Deby Snodgrass, Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation executive director, has delayed implementing a $40,000 raise her governing board awarded earlier this year.
“Deby is delaying her raise until the results of the comprehensive salary review conducted by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services Human Capital Management Division is released and the Legislature takes action on the resulting recommendations,” Leslie Blair, Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation spokeswoman, said Thursday.
“The study will identify appropriate salary ranges for all classified and unclassified employees.”
The findings of the study could be released Friday or Monday, said John Estus, OMES spokesman.
The salary increase, which would bring Snodgrass’ pay to $126,508 from about $86,000, was criticized by some in light of the fact most state employees have not seen a raise since 2006, although some agencies have been able to give targeted increases.
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association had been critical of the timing of the raise.
In a letter to the Tourism and Recreation Commission, Snodgrass said she appreciated the pay raise but delaying it was the right thing to do.
“I often tell Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation employees that I hold myself personally responsible for each one of them,” she wrote. “For me to accept a raise before they have one conflicts with that commitment.”
Snodgrass, who is Gov. Mary Fallin’s Tourism Secretary, hopes to be able to give raises to employees of the department, Blair said.
The agency has about 420 full-time employees, a figure that grows to 800 when seasonal employees are added, Blair said.
Rep. Jason Murphey
This year I have witnessed the quickest deployment and implementation of a major state governmental process that I have ever seen. I think this success provides the ideal state counterpart example to the shortcomings demonstrated by the federal HealthCare.gov website.
In years past, hundreds of thousands of electronic government records containing the personal data of Oklahoma taxpayers were lost or stolen. Following these failures, state legislators advanced a plan whereby the information technology (IT) operations of Oklahoma’s many state government agencies would be consolidated. There were two primary reasons given for the consolidation; the first was cost savings and the second was security. We felt that if the resources of the agencies were combined, the capabilities would be greatly improved. It simply didn’t make sense for each agency to segregate and silo resources into security operations that obviously were not working.
Earlier this year, the consolidated IT operation launched its security operation center (SOC). Amazingly, the SOC’s deployment occurred just two months after its specifics were envisioned.
State government networks are under frequent attack from foreign and domestic enemies who would seek to steal government information. In the past, security resources were divided among the countless state agencies. There was likely very little real time monitoring, and by the time an intrusion was detected, any compromised data would have been long gone. In fact, the intrusion may not have ever been detected because IT officials would have been forced to pick and choose from thousands of interactions just to figure out what to audit.
Now all of this has changed. Oklahoma’s new consolidated IT operation developed a minimal cost in-house solution which integrates security reporting capabilities from multiple softwares. This allows SOC to provide 24-7 real time monitoring. When a significant intrusion attempt occurs, an alarm signals to warn the monitoring officials. The details of the intrusion appear on big screens within the SOC for all to see. In the past, it might have been days before IT officials would have seen the intrusion attempt. Now they see it as it happens.
This new operation appears to be unlike any other in the nation. Oklahoma IT employees have now become a leading identifier of those parties who are attacking government systems. This valuable intelligence is distributed nationwide so that other government officials can quickly identify attacks on their systems. This has significant national security implications because American government networks are constantly under attack from foreign nations.
There are numerous other benefits to this monitoring. For example, these systems track use of state government computers and their online interactions. They quickly aggregate data like the sites that are visited by government employees. This allows IT employees to notice if state computers have been compromised. Interestingly, the aggregated stats also show that many of the most utilized web-based applications appear not to be work-related and have not escaped the notice of legislators. This could have helpful implications as we strive for efficiencies within state agencies. More on that later.
I have been accustomed to the painstakingly slow process by which new government processes are deployed. The SOC deployment is an amazing exception to this rule. I believe it represents an excellent example of the changing culture brought about by IT consolidation and the state officials who are charged with making it happen. It hasn’t always been easy, but a new culture of effectiveness and efficiency is starting to produce tangible results.
Governor Fallin has issued an executive order explaining how the state of Oklahoma is adopting more rigorous academic standards in English and Math in its public schools. It also makes it clear that the new standards are to be developed and implemented locally. Fallin’s order contains protections against federal intrusion in the development of academic curricula and teaching strategies. It also includes prohibitions on actions that might violate the privacy rights of students.
The adoption of more rigorous academic standards was authorized by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2010. These new standards are currently being implemented in Oklahoma’s K-12 public schools. They place a greater emphasis on critical thinking, rather than memorization, and are designed to better prepare children for post-secondary education or careers.
Similar standards have been adopted by 45 states, and are commonly referred to as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In Oklahoma, CCSS has been incorporated into the Oklahoma Academic Standards, which aim to increase classroom rigor in all subjects, including English and Math.
More Rigorous Standards Target Student Readiness for College and Careers
The newly implemented and more challenging Oklahoma Academic Standards are designed to increase student performance by increasing rigor. They will help to ensure that graduating high school seniors are college, career and citizen-ready.
“Oklahoma has many great schools and teachers, but we’ve seen that low expectations for our students can lead to low performance,” said Fallin. “The Oklahoma Academic Standards raise the bar. They require a commitment to critical thinking and problem solving and will deliver the kind of skills students need to succeed in the workforce and in college. By increasing rigor in the classroom we will help to increase student achievement and ultimately improve our workforce and our economy.
“The status quo,” said Fallin, “is not good enough for our children.”
Current indicators suggest that Oklahoma students are falling behind. Oklahoma’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, for instance, are below the regional and national averages in every category. As a consequence of that low performance, Oklahoma’s children are less prepared and less successful in the workforce and in higher levels of education. For example, the labor force participation rate for young adults (ages 20 to 24) in Oklahoma declined from 77% in 2000 to 71% in 2012. Lower participation means that many of these young Oklahomans are unemployed.
Young adults who choose to go to college are also finding themselves unprepared, leading to high remediation rates and high college dropout rates. Two in five Oklahoma college freshmen require remedial instruction, meaning they are not ready to take college courses when they arrive on campus. That, in turn, can delay graduation and lead to higher dropout rates. More than half of Oklahoma students who enroll in public colleges or universities fail to graduate in six years or less. Low graduation rates have negative implications for the personal financial success of young Oklahomans, the workforce needs of Oklahoma businesses, and the long term economic outlook of the state. The Oklahoma Academic Standards seek to address this ongoing problem by ensuring incoming college freshmen have received the K-12 education they need to succeed in college.
Protections Against Federal Intrusion Added
Governor Fallin’s executive order also adds protections against federal intrusion and acts to ensure that curricula, teaching strategies and assessments are developed and controlled at the local level. It also adds privacy protections and clearly states that the Oklahoma Academic Standards are developed for Oklahoma public schools only. Private schools and home schools will not be affected.
“It’s in the best interest of Oklahoma’s children for our state to join the rest of this country in increasing classroom rigor,” said Fallin. “To refuse to do so is unfair to our students. It is not, however, in our best interest to allow the federal government, or any organization outside of Oklahoma, to dictate how we teach our children or how we run our public schools.
“The executive order I signed today makes it clear that neither the Obama Administration nor any subsequent administration will have a hand in developing the Oklahoma Academic Standards. No data will be collected that jeopardizes the privacy of our children. Finally, these standards will not jeopardize the right of every parent to home school their children and educate them as they see fit.”
The order reads, in part:
- 1. The Federal Government shall not have any input in the formulation of the Oklahoma Academic Standards or the assessments used to determine student performance.
- 2. The State of Oklahoma will be exclusively responsible for deciding the assessment methodology to be used to measure student performance.
- 3. Local school districts may, at their own discretion, adopt additional supplementary assessments to measure educational progress.
- 4. All agencies of the State of Oklahoma will aggressively oppose any attempt by the Federal Government to force the state to adopt standards that do not reflect Oklahoma values.
- 5. The Oklahoma Academic Standards will not jeopardize the privacy of any Oklahoma student or citizen. Local school districts and the Oklahoma State Department of Education shall refrain from collecting or reporting student information in a manner that would, in any way, violate state or federal laws intended to protect student and family privacy.
- 6. The Oklahoma Academic Standards affect only K-12 public schools. Home schools and homeschooled children are not under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Education and are not affected by the implementation of any standards adopted by the State, including the Oklahoma Academic Standards.
A 7.3 percent increase over the previous year in November gross state revenue indicates Oklahoma’s economy is continuing steady growth, state Treasurer Ken Miller said Wednesday.
Receipts from state taxes and fees totaled $857.84 million for the month, up $58.5 million from the same month a year ago.
The increase was driven by a 2.2 percent rise in sales-tax collections and big gains in motor vehicle gross production tax collections.
The sales-tax figures do not include Black Friday sales, which will be in next month’s report.
“The Oklahoma economy continues to expand heading into the Christmas shopping season,” Miller said. “Relatively steady growth in gross collections has become the norm over the past few years, such that it has become somewhat expected. But as we have seen, that doesn’t necessarily translate to the general revenue fund.”
Allocations to the general revenue fund essentially the money available for appropriation by the Legislature have actually gone down in recent months because of several factors, including increased diversion to non-appropriated uses and higher income tax refunds.
Miller said the 85 percent year-over-year increase in motor vehicle tax revenue was due largely to a one-time deposit of $39.8 million caused by a change in management procedures.
Conversely, a 2.1 percent drop in income tax revenue was at least partially attributed Thanksgiving falling on the latest possible date, resulting in some withholding receipts not being deposited until Dec. 2.
For the month, sales-tax revenue accounted for $356.6 million, income taxes $221 million, motor vehicle taxes $94.8 million and gross production taxes $69.9 million.
Some $115.5 million was derived from all other sources.
Over the course of a full year, sales and income taxes each contribute 35-40 percent of all revenue. Gross production and motor vehicle taxes each contribute 5 to 8 percent.
Governor Fallin today announced the appointment of Frank X. “Frazier” Henke IV to serve on the state Board of Corrections.
He is the husband of Rep. Katie Henke.
Henke, president and chief executive officer of American Bank and Trust Co. in Tulsa, will serve with full membership powers on an interim basis pending Senate confirmation. He was named to fill an unexpired term that ends March 15, 2019.
Henke is serving as a Republican from the 1st Congressional District. He replaces Hastings Siegfried who resigned.
“Frazier is an excellent manager who will help to ensure our prisons are well run and safe,” said Fallin. “His banking and fiscal expertise will also be great assets to the Corrections Department as it works to allocate its resources in the most efficient and effective manner possible.”
A fourth-generation Tulsan, Henke earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and his juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa College of Law. Henke joined American Bank & Trust in 1999, and was named its president in 2009.
“I look forward to serving on the Board of Corrections and helping to address the challenges the Corrections Department faces with inmate capacity and staffing issues,” Henke said. “I appreciate the trust the governor has placed in me in trying to balance protecting the public with being fiscally responsible.”
He is active in the Tulsa community, where he serves as chairman of the City of Tulsa Board of Adjustment and on the board of directors for the Tulsa County Bar Foundation and on the board of directors for the Oklahoma Bankers Association.
State government’s computer network has been made far more secure with the launch of Oklahoma’s first statewide information technology Security Operations Center (SOC).
The SOC, developed and administered by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), provides real-time security monitoring and threat alerts for all state computers, allowing the state to thwart attacks from hackers and other information technology security risks at a far higher rate than in the past.
“We place the highest premium on keeping the taxpayers’ information as secure as possible,” said OMES Chief Security Officer Mark Gower. “As statewide IT consolidation has progressed, Oklahoma’s ability to improve security across the entire state network has increased dramatically. The SOC, in particular, has eliminated a significant amount of vulnerability that existed previously when each agency was running its own IT services without any uniform, statewide security standards.”
The SOC, launched in January and now fully operational, has made Oklahoma’s information technology security posture stronger than most other state governments. As of Nov. 1, approximately 28,000 of the state’s 34,000 computers are monitored by the SOC. The SOC’s goal is to monitor all state computers by the end of 2015.
Symantec, a Fortune 500 company and leading information technology security provider, called Oklahoma’s security model a “blueprint” for other state governments to adopt.
“In today’s threat landscape, state and local governments need real-time monitoring and security intelligence to effectively protect against advanced persistent threats and targeted attacks,” said Amber Johanson, senior director, Public Sector Engineering, Symantec. “By deploying a statewide Security Operations Center, the State of Oklahoma is taking the steps necessary to proactively protect their employees and residents from security risks, while also creating a blueprint for other state governments to adopt.”
The SOC is designed to alert a staff of dedicated security personnel to any potential threat to a state computer or the state network. It also tracks state computer usage to ensure users are not engaging in behavior that could pose security risks.
“In today’s world, all large networks face constant, daily attacks from hackers and other threats. The high level of security that Oklahoma’s state government now enjoys is possible because policymakers made the wise decision to centrally consolidate state IT services,” said state Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit. “Off-the-shelf security services were projected to cost up to $600,000, but we were able to build a superior solution at no additional cost using our own in-house resources. Increasing security to this level while also containing cost is a superb accomplishment that demonstrates tremendous talent and vision in the state’s IT workforce.”
Governor Fallin is warning state agency heads to look for ways to save money amid more than $60 million in mandatory spending increases on health care and reports of lackluster collections to the state’s general revenue fund.
Fallin says the state will need to make up $60 million in federal matching funds next year for Oklahoma’s Medicaid program as a result of an increase in the state’s per-capita income.
She says additional funding also will be needed to pay for an expected increased enrollment of Medicaid-eligible Oklahomans and for improvements to child-welfare programs at the Department of Human Services.
A report on November collections to the state’s general revenue fund won’t be released until next week, but early collections trail both the official estimate and prior year collections.
Read the entire story at www.newsok.com.
Mike McCarville & Staff
Former Senator Randy Brogdon has resigned his state job and is testing the waters for a possible Tea Party challenge to Governor Mary Fallin next year in what would be a Republican primary re-match of 2010, The McCarville Report has learned.
Brogdon, who opposed Fallin in the 2010 Republican primary, resigned suddenly from the Insurance Department last week after fireworks earlier this month. The 27th is his last day on the job, a source said.
Brogdon had reportedly been putting out feelers to Tea Party activists, and was quietly assembling a team without the knowledge of his boss, Insurance Commissioner John Doak, insiders tell TMR.
Doak hired Brogdon for a near six-figure salary after the 2010 elections.
Commissioner John Doak
In a meeting, Doak reportedly made it clear to Brogdon he would support Fallin in a rematch scenario, prompting Brogdon’s resignation letter, insiders say. Several Brogdon supporters, however, say his resignation was prompted by his desire to spend more time at home with his wife. One expressed doubt Brogdon would run again.
A Brogdon-Fallin primary would be a rematch of the 2010 primary race, which Fallin won handily.
We’re told that Brogdon is calling around putting together a team of political operatives to run, seeking the advice of some out-of-state consultants.
Brogdon’s political career began when he was elected to the Owasso City Council. In a subsequent race for mayor, he defeated the incumbent and a third candidate to win by an absolute majority.
In 2003 the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) named him “Legislative Newcomer of the Year.” He was named “Legislator of the Year” for six straight years. In all of his six years of service, OCPAC selected him as “Senate Legislator of the Year.”
In 2005 Brogdon was the first senator in 20 years to receive 100% on the Conservative Vote Index. For the 2005-2006 legislative session, he was elected to a leadership position by his caucus to serve as Senate Republican Whip and in 2007-2008 he served as the Assistant Republican Floor Leader.
In 2007, he was the recipient of the Phyllis Schlafly Oklahoma Eagle Award for his support of Constitutional Conservative legislation.
Brogdon sought the GOP nomination for governor in 2010, losing to Fallin 136,460 to 98,159.
In 2011 Brogdon joined the Department of Insurance after being appointed by Doak as Deputy Commissioner of the Fraud and Investigations Unit.