Week 15 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

House Swears in Taylor to fill District 28 Seat

Zack Taylor (R-Seminole) was sworn into the Oklahoma House of Representatives Tuesday evening to represent House District 28. That seat was vacated when former state Rep. Tom Newell resigned Dec. 31, 2016.

The House on Tuesday evening held a vote to officially seat Taylor bringing the number of representatives to 99 for this session. Two additional special elections will be held later this year to fill seats for House District 75 in Tulsa and House District 76 in Broken Arrow.

 

New law will assure greater tax compliance for out-of-state companies doing business in Oklahoma

A measure to assist the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s (OTC) efforts to ensure all taxes owed by out-of-state companies are remitted has been signed into law.  Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Depew, and Sen. James Leewright, R- Bristow, are the principal authors of House Bill 1427, the Out-of-State Tax Collections Enforcement Act of 2017.

The legislation authorizes the creation of a dedicated division within the agency so the Commission will be able to use its trained personnel to focus solely on out-of-state vendors who may not be in compliance with Oklahoma tax code.

OTC Executive Director Tony Mastin expressed his thanks to Hilbert and Leewright, adding the Commission strongly supported the measure.

Leewright said when looking at tax policy in the state, he felt it was important to make sure those out-of-state companies doing business here in Oklahoma were correctly remitting what they owed.

HB 1427 takes effect beginning November 1, 2017.

 

GOP Platform Caucus Issues Statement

House Republican Platform Caucus issued the following statement.

“The idea of identifying and detaining non-English speaking students was never discussed in any of our meetings. We absolutely do not support this idea.

The House Republican Caucus consists of 72 members who hold a variety of beliefs.

The public comments of a single member acting on his own do not reflect those of the Platform Caucus. It is disappointing that the press would take the public comments of a single member and apply them to the entire caucus.”

 

STATEMENT: House Speaker McCall on GOP Platform Caucus

House Speaker Charles McCall issued the following statement today regarding the House GOP Platform Caucus.

“There are currently 72 Republican members in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. A few of those Republicans are also members of the GOP Platform Caucus, which was created just last week. The GOP Platform Caucus speaks only for those members who have joined; it does not speak for the entire 72-member House Republican Caucus. The idea of identifying and detaining non-English speaking students in our public schools has never been considered by the House Republican Caucus since I have been a member of the House of Representatives. Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court has already ruled upon this matter.”

 

 Sen. Floyd receives Guardian Award for legislative efforts on behalf of Oklahoma women and families

State Sen. Kay Floyd has been awarded the 2017 Guardian Award by the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women (OCSW). The presentation took place Wednesday at the state Capitol. The award is given each year to an elected official who has made significant governmental contributions to guarding, protecting and preserving the rights of women and families.

“When our laws and institutions protect the rights, safety and health of women and children, it isn’t just something they benefit from—these efforts strengthen Oklahoma families, our communities and, ultimately, our entire state,” said Floyd, D-Oklahoma City. “I’m grateful for the support these initiatives have received from my fellow members of the Legislature, the governor, law enforcement, community leaders, advocates and so many others, and I thank the Commission for not only this recognition, but for their efforts on behalf of women and families as well.”

A former assistant attorney general and Administrative law judge, Floyd served one term in the House of Representatives prior to being elected to the State Senate in 2014. Throughout her service in both chambers, Floyd has championed numerous efforts on behalf of women, children and families, authoring legislation to provide suicide prevention assistance in Oklahoma schools and reduce domestic violence.

During the 2017 session, she filed legislation resulting in Gov. Mary Fallin’s creation of the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence to determine the number of untested rape kits throughout the state and develop recommendations for reducing the backlog and better assisting victims.

“The Commission is delighted to recognize Senator Floyd’s important contributions to Oklahoma women with the 2017 Guardian Award,” said OCSW Chair Maria Trapp-Braly. “We appreciate Sen. Floyd and all our legislators who do their part of supporting and empowering women in Oklahoma.”

 

Gov. Fallin Statement on Cigarette Tax Vote in Oklahoma House

Governor Mary Fallin today released the following statement on the vote in the Oklahoma House on House Bill 2372, a revenue-raising measure to increase the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack:

“I’m disappointed in those legislators who put political games and Washington-like gridlock ahead of the lives of Oklahomans and the core services our citizens expect.

“It’s personal to those of us who have lost loved ones to smoking-related illnesses. It’s personal to teenagers in Oklahoma who would have been saved from lives of tobacco addiction if the bill had passed. It’s personal for citizens who would have received health care from the new revenue.

“I encourage all citizens to contact legislators and urge a yes vote on a smart way to protect the health of our citizens and the health of our state services.”

 

Gov. Fallin Seeks Assistance for April Severe Storms, Flooding and Snow

Governor Mary Fallin today announced the state of Oklahoma has requested a major disaster declaration from the federal government for 18 counties impacted by severe weather that occurred April 28 – May 2.

If approved, the designation would deliver federal funding to assist municipalities, counties and rural electric cooperatives with infrastructure repairs, debris removal, and costs associated with responding to the storm.

The counties are: Adair, Beaver, Caddo, Cherokee, Cimarron, Craig, Delaware, Haskell, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, Mayes, Muskogee, Ottawa, Pittsburg, Sequoyah, Texas and Washita.

The storms caused extensive flooding in eastern and central Oklahoma, and widespread snow and high winds in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Three tornadoes occurred on April 28 and 29, including an EF-2 tornado near Cameron. The weather created treacherous travel conditions, road closures and power outages. Damage assessments indicate the storm resulted in more than $12.7 million in infrastructure damage, debris and response costs.

Additional counties may be added to the public assistance declaration request at a later date should conditions warrant.

Fallin also requested a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster declaration for Cherokee and Haskell counties to assist those impacted by the storms and flooding.

The governor’s request would bring SBA low-interest disaster loans for renters, homeowners and business owners to repair or replace any property that was damaged by the flooding and severe storms but was not covered by insurance. The loan program would also be available to assist businesses that sustained economic losses due to the storms. If the request is approved, under SBA rules the assistance would also be available in counties contiguous to Cherokee and Haskell counties.

Damage assessments in Cherokee and Haskell counties found at least 63 homes and businesses impacted, which included 55 homes that sustained major damage or were destroyed.

 

Gov. Fallin Statement on Betty Shelby Jury Verdict

Governor Mary Fallin tonight released the following statement after jurors reached their verdict in the trial of Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby:

“I ask Oklahomans to respect our criminal justice system and especially the jurors, who heard the evidence from both sides in this case. Those who disagree with the verdict have the right to express their opinions; I just ask that they do so in a peaceful manner. I appeal to Tulsans and others to remain calm. Our thoughts and prayers should be with the Terence Crutcher and Betty Shelby families during this difficult time.”

 

Gov. Fallin Appoints Kory Slade Kirkland as District Judge for Caddo and Grady Counties

Governor Mary Fallin today announced the appointment of Kory Slade Kirkland as district judge for Caddo and Grady counties. He is replacing Judge Richard G. VanDyck, who retired.

Kirkland’s appointment is effective immediately.

Kirkland, of Chickasha, has been in private practice since 2011 as a part of the Hays & Kirkland law firm. He also serves as municipal judge for the cities of Chickasha and Amber. Before that he worked as an assistant district attorney for Grady, Caddo, Stephens and Jefferson counties.

Kirkland also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. He teaches juvenile justice in the fall and criminal law in the spring. He also is a longtime volunteer on Grady County’s drug court team.

Kirkland earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma and a juris doctorate from Oklahoma City University.

Kirkland has lived in Chickasha since 2009. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have a son, Kade.

Week 14 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

Governor Signs Bill that Develops Individual Career Academic Plan

The governor this week signed House Bill 2155 by State Rep. Jadine Nollan and Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa.

The bill allows for a two-year pilot program of the Individual Career Academic Plan (ICAP). The multi-year guidance tool – developed by individual students, the student’s parents or legal guardians in collaboration with their school counselors, school administrators, teachers, and other school personnel – will help students strategically plan a post-secondary pathway to align with their self-defined, career, college or life goals.

She pointed out that Oklahoma is one of only seven states that did not have a plan like this in place.

Twenty-seven districts have already agreed to voluntarily participate in the 2017-18 school year.  The goal is for ICAP to continue to expand and add districts on a voluntary basis in 2018-19.  In 2019-20, ICAP would be implemented statewide.  It would also serve as one of the multiple measures for graduation required by House Bill 3218 that passed last year.

 

Senate sends Oklahoma’s Promise bill to governor

The Senate gave unanimous final approval Tuesday to legislation modifying Oklahoma’s Promise, the state-sponsored tuition program. Sen. Jason Smalley is the author of Senate Bill 529, which he said makes necessary changes to the program to protect the integrity and stability of the program.

Oklahoma’s Promise allows eighth-, ninth- or 10th-grade students from families with an income of $50,000 or less to earn a college tuition scholarship. SB 529 changes the definition of income at the time of application in the 8th-10th grade from “taxable and nontaxable” income to “federal adjusted gross income” and increases the family income limit from $50,000 to $55,000.

The bill will stop payment for remedial courses beginning in 2018-2019 at an estimated annual savings of approximately $1.5 million.

SB 529 changes how often family incomes are checked. Currently, the statutes require that the second income check at $100,000 for Oklahoma’s Promise students be conducted only one time when the student starts college. Under this bill, the $100,000 check will be conducted every year the student is in college, beginning with the 2018-19 academic year for an annual estimated savings of about $1.5 million.

The measure also requires the State Regents to establish a maximum limit on the number of college credit hours covered by the scholarship. Currently, students are eligible to receive the scholarship for up to five years or the completion of a baccalaureate degree, whichever comes first. This will limit the number of credit hours paid for during the five year period.

Most undergraduate degrees require 120-124 semester credit hours but about 20 percent of degrees require more than 124 hours, including a number of engineering degrees and some teacher education degrees in specialty areas such as science and music. Undergraduate architecture degrees require up to 150 credit hours. Through the Administrative Procedures Act, the State Regents will establish a general maximum limit on credit hours while allowing exceptions to that limit for degrees requiring credit hours in excess of the limit. The limit is expected to be applicable to first-time entering freshmen college students in fall 2018. Once fully implemented, the change is expected to save about one to two percent of total program costs annually.

 

Senate committee approves landmark ‘Oklahoma Energy Jobs Act of 2017’

An Oklahoma Senate committee on Tuesday gave approval to a major jobs bill from Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz that is anticipated to spur a significant increase in oil and gas drilling in the state of Oklahoma, creating thousands of new energy jobs and boosting state and local revenues.

Senate Bill 867, also known as the Oklahoma Energy Jobs Act of 2017, allows multiunit, or long-lateral, drilling in all rock formations, not just shale. Currently, Oklahoma is the only state that restricts long-lateral drilling based on the type of rock formation. The bill also provides safeguards for property owners, mineral owners, and all operators.

By industry estimates, in its first year SB 867 will generate approximately $490 million in new royalty payments, more than $229 million in new state and local revenues (combined gross production tax, sales tax, and income tax generated from increased drilling activity), and create nearly 6,000 new jobs in the oil and gas sector. Additionally, the measure is expected to unlock nearly $6 billion in investment from major oil and gas companies.

Sen. Bryce Marlatt, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, hailed the passage of SB 867 as a win for the state, industry, and land owners.

 

Legislation updating, streamlining sex offender registration becomes law

Legislation improving the state’s sex offender registry law has been signed by the governor. Senate Bill 217, by Sen. AJ Griffin and Rep. Mike Osburn, modifies Oklahoma’s current sex offender registration law to streamline the notification process between local law enforcement, the courts and the Department of Corrections (DOC) and, in certain cases, will require notification of the Department of Human Services (DHS) as well. It also directs courts assigning sex offender registration levels to follow the guidelines used by the state’s sex offender level assignment committee.

The DHS notification requirement was a request of the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth. Current law allows registered sex offenders to live with their own children, step-children or grandchildren, but under the provisions of SB 217, when the sex offender returns to that home, DHS will be notified.

The assignment of “levels” to convicted sex offenders determines how long they must register with law enforcement based on their assessed risk of reoffending as established by the state’s sex offender level assignment committee. That committee assigns those levels for offenders who are actually incarcerated. The change in SB 217 ensures that when courts assign a level in the case of probation, suspended or deferred sentences, the criteria for doing so is the same as that of the committee.

SB 217 takes effect November 1, 2017.

 

Gov. Fallin Announces Grant to Reach Launch Oklahoma Goal

Governor Mary Fallin today announced that Oklahoma has received a grant to pursue the Launch Oklahoma goal she put forth in December (Executive Order 2016-41). This goal is to increase to 70 percent the number of Oklahomans, age 25-64, who complete a postsecondary degree, certificate or credential by the year 2025.  Currently, only approximately 40 percent of the state’s residents have that level of education or training.*

This grant from the Lumina Foundation will provide $100,000 towards enacting evidence-based policies aimed at decreasing attainment inequities among African American, American Indian, and Hispanic populations. It will also provide assistance for targeted promotion of education, training and certificate programs for high-demand occupations among older Oklahomans, as well as lower-income and underserved populations. The grant is effective May 15, 2017 to May 14, 2018.

Launch Oklahoma was developed as a result of recommendations by the Oklahoma Works Leadership Team, led by Secretary Shirley. The team includes representatives from higher education, CareerTech, the state Department of Education, the Commerce Department, the Office of Workforce Development, and the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative. The statewide goal to increase the overall postsecondary educational attainment of Oklahoma’s workforce from 40 percent to 70 percent means nearly 600,000 more workers will need a postsecondary degree, certificate or other high-quality credential in just eight years. To meet this goal, state agencies, educators, businesses and workforce partners will collaborate during the next several months to create a strategic plan to increase overall educational attainment. This plan will be due to the governor by Nov. 1, 2017.

 

Gov. Fallin Appoints Phil Campbell to Conservation Commission

Governor Mary Fallin today announced she has appointed Phil Campbell to the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. He will fill the Area II position, which serves central Oklahoma.

Campbell, a member of the Oklahoma County Conservation District board of directors, will begin serving at the Conservation Commission’s July 10 meeting. He was appointed and confirmed last month.

Campbell grew up in Spencer on a small farm, where he helped his dad in the garden and had a small herd of Angus cattle. Agriculture was important to him and helped fund most of his high school activities. Soon after graduating high school, Campbell joined the Air Force; he traveled the world, but his heart was always on a farm in Oklahoma.

In 2015, shortly before his retirement, Campbell and his family bought 40 acres near Luther to begin developing the farm they had always dreamed of owning. Campbell wanted to make sure he was doing things the right way so he could achieve his goal of a small, yet productive farm. His brother, a game warden for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, suggested he talk to the Oklahoma County Conservation District to develop a conservation plan, as his brother worked with Don Bartolina, district manager, and Josh McNeff, with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and knew they could offer advice.

Campbell is fairly new to the conservation family, only serving as a district director for a few months, but his willingness to learn, his commitment to conservation, and his enthusiasm led Trey Lam, executive director of the Conservation Commission, to discuss the possibility of him serving in a larger role as commissioner.

Campbell is confident his military background will help with budgeting issues and setting funding priorities. He said the commission makes a strong effort to get information out to cooperators, but thinks more work is needed to ensure more cooperators are aware of the variety of programs and benefits the commission and the 85 conservation districts across the state offer.

 

Gov. Fallin Appoints Richard C. Ogden as an Oklahoma County District Judge

Governor Mary Fallin today announced the appointment of Richard C. Ogden to fill the Office 11 district judge vacancy in Oklahoma County. He is replacing Barbara Swinton, who resigned last year after she was named to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals.

Ogden's appointment is effective immediately.

Ogden, of Oklahoma City, has served the past two years as an Oklahoma County special judge. Before that, he served as an attorney in private practice for 25 years.

Ogden earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Oklahoma State University and a juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma.

 

Gov. Fallin Appoints Howard Roy Haralson to Oklahoma County District Judge Position

Governor Mary Fallin today announced she is appointing Howard Roy Haralson as a district judge to fill the Office 3 district judge vacancy in Oklahoma County. He will replace Donald Deason, who died last year.

Haralson's appointment is effective immediately.

Harralson, of Oklahoma City, has been an Oklahoma County special judge since 2010. Before that, he worked 23 years as an attorney representing clients in civil and criminal matters.

Haralson earned an associate’s degree from Utah Technical College, a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Brigham Young University and a juris doctorate from Oklahoma City University.

Haralson and his wife, Cheri, have three children, Curt, Jessika and David.

Week 13 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

Rep. Ed Cannaday, District 15, Achieves a Legislative Trifecta

As the State of Oklahoma continues to struggle with an inability to create long-term strategies adequate to address the basic needs of its citizens, those employed within the state as educators, and others employed at essential core state agencies to include those non-elected employees who work in the Capitol building, face the potential for further budget cuts that spell another year of surviving on wages scaled for the previous decade.

As a former educator, Rep. Ed Cannaday is keenly aware of the anxiety and strain borne by his long-suffering colleagues struggling to maintain a semblance of routine and normalcy for their students; the very future of Oklahoma hanging in the balance.

The Legislation

HB1188, as introduced, relates to schools and unused sick leave. Language is added related to the Oklahoma School for the Blind or the Oklahoma School for the Deaf to allow for certain cumulative unused sick leave for an employed teacher in a school district to transfer to the Oklahoma School for the Blind or the Oklahoma School for the Deaf where the teacher is employed the next succeeding year.

Further, if a teacher is employed at the Oklahoma School for the Blind or the Oklahoma School for the Deaf after July 1, 2017, any unused sick leave up to 60 days that is accumulated at a school district prior to such date will be transferable.

HB1789 requires early childhood education, elementary education, and special education teachers to receive quality education in research-based instructional strategies for instruction, assessment, and intervention for literacy development of all students including advanced readers, English Language Learners, and students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and requires certain prospective teachers to be provided specified education. Certain teacher candidates will study specified strategies to adapt for individual learners.

HB 1790 allows each school district in the state to offer a remediation course for high school students who score below a 19 on the American College Testing exam or below an equivalent score on the SAT exam. A teacher providing instruction in the course is not required to be certified in any subject matter that is tested on either exam.

None of the measures adds fiscal impact to contribute to the state’s budget failure. They do provide substantive relief to bring about major opportunities for students and teachers, in areas where Oklahoma has ranked poorly, for too long.

 

Biggs Releases Statement on House Bills 1005 & 1127 Becoming Law

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed two pieces of legislation into law that aim to protect victims of sexual assault crimes.

House Bill 1005 elevates the crime of rape by instrumentation to rape in the first degree. State law currently views rape by instrumentation as rape in the second degree.

House Bill 1127 requires that a court must instruct the jury on the definition of “consent” in any criminal jury trial that involves “sexual assault.” Although juries are currently requires to follow the legal definition of “consent,” the understanding of the definition can change from jury member to jury member.

Both measures were authored by Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha. Rep. Biggs has released the following statement about the passage of this legislation:

 

Rep. Young thanks Death Penalty Review Commission

Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus Chair-elect Rep. George Young today thanked a bipartisan commission for its work reviewing Oklahoma’s death penalty procedures.

The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission is comprised of 11 members from different political and career backgrounds. The group met for more than a year to evaluate every part of the state’s death penalty proceedings, from arrest to lethal injection. Ultimately, the group unanimously recommended the state continue its moratorium on capital punishment until “significant reforms” are made.

Commissioners found the state’s death penalty process has serious flaws and lacks resources and funding to be carried out effectively, accurately and humanely. In its 271-page report, the commission recommends 46 changes “to address systemic problems in key areas, including forensics, innocence protection, the execution process and the roles of the prosecution, defense counsel, jury and judiciary.”

Included in the recommendations are several suggestions for who should be eligible for a death sentence. The report reveals that competency standards for defendants eligible for the death penalty have not been updated in more than a century. Further, commissioners found state statute “effectively allows for the execution of an inmate without a merits determination as to competence” as long as the warden does not question the defendant’s competency.

Commissioners also recommend opening up the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to include a more diverse panel. Recommendations also include creating recusal guidelines for the board as well as members participating in a “deliberative” discussion before voting on a clemency petition.

Commissioners suggest the Oklahoma Department of Corrections revise its protocol with clearer procedures for carrying out capital punishment to minimize the possibility of botched executions.

Executions have been on hold in the state since October 2015 when the attorney general’s office found the wrong drug was used in the January 2015 lethal injection of Charles Warner.

 

Biggs Praises Passage of Critical Infrastructure Trespass Legislation

Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation Wednesday to protect and preserve Oklahoma’s most critical infrastructure.

House Bill 1123, authored by Rep. Scott Biggs, creates a new misdemeanor level and two new felony levels for trespassing. The new levels focus specifically on trespassing on property containing critical infrastructure. The misdemeanor level allows for a fine of $1,000 and up to six months in county jail for willfully trespassing onto property containing critical infrastructure.

The first felony level allows for a fine of no less than $10,000 and a prison sentence for up to 10 years for individuals that willfully trespass with the intention to damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, tamper with equipment, impede or inhibit operations of the facility. The final felony level is for a fine not less than $100,000 and a prison sentence for up to 10 years for successfully damaging, destroying, vandalizing, defacing or tampering with equipment in a critical infrastructure facility.

As a state that has many military bases, miles of oil pipelines and hundreds of gas wells, the threat of people looking to do harm to Oklahoma’s critical infrastructure is real. The US Department of Homeland Security has gone as far to identify potential threat sources to specific Oklahoma assets.

 

Bush commends signing of Hidden Predator Act

State Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, issued the following statement after Gov. Mary Fallin this week signed into law House Bill 1468. The legislation, known as the “Hidden Predator Act,” extends the statute of limitations for certain crimes against children from 12 years after the crime to until the victim’s 45th birthday.

The civil counterpart to the bill, HB 1470, now heads to the governor’s desk for her consideration.

“This measure will have significant impact on the way these horrific crimes are prosecuted. It allows victims more time to come to terms with the crime before deciding to press charges. I’m overwhelmed that the legislation received unanimous support in both the House and the Senate. We could not have achieved this monumental work without the help of Rep. Kevin McDugle and Sen. David Holt, and I thank Gov. Fallin for signing such an important bill. The Legislature has done right by the victims of these crimes, and I’m humbled to have played a part in extending the statute of limitations.

“I’m hopeful Fallin will also sign off on the civil part of the law, so we can properly protect so many Oklahomans.”

The law takes effect Nov. 1, 2017.

 

Cleveland applauds signing of House Bill 1104

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, issued the following statement after Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law House Bill 1104. The legislation would allow elected officials of a county, who are in possession of a valid handgun license issued pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Self Defense Act, when acting in the performance of their duties as an elected official to carry a concealed firearm within the courthouses of the county in which he or she is elected. The law takes effect Nov. 1, 2017.

“This measure moved swiftly through both the House and the Senate, and I’m proud to be the author of such an important piece of legislation. Safety is becoming an increasingly important issue in our nation, and this bill allows some of the most dedicated workers in our state to protect themselves during the course of their duty. I’m grateful the National Rifle Association endorsed the measure, and I’m confident county courthouses will be more secure because of it.”

 

Governor signs bill modifying school eligibility for Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant

The Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant provides annual $2,000 stipends for Oklahoma students attending certain qualified private and independent, not-for-profit colleges and universities. The governor signed Senate Bill 600, by Sen. Jason Smalley and Rep. Katie Henke, this week to clarify that eligible institutions must have been granted not-for-profit status by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Education before July 1, 2012. Smalley said the change closes a loophole that was allowing certain institutions not intended for the grant to qualify for it.

Those institutions that are eligible for the grant are private or independent, not-for-profit colleges or universities that are based in Oklahoma, meet approved program and accreditation standards as determined by the State Regents, and are fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association on Colleges and Schools or a national accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Subject to the availability of funds in the Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant Trust Fund, the State Regents can award a $2,000 grant per academic year or $1,000 per academic semester from the Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant Trust Fund. The program began in the 2003-2004 school year.

To be eligible for a grant, a student must be an Oklahoma resident, have enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student in an eligible college or university. Their parents’ income from taxable and nontaxable sources must be less than $50,000 per year or the student’s income, if independent and self-supporting as determined by the State Regents consistent with federal financial aid regulations. The student must pay more tuition than is required at a comparable public institution of higher education and pay no less than the regular tuition required of all students enrolled at their institution. They must maintain at least minimum standards of academic performance as required by the enrolling institution.

Eligible institutions include Bacone College, Family of Faith College, Mid-America Christian University, Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oral Roberts University, Southern Nazarene University, Southwestern Christian University, St. Gregory's University, the University of Tulsa and Randall University.

 

Senate sends veterans cemetery bill to governor

The Senate gave unanimous approval Wednesday to legislation to create a state veteran’s cemetery in Ardmore. Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Pat Ownbey are the authors of Senate Bill 543, which Simpson says will provide more options for veterans.

There are 53 acres of land available at the Ardmore Veterans Center and the cemetery would utilize 23 acres southwest of the center. The project is estimated to cost approximately $9 million. If approved, the Veterans Administration (VA) would cover all of the initial costs of construction as well as provide funds for equipment to operate the facility. The state would have to provide $1 million upfront but would be reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs before July 1, 2017. The entire site would be required to meet VA standards for design and eligibility of veterans interred at the cemetery. The state would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery.

The cemetery will offer 1,600 burial plots per acre for a total of 32,000 plots. It would take nearly 200 years for the cemetery to reach its full capacity.

 

Education Compact for Kids in State Care signed into law

Legislation was signed earlier this week to better help at-risk youth in Oklahoma public schools. Senate Bill 632, by Sen. Ron Sharp and Rep. Katie Henke, creates the “Education Compact for Kids in State Care” and ensures children placed in the care of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) or the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) do not have their education interrupted by their personal circumstances.

The bill streamlines the process for the timely transfer and/or enrollment of students who have been placed in state care, including the timely delivery of temporary and permanent student records in accordance with the foster care state plan developed by the State Department of Education (SDE) in collaboration with DHS as required by federal law. Additionally, it establishes the Education Compact for Students in State Care Advisory Committee that will be comprised of three members: one member each from SDE, OJA and DHS.

It specifies that a power of attorney issued pursuant to Title 10 of the Oklahoma Statutes and an out-of-home care placement agreement executed on a form provided by DHS are sufficient documents for the purposes of enrollment. It provides a timeline for students to obtain the necessary immunizations for school attendance and provides that upon enrollment the receiving school must verbally notify the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian of a student about the immunization exemptions provided for in Title 70 of the Oklahoma Statutes.

Students who are placed in state care during the ninth through twelfth grades will be automatically enrolled in the core curriculum, but students who are enrolled in the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) must be given the opportunity to complete the program’s curriculum requirements.

SB 632 was requested by OJA. Executive Director Steve Buck said the bill promotes flexibility and cooperation between the educational system, parents/guardians and the study in order to achieve educational success for at-risk youth.

The new law will go into effect November 1, 2017.

 

Gov. Fallin Declares State of Emergency

Governor Mary Fallin today declared a state of emergency for all 77 Oklahoma counties due to severe storms, flooding, straight-line winds, tornadoes and snow impacting the state.

The massive storm system has delivered widespread rain and high winds across much of the state since Friday, with damage to power lines and power poles as well as trees, roofs and structures. In the Panhandle, more than 4 inches of snow has been reported in some areas.

Fallin’s executive order allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness. It is also the first step toward seeking federal aid should it be necessary.

A second executive order temporarily suspends the requirements for size and weights permits of oversized vehicles that are transporting materials and supplies used for storm relief.

Under the executive order, the state of emergency lasts for 30 days.

 

Oklahoma Future Farmers of America Chorus

Week 12 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

VIDEO: Veteran of the Week

House Committed to Funding Teacher Pay Raise Plan

House Speaker Charles McCall and House Common Education Committee Chairman Michael Rogers reiterated today that the House Republican Caucus is committed to funding the teacher pay raise plan passed by both the House and the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee this session. The plan – one of the House Republican Caucus’ highest priorities this session – would phase in a $6,000 teacher pay raise over three years and boost Oklahoma teachers to some of the highest paid in the region.

 

Beginning last week and continuing this week, House Republicans are running a package of bills aimed at reforming numerous tax credits, exemptions and incentives. Speaker McCall said the first $52.6 million in savings from those reforms would be directed toward funding the teacher pay raise.

House Bill 1114, by state Rep. Michael Rogers, chair of the House Common Education Committee, would include a $1,000 pay raise for teachers during the 2017-18 school year, another $2,000 raise during the 2018-19 school year and a final $3,000 raise during the 2019-20 school year.

Rogers said the phased-in approach would allow the Legislature to manage the current revenue downturn while keeping its promise to boost pay for teachers. Every $1,000 increase in teacher pay would cost approximately $52.6 million, said Rogers.

Oklahoma already has the third-highest statutory starting minimum teacher pay in the region. Rogers’ plan would raise Oklahoma teacher pay from 48th in the nation to 27th based on recent data from the National Education Association (NEA). When paired with the state’s low cost of living, the plan would move Oklahoma to 13th in the nation for average annual teacher pay at $56,804 (adjusted for cost of living). Oklahoma’s cost of living ranks behind only Mississippi for the lowest in the nation.

House Bill 1114 is currently awaiting consideration on the Senate floor.

 

House Commemorates Honor Denim Day at the Capitol

Members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives proclaimed today Honor Denim Day recognizing the importance of promoting awareness about sexual violence.

State Rep. Tess Teague authored House Concurrent Resolution 1001, which officially recognizes the day in Oklahoma.

For the past 17 years, the Honor Denim Day campaign has been held in April in support of Sexual Violence Awareness Month. The campaign began in response to a 1998 ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim.

Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence, developed the Honor Denim Day campaign in response to the Italian Supreme Court case.

Wearing jeans on Honor Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against erroneous and disparaging attitudes about sexual assault.

The Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault worked closely with Rep. Tess Teague for the implementation of Honor Denim Day in Oklahoma.

 

Bill increasing court safety heads to the governor

Legislation allowing permitted elected officials to carry firearms inside a courthouse passed Tuesday out of the Oklahoma Senate with a vote of 38 to 6.

House Bill 1104 would allow elected officials of a county, who are in possession of a valid handgun license issued pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Self Defense Act, when acting in the performance of their duties as an elected official to carry a concealed firearm within the courthouses of the county in which he or she was elected.

The National Rifle Association has endorsed the measure.

House Bill 1104 now proceeds to Gov. Mary Fallin for her consideration.

 

Modernization Chairman Asks Legislators to Avoid Failed Massachusetts Tax Hike Mistake

House Government Modernization Chairman Jason Murphey today expressed his strongest opposition to the impending introduction of a legislative plan to put a new tax on the use of information technology services.

Murphey said the tax plan has failed in other states where it has been tried.

In 2013, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a tax only to have to backtrack and repeal the tax just a few weeks later after it became clear that the new tax would potentially apply to many industries and put that state at a great disadvantage.

In 2007, Maryland also approved the new tax only to repeal it just a year later.

Murphey explained that the Oklahoma proposal appears to be even more aggressive than the Massachusetts tax plan.

Murphey said because so many services now utilize computer-based processes the implications of the new Oklahoma tax could reach far beyond the expected audience.

 

Biggs Praises Senate for Passing Criminal Justice Legislation

Two pieces of legislation designed to protect victims of sexual assault crimes have passed the Senate today with unanimous bipartisan support.

House Bill 1005 elevates the crime of rape by instrumentation to rape in the first degree. State law currently views rape by instrumentation as rape in the second degree.

House Bill 1127 requires that a court must instruct the jury on the definition of “consent” in any criminal jury trial that involves “sexual assault.” Although juries are currently requires to follow the legal definition of “consent,” the understanding of the definition can change from jury member to jury member.

Both measures were authored by Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha.

The legislation will now move to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk to be signed into law.

 

Sen. Floyd applauds task force on rape kits

According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, more than 1,900 rapes were reported in the state in 2015 alone. Sexual assault forensic evidence kits help collect and preserve evidence following an assault, but there is no law in Oklahoma requiring these kits to be tracked or tested, and national data suggests some kits may never be tested. It’s an issue Sen. Kay Floyd has been working to address this session.

Floyd had originally sought the creation of a task force through legislation filed for the 2017 session, and has met with the governor’s office, the attorney general’s office, police, prosecutors and advocates about the issue of untested rape kits. On Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin announced she had issued an Executive Order to create the task force.

Executive Order 2017-11 forms the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence. It designates the make-up of the task force, its goals, and the timeline for law enforcement agencies throughout the state to submit their audits of untested kits and the deadline for submitting the final task force report to the governor and legislative leaders. The task force will:

• Examine the process for gathering and analyzing rape kits; identify the number of untested kits through audits done by all law enforcement agencies in the state;

• Identify how to improve law enforcement training on responding and investigating sexual assaults;

• Identify improvements for victims access to evidence other than sexual assault forensic evidence kits, including but not limited to police reports and other physical evidence;

• Identify possible procedures for the testing of anonymous sexual assault evidence kits;

• Identify additional rights of victims about the evidence kit testing process; and

• Identify and pursue grants and other funding sources to eliminate the backlog of untested kits, reduce testing wait times, provide victim notification and improve efficiencies in the kit testing process.

Local police and sheriffs’ departments will have until December 30, 2017, to file a written report with the Attorney General and the Task Force stating the audit results, including the number of untested kits they have. Those agencies must preserve the kits until the Task Force notifies them in writing that they may be disposed of. The final report by the Task Force must be completed and submitted to the governor and legislative leaders by July 1, 2018.

 

Governor signs bill improving online insurance verification system

Gov. Fallin signed legislation Monday to help further reduce the number of uninsured drivers in Oklahoma. Sen. Ron Sharp is the principal Senate author of Senate Bill 115 to transfer oversight of the Compulsory Insurance Online Verification System (OCIVS) for motor vehicle liability policies from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to the Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID).

According to DPS, around 600,000 or 26 percent of Oklahomans are driving uninsured. The Oklahoma Compulsory Insurance Verification System was created by DPS to help law enforcement officers, tag agents, and court clerks quickly verify if a driver has auto insurance.

SB 115 requires that the system and the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Program be transferred by January 1, 2018. It requires the Tax Commission and DPS to cooperate with OID in ongoing improvement and maintenance of the system. Under the new law, the Insurance Commissioner will be authorized to initiate an administrative proceeding against an insurance company that is not providing vehicle insurance policy information to the online verification system. The bill also allows a motor license agent or other registering agency to accept security verification from a licensed insurance producer or customer service representative if the online verification system is not online or the information is otherwise unavailable.

SB 115, which is coauthored by Rep. Lewis Moore (R-Arcadia), will become effective November 1, 2017.

 

Bill signed to better protect underage victims of human trafficking

A bill to strengthen Oklahoma’s human trafficking laws and better protect underage victims was signed into law Monday. Senate Bill 34, by Sen. Kim David and Rep. Scott Biggs, provides that lack of knowledge of the age of the victim does not constitute a defense for the human trafficking of a minor.

There are different types of human trafficking including sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude and it occurs through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

Human trafficking is a common crime in Oklahoma because of its location along the I-40 and I-35 corridor as well as the prominence of various social problems.

In the last fiscal year, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) initiated nationwide 1,034 investigations of human trafficking and recorded 1,437 arrests, 751 indictments, and 587 convictions; 384 victims were identified and assisted.

SB 34 will go into effect November 1, 2017.

 

Senate approves creation of independent commission to conduct performance audits of state agencies

The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday in a bipartisan vote approved a bill creating an independent commission to conduct comprehensive performance audits of state agencies. House Bill 2311 is authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus, and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka.

The bill creates the Agency Performance and Accountability Commission which is directed to conduct a comprehensive performance audit of state agencies, as well as conduct a diagnostic analysis of the state’s budget to identify spending trends. The commission would then make recommendations to the Legislature on how to implement best practices from both the private and public sector to ensure state government services are run in the most cost-effective manner.

The measure now returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments to the bill.

 

Gov. Fallin Announces Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence

Governor Mary Fallin today announced the formation of the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence to address the backlog of sexual assault forensic evidence kits, commonly known as rape kits, in the criminal justice system in Oklahoma. The task force will conduct an audit of sexual assault forensic evidence kits in the state, pinpointing the number of untested kits, and then identify possible improvements in law enforcement training, victims’ rights and access, and the process for gathering and analyzing rape kits.

Currently, Oklahoma does not have a statewide tracking system for rape kits nor a mandate to test all rape kits. It is estimated that only a quarter of rape kits are tested, leaving thousands of untested kits in police department warehouses across the state. In addition, current regulations are not very clear regarding when and how to destroy untested kits. The legislation that inspired this task force is Senate Bill 654.

Task Force members shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the governor, according to the governor’s executive order. Members are:

·         Lesley March, the chief of the attorney general’s victim services unit, or her designee;

·         Danielle Tudor, a survivor of sexual assault with experience with sexual assault forensic evidence kit collection;

·         Kathy Bell, a sexual assault nurse examiner;

·         Andrea Swiech, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation director of forensic science services, a person designated by the director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation who has expertise in the analysis of sexual assault forensic evidence kits;

·         Jan Peery, chief executive officer of YWCA of Oklahoma City, a person with experience seeking and applying for grants and other private funding;

·         Phil Cotton, the executive director of the Oklahoma Sheriff and Peace Officers Association, or his designee;

·         Bill Citty, chief of the Oklahoma City Police Department, or his designee;

·         Chuck Jordan, chief of the Tulsa Police Department, or his designee;

·         Ray McNair, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, or his designee;

·         Bob Ravitz, an attorney from a public defenders office with criminal defense experience;

·         Karla Doctor, senior director of sexual violence prevention response, a sexual assault victims’ advocate from a community-based organization;

·         Trent Baggett, executive coordinator of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council, or his designee;

·         Dawn Stover, executive director of the Native Alliance Against Violence, or her designee;

·         Two nonvoting members from among the members of the Senate, of which may not be from the same political party; and

·         Two nonvoting members from among the members of the House of Representatives, of which may not be from the same political party.

 

Computer Science, Coding Skills in High Demand by Businesses across Our State

April is science and technology month in Oklahoma. What a great time to highlight the emerging computer science scene that is shaping our economy and driving our future.

In Oklahoma, our emerging software community has taken on a life of its own.  These are coding professionals who know programming languages with names like C++, Perl, Ruby, Elixir, Python or Javascript.

Colleges, universities and technology centers across the state offer classes and postsecondary degree programs in computer science; software development is part of the curriculum.  Students who graduate with computer science postsecondary degrees and credentials are ready to join the workforce and shape our future with innovative software.  Degrees in programming, coding and computer science skills are in high demand by Oklahoma’s businesses. Numerous high-paying jobs are available throughout the state.

In addition to formal software education, there are flourishing grassroots efforts to grow the coding community across Oklahoma.  One of the most impactful is the vibrant community of coders nurtured by an Oklahoma City and Tulsa not-for-profit foundation known as Techlahoma.

Founded by the husband-and-wife team of Jesse and Amanda Harlin along with Vance Lucas, Techlahoma says its goal is to help Oklahomans become workforce ready by creating free training each week. It provides meeting space for user groups and boasts an online community of more than 3,000.

With accommodations provided by StarSpace46 in Oklahoma City and 36° North in Tulsa, Techlahoma is home to at least two dozen coding user groups that regularly meet in its space. Groups hosted by Techlahoma include Code for OKC, Code for Tulsa, Nerdy Girls OKC Code Club, OKC Python and OKC.js, one of several programming-focused groups that meet there.

Both StarSpace46 and 36° North are community-focused co-working and collaboration spaces that serve as startup incubators.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg recently invited two other governors and me to take part in the Girls Who Code 2017 Female Governors’ Summit at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.  I was able to speak to our state’s thriving initiatives to connect Oklahoma children in the K-12 age group with computer science education and all things STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Rep. Elise Hall earns NFIB Guardian of Small Business Award

The Oklahoma office of the National Federation of Independent Business has presented its coveted Guardian of Small Business Award to state Rep. Elise Hall (Oklahoma City). 

The Guardian of Small Business award is the most prestigious honor that NFIB bestows on legislators in recognition of their efforts to support small business issues. The NFIB Oklahoma Leadership Council, an advisory board comprised of NFIB members, voted to present the award to Hall.

“Representative Hall has a 100-percent lifetime NFIB voting record but earned this award for her work as chair of the House Business, Commerce, and Tourism Committee,” Shouse said. “Representative Hall has consistently opposed job-killing mandates and other measures that would have undermined small business in Oklahoma. Time and again, despite intense pressure from the opposition, she supported the small-business position on issues ranging from workers’ comp to taxes.

“Entrepreneurs across the state appreciate Representative Hall’s efforts to create a level playing field for small businesses,” Shouse said. “She truly is a Guardian of Small Business.”

NFIB is Oklahoma’s leading small-business association. To learn more, visitwww.NFIB.com/OK and follow @NFIB_OK on Twitter.

 

Week 11 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

Legislative Session Update | April 17-20, 2017

A Tribute to Rep. David Brumbaugh

Ardmore Man Donates $50,000 to Save State Science Fair

When James Young from Ardmore read that the State Science Fair was being cut from the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s budget this year, he decided to do something about it.

The constituent from state Rep. Pat Ownbey’s district called his representative to find out where he could send a check to save the event, which is held annually at East Central University in Ada.

Young said his check for $50,000 is already in the mail, earmarked for the State Science Fair.

Ownbey worked with the Oklahoma State Department of Education to find out where Young’s contribution could be sent and to ensure it would be used to hold the state’s science fair.

The department said that funding for the science fair was eliminated last year as part of $38.2 million in cuts to the Public School Activities Fund.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that over the past 10 years, growth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs was three times greater than non-STEM jobs, and that trend is expected to continue.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister praised Young for his generous contribution.

Young said he earned a science degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and taught for a number of years before going back to school to earn his DDS. He practiced dentistry in Ardmore before retiring.

Young said he worked with students in science fairs in the past and knows what this participation can mean for them. His oldest daughter participated in the International Science Fair in the 1980s, and he witnessed what that event meant to her. That led to his gift, he said.

 

Oklahoma Senate approves earlier sunset of wind tax credit

Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz released the following statement after the Senate approved HB 2298, which moves up the sunset date of the zero-emissions tax credit to July 1, 2017.

HB 2298, authored by Schulz, R-Altus, and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, passed the Senate by a vote of 40-3. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for consideration.

 

Gov. Fallin Announces Oklahoma's First-ever Pay for Success Contract Addressing Female Incarceration

Governor Mary Fallin today announced that the state of Oklahoma and Tulsa-based Family & Children’s Services (F&CS) have entered into a groundbreaking Pay for Success (PFS) contract aimed at reducing Oklahoma’s nation-leading female incarceration rate by securing public-private investment in the successful Women in Recovery (WIR) prison diversion program. This project will enable WIR to expand its services, admitting up to 125 women into the program annually for up to five years.

Pay for Success is an innovative funding model that combines nonprofit expertise, private funding, and independent evaluation to transform how government leaders respond to chronic social issues. Through PFS, funders provide the upfront capital to scale effective service providers. Government agrees to repay funders if and when the project achieves its desired impact. Through this PFS contract, the state will repay only if WIR program participants are not incarcerated in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC).

The first PFS project was launched in Peterborough, United Kingdom, in 2010 and was aimed at reducing prisoner recidivism. Today there are more than 70 projects in 18 countries, with 16 projects in the U.S.  The model has attracted strong bipartisan support due to its focus on evidence-based policymaking and the achievement of outcomes. The contract between the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) and F&CS is the 17th PFS contract in the U.S. and the first PFS contract focused on female incarceration.

The state requires F&CS to secure at least $2 million in capital to fund the program each year before the contract can be renewed. To reduce financial risk for the state and to assure continued financial solvency of WIR, the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) will also continue to provide its current commitment of $1.8 million a year to services to address female incarceration in Tulsa County, including WIR. The use of philanthropic funding from GKFF allows for payments from the state to be re-invested directly back into a successful program, as outcomes are achieved.

The adoption of the Pay for Success model transfers risk from the state to the private sector, in pursuit of preventive programs that hold promise for long-term cost savings and social benefits.

Social Finance, a nonprofit organization with deep experience designing and managing PFS projects, served as project advisor.

The PFS project was made possible by Senate Bill 1278, which Fallin signed into law in 2014. The bill, authored by Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, and Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, gave the state the ability to take new approaches to criminal justice programming by authorizing OMES to enter into PFS contracts with qualified criminal justice service providers.

The contract presents no financial risk to the state, which was particularly appealing to state officials at a time of budget challenges. Payments are only made for successful program outcomes.  Additionally, the total payments made for a successful program outcome are considerably less than the direct costs of incarceration and the costs of all of the documented negative future impacts of incarceration on employment, health, family stability and social assistance.

 

Gov. Fallin Statement upon Signing Wind Tax Legislation

Governor Mary Fallin today released the following statement after signing House Bill 2298, which was authored by Speaker Charles McCall (R-22), and Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz (R-38) and passed the Senate 40-3 last Monday. This legislation would sunset the tax credits for the wind industry on July 1, 2017.

 

Gov. Fallin, DHS Announce Statewide Foster Care Call to Action Day

Governor Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) announced that today is Statewide Foster Care Call to Action Day. It is intended to promote community awareness of the need for Oklahoma foster families, foster care and overall support for foster families throughout the state of Oklahoma.

More than 80 events have been planned throughout today with at least one informational meeting in each of the state’s 77 counties. The meetings will provide an opportunity to learn about foster care as well as talk and share experiences with foster parents.

Oklahomans may see where the meetings are and who is hosting them by clicking on a map of counties here: or going to the Oklahoma Fosters Facebook page and clicking on events.

Sponsors who are working to reach this year’s foster recruitment goal and supporting foster parents include Anna’s House, Bair Foundation, Circle of Care, DCCCA, Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services, Eckerd, Homebased Services, Kehila Park, Lilyfield, Oklahoma Association of Youth Services, Oklahoma Families First, St. Francis, Sunbeam, Tallgrass Family Services, Wesleyan and Youth Care of Oklahoma.

 

Gov. Fallin, Kodak Officials Announce Company Bringing New Jobs to Weatherford Facility

Governor Mary Fallin today joined Kodak and community officials in Weatherford to announce that the company is adding new jobs at its facility in Weatherford.

Kodak hosted customers and community leaders at a groundbreaking ceremony at its manufacturing facility in Weatherford to celebrate its expansion. The expansion will accommodate a new flexo plate line.

The event’s theme centered on the revitalization and investment of the Weatherford plant in its 50th anniversary year. Kodak officials said the Weatherford plant was chosen because of its strong technical capabilities and existing skilled, tenured workforce.

The $15 million investment represents one of the company’s largest capital investments since 2000 and underscores the ongoing growth and adoption of Kodak Flexcel NX plates that grew 16 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year.

The new flexo plate line is expected to be in full production by early 2019 and will initially focus on supply of Flexcel NX plates to customers in the United States, Canada and Latin America.

Week 10 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

Bill Allowing Sale of Insurance across State Lines Passes Committee

The House Insurance Committee today passed a bill that will allow individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines.

Senate Bill 478, by state Rep. Lewis Moore and Bill Brown of the Senate, will allow the Oklahoma Insurance Department to compact with other states in offering more affordable and better tailored individual health insurance policies across state lines. The plans would still have to be approved by each participating state legislature.

He said the bill will allow individuals to keep their current Oklahoma plans if they wish, or they can shop for other competitive plans to meet their individual needs. The compact also will allow individuals to find better coverage in some instances, such as for autism care that is better provided for by 46 other states than in Oklahoma, he said.

Moore said this bill puts in place the mechanism for the insurance department to move forward on negotiating plans and forming a compact. The bill has protections for Oklahoma companies as they compete to match policies offered by other states. He added the National Association of Insurance Commissioners said they are against the federal government mandating such compacts, but they favor each state choosing participation for itself.

 

Oklahoma Senate approves earlier sunset of wind tax credit

Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz released the following statement after the Senate approved HB 2298, which moves up the sunset date of the zero-emissions tax credit to July 1, 2017.

HB 2298, authored by Schulz, R-Altus, and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, passed the Senate by a vote of 40-3. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for consideration.

 

Gov. Fallin Announces Oklahoma's First-ever Pay for Success Contract Addressing Female Incarceration

Governor Mary Fallin today announced that the state of Oklahoma and Tulsa-based Family & Children’s Services (F&CS) have entered into a groundbreaking Pay for Success (PFS) contract aimed at reducing Oklahoma’s nation-leading female incarceration rate by securing public-private investment in the successful Women in Recovery (WIR) prison diversion program. This project will enable WIR to expand its services, admitting up to 125 women into the program annually for up to five years.

Pay for Success is an innovative funding model that combines nonprofit expertise, private funding, and independent evaluation to transform how government leaders respond to chronic social issues. Through PFS, funders provide the upfront capital to scale effective service providers. Government agrees to repay funders if and when the project achieves its desired impact. Through this PFS contract, the state will repay only if WIR program participants are not incarcerated in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC).

The first PFS project was launched in Peterborough, United Kingdom, in 2010 and was aimed at reducing prisoner recidivism. Today there are more than 70 projects in 18 countries, with 16 projects in the U.S.  The model has attracted strong bipartisan support due to its focus on evidence-based policymaking and the achievement of outcomes. The contract between the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) and F&CS is the 17th PFS contract in the U.S. and the first PFS contract focused on female incarceration.

The state requires F&CS to secure at least $2 million in capital to fund the program each year before the contract can be renewed. To reduce financial risk for the state and to assure continued financial solvency of WIR, the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) will also continue to provide its current commitment of $1.8 million a year to services to address female incarceration in Tulsa County, including WIR. The use of philanthropic funding from GKFF allows for payments from the state to be re-invested directly back into a successful program, as outcomes are achieved.

The adoption of the Pay for Success model transfers risk from the state to the private sector, in pursuit of preventive programs that hold promise for long-term cost savings and social benefits.

Social Finance, a nonprofit organization with deep experience designing and managing PFS projects, served as project advisor.

The PFS project was made possible by Senate Bill 1278, which Fallin signed into law in 2014. The bill, authored by Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, and Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, gave the state the ability to take new approaches to criminal justice programming by authorizing OMES to enter into PFS contracts with qualified criminal justice service providers.

The contract presents no financial risk to the state, which was particularly appealing to state officials at a time of budget challenges. Payments are only made for successful program outcomes.  Additionally, the total payments made for a successful program outcome are considerably less than the direct costs of incarceration and the costs of all of the documented negative future impacts of incarceration on employment, health, family stability and social assistance.

Week 9 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

Cleveland congratulates Westheimer Foundation grant recipient

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland recognized grant recipient John Otto Tuesday on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

The Jerome Westheimer Family Foundation awarded Otto a grant to produce a documentary about children of incarcerated parents. The film, titled “Children of Hope,” is scheduled to be released in fall 2017.

Otto, a veterinarian out of Norman, helped establish dog training programs for inmates at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center. He also works with inmates at the Lexington Assessment & Reception Center as part of the Friends for Folks program.

More than 25,000 children in Oklahoma have a parent who is incarcerated on any given day, according to the Institute for Child Advocacy.

Part of the film includes scenes from the Little Light Christian School in Oklahoma City. The tuition-free private school serves children with incarcerated parents. Little Light founder Robin Khoury was awarded a citation today by Cleveland.

Cleveland represents House District 20, which includes parts of Cleveland, Garvin, McClain and Pottawatomie counties.

 

Lawmakers Announce Veterans’ Caucus

State Reps. Josh West and Kevin McDugle, along with other lawmakers, announced this week they are forming a joint House and Senate Veterans’ Caucus.

McDugle said a veterans’ caucus has been needed for a long time in the state.

West, an Army veteran, and McDugle, a Marine, said a number of the legislative colleagues are veterans of various branches of the military.

The veterans’ caucus is scheduled to meet at least once a month to address future legislation and funding issues surrounding veterans programs.

 

Legislator's Concerns to Lead to Thousands in Cost Savings

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) is set to realize potential cost savings as a result of the state's response to concerns raised by State Rep. Bobby Cleveland.

In today's meeting of the Government Modernization Committee, Oklahoma State Purchasing Director Ferris Barger told committee members that central purchasing officials are asking for a re-issuance of DOC purchasing contracts previously awarded by the State Use Committee.

The department shared concerns about the contracts with Cleveland, who used the occasion of a February Government Modernization purchasing hearing to share the issue with Barger. Following the February hearing Barger instituted the review and confirmed Cleveland's findings.

Barger said the re-issuance is expected to lower costs by 30 to 40 percent and provide thousands in savings.

In today's hearing, Barger told committee members that the state plans to institute new policies to ensure Use Committee contracts stay closer to market rates.

He also said that state officials could potentially institute claw-back provisions on behalf of the state agencies that are required to abide by Use Committee contracts.

 

State employees to benefit from new human resource system

State employees are set to benefit from a comprehensive transformation of the state's human resource management system.

According to state officials, the new system will provide the state with a real-time view of the state's human capital resources; allow for better strategic planning; and, enable employees to easily identify and promote to positions within state government -- even though the open positions are within the purview of another agency.

These facts were provided to the members of the House Government Modernization Committee as part of their hearing this week.

Oklahoma's Director of Human Capital Management, Lucinda Meltabarger told committee members that the new unified system is expected to be in place by January 2018.

The initiative is a byproduct of the ongoing effort to bring state agencies together to modernize and share resources.

 

Afghan ambassador addresses State House and Senate to thank Oklahomans and their families for their service and sacrifice

Since 2003, nearly 6,000 Oklahoma members of the Army and Air National Guard have served in Afghanistan—that figure doesn’t even include the active duty service members who’ve served there. On Wednesday that country’s ambassador to the United States, Dr. Hamdullah Mohib spoke to the Oklahoma State House and Senate to say thank you to the troops, veterans and family members of those deployed to Afghanistan.

Mohib was urged to come to Oklahoma by Jane Horton—her husband, Army Spc. Christopher Horton was killed in Afghanistan. She accompanied the Ambassador to the Senate, along with Capt. Austin Bond, an Oklahoma guardsman who served with her husband.

Mohib said Oklahoma contributed the highest numbers of troops per capita in the United States. He said their service made a tremendous difference.

Three members of the Oklahoma State served in Afghanistan, and they were very appreciative of the Ambassador’s remarks.

 

Oklahoma Selected for National Governors Association Learning Lab

Governor Mary Fallin today announced that the National Governors Association (NGA) has chosen Oklahoma as one of five states and territories to participate in a learning lab focused on alternatives to incarceration for justice-involved youth.

The five states and territories chosen to participate in the NGA’s “Learning Lab on Alternatives to Incarceration for Justice-Involved Youth” are Oklahoma, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana and the Virgin Islands. The learning lab, which is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is an opportunity to learn about another state’s successful and innovative solution to a specific problem.

Participating teams will study Virginia’s recent reform efforts, and investigate alternatives to simply incarcerating juveniles. Strategies that will be explored include: limiting involvement of low-risk youth in the juvenile justice system; reducing unnecessary out-of-home placement; closing large residential facilities; implementing developmentally appropriate approaches; and expanding community-based alternatives to out-of-home placement.

The team from Oklahoma will be comprised of:

• Tom Bates – Oklahoma Department of Human Services Special Advisor

• Cary Cundiff – State of Oklahoma Budget Analyst

• Honorable Judge Michael Flanagan (Associate District Judge Cotton County)

• Rachel Holt – Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General

• Tierney Tinnin – OJA Deputy Director of Communications

• Melissa White – OJA Director of Education

The NGA Learning Lab on Alternatives to Incarceration for Justice-Involved Youth will take place April 11-12 in Richmond, Va.

 

Gov. Fallin Receives Notification of Assistance for Livestock Producers Affected by Wildfires

Governor Mary Fallin tonight announced she has received a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) stating emergency loans are available to livestock producers in six Oklahoma counties where recent wildfires caused significant damage.

The letter, by USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael L. Young, states that eligible livestock producers in Alfalfa, Beaver, Ellis, Harper, Roger Mills and Woodward counties along with contiguous counties may apply for emergency loan assistance.

Emergency loans help producers who sustain qualifying farm-related losses directly caused by the wildfires. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of an Administrator’s Physical Loss Notification to apply for this assistance.

In addition, Young wrote that eligible livestock producers may receive partial payments to help pay for rebuilding fence or replacing other items destroyed by the recent Oklahoma wildfires.

Normally, producers would have to wait until the work is completed to receive payment. Because some producers had more than 100 miles of fencing destroyed, it would be a financial hardship to wait until the rebuilding of fence is completed.

Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) funding may also be used for debris removal and restoring conservation structures damaged by wildfires. The USDA is also allowing the use of used oil piping for fence construction.

Young wrote in his letter that the Farm Services Agency (FSA) understands the financial burdens imposed on livestock producers due to the wildfires, “and it will use all available authorities to provide financial assistance to producers to rebuild fences and other conservation structures as quickly as possible.”

In addition to ECP, farmers and ranchers suffering from the aftermath of the wildfires may also be eligible for the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) or the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). LIP provides payments to producers for livestock deaths. ELAP provides emergency relief to livestock producers when losses from a disaster are not adequately covered by any other disaster program.

In addition, Oklahoma producers affected by recent wildfires are being allowed to let their livestock graze on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage, Young wrote.

The FSA has authorized emergency use of CRP acreage, which will allow producers to move their livestock to CRP acreage for a period of up to 30 days for six counties in Oklahoma. The counties are Alfalfa, Beaver, Ellis, Harper, Roger Mills and Woodward.

Emergency use of CRP acreage allows livestock to be moved to those lands on a temporary basis for producers who lost pasture or fences due to the wildfires.

Producers in the affected counties are encouraged to check with their local FSA state office for additional information.

 

Gov. Fallin Announces GrowOK Venture Assessment Program

Governor Mary Fallin today announced that i2E, Inc., a nonprofit that assists Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses, and seven state partners with the assistance of a $200,000 matching federal grant are taking a popular venture assessment program to rural Oklahoma and Native American entrepreneurs.

State partners include the Cherokee Nation, Choctaw Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Oklahoma Business Roundtable and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).  Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma, Inc., is also a supporting partner. The U.S. Economic Development Association (EDA) awarded the grant in November.

Known as GrowOK, the program will debut this spring with a curriculum designed especially for rural communities and Native American entrepreneurs.

The governor said the initiative is an innovative step in diversifying the state’s economy in rural areas as well as its urban centers.

The GrowOK curriculum will challenge rural and Native American entrepreneurs to identify their customers and determine whether their concept solves a true market need, said Scott Meacham, i2E’s president and chief executive officer.

i2E provides business advisory services and investment capital to high-growth startups across Oklahoma.

 i2E has provided its Venture Assessment Program as an intensive three-week course at its Tulsa and Oklahoma City offices since 2015, helping scores of entrepreneurs validate their business concepts and reach out to potential first customers.

The first GrowOK class is expected to launch next month in Ada.

For i2E’s tribal partners, the GrowOK program provides another tool for their small business development organization to bring in outside expertise and as a business growth opportunity for their members.

i2E was one of 35 nonprofits, institutions of higher education and entrepreneur-focused organizations from 19 states across the nation that were awarded a total of $15 million to create and expand initiatives to support entrepreneurship.

The $199,749 grant awarded to i2E was from among a pool of more than 215 applicants nationwide as part of the EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies Program (RIS).

 

Gov. Fallin Issues Statement on Trump Administrations Grazing Directive

Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), acting in response to a directive from President Donald Trump, authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in Oklahoma as a result of wildfires that devastated parts of northwest Oklahoma:

The USDA action is required to direct the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to permit the grazing on lands covered by the CRP, which exists to conserve and improve wildlife resources. The authorization is pursuant to appropriate restrictions and conservation measures.

Damages are expected to grow, but the USDA estimates that in Beaver, Ellis, Harper, Roger Mills, Woodward and Woods counties in Oklahoma:

• 389,533 acres burned.

• 3,000 head of cattle died.

• Structure losses were $2 million.

• Destroyed fencing exceeds $22 million.

 

Governor Mary Fallin Announces 400 New Jobs from MedXM Expansion

Governor Mary Fallin today announced that Mobile Medical Examination Inc. (MedXM), a national leader in the design and implementation of preventive care technology and in-home health risk assessments, will be expanding into Oklahoma City to house additional support for MedXM outreach initiatives.

The Oklahoma City outreach center plans to provide 400 full time jobs over the course of five years. This expansion will help strengthen MedXM’s mission to provide exceptional member service and quality home health visits across the nation for the purpose of care management, education, prevention, and early detection.

About MedXM

Since 1990, MedXM has been a national leader in the design and implementation of preventive care technology and in-home health risk assessments for the purpose of care management. MedXM offers a complete network of connections between members, their health plan and providers. MedXM is focused on delivering risk adjustment and quality solutions by providing clients with fully customizable options to fulfill specific needs.

Week 8 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

House and Senate commemorate Tinker’s 75th Anniversary

The House of Representatives hosted Lt. Gen. Lee K. Levy, Air Force Sustainment Center Commander at Tinker Air Force Base and the senior ranking military member in the state, to mark the 75th anniversary of Tinker Air Force Base on Thursday.

Tinker Air Force Base was officially activated on March 1, 1942, with the name “Oklahoma City Air Depot.” Later that year, the War Department named the depot installation Tinker Field in memory of Oklahoma native, Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker.

The Air Force Sustainment Center is headquartered at Tinker Air Force Base and generates millions of dollars in contracts with small businesses in Oklahoma. It is the supply chain for all parts and equipment for the Air Force, supporting 5,000 aircraft, 14,000 engines, helicopters, missiles, support equipment and 65 foreign militaries.

In his current position, Lt. Gen. Levy ensures the center provides operational planning and execution for the Air Force supply chain management and depot maintenance for a wide range of aircraft, engines, missiles and component items in support of United States Air Force missions.

 

Roberts Honored Second Time by Oklahoma Veterans Council

Oklahoma Veterans Council Chairman Col. Pete Peterson bestowed the Legislator of the Year Award on state Rep. Dustin Roberts on Monday in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The award was given largely for Roberts’ authorship of and support of bills that increase services and support of the state’s nearly 336,000 veterans.

Each year, the Oklahoma Veterans Council issues this award to a state representative and a state Senator who go above and beyond in their duties for veterans.

The House and Senate held a joint session Monday in observance of veterans’ awareness.

Roberts is a veteran himself, serving in the United States Navy for five years. He completed three tours during the War on Terrorism. He was awarded two Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medals for his efforts in the Horn of Africa situation and again in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was also awarded as the Blue Jacket of the Year and Junior Sailor of the Year.

In his acceptance speech, Roberts thanked the veterans in attendance on the House floor and in the gallery, as well as the families of veterans for their sacrifice and support while their family member is deployed. In addition, he thanked the Oklahoma Veterans Council on their guidance in helping to navigate the legislative process and for their willingness to be a voice for the veterans unable to come to the Capitol.

Roberts also thanked his wife, Lindsay Roberts, for allowing him to give countless hours of time away from his family to fight for veterans’ rights and care.

 

Sen. Standridge praises parents and other supporters after State Board of Education approves Norman charter school

State Sen. Rob Standridge applauded the State Board of Education’s decision Thursday to approve a proposed French immersion charter school in Norman. The concept for the charter school came about after the French immersion program at Reagan Elementary in Norman was cut. Parents of students who were thriving in the program worked tirelessly to continue the school’s mission through a charter school, the Le Monde Internal School. Standridge was among those supporting the application.

“We are thrilled that LeMonde will become a reality, and I want to thank the State Board of Education, and especially the parents, teachers and other supporters throughout the community who have worked so hard to ensure this unique educational opportunity will continue to be available for Norman students,” said Standridge, R-Norman. “Charter schools are a way to offer innovative approaches to educating our children in an environment that motivates and stimulates learning. This dedicated group of citizens worked for months to come up with one of the most innovative charter school ideas in the history of our state.”

Standridge said the Norman community had embraced the proposed charter school, and said because of the passion and commitment of the parents of children involved in the Norman Public Schools French Immersion program, many more children would be able to benefit from the vision born at Reagan Elementary years before.

“So many people involved in education, including administrators, teachers and even parents will tell you without hesitation that much of the problem today with getting a child a solid education is the lack of parent involvement and commitment. LeMonde is an example of exactly the opposite. This school will become a reality because of the many parents, students and outstanding educators who became impassioned and involved to a degree rarely ever seen in common education today,” Standridge said. “Approval of this unique charter school and the educational opportunities it will offer is a huge step forward for our students, our community and our state.”

 

Gov. Fallin Announces Outreach for Veterans Pilot Program

Governor Mary Fallin today announced efforts to inform Oklahoma veterans about the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, a private/public initiative to develop a comprehensive health care access and delivery system for the state’s veterans.

A comprehensive outreach program will be spearheaded by the Force 50 Brigade and its two subgroups, Victory Company and the County Chairpersons Leadership Team.

The governor made the announcement as hundreds of veterans gathered at the state Capitol to take part in the annual Veterans Appreciation Day activities.

The Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, which was launched in September, is a private/public effort to develop a comprehensive transitional system of care designed to deliver accessible quality healthcare to veterans statewide. The system will cover healthcare services in mental health, home health, nursing care, rehabilitative services, and coordinated access to physician services, laboratory services, pharmacy services and tele-health capability.

The Force 50 Brigade, which is the primary public awareness organization of the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, will consist of 50 well-known Oklahoma entertainers, sports figures and professionals from the film and music industries, as well as two critical subgroups, the County Chairperson Leadership Team and Victor Company. Victor Company is the Veterans Leadership Team and will consist of veterans organizations and leaders within the veterans community. As the most integral part of this effort, it has been mobilized first, and will be led by Pete Peterson and Scott Ellis, leaders of the Oklahoma Veterans Council.

The Victor Company members and organizations include:

  • American Legion
  • American Ex-POWs
  • Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
  • Fleet Reserve Association
  • Marine Corps League
  • Military Officers Assn. Of America
  • Nat’l Assn. of Black Veterans
  • Oklahoma Womens’ Veterans Organization
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Mid-America Chapter
  • Rolling Thunder Oklahoma Chapter 1
  • Special Forces Oklahoma Chapter 32
  • U.S. Sub. Veterans, Inc., USS OKC Base
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • Viet Nam Veterans of America

 

Gov. Fallin Calls Special Elections for State Senate District 44, House District 46 Seats

Governor Mary Fallin today ordered special elections to fill the vacancies in Oklahoma Senate District 44, caused by the immediate resignation of Ralph Shortey, and Oklahoma House District 46, caused by Rep. Scott Martin’s decision to resign effective May 31.

The filing period for both special elections is May 1-3. The special primary election is set for July 11 and the special general election is scheduled for Sept. 12.

In the event a special primary election is not necessary, the special general election will be July 11.

Shortey, of Oklahoma City, and Martin, of Norman, both announced their decisions to resign last week.

Gov. Fallin Announces Oklahoma Tax Commission Appointment

Governor Mary Fallin today announced the appointment of former state Sen. Clark Jolley to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. He succeeds Dawn Cash, who resigned earlier this month.

Jolley’s appointment to the Tax Commission requires confirmation from the state Senate. His term would expire Jan. 10, 2023.

Jolley, of Edmond, serves as an adjunct professor at Oklahoma Christian University and Mid-America Christian University. He served in the state Senate from 2004 until 2016, the last five years as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. He could not seek re-election because of 12-year legislative term limits.

Jolley earned two degrees from Oklahoma Baptist University, a law degree from the University of Oklahoma, and a certificate in public treasury management from the National Institute of Public Finance at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

He and his family make their home in Edmond, where his children attend Edmond Public Schools.