Friday, December 14, 2018

OCPA comments on federal judge ruling Obamacare unconstitional

OCPA statement on Obamacare case Texas v. United States

After a federal judge ruled Obamacare unconstitutional today, Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), released the following statement:

“Obamacare was sold on a lie. Oklahomans and millions of Americans have lost the plan or doctor they preferred and health insurance premiums and deductibles rose significantly because of Obamacare. The law was narrowly passed and on tenuous legal gymnastics and trickery.

“A number of provisions or executive actions regarding Obamacare have been ultimately ruled unconstitutional. It's no surprise that once again the law has been found unconstitutional.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

OCPA column: A new direction for TSET

 A new direction for TSET
by Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs

If you haven’t heard, Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) is searching for a new director. But what this small state agency with a giant bank account really needs is a new direction.

While TSET does some important work, like funding cancer research, it also does silly things, like spending $700,000 advertising “water recipes” in the middle of a state budget crunch. The agency has also spent $1.1 million promoting bars and nightclubs that prohibit indoor smoking.

Unfortunately, many of the non-outrageous things that TSET spends money on are low priorities. The agency replaced working drinking fountains in schools with fancier (and much more expensive) drinking fountains.

TSET was set up as an endowment that will grow with no limit. It collects payments owed to Oklahoma from the 1990s tobacco lawsuit, puts those payments in the bank, and spends the earnings.

That account has grown to $1.2 billion, with TSET expecting to earn $64.8 million from those investments during fiscal year 2018. Over the last five years, TSET’s earnings have averaged $50 million per year.

The good news is that TSET sometimes makes really good decisions. Last year, TSET’s board of directors approved $3 million in one-time funds for senior nutrition services and mental health crisis teams.

The Legislature should reform TSET so that it can continue doing important work while redirecting future settlement payments to critical state health care needs.

One good target would be rural medical care, which is more expensive to provide than medical care in urban and suburban areas. The funds could help cover the actual losses of medical facilities in rural Oklahoma, keeping hospitals open.

Revenues could also go to the Physician Manpower Training Commission, also focused on medical care in rural Oklahoma, and to shore up nursing home provider rates.

These are core services that citizens rely on. Does anyone think “water recipe” billboards or ads for smoke-free booze is more important?

And frankly, reforming TSET this way would leave the agency with exactly as much money as it has right now. What we’re really talking about is letting TSET continue with its current projects, while assuring Oklahomans are taken care of by using future settlement payments.

Excess tobacco settlement payments have approached $60 million per year for the last few years while core services continue to suffer. TSET’s spending is just one example of a government entity making highly questionable spending decisions at a time when we need to prioritize core services. Imagine how far $60 million could go to help rural health care.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Music Monday: Carol of the Bells (medley)

This week's Music Monday is Carol of the Bells, performed here by the Annie Moses Band in a medley with the carol Sing We Now of Christmas.


See below for all previous Music Monday posts. Do you have a song you'd like to suggest for a future Music Monday? Email me at

December 3rd, 2018: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
November 26th, 2018: Happy Birthday
November 19th, 2018: My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness
November 12th, 2018: Hymn to the Fallen
October 29th, 2018: A Mighty Fortress is Our God
October 22nd, 2018: Hymn to Red October
October 15th, 2018:  Indian Reservation ("Cherokee People")
October 8th, 2018: Wagner's 'Columbus Overture'
October 1st, 2018: Danny Boy
September 24th, 2018: Dvorak's 'From The New World' Symphony, 4th Movement
September 17th, 2018: Deep River
September 10th, 2018: Muleskinner Blues
September 3rd, 2018: Boomer Sooner
August 20th, 2018: Psalm 23
August 13th, 2018: Ashokan Farewell
August 6, 2018: How the West Was Won
July 23rd, 2018: I Just Can't Wait to Be King
July 16th, 2018: 'Jupiter' from 'The Planets'
July 9th, 2018: Hail to the Spirit of Liberty
July 2nd, 2018: Turn The Tide
June 25th, 2018: Good Guys Win
June 18th, 2018: Watching You
June 11th, 2018: Adoration
June 4th, 2018: March from 'A Moorside Suite'
May 28th, 2018: Taps
May 21st, 2018: Listz's La Campanella
May 14th, 2018: Handful of Weeds
May 7th, 2018: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
April 30th, 2018: Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53 ("Heroic")
April 23rd, 2018: Blow Ye The Trumpet
April 16th, 2018: Asturias (Leyenda)
April 9th, 2018: Old Mountain Dew
April 2nd, 2018: His Life For Mine
March 19th, 2018: See, the Conqu'ring Hero Comes!
March 12th, 2018: Choctaw Nation
March 5th, 2018: Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal
February 19th, 2018: The Olympic Spirit
February 12th, 2018: Olympic Fanfare and Theme
January 29th, 2018: Hail to the Chief
January 23rd, 2018: Waltz in A-Flat Major, Op. 39 No. 15
January 15th, 2018: Bleed The Same
January 8th, 2018: Saint-Saëns' Symphony No.3 'Organ' (Maestoso)
December 25th, 2017: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
December 18th, 2017: I Saw Three Ships (The Piano Guys)
December 11th, 2017:Who Is He In Yonder Stall
December 4th, 2017: Carol of the Bells (Mannheim Steamroller)
November 27th, 2017: Joy to the World!
November 20th, 2017: We Gather Together
November 13th, 2017: Mansions of the Lord
November 6th, 2017: Träumerei
October 30th: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
October 23rd, 2017: In Christ Alone
October 16th, 2017: When I'm Knee Deep In Bluegrass
October 9th, 2017: I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb
October 2nd, 2017: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major (Brahms)
September 25th, 2017: Beethoven's Sonata No. 8 in C minor ('Pathétique')
September 11th, 2017: Have You Forgotten?
September 4th, 2017: Bach's Double Violin Concerto
August 28th, 2017: Noah Found Grace In The Eyes Of The Lord
August 21st, 2017: The Heavens Are Telling The Glory of God
August 14th, 2017: Beethoven's 5th Symphony
August 7th, 2017: 'Lift High The Name Of Jesus' medley
July 31st, 2017: Fanfare for the Common Man
July 24th, 2017: Variations on 'Happy Birthday'
July 10th, 2017: Summer (Presto) from Vivaldi's Four Seasons
July 3rd, 2017: Freelance Fireworks Hall of Fame
June 26th, 2017: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
June 19th, 2017: A Christian Home
June 12th, 2017: Ol' Man River
June 5th, 2017: Choctaw Cowboy
May 29th, 2017: Armed Forces Salute
May 22nd, 2017: Double Bass Concerto No.2 in B minor
May 15th, 2017: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major
May 8th, 2017: The Army Goes Rolling Along
April 17th, 2017: He Is Alive
April 10th, 2017: Surely He Hath Borne/And With His Stripes/All We Like Sheep
April 3rd, 2017: Here Comes Carolina
March 27th, 2017: 'Spring' from Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'
March 20th, 2017: Symphony No. 5 ("Reformation") Finale
March 13th, 2017: The Pigeon on the Gate
March 6th, 2017: Finlandia
February 27th, 2017: When I Can Read My Title Clear
February 20th, 2017: William Tell Overture - Finale
February 13th, 2017: 'Romance' from 'The Gadfly'
February 6th, 2017: White Winter Hymnal
January 30th, 2017: Hail, Columbia
January 23rd, 2017: Hail to the Chief
January 16th, 2017: Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
January 2nd, 2017: Auld Lang Syne
December 26th, 2016: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
December 19th, 2016: I Wonder as I Wander
December 12th, 2016: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
December 5th, 2016: A Christmas Festival
November 28th, 2016: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
November 21st: Beethoven's 'Hymn of Thanksgiving'
November 14th: Hymn to the Fallen
November 7th: This World Is Not My Home
October 31st, 2016: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
October 24th, 2016: 'Mars', from 'The Planets'
October 17th, 2016: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
October 10th, 2016: Spain
October 3rd, 2016: International Harvester
September 26th, 2016: 'The Imperial March' from Star Wars
September 19th, 2016: Awake the Trumpet's Lofty Sound
September 12th, 2016: Before the Throne of God Above
September 5th, 2016: The Hunt
August 29th, 2016: Liberty
August 22nd, 2016: Summon the Heroes
August 15th, 2016: Bugler's Dream
August 8th, 2016: Olympic Fanfare and Theme
August 1st, 2016: 'Prelude' and 'Parade of the Charioteers' from Ben-Hur
July 25th, 2016: How The West Was Won
July 18th, 2016: Six Studies in English Folk Song
July 11th, 2016: From Everlasting To Everlasting
July 4th, 2016: The Stars and Stripes Forever
June 27th, 2016: Rule, Britannia!
June 20st, 2016: Bugler's Holiday
June 13th, 2016: Ride of the Valkyries
June 6th, 2016: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54, Allegro Vivace
May 30th, 2016: Armed Forces Salute
May 23rd, 2016: Paid in Full (Through Jesus, Amen)
May 16th, 2016: Overture from 'Carmen'
May 9th, 2016: L'Arlesienne Suite No. 1 - Prelude
May 2nd, 2016: My God Is a Rock
April 25th, 2016: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
April 18th, 2016: Paganini's Caprice No. 24 in A Minor
April 11th, 2016: Fantasia on a 17th Century Tune
April 4th, 2016: Hark The Sound/I'm a Tarheel Born
March 28th, 2016: Rustle of Spring
March 21st, 2016: 'Ode to Joy' sung by a 10,000-voice choir
March 14th, 2016: Hard Times Come Again No More
March 7th, 2016: 'The Suite' from Downton Abbey
February 29th, 2016: Moonlight Sonata
February 22nd, 2016: Liebestraum No. 3
February 15th, 2016: Help Is On The Way
February 8th, 2016: God of Grace and God of Glory
February 1st, 2016: 'My Story'
January 25th, 2016: Israeli Concertino
January 18th, 2016: What Grace is Mine
January 11th, 2016: "Meditation" from Thaïs
January 4th, 2016: Praeludium and Allegro
December 28th, 2015: Appalachian Carol
December 21st, 2015: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
December 14th, 2015: O Holy Night
December 7th, 2015: Christmas Fantasy
November 23rd, 2015: Simple Gifts
November 16th, 2015: Preacher Tell Me Like It Is
November 9th, 2015: Armed Forces Salute
November 2nd, 2015: Amazing Grace
October 26th, 2015: The Harmonious Blacksmith
October 19th, 2015: Liberty Fanfare
October 12th, 2015: The Majesty and Glory of Your Name
October 5th, 2015: Elgar's 'Enigma' Finale
September 28th, 2015: Stayed on Jesus
September 21st, 2015: Great Gate of Kiev
September 14th, 2015: Nearer, My God, To Thee

Friday, December 07, 2018

Lt. Gov-elect Pinnell hires Peters as chief of staff

(Oklahoma City, OK) Lt. Governor-elect Matt Pinnell today announced the hiring of Jeff Peters to be his Chief of Staff. Peters currently serves as District Director to Congressman Tom Cole.

"I'm excited to announce Jeff as my Chief of Staff. Jeff has knowledge and experience that will serve both this office and the State of Oklahoma well," said Pinnell. "Jeff has been a friend and a trusted advisor for many years. I'm pleased that he's decided to take this position."

“I could not be more proud of Jeff and his work serving the Fourth District,” said Congressman Cole. “In addition to managing my Oklahoma offices, Jeff played a vital role in my campaign. While he will be greatly missed as part of my staff, his governmental and political experience will be a tremendous asset to Lt. Governor-elect Pinnell.”

Peters has over a decade of experience on local, state, and federal political campaigns. Prior to his time on Congressman Cole's staff, Peters served as Political Director for the Oklahoma Republican Party during Pinnell's tenure as State Chairman. Peters and his wife Shauna reside in the Oklahoma City metro with their son Jack. Peters is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma.

An 8-Year Extinction of the Little Dixie Democrat Legislator

In 2010, Oklahoma Democrats owned the southeast portion of the state, with total control of legislative seats in the "Little Dixie" area, generally south of I-40 and east of I-35.

With yesterday's announcement by State Rep. Johnny Tadlock (DR, Dist.1), there are now no legislative Democrats in the region south of Tahlequah and east of Norman.

No region of the state has been so lopsidedly dominated by one party throughout state history as Little Dixie. Yet, in a period of eight years, four elections, and one party switch, the Little Dixie Democrat legislator has now gone extinct (at least until the next election).

The 2010 election started a GOP landslide in Little Dixie, with victories in the Senate by Josh Brecheen, Mark Allen and Frank Simpson, and Dustin Roberts, Tommy Hardin and John Bennett in the House. Consecutive elections were marked by continued GOP pickups, culminating with this year's flip of four House seats in the very heart of Little Dixie.

Pre-election 2010 State House (62R-39D):

Current 2018 State House (77R-24D):

Pre-election 2010 State Senate (26R-22D):

Current 2018 State Senate (39R-9D):

Only 3 of 24 Democrat House members are from primarily rural districts, while all of their 9 Senate seats are mainly urban.

Following the 2018 election, which saw Democrats lose 7 rural seats including House Minority Leader Steve Kouplen, incoming House Minority Leader Emily Virgin made the following comment in an interview with NewsOK: "For Democrats going forward, we've got to figure out how to make sure that we are still talking to rural Oklahoma and letting them know we are the party for you when it comes to health care and keeping hospitals open."

Looks like that job got a little harder for Oklahoma Democrats.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Minority Leader Responds to Tadlock Party Switch

Minority Leader Responds to Tadlock Party Switch

OKLAHOMA CITY – Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement on State. Rep. Johnny Tadlock’s decision to switch parties:

“Whether the legislator from House District 1 is a Republican or a Democrat, the Democratic Caucus is going to continue to fight for legislation that benefits towns like Broken Bow and Idabel,” Virgin said. “For the last decade, Republican policies from healthcare to education have been devastating to rural Oklahoma so while we don’t understand Rep. Tadlock’s decision, we wish him the best of luck.”

Last 'Little Dixie' Democrat legislator switches to GOP

The death of the Democratic Party in rural Oklahoma continues:

Rep. Johnny Tadlock Announces Changing Party Affiliation

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Johnny Tadlock today announced he is changing his political party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

“This to me is not at all about party affiliation,” said Tadlock, from Idabel. “This is about representing the people who live in my district to the best of my ability and making sure their voice is heard at the state Capitol. To do this, I feel I would have better success in the majority party. I have not changed my beliefs. As a Democrat, I was endorsed by the National Rifle Association. I have always been pro-life. I have cared about safe and decent roads and bridges, public safety, free and fair public education and health care that reaches those in the rural communities. These are still the issues with which I will be concerned.”

Tadlock represents House District 1, which serves part of LeFlore and all of McCurtain counties in SE Oklahoma. He was first elected to serve in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2014. He has served on the following committees: Agriculture and Rural Development; County and Municipal Government; General Government Oversight and Accountability; Judiciary and the House Special Investigation Committee.

OK Senate Republicans announce leadership for 57th Legislature

Senate Republicans announce leadership for 57th Legislature

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced their full leadership team for the 57th Legislature.

Senate Republicans previously designated Senator Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, as their pick to serve as the next President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Treat earlier this year announced his selection of Senator Kim David, R-Porter, to serve as Majority Floor Leader and of Senator Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, to serve as Senate Appropriations chair.

“I am honored that my colleagues have placed faith in me, and I’m ready to lead Senate Republicans forward to accomplish great things for Oklahoma and its people,” Treat said. “Our entire leadership team brings a wide range of talent and expertise to the Senate, and each of them is committed to working on common sense, conservative ideas to move Oklahoma forward.”

Senate Republicans’ leadership team includes:

  • Senator Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, President Pro Tempore-designate
  • Senator Kim David, R-Porter, Majority Floor Leader
  • Senator Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, Appropriations chair
  • Senator Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, Majority Caucus chair
  • Senator Rob Standridge, R-Norman, Majority Whip
  • Senator Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, Assistant Floor Leader
  • Senator Frank Simpson, R-Springer, Assistant Floor Leader
  • Senator Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, Majority Caucus vice chair
  • Senator Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, Assistant Majority Whip
  • Senator Casey Murdock, R-Felt, Assistant Majority Whip
  • Senator Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, Assistant Majority Whip
  • Senator Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher, Rural Caucus chair

Gov.-elect Stitt announces chief general counsel selection


Oklahoma City, Okla. (Dec. 6, 2018) – Governor-elect Kevin Stitt announced today the selection of Mark Burget as the chief general counsel in the governor’s office.

“I am pleased to welcome Mark Burget to my administration as our chief general counsel,” said Stitt. “Mark’s wise counsel and legal expertise are proven and impressive. His business-minded approach to legal matters aligns with our vision, and he will play a critical role in advising my administration as we advance Oklahoma’s Turnaround.”

Mark Burget currently serves as the Area Director at Search Ministries, a nondenominational Christian ministry in Oklahoma City. Prior to his time at Search Ministries, Burget worked at the Oklahoma City law firm of McAfee & Taft for 22 years, spending the last three as the Managing Director. During his time at the firm, Burget was selected by a national publication as one of the Best Lawyers in America. Burget came to Oklahoma in 1972 to attend the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a degree in accounting in 1976, obtained his CPA license in 1978, and later graduated from the University of Oklahoma School of Law in 1979. Burget also attended New York University where he obtained a Master of Laws Degree in Tax Law in 1982. Burget resides with his wife of 43 years, Elaine, in Norman, Oklahoma.

“Mark is a wise and principled man. I have no doubt that he will be a strong and integrity filled right arm to Governor Stitt as his general counsel.”
– Frank Keating, former Governor of Oklahoma

“Mark Burget is one of our state’s wisest counselors. For decades, Mark has been a key attorney for our family and our company, but he’s much more than that. We have trusted Mark with all kinds of matters because he is a man of integrity, intelligence, and he has a servant’s heart. We know he will serve our state well.” 
– Fred Hall, Chairman & CEO of Hall Capital

“It has been my great pleasure and privilege to know Mark Burget for nearly 40 years, dating back to when he was a top recruit from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. What has defined Mark’s career has been his great intelligence and consistency of character which is guided by his deep faith and compassion for all those whose lives he has touched.  What Mark offers the Stitt administration is simply what he has consistently offered others throughout his life—integrity, wise counsel and a heart for others.  Mark is truly an extraordinary Oklahoman, and I am confident that he will serve Governor Stitt and his administration very well.”
– Frank Hill, attorney at McAfee and Taft

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

OCPA column: School-choice moms tipped FL Gov race

School-choice moms tipped governor’s race
by Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA)

Why did 100,000 African-American women in Florida vote for Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis over Andrew Gillum, a Democrat vying to become the state’s first African-American governor?

The answer was provided by William Mattox last week in The Wall Street Journal.

“More than 100,000 low-income students in Florida participate in the Step Up For Students program, which grants tax-credit funded scholarships to attend private schools,” he writes. “Even more students are currently enrolled in the state’s 650 charter schools.”

“Most Step Up students are minorities whose mothers are registered Democrats. Yet many of these ‘school-choice moms’ vote for gubernatorial candidates committed to protecting their ability to choose where their child goes to school.”

DeSantis supports school choice. Gillum, backed by the public education establishment, did not.

Gillum was a strong candidate and, again, would have been the first African-American governor in Florida history. And yet, “of the roughly 650,000 black women who voted in Florida, 18% chose Mr. DeSantis, according to CNN’s exit poll of 3,108 voters,” Mattox writes. “This exceeded their support for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott (9%), Mr. DeSantis’s performance among black men (8%), and the GOP’s national average among black women (7%).”

“In an election decided by fewer than 40,000 votes,” Mattox observes, “these 100,000 black women proved decisive.”

From small rural communities to big cities, school choice is mainstream in the Sunshine State. And good policy, as they say, has proven to be good politics.

Step Up’s Patrick Gibbons, a former OCPA research assistant, points out that nearly half of Florida’s students attend a school based on choice, not just location.

Stunning but true: fully 46 percent of Florida students are enrolled in district magnet and specialty programs, online schools, public charter schools, private schools that accept choice scholarships, home schools, or some other choice.

Interestingly, Oklahomans want those same choices. In a statewide survey commissioned by OCPA and conducted by Cor Strategies in May 2018, likely Oklahoma voters were asked this simple question: “If you could select any type of school in order to obtain the best education for your child, and financial costs and transportation were of no concern, what type of school would you select.” The survey, which had a margin of error of plus/minus 4.37 percent, found that just under half of Oklahomans would choose a traditional public school. Roughly half would make other choices (36 percent private school, 8 percent charter school, and 8 percent home school).

Clearly, the demand for educational options is strong. Homeschooling is increasingly popular in Oklahoma. One of the state’s virtual charter schools (Epic) has 21,000 students enrolled. And private schools aren’t simply for the big cities: you’ll find them from Altus to Woodward (not to mention in tiny Corn, Oklahoma). Indeed, 77 percent of Oklahomans live within a 20-minute drive or less of at least one private school, and fully 86 percent live within a 30-minute drive or less.

Two years ago, more than 10,000 private-school scholarship recipients joined Martin Luther King III for a rally in support of school choice at the Florida state capitol.

“Fairness demands that every child, not just the rich, has access to an education that will help them achieve their dreams,” Mr. King once told OCPA. He told Politico that he believes his father would have supported private-school choice for needy students.

Clearly, a lot of Florida moms do, too.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.