Editor’s Notebook: Jolley to chair Appropriations, firefighters back McAffrey, earthquakes trigger aid request, clemency hearing slated

In the news as Oklahoma state Capitol newsmakers prepare for a brief respite from work:

President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman of Sapulpa has given state Sen. Clark Jolley of Edmond a reason for gratitude on the eve of Thanksgiving. Firefighters in Oklahoma City have offered a thankful Al McAffrey a boost in his campaign for the state Senate. Governor Mary Fallin is seeking disaster aid for several counties shaken in recent earthquakes. In other news, a convicted murderer gets a final shot at clemency early next month. 

Sen. Bingman today (Wednesday, November 23) appointed Jolley to become chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, replacing the late David Myers of Ponca City. 

Bingman said Myers, “led with a steady hand during challenging times.” The Senate leader says Jolley, who has been vice chairman of the panel, possesses expertise making him “an invaluable asset in this time of transition. I am confident he will lead an Appropriations Committee that reflects our core belief in smaller, simpler, and smarter government.”
A press release from Senate staff noted the committee guided $6.5 billion to 78 agencies in 2011. Jolley becomes top negotiator for the upper chamber as a result of the appointment, working with Gov. Fallin and leaders of the House of Representatives.

In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, Jolley said, “I couldn’t have had a better mentor in the appropriations process than my friend Senator Myers.”

Jolley reflected, “The business of the Appropriations Committee is essential to the operation of state government, and there is simply no trust more sacred than ensuring our tax-payer dollars are spent judiciously and wisely. I look forward to the next legislative session, and I am honored by the trust President Pro Tempore Bingman has placed in me.”

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Hoping to join in next session’s Senate budget negotiations is Democratic state Rep. Al McAffrey of Oklahoma City’s House District 88. He got a boost this morning from Fire Fighters Association, Local157. 

McAffrey said, in comments provided to CapitolBeatOK, “Our firefighters are dedicated men and women who often times risk their own lives to save others’.” 

Phil Sipe, president of the local union, touted McAffrey for “his concerns not only for firefighters’ issues, but his vision to make Oklahoma a better place to live and his commitment to restore good government for the taxpayers.”

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Also this week, Governor Fallin has asked for a federal disaster declaration in Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties, where a rolling series of earthquakes and aftershocks have roiled the land since November 5, damaging an estimated home and businesses. The state’s chief executive, who had declared an emergency earlier this month, said, “If our request is approved, individuals, families and businesses impacted by the earthquakes will be eligible for federal assistance.” 

Federal aid will be sought through FEMA’s Individual Assistance program, which makes grants, low-interest loans and disaster housing assistance available. 

The U.S. Geological Survey has put one of the earliest quakes (November 6 at 10:53 p.m.) at a record-breaking 5.6 magnitude, breaking a prior record set in 1952. 

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Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced this week a clemency hearing for convicted murderer Gary Roland Welch will be held Monday, December 5 at the Hillside Community Corrections Center in Oklahoma City. 

Welch is on death row. He and his attorneys will have a chance to address the state Pardon and Parole Board, as well family members of Robert Dean Hardcastle, the murder victim killed in August 1994. Pruitt’s office will also have a chance to submit views to the board.

Oklahoma’s Court of Criminal Appeals, acting at Pruitt’s request, set Welch’s execution date earlier this month, in wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of Welch’s final appeal.