Saturday, January 19, 2019

Boles, Perryman File Bill to Simplify Salary Process for County Officials


Boles and Perryman File Bipartisan Bill to Simplify Salary Process for County Officials

OKLAHOMA CITY –State Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow, and Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, today filed legislation to simplify the salary decision process of county commissioners.

House Bill 1939 follows an audit released by the Office of the State Auditor and Inspector earlier this month, which found that elected county officials in Grady County had been overpaid by approximately $700,000 over the past decade. Both Boles and Perryman represent portions of Grady County.

“After many meetings with the State Auditor’s office, we discovered that Oklahoma’s county commissioners are paid on a very complex formula model and that the current state statutes have some conflicting language. Representative Perryman and I have filed this legislation to simplify this process and resolve these issues,” Boles said.

The audit, which was requested by District Attorney Jason M. Hicks, found that the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) did not set and approve the salaries for the elected county officials of Grady County, which resulted in the officials receiving a salary exceeding the amount allowed by law.

Boles said this legislation and additional measures by the State Auditor’s office will create an annual system of checks and balances to ensure each county remains within state statute on the county salaries they are allowed to pay.

“My hope is that this bill, when passed, will prevent situations like we’ve seen in Grady County from happening again in other Oklahoma counties by giving our county government officials a more flexible, transparent and accountable state law to follow moving forward,” Boles said.

Boles, a Republican, is the chair of the County & Municipal Government Committee for the upcoming session. Perryman is co-authoring HB1939 and serves as the Democrat Minority Floor Leader.

"This legislation is an attempt to clarify an archaic and confusing formula by which the salaries of elected county officials is computed,” Perryman said. “Representative Boles and I are committed to working together to accomplish a goal of removing ambiguities in the law to avoid situations across the state where the salaries of county officials may have been inadvertently miscalculated."

Thursday marked the final day to file bills for the upcoming session. The first session of the 57th Legislature begins Monday, Feb. 4 at noon.

Stitt picks Secretaries of Transportation, Digital Transformation & Adminstration



GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT ANNOUNCES SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION, SECRETARY OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION & ADMINISTRATION

Oklahoma City, Okla. (January 18, 2019) – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Tim Gatz as Secretary of Transportation and the appointment of David Ostrowe as Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration, two cabinet positions that require Senate confirmation.

“This cabinet is about developing a team of Oklahomans who are ready to do things differently in state government and pursue bold ideas that can make Oklahoma a Top Ten state,” said Gov. Stitt. “I asked Tim Gatz to serve as Secretary of Transportation because he is the right leader for us to take a fresh approach to developing our state’s infrastructure, one that is fiscally responsible and continues to attract job creators to Oklahoma. David Ostrowe has a history of bringing new life to stagnant companies, and I welcome his thought leadership in bringing state government in to the 21st century with how we are delivering services effectively and efficiently.” 

Tim Gatz has served as the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) since June of 2016. He previously served as Deputy Director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) from 2013 to 2016. He has more than two decades of service with ODOT, beginning his career with the agency as a Drafting Technician in 1990. Gatz was instrumental in the development of ODOT’s project management methodologies and Eight-year Construction Work Plan. Gatz earned a bachelor's degree in Landscape Architecture from Oklahoma State University in 1989 and is a registered professional landscape architect.

“I am humbled, honored and excited to serve Governor Stitt as he leads our great State towards real and measurable improvement," said Gatz. "Safe and efficient transportation infrastructure of all types supports our families, communities, and commerce and his vision will contribute directly to our near term success and to the prosperity of generations to come. I look forward to a collaborative and innovative role working with the excellent team he has assembled."

David Ostrowe will serve on the governor’s cabinet in an unpaid capacity, placing a strategic emphasis on digital transformation in the delivery of services across all agencies. Ostrowe will also provide oversight of state financial institutions, similarly executed by the cabinet title “Secretary of Finance” seen in previous administration.

Ostrowe will continue in his role as the President and CEO of O&M Restaurant Group. In 1999, Ostrowe launched his first business in Oklahoma City. That business grew from a one-man shop to what it is now, a $65 million, multi-unit and multi-state operation with 1,000 employees. Ostrowe currently serves as the Western Regional Chair Emeritus for Young Presidents Organization and was the Oklahoma City Chair Emeritus. He has also been a Board member of Allied Arts for 14 years. Previously, Ostrowe was a member of Burger King Corporation’s Restaurant Counsel for eight years and Chair Emeritus for “The Growth Group,” a Burger King franchisee association made up of large quick service restaurant developers throughout the United States. Ostrowe is also a past Professor of Business, teaching two to three classes per semester at OU’s Price Business School.

“As Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration, I look forward to working alongside the Stitt administration in order to bring efficiency and effectiveness to government operations and give back to a State that has given me so much,” said Ostrowe.


Endorsements for Tim Gatz as Secretary of Transportation:

“I have known director Gatz for the better part of three decades. We have worked together rather closely over the last two decades. And I would not hesitate to say that his reputation is beyond reproach as far as his ethics and loyalty to the people of Oklahoma. He is the one who has helped so much in the innovation of moving transportation forward both at ODOT and at the turnpike authority. And he has done a great job recently at the TPA leading that agency to one of the biggest expansion programs in the state of Oklahoma. He will make a great addition to the governor’s cabinet and I know that he will make us all proud.”
-Gary Ridley, Former Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation

“I think Tim will make an outstanding Secretary of Transportation. I watched him rise through the ranks in the Department of Transportation because of his cool head and ability to execute plans well. I also observed him as he took over the turnpike authority and launched one of the largest construction programs in Oklahoma. He understands the transportation business and he will make an excellent secretary and advisor to the governor.”
-Neal McCaleb, Ambassador for the Chickasaw Nation and Former Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation

Endorsements for David Ostrowe as Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration:

“Oklahoma will see swift benefits from the broad vision and deep business sensibilities David Ostrowe displays when tackling big issues and maximizing opportunities to advance. Beyond his impressive private sector track record as an entrepreneur and business builder, I’ve witnessed first-hand the innovation David brings to education in OU’s Price College of Business.  For years, David has taught aspiring business students to leverage the power of markets and technology to become the dynamic leaders necessary for Oklahoma’s best future. David has the enviable combination of being both a thinker and a doer who brings hard work and fresh perspectives to everything in which he invests. Today, the citizens of Oklahoma are fortunate to have David investing his time and talent in such an important role for us all.”
– Daniel Pullin, dean, Michael F. Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma

“It’s been my great honor to get to know David Ostrowe very well over the past 10 years and my privilege to consider him a close personal friend and admired businessman. David operates his personal and professional matters with the highest degree of integrity and is a great visionary and leader. When he takes something on, he gives it 110% all in effort and I could not be more excited for Oklahoma and The Stitt Administration to have David serving in his new capacity as Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration. It is just one more example of how Governor Stitt is surrounding himself with capable, experienced and very accomplished individuals to help him move Oklahoma towards becoming a top 10 State in all important, measurable aspects. David does not need another ‘job’, but his willingness to serve his State at this time and in this capacity makes me very hopeful that we can accomplish great progress for the benefit of all citizens of Oklahoma!”
– Chad Dillingham, CEO of Dillingham Insurance

"David Ostrowe will be a fantastic Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration. His experience in turning around businesses is unmatched. Culture, systems, protocols, outcomes and accountability will be the cornerstones of his reforms. Oklahoma has no chance of becoming a top 10 state without serious attention being paid to all of these critical fundamentals."
– Rick Nagel, Managing Partner of Acorn Growth Companies

“It is exciting to me to think about what digital technologies have done for the private sector and how lessons learned can be applied to state government.  Accountability, efficiency and communication are just a few of the areas impacted with successful digital deployments.  However, a digital strategy requires exhaustive planning and implementation.  Governor Stitt has wisely tapped Mr. David Ostrowe to lead this digital transformation in Oklahoma.  Mr. Ostrowe’s experience as an entrepreneur is invaluable when considering how we can make government more efficient via technology.  Digital technologies are reshaping the world.  Oklahoma has an excellent opportunity under the new Stitt administration to create value and long term positive results.  It starts now.”
– Mims Talton, CEO of Flogistix’s

“David gets things done. His creativity is matched only by his focus on details. His leadership results in major transformations of organizations of all kinds. David turns ‘we can’t’ into ‘we will’.”
– Renzi Stone, CEO of Saxon

David Ostrowe is an excellent choice for leading the digital transformation that our state needs. As an experienced and successful businessman, he will help drive the efficiency and effectiveness that is so needed in state government.”
–       Chip Fudge, Chairman of Claims Management Resources

State House completes bill filing; most bills ever?


House completes bill filing process for 2019 session

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives finished filing bills Thursday for the first session of the 57th Legislature. A total of 1,733 House Bills and 21 House Joint Resolutions were filed.

The full text of the bills, along with additional information including authors and coauthors, can be found online at www.okhouse.gov.

Last year, the Clerk of the House reported 1,193 House bills and 32 House Joint Resolutions were filed for the 2018 session.

There are currently 24 Democrats and 77 Republicans in the House. The first session of the 57th Legislature will begin Monday, Feb. 4 at noon with the state of the state address from Gov. Kevin Stitt in the House Chamber.

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Blogger's note: according to a January 20, 2017 press release from House media, 1,340 bills and 24 joint resolutions were filed by 2017's regular session bill-filing deadline, and 921 bills and 31 joint resolutions were filed by 2016's deadline. That makes the 2019 bill-filing total by far the largest in the past four years, and an increase of 43.2% over last year's total.

UPDATE: it's the most bills filed by the House since at least 1992, pre-dating Republican control of the House. Judging by the rate at which legislation was being introduced going back further in years, this may well be a House record for bills filed.

UPDATE 2: using the search feature at OKLegislature.gov, I went back through House bill-filings dating back to the 1993 regular session - the farthest back that is online. No other year comes close to the 2019 House bill-filing total. There are a handful of years with a little over 1,300 bills, but none are higher than 1,400 except for this year. The 2019 House bill-filing is far and away the most filed, very likely to be a House record.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Echols and Dunnington Coauthor Bill to Make SQ 780 Retroactive


Echols and Dunnington Coauthor Bill to Make SQ 780 Retroactive

OKLAHOMA CITY – Majority Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, and State. Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, filed legislation today that would make State Question 780 retroactive.

House Bill 1269 would provide post-conviction relief to Oklahomans whose convictions took place prior to State Question 780 passing but would have been affected had SQ780 been in place.

“It is time for Oklahoma to get out of the business of arresting and prosecuting individuals afflicted by drug addiction,” Dunnington said. “We have Oklahomans that are labeled as felons, and their crimes would be legal or a much lesser crime today. These folks are disenfranchised, and their families are suffering. This legislation seeks to heal these wounds and continue Oklahoma down the road of responsible criminal justice reform.”

Dunnington and Echols, who have worked together on bipartisan legislation in the past, see this bill as a chance for lawmakers to come together and do what is best for Oklahoma.

“The people of Oklahoma have spoken loud and clear on the issue of criminal justice reform,” Echols said. “I look forward to working with members of both parties to find not Democratic or Republican solutions, but Oklahoma solutions to the issues facing this state. This bill will be a great step in that direction.”


Minority Leader Issues Statement in Support of HB1269

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement today in support of House Bill 1269 – legislation that would make State Question 780 retroactive:

“I commend and applaud Majority Leader Jon Echols and Representative Jason Dunnington for their leadership on this important issue,” Virgin said. “Our criminal justice system should reform lives not ruin them. This legislation gives new hope to Oklahomans whose lives have been destroyed for crimes that would be a misdemeanor today.

“I am proud to support this legislation, and I encourage the Speaker, leadership in the Senate and the Governor to stand with the hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans demanding we act on criminal justice reform. Passing this bipartisan legislation at the beginning of session would be a great signal to all of Oklahoma that this government is ready to come together to meet Oklahoma’s problems.”

Stitt appoints Pinnell to Cabinet as Sec'y of Tourism & Branding


GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT APPOINTS LT. GOV. PINNELL TO CABINET AS SECRTARY OF TOURISM AND BRANDING

Oklahoma City, Okla. (January 17, 2019) – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell as the Secretary of Tourism and Branding, a cabinet position that requires Senate confirmation.

 “Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell is an exceptional businessman and he has an evident passion for our state and the people of Oklahoma,” said Gov. Stitt. “As our state’s Lieutenant Governor, he will be an active and effective salesman for all of Oklahoma. I am excited to see the work we will accomplish together as a unified team aggressively pursuing ways to grow the state and diversify Oklahoma’s economy.”

"I want to thank Gov. Stitt for appointing me to his cabinet as Secretary of Tourism and Branding,” said Lt. Gov. Pinnell. “Tourism and effectively branding and marketing our state are vitally important to achieving our goal of making Oklahoma a top ten state. Together with my role with Commerce and in leading our efforts in Oklahoma's Opportunity Zones, economic development will be the focus of our office."

In addition to serving as Secretary of Tourism and Branding, Lt. Gov. Pinnell will sit on the Department of Commerce executive committee and lead the department’s effort to maximize Oklahoma’s Opportunity Zones, of which 117 have been designated in Oklahoma by the Trump administration.

“Lt. Gov. Pinnell is a critical member of our Commerce executive team because of his knowledge of Oklahoma business and passion to help them succeed,” said Sean Kouplen, Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development.

Matt Pinnell was sworn in as the 17th Lieutenant Governor of the State of Oklahoma on January 14. Pinnell also runs a small business with his wife, Lisa, an entrepreneur and inventor. Prior to his election as Lieutenant Governor, Pinnell served as Director of State Parties for the Republican National Committee from 2013 to 2017.

Pinnell served as a member of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s transition team with a focus on economic development and tourism as Chairman of the economic growth committee. Pinnell currently serves as an Advisory Board Member on the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Pinnell is a graduate of Oral Roberts University with a degree in Advertising and lives in Tulsa with his wife, Lisa, and their four children who attend Jenks Public Schools.

Senate Pro Tem Treat files bills giving Gov more appointment power of agency heads


Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat files bills giving governor more appointment power of agency heads

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat on Wednesday filed bills granting the Oklahoma governor more appointment power of five top agency directors. Treat said the bills will provide more accountability and give the governor the ability to truly lead the state.

“Our current system of government disperses power too widely so that most agencies aren’t accountable to the governor and in turn aren’t accountable to the voter. The system hasn’t worked. The system has bred dysfunction and allowed the ‘status quo’ to hold sway for far too long. It’s time we change this broken system,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

“Regardless of the governor’s political party affiliation, they are elected to serve as the chief executive of the state and to lead the state. The governor should be able to select the men and women he or she wants to run these top state agencies to help fully enact the governor’s vision and agenda,” Treat said.

“We heard in Governor Kevin Stitt’s inaugural address that he seeks to provide more accountability. I am encouraged by his commitment to that principle and excited to work with him to bring it about. These bills are a great step toward providing more accountability and returning more power to the people of Oklahoma,” Treat said.

The five bills address five of the top 10 agencies according to state appropriated dollars. The bills filed Wednesday include:

  • Senate Bill 456 would grant the governor authority to appoint the administrator of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. The bill calls for the administrator to be confirmed by the Senate and to serve at the pleasure of the governor.
  • Senate Bill 457 would grant the governor authority to appoint the director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. The bill calls for the director to be confirmed by the Senate and to serve at the pleasure of the governor.
  • Senate Bill 458 would grant the governor authority to appoint the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. The bill calls for the director to serve at the pleasure of the governor. The DOC director already is confirmed by the Senate.
  • Senate Bill 459 would grant the governor authority to appoint the commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The bill calls for the commissioner to be confirmed by the Senate and to serve at the pleasure of the governor.
  • Senate Bill 460 would grant the governor authority to appoint the executive director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs. The bill calls for the executive director to be confirmed by the Senate and to serve at the pleasure of the governor.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Gann files agency spending accountability measure


Gann Says HB1198 Will Bring Accountability to State Agencies

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Tom Gann has filed legislation to help bring accountability to state agency spending of taxpayer dollars.

House Bill 1198 requires a chief executive officer of any state agency, board, commission, and department or programs to attest to the accuracy of the financial statements released by the agency and to personally sign the statements.

Failure to sign the documents or making any false or fraudulent claim for payment of public funds will be considered a felony and punishable by a $10,000 fine or imprisonment.

“The purpose of this bill is to ensure that those in charge of state agencies, boards and commissions take a proactive role in the organization’s internal control environment over financial disclosures and to give the public more transparency in the use of taxpayer money,” said Gann, R-Inola.

Gann said the legislation was sparked by financial mismanagement at the State Department of Health (OSDH) that came to light during the last legislative session.

In 2018, a state audit of the health department, and a subsequent investigation of a House Special Investigation Committee, revealed $30 million in public funds had been diverted to what constituted an agency slush fund. The diversion resulted in an emergency appropriation by the Legislature and the layoff of more than 200 positions within the department. These actions later proved unnecessary when the funds were discovered.

A key recommendation by the state auditor on how to remedy the situation was to make every effort to improve the control environment and the tone at the top of the agency.

Holding the agency chief executive officer personally responsible for the accuracy and integrity of the financial statements is the first step in that control environment improvement, Gann said.

Voter registration at all time post-gubernatorial election high


Voter Registration Marks All-Time High Following a Gubernatorial Election

(Oklahoma City) – Official voter registration statistics released today by the Oklahoma State Election Board show the highest number of registered voters following a gubernatorial election since the board began recording voter registration statistics in 1960. This year’s count reveals 2,126,897 people registered to vote, an increase of nearly 111,000 voters from the same time last year.

Republican Party voter registration continues to grow, along with the Libertarian Party and Independent voters. Current numbers show Republicans make up 47.4% of the electorate, while Democrats constitute 36.6% of voter registration. Libertarians consist of 0.4% of the voter population and registered Independents account for nearly 15.6%.

“As Oklahoma’s chief election official, I am very encouraged by today’s voter registration statistics. Our state saw a big increase in voter engagement in 2018, and I am hopeful that this trend will continue through 2019 and into the 2020 elections,” said Paul Ziriax, Secretary of the State Election Board. “For eligible citizens who are not currently registered to vote, there is no time like the present.”

Voter registration usually peaks following a general election, but it’s important to remember that the numbers are constantly changing. The Oklahoma State Election Board releases a comprehensive annual voter registration count each January 15. Statistics from the 2019 report can be found at: https://www.ok.gov/elections/Voter_Info/Voter_Registration_Statistics/index.html.

OKLAHOMA REGISTERED VOTERS (as of January 15, 2019)

REPUBLICANS                    1,008,775        47.4%
DEMOCRATS                          777,770        36.6%
INDEPENDENTS                    331,078         15.6%
LIBERTARIANS                         9,274           0.4%
TOTAL:                                  2,126,897

For a complete history of voter registration statistics or to download a voter registration application, visit http://elections.ok.gov.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

OCPA column: Collective bargaining not worth it for teachers


Collective bargaining not worth it for teachers
by Greg Forster, contributor for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA)

Oklahoma should follow the example of other states that are moving away from collective bargaining in K-12 education. It’s not just bad for kids, it’s bad for teachers.

I’m not against unions. My wife worked for a union for years, volunteering long hours as an employee advocate in company dispute resolution. The union was the only protection in her workplace from corporate mistreatment and contract violations.

But collective bargaining and representation simply isn’t a good fit for K-12 teachers. Doctors and lawyers don’t unionize. The nature of the work they do just doesn’t permit the standardization, controlled processes, and highly specified work outputs that are necessary for collective bargaining to be effective.

Teachers are like doctors and lawyers. Standardizing the work they do into a one-size-fits-all mold creates major headaches. But collective bargaining demands standardization, so processes and outputs can be negotiated.

The standardization demanded by collective bargaining is a major factor in all the complaints we’re accustomed to hearing from public-school teachers—useless paperwork, unreasonable rules, rigid systems, dysfunctional bureaucracy. In a 2009 study of national data from the U.S. Department of Education, I compared public and private school teachers. The difference in teacher working conditions was dramatic.

Private school teachers, unhindered by the standardization of collective bargaining, were much more likely to have a great deal of control over selection of textbooks and instructional materials (53% v. 32%); content, topics, and skills to be taught (60% v. 36%); performance standards for students (40% v. 18%), curriculum (47% v. 22%) and discipline policy (25% v. 13%). Private school teachers were also less likely to report that various categories of student misbehavior disrupted their classes, and four times less likely to say student violence is a problem on at least a monthly basis (12% v. 48%).

It’s true that collective bargaining brings a moderate increase in pay. The Oklahoma State Department of Education reports that in 2016-17, the average high school teacher made $39,319 and the average elementary school teacher made $37,851. (This was before the $6,100 average pay raise teachers got this year.) In the same year, according to the Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission, the average private school teacher salary across all grades was $36,947. Public school teachers also get better benefits and have job security protections.

But teachers don’t live by bread alone. In my study, I found that private school teachers are more satisfied with their jobs, even at somewhat lower pay.

They were much more likely than public school teachers to agree that they planned to remain teaching as long as they could (62% v. 44%). They were less likely to agree that they only planned to teach until retirement (12% v. 33%), that they would leave teaching immediately if a job with a higher salary were available (12% v. 20%), that teaching “isn’t really worth it” because of the stress and disappointments (6% v. 13%) and that they sometimes feel like teaching is a waste of time (9% v. 17%). They were even slightly more likely to be satisfied with their salaries (51% v. 46%).

We should rethink whether teachers are well served by collective bargaining. Teachers don’t like our one-size-fits-all schools any more than parents do.

Greg Forster (Ph.D., Yale University) is a Friedman Fellow with EdChoice, the author of seven books, and a regular contributor for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Oklahoma turns a new page with new leaders


With the inauguration of Governor Kevin Stitt and a mostly-new slate of statewide elected officials, the state of Oklahoma is turning the page and closing a chapter.

Stitt looks to be a bold contrast to the [largely disappointing and frustrating] past eight years of Mary Fallin, but time will tell whether he will be able to get the Legislature to work with him in order to accomplish his goals. There are promising signs already.


New Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell was also sworn in on Monday, as well as Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony (his final term), State Auditor Cindy Byrd (her first term), Attorney General Mike Hunter (his first full term), State Treasurer Randy McDaniel (his first term), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister (her final term), Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn (her first term), and Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready (his first term).

You can read Gov. Stitt's inauguration speech here, or watch the full ceremony below, courtesy of Tulsa's NBC affiliate, KJRH: