Governor Mary Fallin today signed the Fiscal Year 2016 budget bill (HB 2244) into law, calling it a fiscally responsible blueprint for state government and praising the Legislature for closing a $611 million shortfall without cutting funding for K-12 education. The FY 2016 appropriated budget will be $7,138,920,521, which is $74.3 million, or 1.03 percent, less than FY 2015’s appropriated budget.
“I’m proud legislators and I were able to pass a budget in challenging times that shield common education, our largest and one of our most important expenses, from budget cuts,” said Fallin.
“Under this budget, approximately 51 cents of every dollar appropriated by state government will continue to go toward education. The budget also protects – and in some cases increases — funding for health and public safety while preserving all funding necessary to keep intact the state’s eight-year transportation plan, as well the five-year county road-and-bridge plan.”
Fallin called the 2015 legislative session “a victory for Oklahomans” and highlighted a series of policy successes. This year’s session was marked by significant progress in areas championed by Fallin, including education, criminal justice, and health. The governor identified each as an area in which Oklahoma must improve in both her inaugural address and her State of the State speech to legislators.
“This session was a victory for Oklahomans and produced a number of positive reforms in areas like education, health and criminal justice, despite a challenging budget year,” said Fallin. “I am excited about the good work done by our Legislature, and I believe the successes we’ve achieved this year will help the state of Oklahoma build on its significant forward momentum.”
2015 Policy and Legislative Highlights
“There are three areas that we must resolve to make a priority, areas that we must improve or risk stifling our forward momentum: educational attainment, over-incarceration, and health.” – Governor Mary Fallin, 2015 Inaugural Address
Educational Attainment and Improving Oklahoma’s Schools
• SB 612: Empowers the Governor’s Council on Workforce and Economic Development through streamlining membership. The council is one of the main drivers of “Oklahoma Works,” the governor’s initiative to boost educational attainment and better align workforce and education in Oklahoma by developing and supporting partnerships between local businesses, CareerTech institutions, higher education and K-12 schools.
• SB 782: Allows school districts across the state the ability to create charter schools. Charter schools, public schools that operate under innovative education models, historically have been limited to Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.
• HB 1034: Authorizes sponsorship of charter schools by federally recognized Indian tribes on tribal property held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
• HB 1691: Allows the Tulsa and Oklahoma City school board to contract educational and administrative services for the school district. These contracts allow schools to have flexibility in the way they operate, similar to charter schools.
• SB 136: Senate Bill 136 allows for the Virtual Charter School Board to develop an approved list of supplemental online courses offered to Oklahoma students and to negotiate a statewide rate for courses delivered.
• SB 20: Directs the State Board of Education to issue a teaching certificate to a person who holds a valid out-of-state certificate and meets certain requirements. SB 20 aims to make it easier to recruit and hire quality teachers outside the state of Oklahoma.
• HB 1823 (pending governor action): Directs the State Board of Education to study the calculation of the school report card and provide recommendations to the Legislature on how to improve the evaluation system.
• SB 630 (pending governor action): Modifies the Reading Sufficiency Act. For students in first and second grade not reading at the corresponding grade level, an individualized remediation reading plan will be developed to get the student reading at grade level. The plan will be developed by a committee consisting of the parent, the child’s teacher who had the responsibility for reading instruction in the academic year, a teacher responsible for reading in the next grade level and a reading specialist when available. The bill also increases the minimum reading level of students to be promoted to fourth grade from “limited knowledge” to “proficient” beginning in the 2016-17 school year. For the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, probationary promotion may be considered by a Student Reading Proficiency Team composed of the parent, the child’s teacher who had the responsibility for reading instruction in the academic year, a teacher responsible for reading in the next grade level and a reading specialist. Once a student in the first, second or third grade demonstrates reading proficiency at the third grade level through an approved screening instrument, they will have met the reading requirement to be promoted to fourth grade.
• SB 706 (pending governor action): The bill modifies the Oklahoma Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System (TLE). Beginning in 2016-17 school year, teachers and administrators will receive both a qualitative and a quantitative rating. The TLE will be used for matters of employment beginning in the 2017-18 school year.
• HB 1693 (pending governor action): This bill modifies The Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act to allow any taxpayer, who makes a contribution to an eligible educational improvement grant organization and commits to contribute the same amount for an additional year, receives a credit for the first year and the additional year equal to seventy-five percent of the total amount of the contribution each year. In addition, the bill allows “eligible special needs students” to receive scholarships of up to $5,000.00 or eighty percent of the statewide annual average per-pupil expenditure to cover the educational costs of a qualified school which does not charge tuition and enrolls special populations of students.
• SB 711 (pending governor action): This bill requires a superintendent who recommends the dismissal of a teacher to their local board of education to forward a copy of the recommendation to the State Board of Education if the reasons for dismissal could form the basis of criminal charges sufficient to result in the denial or revocation of a certificate. The State Board of Education will be notified after the completion of due process procedures.
Crime and Incarceration
“Another issue which year after year holds back our state, breaks apart our families and leads to poverty is crime and incarceration. Let me be clear: community and personal safety will always be a top priority. Anyone who is a threat to those around them must be locked up, and violent criminals must be in prison. Nothing about that will change. But here’s the sad truth: many of our inmates are non-violent offenders with drug abuse and alcohol problems. They don’t need to spend long stints at the state penitentiary, where they can join gangs and acquire criminal networks. They need treatment; they need supervision; and they need to be returned to their communities as productive and healthy adults ready to support themselves and their families.”
– Governor Mary Fallin, 2015 Inaugural Address
• HB 1518: Allows judges to impose shorter sentences for some nonviolent crimes. The bill allows judges to depart from mandatory minimum terms if they believe the minimum sentence is “not necessary for the protection of the public” and could “result in substantial injustice to the defendant.” Freed from having to impose a mandatory sentence, a judge in some cases could choose to divert the offender to a program to deal with underlying mental health or drug abuse issues. The measure, called the Justice Safety Valve Act, is an attempt to divert more nonviolent offenders into alternative programs and away from long terms in the state’s overcrowded prisons.
• HB 1574: Changes the minimum sentence for certain repeat drug felons from life without parole to not less than 20 years. Currently, a person convicted of two or more previous drug felony possessions must receive life in prison with no possibility of parole upon a conviction for drug trafficking. House Bill 1574 gives judges and juries the additional option of sentencing these offenders to 20 years to life in prison along with life without parole; it also provides that the punishment remains life without parole for anyone who has two or more drug trafficking convictions.
• HB 1548: Allows a judge to reduce the sentence of any inmate who was originally sentenced for a drug charge and ordered to complete the Drug Offender Work Camp at the Bill Johnson Correctional Facility if the judge is satisfied the best interests of the public will not be jeopardized.
• HB 2179: Makes it easier for offenders to obtain a commercial driver’s license once they have been released from prison. Presently ex-convicts must pay off all fees and fines before getting a suspended license reinstated. They can do so by paying monthly toward their fines. HB 2179 extends that practice to those seeking a commercial driver’s license.
• HB 2168: Allows Oklahoma agencies and boards to make common-sense licensing decisions on reformed individuals. Previously, individuals convicted of a felony were barred from professional licensing, limiting their career options and contributing to recidivism.
• HB 2187: Expands use of electronic monitoring options. Electronic monitoring is a more cost-effective way of supervising some non-violent offenders than prison. It also allows officials to better supervise individuals released on parole to ensure quick remedial action to protect the public.
• HB 1630: Reduces inmate expenses and streamlines the process of transferring prisoners from county jails to Department of Corrections custody by requiring counties to transmit sentencing documents to the state agency within three days of their availability. In the event the Department of Corrections facilities reach capacity, counties will now be given the right to negotiate with the agency to house prisoners at a negotiated rate before private prisons.
• HB 1263: Allows expungement of records without cost for individuals determined to be innocent.
• HB 1047: Strengthens laws on aggravated child pornography.
• HB 1318 and SB 55: Strengthens laws relating to assault on a police officer.
• HB 1350: Strengthens stalking laws.
Improving Health Outcomes
“We must work together collectively and individually to improve the health of the state and our citizens. … Poor health outcomes are destroying our quality of life, leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths each year, and costing taxpayers and businesses a tremendous amount of money. It is time to face these hard truths and take responsibility for these outcomes as a state and as individuals.” – Governor Mary Fallin, 2015 Inaugural Address
• HB 1948: HB 1948 takes aim at Oklahoma’s prescription drug abuse problem. It seeks to reduce “doctor shopping,” the practice of going to multiple physicians with requests for prescription narcotics, and to reduce the reliance on and inappropriate use of dangerous narcotics to treat pain. The law requires doctors to check a Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) database before writing prescriptions for potentially dangerous and addictive drugs like oxycodone. By checking the database, doctors can reduce the likelihood patients are seeking the same prescription drugs from more than one physician at a time.
• HB 1965: Makes it illegal to text while driving in Oklahoma. The measure makes texting while driving a primary offense, meaning law officers will be able to pull over anyone who is texting while operating a vehicle. The penalty will be $100. HB 1965, The Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act of 2015, is named for the two Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers who were struck by a vehicle earlier this year while investigating an accident on Interstate 40 in Seminole County. Dees died at the scene, and Burch was hospitalized. The driver of the vehicle was using a smart phone at the time of the accident.
• HB 1685: Requires all Oklahoma schools be tobacco-free. The bill is known as the 24/7 Tobacco-Free Schools Act. Tobacco use of any kind will not be allowed on school grounds and the use of a tobacco product will also be prohibited in school vehicles, and at any school-sponsored or school-sanctioned activity.
• HB 2154: Authorizes a medical pilot program allowing the medically supervised use of cannabidiol (CBD), a low THC non-intoxicating derivative of marijuana. Reports from some families indicate CBD oil may be used to effectively treat children who suffer from epileptic seizures and help reduce the number and intensity of those seizures.
• HB 1566: Aims to reduce costs while improving health services provided by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. HB 1566 directs the Health Care Authority to issue a request for proposal for care coordination models for the aged, blind and disabled population of Oklahoma who are enrolled in the state’s SoonerCare (Oklahoma Medicaid) program.
• Executive Order 17: Creates a new advisory committee, made up of members of the governor’s former Blue Ribbon Panel for Developmental Disabilities, which will offer policy proposals, and an inter-agency Executive Council, composed of state officials and members of the governor’s Cabinet, who will seek to implement those proposals.
A Fiscally Conservative Budget with Targeted Increases to Core Government Services
The FY 2016 budget deal reached by Governor Mary Fallin and state legislators represents a fiscally responsible plan to fund core government services. The agreement preserves current funding levels for common education, a major victory considering the state had $611 million less in certified revenue available this legislative session than was appropriated in FY 2015. Education continues to be the state’s largest investment, with approximately 51 percent of all appropriated dollars going toward education expenses.
“I’m proud legislators and I were able to pass a budget in challenging times that shield common education, our largest and one of our most important expenses, from budget cuts. Under this budget agreement, approximately 51 cents of every dollar appropriated by state government will continue to go toward education. The budget also protects – and in some cases increases — funding for health and public safety while preserving all funding necessary to keep intact the state’s eight-year transportation plan, as well the five-year county road-and-bridge plan.”— Governor Mary Fallin
The $7.2 billion budget provides targeted funding increases in the following areas:
• Oklahoma Health Care Authority: $18 million, or 1.9 percent, for operations.
• Department of Human Services: $15.9 million line item for the Pinnacle Plan.
• Department of Public Safety: $4.6 million, or 4.8 percent, for trooper pay raises.
• Office of Juvenile Affairs: $2.5 million, or 2.6 percent, for female facility.
• Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services: $2 million, or 0.6 percent, for operations.
• Department of Corrections: $1million, or 0.2 percent, for operations.
• House of Representatives: $1million, or 6.38 percent, for operations.
• Department of Rehabilitative Services: $400,000, or 1.3 percent, for a federal match.
• Oklahoma School of Science and Math: $250,000, or 3.95 percent, for operations.
• Ethics Commission: $100,000, or 13.56 percent, for operations.
“As a state, we spend a lot of money now on programs we hope are working. We need to identify and support programs we know are working.” – Governor Mary Fallin, State of the State Address
• SB 189: Requires state agencies to use performance-informed budgeting techniques. SB 189 changes the budgeting process to align resources with state priorities and measurable outcomes. Performance-informed budgeting moves Oklahoma from funding programs that might work to funding programs that do work. This bill will help ensure government is allocating taxpayer resources wisely and delivering measurable results.
• HB 2182: Requires tax incentives offered to businesses to be evaluated at least once every four years. A citizen oversight panel, the Incentive Evaluation Commission, will develop evaluation criteria for each individual incentive that will be used by an independent third party to conduct incentive evaluations. The evaluations will then be used by policymakers to help determine whether incentives should be retained, reformed or repealed.
• SB 806: Requires all future business tax incentives to contain measurable goals.
Other Legislative Successes
• HB 1403: Outlines procedures for the care and disposition of various animals after extreme emergencies. It seeks to eliminate problems experienced within the livestock industry during previous natural disasters. It establishes holding periods and procedures to assist owners in locating animals after a federally declared emergency, and establishes accommodations for animals at shelters during such an event.
• HB 1756: Removes government authority over the Oklahoma Peanut Commission, allowing this organization to function completely in the private sector and no longer receive government funds. This is the final step in privatizing the commission.
• HB 2208: Provides for consistent reporting of poultry waste to better ensure environmental and governmental efficiency. It modernizes poultry producer requirements, allowing for better guidance of incoming producers and increased industry growth.
• HB 2237: Provides funding for the completion of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City.
• SB 839: Provides funding for the creation of the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa
• SB 313: Allows eligible citizens with a driver’s license to securely register to vote online, an option already offered by over half of all states. SB 313 aims to increase voter participation.
• HB 1749: Prohibits any state agency from making payroll deductions on behalf of a state employee for membership in a public employee association or organization that collectively bargains on behalf of its membership. HB 1749 removes the state from the process of collecting union dues.
• EO 22: States Oklahoma will not file a State Implementation Plan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulating carbon dioxide emissions produced by Oklahoma power plants. Proposed federal regulations would increase utility costs for families and businesses, destroy jobs and will not substantially reduce emissions or mitigate global warming.
• SB 820: Provides the re-appropriation of funds to the attorney general’s office for its ongoing effort to preserve Oklahoma’s water rights. SB 820 appropriates funds to ensure the state will have the appropriate legal counsel to guarantee proper representation related to the prosecuting and defending of claims related to water and water rights.
• SB 808: Introduces new wind project sighting guidelines that include a 1.5 mile-setback requirements for wind towers in relation to airports, public schools and hospitals. It also ensures the owner of any wind facility must provide evidence of an amount sufficient to cover costs of decommissioning wind towers to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission before beginning construction. It also allows for increased notice to local communities and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on proposed wind projects.
• SB 498 and SB 502: Reforms tax incentives and credits currently available to the Oklahoma wind energy industry. Senate Bill 498 phases out the current property tax exemption for wind facilities. SB 502 makes wind facilities ineligible for a job creation tax credit currently offered by the state. A zero emissions tax credit currently available to the wind industry will remain in place. Both bills accomplish the goals of supporting an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy while delivering much-needed fiscal reform.”
• HB 1409: Increases the time for voluntary and informed consent before an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. Additionally, abortion facilities that operate a website must add a web link to the state’s website, “A Woman’s Right to Know.”
• HB 1721: Outlaws abortions in which doctors use forceps or other medical devices to dismember a living fetus in the womb. The Oklahoma Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act provides an exception only in cases where the dismemberment abortion was necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the mother.
• HB 1007: Protects religious leaders from being compelled to perform marriages that are in direct contradiction to their religious beliefs.
Transportation and Public Safety
• SB 322: Enhances safety in work zones and other dangerous driving areas by allowing enforcement of a required reduced speed limit rather than an advisory speed limit. SB 322 allows transportation officials to adjust driving speed signage to protect travelers during inclement weather, accidents, emergencies or other hazardous road conditions.
• EO 15: Extends the critical work of the Governor’s Impaired Driving Prevention Advisory Committee. The council is tasked with continuing efforts toward a reduction in fatalities and serious injuries caused by individuals driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
• HB 1568: Allows for the implementation of a video toll collection system in locations where safety and savings could be improved. It empowers transportation officials to partner with communities and install systems that improve driver convenience and reduce overhead costs.
• HB 1113: Allows transportation maintenance vehicles to display red and blue safety lights that signal other vehicles to yield or change lanes away from the work area. It creates a safer environment for all on the road, especially highway maintenance workers and night travelers.