Okla. House speaker talks Capitol repair, tax cuts

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Newly elected House Speaker Jeff Hickman says his Republican colleagues agree on the need for repairs to the crumbling state Capitol, but that no consensus has been reached on how to pay for it.

Hickman met behind closed doors Monday with the Republican caucus to discuss various proposals to cut the state’s income tax and to hear from the Capitol architect on plans for Capitol repairs. 

Hickman says no consensus has been reached on the specifics of a tax cut or Capitol repairs, but that members do agree improvements must be made to the nearly 100-year-old building.

A Senate committee last week overwhelmingly approved a plan for a $160 million bond issue to fund Capitol repairs and Gov. Mary Fallin strongly supports the idea.


Panel OKs teacher pay bills despite lack of funds

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two bills to increase teacher pay have sailed through a House committee, although a projected shortage of revenue this year makes it’s unlikely the measures will ever reach the governor’s desk.

With educators from across the state packed into a committee room on Monday, a House budget panel unanimously approved the bills. They next will be scheduled for consideration by the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

Although legislators from both sides of the aisle support a plan to increase teacher pay, the cost of a pay hike makes it unlikely such a proposal will become law this year.

One of the bills approved Monday to increase teacher pay to the regional average would cost the state an estimated $237 million annually.


Baby siamang born at Tulsa Zoo

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An endangered siamang has been born at the Tulsa Zoo.

A siamang is a primate native to rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia. The Tulsa Zoo says a female siamang named Sophie gave birth to a baby on Feb. 10. 

It’s the first siamang to be born at the Tulsa Zoo in 23 years and the 14th siamang birth since the zoo began exhibiting the species in 1968.

The baby siamang’s sex is not yet known. It will remain in an off-exhibit with its parents as they continue to bond.

Siamangs spend most of their time in trees and the arboreal siamang is listed as endangered because of the destruction of forests in their home ranges.


Okla. public workers oppose pension proposals

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Hundreds of teachers, firefighters and state employees are rallying at the state Capitol to protest proposed changes to the retirement system for public workers.

Public employees from across the state visited with legislators on Monday and urged them to stop their plan to shift newly hired state workers from the current defined-benefit pension system to a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

Although the current bills only apply to state workers, and not teachers or firefighters, opponents says it’s likely teachers are likely to be targeted by lawmakers next.

Supporters of the change say it will help shore up the estimated $11.6 billion in unfunded liability of the state’s retirement systems, but opponents say recent changes already have stabilized the systems.


John Oates of Hall & Oates fame coming to OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee John Oates of the duo Hall & Oates is coming to the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Oklahoma City campus.

Oates will be part of a masters class on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at the school’s downtown Oklahoma City location. The class will feature an interview with Oates and a question-and-answer session. The class is free and open to the public.

Hall & Oates is well-known for hit songs “Rich Girl” and “Private Eyes,” among others. 

Hall & Oates was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 and are to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April.


Police identify man killed in shooting in Norman

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Police in Norman say a man was killed and a neighbor arrested in a shooting on the city’s south side.

Capt. Tom Easley said Sunday that officers were called shortly after 10:30 p.m. Friday to the neighborhood because of a disturbance that escalated into a shooting before the officer’s arrived.

Easley says in a news release that that 22-year-old Aaron Donelle McCray Jr. was shot several times and was taken to a Norman hospital where he later died. McCray’s body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office.

Easley says the suspect was arrested for suspicion of first-degree murder and that charges are pending in Cleveland County District Court.

Details of what led to the shooting were not released.


More than 125 Oklahoma DHS employees disciplined

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Records show that more than 125 Oklahoma Department of Human Services employees were fired, suspended or demoted during 2013 for various infractions — including one instance of an employee picking up the wrong baby from a day care.


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