TROOPER PAY RAISE
Oklahoma House passes state trooper pay raise bill
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma House has given final passage to legislation that provides a mechanism to raise the salaries of Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers.
The House voted 94-0 without debate Tuesday and sent the bill to Gov. Mary Fallin to be signed into law. The measure was previously approved by the state Senate.
The bill by Rep. Scott Martin of Norman provides a method to give troopers an across-the-board pay raise that is based on the recommendations of a recent study on state employee compensation.
That study shows troopers should receive a pay raise of between 14 percent and 20 percent. Officials say the bill would cost about $8.5 million annually when fully implemented.
A starting highway patrol trooper is currently paid about $38,000 a year.
Okla. Senate leader re-elected to third term
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman has been re-elected to a historic third term as the Senate leader.
Bingman - a Republican - said Tuesday he was selected by the 36 Senate Republicans in a closed-door caucus meeting. Bingman said in a statement that he is "incredibly humbled."
He will become the first Senate leader re-elected to a third term since Republicans took control of the chamber in 2008 for the first time since statehood. He will be formally elected to the post in 2015, after this year's elections.
The Senate President Pro Tem is one of the most powerful positions in state government with the ability to schedule bills for hearings and negotiate with the governor and House on the state's roughly $7 billion budget, among other things.
State-mandated minimum wage draws ire across state
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Organizers seeking a higher minimum wage in Oklahoma are upset with Gov. Mary Fallin's decision to sign a bill that prohibits cities in the state from establishing mandatory minimum wage or vacation and sick-day requirements.
Attorney David Slane said Tuesday that the new law threatens an effort to raise Oklahoma City's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Slane wrote the initiative petition for Oklahoma City.
He said those collecting signatures will continue with hopes of getting the 6,200 names needed to get on a city-wide ballot. The group is also considering a host of other options, including challenging the constitutionality of the law.
Fallin said previously that she opposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour because she fears it will destroy jobs and harm small business owners.
Oklahoma AG files anti-discrimination lawsuit
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma's attorney general has filed an anti-discrimination lawsuit against a Miami restaurant and its owner over allegations of sexual harassment of employees.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Ottawa County District Court is the first legal action filed by the newly formed Office of Civil Rights Enforcement in Attorney General Scott Pruitt's Office.
The lawsuit was filed against Chinese Chef's Buffet, Inc., and owner Yun Chang. It alleges Chang preyed on waitresses by engaging in sex discrimination, sexual assault and other forms of sexual harassment. Victims of the alleged harassment included women who were living in a shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Chang - through spokesman Kevin Kang - told The Associated Press Tuesday that Chang denies the allegations. Kang said Chang doesn't speak English.
Okla. Senate OKs abortion drug restrictions
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A bill that would restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs in Oklahoma has easily passed the state Senate.
The Senate voted 37-5 Tuesday for the bill that was written in direct response to a state Supreme Court decision that tossed a similar measure approved by the Legislature in 2011.
The bill would prohibit off-label uses of certain abortion-inducing drugs by requiring doctors to administer the drugs only in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court declared the bill unconstitutional, saying it effectively banned all drug-induced abortions in the state. The bill specifically states it does not ban the use of misoprostol in chemical abortions or the off-label use of drugs for the treatment of ectopic pregnancies.
March Oklahoma revenue misses mark by 9.1 percent
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma's finance secretary says collections by the general revenue fund fell 9.1 percent below the official estimate in March.
Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said Tuesday the state experienced another month of unusually low corporate income tax revenue. Doerflinger says that the decline followed a major increase in tax credit claims.
March collections totaled $413 million, which is $41 million, or 9.1 percent, below the official revenue estimate upon which the fiscal year's state budget is based.
Doerflinger says March's weak collections rekindled the possibility of mandatory cuts for all state agencies for the budget year that ends on June 30.
Collections totaled $3.9 billion during the first three quarters of the current fiscal year. That's $215 million, or 5.2 percent, below the official estimate for the nine-month period.
Candidacy of Okla. governor hopefuls challenged
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A Democrat running for Oklahoma governor is challenging the candidacy of two independents in the race, including one he alleges failed to disclose a guilty plea to a felony crime more than a decade ago.
Democratic state Rep. Joe Dorman on Tuesday challenged the candidacy of independents Joe Sills and Kimberly Willis, both of Oklahoma City.
Dorman claims the 34-year-old Sills did not disclose on his candidacy form a guilty plea in 2000 to a felony crime of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Sills said Tuesday he thought the question on the candidacy form applied only to embezzlement-related crimes and that he plans to contest Dorman's challenge.
Dorman alleges Willis was not a registered independent for the amount of time required by law.
NEW SPECIES DISCOVERED
University of Tulsa researchers find new species
TULSA, Okla. (AP) - A salamander first discovered by a University of Tulsa doctoral student in 2011 is being hailed as a new species in an international journal for animal taxonomy.
Doctoral student Michael Steffen and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Herpetologist Kelly Irwin discovered the new species in May 2011 while studying genetic diversity of other salamanders in Lake Catherine State Park near Hot Springs, Ark.
The university says the latest issue of Zootaxa will feature the paper and provide details on the Ouachita Streambed Salamander. The school says the amphibian is one of the most "genetically distinct" species of salamander to be identified in the United States within the past 70 years.
This species currently has the smallest known range of any other amphibian in the country.
PHYSICAL FITNESS GRANTS-OKLAHOMA
Physical fitness grants awarded in Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The U.S. Department of Education has awarded four grants in Oklahoma to be used for physical fitness programs.
The grants announced Tuesday include more than $734,000 to the Putnam City School District; more than $607,000 to Keys Public Schools; $450,000 to Checotah Public Schools: and more than $934,000 to the nonprofit Schools for Healthy Lifestyles in Oklahoma City.
The grants are intended to help schools and community organizations start, expand or enhance physical education and nutrition education programs - including after-school programs - for students in kindergarten through 12th grades.
The Department of Education awarded a total of 67 grants nationwide worth more than $33 million.
AAA: Okla. gas prices hit 7-month high on tax day
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - AAA Oklahoma says the statewide average price for gasoline is the highest it's been since September.
AAA says Oklahoma's average price for a gallon of regular self-serve hit $3.47 Tuesday, the highest price since Sept. 15. Prices ranged from a high of $3.56 a gallon in Stillwater and Ponca City to a low of about $3.37 in Lawton. Drivers in Oklahoma City are paying $3.44 per gallon while those in Tulsa are paying nearly $3.52.
The national average is $3.64.
AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai says gas prices in the state have been in the $3.40 to $3.47 range for the past month being below $3 as recently as the day after Christmas.
Mai says declining inventories and signs of rebounding demand have resulted in rising prices across the country.
Man on federal death row tries for new hearing
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A Yukon, Okla., man on federal death row for the slayings of three members of an Arkansas family wants a judge to reconsider his denial of a request for a hearing that could lead to a new trial.
Attorney Karl Schwartz on Tuesday filed a motion saying U.S. District Judge J. Leon Holmes was wrong to have turned away Danny Lee's petition for a hearing so he could argue for retrial.
Holmes denied the motion, saying Lee didn't go through proper procedures to try to get the hearing. But Schwartz cites case law that he says opens the way for Holmes to grant the hearing.
Lee was convicted in the 1996 deaths of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy Mueller, and their daughter, Sarah, in a white supremacist plot.
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