KGOU

2015 legislature

Oklahoma City attorney and legislative watchdog Jerry Fent, who has successfully challenged laws in the past, comes out of a hearing room at the State Supreme Court, where a referee heard his lawsuit over House Bill 2562.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

An Oklahoma City attorney claims the state is essentially operating a Ponzi scheme by routinely raiding its Unclaimed Property Fund and using money that belongs to its citizens to fund state government operations. 

Attorney Jerry Fent alleges in a lawsuit filed Monday in Oklahoma County District Court that transfers from the Unclaimed Property Fund maintained by the state treasurer's office are illegal.

Oklahoma State Capitol
mrlaugh / Flickr

The 55th Oklahoma Legislature wrapped up its first session a little over two weeks ago on May 22, one week ahead of the constitutionally required deadline to adjourn.

Lawmakers passed bond issues for widely publicized museums in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa. But the $611 million shortfall in the state budget dominated the conversation from January to May, even though details of the $7.1 billion agreement didn't emerge until shortly before the gavel fell. To plug that gap, lawmakers cut most agency budgets by five to seven percent, and also used monies from the state's Rainy Day Fund and state agency revolving accounts.

Deborah Austin

Legislation intended to protect Oklahoma children from being killed or maimed in traffic accidents has been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.

The bill by House Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Del City requires a child under the age of 2 to be secured in a rear-facing car seat. Children between 2 and 8 or a child shorter than four-feet, nine-inches must be properly secured in an appropriate child-restraint system.

An artist's rendering of the proposed Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture (OKPOP) in Tulsa.
Oklahoma Historical Society

One day after failing to pass a $25 million bond proposal to build a new museum in Tulsa, the Oklahoma House reversed course and narrowly passed a plan to build the facility dedicated to the state's icons of popular culture.

The House voted 51-40 Friday to approve the bond issue, one day after the same measure fell seven votes short of passing. A bill needs 51 votes to pass in the House.

It now heads to Gov. Mary Fallin for consideration.

Toni Pratt-Reid, the owner of three medical clinics, said she could be forced to close two of those clinics if the Oklahoma Health Care Authority reduces the rates it pays nurse practitioners.
M. Scott Carter / Oklahoma Watch

A top Oklahoma health official is warning that the budget crunch may force the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to cut payments to mid-level medical providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, which providers say could lead to the closing of rural clinics.

Facing a $611 million budget gap, state leaders say most agencies will see spending cuts, or at best, a flat budget. But even with a flat budget, Health Care Authority officials said, many low-income residents could see a reduction in health care access and services.

Budget documents released by the Authority indicate the agency is proposing more than $40 million in budget reductions for the 2016 fiscal year. Those cuts range from $2.9 million in administrative cuts to a $5.2 million, or 15 percent, reduction in reimbursement amounts paid to nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists and other mid-level providers.

Doctors could see reimbursement rate cuts of about 2 percent, lawmakers said.

The reductions would lower fee-for-service payments to 85 percent of the Authority’s physician fee schedule.

About 3,250 providers would be affected.

Oklahoma House of Representatives Chamber
http://www.oklegislature.gov/

The Oklahoma House has passed a resolution calling on President Barack Obama and Congress to reaffirm the nation's commitments to protecting religious freedom and condemning the deaths of Christians around the world.

The measure's author, Republican Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City, said Tuesday that the Christian faith is restricted and even banned in some places around the world and a growing number of Christians are being persecuted and killed for practicing the faith.

401(K) 2013 / Flickr Creative Commons

With the state facing a $611 million budget hole, more than 90 Oklahoma businesses, foundations and nonprofit agencies are asking the governor and Republican legislative leaders to halt a scheduled income tax cut.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute delivered a letter Tuesday to Gov. Mary Fallin, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman and House Speaker Jeff Hickman.

Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

The Oklahoma House's top Democrat says his caucus was disappointed by passage of a Republican-backed bill that prohibits cities and towns from regulating oil and natural gas drilling operations.

House Democrat Leader Scott Inman of Del City said Thursday that members of the House minority caucus believe local communities and their leaders should have authority to regulate the drilling operations in their areas.

KellyK / Flickr Creative Commons

Legislation that protects members of the clergy who refuse to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony has been approved by the Oklahoma House and Senate.

The House voted 87-8 for the bill Wednesday while a nearly identical bill passed the Senate on a 38-5 vote. All opposing votes came from Democrats.

The bills protect clergy members and others authorized to perform weddings from being required to perform them if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. They also shield churches from being required to participate in the ceremonies.

The Oklahoma Senate
Becky McCray / Flickr Creative Commons

The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation calling for a statewide vote on whether the right to farm and ranch in Oklahoma shall be "forever guaranteed."

The Senate voted 39-6 for the measure Tuesday and sent it back to the House to consider changes adopted by a Senate committee.

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Gov. Mary Fallin has signed legislation that makes Oklahoma the 15th state in the nation to permit terminally ill patients to have access to experimental medications and procedures that are being used in clinical trials but are not yet on pharmacy shelves.

The measure, known as the Right to Try Act, was among 57 bills Fallin signed into law Tuesday.

Oklahoma Capitol Building
ana branca / Flickr

The Oklahoma Senate has approved Open Records Act legislation that would limit access by the public and media to audio and video recordings obtained from equipment attached to a law enforcement officer or vehicle.

The Senate voted 46-0 for the House-passed bill Tuesday and sent it to a joint House-Senate conference committee for more work. Its Senate author, Republican Sen. David Holt of Bethany, says lawmakers are working with law enforcement and media representatives to fashion the bill's final form.

K. Graham / Flickr Creative Commons

Legislation that would authorize liquor stores to sell refrigerated, high-point beer has been approved by the Oklahoma House.

House members on Wednesday voted 68-21 for the Senate-passed measure. Its author, Republican Rep. Glen Mulready of Tulsa, says the bill will now go to a joint House-Senate conference committee where it may undergo changes before lawmakers seek final passage.

ok.gov

Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed a bill that would have required state agencies to disclose to legislators the authority they have for various agency operations.

Fallin vetoed the bill by Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm Broken Arrow, saying it creates "an unnecessarily complicated administrative process."

The bill would have established a process for legislators to seek from state agencies their legal authority for various functions. Agency directors would have 10 days to respond or be subject to removal from office.

Oklahoma State Capitol
mrlaugh / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Oklahoma voters would decide if the Legislature should dedicate every other year exclusively to writing a state budget under a measure approved by a House committee.

The House Rules Committee voted 8-2 Thursday for the resolution by Republican Rep. Randy Grau of Edmond. It now heads to the full House.

The bill calls for a statewide vote on whether to amend the state constitution and allow the Legislature to draft a budget every year but only take up public policy measures on all other topics in odd-numbered years, with some exceptions.

State Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw)
Provided / Oklahoma House of Representatives

The Oklahoma House has narrowly passed legislation that would extend the state's Quality Jobs Act to chicken egg producers.

House members voted 51-43 on Tuesday for the Senate-passed measure.

Oklahoma's Quality Jobs Act provides cash incentives to companies that create jobs that have good salaries and benefits.

The bill's House author, Republican Rep. John Bennett of Sallisaw, says adding chicken egg producers to the program would encourage poultry companies to create new jobs and expand existing operations in and around his eastern Oklahoma district.

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Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed legislation she says would burden state agencies with needless mandates.

Fallin issued the veto on Monday for legislation known as The Governor's Transparency Act of 2015. The bill was previously adopted by the state House and Senate.

The measure would require state agencies to provide legislative committees with copies of any memorandums of understanding entered into during the legislative session.

Oklahoma State Capitol
mrlaugh / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Oklahoma would become the fourth state in the country to require women to wait 72 hours before receiving an abortion under a bill overwhelmingly approved by a state Senate committee.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services voted 8-1 on Monday for the bill that increases the wait time from 24 to 72 hours after a woman receives required information about the procedure. It now heads to the full Senate.

A bill that gives the Legislature the authority to dramatically alter state agency rules and regulations probably won't be heard this session. The measure failed to receive enough votes in the House Administrative Rules Committee.

Senate Bill 308 would have allowed the Legislature to alter any ruled developed through the Administrative Procedures Act.  Under current law, the Legislature can vote only to approve or disapprove an agency's rules, once the rules have been vetted by the governor's office and the agency.

Local school districts would report accusations of sexual misconduct by teachers to state education officials under legislation approved by the Oklahoma House.

House members voted 61-29 for the measure Thursday and sent it to the state Senate.

The bill authorizes local school districts to give the state Board of Education a superintendent's recommendation to dismiss or not re-hire a teacher if the recommendation includes grounds that could result in criminal charges for sexual abuse or exploitation.

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