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Oklahoma Voices

Oklahoma newsmakers talking about the issues that affect the Sooner state and beyond.

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Oklahoma State Capitol
mrlaugh / Flickr

The 55th Oklahoma Legislature wrapped up its first session a little over two weeks ago on May 22, one week ahead of the constitutionally required deadline to adjourn.

Lawmakers passed bond issues for widely publicized museums in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa. But the $611 million shortfall in the state budget dominated the conversation from January to May, even though details of the $7.1 billion agreement didn't emerge until shortly before the gavel fell. To plug that gap, lawmakers cut most agency budgets by five to seven percent, and also used monies from the state's Rainy Day Fund and state agency revolving accounts.

The memorial to the seven children who died May 20, 2013 at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore.
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Oklahomans are now finally starting to dry out after May brought as much as two feet of rain to some parts of the state. The tornadoes and flooding that have killed dozens in this state and its southern neighbor last month were a reminder of how cruel May can be when warming temperatures and moist Gulf air collide over the nation's midsection.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole / Flickr

 

President Barack Obama is seeking fast track approval from Congress to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership. If Congress grants the president fast track authority, the 12-country trade deal can be approved with a simple up or down vote, and there are no amendments or filibusters. This issue has some Republicans siding with Obama, while Democrats are largely against it.

 

Left-to-right: Oklahoma Watch executive editor David Fritze, attorney Michael Brooks-Jimenez, Oklahoma City school board member Gloria Torres, Oklahoma City coucilwoman Meg Salyer
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Oklahoma Watch and the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication presented a public forum on April 16 about challenges in low-income neighborhoods in south Oklahoma City.

The Q&A forum with local leaders focused on the needs and concerns of south Oklahoma City communities and is tied to a mobile video news project, “Talk With Us: Poverty in Oklahoma City Neighborhoods.”

On this edition of OETA's weekly public affairs program Oklahoma Forum, how Oklahomans reacted to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 and changed disaster response in the United States.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

The bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City killed 168 people - including 19 children. It injured hundreds more, and forever shaped the community.

April 19, 1995 started as an idyllic spring morning - clear skies, calm winds - better than most Wednesdays during the state’s usually-turbulent severe weather season. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Workers showed up to their jobs, and went about their regular routines.

That all changed at 9:02 a.m.

Cancer is a leading cause of death in Oklahoma, and in 2012, cancer treatment cost Oklahomans more than $713 million. And as death rates from cancer have been dropping rapidly in the US, the decline in Oklahoma has been less precipitous.

U.S. Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) says the United States shouldn't "accommodate" Iran in ongoing nuclear talks.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Steve Russell’s new career is a lot different than his previous one. 

The first term Congressman from Oklahoma’s fifth district is settling into his new job after spending 21 years in the Army, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

He served all over the globe, including in Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. His unit played a key role in the search for Saddam Hussein. Russell wrote a book about it, We Got Him! A Memoir of The Hunt and Capture of Saddam Hussein.

KGOU’s Jacob McCleland spoke to Russell, a Republican, following a town hall meeting at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond on April 2, 2015.

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Two lawmakers with a history of filing open records-friendly legislation gathered with supporters of government transparency to discuss recent legislative measures they said ran counter to the spirit of the state’s Open Records Act.

Fan of Retail / Flickr Creative Commons

The United States is a divided nation and Americans need to figure out how to live together, according to Vincent Phillip Muñoz, Tocqueville Associate Professor of Religion and Public Life at the University of Notre Dame. Muñoz spoke at a recent lecture entitled "Hobby Lobby, Obamacare & the Future of Religious Freedom" at the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Auditorium.

okpolicy.org

While many tax experts and state officials acknowledge Oklahoma’s tax breaks and incentives need reform, the state legislature has taken little action to do so. A group of state officials and policy experts discussed why they believe action is necessary during a “Tax Credit Reform – From Talk To Action?” panel - part of the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s 2nd Annual State Budget Summit

okpolicy.org

Unresolved issues tied to education, incarceration and mental health services will hamstring Oklahoma’s ability to remain among the nation’s top 5 fastest growing economies, a panel of government officials and economists concluded during the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s 2nd Annual State Budget Summit.

On January 29, OPI Director of Policy Gene Perry led the panel through “An Economic Check-Up” of the state’s current economic conditions and fiscal policies. 

Organized citizens of large cities can be a greater force of innovation in leadership than state or federal governments, according to the vice president of the Brookings Institution.

Bruce Katz discussed the premise of his book The Metropolitan Revolution during a January 28 event at the University of Central Oklahoma. He emphasized the country’s economic growth model needs to “get back to the fundamentals” without relying on state and federal governments to lead the way.

Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

For more than two decades, Oklahoma has increasingly turned to fines and fees from court cases to pay for the court system itself. An investigation between KGOU and Oklahoma Watch called Prisoners of Debt reveals that as many inmates regain their freedom, they’re still imprisoned by mountains of debt.

Lack of funding and access to services and lack of political will have prevented many Oklahomans with mental illness and addiction problems from getting the help they need, leaders in the field told an Oklahoma City audience Tuesday night.

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