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2016 Oklahoma Legislative Session

Students rally against Oklahoma City Public Schools budget cuts in May 2016.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

A new statewide survey found that at least 2,800 public school jobs have been lost to budget cuts this year.

The survey, conducted by the Oklahoma State School Board Association, showed that 1,500 of those jobs lost were teaching positions and 1,300 were support staff.

The OSSBA conducted the survey during the first two weeks of August. Districts representing about 83 percent of the state’s public school enrollment participated.

Other survey results show:

Wind turbines at dusk
Samir Luther / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Oklahoma remained No. 4 in the U.S. in installed wind power capacity during the second quarter of 2016, but a national industry group expects the state to move up the ranks by the end of the year.

No new wind farms have been completed in recent months, according to a report from the American Wind Energy Association, but more than 1,100 megawatts are currently under construction, The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports:

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Oklahoma midyear state budget cuts were deeper than necessary, and now the state has $140.8 million that it can allocate to agencies. Gov. Mary Fallin is considering calling a special session of the legislature to use those funds to give teachers a pay raise.

An active aggregate mining operation near Mill Creek, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s four primary environmental agencies have lost more than $15 million in state appropriations and tens of millions of dollars in legislatively directed reductions to revolving funds, OETA reports.

Mike Mason taught science at Putnam City and Mustang high schools.
Oklahoma Watch

The idea of running for public office, much less being part of the Oklahoma Legislature, was never on Mike Mason’s mind during his 31-year career as a science teacher at Putnam City High School and Mustang High School.

That, however, changed after he agreed to meet with Oklahoma Education Association leaders earlier this year about whether he would consider running for office. Already upset at the state’s relatively low education funding, Mason received encouragement and decided to jump into the Senate District 47 contest in south Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma state Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, talks with a colleague on the Senate floor during a committee meeting in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, May 17, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

When Oklahoma’s $6.8 billion spending plan was unveiled in late May, it was greeted with a mixture of sharp criticism over its cuts and revenue patches and, in some sectors, relief that the reductions were not more severe.

From all sides, however, there was one common reaction to the 114-page budget bill: surprise.

Oklahoma House Minority Leader Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, gestures on the House floor on the final day of the Legislative session, in Oklahoma City, Friday, May 27, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

A report commissioned by the Tulsa Regional Chamber estimates the final two weeks of the 2016 legislative session was worth $50.9 million of bad publicity.

The Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel reports that's based on what's known as the advertising value equivalency of news coverage of a transgender bathroom bill, public education funding, and the state budget crisis:

Oklahoma state Treasurer Ken Miller speaks during a news conference n Oklahoma City, Wednesday, July 8, 2015.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

State Treasurer Ken Miller gave the 2016 legislative session a grade of “C” in his annual Oklahoma Economic Report out Tuesday.

Miller said lawmakers faced a difficult budget challenge this year as they tried to figure out how to close a $1.3 billion gap. But he says House and Senate members also left an opportunity on the table to make significant structural reforms to Oklahoma’s budgeting process, something Gov. Mary Fallin outlined in her State of the State address earlier this year.

Adam Burnett / KGOU

Despite Oklahoma drivers’ licenses not being Real ID compliant, the Transportation Security Administration will continue to accept them as sufficient identifications to board domestic flights – at least for another couple of years.

A TSA spokesperson told The Oklahoman the agency will continue to accept the licenses through the compliance deadline in the middle of January 2018, although the state could see an extension through October of 2020.

Gov. Mary Fallin speaking at the 2013 Governor's Energy Conference in Tulsa, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday signed into law legislation that banks boom-time tax revenues to cushion the state during energy downturns.

The Energy Revenues Stabilization Act was created through House Bill 2763, authored by Rep. John Montgomery, R-Lawton. The measure siphons off above-average tax revenues levied on corporations and oil and gas production and saves it in an account that can be tapped during state funding emergencies.

Oklahoma state Capitol
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

On Friday, lawmakers finished their work for the year and can now dive into the campaign season.

The state’s $6.8 billion budget dominated the conversation at NE 23rd and Lincoln, and it’s still on voters’ minds even after the legislature adjourned.

Depending on how they voted on the budget, House and Senate will have to defend it or point out its flaws. The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt reports lawmakers are preparing for constituent questions:

Oklahoma Sending Cash To Companies That Pay No Income Tax

May 28, 2016
money, cash
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Some state lawmakers are justifying their decision to curtail a tax credit for the working poor by declaring that the state shouldn’t be subsidizing people who owe no income taxes in the first place.

But the state has several tax breaks on the books that do essentially the same thing for businesses. Through a combination of direct refunds, rebates and tax credit “transfers,” companies with no income tax liability are receiving cash subsidies.

State representatives Scott Inman, D-Del City, and Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, debate on the Oklahoma House floor on May 27, 2016.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After hours of debate Friday, the Oklahoma House drew the 2016 legislative session to a close by passing a $6.8 billion budget deal to fund government operations in the 2017 fiscal year.

 

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, left, talks to House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, before Gov. Mary Fallin delivered her State of the State address, February 1, 2016.
J. Pat Carter / AP

Shortly after noon Friday, the Oklahoma Senate adjourned sine die. At the same time, members of the House entered the third hour of questions on the $6.8 billion budget bill to fund state government for the 2017 fiscal year that begins July 1.

beer bottles
ThreeIfByBike / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Oklahomans will have a chance to vote on expanding the state’s liquor laws this November.

State representatives approved Senate Joint Resolution 68 and its counterpart Senate Bill 383 on Thursday. The bill provides a new outline allowing full-strength, chilled beer to be sold in grocery and convenience stores and would require clerks who sell alcohol to be at least 18-years-old should voters approve a state question this fall.

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