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 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.

Week 7 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

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Major Criminal Justice Reforms Pass House

State Rep. Terry O’Donnell authored three bills advancing criminal justice reform that passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives this week.

House Bill 2281 creates graduated penalties for those accused of certain larceny or forgery crimes, reducing some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and modifying fines as well as the mandatory lengths of sentences. The bill passed by a vote of 84-8.

House Bill 2284 would require public defenders to receive continuing education training regarding best treatment practices for defendants with substance abuse or mental health problems and would require training for judges and state prosecutors on how to best deal with victims of domestic violence and trauma. The training is contingent on funding availability. The bill passed 84-2.

House Bill 2286 would allow some nonviolent state inmates to apply for parole after serving one-fourth of their sentence if they have earned enough credits instead of the one-third now required. The bill also would require additional Pardon and Parole Board member training and better communication from the board to improve parole outcomes. And, it will ensure better mental health and substance abuse treatment standards. The bill passed the House 81-3.

The bills were part of the recommendation of the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force convened by Gov. Mary Fallin last year.

O’Donnell said the state’s overcrowded prisons pose not only a financial burden but a safety issue for corrections officers, and they open the state to lawsuits.

Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate in the nation for women and the third highest rate for men. Without these and other reform measures, Oklahoma’s prison population is expected to grow by 25 percent over the next 10 years, which would cost a total of $1.9 billion.

These measures are intended to eliminate the need for more than 7,800 prison beds at an estimated savings of about $148.7 million.

The measures now move to the state Senate for consideration.

Medical Billing Legislation Clears House Unanimously

Legislation aimed to lessen surprise medical bills passed Tuesday out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a unanimous vote of 93 to 0.

House Bill 2216 by Rep. Sean Roberts requires a non-contracted provider to give a health plan enrollee notice, a good-faith estimate of charges and a disclosure that the provider will either accept the assignment of benefits for the plan’s allowed amount or balance-bill the enrollee.

Roberts said patients will then be able to request a different provider who is covered by insurance instead of being subjected to an unexpected medical bill.

HB 2216 now moves to the Senate, where state Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, is the author.

Roberts represents House District 36, which includes parts of Osage and Tulsa counties.

Martin to Resign at end of Session to Lead Norman Chamber

State Rep. Scott Martin today announced that at the end of this legislative session he will resign his seat in the Legislature to lead the Norman Chamber of Commerce. At its Board meeting today, the Norman Chamber named Rep. Martin its next president and chief executive officer beginning June 1. He has submitted the appropriate paperwork to Governor Mary Fallin and Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall, tendering his resignation from his House seat effective May 31. 

Bill strengthening drunk driving laws clears House

A bill aimed at combating drunk driving passed Wednesday out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a vote of 82 to 6.

House Bill 1605 by state Rep. John Enns allows courts to order a person convicted of driving under the influence to abstain from alcohol for a period of time determined by the court. Under the measure, individuals under the age of 21 who are convicted of a DUI will see their license revoked or suspended until they turn 21 and an ignition interlock device added to their vehicle. For individuals over 21, the driver’s license will be replaced with a license stamped with “alcohol restricted,” which will alert law enforcement officers who pull them over in the future of this previous DUI.

HB 1605 now proceeds to the Senate for consideration, where Sen. Roland Pederson, R-Burlington, is the author.

Bill lessening tag requirement for bear hunting passes House

A bill changing the requirement for bear tags cleared the House of Representatives Wednesday with a vote of 59 to 31.

House Bill 2001 by Rep. Rick West prohibits lifetime hunting and fishing license holders from having to purchase individual tags for bear hunting. People exempt from the hunting license fee will also be exempt from attaching a tag to a killed bear or from purchasing a tag for a bear.

Bear hunting only occurs Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties in Oklahoma.

Rep. John Bennett co-authored the bill and debated in favor of its passage on the House floor.

HB 2001 now moves to the state Senate, where Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, is the author. 

Oklahoma Senate approves judicial reforms

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved a handful of judicial reform bills, including measures that would change the way state judges are appointed.

“These reforms are a measured approach to help restore the balance of power among the three, co-equal branches of government in Oklahoma. Too many times, we’ve seen the judiciary extend beyond its constitutional role and instead take on the role of a super-legislator. These changes also will roll back the outsized role the trial lawyers play in appointing judges to the bench. The governor’s office and the members of the Senate are directly elected by the citizens of Oklahoma and should be afforded more authority and responsibility in judicial appointments,” said President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus.

Sen. Anthony Sykes, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, offered several of the judicial reform measures.

“Failing to enact judicial reforms continues to put Oklahoma at the mercy of a system that gives too much power to a select group of trial lawyers instead of the duly elected representatives of the people. The governor and members of the Legislature are immediately accountable to the people for the decisions they make. These common-sense reforms will provide more accountability and help put more power into the hands of the people, as our founders intended,” said Sykes, R-Moore.

Among the bills approved by the Senate were:

• SB 708 (Sykes) requires a district judge to have served as lead counsel in at least three jury trials before being elected or appointed to serve on the bench.

• SB 779 (Sykes) changes the amount of judges each judicial district may nominate.

• SJR 43 (Sykes) would allow voters to decide whether to amend the judicial appointment process to model the federal system. Under this proposal, the governor would nominate candidates to fill judicial vacancies and the Oklahoma Senate would confirm or deny the governor’s appointment. The Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) would rate the governor’s judicial nominees as either “qualified” or “not qualified.”

• SJR 44 (Sykes) would allow voters to decide whether to amend the Constitution to modify the judicial nominating process. Under this proposal, the JNC would provide the governor with five qualified nominees to fill a judicial vacancy, instead of the current recommendation of three nominees. The governor would be allowed to reject those nominees and request five new nominees. The governor would then select one nominee, whose name would be forwarded to the Oklahoma Senate for confirmation.

• SB 213 (Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow) would change the boundaries of Oklahoma Supreme Court judicial districts to correspond with the number of congressional districts in Oklahoma plus adding at-large positions.

Senate approves county option for Sunday liquor store sales

A measure that would give counties the option to decide whether to allow Sunday liquor store sales has won full Senate approval. Sen. Stephanie Bice began working two years ago to help Oklahomans modernize state liquor laws, with voters overwhelmingly supporting State Question 792 last November. Senate Bill 211 represents another step in that effort, and will address an important parity issue.

The county vote could come about one of two ways—either the county commissioners could call for a special election or 15 percent of registered voters in a county could sign a petition asking for a vote. Bice noted there are still 18 dry counties in Oklahoma, meaning they do not allow liquor by the drink. They could hold a vote on becoming wet counties as well as holding a vote to allow Sunday liquor store sales.

Senate Bill 211 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. 

Senate approves Impaired Driving Elimination Act 2

The Senate unanimously passed legislation Wednesday to change how first-time Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offenses are handled in Oklahoma. Sen. Kim David is the author of Senate Bill 643, also known as the Impaired Driver Elimination Act 2 (IDEA2), which is strongly supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). The legislation would create the Impaired Driver Accountability Program (IDAP) within the Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Only first-time DUI offenders would be eligible to enter the program. Participants could have their license revocation reduced from one year to six months. If they successfully complete the program, their driving record will reflect that as well as no revocation, which will prevent higher insurance rates and will make seeking employment easier. Participants will also not be charged any reinstatement fees.

Those wishing to enter IDAP would have ten days from the date of their arrest to submit their application form. They would also have to have an ADSAC or DUI assessment reflecting a treatment category of I or II within 45 days as well as provide proof of installation of an interlock device. Participants would also be required to not receive any verified ignition violations during their last 60 days in the program.

Anyone who refuses to go into the program will be required to have a modified license and an interlock device on their vehicle for one year (rather than the current 180 days) before they can reinstate their license. The revocation will go on their record.

SB 643 makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to operate a non-interlock vehicle for a drunk driver who is in the IDAP program or has an interlock restricted license. It would also make refusing a breath test following a suspected drunk driving arrest a misdemeanor punishable with up to ten days in jail or a $1,000 fine.

The bill, which was requested by the Governor’s Impaired Driving Prevention Advisory Council, now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Oklahoma Senate Approves Education Bills

Teacher pay, teacher recruitment, reducing administrative costs among measures

The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved several education related bills, including measures that address teacher pay, teacher recruitment, and the reduction of administrative costs, among other issues.

The measures approved by the Senate on Wednesday are among the education issues included in the Senate Republicans’ 2017 legislative agenda.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, authored Senate Bill 618, which modifies the minimum salary schedule and increases pay for classroom teachers.

Among the other education measures approved by the Senate were:
• SB 514 (Stanislawski) requires the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) to study shared administrative services of school districts in the state in the hopes of reducing administrative costs.

• SB 15 (Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Piedmont) directs the OSDE and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to implement a targeted recruiting program for teachers.

• SB 70 (Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville) directs the State Auditor and Inspector to conduct a performance audit on the OSDE.

• SB 72 (Daniels) directs the State Auditor and Inspector to conduct a performance audit of the Department of Career and Technology.

• SB 84 (Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair) extends the probationary promotion program for students under the Reading Sufficiency Act.

• SB 243 (Stanislawski) requires a monthly financial report to be prepared by the local school's treasurer and sent to the local school board.
• SB 244 (Stanislawski) requires virtual charter schools to track attendance.

• SB 389 (Stanislawski) requires the State Board of Education to review and send a report to legislative leadership on pupil grade level weights every five years.
• SB 515 (Stanislawski) modifies the point system in determining a school's grade on the state A-F report card system.

• SB 261 (Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona) creates a task force to study and make recommendations on reforms to the State Aid formula, including but not be limited to the grade level weights, the student category weights and the transportation factor of the State Aid formula.

• SB 393 (Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate) allows teachers to objectively review the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.

• SB 428 (Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud) allows retired teachers to be re-employed by schools.

• SB 529 (Smalley) increases accountability to combat fraud in the Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) to ensure funds are available for students in the program.

• SB 445 (Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Broken Arrow) increases flexibility within existing tax credits related to the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act to better serve low-income and high-needs students.

• SB 450 (Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro) instructs schools to treat religious viewpoints expressed by a student with the same respect it would treat a secular viewpoint.

• SB 632 (Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee) creates the Education Compact for Students in State Care Act, which established a board to facilitate the transfer of children in state care to a school.

• Senate Joint Resolution 9 (Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow) increases civics education by requiring OSDE to incorporate a citizenship test into the standards for grades 9-12.

Gov. Fallin Appoints Former Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez as Secretary of State

Governor Mary Fallin today announced that former Oklahoma Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez is re-joining her Cabinet to fill the vacant position of secretary of state.

Lopez will begin his new duties Monday, March 27. His appointment still must be confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate.

Lopez succeeds Mike Hunter, whom the governor appointed last month as attorney general.

As secretary of state, Lopez will serve as a senior adviser to the governor on policy, economic and legislative issues. He served as the governor’s secretary of commerce from 2011 until 2013.

Lopez is a longtime civic and community leader and currently serves as an independent consultant.

From 2013 to 2014, he served as interim superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools while the school board launched and concluded a national search for a permanent superintendent.

Lopez previously served as president of Oklahoma City-based American Fidelity Foundation, a charitable foundation that gives grants for economic development, education, human services and the arts. Before joining American Fidelity Foundation, Lopez served as president of Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc.

Prior to that, he had a 22-year career with SBC Communications (now AT&T), including serving as president of SBC Oklahoma and as president of SBC Texas.

Lopez serves on numerous boards, including the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Banc First Corp., Blue Cross Blue Shield, Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, University of Oklahoma College of Education Board of Advisers, University of Central Oklahoma Foundation and Wes Welker Foundation.

He has received many honors and awards including induction into the Oklahoma City University Commerce & Industry Hall of Honor, the Corporate Advocate Award from the Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Humanitarian of the Year award from the Oklahoma City chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Lopez earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New Mexico State University.  He and his wife, Lana, live in Oklahoma City and have five children and eight grandchildren.

Gov. Fallin Praises Senate for Passage of Criminal Justice Measures

Governor Mary Fallin today praised the Oklahoma Senate for its approval of eight bills addressing improvements in the criminal justice system. The Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, which was convened by the governor last year, recommended these reforms after studying the data and facts of the criminal justice system in Oklahoma, and the governor asked lawmakers to consider them in her State of the State.

“These historic votes will improve public safety in Oklahoma, and save our state $1.9 billion,” said Fallin. “Making smart, data-driven decisions on how to increase safety while decreasing our overcapacity prisons is key to pursuing smaller, more efficient, and more moral government. My thanks to Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat and Senator Wayne Shaw for sponsoring this landmark legislation, and for taking a huge step towards a better criminal justice system and a safer Oklahoma.”

The Senate passed:

  • Senate Bill (SB) 603, which would require the development of individualized plans for inmates to help them better reintegrate into society.
  • SB 604, which would provide training for law enforcement officers on how to better deal with victims of domestic violence.
  • SB 609, which would establish the framework for a training and certification process for professional victim advocates.
  • SB 649, which would distinguish between those who have a history of committing violent crimes from persons with a history of committing nonviolent offenses in determining how much their sentences should be enhanced for being repeat offenders
  • SB 650, which would reform qualifications for certain expungement categories.
  • SB 689, which would allow judges and prosecutors more options in diverting people from prison to treatment and supervision programs. It also would decrease financial barriers for convicted individuals seeking to re-enter society, would expand the use of graduated sanctions and incentives that could be used in response to inmate behavior and would expand eligibility for certain programs that are alternatives to incarceration.
  • SB 786, which would create an additional burglary tier to distinguish by severity.
  • SB 793, which would set up an oversight council to monitor the effectiveness of criminal justice reform efforts.

The bills now head to the Oklahoma House of Representatives for consideration.

The Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force included those in law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, members of the business community, victim advocates, mental health and addiction professionals, and legislators.

Oklahoma has the second-highest imprisonment rate in the country. It has the highest rate for women – a ranking the state has held since 1991. Moreover, Oklahoma’s prison population is projected to grow 25 percent in the next 10 years at a cost of $1.2 billion in capital expenditures and an additional $700 million in operating costs over 10 years. Proposed legislation will save more than 7,800 beds, averting the immediate need for new prisons and much of these additional expenses.

Week 6 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

 

Bill increasing court safety passes House

Legislation allowing permitted county officials to carry firearms inside a courthouse passed Monday out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a vote of 85 to 11.

House Bill 1104 would allow elected officials with a valid handgun license issued pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Self Defense Act to carry a firearm within the courthouses of the county in which he or she was elected. The official must be acting in the performance of their official duties and would not be allowed to carry into a courtroom.

House Bill 1104 is endorsed by the National Rifle Association. It now proceeds to the Senate for consideration, where state Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, is the author.

 

House Legislation Strengthens Firefighter Pensions

Legislation that strengthens the pension system for Oklahoma firefighters has passed the House with a vote of 93 to 0.

House Bill 1705 addresses the interest distribution for the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. The changes in conjunction with this year’s proposed administrative rules changes are projected to produce $1 billion dollars in savings over the next 30 years.

The purpose of the DROP is to provide a good way for municipalities to keep their most experienced firefighters in their workforce. Some of Texas’ fastest growing cities, like Dallas, Houston and Austin, are having major problems with their pension plan because, among other reasons, the DROP benefit provisions have become unsustainable.

According to the most recent actuarial report, the firefighter pension system has a funded ratio of 65.9 percent, with an unfunded liability of nearly $1.2 billion.

Praise for the legislation was shared by the director of the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System.

The legislation must now pass through the Oklahoma Senate before heading to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

 

Bill Restoring Daily Pledge of Allegiance Passes House

A bill requiring public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives by a vote of 93-1 on Monday.

House Bill 2277 by state Rep. Terry O’Donnell would require students in all public schools to recite the pledge to the flag of the United States of America once every school day rather than once a week as now required by law. The state statute, in accordance with federal law, authorizes an exemption for students “who do not wish to participate” in the pledge.

State law also requires history and etiquette relating to the United States flag be taught in one or more grades in every school district in Oklahoma.

Members of the House Common Education Committee earlier unanimously approved the bill. The measure now moves to the state Senate for approval.

 

Bill potentially lessening DOC population clears House

A bill authorizing certain inmates to request a medical review in front of the Pardon and Parole Board passed Tuesday out of the House of Representatives with a vote of 73 to 16.

House Bill 1338 by state Rep. Greg Babinec permits an inmate who is 50 years of age or older and is medically frail to be considered for medical parole review. The inmate must be serving time for a nonviolent offense.

Elderly inmates are often some of the most expensive to care for because of the medical conditions that come with increased age. For inmates between the ages of 50 and 69, the Department of Corrections spends an average of $1,353 per inmate every six months. This number climbs to a biannual cost of $7,879 per inmate who is above the age of 80.

The decision on early release will remain up to Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board.

DOC Director Joe Allbaugh praised the passage of the legislation, saying it was a step in the right direction for fixing the ailing prison system.

House Bill 1338 now proceeds to the Senate for consideration, where Sen. Tom Duggar, R-Stillwater, is the author.

Babinec represents House District 33, which includes portions of Logan and Payne counties.

 

Caldwell Streamlines State Bond Office

 Legislation that looks to provide efficiency to the Oklahoma State Bond Advisor’s Office and transparency in the bond underwriting process has passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a vote of 84 to 0.

House Bill 1583, authored by Rep. Chad Caldwell, would consolidate the Oklahoma State Bond Advisor Office so that it would fall under the purview of the Oklahoma State Treasurer’s Office. The legislation would also require financial agents, banks, and underwriters to disclose financial contributions to individuals or organizations that may play a role in the bond issuance process.

 

Oklahoma Senate Approves Resolution Imposing Punishment on Senator Ralph Shortey

The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution imposing punishment upon Senator Ralph Shortey pursuant to provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution.
 



Oklahoma Senate advances bipartisan veterans bills

The Oklahoma Senate on Monday overwhelming approved a series of bipartisan bills dealing with veterans’ issues, including a measure that protects the contractual and financial rights of service members that are mobilized or deployed.

Senate Bill 227 by Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, offers increased protection of service members’ contractual and financial rights by allowing them to cancel certain contracts, like telecommunications contracts and health club memberships, when they are deployed are mobilized.

Among the other measures were:

SB 233 by Sen. Simpson which specifies that hourly employees shall not miss out on the first 240 hours of their pay when called to active service.

SB 456 by Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Tulsa, which aims to help curtail fraud in a program that offers a sales tax exemption to 100-percent disabled veterans and their spouses by documenting those who are eligible for the program.

SB 642 by Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, which designates a section of Interstate 44, from SW 119th Street to SW 149th Street, as the LCPL Trevor A. Roberts Memorial Highway, an Oklahoma City Marine who was killed while deployed to Iraq in 2007.

SB 42 by Sen. Simpson which updates references to the federal “The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003" in state law.

SB 76 by Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton, which designates a bridge near Fort Sill as the CPL Wilfred Flores Jr. Memorial Bridge to honor Flores, who was killed while deployed to Iraq in 2007.

SB 76 by Sen. Bass, which creates the Prisoner of War and Missing in Action license plate.

 

Bill repealing state income tax cut trigger clears Senate

The full Senate has given approval to a measure that would repeal an economic trigger that would lower the state’s top income tax rate from 5 percent to 4.85 percent.  Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, is the author of Senate Bill 170 which was approved by a wide margin in the Senate on Monday.

Thompson, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance, said when the Legislature began cutting income taxes several years ago under then-Governor Brad Henry, the state had a surplus of funds.  But after facing revenue shortfalls of $600 million two sessions ago, $1.3 billion last session, and $878 million this year, Thompson said ending the trigger is the right thing to do.

SB 170 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

 

 

Full Senate approves measure creating registry for disabled vets

A bill aimed at reducing the number of individuals fraudulently claiming to be disabled veteran has cleared the full Senate.  Sen. Joe Newhouse is principal author of Senate Bill 456, which directs the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to create and administer a registry of 100 percent service-disabled veterans. The agency would also be charged with verifying all information provided through the registry.

Among the benefits offered to veterans in Oklahoma is a sales tax exemption for 100 percent disabled veterans and their spouses and widows.  Newhouse said the number of individuals taking advantage of the program is far greater than the actual number of 100 percent disabled veterans in the state.

Senate Bill 456 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

 

Gov. Fallin Appoints Former Governor Frank Keating to OU Board of Regents

Governor Mary Fallin today announced the appointment of former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating to the University of Oklahoma (OU) Board of Regents. Keating will succeed A. Max Weitzenhoffer and will serve a seven–year term, pending confirmation from the Oklahoma Senate.

Keating is a senior partner in the international law firm of Holland & Knight. He served two terms as governor, from 1995 until 2003; after that, he served seven years as the president and chief executive officer of the American Council of Life Insurers and then five years as president and CEO of the American Bankers Association (ABA).

“Frank Keating has a long and distinguished service with the state and federal governments,” said Fallin. “I’m so pleased he has agreed to again serve the state of Oklahoma in this important capacity.  Governor Keating is known as an effective governor, and a strong and compassionate leader.

“In Washington, Frank guided the banking industry through a very difficult public policy environment.  He was the right person at the right time to help lead ABA and to help the banking industry, which was in need of a credible, well-regarded leader after the 2009 recession and bank failures. Frank is the right person at the right time now to help lead OU, and to increase educational attainment and make it easier for students to graduate in a timely manner.”

Born in St. Louis, Keating grew up in Tulsa. He received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from OU. His 30-year career in law enforcement and public service included stints as an FBI agent, U.S. attorney and state prosecutor. He also served in the Oklahoma House and Senate.

He served Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the treasury, justice and housing departments.  In 1993, Keating returned to Oklahoma to run for governor. He won a three-way race by a landslide and was easily re-elected in 1998.

As governor, Keating won national acclaim in 1995 for his compassionate and professional handling of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. In the aftermath of the attack, Keating raised more than $6 million to fund scholarships for the nearly 200 children left with only one or no parents. His accomplishments as governor include winning a successful public vote on right-to-work, tort reform, tax cuts, and major road building and education reform.

He is also the author of four award-winning children’s books - biographies of Will Rogers, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington and Standing Bear, the Ponca tribal chief who argued Native Americans deserve the same rights as white Americans. And a fifth, a biography of Abraham Lincoln, was recently released in January.

Keating and his wife, Cathy, live in Oklahoma City. They have three children and 10 grandchildren.

Week 5 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

Blue Lives Matter Bill Passes House

A bill that would increase the likelihood of the death penalty for people convicted of killing a law enforcement officer in the line of duty passed the House with a vote of 73-21 Wednesday.

House Bill 1306, by State Rep. Casey Murdock, creates the Blue Lives Matter in Oklahoma Act of 2017, which provides that any person convicted of, or who pleads guilty or nolo contendere to murder in the first degree of a law enforcement officer, correctional officer or corrections employee while in the performance of their duties shall be punished by death or life in prison without parole.

Murdock said he was inspired to write this legislation after the tragic events that occurred in Dallas and around the country, where snipers were shooting at law enforcement. He also told a personal story of a friend whose son-in-law was shot and attacked in the line of duty.

Murdock worked with several other representatives to make sure the bill was constitutional yet still firm when it comes to dealing with criminals. The bill makes it harder to just get a life in prison sentence. Punishment would be either death or life without parole. The bill also requires that an overwhelming amount of mitigating evidence be shown for those convicted to just be given a life sentence.

The bill now moves to the state Senate.

Education Leaders Endorse $110 Million Education Funding Boost from Budget Leader’s Bill

The House of Representatives has passed a bill endorsed by education leaders that increases the Oklahoma Lottery’s contribution to education by $110 million over the next five years.

 

House Bill 1837, by House Appropriations Chairwoman Leslie Osborn and Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kim David, passed the House on Tuesday and now moves to the Senate.

 

The bill was endorsed Monday by the Oklahoma Education Coalition, which consists of:

·         Oklahoma City Public Schools

·         Tulsa Public Schools

·         United Suburban Schools Association

·         Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools

·         Oklahoma State School Boards Association

·         Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administration

·         Oklahoma Education Association

·         Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association

·         Oklahoma Association of Career and Technology Education

·         Oklahoma Parents and Teachers Association

HB 1837 is modeled after successful lottery changes in other states. It sends more lottery revenue to education by letting the lottery increase payouts to offer more prizes that improve lottery sales and ultimately send more money to public schools.

 

The Oklahoma Lottery has sent more than $750 million to education since it began in 2005, but its performance has declined because of an ineffective profit requirement that would be replaced under HB 1837. Lottery contributions to education next year are expected to be 30 percent lower than ten years ago. If HB 1837 is not passed, the Oklahoma Lottery projects declines will continue and education will lose a combined $25 million in lottery funding over the next five years. 

 

To prevent that decline, HB 1837 makes the lottery more profitable and increases common education’s lottery funding through three steps:

 

1.      Guarantee at least $50 million in lottery revenue for education every year.

2.      Send profits above $50 million to specific K-12 public school initiatives.

3.      Improve sales and lottery revenue to education by ending the counterproductive mandate that 35 percent of profits go to education.

 

Under HB 1837, initiatives in reading and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) would receive $85 million over the next five years.

 

In total, HB 1837 sends a $110 million boost to education by preventing the $25 million decline that is expected without the bill and sending the projected $85 million to reading and STEM programs.

 

House Advances Teacher Pay Raise Plan

Plan would boost Oklahoma teacher pay to first in the region

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives today overwhelmingly advanced a plan to the Senate that 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.

 

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 $53 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 Speaker Charles A. McCall supports Rep. Rogers’ plan.

 

House Bill 1114 passed out of the House by a vote of 92-7 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

 

Victim Notification Bill Passes House

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that looks to give victims clear and proper notification regarding the release of an offender has unanimously passed the House with a vote of 87 to 0.

House Bill 1680, authored by House Speaker Pro Tempore Harold Wright, would require the department of corrections to notify victims through the Victim Information and Notification Everyday service within 60 days and no less than seven days prior to an offender leaving state custody.                                                   

The proposed law change would also reorganize the notification system so that the responsibility of notifying victims would fall on the department of corrections. The legislation also requests assistance from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in giving notification of the pending release of its opinions where the outcome may affect a victim or a victim’s family. 

Bill easing access to eye drop medication refill clears House

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill amending refill procedures for certain medications passed unanimously Tuesday out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a vote of 92 to 0.

House Bill 1819 by state Rep. Carl Newton, an optometrist, prohibits an insurance company from denying refill requests for eye drops after using 70 percent of the prescription.

The legislation also prohibits a health benefit plan that covers prescription eye drops from denying coverage for a refill prescription when the prescription indicates that more is needed, the refill does not exceed the additional amount needed, and the prescription is covered.

HB1819 now proceeds to the Senate for consideration, where state Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, is the author.

Newton represents House District 58, which includes parts of Alfalfa, Major, Woods, Woodward counties.

Bill scaling back corporal punishment for students with disabilities passes House

Legislation prohibiting school district personnel from using corporal punishment on certain students passed unanimously Monday out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a vote of 89 to 0.

House Bill 1623, or the “Bryan Young Act,” protects students with disabilities from corporal punishment unless addressed in an annual Individualized Education Program (IEP). Young was a Norman-based attorney who regularly advocated for students with IEPs.

In districts where corporal punishment is currently allowed, most require parents sign a handbook at the beginning of each year permitting school personnel to use corporal punishment when necessary. This legislation exempts students with physical disabilities from being corporally punished unless it is allowed in the student’s IEP.

HB 1623 now proceeds to the Senate for consideration, where state Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, is the author.

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

House Judiciary- Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee Approves 5

 The fourth hearing for the 56th Legislature’s House Judiciary – Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee took place Wednesday.

This past meeting marked the last time the committee, chaired by Rep. Scott Biggs, will be able to consider new legislation authored by members of the House. During the meeting, five new pieces of legislation were passed and are now eligible to be heard on the House Floor.

House Bill 1127, authored by Rep. Biggs, is legislation that would require the court to instruct the jury on the definition of “consent” in any criminal jury trial that involves “sexual assault”. The bill passed committee by a vote of 9 to 0.

House Bill 1324, authored by Rep. Justin Humphrey, is legislation that would remove the ability of the court to order a presentence investigation be conducted on any convicted felony offender prior to the court imposing a term of incarceration. The measure increases the maximum fee amount that the court may order the defendant to pay for a presentence investigation from a maximum of $250 to a maximum of $500. The bill passed committee by a vote of 10 to 1.

House Bill 1472, authored by Rep. Travis Dunlap, is legislation that would create the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act. The measure requires a service provider, upon request of the consumer, to filter content to prevent the transmission of obscene material to the consumer. The bill passed committee by a vote of 11 to 0.

House Bill 2281, authored by Rep. Terry O’Donnell, is legislation that contains the Governor’s Justice Reform Task Force recommendations relating to unlawful delivery of goods, false impersonation, credit or debit card crimes, forged instruments or coins, larceny of lost property, theft of aircraft, automobile or construction equipment and theft of a controlled dangerous substance.. The bill passed committee by a vote of 11 to 0.

House Bill 2290 is legislation that contains the recommendations of the Governor’s Justice Reform Task Force regarding the use of drug and mental health courts. The bill passed committee by a vote of 9 to 2.

Of the several bills that were assigned to committee, 26 bills received hearings and were approved to be heard on the House Floor. The committee worked to accommodate all bill filers, but some issues could not be worked out in time for all bills to be heard. However, the majority of bills not heard were removed from the committee by the bill author.

Governor Mary Fallin Declares State of Emergency for 22 Counties Due to Wildfires, Critical Fire Conditions

Governor Mary Fallin today issued an executive order to declare a state of emergency for 22 counties due to ongoing wildfires and critical fire weather conditions.

The counties included in the governor’s declaration are: Alfalfa, Beaver, Blaine, Cimarron, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Kay, Kingfisher, Logan, Major, Noble, Osage, Payne, Pawnee, Roger Mills, Texas, Woods and Woodward.

Estimates show between 200,000 and 300,000 acres have already burned in Beaver, Harper and Woodward counties alone, where dangerous fire conditions are expected to continue tonight and tomorrow.

Under the executive order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions. It is also the first step toward seeking federal aid should it be necessary.

The executive order is in effect for 30 days and could be amended to include additional counties if conditions warrant.

Governor Mary Fallin Signs Measure Approving New Report on Assessments, Accountability System for Public Schools

 Governor Mary Fallin today signed House Joint Resolution (HJR) 1028 to approve the assessment and accountability report recommendations required by legislation (House Bill 3218) passed and signed into law last year.  The key components of the report include recommendations for new assessments for Grades 3-8 and for high school students as required by the federal government, as well as a study of an enhanced accountability system.  In addition, the report contained recommendations on graduation requirements, and remediation and interventions.

Governor Mary Fallin Approves Shawnee Tribe’s Proposal to Build Casino near Guymon

Citing a remedy to help with economic development and self-determination, Governor Mary Fallin today announced she has concurred with the findings of a federal agency giving permission to the Shawnee Tribe to build a casino near Guymon. 

In 2000, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe succeeded in winning congressional approval of a measure called the Shawnee Act, which restored the tribe's federal recognition and gave the tribe the right to secure land essential to its economic well-being as long as that land is outside the assigned lands of other Oklahoma tribes.

The history of Shawnee migration in response to western expansion can be traced to the 1700s. Relocating to eastern Kansas on a 1.6 million-acre reservation in the early 1860s, the tribe’s land holdings were reduced over the years by the federal government.*

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs earlier determined putting the land into trust would be positive for the Shawnee Tribe and the Panhandle community. The governor’s review and decision was the next step in the two-part determination process.

The proposed Golden Mesa Casino to be built southwest of Guymon would create about 175 jobs and produce an annual payroll of about $3.7 million, according to Shawnee tribal officials. The proposed casino is seen as an entertainment and destination point.

The Shawnee Tribe is a landless tribe.  Having a unique history, the Shawnee Tribe was assigned no jurisdictional land of its own and operates within the territory of another tribal government. Because of this unique history, Congress enacted the Shawnee Status Act in 2000, which enabled the tribe to begin a process of growth and recovery.

In the past, the federal government has generally required tribes to build casinos on their own reservations or — in states like Oklahoma where tribes don't have reservations — within their tribal jurisdictional areas.

Plans call for building a $25 million casino called the Golden Mesa Casino that would include a restaurant on 107 acres about 4 miles southwest of Guymon. The tribe is expected to partner with Global Gaming Solutions, the gaming division of the Chickasaw Nation, with Global Gaming serving as the management company for the project, which has a projected economic impact of $32 million.

Upon approval of the tribe’s fee to trust application, the tribe will initiate the process for adopting Oklahoma’s model tribal-state Class III gaming compact, which will ultimately provide increased funding for education. 

Governor Mary Fallin Appoints Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier as Secretary of Science and Technology

Governor Mary Fallin on Thursday announced that Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma (OU), will be joining her Cabinet as secretary of science and technology. Droegemeier will begin serving on Monday.

Droegemeier is a Regents’ professor of meteorology, Weathernews chair emeritus, and Teigen presidential professor at OU. He currently serves on Fallin’s Science and Technology Council, chairing the academic research and development subcommittee.

Fallin said Droegemeier’s extensive background in science and technology, as well as in government, as a key reason for his selection.

Droegemeier co-founded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Center (STC) for Analysis and Prediction of Storms (CAPS), which is today recognized around the world as the pioneer of storm-scale numerical weather prediction. He also co-founded the NSF Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA), and served on the National Science Board under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. He is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and, under then-Governor Brad Henry, he chaired the Weather and Climate Team for the EDGE (Economic Development Generating Excellence) Program.

Droegemeier earned a B.S. with special distinction in meteorology from OU, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined OU in 1985 as an assistant professor of meteorology. He and his wife, Lisa, reside in Norman.

Week 4 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

Rep. Sean Roberts Praises Passage of Second Amendment Protection Bill

State Rep. Sean Roberts praised the passage of House Bill 1803, which prohibits the expenditure of public monies to oppose rights protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The bill passed out of the House Public Safety Committee by a vote of 7-6.

The bill is now eligible to be considered by the full House.

 

Bill to Shield Public from Pornography Passes Committee

A bill that would shield digital pornography from the general public passed the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee today with a unanimous vote.

House Bill 1472 by state Rep. Travis Dunlap would require digital service providers to filter content to prevent the transmission of obscene material to consumers.

Dunlap thanked members of the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee for supporting the passage of the bill, which passed 11-0.

 

Savings from State Agency IT Collaboration hits $129 Million Mark

Oklahoma state agencies are realizing an ever increasing amount of savings from Oklahoma government's ongoing information technology unification reform.

On Wednesday, Oklahoma Chief Information Officer Bo Reese told the House Government Modernization Committee that the reform has saved $129 million – a significant increase over the $115 million Reese testified to last fall during a House Appropriations & Budget Committee study.

Reese attributed much of the most recent savings to the recent involvement of the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the unification effort.

In recent months DHS has consolidated their 8,200 square feet of data center space and 55 separate IT systems into just 100 square feet of data center space at the state's shared data center. The old DHS data center space is now available to use for office space allowing the department to give up leased office space.

Reese told committee members that the multi-year IT unification plan is nearing completion and is expected to reach completion by the end of the current fiscal year. 

 

Democratic lawmakers join #fightingforfamilies week as part of nationwide push

State Rep. Jason Dunnington held a press conference Wednesday advocating for Oklahoma’s low- and middle-income families.

Dunnington was joined by other Democratic representatives as part of a nationwide movement fighting for bills that would raise incomes, support creation of good jobs and level the playing field for working families.

Dunnington, along with Reps. Collin Walke, Forrest Bennett, Shane Stone and Claudia Griffith, highlighted bills they filed that would’ve allowed for paid sick time, tax exemptions for diapers and formula, and increased funding for community health care centers. None of the bills has received a floor hearing, but Dunnington and his colleagues said it was important to remind the public of the ongoing fight for families.

The Democratic representatives intend to continue advocating for the working and middle class during the next legislative session when their bills can be heard again.

The press conference was part of the multi-state #fightingforfamilies movement by State Innovation Exchange Action. The independent nonprofit is committed to achieving progressive change at the state level, while defending against efforts to move our country backward.

 

House approves bill to increase Oklahomans’ access to health care

Two weeks after dozens of nurse practitioners visited the state Capitol to speak with lawmakers, the House of Representatives passed a measure aimed at improving access to health care services across Oklahoma.

 

House Bill 1013, by Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, and Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, would eliminate the outdated and unnecessary requirement that nurse practitioners sign a collaborative agreement with a physician. The measure passed the House on Wednesday by a 72-20 vote.

  

According to the most recent Oklahoma Health Workforce Databook compiled by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 64 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are designated as primary care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). More than 58 percent of Oklahomans live in a primary care HPSA. The state ranks 49th in physician-patient ratio.

 

Wednesday’s vote in the House follows AONP’s Legislative Day at the Capitol, which was held Tuesday, Feb. 14. That event saw dozens of nurse practitioners and nursing students visit the Capitol to speak with lawmakers about the issue.

 

Cynthia Sanford, a nurse practitioner who owns a pediatric clinic in McAlester, attended the event.

  

In addition, some nurse practitioners must also pay thousands of dollars a month for so-called collaborative agreements with physicians, even though the physician may not see a nurse practitioner’s patients or review their charts.

 

Nurse practitioners working in 22 states and the District of Columbia, and in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities across the country, all have full practice authority.

  

HB1013 now moves on to consideration by the Senate.

 

Oklahoma Senate passes REAL ID bill; measure heads to governor for signature

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved a measure to bring Oklahoma into compliance with the federal REAL ID law. The measure, House Bill 1845, is co-authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz and Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall.

The legislation ensures Oklahomans who choose to get the REAL ID compliant driver license or ID will be able to use that identification to fly or to enter federal facilities while also giving citizens the option of choosing a non-compliant driver license or ID. HB 1845 now goes to Gov. Fallin for her signature.

 

Impaired Driving Elimination Act 2 passes out of Senate Committee

The Senate Public Safety Committee gave the green light to the Impaired Driver Elimination Act 2 (IDEA2) Thursday. Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, is the author of Senate Bill 643, which will create the Impaired Driver Accountability Program (IDAP) within the Department of Public Safety for first time DUI offenders while their license is revoked.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Oklahoma ranked 51st worst for impaired driving fatality rates from 2000 – 2010. However, Oklahoma has seen a 34 percent decrease in alcohol-impaired crashes. 

Participants in the IDAP program or who seek driving privileges during a license suspension must pay $50 for an interlock restricted license. Upon completion of the program, there will be no revocation on their license and they will not be charged any reinstatement fees. 

The measure makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to operate a non-interlock vehicle for a drunk driver who is in the IDAP program or has an interlock restricted license. 

Those who refuse to go into the program will have to have a modified license and an interlock device on their vehicle for one year (rather than the current 180 days) before they can reinstate their license. The revocation will go on their record. 

SB 643 was recommended by the Governor’s Impaired Driving Prevention Advisory Council. It is strongly supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

 

Gov. Fallin Signs REAL ID Compliance Bill

Governor Mary Fallin today, joined by Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz and House Speaker Charles McCall, signed House Bill (HB) 1845, the REAL ID compliance bill. The new law will allow persons to obtain a compliant REAL ID driver's license or identification card.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate gave overwhelming support to HB 1845. It passed the House 78-18 and won 35-11 approval in the Senate.

HB 1845 was a priority measure for the governor, who urged lawmakers during her State of the State address this year to pass a measure that makes Oklahoma compliant with the federal REAL ID Act. HB 1845 is the first measure of this year’s legislative session to be signed into law by the governor.

 

Gov. Fallin Statement on Final Legislative Passage of Measure Dealing with REAL ID Act

Governor Mary Fallin today issued this statement after the Oklahoma Senate voted 35-11 to give final legislative passage to House Bill 1845, which would allow persons to obtain a compliant REAL ID driver's license or identification card:

“I’m pleased to see the Legislature work so quickly on this important issue. We cannot burden Oklahomans with the additional cost and hassle of providing identification to gain entrance to federal buildings, military bases or federal courthouses. And most certainly we can’t let them down by forcing them to have additional identification in order to board a commercial airliner in January. I look forward to receiving this bill on my desk.”

 

Gov. Fallin Congratulates Oklahoma Natives for "La La Land" Success

Governor Mary Fallin today congratulated Oklahoma natives Trent and Thad Luckinbill for their work on the film, “La La Land,” which received six Oscars during Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony.

Trent and Thad Luckinbill, Enid natives and brothers, helped finance and produce “La La Land” through their company, Black Label Media, which they formed with producer Molly Smith in 2013. In only a few short years, the company has financed and produced a number of hit films including “Demolition,” “71,” “The Good Lie,” “Begin Again” and “Sicario”, which was nominated for three Academy Awards in 2015. The Oklahoma Film + Music Office is working with the duo in hopes of attracting one of their future productions to Oklahoma.

The Luckinbills have come a long way since graduating from the University of Oklahoma. Trent, who earned a law degree, has an extensive legal and financial background with the Department of Treasury’s Office of Financial Stability and the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. Shortly after earning a business degree, Thad moved to California where he began working as both an actor and producer, widely known for his role as J.T. Hellstrom on the CBS soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” Their recent success with “La La Land” has transformed into box office gold as the film has dominated the box office, raking in more than $343 million since its release.

“La La Land” won six Oscars; for lead actress, best director, cinematography, production design, original score and original song. With a total of 14 Oscar nominations, the film tied “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for the most nominations for a single film in motion picture history.

Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”), “La La Land” is a modern-day musical with a classic flair that tells the story of a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling - “Drive,” “The Notebook”) who falls for an aspiring actress (Emma Stone - “The Help,” “Birdman”) in Los Angeles.

Week 3 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

Property Reduction Program Provides Benefit to Department of Corrections

According to testimony provided to the Government Modernization Committee today, more than 3.1 million dollars has now been generated through a program of inventorying and selling underutilized state government properties.

Oklahoma's Capital Assets Administrator Dan Ross told committee members that much of the proceeds from the sales have been used to repair and maintain the roofs of three Department of Corrections facilities including the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester.

The program is part of state government's ongoing government modernization effort to identify and return the underutilized properties to the private sector.

Ross told committee members that taxpayers are experiencing added savings from not having to maintain the underutilized properties.

In all, as part of the state asset reduction program, more than 362,000 square feet of owned and leased space have been removed from state custody.

Additional benefit occurs as upon transfer to the private sector the liquidated properties become tax producers and benefit local school districts whereas prior to transfer they were tax exempt.

The real property hearing is one of a series by the House Government Modernization Committee as they seek to provide oversight to the various ongoing state government modernization and efficiency initiatives. 

 

Opposition to Fallin’s Tax Hike Grows in Legislature

Opposition continues to grow in the State Capitol over Gov. Mary Fallin's proposed $1.7 billion sales tax expansion, with 13 legislators adding their names in opposition. 27 legislators are now publicly on the record against the Fallin sales tax hike.

In her State of the State address, Governor Fallin presented a plan that would tax 164 different categories of services provided by Oklahoma small businesses and entrepreneurs. By the governor's own estimate, this would result in a tax hike of more than $1.7 Billion.

Citing their fundamental disagreements with Gov. Fallin's proposed tax hike, the following conservative legislators pledged to do what they can to stop this tax increase from becoming law:

State Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw)

State Rep. David Brumbaugh (R-Broken Arrow)

State Rep. Kevin Calvey (R-Oklahoma City)

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland (R-Slaughterville)

State Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee)

State Rep. Kevin McDugle (R-Broken Arrow)

State Rep. Lewis Moore (R-Edmond)

State Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow)

State Rep. Chuck Strohm (R-Jenks)

NEW: State Rep. Rande Worthen (R-Lawton)

NEW: State Rep. Dustin Roberts (R-Durant)

NEW: State Rep. Scott McEachin (R-Tulsa)

NEW: State Rep. John Enns (R-Enid)

NEW: State Rep. Dale Derby (R- Owasso)

NEW: State Rep. Casey Murdock (R-Felt)

NEW: State Rep. Scooter Park (R-Devol)

NEW: State Rep. Jeff Coody (R-Grandfield)

State Sen. Mark Allen (R-Spiro)

State Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow)

State Sen. James Leewright (R-Bristow)

State Sen. Marty Quinn (R-Claremore)

State Sen. Anthony Sykes (R-Moore)

NEW: State Sen. Micheal Bergstrom (R-Adair)

NEW: State Sen. Julie Daniels (R-Bartlesville)

NEW: State Sen. Bill Brown (R-Broken Arrow)

NEW: State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R-Oklahoma City)

NEW: State Sen. Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow)

 

Bill increasing food security passes House unanimously

A bill aimed at alleviating childhood hunger passed Tuesday out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a vote of 95 to 0.

House Bill 1875 by state Reps. Eric Proctor and Jason Dunnington permits school districts to donate unused or unopened food to an on-campus nonprofit organization through an authorized representative or designee who is directly affiliated with the school as a teacher, counselor or PTA member. The food may be received, stored and redistributed at the school at any time, and school employees may assist in preparing and distributing the food as volunteers for the nonprofit organization.  

The legislation exempts from civil and criminal liability school districts and nonprofit organizations who receive a good-faith donation of food that is fit for human consumption at the time of the donation.

Proctor and Dunnington have partnered with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma in Tulsa to ensure as few students as possible go home hungry and without food.

The legislation now moves to the state Senate.

 

Superintendents Ask for Passage of HB1482 to Protect Children by Restoring Drug-Free School Zones

Superintendents are starting to join with state representatives to ask for passage of House Bill 1482, which would restore protections for children and the places where they gather, such as schools, daycares and parks.  

State Rep. Scott Biggs authored and State Rep. Tim Downing co-authored HB1482 by Rep. Scott Biggs, which passed the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee with a vote of 11-1 last week and is expected to be heard on the House floor this week.

The bill preserves the portion of state law that makes it a felony to possess drugs within 1,000 feet of a public or private school or public park or within the presence of a child under the age of 12. This crime could still be charged as a misdemeanor, by discretion, and the options of drug court and deferred or suspended sentences could still be utilized.  

SQ780 and the removal of drug-free school zones would become effective in July.

Downing explained that the U.S. and all 50 states have laws for drug-free school zones.

Downing said superintendents were largely unaware that SQ780 repealed drug-free school zones. He said many also did not know that the language of children and schools was deliberately kept from the voters.  

Martin said he finds this unconscionable and is asking other superintendents to examine the issue and support HB1482.

 

 

Education Gets $110 Million in Additional Lottery Money Under Budget Leaders’ Bill

Legislative budget leaders have filed a bill projected to increase the Oklahoma Lottery’s contribution to education by $110 million over the next five years.

House Bill 1837, by House Appropriations Chairwoman Leslie Osborn and Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kim David, is designed to send more lottery revenue to education by letting the lottery offer larger payouts that improve lottery sales and ultimately send more money to public schools.

“Education gets more than $100 million in new lottery money if this legislation passes. This is by no means an end-all, be-all school funding solution, but it is an achievable way to get more money to schools even in a tough budget year,” said Osborn, R-Mustang.

Osborn will present the bill today at 4:30 p.m. in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee in Room 206 at the Capitol.

Background:

The Oklahoma Lottery has sent more than $750 million to education since it began in 2005, but its performance has been declining – particularly in comparison to other state lotteries – because of an ineffective profit requirement that would be replaced under HB 1837.

Oklahoma Lottery revenue to education peaked at $71.6 million in Fiscal Year 2008, but has declined since. If HB 1837 is not passed, the Oklahoma Lottery projects those declines will continue and that education will lose a combined $25 million in lottery funding over the next five years.

To prevent that decline, HB 1837 makes the lottery more profitable and increases common education’s lottery funding through three steps:

  1. Guarantee at least $50 million in lottery revenue for education every year.
  2. Send profits above $50 million to specific K-12 public school initiatives.
  3. Improve sales and lottery revenue to education by ending the counterproductive mandate that 35 percent of profits go to education.

The Oklahoma Lottery projects specified K-12 public school initiatives would receive $85 million over the next five years if HB 1837 is enacted. The money would be used for initiatives in reading and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

HB 1837’s $110 million boost to education comes from preventing the $25 million decline that is expected without the bill and sending the projected $85 million to reading and STEM programs.

The Oklahoma Lottery, because of its profit requirement, lags behind other state lotteries in per capita sales, coming in at $44 per capita. The national lottery sales average is $216 per capita.

Many states don’t place percentage requirements on lottery revenues like Oklahoma does, which allows those lotteries to perform better and ultimately produce more funding for the governmental functions they support.  

In 2007, North Carolina removed the profit requirement for its lottery and saw lottery funding to education rise by $318.7 million, or 101 percent, over the next nine years.

The Arkansas Lottery has no profit requirement and its per capita sales were $138 in 2015, compared to $44 in Oklahoma. Pennsylvania, Texas and California have also removed lottery profit requirements and grown sales, allowing those lotteries to send more money to the governmental functions they support.

 

 

Five Bills Pass Through House Judiciary- Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee

The second hearing for the 56th Legislature’s House Judiciary – Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee took place Wednesday.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Scott Biggs, passed five pieces of legislation that are now eligible to be heard on the House Floor.

House Bill 1482, authored by Rep. Tim Downing, Rep. Mike Sanders, Rep. Leslie Osborn and Rep. Scott Biggs, is legislation that seeks to make it a felony to possess, sell or purchase illegal drugs 1,000 feet around a day care, public or private elementary or secondary school, public vocational school, public or private college or university, or other institution of higher education, church, recreation center or public park, including state parks, fair grounds and recreation areas or in the presence of any child under twelve years of age. The bill passed committee by a vote of 11 to 1.

House Bill 2159, authored by Rep. Jadine Nollan, is legislation that would require the court clerk to notify the Oklahoma Tax Commission when a defendant fails to enter a plea or timely appear for arraignment. The Tax Commission would then cancel the current registration on any motor vehicle registered by the defendant and place a hold on any future registrations until such time as the defendant satisfies the court. The bill passed committee by a vote of 10 to 0.

House Bill 1468, authored by Rep. Carol Bush and Rep. Kevin McDugle, is legislation that extends the statute of limitations for certain crimes against children from 12 years after the crime to up until the victims 45th birthday. The bill passed committee by a vote of 10 to 0.

House Bill 1306, authored by Rep. Casey Murdock, is legislation that would require a sentence of life without parole or the death penalty for all first degree murder convictions where the victim is a police officer, corrections officer or corrections employee. The bill passed committee by a vote of 10 to 2. 

House Bill 1326, authored by Rep. Casey Murdock, is legislation that seeks to prohibit unmanned aircraft over private agricultural property. The bill passed committee by a vote of 10 to 0.

  

Talihina Veteran Center relocation bill passed by Senate Appropriations Committee

Late Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation 30-10 to pursue possible relocation of the Talihina Veterans’ Center. Navy veteran and Chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, Sen. Frank Simpson is the author of the Senate Bill 544 that he filed following the questionable deaths of two center residents in the last five months. 

SB 544 directs and authorizes the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to pursue possible relocation of the facility to another location that meets the requirements of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs as a State Veterans' Home.

There are many problems at the nearly 100-year-old Talihina Center which was never designed to be a long term care facility. The facility is 3-stories which limits the mobility and independence of the elderly veterans. Staffing is the biggest issue due to the center’s remote location and a limited labor pool. There are currently 30 resident care positions that cannot be filled and there have been reports of nepotism, which is in direct violation of state statute. The aging infrastructure cannot properly support a modern long term care facility with all of the needed technology and medical equipment. The center also does not have access to good water, which is a serious health issue. 

The new concept for state veterans’ homes provides small group homes with ten veterans per home, private rooms and baths, dining room and kitchen. It's like the veterans home. This concept provides veterans with the independence and dignity they deserve. It improves their quality of life and enhances both their physical and psychological wellbeing. Simpson will be meeting with the Texas Department of Veterans Affairs on March 3 to learn more about the veteran small home concept. 

 

Bill repealing second income tax cut trigger heads to full Senate

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted Wednesday in favor of a bill that would effectively stop another income tax cut from automatically going into effect based on revenue growth. Sen. Roger Thompson is the author of Senate Bill 170. He’s the chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance, where the bill easily passed its first hurdle Tuesday. 

Legislation signed into law in 2014 contained a two-part state income tax reduction. The first lowered the state’s top income tax rate from 5.25 to five percent. The rate would have been further reduced to 4.85 percent—the trigger for that reduction would be revenue growth of about $97 million, the cost of implementing the cut. Thompson’s bill kills that trigger.

Thompson said the feedback he’s received from constituents has been overwhelmingly in favor of his legislation.

 

Senate approves bill modifying oversight of online insurance verification system

The full Senate approved legislation Wednesday 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). Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, is the principal Senate author of Senate Bill 115 and said the bill is an effort to reduce the number of uninsured drivers in the state.

SB 115 would require the transfer of the system to take place by January 1, 2018. Although district attorneys can already access the system, the bill authorizes their access. The bill allows for license plate numbers to be used in tracking. It also affirms that the Insurance Commissioner does have the regulatory authority to deal with any insurance companies that violate the insurance verification law. Finally, it requires tag agents to accept proof of insurance from insurance agents in the event that OCIVS does not provide a clear answer, and to do so electronically at no extra cost to the person registering the vehicle. 

Under the bill, the Oklahoma Tax Commission and DPS would work with OID for the ongoing improvement and maintenance of the system. 

 

Sen. Pres. Pro Tempore Mike Schulz comments on committee approval of REAL ID bill

Sen. Pres. Pro Tempore Mike Schulz issued the following statement Wednesday after the Senate Appropriations Committee approved House Bill 1845, the REAL ID Act, co-authored by Schulz and House Speaker Charles McCall.

“With committee passage of this bill, the Senate is addressing an issue the vast majority of Oklahomans want us to quickly resolve. Besides allowing Oklahomans the convenience of continuing to use their state-issued driver licenses to fly commercially, fixing the REAL ID problem is an issue of national security. Thousands of Oklahomans work on military bases and need to maintain access so they can continue their important work supporting the brave men and women in our Armed Forces who protect our freedoms. I appreciate my colleagues for supporting this bill and look forward to its quick passage soon off the floor of the Senate.”—Senate Pres. Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus.

The legislation ensures Oklahomans who choose to get the REAL ID compliant driver license or ID will be able to use that identification to fly or to enter federal facilities while also giving citizens the option of choosing a non-compliant driver license or ID. HB 1845 now moves to the full Senate for consideration. If approved, it goes to Gov. Mary Fallin for her signature.

 

Education Compact for Kids in State Care heads to full Senate

The Senate Education Committee approved the Education Compact for Kids in State Care Monday. Sen. Ron Sharp, author of Senate Bill 632, said it will remove the barriers that many young people and their families experience when it is time to transition back to their home school after placement within the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) or the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS).

“It’s important to the mental growth and emotional well-being of these kids that we do what we can to facilitate an easy transition to school. Many don’t have structured lives and supportive families like most of us had growing up,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “What we want is to assure them with all certainty that they can go back to school, they can participate in meaningful and healthy school organizations and also let them know what the requirements are to graduate.”

Sharp explained that much of the bill mirrors the Military Compact, which helps kids dealing with multiple deployments transition to different schools quickly and efficiently. The measure also meets guidelines for the Oklahoma State Foster Care Plan or ESSA. 

The measure was requested by the Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE), OKDHS and OJA who collaborated on the wording and agreed that it was fair and would benefit at-risk youth and their families. 

SB 632 creates an advisory committee consisting of one representative from OJA, SDE and OKDHS. Students in state care would be automatically enrolled when they arrived at school, which would allow time for districts to work with the parent, guardian or a designee from OJA or DHS while the permanent records were being requested. The students would be enrolled even if they did not have up to date vaccination records. Students and families would have 30 days to provide updated records or complete the exemption certificate as required by state law. They would also be allowed to try out for athletics or apply for education or social clubs once they arrived at school. Finally, the bill would provide consistency regarding graduation requirements by enrolling students in the core curriculum track as stated by Oklahoma statute but they would be able to take more rigorous courses or pursue the college prep track if they wanted. 

 

Gov. Fallin Statement on Resignation of Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb from Her Cabinet

Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement after Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb announced his resignation from her Cabinet, where he served as small business advocate:

 “I was disappointed and surprised to learn from a press release that Lt. Gov. Lamb had decided to quit serving as a member of my Cabinet.

 “I have always valued Todd’s independent voice. I valued it when we first came into office when we dealt with a similar financial crisis and I value his independent voice today. I’ve never been afraid to have dissenting voices at the table. I think the people of Oklahoma benefit from that. There will always be a seat at the table for his independent voice.

 “Leading a state is never easy, especially when there are so many challenges and we are faced with a prolonged economic downturn. But through ideas, hard work, long hours and making tough decisions, we can find solutions to those challenges our state faces. We have to.

 “As governor, I have provided a reality check of doing the same thing over and over with the structural deficits of our budget and expecting a different outcome. If we want to educate our children, a teacher pay raise and ensure the health and public safety of our citizens as well as improve our roads and bridges, we must fix the structure of our budget so we don’t keep having budget shortfalls and uncertainty.”

 

Gov. Fallin Calls Special Election for State House District 75 Seat

Governor Mary Fallin today ordered a special election to fill the vacancy in Oklahoma House District 75 caused by the irrevocable resignation of Rep. Dan Kirby. His resignation will become effective March 1, 2017.

The filing period for the special election is Feb. 27 and 28, and March 1. The special primary election is set for May 9 and the special general election is scheduled for July 11.

In the event a special primary election is not necessary, the special general election will be May 9.

Kirby, of Tulsa, announced his resignation earlier this month. House District 75 covers part of Tulsa County.

 

Gov. Fallin Appoints Secretary of State Mike Hunter as Attorney General

Governor Mary Fallin today appointed Secretary of State Mike Hunter to the post of state attorney general.

Hunter succeeds Scott Pruitt, who resigned after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hunter served as first assistant attorney general under Pruitt until Fallin last year named him secretary of state and special legal counsel. He starts his new duties immediately.

Hunter served as first assistant attorney general for Pruitt from June 2015 until October, serving as chief legal adviser and overseeing a staff of over 200 lawyers, law enforcement agents and support staff.

From 2010 to 2015, Hunter was the chief operating officer of the American Bankers Association (ABA), which represents banks of all sizes and charters and is the champion for the nation’s $13 trillion banking industry and its 2 million employees. Hunter managed government relations, regulatory, legal and communications activities for the ABA.

Prior to joining ABA, Hunter was secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office, a $4 billion public land and investment trust in Oklahoma. From 2002 through 2009, Hunter was executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Council of Life Insurers, the advocacy, legal and research arm of the life insurance industry.

Hunter served as Oklahoma’s secretary of state under then-Gov. Frank Keating. He also served as Keating’s chief liaison to the Legislature, the state judiciary and the state’s federal delegation.

Hunter was chief of staff to then-U.S. Rep. J. C. Watts Jr., of Oklahoma, from 1995 to 1999. His position involved the management of the congressman’s office in Washington, D.C., and district offices in Oklahoma. He also served as legal counsel to Watts in his work on the National Security Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

While in private practice as an energy and real estate lawyer, Hunter served as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives for six years. In 1988, he was one of eight lawmakers recognized by The Daily Oklahoman as “Oklahoma’s Best Legislators.”

In 1993 and 1994, Hunter served as general counsel of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state regulatory authority for public utilities, oil and gas, transportation and pipelines. He has also taught political science as an adjunct professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and at the University of Oklahoma.

Hunter received his law degree from OU and his undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University. He is married to Cheryl Plaxico Hunter, and they have two sons, Barrett and Brock.

Assistant Secretary of State Tod Wall will temporarily assume the duties of secretary of state until the governor names Hunter’s successor.

Trio of Victims' Rights Measures Clear House

Trio of Victims’ Rights Measures Clear House

OKLAHOMA CITY – Three bills aimed at protecting victims of crimes passed off the House floor today and now head to the Senate for consideration.

House Joint Resolution 1002, known as “Marsy’s Law” and authored by state Rep. Scott Biggs, would place a question on the November ballot to allow citizens to vote to amend the state Constitution to ensure that crime victims and their families are provided with the same level of equal, or “co-equal,” constitutional rights as those afforded and guaranteed to the accused or convicted.

Marsy’s Law has been passed in five other states and is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983

“Victims in Oklahoma have statutory rights, but those rights are trumped by the defendant’s Constitutional rights and are often ignored by some judges,” said Biggs, R-Chickasha, chair of the House Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice and Corrections. “This bill elevates the rights of victims and their families so that courts have to protect them.”

HJR 1002 passed by a vote of 90-5.

 

House Bill 1116, by state Rep. Mike Sanders, would allow statements alleging abuse, neglect or financial exploitation made by an incapacitated or vulnerable person to be admitted as evidence in a criminal or juvenile proceeding if the court found the statements to be reliable. The bill requires the adverse party to be notified of intention to offer the statements at least 10 days in advance of the proceedings.

“This bill is an effort to ensure that vulnerable and incapacitated victims can have their statements heard in court,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “Current law prevents that, effectively silencing our most helpless victims while protecting their perpetrators, which I find simply illogical.”

House Bill 1116 passed by a vote of 76-17.

 

House Bill 1466, by state Rep. Elise Hall, would create a procedure to allow the victim of domestic violence to transfer wireless telephone and utility accounts to their name when the account was previously in the name of another. The bill would require a court order containing relevant information to be sent to the wireless service provider or public utility to transfer the account.

“Victims of domestic violence are at risk of losing their support network when their abuser is the person who controls the cell phone accounts,” said Rep. Hall, R-Oklahoma City. “Abusers who are the primary account holders will often refuse to release the account to their victims, and often will monitor their victim’s calls, track them with GPS installed on the phone or close the account altogether to get back at the victim. This bill is aimed at protecting victims and giving them a sense of comfort knowing that they can prevent their phones and their utilities from being controlled by their abusers.”

House Bill 1466 passed on the House floor by a vote of 86-0.

All three bills now head to the Senate for consideration.

 

Additional quotes from victims on Marsy’s Law:

Kelly Vierling from Payne County, whose son was shot and killed during a party:

“The unanimous vote in support of Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma gave me more hope in our system than I have experienced in the last 26 months. Victims matter, and somehow we have to find a way to give them a voice in their journey through the criminal justice system. The system tends to rest on believing the only person fighting for their lives and well-being is the accused, giving no weight to what it takes for a victim to carry on and find a way to even begin to resemble the person they once were.” 

Tina Jones from Grady County, who was abused in some way by her ex-husband every day for 25 years:

“I was moved to be a part of Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma at the state Capitol, and I was very excited to see that the people who we have entrusted to make decisions understand how important it is for victims of abuse to have a voice in our judicial system equal to that as the abuser.”

-30-

 

 

Oklahoma House of Representatives

House Republican Caucus

February 21, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact: Jason Sutton, Press Secretary

House Republican Caucus

Cell: (405) 328-8382

Week 2 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

Crime bill passes through committee with bipartisan support

Legislation that seeks to consider all rape by instrumentation as rape in the first degree has passed its first hurdle to becoming law after the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee unanimously voted to approve the measure.

House Bill 1005 is the second piece of legislation written by Rep. Scott Biggs that attempts to strengthen Oklahoma’s rape laws. The first, House Bill 2398, was passed during the 55th Oklahoma Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin last June.

The legislation passed through committee with a bipartisan 12-0 vote.

Biggs, an assistant majority floor leader, represents House District 51, which is comprised of Grady, McClain and Stephens counties. He is also the chair of the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee.

Speaker McCall Announces GovDelivery to Communicate House News

Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall today announced the use of the GovDelivery platform for all House statewide news releases.

GovDelivery is another resource for the Oklahoma House of Representatives to expand on its leading efforts of government transparency, said state Rep. Jason Murphey, chair of the House Government Modernization Committee.

The new platform will allow users to receive email updates on multiple topics and, in the future, text updates on important information. It also allows the House to streamline several communication features, increasing efficiency of House staff.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives will continue to enhance the offerings and capabilities of GovDelivery as it moves forward.

Those wishing to subscribe to House communications can visit the House website at http://okhouse.gov/. Enter an email address in the box that displays on the front page of the website, which will lead to a page where subscriber preferences can be managed.

 Legislation Proposed to Increase Revenue without Raising Taxes on Oklahomans

 A measure has been filed to increase the number of state auditors in order to find tax monies from out-of-state companies connected to Oklahoma.

The Out-of-State Tax Collections Enforcement Act of 2017, House Bill 1427 written by State Rep. Kyle Hilbert and State Sen. James Leewright, instructs the Oklahoma Tax Commission to employ at least five auditors with a sole focus on out-of-state companies with a nexus in Oklahoma.

Many other states have taken similar measures. The Texas Comptroller has audit field offices in Tulsa, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. A $50,000 investment into an auditor brings an approximate $500,000 return to states.

 Currently, the Oklahoma Tax Commission has no auditors enforcing sales tax compliance on out-of-state companies with a nexus in Oklahoma. If audited, generally, the statutes of limitations is three years from the last filed report or return.  However, if a remote seller has never filed any reports or returns as required, then there is no statute of limitation.

According to the latest budget projections, Oklahoma faces an $868 million shortfall. HB1427 has been referred to the House Appropriations & Budget Finance Subcommittee for a hearing Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Committee to Receive Report of Millions in Savings to Taxpayers

A House committee is preparing to take testimony showing the yearly cost to Oklahoma taxpayers has decreased by millions of dollars as a result of reforms to the state's purchasing laws.

On Wednesday, Oklahoma State Purchasing Director Ferris Barger will provide his most recent savings report to members of the House Government Modernization Committee.

Barger's report is a result of past legislative purchasing reforms that were sponsored in response to an audit of Oklahoma's purchasing agency. Those reforms sought to refocus the agency on managing and driving down the cost of items that are commonly used by most state agencies.

The reforms also require the release of an annual savings report so the Legislature can track the implementation of the savings effort.

The latest report shows $76 million in savings during the 2016 fiscal year. This savings amount is a combined result of both traditional purchasing contract savings and information technology purchasing reforms from Oklahoma's newly unified Information Technology agency.

Barger's testimony will take place during the committee's 10:30 a.m. meeting. The public is invited to attend or to listen live on the Internet.

The most recent savings report may be viewed at https://www.ok.gov/DCS/documents/ProcurementSavingsReportFY2016.pdf.

 

HB1482 - Protecting Children from Drugs and the Public from Deception

 State Rep. Tim Downing co-authored House Bill 1482 by Rep. Scott Biggs, which passed the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee with a vote of 11-1 this morning.  The bill will protect children and locations where children are targeted.  Drug crimes involving children will still be a felony, and can still be charged as a misdemeanor by discretion. Other options will still be available as well, including drug court and deferred or suspended sentences.

The language of the ballot title presented to the voters regarding drug crimes read as follows:

This measure amends existing Oklahoma laws and would change the classification of certain drug possession and property crimes from felony to misdemeanor. It would make possession of a limited quantity of drugs a misdemeanor. The amendment also changes the classification of certain drug possession crimes which are currently considered felonies and cases where the defendant has a prior drug possession conviction. The proposed amendment would reclassify these drug possession cases as misdemeanors.

The petition for SQ780 was filed by its proponents with language that did not mention children or locations where children are targets. The Attorney General’s Office found the language was insufficient to explain the effect and proposed corrective language to include explanation that felonies would be reduced to misdemeanors for possession “within 1,000 feet of a public or private school or public park” and “in the presence of a child under the age of twelve.”

Rather than agree the public should know how the proposal would radically affect our children, the petitioner challenged the corrected language before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, claiming the ballot title focused on portions of the law “which evoke emotionally charged responses” which included “possessing drugs within 1,000 feet of a public or private school or public park and possessing drugs in the presence of children under the age of twelve”.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of SQ780 proponents, and rewrote the ballot title, but likewise made no mention of children or locations where children are targets, which is ultimately the language the voters had before them in the ballot box.

The Attorney General went a step further following this decision, by filing a petition with the Oklahoma Supreme Court urging the court on the importance of informing the public about the impact on children as well as other effects not mentioned in the ballot title.

In a final plea the brief stated, “the proponents do not want the public to know exactly what this measure does to our drug laws because they believe if the public knows, the public will reject the measure.” The full record of these proceedings and the intentional elimination of references to children and schools can be found at the Secretary of State website: https://www.sos.ok.gov/documents/questions/780.pdf

Ultimately, despite there being multiple efforts for the public to be informed, those wanting to hide this information prevailed, and SQ780 went to the public without a single mention of children or locations where children are targeted.  

The next opportunity for citizens to vote on a ballot issue is November 2018, and all groups including those who initiated SQ780 would be allowed to present another question to the voters at that time.

HB1482 will now be available to be heard by the full House, and will need to receive support in the Senate and by the Governor as well.

 

House passes REAL ID bill to address noncompliant licenses

Legislation to bring Oklahoma licenses into compliance with federal law was approved today with a 78-18 vote by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 1845, by state Rep. Leslie Osborn, creates a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card for the state of Oklahoma. Individuals may also opt to retain their noncompliant licenses or identification cards.

Oklahoma currently has a U.S. Department of Homeland Security extension through June 6, 2017, to conform to the REAL ID Act of 2005. Military bases and federal facilities currently accept Oklahoma driver’s licenses. A REAL ID will be required by the TSA to board commercial aircraft beginning on January 22, 2018.

The legislation will now advance to the Oklahoma Senate for consideration.

A video interview with Rep. Osborn can be found by clicking this link. 

 

Senate committee approves wire transfer fee for illegal immigrants

Each year, millions in untaxed money is wired out of the United States to other countries including from Oklahoma. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 547 Wednesday to charge a fee on international wire transactions for individuals who do not present valid personal identification. Sen. Paul Scott, the principal author, said he filed the legislation to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants sending money out of the state as well as address drug money being funneled to other countries.

SB 547 would authorize money transmission licensees to collect a $10 fee for transactions of up to $500 and a one percent fee for transactions over $500. The fees would be remitted quarterly to the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) and deposited into the General Revenue Fund.

Under the bill, a valid personal identification is an unexpired state-issued driver license, permit or temporary permit or identification card issued by the Department of Public Safety, or any unexpired federally-issued document from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service authorizing a lawful presence.

SB 547 now moves to the full Senate.

 

Sen. Shortey announces town hall meeting; clarifies legislation to fix issues with criminal justice reforms

Sen. Ralph Shortey has announced a public forum scheduled for Monday, February 13 at Oklahoma City Community College to discuss questions about Senate Bill 512, which is aimed at changing pieces of the new criminal justice reform laws that were approved by voters last November. State Questions 780 and 781 included changes in the law to make possession of all drugs a misdemeanor and redirects state funds to drug treatment programs among many other changes.

Shortey will host the town hall meeting on Monday, February 13 at Oklahoma City Community College at 6:30pm in room CU-1 & 2. The address for OCCC is 7777 South May Ave. in Oklahoma City. This will be the first of many forums he intends to hold as the legislature considers criminal justice reforms. The forum will be open to the public and Shortey encourages anyone with an interest to attend.

 

Out-of-school suspension approved for violent elementary students

Student violence towards other students, teachers and school staff in Oklahoma’s elementary schools is a growing problem. Retired educator Sen. Ron Sharp is the author of Senate Bill 81 to address the issue by lowering the grade level from sixth to third at which students can be subject to out-of-school suspension for violent behavior or threats. The Senate Education Committee approved the measure Monday.

Currently, 6th-12th graders are subject to out-of-school suspension if they assault, attempt to cause physical bodily injury, or act in a manner that could reasonably cause bodily injury to an education employee or a person who is volunteering for the school. SB 81 will add third to fifth graders to the list.

The legislation was requested by Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE) who told Sharp that they were getting increasing reports of younger students (3rd-5th graders) being violent towards teachers and asked him to file legislation to protect them and other school employees.

The bill will next be heard by the full Senate.

 

Senate Appropriations Committee on Education approves teacher pay increase legislation

 The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education met Wednesday and approved half a dozen measures to increase teacher pay in Oklahoma.  Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, chairs the subcommittee.   He said with 48 members, there were several different ideas of how much the raises should be and how to pay for it.

The pay plans approved by the subcommittee included: 

·         SB 8 by Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee

·         SB 97 by Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair

·         SB 137 by Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso

·         SB 309 by Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore

·         SB 316 by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City

·         SB 618 by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa

 

Gov. Fallin Appoints Paul Smith as District Attorney for Seminole, Hughes and Pontotoc Counties

Governor Mary Fallin today announced she is appointing long-time prosecutor Paul Smith as district attorney for Seminole, Hughes and Pontotoc counties. He will replace Chris Ross, who retired Jan. 1.

Smith, of Seminole, will serve as district attorney for the remainder of Ross’s term, which expires in January 2019.

“Paul Smith has 30 years of prosecution experience and has served as first assistant district attorney in District 22 the past five years,” said Fallin. “He has dedicated his career to serving the people of Oklahoma as a prosecutor. I know he will continue to serve the people in District 22 well.”

Smith has broad trial experience and has won guilty verdicts in numerous homicide cases. He is a co-founder of one of the state’s first rural drug courts

He served as first assistant district attorney and chief prosecutor in District 22 since July 2011. Before that, he served 11 years as an assistant district attorney in District 22. From July 1989 until November 1990 he served as an assistant district attorney for Choctaw, Pushmataha and McCurtain counties and from October 1986 until June 1989 he served as an assistant district attorney in Tulsa County.

Smith earned a bachelor of science degree from Oklahoma State University and his juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa’s college of law.

 

Aid Approved for 10 Counties to Assist Local Governments, Rural Electric Cooperatives

Governor Mary Fallin today announced the federal government has approved disaster assistance to help with recovery expenses in 10 counties related to the Jan. 13-16 ice storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved the request to aid municipalities, counties, rural electric cooperatives and the state with infrastructure repairs and costs associated with responding to the storm.

The 10 counties approved for public assistance are: Beaver, Beckham, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Roger Mills, Texas, Woods and Woodward.

The ice storm caused widespread power outages in northwest Oklahoma. At least four deaths and 65 injuries are attributed to the winter weather. Damage assessments indicate the storm resulted in more than $22 million in infrastructure damage, debris and response costs.

 

Gov. Fallin Issues Two-week Burn Ban for 53 Counties

Governor Mary Fallin today issued a two-week burn ban for much of the state because of extreme weather conditions and extraordinary fire danger.

The governor's burn ban supersedes all county burn bans currently in place. It expires Feb. 24.

The ban covers 53 counties: Adair, Atoka, Canadian, Carter, Cherokee, Choctaw, Cleveland, Coal, Craig, Creek, Delaware, Garfield, Garvin, Grady, Grant, Haskell, Hughes, Jefferson, Johnston, Kay, Kingfisher, Latimer, Le Flore, Lincoln, Logan, Love, McClain, McCurtain, McIntosh, Marshall, Mayes, Murray, Muskogee, Noble, Nowata, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Payne, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Pushmataha, Rogers, Seminole, Sequoyah, Stephens, Tulsa, Wagoner and Washington.

Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, recommended the ban based upon an analysis of fire activity, wildland fuel conditions and the predicted continued drought as criteria for recommending the ban.

The governor urged people to be extremely vigilant because conditions are ripe to spark a large fire.

Unlawful activities under the ban include campfires, bonfires, and setting fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes, as well as igniting fireworks, burning trash or other materials outdoors.

As part of the governor’s burn ban, there are exemptions for a number of items, such as welding and road construction. For more specific information and details, visit www.forestry.ok.gov/burn-ban-information or call Michelle Finch-Walker with the Oklahoma Forestry Services at (580) 236-1021.

Note to Media:

For the latest Oklahoma “Daily Wildfire Situation Report” visit www.forestry.ok.gov and click the link on the homepage (green box on right hand side.) The report contains information about recent fire activity, predicted fire weather and a link for current burn bans.

About Oklahoma Forestry Services

Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, is committed to conserving, enhancing and protecting Oklahoma’s 12.5 million acres of forests and woodlands. Since 1925, Oklahoma Forestry Services has worked with individuals and communities throughout the state to create resilient landscapes, fire-adaptive communities and provide wildfire response.  Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the division also has regional offices in Broken Bow, Wilburton and Tahlequah.  For more information, visit http://www.forestry.ok.gov.

 

ICYMI: The Oklahoman: Scott Meacham Column: States, Like Businesses, Must Invest to Grow

Last week, against the backdrop of yet another shortage in spendable revenue for Oklahoma's legislature for the FY 2018 budget year, Gov. Mary Fallin set forth a bold and brave vision for Oklahoma.

It wasn't that she announced some new program or startling initiative trumpeting hundreds of new jobs. No. Gov. Fallin stood tall and proposed a $7.9 billion fiscal year 2018 budget that addressed critical spending needs of the state while proposing a means to pay for her budget without utilizing one-time funds or recommending yet another year of across-the-board spending cuts to fill the gap.

A year ago, I wrote a column similar to this one, supporting this governor as she proposed a plan to balance the state budget while facing a record-sized $1.3 billion shortfall. At the time, I applauded her balanced, practical approach to taking on a severe budget shortfall that had to be addressed.

The Legislature, instead, chose to diminish Oklahoma's future by imposing another round of devastatingly painful cuts in areas that significantly impact Oklahoma's ability to innovate short- and long-term. Those cuts included education and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST), the only agency in Oklahoma with the sole focus of technology, its development, transfer and commercialization.

Governors are elected to lead. Weak governors hide behind the legislature when things get tough. Strong governors attempt to lead their state by proposing bold and sometimes unpopular initiatives to right the state's ship. That is exactly what our governor did.

She has defined a path and is taking the lead in redirecting Oklahoma in a direction of sustained growth and prosperity with a proposed budget that bends toward desperately needed new recurring revenue to finally solve the structural budget issues that have plagued our state since well before the downturn in energy prices. With that revenue, Gov. Fallin is targeting much needed budget increases for eight agencies, with the largest increases ($125 million) going to the Department of Education and teacher pay.

Building a strong pipeline of educated human capital is vital to Oklahoma's future. It's not only that we need to fund the education of our young people. It's not just something that we have to do; it's something we should want to do regardless of political party. We need to champion education. And we need to demand that our elected representatives champion it, too. This proposed budget can be a rallying point and provides cover to members of the Legislature who may otherwise lack the boldness to do what everyone knows needs to be done.

Our governor has exercised the first important step of statesmanship — stepping up to call on the citizens of this state to invest in their state. Now it's up to our Legislature to demonstrate the same level of statesmanship.

No doubt, it would be easier to pass another budget with across-the-board cuts and stopgap funding measures. But no state can budget-cut its way to successful growth. States — just like businesses — must invest to grow.

Now that the governor has laid out her plan to move the state forward, let's hope that the men and women we have elected to the Legislature match her courage and don't just kick the ball down the road.

 

Bold Reforms to Put Oklahoma on a Solid Foundation for the Future

Earlier this month, I introduced a plan to stabilize our state by beginning true, meaningful budget reforms and modernizing our state’s tax laws. It cuts some taxes and raises others.

To help our families, I proposed eliminating the state sales tax on groceries, which is expected to result in annual savings of $350 to $676 for a family of four. Cities and counties, though, will still have the option to keep the sales tax on groceries, thus not hurting city and county revenue.

Our corporate tax is very volatile as it is hard to estimate with losses that can be carried forward. It will reduce the paperwork and red tape burden of many small businesses and boost economic development. It also would provide more transparency as it would eliminate the need for the Legislature to pick winners and losers with specific tax credits.

Expand the Sales Tax Base

The sales tax was first enacted in 1933 in Oklahoma to boost revenues. Many of our products and services we use today were not even created in 1933. Our economy has changed considerably since then, shifting from a manufacturing-based economy to a services-based economy. The way we impose taxes and collect revenue no longer reflects the current economy, but instead an outdated system that has not changed much since its inception. If we expand our sales tax base to better reflect our economy, we could lower the overall sales tax rate or income tax.

Gasoline and Diesel Taxes Should Go to Roads and Bridges

My tax reform will ensure taxes associated with roads and bridges are the funding source for maintenance of roads and bridges.  It would not adversely affect the projects in the Department of Transportation’s 8-year plan.

Oklahoma ranks near last in gasoline (48th) and diesel taxes (49th). I am proposing a slight adjustment that would increase our gas and diesel taxes to the regional state average, but still below the national average. With our revenue shortfalls over the last several years, we have cut funding used to repair our roads and bridges.

It is important to provide sufficient revenues to meet the basic responsibilities that our government owes to its citizens, namely:

Improving Our Workforce and Educating Our Children

A thriving, prosperous economy must have a skilled, educated workforce. That starts with good teachers in the classrooms providing our children a quality education FIVE days a week.

We need to find a way to give our teachers a pay raise. We also know that a pay raise alone will not improve student outcomes. We have to ensure more existing dollars are reaching every classroom by tackling administrative inefficiencies head-on.

Ensuring the Health and Public Safety of Oklahomans

We must make public safety a priority. We can be smart on crime and tough on criminals.

Approximately 26 percent of our current Highway Patrol troopers are eligible for retirement. We must prepare for the future and fund a trooper academy. While we’re at it, no trooper should be furloughed or restricted to driving 100 miles a day because of lack of funding.

Seventy-five percent of new admissions in prison are nonviolent offenders. The number of drug-possession offenders sentenced to prison with no prior convictions has more than doubled the last five years. Oklahoma spends too much money without positive outcomes locking up low-level, nonviolent people. Doing nothing means taxpayers must spend billions of dollars more to incarcerate more people, or risk federal intervention.

There are many issues to contend with in health care, and Obamacare has created additional problems we must address. 

We hope to reduce regulations to create lower-cost insurance plans, encourage investment in private health accounts so people can direct their own health care purchases and utilize successful local programs, like Insure Oklahoma, to provide health insurance that works for Oklahomans.

Preserving and Improving Our Infrastructure

We can’t continue to ignore our state’s crumbling infrastructure. In my budget, I have identified our state’s most urgent, pressing infrastructure needs along with a bond proposal to address them. They include a new Department of Health lab so we don’t lose accreditation, and improving facilities for corrections, mental health and juvenile affairs, to name a few.

By investing in our state, we are creating a stronger business climate – a place where people want to live, work and raise a family. We must put Oklahoma on a solid foundation for the future.

 

Gov. Fallin, OMES on Cybersecurity Incident: Unification Essential to Prevent Cybersecurity Attacks

Governor Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) are offering the followinginformation regarding a cyberattack against a state agency that was referenced last week during a state House of Representatives Government Modernization Committee meeting.

The agency referenced did not pay a ransom as a result of the cyber incident, an investigation by Oklahoma CyberCommand, an arm of OMES Information Services, confirmed today.

The incident in question was a ransomware attack on an agency that had not had its information technology (IT) unified under House Bill 1304 passed in 2011. The fact that the incident even brought about the consideration of paying a ransom shows the importance of IT unification.

“This incident further illustrates how essential IT unification has been in protecting our state’s technological infrastructure,” Fallin said. “The importance of state agencies unifying their IT with OMES to have the best cybersecurity available cannot be understated. “

Unification allows agencies to have the updated resources of Oklahoma CyberCommand that quickly detect and prevent ransomware attacks, said Oklahoma CyberCommand Director Mark Gower.

“CyberCommand has created a specific set of technical and response capabilities for dealing with an increase in ransomware attacks that can encrypt state computers and make them inaccessible until ransom has been paid,” Gower said. “Not a single unified state agency has been forced to pay ransom. Nonunified agencies don’t have access to the same levels of services through CyberCommand and can therefore be more vulnerable.”

In 2016, CyberCommand successfully responded to about 32,000 cases of unique malware, about 750 instances of malicious activity, nearly 400 occasions of unauthorized access and two denial-of-service attacks. The state's ongoing information technology unification effort and the OMES Security Operations Center can identify and respond quickly 24/7 to cyberattack. Nonunified agencies are responsible for their own cybersecurity and typically don’t have the same updated resources available through Oklahoma CyberCommand.

“This just validates that unification efforts are proving to be successful on this front in addition to saving Oklahomans millions of dollars,” said Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston L. Doerflinger, who is the director of OMES.

“Any calls to unwind the mandated unification of state agencies or exempt certain state agencies from the unification process are misguided and motivated by something other than the best interests of the state of Oklahoma,” Doerflinger said. “Further, as this incident shows, those misguided efforts could expose Oklahomans private information to greater chances of falling into the wrong hands.”

To date, 58 of 78 legislatively mandated agencies have unified their information technology with OMES. Another 31 agencies have voluntarily unified their IT with OMES. Unifying IT services has not only resulted in a combined reduced spending and projected savings of about $129 million, but also provides better access to security resources, said Oklahoma Chief Information Officer Bo Reese.

“The state continues to have cyber threats, and the services unified agencies have afford greater protections than agencies that have not yet consolidated,” Reese said.

At this time, no further details of the referenced incident are available for release as it could compromise the cybersecurity of the agency in question and possibly other agencies.

As part of the unification effort, the remaining 20 legislatively mandated agencies are expected to be unified with OMES by the end of the fiscal year.

 

Gov. Fallin Lifts Burn Ban

Due to significant rainfall that moved across the state, Governor Mary Fallin today signed an executive proclamation removing a burn ban she ordered for 53 counties. The governor issued the burn ban on Friday because of extreme dry and weather conditions; rains moved across the state Monday and Tuesday.

The governor removed the ban at the recommendation of Oklahoma Forestry Services (OFS), which conducted an analysis of the impact of the rainfall in the affected counties. The removal of the governor’s burn ban has no effect on county burn bans that were in place. OFS is contacting those counties to confirm which bans will remain or be rescinded.

“Individual counties can utilize more localized data, conditions and fire occurrence to decide if burn bans are called for on a county level,” said Fallin.

In the counties no longer covered by the governor-proclaimed burn ban, citizens are urged to check with local officials or visit www.forestry.ok.gov/burn-ban-information to see if county burn bans have been enacted before doing any type of burning.

“The rainfall had a positive impact on the larger forest fuels such as branches and fallen trees, but our light grassy fuels will dry out quickly and will still carry fire,” said George Geissler, Oklahoma state forester.  “We are still in our winter fire season, and in the absence of spring green-up we could find ourselves right back in high fire danger within a week or so. The rain just gave firefighters a break from the extreme fire behavior that necessitated the burn ban.”

OFS, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, asks residents to report any suspicious smoke or fire to the nearest fire department immediately.

Oklahoma Forestry Services is the state’s lead agency related to wildland fire prevention and protection. For additional information about wildfires, visit www.forestry.ok.gov/wildfire-information.

 

Gov. Fallin Statement on the House of Representatives Passing REAL ID Measure

Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement after the state House of Representatives passed House Bill (HB) 1845, which would bring Oklahoma into compliance with the federal Real ID Act:

“I’m pleased to see the House of Representatives taking action on this measure so early in the legislative session. This measure addresses the necessary steps to meet all the requirements of the REAL ID Act. I look forward to similar quick action in the Senate.   We cannot burden Oklahomans with the additional cost and hassle of providing identification to gain entrance to federal buildings, military bases or federal courthouses.  Failure to approve this measure also will force those with just Oklahoma driver’s licenses to have additional identification in order to board a commercial airliner beginning in January.”

HB 1845 passed, 78-18, and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

Lamb Breaks with Fallin on Tax Policy

Says “proposal will adversely harm Oklahoma’s small businesses and families”

Lt. Governor Todd Lamb today announced his resignation from Governor Fallin’s cabinet, where Lamb has served as the state’s Small Business Advocate, one of many roles the Lt. Governor fills.  This resignation does not affect Lamb’s role as Lt. Governor.   

“In Oklahoma, the Governor and Lt. Governor are separately elected positions. While both are Republicans, at this time Lieutenant Governor Lamb believes it is best for him to vacate the cabinet position,” stated Lamb’s Chief of Staff, Keith Beall.  “His decision to resign was made after yesterday’s cabinet meeting in which Governor Fallin maintained her support for taxing 164 services affecting every Oklahoma small business and family,” Beall concluded.

Lt. Governor Lamb made the following statement

“Governor Fallin deserves to have someone in her cabinet who can be a strong advocate for her agenda, and that is something I am unwilling to do.  While I respect the determination with which Governor Fallin met her obligation to present a balanced budget to the legislature, I cannot support her proposed tax increases.  This proposal will adversely harm Oklahoma’s small businesses and families, especially those in our service industry.  While Governor Fallin and I have disagreed on issues from time-to-time, our differences on this important topic are so significant they preclude me from continuing to serve on her cabinet.”

Week 1 - 2017 Legislative Session Update

House Speaker McCall Appoints Rep. Hall to Chair Business and Tourism Committee

Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall today named state Rep. Elise Hall as chair of the House Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee.

Rep. Hall previously served as vice chair of the Business Committee and had recently been appointed as a member of the committee for the 56th legislative session. Hall also serves as an assistant majority whip, as vice chair of the House Republican Caucus and as vice chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Select Agencies. In addition, she is a member of the House Rules Committee and the House Judiciary Committee on Civil and Environmental Laws. 

Republican Legislator Opposes Tax Increases

State Rep. Kevin Calvey today stressed that no tax increases are necessary in order to balance the state’s budget. The remarks came in response to Gov. Mary Fallin’s State-of-the-State address in which she called for several tax increases.

In common education, he pointed to the over 500 school superintendents as an area where costs could be saved. State reporting to the U.S. Department of Education shows that the majority of public school employees are not teachers.  Reducing non-teacher positions would save the state another $255 million, at least. 

Critics of the wind subsidies have long argued that most of Oklahoma's subsidies to wind companies go to out-of-state companies, and over 30 percent go to companies in foreign countries, and the subsidies create very few jobs given the huge cost to taxpayers.

State House Committee to Review Oklahoma's IT Security Preparedness

State Reps. Jason Murphey and Tom Gann announced that on Wednesday the members of the House Government Modernization Committee are set to take testimony regarding Oklahoma's cybersecurity position.

Officials from the state's unified Information Technology group will update committee members about the efforts to protect state and local government technology assets.

In the past, these officials have described the ongoing attacks on government IT infrastructure from attackers both within and outside of the United States.

Government Reform Proposals Advancing Quickly

The House Government Modernization committee is moving quickly to advance an agenda of increasing government transparency and cutting costs to Oklahoma taxpayers.

During their first meeting of the legislative session, held earlier today, the committee approved numerous modernization, efficiency and transparency measures.

Initiatives approved today include legislation by House Floor Leader Jon Echols to sunset state agencies. His House Bill 1461 seeks to duplicate the work of the innovative Texas Sunset Commission. He believes it will be an effective tool for shrinking the size of Oklahoma state government.

Freshman state representative and committee member Mike Osburn is wasting no time in advocating for new efficiencies. Osburn's House Bill 1234, his first to win committee approval, allows for the digitization of paper documents. Once digitized, government entities will be relieved from the significant cost of warehousing the millions of old documents.

Rep. Chuck Strohm won approval for his proposal to give the public better purview of school district finances. His House Bill 1509 makes school district financial documents available for online access.

House Bill 2248 by Rep. David Brumbaugh creates an "open records one stop shop" through which members of the public will request public records without having to navigate the maze of varied state government bureaucracies which currently oversee these requests.

Freshman Rep. Avery Frix won approval for his first bill, House Bill 1599, a needed modernization of the bonding requirements on public construction contracts.

 The approved modernization bills now await consideration by the entire House. 

HB 1013 would allow more nurse practitioners to work in Oklahoma 

By a 12-2 vote, the House Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee on Wednesday approved a measure that aims to increase the number of nurse practitioners working in Oklahoma and improve access to health care services, particularly in rural areas.

House Bill 1013, by Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, and Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, would grant nurse practitioners and advanced practice registered nurses full practice authority, allowing them to provide health care services consistent with their education and training without a collaborative agreement with a physician.

Nurse practitioners report that the collaborative agreements can cost them thousands of dollars each month even though little or no collaboration occurs. In addition, a physician can only sign agreements with two nurse practitioners, limiting the number who can work in the state.

According to the most recent Oklahoma Health Workforce Databook compiled by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 64 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are designated as primary care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). More than 58 percent of Oklahomans live in a primary care HPSA. The state also ranks 49th in physician-patient ratio.  

Cockroft pointed out that nurse practitioners have full practice authority in other states and in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities across the country.

HB 1013 will move on to be considered by the full House of Representatives. 

State Cyber Command Responding to New Threats Against State Information Technology Assets

The Director of Oklahoma's Information Technology Cyber Command told an Oklahoma House of Representatives’ committee today that it is adapting to protect state information technology assets against a new wave of cyber-attacks and crime.

The Government Modernization Committee was told that in 2016 Cyber Command protected state government assets from 32,333 cases of unique malware, 762 instances of malicious activity, 392 occasions of unauthorized access and two denial-of-service attacks.

Cyber Security Director Mark Gower explained that Cyber Command has created a specific playbook for dealing with an increase in a new attack vector – newly-developed ransomware that locks up state computers and makes them inaccessible until ransom has been paid.

Gower explained that the state's ongoing information technology unification effort and its Security Operations Center is providing an increased visibility into these ransomware attacks, and they are using the Center to deter the attacks before they can occur. He said that not a single unified state agency has been forced to pay ransom to the attackers. Gower assured committee members that it is the policy of the Security Operations Center to never pay ransom.

Committee members did discover that a non-unified state government entity appears to have been forced to pay the ransom. The non-unified entities do not benefit from the same protection levels as the entities, and the policies and protocols of the Security Operations Center do not apply to them.

State IT officials have assured committee members that they intend to complete the IT unification by the end of the fiscal year and extend the security protect to the non-protected state agencies.

Crime bill passes through committee with bipartisan support

Legislation that seeks to consider all rape by instrumentation as rape in the first degree has passed its first hurdle to becoming law after the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee unanimously voted to approve the measure.

House Bill 1005 is the second piece of legislation written by Rep. Scott Biggs that attempts to strengthen Oklahoma’s rape laws. The first, House Bill 2398, was passed during the 55th Oklahoma Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin last June.

The legislation passed through committee with a bipartisan 12-0 vote.

Biggs, an assistant majority floor leader, represents House District 51, which is comprised of Grady, McClain and Stephens counties. He is also the chair of the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee.

Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz comments on governor’s State of the State address

“I commend Governor Fallin on a speech that discussed her vision of how to build a stronger Oklahoma. My colleagues in the Senate and I look forward to learning more about her budget proposals and other policy goals as the session moves forward. Senate Republicans have a shared commitment to putting Oklahoma on a sustainable, long-term path to success. The Senate Republican agenda lays out our vision of how to build a more prosperous state. It begins with growing the economy, investing in our students and teachers, and ensuring our state’s health and safety. We look forward to working with the governor on those common goals that will help us make the great state of Oklahoma an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”—Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus.

Lawmakers introduce bill to ignite investment in Oklahoma

Sen. Kyle D. Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) and Rep. Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City) have introduced legislation to spark a new wave of investment in Oklahoma-based start-up companies.

SB 412 allows an investor in a qualified, Oklahoma-based start-up company to offset some of the tax liability on their return should the investment be profitable. The bill, known as the Ignite Oklahoma Act, requires the investment be made in a new start-up company with limited capital and be primarily housed in Oklahoma. If the company is profitable, the investor is able to apply the tax credit to off-set up to 55% of the tax liability generated from that specific investment.

The Ignite program differs from those in the past because the credit is redeemable on the back end of the investment; once measurable economic growth has positively impacted the economy. If the company fails, the investor is unable to use the credit because the investment generated no tax liability. Additionally, this credit can only be used against tax liability directly related to the investment, not against any other.

SB 412 has received support from the business community.

Oklahoma ranked 46th in the country for innovation potential in 2016 according to WalletHub. This ranking is due in large part to limited venture-capital funding and entrepreneurial activity.

The legislative session began Monday, Feb. 6.

Senate Judiciary Committee Moves on Slate of Judicial Reforms

The Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday approved a series of bills aimed at reforming the judiciary, including a series of legislative referendums that would reshape the way judicial appointments are made.

Sen. Anthony Sykes, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was author of several of the judicial reform bills.

Among the measures authored by Sen. Sykes:

• Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 42, which, if approved, would allow voters to decide whether to change the Oklahoma Constitution to require a partisan election of Supreme Court justices and Court of Criminal Appeals justices.

• SJR 43, if approved, would allow voters to decide whether to amend the judicial appointment process to model the federal system. Under this proposal, the governor would nominate candidates to fill judicial vacancies and the Oklahoma Senate would confirm or deny the governor’s appointment. The Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) would rate the governor’s judicial nominees as either “qualified” or “not qualified.”

• SJR 44, if approved, would allow voters to decide whether to amend the Constitution to modify the judicial nominating process. Under this proposal, the JNC would provide the governor with five qualified nominees to fill a judicial vacancy, instead of the current recommendation of three nominees. The governor would be allowed to reject those nominees and request five new nominees. The governor would then select one nominee, whose name would be forwarded to the Oklahoma Senate for confirmation.

Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the following measures:

• SB 699, by Sykes, would require all appellate justices and judges to retire when their combined age and years of service equaled 80.

• SB 700, by Sykes, which allows the President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate and Speaker of the Oklahoma House to appoint three attorney members each to the JNC board.

• SB 702, by Sykes, which adjusts the counties included in the Supreme Court judicial districts.

• SB 708, by Sykes, which requires a district judge to have served as lead counsel in at least three jury trials before being elected or appointed to serve on the bench.

• SJR 14, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, would allow Oklahoma voters to decide whether to amend the Constitution to require 60 percent of voters approve the retention of a judge.

• SB 213, by Dahm, which would change the boundaries of Supreme Court judicial districts to correspond with the number of congressional districts in Oklahoma plus adding at-large positions.

Senate committee approves bill for construction of Health Lab

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation Wednesday to construct a new state health lab. Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, is the author of Senate Bill 236 to authorize the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue nearly $59 million in bonds for the construction of the new facility.

David said the lab has faced losing its accreditation since 2008, which would be detrimental and extremely costly for the state, and this year the legislature must act.

Built in 1972, the Health Lab is one of the oldest in the nation. Numerous assessments by the Association of Public Health Laboratories, the College of American Pathologists and other organizations since 2008 have concluded that the facility is outdated and not capable of supporting technically advanced work. The building is also prone to flooding and has an unreliable heat and air system that can negatively impact tests performed on site.

In 2015, the Long Range Capital Planning Commission identified $349 million in total critical capital needs and the health lab was at the top of the list.
The Department of Health estimated the cost of a new 49,000 square-foot lab would be $40 million in 2009. Today, they estimate the cost will require a 20-year bond for $58.5 million.

David pointed out that the use of bond financing for the project will not increase the state’s debt as nearly half the state’s tax-backed bond debt will be paid off by 2020.

Gov. Fallin Delivers 2017 State of the State Address

Governor Mary Fallin today delivered the annual State of the State Address in front of a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature. In it, Fallin focused on the urgent need to improve the state’s budgeting process to ensure that legislators can adequately fund priority goals related to education, public safety, health and the state’s infrastructure needs. Her State of the State Address can be found here. The proposed Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 can be found here.

Modernizing Oklahoma’s tax laws

Fallin told lawmakers she is proposing a bold series of reforms to modernize the state’s tax laws and ensure new growth in years to come. These reforms will also ensure Oklahoma has the flexibility to prioritize spending as new needs emerge.

“This plan eliminates the most regressive tax on the books today, the state sales tax on groceries. This will benefit all Oklahomans. Eliminating the state sales tax on groceries is expected to result in annual savings of between $350 to $676 for a family of four.

“It also gets rid of one of the most volatile sources of revenue - the corporate income tax. It will reduce the paperwork and red tape burden of many small businesses in our state and boost economic development. Eliminating this tax provides more transparency as it also eliminates the need for the Legislature to pick winners and losers with specific tax credits.” – Governor Mary Fallin

The governor said that when the Legislature many decades ago first contemplated the sales tax laws to boost revenues, the economy depended on the manufacture and sale of goods. As the economy in the United States has shifted from a manufacturing-based economy to a services-based economy, the way we impose taxes and collect revenue no longer reflects the current economy, but an outdated system that has not changed much since its inception.

“By expanding the sales tax base, this allows us to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries and the corporate income tax. And it may be possible in the future to further lower the sales tax rate.” – Governor Mary Fallin

Calls on lawmakers to approve teacher pay raise

Fallin, for the second year in a row, challenged lawmakers to approve a pay raise for public school teachers.

“A thriving, prosperous economy must have a skilled, educated workforce. That starts with good teachers in the classrooms providing our children a quality education FIVE days a week. And my budget provides both.

“In a recent meeting I hosted with major national site selection companies, an executive asked me how he could persuade businesses to come to Oklahoma when some of our schools have four-day education weeks. We must have five-day school weeks.

“Let’s act on a permanent pay raise for our public school teachers.  It is what the public and families want. The pay raise may need to be phased in and it may be targeted, but it must be done.” – Governor Mary Fallin

But the governor said a pay raise alone will not improve student outcomes. Administrative inefficiencies must be addressed.

“We have a very top-heavy system that needs to be reformed to provide teachers and students more resources. The state already provides a number of services that schools could voluntarily take advantage of to save money, such as IT services, purchasing and bonding assistance.

“In addition, I am creating a task force to review the state education funding formula, evaluate funding sources, and analyze the K-12 system footprint. Just as we must fix our own state budget structural issues, we must do the same with the K-12 education system.

“Our education system must be focused on creating the best outcomes. To do so, we must ensure more money goes to our classrooms and teachers. We must empower students and parents by giving them more choices so they can best address their own needs.” – Governor Mary Fallin

Personal consumption tax on cigarettes

Fallin again asked legislators to raise the cigarette tax.

”To improve the health of our state, I’m also once again asking you to raise our cigarette tax.   Smoking remains the Number One preventable cause of death in Oklahoma. It costs our state $1.62 billion in health care costs. The revenue raised can be spent on current health care needs.” – Governor Mary Fallin

Directing gasoline and diesel tax revenue goes to roads and bridges

The governor said her reform plan calls for gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to go roads and bridges

“My plan will ensure taxes associated with roads and bridges are the funding source for maintenance of roads and bridges - period, returning individual income taxes to the General Revenue Fund. This plan does not impact the projects in the Department of Transportation’s 8-year plan.

“Oklahoma currently ranks 48th in diesel tax in the nation and 49th in gasoline tax. I am proposing a new revenue stream by increasing our gas and diesel taxes to the regional state average, but still below the national average.

“As we’ve discussed for decades, let’s put the fuel taxes into roads and bridges.” – Governor Mary Fallin

Criminal justice reforms

Fallin asked lawmakers to invest in ways to be smarter on crime and tough on true criminals.

“It’s no secret our prison population is in a crisis with over 61,000 people under the jurisdiction of corrections. Our prisons are way over capacity, and our prison population is expected to grow by 25 percent in the next 10 years.

“Oklahoma’s overall incarceration rate is the second-highest in the country. We lead the nation in female incarceration – incarcerating women at two and a half times the national average.” – Governor Mary Fallin

Without reform, Oklahoma must build or lease three new prisons. The governor created the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force to find data-driven, smart-on-crime policies to focus on improving public safety.

“Seventy-five percent of new admissions in prison are nonviolent offenders. The number of drug-possession offenders sentenced to prison with no prior convictions has more than doubled the last five years. My budget includes new money for corrections and treatment, which includes a $50 million bond issue to build wings on a men’s and a women’s prison for substance abuse offenders and rehabilitation.” – Governor Mary Fallin

Other highlights

The governor, during her speech, recognized seven Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers who apprehended a killer last fall in a rural area in Custer County. They were troopers Brian Costanza, Chris Hanover, Trenton Keasler, Brandon Seward and Micah Whittington along with helicopter pilots Capt. Brian Sturgill and Cole Patterson.

Fallin also said the state’s crumbling infrastructure should no longer be ignored. She has identified Oklahoma’s most urgent, pressing infrastructure needs along with a bond proposal to address them. They include a new Department of Health lab, which is needed for accreditation, and improving facilities for corrections, mental health and juvenile affairs.

Gov. Fallin Names Patrick Wyrick to Fill Vacancy on Oklahoma Supreme Court

Governor Mary Fallin today named Patrick Wyrick to serve as a justice on the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Wyrick, 35, succeeds Steven Taylor, who retired from the bench last year.

Wyrick has served as solicitor general in the Oklahoma attorney general’s office since 2011. As solicitor general, Wyrick represented the state of Oklahoma before the U.S. and Oklahoma supreme courts, and other federal and state courts. He also authored attorney general opinions and served as a key legal adviser to a variety of state officials.

The Supreme Court appointment is Fallin’s first on the nine-member court.

Supreme Court justices serve on the court as long as they are able and must appear on the ballot and be retained by voters every six years, according to state statute.

Fallin selected Wyrick from three applicants submitted to her by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor must choose from those three.

Applicants had to be 30 or older and a practicing attorney or judge for at least five years.

Wyrick, a fourth-generation Atoka native, has deep ties in the 2nd Judicial District, and has remained involved in the family business, Wyrick Lumber Co., which has locations in Atoka and Hugo.

Wyrick earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology/criminology from the University of Oklahoma and his juris doctorate from OU’s college of law.

Before joining the attorney general’s office, Wyrick worked as an associate attorney at the law firm of GableGotwals and as a law clerk to Judge James Payne in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Oklahoma in Muskogee.

Wyrick and his wife, Jamie, have three children, twins Cole and Carter, and Claire.