KGOU

2017 legislative session

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Bills in the Oklahoma legislature faced a major deadline Thursday: they had to pass in their chamber of origin to continue through the legislative process. Bills affecting anti-discriminatory laws were not successful, but two teacher pay raise measures will move ahead.

Oklahoma prosecutors have filed child prostitution charges against state Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, after police found him in a hotel room with a 17-year-old boy.
Cleveland County Sheriff's Office via AP

 

Leaders in the Oklahoma senate wasted little time to strip state Sen. Ralph Shortey of most of his privileges last Wednesday when allegations emerged that the Oklahoma City Republican had allegedly offered money for sex with a teenage boy.

“Abruptly, late Wednesday morning, the Senate took a recess and the Senate Republicans began caucusing behind closed doors,” eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley told KGOU during his weekly Capitol Insider interview.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

 

The Oklahoma legislature faces an approximately $880 million budget shortfall, and proposals to increase revenue have not gained traction. Meanwhile, the House passed a bill this week that would incrementally increase teacher pay.

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma state House of Representatives furthered a bill Thursday that would roll back part of a state question that was approved by voters in November.

Oklahomans voted in favor of State Questions 780 and 781 last year, which reduced simple drug possession from a felony crime to a misdemeanor.

In debate on the House floor, Republican Representative Tim Downing, R-Purcell, said House Bill 1482 would give district attorneys the discretion to enhance simple drug possession to a felony if it occurs within 1,000 feet of a school

Edmond resident Jonathon Stranger in his 2013 Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

A bill passed by the state House of Representatives Wednesday would impose an annual fee on owners of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles in Oklahoma, and that’s leaving some electric car owners feeling singled out.

A gray 2013 Nissan Leaf sits in Edmond resident Jonathon Stranger’s driveway.

“There’s no gas. There’s no motor oil,” Stranger says. “It’s the future.”

Oklahoma Watch

State lawmakers are officially at the one-quarter point of this year’s legislative session after wrapping up four weeks’ worth of work.

So far only one bill – the Real ID compliance act – has made it through the Legislature and been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. And there remains plenty to do to find a solution to the state’s $878 million budget gap and tackle the hundreds of bills that remain at alive this point.

Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger speaks during a meeting of the State Board of Equalization in Oklahoma City, Monday, June 20, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

Moments after explaining how another state revenue failure will require millions of dollars of mid-year budget cuts, Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger issued a warning to lawmakers and top state officials.

“I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that the time for action is now,” he said at last week’s Board of Equalization meeting, at which the group also certified revenue figures that show an $878 million shortfall for next year. “It’s not a game. We need new revenue.”

 

Oklahomans will have the option to get new identification cards in compliance with the federal government’s REAL ID Act. Also this week, a major rating agency decreased the state’s credit rate, which could make the capitol restoration more expensive.

Governor Mary Fallin signed the REAL ID Act into effect on Thursday to make Oklahoma state licenses comply with federal minimum safety standards of identification.

The Department of Public Safety must now find a provider to issue the IDs.

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

 

Gov. Mary Fallin announced this week that Oklahoma will face a revenue failure during the current fiscal year. At the same time, Republican lawmakers are backing away from one of Fallin’s proposals to bring more revenue into the state - a $1.50 tax increase on cigarettes.

The state will not bring in as much individual income, corporate income and sales tax collections this fiscal year as the state equalization board had budgeted for.

 

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Gov.  Mary Fallin at the Board of Equalization meeting on Feb. 21, 2017.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma Board of Equalization declared a revenue failure for the current fiscal year, which will result in mid-year appropriations cuts to state agencies.

State agencies will receive across board cuts of 0.7 percent between March and June of this year. In total, agencies will be cut by $34.6 million.

Preston Doerflinger, the Director and Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology, said the situation is dire and more revenue is needed.

 

The Oklahoma legislature could make big changes to the state sales taxes this session in an attempt to balance an estimated $870 million budget shortfall and provide a pay raise to teachers.

In her state of the state speech on Monday, Governor Mary Fallin proposed a pair of tax cuts, coupled with an expansion of the state’s sales tax system that would raise Oklahoma’s tax revenue by $1.1 billion.

Gov. Mary Fallin during her 2015 State of the State address Feb. 2, 2015.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

 

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.”

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

The Oklahoma legislature will consider bills covering a wide range of topics in its upcoming session.

eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley told KGOU’s Dick Pryor that lawmakers will tackle issues including handguns, abortion and how to fix the state’s estimated $900 million budget shortfall.

“Really every aspect of state law, state government is touched by the bills that were filed this year,” said Shawn Ashley.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Among the deluge of bills filed by state legislators in advance of the upcoming session are more than two dozen proposals to boost teacher pay.

Teachers, disappointed by the defeat of State Question 779, which would have generated about $550 million a year for education through a 1 percent sales tax, say they’re counting on legislators to do more than just talk.

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

Oklahoma’s legislative session begins in a couple of weeks. Lawmakers will have to grapple with an estimated $900 million budget shortfall, low levels of education funding, and a crowded prison system, among other problems.

KGOU’s Dick Pryor spoke with eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley about the upcoming session.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On filling a $900 million budget hole:

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Perhaps concerned about possible cuts in state programs and business incentives, lobbyists again have spent more on gifts for legislators and state officials in the months heading into the legislative session.

Lawmakers, elected officials and other state employees received about $60,350 in gifts from special-interest groups during the last six months of 2016, according to recently filed lobbying reports.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Lawmakers will take another stab at increasing teacher salaries, will attempt to stymie four-day school weeks and try to eliminate the end-of-year exam in U.S. history.

With the filing deadline on Jan. 19, bills have been streaming in, including many related to common education. Additional bills could surface later because of exceptions to the deadline and shell bills whose language is often replaced mid-session.

State Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, speaks on the floor of the Oklahoma House in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. The House has voted to seat Kirby, who rescinded a letter of resignation he submitted after being named in a sexual harassment complaint.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

The Oklahoma House voted Tuesday to seat a lawmaker who walked back his resignation after being named in a sexual harassment complaint.

State Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, spoke publicly for the first time about the situation, and said he had done nothing wrong.

“There was an investigation into the allegations and it was determined there was no sexual harassment,” Kirby said.

The complaint by a legislative assistant resulted in a nearly $45,000 settlement on Nov. 22.

A drilling rig in northwestern Oklahoma's Mississippi Lime oil and gas play.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma legislators are under pressure to fund teacher raises and pay for health insurance coverage, workers comp, criminal justice initiatives and state prisons from a pool of money that could be $600 million short of what’s needed.

Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger speaks during a meeting of the State Board of Equalization in Oklahoma City, Monday, June 20, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

Oklahoma's top budget official says he's not worrying about a revenue failure… yet.

This time last year, lawmakers were wringing their hands over sales tax figures that painted a dim view of state revenue. That’s when revenue was about 3 percent below the estimate used to build their budget.

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