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eCapitol

An Oklahoma-based company with corporate headquarters located in Oklahoma City, eCapitol launched as an online capitol news and information business in the early 1990's. eCapitol provides on-the-ground, politically-neutral reporting of capitol activity.

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State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid
Oklahoma State Senate

A bill in the Oklahoma Senate could reduce the number of school district administrators in the state by moving to a county-based superintendent system.

eCapitol reports that Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) filed the measure after an interim study earlier this year. Oklahoma has 77 counties and 521 school districts.

According to Anderson, the state could save up to $40 million dollars if the state uses the county model.

Oklahoma Capitol Building
ana branca / Flickr

Oklahoma’s state budget is becoming more dependant on one-time funding sources, according to state treasurer Ken Miller, during both good and bad economic times.

Miller remarked at the Oklahoma State University Center for Applied Economic Research 2016 Economic Outlook Conference in Oklahoma City that the state should not experience the biggest budget hole in its history at a time of 4.3 percent unemployment, according to Shawn Ashley from eCapitol.

State agencies and departments are starting the process of developing operating plans for next fiscal year based on the budget appropriations passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Fallin.

The Office of Juvenile Affairs received an increase that will keep a facility open, but the Oklahoma Arts Council took at 7.25 percent cut that will affect the arts grants to organizations statewide.

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission also received less funding that will affect operations and a federal allocation for dam repair. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation receives no state tax dollars but anticipates a larger budget because of increasing license fees. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management’s budget decreases will not affect operations because of federal funding to the department.

Oklahoma Capitol Building
ana branca / Flickr

Bond rating agencies will not be fond of Oklahoma’s fiscal year 2016 budget, State Bond Advisor Jim Joseph told the Council on Bond Oversight.

“This budget will not be something the rating agencies will like because of the way is was balanced with one time money,” Joseph said Thursday during a meeting of the council.

 

Joseph pointed out the budget uses a variety of one-time funding sources, including $150 million from the Constitutional Reserve or Rainy Day Fund and $125.2 million from agency revolving fund accounts.

 

The exterior of the unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City.
American Indian Cultural Center And Museum

After Governor Mary Fallin signed legislation authorizing a $25 million bond issue to finish the incomplete American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City, the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority’s board meeting celebrated the event.

Chancellor for Higher Education Glen Johnson
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved a variety of measures during a meeting Friday with little discussion.

Among those measures was the approval of $963.4 million in state appropriations allocated by the state legislature and expected to be approved by Governor Mary Fallin.

The proposed appropriation total would represent a 2.4 percent cut from higher education's previous fiscal year.

Considering most state agencies saw larger percentage cuts, Chancellor Glen Johnson said he is thankful for what they were received.

Hofmeister's Education Goals Pushed To Next Year

May 30, 2015
Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma State Schools Superintendent
Provided

Oklahoma education had two big tickets this legislative session -- teacher pay raises and testing relief -- but bills addressing either one of those failed to make it out this legislative session.

Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said Wednesday that while interest was high to do something to alleviate mandatory testing on Oklahoma students, any measure attempting to so do “stalled out.”

She said “time ran out” for further discussions but promised that next legislative session she would “solve what couldn’t be solved” this year. 

Oklahoma House of Representatives Chamber
http://www.oklegislature.gov/

The Oklahoma Legislature has adjourned the 2015 legislative session one week earlier than is required.

The presiding officer of the Senate dropped the gavel shortly after 3 p.m. Friday and two hours later the House also adjourned sine die, a Latin phrase that literally means "without day."

The Oklahoma Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn by the last Friday in May, but lawmakers rushed to complete their work this week to finish before the Memorial Day weekend.

Senate Committee Amends And Passes 'Erin's Law' Legislation

Mar 23, 2015
The Oklahoma Senate
Becky McCray / Flickr Creative Commons

Legislation that authorizes public schools to implement programs intended to help prevent child sexual abuse has been approved by an Oklahoma Senate committee.

The bill that originated in the House was first amended in ways that raises some concerns by the bill’s original House authors.

The Senate Committee on Education voted 12-1 for the House-passed bill Monday and sent it to the full Senate for a vote.

Republican Sen. A.J. Griffin of Guthrie says her bill is designed to empower children and young adults by giving them the skills to identify dangerous situations and avoid them. But Griffin also noted that the bill approved by the Senate committee “looked nothing like nothing like Erin’s law.”

HB1684, by Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, and Griffin, modifies the requirements for teacher training on child sexual abuse matters. The bill, Griffin explained, does not change the already established requirements but goes into more detailed as to what that training must encompass. The bill clarifies appropriate reporting for child abuse claims because many school districts are not properly reporting claims, Griffin said.

Joy Hofmeister, superintendent of public instruction, listens to a question from the audience during the "Oklahoma Watch-Out" forum on March 3.
Ilea Shutler / Oklahoma Watch

Updated 11:06 a.m.

Oklahoma's state schools superintendent says a 4 percent cut in the Department of Education's budget would reduce funding for the state's public schools by $100 million next year.

Superintendent Joy Hofmeister outlined her agency's budget request Wednesday for members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Lawmakers must deal with a budget shortfall of $611 million as they work to craft a budget for state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Oklahoma Forestry Services

A bill that would allow persons with a prescribed burn plan in place to have a fire during a burn ban passed out of the Oklahoma House on Thursday despite some members’ concerns.

Freshman Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston), who authored the legislation, said HB1462 would allow more local control and would standardize the Governor’s burn ban at the county level.

His bill, he said, has garnered support from major players such as the Noble Foundation, the Farmer’s Bureau and others in the agricultural industry.

First Legislative Deadline Passed

Feb 28, 2015
Oklahoma House of Representatives Chamber
http://www.oklegislature.gov/

Lawmakers crossed the deadline for hearing bills and joint resolutions in committees of their chamber of origin Thursday and Friday, cutting the number of measures from over 2,100 to just over 900.

By Jan. 22’s deadline for filing bills and joint resolutions to be heard during the 2015 legislative session, representatives filed a total of 1,233 measures and senators filed 828.

kjd / Flickr.com

Oklahoma could join a growing list of states calling for a convention to be held to amend the U.S. Constitution.

The Senate Rules Committee considered a bill on Wednesday calling for a constitutional convention to be held to consider amendments to restrict the federal government's power and impose term limits for members of Congress.

Former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn visited with House and Senate Republicans on Monday and urged them to pass the bill.

okhouse.gov/

Legislation to prohibit Oklahoma from regulating the practice of so-called gay conversion therapy has been approved by a state House committee.

Without debate, the Children, Youth and Family Services Committee voted 5-3 and sent the bill to the full House.

In other states, bills have been filed to ban conversion therapy, a range of practices aimed at changing one's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

State agencies are being asked to return to the Capitol to have an in-depth discussion about their budgets, the leaders of the House and the Senate said Thursday. The meetings to discuss budgets are a result of the $611 million dollar shortfall authorized by the State Equalization Board last Tuesday.

Dash cameras
Fernost / Creative Commons

A bill that started out to limit when police video record are released has been further amended to increase fees for copies of public records and create further exemptions for public access to government records.

The amendments were offered by  Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City and the bill received approval from the House Public Safety committee Thursday.

Protestors outside a public meeting in Oklahoma City about an oil company's proposal to drill near Lake Hefner held signs and chanted "Stop fracking now" and "No more drilling."
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Senate Energy Committee approved a bill Thursday during its first meeting of the session that would give the state authority to regulate oil and gas operations.

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said SB0809 “…preempts cities from preventing drilling operations in municipalities.”

There were no questions from committee members about the bill and it received a do pass recommendation. Sen. John Sparks, R-Norman, cast the only vote against the do pass recommendation.

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AP U.S. History study guides
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Updated 12:20 p.m.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview) says no decision has been made about whether or not a controversial bill that directs the State Board of Education to adopt a new program to replace the Advanced Placement U.S. history course and test will be heard by the full chamber.

Legislative committee work dominated the first full week of the Oklahoma legislative session for the House and Senate, as well as some other planning.

Oklahoma Senate leader pushes budget-only session: A plan to dedicate every other legislative session in Oklahoma exclusively to creating a state budget is picking up momentum in the Legislature. Gov. Mary Fallin touted the idea on the campaign trail, and now Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman has written a resolution that would send the plan to a vote of the people. A similar proposal passed the House last year on a bipartisan 70-18 vote and had the support of Republican House Speaker Jeffrey Hickman. If approved by voters, the Legislature would write a budget every year, but only deal with non-budget bills every other year.

House Bill 1409 received a "do pass" recommendation from the House Committee on Public Health. Among its provisions, it would triple the waiting period for terminating a pregnancy after informed consent has been provided: from 24 to 72 hours.

The House Elections and Ethics Committee gave do pass recommendations to four bills. A fifth bill, by House Speaker Jeff Hickman, was laid over. The committee substitute for HB1097, by Rep. Donald Condit, D-McAlester, generated the most discussion. The bill would make sheriffs elections non-partisan. Condit said he filed the bill after speaking with a constituent who had been unable to vote in recent sheriffs’ elections. The Committee also approved a measure where voters could apply to become permanent absentee voters. State Rep. Elise Hall, author of House Bill 1559, said the intent of her legislation is to improve the absentee ballot system and encourage greater voter participation.

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services made its annual appropriation request Tuesday in front of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Health. The department is requesting a total of $141,104,999 for FY16. A large majority of these appropriations would go towards maintaining existing programs and the Smart on Crime Initiative, which includes funding drug courts and mental health courts. Commissioner Terri White said the department's most important goal was to maintain these existing programs such as the Systems of Care Program.

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved SB0578, by Sen. Wayne Shaw, designed to reduce the number of aged prisoners in the Department of Corrections’ custody by establishing a secure nursing facility for prisoners. Such a facility currently does not exist, Shaw said, and the older, often ailing inmates, remain in prison and cost the state additional money. The proposal would create a stand-alone long-term care facility for any incarcerated offender deemed by the DOC to be either critically or terminally ill.

The House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee passed four bills on Wednesday with minimal debate. Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, voiced repeated concerns about HB1046, a bill that would modify the way in which restitution is paid in Oklahoma. HB1046, by Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, requires that if the court cancels all or part of restitution owed, the court must also apply the same percentage reduction to any court-ordered monetary obligation owed by the defendant.

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Gov. Mary Fallin will recommend in her State of the State speech and executive budget Monday transferring up to $300 million of unencumbered money out of state agency revolving funds to shore up the fiscal year 2016 budget, according to an eCapitol report. “The governor, as she has already said, will propose using some, but not all, of unencumbered revolving fund money to balance the budget.

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