July 22, 2014

Fallin rejects Ritze call for ‘Catastrophic Heal
Gov. Mary Fallin’s office on Tuesday rejected a call by Rep. Mike Ritze to declare a Catastrophic Health Emergency to address issues related to the immigrant children being held at Fort Sill. “It is our belief that the (Catastrophic Health Emergency Act) offers a very narrow interpretation of what a ‘health emergency’ is and when a CHE can be declared by the governor, wrote Steve Mullins, Fallin’s general counsel, in a Tuesday letter to Ritze. “We do not believe that the current health concerns at Fort Sill have met that threshold.” On July 14, Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, announced he had sent letters to Fallin Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Terry Cline and state representatives in the Lawton area encouraging them to do all they can to ensure the protection of Oklahoma citizens from contagious diseases following the federal government's decision to house illegal immigrant children at Ft. Sill.

July 22, 2014

Oklahoma drops in ranking in child-well being
Oklahoma dropped three spots and showed little improvement for major factors in child well-being, lagging far behind the majority of states, according to the 25th annual “Kids Count” report. This drop comes after three consecutive years of improvements, ranking 39th. Last year the stat ranked 36th. It ranked 40th and 43rd in years prior. President and CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy Terry Smith said Tuesday the results were “very disappointing” and pointed out that Oklahoma has never fared well in terms of child-well being.

July 22, 2014

Interim Study to investigate the effects of metham
Interim Study to investigate the effects of methamphetamine Among the interim studies that were approved by the Speaker of the House was IS-H14-074 by Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, that will study the effects of methamphetamine on state and local governments as well as on individuals. Other comments within the study proposal allude to “creating or developing a registry for those offenders.” Currently a pseudoephedrine registry exists due to House Bill 3380 which passed in 2010. Mark Woodward the legislative liaison and public information officer with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Control (OBNDD) said that the registry took some time to produce but has greatly impacted the state. “Once we got permission to create the registry, we worked with the Department of Corrections, other state agencies, and tribal entities to create it,” said Woodward. “A year or two later in January of 2012 that it was actually up and live. This was strictly for pseudoephedrine though. Anyone with a meth conviction must be put in that registry.”

July 22, 2014

Federal courts split on ACA subsidies
Two federal appeals panels split Tuesday on whether the federal government could subsidize health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act for people in states using the federal insurance exchange. Oklahoma is one of three dozen states that did not create its own health insurance exchange and its residents rely on the federal system. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the subsidies, saying that a rule issued by the Internal Revenue Service was “a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion.” A panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, rule the government could not subsidize insurance for people in states that use the federal exchange. The law, the judges wrote, “does not authorize the Internal Revenue Service to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal exchanges” and “plainly makes subsidies available only on exchanges established by states.” The District of Columbia Circuit case claims were like those raised by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. In September 2011, Oklahoma was the first to raise a legal challenge to the legality of an IRS rule that caused billions in illegal subsidies to be paid out, despite Congress having never authorized those payments.

July 21, 2014

Oklahoma granted $26 million in federal dollars
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller announced Friday that Oklahoma will be receiving $26 million of the $262 million federal dollars that are being allotted for dam rehabilitation. This appropriation was achieved through the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. The bill provided an ample increase in from the previous “sporadic” money of $12 million according to Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director Mike Thralls. The annual investment increased by almost 21 fold. Weller called the allocation of money an “investment” in a statement released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

July 21, 2014

OJA will need a 'substantial increase in the budge
The Oklahoma Board of Juvenile Affairs heard about the dire state of its budget during its monthly meeting Friday. Executive Director Keith Wilson told the board that “this next budget year will be nip and tuck” and that a “substantial increase in the budget for 2016” will be necessary. “At this point in time we are operating 15.5 percent below where we were operating with the initial budget in 2010,” said Wilson. “We have to cut approximately $3 million, just shy of it, out of the budget this year. That’s something over $5 million that it left us to fund.”