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Capital City: Teacher pay raise advances

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Good Friday morning. 

Oklahoma House members approved an increase in teacher pay and more money for a business recruitment fund on Thursday, sending key parts of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s first-year agenda to the Senate.

House Bill 1780, which increases teacher salaries by $1,200, passed the House with a vote of 94 to 0.

“It really does something to address a critical problem in Oklahoma,” said Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa, who was a teacher before his election last year.

The House also voted overwhelmingly to add $5 million to the state’s Quick Action Closing Fund, which can be distributed by the governor to offset the infrastructure costs for businesses promising to bring jobs to the state.

Medical marijuana bill heads to House floor ... A bill creating a framework for medical marijuana regulation cleared a key House committee Thursday and could be heard as soon as next week by the full House.

The so-called "unity bill" was approved by the House Rules Committee. House Bill 2612 is a nearly 80-page bill setting guidelines for medical marijuana testing, tax collections, seed-to-sale product tracking, packaging, employment restrictions and more.

The bill emerged from the bicameral Medical Marijuana Working Group and is intended to address broad issues in the emerging medical marijuana industry created by the passage of State Question 788 in June.

“The goal was to create a framework,” House Majority Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City said to members of the Rules Committee. “We didn’t want to get too deep into the details.”

Pastors denounce permitless carry ... A group of pastors from across the state denounced a bill on Thursday that would allow Oklahoma residents to carry a gun without a license or training.

The so-called Constitutional Carry bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday by an 18-4 vote after sailing through the House. House Bill 2597 is expected to be heard on the Senate floor next week.

"This bill ... is a bill that will advance a violent culture that is obsessed with guns," said the Rev. Mitch Randall, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics during a news conference Thursday at the Capitol.

Republicans push abortion 'trigger bill' ... Republican leaders in the Oklahoma Senate want to join at least five other states in automatically banning abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said Thursday that a bill will be drafted and considered next week that would make Oklahoma the sixth state with a "trigger" abortion ban. The Republican governor in neighboring Arkansas signed a similar measure this week.

Effort to increase minimum wage ... Democratic lawmakers in the state House and Senate have proposed legislative measures to raise Oklahoma's minimum wage.

One bill filed by Democratic Sen. George Young earlier this month would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.50 an hour. Young said state lawmakers should be prioritizing livable wage options.

"When you are talking about families you may have two or three people living on $7.25 an hour, that is not enough to survive on," he said.

OKCPS board hears closure plan ... Oklahoma City Public Schools will close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others under an ambitious proposal Superintendent Sean McDaniel told the school board is needed to equitably serve the district's 45,000 students.

About 200 people attended the late-afternoon meeting at Northeast Academy, which was rescheduled because of a wintry weather forecast.

McDaniel considered three data-driven plans for closure and consolidation. He recommended one to the board that would shutter Linwood Elementary and Telstar Elementary in Spencer in addition to 13 elementary schools and one mid-high previously identified for closure.

Opportunity zones benefit mostly the rich? ... A new federal tax incentive to encourage long-term investments in low-income areas includes most of downtown Oklahoma City and Tulsa and other pockets of prosperity in the state, but excludes many areas that are impoverished, reports Oklahoma Watch

The contrasts raise questions about how the areas, called “opportunity zones,” were selected and whether the tax breaks will attract investments that mostly benefit extremely poor areas or ones where investments were already going.

That does it for today's Capital City. Have a great weekend.

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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