KGOU

2017 legislative session

Oklahoma State Capitol Building
Claire Donnelly / KGOU

Oklahoma state lawmakers have yet to agree on a plan to raise money for the state, and could be facing special session. 

In this Monday, April 17, 2017 file photo, state Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow is pictured on the House floor in Oklahoma City.
Sue Ogracki / AP

 

Lawmakers are nearing the deadline to propose revenue-raising measures to fill Oklahoma’s $878 million budget hole. All budget and appropriations bills must be introduced before May 19.

Oklahoma state schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister discusses school issues during her interview for KGOU's Capitol Insider.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

In this bonus Capitol Insider interview, KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley sit down with Oklahoma state schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister to talk about education issues, including the state's revised A through F school grading system, teacher pay and four day school weeks. 

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin gestures to a chart of budget shortfalls during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 3, 2017.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

Tensions are rising at the Oklahoma capitol as the legislative session comes to an end, with the state facing a $878 million budget deficit, and no revenue raising measures in sight.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Faillin held a press conference on Wednesday, May 3, 2017,, asking state legislators to balance Oklahoma's budget.
Claire Donnelly / KGOU

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is urging state lawmakers to work together to find ways to fill the state’s nearly $900 million budget hole.

“This is a serious problem,” Fallin said addressing legislators and reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday.

“It requires leadership and courage to find solutions to the problems that we face in our state. And to not play partisan gridlock politics like we see in Washington, D.C.,” Fallin said.

KGOU’s Capitol Insider Now Available on iTunes

May 2, 2017

The weekly conversation between KGOU’s Dick Pryor, eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley, and Oklahoma’s political newsmakers is now accessible from your smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer through iTunes!

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

What happened at the Capitol this week?

No Teacher Pay Raise Bill Passed

Lawmakers did not pass a teacher pay raise bill, despite both the House and Senate saying they want to pass a measure.

Thursday was the deadline for bills to have passed both chambers, except for legislation that comes from the Joint Committees on Appropriations and Budget.

Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, who was supposed to introduce a bill on the Senate floor that would give teachers a $6000 raise over three years, did not introduce the bill.

Oklahoma state Rep. Charles McCall, right, R-Atoka, Speaker of the House, answers a question during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Thursday, April 13, 2017. McCall discussed the budget and teacher pay raises.
Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo

 

 


 

What happened at the Capitol this week?

 

Oklahoma lawmakers are plugging away at a 2018 state budget--figuring out where the state’s money will come from and where it will go.

 

Lights from a drilling rig near Watonga, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 2017 legislative session is beyond the halfway point and the clock is ticking on lawmakers who have until the end of May to set the state’s budget and plug an $870 million funding hole. Legislators say every option is on the table, including one with growing public support: Increasing taxes on oil and gas.

First, it was state Democrats like minority leader Scott Inman, who have long argued Oklahoma’s taxes are too generous for oil and gas companies.

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

With a little less than two months until the end of this legislative session, the Oklahoma House and Senate are considering bills covering a wide range of topics, from gun rights to teacher pay raises.

Bill to loosen Oklahoma gun laws failed in Senate

House Bill 2323 would have allowed a citizen 21 or older, without a felony, to carry a loaded gun in their vehicle without a valid handgun license.

Clinton, Oklahoma, resident Cindy Box and her Horse, Rosie, at Foss State Park.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

In March, the legislature asked state agencies how they would deal with worst-case budget reductions of nearly 15 percent. A cut that deep at the Department of Tourism could cost Oklahoma half of its state parks.

Bob Kerr on his ranch near Carnegie, Okla., which is flanked by turbines from the Blue Canyon Wind Farm.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

 

One major tax incentive for wind energy remains on the books in Oklahoma. And the Legislature is poised to end it — more than three years early. The politics of renewable energy have changed as state revenues have failed, but some wind producers say lawmakers are reneging on a deal that sends a bad message to any industry considering investing in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s wind industry has grown year after year. With 3,400 turbines spread across 41 wind farm projects, the state ranks No. 3 in the nation in the American Wind Energy Association’s report on wind power capacity.

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.

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