Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Stitt vetoes three bills

As the legislative session approaches its final month, measures that passed both chambers are being sent to the Governor for final action. Yesterday, Governor Kevin Stitt signed 28 Senate bills and 16 House bills and vetoed two Senate bills and one House bill.

So far in the 2019 session, Stitt has received 152 Senate Bills, signed 120 of them into law, and vetoed 2 more. He has been sent 125 House Bills, signed 110 of them, and also vetoed 2 bills.

Here are his reasonings for yesterdays vetoes:
Senate Bill 44 would define the term "instructional expenditure" to mean expenditures for instruction and instructional staff support services, including those that directly relate to providing instruction and for activities that assist with classroom instruction. The definition proposed does not align our state with the federal definition of instructional expenditure, which will not allow Oklahoma to measure our instructional expenditures across state lines.

For the aforementioned reasons, I have vetoed Senate Bill 44.

Senate Bill 566 would allow private commercial hunting guides to operate on lands managed or owned by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (the “Department”). The Oklahoma Constitution limits the use of Department fees, monies, or funds to the “control, management, restoration, conservation, and regulation of the bird, fish, and game and wildlife resources of the State... and for the administration of the laws pertaining thereto and for no other purpose.” (Okla. Const., Art. 26, § 4). The use of Department lands, paid for with fees, monies, or funds, for the monetary gain of private companies is not permitted pursuant to the Oklahoma Constitution. This prohibition is recognized in the Department's administrative rules, which include a general prohibition on the operation of private or non Departmental business on any Department managed lands.

In addition, significant portions of Department managed lands are not Department owned and are subject to specific terms of the applicable agreements between the Department and the land owners. Senate Bill 566's mandate to allow private commercial hunting guides to operate on Department lands may force the Department to violate these agreements, which could result in the elimination of an unknown amount of acreage currently available to Oklahomans.

For the aforementioned reasons, I have vetoed Senate Bill 566.

House Bill 1968 would insert state government into contract disputes between firefighter and police officer unions (“unions”) and municipalities. These disputes are best resolved through arbitration, as currently provided in statute. The insertion of state government in these disputes is improper and not in the best interest of Oklahomans. 
For the aforementioned reasons, I have vetoed House Bill 1968.
On a related note, Governor Stitt and his staff have done a superb job at keeping the press abreast of his activities. As a blogger, I am sent or subscribed to a lot of press releases from various elected officials or government departments. Governor Stitt's office sends out the Governor's public schedule on every Monday, with updates throughout the week if his calendar changes and new events are added or modified. Additionally, any action he takes on legislation is sent out to the press list as well, noting what legislation was signed (with links to each bill) or vetoed, with his veto messages included.

This is a dramatic change from Governor Fallin's administration. Kudos to Governor Stitt and his staff for being dedicated to transparency and responsiveness.

Stitt appoints five to State Board of Corrections


Oklahoma City, Okla. (April 30, 2019)— Governor Kevin Stitt announced today five appointments to the State Board of Corrections.

“I am pleased to welcome five new members to the State Board of Corrections,” said Stitt. “They will each bring a diverse perspective to the Department of Corrections in order to implement needed change and innovative ideas. I look forward to working with the board to move our criminal justice and correction system forward.”

The appointments are as follows:

Reginald Hines retired from the Department of Corrections after 37 years of service. During his career with the Department of Corrections, he held various positions from Correctional Officer to Deputy Director. Hines served on the Justice Roundtable Committee in Washington D.C. for the powder versus crack cocaine disparity and sentencing. He was elected to the American Correctional Association’s Board of Governors and was also presented the Oklahoma Correctional Association Achievement Award for his work in criminal justice. Hines is also a graduate of the Leadership Oklahoma, class of XXVIII.  Hines is the current President of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice and the Working Together Prison Ministry. He is also the ambassador for the Making of Men youth organization. Along with his many other accomplishments, Hines is always seeking solutions that impacts our youth of today through gang violence, teen pregnancy, drugs, and drinking and driving among other items that has infected the youth population. Hines resides in Oklahoma City.

Dr. Kathryn LaFortune is a licensed Oklahoma health service psychologist and attorney who currently works at the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau to provide forensic psychological services in delinquency, deprived cases and juvenile competency. Prior to working at the Juvenile Bureau, she worked for Congressman Jim Bridenstine and the Mental Health and Veterans Courts after leaving a 13 year career as Chief of Forensic Services for the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System. She also worked at the Oklahoma Forensic Center as a staff forensic psychologist for her predoctoral internship and postdoctoral experience for three years before working as the mental health director of the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in 1999. LaFortune attended Duke University in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and then worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill as a research associate. She then returned to Oklahoma to attend The University of Tulsa College of Law and worked as a Tulsa Municipal Public Defender before returning to The University of Tulsa to earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with the goal of understanding the interface of the legal system and mental health. She has published and co-authored research articles in a variety of peer reviewed journals and currently sits on the American Psychological Association Committee on Legal Issues. LaFortune has received many awards including, the Oklahoma Psychological Association Distinguished Service Citation, the New York Law School Otto L. Walter Distinguished Writing Award, and The University of Tulsa College of Law Distinguished Alumni. She has served as Chair of the Criminal Law Section of the Oklahoma Bar Association and served as a board member of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, the Tulsa Regional Child Death Review Board, and the Quality Assurance Panel for Juvenile Competency at the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth. LaFortune has also taught classes at a number of colleges, including the New York Law School, the University of Tulsa, TCC, OSU, Rogers State University and Langston University.

Steven Harpe is the Chief Information Officer of Gateway Mortgage Group, one of the nation’s largest, independent mortgage companies. Harpe is a Georgia native who made Broken Arrow his home in 1979, after his father’s service in the United States Air Force. He has more than 30 years of experience managing technology solutions globally for companies such as American Airlines, Sabre, HireRight, Capital One, and CGI.  He has also worked on initiatives for the United States Navy and Marines requiring high level security clearances by the United States Federal Government. He serves on the 501 Technet Advisory Board, an organization that provides eligible nonprofit organizations in Oklahoma with high quality, donor subsidized or partner discounted technology expertise, products and services. Additionally, he serves in several technology leadership groups, such as the Oklahoma CIO's and the Tulsa CIO Forum organizations. These groups bring senior level technologists in Oklahoma together to collaborate on technology transformation and cyber security initiatives. Steve has been married for 24 years to his wife Jody, and has three children Jillian, Ethan and Jenna. They have lived in the Broken Arrow area for 40 years, and are passionate about serving their local community.

Rodney Thornton currently serves as the Owner and President of Thornton Construction Company, Inc. He also owns and operates Eagle drilling, which specializes in oil and gas drilling rigs and equipment, and RT Properties, which is a real estate management company. He holds an MBA from Oklahoma City University and a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Oklahoma. He resides in Norman and is a member of the University of Oklahoma Seed Sower Society.

Betty Gesell lives in Bixby, Oklahoma and is a former small business owner (1998-2012) and Senior Account Representative at Mead Data Central/Lexis Nexis (1995-2000). Gesell holds both a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Nebraska.

The Board of Corrections is a nine person board with five members appointed by the Governor, two members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and two members appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. The board is the governing body for the department. Members are responsible for establishing and reviewing policies and confirming the appointment of wardens or unit heads.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Music Monday: Have Faith in God (Muskogee's hymn)

This week's Music Monday is Have Faith in God, was composed in Muskogee in 1934 by the great Southern Baptist hymn-writer B.B. McKinney. Here's a little more about the Muskogee tie to this hymn:
B. B. McKinney was assisting in a revival meeting at the First Baptist Church, Muskogee, Oklahoma. Dr. C. C. Morris, pastor of the First Baptist Church, Ada, Oklahoma, was the evangelist during this meeting, January 21 to February 4, 1934. The depression of the early thirties had taken a serious toll. Family fortunes and even meager savings had been wiped out unexpectedly as businesses failed and banks closed. In these days of uncertainty McKinney felt keenly the need of secure faith in God. One evening, during the sermon, he began the writing of this hymn; it was completed, both words and music, later that evening after he returned to his room in the Severs Hotel. The manuscript was sent to Robert H. Coleman, who copyrighted it in 1934 and then published it in his Glad Tidings (Dallas, 1935).

In the Baptist Hymnal 1956, the tune to Have Faith in God bore the name Muskogee after the town in Oklahoma where it was composed.


1. Have faith in God
When your pathway is lonely
He sees and knows all
The way you have trod
Never alone
Are the least of His children
Have faith in God
Have faith in God

Chorus: Have faith in God
He's on His throne
Have faith in God
He watches o'er His own
He cannot fail He must prevail
Have faith in God
Have faith in God

2. Have faith in God
When your pray'rs are unanswered
Your earnest plea
He will never forget
Wait on the Lord
Trust His word and be patient
Have faith in God
He'll answer yet

3. Have faith in God
In your pain and your sorrow
His heart is touched
With your grief and despair
Cast all your cares
And your burdens upon Him
And leave them there
Oh leave them there

4. Have faith in God
Tho' all else fail about you
Have faith in God
He provides for His own
He cannot fail tho'
All kingdoms shall perish
He rules He reigns
Upon His throne

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.

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

Stitt signs bill aimed at increasing volunteer firefighter ranks

Governor Signs Bill to Increase Number of Volunteer Firefighters

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Stitt on Thursday signed into law a bill that will allow retired paid firefighters to return to service as volunteers without effecting their state pensions.

House Bill 2051, authored by House Majority Leader Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, and Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. The new law will allow retired paid firefighters to perform as volunteer firefighters for a volunteer department without it affecting their current retirement benefit but also without it counting as an accrued retirement benefit against the state’s pension plan.

“Our rural residents and communities are dependent upon the services of volunteer firefighters to keep them safe from harm in the event of deadly wildfires,” Sanders said. “It helps so much to have individuals who are already trained and well-seasoned to perform these duties. This is why I worked so hard to ensure that we can build the ranks of volunteer firefighters without adding the state’s pension costs.”

Murdock said, “With the amount of wildfires we have in Northwest Oklahoma we need all the men and women we can get. The rural fire departments are stretched to the limits. The passage of this bill will allow experienced retired firefighters to join volunteer departments bringing their wealth of knowledge to that team.”

HB 2051 bill amends language to legislation previously passed by Sanders and signed into law that eliminated the 45-year-old age limit for new firefighters by giving them the ability to join a department without the requirement that they be added to the state’s pension plan. The legislation, which took effect in November 2015, has resulted in 300 new volunteer firefighters joining rural fire departments over the past 3 ½ years.

Sanders explained that state law previously prohibited willing volunteers over the age of 45 from becoming firefighters because the state’s pension and retirement plan could not afford them. Many people from his district, however, said they would be willing to serve without needing the retirement benefit. This amendment now will allow retired paid firefighters to participate in protecting the states rural fire districts as volunteers without affecting funding that can now be appropriated to other core government services.

Sanders said about 85 percent of the firefighters in Oklahoma are volunteers. Of the state’s more than 900 fire departments, about 95 percent are certified with the Rural Fire Defense Program.

Senate Pro Tem appoints Daryl Woodard to DOC board

Senate Pro Tem appoints Daryl Woodard to DOC board

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat announced Monday his appointment of Daryl Woodard of Tulsa to the board of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Woodard is the chief executive officer of SageNet, a Tulsa-based technology firm. He is Treat’s first appointment to the Department of Corrections (DOC) board.

“Across the board, state agencies have not kept up with the pace of technology and digital advancement. As we sort through important issues like criminal justice reform, it’s critically important that we have real, measurable data and analytics. The issue is not simply a matter of money, it’s a matter of strategic, innovative thinking. Daryl Woodard is a successful leader in the world of technology and Internet infrastructure, a background that will suit him to work with agency leaders and other board members to assist DOC in a digital transformation. I very much appreciate his willingness to serve our state, and know that Daryl Woodard will do a great job on the DOC board,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

Woodard founded SageNet in 1998, focusing on designing, installing, managing, and servicing networks for multisite retail customers. He previously owned and operated other tech firms including Stonebridge Technologies, Inc., a custom application development company.

Woodard earned a business administration degree from the University of Illinois. He is involved in many local charitable and civic organizations.

“State government agencies can learn and leverage a lot through data and analytics, just like private businesses. As our state navigates through criminal justice reform, it’s important that lawmakers have access to data to understand as much as possible the impact of their policy decisions. I am honored that Pro Tem Treat selected me to serve, and I am very excited to get started. I look forward to working with DOC leadership and other board members,” said Woodard.

Government accountability measures signed into law earlier this year give the Senate pro tempore two appointments to the nine-member board of the Department of Corrections (DOC). The governor has five appointments to the DOC board while the House speaker has two appointments. The same bills give the governor the authority to hire, fire, and set the salary of the DOC director.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

OCPA column: Is smart legislating a conspiracy?

Is smart legislating a conspiracy?
By Jonathan Small, OCPA President

You may have seen some recent news stories bemoaning the fact that many pieces of legislation are not totally original, and quite a few ideas that become law originated and were tested and debated elsewhere.

First came USA Today, in collaboration with the liberal Center for Public Integrity, noting that just about every state legislature in America considers model legislation suggested or even drafted by a wide range of advocacy groups, which come from every possible place on the political spectrum.

Then The Oklahoman published a story that was itself modeled after the USA Today article criticizing model legislation. On the “lack of self-awareness” scale, that may set some sort of record. Nonetheless, the hype surrounding these articles is far greater than their substance.

USA Today reported at least 10,000 bills were based on model legislation with around 2,100 of those bills signed into law. But, to get the number that high, USA Today had to go back eight years, a period in which the paper reports nearly 1 million bills were filed in the 50 states’ legislatures and Congress.

That means model legislation accounted for just 1 percent of all bills filed in the last eight years across the country. And the share of model bills signed into law represented two-tenths of 1 percent of all measures filed. Put simply, legislative drafting has not been outsourced to any meaningful degree. And when “model legislation” is used, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Oklahoma passed a model bill, for example, based on the “right to try” movement that allows desperately ill people to try to save their lives with experimental medications. Does this really upset anyone, even if the bill was derived from legislation passed elsewhere first?

Right now advocates of Obamacare’s costly Medicaid expansion are using a popular vote model from other states to circumvent the Legislature. I disagree with their goal but have no problem with their effort to mimic other states.

That’s how a free market of ideas is supposed to work. Legislative bodies, from your local city council to the state Legislature and on to Congress discuss, debate, and vote on tens of thousands of proposed laws every year. Some are requested by constituents. Some come from industry or trade groups. Still others are proposed by single-issue advocacy groups, and in all those cases bills are frequently modeled on legislation that has been considered in other states.

In Oklahoma and elsewhere, every bill is vetted by staff attorneys, debated in open committees and floor action, and given multiple votes. There is nothing nefarious about any of this. There is no king from right, left or center dictating laws.

One benefit of our federalist system of government is that states are allowed to try out new policies and other states then learn from their counterparts’ experiences. There’s nothing wrong with that, despite what some activists with bylines may think.

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

Friday, April 26, 2019

Stitt announces four appointments to State Board of Education


Oklahoma City, Okla. (April 26, 2019)— Governor Kevin Stitt announced today four appointments to the Oklahoma State Board of Education.

“Each of our new board members is a qualified leader who is passionate about education in our state,” said Stitt. “They will bring strong representation from across Oklahoma in order to help invest in and guide the direction of our public school system. I look forward to working with the entire board as we move toward Top Ten status in education.”

The appointments are as follows:

Jennifer Monies currently serves as the Senior Director of Public Affairs for Saxum. Prior to this, she worked as a political reporter at The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City and Congressional Quarterly in Washington, D.C. She served in a press and policy advisory role for Speaker of the House Chris Benge and then Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman. She built the State Chamber of Oklahoma's Communication Department from scratch and managed internal and external communications and marketing for the pro-business organization. Before joining Saxum, she most recently ran an education nonprofit for over four years, advocating for improvement in Oklahoma's PK-12 education system. Jennifer lives in the urban core of Oklahoma City with her husband and two children. She has served on the Community Advisory Board of her neighborhood elementary school and currently serves on the board of her son's school. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Brian Bobek currently helps manage the largest global account for BP Lubricants, where he has worked for over 18 years. Devoted to his work, Bobek has fervently traveled the United States for a vast majority of his career, landing accounts in multiple regions. Bobek spearheads local outreach at Capitol Hill High School. He provides snacks for the teams before games, mentors teenagers through hardships and hosts their annual All Sports Banquet. In addition he created a free ACT prep night, open to any student in the area struggling with test anxiety and preparedness. He also devotes his resources to the community by partnering with Tulsa Hope Academy, which provides a new opportunity to students who have been in the criminal justice system, homeless, addicted to drugs, abused or need someone to assist in getting them back on the right track. Bobek and his wife, Toni, reside in Oklahoma City, and together they have four children and one grandchild. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Bobek is a product of Tulsa Public Schools, having attended Tulsa Edison High School. He received his bachelor’s degree from The University of Oklahoma.

Estela Hernandez has been in the Construction and Real Estate business for 15 years as a small business owner and a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams. Hernandez is also known for her role in Oklahoma politics, serving as Vice President of Engagement for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, and Commissioner on the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women. She has served as School Board Member and is a former Spokeswoman for Mundo-Fox Oklahoma City. Due to her professional and civic accomplishments, she has received multiple awards, and serves on various boards. She holds a B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business. Hernandez has been married for 17 years and is the mother of three children, who attend school at Putnam City School District, OKC Public School District, and Epic Charter Schools.

Kurt Bollenbach currently serves as an oil and gas operator for Teocalli Exploration, LLC, where he manages approximately 500 wells in northwest Oklahoma. Prior to working in the oil and gas industry, Bollenbach served as an attorney at a variety of legal offices, including Harrison & Mecklenburg, and the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Upon completion of Officer Basic Course in 2006, Kurt was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany where he acted as general counsel for Commanders, provided legal assistance to Service members, and acted as a military claims officer. Kurt received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University in 2002 and completed law school at the University of Oklahoma in 2005. Bollenbach resides in Kingfisher with his wife and two children, who attend Kingfisher Public Schools.

William E. “Bill” Flanagan is currently the Mayor of Claremore, Oklahoma. Mr. Flanagan, a retired certified public accountant and personal financial specialist has owned and operated a public accounting firm, specializing in individual, small business and corporation tax, as well as personal financial consulting for 35 years. He served many years on the Claremore Park Board and previously served on Claremore’s City Council. In addition, Mr. Flanagan served as President for the Board of Directors, Hope Harbor Children’s Home for over 20 years. In 2004, he was named Claremore’s Citizen of the Year; and the Claremore Chamber of Commerce honored him with the 2014 Career Achievement Award. He has served as a board member for the Rogers State University Foundation in addition to serving on various other local and state boards in leadership roles. Mr. Flanagan earned a bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and was licensed as a Certified Public Accountant in 1975.  He and his wife Mary Lou have three children and four grandchildren.

On April 1, Gov. Stitt announced the appointment of Carlisha Williams Bradley who currently serves as the Executive Director for Impact Tulsa. Bradley is also the Founder and CEO of Women Empowering Nations. A leader in the Tulsa and Oklahoma education community, Bradley previously worked as the Executive Director for Tulsa Legacy Charter Schools and the Schools Systems Leader Fellow & Senior Consultant at Tulsa Public Schools. She also served as the Regional Vice-President at Lighthouse Academics and worked as an 8th Grade Math Teacher and KIPP Through College Director at KIPP Reach College Preparatory. Bradley holds a Bachelor of Arts in African & African-American Studies and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship & Venture Management from the University of Oklahoma and a Master of Public Administration from Syracuse University.

The State Board of Education is the governing board of the public school system of the state of Oklahoma. Members are charged with pursuing and implementing reforms that will boost student performance and ultimately help to create the kind of educated, highly skilled workforce that will bring more and better jobs to the state.

Hofmeister remarks on new appointments to State Board of Education

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 26, 2019) – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister made the following statement today after Gov. Stitt announced four new appointments to the State Board of Education. Hofmeister chairs the board.

“General Lee Baxter, Cathy Franks, Bill Price and Bob Ross have served on the State Board with distinction, passion and genuine commitment to Oklahoma’s schoolchildren. I will miss working with each one, and I thank them for their service on the board,” Hofmeister said.

“At the same time, I am excited by the appointments announced today by Governor Stitt. I already have had the honor of working with Estela Hernandez and Jennifer Monies; I know both to be tireless and exceptional advocates for strong public education. I look forward to getting to know Brian Bobek and Kurt Bollenbach. We all have hard work ahead of us, but there is reason for great optimism.”

Senate President Treat appoints Bob Boyd to OHCA board

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat appoints Bob Boyd to Health Care Authority board

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat on Tuesday announced his appointment of Robert “Bob” Boyd of Owasso to the board of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Under legislation signed into law in March, the Health Care Authority (OHCA) is among five of the largest state agencies who now have agency directors who are hired and fired by the governor. The reforms also created nine-member boards at each of the five agencies made up of five appointments by the governor and two each by the Senate pro tem and the House speaker.

Boyd is Treat’s first appointment to the OHCA board.

“The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is a huge agency that oversees a budget in excess of a billion dollars and administers the Medicaid program. It’s important we have people with experience with strategic management skills and an eye for identifying critical issues and implementing decisive solutions. Bob Boyd is successful and skilled financial executive with more than 30 years of management experience for a variety of diverse organizations. More than that, he’s a leader with integrity and a heart to serve Oklahoma. I know he will do well in helping lead the Health Care Authority,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

Boyd is the founder and president of Boston Street Advisors, Inc., and Boston Street Capital, LLC. Prior to that, he served in a variety of financial management positions at companies like Lowrance Electronics, Inc., and Bank of Oklahoma. He also previously served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tulsa and at Langston University – Tulsa. He also previously served on the National Advisory Board of the Small Business Administration.

“I am honored that Pro Tem Treat would place his trust in me to serve in this important role at the Health Care Authority. I am eager to dig in and get to work ensuring the agency is using tax dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible so that we can serve those who truly need assistance. I look forward to working with the other board members and agency leadership to fulfill OHCA’s mission,” Boyd said.

Boyd earned a business administration degree from Phillips University and a masters of business administration from the University of Tulsa. He also completed the executive development and advanced management program at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

State Senate advances criminal justice reform measures

Senate advances criminal justice reform bills
Bills return to House for action

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday advanced a series of criminal justice reform measures that provide uniformity of certain drug offenses, improve parole supervision, and cap excessive sentences for nonviolent offenses, among other reforms.

“Oklahoma cannot continue to warehouse prisoners who need substance abuse and medical treatment for their addiction and mental health issues. This mentality has given us the highest incarceration rate in the world, cost our state a tremendous amount of money, and has torn families apart. The measures passed today strike the balance between upholding public safety and moving forward with comprehensive criminal justice reforms that will keep families together, and get nonviolent offenders the treatment they need to remain productive members of society,” said Senator Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher.

“The Legislature has made great strides in addressing Oklahoma’s high incarceration rates and skyrocketing prison costs. We have to keep the momentum moving forward to reform the system and these measures are a huge part of the overall reform effort that are moving us in the right direction,” said Senator Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City.

The bills advanced on Thursday by the Senate now return to the House for consideration and include:

  • HB 1100, authored in the Senate by Senator Bice, provides clarity that certain evidentiary requirements be met for charges of possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, and lowers currently high maximum sentences.
  • HB 2009, authored in the Senate by Senator Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, caps maximum sentences for second and subsequent nonviolent convictions.
  • HB 2273, authored in the Senate by Senator Jech, makes several changes to the pardon and parole process including requiring the Pardon and Parole Board to state the reason for denial of an application for parole and suggest a course of remediation for the inmate.
  • HB 2369, authored in the Senate by Jech, creates the Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission to evaluate and make recommendations on the creation of diversion programs. A report of the commission to the Legislature is due February 1 and each year thereafter.
  • HB 1373, authored in the Senate by Senator Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, would direct occupational licensing boards to list with specificity any disqualifying criminal convictions directly related to such occupations.
  • HB 2218, authored in the Senate by Jech, directs the court to waive outstanding fines, court costs and fees if the offender has secured admission to and is enrolled in an institution that is a technology center, workforce training program or member of state college or university. The bill also limits district attorney supervision to no more than two years.
  • HB 1927, authored in the Senate by Senator Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, reduces the term of imprisonment for a person who commits assault upon a medical care provider from two years to one year.
  • HB 2310, authored in the Senate by Bice, would allow a person convicted of a crime to select either the jury or the judge to assess punishment.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Terry Neese launches campaign for 5th District GOP nomination

Neese: “I have spent my entire career fighting for more opportunities for men, women, and families to help them secure brighter futures – and that is exactly what I will continue to do as your Representative in Congress.”

Oklahoma City, OK – Terry Neese, a conservative Republican, entrepreneur, international executive, and small business advocate, today launched her campaign for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District seat.

“Like many of the hard-working residents of the 5th District, I am deeply concerned with the political infighting in Washington and the direction in which our country is moving,” said Terry Neese. “I believe our district has a chance to get our nation back on track, but it will take sending a proven leader to Congress who has the private sector experience and conservative principles to stand up to Nancy Pelosi and pass policies that will unleash our economy, keep our nation secure, and protect future generations from crippling national debt.”

A lifelong Oklahoman, Terry Neese has spent 31 years in the private sector creating and finding jobs for men and women as the founder of Terry Neese Personnel Services (TNPS), National Grassroots Network, and the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW). As the co-founder of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) and as a Distinguished Fellow for the National Center for Policy Analysis, Neese has also been a leading advocate for the advancement of economic opportunities for women, men, and families across the nation.

Neese is the former president of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Under her leadership, the organization led the successful passage of H.R. 5050, which President Ronald Reagan signed into law. This historic legislation made it possible for women business owners to obtain a small business loan or credit card without a male signature.

As Congresswoman for Oklahoma’s 5th District, Neese pledges to put her experience to work and help President Trump pass an agenda that will unleash our true economic potential, keep our nation secure, and protect future generations from crippling national debt.

“I am the clear conservative choice who will help President Trump deliver on his agenda to put America first and get Congress back to doing the work of the people,” said Neese. “I have spent my entire career fighting for more opportunities for men, women, and families to help them secure brighter futures – and that is exactly what I will continue to do as your Representative in Congress.”

Neese also said Democratic incumbent Representative Kendra Horn will have to answer for her first vote in Congress, which made ultraliberal Rep. Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House.

Neese added: "Kendra Horn's very first action in Congress was to hand the keys to every committee and subcommittee in the House to Nancy Pelosi, which empowered members such as socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. By supporting open borders, the murder of defenseless babies, a 90 percent income tax rate, and a socialized healthcare system that would cost taxpayers nearly $32 trillion, it is clear Democrats in Washington have lost sight of what our forefathers fought for. As a true conservative outsider and small business owner, I know how to get government out of the way of the American people so we can restore the American Dream for future generations.”

Neese and her husband, Earl, were pilots.  They were married for 39 years before he passed in 2012. She is a mother and grandmother as well.

For more information on Terry Neese or her campaign, please visit www.NeeseForCongress.com. A PDF of Terry's bio is viewable here.

Stitt signs judicial redistricting bill


OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma (April 25, 2019) – Governor Kevin Stitt today signed House Bill 2366, which modifies the judicial districts for both the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals.

“I applaud the Legislature for their dedication to government reform, looking beyond state agencies to also our judiciary,” said Stitt. “The Oklahoma Supreme Court districts were drawn in the 1960s and have never been revisited to reflect the state’s current population distribution. I was elected to hire the best people to serve, especially on the Supreme Court where Justices may serve for generations. This common-sense legislation ensures all 4 million Oklahomans are well represented while also increasing the number of quality, qualified candidates eligible for these critical appointments.”

HB 2366 updates the Supreme Court district map to align with the state’s five congressional districts and establishes four at-large seats that are open to all qualified applicants in Oklahoma. The bill also updates the Court of Criminal Appeals district map to match the five Oklahoma congressional districts. Under the bill, all current Supreme Court Justices and Court of Criminal Appeals Judges retain their office and are eligible to seek retention.

“Modernizing the maps from which judicial districts are drawn is an important judicial reform,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “By updating the maps, which were last drawn in 1967, we will increase the pool of eligible candidates to fill judicial vacancies. I want to commend Senator Julie Daniels for her great work in shepherding this bill through the process.”

HB 2366 goes into effect January 1, 2020.

New members join OCPA Board of Trustees

New members join OCPA Board of Trustees

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 23, 2019) – Dr. Keith Smith and W. Carey Johnson have joined the board of trustees for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, giving the free-market think tank additional expertise in the health care and retail fields.

“Keith Smith and Carey Johnson are highly respected individuals who have made great contributions to Oklahoma,” said OCPA President Jonathan Small. “They know that free markets ultimately empower and benefit consumers most of all, and have been forceful advocates for needed change in Oklahoma. We appreciate their willingness to serve as trustees and help guide OCPA in the days ahead.”

OCPA’s board of trustees is composed of more than 30 leaders from a range of industries across Oklahoma. The board exercises overall responsibility for the policies, programs, and direction of OCPA.

Smith is the medical director, CEO and managing partner of The Surgery Center of Oklahoma. The Surgery Center has gained national fame for providing a level of price transparency that barely exists elsewhere in the U.S. health care system. Prices at the Surgery Center are often far less than what other facilities charge. Smith also is co-founder of the Free Market Medical Association.

Johnson helms EZ GO Stores, a convenience store chain founded in Oklahoma in 1963 that today operates dozens of locations in three states. Johnson also serves on the BancFirst Community Board in Lawton and on the Mentorship Program for Lawton Public Schools.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Walkingstick comments on mudslinging by opponents in Cherokee chief race


Over the past week, two complaints were filed against David Walkingstick with the Cherokee Nation Election Commission by opponents of his campaign for Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, including one complaint filed by a staff member of the Hoskin/Warner campaign and their affiliate group Cherokee Future LLC. On Wednesday evening, David Walkingstick released the following statement:

"The complaint filed last week by Chelsea Huber is nothing more than a desperate attempt from my opposition to drag me down politically because they fear that they cannot win this election on their own merits. Instead of running a clean election and focusing on the issues, my opponent has chosen to file a baseless complaint through Ms. Huber.

Less than a week after Ms. Huber's initial complaint, a campaign employee for Cherokee Future LLC and the Hoskin Warner campaign named Elizabeth Stroud filed yet another complaint in an attempt to continue the mudslinging.

This unethical tactic being used by my opposition only further highlights the need for positive change in our Cherokee Nation. When this administration gets desperate, they turn to fear and deceit as tactics to retain power. I will continue to run an issue-based campaign focused on positive reforms for our Cherokee people.

Our people are desperate for a leader who will address the issues that matter most, like the healthcare crisis and unequal services for Cherokees based on where they live. I am the only candidate running for Principal Chief with the vision and heart to solve these issues for our people. The scripture says that without a vision, the people will perish. I would encourage all Cherokee citizens to look deeper into these baseless allegations and ask themselves if they want a leader who will do anything to win or a leader who will continue fighting for our people."

You can follow the Walkingstick/Frailey campaign online by visiting www.VoteForStick.com or by liking “Walkingstick for Chief” on Facebook.

Senate President calls out OSC’s use of ‘special law’ to strike down workers’ comp provision

Senate leadership calls out Supreme Court’s use of ‘special law’ to strike down workers’ comp provision

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat criticized the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s use of the “special law” provision of the Oklahoma Constitution to strike down the non-economic damages cap of landmark lawsuit reform laws.

“It’s not surprising the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a lawsuit reform provision under the auspices of it being a ‘special law.’ The Supreme Court has previously demonstrated its dislike of lawsuit reform, and when the court doesn’t like a law they fall back to their old standby of using ‘special law’ or ‘single-subject rule’ to throw out constitutionally sound bills. If the Supreme Court can’t apply these standards in a consistent basis, then perhaps the Legislature should look at remedies that would bring uniformity to the application of these important provisions of the state constitution,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

The court continues to go outside its constitutional lane of interpreting the law, said Senator Julie Daniels, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“The courts are intended to be independent arbiters of the constitutionality of legislation, but you cannot fault Oklahomans for questioning that independence when the court haphazardly uses ‘special law’ and ‘single-subject rule’ to strike down laws the court does not like. This is an issue that merits further study by members of the Legislature,” said Daniels, R-Bartlesville.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Governor Stitt releases First 100 Days in Office Accomplishments report


Oklahoma City, Okla. (April 23, 2019) – Governor Kevin Stitt released today his First 100 Days in Office Accomplishments report. The report focuses on the Stitt administration's progress thus far and displays the work being done to improve transparency, accountability, and efficiency in state government. Highlights of the report include:

Agency accountability: 
Governor Stitt signed into law legislation that forces five of the 12 largest agencies to answer to the executive branch. Past governors have produced blue ribbon studies showing that responsibility and power are spread so far and thin across state government that essentially no one is able to be held accountable by the voters. Within the first two months of the Stitt administration, the governor and the Legislature worked together to produce historic reform in five of the largest agencies.

This reform now allows the governor to fire poor performing agency directors and recruit the best talent to come serve in these critical leadership positions, answering directly to the executive branch for the first time in state history.

Governor Stitt requested performance audits of nine agencies in order to complete performance audits of the 12 largest agencies that consume 90% of the state budget.

The Stitt administration also requested two financial audits that were immediately implemented by the State Auditor and Inspector’s office. The most notable audit underway, at the request of Governor Stitt, is an audit of the Medicaid rolls.

Reducing OMES emergency supplemental request from $23 million to $0:
Governor Stitt's administration reduced the previous administration’s emergency supplemental budget request for Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) from $23 million in October 2018 down to $0.

OMES is an interfacing state agency that provides IT, human resources and other services to state agencies. Prior to the Stitt administration taking office, OMES notified the Legislature that the agency needed an emergency injection of an additional $23 million before the end of the fiscal year. Within the first two months, Governor Stitt’s new Chief Operating Officer John Budd dug in to the finances of the agency and brought the emergency request to $16 million, and by April, COO Budd brought it down to $0 by changing processes within OMES, renegotiating vendor contracts, and leveraging the agency’s revolving funds.

First governor’s budget to highlight total dollars:
Governor Stitt introduced the first governor’s budget that outlines total dollars spent by state government.

Previous governor’s budgets focused solely on roughly 40% of the budget, the portion of tax dollars appropriated by the Legislature. Governor Stitt’s budget also outlines federal dollars being spent to support state government as well as apportionments and fees, directly collected by state agencies. The governor’s budget was provided online the first of February for all Oklahomans to see while the Legislature began budget negotiations.

Digital Transformation:
Governor Stitt appointed a Secretary of Digital Transformation, a brand new position, to help accomplish his vision to bring Oklahoma state government fully into the digital age. Already, Oklahoma has begun to implement digital transformation measures by:

  • Modernizing state parks by making it possible for parks to accept credit cards in the field for the first time in state history. 
  • Launching the beta test for digital driver’s license that would be Real ID Compliant. 
  • Beginning the process to modernize the administrative rules website to make it more user friendly and transparent. 
  • Securing a vendor to relaunch Oklahoma’s checkbook online 

A copy of the complete report is available by clicking here.

Bill to Increase Number of Volunteer Firefighters Heads to Governor

Bill to Increase Number of Volunteer Firefighters Heads to Governor

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would allow retired firefighters to return to service as volunteers without affecting their state pensions passed the state Senate today with a unanimous vote of 42-0.

House Bill 2051, authored by House Majority Leader Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, and Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, now heads to the governor to be signed into law. 

“Rural residents are dependent upon volunteer firefighters and fire departments to keep their lives and properties safe,” Sanders said. “This law will allow those willing to serve in this capacity to so without damaging their own pension plans or without adding cost to the state.”

HB 2051 bill amends language to legislation previously passed by Sanders and signed into law that eliminated the 45-year-old age limit for new firefighters by giving them the ability to join a department without the requirement that they be added to the state’s pension plan. The legislation, which took effect in November 2015, has resulted in 300 new volunteer firefighters joining rural fire departments over the past 3 ½ years.

The new legislation will allow retired firefighters to perform as volunteer firefighters for a volunteer department without it affecting their current retirement benefit but also without it counting as an accrued retirement benefit against the state’s pension plan.

“State law previously prohibited willing volunteers over the age of 45 from becoming firefighters because the state’s pension and retirement plan could not afford them,” Sanders said. “Many, however, have been willing to serve without needing the retirement benefit. This amendment will allow trained and seasoned but retired firefighters to participate in protecting the states rural fire districts without affecting funding for other core government services.”

Sanders said about 85 percent of the firefighters in Oklahoma are volunteers. Of the state’s more than 900 fire departments, about 95 percent are certified with the Rural Fire Defense Program.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

OCPA column: Helping kids is good sense – and popular

Helping kids is good sense – and popular
By Jonathan Small, President of OCPA

Oklahoma ranks poorly in national comparisons of educational achievement. This year lawmakers have a proven way to start improving those statistics.

Senate Bill 407 would increases tax credits that can be issued for donations to programs giving private-school scholarships to low-income and special-needs children or donations to programs supporting traditional public schools. The bill would raise the cap so $15 million in tax credits will be issued annually for the scholarship portion of the program and $15 million for the public-school side, a total of $30 million per year.

Most tax credits reduce state revenue, at least on paper, but not this program. Jacob Dearmon and Russell Evans, professors at the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University, have analyzed the scholarship side of the program and found Oklahoma government saved $1.39 for every dollar in tax credits issued in the 2017-2018 school year. The only thing the program does is increase private giving to education.

The scholarship program has been life-altering. Fifteen-year-old Alexis Hord used a tax-credit scholarship to attend The Cross Christian Academy in rural northeast Oklahoma. After a childhood filled with abuse, drug use, and few positive role models, Hord said “a new beginning” was created thanks to the opportunity to attend the faith-based school and receive help with life skills. She’s not alone. Countless other tax-credit scholarship beneficiaries have similar stories.

But SB 407 doesn’t just benefit a handful of children in private schools. It can positively benefit all children in every school in Oklahoma, because the legislation also incentives private giving to traditional public schools. Tax credits are already helping boost STEM offerings in rural communities. SB 407 expands the program so all public schools can participate. Before the tax-credit program was created, there was no program to incentivize private donations to public schools. Now SB 407 will turbo-charge the program and increase public-school student opportunities as well.

What are the downsides to SB 407? None. SB 407 will incentivize millions in private contributions to Oklahoma education. If that’s a bad outcome, one wonders what a good outcome looks like.

Oklahomans understand this, which is why so many citizens support this legislation. Polling conducted by WPA Intelligence, commissioned by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, found 60 percent of Oklahomans support raising the cap; just 23 percent are opposed. Support was strong in all parts of Oklahoma, and across party lines. Democratic women were among the strongest supporters with 70 percent in favor.

When respondents were told tax-credit scholarship beneficiaries include children with special needs and the homeless, support surged to 79 percent.

The question isn’t whether Oklahoma will offer tax credits. The question is what purpose will be served by tax credits. Oklahoma already gives tax credits for CNG use, windmills, rehabilitation of old buildings, and even American Ninja Warrior filming.

Why would we support those causes with tax credits, but refuse to use the same tool to boost education funding for Oklahoma children? It’s time to raise the cap.

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

Friday, April 19, 2019

OCPA statement on Medicaid expansion ballot initiative

Statement from Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs, on the filing of a ballot initiative to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot. 

“There isn’t support in the Legislature or the public for forcing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma for a simple reason: It prioritizes spending billions of taxpayer dollars on welfare benefits for able-bodied, working age adults, many of them single working-age men, over providing care for the truly needy. Nationwide, expansion programs have crowded out care for the aged, blind, disabled, pregnant women and children.

“Rather than spend Good Friday contemplating one of the most consequential events in history, as most Oklahomans did, expansion supporters engaged in a political stunt. The petition is meant to bluff state lawmakers into passing an expansion program they know is a bad idea. Lawmakers should stick with their gut and continue opposing this plan. The Obamacare Medicaid proposal is a massive expansion of welfare that will add 628,000 able-bodied adults to Oklahoma’s welfare rolls and could put working families on the hook for a state share of $374 million annually.

“Make no mistake, expanding Obamacare in Oklahoma will result in the state seeing the same problems as every other state that has gone down this path. Enrollment levels will be far higher than what expansion supporters predict, at significantly higher costs, to achieve significantly lower outcomes than promised. If you doubt it, just look at states comparable to Oklahoma that expanded Medicaid. Cost overruns in Arkansas have topped $1.4 billion, and Kentucky’s ranking on health outcomes remains low, despite Kentucky spending far more taxpayer money on Medicaid.

“States across the country that have expanded Medicaid have had to resort to tax increases, and the same fate awaits Oklahomans should Medicaid expand. And the growing costs of Medicaid will endanger funding for other government services like education and public safety.

“Furthermore, making a welfare program a constitutional right, regardless of funding changes at the federal level or shifting needs in Oklahoma, is bad policy, and Oklahomans understand this.

“We are confident that significant opposition will rise in the coming days as the serious flaws in this proposal become evident. Rather than expand Medicaid, state lawmakers need to pursue the real solutions already available to address Oklahoma’s health care challenges, protect state and federal taxpayers, and protect the state’s most vulnerable citizens.”