What are key issues for Oklahoma Legislature as it returns?

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma legislators return to the Capitol on Monday to face an economic crisis that is at least partly of their own making.

While tax cuts, economic incentives and rebates were intended to help broaden the state's economy as lawmakers passed them in recent years, they're now exacerbating problems linked to a sharp fall in the price of oil, Oklahoma's lifeblood.

The state has issues with earthquakes, its execution procedures and education system.

How key issues stand as lawmakers resume work:

ECONOMY — An oil and gas glut has forced prices down sharply, cutting revenues among Oklahoma's key businesses and, in turn, reducing state revenues. Lawmakers are expected to see about a $1 billion shortfall for the next fiscal year, on top of a "revenue failure" declared this year because of declining income. Both the hole in next year's budget and the current fiscal year's revenue failure are likely to grow larger.

"I know last year when we left the chamber at the end of the session, we knew the price of oil was heading south," said Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. "I don't think anyone anticipated we'd see numbers like we're seeing today."

EARTHQUAKES — Oklahoma has seen a sharp rise in the number of earthquakes, with most experts tying them to the underground disposal of oilfield wastewater. House Speaker Jeff Hickman says the Oklahoma Corporation Commission already has the power to regulate the industry to help stop the quakes, but is suggesting legislation to make that authority more clear. The House's Democratic leader, Rep. Scott Inman, wants to ban the disposal of out-of-state wastewater, but that amounts to a small percentage of the total volume of wastewater produced here.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mary Fallin says she will use $1.4 million from the state's Emergency Fund to back research into the quakes, calling it a "critical subject" for homeowners and businesses.

EXECUTIONS and CRIMINAL JUSTICE — Oklahoma hasn't put an inmate to death since early 2015, when prison officials used a drug not listed in the state's protocols. The error wasn't revealed until the same wrong drug was delivered for a September execution. Lawmakers already have scheduled a public vote on ensuring executions will be carried out even if lethal injections are ruled unconstitutional. During the upcoming session, they'll explore whether penalties for some crimes should be reduced in an effort to control the prison population.

EDUCATION — Fallin said that in her State of the State address Monday she will call for teacher pay raises, though in a preview she gave The Associated Press on Thursday she didn't say how they would be funded amid a $1 billion state budget shortfall. Bingman said Oklahoma should explore the consolidation of some of its 500-plus school districts, saying some could save money by sharing administrative functions and costs. He said, bluntly, "We've got way too many school districts."

EXODUS — An effort is afoot to change Oklahoma's constitution so lawmakers could again authorize a Ten Commandments monument for the state Capitol. The document currently says the state can do nothing to benefit any religion, directly or indirectly, and the state Supreme Court cited that provision last year in ordering that a granite structure bearing the Commandments be removed from state grounds.

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