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Gusty wind did not prevent continued renovation work Thursday, Jan. 25, on the Oklahoma Capitol's south side. [Photos by Thomas Maupin, For The Oklahoman]
Gusty wind did not prevent continued renovation work Thursday, Jan. 25, on the Oklahoma Capitol's south side. [Photos by Thomas Maupin, For The Oklahoman]

Good Monday morning, and Happy Presidents Day.  

Today begins the third week of the legislative session. Later today, Gov. Kevin Stitt, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnel and other legislative leaders are scheduled to speak at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau's Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City.  On Wednesday the Board of Equalization will finalize an estimate on how much extra money lawmakers will have to spend next fiscal year.

Abortion bill won't be heard ... Senate Bill 13, which would criminalize abortion in Oklahoma, won’t be brought up for a committee vote this year, according to the chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “We are not going to hear it because I am opposed to it as it is written,” said Sen. Jason Smalley, the chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services committee.

Business groups like changes to permitless carry bill ... The state’s largest business groups, which opposed so-called constitutional carry legislation in the past, knew they probably couldn’t stop it this year but wanted some changes to assure organizations they could ban weapons from events they sponsored in the state. Changes made to the bill, which passed the House last week, pleased many business groups who say it allows conventions and events to restrict firearms. 

Big election spenders ... An open Senate seat race in Oklahoma City was the most expensive legislative contest last year, though House Speaker Charles McCall easily led all legislative candidates in spending. Candidates spent $651,381 on the Senate District 30 race, won by Democrat Julia Kirt in what had long been a Republican area.

Kirt was making her first political race but said she knew at the outset that running for an open seat in an urban area would be expensive.

"We knew there hadn't been a race in the district in a long time, so we couldn't really gauge or compare," she said. 

Lawmakers negotiate state board structures ... The owner of a health care business that receives Medicaid money is also a member of the Oklahoma board that oversees the state’s Medicaid program, raising conflict-of-interest questions as lawmakers and Gov. Kevin Stitt hash out options for reducing the influence of state boards.

Clock is ticking on efforts to overhaul redistricting ...Oklahoma Watch: Time is running out for efforts to have a bipartisan, citizen-led commission redraw Oklahoma’s legislative and congressional boundaries – a move that would take the process out of the hands of the Legislature.

A citizen-led group called Represent Oklahoma and a Democratic state lawmaker are pursuing separate paths to place a state question on the ballot that would allow voters to decide whether to overhaul the state’s redistricting process. Under the current method, the Legislature is responsible for the task after population figures are determined in the decennial census.

Both plans face significant obstacles as well as an approaching deadline.

Oklahoma Supreme Court map changes proposed ... Both of the Legislature’s judicial committee chairpersons believe regional requirements for the nine-member state Supreme Court should be updated after reviewing data about where Oklahoma attorneys reside, reports NonDoc

“There are about 13,000 members of the Oklahoma Bar Association, and you have a significant percentage of those living in Oklahoma City and Tulsa,” said Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville,when discussing her SB 973. “[My bill] is intended to enlarge the pool of candidates.”

USS Tulsa commissioned ... The USS Tulsa was formally commissioned Saturday at Pier 32 in San Francisco, reports the Tulsa World. The USS Tulsa is an Independence-class littoral combat ship, meaning it’s designed to patrol coastlines. It’s only the eighth ship of its type in the entire Naval fleet.

“The USS Tulsa is a ship that is truly worthy to carry the Tulsa name, the Tulsa spirit and our heritage,” former Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor, and the ship’s sponsor, said. “The city of Tulsa has been agile. We’ve refitted, modernized and we’ve moved forward. Just like the USS Tulsa and her crew, we have found that the strength of Tulsa lies in its people.”

Stitt administration plans focus on home-grown business ... (Tulsa World) Achieving the Stitt administration’s economic goals for the state will require more than recruiting a few large employers to the state, Commerce Department Director Brent Kisling said Friday.

“Bringing in big companies makes for great press releases,” Kisling told the Tulsa Republican Club. “I look great with a shovel in my hands taking pictures. … But if you’re going to truly be a top 10 economy, you’ve got to grow the (businesses) you have here in the state. That’s going to be our top priority.”

Cleveland County Dems meet in Norman ... Cleveland County Democratic Party Chair Krystal Golding-Ross said Democratic turnout across the county increased in every voting precinct during the 2018 midterms, reports the Norman Transcript. 

“We’re just trying to keep the momentum going,” Golding-Ross said at the party's annual Chili Cook-Off & Fundraiser in Norman on Saturday. 

Tribal council election ... Rex Jordan, a lifetime resident of Cherokee County, has announced his candidacy for re-election to the position of Cherokee Nation Tribal Council District 1 representative, reports the Tahlequah Daily Press. 

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

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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