Wednesday, May 31, 2017

OKC Mayor Mick Cornett announces candidacy for Governor

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett today announced that he will shortly be launching a campaign for Governor:

Cornett, a Republican, has been mayor of Oklahoma City since 2004. He would be joining three other Republicans running for Governor: attorney Gary Richardson, State Auditor Gary Jones, and Lieut. Gov. Todd Lamb.

Gov. Fallin Signs Budget Bill, Highlights 2017 Legislative Session

Governor Mary Fallin Signs Budget Bill, Highlights Successes in 2017 Legislative Session

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today signed the Fiscal Year 2018 budget bill (Senate Bill 860) into law, which closes an $878 million shortfall, maintains common education funding at current levels, and prevents the closings of hospitals and nursing homes. The 2018 fiscal year appropriated budget will be $6,830,177,825. It is $37,782,641, or 0.55 percent less than the revised fiscal year 2017 appropriated budget, which includes supplementals and the revenue failure.

“Developing a budget in this difficult fiscal and political climate is never easy,” said Fallin. “This plan keeps our government from shutting down and, despite challenging circumstances, funds our core mission services. We worked hard to protect key core services – common education, health and human services and public safety. This budget minimizes cuts and puts some recurring revenue on the table. It repeals certain exemptions in the sales tax code.

“It also modifies the incentives on the gross production tax from 1 percent to 4 percent on current producing wells that were drilled between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2015,” the governor said. “That will provide about $92 million for the 2018 fiscal year budget. Various rebates for the oil and gas industry that cost the state about $46 million a year have been suspended next year. Of the $878 million shortfall facing lawmakers this session, about $140 million is being made up from the oil and gas industry.

“My top priorities remain strengthening education and workforce, reducing the state’s incarceration rates and improving health outcomes.  Whether it’s improving public safety, fixing our roads and bridges, boosting education or raising our health outcomes and indicators, the successes of this session to protect core services in the midst of an energy crisis will help to make Oklahoma a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Fallin said.

“But we missed an opportunity to do more to reform our budget process and find efficiencies,” she said. “We still need to do more to address structural imbalances in the state’s budget, fix problematic tax policies and make available more recurring and stable revenue.

“As this year’s session ends, I’m pleased that legislators approved a fee on cigarettes. Smoking is Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death. Lawmakers approving an additional $1.50 per pack is the most important thing they could do to improve Oklahoma’s health ranking,” Fallin said.

2018 Fiscal Year Budget

A Budget that Protects Core Government Services

“It is not an ideal budget, but it avoids draconian cuts to our core services such as education, health and human services, and public safety; unfortunately it leaves many agencies facing cuts for the 6th year in a row. It puts some recurring revenue on the table, but does not address the structural budget challenges that I have been working to fix since I took office. Year after year, I have repeated my warning about our reliance on one-time funding and our eroding tax base, and yet again we have crafted a budget that only fixes some of the defects in our funding formula.

“There is still work to do. When legislators return next year, they will already face a $400 million hole caused by one-time funds and $100 million of obligations coming due over the next 12 months that will need to be paid. Hopefully, in the months that follow they will begin putting together a plan to address the budget and fill that hole.” – Governor Mary Fallin

2017 Policy Highlights

Criminal Justice Reform
  • Senate Bill 603: Requires all offenders receive a validated risk and needs assessment that will guide providers to programs available to offenders, and mandates the Department of Corrections to create an individualized case plan for each offender.
  • SB 604: Provides training for law enforcement relating to domestic violence victim safety at the pretrial stage. (pending governor’s signature)
  • House Bill 2284: Provides training for public defenders, district attorneys and judges. Training is to include substance abuse, behavioral health, and impact and dynamics of domestic violence.
These three measures were the result of recommendations from Governor Fallin’s Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force. The task force recommended nine other bills, but they failed to win passage, mostly because of resistance from the chairman of the House of Representatives Judicial Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee.

“Our prisons are way over capacity, and our prison population is expected to grow by 25 percent in the next 10 years. Oklahoma’s overall incarceration rate is the second-highest in the country, and we lead the nation in female incarceration – incarcerating women at two-and-a-half times the national average. By 2018, we will have the highest incarceration rate in the country.

“By failing to address these issues, Oklahoma could be forced to build three new prisons over the next decade, at a cost of almost $2 billion to taxpayers if no further action is taken. One of the bills, House Bill 2281, included important sentencing changes to low-level property crimes, and would have had a particularly important impact on our female prison population. Without jeopardizing public safety, with these bills, we could have implemented  smart, data-driven solutions to safely and prudently fix our criminal justice system.” – Governor Mary Fallin

Educational Attainment and Improving Oklahoma’s Schools

“A thriving, prosperous economy must have a skilled, educated workforce. That starts with good teachers in the classrooms providing our children a quality education five days a week. We have to ensure more existing dollars are reaching every classroom by tackling administrative inefficiencies head-on.” – Governor Mary Fallin, 2017 State of the State Address
  • House Joint Resolution 1028: Approves in whole the Assessment and Accountability Report prepared by the state Department of Education and approved by the state Board of Education.
  • HB 1576: Directs the Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability to adopt rules requiring coursework or training in the use of digital and other instructional technologies as a requisite for teacher program accreditation by Nov. 1. The bill also requires public schools to offer professional development training to teachers on the use of digital resources in classrooms.
  • HB 1578: Creates a task force of a cross section of educators, business and political leaders to study multiple facets of the State Aid Funding Formula including formula structure, efficiencies and cost saving measures regarding the footprint of school districts. In addition, it creates the School Finance Review Commission for ongoing oversight of school finance including the school funding formula, teacher compensation, benefits and administration costs. (pending governor’s signature)
  • HB 1693: Revises the A-F school grading system and brings the state into compliance with Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) standards.
  • HB 2155: Allows local schools to create the Individual Career Academic Plan (ICAP) for students in grades 6-12 to strengthen college and career goals through various activities.
  • SB 84 and HB 1760: Increases the accountability measures in the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) by requiring a study of students who do not achieve the academic level required to be promoted to the fourth grade; it also makes RSA parent committees permanent and raises the reading level required to pass from limited-knowledge to proficiency in the 2017-18 school year.
  • SB 301: Expands the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program, which provides a scholarship for students to a private school of choice, to children who are in an out-of-home placement with the Department of Human Services (DHS) or Office of Juvenile Affairs; or who were adopted while in the permanent custody of DHS.
  • SB 563: Authorizes school districts, including technology centers, to participate in or administer a cooperative purchasing agreement with one or more public agency.
Improving Health Outcomes

“Our overall health ranking has improved from 49th in the country at the beginning of my term, to 46th today. That’s progress, but none of us are going to settle for a ranking of 46th. Together, we can continue to improve our health. As Oklahomans, we can do better. We all know that we’re facing a tight state budget in the upcoming fiscal year. But that doesn’t mean we shift our focus from our health and wellness. It helps all of us – who are able – to be physically active. It keeps us in shape, helps us deal with stress and improves our chances of being healthy. – Governor Mary Fallin
  • HB 1703: Establishes a program to promote, incentivize and provide support for pregnancy resource centers, also known as “crisis pregnancy centers,” which assist pregnant women by providing counseling, ultrasounds, prenatal care, parenting classes, maternity clothes, adoption options, and other goods and services.
  • HB 2039: Allows for Naloxone, a drug that can save lives from opioid overdose, to be prescribed and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist. It also allows pharmacists to dispense medication so as to save people from taking numerous trips to the pharmacy.
  • HB 2406: Authorizes the development of health insurance stabilization tools in order to reduce or maintain individual premiums, increase health insurer competition in the marketplace, and stabilize the individual market to enable Oklahomans to continue to access health insurance. (pending governor’s signature)
  • HB 2389: Authorizes a bond issue to finance the construction of a new Department of Health laboratory to replace the department’s antiquated and dilapidated laboratory, which is in danger of losing accreditation.
  • SB 748: Allows the Department of Human Services (subject to funding) to create a pilot program to improve socioeconomic outcomes for children in state custody.
  • SB 229: Allows juveniles in the care of the Office of Juvenile Affairs to receive appropriate treatment for mental illness where applicable.
  • SB 632: Streamlines the process for transfer and/or enrollment of students in state care, including timely delivery of records. It also establishes the Education Compact for Students in State Care Advisory Committee.
  • SB 773: Directs the development of a Request for Information (RFI) for care coordination models for newborns through children 18 years old who are in the custody of the Department of Human Services.    
  • SB 734: Expands the entities that can employ behavioral health case managers and peer recovery support specialists to include tribal facilities and Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. Also removes the two-year history of addiction time limit placed on an opioid substitution treatment program.
  • SB 816: Directs medical education residency programs to give priority to in-state students with good academic standing when assigning clinical rotation.
  • SB 845: Smoking Cessation and Prevention Act of 2017 - The purpose of this legislation is to prevent people, especially children, from taking up smoking.
  • SB 870: Adds outcome incentive payments to the list of services a parent or legal guardian must pay if a court orders such for their child who is in the custody of the Office of Juvenile Affairs.
Public Safety
  • HB 1845: Brings Oklahoma into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act while protecting the privacy and freedom of our citizens. Those Oklahomans who are concerned about privacy and liberty will be allowed to opt out and receive a state-compliant ID, but those citizens who need access to federal installations or who desire to travel uninhibited can receive a federally compliant ID.
  • HB 1468: Creates the hidden predator act; modifies the statute of limitations for rape and forcible sodomy against children to be at the 45th birthday of the alleged victim.
  • SB 35: Allows for concealed or unconcealed carry for individuals 21 or older with a handgun license or valid military ID or honorably discharged service members. 
  • SB 397: Makes exceptions for firearms carried for self-defense in regards to bus transportation.
  • SB 643: Improves statewide law enforcement ability to fight impaired driving, per recommendation from the Governor’s Impaired Driving Prevention Advisory Council (GIDPAC). (pending governor’s signature)

Veterans and Military

  • HB 1198: Directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a registry of all veterans in the state, which will include any person who served on active duty in the armed forces, was discharged, or released with an honorable discharge. This creates an accurate listing of veterans in the state, which could have numerous advantages, including more efficient provision of services, reducing fraud, and accurate statistics.
  • SB 543: Authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish and maintain a State Veterans Cemetery. Funding will be sought through the Veterans Cemetery Grants Program provided for by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Such grants will be used by the state of Oklahoma to provide a final resting place for Oklahoma veterans in commemoration of their service to our nation.
  • SB 690: Instructs the State Regents for Higher Education, Oklahoma Military Department, and schools of social work to develop a Guard advocacy program for Oklahoma National Guard soldiers and airmen.  The program will allow Oklahoma universities with social work programs to partner with the Oklahoma National Guard to allow social work students to assist National Guard soldiers and airmen through behavioral health issues while working on their required social work practicum.
Government Efficiency

“Government can always find ways to save taxpayer dollars by operating more efficiently and effectively. The reforms we continue to pursue on a state level will help to produce more flexible and responsive state agencies, eliminate government waste and save money.” – Governor Mary Fallin
  • HB 1533: Requires the state bond adviser office and the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to create a debt affordability study to analyze Oklahoma’s debt position.
  • HB 1720: Allows insurance companies to provide a discount, rate reduction or other related adjustment for new insurable property built to resist loss due to tornado or catastrophic windstorm events, only when the company determines the discount or reduction to be actuarially justified.
  • HB 1833: Abolishes the Council of Firefighter Training and transfers those duties to the state fire marshal’s office.
  • HB 2298: Sunsets the tax credits for the wind industry on July 1, 2017.
  • SB 867: Expands laws for horizontal drilling, adds rights for vertical well owners and creates protections for mineral rights owners.
  • HB 1388: Modifies the nuisance provisions for agricultural operations.  The purpose of modifying these provisions is to provide protection to farmers and ranchers from frivolous and malicious lawsuits against their operations should they expand or introduce new technology to the operation.
  • HB 1431 and HB 1994: Completes the process or privatization for the Oklahoma Sorghum Commission and the Oklahoma Oilseed Commission. Privatizing the commissions to a non-appropriated agency saves money in the state budget and gives the commission freedom to retain any earned income.
  • SB 326: Prohibits the possession or importation of exotic swine. This bill protects Oklahoma’s domestic livestock and native wildlife from foreign diseases. In addition, it guards against the potential threat exotic swine pose to private and public property, historic landmarks and the ecosystem by rooting near waterways, causing increased erosion and contamination of water sources.
  • SB 595: Provides protection to farmers' markets registered with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.  It also adds an assumption of risk for farmers’ market attendees so they cannot hold the market responsible for inherent risks.
  • SB 153: Removes the requirement that the Tourism and Recreation Department use monies collected from entrance or day-use charges at state parks for capital improvements.  This allows the revenue to be used for operations in parks where the fees are generated.
  • SB 872: Moves ownership of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum to the city of Oklahoma City, relieving the state of its future financial responsibility.
Economic Development and Commerce
  • HB 1681: Directs the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission to administer an airport inspection program for all public-use airports in the state of Oklahoma.
  • HB 2351: Allows every county, not just those with populations of 500,000 or more, to establish a tax incentive district. This helps level the playing field for suburban and rural counties seeking to attract new industries.
  • SB 120: Maintains the job-generating tax incentive to employers and employees in the aerospace industry by extending sunset date on the tax credit until Jan. 1, 2026.

Barry Switzer Endorses David Holt for OKC Mayor

Barry Switzer Endorses David Holt for Mayor of Oklahoma City

(Oklahoma City, May 30th) -- For as long as anyone can remember, legendary OU and Dallas Cowboys football coach Barry Switzer has fought for Oklahoma City’s future.   In 1993, he stood next to Mayor Ron Norick and campaigned for passage of the original MAPS.   Ever since, whether it’s advocating for OKC’s kids, supporting new quality of life amenities, or simply handing out medals at the Memorial Marathon, Coach Switzer has always answered the call.   “The King” has always believed that what happens in Oklahoma City affects the whole state.

Now, Coach Switzer is asking the voters of Oklahoma City to continue Oklahoma City’s renaissance and elect David Holt the next Mayor of Oklahoma City.

“I strongly endorse David Holt to be Oklahoma City’s next Mayor,” said Coach Switzer.   "He is by far the most qualified candidate.   To keep the Oklahoma City renaissance going, let’s elect David Holt!"

“I am honored to receive Coach Switzer’s endorsement,” said Holt.  “There’s a short list of people who have been as committed to OKC for as long as Coach Switzer. I am humbled that Coach Switzer believes in our campaign.”  

The election to choose Oklahoma City’s next Mayor will be held February 13, 2018.   For more information about David Holt’s campaign, visit

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lt. Gov. Lamb to headline Shelley Brumbaugh for HD76 fundraiser


May 30, 2017 -- Shelley Brumbaugh, candidate in the special election for House District 76, is kicking off her campaign with a fundraising reception this Thursday, June 1, with special host Lt. Governor Todd Lamb.

She stated, "Directly after I announced my candidacy at the State OK GOP Convention, I was honored to receive a public announcement of support from Lt. Gov. Lamb to the crowd. I am thankful to him for not only offering his verbal support, but also rolling up his sleeves and working alongside me on the campaign trail as we share our principles and invite our community and friends to join the campaign."

Lt. Governor Todd Lamb stated, "I am pleased to give my support to Shelley Brumbaugh, as she seeks to continue the fine service her late husband gave our state. Shelley is a businesswoman who has a demonstrated history of service to her community, integrity in her actions, and a work ethic that will ensure that her district will have continued stability in quality representation for their priorities."

The Shelley Brumbaugh for State House campaign fundraiser kickoff will take place Thursday, June 1, 2017, from 5:00pm-6:30pm, at  Indian Springs Country Club, 16006 E. 131st Street South, Broken Arrow. To attend please RSVP either online or at 918.833.1400. Please consider a generous donation to advance her conservative cause.

For more information on Shelley Brumbaugh, please visit her Facebook page.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Music Monday: Armed Forces Salute

This week's Music Monday is Armed Forces Salute, arranged by Bob Lowden. I played this awesome arrangement many Memorial Day Sundays with the Tulsa Bible Church Orchestra.


Click to go below the page break to see all previous Music Monday posts. Do you have a song you'd like to suggest for a future Music Monday? Email me at

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Severe weather possible this evening

The National Weather Service is forecasting a high potential for severe weather this evening for much of eastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas, and southern Missouri. The risk is for destructive winds, very large hail (baseball to grapefruit size), and possible strong tornadoes.

The charts below are from the National Weather Service office in Tulsa:

Probability of area being under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning this evening
Probability of area being under a Tornado Warning this evening
Severe weather advice
Stay safe this evening!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Sine Die: Legislature passes budget, new taxes, adjourns

"There is nothing that will upset a state economic condition like a legislature. It's better to have termites in your house than the legislature [in session]."

"The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets."

"Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, they don't hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous."

The above quotes from Will Rogers, Oklahoma's favorite son, come to mind when thinking about the potential from the 2017 legislative session that adjourned sine die today.

The House passed the $6.8B FY2018 budget by a vote of 57-42, with 16 House Republicans (mostly from the conservative wing) and all 26 Democrats voted against it. The Senate had previously passed the appropriations bill on Wednesday. Shortly after that vote, the House narrowly passed a $257M cigarette tax smoking cessation fee 51-43. 18 Republicans and 25 Democrats opposed that measure, which I believe fails to meet constitutional muster.

On the Senate side, they passed a $123M tax hike on vehicle sales, which also likely fails the constitutionality test. 14 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted against that bill, which passed 25-18.

Conservative think-tank OCPA had fairly positive comments about the end of session, noting that "the Legislature deserves credit for passing a budget that minimizes damaging tax increases on Oklahomans compared to what was called for at the start of session."

Governor Mary Fallin kicked off the year with proposals to raise a variety of taxes by nearly 2.6 billion dollars. While she did get her cigarette tax smoking cessation fee increase of $257M, she didn't get her $635M fuel tax increase, or her $1.7B sales tax hike. That is a positive that we can take from this session.

However, a real and very dangerous question must be answered by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Legislature very clearly and brazenly defied Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which states that "No revenue bill shall be passed during the five last days of the session," as well as "Any revenue bill originating in the House of Representatives may become law without being submitted to a vote of the people of the state if such bill receives the approval of three-fourths (3/4) of the membership of the House of Representatives and three-fourths (3/4) of the membership of the Senate and is submitted to the Governor for appropriate action." The aforementioned tax/fee hikes were passed within that 5-day window and without 3/4ths approval, clearly breaking the spirit and letter of the law, which is in the State Constitution by virtue of the Oklahoma voters passing State Question 640 in 1992 in response to the Legislature passing tax increases.

If the courts do not clearly respond to this action, future legislatures will be able to raise revenue at any time and in any manner with complete impunity.

Three takeaways:
  1. It was not a good legislative session. There were difficulties resolved in poor ways.
  2. It could have been much worse. Even greater damage was averted.
  3. It could be much worse in the future if Article 5 Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution is not properly enforced.

Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem comments on 2017 session

Sen. Pro Tempore Mike Schulz (R-Altus)
Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem comments on 2017 session
Says REAL ID, energy jobs policy wins during challenging budget year

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz commented on the 2017 session, saying great policy bookended a session dominated by a $1 billion budget shortfall.

“The Oklahoma Senate worked this session with the goal of ensuring the policies we enacted had long-term vision and set Oklahoma on the path to success now and years down the line. Despite a session that was dominated by the $1 billion shortfall, the Senate was able to enact important policies that will help grow our economy, create jobs and generate wealth, and yield new revenues for the state budget. The Energy Jobs Act of 2017 will help kick start oil and gas drilling, allowing the industry to help lead Oklahoma’s economic recovery. And getting Oklahoma in compliance with the federal REAL ID law ensures Oklahomans can maintain access to military bases to support our service men and women and board domestic flights with state issued ID,” said Schulz, R-Altus.

“The budget process was difficult this year. The Oklahoma Senate showed its willingness to compromise – passing a revenue bill that would have meant $514 million in new, recurring revenue for the state. But without compromise from others in budget negotiations, we couldn’t reach a deal and moved forward. Initially, 18 – 20 percent cuts were feared at the outset of the year. But the budgets of common education, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, and the Department of Public Safety were kept whole while other agency cuts average less than five percent. Like most budgets passed by the Legislature, the FY’18 budget is not a perfect bill but it is an incredible accomplishment considering the Legislature had to deal with a budget hole of $1 billion and some refused to compromise.”

“This was a challenging session, but I’m proud of every member of the Oklahoma Senate for their dedication to our state and willingness to put our state above partisan politics. I’m proud to lead this chamber and want to thank each senator for their service to Oklahoma.”

Below is a list of some of the 2017 legislative accomplishments of the Oklahoma Senate:


  • HB 2298 (Schulz):  accelerates the sunset date of the zero-emissions tax credit for wind energy to July 1, 2017, saving the state millions of dollars in future budget years.
  • HB 2343 (David):  expands parameters for which the Oklahoma Tax Commission can target entities for noncompliance with certain sales tax laws. The measure is expected to generate $17 million in new revenue.
  • SB 170 (Thompson):  eliminates the automatic income tax cut trigger, preserving lawmakers’ ability to pursue income tax cuts at a future date.
  • HB 2311 (Schulz):  commission to conduct independent performance audits of top 20 appropriated state agencies in order to identify ways in which tax dollars can be used more efficiently and services delivered more effectively.
  • HB 2344 (David): reduces the maximum for the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program by $1 million.
  • HB 2348 (David): “decouples” the standard deduction on state tax returns from federal deductions. The measure is estimated to raise $4 million currently, and prevent millions in an anticipated shortfall if the federal government changes the federal standard deduction. 
  • HB 1427 (Leewright):  authorizes the creation of a dedicated division within the Oklahoma Tax Commission to focus solely on out-of-state vendors who may not be in compliance with Oklahoma tax code.


  • SB 867 (Schulz):  Energy Jobs Act of 2017 allows horizontal drilling in all rock formations, while maintaining protections for other producers. The bill is estimated to generate millions for state and local governments, and foster the creation of thousands of oil and gas jobs. 
  • HB 1845 (Schulz): brings Oklahoma into compliance with the federal REAL ID law ensuring Oklahomans can use their state-issued licenses to gain entry to federal buildings and military installations and to board commercial flights.
  • SB 147 (Schulz): allows concentrated feeding animal operations (CAFO) to be located within a town if the municipality's governing body executes a written waiver of the setback for the particular CAFO, ensuring CAFO’s can continue operations while allowing municipalities to hold them accountable.
  • SB 120 (David):  extends the successful aerospace engineers tax credit.
  • SB 211 (Bice):  allows Sunday alcohol sales if approved by county voters.
  • SB 174 (Bice): allows spouses of liquor retail store owners to own separate stores.
  • SB 593 (Schulz): Protects property rights, puts Oklahoma in line with the other 49 states in regards to private airstrips, and allows FAA to make the determination of setbacks to keep the area safe for air travel.
  • HB 2186 (Holt) (pending): allows movie theatres to serve alcohol provided they receive the appropriate permits.


  • SB 514 (Stanislawski):  creates task force to study ways to reduce administrative costs and improve financial stability of school districts. Another effort to ensure more dollars make it into the classroom to support students and teachers.
  • SB 15 (Bice):  directs the OSDE and State Regents for Higher Education to implement a targeted teacher recruiting program.
  • SB 84 (Bergstrom):  extends the probationary period for a student who cannot pass the third-grade reading test to the 2022-2023 school year.
  • SB 244 (Stanislawski):  requires virtual charter schools to track attendance.
  • SB 301 (Griffin):  exempts children in out-of-home placements with DHS from the requirement to attend a public school regarding the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program.
  • SB 445 (Newhouse):  Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act tax credits.
  • SB 529 (Smalley): increases the family income limit for eligibility under the Oklahoma’s Promise program and expands the tuition scholarship to include more CareerTech programs.
  • HB 1693 (Stanislawski):  puts into place a new framework and basic components for a new A-F school accountability system, ensuring Oklahoma is compliant with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
  • HB 1578 (Stanislawski):  creates the School Finance Review Commission which will study all matters related to school finance in an effort to provide understanding and accountability in school finance.


  • SB 603 (Treat): requires the Department of Corrections to administer a risk and needs assessment for each prisoner. The agency must develop a plan of action based on said assessment. (pending approval by governor)
  • SB 604 (Treat) requires the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training to include personal safety planning necessary at the pretrial stages of a potential criminal case.
  • SB 52 (Fry): requires drivers to physically turn over their driver's license on demand from a peace officer.
  • SB 90 (McCortney):   requires the sheriff or a CLEET-certified deputy sheriff to accompany a reserve force deputy sheriff unless said deputy sheriff received 240 hours of training. Requires them to complete said training in 6 months.
  • SB 252 (Griffin): allows victims impact panel programs to have multiple presenters.
  • SB 273 (Smalley): extends forcible sodomy laws dealing with public employees to include subcontractors and their employees.
  • SB 342 (Holt): creates a task force to examine costs and fees assessed on persons interacting with the criminal justice process.
  • SB 786 (Shaw) reduces charges associated with burglary if no person is present in the home.
  • SB 38 (Thompson):  increases the Forensic Science Improvement Assessment fee from $5 to $10 to support the upkeep of state forensic lab equipment.
  • SB 303 (Smalley) authorizes the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to submit fingerprints to the FBI Rap Back System.


  • SB 741 (Standridge): subject to the availability of funds, directs Oklahoma Health Care Authority to develop and administer a program to encourage participants in the Medicaid program to use primary care services in lieu of emergency room visits in order to drive down health care costs. 
  • SB 765 (Yen): prohibits minors from utilizing tanning beds.
  • SB 773 (David):  directs the OHCA to initiate a request for proposal for care coordination models for children 0-18 years of age.
  • SB 828 (Griffin): creates the Nursing Facility Supplemental Payment Program Revolving Fund under the OHCA which will be used to make supplemental payments of Medicaid and administrative expenses.


  • HB 1703 (Treat):  “Choosing Childbirth Act," which establishes a program to promote, incentivize, and provide support for crisis pregnancy centers.
  • SB 34 (David): strengthens anti-trafficking laws by stating "lack of knowledge of the age of the (trafficking) victim" shall not constitute a defense to human trafficking of a minor.
  • SB 217 (Griffin):  requires a sex offender who is given a suspended sentence to report to local law enforcement and the DOC parole office in their district.
  • SB 717 (Griffin): broadens scope of the Child Care Restricted Registry to include people with a substantiated finding of child abuse.
  • SB 723 (Griffin): broadens the scope of background checks for those applying to be child care providers.
  • SB 726 (Griffin): subjects physicians engaging in telemedicine to the same standards in person healthcare experts are expected to adhere to.
  • SB 748 (Griffin): allows DHS to create a pilot program that focuses on improving socioeconomic outcomes for children in state custody.
  • SB 30 (Griffin):  requires DHS to publicly post information regarding pregnancy help centers contingent on funding being appropriated specifically for this program.
  • HB 1894 (Sykes): helps protect vulnerable patients from being denied life-preserving care by creating a hierarchy of individuals who can make health decisions for someone that is consistently unconscious, incompetent or otherwise mentally or physically incapable of communicating.
  • HB 1468 (Holt): modified the statute of limitations on criminal charges so that minors can now charge the perpetrator until their own 45th birthday.
  • HB 1470 (Holt): modifies the statute of limitation on civil suits regarding sexual assault so that minors can now charge the perpetrator until their own 45th birthday.


  • SB 35 (David): allows active military members and those who are in the Reserves or National Guard who are 21 years of age or older to carry a handgun without a handgun license.  Military members’ extensive training with weapons makes the requirement of having a gun license unnecessary.
  • SB 227 (Simpson): increases service members’ financial and contractual rights by allowing members in the Armed Services or National Guard to cancel services like cell phone contracts, utilities, and health club memberships without penalty when mobilized or deployed.
  • SB 233 (Simpson): adds provision stating that hourly employees shall not miss out on the first 240 hours of their pay when called to active service.
  • SB 543 (Simpson): directs ODVA to establish a state cemetery for veterans addressing a national shortage of space for veterans’ cemeteries and providing a way to honor veterans with a dignified final resting place.
  • SB 730 (Simpson): strikes the requirement for veterans’ centers to implement non-smoking measures by January, 2018.


  • SB 145 (Fields): allows presidential electors to be chosen at a party convention, but not necessarily a statewide convention. Changes the petition requirements to file for an independent bid of the Presidency to include the number of signatures required to form a party.
  • SB 148 (Fields): states that Oklahomans who renew their license must be provided with voter registration services as required by the National Voter Registration Act. Changes of address on the license shall change the address on the registration.
  • SB 153 (Fields):  allows state parks to spend monies collected from entrance or day-use charges at state parks for general improvement of the park.
  • SB 287 (Griffin): directs the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and Department of Environmental Quality to obtain authorization from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to administer all programs regulating oil and gas discharges into the waters of this state.
  • SB 360 (Holt): directs state Election Board to develop a system to allow voters to electronically change information on voter registration.

OCPA comments on the Legislature passing the state budget

OCPA President Jonathan Small

"We appreciate the Legislature's efforts this session, as lawmakers were under intense pressure to massively raise taxes on Oklahomans. Using one-time revenues during recessionary periods is never ideal, but it is preferable to permanent tax increases that cement unreformed spending. Given that total state spending is at an all-time high, many opportunities for additional spending reforms still exist. However, the Legislature deserves credit for passing a budget that minimizes damaging tax increases on Oklahomans compared to what was called for at the start of session.”

FOX23, TulsaWorld shamefully politicize legislators' children

Earlier this week, FOX23 and the Tulsa World cooperated on a story about lawmakers' education choices for their children, shamefully and shamelessly politicizing the children of legislators.

Judging from the article and accompanying videos, it appears that the FOX23 reporter harassed legislators over the past two months over whether they send their children to public schools, private schools, or whether they homeschool.

Children should not be politicized, or made a target due to their parent being in politics. Period, end of sentence.

In this day and age when political opponents and protestors invade private space, stalk, and threaten violence over political differences, there's no wonder why lawmakers would be hesitant to reveal details about the lives and whereabouts of their children to the media or anyone else. Besides, a significant portion of the members asked in the FOX23 video do not have school-aged children.

Shame on FOX23 and the Tulsa World for politicizing lawmakers' children.

Session ends today; votes on cigarette "fee", vehicle sales tax, state budget

As the Oklahoma Legislature prepares to adjourn sine die by 5:00pm, there is still unfinished business to vote on. The House will take up the $6.8B FY2018 budget, as well as the $257M cigarette tax "smoking cessation" fee.

According to Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution, passing measures that raise revenue is clearly unconstitutional, per passage of State Question 640 by Oklahoma voters in 1992. Legislative leadership thinks they can get around that ban by calling the cigarette tax (and other measures) a fee instead. That is simply wrong, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court will likely get a chance to weigh in on the matter.

Whether it's a tax or a fee, it has the same effect on whomever pays it: more money is taken from their wallet by the government. Whether it's a tax or a fee, it has the same effect on state government: more money is taken from citizens and placed in state coffers.

The State Senate will be taking up HB2433, which raises $123M by charging a 1.5% sales tax on the sale of vehicles. This measure passed the House 52-47 on Wednesday.

Oklahoma voters clearly spoke in 1992 that they don't want new revenue, be it taxes or fees, passed in the final week of the legislative session, or passed with less than 3/4ths of the Legislature voting in favor. Further, Oklahoma voters clearly spoke just six months ago by shooting down a $615M tax increase that would have been dedicated to education, which most voters consider to be the top state funding priority.

The Oklahoma Legislature should honor and uphold the letter and spirit of the people's will, and not increase taxes, or fees (as the late Labor Commissioner Mark Costello said, "A fee is nothing more than a tax by another name").

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Shocking new video shows abortionists laughing at their grisly practices

In a new video put out by the Center for Medical Progress, attendees at the 2014 and 2015 National Abortion Federation conventions hold frank discussions about the gruesomeness of their livelihood, even laughing at comments like, "An eyeball just fell down into my lap, and that is gross!"

From National Review:
A shocking new video has just been released by the Center for Medical Progress, the undercover investigative group that in 2015 released videos showing that Planned Parenthood affiliates have profited from selling the body parts of aborted babies.

This latest video is a preview of footage that CMP investigators gathered at the 2014 and 2015 National Abortion Federation conventions, attended by hundreds of members of the abortion industry each year. (The NAF is a major trade group of North American abortion providers, and Planned Parenthood makes up about 50 percent of its members and leadership.)

Here are some of the most horrifying remarks from the brand-new undercover footage. Attendees made some of these comments during official presentations, and others directly to undercover CMP investigators.

Dr. Lisa Harris, the medical director of Planned Parenthood of Michigan: Given that we actually see the fetus the same way, and given that we might actually both agree that there’s violence in here. . . . Let’s just give them all the violence, it’s a person, it’s killing, let’s just give them all that. 

Dr. Ann Schutt-Aine, the director of abortion services for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (which has been referred to local law-enforcement for criminal charges related to fetal-tissue trafficking): If I’m doing a procedure, and I’m seeing that I’m in fear that it’s about to come to the umbilicus [navel], I might ask for a second set of forceps to hold the body at the cervix and pull off a leg or two, so it’s not PBA [partial-birth abortion]. 

Dr. Stacy De-Lin, the director of abortion services for Planned Parenthood of New York City: But we certainly do intact D&Es [dilation and extraction, otherwise known as partial-birth abortion, a method that is illegal under federal law]. 

Dr. Uta Landy, the founder of the Consortium of Abortion Providers (CAPS), Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA): An eyeball just fell down into my lap, and that is gross! [laughter from the crowd] 

Talcott Camp, the deputy director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Health Freedom Project: I’m like — Oh my God! I get it! When the skull is broken, that’s really sharp! I get it! I understand why people are talking about getting that skull out, that calvarium. 

Dr. Susan Robinson, an abortion provider at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte: The fetus is a tough little object, and taking it apart, I mean, taking it apart on Day One is very difficult. . . . You go in there, and you go, “Am I getting the uterus or the fetus? Oh, good, fetus. [Robinson makes a stabbing sound effect] What have I got? Nothing. Let’s try again. 

Below are some comments from the footage that provide further evidence of Planned Parenthood’s involvement in illegally profiting from fetal-tissue trafficking.

Dr. Leslie Drummond, an abortion provider at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (a PPFA affiliate that contracted with a biotech firm to be paid per fetal organ provided): I get a lot of oohs and ahhs from StemExpress [biotech firm]. You know, they’re wanting livers. . . . Last week I was in Sacramento, and she said, “I need four intact limbs.” And I said, you want what? 

Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services for PPFA: You know, sometimes she’ll tell me she wants brain, and we’ll, you know, leave the calvarium in till last, and then try to basically take it, or actually, you know, catch everything and keep it separate from the rest of the tissue so it doesn’t get lost. 

StemExpress procurement manager: There’s a lot of clinics that we work with that, I mean, it helps them out significantly. 

Deb VanDerhei, the national director of CAPS for PPFA: But the truth is that some might want to do it to increase their revenues. And we can’t stop them. 

Dr. Stacy De-Lin, the director of abortion services for Planned Parenthood of NYC: But I think a financial incentive from you guys [CMP investigators posing as tissue buyers] is going to be like . . .  the people who we have to get this approved from will be very happy about it. 

Dr. Paul Blumenthal, the former medical director for PP of Maryland: I know Planned Parenthood sells a lot of stuff [fetal organs] to people.

Read the rest of the National Review article here.

The CMP video was originally posted on YouTube, but censorship of pro-life content reared its ugly head again, as YouTube removed the video. However, various pro-life sites and pages have re-posted the original video on social media, so it can still be viewed.

Watch below:

Bennett, Sanders Comment on OTA funding Trooper Academy

Bennett, Sanders Comment on Trooper Academy

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Department of Public Safety today announced it will hold an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Academy early next year thanks to funding from the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

The announcement was made at the state Capitol during a news conference.

“I’d like to thank the Turnpike Authority and Director Tim Gatz for making this happen,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “I also appreciate House leadership and Oklahoma Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson for helping to facilitate this arrangement.”

“One of the top priorities of state government is protecting our citizens,” said Sanders. “The Oklahoma Highway Patrol was unable to fund an academy this year to hire new troopers. Currently, 790 troopers protect more than 112,000 miles of Oklahoma roads. Having new troopers on our roads will help keep Oklahomans safe.”

State Rep. John Bennett, the chair of the House Public Safety Committee, echoed the thanks to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority for the $5 million that will fund up to 30 recruits for the next trooper academy. The money will fund the academy, future training, equipment, salary and benefits for the troopers for a year.

“I want to thank the Turnpike Authority for working with us when we are in dire need of a trooper academy to help keep our highways and turnpikes safe.

Bennett recalled a story from Pres. Ronald Reagan in which he asked people to imagine a thin blue line separating people and all of the things they love and hold dear from all of the things that threaten harm.

“These boys in brown are part of that thin blue line that keeps all the bad things from getting to all of the good things we enjoy in life,” said Bennett, R-Sallisaw.

Rep. Faught: "Role reversal at the State Capitol"

From State Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee) on Facebook:
This session, we have seen a role reversal here at the State Capitol. Republicans from the Governor on down have proposed new and higher taxes, ultimately passed on to the citizens of this State, while the Democrats are opposing these increased taxes merely for political posturing. There are some of us who have been against these new revenue measures from the beginning of session. We have not been obstructionists, but delivered our fiscal policies to our leadership to avoid these new taxes. We have won some battles by keeping even worse ideas from coming forward, and we have lost other battles. The goal is to continue to grow those who are committed to sound policies that we as Republicans should adhere and to remain an effective voice. I am reminded of what the late Labor Commissioner Mark Costello always reminded me: "A fee is nothing more than a tax by another name".

Today is the next-to-last day of this year's legislative session. This week, I've been wearing a red tie to symbolize my continued opposition to raising taxes on Oklahoma workers and businesses, my objection to unconstitutionally raising taxes in the final week of session, my intent to uphold the wishes of Oklahoma voters, who just six months ago overwhelmingly rejected higher taxes, and to express my support of the Republican platform principles of limited government and lower taxes.

We can and must do better. reports that, like Rep. Faught, some of the other conservative members of the legislature have been wearing red ties to demonstrate their solidarity with Republican platform principles. David Van Risseghem, editor of SoonerPolitics, called it the 'Red Tie Brigade of Conservatism'.

Column: the facts on oil & gas taxation

This column is from Alberto Soto, a Republican small businessman from Tahlequah:

“If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.”
― Albert Einstein

"The people" want more money for education, for health care, for social services but they want someone else to pay for those increases. How did we as a country get to the point where it is okay to pass the burden of our wants onto others like the oil industry, business, corporations and rich people? How is this fair? How is this not just evil greed on the part of those who want it all but wish to pay for none of it?

How can I say this when the rich keep getting richer and as liberal democrats like Mr. Inman (who is running for governor) insist that it is the rich who are getting rich off the backs of the poor and middle class.
Scott Inman:

File this in the "You Can't Make This Up" category.
To date, House and Senate Republicans have refused to raise the GPT on oil and gas companies or restore the income tax cuts for the wealthiest of our citizens . . . We will not sit by quietly as the folks in charge shift the tax burden from their wealthy contributors through income tax cuts, gross production tax cuts, and corporate tax credits on to the backs of middle-class families.
or as Nick Singer says, from a post that Scott reposted on his personal page says,
Nick Singer, “Creating a low tax rate and/or grace period and/or new and not existing wells is a give away to people who don't need, on a highly profitable, finite and very volatile resource that Oklahoman's need to make hay with while they have it.”
So the rich don’t “need” to make more money because hey they have reached their limit. We the liberal elites in this state have determined that enough is enough. We need more of your money. Sorry, it’s actually not “your” money rich oil industry but it is our money because by keeping the taxes low on you we are giving it away.

The arrogance of how they talk about the oil industry and the rich is appalling.

When I read all the back and forth from our liberal democratic friends I am left thinking that these (mostly men) men are just not being honest or are grossly ignorant of the amount of taxes the “rich” are paying in this state, specifically the oil industry and how business operate and make a profit. It is my guess that most of these men have never carried a payroll or have ever run a business in their life. They go straight from law school to politics as in the case with Mr. Inman.

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” “For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses. ”
John Adams

Oil and Gas companies are the only business that pays this creative tax called the gross production tax or GPT. On top of this tax they pay income taxes, payroll taxes, unemployment taxes, state and local taxes. The truth is that the oil industry pays about 22% of total taxes in this state. The truth is, it is the backs of the oil industry that we are building this state on. Without the oil industry Oklahoma would not be the same state. It is the one industry that has the highest taxes imposed on it. Their tax rate is 4 times greater than the average business.

Even local democrats like Representative Matt Meredith have taken up this game
“This morning the Republican party went against, not only the people of Oklahoma, but the Constitution of Oklahoma, and passed a gross production bill that would bring in one time money and not raise the gross production to 5% or 7%. They played games, did a slide of hand and let the BIG OIL companies once again control the Capitol…

We will continue the fight for our kids, teachers, elderly, health care professionals and every family within not only District 4, but also in Oklahoma. We all deserve BETTER!!!”
Matt, buddy, the oil industry is just doing what anyone should do in their place- stop the abuse and over taxing nature of government in its tracks. Big government liberals will never have enough money. It is easy to pick on “big” business and those “greedy” rich guys because most of us are not those guys.

But the people of Oklahoma have shown time and time again that they are too smart for this. There are now only 26 Democrats in the house and 6 in the senate left and if they continue on this pattern of dishonesty that will be reduced some more.

The GPT is 2% on new wells for only 3 years after which it goes up to 7%. Liberals want to increase that to 7%. and then speak like the oil industry is abusing the elderly for wanting to keep it where it is at.

“The sum of all the taxes the oil and natural gas industry pays makes it the largest direct revenue source for Oklahoma’s budget. When other Oklahoma industries pay $1 in taxes per employee, the oil and natural gas industry pays $4 in taxes per employee.”


“In fact, the gross production tax is only 1/5th of the total $2.55 billion in taxes the oil and natural gas industry paid to the state in FY’15. Unlike our neighboring oil producing state, Texas, the oil and natural gas industry also pays corporate and personal income taxes, which outpaced gross production tax collections in FY’15. “

The truth is Matt that the oil industry pays 22% of all taxes in this state. Instead of demonizing our neighbors, friends, and job creators we should be treating them like we want to be treated and thanking them for how much they support this state. Instead of accusing them of greed, bribery and “shenanigans” let’s be honest with District 4 and point out these facts. If you still think they don’t pay enough in taxes then make an honest case. Tell the voters why you think that $2.55 billion is not enough for you and your democratic friends when our entire state budget is about $6.9 billion.

Do you believe Matt that the oil industry should pay half of the state budget? How much is enough? What is a “fair share”? Do you really believe that higher taxes on this industry is moral and just?

Is it really smart for our state budget to be so dependent on one industry like this? I would say no way. That is short sighted, greedy and foolish.

It it time for politicians to stop acting like politicians and start treating their fellow citizens with more respect and level with us and tell us the truth.

Alberto Soto is a small business owner from Tahlequah, and writes on Facebook at Reasonable Right.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

State Senate passes $6.8B budget; House vote likely tomorrow

Shortly before 10:00pm this evening, the Oklahoma State Senate passed the FY2018 state budget by a vote of 33-13. SB 860 now goes to the State House, where it will likely be voted on tomorrow (rather than Friday, the final day of session).

All six Democrats voted against the appropriations bill, with seven Republicans also joining in opposition (Josh Brecheen, Nathan Dahm, David Holt, James Leewright, Adam Pugh, Joseph Silk, and Anthony Sykes).

Some details of the budget, including appropriation summaries by agency, are in this article that I posted last night. 17 agencies receive no spending cut, or get slight boosts in funding, in the SB 860 budget measure. List is below, courtesy of Jordann Lucero with Oklahoma City's KOKH FOX 25:

The Senate also passed SB 845, the "Smoking Cessation and Prevention Act of 2017", which [unconstitutionallyraises about $257,841,000 in new revenue. That measure can now be heard by on the House floor as well. The Senate vote was 28-18, with 12 Republicans and all 6 Democrats opposing it.

Gov. Fallin comments on FY2018 Budget Agreement

Governor Mary Fallin Statement on 2018 Fiscal Year Budget Agreement

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today released the following statement on the budget agreement that has been reached for the 2018 fiscal year:

“Developing a budget in this difficult fiscal and political climate is never easy. This plan keeps our government from shutting down. It is not an ideal budget, but it avoids draconian cuts to our core services such as education, health and human services, and public safety; unfortunately it leaves many agencies facing cuts for the sixth year in a row. It puts some recurring revenue on the table, but does not address the structural budget challenges that I have been working to fix since I took office. Year after year, I have repeated my warning about our reliance on one-time funding and our eroding tax base, and yet again we have crafted a budget that only fixes some of the defects in our funding formula.

“Let there be no mistake, there is still work to do. When legislators return next year, they will already face a $400 million hole caused by one-time funds and $100 million of obligations coming due over the next 12 months that will need to be paid. Hopefully, in the months that follow they will begin putting together a real plan to address the budget to fill that hole when they return in February of 2018 – an election year when we know it is difficult to pass revenue measures."

Rafael Cruz to speak at Tulsa Republican Men's Club on June 6th

Rafael Cruz, father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, will be addressing the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club on Thursday, June 6th:

We have a wonderful evening with a conservative speaker planned for This June 6th, 2017. This is a private -ticketed and dinner will be served for $20. The last time Pastor Cruz was here in Tulsa we had over 800 people in attendance. Tickets will go fast so make plans as quickly as possible for we have limited seating. We will have live music and Congressional candidates have been invited. We look forward to seein-g you and be prepared to have - big time livin' on Tulsa Time! If you have any questions please call Darren Gantz @ 918-638-7430 or Billie Bell @ 918-638-9977.
For tickets, visit this link.

House, Senate committees pass $6.8B budget near midnight

Under cover of darkness, both the House JCAB and Senate JCAB passed a $6.8B budget bill, after giving members less than 45 minutes to peruse the measure. Dropped at around 11:15pm, the House committee passed it just a few minutes before midnight.

Copies were initially unavailable for members, the press, and the public. Bill summaries, detailing what the massive budget bill actually does, were also initially not presented. At some point, State Sen. David Holt (R-OKC) got a hold of the summary and posted it online:

The House passed two version: one with a teacher pay raise and ~8% cuts to many agencies, and the other with no teacher pay raise and smaller, 4%-5% cuts.

Most of the core agencies receive flat or slightly increased funding under this budget: Education, Transportation, DHS, DRS, Corrections, Public Safety, and a handful of smaller ones.

The complete and total lack of transparency regarding how this was brought forth is absolutely appalling. Literally brought and passed under cover of darkness, without the public being able to see, without legislators being able to read the budget, without being given adequate time to ask questions of debate this measure. This outrageous manner of legislating must end.

This trainwreck is absolutely not how state government should operate.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

House JCAB passes $381M in "new revenue"

The House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget met late this evening and, among other measures, passed two bills that raised over $381,000,000 in new revenue.

SB845: Creates the “Smoking Cessation Act of 2017”. Bill proposes to assess a fee of $1.50 per pack of cigarettes to be paid by the wholesaler. Estimated Fiscal Impact: $257,841,000

HB2433: Bill proposes to amend the sales tax exemption for motor vehicles to provide that a portion of the state sales tax levy (1.25%) will apply to sales of motor vehicles. Estimated Fiscal Impact: $123,383,000

How this gets around the State Constitution Article 5, Section 33 (SQ640) is beyond me:

House Committee rejects bill to cut spending on non-essential trinkets and swag

Late last night, the House Joint Committee on Appropriations & Budget (JCAB) rejected a measure designed to cut non-essential agency spending on promotional items and other trinkets (the "anti-swag" bill).

Presented by Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee), the bill could have saved as much as $30M, which could have avoided additional cuts or paid for half of a $1000 teacher pay raise. Instead, JCAB members shot down the measure, specifically objecting to cutting items such as FFA trophies (which could be paid for by private funds) and stress balls for veterans.

The final vote was 5-21.

These members felt that nonessential promotional spending should be cut, and should be commended:

  • Jon Echols (R)
  • John Paul Jordan (R)
  • Jason Murphey (R)
  • Terry O'Donnell (R)
  • Todd Russ (R)

These members felt that nonessential promotional spending is just too important, and shouldn't be cut:

  • Scott Biggs (R)
  • Chad Caldwell (R)
  • Dennis Casey (R)
  • Josh Cockroft (R)
  • Jason Dunnington (D)
  • Katie Henke (R)
  • Scott Inman (D)
  • Steve Kouplen (D)
  • Ben Loring (D)
  • Scott Martin (R)
  • Charles Ortega (R)
  • Leslie Osborn (R)
  • Pat Ownbey (R)
  • John Pfeiffer (R)
  • Eric Proctor (D)
  • Dustin Roberts (R)
  • Mike Sanders (R)
  • Earl Sears (R)
  • Shane Stone (D)
  • Emily Virgin (D)
  • Kevin Wallace (R)

It's a shame that so many so-called Republicans are rejecting efforts to make the easy cuts (nonessential spending) and instead push for tax hikes.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Rep. Jason Murphey: Taxing Netflix

Taxing Netflix

Last Monday, legislative leaders positioned Oklahoma to join one other state and several left-leaning cities (including Chicago and Pasadena) in enacting a tax on Netflix users and users of other streaming video services including Hulu and Amazon Video.

The Netflix tax was just one in an overwhelming barrage of tax increase proposals to emerge from the House Appropriations Committee. These include a new tax on cable and satellite television, taxes on electronic documents such as eBooks and videos, iTunes and music, and even cell phone ringtones.

The committee went so far as to approve an excise tax on those who transfer their cars to a family member. A father who transfers the family car to his son would have been required to pay an excise tax -- a draconian proposal that would take millions out of the pockets of Oklahoma families.

Adding insult to injury, with no notice to the public, committee members then voted to suspend the state's August sales tax holiday. The bill, creating the suspension on the "back to school" event, appeared to have been emailed to committee members just minutes before the vote. As best I can tell, it was never made available to the public prior to the meeting.

Also especially egregious, a number of taxes, including the cable, satellite and Netflix taxes, were (in my opinion) illegally logrolled into a teacher pay raise bill. Lawmakers are have trepidation about being "anti-education," and by logrolling the new taxes in with the teacher pay raise, the tax proponents appeared to be attempting to force lawmakers to vote for the new taxes in order to avoid being "against the teachers."

On that same day, lawmakers also failed in an attempt to create a new $1.50 tax on cigarettes. This tax would have placed Oklahoma's rate so much higher than surrounding states that it would have potentially driven millions of dollars to the states with much lower tax rates.

This means that the state would likely receive much less revenue than projected. That's a big problem because the fictional "projected" new revenue stream would have likely been dedicated to health care funding, while a corresponding amount of "actual" revenues would have likely been directed away from health care funding and into general revenue.

This would naturally create a budget hole in the health care funding as soon as the next fiscal year.

By Tuesday, lawmakers had completely pivoted. They appeared to abandon the Monday tax increases, and instead advanced massive logrolled tax increase that included a 35% increase in the state gas tax amongst other taxes.

House members attempted to take the logrolled tax increase proposal from introduction to final approval within a matter of just a few hours. Their clear motive appeared to be to win approval for the massive tax before the public could find out what was going on.

They suspended the meager transparency rules that would have provided the public with at least one day to see the tax. I had a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that had the tax proponents had their way, one of the largest tax increases in the history of the state would have been approved with just a few hours of public purview.

The bill fell short by about 25 votes.

I had hoped that the failure of the new taxes would refocus lawmakers on the many millions of savings, efficiencies and inappropriate spending that have been identified as the solution to the state's ongoing appropriations deficit (a deficit that would not exist had lawmakers used fiscal constraint and good judgement over the past three budget years.)

However, at the time of this writing, it appears that state officials are still scrambling to put together a massive tax plan.

I think they still see taxes as the "easy button" -- a much easier option than the very hard work of thoughtful spending reduction. However, they are finding out the hard way that what appears to be easiest isn't always that way.

In the last few days I have enjoyed the opportunity to vote "NO!" on all the tax increases and will continue to do so.

Jason Murphey

OCPA announces intent to file Supreme Court challenge of income tax increase

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 22, 2017) – Today, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Bill 2403 by a vote of 56 to 40. The bill would restrict itemized deductions in order to increase personal income tax collections by more than $101 million annually.

Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, issued the following statement after today’s vote on HB 2403:

“House Bill 2403 is an unconstitutional tax hike on working Oklahoma families and senior citizens. Should House Bill 2403 become law, we intend to challenge its constitutionality at the Oklahoma Supreme Court as a violation of State Question 640.

“House Bill 2403 is designed to raise revenue for state government, but it passed the state House of Representatives with far less than a three-fourths vote. This makes it a blatant violation of Oklahoma’s Constitution, suggesting our state’s highest Court would strike it down.

“This bill is an income tax increase of over $101 million a year that targets Oklahomans who own a home with a mortgage, who pay property taxes that support local schools and other services, or who are being crushed by heavy medical bills.

“As part of the challenge we intend to file, we will likely also include Senate Bill 1606, which was a $97 million income tax increase that passed the state House last year with only 51 votes. In addition, we’ll likely include House Bill 2348, which passed the House earlier this session with only 51 votes and has already been signed into law.

“By capping the standard deduction, House Bill 2348 represents an income tax increase of more than $19 million annually, mostly on middle- and lower-income Oklahomans already struggling to make ends meet.

“After being hit in the early ‘90s with one of the largest tax increases in state history, Oklahoma voters rose up and amended our state’s Constitution with State Question 640.

“State Question 640 established strong protections for Oklahomans from being slammed with more tax increases in the future. Among these protections, it requires either a three-fourths supermajority vote in both legislative chambers, or a vote of the people, to adopt a tax increase.

“Here at OCPA, we’ve consistently offered hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of options for addressing the state’s budget shortfall and preserving core services without raising taxes on Oklahomans. We continue to stand with hard-working taxpayers in favor of efficient government services and in defense of the state Constitution.”

Link to the full text of State Question 640, passed in 1992 by Oklahoma voters on the statewide ballot: