KGOU

Oklahoma Politics

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon
Oklahoma House

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon is planning to release a list of legislative studies that lawmakers will take up before the 2014 Legislature convenes in February.

Shannon is expected to release the list on Friday, the deadline for study requests by lawmakers to be approved or denied. Former House Speaker Kris Steele approved studies on 59 topics out of 89 individual requests last year.

Interim studies give lawmakers an opportunity to receive testimony and examine issues in depth to decide whether to draft legislation on a particular topic.

Henry Gass / Flickr Creative Commons

Nearly a year ago, a white supremacist killed six people and wounded four others at a Sikh temple in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek.

The August 5, 2012 attack in Wisconsin was one of several incidents in the past decade against members of the South Asian religion.

“Unfortunately, in the post-9/11 environment, the prevailing stereotype is that if somebody wears a turban, they're affiliated with al-Qaeda,” says Rajdeep Singh, the Washington, D.C. Director of Law and Policy for the New York City-based Sikh Coalition. “And I think this has explained a lot of the violence and bigotry that is too-often directed at Sikhs.”

In 2009 the Sikh Coalition worked to stop Oklahoma legislation from advancing that would have prohibited motorists from wearing head scarves or other coverings in their driver’s license photos.

State of Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin's Secretary of Education Phyllis Hudecki is the latest member of the governor's cabinet to announce her resignation, becoming the third to step down in as many months.

Fallin's office announced Tuesday that Hudecki planned to resign her post effective July 15 so that she could resume full-time duties as head of the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition. Hudecki had been serving part-time as an OBEC executive while she served on the governor's cabinet.

401(K) 2013 / Flickr Creative Commons

The Oklahoma Tax Commission says the state could lose as much as $450 million if a court ruling about a capital-gains tax deduction stands.

The Tulsa World reports the Tax Commission this week asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling or prevent the ruling from being applied retroactively.

In January, the Court of Civil Appeals said a state law was unconstitutional. That law treats capital gains tax deductions of Oklahoma-based companies differently from those of out-of-state companies.

Tax Credits / Flickr Creative Commons

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education heard from the state’s university and college presidents Wednesday to discuss tuition and fee increases for the coming school year.

ECapitol reports, if the regents approve the increases, costs for attendance at Oklahoma’s institutions of higher learning will go up 4.7 percent, on average.

newslighter / Flickr Creative Commons

Senators requested a total of 55 interim studies by Friday’s deadline for submitting their proposals. ECapitol reports the proposed studies cover a variety of different issues.

Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner, for example, requested a study of the certification process for dialysis centers, Interim Study Request 2013S-22.

Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, has requested a study of the taxes and youth access to e-cigarettes. Johnson was the author of one bill related to the issue during the legislative session and contributed language concerning the products for another bill, neither of which was approved.

Tax Credits / Flickr (Creative Commons)

With an unfunded liability among Oklahoma's seven major pension systems exceeding $11 billion, several Republican leaders have said changing from a traditional pension to a 401(k)-style retirement account for new state workers will be a top priority during the 2014 legislative session.

The unfunded liability is the amount owed to pensioners beyond what the system currently afford to pay. It has become a growing concern for Gov. Mary Fallin and other state leaders, who say it hinders the state's effort to improve its bond rating.

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.)
Provided / U.S. House of Representatives

Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma is denying that he was ever briefed on cell phone and Internet surveillance by the National Security Agency that sweeps up an estimated 3 billion phone calls a day and collects Internet data from U.S. providers in an attempt to stop terror attacks.

Mullin said in a statement Saturday that comments that he and his colleagues in Congress knew of the surveillance "is absolutely false."

President Barack Obama said Friday that "every member of Congress" was briefed on the spy programs.

Logrolling: Court Throws Out Law Limiting Lawsuits

Jun 4, 2013
Oklahoma Supreme Court 2013

The Oklahoma Supreme Court says a law adopted in 2009 to reform Oklahoma's civil justice system is unconstitutional.

The state's highest court handed down the decision Tuesday in a divided 7-2 ruling. In a separate decision, the court said a requirement that injured people submit a certificate of merit before they can file professional malpractice lawsuits is unconstitutional.

Survey: No Cuts Needed To Offset Disaster Spending

May 30, 2013

While Oklahomans continue to recover from last week's tornadoes, a new study shows a majority of people support spending on natural disasters without compensating for the cash by cutting other areas.

Legislative Session Over, But Health Questions Remain

May 28, 2013
Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

Gov. Mary Fallin gave lawmakers an 'A' grade for approving much of her agenda during the recently concluded legislative session, but at least one key issue remains unresolved, which is how the state plans to address the more than 630,000 Oklahomans without health insurance.

Fallin rejected the opportunity under the federal health care law to expand Medicaid coverage to nearly 200,000 people without health insurance, saying last November that doing so would prove too costly to the state and the country.

Do I Need A Permit To Die In Oklahoma?

May 16, 2013

A new law modeled after legislation written by the National Right to Life Committee could influence end-of-life decisions in Oklahoma. Critics say the law limits options, while supporters say it prevents doctors from going against the desires of patients and their families.

African-American Judges Honored By State Senate

May 16, 2013
Brian Hardzinski / Photo Illustration

Four groundbreaking African-American judges have been honored by the Oklahoma Senate.

The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution honoring U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange, Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Tom Colbert, Court of Criminal Appeals Judge David Lewis and Tulsa County District Court Judge Carlos Chappelle.

Miles-LaGrange was the first African-American elected chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma in 2008.

Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to sign a bill heading her way that would provide $7.1 billion to fund state government.

The state Senate gave final legislative approval to the general appropriations bill Tuesday that increases spending by nearly $270 million over the current year’s budget.

Eight Republicans joined the dozen Senate Democrats in opposing the legislation.

Fallin, Calling For "True Reform," Vetoes Pension Bill

May 11, 2013
401(K) 2013 / Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed a bill that would have given state workers the option of enrolling in a defined contribution retirement plan similar to a 401(k).

The bill by Oklahoma City Republican Rep. Randy McDaniel that Fallin vetoed Friday would have allowed state employees hired after July 2014 to choose between a defined contribution option and the current defined benefit system. The bill was approved earlier this week by the House on a 72-20 vote.

Democrats in the House argued the bill would increase the risk involved in state workers' retirement years.

State Senator To Seek Democratic Party Post

May 10, 2013
Connie Johnson, Democratic Nominee For the U.S. Senate.
Oklahoma Senate

A state senator from Oklahoma City has announced her candidacy for chairwoman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

State Sen. Constance Johnson (D-Oklahoma City) said Friday she will seek the post during the party's annual convention on Saturday, May 18. Democratic campaign strategist Jed Green will seek the vice-chair position.

Current Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins also is seeking re-election to the post, along with current vice-chair Dana Orwig. Collins is a former Democratic state legislator from Norman.

State leaders have been looking for a way to cover thousands of uninsured Oklahomans after Gov. Mary Fallin rejected a federal expansion of Medicaid. A consultant told the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to look toward Arkansas for an answer.

Prison Workers At "Breaking Point," Seek More Funding

May 9, 2013
Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

Oklahoma prison workers say they are worn out due to staffing shortages, low wages and the increasing prison population.

About a dozen uniformed prison guards visited the state Capitol Wednesday, urging lawmakers to reconsider their decision not to support a pay raise for workers at the Department of Corrections.

“DOC is at a breaking point,” said Sgt. David Edelman, an officer at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center. “We are being forced to do 60-to-80 hours a week, and used to we could ask for overtime, but not anymore, we’re being forced.”        

A $12 million proposal to give prison workers a five percent pay increase stalled earlier this session in a House committee.

Consultant Keeping Oklahoma Health Plan Under Wraps

May 8, 2013

The public will get its first glimpse of an Oklahoma plan to provide health care to uninsured residents. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is supposed to present some of the findings from the study at its Thursday meeting. The entire report, though, is not being released.

License to Drive Could Cost More

May 6, 2013
Oklahoma Dept. of Public Safety

The cost of getting a driver's license in Oklahoma will go up by about $12 under a bill making its way to Gov. Mary Fallin's desk.

The Senate voted 30-15 on Monday to approve the bill that would increase the cost of issuing or renewing a standard driver's license from $21.50 to $33.50.

The cost of various commercial drivers' licenses also is going up by $10. The new rates will be effective Nov. 1.

Pages