Capital City: From lawmaker to lobbyist
Good Wednesday morning.
Oklahoma lawmakers will know later today just how much money they have to spend next fiscal year. The Board of Equalization will meet at the state Capitol at 10 a.m., setting estimates that are expected to show a nearly $600 million increase in revenue.
From lawmaker to lobbyist ... Oklahoma is one of the few states without a mandatory waiting period of any time before lawmakers can become lobbyists. A recent Oklahoma Watch report highlighted three former legislators who left office in November and are now lobbyists.
Oklahoma Ethics Commission records show former Reps. Pat Ownbey, Josh Cockroft and Bobby Cleveland – all Republicans who served in last year’s legislative class – registered as lobbyists within weeks or a few months of finishing their terms in mid-November.
Another former lawmaker, Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Oklahoma City, who is now an Oklahoma County commissioner, registered as a lobbyist in January and then terminated his lobbying for an anti-abortion group earlier this month after concerns emerged about whether an actively serving elected official should also be a lobbyist.
Five-day week and voucher bill pass committee ... On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill requiring schools to operate on a five-day school week. According to the state Education Department, 92 of Oklahoma's more than 500 districts are currently operating on four-day school weeks in an effort to save money and recruit staff.
The bill provides exemptions if local schools can demonstrate four-day weeks aren’t adversely impacting student achievement and four-day weeks actually save the local district money.
The committee also passed a bill to expand the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship program to include homeless children. The existing program offers school vouchers to disabled children already attending a public school.
Abortion bills pass through committee ... Two bills targeting abortion, including one virtually identical to a measure vetoed by then-Gov. Mary Fallin three years ago, advanced from the House Public Health Committee on split votes Tuesday.
House Bill 1182, by Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, would suspend the medical licenses of abortion providers and would likely be challenged in court. It advanced from committee on a vote of 6-4 with two Republicans joining the committee's two Democrats in opposition.
House Bill 1396, by Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore, tightens up existing law prohibiting abortion because of the sex of the fetus. Under the new language, the patient involved must attest to either knowing or not knowing the sex of the fetus.
Senate approves use of opioid overdose drug at schools ... The state Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would authorize school nurses or other designated employees to administer Narcan or other lifesaving opiate antagonists to students who appear to be overdosing on opioids.
“Countering an overdose with a product like Narcan can literally mean the difference between life and death,” said state Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, author of Senate Bill 85. “This bill simply clarifies our statutes so school employees can be assured that they have the same legal protections given to others under state law.”
OKC school board to meet Thursday ... Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel will recommend options for closing and consolidating schools when he meets with the school board at 3 p.m. Thursday. McDaniel was scheduled to meet with the board Tuesday night but the district canceled the meeting because of the wintry weather forecast.
Ag board approves new rules ... from The Frontier: The Oklahoma Board of Agriculture approved a new set of rules on Tuesday that would restrict new or expanding poultry operations from locating within certain distances of homes, though the rules are less strict than those that had been presented for public comment earlier.
The poultry house setback rules must now get the approval of the Legislature and governor before going into effect in September.
“These setbacks will help enhance the living conditions of citizens and also will continue to support the poultry industry, which has a large economic impact on our state," said Blayne Arthur, Commissioner of Oklahoma Agriculture and President of the State Board of Agriculture.
Nation looks into new Tulsa bridge ... The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is exploring the possibility of constructing a south Tulsa bridge over the Arkansas River, Principal Chief James Floyd confirmed Tuesday, reports the Tulsa World.
“We are in the very early exploratory stages,” Floyd said. “We have entered into a short-term contract with CDM Smith, a specialist in collecting and assessing transportation and infrastructure data.
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