Oklahoma Legislators Running Full Speed Ahead

By Pitts, William O. | THE JOURNAL RECORD, February 27, 1998 | Go to article overview

Oklahoma Legislators Running Full Speed Ahead


Pitts, William O., THE JOURNAL RECORD


It was a productive week of work for the Senate and House of Representatives as they plowed through crowded agendas, passing nearly 150 bills apiece. This did not include more than 50 House appropriations bills passed by the Senate and returned to the House for consideration of amendments.

A huge majority of the bills, besides the appropriations measures, passed by large vote margins. This is a usual practice at this point in the session. In many instances legislators know the bills are going to conference and they will get another chance to vote on them. There also is a reluctance to kill bills of fellow members. They often leave that up to the members in the other house.

Four measures were defeated in the House during the week, some by substantial margins. They also returned several bills to committee, which effectively kills them. The Senate defeated two measures and several others were laid over for later consideration. Gov. Frank Keating got into the act by vetoing a bill. The governor vetoed Senate Bill 1089 by Sen. Angela Monson, D- Oklahoma City, that would have taken $35.9 million from the state's rainy day fund and appropriated it to the State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board. It also would have allowed state employees to choose a different health plan. In his veto message, the governor said he is "opposed to a bill that subsidizes an inefficient, backward government-run insurance plan that should be privatized." He said he believes state employees are entitled to unrestricted private choices for indemnity and preferred provider medical plans. He also opposed the idea of taking the money from the rainy day fund, saying if the Legislature wants to subsidize the board's rate increase it should be through direct appropriations. Strange logic Last year the Legislature enacted a law by Rep. Jim Glover, D- Elgin, to allow Highway Patrolmen and police to stop motorists who are not wearing seat belts. Ostensibly the bill was designed to help enforce the state's mandatory seat belt law, which of course was passed to protect us from ourselves. This week one of the bills resoundingly defeated in the Senate was Senate Bill 767 by Sen. Ben Brown, D-Oklahoma City. It would have amended the current law prohibiting anyone from riding outside the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle on streets, highways and turnpikes, but exempting pickup trucks from the restriction. Brown's bill would have extended the restriction to pickups for persons under 18 years old. Apparently the Senate believes a person riding in the cab of a pick up should be required to wear a seat belt, but it's all right for that person, even a minor child, to ride in the open bed of the pickup without wearing one. If that makes sense, it must be "political" sense. Cold shoulder The House leadership must be satisfied with the method now used for setting legislative pay. Five Joint Resolutions were introduced in the House relating to the matter of legislative compensation. Most of them were similar proposals. All five were sent to the House Rules Committee, and all five were allowed to die there. Rep. Forrest Claunch, R-Midwest City introduced House Joint Resolution 1056 amending the constitution to abolish the present Board on Legislative Compensation and setting the base pay for legislators at the level in effect on Jan. 1, 1989. It would have required their compensation to be adjusted upward or downward each year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index. Rep. Dan Webb, R-Oklahoma City, had two joint resolutions. One would have submitted a constitutional amendment to a vote of the people abolishing the present board, and requiring legislators' pay to be set by law. It would have prohibited any increase during a legislative session in which state employees did not receive an increase. His second proposal would have allowed legislators to refuse an increase in compensation approved by the board. …

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Oklahoma Legislators Running Full Speed Ahead
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