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Capital City: Lawmakers seek end to four-day school weeks

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Good Wednesday morning. 

The Oklahoma House of Representatives wraps up its public hearings to review the five largest appropriated state agencies’ budgets. Today is the Department of Human Services and the State Regents for Higher Education. 

Yesterday, Senate Republicans announced they want to end the practice of four-day school weeks, which are currently used by nearly 100 districts across Oklahoma.

"If the school can show there is an economic savings and there is no adverse impact on student achievement there will be reasonable exceptions in the bill," Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said. "Otherwise, five-day school weeks will be restored."

Ninety-two school districts currently have four-day weeks, according the state Department of Education.

Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd said she was pleased to see an effort to reduce four-day school weeks, but that increased education funding was the best way to help schools move to five-day weeks.

"I don't think you can talk about education in Oklahoma without discussing funding," said Floyd, of Oklahoma City.

Governor names cybersecurity expert new emergency management director ... Gov. Kevin Stitt has named Mark Gower to serve as emergency management director. Gower currently leads Oklahoma CyberCommand, which acts as a security resource for much of the state's digital presence and assets. As the state's chief information security officer, he has expertise in cybersecurity, business continuity, disaster recovery and emergency preparedness and response.

"Mark Gower has been dedicated to the safety and security of Oklahomans his entire career," Stitt said. "His expertise is well suited to guide the Department of Emergency Management, and I look forward to working with him as we continue to move our state forward."

OKC Ward 6 council race ... To campaign for City Council in Ward 6 is to occupy two separate and unequal worlds. The ward includes downtown and Midtown, the city's thriving core. It also includes a significant stretch of the south side seemingly untouched by Oklahoma City's renaissance.

“The more I spend time on the south side, the more I'm constantly hearing, ‘We feel forgotten,'” said another Ward 6 candidate, JoBeth Hamon. “I've had multiple people tell me I'm the first City Council candidate to ever knock on their door, even though they've lived in that house and been regular voters for 25 or 30 years.” Justin Wingerter has a closer look at this three-candidate race. 

Confusion over opioid rules remain ... Since Senate Bill 1446 took effect in November, chronic pain patients have reported their doctors dropped them from their practices, cut back their doses or switched them to other medications —even though the bill doesn't apply to them.

Multiple bills introduced for the legislative session that begins Monday seek to clarify what the law allows, and one would set clear boundaries on investigating doctors suspected of bad prescribing.

Following the Legislature? There's an app for that ... NonDoc recently highlighted the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives phone app. Named Oklahoma Legislative Guide, the app is available for free in the Apple App Storeand on Google Play. The app’s developers have recently updated it with all the new members of Oklahoma’s 57th Legislature.  The app also has a section detailing federal lawmakers, judiciary members, statewide office holders, and House and Senate members of the Oklahoma Legislature.

Who congress follows ... HuffPost compiled a list that shows who people in both chambers of Congress are following on Twitter. The results point to a significant partisan divide and give a glimpse into the wildly different places where Democrats and Republicans get their information. It's interesting. You should check it out

Lt. Gov Matt Pinnell on tourism and economic development ... "Too many towns are focused on luring that 'big score' company that they believe will solve all their problems. Those wins are great, but any business that attracts money from outside the region will improve prosperity within the region, and that includes tourism dollars. Tourism, it has been said, is the front door to economic development. Tourism advertising and visits create a 'halo effect' that has a positive impact on our overall image and creates economic development opportunities." (Pinnell's full column from last week)

Comp-related bills filed ahead of session ... Lawmakers in Oklahoma this month have introduced 19 bills that would make changes to the state’s workers compensation code, reports BusinessInsurance.com. Among them are bills that address compensability for a worker who uses marijuana without a medical marijuana card, post-traumatic stress benefits for first responders, the balance limits on the state’s Self-insurance Guaranty Fund and fee schedules for medical providers. Other bills focus on administrative changes, such as modifying definitions under the state’s comp laws.

Thanks for reading. Got questions, suggestions or complaints? Email me at bfelder@oklahoman.com. 

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Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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