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


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

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.

          *          *          *          *          *

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, 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


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:

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

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:

Monday, January 14, 2019

OCPA statement on Kevin Stitt inauguration

OCPA statement on Kevin Stitt inauguration

After Kevin Stitt was inaugurated as the 28th Governor of the State of Oklahoma, Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), released the following statement:

“Congratulations to Governor Stitt, his family, and his staff. OCPA looks forward to working with the new governor and his team to build a more prosperous Oklahoma.

“A strong majority of Oklahomans elected Governor Stitt because they want a state government that works. Today, Oklahoma’s executive branch is fractured and fragmented. Often, the buck stops nowhere.

“OCPA looks forward to working with the Legislature and Governor Stitt to give the governor the power to hire and fire agency leadership in order to create clear lines of authority and responsibility. We should reduce the number of independently elected executive branch officials, reduce the number of executive branch officials who are appointed by someone other than the governor, and eliminate unnecessary boards and commissions. These changes would make state agencies not just more efficient, but also more effective.”

Friday, January 11, 2019

Stitt Inauguration: details for public attendees


Oklahoma City, Okla. (Jan. 11, 2019) – Oklahomans are invited to attend the inauguration of the 28th Governor of Oklahoma, J. Kevin Stitt. The inauguration will take place on Monday, January 14 at 11:30AM on the south side of the Oklahoma Capitol. The general public is encouraged to RSVP for the event at

Important details for the general public to note are listed below:

ARRIVAL TIME: The general public is encouraged to be seated by 11AM. Seating is first come, first served. The official ceremony begins at 11:30AM.

PARKING: Parking is limited around the capitol. There will be specific parking areas that will be available for the public to access. These lots include: the south side guest parking lot and the Will Rogers Memorial Office Building parking lot. After 10:15AM the northwest parking lot and Harn Homestead parking lot will be open to the general public as well (see attached map). Attendees are encouraged to arrive early as parking is first come, first served.

ACCESIBILITY: Interpreters for the hearing impaired will be located on the west side of the platform.

RULES: You may not bring gifts for the Governor or any other state officials. No large bags. No drones of any kind are allowed.

CEREMONY: Weather on the day of the ceremony can vary. We ask that the public come prepared, as the event is held outdoors. The public is also encouraged to take pictures during the ceremony and to use #OKTurnaround on all inauguration related social media posts.

RECEPTION: Following the inauguration ceremony, there will be a free reception inside the capitol where attendees of the inauguration may meet the new governor, first lady, and state-wide elected officials. Cookies and punch will be provided.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

OCPA column: Three resolutions for Oklahoma

Three resolutions for Oklahoma
by Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA)

The new year is a time for resolutions. Here are three for state government, things the Legislature can do in the upcoming session that would make Oklahoma government more effective and accountable.

The first resolution will be familiar to a lot of us: slim down. Take a look at a list of Oklahoma state agencies and compare it to other states. Or look at the 150-page directory necessary to list all the agencies, boards, and commissions. We’re not a big state, but we have a sprawling state government bureaucracy.

This slimming down needs to start at the top, with management. Instead of having a bunch of unaccountable boards and commissions running major agencies, the ultimate authority should rest with the governor. After all, that is the governor’s job.

Imagine as CEO and president of a company you have multiple divisions. Each division has a manager. But the managers don’t report to you and aren’t even selected by you. The managers are selected by separate boards in each division, and your competition or those interested in a hostile takeover select the board members who pick the managers of the divisions. This debacle is how Oklahoma state government is structured.

So, our first resolution is to make agency posts appointed, give the governor power to hire and fire agency heads, and trim the number of agencies. By slimming down government, we can make it more efficient and more effective, getting better results for all Oklahomans.

While our first resolution deals with the executive branch, our second deals with the Legislature. We all know from civics class that it holds “the power of the purse,” but the truth is that our Legislature is understaffed. It lacks the structure to conduct a thorough budget process and oversight. Current talk of creating an accountability and oversight office within the Legislature is heading in the right direction.

The third resolution involves education. Lawmakers should work to increase teacher salaries so that they are the highest in the region and empower public schools, teachers, and students with programs that expand their educational options and expand innovative programs in public schools.

All of these reforms require legislation. In every case, they would bring some common sense to state government, making it more efficient and accountable. We will have at the state Capitol soon a new governor and many new legislators. It’s an exciting time as both Governor-elect Stitt and lawmakers have said they will prioritize efficiency and accountability in state government to safeguard taxpayers and the most vulnerable.

What better way to start 2019?

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

Monday, January 07, 2019

OKGOP removes House Pro Tem from State Committee for supporting Democrat

Some reporting over the weekend from
Representative Harold Wright (R-Weatherford) was expelled by the Oklahoma Republican Party's ruling State Committee, today. The action took place at the State Committee meeting, in Edmond, OK.

OKGOP's national committeeman, Steve Curry, presented a letter of the OKGOP Executive Committee, advising action for Wright's actions, funding the campaign of a Democrat nominee(Jeff Berrong) for a state senate seat. Wright, who took money from the OKGOP for his own election, funneled at least $1000 to the Democrat effort, according to campaign reporting documents with the state Ethics Commission. Meanwhile, the OKGOP was funding the campaign of the Republican nominee(Brent Howard).

Republican legislators are granted inclusion in the ruling body of the OKGOP, by being in elective office. Wright has been a State Committee member for several years.

Canadian County Chairman, Andrew Lopez made the motion on Harold Wright's immediate removal. Former National Committeeman, Steve Fair seconded the motion. The final vote was nearly unanimous with one lone voice voting 'nay'.
Last year, Rep. Wright (Conservative Performance Index score of -10.7filed legislation that would gut SQ640's taxpayer protection against easy tax increases. Read more comments from the SoonerPolitics story at this link.

Wright was removed from the OKGOP State Committee under State Party Rule 19(g), which lists "Publicly supporting or endorsing an opponent of candidates of the Republican Party." as grounds for removal from official party committees. I've since been told that Wright sent fundraising letters on the Democrat candidate's behalf and allowed his name and photo to be used in supportive mailers.

Of note, Representative Carol Bush ("R"-Tulsa, CPI score of -24.3) has not yet been removed for her role in assisting the campaign of Democrat Kendra Horn, who unseated 5th District Republican Congressman Steve Russell in the 2018 election. Horn, whose first vote was to elect Nancy Pelosi as U.S. House Speaker, touted Bush's endorsement throughout the campaign.
Rep. Carol Bush (R) speaking at the campaign kickoff rally for Kendra Horn (D)

While Wright's donation to a Democratic candidate ultimately had no lasting consequence due to the Republican candidate's victory, Bush's very early support for a Democratic candidate who ultimately knocked off an incumbent GOP congressman had greater and more lasting effect.

Stitt hires Sonic exec as State's COO, Agency Accountability Secretary


Oklahoma City, Okla. (Jan. 7, 2019) – Governor-elect Kevin Stitt announced today the hiring of John Budd as Chief Operating Officer (COO), a new role in the governor’s office that Stitt campaigned on as a position tasked with diagnosing and helping state agencies deliver efficient, customer-focused services. Stitt will also appoint Budd as the Secretary of Agency Accountability, a cabinet title that will require Senate confirmation.

“In my conversation with governors from across the nation, I heard many credit their success to the hiring of a Chief Operating Officer in their administrations, a model not currently implemented in Oklahoma. This new COO role will be key to fulfilling my campaign commitment of delivering efficient, customer-centered government throughout our 120 agencies,” said Stitt. “I am excited to welcome John Budd, a businessman who has a proven record in helping companies successfully pursue operational transformation and deliver better services. Budd will be tasked with taking a holistic look at ways to more efficiently and effectively implement services and meet today’s modern demands on state government. I appreciate his willingness to join us in serving Oklahoma as we work to build a Top Ten future.” 

John Budd was most recently the executive vice president, chief strategy and business development officer for the Oklahoma City-based national headquarters of Sonic, America’s Drive-In®. He was responsible for Sonic’s strategic near-term and long-term technology path and was a driving force behind the development of enterprise wide strategy, the franchise development function (sales, real estate and construction), supply chain, enterprise program management, and the implementation of key technology initiatives and technology support.

Budd joined Sonic in 2013 after 16 years with the Boston Consulting Group, where he served as a partner and managing director. In that role, he worked with leading companies in the energy, industrial goods, consumer goods, retail, restaurant, and education sectors to help them grow, become more efficient, and provide better customer service. Prior to his work with Boston Consulting Group, he held various domestic and international roles of increasing accountability with General Electric.

Budd earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also received his M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He serves on the Board for the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation and is the incoming Chair of the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals. Budd and his wife Rebecca live in Oklahoma City with their sons Jackie and Marcus.

The following are quotes of support for the hiring of John Budd:

“We are fortunate to have John’s talent in our state. John’s extensive business experience with Sonic and Boston Consulting Group driving strategic vision and change, and his understanding of the elements of long-term sustainable progress will be valuable in moving Oklahoma forward.”
– Kathy Taylor, former Sonic board member and former Tulsa mayor

“Our new governor and his administration are fortunate to have John Budd join their team.  I have known John for roughly a decade and have enjoyed my association with him during his time with the Boston Consulting Group and, for the last five years, as a senior officer of Sonic. 

“John Budd is a very bright, very hard-working and committed professional who is able to constructively question the status quo and develop alternative paths for more effective delivery of services.  He does this in the most functional and collaborative manner.  Many companies throughout our country, including Sonic, have benefited from his skills. As a matter of fact, he had a very significant and positive impact on our company!

“John’s willingness to move to the public sector to apply his exceptional skills is a testament to his having the heart of a servant leader and will be to the benefit of this administration and our state, generally. I look forward to observing and appreciating his impact in this new arena and expect it to be considerable!”
– Cliff Hudson, former CEO of Sonic

“Governor-elect Stitt has made a great choice in appointing John Budd as chief operating officer. Working side by side with John for the past five years, I saw and experienced his strategic thinking and ability to build processes to streamline business practices. As former director of finance for the state, I wholeheartedly believe John’s knowledge and skills will benefit state government and our citizens.”
– Claudia San Pedro, President of SONIC

“John will be a great asset to Governor Stitt’s administration. He brings the right balance of big picture strategy and real-life business acumen to the table. John has served on the Memorial’s Finance Committee and our Board of Trustees for several years and he provides great oversight and strategy. Our state will now benefit from his caliber of experience and expertise, which will in the long run will help prioritize our efficiency of state government.”
– Kari Watkins, Executive Director of the OKC National Memorial & Museum

Music Monday: Loch Lomond

This week's Music Monday is the old Scottish folk song Loch Lomond, performed here by Peter Hollens.


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 31st, 2018: Auld Lang Syne
December 24th, 2018: Remember O, thou Man
December 17th, 2018: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
December 10th, 2018: Carol of the Bells (medley)
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, January 04, 2019

Fallin: Thankful for the Opportunity, Optimistic about Oklahoma's Future

As My Term Ends, Thankful for the Opportunity to Serve and Optimistic about Oklahoma's Future
By Governor Mary Fallin

In just a matter of days, Oklahoma will have a new governor and I will once again - after 28 years - be a private citizen.

I’ve enjoyed my decades of service as a public servant, as a state legislator, lieutenant governor and a member of Congress, especially the past eight years serving as your governor. The best part certainly is meeting the many wonderful Oklahomans across our state and listening to their concerns. The challenging and rewarding part comes with finding solutions to their concerns and issues.

Despite two economic downturns during my time as governor – one underway when I took office and the global energy downturn early in my second term – Oklahoma’s business climate is healthy. We’ve diversified our economy. We’re training and educating our citizens to learn skills sets necessary for jobs today and in the future.

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is the lowest in 17 years and with the new jobs and people moving to Oklahoma, our state’s population has grown to just under 4 million people!

Oklahoma offers an incredibly low cost of doing business. For the second year in a row, the Anderson Economic Group’s 2018 State Business Tax Burden Rankings ranks Oklahoma with the lowest tax burden in the country.

Oklahoma has one of the lowest costs of living in the U.S., plus the state has the second-lowest electric power costs in the country, and at the same time offers a great quality of life.

During my administration, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce has secured 526 new and expanding business announcements representing more than $14.6 billion of investments. When you look at job numbers tallied by cities and other local entities, the estimate is close to 200,000 new jobs.

We’ve made great progress in diversifying our economy. Oil and gas will still be a dominant part of our economy. However, the aerospace and defense sector of our economy has seen a huge growth in jobs and investment. In fact, for the first time in decades Oklahoma will have two aerospace manufacturing facilities that will produce high-performance, jet-powered unmanned aerial tactical and target drone systems. Other expanding industries include paper goods as well as steel milling; digital information services like Google; and large fulfillment centers like Amazon.

Pro-business policies that I supported and signed into law helped spur our economy and lower the state’s unemployment rate. They include:

  • Transitioning Oklahoma to an administrative workers’ compensation system committed to taking care of injured workers yet reducing the state’s average workers’ comp loss costs rates nearly 64 percent lower than they were in January 2011.
  • Making Oklahoma more business friendly by enacting tort reform measures: Oklahoma has moved from 42nd to 31st in reducing frivolous lawsuits.
  • Cutting Oklahoma’s unfunded pension liability of $16 billion nearly in half to about $8.4 billion.

In the area of education, we’re also making progress. New revenue sources approved in the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions established a much more stable financial position for the state, and allowed Oklahoma last year to give a raise to public school teachers, which I had proposed and pushed for each of the last three years.

Teachers will see an average pay raise of $6,100, or a 16 percent pay increase - the highest pay increase in state history. Oklahoma’s teacher pay went from 49th to 29th in the nation, and to No. 12 when the cost of living is factored. In Oklahoma’s seven-state region, teacher pay went from last to No. 2.

We’re making progress with smart-on-crime policies and on how we deal with nonviolent offenders who need substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation, which will help ease prison overcrowding. I signed 17 criminal justice reforms during my time in office, including seven last year that will reduce the flow of nonviolent offenders into prison; establish a more efficient and streamlined parole process; and facilitate successful reentry that reduces recidivism.

I truly believe the future of our state is bright, with a low unemployment rate of 3.3 percent and $451 million in the Rainy Day Fund. Based on current trends and if our state does not experience an economic downturn, our state could see another significant Rainy Day Fund deposit later this year, which could bring our Rainy Day Fund close to $850 million.

The next administration and Legislature will have the resources to address many of the state’s priorities and to ensure core services are adequately funded. I’ll be watching from the sidelines cheering them on to take our state to the next level.

It’s been a great honor to service the people and our state in office, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Stitt names Sean Kouplen as next Secretary of Commerce


Oklahoma City, Okla. (Jan. 3, 2019) – Governor-elect Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Sean Kouplen as the next Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development, a cabinet position that will require Senate confirmation, and the hiring of Brent Kisling as the next executive director of the Department of Commerce.

“Sean Kouplen is a proven business leader and entrepreneur, full of vision, energy and passion for seeing our state thrive and achieve Top Ten status. His reputation and network, both in the state and nationwide, will help propel Oklahoma forward to achieve a robust recruitment agenda,” said Stitt. “Brent Kisling will provide a dynamic partnership with Kouplen, bringing a successful record of developing rural economies, crafting and executing major infrastructure projects and recruiting new job creators to our state. With their leadership, the Department of Commerce will play an integral role in Oklahoma’s Turnaround as the agency’s mission will focus on growing our state and diversify Oklahoma’s economy.”

Upon confirmation, Sean Kouplen will serve on the governor’s cabinet in an unpaid capacity, casting vision for the Commerce Department and playing a strategic leadership role in recruiting business growth and in the development of Oklahoma’s workforce.

Kouplen will also continue his role as Chairman and CEO of Regent Bank in Tulsa. Under Kouplen’s leadership, the bank has grown in size from $72 million to almost $600 million in assets since 2008. Kouplen has been named Central U.S. Community Banker of the Year, Oklahoma Small Business Financial Champion, one of Journal Record’s Most Admired CEO’s, Citizen of the Year in Bixby, Top National Young Alumni by his fraternity, and Top 100 MBA of the Century by Oklahoma State University (OSU).  Kouplen has held numerous local and statewide leadership positions and currently serves on the Board of Directors for MetaFund, Hillcrest South Hospital, OSU Foundation, SouthPoint Church and is a member of Young President’s Organization and Oklahoma Bankers Association. Kouplen holds B.S. and M.B.A. degrees from OSU.

“I am excited to work with the outstanding professionals in the Department of Commerce to grow Oklahoma’s economy. Our goals are to aggressively target businesses to expand in Oklahoma and educate all Oklahoma business and community leaders about our excellent economic and community development programs,” said Kouplen. “As a business owner and CEO, I bring a very pragmatic, strategic approach to the position. We will target those businesses, inside and outside the state of Oklahoma, who are most likely to expand here. We will also work hard to tell our story to fellow Oklahomans.  Our state has many remarkable business success stories and we want to highlight those and inspire the next generation of Oklahomans to stay right here and do great things.”

As Executive Director, Brent Kisling will oversee the operations of the Department of Commerce and will report to the secretary of commerce. Kisling is currently the executive director of Enid Regional Development Alliance where he is has worked since March 2009. Previously, Kisling served 8 years as the State Director for the USDA Rural Development in Oklahoma, an appointed position under the George W. Bush Administration. From 2001 to 2009, he oversaw the rural housing, utilities, and business programs statewide. Kisling has also served as the Chair of Leadership Oklahoma, the Governor’s Economic Development Marketing Team, the Oklahoma Economic Development Council, the Career Tech Foundation Board, and the OSU Ag Alumni Board.  In 2008, he was named one of the Top 40 Achievers Under 40 in Oklahoma by The Journal Record. Kisling is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and a resident of Enid where he is raising his two children with his wife, Jennifer.

"Brent will do an amazing job as Executive Director,” said Kouplen. “He is a very well-respected leader and economic development professional in our state. Brent will direct the Department of Commerce on a day-to-day basis while I will provide strategic support and focus my time on telling Oklahoma's story and actively recruiting new business.  We will function together much like a Chairman and CEO in a business setting.”

“Sean and I have been friends for many years and I am thrilled to be working with him to help create an environment for businesses to grow in our state,” said Kisling. “Our vision for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce is to aggressively work with our state’s legacy companies to add jobs and investment and to actively pursue new industries to locate here.  We will work closely with local communities by providing creativity, support, and incentives to help them prosper.  Our job is to tell the world about Oklahoma’s many competitive advantages including our strong quality of life, low cost of doing business, low tax burden and excellent workforce.”

The following are quotes of support for the appointment of Sean Kouplen:

“Governor-elect Stitt has made an excellent choice in selecting Sean Kouplen as his Secretary of Commerce.  Sean is a creative and innovative leader.  Not only has he led his bank to dramatic growth, but he is also a devoted family man and serves his community in many capacities.  Sean will lead the way in developing new economic opportunities for Oklahoma and will provide wise counsel on the Governor’s cabinet.”
– President Burns Hargis, president of Oklahoma State University

“Sean Kouplen has been a close friend for many years and he is a person with tremendous integrity, energy and business acumen. He is a selfless community leader who has built one of the country’s top community banking organizations. His creativity and drive will undoubtedly propel Oklahoma into a top economic growth state.”
– Jim Bridenstine, administrator of NASA and former U.S. Representative from Oklahoma

"Gov.-elect Stitt's cabinet selection of Sean Kouplen as Oklahoma's Secretary of Commerce shows he is working diligently to select proven leaders in business. In addition to being a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Sean is passionate about Native American issues and I know he will strengthen our Nation's partnership with the State of Oklahoma. We look forward to working with him in his new role and with Gov.-elect Stitt to grow our economy together."
– Principal Chief James Floyd of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation

“I have worked with Sean Kouplen for several years and know him to be a tremendous supporter of this Hispanic business community. His company actually won a top award this year for their tremendous support of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and our partner businesses. We are looking forward to working closely with Kouplen in his new role as Secretary of Commerce to expand existing Hispanic-owned businesses and attract new ones to our state.”
– James E. Sanchez, chairman of Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

“Sean Kouplen is an outstanding business and community leader who cares deeply about our state.  Over the last ten years, he has built a tremendous company known for its nation-leading growth and amazing corporate culture.  Faith is a very important part of Sean’s life and he treats everyone he encounters with respect.  He will undoubtedly do an excellent job as Secretary of Commerce and I can’t think of anyone better to lead us toward top 10 economic growth.”
-- Piyush Patel, author of Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work and Angel Investor, founder of Digital-Tutors

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Sean Kouplen for over ten years, and in that time have watched him be a man of integrity in business, a wonderful father, and a strong leader in his church. As Secretary of Commerce, he will bring not only his knowledge of business, but also the knowledge that it is people and relationships that are the true key to success in any endeavor. The tools he will bring with him to this role will position the Department of Commerce and our state to be the best possible in the country. Our businesses will thrive and those looking to start a business or relocate will notice and want to tap into what we have.”
– Krystal Crockett, president/CEO of Bixby Metro Chamber of Commerce

“Much of Oklahoma’s economy originates in rural communities across the state. It is heartening to have a person like Sean Kouplen named to lead economic development efforts, knowing that he brings great insights from his work in serving rural residents, businesses, farms, ranches and community organizations.  With his background in agricultural economics and his demonstrated acumen in leadership, Sean is well suited to ensure that all of Oklahoma’s economy grows and thrives.”
– Thomas Coon, vice president of agricultural programs at Oklahoma State University

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

OCPA column: Medicaid expansion a budget-buster

Medicaid expansion a budget-buster
by Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA)

When Oklahoma lawmakers assemble in February, they will face pressure to add hundreds of thousands of able-bodied adults to welfare.

They will be assured by many experts that expanding Medicaid under Obamacare will be cheap – in government terms – and that the federal government will foot most of the bill.

But those experts are wrong. They have been wrong every time.

Medicaid was created as a medical safety net for the most vulnerable poor – expectant mothers, children, the elderly, and the disabled. Obamacare lures states to expand Medicaid to cover childless, able-bodied adults who earn up to 138 percent of poverty income.

Since 2010, more than 30 states have taken the Medicaid expansion bait. In every case where we have numbers, the costs far exceeded predictions.

The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) studied the first 24 states to expand Medicaid. States expected 5.5 million new recipients; they got 11.5 million. In a report this year, FGA concluded “every state with available spending projections and actual cost data reveals that taxpayers have spent roughly 157 percent more on Obamacare expansion than state officials initially predicted.”

It’s not just state officials who got it wrong. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Congressional Budget Office, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Urban Institute, and others grossly underestimated the numbers.

Even without expansion, Medicaid’s current growth rate is fiscally unsustainable. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated total Medicaid spending could reach $1 trillion per year by 2026. Right now, Medicaid is already almost a third of all state spending. Including federal reimbursement dollars, Medicaid accounted for 30 percent of the $18.2 billion spent by Oklahoma state government last year. Adding hundreds of thousands of new people would bust that budget faster and give us two dire alternatives – raise taxes or slash other services, like education or welfare benefits to even more vulnerable people.

Governor-elect Kevin Stitt opposes Medicaid expansion. But thanks to out-of-state labor unions, it may find its way to a statewide ballot in Oklahoma.

“The California union that funded successful ballot campaigns expanding Medicaid in three red states is already looking ahead to 2020,” Politico reported in November. “SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West is eyeing several states where it could bypass GOP legislatures and take Medicaid expansion proposals straight to voters – deploying millions of dollars and an army of advocates.”

The experts will again assure us that Oklahoma can absorb a vast expansion of medical welfare for the able-bodied. And just as they have been in more than 30 states so far, they’ll be dead wrong.

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