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What To Expect In Gov. Fallin’s 2017 State Of The State Address

Feb 3, 2017

 

As Governor Mary Fallin prepares for her State of the State address on Monday, February 6th, the Oklahoma legislature looks at changes involving taxes, criminal justice and disciplining some of their own.

At the Associated Press Legislative Forum on Thursday, Gov. Fallin said she wants to see, “a major overhaul of our tax system.”

One tax change Oklahomans can expect is to begin paying sales tax on purchases from online retailer Amazon starting next month. eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley pointed out to KGOU’s Dick Pryor that money “will benefit not only the state budget to a certain extend, but particularly cities and counties.”

As state agencies put forth their FY 2018 budgets, Ashley said there is support in the legislature for mental health and substance abuse services.

“Drug treatment and mental health treatment programs...received a good reception from the two subcommittees that heard that presentation. But again, the issue is a matter of finding the funding,” Ashley said.

The governor believes she and Oklahoma voters are on the same page about criminal justice reform, after voters approved two state questions last year for more lenient crime punishments, but the Oklahoma legislature may soften those changes with bills this session.

Finally, legislators will vote on Monday whether to expel Representative Dan Kirby, who was accused of sexually harassing a staff member. They will also decide how to discipline Representative Will Fourkiller, in lieu of inappropriate comments he made to a page.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

On what Governor Fallin plans to address in her State of the State speech:

Governor Fallin promised us a major tax overhaul would be outlined in her executive budget. One of the things she stressed is we can’t afford to do things the way that we’ve been doing them. In particular, she pointed to the revenue shortfalls that the state has experienced and the dependence lawmakers, and the governor’s office for that matter, have had on using one time funding in an effort to balance the budget.

On bills to change voter-approved criminal justice measures:

In November, voters approved two state questions that changed the nature of some crimes. That moved them from felonies down to misdemeanors, certain nonviolent property crimes and certain drug crimes. These would actually begin to move some of those back to the more stringent side of things and, as a result, increase the penalties. This seems to move against what the voters wanted, first of all, in November when they approved those questions, and what seems to be the general attitude of the legislature and the governor. Governor Fallin, of course, signed four measures last year that did something similar, from the legislative session, and has embraced criminal justice reform. A number of legislators speaking at the Associated Press Legislative Forum, legislative leaders, said that such a move would go against the will of the voters and that we need to continue our efforts for criminal justice reform. Senator Anthony Sykes, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a press conference that, rather than rolling those back, what they would be looking at would be to monitor them and tweak them, if necessary, as they came into effect.

On disciplining Reps. Kirby and Fourkiller:

We expect that, on Monday, a motion will be put forth on the floor to expel Representative Kirby. If that motion passes, he would no longer be a member of the House of Representatives. The recommendations from the committee also limit his legislative ability should he survive an expulsion. He would no longer chair a committee. He would no longer be a member of any committees and his legislation effectively would be canceled, so that’s what we’ll be looking for there. In the case of Representative Fourkiller, it’s unclear at this point whether the sanctions recommended by the committee will simply be implemented by the speaker or whether those two might have to go to a vote of the full House.

On funding state agencies:

Most budget hearings, the leaders of the budget subcommittees have been very blunt in saying, look we don’t have any additional money to give. In fact, we have less than additional money to give because of the nearly $900,000,000 deficit that they’re expected to face when they write this budget.

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Dick Pryor: Shawn, the legislative session begins each year, the first Monday in February, with the governor’s State of the State address. What do you expect that we’ll hear from Governor Mary Fallin?

Shawn Ashley: Well, speaking to reporters on Thursday, Governor Fallin promised us a major tax overhaul would be outlined in her executive budget. One of the things she stressed is we can’t afford to do things the way that we’ve been doing them. In particular, she pointed to the revenue shortfalls that the state has experienced and the dependence lawmakers, and the governor’s office for that matter, have had on using one time funding in an effort to balance the budget. She said this should provide a way for her own budget and for future governors’ budgets to be balanced without having to rely on, what she said, were smoke and mirrors.

Pryor: There are bills in both houses that would soften the effects of criminal justice changes that were approved by the voters last November. Tell us about that.

Ashley: That’s right. In November, voters approved two state questions that changed the nature of some crimes. That moved them from felonies down to misdemeanors, certain nonviolent property crimes and certain drug crimes. These would actually begin to move some of those back to the more stringent side of things and, as a result, increase the penalties. This seems to move against what the voters wanted, first of all, in November when they approved those questions, and what seems to be the general attitude of the legislature and the governor. Governor Fallin, of course, signed four measures last year that did something similar, from the legislative session, and has embraced criminal justice reform. A number of legislators speaking at the Associated Press Legislative Forum, legislative leaders, said that such a move would go against the will of the voters and that we need to continue our efforts for criminal justice reform. Senator Anthony Sykes, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a press conference that, rather than rolling those back, what they would be looking at would be to monitor them and tweak them, if necessary, as they came into effect.

Pryor: A House committee has voted to expel Representative Dan Kirby and discipline Representative Will Fourkiller. What happens next?

Ashley: We expect that, on Monday, a motion will be put forth on the floor to expel Representative Kirby. If that motion passes, he would no longer be a member of the House of Representatives. The recommendations from the committee also limit his legislative ability should he survive an expulsion. He would no longer chair a committee. He would no longer be a member of any committees and his legislation effectively would be canceled, so that’s what we’ll be looking for there. In the case of Representative Fourkiller, it’s unclear at this point whether the sanctions recommended by the committee will simply be implemented by the speaker or whether those two might have to go to a vote of the full House.

Pryor: And the Kirby situation involves a relationship with a staffer and Fourkiller, comments made to a page.

Ashley: Exactly.

Pryor: Agencies continue presenting their FY 2018 budget requests. Some are requesting a flat budget, others are asking for a lot more money. How are those being received?

Ashley: Most budget hearings, the leaders of the budget subcommittees have been very blunt in saying, look we don’t have any additional money to give. In fact, we have less than additional money to give because of the nearly $900,000,000 deficit that they’re expected to face when they write this budget. At the same time, what you’re seeing is that there are support for certain programs, such as Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Commissioner Terry White, in talking about some of their drug treatment and mental health treatment programs, it received a good reception from the two subcommittees that heard that presentation. But again, the issue is a matter of finding the funding.

Pryor: Governor Fallin has announced that online retailer Amazon will start collecting sales tax in March.

Ashley: That’s correct. So that will benefit not only the state budget to a certain extent, but particularly cities and counties.

Pryor: That’s the Capitol Insider. eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley, thank you.

Ashley: You’re very welcome.

Capitol Insider is a collaborative news project between KGOU and eCapitol. As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department. eCapitol is legislative news and bill tracking service. Online content is available via subscription.