Wesley Fryer / Flickr

New Prison Reform Law Creates 'Momentum,' But Limitations Could Lessen Impact

New legislation would give Oklahoma’s judges more discretion in sentencing certain nonviolent offenders. In some cases they will be able to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence. Previously, judges had no say in how long an offender would be behind bars. Prisons across Oklahoma are over capacity and understaffed. That’s one of the reasons former state Representative Kris Steele introduced prison reform legislation back in 2012. Both the state House and Senate passed the measure but it was...
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Verna Morales, left, and her daughter, Aliah Morales, sit in front of their old transitional apartment at Pearl’s Hope, a homeless shelter in Tulsa.  Aliah Morales has been homeless for three years and her mother has been homeless for six years. The two c
Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

A resilient economy and low unemployment have done little to stem the tide of students who are finding themselves homeless in Oklahoma.

Despite a five-year oil and gas boom and falling jobless rates, growing numbers of youths are finding themselves without a bedroom to call their own – a trend seen across the nation.

Oklahoma Capitol Building
ana branca / Flickr Creative Commons

Bond rating agencies will not be fond of Oklahoma’s fiscal year 2016 budget, State Bond Advisor Jim Joseph told the Council on Bond Oversight.

“This budget will not be something the rating agencies will like because of the way is was balanced with one time money,” Joseph said Thursday during a meeting of the council.

 

Joseph pointed out the budget uses a variety of one-time funding sources, including $150 million from the Constitutional Reserve or Rainy Day Fund and $125.2 million from agency revolving fund accounts.

 

First Place Awards for StateImpact Oklahoma from the Oklahoma Chapter of the Society for Professional Jouranlists 2015
KGOU

May 31, 2015

This is from the Manager’s Desk.   

In its four-year history, StateImpact Oklahoma has received many awards and this last year is no exception.

In the RTDNA Murrow Awards for Region 6, StateImpact was recognized for stories about the relationship of earthquakes to disposal wells.

The Oklahoma Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists presented nine awards to StateImpact.

American Indian Cultural Center And Museum

After Governor Mary Fallin signed legislation authorizing a $25 million bond issue to finish the incomplete American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City, the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority’s board meeting celebrated the event.

Flooding along 36th Ave. NW and Telephone Road between Indian Hills Road and SW 34th Street at the border between Norman and Moore.
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Governor Mary Fallin is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal funding to help repair damage in 16 counties caused by recent tornadoes and flooding.

Fallin said in a news release Friday that the request is to help municipalities, counties and rural electric cooperatives with infrastructure repairs, debris removal and costs associated with responding to the storms that began May 5.

Officials are warning of more rain this weekend in Texas and Oklahoma, compounding severe flooding in the region that began last weekend and has been blamed for the deaths of at least 28 people.

Forecasters warn that the Colorado River at Wharton, Texas, could crest today, causing major flooding in that area. It is the wettest May on record for the state.

Meanwhile, volunteers searched the banks of the Blanco River in Central Texas, searching for people missing days after a vacation house was swept away, according to The Associated Press.

U.S Drought Monitor as of May 29, 2015
U.S. Drought Monitor

Given the choice between the crippling drought of the past nearly 5 years and the ongoing threat of flooding Oklahoma farmers and ranchers are currently dealing with, Chris Kirby with the Oklahoma Wheat Commission says she’ll take the rain every time.

“I’ve heard some people say, ‘well, I don’t want to complain about the rain, because the last time I did, it quit raining for six years,” Kirby tells StateImpact.

Chancellor for Higher Education Glen Johnson
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved a variety of measures during a meeting Friday with little discussion.

Among those measures was the approval of $963.4 million in state appropriations allocated by the state legislature and expected to be approved by Governor Mary Fallin.

The proposed appropriation total would represent a 2.4 percent cut from higher education's previous fiscal year.

Considering most state agencies saw larger percentage cuts, Chancellor Glen Johnson said he is thankful for what they were received.

Hofmeister's Education Goals Pushed To Next Year

May 30, 2015
Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma State Schools Superintendent
Provided

Oklahoma education had two big tickets this legislative session -- teacher pay raises and testing relief -- but bills addressing either one of those failed to make it out this legislative session.

Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said Wednesday that while interest was high to do something to alleviate mandatory testing on Oklahoma students, any measure attempting to so do “stalled out.”

She said “time ran out” for further discussions but promised that next legislative session she would “solve what couldn’t be solved” this year. 

Schlüsselbein2007 / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker have signed a compact authorizing bulk purchases of Oklahoma hunting and fishing licenses for members of the tribe.

Under the new compact, the Cherokee Nation is expected to purchase more than 150,000 licenses from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for Oklahoma-based tribal citizens over the age of 16. The agreement is expected to generate up to $4 million for the state to be dedicated to wildlife conservation efforts.

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