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Legislative Session 2000 Highlights

Car tags - After Governor Keating vetoed car tag reform for the second year in a row, lawmakers voted to bypass the state chief executive and put the question directly on a statewide ballot in August. The measure would junk Oklahoma's current tag system, replacing it with a system of flat annual fees ranging from $85 to $15 depending on the age of a vehicle. It would also reform the excise tax, assessing it on the actual sales price rather than the inflated sticker price as current law allows. The measure would result in a $22 million tax cut. Because almost 70 percent of vehicle fee transactions are annual tag renewals, the majority of Oklahomans would benefit immediately from the proposal.

Tobacco trust fund - In an effort to create a nest egg for future generations, lawmakers passed a proposed constitutional amendment that will ultimately deposit 75 percent of annual tobacco payments in a special trust fund. Citizen member panels will be appointed to administer and invest the funds. Interest earnings can be spent on health and children's programs.

Nursing home reform -- To address concerns raised by an ongoing investigation at the State Health Department, lawmakers approved a nursing home reform bill designed to revamp the state's inspection process and improve quality of care for the elderly. Among other things, HB 2019 will boost nursing home staffing levels and make it a crime for any health department employee to give advance notice of a nursing home inspection.

$3,000 teacher pay raise - With Oklahoma ranked 48th in teacher pay and losing many instructors to better paying jobs in surrounding states, lawmakers took action early in the session to deliver a $3,000 pay raise to every teacher in Oklahoma. It marks the first across-the-board pay hike for all Oklahoma teachers since the mandates of the Education Reform Act of 1990.

Education reform - HB 2728 fine-tuned last year's education reform bill, addressing a number of concerns raised by schools officials in recent months. In addition to repealing the controversial dual diploma and adjusting curriculum requirements to allow more flexibility for vo-tech courses, the measure expanded a scholarship program for working families and their children, the Oklahoma Higher Education program. The program's income limits were raised from $32,000 to $50,000 -a change that is expected to pull in an additional 4,000 students.

$2,000 state employee pay raise - Lawmakers approved the third state employee pay hike in the past four-years, providing a $2,000 across-the-board increase to every state worker. Prior to the latest increase, state employees ranked 50th in national pay comparisons. The pay hike is designed to stem high worker turnover that costs the state in retraining costs.

Patients Rights - In an effort to improve health care for Oklahomans, lawmakers approved SB 1206, the HMO Accountability Act. The measure allows people to sue their HMOs if they improperly deny them medical treatment or make other health care decisions detrimental to their members. The law is patterned after a similar statute in Texas that was passed with the support
of Gov. George Bush Jr.

Road construction program - Lawmakers approved funding for the ongoing $1 billion road construction program. It is the largest highway building initiative in state history.

Economic development - Lawmakers expanded the highly successful Quality Jobs Program again, targeting the incentive program to economically distressed areas in both metro and rural areas. The program was also revised to reward those companies that create high-paying jobs in
Oklahoma's major urban areas. Lawmakers also passed a tax incentive program designed specifically to land a GM truck plant for Oklahoma City. The measure will preserve for than 1,000 jobs in the Capital city.

Protected veterans programs - Lawmakers successfully sidetracked Governor Keating's proposal to slash Oklahoma veterans programs by $1.7 million or 8 percent. Had the Governor gotten his way, Oklahoma's six veteran centers would have faced major staffing problems, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

State retiree cost of living adjustments - In an effort to keep up with inflation, lawmakers approved COLAs for all of the state retirement system members.

War on drugs - Lawmakers approved several initiatives designed to further the war on drugs in Oklahoma. The Legislature delivered emergency funding to the OSBI to fight the growing problem of methamphetamine labs in Oklahoma. Federal authorities say Oklahoma has the third highest number of meth labs in the country. Lawmakers also outlawed the transport of anhydrous ammonia - the key ingredient for illegal meth makers. The Legislature also took action to stop a new trend on the drug scene, banning Gamma-Butryolactone (GBL), the so-called "date rape" drug that renders victims unconscious.

Child abuse prevention - HB 2007 creates a permanent funding source to establish multidisciplinary teams throughout the state to fight child abuse. These teams brings together mental health and medical professionals, law enforcement, child protective workers and district
attorneys for a more efficient process for dealing with alleged child abuse cases. This will enable the victims to get the critical services they need much quicker, as well as speeding up investigations and prosecutions against abusers.

Contact info
Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5605