Lawmakers gather in the House chamber at the state Capitol before Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her 2016 State of the State address.
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Featured Four: State Of The State; Rilla Askew; SandRidge Layoffs; Sunsetting Wind Credits

Four stories that were trending or generated discussion online or on KGOU’s social media platforms during the past week. Fallin Presents Budget, Unveils Teacher Pay Raise And Corrections ReformsOn Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin delivered her annual State of the State address before a joint session of the Oklahoma House and Senate to kick off the 2016 legislative session. The two big topics were her proposal to give Oklahoma teachers a $3,000 raise, and a restructuring of the state budget to free up...
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Oklahoma State Senator David Holt, R-Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma Senate

State Sen. David Holt has introduced legislation to set the cap on the state’s Rainy Day Fund at 15 percent of the total state budget, rather than the much smaller general revenue fund certification number.

"Our state's Rainy Day Fund is 15 percent of about $5 billion. But our total state budget is about $24 billion,” Holt said. “So it's no wonder it's inadequate."

A recent story by the Associated Press compares how officials in Oklahoma and Kansas reacted to oil industry-linked quakes.

It's not rare for a year to break record temperatures. But it's now happened two years in a row — and 2015 was "very, very clearly the warmest year by a long chalk," says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Roy Williams, at lectern, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, addresses the Oklahoma City Rotary Club 29 on Tuesday about the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to hold off on action regarding the Oklahoma County Jail.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

Oklahoma County district attorney David Prater has convinced the federal government to take a step back from possible litigation while the county tries to solve overcrowding and disrepair at the jail facility.

The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed not to take the county to court over the issues for the next two years while a criminal justice task force studies the issue more deeply, The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt reports:

Jason McMullen teaching a math class at Har-ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Jason McMullen taught in Oklahoma for 12 years before he finally decided to move to Arkansas. When he left, his salary was $41,000. His wife was a teacher too, and earned less.  

"It just got to a point where it’s hard to buy a house," McMullen said. "It’s hard to pay bills, it’s hard to raise kids."

After all their bills were paid each month, McMullen says he and his wife had about $250 left for groceries and other living expenses.

"I just could not financially afford to stay any longer," McMullen said.

A pump jack at an oil-field site near Luther.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

When state lawmakers return in February, they’ll have to write a budget that’s already $900 million in the hole.

But one that could help the budget could also hurt energy producers.

For the past decade, oil and gas wells owing more taxes than they earn in profit could claim a tax exemption. The claim wipes away nearly all the amount owed to the Tax Commission.

homeless person holding a sign
AR McLin / Flickr

Oklahoma City councilmembers John Pettis and Mark Stonecipher introduced a new ordinance January 19 that adds more restrictions to panhandling laws that went into effect in December.

The new ordinance would change the definition of "aggressive" to include panhandling within 50 feet of a school bus stop or an elementary campus.

Updated January 26, 9:35 a.m.

Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Registered independents continue to be the fastest growing group of Oklahoma voters.

The State Election Board released figures Friday showing the number of registered Republicans and independents increased over the past two years, while the number of Democrats fell by about 6 percent.

“What we’ve seen over the past two years is that in terms of the net increase of voters, independents actually have the most, at a little over 28,000,” said state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax.

Oklahoma Capitol Building
ana branca / Flickr

There's less than a week to go before the bill filing deadline for the upcoming legislative session, and as of Friday morning only 10 percent of the requested bills and joint resolution have been filed.

eCapitol's Shawn Ashley reports lawmakers requested more than 2,400 pieces of legislation for the 2016 legislative session that gets underway next month.

At the close of business Thursday, 254 bills and joint resolutions had been filed:

• 31 House bills;

• 4 House joint resolutions;

University of Oklahoma Assistant Professor and political scientist Mackenzie Israel-Trummel

Just weeks before voters caucus in Iowa and head to the polls in New Hampshire, who will become the two major parties’ standard-bearers and win the nominations is still anyone’s guess. But race and ethnic identity will likely play a much larger role on the Republican side of the aisle – the field is more crowded, there are several minority candidates, and immigration has become a key campaign issue along both the U.S.