child endangerment, the Department of Human Services will take custody of the child. The measure also prohibits the manufacturing of meth within 2,000 feet of a public or private school, university, vocational facility or any other institute of higher education, child care facility, park or recreational areas, and housing projects. The measure passed by a voice vote.

-SB 1199 by Sen. Frank Shurden would provide for chemical castration of persons convicted of sex crimes. The title was stricken and the bill passed by a voice vote.

-SB 1242 by Sen. Daisy Lawler would make the display of social security numbers on particular mailings an illegal act in pursuant to the Consumer Protection Act and identity theft. The bill passed by a voice vote.

-SB 1402 by Sen. Ben Robinson would prohibit harming, killing, or interfering with service dogs that are used for the benefit of handicapped persons. The bill passed by a voice vote.

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

-HB 2149 by Rep. Dale Wells would exempt veterans with a service-connected 100 percent disability as well as include the spouse of a person killed during active U.S. military duty from paying a vehicle excise tax. The measure passed unanimously.

-HB 2401 by Rep. Ray Miller would create the “Oklahoma Surrogate Parentage Act,” which legally validates agreements between married couples who contribute their eggs and sperm to a surrogate mother, who carries the baby to full term for the couple. The bill would not require an adoption procedure by the couple and the court system would supervise the agreements. The measure has not yet been assigned to committee.

-HB 2292 by Rep. Leonard Sullivan would exempt any tickets for admission to a collegiate athletic event that is held in a facility owned or operated by a municipality or a public trust of which the municipality is the sole beneficiary and that actually determines or plays an active role in the tournament or process for determining a conference tournament championship from sales tax. The measure received a do pass recommendation.

-HB 2258 by Rep. Bill Case would give counties the option of enforcing a sales tax on utilities. The bill passed unanimously.

-HJR 1046 by Reps. Case and Clay Pope would create a Constitutional amendment to allow persons 65 or older who have a homestead to be eligible to file for a property tax exemption, which would have an income limit and would also depend upon the population of the county the property is located. The bill passed unanimously.

Thursday, February 5

• The Senate met briefly before adjourning so that committees could continue hearing legislation. The deadline for final action by committees on legislation from the house of origin is February 19th. The full Senate will reconvene on Monday, February 9th at 1:30 p.m.

-The Senate passed Senate Resolution 37 to wish former President Ronald Reagan a happy birthday. His actual date of birth is February 6th and Reagan will be 93 years of age.

Other News

• Senator Charles Ford, President of the Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. dedicated another painting as part of the organization’s ongoing effort to create original artwork for the Capitol depicting scenes from Oklahoma history and created by Oklahoma artist on Monday Feb. 2nd. The painting “The Last Farewell of Wiley Post and Will Rogers,” was painted by Norman artist Mike Wimmer and was a gift from the Paul and Helen Sisk Charitable Trust. The painting was inspired by one of the last photographs of Rogers and Post prior to their fatal plane crash on Aug. 15, 1935 in Point Barrow, Alaska.

• Senator Ford dedicated another painting on Wed. Feb. 4th in the House of Representatives Chamber. The Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. dedicated portraits of Oklahoma’s First Territorial Speaker Arthur N. Daniels, and the state’s first statehood House Speaker William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray. Senator Ford sponsored the painting of Daniels and House Speaker Larry Adair sponsored the painting of Murray. Kathryn Walker Richardson is the artist of both portraits.