MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

May 23, 2014

2014 legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)  — The Oklahoma Legislature adjourned the 2014 session Friday, one week before a constitutionally mandated deadline.

Here are several of the major pieces of legislation lawmakers approved this year.

Five of the measures still require Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature.

• State budget: This omnibus state budget bill appropriates $7.1 billion to fund the state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The bill spends about $102 million less than the current budget but still boosts funding for public schools by $80 million.

Most agencies will receive cuts averaging 5.5 percent. The bill also includes funding for pay raises for targeted state workers in the public safety, child welfare and health care fields. Senate Bill 2127. Awaiting governor’s signature.

 • Drilling tax incentive: Supported by the oil and gas industry, the bill increases the 1 percent tax rate for horizontally drilled gas wells to 2 percent for the first three years of a well’s production, while dropping the rate for traditional vertical wells from 7 percent to 2 percent.

Had legislators taken no action, the subsidy would have expired in July 2015 and the rate for all oil and gas production would have returned to 7 percent. House Bill 2562. Awaiting governor’s signature.

• Reading standards: Modifies the state’s Reading Sufficiency Act to allow a team that includes parents, teachers and administrators to decide whether a student should advance to the fourth grade, even if the student scores “unsatisfactory” on a state reading test.

Fallin vetoed the measure, saying it sets students up for failure by advancing them without proper reading skills, but the Legislature voted to override her veto. House Bill 2625.

 • Income taxes: Gradually lowers Oklahoma’s top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 4.85 percent over several years if state revenues continue to rise.

If fully implemented by 2018, income tax revenue to the state will be reduced by about $200 million a year.

At the 4.85 percent rate, the cut for the average Oklahoma tax filer will be $158 a year. Senate Bill 1246. Signed by the governor.

• Retirement changes: Ends the traditional pension retirement system for state workers hired after November 2015 in favor of a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

The change does not apply to teachers or “hazardous duty” workers such as police officers, firefighters or prison guards. House Bill 2630. Awaiting governor’s signature.

 • Capitol fixes: Authorizes a 10-year bond issue for up to $120 million to repair and renovate the nearly 100-year-old state Capitol, which has been plagued with problems including pieces of limestone and mortar falling from the building’s facade, a plumbing system with rotting pipes and a hodgepodge of electrical systems. House Joint Resolution 1033. Awaiting governor’s signature.

• Common Core: Repeals Common Core standards for math and English instruction that more than 40 states have adopted and replaces them with standards developed by the state.

The standards were designed to bring uniformity among the states but were fiercely opposed by conservative groups who maintained they represented federal intrusion into the state’s education system. House Bill 3399. Awaiting governor’s signature.

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