A report released this week says Oklahoma state government leads the nation in opening up government data to public purview. The report, produced by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Data Innovation, ranks Oklahoma as one of the top six top scoring states for its open data policies.
Specifically, the report cites two pieces of legislation – House Bill 1086, enacted in 2011 and authored by state Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, and House Bill 2062, enacted in 2013 and authored by state Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso – as catalysts for the top ranking.
The report builds on the national recognition already directed at Oklahoma’s government modernization legislation. Earlier this year, Government Technology magazine highlighted the ongoing transparency and efficiency efforts.
“These open data policies are just a few of the transparency initiatives approved by the Legislature and Oklahoma Governors Mary Fallin and Brad Henry as part of Oklahoma’s modernization efforts of the past few years,” Murphey said. “As time goes on, I believe we will continue to see an ever growing awareness of the impact these policies are having in cutting the cost of state government and in making it more transparent to the public.”
According to the report Oklahoma has “established an open data policy that requires basic government data, such as expenditure information, as well as other agency data, to be published on their open data portals in a machine-readable format. These portals contain extensive catalogs of open data, are relatively simple to navigate, and provide data in machine-readable formats as required.”
Murphey specifically credited Oklahoma’s former state Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit and previous Government Technology Applications Review board member Sid Burgess, the Web Developers at OK.GOV, the employees of the Information Services Division and Socrata, INC, with their work to implement the provisions of House Bill 1086.
“This dedicated team has been responsible for implementing the data.ok.gov Web portal which allowed us to score so high on the report,” Murphey said. “Without their first-class implementation of the idea this could have become just another unmet legislative mandate.”
As much has changed in the past three years, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy is calling for a Commission meeting on the state’s ever-evolving earthquake response.
“This would be an opportunity for all stakeholders to hear first-hand the latest on what’s happening in terms of the ongoing research and response,” Murphy explained. “It’s very important for all to understand what’s known, what’s not known, and what the OCC and others have been and are doing. All of us who have had our homes shaken repeatedly personally know this is a frightening situation that misinformation and ignorance can only make worse. It is vitally important we all stay informed on everything being done. My recent meeting with Senator Ellis, the conflicting information that continues to be disseminated, and new data and regulatory changes have led me to call for a meeting at this time.
“For example, the OCC staff responds to seismic events by checking for anything unusual in the operation of any disposal wells within the vicinity of a ‘seismic swarm’, as disposal wells are of key interest to researchers studying Oklahoma’s earthquake outbreak,” Murphy said. “Minor or not, operational issues with any well must be immediately addressed, even if that involves shutting in the well.
“More money and equipment are being brought into the effort, with the Oklahoma Geological Survey working closely with this agency and others in the response. And while many know we have adopted the National Academy of Sciences ‘traffic light’ system for the permitting and operation of disposal wells, the way that is being used has advanced over time as more is known, and will no doubt continue to evolve,” Murphy added. “Also, we adopted new rules that have now received the necessary approval of Governor Fallin to greatly increase reporting of the volume and pressure of many disposal wells, as well as increase testing requirements. Additional requirements are currently being discussed and considered.
“These are just a few examples,” Murphy said. “There is a tremendous amount of energy and expertise being put into this effort, and it’s vital that all of us be informed about it.”
Jari Askins, former lieutenant governor and state representative, has been named interim director of the Pardon & Parole Board.
She was named to the post after a vote of the Pardon and Parole Board this morning.
Askins is familiar with the Board: In 1991, she was appointed to the Board, which elected her as its first female chairman. She later served as executive director.
A native of Duncan, Askins has a long career in public service. After earning her Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, she began working in Stephens County District Court, before accepting her first appointment with the Pardon and Parole Board in 1991. Three years later, Askins won a seat in the House of Representatives. From 2007-2011, she served as the state’s lieutenant governor and sought the governor’s office in 2010, losing to Mary Fallin.
Longtime Oklahona City newswoman and public relations specialist Terri Watkins has been named Director of Internal and External Communications at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
The appointment was effective July 1st.
Watkins has been director of communications for the Commissioners of the Land Office.
She was an investigative reporter at KOCO-TV for 24 years before leaving to spend three years working in the auditor & inspector’s office.
She was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 2005.
Gross Receipts to the Treasury in July were the highest of any July in Oklahoma history, providing another indication of the state’s expanding economy, State Treasurer Ken Miller announced today at a State Capitol news conference.
The healthy performance of the Oklahoma economy in July pushed 12-month collections further into record territory, as has been the case for 12 of the past 13 months. Growth in monthly collections from personal income and corporate income taxes was especially robust, accounting for more than 50 percent of the increase in July.
July collections topped $992 million, while 12-month collections are now just shy of $11.8 billion.
“Gross Receipts to the Treasury, which provide a broad look at the state’s economic performance, show year-over-year growth in all but six months during the past four and a half years,” Miller said. “With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, we’re still doing fine, Oklahoma.”
Twelve-month gross receipts hit a trough in February 2010 of $9.4 billion. Since then, collections have grown by more than $2.4 billion, or 25 percent, with monthly collections higher than the same month of the prior year in 46 of the past 52 months.
All major revenue categories experienced growth in July, with total collections topping the prior year by 7.4 percent. Collections for the past 12 months are up by more than 4 percent.
Gross income tax collections and the state’s tax on oil and natural gas production showed the largest gains at 13.6 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively.
The most recent unemployment numbers, from June, reflect Oklahoma’s economic strength compared to the rest of the nation. June state unemployment was set at 4.5 percent, compared to a national rate of 6.1 percent.
The Business Conditions Index for Oklahoma in July anticipates continued economic growth with the index set at 54.9 from June’s 66.6. Variances from month to month are not uncommon. Numbers above 50 indicate economic expansion is anticipated.
Receipts for July set gross collections at $992.22 million, up $68.37 million or 7.4 percent from July 2013.
Gross income tax collections, a combination of personal and corporate income taxes, generated $307.04 million, an increase of $36.3 million or 13.4 percent from the previous July.
Personal income tax collections for the month are $290.41 million, up $32.41 million or 12.6 percent from the prior year. Corporate collections are $16.62 million, up by $3.89 million or 30.6 percent.
Sales tax collections, including remittances on behalf of cities and counties, total $377.9 million in July. That is $8.68 million or 2.4 percent higher than July 2013.
Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas generated $77.16 million in July, an increase of $7.71 million or 11.1 percent from last July. Compared to June reports, gross production collections are down by $1.16 million or 1.5 percent.
Motor vehicle taxes produced $68.73 million, up by $4.4 million or 6.8 percent from the prior year.
Other collections, consisting of about 60 different sources including taxes on fuel, tobacco, horse race gambling and alcoholic beverages, produced $161.39 million during the month. That is $11.28 million or 7.5 percent more than last July.
Between August 2013 and July 2014, gross revenue totals $11.77 billion. That is $468.76 million or 4.1 percent higher than collections for the previous 12-month period.
Gross income taxes generated $4.17 billion for the period, reflecting an increase of $23.01 million or 0.6 percent from the prior 12 months.
Personal income tax collections total $3.63 billion, up by $114.72 million or 3.3 percent from the August 2012 to July 2013 period. Corporate collections are $537.31 million for the period, a decrease of $91.71 million or 14.6 percent from the previous period.
Sales taxes for the period generated $4.36 billion, an increase of $137.31 million or 3.3 percent from the prior 12-months.
Oil and gas gross production tax collections brought in $867.82 million during the 12 months, up by $141.61 million or 19.5 percent from the previous period.
Motor vehicle collections total $790.85 million for the period. This is an increase of $108.38 million or 15.9 percent from the trailing year.
Other sources generated $1.58 billion, up $58.45 million or 3.8 percent from the previous 12 months.
Jill Simpson is departing as the Director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, a position she has held for 10 years, it was announced Tuesday. Her final day in the post will be August 1.
The OK Film & Music Office reported Simpson’s departure was to accept a position in academics.
“We can likely all agree that it has been a challenging and sometimes tumultuous decade, but it has also been a period of significant progress and growth for our Oklahoma industries. The progress has been hard won for all of us,” she said Tuesday in a prepared statement. ”I am very proud of what we have accomplished together in further developing our incentives program and the work that it generates. While comparatively small, we now have a rebate that is very popular and well-utilized by the industry. It is proving to be a benefit to not only the film industry, but our musical talent as well. There is much work still to be done, but with the recent ten-year rebate extension, there is now a strong foundation on which to build.”
“Simply put, The Actor Factory would not exist if not for the efforts of Jill Simpson,” said a statement on The Actor Factory’s Facebook page. “We appreciate everything she has done for the Oklahoma film industry and for the resumes of Oklahoma actors and crew, and we know she is the reason our state’s film incentives last through 2024. We wish her well in her new endeavor but we want to express our appreciation for the fine service she performed over the past 10 years.”
Chris Freihofer, Director of The Actor Factory and owner of Freihofer Casting said “We all owe our film industry careers in Oklahoma over the past 10 years to the efforts of Jill and her staff. It is no accident Freihofer Casting has been in business for 10 years and The Actor Factory for 5. We are here because the industry is here and the industry is here because of Jill’s work. We owe a big debt of gratitude to her.”
Oklahoma native Tava Maloy Sofsky will take over the position of Director of the Oklahoma Film & Music Office.
A producer with a diverse film and commercial background, Sofsky has worked with many notable filmmakers and executives including: Michelangelo Antonioni, John Badham, Antonio Banderas, Martin Campbell, Doug Claybourne, Bill Cosby, Chris Columbus, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Harrelson, Anthony Hopkins, Laurie McDonald, Walter Parkes, Wesley Snipes, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone and Robin Williams. Among her credits are: The Mask of Zorro, The Fast and the Furious and Beyond Borders. She also brings with her valuable connections to the music industry. Her brother, Zac Maloy, is an award-winning songwriter in Nashville.
“Tava brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the agency,” said Deby Snodgrass, Cabinet Secretary and Executive Director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. “She has the experience needed to carry on the work of Jill Simpson who, over the course of her ten-year tenure, has grown the film and music industries into viable economic generators for the state.”
Oklahoma’s film industry achieved an 800% growth rate over an eight year period from FY05 to FY13. In fiscal year 2013, it contributed $35.15 million in direct dollars to Oklahoma’s economy, which resulted in an economic impact of $88.9 million.
Commenting on her new role, Sofsky stated, “Being an Oklahoma native, in addition to many years of working in the film industry, has brought me full circle. It will be an honor to join to Oklahoma Film & Music Office and it is my privilege to carry the baton from Jill Simpson.”
Sofsky assumes her role as Director of the Oklahoma Film & Music Office August 4.
State Auditor Gary Jones has released a Performance Audit Report of the Department of Corrections (DOC).
Governor Mary Fallin requested the audit following the resignation of former DOC Director Justin Jones.
“The audit includes 10 recommendations to help DOC reduce costs, improve efficiencies, and better manage its inmate population,” Jones said. “You can’t overlook the fact its funding is down while the number of inmates it houses is up.”
The audit also includes four prospective areas for further study including the impact of factors beyond DOC control, alternative funding support for a new Offender Management System, and additional analysis of medical trends.
“As the population continues to age, medical costs will continue to rise,” Jones said. “From 2010 to 2013, DOC spent $135 million for healthcare costs including medical and mental health treatment, medical supplies and equipment. More than 11 percent of all expenditures by DOC goes to healthcare.”
The audit covered a five year span from fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2013. Financial data used in the report included FY10-FY13.
“We recommend DOC’s governing board continue its effort to increase its financial oversight of the agency including obtaining additional financial reports from its chief financial officer,” Jones said. “We believe an audit committee would be beneficial in assisting the board to ensure accountability and provide financial oversight.”
Increased involvement by the DOC board points to governance issues the State Auditor believes will better safeguard the expenditure of state funds and lead to improved management of limited resources.
The full audit report is available online at the State Auditor’s website: www.sai.ok.gov/Search%20Reports/database/DOCWebFinal.pdf