Okla. House OKs defined contribution pension bill
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma House has passed legislation to replace traditional public employee pension plans with a 401(k)-style retirement plan for many new state workers.
The House passed the measure 57-42 Tuesday and sent it to the state Senate, which has already approved similar legislation.
Under the bill by Republican Rep. Randy McDaniel of Edmond, state workers hired after Nov. 1, 2015, would be shifted from the current defined-benefit pension plan to the 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan. The change would not apply to teachers or public safety employees like police officers and firefighters.
Supporters say the bill will help reduce the estimated $11.6 billion in unfunded liability in the state's public pension systems. Opponents say eliminating the pension will make saving for retirement riskier for state workers.
QUALITY JOBS BILL
Senate OKs bill to offer company incentives
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A plan to offer cash incentives to companies who pay for their workers to get degrees or certification in certain high-needs areas has passed the Oklahoma Senate.
The Senate voted 45-1 on Tuesday for the Quality Workforce Act by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman.
The bill sets up a rebate program administered through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Companies who pay tuition and material costs for current or potential employees to gain a certificate or degree in specified fields would qualify for the state rebate.
Bingman says only companies eligible for the state's Quality Jobs program would be eligible for the program. Rebates also would be limited to no more than 5 percent of the average annual wage of the company's employees.
Senator seeks to lower age for Oklahoma troopers
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A state senator from Coalgate hopes to make it easier to become an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper.
At the request of the agency, Republican state Sen. Josh Brecheen (breh-KEEN') wrote a bill that would lower the age limit from 23 to 21 and reduce the educational requirements needed to become a trooper. The bill passed the Senate on Tuesday on a 43-2 vote and now heads to the House for consideration.
Brecheen says he sponsored the bill at the request of the Department of Public Safety, which has complained about dwindling recruit pools over the last several years.
DPS officials say more than two dozen local law enforcement agencies across the state currently pay their newly hired officers more than the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Okla. general revenue fund collections miss mark
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma finance officials say large corporate income tax refunds are to blame for an 8 percent drop in collections to the main operating fund of state government.
Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger (DOR'-fling-ur) said Tuesday that February collections to the General Revenue Fund missed projections by about $23.7 million, or 8.1 percent.
Doerflinger said corporate income tax refunds in February totaled $21 million, including a single corporate tax refund from tax year 2012 of more than $15 million.
Despite the drop in collections, Doerflinger said revenues are enough to maintain funding for state agencies through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
He also reiterated his warning for state agencies to prepare for flat or slightly reduced budgets for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
SUPREME COURT-WORKERS COMP
Oklahoma court upholds CompSource mutualization
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Supreme Court has upheld a plan to convert the state workers' compensation insurance agency into a mutual company.
The state's highest court handed down a decision Tuesday that affirms legislation adopted last year to convert CompSource Oklahoma into the CompSource Mutual Insurance Co. The new company would be organized under state law, but independent of the state. The change goes into effect on Jan. 1.
The legislation was challenged in a lawsuit filed by the Tulsa Stockyards Inc., which alleged that CompSource is a state agency and its money and other assets, valued at about $265 million, are assets of the people of Oklahoma.
The Supreme Court ruled that CompSource's assets are held in trust for the benefit of employers and employees protected by insurance issued by CompSource.
Man sought in theft from Okla. jail phones caught
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A telephone service employee suspected of stealing more than $40,000 from phone terminals in the Oklahoma County jail has been arrested following a short standoff with deputies in Oklahoma City.
The sheriff's office says in a news release that 65-year-old Thomas Caldwell was found about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in a parking lot at Penn Square Mall and when deputies approached him he pulled out a handgun and pointed it at his head. Deputies talked Caldwell into dropping the gun after about 5 minutes then arrested him.
Online court records do not list an attorney for him.
Authorities say Caldwell worked for Telmate, a company that provides phone service for county jail inmates. Caldwell was last seen March 3 when video cameras recorded him leaving the jail's rear entrance.
Skydiving association: 1st-time jumpers must be 18
TULSA, Okla. (AP) - The U.S. Parachute Association will increase the minimum age for first-time skydivers nationwide to 18 years starting May 1, replacing a provision that allowed younger teens to jump with parental consent.
USPA spokeswoman Nancy Koreen says the change isn't related to the recent Oklahoma incident in which a 16-year-old girl plummeted 3,000 feet to the ground after her parachute malfunctioned. The teenager, Makenzie Wethington, is recovering from her injuries.
In an email to The Associated Press, Koreen says raising the age limit has been an issue that the USPA and the skydiving industry "have been struggling with the past couple of years."
Koreen says skydiving equipment manufacturers have already instituted 18 as the minimum age for use of their gear in reaction to what she called "an increasingly litigious society."
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