Special Report: Auditing The Disaster Aid For 2013 Tornadoes And Storms

Federal public-assistance funds are paying for the rebuilding of Plaza Towers Elementary School, in which seven children died in the May 20, 2013, tornado. The school is expected to open next month.
Clifton Adcock Oklahoma Watch

The tornadoes and storms that devastated Oklahoma and killed 34 last year triggered the release of tens of millions of dollars in federal and state aid that will keep flowing for years.

To date, the federal government has approved up to $257 million in disaster assistance of various kinds to help re build damage and help victims of the winds and flooding that struck between May 18 and June 2, 2013, and to mitigate future risks.

The state has contributed an additional $10.5 million, and private insurers are paying about $1.1 billion. Charities also have pumped in aid.

The relief aid stemming from Disaster No. 4117, as it is called by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is arriving through several channels, heading ultimately to state and local agencies, contractors, businesses and individuals.

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Thought It Contained "Blanks"
6:14 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Defendant Claims They Didn't Know Gun Was Loaded

Credit Gideon Tsang / Flickr.com

One of three boys accused in the fatal shooting of an Australian baseball player last summer says his friends believed the gun used in the crime contained only blanks.

James Francis Edwards Jr. agreed to testify against his co-defendants if prosecutors reduce charges against him. He told an Oklahoma judge Tuesday that 16-year-old Chancey Luna shot and killed Christopher Lane from a car driven by 18-year-old Michael Dewayne Jones.

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Agriculture Policy
3:09 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Oklahoma Senators Vote Against Sending Five-Year Farm Bill To White House

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Credit Senator Jim Inhofe / Facebook

With a vote of 68-32, the Senate approved a sweeping farm bill Tuesday that will set rules and practices for American agriculture for five years.

Both of Oklahoma's U.S. Senators voted against the measure.

The bill does away with controversial direct cash payments made to farmers under a subsidy system, replacing it with crop insurance.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:25 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Wind Energy Construction Boom Fueled By Threat Of Expiring Federal Tax Credit

Windmills near Weatherford, Okla.
Credit Wesley Fryer / Flickr Creative Commons

The looming Dec. 31 expiration of the federal production tax credit for renewable energy helped drive a last-minute rush to start construction on wind energy projects around the country and in Oklahoma.

Developers had to start construction by 2013 to qualify, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports, “but the wind industry fears another bust if the credit isn’t renewed.”

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:11 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Propane Crisis Prompts Oklahoma Dems To Ask Fallin For Relief From Rainy Day Fund

Credit zen / Flickr Creative Commons

For the 400,000 or so Oklahomans who rely on propane for home heating and food preparation, it’s been a rough few weeks.

Propane prices are skyrocketing — from a nationwide average of $2.76 in late December to more than $4 as of Friday, January 31.

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State Capitol
12:31 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Most Oklahoma Agencies To Take 5 Percent Cut To Make Up Budget Shortfall

Gov. Mary Fallin enters the House chamber of the state capitol shortly before delivering her 2014 State of the State address Monday.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Five percent.

That’s how much the governor is asking most entities in state government to cut their budgets. The number should not be much of a surprise. The amount of money available for state lawmakers to spend for the next fiscal year was already down about $171 million over the current year’s figure.

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State Capitol
11:21 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Oklahoma House Speaker Steps Down From Top Post

House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) shakes Gov. Mary Fallin's hand shortly before Monday's State of the State address.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Listen to House Speaker T.W. Shannon's entire announcement on the House floor Tuesday morning.

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon is stepping down from one of the most powerful positions in state government as he runs for a U.S. Senate seat.

Shannon announced Tuesday on the House floor that he was stepping down from the speaker's post immediately.

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U.S. Senate
9:02 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Lankford Campaign Cash Exceeds $500,000

U.S. Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.)
Credit OversightAndReform / Flickr Creative Commons

Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford reported having more than $514,000 in his congressional campaign account at the end of 2013 before launching his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

End-of-year federal campaign finance reports due at the end of last week show Lankford raised nearly $430,000 in 2013.

After current U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn said last month he would give up the final two years of his term, Lankford said he would run for Coburn's seat. Lankford can use the funds in his House account for a U.S. Senate bid.

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State Capitol
8:27 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Oklahoma House Panel To Consider Fetal Hospice Bill

Credit Ben Ramsey / Flickr Creative Commons

An anti-abortion measure that would require caregivers to notify women that perinatal hospice services are available as an alternative to abortion is scheduled to be heard by members of a legislative panel.

The House Public Health Committee will consider the bill when it meets at the State Capitol Tuesday.

The measure filed by Republican Rep. Randy Grau of Edmond would require caregivers to notify women who are considering an abortion after their fetus has been diagnosed with a condition that is fatal.

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The Salt
7:43 am
Tue February 4, 2014

How American Food Companies Go GMO-Free In A GMO World

Allen Williams grows corn and soybeans for Clarkson Grain, which has been selling GMO-free grain to Japan for years.
Dan Charles/NPR

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 7:12 am

Quite possibly, you've noticed some new food labels out there, like "Not made with genetically modified ingredients" or "GMO-free." You might have seen them on boxes of Cheerios, or on chicken meat. If you've shopped at Whole Foods, that retailer says it now sells more than 3,000 products that have been certified as "non-GMO."

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The Two-Way
5:55 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Sick Of Winter? Love It? More Snow And Ice Are On The Way

Winter: Do you wish it was over? Or is weather like this just great? (A scene in Queens, N.Y., on Monday.)
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 3:32 pm

Heavy snow is going to fall "from central Kansas through central Missouri and Illinois, into central Indiana" starting Tuesday, the National Weather Service says. Then, the "same system could bring a foot of snow [from] northern Pennsylvania into central New England on Wednesday."

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