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Governor Fallin signs budget bill, highlights successes in 2015 legislative session

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin signed the Fiscal Year 2016 budget bill into law, calling it a fiscally responsible blueprint for state government and praising the Legislature for closing a $611 million shortfall without cutting funding for K-12 education.

The FY 2016 appropriated budget will be $7,138,920,521, which is $74.3 million, or 1.03 percent, less than FY 2015's appropriated budget.

“I'm proud legislators and I were able to pass a budget in challenging times that shields common education, our largest and one of our most important expenses, from budget cuts,” said Fallin. “Under this budget, approximately 51 cents of every dollar appropriated by state government will continue to go toward education. The budget also protects, and in some cases increases, funding for health and public safety while preserving all funding necessary to keep intact the state's eight-year transportation plan, as well as the five-year county road-and-bridge plan.”

Fallin called the 2015 legislative session “a victory for Oklahomans” and highlighted a series of policy successes. This year's session was marked by significant progress in areas championed by Fallin, including education, criminal justice, and health. The governor identified each as an area in which Oklahoma must improve in both her inaugural address and her State of the State speech to legislators.

“This session was a victory for Oklahomans and produced a number of positive reforms in areas like education, health and criminal justice, despite a challenging budget year,” said Fallin. “I am excited about the good work done by our Legislature, and I believe the successes we've achieved this year will help the state of Oklahoma build on its significant forward momentum.”

  • SB 782: Allows school districts across the state the ability to create charter schools. Charter schools, public schools that operate under innovative education models, historically have been limited to Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.
  • HB 1518: Allows judges to impose shorter sentences for some nonviolent crimes. The bill allows judges to depart from mandatory minimum terms if they believe the minimum sentence is “not necessary for the protection of the public” and could “result in substantial injustice to the defendant.” Freed from having to impose a mandatory sentence, a judge in some cases could choose to divert the offender to a program to deal with underlying mental health or drug abuse issues. The measure, called the Justice Safety Valve Act, is an attempt to divert more nonviolent offenders into alternative programs and away from long terms in the state's overcrowded prisons.
  • HB 1047: Strengthens laws on aggravated child pornography.
  • HB 1965: Makes it illegal to text while driving in Oklahoma. The measure makes texting while driving a primary offense, meaning law officers will be able to pull over anyone who is texting while operating a vehicle. The penalty will be $100. HB 1965, The Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act of 2015, is named for the two Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers who were struck by a vehicle earlier this year while investigating an accident on Interstate 40 in Seminole County. Dees died at the scene, and Burch was hospitalized. The driver of the vehicle was using a smart phone at the time of the accident.

You can read more about the legislative highlights here.

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