Saturday, January 16, 2021

Stitt activates OK National Guard to assist OHP with State Capitol security


OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 15, 2021) – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today that out of an abundance of caution he is activating over 75 members of the Oklahoma National Guard (OKNG) to assist local law enforcement should any protests at the State Capitol, or other locations, turn violent. 

"I support the right for Oklahomans to peacefully demonstrate, but we will not tolerate violence or damage to property," said Gov. Stitt. "At the request of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the National Guard has been authorized to provide support as needed. These hardworking Oklahomans are our friends and neighbors who step up in times of need. Any violence and damage to property goes against the Oklahoma Standard and is a distraction designed to keep us from uniting together."  

Members of the guard will be activated from Saturday, Jan. 16 to Thursday, Jan. 21. No specific, credible threats have been identified in Oklahoma, but increased safety measures are being taken in a proactive response to intelligence shared by federal law enforcement regarding state capitol buildings across the country. 

OCPA column: Paying for "ghost" students

Paying for “ghost” students
By Jonathan Small

Status-quo defenders insist waste, fraud and mismanagement in state government is overhyped. Then how do they explain Oklahoma schools being paid to educate more than 55,000 “ghost students”?

Ghost-student funding has been in place for years, but COVID-19 has put it on steroids.

Oklahoma law distributes state funding based on several factors, one of which is “the highest weighted average daily membership for the school district of the two (2) preceding school years.

Put in plain English, that means a school can be paid for students who attended two years ago but are no longer there. Thus, even amidst a significant enrollment decline, districts receive huge sums for “teaching” nonexistent “ghost” students.

This funding farce is now too big to ignore. Due to COVID-19 and several districts’ refusal to provide full-time, in-person instruction, there has been a mass exodus to alternatives, including credible online providers such as Epic, other districts, private schools, and homeschooling.

Newly released enrollment figures show Oklahoma schools can now claim more than 55,000 ghost students this year via use of old enrollment numbers. If ghost students were confined to a single school district, it would be larger than any brick-and-mortar district in Oklahoma—by far.

Friday, January 15, 2021

50 State House GOP members support return to in-person learning

House Republican Caucus Members Support Return to In-Person Learning

OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of the House Republican Caucus today issued a statement in support of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s call for students to return to in-person learning in schools amid updated safety protocols.

“The majority of Oklahoma parents and guardians have chosen in-person learning as the best option for their child, and many have told us they want their children back in school. A recent medical study showed that 99.96% of 90,000 students and staff studied did not catch COVID-19 at school, and there were zero cases of child-to-adult within-school transmission. This shows us that we can safely return students and educators to in-person learning with proper safety protocols in place with extremely minimal risk. Governor Stitt’s decision is the right, safe thing to do for our children, their families and our state educators.”

The governor on Tuesday announced that Oklahoma schools following safety protocols, including mask-wearing and social distancing, will be permitted to forgo the mandatory two-week quarantine period for potential COVID-19 exposures. 

The change is the result of requests from parents, teachers, and school leaders and enactment of the new guidelines is left to the discretion of each school district. 

Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye also pointed out that other states such as Missouri, Utah and Ohio have put similar quarantine policies into place and haven’t seen large outbreaks occur in schools.

The governor said that refusing to offer in-person school is jeopardizing students’ education ad teachers’ careers, which in turn affects the entire state.

As part of the governor’s new policy, schools should continue to require quarantines for exposed students in situations where masking and distancing protocols were not followed. Additionally, the updated quarantine guidance does not apply if the exposure occurs during after-school activities, including sports. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must continue to isolate regardless where they contracted the virus or were wearing a mask. 

The state is prioritizing vaccinations for teachers who are 65 and older this week and next and will open vaccinations up to all teachers as soon as vaccine availability allows. The state will also double the amount of rapid antigen tests provided to schools to encourage frequent testing to catch any positive cases early.  

Frye also said schools have proven to be one of the safest places for most students. He said, data also shows—and the CDC recommends—that getting students safely back to in-person learning is critical for their educational success, mental health and social development.

Issuing the above statement from the House Republican Caucus are:
  • State Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon
  • State Rep. Steve Bashore, R-Miami
  • State Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa
  • State Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow
  • State Rep. Ty Burns, R-Pawnee
  • State Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid
  • State Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle
  • State Rep. Rusty Cornwell, R-Vinita
  • State Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont
  • State Rep. Bob Ed Culver, R-Tahlequah
  • State Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa
  • State Rep. Mike Dobrinski, R-Okeene
  • State Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City
  • State Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee
  • State Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola
  • State Rep. David Hardin, R-Stilwell
  • State Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin
  • State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow
  • State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane
  • State Rep. Gerrid Kendrix, R-Altus
  • State Rep. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee
  • State Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa
  • State Rep. Mark Lepak, R-Claremore
  • State Rep. Dick Lowe, R-Amber
  • State Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond
  • State Rep. Stan May, R-Broken Arrow
  • State Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore
  • Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka
  • State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow
  • State Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond
  • State Rep. Garry Mize, R-Guthrie
  • State Rep. Carl Newton, R-Cherokee
  • Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa
  • State Rep. Kenton Patzkowsky, R-Balko
  • State Rep. John Pfeiffer, R-Orlando
  • State Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula
  • State Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant
  • State Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay
  • State Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell
  • State Rep. Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks
  • State Rep. David Smith, R-Arpelar
  • State Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon
  • State Rep. Danny Sterling, R-Tecumseh
  • State Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore
  • State Rep. Mark Vancuren, R-Owasso
  • State Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston
  • State Rep. Josh West, R-Grove
  • State Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore
  • State Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener
  • State Rep. Tammy West, R-Oklahoma City

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Stitt extends COVID State of Emergency via executive order


OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan.13, 2021)– Governor Kevin Stitt today issued Ninth Amended Executive Order 2020-20, extending the State of Emergency related to COVID-19 that has been in place since March 15, 2020. 

The amended EO removes the requirement for bars and restaurants to close in person service at 11 p.m., a provision originally issued under Seventh Amended Executive Order 2020-20. The requirement for bars and restaurants to space groups six feet apart or separate tables with properly sanitized glass or plexiglass remains in the renewed executive order.  

All five Oklahoma Congressmembers vote against Trump's second impeachment

All five of Oklahoma's U.S. Representatives voted against the second impeachment of President Donald Trump yesterday, which passed the lower chamber by a vote of 232-197, with 10 Republicans joining the Democrats in approving the article.

I posted Congresswoman Bice's statement yesterday. Here are comments from the other four Oklahoma congressmen:

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Bice opposes "rushed" impeachment, decries political expediency and effort to divide rather than heal

Bice Statement on Impeachment Vote

Washington, DC - Representative Stephanie Bice (OK-05) released the following statement regarding today's vote to impeach President Trump.

“Today’s rushed vote is one for political expediency that will only impede efforts to heal the nation, and therefore I will not be voting to impeach President Trump. I will not vote to further divide this nation at a time when we should be focused on helping the American people and unifying the country.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Sen. Bergstrom files Oklahoma Home-Based Business Fairness Act

State Sen. Micheal Bergstrom introduces the Oklahoma Home-Based Business Fairness Act

OKLAHOMA CITY –  In an effort to promote the creation of small businesses across the state, Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair, filed the Oklahoma Home-Based Business Fairness Act on Thursday.

Senate Bill 316 would ensure that no municipality could prohibit a home-based business to apply, register or obtain a permit, license, variance or other type of prior approval from the municipality to operate the business.

Under the measure, municipalities would be allowed to establish reasonable regulations for a home-based business if the regulations are tailored to protect public health and safety, ensure the business activity is compatible with residential use of the property, complies with state and federal law and paying applicable taxes.

Municipalities may not require a home-based business to rezone the property for commercial use or install fire sprinklers in a residential dwelling with more than two units.

“Despite the difficult times we have been facing, the American Dream is alive and well in our country, but we must do all we can to ensure burdensome regulations are not discouraging the entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens,” Bergstrom said.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

1889 Institute: Eliminate social distancing, focus resources to protect the vulnerable

Eliminate social distancing and focus resources to protect the vulnerable
By Brad Galbraith

In the military, reliable intelligence is a critical component of reducing risk in engagement. Knowledge reduces risk and minimizes casualties and collateral damage. Similarly, in the fight against COVID-19, governments must continually gather information and respond with greater agility as new knowledge necessitates a policy change.

Upon the outbreak of COVID-19, little was known about it. Symptomatically, it was challenging to confirm one had the disease given the expanding list of symptoms. Despite what little information existed, numerous state and local governments began imposing extreme measures to “flatten the curve.” Meanwhile, bona fide experts prepared for the worst while acknowledging a significant lack of knowledge.

However, over the last several months, our knowledge about the coronavirus has grown. Initial policies, arising from swift action, must now yield to better strategies founded on reliable science and which are responsive to new knowledge. For example, we now know that universal lockdowns have significant repercussions on our economic, mental, and physical health. We also know of one crucial attribute of COVID-19 – it has an asymmetric fatality rate. That is, the virus is particularly dangerous for the aged and individuals with specific pre-existing adverse health conditions while the risk to life is almost nonexistent for the young.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Sen. Burns files bill to protect religious freedom and prohibit gov't closure of churches

Sen. George Burns introduces legislation modifying the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act

State Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, has filed a measure that would modify the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act to ensure government entities cannot close churches, religious institutions or houses of worship.

The measure is a response to the closure of churches and houses of worship across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill 216 would add that the closure of a religious institution, or the declaration of a religious institution as “non-essential,” would be deemed a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion. The measure also states that a government entity cannot restrict access to religious facilities or gatherings as long as the institution is not engaged in illegal activities.

“Many churches across the nation were forced to close their doors due to government overreach during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Burns said. “Fortunately, my church carried on in a safe manner.

“During a health emergency, it’s absolutely important to take precautions and do all we can to ensure we keep ourselves and others safe, but it’s ridiculous to think that the government could close churches by labeling them as ‘non-essential,’ while other businesses, such as casinos, may remain open. This is a direct attack on our freedom of religion.”

While churches in Oklahoma were not forced to completely close last spring, many shut their doors after social gatherings of 10 or more people were prohibited, making it nearly impossible to hold in-person worship. Fifteen states across the nation have exempted religious gatherings from their COVID-19 restrictions.

If signed into law, the measure would become effective on Nov. 1.

Small: Kamala-proofing Oklahoma's children

Kamala Proofing Oklahoma’s Children
By Jonathan Small

If Oklahoma wants to stop the socialist and anti-American offensive being waged by politicians like Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi, Oklahomans must act to “Kamala Proof” what is being taught to Oklahoma kids.

Consider the dangerous rules adopted by the Democrat leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives. Under those rules, House legislation will no longer refer to a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, nephew, niece, husband, wife, etc. Instead, legislation will use phrases such as parent, child, sibling, parent-in-law, and child-in-law.

The new House rules even ban the use of the words “himself or herself” and instead mandate that “themself” will be used instead.

Democrats don’t want to “risk” referring to someone as male who wants to be referred to as female, regardless of biological reality. In fact, U.S. House Democrats and some Oklahoma Democrats are trying to force boys and men in girls’ bathrooms and males in girls’ sports.

To her credit, Oklahoma Congressman Stephanie Bice, a mother of two girls who represents Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, saw right through the scheme and voted against this insane rule.