Saturday, September 19, 2020

1889 Institute: To save the Oklahoma judiciary, we must reform it


To Save the Oklahoma Judiciary, We Must Reform It

The Oklahoma Supreme Court too often acts as though it is a super legislature rather than the state’s highest court. It should be a neutral arbiter, applying the laws passed by the actual Legislature to cases that come before it. Instead, the Court appears to first determine the policy result it desires and then dream up the arbitrary legal reasoning necessary to justify that result.

The Oklahoma Legislature is not required to sit idly while the Oklahoma Supreme Court abuses its constitutional authority. It can—and should—act to rein in the Supreme Court. In fact, legislators have a responsibility to jealously guard their own institutional power. After all, we sent them to the Capitol as our representatives. It is what we hired them to do, and they have a duty to do it.

The surest way to reform the Court is to change the way justices are selected. That process is dominated by the Oklahoma Bar Association, under a system documented to produce a more left-wing judiciary than other selection methods. Unfortunately, in Oklahoma, doing so would require the heavy lift of a constitutional amendment.

But the Legislature is not without recourse.

OCPA: Democrats ignoring the law and courts to attack needy children

Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, issued the following statement Wednesday in response to House Democrats attacking a state program that serves the educational needs of low-income and minority children.

“House Democrats claim Governor Kevin Stitt cannot use federal COVID funds to help low-income and minority students stay in private schools. The text of the federal law that provided the funding, rulings from both the U.S. Supreme Court and Oklahoma Supreme Court, and Attorney General Mike Hunter’s own award-winning brief in a prior court case all say House Democrats are wrong. Over and over, the legality of allowing parents to use taxpayer funds to pay for private school has been upheld so long as the program is viewpoint neutral. The governor’s plan meets all criteria. It is very disturbing that House Democrats would try to take money out of the pockets of needy children to deprive them of a quality education, especially at a time when many public schools are refusing to provide even the most basic in-person instruction.”

Friday, September 18, 2020

State Election Board officials caution voters about mailing from “OKVOTE” organization

State Election Board Officials Caution Voters About Mailing From “OKVOTE” Organization

(Oklahoma City) – Officials with the Oklahoma State Election Board cautioned voters about a mailing from a Tulsa-based organization, “OKVOTE,” after state and county election offices received several complaints from voters this week.

The mailing is an unsolicited, pre-filled voter registration application accompanied by a letter that mistakenly advises some recipients that “according to State Election Board records” they are not registered to vote at their current address – even though official Election Board records actually show many of the recipients who have contacted election officials are already properly registered.

“State and county election officials are not affiliated with OKVOTE nor with this mailing,” State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said. “Although we know OKVOTE has good intentions, this mailing has caused confusion by mistakenly telling some registered voters that they are not registered to vote at their address. We encourage voters who received this letter to use the official OK Voter Portal or contact their County Election Board to confirm their voter registration.”

Hern joins GOP caucus in introducing "Commitment to America" platform

Hern joins Republican Conference to introduce “Commitment to America” platform

WASHINGTON, DC – This morning, Representative Kevin Hern (OK-01) joined Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Republican Whip Steve Scalise (LA-01), and the rest of the House Republican Conference to formally announce the Commitment to America agenda, which will focus on restoring the American way of life, rebuilding the greatest economy in American history, and renewing the American Dream.

“The atmosphere was full of hope and opportunity this morning,” said Rep. Hern. “While Democrats focus on everything that separates us, Leader McCarthy laid out a plan of unity that celebrates American exceptionalism and seeks to restore what has been lost this year. My colleagues and I have been working on this Commitment for a while, compiling over 150 policy proposals to support the key promises to Restore, Rebuild, and Renew.

“We all believe that America is worth fighting for; there is no place like it. Only in America can someone like me start with nothing and – with a lot of hard work and setbacks along the way – build something successful and have the opportunity to serve my community in Congress. With this Commitment to America, we are promising that same opportunity to all Americans. I am living proof that the American Dream is not dead. I want the next generations to know that anything is possible with a big idea and lot of hard work. Your Republican leaders have a clear path forward, a legislative agenda to benefit all American families, businesses, and communities.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

1889 Institute: About those roads in Texas...

About Those Roads in Texas
By Ben Lepak

Perhaps you have encountered a phenomenon most Oklahomans are familiar with: cruising south on I-35, as soon as you cross the Red River the road gets noticeably smoother. The painted lane stripes get a little brighter and the roadside “Welcome to Texas” visitors’ center gleams in the sunlight, a modern and well-maintained reminder of how much more money the Lonestar State spends on public infrastructure than little old Oklahoma.

Or does it? Why are the roads so much, well, better in Texas? Turns out, it isn’t the amount of money spent, at least not when compared to the overall size of the state’s economy and personal income of its inhabitants. Figures compiled by 1889 Institute reveal that Oklahoma actually spends significantly more on roads than Texas as a percentage of both state GDP and personal income. The data was from 2016, before Oklahoma’s tax and spending increases of recent years. The gap is likely greater today.

Stitt praises DHS certification of Oklahoma's REAL-ID compliance

OKLAHOMA CITY (Sept. 15, 2020)—Governor Kevin Stitt today praised the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) announcement that the State of Oklahoma is in full compliance with the REALID Act and regulation. 

This notification comes after three years of hard work by employees at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) to implement a new system and standards to allow Oklahoma to come into compliance with REAL ID regulations. 

“The team at the Department of Public Safety has worked tirelessly to update systems and take the necessary steps to implement this critical program,” said Governor Kevin Stitt.“Thanks to their dedication, Oklahomans will be able to use their REAL ID compliant licenses to travel seamlessly across the U.S. and enter federal facilities. By implementing REAL ID, we are also ensuring our state remains competitive, successfully attracts new businesses and retains our hardworking people as we continue to make Oklahoma a Top Ten state.”

DPS issued the first REAL ID compliant credential to the public on June 29 and is currently in week eight of a 16-week statewide rollout. By mid-November, Oklahomans will be able to obtain a REAL ID compliant credential at all DPS facilities and tag agent locations. 

“I am extremely proud of all of our employees and partners and their dedication to seeing this project through,” said DPS Commissioner John Scully. “Employees working on this project have worked weekends and nights to ensure that our state achieved this goal. Not only have we achieved becoming REAL ID compliant, but we have also modernized our entire credential issuance system. We thank Oklahomans for being patient with our agency as we implement the new system and work through growing pains.” 

Due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, DHS extended the REAL ID enforcement deadline through October 1, 2021. This means regular Oklahoma driver licenses and ID cards will continue to be accepted for boarding a plane and entering federal facilities until that date. 

Oklahomans can learn more about REAL ID and how to obtain one at

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

'Unite Norman' succeeds in getting councilmember recall certified

RECALL CERTIFIED! Unite Norman’s Recall Effort Certified for Council Member Petrone

Mayor’s Recall Certification Will Not Be Announced Till Tomorrow — and Unite Norman Cautions about Legal Precedence Below;

ALSO: Grassroots Groups Cautions against Council Member Bierman’s Planned Doxxing of List of Petition Signers in the Mayoral Recall effort, Citing Intimidation and Harassment

NORMAN — Unite Norman responded to the City Clerk’s announcement today that the signature-gathering effort to recall Council Member Petrone is certified and will now head to the ballot box.

The announcement comes after the grassroots organization turned in more than 20,000 signatures to recall Mayor Clark, and thousands of signatures to recall Council Member Petrone, and after forcing the resignation already of Council Member Wilson in Ward 5.

Small: the Electoral College matters to minorities

The Electoral College matters to minorities
By Jonathan Small

Rather than have a nationwide popular vote, the United States chooses its president through the Electoral College with the outcome tied to multiple state-level elections. This system ensures voters in smaller states like Oklahoma are still prized by presidential candidates. But it has also ensured minority groups of all types can wield greater influence even as consensus-building is incentivized.

The Electoral College’s benefit has accrued not only to those interested in specific issues—such as pro-life voters or environmentalists—but to racial minorities as well.

Consider this. In the last presidential election, roughly 130 million people voted. Roughly 35 million votes were cast by racial minorities. If we eliminated the Electoral College and chose the president based solely on popular vote, the president could be selected solely by white people.

But in the state elections that ultimately choose the president through the Electoral College, black voters represent a key share of the voting population and have greater sway.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Music Monday: God's Gonna Cut You Down

This week's Music Monday is God's Gonna Cut You Down, an American folk song posthumously released and sung in 2006 by Johnny Cash.


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

Saturday, September 12, 2020

OCPA column: Notable support for school choice

Notable support for school choice
By Jonathan Small

In politics, as in retail, consumer demand drives product selection, only politicians offer policies rather than baked goods. So it’s notable that multiple speakers strongly advocated for school choice policies every night of the recent Republican National Convention.

That type of strong, vocal support only happens when politicians are certain a policy is both popular and beneficial, as several speakers demonstrated.

Sarah Hughes, whose eight-year-old son is a beneficiary of a Wisconsin school choice program, told national viewers her son “would have slipped through the cracks in public schools” but now has been provided the educational opportunity that will allow him “to succeed.”

Tera Myers, whose son has Down syndrome and is a beneficiary of an Ohio school-choice program, likewise noted her son says school choice “helped my dreams come true” and allowed him to become the “best I can be.”

Such stories are not outliers, nor are they isolated to places far from Oklahoma. Our state has seen dramatic success stories generated by school choice.

For example, in north Tulsa this year Crossover Preparatory Academy continued educating students through distance means when Tulsa Public Schools effectively threw in the towel, other than having online review of past content.

Many of the low-income, all-male and mostly minority students at Crossover Preparatory Academy in North Tulsa attend that private school because of a state tax credit for donations to scholarship-granting organizations.

The benefits of their private-school education can be seen by comparing those students to their socio-economic counterparts still in Tulsa Public Schools. A TPS official recently told the State Board of Education that district now expects that kids “who might otherwise have been predicted to be two years below grade level” are instead going to be “approximately three years below grade level.”

The kids at Crossover still have opportunity thanks to education, but many kids in TPS do not and will pay the price for years.

Former Rep. Jason Nelson, who created a state program that pays for children with special needs to attend private schools, has reported some parents “have told me that it saved their child’s life.” That is not hyperbole. Oklahoma’s school-choice programs have served children with special needs, teens recovering from addiction, survivors of horrendous childhood abuse, and more. School-choice has not only changed lives but saved them. 

As the nation grapples with issues of inequality, one of the best paths forward is to expand school choice in Oklahoma and elsewhere. As Donald Trump Jr. bluntly noted, if officials really want to “help minorities in underserved communities,” the best option is to “let parents choose what school is best for their kids.”

Ja’Ron Smith, deputy assistant to the president, noted at the RNC that education “is the great equalizer.” He’s right. It’s time we give all students of all races and economic backgrounds a greater chance at success through school choice.

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