KGOU

Oklahoma Politics

Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

The Oklahoma Legislature is convening for a special session to address changes to the way civil lawsuits are handled in the state.

The House and Senate are scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday for the first special session since 2006. It is the first time Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has called a special session.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate say they will need at least five days to pass bills through both chambers.

Oklahoma Capitol Building
ana branca / Flickr

Oklahoma legislators who return to the state Capitol Tuesday to begin a special session to overhaul the state's system for filing civil lawsuits could find some of the heavy lifting on "tort reform" bills already completed.

House and Senate officials say several pieces of a comprehensive 2009 bill that was struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court were addressed by the Legislature in later bills and shouldn't have to be revisited again in the special session.

Former Legislative Leaders Talk Oklahoma Politics

Aug 26, 2013

The Oklahoma political landscape has undergone a major shift to the Republican side of the scale in the last 15 years.

With super GOP majorities in the state House and Senate, and with every statewide elective office in Republican hands, the Democrats have become a definite minority party.

New Website Looking For Opinions On Legislation

Aug 23, 2013
Oklahoma House of Representatives

ECapitol's Shawn Ashley reports the state House of Representatives has "soft launched" a new website designed to allow citizens to submit ideas for its members to consider.

House Media Director Jason Sutton says the site is intended to encourage citizens to be more involved in state government.

Eventually the site will include individual pages for each House member wishing to participate, according to Sutton.

State Chamber of Commerce

Oklahoma state Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman has named a state Chamber of Commerce official as his new press secretary and senior adviser.

Bingman says Jennifer Monies will replace Nathan Atkins. Atkins left Bingman's office staff during the summer to attend law school.

Monies is a former reporter for The Oklahoman and Congressional Quarterly. She has also served as press secretary for two Oklahoma House speakers and has worked for the State Chamber of Oklahoma since 2010.

She will join Bingman's staff on Aug. 30.

State Leaders, Workers Enjoy Ample Health Benefits

Aug 6, 2013
Oklahoma Capitol Building
ana branca / Flickr

When Gov. Mary Fallin and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb go see their primary-care doctors, they pay $30 out of pocket. Their prescriptions cost $10 if they get generics, more if they get name-brand drugs.

Oklahoma taxpayers pick up the entire cost of their insurance premiums, which total $18,113 per year for each of their families.

In fact, the health allowance they receive from the state totals $19,717 a year. They can use the surplus to pay for other state benefits or roll it into their take-home pay.

KellyK / Flickr Creative Commons

The renovated commission responsible for overseeing, among other things, State Capitol repairs should soon begin its work.

John Estus, spokesman for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, said the agency hopes the Long-Range Capital Planning Commission will begin its work in “late summer or early fall.”

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Rep. Ann Coody (R-Lawton) hopes to find a good solution for children with disabilities in her interim study: placement options for students with severe disabilities.

Coody said the study was requested because state and federal laws require school districts to provide free public education for special education students. Currently 95,000 individuals, ages 3 to 21, are identified as having some sort of disability.

Could North Carolina Lead A 'Red-State Resurgence'?

Aug 2, 2013

Pat McCrory hasn't fared too well with protesters.

The Republican governor of North Carolina has signed off on a vast array of conservative legislation this year, cutting taxes, slashing unemployment benefits and abolishing teacher tenure. So much change so fast has led to protests, including "Moral Monday" events staged at the capitol a dozen weeks in a row by the NAACP.

Fraud, Enforcement Focus Of Roofing Legislative Study

Jul 31, 2013
Oklahoma House of Representatives

Rep. Jon Echols said he plans to look at the strength of current Oklahoma roofing code, both by looking at existing regulations and how they are enforced, during an interim study.

“We’re going to bring in all parties, regulatory parties, the roofers, and any interested parties, and talk a little bit about what’s going on in the state and out of state with roofers following Oklahoma roofing code,” said Echols (R-Oklahoma City).

Oklahoma Speaker On Israel Trip

Jul 30, 2013
Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon
Oklahoma House

House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) was among a group of U.S. delegates and state legislators to visit Israel last week organized by the group the American Israel Friendship League.

According to the nonprofit’s website, the AIFL is “dedicated to promoting and strengthening the relationship between the people of the United States and Israel.”

Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's Office

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office has a backlog of more than 1,350 cases.

The Tulsa World reported Sunday that the backlog includes 1,180 cases from this year, 165 from 2012 and seven from 2011.

Amy Elliott is chief administrative officer for the state Medical Examiner's Office. She says the agency has made strides to cut down the amount of time spent on cases, but she says the office doesn't have enough room for the people they need to hire.

Senator Warns Of Judicial Changes In Special Session

Jul 24, 2013
Oklahoma Senate

A letter from a state senator sent to judges in Oklahoma is warning that an anticipated special legislative session will focus on “attacking the judiciary.” But a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin says that assertion is “incorrect.”

The letter from state Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) dated July 22 states, “Based upon some of the rumors I am hearing, I expect that there will be an attempt to place term limits on judges and that there will be an effort to eliminate the Judicial Nominating Commission in order to allow the Governor to have complete judicial appointment authority.”

Oklahoma Capitol Building
ana branca / Flickr

General Revenue Fund collections have increased annually since hitting their “Great Recession” low in fiscal year 2010. Fiscal year 2013 collections totaled $5.575 billion, $1 billion more than the $4.621 billion collected in FY2010, but still remain below their pre-recession high.

Former Treasurer Scott Meacham described FY2010, his last full fiscal year as treasurer and as the man then responsible for the monthly revenue reports, as “the worst fiscal year in recent memory.”

IntelFreePress / Flickr Creative Commons

A recently released survey of states by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows Oklahoma is one of nine states without a texting ban in place, despite some lawmakers’ previous efforts.

Through public awareness campaigns and other grassroots efforts, there has been a 45 percent increase in the last three years in the number of states with texting bans, with 41 states and the District of Columbia having some type of texting ban in place, up from 28 states and D.C. in 2010, the survey data shows.

Senate Leader Supports Special Session

Jul 18, 2013
Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

Governor Mary Fallin says she's discussing a possible special session to resurrect a lawsuit reform bill that was struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the leader of the Senate says he supports the plan.

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said Wednesday he supports the idea of a one-week special session "the sooner the better." House Speaker T.W. Shannon said through a spokesman that he would defer to the governor.

State Rep. Mike Shelton (D-Oklahoma City)
Oklahoma House

A Democratic lawmaker from Oklahoma City says he intends to convene an interim study in the fall to conduct a review of the state's so-called "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law and open carry laws.

Rep. Mike Shelton said Wednesday he wants to bring together members from law enforcement, the mental health community and others to examine if Oklahoma firearms laws "best suit our needs and our situation."

Based on Florida's law, Oklahoma's "Stand Your Ground" law essentially allows law abiding citizens who are attacked in public to use deadly force if they feel threatened.

russavia / Creative Commons

The director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission says an audit of the agency has found no financial irregularities.

The audit was requested by Governor Mary Fallin following the resignation in November of long-time Ethics Commission Director Marilyn Hughes and covered the period from July 2009 through November. Such audits are considered routine when an agency head leaves.

Suzette Grillot and Rebecca Cruise discuss Friday evening's "Syria: Not Our War" protest at the State Capitol, and what questions it raises about the growing U.S. involvement in Syria.

Rajdeep Singh, the Washington, D.C. Director of Law and Policy for the New York City-based Sikh Coalition, discusses his organization's civil rights work, including their 2009 effort in Oklahoma to stop legislation from advancing that would have prohibited motorists from wearing head scarves or other coverings in their driver’s license photos.

Oklahoma House of Representatives / YouTube

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers and other activists plan to hold a rally at the Oklahoma Capitol Friday evening to protest growing U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war.

State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R-Moore) is one of the organizers of the rally. He says giving arms, ammunition, and political support to a disunited group of rebels is a “grave error.”

“There are [sic] a coalition of over six groups that are involved in trying to overthrow the Assad government,” Wesselhoft said in a press conference Wednesday. “At least two of these groups we know to be known terrorist organizations that have attacked us in the past.”

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