The Oklahoma Senate

Week In Review
Monday, February 27 to Thursday March 2, 2006

Monday, February 27

• Measures approved Monday on the Senate Floor included:

-FS SB 1288, by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, would provide $100 million to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to fix the state’s worst bridges and $25 million to fix county bridges. The measure would be funded with $92.8 million from the Dynamic Economy and Budget Stabilization Fund created last year, $7.2 million from the Special Cash Fund and $25 million from anticipated surplus.

• The following measures were approved by Senate committees on Monday:

-SJR 49, by Sen. Debbe Leftwich, would send to a vote of the people a proposal to raise Oklahoma’s minimum wage by 50 cents a year for five years.

-SJR 41, by Sen. Harry Coates, would allow Oklahoma wine growers to ship wine to customers in Oklahoma and out of state.

-SB 1991, by Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan, would require registration of interior designers and require the services of an architect to build certain structures.

-SB 2048, by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, the “Oklahoma Municipal Employee Collective Bargaining Act,” would allow non-uniformed municipal employees to unionize. The bill would allow each municipality to vote on the proposal.

-SB 1862, by Sen. Mary Easley, would require licensure and Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) training for nightclub and bar bouncers.

-SJR 47, by Sen. Frank Shurden, would lift Oklahoma’s ban on liquor sales on election days.

-SB 1792, by Sen. Susan Paddack, would create an Achieving Classroom Excellence Steering Committee, direct the State of Board of Education to give criterion-referenced tests in specific courses for grades three through eight, and develop end-of-instruction tests for certain courses. The measure would also require students to pass an eighth grade math proficiency exam in order to obtain a driver’s license.

-SB 1970, by Sen. Kenneth Corn, would direct the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) to promulgate rules for qualified active and honorably retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed firearms.

-CS SB 1736, by Sen. Frank Shurden, would allow licensed package stores to conduct tastings of distilled spirits, wine, beer and coolers on premises during business hours. The measure would also allow spouses with separate businesses to obtain separate liquor licenses.

-SJR 35, by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, would send to a vote of the people an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution preventing the consolidation of rural school districts unless the proposal is approved by voters in the affected school districts.

• A few bills were approved on the House Floor Monday, including the following measures:

-HB 2288, by Rep. Chris Benge, appropriates $24 million for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. The bill provides $3 million for $2,800 pay hikes for corrections officers and $21 million for operational needs.

-HB 2252, by Rep. Chris Benge, would provide $3.6 million to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to reimburse rural fire departments for costs relating to wildfires.

-SB 1022, by Morgan and House Speaker Todd Hiett, would exempt tickets to National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) games from sales tax.

-HB 2062, by Hiett and Morgan, would exempt minor league sports game tickets from sales tax.

-HB 2555, by Rep. Jerry Ellis, would prohibit the Secretary of the Environment from filing lawsuits against agricultural businesses based on environmental pollution until after the affected body of water has been placed on the state list of impaired waters, officials have determined that runoff from the business contributed to the impairment, public hearings have been held, and a watershed implementation plan has been developed.

-HB 2512, by Rep. Randy Terrill, would provide tax credits for installation of wind, solar or geo-thermal equipment to heat or cool homes or businesses.

-HCR 1046, by Rep. Dale DeWitt, asks President George W. Bush and Congress to make the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf available for energy development.

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

-HB 2918, by Rep. Danny Morgan, would allow winemakers licensed to sell in any state to ship wine into Oklahoma.

-HB 1499 by Rep. Brian Bingman would create a neutral state agency to hear appeals filed by citizens in dispute with the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

-HB 2895, by Rep. Ryan McMullen, would allow the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to issue temporary commercial truck licenses and registrations.

-HB 2447, by Rep. James Covey, would direct the Corporation Commission to provide at least three grants for small wind power projects and three grants for small hydro projects.

-HB 2468, by Rep. Mike Jackson, would require Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), self-insured organizations and prepaid health plans to set the monthly premium for active employees at an amount equal to the monthly premium for retirees under age 65. The State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board would have the authority to determine all rates and benefits.

-CS HB 2875, by Rep. Bill Case, would transfer all powers, duties and functions of the State Employees Benefits Council to the State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board.

-CS HB 2696, by Rep. Trebor Worthen, would eliminate the governor’s ability to order the confiscation of lawfully-owned firearms in the event of an emergency.

-CS HB 2075, by Rep. Glenn Bud Smithson, would authorize a school principal to carry a handgun on school property if the person has a valid license authorized by the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act.

-HB 2115, by Rep. Thad Balkman, would expand the definition of “terrorism” to include certain gang-related crimes.

-HB 2475, by Rep. Fred Perry, would make it unlawful to leave a child age eight or younger in a motor vehicle unless supervised by a person at least 14 years of age, punishable by a $200 fine for the first offense or a $500 fine for a second or subsequent offense.

-HB 2627, by Rep. R.C. Pruett, would require placement of license plates on both the front and rear of motor vehicles.

-HB 2955, by Rep. Jeff Hickman, would require the Department of Agriculture to develop a plan to create an independent agri-tourism organization.

-HB 2940 by Rep. Mark Liotta would reduce the percentage of vehicle license and registration fees deposited in the General Revenue Fund and directs funds to various transportation improvement funds.

Tuesday, February 28

• On Tuesday, the Senate voted to approve SB 1644, by Senators Susan Paddack and Stratton Taylor, which would provide the largest pay increase for teachers in seven years. The bill includes a $3,000 across the board increase for all teachers in Oklahoma, doubles the annual salary increase incentive for teachers who complete the National Board Certification process, increases in the annual stipend paid to mentor teaches and teachers with masters degrees and doctorates and provides a raise for support personnel. Other measures approved Tuesday on the Senate Floor include:

-SB 1993, by Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan, raises the maximum income eligibility level to $75,000 for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program.

-SB 1426, by Sen. Brian Crain, would identify registered sex offenders on their driver's license.

-SB 1503, by Sen. Glenn Coffee, would prevent the cross-examination of victims or their family members after presenting an oral impact statement during the sentencing phase of a trial.

-SB 1056, by Senators Cal Hobson and Glenn Coffee, would create a world-class diabetes research and treatment center in Oklahoma, with locations at the University of Oklahoma campuses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa and outreach programs serving the entire state.

-SB 1089, by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson, prohibit pawn shops, payday lenders and check-cashing institutions from selling lottery tickets.

-FS SB 1193, by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, would appropriate $16 million to the Capitol Complex and Centennial Commemoration Commission.

-SB 343, by Sen. Bernest Cain, would make it mandatory for health benefit plans to cover colorectal cancer examinations for any non-symptomatic insured person over age 50 or for insured persons under age 50 who are at high risk for the disease.

-SB 1034, by Sen. Nancy Riley, would require state agencies to provide a toll-free telephone number to conduct official business of the agency.

-SB 1063, by Sen. Jim Wilson, would provide tax credits for certain rural small businesses that acquire another business.

-SB 1304, by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, increases the authorized income tax credit for qualified railroad reconstruction or replacement expenditures.

SB 1305, by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, would expand the sales tax exemption for certain businesses primarily engaged in the general wholesale distribution of groceries from a new or expanded facility.

-SB 1361, by Sen. Debbe Leftwich, would require that members of any branch of the U.S. military, when called to active service, be entitled to a leave of absence from civil employment without loss of status or efficiency rating.

-SB 1536, by Sen. Jim Wilson, would direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to establish a three-year pilot program for a comprehensive health system for the uninsured.

-SB 1471, by Sen. Susan Paddack, would create an eight-member Oklahoma Innocence Commission to review cases in which innocent people were mistakenly convicted and later exonerated.

• The House approved the following measures on the floor Tuesday:

-HB 3037, by Rep. Lance Cargill, would create the Restorative Justice Act of 2006. The measure would encourage faith-based programs for newly released inmates returning to communities.

-HB 2598, by Rep. John Wright, would create the Child Support Modification Program Act. The measure would establish a child support modification coordinator to develop forms and procedures for applications for modification of child support.

-HB 2441, by Rep. John Wright, would increase the time period before the final order for divorce where there are minor children involved from 90 days to 180 days. For divorces not involving minor children, the court would be required to issue a final order at least 90 days from the date of filing the petition.

-HB 2358, by Rep. Dale Depue, would provide guidelines for workplace policies regarding breast-feeding.

-HB 2083, by Rep. Guy Liebmann, would create the Computer Spyware Protection Act. The measure would give greater protection to computer owners and operators from spyware and malware that is deceptively installed on the owner’s computer.

-HB 2528, by Rep. Doug Miller, would prohibit profits and proceeds earned by a defendant for “murderabilia,” which is property associated with the crime or defendant.

-HB 2490, by Rep. John Nance, would allow the Board of Pharmacy to transfer unused prescription drugs from county jails or state prisons to pharmacies operated by a county.

-HB 2484, by Rep. Mike Wilt, would provide examination and hearing requirements for those defendants given a death sentence, but who are alleged to be mentally incompetent to be executed.

Wednesday, March 1

• The Senate directed its attention to floor work Wednesday, passing more than 200 appropriations bills. The Senate also approved SR 69, by Sen. Gilmer Capps, declaring Wednesday to be “Oklahoma Emergency Management Day” at the Capitol in recognition of the efforts and contributions of the Oklahoma Emergency Management Association (OEMA). Other bills approved on the Senate Floor include:

- SB 1367, by Sen. Cal Hobson, would provide state funds to bolster the federal Low Income Heating Assistance Program.

-SB 1495, by Sen. Kenneth Corn, the Kyle Williams Boating Safety Education Act, would require children between the ages of 12 and 16 to complete a boater safety education course.

-SB 1760, by Sen. Nancy Riley, would automatically charge persons age 15 to 17 as adults if charged with first degree murder.

-SB 1830, by Sen. Bernest Cain, would require children under age 18 to wear a helmet when riding on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).

-SJR 52, by Sen. Ted Fisher, would establish Gov. Brad Henry’s requested “Oklahoma Opportunity Fund” to provide financial incentives to businesses seeking to relocate or expand in Oklahoma.

-SB 1028, by Sen. Daisy Lawler, would redirect percentages of the state fuel taxes that are currently deposited in the General Revenue Fund to the State Transportation Fund.

-HB 2288, by Rep. Chris Benge, would appropriate $24 million to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. The bill provides $3 million for $2,800 pay hikes for corrections officers and $21 million for operational needs. Sen. Kenneth Corn is carrying the bill in the Senate.

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

-HB 3121, by Speaker Todd Hiett, and Sen. Todd Lamb, would establish an online registry for methamphetamine offenders.

Other measures approved by House committees on Wednesday included:

-HJR 1061, by Rep. Kevin Calvey, would prohibit courts from determining funding levels for state programs. The measure, which would require a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment, is intended to address a lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma Education Association against the state.

-HB 2615, by Rep. Kevin Calvey, the “Stand Your Ground Law,” would expand existing self-defense laws to include using deadly force outside a person’s home when confronted by an attacker.

-HB 2782, by Rep. Jerry McPeak, would require a consumer reporting agency to place a security freeze on a consumer’s credit report if the consumer requests it, prohibiting the agency from releasing the file to anyone without the express authorization of the consumer.

-CS HB 1225, by Rep. John Nance, would provide a 30 percent raise for the director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, raising the director’s salary from $76,323 to $96,305, and a six percent raise for agents.

-CS HJR 1054, by Rep. Kenneth Miller, proposes a constitutional amendment to link teacher and legislative salaries.

-CS HB 2831, by Rep. Lisa Billy, would restrict outdoor advertising for adult cabaret or sexually-oriented business located within a mile of a state highway.

-CS HB 3126, by Speaker Todd Hiett, would provide a five-year income tax exemption for persons who move to Oklahoma from out of state and who build or buy a home.

-HB 2749, by Rep. Mike Thompson, would prohibit lenders loaning less than $200 from charging more than 10 percent of the principal as an acquisition charge.

Thursday, March 2

• On Thursday, the Senate approved SB 1294, by Sen. Tom Adelson, which would expand the Oklahoma Employer/Employee Partnership for Insurance Coverage (O-EPIC) program to include employers with up to 50 employees. The plan is currently offered only to employers with 25 employees or less.

• Other measures approved on the Senate Floor on Thursday include:

-SB 1800, by Jonathan Nichols, would create a Child Abuse Response Team (CART) within the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate child abuse cases.

-SB 1515, by Sen. Daisy Lawler, would create the “Oklahoma Farm to School Program Act,” linking schools and Oklahoma farms to provide schools with fresh produce and improve farmers’ direct access to markets.

-SB 1754, by Sen. Glenn Coffee, would require businesses whose employees enter private residences to perform background checks, and to notify residents before an employee who is a registered sex offender may enter the premises.

• The full Senate will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 6.

Other News

• U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern on Monday ordered Gov. Brad Henry and the Oklahoma Tax Commission to begin arbitration with the Osage Nation over the commission’s emergency rules to limit the amount of cigarettes taxed at the 6-cent border exception rate wholesalers may sell to tribal retailers. The Cherokee Nation has selected federal retired judge Thomas R. Brett as its representative in arbitration proceedings with the state regarding the tribe’s 2004 compact.

• Daniel Keating on Tuesday requested an attorney general’s opinion on the legality of the Tobacco Tax Advisory Committee’s action in February to elect committee member Bill Maxwell to replace Keating as chairman, a position Keating held for about four months. Keating had announced in January his candidacy for the office of State Treasurer.

• Attorney General Drew Edmondson and the Sierra Club opposed legislation by Sen. Harry Coates that would declare animal waste cannot be classified as hazardous waste. The Oklahoma Farm Bureau supports the measure.

• Miss America Jennifer Berry of Tulsa and Miss Oklahoma Jennifer Warren visited the State Capitol on Monday. Sen. Nancy Riley, Mike Mazzei and James A. Williamson introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 36 to congratulate Berry, and Sen. Clark Jolley introduced SCR 41 to congratulate Warren. Berry, whose platform focuses on reducing teen drinking, spoke in support of HB 3056 by Sen. Jeff Rabon, which would increase penalties for establishments that sell alcohol to persons younger than age 21 and create penalties for underage drinkers.

• Gov. Brad Henry visited Oklahoma Troops in Iraq last week, and toured various cities in Iraq with Colorado Gov. Bill Owens.

• Two paintings sponsored by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund were dedicated at the Capitol Building this week: “Fort Smith Council – 1865” by artist Mike Wimmer, and “The Magic of Petroleum” by artist Wayne Cooper.

• SB 1763, by Sen. Todd Lamb, may be reconsidered early next week. On Wednesday, senators voted to accept an amendment to the bill by Sen. Debbe Leftwich which would create a county “home rule” provision, but after adopting the amendment, the bill failed to pass by less than a handful of votes. Lamb held the bill on reconsideration.

• The Oklahoma Department of Human Services reported that more than 443,000 Oklahoma received food stamps in December, an all-time high. DHS Director Howard Hendrick said the low minimum wage is one of the reasons why the number of food stamp recipients is up while unemployment levels are down.

• Senior faculty members filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tulsa Community College, charging that the college uses only nine months of compensation earned by teachers to calculate their supplemental retirement benefits even though they work through the summer.

• The Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved a $13 million rate cut for Oklahoma Natural Gas resulting from drastic reductions in the cost of natural gas over the last few months.

• Many senators wore green bracelets on Wednesday symbolizing the “March Against Meth,” in memory of trooper Nicky Green who was killed in the line of duty by a methamphetamine addict.