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Oklahoma Politics

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.

Lawmakers Approve Income Tax Cut Despite Threat of Reimbursment Costs

May 6, 2013
401(K) 2013 / Flickr Creative Commons

A lawsuit by an out-of-state company that challenges a tax break on capital gains for Oklahoma-based businesses is causing some concern at the state Capitol.

An analysis on the potential costs of a tax reimbursement show Oklahoma could be on the hook for as much as $480 million if the court rules in favor of tax payers.

Republican State Rep. Jeff Hickman raised the issue during questions on a tax cut bill approved by the House last week. But budget negotiators said any repercussions of the capital gains issue should be worked out apart from the state budget.

Okla. Legislators, Governor Reach Deal on Budget

May 3, 2013
Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

Lawmakers have until the end of this month to complete their work, including the passing of a state budget. The adjournment date might come sooner with the announcement of an agreement on how to spend the state’s money.

The budget to pay for Oklahoma’s government will be $7.1 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1, under an agreement between Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders. For most state agencies the amount of money they’ll receive in the new budget year is the same as last, but Fallin says the largest increase in the budget is for public schools in Oklahoma.

Jose Kevo / Flickr

Some state legislators are calling for a moratorium on public school testing after a number of computer glitches were reported by state education officials.

Longtime school administrator and State Rep. Curtis McDaniel (D-Smithville) says it would be unfair to subject students to testing this year after ``a ton of problems'' have been reported with the process.

Computer Crash Stops State Testing of Students

Apr 30, 2013

Students in Oklahoma and Indiana were among those who had their state-mandated tests halted due to problems with computer servers in New Jersey.

State Property Smoking Ban Approved

Apr 23, 2013
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

The Oklahoma House has approved a bill that puts into state law Gov. Mary Fallin's executive order banning smoking on state property.

Fallin signed the executive order against smoking in state buildings last year. The House passed a bill 76-14 Tuesday that would expand the ban to properties that aren't buildings and would allow cities and counties to ban smoking on their properties.

The bill now goes to the governor for her signature.

Okla. House Kills Texting and Driving Ban Again

Apr 23, 2013
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

The Oklahoma House for the third time this session has derailed a proposal to ban texting while driving.  

The latest text ban attempt came in the form of an amendment by State Rep. Curtis McDaniel (D-Smithville) on a bill dealing with reckless driving penalties.

The amendment was tabled Tuesday with a 49-37 vote.  

Provided

House Democrats started off the week by gathering members of their caucus and supporters of an expansion to the Medicaid insurance program. House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City) says Oklahomans have sent approximately $27 billion in taxpayer dollars to the federal government.

“We come together as a community of Oklahoma citizens today and call upon our governor and our legislative leaders to just bring some of those $27 billion back to Oklahoma to take care of those people who desperately need healthcare.”

Provided

The House Judiciary Committee this week approved workers' compensation legislation by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa), but didn’t get in any hurry about it.

The novel-length bill that would move the decision on how to compensate injured workers from a court-based system to an administrative one is another step closer to being law. The hearing on the bill was delayed by two weeks while the House made changes to fix some problems in the plan.

Oklahoma doesn’t like to raise taxes, and in 1992 voters passed a state question that required massive legislative majorities to do so.

While he says he supports the Oklahoma constitutional requirement of free public education for grades K-12, state Rep. Mike Reynolds doesn't extend his backing to higher education.

Bubbles of Blue and Red Show Legislative Makeup

Apr 4, 2013

This is mainly fun, but Oklahoma Watch has turned members of the state Legislature into data bubbles. Look and see while the circles zip into their order.

Tax Cut Tussle: House Speaker Says Reduction Can't Wait

Apr 4, 2013
Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon
Oklahoma House

A new plan to reduce Oklahoma's top personal income tax rate has emerged in the Senate with a delay until 2015, but that change is not supported by House Speaker T.W. Shannon.

“I think that’s a fundamental step in the wrong direction,” Shannon said. “We need to provide tax relief now and not delay it another year.”

State Question 766 passed in November 2012, and eliminated the tax on intangible property: business licenses, trade secrets, company logos, things with value beyond their physical traits. Five months later, a new estimate predicts the impact could be double that, and administrators are wondering what it means for their districts.

The fate of a bill that would stop communities from putting parts of a voluntary United Nations sustainability program called Agenda 21 into place may not make it out of a state Senate committee. Oklahoma Tea Party leader Al Gerhart is under investigation for an email he sent to Sen. Cliff Branan promising trouble if the bill failed in the senator's committee.

Gov. Fallin Restores Horse Slaughter in Oklahoma

Mar 29, 2013
Dave Hoefler / Flickr (Creative Commons)

While eliminating a ban on horse processing plants in Oklahoma wasn’t on the top of the policy agenda for Gov. Mary Fallin, late Friday she signed a bill that overturns a five decade long ban on the practice.

How you view the horse and its role in American life, likely also determines where you are in the debate over allowing the processing of horsemeat in Oklahoma.

If “companion animal,” or “pet,” comes first to mind, you’re probably against the slaughter of horses. And according to a recent SoonerPoll.com public opinion survey, you also agree with the majority of Oklahomans.

But if you think of horses as “work animals,” or “tools” to help on the ranch or farm, you are probably in favor of House Bill 1999. The Senate approved the bill 32-14 this week.

No "Black Helicopters" at State Capitol

Mar 26, 2013
Marshall Astor / Flickr (Creative Commons)

A state environmental group says Oklahoma lawmakers are wasting their time focusing on legislation intended to feed an extremist agenda. The Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club specifically targeted a bill by Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City dealing with an international takeover of Oklahoma the environmental organization says doesn’t exist.

Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Last month, Gov. Mary Fallin announced her plans to support an initiative petition in 2014 to change the way tobacco is regulated in Oklahoma.

“A direct vote to the people is very new, and is a dramatic new tactic to repeal tobacco control preemption in Oklahoma,” said Michael Givel, a University of Oklahoma political scientist and the co-author of the upcoming book Heartland Tobacco War, out this summer.

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