Car tag, work comp issues shunned

Thursday, June 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The special session of the Oklahoma Legislature lasted just one day, with lawmakers recessing after taking no action on car tag reform or workers' compensation reform.

Republican Gov. Frank Keating had cited those issues as the main reason for the special session. But he said Wednesday's session was worth its $20,000, one-day cost because of a change that brought Oklahoma into compliance with federal guidelines on drunken driving. Keating said the change, part of an omnibus bill approved by legislators, will keep $6 million in federal funds from being moved from state road construction to safety programs.

The omnibus bill also earmarked tobacco settlement money to a newly created trust fund and appropriated $250,000 to the Tulsa Race Riot Commission.

In other action, lawmakers passed legislation that redirected $2,000,000 in bond money from various projects to the Army Museum of the Southwest at Lawton and a bill clarifying a child support law. Keating said it was "regrettable" Democratic lawmakers did not enact a statute that would have made it unnecessary to hold a statewide vote on car tags.

Senate President Pro Tem Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, said his members felt it was best to let the people decide the issue. He predicted they would pass a $22.3 million car tag tax reduction that was sponsored by Democrats and vetoed by Keating.

Republicans had pushed a $138 million tax cut that Democratic leaders said was too costly. After Keating's veto, Democrats revived their plan as a referendum and placed it on the Aug. 22 primary election ballot.

House Speaker Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, conceded the idea of a compromise received little support in a Democratic leadership meeting Wednesday afternoon. Democrats felt there "really wasn't anything on the table to consider," Benson said.

Taylor and Benson said a study group would be appointed to consider Keating's plan to replace the current Workers' Compensation Court with an administrative system. Keating said a study of the issue was "better than nothing."

On the car tag question, Taylor said Keating "was offered every opportunity for lower tags during the regular session, but chose to draw a line in the sand."

Keating conceded that polling data indicate that voters favor the Democratic proposal that will be decided in August.

"Voters want auto tag relief," the governor said. "They don't care if it's Democrat relief or Republican relief. They want meaningful relief." He said the Democratic plan "is a good thing" if you are a new-car buyer or renewing your tags but "a bad thing" if you are a used-car buyer.

"Clearly, people are going to have to vote self interest," he said. Taylor previously had said the session was more about politics than substance.

Keating, in his second term, has been active in trying to help the state GOP reach its goal of electing a majority in the Legislature, especially in the 101-member House, which now has 40 members.

All House seats are up in the fall elections, along with 24 of 48 seats in the Senate, which is expected to remain solidly Democratic. The state filing period for legislative, state and congressional offices will be held July 10-12 at the Capitol.