Indian liaison rules are changed
A measure that changes the qualifications for the position of the recently created American Indian liaison was signed into law Tuesday. Lawmakers last year passed a measure eliminating the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission and created the post of American Indian liaison. Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday signed into law House Bill 2563, which eliminates the requirement that the liaison be at least one-fourth American Indian. Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, the author of the measure, said the requirement may violate state and federal constitutional prohibitions against employment discrimination, as well as severely restrict qualified applicants. HB 2563 instead calls for the liaison to be a member or citizen, with valid proof of membership or citizenship, of a federally recognized American Indian tribe or nation with primary tribal headquarters in Oklahoma. HB 2563 also removes language from existing law naming the liaison the governor's designee to negotiate cooperative agreements with federally recognized tribal governments. The bill also extends to Dec. 1 the deadline for the governor to appoint a Native American liaison. The measure takes effect in late August.
Governor signs $6.8B budget bill
Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Senate Bill 1975, which contains the state's $6.8 billion appropriated by legislators for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins July 1. It is mostly a flat budget for most state agencies, although extra money is allocated to several areas to take care of specific needs, such as the Department of Human Services and common education. The $6.8 billion budget bill is about 3.1 percent more than the $6.6 billion lawmakers will end up spending this fiscal year. The extra money comes from getting funds from various revolving accounts and cash funds. The measure includes extra money for DHS, including $25 million for the Pinnacle Plan, the result of a settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit earlier this year. The plan addresses 15 areas, including caseload, number of placements and recruitment of foster homes, and calls for a series of reforms that include hiring 200 child welfare workers and 40 supervisors, recruiting 1,000 traditional foster families, granting pay raises to foster parents and child welfare workers, and eliminating the use of state shelters for young abused and neglected children.
MICHAEL MCNUTT, CAPITOL BUREAU