- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - More than 200 new laws are set to go into effect in Oklahoma this year, including criminal justice reforms and measures to bring in more tax revenue.

A total of 228 measures approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin will take effect Tuesday. Another 159 bills passed by lawmakers have already gone into effect, according to the Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/2eMzbhQ ).

Due to a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, the Legislature took many steps this year to bring in more money.

“These moves will put the state on a more solid financial footing in the long term,” Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman said one important bill approved by lawmakers is a requirement for out-of-state companies to let Oklahoma residents know how much they spent online in a given year.

Instead of making major cuts in corporate tax breaks and expanding goods and services subject to sales, lawmakers chose to balance the budget through mostly spending reductions and one-time money like bonds and agency savings. This type of revenue would guarantee the state will have another shortfall next year.

Executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute David Blatt said lawmakers should have focused more on the budget instead of bills that ultimately wouldn’t become law.

Hickman said he wished lawmakers passed a cigarette tax, as well as pass the Medicaid Rebalancing Act that was created to hopefully bring health care coverage to many uninsured people. Hickman noted, however, that lawmakers made strides in criminal justice reform by focusing on bringing treatment to people with substance abuse and mental illnesses instead of incarceration.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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