The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
For the week of Monday, February 9 to Thursday, February 13, 2004

Monday, February 9th

• Members of the Senate were busy hearing legislation in their respective committees. Among the pieces of legislation heard were the following:

-CS for SB 1425 by Sen. Bernest Cain would permit the Oklahoma State Board of Education to require school districts to replace beverage and snack machines with no or low nutritional value in elementary and middle schools with snacks the meet the nutrition standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bill passed by an 8-0 vote.

-CS for SB 1346 by Sen. Angela Monson relates to the voting process. The measure would provide for an identification card or driver license number to be placed on the voter registration card. SB 1346 would also modify language included on the registration form and would require identification prior to voting. It would provide provisional ballots to be made available in all elections conducted by the county election board, as well as many other items that would help bring Oklahoma into compliance under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The bill passed by a 13-0 vote.

-CS for SB 7 by Sen. Gilmer Capps would declare the Oklahoma Rose as the official Oklahoma State Flower. In 1927, the flower was hybridized by a professor from Oklahoma State University. The bill passed by a 13-0 vote.

-SB 1392 as amended by Sen. Owen Laughlin would allow the courts to order a defendant to reimburse all actual costs of incarceration if the defendant is convicted or upon entry of a deferred judgment and sentence. The bill received a unanimous vote of 14-0.

-CS for SB 1112 as amended by Sen. Kenneth Corn would limit the length of a technology center school district board member’s term of office to five years. The bill passed 14-1.

-SB 1271 as amended by Sen. Glenn Coffee would allow technology centers to offer college prepatory programs with an emphasis on a focused field of study. The bill authorizes students in the 10th grade and beyond to be eligible for the programs for up to one-half of a school day and receive credit for the classes. SB 1271 also allows a student to take competency exams to test out of certain classes. The bill passed 14-0.

-CS for SB 1627 as amended by Cain would create the Healthy and Fit Kids Act of 2004. The measure would establish a Safe and Healthy School Advisory Committee to be present at each public school site, which would focus on issues affecting the health and well being of children. The measure is intended to help address the impact of obesity on society. SB 1627 passed with a vote of 14-1.

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

-HB 2253 by Rep. Mike O’Neal would provide certification of documents that are electronically transmitted. The measure would authorize the use of electronic transmittal for certain documents.

-HB 2167 by Rep. Ray Young would allow a school district superintendent or the
board of education of a school district to request the Department of Public Safety
to suspend the driving privileges of a student -- or the right to apply for driving privileges -- if the student is at least 15 years of age and has been expelled for bringing a weapon to school, or has been suspended at least twice for assaulting a school employee or another student. The measure received a do pass recommendation.

-HB 2280 by Rep. William R. Paulk creates the Homeland Security Act. The bill outlines the duties and responsibilities of the office as well as compensation and retirement. The title was stricken and the measure passed.

-HB 2692 as amended by Rep. Larry Ferguson would require cost-of- living increases for specified public retirement systems to be approved by the board of trustees. Three amendments were made to the bill and the bill was laid over for further consideration.

Tuesday, February 10th

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

• A draft of a third Conference Committee Substitute for SB 553 by President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson and Speaker of the House Larry Adair, which creates the State Tribal Gaming Act, was created. The draft contains language related to an agreement between the state, the horse racing industry and the American Indian tribes.

Numerous measures were considered by Senate committees on Tuesday, including:

-SB 860 as amended by Sen. Angela Monson would change the new income limitation requiring people to notify the county assessor from $25,000 to the value determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The bill was unanimously approved.

-SJR 30 by Monson would allow for a vote of the people concerning a constitutional amendment to lift the property tax assessment freeze. The measure also passed unanimously.

-SB 1247 as amended by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm would require companies receiving incentive monies from the state to repay the amount if the company leaves Oklahoma within 10 years. It would require taxpayers to repay amounts received as incentive payments or reductions in tax liability. The measure would not apply to companies that go bankrupt. The bill passed by an 8 to 1 vote.

-SB 1543 by Sen. Mike Morgan would allow low-point beer vendors to receive a single license to operate multiple stands at an event or venue. The bill passed by a 9 to 1 vote.

-SB 892 as amended by Sen. Jeff Rabon would allow counties to levy a tax not to exceed one cent on gasoline and diesel fuel sales. The tax must be approved by a majority of the registered voters in the county proposing the tax increase. He title was stricken and the bill passed by an 8 to 2 vote.

-CS for SB 1228 would add rural water districts and nonprofit water corporations to the list of groups entitled to participate in the State and Education Employees Group Health and Life Insurance Plans with less than 100 percent participation of their employees and board members. The committee substitute was approved by a 5 to 3 vote.

-SB 1134 by Kenneth Corn would allow benefit increases for those benefiting from the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System, the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System, the Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges, the OK Law Enforcement Retirement System, the Teacher’s Retirement System of OK, and the OK Public Employees Retirement System. The bill would allow the Legislature to view the functions of each system and then determine the increases that can be made. SB 1134 received a do pass recommendation with an 8 to 0 vote.

-SB 1177 as amended by Sen. Frank Shurden would create the Relief Credits Act. The measure would establish an application process as well as procedures for evalution by the Pardon and Parole Board to grant credits toward early release of inmates. SB 1177 would also require a standard percentage rate to reduce sentence length by class or type of offense. The bill passed by unanimous consent.

-CS for SB 1164 by Sen. Mike Johnson would create the Oklahoma Identity Theft Passport Program as well as expunge records related to crimes arising from identity theft. The bill passed.

-SB 1413 by Sen. Glenn Coffee would remove time limitations in relation to rape. The bill includes sodomy performed by a school employee on a child among the forcible sodomy definitions, regardless of whether or not the act was consensual. The bill passed.

-SJR 37 as amended by Sen. Richard Lerblance would call for a vote of the people to remove the Governor from the parole process and give authority to the Pardon and Parole Board to grant paroles for criminal felony offenses. The bill passed.

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

-HB 2176 by Rep. John Nance would add pseudoephedrine to the Schedule 5 list of narcotics. The bill will be called the “Trooper Nicky Green Act” in honor of the officer who was killed by a methamphetamine cook in western Oklahoma. The bill passed.

-HB 2324 by Rep. Kevin Cox would prohibit property and casualty companies from increasing rates in certain circumstances. The bill passed.

-CS for HB 2434 by Rep. Jari Askins would set a limit on claims covered by the Oklahoma Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association and would assess a premium tax on CompSource Oklahoma. The bill passed.

-HB 2504 by Rep. Elmer Maddux would allow abandoned burial plots that have been forgotten to be sold. The measure provides guidelines under which an abandoned burial plot could revert to private or public cemetery use. The plot could not be claimed unless 75 years or more had passed since the last recorded activity. The bill passed the committee.

Wednesday, February 11th

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

-SB 1106 as amended by Sen. Kenneth Corn would increase the amount of flexible benefit allowance for individual school district employees to 100 percent of the premium amount for the OSEEGIB HealthChoice option plan. According to the author, the measure would provide a mechanism for full funding for teachers’ health insurance, which was originally provided for during the 2002 legislative session. The measure was passed with the title stricken.

-CS for SB 1272 as amended by Corn and Rep. Terry Harrison would increase minimum salaries for teachers and add additional year steps to the teacher pay schedule. The title was stricken and the measure was passed.

-SB 1117 as amended by Corn would allow a pilot project for the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics to be established during the 2004-2005 school year at the Poteau campus of Carl Albert State College.

-SB 1212 as amended by Sen. Jim Maddox states legislative intent for the continuing of funding for the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative. It would also create the Oklahoma Wind Power Assessment Committee.

-CS for SB 1456 as amended by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson would require the state Board of Education to establish a program that would test students for dyslexia and would require school districts to provide treatment for students with dyslexia.

-SB 1490 as amended by Sen. Mike Morgan would create the Oklahoma Child Lead Poisoning Prevention Act. The act provides incentives for families with children of age of six years and under to be able to relocate outside of contaminated, former mining areas. According to the author, the bill provides a vehicle for residents near the Tar Creek Superfund site to relocate. Specifically, it would create a voluntary relocation program for families with small children who live in the center of areas that are contaminated by mine waste. The bill’s title was stricken and it was passed out of the subcommittee.

-SB 1107 as amended by Sen. Daisy Lawler would create a one-year moratorium on collection of waste tires. The measure would also establish personal, corporate and other legal entity liability for conservation or remediation projects for 10 years. The author said the measure is intended to replenish the Waste Tire Recycling Indemnity Fund with an appropriation of $1.5 million. The bill was amended to make the period of liability five years, rather than 10, and was passed.

-SB 1347 as amended by Sen. Mark Snyder, Sen. Penny Williams and Rep. Dale Wells would create the Oklahoma Art In Public Places Act. The act would establish a special committee within the Oklahoma Historical Society that would be responsible for recommending the implementation of art in public places. The bill was amended to make its effective date Sept. 1, 2004, and was passed.

-SB 1557 as amended by Sen. Robert M. Kerr would authorize additional assistance to the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority. The bill would also allow the committee chair to remove a member who has missed three consecutive meetings. A minor amendment was made to clarify language in the bill. The bill passed out of committee.

-SB 1096 as amended by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm would decrease the amount of time required for a person to register under the Sex Offender’s Registration Act and would require this person to register if his or her spouse lives in Oklahoma. The bill passed out of committee.

-SB 1168 as amended by Sen. Daisy Lawler would increase the penalty for identity theft to $100,000. The bill passed out of committee.

-SB 1199 as amended by Sen. Frank Shurden would provide for chemical castration of persons convicted of certain sex crimes. The bill passed out of committee.

-SB 1256 as amended by Sen. Ben Robinson would modify certain penalties and provide for the suspension of certain license for three or more employee violations of the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act. Several minor amendments were made to clarify language. The bill passed out of committee.

-SB 848 by Sen. Bruce Price and Rep. Larry Ferguson would remove the size restriction on rural electric cooperatives from being exempt from certain Corporation Commission rate regulations. The bill and emergency passed on the Senate floor by a vote of 45-0.

-SJR 48 as amended by Sen. Debbe Leftwich would direct the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth to work with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Department of Human Services and and the Department of Corrections to study the living conditions of children of incarcerated women and make recommendations that would help restore opportunities for the children to live healthy and productive lives.

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

-HB 2108 by Rep. M.C. Leist would prevent an increase in the Nursing Facilities Quality of Care Fee without legislative consent. The measure passed unanimously.

-HB 2591 by Rep. Jim Wilson would establish a pilot program for the delivery of inpatient mental health services to inmates in the custody of the Department of Corrections for treatment of drug dependency. The author said the drug treatment program would cost approximately $705,000. An amendment that would have established new co-payment guidelines was defeated. However, the measure passed unanimously.

-HB 1847 by Rep. Susan Winchester would create the “Missing Angels Act.” The act would require a “stillbirth” certificate to be filed for each fetal death that occurs after a pregnancy of at least 20 completed weeks. The bill would change the certificate of fetal death that is currently issued in such cases to one of “stillbirth.”

-HB 2306 as amended by Rep. Rebecca Hamilton would authorize an option for patients to donate blood extracted from the umbilical cord following the delivery of a newborn child. The blood from umbilical cords is often used in stem cell research. The bill was amended to become the “Danielle Martinez Act.”

-CS for HB 2250 as amended by Rep. William R. Paulk would increase certain court fees, deposits additional revenues in the Trauma Care Assistance Revolving Fund and would require an annual disbursement from the fund. An amendment to clarify language were made and approved. A request was also made, and granted by the chair, to specify that only the increase in court fees would be collected for the fund. The committee substitute passed.

-HB 2642 by Rep. Barbara Staggs would authorize the State Board of Career and Technology Education to conduct performance audits of technology center school districts and to establish terms of office for members of the boards of educations of technology center school districts. A committee substitute adding several sections to the bill, and an amendment preventing the Department of Education from requesting a performance audit, were proposed and passed. The bill passed and will be reported as a committee substitute.

-HB 2632 by Rep. Randall Erwin would call for a vote of the people on a proposed tax increase for gasoline and diesel fuels, respectively. Testimony in support of the measure was offered by the director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. The measure passed by a vote of seven to four.

-HB 1886, which was introduced by Rep. Thad Balkman, would change state law to ban local governments from taxing services that are not taxed by the state. The measure is intended to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries -- a longtime cause of the author -- and other services that may be taxed. The measure awaits a hearing by the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation.

Thursday, February 12th

• The Senate met briefly at 9:00 a.m. 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. Reagan will be 93 years of age.

Other News

• Gov. Brad Henry held a press conference announcing his support of a statewide vote on a cigarette tax increase on Monday, February 9th. The 52-cent per pack tax increase could potentially raise $130 million, which would be specifically earmarked to provide health care for approximately 200,000 uninsured Oklahomans as well as to help create a world-class cancer research center and enhance the state’s trauma care system. Henry’s measure would remove the local and state sales tax, which amounts to 25-cents per pack and would reduce the advantage tribal smoke shops currently have in cigarette sales.

• Also on Monday, Sen. Debbe Leftwich presented Jim Thorpe Award winner Derrick Strait with SR 36, commending the former OU cornerback for his 2003 performance. The Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented by the Jim Thorpe Association, honors the nation’s most outstanding college defensive back.

• Sen. Charles Ford, President of the Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. dedicated another painting on Tuesday, February 10th. The dedication was part of the organization’s ongoing effort to create original works of art for the Capitol that depict scenes from Oklahoma history and are created by Oklahoma artists. The beautiful painting by artist Mike Wimmer of Norman was dedicated in honor of the late Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher. Fisher, an African-American woman, was perhaps known best for her fight to gain admittance to the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law in the late 1940s. Fisher eventually was admitted to -- and graduated from -- the OU College of Law and passed the state bar exam in 1951. Sen. Penny Williams sponsored the painting, which was dedicated in the midst of Black History Month.