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The McCarville Report
Category archives for: State Government

Capitol Repairs: $120 Million So Far

Repairs to the Capitol building likely will continue to challenge the state’s ability to pay for them: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-capitol-repairs-could-exceed-120-million-price-tag/article/5398851


Financial Football Kicks Off

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State Treasurer Ken MIller, former OU and current NFL player Ryan Broyles, and Nat Sillin of Visa Inc. watch a demonstration of Financial Football, a video game to help student learn basic financial skills. The three announced release of the game in the State Treasurer’s Office at the State Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Photo credit: Travis Caperton, Capitol Photographer.


Atkinson: Tourism Shines

gbaGean B. Atkinson
Writing in The Oklahoman

Budget shortfalls are nothing new to Oklahoma. Any of us who have been around for any length of time have experienced the challenges that come with such a downturn.

The Department of Tourism is no exception. Last year it had its share of reductions in funds including a 5.27 percent budget cut and the transfer of $3.7 million from two agency revolving funds. And yet even with these decreases in operational budgets, the department remains committed to coming up with new solutions to allow it to accomplish its mission. How? By taking lessons from business.

As the state’s third-highest grossing revenue industry, with expenditures due to tourism of just over $7.5 billion generating $403.8 million in state tax revenue, it’s also a vital employer of 79,700 jobs with a payroll of $2 billion in 2013. It has to act like a business. In Oklahoma, it is big business.

And in business, certain steps are necessary when revenues fall. First, continue to supply customers with the product they expect; two, maximize the effectiveness of marketing efforts; three, revisit every expense to ensure it is appropriate and justifiable. Finally, as a last resort, review and adjust staffing requirements if necessary.

In the past year, the department had taken numerous steps to maximize the available resources for Oklahomans and to ensure that the beauty of Oklahoma remains accessible to Oklahomans. Even in the midst of lowered revenue, 2016 will see the opening of a beautiful lodge at Lake Murray, funded not by taxpayers but in large part with oil royalties on the property that have been amassing since 2006. Meanwhile, Sequoyah Lodge, the largest park of the state’s lodging facilities, completed an extensive renovation to keep its income high and ensure it is competitive and attractive to visitors.

As far as tourism marketing, Oklahoma Tourism is breaking all records with its new digital marketing program being recognized nationwide as a leader in the field. Setting records in the highest number of industry brochures ordered, and increasing visitors on the website by 18 percent over last year, point to the increased interest and traffic we’re seeing and can expect in our state.

State parks are enjoying an increased percentage of self-sufficiency — 67 percent in fiscal year 2014, up from 65 percent in FY 13. Also, savings gained from shifting parks to local entities has resulted in increased traffic and a renewed interest by local patrons.

Most important, whether in business or government, is the attitude of the people responsible for the execution of the necessary changes. This is where tourism shines. Instead of the negative attitude often seen during tough times, tourism staff and leaders have the attitude of “It is what it is and we will handle it.”

Atkinson is president of Atkinson Advertising Associates, Inc., in Oklahoma City and a tourism commissioner for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District. He is a former member of the House of Representatives.


Phil Watson Dead At 81

Former Senator and DHS Director Phil Watson, the first Republican elected to the Senate in District 41 in 1972, has died. He was 81: http://www.edmondsun.com/obituaries/thomas-philip-watson/article_1b36081e-c122-11e4-aeb1-9bc352e30172.html


Jones, Miller: No Love Lost?

Auditor Gary Jones

Auditor Gary Jones

It appears there is no love lost between Gary Jones and Ken Miller.

The Republican officials are at odds today over the selection of a project vendor, but that appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Auditor Jones, in recent months, has been critical of public officials who promote themselves while promoting state programs. Jones hasn’t named anyone, but Treasurer Miller is a prominent promoter of the Unclaimed Property Fund and the 529 College Savings Plan.

Jones wrote on Facebook, “One thing that has bothered me for years is the millions of dollars spent on self promotion by elected officials paid for at taxpayers expense. Whether it’s T.V. , radio or newspaper advertising, their name presented prominently on letterhead and envelopes and now you can add to that Facebook ads. There is a bill that would prohibit the use of public funds to promote an elected official’s name or image 6 months before an election. Why not just prohibit it completely?”

Treasurer Ken Miller

Treasurer Ken Miller

A barb from Miller’s office aimed at Jones came over the controversy involving the Oklahoma Pension Commission and the award of a contract. Jones says the Commission showed unfair bias and abused the competitive bidding process in the way it selected NEPC, LLC, to continue as the pension fund’s management consultant.

But Deputy Treasurer for Communications Tim Allen responded, saying, “Other than a statewide elected official acting like a sore loser, there’s no story here. Auditor Jones knows there is nothing improper about this selection process, but was clearly angry when his preferred vendor was not chosen.”

The Oklahoman’s Randy Ellis reported the details:

Commissioners Doug Lawrence and John Estus dispute Jones’ unfairness claim.

Jones wrote a letter to the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office Monday asking for a review of the bidding process.

The auditor told The Oklahoman he saw several irregularities.

NEPC was not the low bidder, Jones noted.

When bids were originally submitted last October, NEPC submitted a bid of $125,000 a year plus up to $10,000 a year for expenses.

Competitor RVK, Inc., submitted a significantly lower bid of $98,000 a year plus up to $7,500 a year for expenses, Jones said.

After the bids were publicly revealed in November, commission officials went back and gave NEPC officials the opportunity to lower their bid, even though there was nothing in the commission’s request for proposals that said that was permissible, Jones said.

NEPC came back with a bid of $100,000 a year, plus up to $10,000 in expenses.

The commission voted 4-1 to accept that bid Feb. 19, even though it was still higher than the bid submitted by RVK. No one at the meeting questioned the ability of RVK to fulfill the contract, Jones said.

Jones said he found out later that RVK also was given the opportunity to lower its bid, but that company was not informed that NEPC had lowered its bid after learning how much RVK had bid.

(Note: This correction to the story: The setting of meeting dates and selection of Vice-Chairman Doug Lawrence to head up the process of selecting a management consultant were actions voted upon by the Oklahoma State Pension Commission, not actions taken solely by Commission Chairman Ken Miller. Feb. 23 was the date of the letter state Auditor Gary Jones sent to the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office requesting a review of the bid process.)

Jones said the push to allow contractors to revise their bids apparently came out of state Treasurer Ken Miller’s office.

Process is defended

Commission Vice-Chairman Lawrence, who was appointed by Miller to work with bidders, said he gave bidders the opportunity to lower their bids after being informed by the treasurer’s office that NEPC had indicated it would be willing to lower its bid.

“In my opinion it was a fair process,” Lawrence said. “Everybody had a chance to bid and it wasn’t necessarily going to be based on the lowest price.”

Lawrence said the commission has been using NEPC for several years and commissioners are comfortable with that company and the way it presents information.

“It’s my understanding that the treasurer’s office talked to the attorney general’s office and they were informed, first off, that the commission wasn’t required to use any specific state bidding rules — but essentially we did,” Lawrence said. “They were also told that negotiations after bids are released is not an uncommon thing to have happen, either.”

Lawrence said he would have voted for RVK if NEPC had not lowered its price, but ended up voting for NEPC because the difference in their bids was rather insignificant after NEPC changed its bid.

Commissioner Estus said he thought the process was fair because each of the top three bidders were given a chance to revise their offers and said he would have voted for NEPC, even if the company hadn’t lowered its bid.

The difference in bids was “a drop in the bucket for a $24 billion system,” Estus said. “NEPC works with more public sector pension systems than any other vendor we’re aware of. They have the largest and best universe of data to pull from for analysis. They give us really good information … We feel like their data is the best.”


Broyles, Miller To Kick Off Teen Financial Literacy Effort

Ryan Broyles

Ryan Broyles

Treasurer Ken Miller and professional football player Ryan Broyles will kick off On a financial literacy effort aimed at teenagers on Wednesday at John Marshall High School.

Sooner great, Oklahoma City native, and current wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Broyles will join Miller, Oklahoma Jump$tart Coalition and Visa Inc. in The Sooner State to tackle head on the issue of financial literacy improvement among Oklahoma teens.

They will announce a statewide effort to improve the money management skills of high school and middle school students with the rollout of Financial Football, a free educational video game and classroom curriculum developed by the NFL and Visa Inc. The game is being distributed by the Treasurer’s office to every public middle school and high school in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy and Visa are working with the state treasurer to share the financial information and skills with s tudents.

The centerpiece of Oklahoma’s financial education initiative with Oklahoma Jump$tart Coalition, Visa, the NFL, and NFL PLAYERS, Financial Football helps students and adults tackle their financial futures.  The launch of this multi-layer program will include an online component for all Oklahomans and DVDs with additional teaching resources, which will be provided to each school and various community organizations throughout the state.  Details of the program will be announced at the launch.

WHO:
Ken Miller, Treasurer, Oklahoma
Ryan Broyles, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
Melissa Neal, President, Oklahoma Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy
Nat Sillin, Director of U.S. Financial Education, Visa Inc.
50 students from John Marshall High School

WHAT:
Former Sooner and current Lion’s wide out Ryan Broyles joins Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller, Oklahoma Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy and representatives from Visa for an event launching Financial Football statewide.

VISUALS:
As part of this event Treasurer Miller and Broyles will coach the students, divided into teams, in a high energy game of Financial Football projected onto a big screen at the front of the room.

WHEN:
Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

WHERE:
John Marshall High School
12201 North Portland Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73120
(405) 587-7200


White Apologizes To Frustrated Judge

The judge got an apology: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-mental-health-commissioner-apologizes-to-judge-who-threatened-to-have-her-jailed/article/5395934


African American History Brochure Produced By Tourism & Recreation Department

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Tourism & Recreation Department

The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department today announced the release of the cultural brochure “Long Road to Liberty: Oklahoma’s African American History and Culture.”

The 75-page historical guide is a brochure dedicated to Oklahoma’s rich African American history and influence that has played an important role in shaping the culture of Oklahoma since before statehood. Copies of the brochure are free and can be ordered online at http://www.travelok.com/.

The Tourism and Recreation Department partnered with the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Oklahoma History Center and the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum to produce the brochure.

“As we continue to celebrate Black History Month in the state of Oklahoma, this brochure offers a detailed journey into the struggle and triumph of Oklahoma’s African American heritage,” said Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Deby Snodgrass. “This publication illustrates the vibrant cultural heritage of Oklahoma.”

In addition, the Tourism and Recreation Department has launched the Long Road to Liberty page on its website. The site has information on African American history in Oklahoma, attractions, soul food locations and other cultural heritage attractions.

“From cowboy Bill Pickett to author Ralph Ellison to civil rights leader Clara Luper, Oklahoma has a long and important African-American history and influence,” Governor Mary Fallin said. “The state is celebrating Black History Month by helping to highlight the many contributions made by black Oklahomans, during and even before statehood.”

For more information on Oklahoma’s African American history, visit the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department website, here: http://www.travelok.com/long-road-to-liberty?INTCMP=freedom-trail.


Fallin Forms New Education Advisory Committee

Governor’s Office

Governor Fallin today announced the formation of the Governor’s Education Advisory Committee.

Committee members include representatives of K-12 schools, Career Technology centers, and colleges and universities. The committee will advise the governor on education policy and aid in the development and implementation of the governor’s “Oklahoma Works” initiative. The new initiative, announced in Fallin’s State of the State Address, seeks to develop local partnerships between the public and private sector to ensure students have access to the education and training they need to find good paying jobs after graduation. More information about the initiative can be found at OklahomaWorks.gov.

“Nothing is more important to Oklahoma’s future than boosting educational attainment and ensuring our students get the education they need to succeed in the workforce,” said Fallin. “Supporting that effort will take input from a wide variety of educators. We want to make sure that K-12 schools, CareerTech and Higher Education all have a seat at the table as we work to improve educational outcomes.”

Members on the Governor’s Education Advisory Committee

Common Education

Stacey Butterfield, Jenks superintendent

Anne Caine, Stillwater superintendent

Tom Deighan, Lawton superintendent

Derald Glover, Fort Gibson superintendent

Terry Grissom, Asher superintendent

Cliff Johnson, Latta superintendent

Sean McDaniel, Mustang superintendent

Rob Neu, Oklahoma City superintendent

Clark Ogilvie, Owasso superintendent

Jeff Pritchard, Seminole superintendent

Don Raleigh, Pryor superintendent

Roydon Tilley, Chisholm superintendent

Career Tech  

Jane Bowen, Moore-Norman superintendent

Lindel Fields, Tri County Tech Center superintendent

Tom Friedemann, Francis Tuttle superintendent

Max Thomas, Chisholm Trail Technology Center superintendent

Tom Thomas, Great Plains Technology Center superintendent

Phil Waul, Central Tech superintenden

Higher Education     

Don Betz, University of Central Oklahoma president

Sean Burrage, Southeastern Oklahoma State University president

Cheryl Evans, Northern Oklahoma College president

Bo Hannaford, Northwestern dean of College of Professional Studies

Deborah Landry, Northeastern Oklahoma State University dean of education

Joy McDaniel, Murray State College president

Bill Path, OSU Institute of Technology president


State Budget May Have A Huge Hole

The state budget may have a huge hole: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-budget-hole-twice-as-big-as-previously-estimated/article/5392952


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