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Capital City: Session gets started

Good Monday morning. Today is the official start of the 2019 legislative session. 

Gov. Kevin Stitt will deliver his State of the State address at 12:30 p.m. What to expect? Stitt will call for $400 million in new money on education, criminal justice reform and other priorities, while setting aside $200 million from the projected surplus to pad the state savings account.

Stitt will propose that lawmakers raise teacher pay for the second year in a row. And he will ask them to create a pot of money to recruit teachers into Oklahoma classrooms.

Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in an interview last week that it would probably take about $75 million to meet Stitt's goal of making Oklahoma teachers the top paid in the region, providing other states don't raise the salaries of their teachers.

Common education chair wants more money in the formula ... "My number one goal is to put more money in the funding formula," said Sen. Gary Stanislawski, the House common education chairman. "And promoting policies to improve outcomes for students."

Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, is entering his third year as the chair of the Senate Education Committee. For two years he headed a task force to review the state's funding formula for common education.

Criminal justice reform group names priorities ...  A bipartisan coalition of community leaders Friday outlined a criminal justice reform agenda aimed at reducing the state's prison population, strengthening families and ensuring fairness in courts.

Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform released 14 policy proposals, which include making State Question 780 and other recent nonviolent sentencing changes retroactive.

"This may be the year that reform really gets going at the state Capitol," Kris Steele, executive director of the coalition, said at a news conference.

NEW episode of Political State ... Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat discusses his new role as leader of the Senate, his career and his hopes for 2019. You can watch or listen to that episode here

Nursing homes seek more funding ... Three wide-ranging bills in the Oklahoma Legislature would boost funding for nursing facilities while requiring them to increase staffing. Senate Bills 228 and 954 would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to pay at least 95 percent of the average cost for a nursing home to care for residents, as would House Bill 1902. Oklahoma currently pays about $23 less than it costs to care for patients each day, on average, said Brett Coble, board president of Care Providers Oklahoma, a nursing home trade group.

Lawmakers push for Native American Day ... State lawmakers will again try to move Oklahoma's Native American Day to Columbus Day, less than a year after former Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a popular bipartisan bill that would have done so. Reps. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond, and Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, have introduced separate but identical bills moving the state's Native American Day from the third Monday in November to the second Monday in October, which is currently Columbus Day.

Wyrick picked again by Trump ... Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick has again been nominated for a federal judgeship and appears well-positioned to be confirmed, while another Oklahoma nomination is up in the air.

Wyrick, a rising star in conservative law circles and a member of President Donald Trump's list of possible U.S. Supreme Court choices, was first nominated last year to be a U.S. District Court judgeship in Oklahoma City. When the Senate failed to confirm him by the end of 2018, he had to be renominated, and was on Jan. 23.

The path to a federal judgeship is less clear for Tulsa attorney John O'Connor, whose nomination to be a roving judge across Oklahoma's three federal districts hit a roadblock last year when an American Bar Association panel of fellow attorneys unanimously determined he was unqualified to be a federal judge.

O'Connor, who did not respond to a request for comment last week, was not included in Trump's first set of 2019 judicial nominees. Oklahoma's senators sound less sure than they were last year that he will become a judge.

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

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Related Photos
<p>Several new faces will be on hand for the start of the legislative session on Monday. A new challenge faces lawmakers new and old — a budget surplus. [The Oklahoman Archives]</p>

Several new faces will be on hand for the start of the legislative session on Monday. A new challenge faces lawmakers new and old — a budget surplus. [The Oklahoman Archives]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7f3f3e9ac97201063eb80ddc2e2f66ba.jpg" alt="Photo - Several new faces will be on hand for the start of the legislative session on Monday. A new challenge faces lawmakers new and old — a budget surplus. [The Oklahoman Archives] " title=" Several new faces will be on hand for the start of the legislative session on Monday. A new challenge faces lawmakers new and old — a budget surplus. [The Oklahoman Archives] "><figcaption> Several new faces will be on hand for the start of the legislative session on Monday. A new challenge faces lawmakers new and old — a budget surplus. [The Oklahoman Archives] </figcaption></figure>
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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