The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

May 13, 2014

Oklahoma House gives final OK to prison funding

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma House gave final approval Tuesday to a $13 million supplemental appropriation measure to help Oklahoma’s prison system pay its bills in spite of the concerns of some House members that the funding bill is unconstitutional.

The House voted 68-23 for the measure and sent it to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk to be signed into law. House members then voted 81-8 for an emergency clause that will allow the measure to go into effect as soon as it is signed. The Senate passed the measure last week.

The House author, Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, says the measure appropriates $13 million to the Department of Corrections to help it pay is bills through the end of the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Martin, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said the agency is constitutionally required to pay its current bills before the end of the fiscal year. Martin said money for the supplemental appropriation will come from surplus general revenue funds from the previous year.

The measure also gives the director of the Department of Corrections more authority to tap an internal agency revolving account. Martin said the agency, whose budget this year totals $463 million, is facing a $27 million shortfall that the supplemental appropriation and money from the revolving fund will close.

The department will use the money to pay for private prison beds, a backup of inmates in county jails and inmate medical services.

Opponents of the bill said it’s likely to face a legal challenge.

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, said he believes the measure is unconstitutional because general revenue surpluses must be used to pay off bonded indebtedness.

“That is the single constitutional purpose for which this money is allowed,” Reynolds said. “This is a court challenge waiting to happen.”

Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, said lawmakers were abdicating their responsibility to provide oversight of the agency by giving more authority to the director.

Morrissette also said the Department of Corrections is under-budgeted and that too much tax revenue is set aside for state inmates in private prisons.

“We’re not running this like a business,” Morrissette said. “The process is wrong. Let’s try to get it right.”

A spokesman for the Department of Corrections, Jerry Massie, said Director Robert Patton was “very pleased” with final passage of the bill. A spokesman for Fallin, Alex Weintz, said the governor is expected to act quickly to sign it.

Text Only
National and world
  • CDC Ebola web.jpg U.S. warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

    “The bottom line is Ebola is worsening in West Africa,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who announced the travel warning.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Gaza truce comes after days of pushing for a deal

    Finally, less than an hour after all sides signed off on the precise and technical wording for a 72-hour truce, Kerry issued a statement and called a 3:30 a.m. Friday press conference to seal the deal before any party could back out.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taiwan web.jpg Gas explosions kill 24, injure 271 in Taiwan

    The fires were believed caused by a leak of propene, a petrochemical material not intended for public use, but the source of the gas was not immediately clear, officials said.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Congress web.jpg Congress races to finish VA, highway bills

    House Speaker John Boehner accused Democrats of pursuing a “nutso scheme” of trying to seize on the border crisis to try and grant a path to citizenship to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Illinois Unemployment_Hass.jpg As U.S. job market strengthens, many don't feel it

    "If the economy is getting better, I'm not sure for whom. It certainly hasn't trickled down to me." — Douglas Hunter, who earned $14 an hour before the Great Recession and now works three days a week for $9.25 an hour, mopping floors and fixing fryers at McDonald's.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • House Obama Lawsuit.jpg Republican-led House approves lawsuit against President Obama

    Just a day before lawmakers were to begin a five-week summer recess, debate over the proposed lawsuit underscored the harshly partisan tone that has dominated the current Congress almost from its start in January 2013.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia Putin web.jpg Sanctions could damage Russia

    The sanctions go further than earlier penalties — which had largely targeted individuals — by broadly limiting the trade of weapons and of technology that can be used in the oil and military industries. The EU also put its capital markets off-limits to Russian state-owned banks.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Libya web.jpg Thousands flee to Tunisia to escape Libya fighting

    Many diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador, have pulled out of the country. With the interim government paralyzed, the fighting threatens the planned opening session of the newly elected parliament on Aug. 4.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obit Robert Drew web.jpg Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies

    Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Ukraine Russia_Hass_W.jpg GOP-led House approves lawsuit against Obama

    The suit will contend that Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers in the way he has enforced the 2010 health care law.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads