Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Oklahoma Prisons Impose Hiring Freeze Due to Revenue Failure

The director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections says the agency is imposing a hiring freeze to help cut costs as a result of a state revenue failure. Director Joe Allbaugh said Thursday that the hiring freeze is the first of many possible changes in order to cut spending by about $3 million by the June 30 end of the state's fiscal year. Allbaugh says there are 348 vacant positions that will go unfilled during the freeze. He says the freeze does not include correctional officers,...

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Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

The director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections says the agency is imposing a hiring freeze to help cut costs as a result of a state revenue failure.

Director Joe Allbaugh said Thursday that the hiring freeze is the first of many possible changes in order to cut spending by about $3 million by the June 30 end of the state's fiscal year.

Allbaugh says there are 348 vacant positions that will go unfilled during the freeze. He says the freeze does not include correctional officers, probation and parole officers, medical professionals and food service workers.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The crippling five-year drought Oklahoma finally broke out of in 2015 is still fresh in the memory of the state’s water regulators, which is looking for ways the state can better withstand future dry spells. The Water Resources Board this week approved new rules to allow water to be stored underground, in aquifers.

Nearly 3/4 of Oklahoma voters oppose a half-cent tax on wind-generated electricity proposed by Gov. Mary Fallin, The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports a poll sponsored by a wind advocacy group shows. “The State Chamber also is voicing opposition to the plan.”

The Trump administration is rescinding protections for transgender students in public schools.

The move by the Justice and Education departments reverses guidance the Obama administration publicized in May 2016, which said a federal law known as Title IX protects the right of transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Emails made public Wednesday show newly confirmed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt coordinated with the fossil fuel industry and political groups to fight federal environmental regulations when he served as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

Headlines for Thursday , February 23, 2017:

  • Pruitt e-mails show coordination with the fossil fuel industry to fight EPA. (StateImpact OK)

  • Fallin ordered to turn over emails on executions. (Tulsa World)

oksenate.gov

An Oklahoma Senate committee has approved legislation to repeal the trigger for a cut in the state's individual income tax rate.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday voted 32-4 for Senate Bill 170 and sent it to the full Senate for a vote.

Not far from a gleaming $183 million arena and other signs of a midsize city striving to become something more, smooth pavement gives way to potholes, rusted fences and shuttered storefronts. They're the remnants of what was once known as Tulsa's Black Wall Street, before one of the worst race riots in U.S. history.

Businesses that are still open in this north-side section that some locals are adamant about reviving - the off-brand gas-and-go stores, the thrift shops and salvage yards - are often separated from the next open place by gnarled weeds, rusted fence and vacant lots.

facebook.com/mickcornett

The mayor of Oklahoma's largest city says he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett announced Wednesday that he will not run for re-election after serving about 14 years in office. He did not say what his future plans are.

“I still love the job as much as I ever have. And that makes it a difficult decision. I look forward to this final year in office knowing we have several more milestones to reach.”

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KOSU's Michael Cross talks about political news in Oklahoma with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican political consultant Neva Hill.

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Education News

oksenate.gov

A Senate education committee passed a school choice measure on Monday, which riled a lot of debate from lawmakers.

Education Savings Accounts are a touchy subject. They allow parents to use state tax dollars, that would normally go to a public school, towards private school tuition instead.

Senator Rob Standridge says his ESA bill, SB560, is aimed at helping low-income families afford a better educational option for their child.

oksenate.gov

A Oklahoma Senate subcommittee passed seven bills about teacher pay on Wednesday, each one providing a different solution to the teacher pay problem.

Some of the bills propose $1,000 raises, others $10,000. Some provide funding mechanisms, while others do not.

Senator J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso) says this is just the beginning of the conversation. He says the legislature knows raising teacher pay is the right thing to do and they've just got to figure out the right way to do it.

With a nearly $900 million budget shortfall, Oklahoma lawmakers want accountability for every penny. But within the coffers of private charter school management companies are millions of dollars that lawmakers can't see. 

Senator Jason Smalley wants to know exactly how much schools are spending on administration. He filed a bill to find out, because right now he said it’s not clear.

“Are all the individuals that should be classified as administration costs, actually being reported as that?” he asked. “I think that’s what the greater conversation is.”

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