Oklahoma Capitol Almanac

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Associated Press

Posted on April 16, 2013 at 1:05 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 25 at 7:04 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Fallin looks to avoid repeat of 2012 tax cut failure; Senate OKs tax bill, sends it to House

Gov. Mary Fallin is a step closer to having a bill to cut Oklahoma's personal income tax reach her desk this year.

The Oklahoma Senate voted 32-14 Wednesday for a bill that would cut the tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, beginning in 2015. A second cut would take effect in January 2016, but only if state revenues increased. Every Democrat in the Senate opposed the bill, along with two Republicans.

Democrats say it's fiscally irresponsible to cut taxes when the state has cut funding in recent years for education.

Fallin is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year when she and legislative leaders announced a deal on a tax cut, only to see the proposal fall apart in the waning days of the session.

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Okla. House approves workers' compensation administrative overhaul; governor likely to sign

The Oklahoma House has approved a bill to overhaul the state's workers' compensation system.

The House voted 74-24 Wednesday and approved the bill after three hours of debate, with most Democrats present opposed. It now returns to the Senate for further consideration.

The lengthy bill turns Oklahoma's court-run system into an administrative system run by three commissioners. Republicans say the changes will save businesses millions of dollars while Democrats blasted the bill, saying it achieves its savings by cutting employee benefits. Rep. Richard Morrissette of Oklahoma City called the bill "a joke on injured workers."

It appears likely to pass in its current form after Gov. Mary Fallin and leaders of both the House and Senate announced Tuesday that they agreed on the bill's outlines.

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Okla. Gov signs a dozen bills, including measure to create delinquent foster care system

The Oklahoma juvenile justice system will set up its own foster care system under a bill signed by Gov. Mary Fallin.

The bill was one of a dozen measures Fallin signed Tuesday. It requires the state Office of Juvenile Affairs to recruit licensed foster parents for children in its custody and specifies that any foster child have access to a court-appointed advocate.

Another corrections bill says some inmates granted parole for nonviolent offenses would be supervised for nine months after release.

Fallin also signed a provision allowing licensed private investigators to carry unconcealed weapons, as well as a bill that says the Oklahoma Suicide Prevention Council will include members representing the military, Native American and medical communities in the state.

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Okla. Senate approves changes to A-F grading system for public schools

The Oklahoma Senate has approved a bill to change the A-F grading system for state public schools.

The Senate voted 31-13 on Tuesday for the bill that addresses some of the concerns raised by superintendents and educators over the new system that took effect last year.

Under the changes to the bill, a school's grade will be based on a scale under which a grade between a 90 and 100 results in an A, instead of a grade-point average system. The bill also will allow schools to receive pluses or minuses, for example an A+ or B-, depending on their score.

Edmond Republican Sen. Clark Jolley says the bill also addresses a concern that schools were being penalized for not offering Advanced Placement classes.

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Online:

House Bill 1658: http://bit.ly/15Hcgtx

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Okla. Senate approves speaker's 8-year, 'pay-as-you-go' state infrastructure improvement plan

The Senate has approved House Speaker T.W. Shannon's bill that would create an eight-year plan to improve state buildings and properties without issuing bonds to pay for the work.

Shannon has pushed for the "pay-as-you-go" plan in part because the increasingly conservative House has been resistant to the idea of issuing bonds to pay for state projects.

Shannon is a former chairman of the House Transportation Committee and sees the plan being similar to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's eight-year plan for repairing the state's roads and bridges. The bill creates a commission to develop a prioritized list of state properties in need of repair and state assets that could be liquidated to help pay for projects.

The bill now returns to the House.

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Online:

House Bill 1910: http://bit.ly/XUJxNj

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