In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to email@example.com. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today the OK Policy Blog examines an English-only bill being considered in the legislature, finding that it goes far beyond what voters approved in State Question 751. The latest revenue report shows that state finances are in slow recovery but still remain far below 2008. Meanwhile, the House passed a freeze on property tax increases for all seniors, regardless of income. OK Policy discussed this bill and other proposals to puts caps or exemptions on property taxes last week.
The Senate narrowly passed a measure to change most statewide elected officials into appointees of the governor. If passed by the House, the measure would go to a vote of the people. The House voted to reprimand two of its members, Rep. Mike Reynolds and Rep. Randy Terrill, over comments made at the capitol. A bill to encourage districts to consolidate superintendents was approved in House. It would pay 50 percent of the salary for up to 3 years for a superintendent who takes over an additional district.
These stories and more below the jump.
In The News
The Language Police: Bills would enact new restrictions on speech
State Question 751 passed last fall with 75 percent of voters agreeing to amend the state constitution to make English Oklahoma’s official language. The amendment, currently being challenged in district court, formally recognized English as the common language in which official state business shall be conducted. Two identical bills introduced this session designed to implement the new amendment, HB 2083 and SB 905, go well beyond what voters approved in State Question 751 and enact sweeping and intrusive changes meant to preserve and enhance the role of official English.
Read more from the OK Policy Blog at https://okpolicy.org/the-language-police-bills-would-enact-new-restrictions-on-speech/.
Revenues continue slow climb but are still 32 percent below 2008
State general fund revenues continued to run ahead of expectations in February, the Office of State Finance reported on Monday, but were still well below the pre-recession and pre-tax cut levels of 2007 and 2008. “These numbers should be kept in context, understanding income tax collections are still 32 percent below collections in February of 2008,” said state Finance Director Preston Doerflinger. “They do, however, indicate that we are experiencing a gradual recovery.” General revenue fund collections for February totaled $247.1 million, or $25.7 million more than for the same month a year ago. In 2007, however, February collections totaled $305 million; in 2008, following a state income tax cut, the total was $303 million.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=16&articleid=20110315_16_A1_OKLAHO97694.
See also: February 2011 Budget Trends and Highlights from the OK Policy Blog
House passed property tax freeze for seniors
Oklahomans are a step closer to deciding whether a permanent freeze should be placed on property tax levels for people 65 years old and older for as long as they own their homes. The House of Representatives easily approved a measure Monday that would put the issue on the November 2012 general election ballot. House Joint Resolution 1001 passed 82-13 without debate. It now goes to the Senate. If the measure wins legislative approval, it does not go to the governor; it would go straight to the secretary of state’s office with instructions to place the issue on the ballot.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/oklahoma-house-passes-property-tax-freeze-measure-for-seniors/article/3548746.
See also: Should Oklahoma expand its property tax caps and exemptions? from the OK Policy Blog
Senate passes measure to change 7 statewide elected officials into appointees
Nearly all statewide elected officials could become political appointees under a bill narrowly approved by the Oklahoma Senate over the objections of members who complained the plan could lead to political patronage and corruption. The Senate voted 25-19 on Monday to send to a vote of the people a proposal to make seven of the 11 statewide elected officials appointees of the governor. If approved, the governor would appoint all three corporation commissioners, the state treasurer, superintendent, labor commissioner and insurance commissioner. The Senate would have to confirm the appointees.
Read more from this Associated Press article at http://www.kgou.org/index.php?news-management&action=view_news&news_id=2368.
Oklahoma House reprimands two members
The Oklahoma House of Representatives took the rare act Monday of voting to issue back-to-back public reprimands on two members for their actions last week in unrelated incidents. Reps. Randy Terrill and Mike Reynolds, both Republicans, said the actions against them stem from their outspoken criticism of House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, for failing to support issues favored by the conservative block of the House Republican caucus. Reynolds and Terrill said it shows how fractured House Republicans, who outnumber Democrats 70-31, are. … Reynolds, of Oklahoma City, was taken to task for interrupting a minister’s sermon Thursday on the House floor. … Terrill, of Moore, was disciplined for allegedly using profane language directed at Steele and threatening the first-year speaker in comments made Thursday in the office of Floor Leader Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/oklahoma-house-scolds-two-members/article/3548796.
See also: Affidavit asserts Terrill cursed Speaker, threatened to ‘break his other’ leg from CapitolBeatOK
Superintendent consolidation clears Oklahoma House
Legislation that provides financial incentives for Oklahoma schools to consolidate their superintendents has passed the Oklahoma House. Monday’s vote was 90-7 for the bill that now goes to the Senate for consideration. It allows two or more districts that share a superintendent to receive money from the School Consolidation Assistance Fund to help pay the superintendent’s salary. The money comes from state lottery revenue. Districts can receive up to 50 percent of the superintendent’s salary for up to three consecutive years with a limit of $200,000.
Read more from this Associated Press article at http://news.oeta.tv/headlines/education/2813-superintendent-consolidation-clears-okla-house-.html.
See also: Share-a-superintendent bill triggers school-consolidation fears from The Journal Record
OKC Bicyclist: Legislative update
Over the last couple of months four new bills regarding bicycling have been introduced to the Oklahoma Legislature and are making their way through the committee and floor processes. The first three are part of the safety legislation that Sen. Andrew Rice has been discussing for the last several months and the last designates old Route 66 as a bicycle trail. SB 443: Requires that all people seeking a drivers license demonstrate knowledge of the traffic laws of the state including bicycle and motorcycle safety. … SB 487: This bill sets up a voluntary revolving fund (paid for by a $1.00 donation when you get or renew your drivers license) to be used to “provide awareness to the road traveling public of the presence of bicyclists by any media promotions, publications or signage.” … SB 951: This bill contains the majority of Sen. Rice’s safety legislation. Firstly, this bill specificially mentions bicycles as it pertains to objects being thrown at a moving vehicle. … It goes on to require a state wide mandiated 3 foot passing requirement for vehicles going around cyclists.
Read more from the OKC Bicyclist blog at http://www.okcbicyclist.com/2011/03/14/legislative-update/.
Opala First Amendment Award, FOI Awards, college essay winners announced
Joann Bell, who retired recently after 24 years with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, was named winner of FOI Oklahoma’s Marian Opala First Amendment Award on Saturday. The organization also presented its Ben Blackstock Award to The Oklahoman for its work to keep state employee birth dates open, and its Sunshine Award to state Rep. Jason Murphey, R- Guthrie, for his sponsorship and support of bills to increase transparency in government. The Black Hole Award winner was state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, for working to exempt state employees’ birth dates.
Read more from the FOI Oklahoma blog at http://foioklahoma.blogspot.com/2011/03/opala-first-amendment-award-foi-awards.html.
Quote of the Day
Rep. Kirby after caucus said he would hit me right in the mouth. That deserves a reprimand.
Number of the Day
Grants awarded to date to Oklahoma by the Department of Health and Human Services through the Affordable Care Act.
States don’t see crisis in federal shutdown — yet
For the second time in two weeks, a congressional budget impasse threatens to shut down much of the federal government this weekend. So far, the reaction in state capitols is muted, but that could change if a protracted showdown comes to pass and the feds close shop for a significant length of time. States rely on the federal government for huge sums of money to pay for programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment benefits. But federal funding for the most crucial social safety net programs is unlikely to be interrupted in the event of a shutdown, according to federal officials who oversee the funds.
Read more from this Stateline article at http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=558255.
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