Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rep. Randy Terrill talks about "English Only" legislation as well as why there seems to be a split over this issue among GOP lawmakers in this entire interview.  

Rep. Randy Terrill has authored legislation that has caused a division within the Oklahoma Republican Party.  

Rep. Randy Terrill explains what his bill does to allow the State to restrict any language other than English.  

Other "English-Only" Bill Sparks Controversy

Another lawmaker that has drafted "English-only" legislation created a tension between those in the same political party.  

Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) has authored House Joint Resolution 1042, making English the "official language" of Oklahoma.  The bill would be implemented toward state agencies; this would prohibit state agencies from conducting any speech that is not English.  

Terrill said Anderson's (R-Enid) bill, Senate Bill 1156, is nothing more than a "meaningless, symbolic gesture," saying the bill is trying to "gut out official English." 

"Anderson has no enforcement in his bill," Terrill said.  "Anderson does not advocate for making English the official language of the state."  

Terrill's resolution would not only make English the official language, but also provides exceptions such as Braille and Native American uses of language.  

If the resolution passes the House floor in the coming weeks, citizens will be asked to vote on the measure during in the 2010 elections.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) gives his opinion of Anderson's bill.  Terrill has a resolution that also deals with making English the official language of the Oklahoma.  

English May Become Common Language: Officially Anyway

An Oklahoma lawmaker is trying to pass a bill that would make English Oklahoma's "official common language."  

Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) said Senate Bill 1156 would apply only to state agencies, saying no state agency "shall be required to provide any documents, information, literature or other written materials in any language other than English."  

The two-sentence bill does not require state agencies to provide English-only written materials; Anderson agrees the bill is not meant to be enforced, but to be a symbolic gesture.  

"The point is to turn the focus off this issue," Anderson said.  "There are more important issues to worry about such as the current budget crunch."  

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Anderson chairs, Wednesday (2/18). Anderson said the bill should be heard by the entire Senate floor in one or two weeks.  

MP3 Test

Friday, February 20, 2009

UPDATE: Rape Bill

Sen. Glenn Coffee's (R- Oklahoma City) bill that allows rape victims to undergo medical treatment before contacting law enforcement passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Thursday (2/19).

Coffee said he is glad the bill passed, and hopes it will be a benefit to all rape victims in the state.

The bill will be heard by the entire Senate floor in the coming weeks.

A copy of the actual bill filed by Sen. Jonathan Nichols. Even though the bill will not be heard this session, Nichols still seeks to pass the legislation through an amendment in another bill. Photo by: Clint Sloan

Domestic Violence Bill Fails in Committee

A bill increasing jail time and fines for domestic violence offenders failed to pass committee by the critical deadline Thursday (2/19).

Senate Bill 788, authored by State Sen. Jonathan Nichols (R-Norman), elevates the penalty of a domestic violence offender from a misdeameanor to a felony.

According to the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, more than 370,000 Oklahoma women are beaten on a regular basis. Nichols said this is a growing problem for Oklahoma women, and even though his bill did not pass, he will still make the issue of domestic violence heard in the legislature.

"I will keep on trying," Nichols said. "This is too important an issue facing our state."

While Nichols' bill will not be considered , there is still a chance he could attach the measure to another bill or wait until next year's session to pass it as a separate bill.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A soldier walks into the National Weather Center. Knowing their lives may be taken in an act of war, they will have the comfort knowing their families may be given an adequate education. Photo by: Clint Sloan

Military Families May Receive Help for College

Families of fallen military members may be given more aid for college thanks to a new state legislative proposal.

Also known as the "Hero's Promise Act," House Bill 1422 would provide in-state tuition waivers for 48 months to dependents of Oklahoma military servicemen and women killed in the line of duty.

Under the current Montgomery GI Bill, dependents of killed military members receive 45 months of entitlement, totaling about $900 a month. OU veterans coordinator Patricia Ingram said this money is distributed to these students by check, and if the state covers their tuition, the students could pocket that money, making it easier to bear the financial burden incurred in college.

"It would be a tremendous help," Ingram said.

The bill passed the House Appropriations and Budget Committee unanimously on Monday (2/16). Because the bill had no opposition in committee, the bill is expected to pass by the entire House floor in the coming weeks.

Friday, February 13, 2009

In the State Capitol, lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that would help victims of rape.

New Bill Revises Law on Rape

A state lawmaker introduced a bill that would revise a law on rape, allowing those affected by this crime to choose not to promptly contact authorities after a doctor examination.

Sen. Glenn Coffee (R-Oklahoma City) said this law would allow women to deal with their health-related issues without prior contact with law enforcement.

According to the 2008 Sooner Safety Report, there have been 10 reported cases of sexual offenses from 2005 to 2007 on the OU campus. But OU officials say many cases go unreported because of the difficulty of describing such a traumatic experience.

Because the offense is so traumatic, the new law would allow women to not disclose the information immediately to authorities and could wait days. Unlike the current law, doctors must report to law enforcement immediately after seeing signs that a rape has occurred.

"This would give women a chance to breathe," Coffee said.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee. If passed, it will be reviewed by the Senate floor.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

OU Students, along with OU Government Affairs Director Danny Hilliard, wait for lawmakers to speak in a conference room at the State Capitol.  The students hope to convince lawmakers to increase educational funding.  

Students Attend National Education Day

OU students attended Higher Education Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol Tuesday (2/10), hoping to persuade lawmakers to increase educational funding.

Unfortunately for the students, the State is battling a nearly $1 Billion deficit, which makes it even harder for students to accomplish their goal. Still, students are optimistic that lawmakers would realize the importance of education and somehow spare education in the budget cuts.

"Education is everything," university college freshman Tyler Smith said. "For families that struggle with that [providing higher education], funding makes it easier for kids to go to college."

Students, like Smith, are confident lawmakers will not cut funding this legislative session, which may maintain or even lower students' tuition next semester.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Gas prices at the Campus Corner Market are quite different than they were last summer, with prices reaching nearly $4 a gallon.  These low prices seem to be hurting the state budget.  

Low Gas Prices Hurting the State?  

Low gas prices may be a major factor in the economic slowdown in Oklahoma, a member of the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Committee said Friday.

State Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) said the low gas prices hurt the state because Oklahoma is an energy-driven state with an energy-driven economy. High energy prices have produced surpluses for state government, but with the current low energy prices, the budget shortfall could be worse than the already projected $500 million gap.

"[The deficit] could go to $600 million if gas remains low," Terrill said. "I think it's pretty clear the economic downturn is probably going to be worse next year."

A greater economic downturn means less jobs and makes it harder for college students to find work after graduation, but Terrill said he is still pushing for a state energy plan that would create more jobs and provide residents with alternative energy besides oil or natural gas.

Terrill said Oklahoma should be at the forefront of the nation in not only developing natural gas technologies, but also wind, solar and geothermal. He said he hopes he can deliver a new state energy plan this legislative session.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Legislature May Cut Funding for Education

The Oklahoma Legislature may have to cut funding toward education because of the slowing economy, a member of the appropriations and budget committee said.

Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Ken Miller (R-Edmond) said educational funding may get cut despite Democratic Gov. Brad Henry's promise that the funding for education, public safety, transportation and healthcare will remain untouched.

Miller said the legislature has a constitutional obligation to balance the state budget, and that takes precedence over educational funding.

"To say that those agencies are not going to get cut is a committment I can't make," Miller said.

Educational cuts may make Oklahoma universities anxious to raise tuition and fees, but because OU is enacting a tuition-lock policy, this likely will not affect OU as much as other universities.