Oklahoma House of Reps / YouTube

House Passes Budget After Late-Night Debate, Senate Expected To Consider It Today

House lawmakers approved a $7.1 billion budget late Wednesday night just one day after unveiling the plan. It now goes to the Senate on a 54-42 vote that saw several Republicans voting against the bill along with the House’s Democratic minority. The upper chamber is expected to consider the budget Thursday. House Majority Floor Leader Charles Ortega (R-Altus) called the process intense, and said lawmakers are moving quickly to try to end the session Friday. “Every day that we’re here, it...
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American Indian Cultural Center And Museum

The Oklahoma House has passed legislation to complete the unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum and turn it over to the city of Oklahoma City for operation and maintenance.

Without debate, House members voted 58-36 for the measure Monday and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

Damage from the May 16, 2015 tornado near Elmer.
Jason Beach / Twitter

Storm survey teams from the National Weather Service spent Sunday surveying damage from two tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma on Saturday.

Meteorologists assigned a preliminary rating of EF2 to the storm that carved a 35 mile path of damage from southwest of Elmer to east of Snyder in far southwest Oklahoma.

Robyn Venable poses with one of her students in her teaching kitchen at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Venable is retiring this year.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Robyn Venable has been a teacher in Oklahoma for 31 years. Currently she teaches life skills at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs.

“I always wanted to be a special education teacher. Ever since the third grade,” Venable said.

She’s loved it and it’s been a good run, but it’s time to retire. She had cancer, and that influenced her decision to leave, but she also says the teaching profession has changed over the years and the money is no longer worth the headaches.

About 170 motorcycle gang members charged with engaging in organized crime are each being held on a $1 million bond in the wake of the deadly Waco shootout.

Tornadoes in western Oklahoma damaged homes, brought down power lines and otherwise caused havoc Saturday evening, but no casualties have been reported.

A decade-old beating haunted Nikki Frazier while she served time in prison.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

In her dorm at Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, anxiety attacks used to waken Nikki Frazier in the middle of the night. For about an hour she would sit on her bed, shaking, sweaty and nauseous.

“It would feel like I was having a heart attack,” Frazier said. “It was just a big ball of weight in my chest, and it was so bad.”

Frazier could point to one source of her anxiety: In 2005, she got into a dispute with her then-husband, and he kicked her repeatedly in the face with steel-toed boots, for which he was later convicted. Six years later, a doctor cited the beating in diagnosing Frazier with post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety and depression.

Serving a prison sentence for forging checks, Frazier suffered attacks for months until she was able to see a psychiatrist and get on a different medication. But she said she could never truly calm her anxiety until she was released in February. She gained control over her life and began receiving one-on-one counseling.

Frazier’s mental-health struggles reflect those of hundreds of women in Oklahoma prisons.

Oklahoma Women Suffer PTSD

Oklahoma Watch obtained detailed data on mental health diagnoses for men and women in prison from the state Department of Corrections and found dramatic differences in their conditions.

According to the data – a snapshot in late March – nearly 60 percent of female inmates show signs of mental illness, about twice the percentage of male inmates. A total of 3,104 women and 25,620 men were in the corrections system at the time.

Women also suffer disproportionately from depression – 64 percent versus 59 percent of men.

But the most striking difference occurs with trauma disorders. PTSD is the second most common mental illness among incarcerated women, with about one in five showing symptoms, or five times the rate for men.

State Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville
okhouse.gov

State lawmakers and Governor Mary Fallin's office continue to negotiate ways to address a $611.3 million budget gap, the chairman of the House Budget Committee said Friday.

State Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, said negotiators were close to finalizing a budget deal, but "several small issues" remained. "Right now work continues," Sears said. "There are a bunch of little moving targets."

Student Award Winners

May 17, 2015
The Grand Prize for Audio Documentary Program from teh National Broadcasting Society, given to KGOU students Hayley Thornton, Molly Evans and Madeline Stebbins for their April 27, 2014 "Assignment Radio" program.
KGOU

May 17, 2014

This is from the Manager’s Desk.   

This week, I am highlighting our students who have been recognized with awards in the past several months. These awards are for work these students complete for class credit offered at KGOU through the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications, but these winning stories have also been broadcast by KGOU.

Toni Pratt-Reid, the owner of three medical clinics, said she could be forced to close two of those clinics if the Oklahoma Health Care Authority reduces the rates it pays nurse practitioners.
M. Scott Carter / Oklahoma Watch

A top Oklahoma health official is warning that the budget crunch may force the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to cut payments to mid-level medical providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, which providers say could lead to the closing of rural clinics.

Facing a $611 million budget gap, state leaders say most agencies will see spending cuts, or at best, a flat budget. But even with a flat budget, Health Care Authority officials said, many low-income residents could see a reduction in health care access and services.

Budget documents released by the Authority indicate the agency is proposing more than $40 million in budget reductions for the 2016 fiscal year. Those cuts range from $2.9 million in administrative cuts to a $5.2 million, or 15 percent, reduction in reimbursement amounts paid to nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists and other mid-level providers.

Doctors could see reimbursement rate cuts of about 2 percent, lawmakers said.

The reductions would lower fee-for-service payments to 85 percent of the Authority’s physician fee schedule.

About 3,250 providers would be affected.

Storm damage south of Elmer, Okla.
Jason Beach / Twitter

Updated 9:42 p.m.: Threat of severe weather moving out of central Oklahoma

Several hundred residential utility customers lost power, and high waters were blocking some city streets after a line of storms moved across the state Saturday evening.

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