Friday, September 13, 2019

Charlton Heston's message for Beto


During yesterday's Democratic presidential primary debate, third-tier candidate Robert Francis O'Rourke brazenly declared his plan to confiscate firearms from law-abiding Americans if elected President. Way back in 2000, Charlton Heston had a message for gun-grabbers like Beto.

Senate Pro-Tem Treat opposes National Popular Vote effort

Yesterday, I wrote about the ongoing effort by out-of-state groups to lobby the Oklahoma Legislature to ditch the Electoral College and instead hitch Oklahoma's electoral votes to the National Popular Vote, thus disenfranchising Oklahoma voters from giving their voice in presidential elections.

Since December 2017, National Popular Vote groups have spent over $47,000 to bring 15 GOP legislators and 12 Democratic legislators to wine-and-dine events in Utah, California, Colorado, and Massachusetts, and New York City.

Members of the State Senate have been particularly targeted, with 20% of the Senate GOP caucus and nearly the entire Democratic caucus having gone on these paid-for junkets. Almost a full third of the entire Senate has been on an out-of-state IRPE trip since 2017.

I asked Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC) for his position on the National Popular Vote concept, and whether he would support or oppose such a measure if advanced in the 2020 legislative session. I got a pretty quick response:


“The framers of the federal Constitution devised the electoral college to protect states like Oklahoma from being disenfranchised by voters in states with much larger populations. I previously have opposed and will continue to oppose any legislation that enables a national popular vote.” – Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City

In 2014, when a National Popular Vote bill passed the Oklahoma State Senate, Treat was one of 18 Republicans who opposed the measure. 16 Republicans and all 12 Democrats voted together to approve SB 906, which would have bound Oklahoma's vote to the winner of the "popular vote" nationwide as opposed to the candidate who won the most votes in Oklahoma. The National Popular Vote campaign has held that vote up as a trophy in the years since, even though it never received a hearing in the House.

Fortunately, Sen. Treat's position has been pretty consistent on this issue. I'm awaiting comment from Governor Stitt, Lt. Governor Pinnell, and House Speaker McCall on the topic. Stay tuned.

OCPA column: Medicaid won't reduce inflated hospital bills


Medicaid won’t reduce inflated hospital bills
By Jonathan Small

Most of us have heard of someone who received a wildly implausible bill from a hospital. Among the examples compiled by the website, thehealthy.com, were hospitals that charged $15 per Tylenol tablet, $8 for a “mucus recovery system” (better known as a box of tissues), $53 per non-sterile pair of gloves, $10 for the little plastic cup that holds a patient’s pills, and $23 per alcohol swab.

The retail cost of a Tylenol tablet runs less than 30 cents, meaning the $15 price is a markup of more than 5000 percent. If hospitals are overcharging that much on small items, one wonders how much the markup is on the big-ticket items.

Those prices are the result of a medical system with no price transparency and, therefore, little direct competition. And the lack of transparency leads to “surprise” medical bills that people struggle to pay, and then to lawsuits.

Oklahoma Watch recently reported that Oklahoma hospitals have filed at least 22,250 lawsuits against former patients over unpaid medical bills since 2016.

How did some hospital officials’ respond to that report? Just expand Medicaid.

But experts familiar with the lawsuit issue note that many people being sued are already insured, including some on Medicaid. This problem isn’t caused by lack of coverage; it’s caused by a lack of transparency. Even for routine procedures, it is extremely difficult to get an up-front estimate, and hidden costs are the norm.

However, where price transparency exists at places like the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, it demonstrates conclusively that many other hospitals are dramatically overcharging patients. Comparisons have shown the Surgery Center’s prices are often one-sixth to one-eighth the amount charged elsewhere.

So why is it that the facilities charging the far-higher prices are the ones claiming to be on the verge of insolvency, and not the Surgery Center? One answer is that many of the figures touted by supposedly “broke” hospitals are as bogus as a $15 aspirin pill. Martin Makary, a professor of surgery with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, recently noted that one hospital was caught charging $70,000 for a hip replacement when the commercial reference-based price was $29,000 and the Medicare-allowable amount was $20,000. That means that hospital could claim to have provided $30,000 in “uncompensated” care if it collected “just” $40,000 on a hip replacement, even though that price may represent $10,000 to $20,000 in pure profit.

Expanding Medicaid won’t suddenly cause hospitals to stop inflating bills. In fact, knowing that taxpayers are on the hook may encourage some providers to further boost their charges, and patients will continue to be sued.

If policymakers are serious about reducing health costs and protecting consumers, they need to focus on increasing up-front price transparency and competition in medicine, not expanding government welfare.

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

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Stitt taps Gary Cox as Commissioner of State Dep't of Health


GOV. STITT ANNOUNCES GARY COX AS COMMISSIONER OF OKLAHOMA STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

Oklahoma City, Okla. (September 12, 2019) – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Gary Cox as Oklahoma Commissioner of Health, a position that requires Senate confirmation. He will begin leading the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) on Friday, Sept. 13. 

“Gary Cox is a respected and dedicated public health leader in our state who brings over 40 years of experience to his new role as the Oklahoma Commissioner of Health,” said Governor Stitt. “His guidance at the OSDH will play a critical role in our vision to improve health outcomes for all Oklahomans, and I look forward to accomplishing Top Ten results together as we work to efficiently and effectively deliver services and move the needle in this critical area.”

“I am honored to serve Governor Stitt, Secretary Loughridge and the people of Oklahoma as Commissioner of Health,” said Gary Cox. “Alongside the dedicated professionals at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, I look forward to developing innovative strategies toward improving the quality of life for all Oklahomans, which is key to Oklahoma becoming a top ten state. We have the ingredients in place, and I am committed to strengthening our ability to innovate and leverage cross-sector partnerships toward impacting Oklahoma’s most critical health-related outcomes.”

Gary Cox, JD, currently serves as the Executive Director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. Cox previously served as an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Tulsa College of Law and is presently serving as a visiting associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, College of Public Health. Before joining the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, Cox worked as an environmentalist for the Tulsa Health Department, where he went on to serve as Legal Counsel before eventually serving as Director for 15 years. With more than 40 years of public health experience, Cox has also served in leadership roles, to include Past President of both the Oklahoma Public Health Association (OPHA) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) who represents 2,800 Local Health Departments nationally. He also serves on the Executive Committees for various national, state and local public health efforts. Cox chaired the Governor’s Joint Commission on Public Health from 2017 to 2018, is a Fellow of US Public Health Leadership Institute and serves on the University of Central Oklahoma President’s Council of Advisors. Cox received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 1973.

Cox has dedicated his career to improving health, raising the awareness about health issues across multiple sectors, and committing to develop and leverage private and public partnerships to improve community health outcomes. He is committed to a culture of continuous quality improvement and has consistently supported transparent and accountable governance in local health departmental activities, evidenced by the Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s designation as one of the first local health departments to achieve National Accreditation.

“Gary Cox is an outstanding, nationally recognized public health leader. His leadership of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, and previously of the Tulsa Health Department, has enabled these departments to achieve new levels of excellence in service, health impact, and national recognition. I know he will bring the same excellent leadership to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.” – Gary E. Raskob, Ph. D., Chair, Oklahoma City County Board of Health, & Dean, Hudson College of Public Health, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

“Gary is a thoughtful and forward-thinking leader with a great track record of pulling together cross-sector teams of influence in order to affect change in the public health arena.  He understands the fundamental intersection between health, education and the economy and how each impacts the other. Gary’s track record clearly shows an increase of investment and resources going into the community, which directly impacts the lives of Oklahomans and makes Oklahoma an attractive place to do business in.” – Erika Lucas, Board Member, OKC-County Health Dept & Founder, StitchCrew

“The appointment of Gary Cox as the State Commissioner of Health is a great win for the people of Oklahoma.  In my fifty years of service at the Tulsa City-County Health Department I have never seen such profound leadership as he served the community, and his subsequent service at the OKC-County Health Department echoed the same sentiment of leadership.  I am thrilled at Governor Stitt’s vision to name such a great leader in the field of public health to take our state to the next level.” – James O Goodwin, JD, former Chairman, Tulsa-City-County Health Dept & Owner, Oklahoma Eagle.

Anti-Constitutional Carry drive collected 37k signatures, 23k short of target


The Oklahoma Secretary of State has concluded an initial count of the signatures submitted for the anti-Constitutional Carry initiative petition, and found that the campaign collected 37,057 signatures, nearly 23,000 fewer than needed to halt the implementation of Constitutional Carry and out the measure up for statewide vote.

Rep. Jason Lowe (D-OKC) and supporting anti-gun groups had claimed to have collected over 50,000 signatures, still short of the nearly 60,000 signatures they needed.

Nat'l Popular Vote lobby continues wine-and-dine trips for Oklahoma Legislators


In January 2018, I posted about three GOP legislators who were taken to New York City for a conference put on by the innocuous-sounding Institute for Research on Presidential Elections, a group founded to help lead the effort to ditch the Electoral College and transition presidential elections to a National Popular Vote system.

National Popular Vote (NPV) advocates managed to slip a NPV measure through the State Senate in 2014, but uproar by grassroots activists, then-OKGOP chairman Dave Weston, and former OKGOP chairman (now Lt. Governor) Matt Pinnell led to the House not taking up the bill.

In the intervening months since the early 2018 story, I forgot to check back and see if there had been further developments.

Wow. I should have looked earlier.

Let's recap: in January 2018, we found out that Reps. Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon), Avery Frix (R-Muskogee), and Kevin McDugle (R-Wagoner) had attended the IRPE/NPV junket to New York City. Frix and McDulge were given a "scholarship" of about $2,000 to attend; Baker received about $500. Baker and McDugle filed their required reports late, a fact I noted in my articles and confirmed at the time with the director of the Ethics Commission. Some days later, thanks to an interview with the El Reno Tribune, Baker revealed that Sens. Stephanie Bice (R-OKC), Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle), and then-Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) had attended a similar seminar in Utah.

We now can look back and see that a whole host of other legislators attended IRPE/NPV events in 2018, and some in 2019 as well. This should especially concern conservatives and Republicans given the approaching 2020 presidential election.

Here is the list of those known to have attended IRPE/NPV events, with links to their legally-required disclosure forms for scholarships they received to attend, along with the dollar amount, listed with most recent at the top and Republicans in bold:
  • Rep. Marcus McEntire (R-Duncan), January 2019$2,706.95
  • Rep. Mark Lawson (R-Sapulpa), January 2019$2,695.61
  • Sen. James Leewright (R-Bristow), January 2019$2,357.32
  • Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Depew), January 2019$2,060.14
  • Sen. John Michael Montgomery (R-Lawton), January 2019$2,026.12
  • Rep. Josh West (R-Grove), January 2019$2,013.60
  • Rep. Forrest Bennett (D-OKC), January 2018, $1,731.44
  • [Former] Rep. Karen Gaddis (D-Tulsa), January 2018, $1,642.66
  • [Former] Rep. Eric Proctor (D-Tulsa), January 2018, $1,436
  • Sen. Kevin Matthews (D-Tulsa), January 2018, $1,287.26
  • Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman (D-Tulsa), January 2018, $1,287.26
  • Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso), January 2018, $1,287.26
  • [Former] Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman), January 2018, $1,287.26
  • [Former] Sen. Anastasia Pittman (D-OKC), January 2018, $1,287.26
  • Sen. Kay Floyd (D-OKC), January 2018, $1,287.26
  • Sen. Michael Brooks (D-OKC), January 2018, $1,287.26
  • Justin Cajindos (Senate Democratic Caucus Chief of Staff), January 2018, $1,287.26
  • Rep. Matt Meredith (D-Tahlequah), January 2018, $1,168.73
  • Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman), January 2018, no amount reported
  • Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah), January 2018, $2,397.68
  • Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle), January 2018, $2,255.11
  • Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Edmond), January 2018, $1,969.57
  • [Former] Sen. A.J. Griffin (R-Guthrie), January 2018, $1,879.23
  • Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-OKC), January 2018, $1,860.21
  • Sen. Jason Smalley (R-Stroud), January 2018, $1,827.98
  • Rep. Avery Frix (R-Muskogee), December 2017, $2,063.18
  • Rep. Kevin McDugle (R-Broken Arrow), December 2017, $2,048.17
  • Rep. Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon), December 2017, $579.75
All told, since December 2017, IRPE and the National Popular Vote effort have doled out at least $47,017.53 to bring 8 GOP Senators, 7 GOP Representatives, 7 Democratic Senators, 5 Democratic Representatives, and one Democratic legislative staff member to their conferences in Utah, California, Colorado, and Massachusetts, and New York.

That's 20% of the Senate GOP caucus, and almost a full third of the entire Senate.

IRPE spent $30,740.62 on 15 GOP legislators (an average of $2,049.37), but just $16,276.91 on the 13 Democrats (average of $1,252.07). If I were a Democrat, I'd probably be a little irked at the disparity in money spent.

Some of the members who went on IRPE/NPV junkets are in positions of leadership. Rep. Josh West is one of two House Majority Leaders. Rep. Hilbert is both the A&B Vice Chair and the JCAB Vice Chair. Sen. Roger Thompson is the Appropriations Chair. Sen. Smalley is the Senate Majority Caucus chair. Rep. Virgin is the House Minority Leader. Sen. Sparks was the Senate Minority Leader; Sen. Floyd is now.

Earlier in 2017, three Democratic legislators went to an IRPE event in California, but paid their way with campaign funds. It is unknown at this time if other legislators have likewise since used that route of funding to obscure their attendance.

I also reached out to some thought and opinion leaders in the state for their two-cents on this topic.

Trent England of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs has spoken and written extensively on the Electoral College and national popular vote in recent years, including several debates with NPV proponents. "Unlike many other lobbyist junkets, NPV usually keeps Republicans and Democrats segregated on different trips," England told me. "They do that so they tell Republicans that changing the rules will help them, and then turn around and tell Democrats the same thing." England authored op-eds this year that ran in publications as diverse as USA Today and The Resurgent, and was featured in a debate in Colorado earlier this summer.

"The legislature is very concerned about voter apathy and declining participation. I told them in 2015, that elections need to be meaningful for Oklahomans," says David Van Risseghem, editor of SoonerPolitics.org. "To give our electoral voice to major cities on the coasts, will further drive down voter turnout. But more importantly, it will limit campaign events in our state. The politicians will just focus on big cities, to a greater degree than they already do."

"It seems to me that if the arguments for a National Popular Vote were so strong it would not be necessary to wine and dine legislators in places outside of the state," said Oklahoma Constitution publisher Steve Byas in response to my request for comment. "Rather, they should be able to present their arguments for them in Oklahoma City or Tulsa. Going to a National Popular Vote would transfer even more power to the federal government, away from the states." Byas is a professor of History & Government at Randall University, in Norman, Oklahoma, and has defended the merits of the Electoral College in op-eds in The New American.

I'm in communication with Governor Stitt, Lt. Governor Pinnell, Senate Pro Tem Treat, and House Speaker McCall for their comment on the National Popular Vote push, as it seems that Republicans in the Legislature continue to open the door to the idea. When I receive their statements, I'll publish them.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

18 years: Have you forgotten?

It's been 18 years now since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. I was eleven at the time, and this was by far the most momentous world event of my childhood.

I work in the kids program at church, and it's somewhat disconcerting to realize that now, basically all of the children were born after 9/11. This isn't experience for them, it's history in a book. As is our tradition, two firefighters in our church give a presentation about 9/11 for the kids on the Wednesday closest to the annihilation.

Have You Forgotten? is a poignant song by country music artist Darryl Worley about the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. This video contains images and video from that day -- reminders of what our nation suffered and experienced 18 years ago today.

May we never forget.


When I was a kid, I would periodically keep a journal. Here's my entry for 9/11/01:


Never forget.


T. Boone Pickens dead at 91

Oil tycoon, billionaire, philanthropist, and Oklahoma State University benefactor T. Boone Pickens passed away earlier today at the age of 91.



DALLAS, Texas – T. Boone Pickens, legendary energy executive and one of America’s best-known entrepreneurs, passed away today at the age of 91.

The long-time Dallas resident, who had battled back from a series of strokes and further head injuries sustained in a 2017 fall, died of natural causes surrounded by friends and family on September 11, 2019, according to spokesman Jay Rosser.

Plans for memorial services in Dallas, TX, and Stillwater, OK, are pending. Pickens, who was born in Holdenville, a small town in eastern Oklahoma, spent his adult years in Texas.

He is survived by his five children — Deborah Pickens Stovall, Pam Pickens Grace, Michael Pickens, Tom Pickens and Liz Pickens Cordia— and 11 grandchildren and an increasing number of great-grandchildren.

Pickens was a pioneer in the energy industry, a career-long champion for shareholder rights, a groundbreaking health and fitness advocate, and a generous philanthropist whose charitable donations exceeded $1 billion. In July 2008, he launched a self-funded, $100 million, grass-roots campaign aimed at reducing this country’s crippling dependence on OPEC oil. For more information on Pickens’ life, visit www.boonepickens.com.

Stitt (not the Governor) files for Inhofe's Senate seat


JJ Stitt has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, declaring a campaign for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Jim Inhofe.

This Stitt is no relation to Governor Kevin Stitt. Update: JJ Stitt emailed me and said that he and Governor Stitt "are distant cousins".

JJ Stitt, a resident of Kingfisher, gave an interview with the Kingfisher Times & Free Press two weeks ago in which he more publicly announced his campaign.

A farmer-rancher, he spent a career in law enforcement, working in sheriff's departments in southeastern Texas and, most recently, in Kingfisher County. He also owns a gun store in Kingfisher.

You can visit his campaign website here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Charter School Funding, Oversight Focus of House Interim Studies


Charter School Funding, Oversight Focus of House Interim Studies

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Reps. Zack Taylor, Lundy Kiger and Randy Randleman are hosting two interim studies this week to look at several aspects of charter school funding. A third study, hosted by Kiger and Randleman, will focus on charter school sponsor oversight responsibilities.

All studies will take place Wednesday, Sept. 11, in Room 432-A in the State Capitol before the House Common Education Committee.

A study to look at brick-and-mortar charter school funding is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. A study examining the real cost per student for virtual charter schools vs. brick-and-mortar schools will be held at 9:30 a.m. The final study on charter school sponsor oversight responsibilities is set for 10:30 a.m.

State Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, will participate in the latter two studies.

“I feel strongly that charter schools – both brick-and-mortar and virtual – have a role in the learning process for some children in our state,” said Kiger, R-Poteau. “But we must have total transparency into how they receive funding per student and how that money is spent. I don’t believe they should be receiving the same amount of funding as traditional public school that have building and maintenance costs. We also must ensure the entities charged with oversight of these schools are performing due diligence and fulfilling all requirements both to the state and the students they serve.”

Kiger said he has long been concerned over issues brought forward about the operation of virtual charter schools, from unaccounted for equipment, to the high amounts received for midyear adjustments in enrollment, to the bonuses teachers and students receive for enrollment and recruitment efforts.

Taylor, R-Seminole, said he too is interested in looking at the funding formulas for both charters and traditional public schools.

“We need to closely examine how both traditional public schools and our charter schools receive funding for their pupils,” Taylor said. “There are some differences in how they count students. There also are costs that brick-and-mortar schools incur that virtual schools do not, but at the same time there are some revenues that charter schools do not receive that traditional schools do. We want to make sure at the end of the day, that the needs of all students are adequately met and that one school system is not receiving an unfair advantage over another.”

Randleman, R-Eufaula, is a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist who serves on the House Common Education Committee. He said he signed on as a study author to ensure the public is better informed about how taxpayer money is spent on all public education options.

“The vast majority of Oklahoma parents choose to send their children to traditional public schools,” Randleman said. “I believe that all children and their parents deserve to have options that may serve the need of the child, such as online vs. brick-and-mortar charters. Still, we must ensure taxpayer dollars are being used in the most responsible way – to help all students.”

Sharp, a 39-year retired public school teacher and a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, was invited to participate in the latter two studies.

“Public education in Oklahoma and funding for our schools has been scrutinized over the years. While our schools have received historic funding the last two years, we’re now faced with new problems. There is an evident lack of transparency of state fund use, proper oversight and accountability within our virtual charter school system,” Sharp said. “As legislators, it’s our job to ensure that Oklahomans’ tax dollars are spent efficiently and not wasted. The rules for traditional brick-and-mortar public schools and virtual charters are different, and it’s causing confusion and problems. Given their astronomical growth and increasing state funding, it’s imperative that we improve oversight, accountability and fiscal transparency of our virtual charter schools. We need to hold all schools, regardless of what kind, to the same high standards.”

Neese calls on Horn to support protections for abortion survivors


NEESE CALLS ON HORN TO SUPPORT PROTECTIONS FOR ABORTION SURVIVORS
Call comes as House Minority holds hearing on H.R. 962, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

Oklahoma City, OK – Terry Neese, conservative Republican candidate for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District released the following statement today calling on Democratic Congresswoman Kendra Horn to support H.R. 962, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would provide long overdue protections to innocent human life left vulnerable following an attempted abortion. Neese’s statement comes as House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), and Pro-Life Caucus Chair Chris Smith (R-N.J.) host a hearing today on the critical need to bring this legislation to a vote on the House Floor.

“Despite overwhelming support and months of Republican efforts, Kendra Horn and other Democrats still refuse to bring the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to a vote,” said Terry Neese. “Instead of fighting for Planned Parenthood and radical abortion extremists in her Party, Kendra Horn needs to start fighting for the voters of the 5th District who want to protect the unborn and innocent human life at all costs. With only 17 signatures needed to get this legislation to the House Floor, I am calling on Kendra Horn to put politics aside and protect abortion survivors by supporting this long-overdue legislation.”

While Democrats in the House have refused to support this critical pro-life legislation, there are currently 201 signatures on a discharge petition designed to bring H.R. 962 to the House Floor. Only 17 more signatures are needed – and Neese assured voters in the 5th District she would be one of them when she is elected to Congress in 2020.

Neese added: “Voters of the 5th District can rest assured – I will proudly support H.R. 962 and I will do everything in my power to protect the unborn when I am elected to Congress.”

For more information on Terry or her campaign, please visit NeeseForCongress.com.

Former State Sen., MWC Mayor Jack Fry endorses Bice for Congress


Former State Senator and Midwest City Mayor Jack Fry Endorses Stephanie Bice for Congress 

OKLAHOMA CITY (Sept. 10, 2019) - The Bice for Congress campaign today announced that former State Senator and Midwest City Mayor Jack Fry has endorsed conservative Republican leader Stephanie Bice to become the next representative of Oklahoma’s Congressional District 5.

“I’m grateful to have earned Jack’s endorsement,” Bice said. “He epitomizes the very best of public service, both in his role as former mayor of Midwest City, as well as in the Legislature. I worked with Jack in the State Senate, and it was a privilege to stand with him then, as it is now.”

“I know Stephanie will be a bold and effective leader in Congress because she’s demonstrated a commitment to service and her community,” Fry said. “I’ve watched how hard working and focused she is in the State Senate, and I know she’ll continue that same drive as our next representative.”

“Stephanie gets results, does her homework, and is always well prepared,” Fry said. “I can’t think of anyone better to represent us.”

Bice, a two-term state Senator, is a pro-life conservative. She supports securing our nation’s borders and reforming America’s broken immigration system. Just like she has as an Oklahoma State Senator, Stephanie will focus on cutting government spending and reining in regulations that make it difficult for the private sector to create the jobs Oklahomans need.

Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District is located in the central area of the state and includes a portion of Oklahoma County, Pottawatomie and Seminole counties.

Stephanie Bice is a fourth-generation Oklahoman and was elected to the State Senate representing District 22, which includes Yukon, Piedmont and parts of Northwest Oklahoma City and Edmond. She serves as the Assistant Majority Floor Leader and Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Bice has earned a reputation as one of Oklahoma’s most effective conservative leaders

Hofmeister to testify before U.S. House subcommittee on trauma-informed instruction


Hofmeister to testify before U.S. House subcommittee on trauma-informed instruction

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister will testify before the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 9:15 a.m. (Central time) in Washington, D.C.

During the hearing, entitled “The Importance of Trauma-Informed Practices in Education to Assist Students Impacted by Gun Violence and Other Adversities,” Hofmeister will discuss how Oklahoma is supporting students with trauma.

Click here to follow the testimony live.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Music Monday: I'm Ready To Go

This week's Music Monday is I'm Ready To Go, performed by Bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. 

Enjoy! 


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 JamisonFaught@MuskogeePolitico.com.

August 26th, 2019: It Is Not Death To Die
August 5th, 2019: 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)
July 29th, 2019: Let It Be Said Of Us
July 15th, 2019: Bach's "Little" Fugue in G Minor
July 8th, 2019: The Majesty and Glory of Your Name
July 1st, 2019: Medley of Sousa Marches
June 24th, 2019: Seventy-Six Trombones
June 17th, 2019: I Want To Be That Man
June 3rd, 2019: "Les Toreadors" from 'Carmen'
May 20th, 2019: Lonesome Road
May 13th, 2019: Mr. Mom
April 29th, 2019: Have Faith in God (Muskogee's hymn)
April 15th, 2019: The Government Can
March 25th, 2019: Transcendental Étude No. 4, "Mazeppa"
March 18th, 2019: St. Patrick's Day in the Morning
March 11th, 2019: What Wondrous Love is This
March 4th, 2019: Scandinavian Waltz
February 18th, 2019: Adagio for Strings
February 11th, 2019: 'Romance' from 'The Gadfly'
February 4th, 2019: Columbia, Gem of the Ocean
January 7th, 2019: Loch Lomond
December 31st, 2018: Auld Lang Syne
December 24th, 2018: Remember O, thou Man
December 17th, 2018: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
December 10th, 2018: Carol of the Bells (medley)
December 3rd, 2018: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
November 26th, 2018: Happy Birthday
November 19th, 2018: My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness
November 12th, 2018: Hymn to the Fallen
October 29th, 2018: A Mighty Fortress is Our God
October 22nd, 2018: Hymn to Red October
October 15th, 2018:  Indian Reservation ("Cherokee People")
October 8th, 2018: Wagner's 'Columbus Overture'
October 1st, 2018: Danny Boy
September 24th, 2018: Dvorak's 'From The New World' Symphony, 4th Movement
September 17th, 2018: Deep River
September 10th, 2018: Muleskinner Blues
September 3rd, 2018: Boomer Sooner
August 20th, 2018: Psalm 23
August 13th, 2018: Ashokan Farewell
August 6, 2018: How the West Was Won
July 23rd, 2018: I Just Can't Wait to Be King
July 16th, 2018: 'Jupiter' from 'The Planets'
July 9th, 2018: Hail to the Spirit of Liberty
July 2nd, 2018: Turn The Tide
June 25th, 2018: Good Guys Win
June 18th, 2018: Watching You
June 11th, 2018: Adoration
June 4th, 2018: March from 'A Moorside Suite'
May 28th, 2018: Taps
May 21st, 2018: Listz's La Campanella
May 14th, 2018: Handful of Weeds
May 7th, 2018: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
April 30th, 2018: Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53 ("Heroic")
April 23rd, 2018: Blow Ye The Trumpet
April 16th, 2018: Asturias (Leyenda)
April 9th, 2018: Old Mountain Dew
April 2nd, 2018: His Life For Mine
March 19th, 2018: See, the Conqu'ring Hero Comes!
March 12th, 2018: Choctaw Nation
March 5th, 2018: Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal
February 19th, 2018: The Olympic Spirit
February 12th, 2018: Olympic Fanfare and Theme
January 29th, 2018: Hail to the Chief
January 23rd, 2018: Waltz in A-Flat Major, Op. 39 No. 15
January 15th, 2018: Bleed The Same
January 8th, 2018: Saint-Saëns' Symphony No.3 'Organ' (Maestoso)
December 25th, 2017: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
December 18th, 2017: I Saw Three Ships (The Piano Guys)
December 11th, 2017:Who Is He In Yonder Stall
December 4th, 2017: Carol of the Bells (Mannheim Steamroller)
November 27th, 2017: Joy to the World!
November 20th, 2017: We Gather Together
November 13th, 2017: Mansions of the Lord
November 6th, 2017: Träumerei
October 30th: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
October 23rd, 2017: In Christ Alone
October 16th, 2017: When I'm Knee Deep In Bluegrass
October 9th, 2017: I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb
October 2nd, 2017: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major (Brahms)
September 25th, 2017: Beethoven's Sonata No. 8 in C minor ('Pathétique')
September 11th, 2017: Have You Forgotten?
September 4th, 2017: Bach's Double Violin Concerto
August 28th, 2017: Noah Found Grace In The Eyes Of The Lord
August 21st, 2017: The Heavens Are Telling The Glory of God
August 14th, 2017: Beethoven's 5th Symphony
August 7th, 2017: 'Lift High The Name Of Jesus' medley
July 31st, 2017: Fanfare for the Common Man
July 24th, 2017: Variations on 'Happy Birthday'
July 10th, 2017: Summer (Presto) from Vivaldi's Four Seasons
July 3rd, 2017: Freelance Fireworks Hall of Fame
June 26th, 2017: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
June 19th, 2017: A Christian Home
June 12th, 2017: Ol' Man River
June 5th, 2017: Choctaw Cowboy
May 29th, 2017: Armed Forces Salute
May 22nd, 2017: Double Bass Concerto No.2 in B minor
May 15th, 2017: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major
May 8th, 2017: The Army Goes Rolling Along
April 17th, 2017: He Is Alive
April 10th, 2017: Surely He Hath Borne/And With His Stripes/All We Like Sheep
April 3rd, 2017: Here Comes Carolina
March 27th, 2017: 'Spring' from Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'
March 20th, 2017: Symphony No. 5 ("Reformation") Finale
March 13th, 2017: The Pigeon on the Gate
March 6th, 2017: Finlandia
February 27th, 2017: When I Can Read My Title Clear
February 20th, 2017: William Tell Overture - Finale
February 13th, 2017: 'Romance' from 'The Gadfly'
February 6th, 2017: White Winter Hymnal
January 30th, 2017: Hail, Columbia
January 23rd, 2017: Hail to the Chief
January 16th, 2017: Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
January 2nd, 2017: Auld Lang Syne
December 26th, 2016: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
December 19th, 2016: I Wonder as I Wander
December 12th, 2016: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
December 5th, 2016: A Christmas Festival
November 28th, 2016: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
November 21st: Beethoven's 'Hymn of Thanksgiving'
November 14th: Hymn to the Fallen
November 7th: This World Is Not My Home
October 31st, 2016: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
October 24th, 2016: 'Mars', from 'The Planets'
October 17th, 2016: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
October 10th, 2016: Spain
October 3rd, 2016: International Harvester
September 26th, 2016: 'The Imperial March' from Star Wars
September 19th, 2016: Awake the Trumpet's Lofty Sound
September 12th, 2016: Before the Throne of God Above
September 5th, 2016: The Hunt
August 29th, 2016: Liberty
August 22nd, 2016: Summon the Heroes
August 15th, 2016: Bugler's Dream
August 8th, 2016: Olympic Fanfare and Theme
August 1st, 2016: 'Prelude' and 'Parade of the Charioteers' from Ben-Hur
July 25th, 2016: How The West Was Won
July 18th, 2016: Six Studies in English Folk Song
July 11th, 2016: From Everlasting To Everlasting
July 4th, 2016: The Stars and Stripes Forever
June 27th, 2016: Rule, Britannia!
June 20st, 2016: Bugler's Holiday
June 13th, 2016: Ride of the Valkyries
June 6th, 2016: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54, Allegro Vivace
May 30th, 2016: Armed Forces Salute
May 23rd, 2016: Paid in Full (Through Jesus, Amen)
May 16th, 2016: Overture from 'Carmen'
May 9th, 2016: L'Arlesienne Suite No. 1 - Prelude
May 2nd, 2016: My God Is a Rock
April 25th, 2016: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
April 18th, 2016: Paganini's Caprice No. 24 in A Minor
April 11th, 2016: Fantasia on a 17th Century Tune
April 4th, 2016: Hark The Sound/I'm a Tarheel Born
March 28th, 2016: Rustle of Spring
March 21st, 2016: 'Ode to Joy' sung by a 10,000-voice choir
March 14th, 2016: Hard Times Come Again No More
March 7th, 2016: 'The Suite' from Downton Abbey
February 29th, 2016: Moonlight Sonata
February 22nd, 2016: Liebestraum No. 3
February 15th, 2016: Help Is On The Way
February 8th, 2016: God of Grace and God of Glory
February 1st, 2016: 'My Story'
January 25th, 2016: Israeli Concertino
January 18th, 2016: What Grace is Mine
January 11th, 2016: "Meditation" from Thaïs
January 4th, 2016: Praeludium and Allegro
December 28th, 2015: Appalachian Carol
December 21st, 2015: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
December 14th, 2015: O Holy Night
December 7th, 2015: Christmas Fantasy
November 23rd, 2015: Simple Gifts
November 16th, 2015: Preacher Tell Me Like It Is
November 9th, 2015: Armed Forces Salute
November 2nd, 2015: Amazing Grace
October 26th, 2015: The Harmonious Blacksmith
October 19th, 2015: Liberty Fanfare
October 12th, 2015: The Majesty and Glory of Your Name
October 5th, 2015: Elgar's 'Enigma' Finale
September 28th, 2015: Stayed on Jesus
September 21st, 2015: Great Gate of Kiev
September 14th, 2015: Nearer, My God, To Thee

Speaker McCall appoints Rep. Baker to national education policy group

Speaker McCall Appoints Rep. Baker to Serve on National Education Policy Organization

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall has appointed House Education Committee Chair Rhonda Baker to serve on the Education Commission of the States (ECS), a national organization that develops education policy ideas and provides state-by-state research for policymakers.

“I am very honored to join the Education Commission of the States and represent Oklahoma on a national stage,” said Rep. Baker, R-Yukon. “As a long-time public-school teacher, I understand our school system, and I know the challenges that our teachers and our students are dealing with. We need solutions that make our schools safer and more effective, that improve morale of teachers and administrators and, most importantly, that improve student outcomes. The Commission has a long history of proposing workable solutions that better our schools, and I am excited to join this organization and get to work.”

Rep. Baker, who was a public school teacher for nearly 20 years and holds a master’s degree in education, has served as chair of the House Education Committee since 2017.

“The Commission needs an education policy expert who has a vested interest in improving our school system,” said Speaker McCall, R-Atoka. “No one in the House of Representatives advocates for improving Oklahoma’s school system as well as Rep. Baker. She has devoted her entire career to teaching and shaping public education policies that make our schools better and improve student outcomes. She will be a fantastic addition to the Commission, and I am very thankful for her willingness to serve.”

The ECS is part of the Compact for Education. Oklahoma is a member of the Education of the States located in Denver, Colorado. The ECS provides a forum for all branches of government in the compact states to discuss educational policies.

According to the ECS website, “each state appoints seven commissioners who help guide our work and their own state’s education agendas; territorial appointments vary. Commissioners also have the authority to approve amendments to bylaws and provide strategic information to our staff regarding state education policy issues.”

Oklahoma’s current Commissioners include: Gov. Kevin Stitt and his proxy, Secretary of State Michael Rogers, Superintendent of Education Joy Hofmeister, State Regents for Higher Education Chancellor Glen Johnson, Board of Career and Technical Education Director Marcie Mack, state Sen. Jason Smalley and state Sen. Gary Stanislawski.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

OCPA column: Competition works

Competition works
By Jonathan Small

Here’s a statement few people will dispute: Competition works. Yet when it comes to education, some policymakers and most public school employees act as though the way to improve the quality of service to families and their children is to limit their taxpayer-funded choices to just one local option.

Proof to the contrary can be seen in the rash of schools now offering 100-percent online education.

For several years now, a handful of online charter schools have offered students an online education. The biggest and most well-known of those providers has been Epic Charter Schools.

Parents have been choosing online learning even though the per-pupil spending at online charter schools is significantly less than the per-pupil spending at a traditional brick-and-mortar public school.

The number of people pursuing K-12 learning online in Oklahoma is astounding. Epic alone reports roughly 24,000 students statewide this year. Those families have chosen online learning for many different reasons, but some of the most commonly cited are the greater range of course offerings, the special needs of children, and bullying problems at local schools.

Chances are you know a family with children who have benefitted from online schooling. Because state funding follows students, the exodus to online charter schools has had financial consequences for traditional districts. Now those schools have been forced to step up their game.

At Sapulpa, the local school is offering a virtual academy that provides students “full or partial online delivery of instruction with an element of student control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of learning.”

Sound familiar?

Noble Public Schools’ virtual academy provides a 100-percent online education but still lets online students participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, band, and chorus.

Norman Public Schools now offers students “the flexibility to complete all of their coursework outside the traditional school building” through online learning.

Union Public Schools has launched Union Virtual for students in grades 6-12. Sand Springs offers online learning. Broken Arrow offers a full-time online program. So does Lawton. So does Ponca City. And so do others. The list goes on and on.

This is a huge change occurring across Oklahoma to the benefit of students and their families. And the rapid pace of this change is being driven by competition from just a handful of online charter schools.

Policymakers should not simply celebrate this success, but build on it by expanding school-choice opportunities. If the modest level of competition produced by a small group of online providers can create this kind of change, imagine what would happen if Oklahoma had a truly robust education market competing for all students. Then the boom in online learning would be only a hint of better things to come.

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

Thursday, September 05, 2019

1889 Institute releases study showing OK Supreme Court's abuse of power


1889 INSTITUTE RELEASES STUDY SHOWING OKLAHOMA SUPREME COURT’S ABUSE OF POWER
The Court often acts like a legislature with its judicial opinions.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (September 4, 2019) – The 1889 Institute has published “Legislators in Black Robes: Unelected Lawmaking by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.” It makes the case that the Court often decides cases based on what its majority thinks the law ought to be rather than what it actually is. This violates the rule of law, the separation of powers, and robs from Oklahomans their right to self-government.

“Legislating from the bench is a problem everywhere, but it is particularly bad in Oklahoma because the Supreme Court ignores the very restrained role granted it by the Oklahoma Constitution,” said the study’s author, Ben Lepak, 1889 Institute’s Legal Fellow. “Oklahoma’s Supreme Court justices seem to view themselves as super legislators making public policy rather than judges deciding cases,” he said.

In the study, Lepak identifies four main methods used by the Court to illegitimately inject itself into the role of policymaking rather than proper legal interpretation. These include selectively exploiting the constitution’s single-subject requirement for proposed laws, selectively enforcing the constitution’s prohibition on special laws, declaring laws they do not like to be ambiguous when they’re actually quite clear, and declaring themselves eligible to review a law based on the dubious misuse of standing based on “public interest.”

“It is no wonder Oklahoma was added to a national ‘Judicial Hellhole’ list, considering the Supreme Court’s inconsistent and often arbitrary application of legal rules,” said Lepak. “The Court seems to decide the outcome it wants first, and then supplies whatever legal reasoning is needed to achieve that result. If the case has the potential to benefit trial lawyers, it’s pretty easy to predict how the Supreme Court will rule,” he explained.

Lepak’s study points out that trial lawyers effectively control the process of selecting Supreme Court justices in Oklahoma. He recommends fundamentally changing the way Oklahoma selects judges and justices. He pointed out that the legislature could act on its own to fix the lower courts, but changing the process for Oklahoma’s Supreme Court requires a constitutional amendment.


About the 1889 Institute
The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society. The publication, “Legislators in Black Robes: Unelected Lawmaking by the Oklahoma Supreme Court” can be found on the nonprofit’s website at https://1889institute.org/govt-profiteering.

Speaker McCall to Create Legislative Redistricting Committee


Speaker McCall to Create Legislative Redistricting Committee

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall today announced that the House will again use the transparent, citizen-driven redistricting process that received bipartisan praise when it was last used in 2011. In addition, the House will enhance the process further by soliciting input from the Oklahoma Supreme Court, executive branch and state, county and local officials in its redistricting effort, which begins next year following the 2020 decennial census.

The upcoming House redistricting effort will be overseen by a bipartisan Redistricting Committee, with subcommittees focusing on different regions of the state.

“The House process in 2011 was well-received by the public and was praised by both the majority and minority parties in the House because it included citizens and was transparent,” said McCall, R-Atoka. “Citizens want to be more involved in the redistricting process, and I believe our constituents have valuable perspectives that should be considered related to their representation at the Capitol. The Redistricting Committee will be bipartisan and reflect the rural, urban and suburban makeup of the House of Representatives. The committee will work best if it reflects the will of people from all across the state.”

Speaker McCall said the Redistricting Committee will travel around the state and receive input from citizens in town-hall settings.

The House also has created an email address, redistrictoklahoma2020@okhouse.gov, to allow citizens to make suggestions and have their voices heard throughout the process. Those emails will be considered by the committee along with other public testimony.

McCall plans to name members of the Redistricting Committee in early 2020. Work will begin in 2020 and be finalized through legislation considered in 2021.

Legislative redistricting takes place every 10 years following the release of the Decennial U.S. Census data. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, each legislative chamber engages in redistricting to update its districts to reflect population changes and other factors.

AG Hunter clarifies using SC Johnson "family company" slogan in reference to Johnson & Johnson during opioid case

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter
State Clarifies Position on Calling Johnson & Johnson a Family Company
Reference in no way intended to create confusion between 
Johnson & Johnson and SC Johnson

OKLAHOMA CITY - The state of Oklahoma’s reference to Johnson & Johnson as not living up to its image as “a family company” was in no way intended to cause confusion with the separate and independent company S.C. Johnson.

One company, S.C. Johnson, makes household cleaning products. The other, Johnson & Johnson, was the kingpin of the Oklahoma opioid crisis.

“We understand why no company, including S.C. Johnson, would ever want to be associated with Johnson & Johnson’s involvement in the opioid crisis,” said Attorney General Mike Hunter. “Our references to Johnson & Johnson not being “a family company” were made in regards to its efforts to market itself as a family friendly company—including running commercials in Oklahoma throughout our trial posing itself as a company that provides products to your family from the moment a baby is born until the end of life. Of course, the thousands of Oklahomans who have died from what the court described as a “menace to Oklahoma” caused by Johnson & Johnson disagree.

“Going forward we will not refer to Johnson & Johnson as “a family company” because the Johnson & Johnson family of companies most certainly are no such thing.”

Johnson & Johnson’s Broken Pledge
Recently, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky signed the Business Roundtable’s (BRT) redefined statement on the purpose of a corporation.

Since 1997, the BRT has endorsed principles of shareholder importance, which have typically said corporations exist to serve shareholders. The updated statement, released last month, moves to redefine the purpose of a corporation to promote an economy that serves all stakeholders.

Gorsky — a former sales representative for Janssen — said the new statement “affirms the essential role corporations can play in improving our society when CEOs are truly committed to meeting the needs of all stakeholders.”

Attorney General Hunter said Gorsky has already broken the promise they made in signing on to the BRT’s redefined statement.

“It is beyond disappointing that Gorsky and Johnson & Johnson have already broken the promise they made just two weeks ago,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Indeed, even after a judge found that the very sales division Gorsky used to work for engaged in deceptive conduct that caused the opioid crisis. Gorsky has not only allowed a post-trial marketing campaign where it continues to deny any responsibility but also continues to utterly disrespect Judge Thad Balkman and the state of Oklahoma.

“On behalf of families of the more than 6,000 Oklahomans who lost their lives due to the menace that Johnson & Johnson caused, I would like to personally invite Gorsky to come meet with me in Oklahoma so he and his company can accept responsibility, live up to its code of conduct, the “purpose of a corporation” and help us start the healing process.”

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Samaritan Ministries: Celebrating 25 years of 'different' next month


Celebrating 25 years of 'different' next month

About the same time Samaritan Ministries was starting up 25 years ago, Arby’s ran an ad campaign with this tagline: “Arby’s is different. Different is good.” The idea was that you could go a lot of places to get a hamburger, but if you are looking for something different, come to Arby’s for some roast beef.

When you tell your friends about Samaritan Ministries we hope you’ll convey that sentiment: “Samaritan is different. Different is good.”

We don’t want to be just another health care “hamburger joint.” We want to offer innovative, Christ-honoring service that leads the way in establishing health care sharing best practices and impacts our health care system for the glory of God.

Ten years ago we had just such an opportunity in working to ensure health care sharing was recognized in the Affordable Care Act, and, by God’s grace, we are committed to continuing to honor Jesus Christ, remain faithful to the Scriptures, and advance God’s kingdom in all aspects of ministry. That goes for every interaction with members, staff, partners, and providers, and also the way we tell the world about Samaritan.

This commitment means that at times we will intentionally choose a different approach from other health care sharing organizations when they demonstrate practices that we believe undermine Christian values. It also means that we’re different from health insurance, as we have different operating philosophies based on different worldviews. We recognize that God uses insurance to care for His people and we are grateful for that. However, we believe that as Christians our shared faith in Jesus Christ should be woven throughout every aspect of our lives, including our participation in Christian community within health care. That’s what Samaritan Ministries is all about.

Here are some of the key philosophical and practical differences:

An Expression of Shared Faith: Samaritan’s membership agreement makes it clear that we are a community of Christians helping other Christians. The ministry doesn’t pay for anything, but members commit to faithfully share with one another based on their religious convictions and according to the ministry Guidelines. Insurance does not reflect or rely upon shared values, but is based on detailed contractual obligations to pay for certain treatments at certain facilities, and is open to everyone willing to send the company a check. And since shared faith includes God providing for needs through his people, Samaritan never forces members to apply for government welfare programs rather than share a Need.

Direct Sharing from One Christian to Another: As a community of Christians, Samaritan members send Shares directly to one another and pay their own medical bills rather than send shares to an organization to administer. A small part of the Shares comes to the organization for administrative costs. Insurance companies pool and manage funds that are used to pay health care providers.

Nonprofit Charity, Member-Led: Samaritan is an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) religious charity administering a sharing ministry subject to state and federal laws that govern charities. The federal Affordable Care Act recognizes health care sharing, and on the state level 30 state safe harbor provisions recognize in insurance codes that health care sharing is not insurance. Samaritan is overseen by a member-led Board of Directors, a majority of which is elected by members. We have an annual independent audit and annual report that are available to members (see Member Connect in your Dash Account, under the Board section). Most health insurance companies are for-profit, and all their operations are regulated by extensive state and federal law.

These realities will cause some people to choose insurance, but others, based on the same information, will conclude that the health care sharing model is something that resonates with them and is consistent with their Christian convictions. Different is good! 

Recognizing these key differences is also important in light of recent negative headlines about a growing number of health care sharing organizations that operate differently from Samaritan Ministries. You may have noticed stories reporting on how one organization has come under fire in several states, facing a lawsuit from multiple members, fines from a Department of Insurance, and cease and desist orders. Scripture tells us not to jump to conclusions about a developing situation (Proverbs 18:13,17), but these episodes should remind us to remain committed to Biblical principles that have guided us through 25 years of ministry.

The organizations in question have been accused of disingenuously marketing themselves as insurance with a facade of religiosity, and a few people have complained of being given a false impression of what they were agreeing to. Whether the accusation is true or not, we want to guard against this possibility at Samaritan Ministries. We won’t use misleading lead-generation tactics that bait and switch, and we won’t use insurance agents to promote Samaritan Ministries. We continue to believe that the best advertising is a good reputation that spreads by word of mouth, and we encourage you to refer your friends and receive a $100 credit on your Share for those who join.

As we celebrate our 25th year in ministry, we should continue to place our trust in God and depend on Him in prayer. We can ask Him that this recent controversy be resolved for the good of all and in a way that preserves a good reputation for health care sharing. We can ask him to grow Samaritan Ministries by inspiring fellow believers to apply a Christian worldview to health care. We can ask Him to help us faithfully and boldly share a vision for health care that is different.


If you'd like to learn more about Samaritan Ministries, visit this page with our review and personal experience over the last seven years as members. You can also visit SamaritanMinistries.org

Rep. Hern meets with manufacturing industry leaders, promotes workforce development


Rep. Hern works with manufacturing industry leaders to promote workforce development

TULSA, OK – Representative Kevin Hern (OK-01) met with industry leaders at Tulsa Tech’s Lemley Campus in Tulsa to discuss the vocational training programs offered by Tulsa Tech and other technical colleges in the area.

“In this booming job market, many employers are having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill their open positions and growing companies,” said Rep. Hern. “The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough workers – it’s that these skilled jobs need specific training. I’ve spent a lot of time this year with our local technical colleges and with manufacturers. I’ve said it all along: my top priority is to put our people back to work. There are incredible opportunities here, we just need to connect the dots between the graduates of vocational programs and employers who need skilled labor.”

Representative Hern has met with industry leaders across the First District over the last several months to learn more about the issues employers are facing when hiring for skilled jobs. Many local employers are not utilizing local talent from schools like Tulsa Tech.

With skyrocketing tuition at traditional colleges, many students are incurring more debt than they will earn from their chosen field. Vocational programs allow for a higher return on investment with a shorter and less expensive education.

Rep. Kevin Hern (left) and Dr. Steve Tiger, Superintendent and CEO of Tulsa Tech (Right), at the Lemley Campus of Tulsa Tech

Rep. Kevin Hern and manufacturing industry leaders at the Lemley Campus of Tulsa Tech

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
Student Debt

  • There are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S.
  • In Oklahoma, nearly 50 percent of graduates have debt, and the average borrower owes around $26,000.
  • Studies show that about 3 out of 10 high school grads who go to four-year public universities haven't earned degrees within six years.
  • 1 out of 5 haven't earned degrees within six years at four-year private colleges.
  • According to the office of Federal Student Aid, students who don't complete college are 3 times more likely to have loans default than those who earn degrees. 

Need for Workers

  • Employers in the construction fields are desperately needing workers. According to a recent study by the Association for General Contractors,
    • 70% of construction companies are having trouble finding qualified workers nationwide.
    • In Oklahoma, 75% of companies report having a hard time filling some hourly craft positions. 55% of companies rate the adequacy of the local pipeline for supplying well-trained craft personnel as POOR.
  • The Manufacturing Institute studies indicate that 89 percent of U.S. manufacturing sector executives agree there is a talent shortage in the US manufacturing sector
    • The same study indicates that the skills gap could leave 2.4 million jobs unfilled of the next 10 years, putting nearly $500 billion of manufacturing GDP at risk and $2.5 trillion of economic output over the next 10 years.
    • According to the US. Dept. of Education, there will be 68 percent more job openings in infrastructure-related fields in the next five years than there are people training to fill them.
  • Parental involvement in the problem: According to the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute, only 30 percent of American parents indicate that they would consider guiding their child toward a career in the manufacturing field.
Connecting Industry with the Training Community

  • According to the same AGC study cited earlier, only 31% of Oklahoma companies report outreaching to local colleges, universities, or vocational schools as a method that their firm uses to recruit workers.
  • Congress has witnessed the reality of these statistics firsthand as Rep. Hern has visited businesses and spoken with employers across the district.