October 20, 2014

Askins makes administrative changes
Jari Askins reported Monday she is continuing to make staff changes in the Pardon and Parole Board’s administrative offices. Askins, who began her duties as interim executive director Sept. 2, said there currently are five full-time staff members in the agency’s administrative office, although one will be leaving for a private sector job in the next few weeks. She is in the process of adding three administrative assistants and has brought in other assistance, as well. Askins announced she has signed a contract with former district attorney and Office of Juvenile Affairs Executive Director Gene Christian. Askins said Christian will review policies and practices in the office “that have changed since I was in the office.” Christian retired from OJA in 2012 after six years as executive director. Prior to that, he served as district attorney for District 6, which includes Stephens, Caddo, Grady and Jefferson counties. bk

October 20, 2014

Lawmakers study the use of interlocal risk pools
Members of the Senate Education Committee discussed the use of interlocal risk pools by school districts during an interim study Monday at the Capitol. Interim Study S14-22 was requested by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa. Local school districts often enter into interlocal cooperative agreements to pool their liability and property risks. Such self-insured pools were not required to submit their financial statements to the Oklahoma Insurance Department until 2013 legislation mandated the reporting requirement. The Senate bill required interlocals to file an audited financial statement with OID within 180 days after the end of their fiscal year. Failure to file a timely report could result in a $500 per day fine. bk

October 17, 2014

State Board of Education approves sole-source cont
The Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a sole-source contract with Measured Progress for the winter testing period during a special meeting Friday. The approval comes almost a month after declining to accept a no bid contract with fired testing vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill. The request was brought forward by the State Department of Education in September, which claimed at the time CTB was the only possible solution given the short window of time and the circumstances surrounding HB3399. State Superintendent Janet Barresi called Measured Progress “the best option available” saying it was a vendor “already familiar to and favorably received by Oklahoma schools.” Measured Progress was awarded a $3.4 million contract for the winter testing period beginning in mid-November. Given the circumstances, the department was able to negotiate the contract down by $100,000, staff said. bk

October 17, 2014

ABLE Commission begins review of proposed rule
Members of the Alcoholic Beverages Laws Enforcement Commission began their review Friday of a proposed rule that would permit wholesalers not to sell to specific retailers under certain conditions. Margaret Love, an attorney for the commission, said the issue was brought to the commission by a wholesaler who reported a female employee was sexually harassed and a male employ physically struck by a retailer or the retailer’s employees. Generally, alcoholic beverage wholesalers are required to sell their products to retailers and special event permits holders and are not allowed to turn away a customer. The proposed rule would authorize wholesalers not to sell to retailers and permit holders under specific conditions. bk

October 16, 2014

Regents request $59 million for Oklahoma’s Promi
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education unanimously approved a $61.7 million funding proposal Thursday for Oklahoma’s Promise for the 2015-2016 school year. The regents are asking for $59.0 million from the General Revenue Fund and will use $2.7 million from the program’s reserve fund. The $59.0 million General Revenue Fund portion of the funding proposal will be submitted to the Board of Equalization. Under a law passed in 2007, funding for the program is deducted from anticipated General Revenue Fund collections before the board certifies the revenue estimate on which lawmakers and the governor will pass the next fiscal year's budget. Oklahoma's Promise, previously known as the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), pays the college tuition for students who enroll in the program in the eighth through tenth grade if their parents' income from taxed and untaxed sources is $50,000 or less at the time of their college enrollment. Students participating in the program also must take specifically outlined coursework at their high schools, maintain a certain GPA, and meet conduct requirements. Eligible students can apply their tuition waiver to any Oklahoma public two-year college or four-year university. bk

October 16, 2014

House committee looks into need for athletic
House committee looks into need for athletic trainers in high school sports The House Public Health committee held an interim study Tuesday to examine the need for more athletic trainers at high school sporting events across the state. Rep. Dan Kirby, who hosted interim study H14-043, said the rise in deaths associated with youth sports across the U.S. is a serious problem that requires consideration by the Legislature. His study focused heavily on head trauma and heat-related injuries, and the increased responsiveness an on-site athletic trainer can provide. bk