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PM NewsBrief: Feb. 13, 2024

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Tuesday, February 13, 2024.

State Lawmakers Considering Bumping Up Teachers’ Pay

Oklahoma teachers may see another pay raise this year.

Following last year’s raise of $3-6,000, Senate Education Chair Adam Pugh is looking to bump pay a little more this year for Oklahoma teachers with Senate Bill 1313.

It would raise the minimum salary schedule by $1,500-3,000.

The bill got one step closer to becoming a reality Tuesday after passing the Senate Education Committee.

But like several of the Senate’s fiscal education bills this year, lawmakers added an amendment to make the initiative subject to the availability of funds, so dedicated money for the raise is still up in the air.

“Because we’re changing our budget process, we’ve had to change some of the fiscal bills that are running through this committee. ... We want to meet our committee deadlines, but keep bills alive without them necessarily being built into the budget once they pass,” Pugh said.

The bill passed with a lone “nay” vote from Bartlesville Republican Julie Daniels. It now heads to the Senate Appropriations committee.

Update On Ranked-Choice Voting Bill

State lawmakers are considering banning ranked-choice voting in state elections.

A bill that moved through the House Election and Ethics Committee Monday.

Republican Rep. Eric Roberts’ HB 31-56 would ban ranked-choice voting in Oklahoma. The practice involves voters listing candidates for public office in order of preference on their ballots.

“Ranked-choice voting, basically would supplant our current system to put in a pro-rated, preferential, voting method and would basically scrap our existing voting system,” Roberts said.

Democrats in the committee see the voting method as a way to save the state money, reduce partisanship in elections and give third-party candidates a fighting chance.

Roberts said switching to a ranked-choice system would cost the state too much time and money.

He said voting machines in Oklahoma are unable to count ranked ballots. They would need to be replaced or election results could see long delays.

The bill was approved in committee with a 5-2 vote and can now be heard by the full House.

Greg McCortney Selected As Next Oklahoma Senate Leader

Oklahoma Republicans will have a new leader in the Senate next session.

They voted on a Senate Pro Tem for 2025, in a closed-door meeting Monday.

 A new Greg will be running the show for Oklahoma Senate Republicans. Senator Greg McCortney will be the Senate Pro Tem and President in 2025.

Current Senate leader Greg Treat is term-limited and will not be in office next year. He's been the senate's leader since 2019.

McCortney represents his hometown of Ada and currently serves as Republican Majority floor leader after previously chairing the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

McCortney was selected via secret ballot by the Republican caucus in a meeting closed to the public.

He'll be formally appointed to his new role next year and will serve as Pro Tem Designee in the meantime.

Update On Lawton Prison Inmate Death Investigation

Three people were fired in connection with an inmate’s death at a private prison in Southwest Oklahoma.

Raymond Bailey was killed by fellow prisoners at the Lawton Correctional Facility last fall.

A medical examiner’s report shows that there was no evidence of intervention to save Bailey’s life after he was beaten, hogtied and gagged.

The nonprofit newsroom Oklahoma Watch reports violent incidents and allegations of staff misconduct have plagued the Lawton prison.

Workers there have been hospitalized after attacks and the prison’s parent company GEO Group faces a lawsuit for an incarcerated person’s wrongful death last January.

The facility houses more than 2,500 medium and maximum security prisoners.

Three prison staff members were terminated as part of an ongoing internal investigation into Bailey’s murder.

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