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Press Releases

Showing: February, 1998

Governor Keating's desire to cut taxes even if it adversely impacts public education is out of step with both Republican and Democratic governors around the country and could damage Oklahoma's economic development efforts, according to a Senate leader.

Senator Cal Hobson pointed to a recent Washington Post article on this week's National Governor's Association meeting which detailed how the nation's state chief executives were resisting large tax cuts in an effort to devote more funds to education.

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The Oklahoma Senate has taken final action on legislation that should result in lower health insurance rates and greater health care choices for state employees. SB 1089 was approved on a 33-15 vote.

Among other things, the legislation begins the process of pumping an additional $35.9 million into the reserves of the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board (OSEEGIB) to help offset a recent premium increase for state employees. OSEEGIB voted to raise rates last year, citing a decline in reserve funds.

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Gustafson Announces Retirement

Oklahoma City - State Senator Bill Gustafson (R-El Reno) is announcing his decision not to seek a third term as State Senator for District 22. Gustafson, the current Minority Leader in the Legislature's upper chamber, will complete eight years of service at the end of this year.

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By vetoing legislation designed to offset a recent premium increase, Governor Keating has insured that state employees will be hit with a health insurance rate increase. SB 1089 would have begun the process of pumping an additional $35.9 million into the reserves of the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board (OSEEGIB), which recently voted to raise rates after a decline in reserve funds. The increase affects state employees, state retirees and teachers.

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Citing a new budget estimate that will certify an additional $19.9 million for appropriation in the coming fiscal year, a Senate leader is urging Governor Keating to drop his proposed pension raid and use the new funds to help balance the current executive budget. He also wants the Governor to take a "pension protection pledge."

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Saying he wants to give the Governor's $1.2 billion tax cut program thorough consideration, the leader of the Oklahoma Senate announced today that he would work to advance Governor Keating's initiatives to the next stage of the legislative process. The tax proposal will be considered in the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow.

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials have secured a contract to purchase the rail between Oklahoma City and Sapulpa for the purpose of restoring high speed passenger rail service to Oklahoma. Senator Dave Herbert (D-Midwest City) and Representative Mike Tyler (D-Sapulpa) made that announcement today.

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Saying Chancellor Hans Brisch didn't make a single commitment to expand educational opportunities in Tulsa during almost two hours of testimony yesterday, Senator Lewis Long is calling on Brisch and the State Regents to offer some concrete commitments for expanding academic offerings in Tulsa. He's also urging Tulsans to phone the Chancellor in support of a proposed four-year university in Tulsa.

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Oklahoma's education budget will face an annual cut of $597 million if Governor Keating successfully implements his two major tax cut initiatives. The prison system would also be a big funding loser, according to a new analysis by the Senate staff.

"If Governor Keating's program is adopted, we won't be won't be 47th in education funding anymore. We'll be 50th, the worst in the country," said Senator Darryl Roberts, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

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Oklahoma's most violent criminals are far more likely to receive tougher punishment under truth-in-sentencing than they are under the old criminal justice system, according to a new survey conducted by the Department of Corrections.

"This is a perfect illustration of why we can't afford to go back to the old, broken down criminal justice system. When you get past all the scare stories and misleading statistics, the fact is truth-in-sentencing is a lot tougher on violent criminals than the old system was," said Senator Cal Hobson.

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Members of the Tulsa Senate delegation are questioning the State Regents' decision to build a new higher education bureaucracy in Tulsa before addressing the academic needs of the area. At a meeting last week, the State Regents began the process of hiring new administrators for the proposed OU/OSU-Tulsa, even though pending enabling legislation mandates that academic improvements take place before such an institution can be created.

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There is ample higher education funding already available to create a new state university in Tulsa, according to a Senate analysis commissioned by a Tulsa area lawmaker. The statistics indicate current higher education appropriations will support a four-year university in Tulsa.

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Lawmakers Honor Late Senator

OKLAHOMA CITY - Praising his many accomplishments in both the public and private sectors, The Oklahoma State Senate paid tribute this week to former State Senator H.B. Atkinson. Atkinson passed away on January 27.

Adkinson's many achievements were recounted in the chamber where he served from 1965 through 1970, with the passage of Senate Resolution 49.

Senator Dave Herbert was among those paying tribute to Atkinson.

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Oklahoma's wealthiest citizens would be the biggest beneficiaries of Governor Keating's proposed income tax cut, according to a new analysis by the Senate staff. The study indicates almost 80 percent of the $777 million tax reduction would go to less than one-quarter of Oklahoma taxpayers, those who make more than $50,000 a year.

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OKLAHOMA CITY - It appears that a proposal to encourage greater teenage participation in driver's education may face little opposition this legislative session. Senators Keith Leftwich (D-Oklahoma City) and Herb Rozell (D-Tahlequah) conducted a public hearing on the issue at the State Capitol this morning.

"I am very pleased by the response to this proposal," said Senator Leftwich. "We are gaining support for this driver's ed package from nearly every sector of society. Education, parents, business, and many others are voicing their enthusiastic support."

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Saying Governor Keating is using "election year gimmickry and creative accounting procedures" to make his budget balance, a Senate budget leader is raising concerns about some of the funding sources cited in the executive budget.

"Red flags always go up when the state chief executive makes a lot of expensive promises in a tight budget year. When the promises outweigh the money, you've got a problem. I would say the Governor's budget has a big problem, especially in the pension area," said Senator Darryl Roberts, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

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