41.8 F
Waurika
Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Senate approves bill requiring immediate reporting of child abuse

0

OKLAHOMA CITYOn Thursday, the Senate gave unanimous approval to legislation modifying child abuse reporting requirements.  House Bill 2259, by Rep. Dell Kerbs and Sen. Ron Sharp, requires individuals, especially educators, to report suspected child abuse or neglect of those 17 years or younger immediately to the DHS Child Abuse Hotline and those 18 years or older to law enforcement.

“Current law advises people to reports suspected abuse and neglect ‘promptly’ but this term is obviously getting misinterpreted as many cases aren’t being reported for several days or weeks after it’s discovered,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee.  “As a former educator, I’m glad that the bill specifically requires teachers to report suspected abuse and neglect as these are the people who spend the most time with these kids and can recognize changes in behavior or see evidence of abuse.  For most kids, schools are safe zones and they trust their teachers and often open up about violence in their home.  Hopefully, this change will help protect more of Oklahomans children and get them away from bad situations.”

HB 2259 was requested by the Department of Human Services and the Department of Education. Under Oklahoma statutes, “teachers” include administrators, counselors and classroom instructors.

“I’m pleased to have authored this measure that will put a clear and transparent law into place to ensure children who are abused or neglected will have immediate help,” said Kerbs, R-Shawnee.

HB 2259 now goes to the Governor for final consideration

Statement from Senate Democrats on Oklahoma Teacher Walkout

0

OKLAHOMA CITY- Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks released the following statement on behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus:

“Today the Senate Democratic Caucus welcomed thousands of educators, parents, students, and concerned citizens to the Capitol. We stand with them in their fight to properly fund public education in Oklahoma.

Paying our teachers a fair and competitive salary is a priority, but this movement is about more than just teacher pay, it’s about the chronic underfunding of public education in Oklahoma.

Over the last decade state funding for public education is down $180 million, marking a 28% cut. Since the 2013-14 school year, student enrollment has grown by 15,000 students but there are 700 fewer teachers in our public schools, with 20% of public school districts in Oklahoma moving to four day school weeks.

Our students deserve better. We need to restore funding for education which has been slashed by years of tax cuts. The legislature passed a revenue package last week, but more work needs to be done to provide sustainable revenues for education.

Last month the Senate passed SB 1086, bipartisan legislation to eliminate the capital gains tax loophole, which would bring in an additional $100 million in revenue for education. We urge the House to take action and pass the bill this week so we can make a serious investment in Oklahoma’s classrooms.”

State Takes First Step toward Improving Auto Insurance Verification System

0

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) has awarded a contract for the new Oklahoma Compulsory Insurance Verification System (OCIVS). The new system, hosted by MV Solutions, Inc., will be overseen by the Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID). The current system has been managed by the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Senate Bill 115, passed in 2017, transferred authority of the system from DPS to OID.

“This will go a long way toward solving Oklahoma’s uninsured driver problem,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “This brings us one step closer to creating a real-time, reliable database for law enforcement officers, court clerks, district attorneys and tag agents to verify auto insurance coverage. Those trying to drive without insurance are about to get a rude awakening.”

Commissioner Doak will notify all private passenger auto insurance companies in Oklahoma they are required to participate in OCIVS using a web service that allows access to the insurer’s real-time book of business. The previous system allowed companies to upload data on a weekly or monthly basis, making it difficult for OCIVS users to access current policy information. In order to create the most effective system possible, Commissioner Doak is committed to using every regulatory tool at his disposal to ensure that insurance companies comply with the requirements of the system.

Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, was the principal Senate author of SB 115.

“Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the nation,” said Sharp. “We have to change that. A better verification system can make a big difference. OID has the resources and regulatory authority to ensure compliance and manage the system efficiently.”

SB 115 was coauthored by Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia.

“Our state’s high number of uninsured drivers leads to higher premiums for everyone,” said Moore. “Once people realize this database is accurate and updating in real time, they’ll be much more likely to keep their auto insurance current instead of risking a costly fine.”

The new law authorizes the insurance commissioner to initiate an administrative proceeding against an insurance company that is not providing vehicle insurance policy information to the online verification system. It also allows for license plate numbers to be used for verification.

Commissioner Doak’s letter to private passenger auto insurance companies notifying them of the new requirements is linked below and attached to this email.

About the Oklahoma Insurance Department
The Oklahoma Insurance Department, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, is responsible for the education and protection of the insurance-buying public and for oversight of the insurance industry in the state.

Senate Report from Sen. Chris Kidd

0

 State Treasurer Ken Miller announced more great economic news for our state this week. State gross receipts surged by 14 percent in September, the tenth month of double-digit growth in the past year.

We had gross receipts of $1.2 billion last month – the highest September total in our history. Twelve-month gross receipts were $12.5 billion, which is also a record. 

This is great news as we approach the upcoming session and begin work on the FY’20 budget. A majority of agency budgets haven’t yet been restored to the level they were before the national recession and oil bust that devastated our state’s economy between 2009 and 2016.  The increase in revenue will help stabilize our state’s budget and fund core government services

Work hasn’t stopped at the Capitol since session adjourned in May.  Interim studies and the joint legislative marijuana working group are ongoing. The marijuana meetings began in July and take place every Wednesday and will continue through November.  The group has been working to develop recommendations on a permanent regulatory framework for the implementation of SQ 788. 

All of the presentations and information provided in both the working group and interim study meetings are available at www.oksenate.gov under Committees and Interim Studies.

If you have any ideas, comments or concerns regarding implementation of medical marijuana in Oklahoma, you can share those with the working group at sq788@oksenate.gov.

Aside from the joint legislative marijuana working group, many of the interim studies have been about education.  One dealt with SB 1435, which would have authorized school districts to adopt alternative disciplinary actions in lieu of out-of-school suspension. Members looked at the possible creation of a formalized student appeals process for alternative forms of discipline, which was an issue brought up by the bill’s opponents.

Another study looked at OSSAA classification reform. The committee discussed different variables (student financial assistance and selective admissions) which some believe result in inequitable class success for both public and private member schools.

Charter schools have been a hot topic at the Capitol the last few years. Two studies examined the Funding Formula for virtual (charter) and brick and mortar public schools. It was evident there are differing opinions and viewpoints concerning charter schools. It is clear the outcome of these studies is that the Funding Formula needs to be reformed and simplified.  

Several other interim studies focused on the topics of school bonding flexibility, anti-bullying laws and innovation in education.

Other interim study topics included, work-based learning initiative and workforce development; Oklahoma’s veteran suicide rate; attracting and retaining neurologists, gerontologists and neuro-psychologists; and licensure of radiologic technologists.  There were also meetings on law enforcement video storage and retention; and telecommunication services for the deaf and elderly.

            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.

AUDITOR: Let the Audit Speak for Itself

0

At the State Auditor’s Office, we focus on two primary matters – accountability and transparency. To achieve these two objectives, our work must be beyond reproach and the entanglement of politics.

Ours is a constitutionally-created, independent office with the principal purpose to examine and inspect whether public officials properly expended public funds.

The constitution names the State Auditor before the Attorney General. We are not agents of the Attorney General and we do not work for the Attorney General.

Our audits examine public records. We look at how public funds are spent. A finding of probable fraud, waste, or abuse is only stated when fully supported by financial records and other evidence.

The Special Investigative Audit of the Lead Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust (LICRAT) was a review of public documents to determine if the LICRAT Board complied with state law in the expenditure of public funds. Special Audits differ from other types of audits because we are not required to conduct these audits in accordance with government auditing standards.

A Special Audit must be requested and conducted when financial mismanagement is believed to have occurred. The LICRAT Special Audit was initially sought by for U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. The only reason to involve the AG was because his office is one of five statutorily permitted ways to request a Special Audit. The audit was conducted on behalf of Oklahoma taxpayers.

The former attorney general acted improperly when he shared the contents of the audit report with the subject of the audit. The impropriety was further compounded when he refused to share the audit with the people who paid for it – the taxpayers of Oklahoma.

The LICRAT audit wasn’t about Scott Pruitt, left-wing environmentalists, Andy Lester, or politics. As the State Auditor, I have taken the position that the people of our state deserve to know why the LICRAT Board spent over $3.6 million on a project when the cost could have been less than $600,000.

If, as Mr. Pruitt’s spokesman stated, the audit was “shoddy,” then release it so the public can make that determination. If, as Mr. Lester stated, the audit report determined “no direct evidence of a conspiracy against the state,” then release the audit so the public can make that determination.

The State Auditor is the fact finder, not the prosecutor. The sole discretion to prosecute is always retained by the prosecutor.

The only issue here is when the prosecutor determines not to proceed – don’t cover up the issue by withholding a public document, paid for with public funds, and conducted on behalf of the public.

Audits are complicated. Many times, fraud and embezzlement are complicated. Often audits are confusing to prosecutors who aren’t confident they can sufficiently explain it to a jury in order to obtain a guilty verdict. As such, much white-collar crime goes unprosecuted.

I have confidence in the work product of our office, its people, and their professionalism. We stand by the courage of our convictions while others cast aspersions on the reputation and integrity of those who favor accountability and transparency.

Let the Audit Speak for itself.

NOTE: Oklahoma State Auditor Gary Jones doesn’t issue many news releases. As auditor, he has consistently taken the position that an audit should speak for itself. Since taking office in 2011, Gary has issued 15 news releases, of which, four were about a specific audit.

New law to allow Oklahoma farmers to grow hemp

0

OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Lonnie Paxton applauded Gov. Fallin for signing legislation Tuesday to help grow Oklahoma’s agriculture industry by allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp. House Bill 2913, by Sen. Paxton, Rep. Jon Echols and Rep. Mickey Dollens, creates the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program.

“Currently, Oklahoma can import hemp but can’t grow it.  This will help diversify our state’s struggling economy and will provide a tremendous boost to the agriculture industry,” said Paxton, R-Tuttle.  “This new industry will potentially create thousands of jobs and put hundreds of millions of dollars a year into our economy.  There’s a strong possibility that it could easily become a $1 billion industry.”

The new law will allow universities or farmers contracting with universities to cultivate certified hemp crops for research and development for industrial uses.  The Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry will manage the program.  A revolving fund will also be created for all registration, lab, and inspection fees paid by program participants.

Hemp is the strongest natural fiber in the world and has been found to have more than 50,000 uses including rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation and biofuel.  Being a weed, it is drought tolerant taking one-third the amount of water of alfalfa.  The benefits of cultivating this plant is that it can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre per year, which is four times what an average forest can yield and it does not require chemicals such as pesticides or herbicides. Hemp could yield Oklahoma farmers as much as $1,500 per acre.

The new law, which went into effect upon being signed, was made possible by the Agricultural Act of 2014 allowing the growing of hemp under pilot programs overseen by universities.  Nearly 40 other states already have industrial hemp programs.

The Pending Walkout

0

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.

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

0

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.

Budget Surplus for Next Year?

0

 Last session, the Legislature raised taxes on cigarettes, motor fuels and production from new oil and gas wells. This provided enough money to fill a budget hole that loomed for much of the year. It also raised enough to fund an average teacher pay raise of $6,100 – the first raise in a decade – as well as give additional benefits to teachers and funding for textbooks and classroom materials. Money also went to DHS to support in-home care for elderly or disabled adults. Medicaid providers saw reimbursements increased. The Department of Health was able to reinstate funding for child abuse prevention services. Also, money was appropriated to the Department of Corrections to give their employees and guards a very modest pay raise. And, legislators were able to appropriate enough dollars to the Transportation Department to continue its 8-year plan for roads and bridges.

I’m hearing arguments that the state Legislature raised taxes too high last year. I’ve heard some say there will be a billion-dollar budget surplus next year.

I hate to argue, but it’s too early to tell. The taxes the Legislature raised last year have already been spent to fill the $800 million budget hole and provide funding to areas of the budget that needed it. We may, for the first time in several years, have enough to fund core government services instead of cutting services to the vulnerable among us. Enough to keep our teachers in classrooms, fund healthcare, mental health and elder care, put a dent in the disabled services waiting list, sufficiently staff our state public safety agencies, continue the push to fully repair state roads and structurally deficient bridges, and more.

The good news is our economy is trending positive. According to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), the past two months’ data shows 2 percent growth above the amount the office estimated for the current fiscal year. This is good news, but we simply do not have enough data to predict a massive surplus at this time.

Let’s assume receipts keep coming in at the same rate as the past two months for the entire year. That would be an overall surplus of 2 percent. The total appropriated state budget was around $6.5 billion last year. A 1 percent change equals around $65 million; 2 percent growth would be a surplus of $130 million – certainly not chump change, but not the excessive billion-dollar amount some are arguing. To reach that amount, receipts would need to come in at more than 15 percent over estimates.

We are moving ahead with the audits of state agencies to find duplication of services and efficiencies. This is good, but the Legislature must make a concerted effort to scrutinize spending across-the-board to stretch our budget and fund what really needs to be funded.

Thankfully, we made a significant dent in our structural budget deficit problem. The policies the Legislature enacted over the past two years have allowed a shift from using one-time, erratic funding sources to more stable recurring sources of revenue. This will help stabilize our budget, but there is still much work to do. We need the economy to hold like it is or get better so we can focus on long-term planning to help us save dollars instead of focusing on filling budget holes. 

Fortunately, we shouldn’t have a budget hole next year, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be flush with cash.  For now, growth is positive based on the two-months of data we have, but much can change and in a short time, in Oklahoma – as we all know.

The marathon continues

0

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.

FOLLOW US

1,781FansLike
363FollowersFollow
286FollowersFollow
0SubscribersSubscribe
- Advertisement -

RECENT POSTS