On Friday, Gov. Brad Henry took action on the bills that remained on his desk for consideration. He signed the chief information officer bill into law and veto provision that would make it easier to get measures on the ballot.
He vetoed a record 21 bills sent to him this session. It’s also the first time the Legislature has been all Republican. Henry is a Democrat. In all, 480 bills were sent to the governor’s desk by the Legislature this session.
Here’s a list from Friday of the bills signed into law and nixed by Henry.
-HB 1137 – Appropriates $2,404,447,551 to the State Department of Education; allocates funds appropriated among various Common Ed groups; requires the development of performance measures; specifies purposes for various funds; EMERGENCY.
-HB 1162 – Directs the Department of Central Services to expend $1,000,000 of the agency’s FY-10 appropriations for the demolition of the Hissom Memorial Treatment Center, which has been closed for 20 years; EMERGENCY.
-HB 1170 – Creates the Oklahoma Information Services Act; creates position of Chief Information Officer; provides for appointment of the Chief Information Officer.
-HB 1200 – Appropriates $74,360,930 to the State Department of Health; authorizes expenditure of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Fund; directs the transfer of money to a number of funds; EMERGENCY.
-HB 1737 – Creates the Oklahoma School for the Visual and Performing Arts.
-HB 1755 – Provides for the designation of enterprise agencies.
-HB 2245 – Creates the Oklahoma Criminal Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act of 2009; authorizes release of prisoners to the custody of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement under certain circumstances.
-SB 222 – Creates the Educational Accountability Reform Act; provides for membership, appointment and designation of officers, quorum, staff and travel reimbursement; requires compliance with Oklahoma Open Meeting Act; EMERGENCY.
-SB 1020 – Prohibits transmission of child pornography by Internet; sets penalties; EMERGENCY.
-SB 1033 – Prohibits persons from wrongfully injure any cervidae (deer) upon the premises of a farmed cervidae facility or wrongfully remove any cervidae from the premises of a farmed cervidae facility; EMERGENCY.
-SB 1064 – Amends language pertaining to the possession of cell phones or electronic devices in prison; EMERGENCY.
-SB 1175 – Creates the Oklahoma Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Security Act of 2009; defines terms and creates committees.
-SB 1200 – Relates to insurance; relates to short title by updating statutory reference.
This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to items in appropriations bills presented to me, I have VETOED all of Section 9 of House Bill 1200 appropriating the sum of Two Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($2,500,000.00) to the Oklahoma Institute for Disaster and Emergency Medicine. This line item is unnecessary because the Institute has sufficient funds on hand for program costs for FY 2010. By vetoing this item, the funds specified therein will remain in the budget of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, and the Commissioner of Health will have the authority and flexibility to further evaluate and respond to the actual funding needs of the Institute if necessary.
While I strongly support the Academic Achievement Award program and the proposed improvements in HB 1575, other changes in Section 2 of the bill are problematic, amount to unconstitutional logrolling, and fatally flaw the measure. Without explanation, the legislation arbitrarily increases the time span that a teacher may be held under a temporary contract, changing a longstanding employment provision and eroding educators’ precious due process rights. I would encourage lawmakers to approve new legislation with Section 2 deleted so I can sign into law the proposed improvements for the Academic Achievement Award program.
All citizens, whether they are employed by the public or private sectors, have the constitutional right to express their views on any issue they choose. HB 2176 would prohibit certain state employees from advocating for or against legislation pending before the Oklahoma Legislature and authorize a felony charge and a prison term of up to two years for anyone who runs afoul of the provision. This legislation is poorly worded, has severe unintended consequences, and clearly stifles freedom of speech in direct conflict with the First Amendment.
While HB 2246 is designed to strengthen the initiative petition process and contains several good provisions, the bill is fatally flawed because of Section 3, a provision that grants additional rights to petition circulators at the same time it takes away the rights of other citizens. For example, Section 3 would make it a crime for a person to interrupt a conversation between a circulator and a potential signer, touch a petition or promotional material without the consent of a circulator or shout in the presence of a circulator to express opposition to their initiative. Such prohibitions have the effect of discouraging and even criminalizing such basic constitutional rights as free speech and freedom of assembly. Section 3 also provides unscrupulous circulators with a cash incentive to report such offensive speech or assembly by requiring offenders to pay the complaining circulator $500 in statutory damages for each violation.
It is critical to have a fair and accessible initiative petition process available to the people, but the meritorious proposals in HB 2246 cannot overcome the harm caused by Section 3. In an effort to enact fair and responsible petition reforms in the next legislative session, I will appoint an interim task force to review the issues addressed in HB 2246 and work on language that strengthens and improves the process without eroding the constitutionally guaranteed rights of individual citizens.