State Capitol

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The new, 72-member-strong Oklahoma House Republican caucus is meeting to elect its new leaders.

The caucus will meet for a closed-door meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday with all of the members-elect who were either elected to office or were unopposed this election cycle.

House Speaker-designate T.W. Shannon is expected to officially become the House Speaker-elect, although there won't be a vote since he wasn't opposed. Shannon is replacing term-limited House Speaker Kris Steele of Shawnee.

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Oklahoma lawmakers are bracing for the worst. If the automatic federal budget cuts take place, Oklahoma will lose millions of dollars in federal matching funds. Rush Springs Democrat Joe Dorman says it will cripple many programs.

Joe Dorman: "We saw $140-million that could be cut out of health funds. We saw over $50-million to educational programs we could lose. It is $120,000 per region, for the 10-regions for senior nutrition sites alone."

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Sand Springs woman's gripping tale of becoming a child prostitute at age 11 captivated a legislative panel exploring ways to deal with what police say is a growing problem of human trafficking in Oklahoma.

Jeannetta McCrary told lawmakers how she went from a straight-A cheerleader to a life of sexual exploitation and prostitution as a victim of child trafficking in the 1980s.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma agencies are saving money by switching to debit cards instead of paper checks for things like unemployment benefits and tax refunds, but at least one lawmaker is concerned the cards are posing problems for some citizens and leading to huge windfalls for a private contractor.

State Rep. Scott Inman of Del City outlined his concerns Tuesday during a meeting of the House Government Modernization Committee.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two state lawmakers are asking Republican Governor Mary Fallin to block tax dollars from being used to fund non-profit groups.

State Representatives Paul Wesselhoft of Moore and Sally Kern of Oklahoma City say more than $12 million appropriated to four state agencies this year are intended for non-profits. Examples of the spending include the IPRA National Finals Rodeo, which has received $50,000 over a two-year period, the Rural Enterprise Institute, which has received $2.25 million over three years, and the OK Expo, which got $2 million this year.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A state lawmaker who was awarded more than $61,000 in workers' compensation due to a collision as he drove to the state Capitol is appealing for more money.

And the state House and its insurance carrier are also appealing — asking that the $61,560 awarded to Republican Representative Mike Christian in July be thrown out.

The Oklahoman reports that Christian's appeal asks the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court "to adequately compensate" Christian for injuries suffered in the 2009 collision.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Senate is launching a study into reports of problems at the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs' and its seven veterans' centers.

The study will begin Tuesday at the State Capitol. The first meeting will focus on administration issues including the structure and responsibilities of the agency and the War Veterans Commission. Lawmakers also will be looking into the role of the War Veterans Commission and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in relation to oversight of the agency.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Millions of dollars in tax credits and incentives handed out by the state each year to businesses and industries will once again by scrutinized by a special House committee.

House Speaker Kris Steele on Wednesday announced the formation of the bipartisan House Tax Credit and Economic Incentive Oversight Committee. The panel will conduct several hearings in the coming months to analyze some of the dozens of tax credit and incentive programs the state offers.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele has approved a list of 59 topics that will be studied by lawmakers before the next legislative session begins in February.

Steele announced the studies on Friday, saying he pared the final list from initial requests for studies of 89 separate topics.

Interim studies give lawmakers an opportunity to receive testimony and examine issues in depth to decide whether to draft legislation on a particular topic.

Among the topics to be studied are education, government modernization, veterans' issues and public finance.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma finance officials project a deposit of nearly $350 million into the state's Rainy Day Fund after the fiscal year ends June 30, bringing the total balance of the fund to about $600 million.

Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger reported Tuesday that total collections to the state's general revenue fund through May exceeded last year's collections by nearly 10 percent.