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Oklahoma Politics

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

While Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders waited for the completion of an independent study on state employee pay, House Speaker T.W. Shannon approved more than a quarter of a million dollars in annual pay increases for his staff.

Figures released by House officials on Monday show about half of the 117 full-time House employees received raises totaling more than $280,000. The pay hikes for 52 House employees ranged from about 2 percent for a housekeeper to more than 30 percent for three staff attorneys.

State Worker Pay Study Ready For Release

Dec 6, 2013

The state employee remuneration study ordered by HB1717 is set to be released Friday, depending on the weather, said John Estus, Office of Management and Enterprise Services public information officer.

Estus said if the weather does not cooperate, the study is set to be released Monday.

Oklahoma State Senate

A Republican state senator from Yukon says he won't seek re-election to his Senate seat in 2014.

Sen. Rob Johnson said Thursday he plans to leave the Legislature to spend more time with his family and focus on building his law practice in downtown Oklahoma City.

Johnson's Senate Dist. 22 seat includes most of the cities of Yukon, Piedmont and Deer Creek, along with parts of far west Edmond and Oklahoma City. It was previously held by his father, Republican Sen. Mike Johnson of Kingfisher.

russavia / Creative Commons

Oklahoma's Republican House speaker wants to add a chapel inside the Capitol that celebrates the state's "Judeo-Christian heritage," a plan that's raising the eyebrows of libertarians and legal scholars who wonder if it's constitutional.

Lawton Republican T.W. Shannon says several GOP members urged him to consider using some newly acquired House space on the second floor of the building to House the chapel, which he said would be paid for with private funds. Shannon says his plan is to commemorate the faith community in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Dept. of Public Safety

Oklahoma drivers will have to pay an extra $12 for a license renewal under one of about 240 new laws signed by the governor and scheduled to take effect on Friday.

Among the others are three abortion-related laws, one that allows convicted criminals to seek a DNA test to prove their innocence, and another that expands the practice of noodling, or fishing by hand. Other bill topics include criminal penalties, pensions, elections, and the regulation of various professions.

Oklahoma Officials To Visit Bond Rating Agencies

Oct 22, 2013
Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger
Oklahoma PCA / Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Mary Fallin, Treasurer Ken Miller and other state officials will meet Wednesday with representatives of the nation’s leading bond rating agencies.

Fallin, Miller, Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston Doerflinger, Secretary of State Larry Parman and State Bond Advisor Jim Joseph are scheduled to meet with representatives of Standard and Poor’s Corporation, Fitch Ratings and others.

russavia / Creative Commons

Oklahoma state legislators — who earn $38,400 annually plus benefits and expenses — won't be getting a raise any time soon.

The Legislative Compensation Board voted 7-1 on Tuesday for the base pay, retirement and benefits package for Oklahoma's senators and House members to stay in place. Former Republican state Sen. Charles Ford of Tulsa was the lone dissenting vote. Ford urged the panel to consider hiking the base pay for legislators to $44,000 annually. The board meets every two years.

Good Monday morning, fellow political junkies. The partial shutdown of the government enters its second week and on Day 7 of the crisis neither side appears to have softened its position.

At least furloughed federal workers got the good news over the weekend that Congress had approved giving them backpay for the time they are locked out of their jobs.

Here are some of the more interesting news items with greater or lesser political import that caught my eye this morning.

Ronny Richert / Flickr

A panel is recommending a 12 percent increase for members of the Oklahoma judiciary — a recommendation that could lead to similar raises for all statewide elected officials.

The Board of Judicial Compensation meets every two years to review judicial pay and make recommendations. Gov. Mary Fallin and the Legislature rejected the board's proposal two years ago, and in 2009, the board didn't recommend any raises.

Oklahoma Lawmakers’ Salaries Set For Review

Oct 1, 2013
KellyK / Flickr Creative Commons

The Board on Legislative Compensation will review state lawmakers’ salaries in October.

Oklahoma is one of 19 states with compensation commissions designed to “…provide independent and impartial recommendations” on lawmakers’ pay, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

Apprehension and optimism abound in Oklahoma as the Affordable Care Act shifts into higher gear with the opening of the federally-run health-care marketplace on Oct. 1.

At the same time, residents and business owners are awaiting the unveiling of an “Oklahoma Plan” to expand health coverage and improve health outcomes that Gov. Mary Fallin promised in her State of the State speech earlier this year.

These and other topics were discussed Tuesday evening during Oklahoma Watch’s first “Oklahoma Watch-Out” community forum at Kamps 1910 Café in Oklahoma City.

Center for American Progress

A new analysis ranks Oklahoma 48th in the nation for how women are faring in 36 different economic, leadership and health indicators.

The report was released on Wednesday by the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.,-based non-partisan research and educational institute.

State Rep. Randy McDaniel (R-OKC)
Oklahoma House of Representatives

Changes to Oklahoma's public pension systems in recent years have reduced their unfunded liability, but a state lawmaker says more changes are needed to assure their long-term financial health.

State Rep. Randy McDaniel of Edmond said Thursday the $11.6 billion unfunded liability of the state's pension systems poses a major financial challenge to state government. McDaniel says lawmakers must do more to secure retirement pensions for public employees because people are living longer and more people are receiving benefits.

No one who's been paying attention for, say, the past few decades, needs to be reminded of how extremely polarized Washington is.

So it's usually good news when Democrats and Republicans can come together on an issue, as they did recently to support the idea of creating the new honorary position of "Science Laureate of the United States."

prison bars
mikecogh / Flickr Creative Commons

The Pardon and Parole Board can continue its practice of treating some offenders’ crimes as violent even though the offenses are not included in two statutory lists of violent crimes, board members were informed Monday.

Tracy George, Pardon and Parole Board interim executive director, said a recent attorney general’s opinion reaffirmed the practice of treating some crimes as violent although they are not among the violent offenses listed in statute.

GOP Takeover In Oklahoma Explained

Sep 16, 2013
Oklahoma Policy Institute

It wasn’t long ago that to be involved in a meaningful way in Oklahoma politics, office seekers had to have a “D” after their names. But in just a few years, that has turned around so that an “R” is now necessary to have a significant influence in state politics.

That change was not as sudden as it seems, according to political consultant Pat McFerron,“To me the question isn’t, ‘Why we’re so Republican now? It’s why were we so Democrat before?’”

Wikimedia Commons

Election officials say the number of independent voters has outpaced Republicans and Democrats in new voter registrations this year.

In March, Election Board officials removed about 145,000 inactive voters from the rolls. According to the Tulsa World, independents have added 4,582 new voters since then.

Republicans have added 1,544 new voters, while Democrats have decreased by 3,306.

Oklahoma State Capitol
ensign_beedrill / Flickr Creative Commons

State agencies are requesting more than 1,500 capital projects totaling more than $500 million, members of the reformed Long-Range Capital Planning Commission were told Tuesday during their first meeting.

Ben Chase, senior planner with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services’ division of capital assets management, said the requests were submitted by state agencies between February and June.

Gov. Mary Fallin
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law 23 bills to overhaul the state's system for filing and handling civil lawsuits, including a measure some legal experts say creates an unconstitutional barrier to the courts.

Fallin on Tuesday announced that she signed each of the bills sent to her by the House and Senate following a five-day special session to change the state's tort laws.

Oklahoma State Capitol
ensign_beedrill / Flickr Creative Commons

A group of Democratic lawmakers is hosting a rally and a legislative study on the condition of the state's nursing homes after Oklahoma recently received an "F'' grade in a national ranking of the states.

A rally to improve the condition of the state's nursing homes will begin at noon Wednesday on the south steps of the Capitol.

That will be followed by an afternoon study that will include a presentation from the executive director of Families for Better Care.

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