Local & Regional

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 State officials say the unemployment rate is dropping in most Oklahoma counties, though some counties remain well above the national rate for people out of work.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission says McIntosh County had the highest unemployment rate in Oklahoma in February at 8.7 percent. That's followed by Latimer County at 8.3 percent and Stephens County at 7.8 percent.

The statewide jobless rate was 4.6 percent in February, just below the national rate of 4.7 percent.

KWGS News/State of Oklahoma

 

 Oklahoma Democrats are urging Republican leaders to resurrect a Medicaid expansion plan that would infuse hundreds of millions of federal dollars into the state's health care system.

House Democratic leader Rep. Scott Inman said Thursday he was prepared to deliver the votes of all 26 House Democrats in support of $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax to help fund the state's portion of the plan.

Oklahoma-DOC

 

An Alabama committee has passed a bill allowing death row inmates to be executed with nitrogen gas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure 6-3 Wednesday.

Montrose Republican Sen. Trip Pittman says his bill would make Alabama the second state in country behind Oklahoma to allow a person to be put to death with nitrogen.

Alabama currently gives death row inmates the choice between the electric chair and lethal injection. Pittman says using nitrogen would be more humane. An earlier version of his bill proposed firing squads executions.

  An Oklahoma man has been sentenced to 2 ½ years in federal prison for writing bad checks to buy more than $41,000 worth of postage stamps.

Robert Jordan Chiles pleaded guilty to last year to an embezzlement charge in connection with the scheme, which was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service. The 32-year-old Oklahoma City man was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison.

In the local news:

  • The Tulsa School Board hears plans for closing three west side schools to save money.
  • Tulsa learns about becoming "dementia friendly".
  • Another Tulsa business is closing. This time it is a Payless Shoe store.

Cuts Proposed for TPS

Apr 6, 2017
KWGS Photo

The Tulsa School Superintendent releases her proposal to trim $12 million from the school budget. The cuts are required because of the ongoing state revenue crisis.

Under the plan, three elementary schools in west Tulsa would be closed. Those schools are Park Elementary, Remington Elementary and the Porter Early Childhood Development Center.  Those students would be transferred to what is now the Clinton Middle School. Clinton students would then go to Webster High School which would be converted into a  combined Junior/Senior High School.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma teachers would receive their first pay increase in nine years under a bill approved by a Senate committee, despite concerns that lawmakers have yet to figure out how they're going to pay for it.

A Senate budget subcommittee voted Wednesday for the bill that calls for a $1,000 pay raise for teachers next year, $2,000 the following year and $3,000 the third year. The bill now goes to the full Senate Appropriations Committee.

A slate of bills changing state liquor laws moved forward Wednesday in the Oklahoma House.

Senate Bill 211 addresses something many people complain about.

"This would allow Sunday sales, but it would go to a county vote," said Rep. Glen Mulready. "It requires 15 percent of registered voters on a petition, or it can be done by the county commissioners."

Senate Bill 411 deals with hours alcohol can be sold.

The big players are not on board with small oil and gas companies’ request to increase Oklahoma’s gross production taxes.

The Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance said restoring the tax to 7 percent would bring in up to $250 million a year. Members visited the state capitol Wednesday to drum up support for the increase.

Speaking at the Pipeline + Energy Expo, Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association President Chad Warmington said the rate is fine where it is.

Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs

Moving the state veterans home in Talihina is far from a done deal.

Senate Bill 544 directs the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs to build a new facility. Rep. Tommy Hardin said the legislature must sign off on that idea now; otherwise, hiring enough staff will remain a problem and occupancy will continue to fall, costing the state federal resources.

"We would like to move it to a place where we could provide the adequate staffing to make sure that we retain those 175 beds for the veterans of Oklahoma," Hardin said.

 

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against three oil and gas companies over Oklahoma's ongoing earthquake swarm.

The Oklahoman reports a lawsuit filed last year on behalf of Sierra Club Oklahoma asked for a reduction of production waste from companies, including Devon Energy Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp., and New Dominion LLC.

The group wants an independent earthquake monitoring and prediction center to analyze the wastewater volumes and connections to induced seismicity.

Tulsa Hosts Dementia Symposium

Apr 5, 2017
KWGS News

Mayor Bynum hosts a morning symposium on making Tulsa “Dementia Friendly”.  It was held at the Morton Comprehensive Health Services. 

The symposium focused on best practices to foster livability and vitality for both patients and caregivers. Participants learned how to enhance life for many of Tulsa’s older residents and promote a culture of awareness that will benefit the entire community.

TPS

The Tulsa School Board will meet tonight in a rare Wednesday session to discuss district budget cuts. The district is looking at the need to trim its budget by an estimated $12-million.

All options are said to be on the table. That includes closing some schools, trimming the school year calendar and possibly cutting some of the district's athletic programs.

The cuts are brought about because the state's continued revenue shortage. 

In the local news:

  • The Tulsa School Board will discuss budget cuts tonight and how the cuts will impact the district.
  • State revenue misses the mark, again.
  • The election results from yesterday's balloting.

The Winners from Yesterday's Voting

Apr 5, 2017
KWGS News File Photo

Tulsa voters turn School Board President Dr. Lana Turner-Addison out of office. She lost a run-off election yesterday with Jennettie Marshall. Marshall picked up 52% of the vote total.

Other winners from yesterday:

Bixby City Council: John Easton and Brian Guthrie

Broken Arrow City Council: Craig Thurman and  Debra Wimpee

Jenks City Council: Craig Murray, Joshua Wedman, Cory Box, Robert Lee.

Skiatook City Council: Herb Forbes

Sperry Town Trustee: RUNOFF between Kelly Wensman and Bill Butler

Sperry Sales Tax: Passed

KWGS Map

 

 Two former county commissioners in Oklahoma have been charged with misconduct.

Former Kay County Commissioner Tyson Rowe was charged Friday with a felony count of racketeering, felony counts of embezzlement and misdemeanor counts of willful violation of law regulating official conduct.

Former Kay County Commissioner Dee Schieber was charged with misdemeanor counts of willful violation of law regulating official conduct.

Wagoner County Booking Photo

 

 An Oklahoma woman has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of three teenagers during an attempted home burglary.

Court records show 21-year-old Elizabeth Rodriguez entered the plea Tuesday in Wagoner County District Court.

Rodriguez is charged in the March 27 deaths of Maxwell Cook, Jacob Redfern and Jakob Woodruff. Prosecutors say Rodriguez drove the three to a home near the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow where they broke into the residence and were shot by the 23-year-old son of the homeowner.

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  Authorities in southwest Missouri believe a tornado is responsible for severe damage to several buildings, including a fire station and elementary school.

The small town of Goodman was hit hard by a severe storm Tuesday evening. McDonald County Emergency Management director Gregg Sweeten says it appears a tornado was responsible for damage to the town's fire station and elementary school. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported.

Sweeten says several homes and businesses in Goodman were damaged.

An Oklahoma House committee delayed action Tuesday on a measure to allow out-of-state insurers to offer health plans here.

The insurance committee laid over Senate Bill 478 until next week in order to review substantial amendments members didn't receive before Tuesday's meeting.

Oklahoma Watch

Given the state’s budget problems, a lot of attention is being paid to Oklahoma’s various tax incentives, and lawmakers are considering a measure to restrict them.

House Bill 1187 would limit how long new incentives would be offered.

"The very thrust behind it is in the future, any tax incentive we have, we need to have a sunset date with it whenever that we put it in," said Sen. Roger Thompson.

A Senate finance committee amended the bill before passing it Tuesday to say any new incentive must sunset within four years of its effective date.

Tulsa County Election Results

Apr 4, 2017
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Get the election results here for Tulsa County tonight after the polls close.

KWGS News File Photo

It appears days are numbered for the trigger that would reduce Oklahoma’s top income tax rate from 5 to 4.85 percent.

Senate Bill 170, the measure repealing that trigger, is a House vote away from the governor's desk after passing committee.

House sponsor Rep. Earl Sears said repealing the trigger isn’t the end of tax cut discussions, though.

"Don't have a problem with reducing income tax, but with the times and the issues that we're dealing with right now, I truly believe that we need to repeal this and visit income tax reduction another day," Sears said.

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The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the murder conviction and life without parole sentence of a man convicted of killing a Northeastern State University chemistry professor.

The court on Tuesday rejected a dozen appeals from 37-year-old Joshua John Schneider, including lack of evidence, improper evidence, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel.

1 Dead in Crash with Oklahoma School Bus

Apr 4, 2017
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The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says one person was killed when a pickup truck crashed into the rear of a school bus.

The crash occurred about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday in Binger and involved a Binger-Oney school bus.

The school said in a statement to reporters that all students and staff who were on the bus are safe and the victim was in the truck. The statement said the victim was not associated with the district.

No names have been released.

The crash occurred on Highway 281 in Caddo County, about 20 miles west of Oklahoma City.

 

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Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller is delivering more bad news about the state's economy.

Miller reported Tuesday that overall collections to the state treasury were down last month by more than $25 million, or nearly 3 percent, compared to last year. The downward trend comes on the heels of two consecutive months in which collections had exceeded those from a year earlier.

Despite the downturn, Miller says most economic indicators continue to show the state's economy is on the mend.

KWGS News

 

 A group of small oil and natural gas producers in Oklahoma have formed an alliance and are asking the Legislature to increase the gross production tax back to 7 percent, saying the industry is committed to helping solve the state's budget crisis.

Storms on the Way to Green Country

Apr 4, 2017
SPC

 

Springtime storms are again putting parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma at risk for severe weather.

The Storm Prediction Center says the greatest chance Tuesday for bad weather is along the Interstate 44 corridor in northeast Oklahoma, though northwest Arkansas could also see some storms.

The National Weather Service in Tulsa says damaging hails and "locally intense wind gusts" are possible, along with a limited tornado risk.

In the local news:

  • More school cuts appear likely in Oklahoma.
  • This is an election day in Tulsa County.
  • No charges will be filed against the shooter in a Broken Arrow home invasion.

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Oklahoma school districts are preparing for another round of budget cuts for the upcoming year.

In a survey representing about two-thirds of the state’s public school enrollment, nearly all districts said they’re considering cuts to arts, athletics, advanced coursework, summer programs or educational field trips. Oklahoma State School Boards Association Shawn Hime said that’s counterproductive.

Courtesy Tulsa County

With the initial estimate for a new family justice center running about double the budget for it, Tulsa County is taking a mulligan.

County commissioners are soliciting a hard bid for the project.

"Which means that whatever bid we get in terms of lowest and best bid on the date, we select that builder and going forward, and the price cannot escalate beyond that day," said County Commissioner Ron Peters.

In September, Manhattan Construction was hired to oversee the project, which included developing a guaranteed maximum cost based on the county’s specifications.

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