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Under the Dome Interim Update - October 5, 2016

This week in Under the Dome, Interim Update - House committees heard eleven interim studies on topics which included Common Education, Criminal Justice and Higher Education.

Watch it at: Under the Dome

 

Under the Dome Interim Update - September 22, 2016

This week in Under the Dome, Interim Update - House committees heard five interim studies presented by Rep. Steve Vaughan, IS16-28, Rep. Sean Roberts, IS16-42, Rep. Claudia Griffith, IS16-52, Rep. Dan Kirby, IS16-39 and Rep. Richard Morrissette, IS16-31.

Watch it at: Under the Dome

 

Under the Dome Interim Update - September 15, 2016

This week in Under the Dome, Interim Update - We highlight four interim studies. Rep. Tom Newell introduced IS16-45 which looked at how much debt is owed to state agencies and what steps they can take to collect these debts. IS16-6 was submitted by Rep Mark McBride which looks at the merits of making changes in the state’s building code statutes. Rep. Randy McDaniel did an annual review of the state’s pension fund with IS16-19. The final interim study was a look at juvenile detention centers across the state of Oklahoma in IS16-1.

Watch it at: Under the Dome

 

Under the Dome Interim Update - September 8, 2016

This week in Under the Dome, Interim Update - We highlight two interim studies. Rep. Dennis Casey (R_Morrison) presented IS16-004 on districts use of revenue bonds. Rep. Jason Murphy (R_Guthrie) presented IS16-0018, which looks at the information technology unification process.

Watch it at: Under the Dome

 

Governor Mary Fallin Applauds House of Representatives for Passing Criminal Justice Bills

OKLAHOMA CITY — Governor Mary Fallin today commended the Oklahoma House of Representatives for its bipartisan approval of four bills related to criminal justice reform spotlighted in her State of the State address last month.

“These measures address Oklahoma’s prison population, which is among the highest in the nation, without jeopardizing public safety,” said Fallin. “With our state prisons filled to well over capacity, it is vital that we make some changes to our criminal justice system.”

The House passed:

  • House Bill 2472 which would give prosecutors discretion to file charges for non-85 percent crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies.
  • House Bill 2479 which would reduce the mandatory punishment for subsequent drug offenses.
  • House Bill 2751 which would raise the threshold for property crimes to be charged as a felony to $1,000.
  • House Bill 2753 which would establish means for broader use of drug courts.

The measures, all by Rep. Pam Peterson, now go to the Senate.

The bills were proposed by the governor’s Oklahoma Justice Reform Committee.

They won the endorsement of several groups and business leaders: the Oklahoma Policy Institute; the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber; the Tulsa Regional Chamber; the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association; Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) President Jonathan Small; OCPA Impact; Clay Bennett; David Rainbolt; and Adam Luck, state director of Right on Crime.

The Oklahoma Justice Reform Committee includes the governor, House speaker, Senate president pro tempore and heads of corrections and mental health departments, with subcommittees made up of prosecutors, judges and law officers.

 

Groups, Leaders Endorse Governor Mary Fallin’s Criminal Justice Reform Package

OKLAHOMA CITY — Governor Mary Fallin’s criminal justice reform package was endorsed today by policy groups, business leaders and chambers of commerce from the state’s two largest cities.

“These policies are evidence based and driven by consensus among Oklahoma’s experts. The broad range of support further illustrates that these measures are the best options for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma and we urge their quick passage in the legislature,” they wrote in a letter that will be distributed to lawmakers.

Four bills proposed by the governor’s Oklahoma Justice Reform Committee are scheduled to be heard early next week by the state House of Representatives

The letter supporting the bills was signed by:

  • Oklahoma Policy Institute
  • Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
  • Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Oklahoma District Attorneys Association
  • Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) President Jonathan Small
  • OCPA Impact
  • Clay Bennett
  • David Rainbolt
  • Adam Luck, state director of Right on Crime

“Governor Fallin’s criminal justice reform agenda represents the best steps forward for Oklahoma as we work to address the growing incarceration rates, overcrowded prisons, and overburdened county jails,” the letter said.

The bills are:

  • House Bill 2472 gives prosecutors discretion to file charges for non-85 percent crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies.
  • House Bill 2479 reduces the mandatory punishment for subsequent drug offenses.
  • House Bill 2751 raises the threshold for property crimes to be charged as a felony to $1,000.
  • House Bill 2753 establishes means for broader use of drug courts

The bills also have garnered support from the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association.

The Oklahoma Justice Reform Committee includes the governor, House speaker, Senate president pro tempore and heads of corrections and mental health departments, with subcommittees made up of prosecutors, judges and law officers.

 

House Passes Smart on Crime Reform Bills

OKLAHOMA CITY – A slate of bills aimed at improving public safety and reducing Oklahoma’s overcrowded prisons by reducing mandatory minimum sentences for some drug crimes, giving prosecutors more discretion in filing charges and expanding eligibility for drug courts easily passed out of the House of Representatives today.

The four bills were authored by state Rep. Pam Peterson and emerged from the Oklahoma Justice Reform Steering Committee, established last year to develop ideas for reforming the way the state deals with non-violent offenders, drug abusers and criminals with mental health issues.

“These bills are the result of a lot of discussion and recommendations from mental health and drug abuse experts, prosecutors and judges, all of whom are on the front lines of criminal justice reform,” said Peterson, R-Tulsa. “Our prisons are currently at more than 123 percent capacity, and they are getting more crowded every day because of sentencing laws that either prohibit prosecutors and judges from using discretion or exclude many defendants from alternative sentencing programs that would be more beneficial – both for the defendants and for society – than simply sending them to prison.”

House Bill 2472 would give district attorneys discretion to file any crime as a misdemeanor, except those requiring a sentence of 85 percent or more upon conviction, after considering the nature of the offense, the age, background and criminal history of the defendant, the character and rehabilitative needs of the defendant and the best interests of justice.

House Bill 2479 would adjust mandatory minimum and maximum sentences for felony drug possession. Under current law, mandatory minimum and maximum sentences are 2-10 years for a first offense, 4-20 years for a second offense and 4-20 years for a third offense. This bill would adjust those sentences to 0-5 years for a first offense, 0-10 years for a second offense and 4-15 years for a third offense.

House Bill 2751 would increase the threshold from $500 to $1000 to be charged with a felony property crime.

House Bill 2753 would expand eligibility for drug courts and community sentencing to more defendants. Under current law, a defendant must have a previous felony conviction to be eligible for those alternative sentencing programs.

“House Republicans started this journey four years ago with the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative,” said Hickman, R-Fairview. “Governor Fallin, Rep. Peterson and the Oklahoma Justice Reform Steering Committee has continued this important work to study and advance ideas that will save financial resources, improve public safety and reduce recidivism.”

The members of the Oklahoma Justice Reform Steering Committee included Gov. Mary Fallin, House Speaker Jeff Hickman, Senate President Pro-Tempore Brian Bingman, Attorney General Scott Pruitt and the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and the Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The subcommittee included numerous district attorneys and judges along with Oklahoma County Public Defender Bob Ravitz and Adam Luck, state director of Right On Crime.

House Bill 2472 passed by a vote of 63-27, House Bill 2749 passed by a vote of 76-15, House Bill 2751 passed by a vote of 80-8 and House Bill 2753 passed by a vote of 90-0. All four bills will now proceed to the Senate for consideration.

 

OK House Daily Update - Under the Dome

On today's Under the Dome, House Majority Leader Rep. Charles Ortega discusses legislative deadlines. Watch it at:

Under the Dome Capitol Update

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House Speaker Comments on Committee Passage of Final Capitol Restoration Plan

OKLAHOMA CITY – Following is a statement from Speaker of the House Jeffrey W. Hickman after the passage of House Bill 3168 today in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. The measure, authored by Hickman (R-Fairview), would allow the state to issue up to $125 million in bonds to complete the Capitol Restoration Project, which began in 2015 and is scheduled to be finished by 2022. Under House Bill 3168, the bond would not be let until 2018 when other state bonds are paid off and those revenues will be directed to the Capitol bonds meaning no new state dollars will be needed as a current $350 million infrastructure bond funded by tobacco tax revenues will expire.

“We will have substantial revenues freed up in the coming years that will allow us to fully service the final Capitol restoration bond without taking a single dime from the General Revenue Fund. The first phase of the Capitol restoration was to make urgent repairs to keep the building open and determine how much work is needed to restore the century old building, preparing it for its next 100 years of service to Oklahoma.

“Passage of the final phase now will save millions of dollars by allowing contractors to continue working through the currently funded phase to the final completion date in 2022 without stopping and starting construction. House Bill 3168 will also continue the work of the State Capitol Repair Expenditure Oversight Committee, a bipartisan committee consisting of nine members, who have done a great job of overseeing the restoration project and ensuring that all work is being done in an efficient and fiscally conservative manner.

“This building is a symbol of our great state’s history, heritage and culture, and we must preserve it for future generations of Oklahomans.”

 

Tax Incentive Commission Meets, Begins Review of Nearly $2 Billion

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission met today to begin reviewing more than $1.7 billion in annual tax credits, rebates and incentives in the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken to determine their effectiveness.

The Commission was established under House Bill 2182 by the late state Rep. David Dank, a Republican from Oklahoma City, with the goal of examining how the tax credits and incentives are being used and whether some should be eliminated or reformed. After Rep. Dank passed away during the legislative session, Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman spearheaded the effort to get the law passed.

“Rep. Dank was a near and dear friend of mine, and he dedicated his years of service in the House to trying to bring the issue of potentially wasteful tax giveaways to the forefront at the state Capitol,” said Hickman, R-Fairview. “This has been a long time in the making, so I am very pleased that the Commission is established and starting the hard work of examining these incentives and possibly saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that could be given back to citizens or redirected toward other priorities.”

The Commission is required to review each incentive once every four years, starting with the costliest incentives, and report its findings to the Legislature and governor each year. The Commission is made up of five voting and three non-voting members, including a private sector auditor, a professor of economics, a lay person, a certified public accountant and a representative from the Oklahoma Professional Economic Development Council. Hickman appointed Ron Brown, president and chief executive officer of the CSI Group, a private investigation company with experience in tracking down missing people and assets, to the Commission in January.

The members of the committee will work with outside experts to analyze the data.

“I think it will result in the type of reviews that are necessary to examine these hundreds of millions of dollars in credits, rebates and incentives,” Dank said last year before he passed away unexpectedly. “I have been working on these for woe these many years. Thanks again to you, Mr. Speaker, and others who are assisting you in this important matter.”

Hickman said Republican lawmakers have long held the political will to review tax incentives, credits and exemptions, but the lack of hard data to help lawmakers evaluate which incentives are benefitting or costing the state has not been available.

“We certainly believe that many tax credits and incentives are beneficial to our state and provide a boost to our economy, but we simply have not had good data and information to help us determine which incentives are doing what they are designed to do and which ones cost the state more than they generate,” said Hickman. “That will no longer be an obstacle. We expect to have good, solid data which will assist the Legislature in making important decisions about how we spend taxpayer dollars in the future.”

 

Governor Mary Fallin Orders State Agencies to Remove Question about Felony Convictions from Job Applications

Governor Mary Fallin today signed an executive order directing state agencies to eliminate questions about prior felony convictions from employment applications.

“Employment after a felony conviction is always a challenge, but the ability to gain employment is a critical and necessary component in reducing recidivism and for those individuals to lead productive and successful lives,” said Fallin. “Thus, we should remove unnecessary barriers to employment opportunities for Oklahomans with felony convictions.

“State hiring policies should allow full and fair consideration of all applicants.”

Oklahoma joins 19 states and more than 100 cities and counties nationwide in removing barriers to employment for qualified workers with conviction records. Companies like Hobby Lobby, Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Tulsa’s Bama Companies Inc. have taken similar steps.

Statistics show that one in 12 Oklahomans is a convicted felon, with more than 55,000 people currently in prison or under the supervision of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, most for non-violent offenses.

Employment is an important factor in preventing recidivism and reducing the state’s prison population. Jobs also help people provide an income to support their families.

Fallin said the Oklahoma Justice Reform Steering Committee -- which includes a broad representation of policy makers, mental health professionals and re-entry experts -- has recommended removing questions about felony convictions from all job applications. Executive order 2016-03 applies only to state agencies, but the governor encourages private employers to consider the policy as well.

Such policies are supported by many local and national groups, including Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, U.S. Justice Action Network, Right on Crime and the Koch brothers.

“This order is intended to provide state job applicants at least the initial opportunity for consideration for employment, an opportunity to discuss their criminal record and provide information that indicates rehabilitation, and allow applicants to be considered based upon their qualifications without the stigma of a conviction record,” said Fallin.

The governor’s order does not prevent agencies from conducting background checks on prospective employees or inquiring about applicants’ history during the interview process. It also does not prohibit agencies from excluding convicted felons from sensitive positions in certain convictions would be a cause for an immediate disqualification for the position.

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