June 19, 2013
GICH aims to relax Section 8 felony restrictions
The Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness announced plans Wednesday to strengthen their efforts to convince Oklahoma’s various housing authorities to relax their restrictions on felonies. Several members of the council that consists of representatives from numerous state agencies voiced concerns that the easy and cheap accessibility of arrest records keep many Oklahomans without jobs our homes.
"Part of the problem is that all of these records are so public, and there is not an ability to seal them under the law in Oklahoma, or to even not release them for a really low fee,” said Linda Lepak with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. “It doesn’t cost much to do an OSBI background check. That’s a matter of public policy. We could have a different public policy that says some felonies, we’re just not going to make that information available to the general public. That improves employment opportunities, that improves housing opportunities.”
June 19, 2013
Lawmakers, parents discuss Common Core in open
Rep. Gus Blackwell, joined by parents and other lawmakers, hosted an open forum Tuesday on the Common Core State Standards at the Edmond Community Center.
Blackwell, R-Laverne, met with business leaders from the area to hear from Oklahoma Wesleyan University President Everett Piper, who discussed the issues associated with the implementation of Common Core standards.
Blackwell, a strong opponent of Common Core, said during his introduction that these standards, which are soon to be implemented in schools across the state, are neither “college or career ready,” let alone necessary for students to obtain jobs in Oklahoma; however, his issue is with the costs associated with implementation.
June 19, 2013
Construction Industries Board approves 5 percen
The Construction Industries Board voted unanimously Wednesday to give its full-time employees 5 percent pay increases.
CIB Administrator Janis Hubbard said the board’s employees last received a pay increase in 2010. The purpose of the raise, she explained, was to bring the employees’ salaries closer to those for comparable work in the private market.
“Even after those raises, we were still only at 92 percent of the market,” she said.
The 5 percent raises approved Wednesday, Hubbard added, will mean the employees’ salaries remain below the 92 percent of market level.
The increases will cost the agency approximately $88,549 and were approved unanimously and without discussion.
June 18, 2013
Strong reviews Comprehensive Water Plan implementa
Oklahoma Water Resources Board Executive Director JD Strong announced to board members Tuesday that Oklahoma proved victorious in its fight against the Tarrant Regional Water District.
In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that Texas does not have a right under the Red River Compact to obtain water from across its border with Oklahoma and that state laws prohibiting the sale of state water do not violate the Commerce Clause.
His comments sparked a round of applause from board members and the audience.
Strong’s report focused on the efforts the agency has taken to implement what he called the “most comprehensive and vetted water plan in state history,” which included 13 watershed planning region reports in 2012.
Strong said the water plan focuses on four key areas: demand projections, water supply and gap depletions, water supply alternatives and public participation and policy development.
Particularly in the area of water supply gaps, Strong said the agency has identified the 12 “hot spots”, meaning the areas with the most significant water shortages. Of those, the Panhandle and Southwest Oklahoma are identified as problem areas.
June 18, 2013
Storms damage state buildings
Buildings in and around the State Capitol Complex, as well as others, did not escape May unscathed from storm damage.
Fourteen buildings in the State Capitol Complex overseen by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services received approximately $68,000 damage, mostly due to flooding May 31, said OMES spokesman John Estus. An estimate of damage at the Jim Thorpe Building, where the damage was more extensive, is not yet available.
“The entire north office area on the ground floor (of the Thorpe building) was damaged,” Estus. That forced the relocation of approximately one dozen OMES human capital management staff and damaged equipment and other materials that were stored there.
June 18, 2013
Legislation prohibits renewal of food stamp bene
A waiver from the federal government for some Oklahomans receiving food benefits will expire in September, and the state is prohibited from asking for the waiver again as a result of legislation passed and signed into law this session.
HB1909, by Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, and Sen. David Fuller Holt, R-Oklahoma City, prohibits the Department of Human Services from requesting a waiver to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program services to able-bodied individuals without dependents.
The measure’s authors initially sought to use HB1909 as a vehicle to require SNAP beneficiaries who fell in that category to work at least 35 hours per week, up from the current requirement of 20, but that language was eventually stricken.