The Oklahoma Senate


Week In Review
Monday, May 11 to Thursday, May 15, 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

• Members of the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget approved a single measure Monday. HB 2236, by Rep. Dennis Ray Casey and Rep. Earl Sears, reinstitutes the Voluntary Compliance Initiative for past due taxes to run from Sept. 14 to Nov. 13 subject to the availability of funds. The bill provides that past dues taxes remitted to a collection agency during the period will not have a debt collection contract fee. The bill lists qualifying taxes. The bill removes language establishing a delinquent penalty for taxes not paid during the two-month period of the Voluntary Compliance Initiative. The Oklahoma Tax Commission could expect a return of around $35 million. The initiative is set to cost around $2.5 million. The bill received unanimous approval from the committee.

• On Monday, twenty-six state lawmakers filed HR 1026, a resolution calling for the University of Oklahoma to return a painting that was stolen by the Nazis in France during World War II. The painting, 'Shepherdess Bringing in the Sheep', is hanging in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum at the University of Oklahoma but Leone Meyer is legally fighting to recover her father's painting from the university. House Resolution 1026 directs the University of Oklahoma and Fred Jones Jr. Museum to engage in provenance research, or looking into the chronology of the ownership and custody of an object, of its art pieces, including the 'Shepherdess Bringing in the Sheep.' It notes that "during the Nazi era, 1933 through 1945, as a result of actions taken by the Nazis and their collaborators in furtherance of the Holocaust, objects were acquired through theft, confiscation, coercive transfer and other methods of wrongful expropriation." It also notes that "museums are not only required to act legally but also ethically and morally, as well as take affirmative steps to maintain integrity so as to warrant public confidence".


• The following measures also had Senate amendments adopted and the bills passed:

-HB 1047, by Rep. Scott Biggs, requires individuals convicted of aggravated child pornography to serve not less than 85 percent of any sentence of imprisonment. The bill repeals language relating to the penalty of the purchase, procurement or possession of obscene material. It corrects self-referential language. The bill clarifies references to violent crimes. The bill passed by a vote of 91 to 0.

-HB 1052, by Rep. Randy McDaniel, requires the Oklahoma State Pension Commission members of the House and Senate to be nonvoting members. It modifies the membership of the committee from one member of the banking industry to one member of the financial services industry. The bill passed by a vote of 72 to 16. The emergency passed by a vote of 61 to 27.

• House committees considered legislation on Monday, including:

-The House Common Education Committee discussed the adoption of new world language requirements by the Oklahoma Department of Education. This approval process comes in accordance to provisions under last legislative session's House Bill 3399, which directs all school subject standards be reviewed by the Legislature prior to the last 30 days of session. Major revisions to the guidelines included increased flexibility for schools in program implementation and the development of a classroom implementation guide to be posted on the department of education website. The most significant change was the requirement that students be conversationally proficient. The committee took no action Monday on the new world language requirements.

-HB 1044, by Rep. Ken Walker, allows a state agency employing more than 10 full-time employees to develop a State Employee Suggestion Program. The bill states that the program will provide economic incentives to employees who make suggestions which result in direct cost savings of at least $5,000. The bill allows the organization to financially reward the employee once per fiscal year with at most 20 percent of the cost savings. The bill replaces the Committee for Incentive Awards for State Employees and replaces it with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. The measure was not debated before it was put to a vote. House members adopted Senate amendments by a vote of 53 to 32. The bill passed by a vote of 65 to 23 but its emergency clause failed 59 to 26.

- HB 1037, by Rep. George Faught, addressed the availability of footage from police body cams in House Government Oversight and Accountability Conference Committee. The measure exempts any test form, question banks, and answer keys developed for state licensure examinations from the Open Records Act, excluding test preparation materials or study guides. It also adds language clarifying and specifying exemptions to the Open Records Act for audio and video recordings from law enforcement dash cameras and associated audio recording devices. It also establishes exemptions from the Open Records Act for audio and video recordings from body cameras worn by law enforcement offices. It establishes the procedures for release of certain audio and video recordings. The bill also provides that the exemptions do not permit the denial of access to law enforcement records that have been previously made available to the public as provided in the Oklahoma Open Records Act or as otherwise provided by law. No action on the bill was taken at the meeting. In conference committee, members voted to approve the bill online from their offices. If the bill gains committee approval, it will head back to the House floor for further action.

• In the House on Monday, lawmakers considered and approved two bills and sent a few others to conference. The House adopted Senate amendments for the following bills and gave them passing votes:

-HB 1902, by Rep. Dennis Johnson, grants liability from civil immunity for any damage resulting from the forcible entry of a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a child from the motor vehicle under certain conditions. The bill provides it does not affect the person's civil liability if the person attempts to render aid to the child in addition to what is authorized by the bill. The bill and emergency passed by a vote of 92 to 1.

-HB 2166, by Rep. Mark McCullough, requires the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth to keep confidential information provided by those who receive its services and to request that cases involving children within its jurisdiction be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The bill passed by a vote of 88 to 6.

-House members also voted to reconsider the emergency clause on HB 1150, by Rep. Randy Grau, which failed passage last week. The measure eliminates treatment facilities from a list of certain mental health recovery facilities prohibited from being located within a certain distance from certain schools. The bill's emergency clause passed 68 to 22.

-House Speaker Jeff Hickman said Monday he planned to introduce a $25 million bond issue Tuesday that, if passed, would fund the completion of the long awaited American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. Currently, the state pays nearly $2 million a year in operational costs of the museum and its staff. If his plan is approved, that money will be redirected to pay the $25 million bond. Upon completion of the project, operation costs will be funded through private dollars and the Native American Cultural and Education Authority of Oklahoma, who oversees the center, will be abolished. The proposal will also allow Oklahoma City to retain around 143 of the 210 acres of the property for development. The city will control the acreage however they see fit. All revenues from the commercial leases on those 143 acres will go toward funding of the operations and
maintenance of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. Any revenues above $7 million, 50 percent will return to the state up to $25 million.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

• The Senate approved one bill Tuesday without discussion or debate:

-The Senate adopted House amendments to SB 764 by Sen. Anthony Sykes, allowing a community sentencing planning council, in regards to the Oklahoma Community Sentence Act, to employ a local director and other personnel to perform the duties of the the local community sentencing system, contingent on available funds. The bill allows the council to contract with a county to provide benefits and payroll services. The bill passed 43 to 0 and will head to the Governor next.

-The Senate also adopted SR 35, by Sen. Robert Standridge, congratulating University of Oklahoma senior, Lauren Chamberlain, the “Babe Ruth of softball,” for breaking the NCAA record for most homeruns.

Also on Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget approved SB 839, by Sen. Brian Bingman, which creates the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture and places it under the supervision of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The bill authorizes the Oklahoma Historical Society to construct, maintain, repair, and operate the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture and its facilities. The bill authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue up to $25 million of debt to finance construction of the museum. The bill expresses the Legislature's expectation that the Oklahoma Historical Society will make rental payments for the purpose of retiring the debt.

• House Public Safety conference committee met Tuesday to hear amendments made to a bill regarding operating a vessel while under the influence. HB 1714, by Rep. Doug Cox, adds the operation of a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance to the list of offenses in which one's driving privilege may be revoked. The bill states the first violation will result in a revocation of 30 days, the second for 60 days and the third for 90 days. It states those in violation of the Oklahoma Boating Safety Regulation Act may have their driving privileges revoked. No action was taken on the bill during the meeting. Members must submit signatures online. If the bill receives approval from committee members it will be sent to the House and then the Senate for further consideration.

• Governor Mary Fallin signed 27 bills on Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

• The Senate recognized its first African American senator Wednesday, E. Melvin Porter and his lifetime accomplishments on Wednesday with SR 36, authored by Sen. Anastasia Pittman, Sen. David Holt, and Sen. Kevin Matthews.

• Several bills were considered Wednesday in various committees, including:

-HB 2237, by Rep. Jeff Hickman, declares it to be the public policy of the State that the completion and operation of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM) and the transfer of responsibility for operation and maintenance of the facility to the City of Oklahoma City or its designee will produce significant benefits to the state and the citizens of the state. The bill establishes conditions under which certain property surrounding the center and museum will be transferred to the city. The bill establishes that the transfer is to enable the development of commercial facilities on the property and requires that the lease revenues be used to support the operations of the AICCM upon its completion. The bill requires the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority to be terminated no later than the first day the AICCM is open to the public. The bill establishes procedures for transferring the center and museum to the Authority to the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum Trust that is created by the bill. The bill establishes requirements for an agreement between the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and the City of Oklahoma City for the operation and maintenance of the center and museum. The bill provides that no state funds will be appropriated to operate the center and museum beyond FY2016. The bill authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue up to $25 million of debt to finance completion of the facility. The bill establishes a process through which the proceeds from the bonds will only be made available when matched by certain other funds.

-SB 839, by Sen. Brian Bingman, creates the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture (OKPOP) and places it under the supervision of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The bill authorizes the Oklahoma Historical Society is authorized to construct, maintain, repair, and operate the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture and its facilities. The bill authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue up to $25 million of debt to finance construction of the museum. The bill expresses the Legislature's expectation that the Oklahoma Historical Society will make rental payments for the purpose of retiring the debt from current appropriations received by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

-One additional bill was heard by House members of the Joint Conference Committee on Appropriations and Budget on Wednesday. HB 2233, by Rep. Dennis Ray Case and Rep. Earl Sears, permits certified court interpreters to be paid from the Supreme Court Revolving Fund. The bill also adds the costs of duties of the Court of Civil Appeals and the district courts that can be paid from the Supreme Court Administrative Revolving Fund.

• Senate General Conference Committee on Appropriations met on Wednesday and approved the following measures:

-SB 141, by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, establishes that the Department of Public Safety shall collect a sum of $15 for each Motor Vehicle Report they furnish for a commercial driver license. It requires $10 of the fee be deposited in the General Revenue Fund and $5 be deposited in the Department of Public Safety Revolving Fund. It requires the department to establish a procedure so that Motor Vehicle Reports may be purchased at a bulk rate, resulting in a lower cost per individual report. The bill provides that the rate be established so that no reduction occurs in the amount attributable to the Motor Vehicle Report fee deposited in the General Revenue Fund or the Department of Public Safety Revolving Fund for fiscal year 2016.

-SB 144, by Sen. David Holt, creates the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority License Plate for any person wishing to demonstrate support for the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. The bill requires the plate to be designed in consultation with the authority and provides that an amount of the fee collected be deposited in the Educational Television Authority Revolving Fund.

-SB 412, by Sen. Rick Brinkley, modifies language and definitions as well as widening the scope of what offenses are constituted as violent crimes.

-SB 706, by Sen. John Ford, requires the State Board of Education along with the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Commission to study continued implementation of the TLE to produce a system that promotes reflection and professional growth for teachers and leaders.

-HB 1116, by Rep. Bobby Cleveland, authorizes the Department of Corrections to negotiate and enter a water purchase agreement and execute necessary easements with a public nonprofit rural water district organized under the Rural Water, Sewer, Gas and Solid Waste Management Districts Act for purposes of selling at cost groundwater found beneath real property owned by the department on which the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center and the Joseph Harp Correctional Center are located, and for granting permission to the department to amend the groundwater use permit from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to allow for use as a public water supply. The bill provides that the term of the water purchase agreement and easement cannot be for less than 40 years from the first date of delivery of water and as long as the groundwater is being put to a beneficial use. The bill also clarifies that DOC will have a right of usage in any contract it enters into.

-HB1687, by Rep. Lee Denney, removes references to GED and replaces them with "high school equivalency test" as it relates to adult education.

-HB1693, by Rep. Kevin Calvey, modifies provisions related to the allocation of tax credits in regard to the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act.

• The House considered measures on Wednesday, approving the following:

- HB1442 by Rep. Chad Caldwell, was approved Wednesday by the House. The bill authorizes school board members to appoint individuals outside of their district or election area when a vacancy is created due to a lack of interest. The CCR to HB1442, by Rep. Chad Caldwell requires the members on a board of education to appoint members if, after the filing period closes, no candidate has filed and a vacancy is created. The bill allows appointment of members outside the board or election district but requires the individual to reside in the school district and to meet other eligibility qualifications. The conference committee report requires a board whose district has an average daily membership of 30,000 or more, and prior to making their appointment, to give preference to anyone who expresses interest if he or she resides within the board or election over someone who does not. The measure was approved 67 to 24.

The House also adopted SCR 15, by Sen. Susan Paddack, which declares May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in the State of Oklahoma; encourages the motoring public to be more aware of motorcycles; and encourages all riders to seek and receive appropriate training.

• Various House committees met on Wednesday and heard the following legislation:

-HB 1290 by Rep. Ed Cannaday, which addresses the way teachers are evaluated in the state in that it would modify dates for implementation of the Oklahoma Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System. It specifies that, beginning in the 2017-18 school year, TLE will be fully implemented. The bill also requires the State Board of Education to continue working with school districts and the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Commission to determine the final calculation of the student academic growth until full implementation of the TLE. The bill states the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Commission will provide recommendations concerning the student academic growth and other academic measurement quantitative components of the TLE instead of adopting the components. It requires the commission to adopt recommendations on calculating student academic growth and other academic measures by December 31, 2015. It also provides the board cannot adopt final permanent rules or policies until the recommendations of the commission are adopted.

- HB 1778, by Rep. Charles McCall, modifies the authorized hours of sale as it relates to ad valorem tax sale procedures to 9 a .m. and 4 p.m. from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The bill also makes exceptions to real property that has Oklahoma Health Care Authority liens against it in excess of the amount of the assessed value of the property as determined by the county treasurer. The bill specifies what will occur in such a case.

-HB 1827, by Rep. Scott Martin, states both a funeral establishment license renewal and a commercial embalming establishment license renewal will be $250 plus $3 for each disposition performed by the establishment from November 1 of the immediately preceding calendar year to October 31 of the current calendar year. The fee increase would be used to fund the investigator's position from part-time to full-time and bring IT up to compliance. No action was taken on the bill during the meeting.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

-JCR to HB 2236, by Rep. Dennis Ray Casey and Rep. Earl Sears, reinstitutes the Voluntary Compliance Initiative for past due taxes to run from Sept. 14 to Nov. 13, subject to the availability of funds. The bill provides that past dues taxes remitted to a collection agency during the period will not have debt collection contract fee waived. The bill removes language establishing a delinquent penalty for taxes not paid during the two-month period of the Voluntary Compliance Initiative. The last time a tax amnesty plan was implemented was in 2008. The bill and its emergency clause passed by a vote of 94 to 0.

-The Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget approved HB 2237 by Rep. Jeff Hickman on Thursday, which would fund the completion of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum and then transfer its operation and maintenance to the City of Oklahoma City. If approved, it ultimately would end state involvement in the facility. Construction stopped in 2012 when the authority that oversees the facility ran out of money and the state pays $1.9 million annually simply to maintain and secure that portion of the structure that has been built. That money would be used to pay off the $25 million of bonds authorized by the bill. The $25 million bond would allow the center to be completed and would begin the process of removing the state from involvement with the center. The bill passed 26 to 16. It will need at least 25 votes on the Senate floor to pass but it must first be considered by the House.

-SB 839, by Sen. Brian Bingman, is related to the proposed Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, or OKPOP. The bill seats OKPOP under the supervision of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The bill authorizes the Oklahoma Historical Society to construct, maintain, repair, and operate the museum and its facilities. The bill authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue up to $25 million of debt to finance construction of the museum. The bill expresses the Legislature's expectation that the Oklahoma Historical Society will make rental payments for the purpose of retiring the debt from current appropriations received by the Oklahoma Historical Society. This bond issue is unrelated to that of the American Indian Cultural Center. Tulsa and entities associated with the city have are expected to pledge approximately $7 million toward the project. The bill passed the committee by a 16 to 8 vote and now heads to the House floor.

-HB 2238, by Rep. Dennis Casey and Rep. Earl Sears, was also approved unanimously by committee members Thursday. The bill removes references to the Workers' Compensation Fund and creates the Workers Compensation Commission Revolving Fund to fund operations of the Commission and administration of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act and for any other purposes related to the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act that the Commission deems appropriate. The bill also creates the Workers' Compensation Administrative Fund to be used by the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims. It apportions $5 million to the Workers' Compensation Commission Revolving Fund and $4 million to the Workers' Compensation Administrative for FY2016. The bill decreases the amount of the refund from the Multiple Injury Trust Fund assessment rate from two-thirds to one-third.

Friday, May 15, 2015

• The House and Senate both met for in the respective chambers on Friday before adjourning for the weekend.

• The full Senate gave final approval to legislation that will end the five-year ad valorem tax exemption for new wind farms beginning January 1, 2017. Senate Bill 498, by Sen. Mike Mazzei, was approved unanimously on Friday. Mazzei said the bill is expected to result in an approximate savings of $500 million over ten years.


Other news this week


• Sen. Kyle Loveless filed Senate Bill 838, the Personal Asset Protection Act, last week garnering support from a wide range of organizations. The bill is aimed at reforming a practice known as civil asset forfeiture which the government uses to seize assets like cash and vehicles alleged to be part of a larger crime. The practice has come under fire in recent years due to a lack of transparency and due process procedures. Currently, law enforcement must only suspect the property is involved in the commission of a crime. SB 838 will require clear and convincing evidence that the property was involved-ensuring the individual is innocent until proven guilty. The bill will be the subject of an interim study this fall.

• Preston Doerflinger, Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology, announced Tuesday that General Revenue Fund collections for April were below projections, pushing yearly collections below fiscal year's 2015 estimate on which state appropriations are based. He reported April GRF collections were $673.3 million, which was $87 million or 11.4 percent below the estimate and $17.2 million or 2.5 percent below prior year collections. Total GRF collections for the first ten months of FY2015 of $4.8 billion are $4.5 million or 0.1 percent below the estimate and $199.5 million or 4.3 percent above the prior year.

This marks the first time in FY2015 that year-to-date collections have fallen below the official estimate. The Oklahoma Constitution permits lawmakers and the governor to appropriate 95 percent of the amount estimated to be deposited in the General Revenue Fund, creating a cushion should revenues come in lower than expected. Doerflinger said the decline in collections can be attributed largely to the effect low oil prices are having on tax collections.

Major tax categories in April contributed the following amounts to the GRF:

• Total income tax collections of $413 million were $48.8 million, or 10.6 percent, below the estimate and $15.8 million, or 4 percent, above the prior year. Individual income tax collections of $387.5 million were $9.7 million, or 2.4 percent, below the estimate and $41.4 million, or 12 percent, above the prior year. Corporate income tax collections of $25.5 were $39.1 million, or 60.6 percent, below the estimate and $25.6 million, or 50.2 percent, below the prior year.

• Sales tax collections of $164.6 million were $5.9 million, or 3.5 percent, below the estimate and $305,572, or 0.2 percent, below the prior year.

• Gross production tax collections of $8.9 million were $28.5 million, or 76.1 percent, below the estimate and $29 million, or 76.4 percent, below the prior year. Gas collections of $216,794 were $19.4 million, or 98.9 percent, below the estimate and $9.3 million, or 97.7 percent, below the prior year. Oil collections of $8.7 million were $9 million, or 50.8 percent, below the estimate and $19.6 million, or 69.2 percent, below the prior year.

• Motor vehicle tax collections of $17.1 million were $3.2 million 15.6 percent, below the estimate and $7.1 million, or 29.2 percent, below the prior year.

• Other revenue collections of $69.7 million were $660,702, or 0.9 percent, below the estimate and $3.3 million or 5 percent, above the prior year.

• The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) held its monthly meeting Thursday afternoon, the focus of which was cuts the agency may be facing upon the arrival of a budget agreement in the House and Senate. Chief Executive Director Nico Gomez said he could provide no concrete updates on the agency's budget for the upcoming fiscal year as the Legislature had yet to come to a budget agreement at the time of the meeting. He stated that a discussion of the budget was added to the agenda as the board was not sure whether the Legislature would have a budget by that time or not. Gomez indicated the OHCA needs roughly $78 million, in addition to the funds the agency received last year, in order to run the same programs they are running today.

• Governor Mary Fallin announced this week she has named Bob Gilliland chairman of the Oklahoma Workers Compensation Commission and has tabbed the outgoing chairman to serve as a special commissioner. Gilliland, of Oklahoma City, was appointed in 2013 as one of three initial members on the Workers Compensation Commission and will assume his chairmanship duties June 1. Troy L. Wilson, the first chairman of the commission, announced his resignation last month and that his last day will be May 31. He will serve as special commissioner from June 1 through Aug. 31, 2015. Furthermore, Fallin has appointed Dr. LeRoy Young, of Oklahoma City, to replace Wilson on the commission beginning on June 1. She also earlier named Mark Liotta, of Sapulpa, to succeed outgoing Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Denise Engle.