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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Politics
2:15 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Say Goodbye To The Taxpayer-Funded Political Convention

Ever since the Watergate era, taxpayers have been able to check a box on their federal tax returns and designate a little bit of their tax payment to help finance the presidential campaigns and wean politicians away from big donors.

The public financing program has had its ups and downs. But now President Obama is prepared to sign legislation that, for the first time, takes taxpayer money out of the fund.

First of all, let's pause to reflect on some of the great moments of American political conventions brought to you by presidential matching funds.

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Affordable Care Act
6:15 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Justices Divide By Gender In Hobby Lobby Contraception Case

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 8:12 pm

There was a clear difference of opinion between male and female justices at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The issue was whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to include contraception coverage in the basic health plan now mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

The female justices were clearly supportive of the contraception mandate, while a majority of the male justices were more skeptical.

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Received $6000 bill for back taxes
6:01 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Widow Of Oklahoma Soldier May Get Tax Relief

Credit donkeyhotey / Flickr.com

The widow of an Oklahoma soldier killed in the Fort Hood shooting could get relief from a $6,000 tax bill under a measure that would grant some families benefits similar to those given after acts of terrorism.

Jennifer Hunt, 30, had been married just short of three months when her husband, Jason, was killed in the rampage at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009.

Hunt said she was misinformed at the time of her husband's death and believed that she qualified for a property tax exemption, but this year received a $6,000 bill for back taxes.

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For Companies that hire engineers
4:14 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Tax Credits To Aerospace Companies Likely To Continue

Credit liberalmind1012 / Flickr.com

A tax credit that Oklahoma provides to aerospace companies that hire engineers would continue until 2018 under a bill that has cleared a Senate committee.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 8-1 Tuesday for the bill by Tulsa Republican Sen. Mike Mazzei.

Oklahoma offers a tax credit to companies on the salary paid to an engineer during the first five years of employment. The most recent figures from the Oklahoma Tax Commission show the credit was claimed on 363 returns for a total cost to the state of $950,000.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:40 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Federal Flood Insurance Fix Still Means Higher Premiums For Some Oklahomans

Credit Robert Pos / Flickr Creative Commons

Only about 18,000 of Oklahoma’s 3.8 million residents have flood insurance. And less than half of that many have policies that are subsidized by the federal government. But for those 7,000 or so Oklahomans, flood insurance is getting much more expensive.

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Water
1:57 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Oklahoma Delegation Supports Three Rivers Study

Aerial view of the Newt Graham Lock and Dam on the Verdigris River in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, USA. The lock and dam are part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which provides for barge navigation on the Arkansas River and some of its tributaries.
Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library / Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma's entire congressional delegation has announced support for the so-called "Three Rivers Study" of the area at the confluence of the Arkansas, Mississippi, and White Rivers.

The area is the starting point of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which runs through both states.

The study would investigate ongoing threats to navigation and bottomland hardwoods at the confluence of the rivers in southeastern Arkansas.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:14 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

OKC Residents Living Off The Water Grid Owe Millions In Past Due Trash Bills

Credit oatsy40 / Flickr Creative Commons

In October 2013, StateImpact reported on the 14,000 or so mostly rural Oklahoma City residents who have their own water wells and aren’t connected to the city water system.

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State Capitol
12:42 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Oklahoma Senate Committee Approves Child Custody Transfer Rules

Credit Spirit-Fire / Flickr Creative Commons

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure Tuesday that would allow a parent to temporarily transfer custody of their child to another person or family.

State Sen. Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) says he modeled his bill on an Illinois law that 25 other states have adopted. It allows a parent or legal guardian to delegate any powers regarding care and custody of a child to another person for up to a year.

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Water Pollution
8:55 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Phosphorus Far Less In Oklahoma's Waterways

The Illinois River in eastern Oklahoma.
Credit Schlüsselbein2007 / Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Environmental Protection Agency says Oklahoma ranks second in the nation for reducing harmful nutrients from streams and rivers.

It's the fifth year in a row that Oklahoma has ranked in the top 10 among states in reported non-point source nutrient reductions.

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Native American
8:11 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Tribes, Shawnee Officials Still At Odds Over Sales Taxes

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation heritage center.
Credit Citizen Potawatomi Nation

Representatives of four tribes have met with city of Shawnee officials — but reached no agreement on the city's request for sales taxes.

The Journal Record reports that the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kickapoo Tribe, and Sac and Fox Nation met with officials that included Mayor Wes Mainord and City Manager Brian McDougal.

The city wants the tribes to collect sales taxes from non-tribal members at tribal businesses in the city and pay that amount to the city.

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