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Tulsa World: Car-tag tardiness becomes more expensive this week

Tulsa World: Car-tag tardiness becomes more expensive this week

Tulsa World By BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Published: 6/30/2009  2:20 AM
Last Modified: 6/30/2009  3:43 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY — People who fail to renew their car tag on time will soon be paying more.

Senate Bill 658 is one of more than 150 bills becoming law Wednesday following the end of the 2009 legislative session in May.

Several measures appropriate money for state agencies, as the fiscal year ends Tuesday.

Others range from withholding the retirement benefits of public officials convicted of certain crimes to changing how tag agents are selected.

Senate Bill 658 increases the daily penalty to $1 a day from 25 cents a day for those with an expired tag. The entire fine can't be more than $100, said Paula Ross, Oklahoma Tax Commission spokeswoman.

The clock begins ticking the first day after the last day of the month in which the tag expires.

Senate Bill 888 lets the Oklahoma Tax Commission select tag agents. In the past, the agency received input from lawmakers. Oklahoma and Tulsa counties have been out from under the patronage system for many years, according to the office of Senate Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.

"Senate Bill 888 removes the long-standing patronage that plagued our state's tag agency system," said Coffee, the Senate author. "Professionalism will now come to tag agencies' appointment and management procedures."

Senate Bill 899, also by Coffee, cracks down on public officials who commit certain crimes while on the job or in retirement.

The measure requires the forfeiture of retirement benefits by those who are
convicted or plead guilty or no contest to bribery, corruption, forgery, perjury or any other crime related to the performance of their duties. It also applies to breaking laws dealing with campaign contributions and financing.

A few high-profile officials have recently run afoul of state or federal laws and had their pensions challenged.

"Senate Bill 899 closes a loophole in the law that allowed elected officials convicted of a crime to keep taxpayer-funded retirement benefits," Coffee said. "For far too long, taxpayers have been forced to support elected officials who broke the confidence entrusted to them by Oklahomans. Our hope is that now this loophole will be closed forever."

House Bill 1592 requires state school superintendents or their financial officers have a surety bond of $100,000, at a minimum. Several larger districts already require surety bond.

"Our hope is that the measures put in place in House Bill 1592 will assist school districts in protecting their funds and in making the schools whole again if someone has embezzled from them," said Steve Burrage, state auditor and inspector. His office requested the legislation.

An audit released last year of the Marble City School District in Sequoyah County found nearly $1 million in school funds missing from March 1, 1998, to Nov. 3, 2007.

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