House OKs driver's license fee hike
Fees for driver's licenses would increase under a bill approved Wednesday by the House. Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, said some of the $9.6 million raised by the increased fee would go toward paying for more driver's license examiners. Armes said long lines are common at licensing offices because of a shortage of examiners. Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, agreed, saying one constituent told him he had to drive his son three times on the 65-mile trip from Antlers to McAlester before he was allowed to take a driver's test. Senate Bill 652 would increase the standard driver's license fee from $20.50 to $33.50. Commercial licenses would increase $11. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, argued the fees were actually a tax increase because language in the bill didn't state how the funds would be spent.
Fallin signs jobless benefits bill
Gov. Mary Fallin signed a measure Wednesday requiring terminated employees to prove they weren't fired for misconduct — such as willfully disregarding regulations or chronic absenteeism — in order to receive unemployment benefits. Backers said House Bill 1911 will cut down on fraud, which would result in more benefits being available for the state's unemployed. Opponents said the measure, written by business interests, will make it harder for the unemployed to receive money for food and housing costs. House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, author of HB 1911, said the bill addresses the concerns of employers and reduce the number of bogus unemployment claims. HB 1911 takes effect Nov. 1.
State school board member resigns
Joy Hofmeister, a member of the state Board of Education, said Wednesday she is resigning from the post and is pursuing a potential bid for state schools superintendent. Hofmeister, a Republican, was appointed in January 2012 by Gov. Mary Fallin. A former public school teacher, Hofmeister, 48, of Tulsa, is president of a company that owns and operates a local franchise of the international firm that provides academic enrichment in mathematics and reading to children.
Tax credit measure advances
The House passed a bill Wednesday that would eliminate two tax credits. Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, said Senate Bill 166 will be a vehicle to target at least changing the makeup of tax credits. Language in the measure now calls for eliminating a tax credit on energy systems, which hasn't been used since 1995, and another involving food service establishment employers providing hepatitis immunizations for employees, which costs the state $14,000 annually. Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, who has led an unsuccessful effort the past several years to eliminate or reduce millions of dollars of tax credits and incentives, said SB 166 is like “shooting a gnat with a cannon.” The House voted 89-5 to pass SB 166.
Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau