Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What State has a bill to End Marriage, Cut Taxes when There is $170M Shortfall, and Give Additional Tax Breaks to Those Who Stay Married for Starters?


That doesn't include additional social engineering like more anti-abortion bills that just passed committee in a state with some of the toughest abortion bills already.  Like recent bills these will probably get overturned as well and cost the taxpayers as the hard right Attorney General defends them all the way to SCOTUS.  This is becoming a habit in Oklahoma -- State Supreme Court rules they are unconstitutional so the AG takes them into the Federal system and the SCOTUS refuses to hear or finds them unconstitutional either way upholding the Oklahoma State Supreme Court.

My absolute favorite bill that I think is just funny is the one to end all marriage in Oklahoma to prevent gay marriage from happening on non-tribal lands in Oklahoma.  They have no jurisdiction over the tribal lands and cannot tell them who they can marry.

Because most elected Oklahoma Republicans are stuck back in time, our Republican Governor ended all spousal benefits sign-ups at Guard locations to keep gays from getting spousal benefits at local Guard facilities.  Some had to drive a couple of hours to sign up but that didn't affect the Governor. She even referenced a referendum in OK that forbid gay marriage and said the Federal Government cannot tell Oklahoma what to do?  Sitting here shaking head as she is head of the Governor's Association. Whoever pushed Gov Fallin to head the Governor's Association must make some of the other Governor's scratch their heads.

Now that same Republican Governor Fallin wants a reorganization of state agencies and forgot to get input from those agency heads as they were caught off guard. She is running Oklahoma more like a dictatorship.   'What is behind this merger' is the question?  We keep hearing she is involved in who gets contracts and if that is true this would add to big donors getting more contracts IMHO!  
Governor Mary Fallin recommended in her State of the State speech that five state agencies be consolidated into the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. The directors of those agencies said they were stunned and perplexed by the speech, and it was the first they had heard of the idea.
The head of tourism wasn't consulted, either, said a spokeswoman for that agency. In the governor's State of the State speech, she recommended consolidating the Oklahoma Arts Council, J.M. Davis Memorial Commission, Oklahoma Historical Society, Will Rogers Memorial Commission and Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission into the Tourism Department.
Read More at The Oklahoman   
Just a little background on the Tourism board -- probably one of the more unethical boards under the Governor and has been for years.  I was working a campaign for State Senate where we discovered they were giving contracts to Democrat candidates who were running for office to help them fund their campaigns.  They were outed when we were tipped off what was going on with the opponent of my State Senator and found it is when I picked up the copy of the contracts.  Woman in the office at Purchasing was so nervous she walked into a wall and missed the door.  Then heard her on the phone asking if she had to give me everything so they gave me contracts that were not involved and buried in this avalanche of paper were the details.
Been around Federal contracting for years.  They had a list of companies they went out for bids to make it look like they didn't go sole source but these were the big aerospace companies so they just filled in names -- none of their contracting offices at the addresses given even the solicitation in their files.  Told over and over that their companies were not interested in doing a $50,000 Environmental Impact Study for Lake Thunderbird.  Then we found it is was a contract for a small amount that could grow to $500,000 and ended up sole sources when no one else bid.  The contract was let by Tourism which the current Governor headed as GOP Lt Governor at the time and never did get a straight answer.

More on the Governor's dealings on behalf of GOP donors:
Governor: Oklahoma’s State Parks are Not Yours To Sell! 
(Marshall and Bryan Counties, OK) — For over fifty years, Lake Texoma State Park was a critical economic engine for southeastern Oklahoma.  Then, republican Governor Frank Keating and Lt. Governor Mary Fallin targeted it and other state parks for privatization.  As Lt. Governor, then U.S. Congresswoman, and now governor, Fallin has been the leading  promoter for privatizing Oklahoma’s state park resorts and recreational areas. 
Seven years ago, Lake Texoma State Park was shut down by the Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO), of which she was a key member.  As the CLO’s ranking member, Fallin continues to represent private corporate interests.  Despite her assurances to the contrary, the public has been completely shut out for the benefit of fellow republican, Aubrey Kerr McClendon.
Social engineering continues in Oklahoma.  State representative in Oklahoma has come up with a new angle to keep people married:
Another House Committee narrowly voted to create a tax deduction for married couples that grows based on the length of the marriage.
It sounds like fiction but it is real -- we have a state that has infrastructure falling apart and massive cuts to education in the last few years plus a shortfall of over $170M this year and they want to give a tax break to people who stay married.  How about spouses who lose their spouse through death?

On 31 January 2014 they closed the bridge Between Lexington and Purcell even to foot traffic:
During a routine inspection on Monday, January 20, ODOT engineers say they found cracks in beams on the truss system underneath the bridge. Due to this damage, on Tuesday, January 21, ODOT had to drop the weight limit to travel across the bridge to 16 tons.
However, authorities decided to shut down the bridge on Friday due to safety reasons.   
Tempers flare in the small cities and towns near Purcell and Lexington as motorists try to get used to a new reality in the area. The bridge connecting Lexington and Purcell is shut down and many people now have a 34 mile detour to deal with for a trip that used to be only a mile long.
An example of our failing infrastructure in Oklahoma but then the Legislature and Governor haven't figured out how to fix the State Capitol which has entrances shut off as you might get concrete on your head that falls off the building.  This article from The Gazette in December 2012 is true today -- nothing  has been done to the exterior although the Republican led legislature authorized spending over $5M to upgrade offices and conference rooms inside the falling down Capitol:
January 11th, 2012 
Reality knows a good metaphor when it sees one. The state Capitol building is falling apart. 
Falling chunks of limestone on the building’s southeast side have forced workers to set up scaffolding and fencing. That exterior damage, coupled with needed electrical wiring and plumbing repairs, has an estimated price tag of $130 million, according to state Department of Central Services officials. 
Gov. Mary Fallin, for one, has floated the idea of a bond issue to fund Capitol repairs. For hardcore right-leaning state lawmakers, however, bond issues are about as unpopular as getting hit in the head by falling pieces of building, so how this gets resolved remains anybody’s guess.
The latest from The Norman Transcript two days ago showing that repairs are not progressing because they don't know where to find the money but they found $5M of our tax dollars to fix up their offices and conference rooms?
OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s been more than two years since yellow barricades and scaffolding sprang up outside Oklahoma’s Capitol building to protect visitors from mortar and pieces of limestone falling from it. 
Inside, debate continues among lawmakers on how best to finance repairs to the nearly 100-year-old Capitol’s exterior, antiquated plumbing, electrical wiring and other features.
Some favor a bond issue to raise money for the repairs, which officials estimate could cost up to $160 million. Others support a pay-as-you-go approach that would tap annual state revenue and avoid creating new debt for the state.  
A detailed examination of the building found a concrete beam above the south portico that is crushing the brick that supports it as well as antiquated piping and electrical wiring that are original to the building. There is also extensive cracking of the terrazzo floor in the building’s lower level. 
State Bond Advisor Jim Joseph said bond indebtedness is not an issue in Oklahoma and that the state has plenty of bonding capacity to afford a bond issue. More than 41 percent of the state’s bond indebtedness will come off the books in 2018, and more than 86 percent will be eliminated in the next 13 years. 
“I think we have capacity for additional borrowing,” Joseph said. “Our ratings are strong. The market’s good. The sooner we borrow, the better.” 
Read More at The Norman Transcript
At the time they put the new Keating dome on, I asked the question if anyone had done a structural analysis -- they used a local OKC firm.
Six years ago, Frankfurt-Short-Bruza Architects P.C. of Oklahoma City completed a feasibility study for the project and determined that the existing structure could indeed support a dome. At that point, the Oklahoma state legislature approved an act that would allow the project to proceed using a design-build process.
It stands to reason when you have a project requiring more than 1,200 precast concrete pieces that altogether weighed more than 1,300 tons, the heaviest pieces weighing almost 8 tons which make up a portion of the pieces contributing to what is now an 80 foot-diameter-dome, which projects 157 feet above the existing roof and weighs more than 2,500 tons that a 90 year old building might have trouble supporting 2,500 tons of limestone.  Now the Capitol is shedding limestone and our legislature cannot figure out how to pay for the fix which is getting more costly?  

Another question is how have the earthquakes we are getting in Central Oklahoma near fracking sites affecting the Capitol with that additional 2,500 ton dome?  We are an oil and gas state so you don't mention fracking might be causing problems and no one is going to answer your question.  Asked when earthquakes were hitting Norman and received no answers.

Note to Tea Party -- right now using bonds to fund long term debt is a bargain -- pay as you go when you already have $170M less to spend than last year is convoluted thinking.

Finally a Republican State Rep submitted bill to earmark $3.2B for command ed over the next ten years.  It passed the committee with one dissenting vote.  It would be a a big to increase in funding for common ed after five years of cuts.  Wonder what Tea Party person is going to challenge GOP State Rep Denny of Cushing who came up with the proposal?
 By RANDY KREHBIEL Tulsa World Staff Writer 
A proposal to earmark nearly $3.2 billion for common education over the next decade advanced from a House committee on Monday. 
House Bill 2642 by Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, would create a special account to receive escalating apportionments drawn from tax receipts before they reach the general revenue fund. 
The bill specifies that the money would be in addition to regular school funding.
The account, to be called the Securing Educational Excellence Fund, would receive $57 million in the budget year beginning July 1, with the amount to increase to $575 million in fiscal year 2014.  
The amount going into the fund would remain at $575 million. 
The bill passed the House Common Education Committee on a vote of 15-1, with Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, the lone opponent. 
"How much is enough, and how do we know it's enough?" asked Nelson, a frequent critic of public education's spending habits. 
Denney said common education has less money than it did five years ago while serving 90,000 more students. 
HB 2642 next goes to the House Calendar Committee, which schedules legislation for floor votes. 
Read More at The Tulsa World
That is one bill for common sense in Oklahoma that has cleared the first committee hurdle -- will it get passed?  Or will the Governor veto it in the end?  One bill for common sense is more than I expected out of this GOP dominated house.

Another extremely important bill in the social engineering agenda of the Oklahoma legislature.  I thought it was a joke like the no marriage in Oklahoma but I was wrong -- this one has passed out of committee:
House committee OKs 'Merry Christmas Bill' 
A bill to allow public schools to observe Christmas and Hanukkah advanced from the House Common Education Committee on Monday. 
Known as the "Merry Christmas Bill," House Bill 2317 would allow districts to "educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations, and allow students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations." 
The bill would allow displays such as Nativity scenes or menorahs as long as more than one religion is represented and the displays "do not endorse, favor, disfavor, or encourage adherence to a particular religious or non-religious faith, belief or perspective." 
HB 2317 passed the committee 15-1 with Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, as the lone dissenter. The bill next goes to the House Calendar Committee. 
Rep. Ken Walker, R-Tulsa, is among the bill's sponsors. 
From the Tulsa World comes this gem on Tax Cuts.  We have $170M less to spend this year and now a bill in the legislature has increased the amount for tax cuts?
Tax Cuts 
Appropriations and Budget subcommittee on revenue and taxation. The subcommittee met for more than 2 1/2 hours Monday and advanced two competing plans for lowering the top state income tax rate. 
HB 2508 by Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, is similar to the quarter-percentage-point reduction proposed by Gov. Mary Fallin, except Sears' bill would delay implementation until 2016. 
Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, one of the Legislature's leading tax hawks, proposed cutting the top tax rate from 5.25 percent to 4 percent over four years, resulting in an $843.9 million loss in revenue when fully implemented. 
Osborn argued that the figure is based on "static" estimates and predicted that revenue will actually increase if the reduction is adopted. 
Osborn said state revenue has increased every time the tax rate has been reduced. Skeptics claim that the opposite occurred — revenue increased and then taxes were reduced.
In response to a question, Osborn said general fund revenue has been stagnant in recent years because tax rates have not been cut and because of national and international economic factors. 
Two attempts by Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, to curb tax credits were defeated, while a bill to extend the state's $5 million-a-year tax-rebate program for filmmakers through 2014 advanced on a 12-1 vote. 
Legislation passed by the subcommittee next goes to the full Appropriations Committee.
We still have the archaic 1% tax on horizontal drilling that was 7% at one time and the Republican House won't hear the idea that the tax should be raised.  This may be one of the hard headed group of legislators every in Oklahoma with some of their stupid ideas.

Will the new Speaker of the Oklahoma House Rep Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, stick with his original vote to be one of the few Republicans who voted against tax cuts last year or will he flip flop?  He is a more moderate Republican so this should get interesting.  Have no clue what is going to happen but I do know we need some more moderate, common sense people elected to the legislature and state government in Oklahoma.  Hopefully Speaker Hickman is a start but the jury is out.  Have had enough of the hard right running our state into the ground and putting social issues #1 over infrastructure and education.

Decided to support a man who is running to represent all Oklahomans not just the special few.  I say we give him a chance to turn the state around -- we cannot take four more years of GOP rule the way Oklahoma is going in the tank!

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