Nearly 33k sign up in Okla. under care act
TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Nearly 33,000 Oklahomans have selected health plans under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The figure represents an 8,000-plus increase from last month's estimate of nearly 25,000, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The federal agency reports that more than 4.2 million people from across the country had selected health plans from October through March 1. The agency says about 943,000 people enrolled in the federal marketplace plans during the February reporting period, which ended March 1.
March is the last month for open enrollment in the federal marketplace. About 640,000 Oklahoma residents, or 17 percent of the state's population, currently have no health insurance.
Oklahoma Senate approves making looting a felony
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation that makes looting a felony in Oklahoma.
The Senate passed the measure 36-1 Tuesday evening and sent it to the House for consideration.
The measure by Republican Sen. Anthony Sykes of Moore elevates the crime of looting from a misdemeanor offense to a felony, with a penalty for violations ranging from two to seven years in prison.
Sykes says the measure is a response to incidents of looting after a massive tornado destroyed homes and business in Moore last May.
Authorities say at least five people were accused of disturbing a disaster area in Moore after the deadly May 20 tornado. That includes one who was accused of stealing morphine from a damaged area.
House Bill 2071: http://bit.ly/1cvE60Z
RURAL HOUSING-TAX CREDITS
Oklahoma House approves rural housing tax credit
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma House has approved legislation to create a tax credit for low- and moderate-income housing in rural areas.
The bill by Republican Rep. Mike Jackson of Enid was approved 75-13 Tuesday and sent to the state Senate for consideration.
The bill creates a new tax credit program similar to the federal low-income housing tax credit. The amount of state tax credits would equal the amount of federal low-income tax credits for a qualified project.
Jackson has said it's designed to encourage development of affordable housing for energy and agricultural workers who are moving into rural areas across the state. Opponents have said lawmakers should have a way of reviewing how effective current state tax credit programs are before they create new ones.
EXECUTION DRUGS-OKLAHOMA LAWSUIT
Inmates appeal case to Oklahoma Supreme Court
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Lawyers for two Oklahoma death row inmates are asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court for a stay of execution.
Attorneys for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner filed an appeal Tuesday to the state's highest court after an Oklahoma County District judge on Monday denied their request to halt the executions that are scheduled for later this month.
Lockett and Warner are asking for the stay while they sue the state Department of Corrections over a law that prohibits disclosure of the drugs used in the state's execution procedures.
Lockett is scheduled to die March 20 and Warner on March 27. They are not challenging their convictions but are asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent their executions until they know more about the lethal injection drugs to be used.
DASH CAM VIDEOS
Bill would open Oklahoma trooper dash cam videos
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Videos shot from the dashboards of Oklahoma Highway Patrol cruisers would be subject to the state's Open Records Act under a bill that overwhelmingly passed the state Senate.
The Senate voted 40-3 on Tuesday for the bill by Oklahoma City Republican Sen. David Holt.
The bill eliminates a current exemption to the state's Open Records Act that allows the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to keep the videos secret. Holt says the OHP supports the bill and that the exemption has "caused them to come under more suspicion."
Holt says the bill includes exceptions that would allow the OHP to keep from public view videos that showed nudity, minors, fatalities, or officer conduct that is subject of a current investigation.
TROOPER PAY RAISE
Senate approves pay raise for Oklahoma troopers
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers would get a pay increase of as much as 20 percent under a bill that has passed unanimously in the state Senate.
The bill the Senate approved Tuesday would provide for an across-the-board pay raise for troopers based on the recommendations of a recent study on state employee compensation. That study shows troopers should receive a boost in pay of between 14 percent and 20 percent.
The measure now heads to House.
The Senate author of the bill - Edmond Republican Sen. Clark Jolley - says the bill would cost about $8.5 million annually when fully implemented.
A starting trooper is currently paid an annual salary of about $38,000.
The trooper salary scales haven't been increased in seven years.
Forecasters run social media 'tornado drill'
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Forecasters hope new social media practices can help further the reach of tornado warnings and keep more people out of harm's way.
The National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., has used Twitter and Facebook for years to disseminate weather warnings. But they tried a new approach recently, holding an online "tornado drill."
The office posted tips for using the sites during severe weather and asked users to share the message, in order to measure the sites' reach.
The Facebook post reached nearly 46,000 users within 15 minutes, the average warning time of a tornado.
Rick Smith is the warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service in Norman. He says the drill was meant to show the power - and limitations - of social media when it comes to weather information.
STATE WORKER PAY
Oklahoma House approves state worker pay measure
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma House has passed legislation to give state workers a pay raise and revamp state worker compensation.
The House voted 90-0 for the measure Tuesday and sent it to the Senate for consideration.
Republican Rep. Leslie Osborn of Mustang authored the bill and says it will provide a raise of about 3 percent to the state's lowest paid workers, including corrections, human services and public safety workers. Osborn says the goal is to bring state worker pay to within 90 percent of private sector salaries for comparable jobs.
The raise would be the first in seven years for state workers that the bill targets. Oklahoma Public Employees Association Executive Director Sterling Zearley says he's excited state worker pay has become a priority.
Okla. general revenue fund collections miss mark
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma finance officials say large corporate income tax refunds are to blame for an 8 percent drop in collections to the main operating fund of state government.
Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger (DOR'-fling-ur) said Tuesday that February collections to the General Revenue Fund missed projections by about $23.7 million, or 8.1 percent.
Doerflinger said corporate income tax refunds in February totaled $21 million, including a single corporate tax refund from tax year 2012 of more than $15 million.
Despite the drop in collections, Doerflinger said revenues are enough to maintain funding for state agencies through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
He also reiterated his warning for state agencies to prepare for flat or slightly reduced budgets for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
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