Tidbits for Summer 2016
By: Constitution Staff
Next State Senate Pro Tempore
In April, Republican senators voted to designate Senator Mike Schulz (R-Altus) as the next President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate. The President Pro Tem is the upper chamber's top leadership position. In addition to leading the Majority Caucus and setting its agenda, the Pro Tem oversees the operations of the Oklahoma Senate. He has served as the Majority Floor Leader in the Senate since 2012. He replaces President Pro Tem Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa) who has served as the Senate leader the past six years, but had to leave office because of legislative term limits. The remainder of the Senate GOP's leadership team will be chosen following the general election this November. The Senate will organize in January, at which time the new Pro Tem will be officially elected by the entire Senate, and rules for the 2017 session will be passed. Like his predecessor, Schulz is a moderate Republican. Both scored 40% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index for the 2016 legislative session. Schulz has a 60% cumulative average over his legislative career, and Bingman has a 59% average.
State House Speaker-Designate
The House Republican Caucus elected Rep. Charles McCall (R-Atoka) as Speaker-designate on May 2. McCall, 46, was elected to the House in 2012, and could serve several more terms before being forced out by term-limits. He replaces Rep. Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview) who could not run for reelection due to the 12-year term-limits. McCall currently serves as the chairman of the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation. He would be the first Republican Speaker from southeastern Oklahoma. After the November elections, House Republicans will hold a second election with the new members to select a Speaker-elect. The House will organize in January, at which time the new Speaker will be officially elected by the entire House. Since voters handed Republicans control of the House in 2005, every Speaker-designate has been confirmed. McCall is somewhat more conservative than Hickman. McCall scored 59% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index in the 2016 session and has a cumulative average of 74% for his four-year legislative career. Hickman scored 33% this year and has an average of 57%.
Allbaugh Permanent DOC Director
Joe Allbaugh will have his temporary title of acting director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections removed on November 1st as he becomes the permanent director. The Oklahoma Board of Corrections voted to promote Allbaugh and increase his salary from $165,000 to $185,000. Allbaugh, who has been working as interim director since January, was not immediately qualified to take the permanent position as director. But, during this year's legislative session, Senate Bill 1602 was passed by state lawmakers amended the law to remove a the portion of the job qualifications requiring the prison director to have at least five years of corrections experience and a master's degree. Allbaugh became eligible to become director when Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation in June removing those requirements. Although he worked on criminal justice issues with George W. Bush, Allbaugh had no prior corrections experience before accepting the position with the state Corrections Department.
Allbaugh, 63, is president and CEO of Allbaugh International Group, a strategic consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., but has had long political ties to Oklahoma. After earning a degree in political science from Oklahoma State University, he joined the staff of Oklahoma Senator Henry Bellmon in 1974. He was a member of the field staff of the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984 before returning to Oklahoma to work on Bellmon's winning race for governor in 1986. He then served on the governor's staff and was Bellmon's chief strategist. He later served as a deputy secretary of transportation under Bellmon's successor, David Walters.
In 1994, Allbaugh went to Texas to manage the George W. Bush campaign for governor. He was chief of staff for Gov. Bush and campaign manager for Bush's 2000 presidential election campaign. Allbaugh then served as Bush's Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) until the agency was transferred into the newly created Department of Homeland Security.
Oklahoma Retail Protection Act
House Bill 2531 by Rep. Chad Caldwell (Enid) and Sen. John Ford (R-Bartlesville) was approved by Gov. Mary Fallin on May 17. The Oklahoma Retail Protection Act amends current law concerning sales taxes on transactions between a buyer from Oklahoma and out-of-state online retail sites. The goal of the legislation is to increase the collection of sales taxes on retail sales by businesses outside the state. Currently, businesses with a physical presence in the state must collect and remit sales tax while out-of-state retailers do not. The bill will require online retailers that do not have a physical presence in Oklahoma to either begin voluntarily collecting sales tax at the point of consumer purchase or send each of their consumers a notice at the end of each year stating the total amount of purchases and include a notice that sales and use tax remittance is required to be reported and paid on their Oklahoma tax return. Rep. Caldwell said this is not a tax increase, as sales and use tax collection and remittance is already required by state statute. But, estimates show that only 4 percent of Oklahoma taxpayers currently report and pay use tax on their state tax returns.
Drone No Fly Zones
The increasing popularity of drones has created new security concerns for businesses, government facilities and private citizens. Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 2599 on May 18 to restrict the flight of unmanned aircraft over locations and businesses that are completely fenced in or have signs to prevent intruders. The bill, authored by Rep. Justin Wood (R-Shawnee) and Sen. Ron Sharp (R-Shawnee), is intended to protect the privacy and security of Oklahoma businesses and facilities. Originally introduced as a toy has now become a nuisance and security threat for companies and government facilities like refineries, electric power generation facilities, gas processing sites, water treatment plants, dams and prisons.
HB 2599 restricts flights of drones over "critical infrastructure" less than 400 feet above ground level or past their fence lines. The bill also requires signage on such property forbidding flight of drones without site authorization. Violators can be found civilly-liable for damages to the property, environment or human health. Government, law enforcement, the owner of the critical infrastructure facility and operators authorized by the FAA to conduct operations over that airspace are exempt under the new law which will go into effect November 1, 2016.
Feral Hog Bill Vetoed
On May 20, Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed Senate Bill 1142 by Sen. Nathan Dahm and Rep. Sean Roberts that would have allowed the hunting of feral hogs day or night if the hunter has permission from the landowner. Also under the measure, a license would no longer be required.
The Samuel Roberts Noble Research Foundation has estimated the feral hog population in Oklahoma to be as high as 1.6 million, with hogs verified in all 77 counties. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture has reported that feral hogs can carry up to 30 different diseases and have been a menace to crops and property. The legislation was supported by the National Rifle Association, Oklahoma Pork Council, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, OK2A and the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association.
New Car Tags
Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 3208 on June 6 which directs the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) to issue new vehicle license plates. The measure by Rep. Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville) and Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) adds a fee of five dollars paid to the OTC beginning July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017 upon every registered vehicle to fund the new tags. There are 3,700,000 vehicles currently registered in the state. The new plates would have a new theme to promote the state which will be provided by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections will manufacture the new tags. One of the reasons given for the new plates is that the reflective material used on license plates wears off over time, making them more difficult for law enforcement officers to read. Currently, plates are legally allowed to remain on vehicles for seven years, but many become difficult to read after just four years of road wear. The state hasn't had a general reissue of all plates in seven years. The new plates will also be easier to read by the automated scanners coming into use for turnpike tolls and insurance verification. It will also make it easier to detect if a vehicle is unregistered, since they would not have the new plate design. Currently you can only tell by reading the small sticker on the tag.
House Bill 3231 by Rep. Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville) and Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) authorized a $200 million bond issue to fund specific Oklahoma Department of Transportation projects. Instead of paying for the projects from state revenues, the legislation authorizes the sale of bonds (borrowing the funds) to finance the projects. This allowed the money that would have been used to pay for the projects to be instead diverted to cover other state expenditures in order to balance the budget. According to the state constitution, the issuing of bond debt must be approved by a vote of the people. The bill was approved by the Legislature was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin on June 6.
Fallin Considers Special Session
On July 27, Gov. May Fallin reacted to the announcement that $140.8 million initially cut from state agency allocations at midyear can now be allocated. "I've begun discussions with legislative leaders to consider calling lawmakers to return in special session to address the issue of teacher pay raises. I continue to support a pay raise for teachers, having called on lawmakers at the beginning of this year's session to approve a teacher pay raise. Lawmakers considered it, but this was an extremely difficult budget year and a funding agreement couldn't be reached. With this available money, I am again asking lawmakers to act on this important issue of providing a raise for every teacher in this state." The money is available because General Revenue Fund allocation reductions required by the FY 2016's midyear revenue failure were deeper than necessary. Without a special session, the $140.8 million would be distributed equally among all agencies receiving general revenue allocations.
Legislators Increase Their Own Budget
While most Oklahoma state agencies saw cuts of 5% or more in their budgets for the new fiscal year which began on July 1, the big exception was the Legislative Services Bureau (LSB). Oklahoma lawmakers gave a 184% funding increase to the state agency that provides legislative research and computer services for lawmakers and their staffs. The LSB received a $9 million increase, bringing its annual appropriation to $13,892,835. The justification given for the increase was that the LSB will now be responsible for paying the salaries of legislators and their staffs, and therefore the budgets of the House and Senate budgets were cut. However, the Senate budget was reduced by about $2 million and the House budget was cut by $3 million, for a total of $5 million. So, there was still a $4 million boost in overall funding for the LSB.
There still has been no explanation for the increase, other than that the House and Senate budgets had experienced reductions in recent years, making it difficult to live within their budgets. Apparently it was hoped that by moving the funds around, it would be difficult to follow what was happening. House Speaker Jeff Hickman said his chamber had cut back on payroll in recent years. "We've consolidated positions, laid people off and because of the budget situation, we have burned through our reserves over the last several years." Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said his chamber had also reduced spending on its staff, and had to transfer $1.5 million from one of its savings accounts to be used in the budget. So, this was apparently a gimmick to restore their budgets, while making it appear they were cutting their House and Senate budgets.
Whole Woman's Health V. Hellerstedt
On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-3 ruling in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, struck down the Texas state law that required health providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and that abortion procedures are performed in facilities held to the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Oklahoma has a nearly identical law which is currently on hold pending a challenge in the courts. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe commented on the court decision: "I am disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a reasonable law to protect women's health. The Texas law required abortion clinics to meet the same cleanliness and safety standards as other outpatient surgery centers and required abortion doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. This was a common-sense response to the horrors found in Kermit Gosnell's abortion clinic in Philadelphia that led to the death of several women. States should be able to regulate abortion clinics the same as they do for any other medical facility that performs outpatient procedures."
Oklahoma's other U.S. Senator, James Lankford, said: "This decision by the Court will allow abortion clinics to operate at a lower standard of safety than out-patient surgical centers, putting moms at risk. The Court ruled today that the right to an abortion is more important than the right of a state to protect its citizens. As we continue to fight for every life, we must ensure the health and safety of any woman who undergoes an abortion and the right of states to care for their citizens." In February, Lankford joined an amicus brief filed with the Court on the need to uphold legislative judgements by states regarding medical issues to ensure the safety of women.
20 Week Abortion Ban
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe noted one positive outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case: "The one silver lining to this ruling is that Texas' ban on abortion after 20 weeks was not challenged. I believe this should be the law not just in Texas, but also across the nation as our current policy places the U.S. in the ranks of China and North Korea as only one in seven countries that permits abortion at or after five months of pregnancy. In order for Congress to successfully move forward on legislation to ban abortion at 20-weeks, we will need more pro-life voices in Washington and in the White House. This serves as a strong reminder how pivotal this current election cycle is in the fight to give a voice to the unborn." Last September 22, Inhofe voted in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36), legislation that would prohibit abortions from being performed on unborn babies who are at or older than 20 weeks post-fertilization. Senate Democrats blocked the legislation with a 54-42 vote on a motion to proceed to cloture.
New Oklahoma Abortion Clinic
The first new abortion clinic to open in the state since 1974 will open in Oklahoma City this summer. The announcement came just weeks after Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed Senate Bill 1552 which would have banned abortions in the state. Following the announcement, Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow), the author of Senate Bill 1552 said, "With 1552 it looks like we could have saved more lives and limited abortion in this state and now it looks like, with that veto, that will expand abortions here in Oklahoma." Julie Burkhart, who operates the South Wind Women's Centre in Wichita, Kansas, said they felt like there was an opportunity to fill a need in this part of the state. When Outpatient Services for Women closed in 2014, Burkhart says Oklahoma City became the largest metropolitan area in the United States without an abortion clinic. There are two other abortion clinics in the state, one in Tulsa and one in Norman.
The businesswoman once ran an abortion clinic for the late-term abortionist George Tiller who was long a target of anti-abortion activists. In the 1980s the clinic was bombed, in 1993 he was shot, and in 2009 he was killed by an anti-abortion activist. Burkhart purchased a former eye clinic in Oklahoma City and is spending about $1 million to renovate and open the abortion clinic. She said their clinic in Kansas had many patients from Oklahoma, and they expect to see patients from Texas because of the long wait for an abortion in that state.
Pro-Life Bills Signed
Two important pro-life bills were signed into law on June 6 by Governor Mary Fallin. HB 2797, the Humanity of the Unborn Child Act, and HB 3017, which protects vulnerable patients from being pressured to forego life-preserving treatment, both received final passage by the legislature the last week of the legislative session. ou reminded them continually that no priority is of greater importance than the protection of innocent human life. With HB 2797, Oklahoma becomes the first state to establish a public school educational program about the humanity and development of the unborn child. With HB 3017, Oklahoma becomes the state with the most life-affirming Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) document, honoring the wishes of a person who desires treatment. This milestone, is especially urgent in a culture increasingly trending toward denial of life-preserving care on grounds that someone is a "burden" or has a "poor quality of life."
Forcible Sodomy Loophole Closed
Legislation signed into law June 6 closes a loophole that could allow individuals who commit forcible sodomy on unconscious victims to receive acquittal. House Bill 2398, by state Rep. Scott Biggs (R-Chickasha) and state Sen. A.J. Griffin (R-Guthrie), was written in response to an Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decision upholding a lower court's dismissal of a sodomy case on the grounds that Oklahoma's rape law covers people who are unconscious and unable to give consent, but does not specifically address sodomy under such circumstances. "It speaks well of Oklahoma that we rallied so quickly in response to the court's ruling and immediately closed this gaping loophole," said Rep. Biggs. "Sexual assault is a crime that can have a profound impact on victims for the rest of their lives," said Sen. Griffin,. "They shouldn't be victimized a second time because a loophole prevents their assailant from being prosecuted. I'm grateful to Representative Biggs for his work on this issue, to our fellow members who supported this measure and to Governor Fallin for signing it into law."
Sanctuary Cities Legislation
On July 6, both of Oklahoma's U.S. Senators, James Lankford and Jim Inhofe voted to end sanctuary city policies, but the Senate failed to pass the measures. The Senate failed to invoke cloture on the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act (S.3100) sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) by a vote of 53 to 44, and Kate's Law (S.2193) sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) by a vote of 55 to 42. Sixty votes were required to begin debate and consideration of the bills.
The Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act would withhold certain federal funds from cities that provide a sanctuary for individuals who are being deported by federal immigration officials. It would also reward those jurisdictions that work with the federal government by reallocating money from sanctuary jurisdictions to compliant jurisdictions. Kate's Law is named after Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed in San Francisco by an immigrant here illegally who had previously been convicted of seven felonies and deported five times. Three months before Kate's death, the Department of Homeland Security asked San Francisco police to hold this man until the Department could pick him up, but the city refused to cooperate and instead released him. This legislation would enforce a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for any immigrant here illegally who re-enters the United States after having been convicted of an aggravated felony or after having been twice convicted of illegally re-entering the United States.
Death of Former Gov. Hall
Former Oklahoma Gov. David Hall died on May 6 in California after suffering a stroke. Hall, 85, resided in the San Diego area neighborhood of La Jolla. A Democrat, Hall was the 20th governor of Oklahoma, serving one term from 1971 to 1975. He ran for reelection in 1974, but was defeated by David Boren in the primary election. He was indicted three days after leaving office and convicted for bribery and extortion. The conviction related to state employee retirement funds being placed in an investment fund controlled by a Dallas businessman. Hall always maintained his innocence and wrote a book published in 2012, Twisted Justice, about his experience. He served 19 months of a three-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona. After serving his sentence, he moved to Southern California where he was successful in real estate ventures.
Former Sen. Mike Morgan Resentenced
On June 21, former state Senate Pro Temp Mike Morgan (D-Stillwater) was resentenced to 18 month in federal prison for the bribery case in which he was previously convicted and ordered to turn himself in by noon July 21. He was the last Democrat to hold the top position in the state senate. Morgan, 61, was resentenced because the original sentencing was determined to be "unreasonably lenient." Last November, the Tenth U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and said the original sentence of probation was "little more than a slap on the wrist." The appeals court determined that U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron had improperly let her disagreement with the jury's guilty verdict influence her decision on sentencing. Prosecutors has asked that Morgan be locked up for 41 to 51 months, but settled for the 18 month sentence. Morgan will serve his sentence at a federal prison in Forrest City, Arkansas.
Morgan was convicted in 2012 of accepting $12,000 in bribes for the passage of legislation involving assisted-living centers. Morgan, then a lawyer, maintained the payments were for legal services and was not a bribe. His law license was suspended in 2013 as a result of the conviction. He was originally charged with 63 counts of accepting over $400,000 from three companies, but was only convicted on the one count involving $12,000. Some counts were dropped, he was acquitted on some, and the jury deadlocked on the remaining counts. He left the Senate in 2008 due to legislative term-limits. His average score on the Oklahoma Conservative Index was 20%.
Matlock Embezzlement Charges
On July 14, former state Rep. Terry Matlock (D-Garvin), now a regent for the Regional University System of Oklahoma, was indicted on 11 counts of embezzlement and one count of engaging in a pattern of criminal offenses. The indictment alleges that while serving as CEO of Choctaw Electric Cooperative Matlock used company employees to perform personal work on his private property and used the electric coop's credit card for more than $70,000 in personal expenses. Matlock, a Democrat, served as in the House from 1990-2002 before going to work for the coop. He was fired in 2014 after the investigation began into his purchases and use of employees. Matlock could face up to 51 years in prison and fines up to $77,000 if convicted. During his time in the legislature he had an 18% average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index.
Death of E. Melvin Porter
E. Melvin Porter, Oklahoma's first black state senator, died on July 26 at the age of 86. Porter was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma in 1930. He was a member of the first class to include blacks at Vanderbilt University Law School. In 1961 he became president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Porter ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1962 as a Republican, but was elected two years later to the Oklahoma Senate, running as a Democrat. He held the senate seat for 22 years before being defeated in 1986 by Vicki Miles-LaGrange. He introduced Oklahoma's Anti-Discrimination Act, which was similar to the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act. He also worked to require the inclusion of black history in Oklahoma's textbooks. Since Porter's election to office, nine more African-American Oklahomans have been elected to the Oklahoma Senate.
Other Stories From Summer 2016 Issue
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