Pubdate: Thu, 24 June 1999
Source: Tulsa World (OK)
Copyright: 1999, World Publishing Co.

Negotiators Say An Emergency Clause Should Have Easy Passage Before
Controversial Law Goes Into Effect July 1.

OKLAHOMA CITY -- One of the chief legislative negotiators on the
controversial truth-in-sentencing law said Wednesday that most of the major
objections Republicans raised at a special session last week have been resolved.

The special session recessed last week after Republicans balked and Senate
leaders were unable to get sufficient votes for the two-thirds majority
needed to attach a vital emergency clause to a bill repealing the
truth-in-sentencing law.

Legislators recessed until next Wednesday, when they will return to the
Capitol and attempt to reach a final settlement before the law takes effect
July 1.

The repealer passed the Senate, but supporters of the measure failed by four
votes to attach the emergency. Without it, truth in sentencing already would
have been implemented before the repealer took effect.

The repeal bill remains on the Senate calendar along with a bill that would
implement a pilot program for community sentencing. The House never got a
chance to vote on the measures.

Sen. Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, said Wednesday that he met with Republican
legislative leaders and representatives from Gov. Frank Keating's office to
discuss the legislation.

``Progress was made,'' said Hobson, one of the lawmakers who has been most
deeply involved in the ongoing battle over truth in sentencing.

Keating predicted Wednesday that Democratic legislators will pull the
legislation back and make changes to accommodate Republicans.

Hobson said he doesn't believe that will happen.

Republicans objected to the repealer last Friday, saying they hadn't been
given enough time to study the bill.

``They now agree it does what we said it does,'' Hobson said.

He said most Republican concerns about the pilot community sentencing
program for nine counties, including Tulsa County, also have been addressed.

``There is one concern remaining,'' Hobson said. ``They're afraid that
someone convicted of a violent crime, like a bar fight, might get into the

But among the safeguards, Hobson said local judges must concur before
someone can go into the program.

He also pointed out that under the present system thousands of individuals
enter into plea-bargain agreements for suspended or deferred sentences
without any supervision or support programs.

In the community sentencing program, which will include about one-third of
the state's population, local councils can devise their own approaches,
utilizing overnight or weekend incarceration and providing substance abuse
and literacy programs to those who qualify.

When they return, legislators will have the options of making changes in the
pending bills, passing the legislation repealing the law and putting the
pilot community sentencing program in place, passing legislation to delay
the law's implementation another year, or allowing it to go into effect.

Chuck Ervin, World Capitol Bureau chief, can be reached at (405) 528-2465 or
via e-mail - ---
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