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2017 Oklahoma Legislative Session

Oklahoma state Rep. Charles McCall, right, R-Atoka, Speaker of the House, answers a question during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Thursday, April 13, 2017. McCall discussed the budget and teacher pay raises.
Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo

 

 


 

What happened at the Capitol this week?

 

Oklahoma lawmakers are plugging away at a 2018 state budget--figuring out where the state’s money will come from and where it will go.

 

Lights from a drilling rig near Watonga, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 2017 legislative session is beyond the halfway point and the clock is ticking on lawmakers who have until the end of May to set the state’s budget and plug an $870 million funding hole. Legislators say every option is on the table, including one with growing public support: Increasing taxes on oil and gas.

First, it was state Democrats like minority leader Scott Inman, who have long argued Oklahoma’s taxes are too generous for oil and gas companies.

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

With a little less than two months until the end of this legislative session, the Oklahoma House and Senate are considering bills covering a wide range of topics, from gun rights to teacher pay raises.

Bill to loosen Oklahoma gun laws failed in Senate

House Bill 2323 would have allowed a citizen 21 or older, without a felony, to carry a loaded gun in their vehicle without a valid handgun license.

Clinton, Oklahoma, resident Cindy Box and her Horse, Rosie, at Foss State Park.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

In March, the legislature asked state agencies how they would deal with worst-case budget reductions of nearly 15 percent. A cut that deep at the Department of Tourism could cost Oklahoma half of its state parks.

Bob Kerr on his ranch near Carnegie, Okla., which is flanked by turbines from the Blue Canyon Wind Farm.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

 

One major tax incentive for wind energy remains on the books in Oklahoma. And the Legislature is poised to end it — more than three years early. The politics of renewable energy have changed as state revenues have failed, but some wind producers say lawmakers are reneging on a deal that sends a bad message to any industry considering investing in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s wind industry has grown year after year. With 3,400 turbines spread across 41 wind farm projects, the state ranks No. 3 in the nation in the American Wind Energy Association’s report on wind power capacity.

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Bills in the Oklahoma legislature faced a major deadline Thursday: they had to pass in their chamber of origin to continue through the legislative process. Bills affecting anti-discriminatory laws were not successful, but two teacher pay raise measures will move ahead.

Oklahoma prosecutors have filed child prostitution charges against state Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, after police found him in a hotel room with a 17-year-old boy.
Cleveland County Sheriff's Office via AP

 

Leaders in the Oklahoma senate wasted little time to strip state Sen. Ralph Shortey of most of his privileges last Wednesday when allegations emerged that the Oklahoma City Republican had allegedly offered money for sex with a teenage boy.

“Abruptly, late Wednesday morning, the Senate took a recess and the Senate Republicans began caucusing behind closed doors,” eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley told KGOU during his weekly Capitol Insider interview.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

 

The Oklahoma legislature faces an approximately $880 million budget shortfall, and proposals to increase revenue have not gained traction. Meanwhile, the House passed a bill this week that would incrementally increase teacher pay.

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma state House of Representatives furthered a bill Thursday that would roll back part of a state question that was approved by voters in November.

Oklahomans voted in favor of State Questions 780 and 781 last year, which reduced simple drug possession from a felony crime to a misdemeanor.

In debate on the House floor, Republican Representative Tim Downing, R-Purcell, said House Bill 1482 would give district attorneys the discretion to enhance simple drug possession to a felony if it occurs within 1,000 feet of a school

Edmond resident Jonathon Stranger in his 2013 Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

A bill passed by the state House of Representatives Wednesday would impose an annual fee on owners of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles in Oklahoma, and that’s leaving some electric car owners feeling singled out.

A gray 2013 Nissan Leaf sits in Edmond resident Jonathon Stranger’s driveway.

“There’s no gas. There’s no motor oil,” Stranger says. “It’s the future.”

Oklahoma Watch

State lawmakers are officially at the one-quarter point of this year’s legislative session after wrapping up four weeks’ worth of work.

So far only one bill – the Real ID compliance act – has made it through the Legislature and been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. And there remains plenty to do to find a solution to the state’s $878 million budget gap and tackle the hundreds of bills that remain at alive this point.

Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger speaks during a meeting of the State Board of Equalization in Oklahoma City, Monday, June 20, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

Moments after explaining how another state revenue failure will require millions of dollars of mid-year budget cuts, Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger issued a warning to lawmakers and top state officials.

“I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that the time for action is now,” he said at last week’s Board of Equalization meeting, at which the group also certified revenue figures that show an $878 million shortfall for next year. “It’s not a game. We need new revenue.”

 

Oklahomans will have the option to get new identification cards in compliance with the federal government’s REAL ID Act. Also this week, a major rating agency decreased the state’s credit rate, which could make the capitol restoration more expensive.

Governor Mary Fallin signed the REAL ID Act into effect on Thursday to make Oklahoma state licenses comply with federal minimum safety standards of identification.

The Department of Public Safety must now find a provider to issue the IDs.

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

 

Gov. Mary Fallin announced this week that Oklahoma will face a revenue failure during the current fiscal year. At the same time, Republican lawmakers are backing away from one of Fallin’s proposals to bring more revenue into the state - a $1.50 tax increase on cigarettes.

The state will not bring in as much individual income, corporate income and sales tax collections this fiscal year as the state equalization board had budgeted for.

 

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Gov.  Mary Fallin at the Board of Equalization meeting on Feb. 21, 2017.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma Board of Equalization declared a revenue failure for the current fiscal year, which will result in mid-year appropriations cuts to state agencies.

State agencies will receive across board cuts of 0.7 percent between March and June of this year. In total, agencies will be cut by $34.6 million.

Preston Doerflinger, the Director and Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology, said the situation is dire and more revenue is needed.

 

The Oklahoma legislature could make big changes to the state sales taxes this session in an attempt to balance an estimated $870 million budget shortfall and provide a pay raise to teachers.

In her state of the state speech on Monday, Governor Mary Fallin proposed a pair of tax cuts, coupled with an expansion of the state’s sales tax system that would raise Oklahoma’s tax revenue by $1.1 billion.

Gov. Mary Fallin during her 2015 State of the State address Feb. 2, 2015.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

 

As Governor Mary Fallin prepares for her State of the State address on Monday, February 6th, the Oklahoma legislature looks at changes involving taxes, criminal justice and disciplining some of their own.

At the Associated Press Legislative Forum on Thursday, Gov. Fallin said she wants to see, “a major overhaul of our tax system.”

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

The Oklahoma legislature will consider bills covering a wide range of topics in its upcoming session.

eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley told KGOU’s Dick Pryor that lawmakers will tackle issues including handguns, abortion and how to fix the state’s estimated $900 million budget shortfall.

“Really every aspect of state law, state government is touched by the bills that were filed this year,” said Shawn Ashley.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Among the deluge of bills filed by state legislators in advance of the upcoming session are more than two dozen proposals to boost teacher pay.

Teachers, disappointed by the defeat of State Question 779, which would have generated about $550 million a year for education through a 1 percent sales tax, say they’re counting on legislators to do more than just talk.

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

Oklahoma’s legislative session begins in a couple of weeks. Lawmakers will have to grapple with an estimated $900 million budget shortfall, low levels of education funding, and a crowded prison system, among other problems.

KGOU’s Dick Pryor spoke with eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley about the upcoming session.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On filling a $900 million budget hole:

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