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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:28 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Bill To Change Permit Process For Mines In Sensitive Aquifer Clears Senate Committee

A gate into a silica sand mining operation near Mill Creek in south-central Oklahoma.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

When Oklahomans apply for a permit from most state agencies to, say, dam a river or build a wind farm, formal public hearings are held before the permit is issued, where evidence is presented, concerns are voiced, and legally binding decisions are made.

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Native American
11:38 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Cherokee Nation Raising Minimum Wage

Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker
Credit Cherokee Nation

The chief of one of the largest Native American tribes in the country has announced that the tribe is raising its minimum wage.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed an executive order last week raising the minimum wage for tribal employees to $9.50 over the next two years.

The tribe's current minimum wage is $9 per hour. Some workers will see the increase starting Oct. 1, while others will see a staggered increase over the fiscal year.

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State Budget
11:37 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Government Budget Hurting Again In Oklahoma

Credit 201(k) 2013 / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma Policy Institute says although Oklahoma is now several years removed from the worst of the fiscal crisis that accompanied the Great Recession, the state continues to face significant budget challenges.

Funding levels have never fully recovered to pre-downturn levels, revenue collections are falling again, and the resources to address critical state needs are lacking.

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School Choice
9:42 am
Mon February 24, 2014

School-Choice Push: Education Savings Accounts And A ‘Parent Trigger’ Law

Oklahoma Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City)
Credit Warren Vieth / Oklahoma Watch

Four years ago, state Rep. Jason Nelson challenged the status quo in education by authoring the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act. The measure allowed parents of special-needs students to use state dollars to pay private school tuition and other educational expenses. About 280 students are now participating.

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Corrections
8:41 am
Mon February 24, 2014

New Corrections Chief Open To Expanding Private-Prison Use

Robert Patton is the new Oklahoma Corrections Dept. director.
Credit Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

In Robert C. Patton, Oklahoma is getting a new corrections director from Arizona who is more than willing to use private prisons as a means to deal with inmate overcrowding.

“I’m a (prison) bed manager. I’ll tell the policy makers I need beds, and if I can convince them that I need beds, then it’s their jobs on whether it’s public or private,” said Patton, whose first day as Oklahoma Corrections Department director began Tuesday.

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State Capitol
8:21 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Oklahoma's Dept. Of Human Services Needs $33 Million This Year

Oklahoma DHS Director Ed Lake
Credit Oklahoma Dept. of Human Services

The director of Oklahoma's Department of Human Services is asking lawmakers to appropriate almost $33 million in state tax dollars to operate the agency through the end of June.

DHS director Ed Lake will discuss the supplemental funding request on Monday at a meeting of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Human Services.

In a letter to state officials, Lake says the agency has encountered several funding problems since the 2013 legislative session, when lawmakers approved the agency's budget for the fiscal that ends June 30.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
7:30 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Taxing Times For Oklahoma Tornado Survivors

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak speaks at a tax forum for tornado survivors.
Credit Kate Carlton

While many view tax season as a nuisance, it can be especially frustrating for people struggling to rebound from disasters, like the deadly tornadoes that swept through the state last May.  

Some residents of central Oklahoma lost homes, cars and old tax documents, so they’re confused and unsure how to proceed, and that’s left many tornado alley taxpayers with lots of questions. 

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Indian Times
8:25 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Lawmakers Come Up With Solution To Finish Museum

Credit American Indian Cultural Center And Museum

The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum sits unfinished at the crossroads of I–35 and I–40. Its financial history has had its ups and downs, but there may be still be a happy ending for the museum, thanks to two state senators, Clark Jolley and Kyle Loveless.

“In determining what to do with the American Indian Cultural Center, we had several challenges,” Loveless said. “One, the tight budget year. Two, the house's insistence on no further indebtedness through bond packaging.”

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Darryl Robertson Making Bid For Mullin's Seat
6:18 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Pro Fisherman And Political Novice Announces Candidacy

Credit Castrol Fishing Team website

A professional bass fisherman has announced a bid for Congress, challenging the seat held by incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin.

Political novice Darrel Robertson, who's also a Republican, says the values he was taught from infancy "are being mocked in Washington."

Mullin, who owns a plumbing company, won victory in 2012 to fill the seat vacated by moderate Democrat Dan Boren, who decided against running again.

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Sen. Connie Johnson forming committee
3:49 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Democrat Exploring The Possiblity Of Running For Senate Seat

Credit Provided / Oklahoma Senate

A Democratic state senator from Oklahoma City who has been a longtime liberal voice in the upper chamber says she's forming an exploratory committee for a possible run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Coburn.

Sen. Connie Johnson says she's had a number of conversations about a U.S. Senate bid and that fellow Oklahomans have "responded positively." Johnson said she will announce her decision early next month. She would have to give up her state Senate seat in order to run.

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