Wednesday’s work: Governor signs two bills, vetoes five

OKLAHOMA CITY – Parents seeking a divorce on grounds of incompatibility will be required to attend an educational program centered on the impact of the separation on their children, under legislation the governor signed late Wednesday (June 4).

House Bill 2249 goes into effect Nov. 1. Program topics will include:

* “short-term and longitudinal effects of divorce on child well-being”;

* reconciliation as an optional outcome;

* effects of family violence;

* potential child behaviors and emotional states during and after divorce, including information about how to respond to the child’s needs;

* communication strategies to “reduce conflict and facilitate cooperative co-parenting”;

* area resources, including non-profit organizations or religious entities available to address issues of substance abuse or other addictions, family violence, behavioral health, individual and couples counseling, and financial planning.

The parents will be charged a fee of $15 to $60 “to offset the costs of the program,” and will receive a certificate upon completion, the legislation provides. The program must be completed prior to final disposition of child custody, although the court could waive attendance “for good cause shown.” Couples may attend the program either separately or together.

H.B. 2249 also requires data to be compiled about divorce filings, including the number of actions dismissed after completion of the mediation program.

Exempting Currency from Taxation

The governor signed legislation that exempts from state sales taxes the sales of any precious metal that is bought and sold as the legal tender of any nation.

Senate Bill 862 expressly refers to gold, silver, platinum, palladium or other bullion items such as coins and bars and legal tender of any nation which is sold “according to its value as precious metal or as an investment.”

During House floor debate, Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, argued that S.B. 862 provides yet another avenue for wealthy individuals to avoid paying taxes.

But Rep. Gary Banz, R-Midwest City, principal author of the measure, contended that, “It’s inappropriate to tax currency.” He also said the legislation would “incentivize economic activity” because gold is “emerging as a currency.”

Banz said Oklahoma has 69 pawns shops and five coin dealers, while across the state line, six neighboring states have 201 pawn shops and 102 coin shops that deal in gold. A private individual provided those statistics after performing a survey of Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, Banz said.

School Testing Bill Vetoed

Legislation that would have relaxed school testing requirements was vetoed Wednesday by the governor.

Students who achieve at least a proficient score on their end-of-instruction tests for algebra I, English II and two of the five other required tests (algebra II, biology I, English III, geometry, and U.S. history) would have been exempted by House Bill 3170 from having to take any remaining EOI exams. (However, the legislation dictated that students must take a biology I end-of-instruction exam, as that is required by the federal government.)

Supporters of H.B. 3170 observed that parents and students, school teachers and administrators, all have complained repeatedly about excessive mandatory testing in schools today. Twenty-five House Democrats endorsed the bill, and the other four were absent when the vote was taken.

Besides measuring a student’s proficiency in a particular subject, end-of-instruction criterion-referenced tests “serve as an additional tool for administrators and teachers to assess the effectiveness of instruction methods, instruction materials, and to assess growth and improvement of students individually and by class,” the governor wrote in her veto message. Additionally, EOI testing “maintains high expectations for classroom performance across all subjects for all students, thus ensuring a well-rounded education…”

If students who attain a proficient score on four EOI exams were exempted, “only a portion of the students in a class of algebra II, biology I, English II, geometry, or U.S. history would be required to participate in the EOI exams,” the governor continued. “Because only a portion of the students would be tested, the EOI … would be an inaccurate and inconsistent assessment of the class as a whole.”
Leave-Time Pay Bill Disallowed

Senate Bill 1505, which would have allowed state agencies to pay their employees for up to 200 hours of unused accrued annual leave, was vetoed Wednesday by the governor.

Annual leave is “a critical component” of the benefits offered to state employees “and encourages a healthy work-life balance,” the governor wrote. S.B. 1505 “transforms leave time into a commodity and incentivizes employees to not utilize annual leave time.”
Construction Registry Rejected

The governor vetoed House Bill 3359, which proposed the Oklahoma Construction Registry Act. The legislation would have established a nine-member advisory council to assist and advise the registry administrator (who would have been the Secretary of State) in the development, design, implementation and operation of the roster.

“While I support the modernization of the construction lien registration process, I do not support the expansion of government,” the governor wrote in her veto message. HB 3359 would expand government through creation of the advisory council, she said.
Fallin Also Spurned…

The governor also vetoed two other measures Wednesday. Senate Bill 814 pertained to the custody of prisoners who require medical attention, and Senate Bill 1315 related to procedures for initiative and referendum petitions.