The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
Monday, March 22 through Thursday March 25, 2004

Monday, March 22nd

• The Senate was working through bills in committee, but also considered legislation on the Senate floor. Among the measures passed are the following:

-HB 2176 as amended by Sen. Dick Wilkerson and Rep. John Nance would add psuedoephedrine in tablet form to the schedule 5 narcotics list. Psuedoephedrine is a main component in the manufacturing of methamphetamines, but liquid forms, gelcaps and children’s medications containing the drug cannot be used in the manufacturing. The bill passed 45-0. It will now go to the House of Representatives for final consideration before moving to the Governor’s office for his signature.

• The following measures were approved by committee on Monday:

-HB 2673 by Sen. Sam Helton and Rep. Joe Dorman would require members of a municipal governing body to attend a workshop on parliamentary procedures and would create the Municipal Government Workshop Board. The measure passed 14-0.

-HB 2686 as amended by Sen. Jonathan Nichols, Rep. Joe Dorman, and Rep. Jerry Hefner would specify a time period for payment for Rural Ambulance Service Districts. The bill was approved 13-0.

-HB 2211 by Sen. Bruce Price and Rep. Debbie Blackburn would allow counties to place county-owned land into a public trust in which the county is the beneficiary. The bill passed.

-HB 2352 as amended by Sen. Debbe Leftwich and Rep. Chris Benge would require an individual to possess an instruction permit for six months before being able to obtain a driver license. The bill was given a do pass recommendation.

-HB 2243 by Sen. Cliff Aldridge and Rep. Lance Cargill would increase the fine for transporting an open container from $50 to $200. The bill passed.

-HB 2128 by Sen. Richard Lerblance and Rep. Danny Morgan would allow winemakers to charge for samples which are currently free but the maker still has to pay taxes on the wine. The measure was given a do pass recommendation.

• The House was also working to get bills through committee as well as considered legislation on the floor. Among those measures that were heard:

-SB 1110 by Sen. Bernest Cain and Rep. Darrell Gilbert would allow the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth to appoint one member of the Child Advocacy Centers Inc. to a Child Abuse Training and Coordination Council. The bill and emergency clause passed 97-0.

-SB 1383 by Sen. Angela Monson and Rep. Clay Pope would exempt the sales of admission tickets for any Big 12 Conference championship sporting event from state sales taxes. The title was restored. The bill and emergency clause passed 97-0.

• The following measures were approved by committee on Monday:

-SB 1405 as amended by Sen. Penny Williams and Rep. Al Lindley would create the 2-1-1 Helpline Act that would be coordinated through the Department of Human Services. The bill passed committee.

-SB 1589 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson and Rep. Bob Plunk would allow the performance of drug screens on specimens in the custody of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner as well as establish a system of fees to be charged for forensic services provided to the public. The measure passed committee.

-SB 1495 by Sen. Kenneth Corn and Rep. Gary Taylor would prohibit members of the Rural Fire Protection Districts from strikes, work stoppage or slow downs. The measure received a do pass recommendation.

-SB 1210 by Sen. Ben Robinson and Rep. Opio Toure would change the assignment of child support benefits to allow benefits to go freely to the beneficiary. The measure also repeals sections of the statute that conflict with federal mandates. The bill passed.

-SB 1471 by Sen. Mike Morgan and Rep. David Braddock would create a seven-member commission to review contracts between out-of-state vendors and private prison contractors that house out-of-state inmates. The measure received a do pass recommendation.

• Governor Brad Henry signed SB 2007 by Rep. Jack Bonny, Rep. Bill Mitchell, Sen. Mike Morgan and Sen. Ben Robinson, which specifies general appropriations for the expenses of various state agencies of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the state. The $5.3 billion appropriation includes funds to pay 100 percent of teachers’ health insurance.


Tuesday, March 23rd

• The Senate met in committee on Tuesday and heard the following legislation:

-HB 2661 as amended by Sen. Cal Hobson, Rep. Larry Adair, and Rep. Wayne Pettigrew is the tort reform bill, which would require attorney fees in class action lawsuits to include non-cash benefits under certain provisions, would allow the court to decline to exercise jurisdiction in class action suits, would provide for product liability, creates the “Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation”, establishes a new business docket for business courts of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, among other things. The measure passed 8-0.

-HB 2660 by Sen. Cal Hobson and Rep. Larry Adair would provide for a levy of tax on the sale of cigarettes and provide for apportionment of funds. The bill does not currently include the tobacco tax increase, but it gives the Oklahoma voters the chance to decide whether they want to increase the tobacco tax by a net of 52 cents per pack to finance health care improvements. The bill passed.

-HB 2632 by Sen. Robert Milacek and Rep. Randall Erwin would call for a vote of the people to raise the tax on gasoline by 5 cents per gallon and raise diesel fuel taxes to 8 cents per gallon during a three-year period. The bill passed by a vote of 9-1.

-HB 2143 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson and Rep. Dale Wells would exempt veterans with a U.S. military service connected 100 percent disability and their spouses from paying vehicle excise tax. The measure was reported do pass.

-HB 2528 by Sen. James Williamson and Rep. Ray Vaughn would require the Administrative Director of the Courts to establish a standard visitation schedule. The measure passed 6-0.

-HB 2295 by Sen. Owen Laughlin and Rep. Gus Blackwell would require inmates to pay the costs of incarceration and would remove a hardship exception. The bill would cap costs at $3,000 that could be paid over a period of time and would allow courts to pursue civil action to collect costs. The measure failed 3-3.

-HB 2307 by Sen. Bernest Cain and Rep. Rebecca Hamilton would require an investigation and report regarding the background and home of prospective guardians. The bill passed.

-HB 2263 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield and Rep. Danny Hilliard would include any organization that is designated as a youth services agency in the Governmental Tort Claims Act. The bill passed 7-0.

• The House took committee action on several bills.

-CS for SB 1119 as amended by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm and Rep. David Braddock would change the way telecommunications providers in Oklahoma are regulated. The measure would create a system called "market-based parity," in which the market and consumers would determine prices rather than regulation. Supporters say that competition among telephone companies should keep prices low. In the version of the bill that passed the Senate, the measure would place into state law a provision that would allow all of Oklahoma to benefit from competition in the major metropolitan area. The bill provides that the highest local phone rate charged in rural Oklahoma by the state's largest phone company could be no more than the lowest rate charged in the metropolitan areas. The measure was given a do pass recommendation with a vote of 22-3.

-CS for SB 903 as amended by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield and Rep. Danny Hilliard would create the Oklahoma Water Resources Development Plan and would divide the state into 11 regional water-planning districts. The bill passed.

-SB 1185 by Sen. Frank Shurden and Rep. Glen Bud Smithson would prohibit confiscation of firearms under certain circumstances and states conditions for confiscation of the firearm. The bill received a do pass recommendation.

-SB 1397 by Sen. Ben Robinson and Rep. David Braddock would allow a victim to take civil action against their sexual offender within five years of the offender’s release from incarceration. The bill received a do pass recommendation.

• Governor Brad Henry signed the following pieces of legislation on Tuesday:
-SB 1894 by Rep. Jack Bonny and Sen. Gilmer Capps establishes the Oklahoma Aerospace Business Development Act of 2004 and would provide income tax credits for qualified space transportation vehicle providers.
-SB 848 by Sen. Bruce Price and Rep. Larry Ferguson removes the size restriction on rural electric cooperatives from being exempt from certain Corporation Commission rate regulations.
-SB 890 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield and Rep. Danny Hilliard allows a peace officer with CLEET training, but not employed by a municipality, to teach driver improvement or defensive driving courses.


Wednesday, March 24th

• The Senate took committee action on several bills Wednesday. Among those were the following pieces of legislation:

-HB 2624 as amended by Sen. Daisy Lawler and Rep. Jari Askins would require state Regents for Higher Education to provide resident college credit courses and programs. The bill would also require lower and upper division courses for completion of a Masters degree to be offered at Cameron University in Duncan. The bill passed.

-CS for HB 2334 as amended by Sen. Daisy Lawler and Rep. Barbara Staggs would establish the Oklahoma Mathematics Initiative that would consist of the development of mathematics training modules and administration of summer math academies to be offered to teachers. The bill was approved.

-HB 2403 as amended by Sen. David Myers and Rep. Ray Young would create the Oklahoma Juvenile Drug Court Act and would include every juvenile offender with a treatable condition or addiction. The measure was approved.

-HB 2718 as amended by Sen. Jim Reynolds and Rep. Kevin Calvey would require a child protective services worker to advise the accused of the specific complaint against the individual. The measure was approved.

-HB 1866 as amended by Sen. Bernest Cain and Rep. Darrell Gilbert would create the Utilization of Unused Prescription Medications Act and would expand the unused prescription drug pilot program to include pharmacies under contract with county health departments or the State Department of Health. The bill passed unanimously.

-HB 2382 as amended by Sen. Ben Robinson and Rep. Wayne Pettigrew would create the Oklahoma Trauma Services Act and the Oklahoma Trauma Care System Advisory Council. The bill also included fines for open container charges to be increased from $50 to $100.

-HB 2552 as amended by Sen. Debbe Leftwich and Rep. Danny Hilliard would create the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Revolving Fund. The bill passed.

-CS for HB 2280 as amended by Sen. Dick Wilkerson and Rep. Bill Paulk would create the Homeland Security Act. The measure states responsibilities of the office and provides for compensation and retirement. The measure received a do pass recommendation.

-HB 2121 as amended by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm and Rep. Robert Worthen relates to the sale of drug paraphernalia. The measure would establish maximum fines of $1,000 upon the first conviction, $5,000 for the second conviction and $10,000 upon the third or subsequent convictions. The bill would allow a jury to determine if an object is drug paraphernalia and prohibits the sale of paraphernalia for the intent of ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introducing marijuana, cocaine, hashish or hashish oil into the body. The bill received a do pass recommendation.

-CS for HB 2626 as amended by Sen. Debbe Leftwich and Rep. Jari Askins would increase the punishment for those convicted of spousal or child abuse for not more than one year and increases the maximum fine to $5,000. Upon a second conviction, the offender would spend not more than four years in a correctional facility and fined not more than $5,000. The bill passed.

-HB 2663 as amended by Sen. Kenneth Corn and Rep. Larry Adair would allow candidate to file declarations of candidacy in the county in which they reside. The measure passed the full Senate by a vote of 46-0.

-HB 1874 by Sen. Bruce Price and Rep. Ron Langmacher would prohibit the Commissioner of Labor from developing rules for the abatement of friable asbestos materials more stringent than federal standards and other requirements under U.S.C., Section 2641 et. seq. for Asbestos Emergency Hazard Response. The bill passed 47-0.

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

-SB 1551 by Sen. Charlie Laster and Rep. Joe Dorman would eliminate the capital gains tax on qualified Oklahoma property as well as lower the maximum income tax. The bill was approved.

-CS for SB 1490 by Sen. Mike Morgan and Rep. Larry Roberts would create the Oklahoma Child Lead Poisoning Prevention Act. The measure was reported as do pass.

-SB 472 by Sen. Robert Kerr and Rep. Purcy Walker would require that a licensed architect be hired for building projects costing more than $100,000. the bill received a do pass recommendation.

-SB 1310 as amended by Sen. Cliff Branan and Rep. Susan Winchester would require the State Department of Education to establish a program to provide a performance bonus to certain teachers. The measure would reward teachers who have scored in the top 5 percent of Oklahoma schools on the Academic Performance Index by giving them a bonus equal to 50 percent of their base salary. The measure failed and the committee voted to report progress.

-CS for SB 1592 as amended by Sen. Angela Monson and Rep. Opio Toure would create the Legislative Task Force on Patient Safety and would study the feasibility of legislative or regulatory efforts designed to improve patient safety. The measure received a do pass recommendation.

Thursday, March 25th

• The Senate convened at 9:30 a.m. and will reconvene on Monday, March 29th at 1:30 p.m.

Other News

• Representatives John Trebilcock and Fred Morgan took the first step to impeach Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher by filing a resolution Wednesday that would initiate the impeachment proceedings. House Resolution 1040 calls for the creation of a Special Investigative Committee in the state House of Representatives to conduct a “comprehensive and detailed study and investigation to determine whether Articles of Impeachment should be preferred” for Fisher.

• The dedication of the Oklahoma City Community College Keith Leftwich Memorial Library was dedicated Thursday at the college. Many members attended the ceremony in honor of late Senator Keith Leftwich.

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