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Oklahoma state Reps. Leslie Osborn, center, R-Mustang, Kevin Wallace, left, R-Wellston and Glen Mulready, right, R-Tulsa, talk on the House floor in Oklahoma City, Monday, May 22, 2017.
Sue Ogracki / AP

Five Things That Happened During Oklahoma’s 2017 Legislative Session

Oklahoma’s legislative session came to a close on Friday, as lawmakers passed a nearly $7 billion budget. Republicans, who hold a large majority in both the House and Senate, needed Democratic support to pass revenue-raising measures, but negotiations crumbled over the weekend. To fill a $878 million budget gap, lawmakers needed to pass several measures that could still be challenged in court.

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Lights from a drilling rig near Watonga, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 2017 legislative session is beyond the halfway point and the clock is ticking on lawmakers who have until the end of May to set the state’s budget and plug an $870 million funding hole. Legislators say every option is on the table, including one with growing public support: Increasing taxes on oil and gas.

First, it was state Democrats like minority leader Scott Inman, who have long argued Oklahoma’s taxes are too generous for oil and gas companies.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK4, speaks at a town hall meeting in Chickasha on April 12, 2017.
Claire Donnelly / KGOU

Members of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation are back in their districts through April 21, and many are meeting with constituents for the first time since the election of President Donald Trump.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK4, held a town hall meeting Wednesday in Chickasha.

The event was slightly tense, with many of the town hall’s 70 attendees urging Cole to take stronger stances against President Trump on issues like climate change and mental health services.

An investigation by Buzzfeed News alleges extensive abuse of patients at Shadow Mountain Behavorial Health, a live-in facility owned by Universal Health Services, the country’s largest psychiatric hospital chain. The report contains allegations that employees manhandled children as young as eight years old, and to have ignored patients’ attempts to inflict self-harm. The investigation also alleges understaffing, sexual abuse and patient riots. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is now investigating the Tulsa hospital.

Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

A state budget crunch could lead to less money for health care providers in Oklahoma.

 

Oklahoma’s state Medicaid agency may cut Medicaid reimbursements rates by up to 25 percent to make up for a state budget shortfall of almost $900 million. Preston Doerflinger, the state’s budget director, has asked the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to prepare for a possible 15 percent reduction in state appropriations. This means that companies providing services to Medicaid patients might not be fully reimbursed by the government. 

 

Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

Oklahomans could soon be able to vote on whether eye doctors can open clinics inside retail stores.

 

Oklahoma is currently one of only three states with a law that prohibits optometrists from practicing in retail locations or maintaining any commercial relationship with a retail optical store.  

classroom floor
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Students as young as pre-K can be, and are, suspended from Oklahoma schools for as long as the remainder of the school year for violating school rules.

A proposal working its way through the Legislature would expand that by mandating lengthy suspensions for elementary students as young as third grade for assault or attempted assault against a teacher, school employee or volunteer. Currently, a default punishment of suspension for the rest of the semester and entire next semester starts in sixth grade.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., attends an organizational meeting of the House Rules Committee, January 7, 2015.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP

 

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, says he and a bipartisan group of Congressmen will send a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan this week to request a new Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force.

The request comes after U.S. ships fired missiles at an airbase in Syria last Thursday. The country’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad, used the airbase to deploy apparent chemical weapons against Syrian citizens last week.

U.S. lawmakers are divided on President Trump’s decision to retaliate against the Syrian government after its apparent use of chemical weapons.

This satellite image released by the U.S. Department of Defense shows a damage assessment image of Shayrat air base in Syria, following U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes on Friday, April 7, 2017.
DigitalGlobe/U.S. Department of Defense via AP

 

American forces launched over 50 missiles at a Syrian air base Thursday night, to retaliate against the Bashar Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.

Joshua Landis, the director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies, told KGOU’s World Views he doesn’t expect President Donald Trump to get involved in regime change.

“Regime change would not be good for America,” Landis said.

Mosaic Theater founding artistic director Ari Roth.
Mosaic Theater

 

Ari Roth says conflict is “the coin of the realm” in theater. So theater is naturally effective at giving voice to conflict regions.

“When you're in a conflict region and you care about the people involved. You want to see healing. You want to see repair. You want to see bridges being built,” Roth told KGOU World Views.

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