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Capitol Report for January 7, 2017: Hofmeister indictment, Boren’s tax hike defeat, criminal justice reform – Top statewide stories for 2016

News9’s Alex Cameron (left) hosts the Capitol Report, along with The City Sentinel/CapitolBeatOK publisher Patrick B. McGuigan. Photo provided.

In the January 7 “new year” segment of Capitol Report on News9, the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, Patrick B. McGuigan said education-related issues were the top two news stories for state government in 2016.

In first place, concerning the indictment of Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, McGuigan pointed out, “accusation is not conviction.” However, disclosure of communications in which she joked about an independent campaign expenditure during the 2014 election season made clear she knew about the effort – and such coordination is illegal.

However, McGuigan noted, the campaign law provisions under which she was charged may be constitutionally suspect. In any case, he said, for now the superintendent is under a cloud.

In second place, McGuigan put a broad range of education policy developments, including the first-ever political defeat for OU President David Boren (in the form of voter rejection of the sales tax increase he proposed to finance teacher pay hikes). The veteran analyst believes that despite Boren’s loss, state teachers may yet see a pay hike. And, state Supreme Court approval for school choice was an encouraging development.

Reporter Alex Cameron asked McGuigan why the 2016 election was not among his top three issues. McGuigan believes the statewide impact of the elections was important, but only seventh in CapitolBeatOK’s statewide ranking because the results were ‘status quo’ – confirming, even enhancing, Republican power in the Sooner State.

However, the election were first in his ranking of local issues (for The City Sentinel newspaper) because at that level the impact was more complex and surprising. Democrats actually strengthened their hand in the Legislature.

Wrapping up the segment, Cameron pointed to his colleague’s lapel pin representing 20 years of membership in the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). McGuigan said the work of serious reporters is more important than ever. This year, the SPJ awards event will be held in Stillwater.

Watch the January 7 Capitol Report here

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