October 24, 2014

Person of interest detained in 10 Commandments
A person of interest in the destruction of the Capitol’s 10 Commandments monument was being detained Friday. Capt. George Brown, spokesman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, said, “The Oklahoma Highway Patrol confirms they have a person of interest in custody for the destruction of property which occurred at the State Capitol last night. Troopers took custody of a man whose identity has not yet been released. Authorities have transported the man to an Oklahoma County mental facility for emergency order of detention and mental evaluation.” According to Brown, state troopers responded at approximately 7 p.m. Thursday to an abandoned vehicle which was driven into the 10 Commandments monument, which is located just east of the Capitol’s north stairway. The monument was destroyed. Workers removed the monument, which was broken into several pieces, Friday morning and took it to a warehouse for storage, according to Office of Management and Enterprise Services Spokesman John Estus. bk

October 24, 2014

OPERS, OTRS unfunded liabilities improve
The unfunded liabilities and the funded ratios of Oklahoma’s two largest public retirement systems improved in fiscal year 2014, the systems’ governing boards learned this week. According to their independent actuarial reports: The unfunded actuarially accrued liability of the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System improved from $1.6 billion at the end of FY2013 to $994 million at the end of FY2014 and its funded ratio moved from 81.6 percent to 88.6 percent; and The unfunded actuarially accrued liability of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System declined from $8.1 billion to $7.2 billion and its funded ratio moved from 57.2 percent to 63.2 percent. The two numbers are considered somewhat of a measure of the relative health of the retirement system and often are focused on in discussions about likely reform proposals to the state's pension funds. bk

October 24, 2014

Executions delayed until 2015
The Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday stayed the state’s three pending executions until 2015. Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the court Oct. 13 to delay the executions of Charles Frederick Warner and Richard Eugene Glossip until January and of John Marian Grant until February to allow the Department of Corrections to implement its new execution protocol and to obtain the drugs and medical staff to perform the execution. The court set Warner’s execution on Jan. 15, Glossip’s on Jan. 29, and Grant’s on Feb. 19. Warner and Glossip were scheduled to be executed in November and Grant in December. bk

October 24, 2014

Committee discusses use of data for transition
Committee discusses use of data for proper transition after K-12 Members of the House Higher Education Committee heard presentations on potential assessment reforms to provide for a proper transition from K-12 to higher education, CareerTech or the workforce during an interim study Wednesday at the Capitol. Interim Study H14-068, requested by Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, was a continuation of discussions previously held in her House Common Education Committee regarding alternative testing and assessment for common education students. Wednesday’s study focused on potential solutions to making a successful transition after high school by evaluating Oklahoma’s current system and whether of end-of-instruction (EOI) exams were useful in providing adequate data. Most of the speakers called for the use of ACT exams and called for an end of EOIs. “Some of the issues we have encountered are making sure our expectations in the K-12 system are in alignment with the expectations of higher education and the workforce,” said Ryan Owen, general counsel for the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, said. bk

October 24, 2014

Workers file suit challenging OPERS change
Two public employees are seeking to overturn legislation that would close the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System to new members and would establish a separate retirement system for new state employees. The lawsuit alleges lawmakers violated the Oklahoma Pension Legislation Actuarial Analysis Act in their consideration of the bill. The Legislature passed HB2630 in May and Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill in June. The bill, by Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Edmond, and Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, requires the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) to establish a defined contribution system for state employees who join the system on or after July 1, 2015. bk

October 24, 2014

Corrections board approves FY2016 budget request
The Board of Corrections approved its fiscal year 2016 budget request and 2015 legislative agenda Thursday. The board is seeking an increase in appropriated funding of $84.5 million, which would push the agency’s budget over $500 million for the second time in its history. “We will need to educate people on what’s in this budget and why we need it,” said Steve Burrage, chair of the audit and finance committee that recommended the budget’s approval. There was no discussion or debate before the board voted unanimously to approve the budget request. The request includes 10 budget priorities. bk