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Statement from Senate Democratic Leader on Oklahoma Supreme Court Ruling on State Question 799

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OKLAHOMA CITY- Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks released the following statement on the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to declare Referendum Petition 25, State Question 799 invalid and stricken from the ballot:

 

“Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that State Question 799, Referendum Petition 25 is invalid. While the Oklahoma Constitution empowers citizens to initiate a referendum petition, it is also very clear what the process and procedures are which must be followed to place the referendum on the ballot. In their rush to begin collecting signatures, the group calling itself ‘Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite!’ and former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn failed to include an accurate gist explaining the purpose of the referendum, and also did not attach an exact copy of the law it seeks to repeal.

 

With the effort to repeal the revenue package by referendum stalled, the focus should now return to enacting long term, sustainable revenue to properly fund education in Oklahoma.”

One Oklahoma child will get $5,529 toward their college savings

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OKLAHOMA CITY (June 4, 2018) – State Treasurer Ken Miller announces the launch of the 2018 Summer Savings Adventure Sweepstakes, which will see one Oklahoma child win $5,529 toward an Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan account.

Working together with two Oklahoma City Adventure District Partners, Science Museum Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Zoo, the Summer Savings Adventure encourages families to take time this summer to plan how they will pay for college.

“The first and best advice for anyone looking to pay for a college education is to make a plan,” said Miller, board chair of the Oklahoma 529 Savings Plan (OCSP). “Summer is great time for families to research the resources available to them, like OCSP, look at their budget and start saving for their children’s futures.”

This is the third year OCSP has partnered with the Oklahoma City Zoo and Science Museum Oklahoma for the sweepstakes. Miller said it’s a great fit because each organization is dedicated to a mission of lifetime learning.

“We couldn’t have better partners than the Oklahoma City Zoo and Science Museum Oklahoma,” Miller said. “Generations of families have made lifelong memories and explored the sciences at both of these Oklahoma institutions, and I’m proud that they are helping OCSP to raise awareness about saving for higher education.”

The 2018 Summer Savings Adventure Sweepstakes officially launches today and will close on July 31, 2018. Sweepstakes entry, official rules and additional information is available at www.ok4saving.org. The winner will be randomly selected and formally announced shortly after the sweepstakes concludes.

The sweepstakes is open to Oklahoma residents who are parents, grandparents or legal guardians who are at least 21 years old and have a child or grandchild 16 years old or younger who is also an Oklahoma resident.

OCSP serves almost 30,000 account owners with more than $850 million in college savings assets. OCSP account owners make an average monthly contribution of $269 to their accounts. (Data through 12/31/17.)  For more facts and figure about how Oklahomans are saving for college, visit www.ok4saving.org/documents/OK_infographic_may2018.pdf.

For more information about the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan visit www.ok4saving.org or call (877) 654-7284. Funding for OCSP prizes comes from the marketing budget of the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan; no state funds are used.

 About the OCSP

 Introduced in April 2000, the Oklahoma 529 College Saving Plan (OCSP) is Oklahoma’s direct-sold 529 college savings plan. It is designed for families who want to direct their own 529 college savings accounts. The plan is managed by TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc. Introduced in March 2009, OklahomaDream 529 Plan is offered through financial advisors and is managed by Allianz Global Investors.  As of April 30, 2018, combined assets in both plans exceed $1 billion.

Oklahoma taxpayers may deduct, from their Oklahoma adjusted gross income, up to $10,000 in contributions to the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan for individual taxpayers and up to $20,000 for taxpayers filing a joint return with a five-year carryforward. Read the Disclosure Booklet carefully.

Consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing in the Oklahoma College Savings Plan. Please visitwww.ok4saving.org or call toll-free 1-877-654-7284 for a Plan Disclosure Booklet containing this and more information. Read it carefully.

 Check with your home state to learn if it offers tax or other benefits such as financial aid, scholarships and protection from creditors for investing in its own 529 plan.  Investments in the Plan are neither insured nor guaranteed and there is the risk of investment loss.

 Taxpayers should seek advice based on their own particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. If the funds aren’t used for qualified higher education expenses, a 10% penalty tax on earnings (as well as federal and state income taxes) may apply.     

 Investments in the Plan are neither insured nor guaranteed and there is the risk of investment loss.

TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., Program Manager. TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, member FINRA and SIPC, distributor and underwriter for the Oklahoma College Savings Plan.

Sen. Nathan Dahm calls on legislature to correct years of veto decisions

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‘Over the last eight years we have seen decisions from the governor that are out of step with the will of the people, with the Republican party platform, and with the Constitution.’—Sen. Nathan Dahm

Broken Arrow, OK – Sen. Nathan Dahm has started the process for legislators to call themselves back into session to pass legislation vetoed by Gov. Mary Fallin.

“Over the last eight years we have seen decisions from the governor that are out of step with the will of the people, with the Republican Party platform, and with the Constitution,” said Dahm, R-Broken Arrow. “We have seen Governor Fallin use her veto pen to kill bills that would have brought transparency and accountability to government, reined in out of control agency rules, get parents more involved in education, restore our Second Amendment rights, return local control back to communities, secure parental rights in healthcare decisions, streamline and modernize state government, restore private property rights, change the budgeting system for long term planning, and more. This would afford us the opportunity to correct those mistakes without having to wait another year to do so.”

In order to enter a special session, two-thirds of both the House and the Senate must agree to return.

“The Oklahoma Constitution allows for the Legislature to call itself back into session with two-thirds of both the House and the Senate. It appears likely we will return back to the Capitol for at least one more special session this summer or fall. If we will be returning for another session, it would seem an opportune time to simultaneously deal with these measures the Governor has vetoed,” Dahm said.

So far, the following members have already signed on to the resolution: Reps. Sean Roberts; Greg Babinec; Bobby Cleveland; Jeff Coody; Jon Echols; George Faught; Tom Gann; Lewis Moore; Zack Taylor; Kevin West; Rick West; Mark Lawson; and Sens. Nathan Dahm; Josh Brecheen; James Leewright; and Anthony Sykes.

Dahm has the first ever veto override of a Republican governor by a Republican legislature in state history. In 2014 Fallin vetoed HB2461, a pro-Second Amendment bill supported by the NRA, OK2A, and other gun rights groups when she included the bill in a group of vetoes in an attempt to force the legislature to focus on her preferred agenda items. The Legislature overrode the veto in a historic move and by doing so furthered Second Amendment protections that would have otherwise been stalled by Fallin.

Dahm represents Oklahoma’s 33rd district. He was first elected in 2012.

For more information, contact Sen. Nathan Dahm, 405-521-5551 or dahm@oksenate.gov.

Senate bills filed for 2018 session

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The Senate has completed filing bills for the Second Session of the 56th Legislature. A total of 706 Senate bills were filed along with 23 Senate Joint Resolutions. In 2016, a total of 831 Senate bills and 46 Senate Joint Resolutions were filed.

The deadline does not apply to appropriations bills which can be filed throughout the session. In addition, substantive bills can be introduced during the session after the filing deadline. In order for this to occur, the Majority Floor Leader must assign it to a committee and the entire committee becomes the published author of the bill. Such bills must still be heard on the floor by March 22, the deadline for floor votes on legislation originating in the Senate. Measures not heard within that time frame will be considered dead and cannot be reconsidered.

The process of authoring bills by committee was first adopted by the Senate in 2015 to do away with shell bills, which were bills with no language used as vehicles for measures later in the session. The change was aimed at increasing transparency in the legislative process.

Legislation can be read and downloaded through the official State Senate website at www.oksenate.gov by following the link for Legislation at the top of the homepage. The Senate website also includes daily agendas, meeting notices, calendars, and other helpful information.

You can also follow the Oklahoma State Senate on Twitter at OKSENATEINFO.

The Senate offers streaming audio and video from the Senate Chamber, as well as from all committee rooms. Wireless Internet access is available to all Capitol visitors throughout the Senate gallery, rotunda, committee rooms, offices and press rooms.

The 2018 legislative session will reconvene on Monday, February 5.

Oklahoma Senate approves FY’19 budget giving education, mental health, criminal justice reform significant increases

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved a $7.6 billion general appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2019 that gives significant funding increases for common education, mental health services, child welfare programs, and criminal justice reform.

“For the first time in years, we have a budget in which no agency receives a cut. The budget contains a 19 percent increase for common education, more than $24 million for the Department of Human Services to fully fund the Pinnacle Plan, and $11 million for multiple criminal justice reform measures,” said President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus. “This budget puts additional resources toward core services like education, mental health, child welfare services, and public safety. And early approval of this budget increases the likelihood the Legislature can adjourn early, saving the additional costs of a few more weeks of session.”

“In this budget, Oklahoma Senate Republicans undeniably have demonstrated our commitment to education. This budget contains $365 million for a $6,100 on average teacher pay raise, $52 million for support staff raises, $33 million for textbooks, and $17 million in new funding for the school funding formula. We also secured $7.5 million in funding for concurrent enrollment. Education is important to the success of our state which is why Senate Republicans worked so hard to secure significant increases for our students, teachers, and schools in this budget,” Schulz said.

Senate Appropriations Chair Kim David, R-Porter, said, “After years of economic recession in Oklahoma that led to massive cuts to the state budget, our state has finally turned the corner and this year’s budget reflects that. The fiscal year 2019 budget has $260 million in growth revenue due to policy changes and growth in the economy. That growth means our budget is on more stable financial footing because it has greatly reduced our reliance on so-called ‘one-time money.’ It’s a great feeling to have no agency budget cuts, and instead have a budget that puts significantly more money toward education, mental health services, and public safety.”

Highlights of the FY’19 budget:

– $7.6 billion budget

  • Approximately $745 million increase over FY’18$365 million for teacher pay raises
  • $54 million for state employee raises
  • $260 million in growth revenue
  • No cuts for any agency

– $2.9 billion for common education, a 19 percent increase

  • $6,100 teacher pay raise, on average
  • $52 million for support staff raises
  • $33 million for textbooks
  • $17 million in new state-aid funding formula
  • $7.5 million increase for concurrent enrollment

– $24.6 million funding increase for Department of Human Services, fully funding Pinnacle Plan

  • 7 percent increase for Medicaid Advantage waiver, Developmental Disability and Group Home rate increases
  • 5 percent increase on foster care and adoption rates
  • $2 million increase for the Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD) wait list

– $11 million in criminal justice reform initiatives

  • $5 million to Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
  • $1.1 million to Oklahoma Indigent Defense System (OIDS)
  • $1 million to District Attorney’s Council

– $2 million for agency performance audits conducted by Agency Performance and Accountability Commission

– $4.8 million to Department of Corrections to implement electronic offender management system

– $4 million to Office of Emergency Management for disaster relief

– $400,000 to Department of Agriculture for rural fire fighters

The Pending Walkout

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As the House worked through its floor deadline this past week, lawmakers continued to work hard on a teacher pay raise plan. This can sometimes feel like an insurmountable feat, but I remain committed to getting this done. The time is now.

Despite the high tensions surrounding the possible teacher walkout, I’m encouraged by the number of people actively following what happens in state government. Local politics tend to be overshadowed by what happens at the national level, but decisions made on the state-level are generally more impactful to you.

Of course, I wish this increased advocacy and activism had come about because of something positive, but I truly believe an informed public is a better public. Your frustrations are understood, and I share them with you. By harnessing the energy of teachers, superintendents and parents, I believe we can all find common ground and develop a solution that will work. Working across the aisle, bringing stakeholders to the table and doing some honest-to-goodness brainstorming will help us get there.

This change will not happen overnight. April 2 is fast approaching, and bills don’t become law instantaneously. Once a deal is reached, language must be drafted. The process itself of passing nearly any bill takes at least five days. That’s not to mention the fact that the Oklahoma Education Association’s request of $800 million for this upcoming fiscal year is a near-impossible task.

We’ve tried to raise taxes – even just to the tune of $160 million in the form of a cigarette tax increase – several times over the past year. Each time, a small minority of representatives has used its power as a way to prohibit progress. The House has passed a series of reforms that will help us better grasp our state budget, but we’re still far short of the $800 million OEA wants. 

I do not say this to discourage a walkout. In fact, I encourage teachers to follow their hearts these next few weeks. Make your voices heard. Come visit me at the Capitol. Visit other lawmakers. Do whatever you need to do. I hesitate to give you false hope, though, because I honestly cannot envision a scenario where lawmakers are able to deliver on every OEA demand – especially before April 2

Are teachers and support staff deserving of a significant raise? Without a doubt. Am I fighting to make that happen? Every single day. I am staunchly supportive of our educators, and I cannot fully express how appreciative I am for their dedication to our state’s future generations. My desire is to reach a compromise where the solution will both provide immediate relief and long-term growth opportunities for teacher salaries. Perhaps then we will start effectively recruiting teachers, rather than throwing up our hands in exasperation. I believe we can do this if we stop insisting on a Republican plan or a Democrat plan and demand an Oklahoma plan – a plan that is good for all Oklahomans.

Lastly, I have one quick bill update: my measure forming a commission to investigate elderly abuse, neglect and exploitation passed the House and is headed to the Senate. I am truly grateful for the support, and I’m excited that we seem to be on track to better protecting our senior citizens.

If you are planning a visit to the Capitol in the coming weeks, please let me know. I’d love to talk to you. I’m atMarcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov and 405-557-7327. Thanks and God bless.

From the State Senate

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It was an honor to have served the people of District 31 in my first session with the Oklahoma State Senate.  People who have worked in or around the Capitol for the last several decades said that this was by far the most difficult budget year they’ve seen.  As the state continues its way out of three years of revenue shortfalls, the legislature had the task of closing a nearly $1 billion revenue shortfall.  Past legislatures had depended strongly on the use of one-time monies to avoid having to raise revenues, but we took the difficult stance of strengthening our state’s budget and ensuring future stability by creating new sources of revenue.

After much debate and compromise, the legislature finally approved a $6.8 billion budget.  I’m proud of my Senate colleagues for their willingness to do what was best for our more than 60 state agencies so that they can continue to provide vital state services.  Constituents often call me to discuss budgetary matters, focusing on one state agency.  However, I have found one of the most challenging parts of serving in the Senate is not having the luxury of meeting the budgetary needs and requests of one or two agencies. We’re responsible for appropriating funds to all 67 of our state agencies, and this year we had very little to give.

At the beginning of session, budget leaders warned agencies that to fill the budget hole cuts of 15-20 percent might be required; and you have to remember that some agencies have already been cut up to 50 percent in the last decade.

I’m pleased to say that the budget protects our schools, public health, human services, and safety as well as corrections.  We were able to provide additional funding to common education by running a trailer bill (HB 2360), which provided an additional $18 million from the Rainy Day Fund and held education flat.  This bill was an agreement between the Senate and House to keep the school funding formula at the same level as FY ‘17 in spite of the nearly $1 billion shortfall.  The remaining state agencies received on average of a less than five percent cut to their budgets.

Progress was made to correct structural problems that have existed for years in the budget.  The Senate approved several measures that will provide new revenue for our state for years to come.  Among other measures, we created $95 million by raising the Gross Production Tax (GPT) on “1 percent” wells to 4 percent; $46 million by eliminating oil and gas GPT rebates; $15 million from increased tax enforcement; and $9 million from changes approved for long-lateral drilling.  We also will save the state millions of dollars in future budget years by accelerating the sunset date of the wind tax credit.

We approved a tobacco cessation program with the intent of saving lives and improving the health of Oklahomans by encouraging people to quit smoking, especially children.  The program will be funded by a $1.50 per pack fee for cigarettes that’s expected to generate around $215 million. This will also help lower our state’s healthcare costs significantly of which tobacco contributes billions in unnecessary expenses to taxpayers annually.

This is a responsible, practical plan that generates new revenue for this year and beyond, protects education, DOC and DHS while also implementing reforms to address chronic budget shortfalls.
Besides working on the budget, we approved legislation to strengthen the state’s education system, protect the health and safety of our youth, provide further assistance to our veterans, strengthen our criminal justice system and ensure that Oklahoma IDs meet federal REAL ID requirements.  I’ll discuss these areas in the coming weeks.
In closing, I was honored to carry the nomination of Ervin Randle of Lawton to the Oklahoma Motor Vehicle Commission succeeding Dan Mullins.

We want to thank Cache junior, Dalton McDonald, for serving as a page during the next to last week of session.  This month has been extremely busy so his assistance was greatly appreciated and we hope he learned a lot about his state government and the legislative process.
We also want to thank everyone from the district who made the trip to Oklahoma City this year and stopped by to visit with us.  We truly appreciate your support and input and for sharing your successes and special events with us.

At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

From the office of Sen. Chris Kidd

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As many of you know, state budgets for the last few years have been deficient resulting in drastic cuts, revenue failures, and budget shortfalls. The last year and a half, we have worked tirelessly to correct Oklahoma’s budget. This is not an easy fix but a multi-faceted approach. This past year, we have made tremendous headway in putting Oklahoma on a firm foundation.

One area we focused on in correcting the budget was our state agencies.  By passing several budget limit bills, we now have more legislative oversight of agency spending to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used responsibly and efficiently. 

At the same time we were focusing on efficiencies, we were also giving our attention to revenue that’s sustainable and long term. The votes I had to cast to provide more revenue were by no means easy, even painful at times. As difficult as it was, those votes resulted in much needed recurring revenue into the state’s budget.

With the appropriation reforms and revenue-raising measures my colleagues and I passed this session, we can now properly fund our government with no agency cuts in the FY’19 budget. Things are beginning to turn around for Oklahoma.

The Treasurer’s office announced this week that gross receipts for April were up 15% over last April. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) reported that March General Revenue Fund collections were $405.5 million, an increase of 15.2 percent above March 2017 collections. In addition, gross receipts have shown continual growth for the last 13 months. Moody’s, one of the nation’s top credit-rating agencies, also issued a credit-positive report for Oklahoma earlier this month.

Most notably, lawmakers passed legislation raising salaries for all teachers, support staff and most state employees, impacting thousands of Oklahoma families with increased compensation for their service to the state. 

With the hundreds of bills and issues we tackled, this past session was difficult to say the least, but progress was made.  There’s always more that can be done and now session is over, and as we go into the interim, we will continue working to put Oklahoma on a firm foundation.

At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

Ever wanted to own a herd of Bison? You can bid on them right now…..

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Have you ever wanted to own a herd of bison? If so, you can bid on 55 of them right now. The information can be found on the Oklahoma state surplus website (see link below).

The Bison have been wormed but have not had any vaccines and do not have any vet records. Therefore, you would be buying them as is.

If you happen to be the lucky one to have the winning bid you will be responsible for loading and removal of all the animals within 10 business days of the auction close.

The animals are located at the Foss State Park in Foss, Oklahoma.

Of course, that’s not all you can bid on. There are tons of other neat stuff there as well.  In the few short moments there I saw some air compressors, whistles, light poles, vehicles, travel trailers and lots of other things no person should be without.

If you are interested in the Bison, you will need to get your bid in before the deadline on May 16, 2018.

For more information visit: https://pay.apps.ok.gov/dcs/surplus/auction/index.php

 

The marathon continues

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We now have six weeks left in the first session of the 56th Legislature. My first session at the Capitol has flown by so far, and now is the time we really start getting into specifics with appropriations and budget bills.

 

Committee meetings wrapped up on April 13, so most bills that did not clear committee are dead for the remainder of the session. However, there is an exception for revenue-related legislation. The Appropriations & Budget Committee’s deadline is April 20, but there is some flexibility on that deadline as well, and it is not unusual to see additional bills pop up after that date.

 

I’m sure many of you are aware of the budget proposals that are being floated. The governor has her plan; the Democrats in the House proposed one of their own; even the state auditor has come up with a tax proposal. I’m sure you are wondering where we Republicans are in our budget process.

 

There are many items still up in the air, but House Republicans are about to start proposing several building blocks for a balanced budget. Leadership has a plan in place, and we will begin taking up revenue-raising measures as well as other possible solutions in the next couple of weeks. Chances are there will be a number of tax credits, exemptions and deductions on the table before we see anything like a tax increase. I plan on reviewing every proposal carefully as we seek to close the $878 million projected shortfall in next year’s budget. As those bills come up, I will be sure to update you with any major developments.

 

Even though budget work has yet to be finalized, the Judiciary – Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee and the Public Safety Committee passed some significant criminal justice reform measures last week. These bills were part of Gov. Mary Fallin’s justice reform package and are meant to better Oklahoma’s corrections system. I’m not in either committee, but I was glad to hear the bills are progressing, and I look forward to voting on them when the measures come before the House floor.

 

If you remember, we are currently hearing Senate bills in the House. The third-reading deadline for those Senate bills is April 27, meaning all of those measures will have to receive a hearing by that date to stay alive. At that point, the House will review any amendments senators added to our legislation. If we approve those changes, the bills can progress to the governor’s desk. If we do not approve the amendment, the bill can go to a conference committee to iron out any details.

 

As always, please feel free to reach out if you need anything. Being your state representative is one of the most gratifying jobs I have ever had, and I want to do as much good as I can. You can call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7327 or email me at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov. Thank you, and God bless.

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