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Capital City: Gun bills advance in OK and DC

Gov. elect Kevin Stitt arrives to the Blue Room before the inauguration ceremony of new Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoma
Gov. elect Kevin Stitt arrives to the Blue Room before the inauguration ceremony of new Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoma

Good Thursday morning.  

First up -- State Board of Education members are expected to certify school grade cards today (they meet at 9:30 a.m.), which will have a new look following a two-year hiatus. 

The new school grades, which have many critics across public education, have added measurements designed to more accurately reflect student achievement and school improvement, state Superintendent Joy Hofmeistersaid this week

GOV SIGNS GUN BILL ... Gov. Kevin Stitt signed his first bill on Wednesday: A permitless carry bill that gives Oklahomans the ability to carry a gun without a state permit. 

The Republican Legislature widely supported to measure. 

"I think the best defense for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," Stitt said.

Democrats, unable to stop the legislation, expressed their disappointment. 

House Minority Leader Emily Virgin: "It is disappointing that this issue is clearly the top priority for the Republicans at 23rd & Lincoln given that it's the first and only bill that has been fast-tracked through the legislative process and signed by the Governor."

The law takes effect Nov. 1

U.S. HOUSE ADVANCES BACKGROUND BILL ... The Democratic-controlled House on Wednesday approved a measure requiring federal background checks for all firearms sales and transfers, the first major gun control legislation considered by Congress in nearly 25 years. U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn was the only member from Oklahoma to support the bill. 

Democrats called the 240-190 vote a major step to end the gun lobby’s grip on Washington and begin to address an epidemic of gun violence that kills thousands of Americans every year, including 17 people shot and killed at a Florida high school last year.

The bill is the first of two the House is voting on this week as Democrats move to tighten gun laws following eight years of Republican control. The other bill would extend the review period for background checks from three to 10 days.

BOARD BILLS ADVANCE ... One of Gov. Stitt's top legislative priorities cleared key hurdles Wednesday as House and Senate committees voted to give the chief executive the power to hire the heads of major agencies.

The Senate approach would dissolve several state agency boards that currently hire directors, while the House would keep the boards intact but strip of them of the authority to pick the top leader.

“Negotiations are ongoing with House leadership,” said Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, when asked about the differences between the House and Senate bills.

Treat, R-Oklahoma City, authored the Senate bills that dissolve boards and commissions at the state Health Care Authority, Department of Transportation, Department of Corrections, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and Office of Juvenile Affairs.

COST OF LIVING ADJUSTMENT ... A bill to grant a 2 percent cost of living increase to retired participants in six Oklahoma state pension systems passed out of a House committee Wednesday and is headed for a vote before the full House of Representatives.

"We're pushing for it because our retirees need it," said Ginger Sigler, executive director of the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System. "They haven't had one since 2008, and it's time."

A 2 percent hike would provide $30 or $40 extra a month to the average retired police employee, she said.

BILL SETS PLATE READER LIMITS ... A bill under consideration by the Oklahoma Legislature would clarify how some license plate information is kept and disseminated.

The measure involves regulation of automated license plate readers that have been in use for years by the Corporation Commission that snap photos of vehicles entering Oklahoma. House Bill 1972 also requires that individual data it collects be exempt from the Open Records Act but can be used by other agencies for law enforcement and regulatory activities.

"It's to allow them the ability to use the license plate readers and to allow them access to the (Department of Public Safety) information database," said state Rep. Ross Ford.

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Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›