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Wednesday, May 31, 2006 

Morgan Plays Politics With Budget

Fight Signals Vulnerability on Fiscal Issues Faced with the impending shut down of the state government, Democrats have begun fighting amongst themselves. Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan accused his own Democratic governor of "playing politics" in the failure to pass a budget agreement in the regular session. Morgan said Henry's plan to cut $320 million in income and estate taxes disproportionately benefits the wealthy and does not provide enough money for essential state services. "This tax-cut thing is a political game. It's a ploy to get elected...I'm not interested in their political games. The Senate will not be dictated to." Earlier in the session, the Senate majority passed a $480 million income tax-cut bill out of committee. Now, Senate Leadership is looking to kill the bill that would return the nearly one billion dollar back to the taxpayers. With seven Democratic Senators facing term limits, this about face could be a political move to force a government shutdown. In the event of a shutdown, state Democrats will most likely take a page from the national Democratic playbook and try to shift the debate away from the skyrocketing state budget, which has become an increasing liability to both the Governor Henry and the Senate Democrats. The growth of state spending under Democratic leadership is sure to be a hot-button issue in this fall’s elections. Oklahoma's budget has risen from $2.5 billion to over $6 billion dollars in the last 10 years. During the same time, state government grew 30% faster than the private sector. Gov. Henry is particularly vulnerable, given that his budget for last year included an unprecedented 12% growth in the size of state government. Posted at 5/31/2006 11:06:00 AM |

Inhofe State Director Beaten

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City police say the top aide in Oklahoma to Senator Jim Inhofe is hospitalized after apparently being beaten. Police say John Collison of Edmond has a fractured face, pelvis, ribs and wrist plus injuries to his jaw and liver. Sergeant Paco Palderrama says Collison was found Sunday morning about 4 a-m lying on a loading dock outside Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City. Collison told police he couldn't remember being attacked or anything that happened after 10:30 Saturday night. Collison is responsible for managing Inhofe's Oklahoma staff and day-to-day operations in the state. According to the National Institute of Corrections, the latest statistics available (2004) report that Oklahoma's crime rate is 17.92% higher than the national average and the correctional supervision rate (number of offenders supervised per 100,000) is 15.79% lower than the national average. Instead of granting clemency to illegal immigrants on death row, maybe Governor Henry should focus his attention on protecting innocent victims like Mr. Collision. Oklahoma Political News Service wishes Mr. Collision a full and speedy recovery. Posted at 5/31/2006 09:15:00 AM |

OK Political News Service Flashback!

Lt. Gov's bodyguard quits amid allegations of affair December 8, 1998 AP OKLAHOMA CITY An Oklahoma Highway Patrol bodyguard for Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin has resigned after admitting ''unprofessional conduct'' amid allegations by her estranged husband that she had an affair with a bodyguard. Mrs. Fallin, a Republican who was elected to a second term last month, filed for divorce last week. At a hearing, Fallin's attorney raised an allegation about the lieutenant governor having an affair with an unidentified bodyguard. In a statement Monday, Public Safety Commissioner Bob Ricks said rumors surfaced in early September about ''alleged unprofessional conduct between a member of the executive security detail and the lieutenant governor.'' The statement said the trooper first denied the allegations, but was again questioned late last month and ''admitted to unprofessional conduct and was permitted to resign. That resignation was accepted last week. His admission did not indicate that sexual activity was involved.'' The trooper was not identified and Ricks was reported unavailable for further discussion of the matter. Lana Tyree, Mrs. Fallin's attorney, later issued a statement saying the lieutenant governor would have no comment. ''Out of legitimate concern for the privacy and welfare of her minor children through the Christmas holidays, Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin, having denied the allegations, will not respond to or debate these issues in the media and will make no further public comment,'' the statement said. Mrs. Fallin, 43, and her husband have two children, ages 11 and 8. In court, Mrs. Fallin had said the allegations of an affair with a bodyguard were a rumor started by her husband. At last week's hearing, District Judge Jerry Bass prevented Fallin's attorney from pursuing questions about an alleged affair. In response to a question from his wife's attorney, Mr. Fallin said he had hired a private investigator to follow her. Another hearing in the divorce case is set for next Monday. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sex scandal roils Oklahoma politics: Official accused of having affair with trooper December 12, 1998 Kansas City Star (MO) TULSA, Okla. - The debate over precisely what constitutes sexualrelations has spread from the nation's capital to this heartlandstate, where the lieutenant governor is accused of an improperrelationship with a state trooper. The situation has Republican Gov. Frank A. Keating battling partisan charges of hypocrisy for refusing to publicly criticize his second-in-command, Mary Fallin, while condemning President Clinton's conduct with Monica Lewinsky as ``outrageous'' and calling for Clinton's resignation. ``We have to handle this fairly and professionally and in a nonpartisan fashion, fully independent of what is happening nationally,'' Keating said in an interview. ``We can't let the winds of the Washington scandal blow us to the right or left. '' The governor added that there was no evidence that sexual intercourse had taken place between Fallin and Greg Allen, a member of her security detail. Keating has nonetheless ordered the state Public Safety Commissioner to leave ``no stone unturned'' in an official review. Fallin and Allen - who resigned after acknowledging that he engaged in ``unprofessional conduct'' - have denied a sexual relationship. However, Allen admitted that on more than one occasion he had held Fallin's hand and had comforted her as she wept on his shoulder over her troubled marriage. He also said that they had kissed - ``but merely as you would kiss a friend,'' explained his attorney Gary James. For that, James said, Allen initially thought it was best to resign. Allen, who is married, is now asking for his job back. The firestorm erupted Dec. 4 when Fallin, 43, considered an up-and-coming Republican political figure, announced that she was seeking a divorce. At a sensational court hearing that day, she accused her husband of 14 years of abusing her, of using drugs and of hiring a private investigator to follow her. Joseph Fallin, a dentist, denied the abuse and drugs but admitted hiring the investigator. ``This is about you having an affair with one of your bodyguards, isn't it?,'' Joseph Fallin's attorney, Bill Liebel, asked Mary Fallin in open court. ``That was a rumor started by my husband,'' she responded. The judge quickly called a recess and then barred further reference to the matter. But the cat was out of the bag. A few days later, Public Safety Commissioner Bob Ricks confirmed that Allen had been ``permitted to resign,'' although the trooper had denied that any ``sexual activity'' had occurred. ``In all honesty, none of us wanted to know any details,'' Ricks said in an interview. ``Who wants to go into this salacious area? '' Keating, who is chairman of the Republican Governor's Association and who has presidential aspirations, is among those who would rather not be dealing with this. But state Democrats seized on the scandal to attack Keating, while avoiding any judgment of Fallin and her marital woes. ``He is a leading critic of the president, and what he is practicing nationally he is not practicing locally,'' said Pat Hall, executive director of the state Democratic Party. A spokesman for Keating responded that the governor's judgments about Clinton were made after the president admitted an improper relationship with Lewinsky. Posted at 5/31/2006 08:17:00 AM |

Check Is In The Mail?

State loses thousands of tax returns Not only do Senate Democrats not want to return the nearly one billion dollar surplus back to the taxpayers, apparently the Oklahoma Tax Commission is following suit. By Associated Press (excerpt) OKLAHOMA CITY The Oklahoma Tax Commission say a computer problem is responsible for the agency misplacing as many as 5-thousand Oklahoma tax return checks. The problem occurred when the bar code on the returns and the bar code on some income tax return software products were wrong. Posted at 5/31/2006 08:04:00 AM |
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 

End Of Session Sausage Making

The legislative process is sometimes similar to making sausage; if you saw the process, you might not want to enjoy the final product. by Janice Francis-Smith The Journal Record (excerpt) OKLAHOMA CITY – A five-page bill dealing with tax issues grew by more than 100 pages overnight and was approved by the Legislature on Friday, the last day of session, in a most atypical fashion. Up until Friday morning, Senate Bill 1084 was a little bill to clarify the effective date for a tax credit offered to biodiesel facilities. But when it emerged from conference committee and hit the Senate floor Friday afternoon, it was 114 pages long and was being referred to as the “omnibus” tax bill. The version heading to the governor’s desk deals with everything from the tobacco tax to municipal annexation, coal production, home builders, church construction, advertising for sporting events, disabled veterans and rural electricity cooperatives. Posted at 5/30/2006 08:04:00 AM |

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Although the Legislature adjourned without a budget agreement Friday, several bills were signed, many are awaiting the Governor's signature, and many died. Bills Signed: HB 2615: Stand Your Ground provides immunity from criminal prosecution or civil action for using justifiable deadly force. SB 1742: Anti-abortion measures. HB 2840: Kelsey Briggs law, reforms the state's child welfare. Awaiting Governor's Signature SB 1951: Extends the ban on funeral protests to within 500 feet of any place where a portion of a funeral service is held. HB 2842: Would reform the state's Medicaid system. SB 1577: Would plug a tax credit loophole that could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars if left unchecked. Died This Session HB 3119: Would have required state employees to report illegal immigrants seeking state services to the federal authorities. SB 1815: Would delay until 2008 when electronic campaign report filing would start. HB 2158: Would require that children's books containing homosexual content and pervasively vulgar and sexually explicit material be shelved in the adult area of the library. Posted at 5/30/2006 08:00:00 AM |
Monday, May 29, 2006 

Memorial Day 2006

Friday, May 26, 2006 

"Like Sand Thru The Hour Glass"

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma Legislature convenes a special session to finish work on the state budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1st. With lawmakers facing a constitutional deadline to adjourn their regular session today at 5 PM, Governor Brad Henry ordered the special session for lawmakers to continue working on the budget and avoid a possible government shutdown. State House Republicans and Senate Democrats are at odds over tax relief and spending priorities. Posted at 5/26/2006 06:52:00 AM |

House Approves Anti Base Closure Bill

The Journal Record OKLAHOMA CITY – An appropriation expected to be $1 million to help military communities avoid base realignments was approved Thursday by the House by a vote of 98-0 and now moves to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 1675, by state Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton, and state Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, would place additional funding in the “Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission Incentive Fund,” which allows communities that are home to military bases to apply for matching grants for infrastructure and road improvements. The fund was created last year after the federal government’s latest round of the base realignment and closure process. Posted at 5/26/2006 06:17:00 AM |
Thursday, May 25, 2006 

Bill Would Chop Refinery Permitting Process Time In Half

By Marie Price The Journal Record OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation aimed at cutting in half the time it takes to permit a new oil refinery passed the state House Wednesday by 95-4. House Bill 2810, by state Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, and Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, now goes to the Senate for a final vote. “This bill cuts out a large chunk of the bureaucracy that prevents the creation of new jobs that contribute to Oklahoma’s economic growth,” said Denney. “Oklahoma has a rich history in the oil and gas industry, but there hasn’t been a new refinery built in the United States in more than 30 years.” Denney said the “Oklahoma Refinery Revitalization Act” could reduce the refinery permitting process, which currently takes about 10 years, to about five years. Read More... Posted at 5/25/2006 08:17:00 AM |

Bill Allows Death Penalty For Sex Crimes Against Children

By The Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY - A bill to allow the death penalty to be assessed against a person who commits a second sex offense against a child under 14 years old passed the state Senate on Wednesday. The measure heads to the House and will go to the governor if passed by Friday's adjournment deadline. Gov. Brad Henry has not indicated whether he will sign the measure. Sen. Jonathan Nichols, R-Norman, resurrected the measure in another bill and easily passed it in committee and on the Senate floor on Wednesday. The new proposal outlines specific crimes that on a second offense against a child under 14 could subject a person to life in prison or the death penalty. Read More... Posted at 5/25/2006 08:06:00 AM |

Panel Backs Plan To Close Tax Loophole

By The Associated Press (excerpt) A bill to block a tax credit scheme that is costing the state tens of millions of dollars was signed out of a joint House-Senate committee late Wednesday Under two tax credit programs passed a few years ago, venture capital investors are supposed to get a 20 percent tax credit for investing in startup businesses in urban areas and a 30 percent credit in rural areas. Oklahoma Tax Commission officials say the programs cost the state about $2 million a year for the past three years, but that soared to an estimated $66 million for 2005. Read More... Posted at 5/25/2006 07:53:00 AM |

Senate's Top Democrat Urges Governor To Call Special Session

By The Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY The state Senate's top Democrat urged Governor Brad Henry to call a special legislative session to write the state budget. Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan's request comes after lawmakers passed the 11th hour of their regular session without a budget agreement. Negotiations have stalled over Republican demands for the largest tax cut in state history and Democrat spending priorities for education, health care and roads and bridges. Read More... Posted at 5/25/2006 07:44:00 AM |

Coburn To Investigate Congressional Violations

By Jerry Bohnen KTOK-AM (Oklahoma City) Congress could get taken to the woodshed on Thursday by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn as he chairs a subcommittee hearing exploring why Congress violates its own budget rules. "Congress is in a bad habit of setting its own spending limitations and rules and repeatedly breaking them," said Coburn in a press release from his office. He chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management. Coburn points out how since 1990, congress has misused budget rules related to emergency or supplemental spending in order to subvert annual budget caps. Posted at 5/25/2006 07:03:00 AM |
Wednesday, May 24, 2006 

State, Federal Authorities Announce Gang Task Force

The Associated Press (excerpt) OKLAHOMA CITY State and federal authorities yesterday announced the formation of a metropolitan gang task force to fight what they say is a growing problem of gang crime and violence in the Oklahoma City area. U.S Attorney John Richter and Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane said gang members have taken control of streets and neighborhoods in areas of the city and have threatened and tried to intimidate residents of neighborhoods who reported their activities to police. Lane analogized the gang task force as an intervention in communities where gangs have taken root, selling drugs and recruiting area children to become involved in their activities. "We are not waiting for Oklahoma City to have an out-of-control gang problem," Lane said. Tulsa, with a population smaller than Oklahoma City's, has a homicide rate that is three times larger, much of it gang related, he said. "They have essentially taken over small parts of this city," Lane said. "Our message to gang members is this: We're coming for you." Read More... Posted at 5/24/2006 09:00:00 AM |
Tuesday, May 23, 2006 

Governor Signs Safe Net Online Child Protection Law

By Tim Talley Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY - Gov. Brad Henry signed legislation Monday that creates a state Internet crimes law enforcement unit to crack down on online child predators and pornographers. Read More... Posted at 5/23/2006 08:07:00 AM |

Tort Reform Bill Dead For This Session

By Janice Francis-Smith The Journal Record OKLAHOMA CITY - Legislators have pronounced this year's tort reform bill dead on arrival. Senate Bill 1657 survived long enough to make it to a conference committee, a joint House/Senate committee assigned the task of finding a compromise on controversial pieces of legislation. But when the Senate announced which senators would serve on the conference committee, Republicans gave up hope. Read More... Posted at 5/23/2006 08:02:00 AM |

Tribes Call For New Cigarette Tax Deal

Twenty-two American Indian tribes have passed a resolution calling for a new deal on cigarette taxes that would double their cost advantage over other retailers. The resolution calls for compacts between the state and tribes putting the tribal cigarette tax rate at 25 percent of the usual rate. That would work out to about 26 cents a pack The failure of Indian tobacco compact to produce expected income has been a problem for the administration of Gov. Brad Henry. Read More... Posted at 5/23/2006 07:09:00 AM |

Lawmaker Says State Immigration Bill Dead

By The Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY The author of immigration legislation intended to stop illegal immigrants from receiving tax-supported services says his measure is probably dead for the year. Moore state Representative Randy Terrill's bill would've required Oklahomans to produce proof of citizenship before they receive government aid like food stamps and Medicaid. State workers also would've been required to report anyone who didn't produce proper identification to federal immigration officials. Read More... Posted at 5/23/2006 06:48:00 AM |

Panel Reprimands Officials Over Ethics Violations

By The Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY The former director of the Tri-County Indian Nations Community Development Corporation has been publicly reprimanded by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Commission chairman John Raley says Joe -L- Braly ran afoul of a state ethics rule by using accounts of an Ada community development corporation to fund a series of campaign contributions. Read More... Posted at 5/23/2006 06:47:00 AM |

House Committee Endorses Bonus Program For State Teachers

By The Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY Legislation to expand a program that has given out half a (M) million dollars in cash bonus awards to Oklahoma teachers gets the O-K from a House panel today. The House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education agreed to increase the amount of prize money available to public schools under the Academic Achievement Award program. Read More... Posted at 5/23/2006 06:41:00 AM |

Budget Stalemate Continues

By The Associated Press The chances of the Oklahoma Legislature shutting down without funding next year's budget increased significantly Monday when legislative leaders got nowhere in tax cut negotiations. House Speaker Todd Hiett and Senate Pro Tem Mike Morgan each accused the other of being unreasonable and not willing to compromise during a brief meeting in Morgan's office. Read More... Posted at 5/23/2006 05:45:00 AM |

Legislature Told Not To Cut Tax Rates

Tulsa World Editorial A veteran university economist and the governor who presided over the oil boom and bust of the 1980s warn legislators against cutting tax rates in the expectation that the latest oil and gas boom will continue. Republican House Speaker Todd Hiett demands a cut in the state income tax. Senate Democrats, headed by President Pro Tem Mike Morgan, refuse to cut rates. Gov. Brad Henry proposed a tax cut smaller than Hiett's. Read More... Posted at 5/23/2006 05:40:00 AM |
Monday, May 22, 2006 

Fort Gibson Attorney Says She's Running For State House

FORT GIBSON, Okla. (AP) -- Fort Gibson attorney Dianne Barker Harrold says she's running for a seat in the Oklahoma House as a Democrat. The seat now is held by Barbara Staggs but the state's term-limits rules will keep her from running for another term. Harrold is a former district attorney for four northeastern Oklahoma counties, having served eight years in that job. She also a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and is now serving as general counsel to the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees. Posted at 5/22/2006 08:04:00 AM |

Fairfax Woman Says She's Running For State Senate

FAIRFAX, Okla. (AP) -- A Fairfax Republican says she plans to run for a state Senate seat that's soon to be vacated. Jean Sears says she wants to fill the seat now held by J- Berry Harris, who is prevented from running for another term by the state's term-limits rules. Read More... Posted at 5/22/2006 08:01:00 AM |

Oklahoma's Congressional Delegation Disclose Finances

TULSA, Okla. Congressman John Sullivan's latest financial disclosure report shows his listed assets more than tripled over the last year following a confidential settlement in a lawsuit over the 2003 death of his infant daughter. A review of the latest disclosure reports by the Tulsa World shows Sullivan reported assets of between 351-thousand dollars and 765-thousand dollars. He listed no liabilities. Read More... Posted at 5/22/2006 04:33:00 AM |

James Williamson Says He's A "Rational" Conservative

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Of the three Republicans running for governor, state Sen. James A. Williamson says he's the one who is the most realistic and has the best track record on how to accomplish conservative goals. In an Associated Press Newsmaker Interview, Williamson pointed to his legislative successes, criticized fellow GOP candidate Bob Sullivan for advocating a tax-cut program that is "not rational" and said incumbent Democratic Gov. Brad Henry is so tied to trial lawyers he can't accomplish "real" lawsuit reform...He acknowledges he is behind the other two candidates in the GOP race _ U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook and Tulsa businessman Bob Sullivan _ on fundraising, with only about $200,000 raised so far, less than quarter of the amount collected by Sullivan and Istook. Read More... Posted at 5/22/2006 04:23:00 AM |

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