Keating signs 23 bills, vetoes four

Friday, June 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma teachers will get a boost in their retirement benefits under legislation signed Thursday by Gov. Frank Keating.

Keating signed Senate Bill 1231, which authorizes a 3 percent increase in benefits for those enrolled in the Teacher's Retirement System of Oklahoma who continue to receive benefits after July 1.

The measure also allows retirees with 30 years of service credit to receive an increase in benefits of 4 percent.

``This legislation will help Oklahoma educators as they work toward retirement,'' Keating said. ``A 3 percent increase in retirement benefits is substantial and hopefully will provide incentive for our educators to remain in Oklahoma.''

Keating also signed House Bill 2790, which would eliminate the seven-year statute of limitations on sex crimes under certain conditions, including DNA evidence.

The courts typically don't allow new laws to be enforced retroactively, but Tulsa County prosecutors believe they may be able to use it to prosecute the real perpetrator in a 1987 rape case that resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of Arvin Carsell McGee Jr., 39.

The Tulsa resident was incarcerated for 14 years after being convicted and sentenced to 365 years in prison for the kidnapping and rape of a Tulsa woman. He was freed in February after being cleared by DNA evidence.

Prosecutors believe that DNA evidence might tie an Oklahoma prison inmate to the crime. That person has not been identified.

``I think it is a great day in our state,'' said Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris. ``It allows us to protect truth and obtain justice in courts of law and therefore citizens throughout Oklahoma benefitted a great deal with the passage of this legislation.''

Keating also signed the Oklahoma Antiterrorism Act, which establishes penalties for acts of terrorism, a terrorism hoax, a biochemical assault and other terrorist activities.

The measure also makes first-degree murder committed during an act of terrorism an aggravating circumstance when seeking the death penalty.

``This is a start to establish broad anti-terrorism legislation,'' Keating said.

Those three measures were among 23 bills Keating signed on Thursday. He vetoed four.

Another measure signed into law declares a two-year moratorium on the sale of Oklahoma water out-of-state without approval of the Legislature.

A coalition feared that the deal would deprive Oklahoma of water necessary for economic growth and future agriculture and population needs.

The state and the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes had been negotiating with a consortium of northern Texas cities the sale.

Negotiations broke down earlier this year over a difference in the sale price, but could've resume at any time.

Among the vetoed measures was House Bill 2053, which directed the Department of Central Services to compile risk management audits prepared by state agencies.

``I have concerns with any legislation dealing with the weakening of confidentiality, especially when the Open Records Act is involved,'' the governor said.