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EDUCATION FUNDING

Bill to dedicate $600M for Okla. schools passes

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A plan to eventually boost public school funding in Oklahoma by $600 million each year has cleared the Oklahoma Senate, although the final details of the proposal still need to be negotiated.

The Senate voted 43-0 on Wednesday for the Securing Education Excellence Fund, which calls for an additional $30 million to be spent on K-12 schools next year. That amount would increase by $30 million each year until the $600 million figure is reached.

Stillwater Republican Sen. James Halligan says that to address concerns about earmarking more revenue, the funds would only be added in years where there is growth of at least 1 percent in the state's General Revenue Fund.

The bill now heads to a conference committee for further work.

INCOME TAX CUT

Oklahoma House passes income tax cut legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Legislation that would trim Oklahoma's personal income tax rate when state revenue increases has been approved by the state House.

House members voted 54-40 for the Senate-passed measure that is one of Republican Gov. Mary Fallin's top goals for the 2014 Legislature. It now goes to Fallin to be signed into law.

The measure will reduce the personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent in 2016 if state revenue projections are greater than projections in December 2014.

If growth continues, then a second reduction will take place lowering the rate from 5 percent to 4.85 percent no sooner than two years after the 5 percent rate is enacted, providing that there is sufficient revenue to cover the cost of the reduction.

AGING PRISONERS

Okla. Senate kills bill for aging prisoner release

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A bill to allow some aging prisoners to be released from prison early has been shot down in the Oklahoma Senate.

The Senate voted 29-14 on Wednesday against the Parole of Aging Prisoners Act. The bill would have allowed the state Pardon and Parole Board to parole prisoners who are 65-years-old or older if they have served 10 years in prison or at least one-third of their sentence.

Sex offenders or those convicted of one of about two dozen crimes that require inmates to serve 85 percent of their sentences would not have been eligible for the program. The bill specifically targeted inmates who pose what was called "minimal public safety risks."

Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the nation.

DENTIST INVESTIGATED-TESTING

Hepatitis C victim in dental scare writes of fears

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - A patient whose hepatitis C diagnosis focused attention on allegedly filthy conditions inside two Tulsa-area dental clinics says his body has been ravaged by the disease.

The patient is identified as "G. Rains" in court records. He's suing Dr. W. Scott Harrington, claiming the dentist's deliberate use of rusty instruments and re-use of contaminated drug vials led to his infection.

Rains says he's battled depression and lives in fear that the virus could attack his body again and destroy his liver.

He declined an in-person interview but agreed to answer questions submitted by The Associated Press to his lawyer.

Harrington is cooperating with investigators and voluntarily gave up his license last year as the probe into conditions at his clinics began.

WIKILEAKS-MANNING NAME CHANGE

Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas judge has granted a request to formally change the name of the soldier convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks from Bradley Edward Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.

The former intelligence analyst is serving a 35-year prison sentence for passing classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website. Manning is serving the sentence at an Army prison in Kansas.

During a brief hearing Wednesday, Leavenworth County District Judge David King said he'd allow the name change.

The decision clears the way for official changes to Manning's military records, but it would not compel the military to treat Manning as a woman. That includes transferring Manning to a prison with a woman's unit.

Manning has been diagnosed by at least two Army behavioral health specialists with gender identity disorder.

ALTUS-PEGASUS AIRCRAFT

Altus Air Force Base to get Pegasus aircraft

ALTUS, Okla. (AP) - Altus Air Force Base has been selected by the U.S. Air Force as the formal training unit for the KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker aircraft.

Air Force officials made the announcement Wednesday. McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas was also selected as the first active operating base for the tankers.

Both bases will begin receiving aircraft in 2016.

Air Force officials say the KC-46A aircraft is intended to replace an aging fleet of tankers that have been the primary refueling aircraft for more than 50 years.

Officials say since the Altus base already has a formal training unit, it will take less manpower for the training operation.

RECRUITING VETERANS

Governor touts Nebraska jobs for veterans

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Gov. Dave Heineman is hoping to lure military veterans to Nebraska with a campaign touting good jobs for vets.

"The Good Life for Veterans" campaign seeks to attract military veterans and their families from other states to Nebraska. The initiative is a partnership between state government, business and veterans groups including the Nebraska Department of Labor, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, private business employers and others.

Nebraska employers and other representatives are attending a series of military career fairs in several states, including Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

The initiative began after a Nebraska Chamber poll found that more than half of nearly 450 private business respondents had experienced difficulty hiring qualified employees during the past year.

Nebraska's unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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