January 30, 2015

New bill would require police officers to wear

Bill would require law enforcement officers to wear body cameras

HB1869, by Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, requires every uniformed law enforcement officer in Oklahoma to wear an operating camera with a microphone for audio capture at all times when interacting with the public in his or her official capacity.

The bill additionally requires that every Oklahoma law enforcement agency or police department to catalog and preserve the video and audio recorded by the cameras as well as a written policy that outlines: the proper uses of the equipment, the times when the camera is to be activated, conditions under which it is permissible not to have the camera activated, the retention period for the tapes or other recording media, the method for replacing defective or nonfunctioning equipment and a logging policy to record failures or periods when the equipment is out of service for repairs. The policies regarding these cameras will be on file and open to public inspection.

“It puts a face on everything.” Shelton said.

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January 30, 2015

Law enforcement transportation of mental health

 A recently proposed bill would allow law enforcement to contract a third party to provide transportation of individuals requiring mental health services.

Current law requires sheriffs and peace officers to transport individuals to and from designated sites or facilities for examination, emergency detention, protective custody and inpatient services.

SB0252, by Sen. Ron Sharp, would be the first step in fixing the inefficient process, said Sharp in a press release.

"This is a real problem in smaller communities and rural areas where agencies are already understaffed but are obligated to send an officer, and often times two officers, for several hours to transport a mentally ill person to a facility and wait on their evaluation,” he said. “This is not a good use of time or resources. We need to allow agencies to fulfill this particular duty in the way that is most time and cost effective for them."

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January 30, 2015

Report emphasizes frustrations with TLE

The Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Commission may consider a recommendation to delay portions of the TLE evaluation system this legislative session.

Though a handful of bills have already been filed by both the Senate and the House addressing some type of delay, the news was driven home Thursday during the Commission’s meeting where members heard from research experts on the system’s faults and educators’ attitudes across the state.

The report, conducted by the Southern Regional Education Board and commissioned by the State Department of Education, emphasized many of the frustrations and criticisms of the system since its implementation began a few years ago.

Andy Baxter, vice president of Educator Effectiveness for SREB, told commission members to seriously consider delaying any high-stakes measures in the quantitative portion of the teacher and leader evaluations until “people begin to believe in them” and the measure “has had to time to mature.”

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January 30, 2015

Fallin will propose tapping revolving funds

Gov. Mary Fallin will recommend in her State of the State speech and executive budget Monday transferring up to $300 million of unencumbered money out of state agency revolving funds to shore up the fiscal year 2016 budget, eCapitol has learned.

“The governor, as she has already said, will propose using some, but not all, of unencumbered revolving fund money to balance the budget. She will also propose looking at permanent policy changes that address the practice of keeping large sums of money, sometimes excess money, in those funds,” Alex Weintz, Fallin’s spokesman said Friday.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday at the Associated Press legislative forum, Fallin said an analysis by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services shows the state has $1.7 billion “sitting in revolving funds throughout the various state agencies.”

“Not all that money is available to be spent,” Fallin told reporters. “Some of it has been encumbered, has been dedicated to certain spending priorities of those agencies. So, we can’t touch that money. But the fact is there is about $900 million that is not encumbered in those revolving funds and I ask the Legislature to take a close look at the amount of revenue we have in those revolving funds.”

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January 29, 2015

Oklahoma’s Promise sees continued decline in par

The number of Oklahoma’s Promise award recipients in college continued to decline during the last school year.

The Oklahoma’s Promise 2013-2014 Year End Report was presented Thursday before the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education during a regular board meeting. Oklahoma’s Promise is a state program that allows students from families whose annual income is $50,000 or less to earn a scholarship for college tuition.

There were 18,919 scholarship recipients in the 2013-2014 school year, down from 19,619 the previous year. It is the lowest number of recipients the program has seen since the 2008-2009 school year.

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January 29, 2015

Progress toward allowing guns on college campuses

Several bills have been filed this legislative session targeting the current firearms ban on the state’s college campuses.

At least four bills have been filed, all by Republican lawmakers, taking different approaches on creating measures that would allow those with open and/or concealed carry permits to walk the grounds of the state’s institutions for higher education while armed. These bills include HB1143, by Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee; SB0461, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow; SB0557, by Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City; and SB0718, by Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore.

Rep. John Enns, R-Waukomis, did not file any legislation addressing the issue this session, but he did call an interim study on the topic this summer. Enns said it is not a matter of if legislation like this will be passed, but when.

“Every year it gets closer and eventually it’s going to happen,” Enns said. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen when I’m still in office or not, but I know it’s going to happen.”

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