Friday, May 24, 2019

City of Muskogee, Corps of Engineers release new inundation map for Muskogee area

From the City of Muskogee:

** FLOODING ALONG ARKANSAS RIVER ** UPDATED 5/24/19 1230

The U.S Army Corps of Engineers released a new inundation map for Muskogee to city officials this morning. This map shows projected areas where floodwaters may reach, which is more extensive than originally anticipated. Please consult the map for details.  Be advised that this map does not show the amount of water in any given area, or the projected depth. Residents are urged to consider roadways and other points of entry and exit to their property before traveling. These points may be in lower lying areas than residential structures. 

This map is based upon engineering projections, not guarantees. It is intended to be a planning tool for Emergency Management.

This new information from the United States Army Corps of Engineers indicate City services may be impacted as early as noon tomorrow.

The City’s highest priority is keeping the water treatment plant functional.  The National Guard has worked with city staff throughout the night adding berms at the water treatment plant in an effort to hold back the floodwaters. The water plant, at the timing of this release, is fully functional. However, as waters continue to rise and new projects are made, there is a possibility that the water plant may temporarily be unable to produce water. If this happens, it may occur as early as noon on Saturday. 

If the water plant suspends operations, Emergency Management officials will order a mandatory water rationing. This will ensure that the City’s reserve supply of water will last for three days beyond Saturday. Regardless, there is no possibility of water contamination.

Residents are urged to have a minimum additional three-day reserve supply of water.

Fire response would then be limited to structures with human lives in danger.

River water has reached the Muskogee Pollution Control plant and it is out of service at this time.  We do not anticipate this to impact citizens and we are in compliance with ODEQ regulations at this time.

We will post frequent updates on the City of Muskogee Emergency Management Facebook Page.

Flood Inundation Map

Optometric Physicians applaud passage of new optometry laws


Optometric Physicians Thank Governor, Legislature for Passage of New Optometry Laws

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma optometrists [Tuesday] thanked the Legislature and Governor Kevin Stitt for passing and signing legislation that will protect Oklahoma’s vision health standards while increasing convenience for consumers.

Senate Bill 100, authored by State Representative Carl Newton, himself an optometrist, removes from statute a prohibition on the sale of eyewear in non-medical, retail settings. It would allow retail stores to sell frames and lenses. It would also allow retail stores to lease space to optometrists. However, unlike previous proposals (including the previously rejected State Question 793), SB 100 contains vigorous protections for patient safety, quality of care, and the independence of the doctor.

Under SB 100, any optometry clinic leasing space from a retail store would need to be a separate legal entity owned and operated by an optometric physician licensed in Oklahoma. That optometrist cannot be an employee of the retail entity. Furthermore, the optometry clinic would be required to be physically separate from the retail space, with its own external entrance. The language maintains Oklahoma’s status as one of 16 so-called “two door” states, which include neighboring Texas and Kansas.

Also unlike State Question 793, SB 100 clarifies that the independently operating Board of Examiners in Optometry regulates optometrists’ scope-of- practice, and that a corporate entity cannot restrict or influence how a doctor practices.

Dr. Selina McGee, an Edmond optometrist and president of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians, said the bill is a positive development for optometric physicians and their patients.

“Our primary concern as eye doctors is protecting Oklahoma’s very high standards for quality of care and patient safety,” said Dr. McGee. “To preserve those high standards, optometrists need to be operating independently, free of corporate control or interference, and governed by a medical board. SB 100 is consistent with those principles, where State Question 793 and other previous proposals were not.”

More on SB 100:

SB 100 stipulates:

  • That retail outlets may sell frames and lenses;
  • That retail outlets may begin to lease space to optometric physicians in a phased-in, gradual manner with a timeline based on population density;
  • That the doctor may not be an employee of the retail outlet;
  • That the doctor will not receive any additional compensation for referring patients to the retail stores’ optical services;
  • That the care given to the patient be the main concern of the optometric physician, or other physician providing vision care;
  • That the doctor’s office be separate from the retail outlet’s optical shop; and
  • That the current laws be followed in giving a patient a prescription for glasses or contact lenses.

SB 100 also:

  • Defines the responsibility of the doctor to his patients;
  • Sets out penalties for infraction of the law;
  • Includes language disallowing the retailer to sell below costs; and
  • Adds new language that puts into law requirements for a contact lens prescription and requirements for the renewal of contact lens prescriptions by persons other than the prescribing doctor.

Legislature adjourns 'Sine Die'


"There is nothing that will upset a state economic condition like a legislature. It's better to have termites in your house than the legislature [in session]." - Will Rogers

"The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets." - Will Rogers

"Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, they don't hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous." - Will Rogers

Earlier today, the Oklahoma Legislature wrapped up the legislative session for this year and adjourned "Sine Die". Between work and events here, I haven't had a chance to put together a wrap-up of the closing flurry of legislative activity, and likely won't be able to for a while. In the meantime, check out SoonerPolitics.org for more news feeds and information.

OklahomaWatch.org also has a good article here -- Making the Cut: What Lawmakers Did (and Didn’t Do) This Year.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Muskogee Arkansas River Flood: updated map and road situation

As severe flooding continues along almost the entire length of the Arkansas River in Oklahoma, the effects are widening in communities along the waterway. Here in the Muskogee area, the flooding is approaching an all-time high, with county officials saying that the latest forecasts calling for a crest near 45' (an elevation of approximately 516' above sea level).

As of this writing, the Arkansas River gage at Muskogee has the river at 43'. The map below gives a rough estimate of what areas could be affected by the flooding if it crests between 45' and the all-time record of 48'. It's an imprecise graphic, since USGS contour lines are only every ten or twenty feet (depending on the area), so some of the edges might be above the flood level (but the shading should cover just about everything that could be affected). Judging from drone/helicopter video I've seen of the area, this is pretty close to what the current situation is.

Some of the roads on this map are not underwater due to elevated roadways; i.e. the turnpike, OK-165, Peak Boulevard, South Country Club (as of this afternoon) and South York St (as of this afternoon).

OK-10 is closed at Manard Bayou as well as where it approaches US-62. US-62 is underwater from just east of the river bridge to several hundred yards east of the Cherokee Casino. OK-10 is underwater from essentially the Arkansas River to north of the Muskogee Turnpike.

For official road highway closures, visit OKRoads.org. This does not cover county or city streets. Some local road closures can be found on the official Facebook pages of the City of Muskogee Emergency Management and the Muskogee County Emergency Management. I'll post two alternate routes from Muskogee to Fort Gibson below the potential-flooding map.




Official highway closures can be viewed at OKRoads.org.

TWO ALTERNATE ROUTES FROM MUSKOGEE TO FORT GIBSON:

  • Head north from Muskogee to Wagoner via the Turnpike or US-69, then east on OK-51 from Wagoner to Hulbert, then south on 4 Mile Road from Hulbert to US-62, then west on US-62 to Fort Gibson (Google Maps directions). Distance from downtown Muskogee, 43.7 miles.
  • Head north from Muskogee toward Wagoner via US-69, take E 760 Rd (just past the RV park on Hwy 69, at the curve south of Wagoner) east approximately 1.5 miles to OK-16, head south to E 100th St N/Gray Oaks Rd, go east approximately 3 miles to N 49th St E, head south 2 miles to OK-251, head east to the Fort Gibson Lake Dam, then continue east on OK-80/W 790 Rd until you reach 4 Mile Rd, then south to US-62, west from there to Fort Gibson (Google Maps directions). Distance from downtown Muskogee, 41.4 miles.
UPDATE: here are some road closures from the Muskogee County Commissioners, list was last updated Wednesday evening (click the image to view larger):



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For those who aren't regular readers of MuskogeePolitico.com, I generally cover state and local politics and current events. You can follow my blog on Facebook at this link, and on Twitter at @JamisonFaught.

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OCPA comments on 2019 legislative session


OCPA comments on 2019 legislative session

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 23, 2019) – Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, issued the following statement today as the 2019 session of the Oklahoma Legislature wrapped up.

“This year the Legislature advanced many important reforms that OCPA has endorsed for years. Those measures, if implemented correctly, should result in better oversight of government and less waste,” Small said. “However, the Legislature’s inability to expand the Equal Opportunity Scholarship program is a particularly glaring failure, especially since lawmakers doubled a ‘Hollywood handout,’ a voucher that sends millions of dollars to out-of-state producers such as disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Thousands of children with special needs, kids struggling with addiction, and students living with the challenges of poverty are desperately seeking to attend schools that can best serve them, and this session let them down. Those children deserve better, and OCPA will continue to advocate for them.”

House Passes Bill Creating Legislative Budget Office


House Passes Bill Creating Legislative Budget Office

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives today passed a measure creating a legislative office to evaluate agency budgets and programs for lawmakers.

Senate Bill 1, by House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, would create the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) within the existing Legislative Service Bureau (LSB). The LSB is a shared office between the House of Representatives and the Senate that currently has limited functions. LOFT would be similar to the federal Government Accountability Office within Congress.

“The Legislature has an obligation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent by the agencies appropriately and without waste, and we need the resources to do that effectively,” said Speaker McCall, R-Atoka. “LOFT will be a legislative-level office, not an executive branch office, that ensures lawmakers are getting accurate and timely information from the agencies so we can make better informed decisions for citizens. This office has been a shared priority between House and Senate leadership this session, and I am very pleased that we accomplished this goal before the end of session.”

LOFT would employ financial examiners who would routinely audit agency budgets and spending and evaluate the effectiveness of agency programs and services. The office would then provide reports to the House and Senate. LOFT would have an oversight committee made up of an equal number of bipartisan House and Senate members. All members and the co-chairs of the committee would be appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

“The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency will increase transparency and accountability by providing the public and lawmakers with in-depth information on agency budgets and program performance,” said President Pro Tempore Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “Rather than depending on agencies or third parties that receive state funding, lawmakers will have independent data as they make budgetary decisions and evaluate the effectiveness of individual programs. I appreciate Speaker McCall’s commitment and collaboration on the idea of a legislative budget office and thank him for his work in seeing Senate Bill 1 passed.”

The bill also requires agencies, boards and commissions to turn over to LOFT upon request all records, documents and budgets and make personnel available. LOFT will also have subpoena and investigation authority.

The Legislature appropriated $1.7 million to fund LOFT in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget that just passed.

The bill passed by a vote of 69-18 and now heads to the governor’s desk to await his signature.

Senate sends workers’ comp bill to governor's desk


Senate gives final approval to workers’ comp bill
Legislation strengthens landmark 2013 reforms

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to legislation that preserves and strengthens landmark workers’ compensation reforms adopted in 2013. House Bill 2367 passed unanimously and now goes to the governor’s desk for consideration.

Senator Julie Daniels, Senate Judiciary Committee chair, is the Senate author of the bill and said HB 2367 clarifies and secures the reforms while addressing a number of issues that have arisen since passage of the original bill.

“Since 2013, reforms have been effective in helping injured workers receive timely treatment and get back to work.  Oklahoma employers have saved hundreds of millions of dollars.  Premiums are lower, fewer cases are filed and employee claims are resolved in less time with fewer appeals. Without compromising reforms all stakeholders negotiated over several months to resolve some pressing issues,” said Daniels, R-Bartlesville.

Among the highlights of HB 2367:

  • Increases the total temporary disability (TTD) cap to 70 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage with a maximum of the state’s average weekly wage;
  • Increases the maximum permanent partial disability (PPD) rate to $350/week for two years; an increase to $360/week in 2021 and an extension of the maximum number of weeks to 360;
  • Adopts use of the Sixth Edition of the American Medical Association guidelines;
  • Brings the Workers’ Compensation Commission in line with several Oklahoma Supreme Court decisions;
  • Restructures the Multiple Injury Trust Fund (MITF) to increase the fund’s solvency.
  • The Fiscal Year 2020 budget deal includes a $5 million appropriation to the MITF as part of the solution.
  • Includes a reduction in the Court of Existing Claims to one judge from 2020 to 2022 to address remaining cases;
  • Calls for the Workers’ Compensation Commission to conduct a study regarding a possible increase in the medical fee schedule and to report to the Legislature in 2020;
  • Calls for the current procedural terminology (CPT) codes to be updated every two years.

“Republicans fought long and hard to transform the workers’ comp system from an adversarial system to an administrative system that’s fair to all parties while still controlling costs for employers. Workers’ comp reform has been an undeniable success for Oklahoma and this legislation will preserve and strengthen our successful reforms. I want to congratulate Senator Julie Daniels for a fantastic job in championing workers’ comp reform,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Muskogee Arkansas River Flood: Areas to Watch



{Updates can be viewed toward the bottom. Combined Muskogee/Fort Gibson/Braggs map at this link, or at the bottom of the post}


With all of the rain eastern and northern Oklahoma has received in the past week, the Muskogee area is bracing for major flood stage on the Arkansas River due to inflow from precipitation and water release from area lakes.

The Arkansas River at Muskogee is forecast to crest at 38' (10' above flood stage) on Wednesday, up from 27' yesterday. This would likely place the flood among the top five highest crests recorded at this location.

The record flood reading was 48.2' on May 21st, 1943 (before Ft. Gibson Dam was completed), and the second-highest on record was 39.6' on October 6th, 1986.

Areas below an elevation of 510' are likely to be flooded, if the crests as forecast. The map below gives a rough idea of the areas that are below 510'. Dark blue is the normal water levels, light blue covers the area subject to river flooding. Evacuations are currently underway in some of these areas.

Click here to view the Muskogee/west Fort Gibson map larger.

I hope to get more on the Fort Gibson side done as well, but the USGS maps for that area I can find all use contours of 20' instead of 10' as on the Muskogee side of the river (I assume it's because the Fort Gibson side has more topographical variance). Map has been added in below updates


Again, click here to view the Muskogee/west Fort Gibson map larger.

UPDATE 1: here is more of the Fort Gibson and Braggs vicinity. This one is less precise than the Muskogee one as it is based off a different map, but if you zoom in you can identify the 500' mark (this USGS map has 20' contour lines instead of 10').

Click here to view the south Fort Gibson/Braggs map in full size.


Again, click here to view the south Fort Gibson/Braggs map larger.

UPDATE 2: I've combined both maps into one image (view in full size at this link):



Again, view the combined map in full size here.

Senate passes bill to create Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency

Senate approves LOFT bill
Office would provide data to lawmakers, public on agency budgets and performance

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday gave approval to legislation creating the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT), an office that would provide independent data to lawmakers and the public on state agency budgets and program performance.

The highlights of Senate Bill 1:

  • LOFT will conduct performance evaluations of agencies, programs, or specific divisions;
  • LOFT would have open access to all agency data and budgets;
  • LOFT would be overseen by a bipartisan committee of Senate and House members;
  • LOFT would have a nonpartisan, independent staff of highly educated professionals;
  • LOFT reports would be available to the public.

“More transparency in agency spending and program performance will increase and enhance accountability of how tax dollars are used. LOFT will increase transparency by providing lawmakers and the public with independent data on agency budgets and program performance,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma and author of SB 1.

“For too long, lawmakers have been dependent on agencies or those who benefit from state spending for spending and program performance data. That’s not the best system of accountability. The people of Oklahoma deserve and expect that their tax dollars will be used in the best and most efficient manner. LOFT will be a watchdog for the public and policy makers by providing better information to track and evaluate how tax dollars are spent.”

The Fiscal Year 2020 budget includes $1.7 million in funding for LOFT. SB 1 goes to the House for consideration, and if approved, would go to the governor’s desk.

Senate passes $8.1B state budget


Senate approves state budget
Budget includes huge investment in classrooms, teacher & state employee pay raises, and criminal justice reform funding

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to the state budget, which includes huge investments in public school classrooms, a teacher and state employee pay raise, as well as significant investments in criminal justice reforms all while saving $200 million.

The Fiscal Year 2020 budget bill, House Bill 2765, passed on a 37-11 vote.

“This is a tremendous budget for Oklahoma because it makes huge investments in our classrooms, gives teachers and state employees another significant pay raise, puts money toward criminal justice reforms, and saves $200 million to help in the event of an economic downturn in the future,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “Senate Republicans kept our commitment to invest in education by appropriating $74.4 million for our classrooms. We also addressed our priority to fund criminal justice reforms. The budget also shows fiscal restraint because we’re putting away $200 million in savings, bringing the state’s total amount of savings to $1 billion. I want to thank Senator Roger Thompson, the Senate appropriations chairman, for his hard work, skill, and leadership in crafting this budget deal. I also want to commend the senators who chaired Senate appropriations subcommittee for sharpening their pencils and helping put together a great budget.”

The budget now goes to Governor Kevin Stitt’s desk for consideration.

“Tough choices by the Legislature in recent years put our state in a much better financial position, and because of those decisions we had nearly $600 million in new funding to appropriate. This budget makes great use of those dollars by making a $157.9 million investment in public schools, which includes $74.4 million into our classrooms so local schools can hire more teachers to lower class sizes or purchase classroom supplies. Overall, this is a great budget that makes significant investments in critical services while saving $200 million to help when the inevitable economic downturn hits in the future. I want to thank the Senate appropriations subcommittee chairs who did a tremendous job in delving into the numbers to help us come up with a great budget deal,” said Senator Roger Thompson, R-Okemah.

Among the highlights of the FY’2020 budget include:

  • $200 million in savings to help Oklahoma weather a financial crisis; Oklahoma’s total savings at the end of this year will be $1 billion
  • EDUCATION
    • $157.9 million for common education:
    • $1,220 teacher pay raise on average, second-consecutive year for a teacher pay raise.
    • $5.5 million for the Reading Sufficiency Act.
    • An additional $74.4 million for classroom funding for schools to hire additional teachers to lower class sizes, hire counselors or other support staff, or purchase classroom supplies.
    • $18 million for the CareerTech system for pay raises and course additions.
    • $28 million for higher education to bolster research programs and provide a professor pay raise.
    • $7.5 million for concurrent enrollment
  • GOVERNMENT MODERNIZATION
    • $37.7 million for a state employee pay raise of up to $1,400, the second-consecutive year for a state employee pay raise. 
    • $1.7 million for the creation of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT)
    • $16.4 million for digital transformation of state government services to enhance transparency and to improve customer service.
    • $700,000 to hire more auditors for the State Auditor’s Office to conduct more audits of state agencies.
  • CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORMS
    • $20.1 million to reform the funding of District Attorney offices.
    • $10 million for “Smart on Crime” programs through the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
    • $1.5 million for the Women in Recovery diversion program.
    • $1.7 million to expand drug courts options for nonviolent offenders.
  • HEALTH CARE
    • $62.8 million for Graduate Medical Education program to support physician training.
    • $105 million reallocation to increase provider rates for physicians, hospitals and nursing homes.
    • $29 million saved to a new preservation fund to preserve Medicaid provider rates when the federal government’s 3-year rolling average results in a rate decline.
    • $2 million to decrease Developmental Disability Services (DDSD) wait list.
    • $8 million to increase DDSD provider reimbursement rates by 4 percent.
    • $4.6 million to increase immunizations and staff county health departments throughout the state.
  • RURAL OKLAHOMA
    • $500,000 to fund a public-private partnership to maintain clean water in Northeast Oklahoma and areas with high poultry density.
    • $1.1 million for wildfire mitigation and additional resources for rural fire fighters.
    • $1.5 million to improve rural flood control dams.