State Senate votes for bills on gift cards, judges - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

State Senate votes for bills on gift cards, judges

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Oklahoma consumers would have up to five years to redeem gift cards under a bill that passed the state Senate on Wednesday.

In other action, the state Senate approved a measure setting up a system whereby judges in four counties would no longer have to go through the election process every four years.

The credit card measure, by Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne, was questioned by some Republican lawmakers, who expressed concern that it would cause bookkeeping and other problems for retailers.

But Sen. James Williamson, R-Tulsa, said it was ``craziness'' that merchants do not have to honor gift cards purchased with cash just because fine print somewhere had an expiration date.

Williamson said other states do not penalize their consumers in that manner.

Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, said gift cards are a good deal now for retailers and will continue to be so, even with later redemption dates, because of inflation.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Terry Ingmire, R-Stillwater, returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.

Senators voted 34-12 for a bill that would mean judges in four counties _ Canadian, Oklahoma, Pawnee and Tulsa _ would no longer have to go through the election process every four years.

Instead, they would be on a retention ballot, which is currently the system for state appellate court judges.

Sen. Charles Laster, D-Shawnee, Senate sponsor, said the new system would eliminate ``shot in the dark'' election of judges in urban counties where voters do not know the candidates' qualifications.

The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Lance Cargill, R-Harrah, who said the current system forces judges to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, mostly from lawyers, for expensive media campaigns.

Some Oklahoma County judges have expressed support for the measure, including District Judge Barbara Swinton, whose election campaign three years ago was characterized by negative television commercials that depicted her as a Barbie doll.

The bill returns to the House and will wind up in a joint conference committee for further work, Laster said.
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