The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
Monday, February 13 to Thursday February 16, 2006

Monday, February 13

• Monday, February 13, began the second week of the 2006 legislative session.
Although much of the action continued to be focused at the committee level, legislation was beginning to be heard on third reading as bills emerged. Monday afternoon, the Senate gave full approval to SB 1020, by Sen. Mary Easley. Known as the “Oklahoma Funeral Picketing Act,” the bill would make it a misdemeanor to picket within 500 feet of a cemetery, mortuary or church from one hour before the scheduled commencement of funeral services until one hour after the actual completion of the funeral services. Those convicted could be fined up to $500 and/or be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail.

• Numerous measures were also approved in various Senate Committees on Monday, including the following:

-SB 1644 by Sen. Susan Paddack which will provide an across-the-board $3000 salary increase to all Oklahoma public school teachers and increase merit pay for teachers who seek national certification.

-SB 1754 by Sen. Glenn Coffee which would require businesses who send employees into residences to verify whether that employee is listed on the state’s sex offenders’ registry. If the employee is on the list, the employer must provide written notice to the residents.

-SB 1032 by Sen. Kenneth Corn changes county election board secretaries terms beginning July 1, 2009, from two years to four years and establishes standards to help ensure the most qualified individuals are chosen for those positions as opposed to patronage appointments.

-SB 1088 by Sen. Randy Bass allows state employees who are members of a reserve component to retain their pay for up to 30 days after being called into active duty.

-SB 1613 by Sen. Todd Lamb designates “Mr. Voter,” created by Jim Lange, editorial cartoonist for The Oklahoman newspaper as the official state editorial cartoon.

-CS for SB 1297 by Sen. Frank Shurden granting job protection and guarantee of salary for volunteer firefighters only for emergency situations such as the current wildfires that are declared by the governor. The legislation prohibits employers from taking adverse employment action against an employee providing volunteer firefighting services during such emergencies.

-SB 1869 by Sen. Harry Coates would create a Contractors Licensing Task Force to study how to provide licensing of contractors for construction trades currently not licensed by the state.

• The House also approved numerous measures in committee on Monday, including the following:

-HB 2107 by Rep. Sally Kern creating the Academic Freedom Act to provide rights and protection for public school teachers to present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views in any curricula or course of learning.

-CS for HB 2138 by Rep. Odilia Dank would allow students participating in religious instruction to be counted as being in attendance at school. The measure requires school districts to allow for the release of students for religious instruction for a period not to exceed 60 minutes each week during the school year, on the days and during the school hours the district designates.

-HB 2097 by Rep. Odilia Dank would require that once a year, school districts would offer a professional development program that includes a component of teacher training on recognition and reporting of child abuse and neglect that all teachers would be required to complete.

-HR 1059 by Rep. Paul Wesselhoft designates February 13th as the First Annual Day of Purity “in an effort to restore healthy communities and raise the awareness of sexual abstinence until marriage.”

-HB 2484 by Rep. John Nance would allow the Board of Pharmacy to transfer unused prescription drugs from county jails or state correctional facilities to pharmacies operated by a county.

-CS for HB 2655 by Rep. Susan Winchester creates an Oklahoma Farm-to-School Program to provide fresh locally grown foods to school cafeterias and teach nutrition education.

Tuesday, February 14

• On Tuesday, the full Senate approved HB 1619 by Sen. Debbe Leftwich creating the Oklahoma Quality Investment Act. The bill allows eligible companies to enter into Quality Investment agreements with the Department of Commerce to receive annual investment payments over a five-year period from the Tax Commission of a maximum 10 percent of the amount of actual capital costs invested pursuant to a Quality Investment contract. The measure had previously been approved by the House during the 2005 session and now goes to Gov. Brad Henry for his consideration. Other measures improved include:

-SB 1047 by Sen. Daisy Lawler creating Oklahoma Quarter Horse Special license plates. The plates would cost $35 of which $20 would be deposited in an Oklahoma Quarter Horse Revolving fund to help support any statewide organization dedicated to the promotion of the American Quarter Horse in Oklahoma.

-SB 1716 by Sen. Jonathan Nichols modifies the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act to expand jurisdiction of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the State Attorney General and any district attorney in the state who is authorized to investigate and prosecute computer crimes.

-SCR 39 by Sens. Bernest Cain, Ted Fisher, and David Myers encouraging the President to enact a free trade agreement between the U.S. and the Republic of China (Taiwan) if current trade agreement issues are resolved.

-SB 1293 by Sen. Cliff Branan would require the Tax Commission to provide an opportunity on income tax forms to donate from a tax refund to the Oklahoma Chapter Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Fund. The measure authorizes the Department of Health to use monies from the fund for research dedicated to curing leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma as well as providing education and support services related to blood cancers.

• The following measures were approved in committee on Tuesday:

-SB 1037 by Sen. Susan Paddack creating “Caitlin’s Law.” The measure would make state law mirror federal law by prohibiting a person convicted of domestic violence crimes or subject to a victim protective order from possessing a firearm, would allow judges to deny bail to violent offenders and would create a victim witness notification system when defendants are released on bail.

-SB 1444 by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield would begin tracking livestock for the purposes of tracing and eradicating disease through the use of radio frequency identification chips in the ears of livestock to determine which herd or flock and what farm or ranch it came from.

-CS SB 1874 by Sen. Charles Laster would enact the Lawsuit Responsibility Act to require courts to prepare a discovery schedule after a trial date has been set in civil cases. The measure also urges the Oklahoma Supreme Court to devise rules to regulate advertising by attorneys.

-CS SB 1807 by Sen. Todd Lamb would prohibit a defendant who is mentally retarded from receiving the death sentence. The measure would apply to individuals with an IQ below 76.

-SB 1830 by Sen. Bernest Cain requiring helmets for riders under 18 on all-terrain vehicles. As amended, the measure would exempt all-terrain vehicles used for agricultural purposes.

-SB 2016 by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm would extend the state income tax exemption for qualified retirement benefits to $25,000 if filing single and $50,000 if married filing jointly, starting in the 2007 tax year.

-SB 1089 by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson would prohibit payday loan centers and check cashing businesses from selling lottery tickets.

-SB 1950 by Sen. Cal Hobson allows the Tax Commission to release information to law enforcement officials, the media and public relating to the tax stamp records of cigarette wholesalers and tribal cigarette retailers.

• House committees approved several bills on Tuesday, including the following measures:

-HB 2839 by Rep. Susan Winchester would prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of parks and playgrounds as well as strengthen punishments against sex offenders for crimes that involve the physical molestation of a child 12 or younger and requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years without parole.

-HB 2514 by Rep. Ray Young would increase employee contributions to OPERS from 3 percent to 3.5 percent of compensation.
-HB 2762 by Rep. Fred Perry would prohibit any person from knowingly permitting anyone under age 21 to consume alcoholic beverages or controlled dangerous substances on that person’s property or residence. If convicted, the bill would create penalties of a maximum five years in prison and fines from $2,500 to $5,000.

-HB 2643 by Rep. Mike Brown prohibits the use of a soldier’s name, portrait or picture without consent for advertising purposes and establishes a fine of up to $1,000 for violations.

-HB 2713 by Rep. Mike Shelton to increase minimum jail terms for persons convicted of violating the Elderly and Incapacitated Victim’s Protection Program from 30 to 90 days.

-CS for HB 2118 by Rep. John Carey would make the willful unlawful carry of a firearm at the State Capitol Building a felony. Violators licensed to carry a concealed handgun would have their licenses permanently revoked. It would also impose an administrative fine of up to $5,000 or up to two years in prison.

-HB 2966 by Rep. Daniel Sullivan prohibits inmates in DOC custody from bringing an action or claim against the department after release if no administrative remedies had been sought prior to release.

Wednesday, February 15

• Attention was mainly focused on committee work on Wednesday. Among those measures approved were the following:

-CS SB 1993 by Sen. Mike Morgan which would raise the annual income cap for families to be eligible for their students to participate in the OHLAP scholarship program. The measure would increase the cap from $50,000 to $75,000. This change would increase the number of eligible students taking part in the program by 20 percent, with 75 percent of all high school students eligible to participate in OHLAP.

-SB 1034 by Sen. Nancy Riley would require state agencies to provide a toll-free telephone number.

-SB 1495 by Sen. Kenneth Corn creates the Kyle Williams Boating Safety Act requiring boating safety education for anyone age 12 to 16 before they would be allowed to operate a jet ski or other motorized vessels in excess of 10 horsepower or any sail-powered vessel 16 feet or greater in length.

-SB 1548 by Sen. Earl Garrison would impose an additional fee per ton of disposed solid waste. The Department of Environmental Quality would be required to deposit the additional fees in the County Bridge and Road Improvement Fund.

-SB 1800 by Sen. Jonathan Nichols would create a Child Abuse Response Team within the OSBI to investigate cases of physical or sexual assault, abuse or neglect of children.

-CS SB 1056 by Sen. Cal Hobson requesting the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma to establish a comprehensive diabetes center with operations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

-SB 1713 by Sen. Charles Wyrick would set a minimum penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment for those convicted of soliciting, employing, hiring or using an individual to import one pound or more of meth into Oklahoma.

-SB 1479 by Sen. Jim Wilson would make it a felony to facilitate, encourage, offer or solicit sexual conduct with a minor or communication with a minor for sexual or prurient interest by any technology.

-SB 1858 by Sen. Mike Morgan would establish felony penalties for any individual found guilty of causing injury while eluding police. The penalty would be imprisonment for a minimum of two years and a maximum of seven years. In addition, the bill provides for felony murder penalties for persons who cause death by eluding police.

-SB 1760 by Sen. Nancy Riley would require that anyone age 15, 16 or 17 charged with first-degree murder would be prosecuted as an adult.

-SB 1420 by Sen. Kenneth Corn increases the fine for violation of the Oklahoma mandatory Seat Belt Use Act from $20 to $50 plus court costs. The bill mandates the additional $30 fine to be deposited into the Department of Public Safety Revolving Fund for funding Trooper academies and other law enforcement officer training and continuing education.

-SJR 58 by Sen. Kenneth Corn proposes a constitutional amendment to create an Oklahoma Safe Roads Trust fund and limiting the use of motor fuel tax revenue to construction and maintenance of state roads, bridges and highways.

-SB 1720 by Sen. Daisy Lawler would direct the Department of Agriculture to operate an “Oklahoma Agritourism” program to boost economic growth in rural communities.

-SB 1752 by Sen. Jeff Rabon would authorize the Corporation Commission to require employees and potential employees to submit fingerprints for state and national criminal background checks.

-SB 1367 by Sen. Cal Hobson would create the Helping Oklahomans Pay for Energy (HOPE) Act and Revolving Fund for the Department of Human Services. A portion of the gross production tax on natural gas and/or casinghead gas would be apportioned to the fund.

• The House also focused on committee action. In addition the following measures were approved on the floor:

-HB 2841 by Rep. Kris Steele would require a judge to consider various factors before deciding whether to grant bail to any person charged with a crime.

-HB 2077 by Rep. Jerry Ellis exempts legal residents of Oklahoma serving a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces from special use permit requirements of the Wildlife Conservation Commission for hunting and fishing on private lands leased and administered by the Wildlife Department.

-HB 2396 by Rep. Marian Cooksey provides an exemption from the Open Records Act for Social Security numbers kept by bodies that provide utility services to the public.

Other measures approved by House committees on Wednesday included:

-CS SB 1022 by Rep. Todd Hiett providing a sales tax exemption for sales of professional basketball, hockey and baseball tickets. The exemption would apply to sales of tickets made on or after September 21, 2005.

-HJR 1066 would create a state question amending the constitution to remove the prohibition against selling alcoholic beverages on the day of any national, state, county or city election. If approved, the measure would leave in place the prohibition against selling alcoholic beverages on the day of any gubernatorial primary, runoff primary or general election day of a presidential or gubernatorial election.

-HB 2121 by Rep. Ben Sherrer would create a refundable tax credit, beginning in tax year 2007 for owners of real property damaged or destroyed by wildfires.

-HB 2462 by Rep. Ann Coody would modify the income tax exemption for retirement benefits for members of the U.S. Armed Forces from 50 percent to 75 percent.

Thursday, February 16

• 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 23, 2006. The full Senate will reconvene on Monday, February 20, at 1:30 p.m.

Other News

• Despite a last-ditch effort to save more than 2,000 jobs at the Oklahoma City General Motors plant, corporate executives told state officials they would be closing the facility as planned. Governor Brad Henry had hoped the $200 million proposal could help prevent that closure, but admitted it was a long-shot as the decision was based on international economic market conditions. Henry said the state would continue to focus on helping workers who will be left jobless because of the plant’s closure.

• Members of the Tobacco Tax Advisory Committee voted on Monday to replace Daniel Keating as Chairman. The board had elected him to that position in October 2005. Keating, twin brother of former Governor Frank Keating, had recently announced his plans to run for state treasurer.

• OSU head basketball coach Eddie Sutton announced he would soon be seeking alcohol treatment. Sutton had been cited for driving under the influence last week after being involved in a collision. Sutton, who went on medical leave of absence on Monday, had sought alcohol treatment in the late 1980’s at the Betty Ford Clinic. At a press conference on Wednesday, Sutton, speaking via telephone, said he’d combined pain pills with alcohol the day of the accident. He apologized to his family, the university, his players, OSU fans, and the woman whose vehicle was hit.