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

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

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.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Small: No profit in schools?

No profit in schools?
By Jonathan Small

I’ve seen some defenders of Oklahoma’s educational status-quo insist that one benefit of the current system is it is untainted by profit motive. That’s a view that can be perpetuated only if one stays in a constant state of willful blindness, because here’s the truth: People are making billions off Oklahoma public schools every year. Every day someone—whether it’s a school employee or private contractor—is making money off public schools.

In 2017, more than $1.5 billion was spent by Oklahoma’s public schools on supplies and purchased services. In most cases, that money went to private vendors selling goods and services for a profit.

The school buses weren’t built by local school officials. The law firms hired by district are not normally donating their services for free. Textbooks are a big, national business, as are the standardized tests used in the classroom. When district voters approve a bond for new buildings, the materials are purchased from private companies and the buildings are erected by private entities.

Profit motive is apparent even among those who advocate for public schools at the Capitol. During the 2018-2019 school year, four school districts—Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Bixby, and Jenks—spent nearly $200,000 combined in taxpayer funding on contract lobbyists.

Certainly, those who work for those private companies may care about local schools. But they also care about their bottom line.

At the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, we have long argued parents should be able to send their children to the school of their choice with taxpayer funds, and we’ve supported privatization in other areas of government. Opponents object that this would mean private schools could make a profit off school-choice. But, as noted above, people are making a profit off schools every day. And if the end result is a better education for a child, who cares that a school is financially rewarded for improved performance?

School choice policies that empower parents are not an important reform because they introduce profit motive into education. They’re an important reform because they use market forces (and the associated profit motive of vendors) to increase the power of parents. The current system uses profit motive only to boost the power of administrators dealing without outside vendors.

Schools have good reason to use outside vendors for a wide range of goods and services. But the free-market forces that give schools greater value when contracting for those services will work equally well if we give that same power to parents.

I’m glad schools use free-market forces to get a fleet of buses at the lowest possible price. But it would be even better if we used those market forces to also generate well-educated students across Oklahoma.

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

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Former Shawnee mayor Mills endorses Neese for Congress


Oklahoma City, OK – Terry Neese, conservative Republican candidate for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, has received the endorsement of Chuck Mills, small business owner and former Mayor of the City of Shawnee. In a statement released today, Mills lauded Neese as the only candidate in the race who has the experience needed to help President Trump create jobs and empower small businesses to succeed.

“Terry understands the challenges that come with running a business, managing payroll, and creating jobs – and there is no candidate in the race who is better suited to fight for the Oklahoma working families and business owners,” said Chuck Mills. “It is time for our District to once again have a strong and trusted conservative voice in the Halls of Congress. After a 31-year career creating and finding tens of thousands of jobs, I know Terry is ready to take on Kendra Horn and other radicals in Congress who are pushing massive tax hikes, job-killing regulations, and an agenda that will devastate small businesses in Oklahoma and across the nation.”

“Chuck Mills was a tremendous Mayor for Shawnee taxpayers and I am proud to have such a respected public servant and accomplished business owner endorse my campaign,” said Terry Neese. “In Congress, I will not stand by and allow Kendra Horn’s Democratic Party to undo the progress that has been made under President Trump’s Administration. I will fight tirelessly for lower taxes, regulatory relief, and policies that will provide economic security for 5th District workers and business owners.”

Former Shawnee City Mayor Chuck Mills is the latest to join the list of current and former conservative legislators, public officials, leaders, and organizations who have endorsed Terry Neese for U.S. Congress. Since launching her campaign in April, Neese has earned the support of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5), former Republican 2016 Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, Shawnee Mayor Richard Finley, RightNOW Women PAC, Eagle Forum PAC, and Freedomworks For America.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Gov. Stitt helps State kick off 2020 Census Complete Count


OKLAHOMA CITY (August 27, 2019)— Governor Kevin Stitt kicked off the 2020 Census Symposium on Monday, August 26, at MetroTech Conference Center with the announcement of Executive Order 2019-32, which establishes the Oklahoma Census 2020 Complete Count Committee.

“A complete and accurate count of Oklahoma’s population is vital to the success of our state,” said Gov. Stitt. “With this Executive Order, I am directing state government to collaborate with leaders across Oklahoma to encourage participation and ensure that every Oklahoman is counted in the 2020 Census. With everyone’s participation, I believe our state’s population will exceed 4 million people.”

The Oklahoma Census 2020 Complete Count Committee will consist of up to 20 individuals appointed by the Governor who will work to provide recommendations on how Oklahoma can receive the most complete and accurate census count.

In addition to the state committee, the Department of Commerce is working to encourage formation of local Complete Count Committees across Oklahoma.

“The Oklahoma Department of Commerce is coordinating with leaders in all 77 counties to form local Complete Count Committees,” said Brent Kisling, Executive Director, Oklahoma Department of Commerce. “These trusted partners have the relationships in their local communities to encourage participation in the hard-to-count geographies and populations. Improving upon the participation rates from the 2010 Census is a large undertaking and will ensure that Oklahoma is not undercounted.”

Census Day will be April 1, 2020, but Oklahoma residents can self-respond to the 2020 Census beginning in early March 2020, via the internet, by phone, by traditional paper census questionnaire, or in-person with a U.S Census Bureau enumerator.

The U.S. Constitution mandates a full count of the population in Article 1, Section 2. The Census Bureau has counted every resident in the U.S. every ten years since 1790.

The Census Bureau does not appropriate funds to the states. However, decennial census counts are used when determining how to allocate federal funds. Because of this, it is extremely important that all Oklahomans respond to the Census.

“Beyond the Constitutional mandate requiring the decennial Census for reapportionment, the 2020 Census will be used over the following ten years as a baseline to distribute federal funding from approximately 300 federal programs,” said Jon Chiappe, Director of Research & Economic Analysis, Oklahoma Department of Commerce. “These programs impact the state, tribal nations and our local communities in many aspects of our lives including education, healthcare, housing, and transportation among others. If we are not accurately counted, it will place a burden on our state, tribal and local governments as they provide services to larger populations with fewer federal resources.”

The Executive Order regarding the 2020 Census can be viewed here.

About the Oklahoma State Data Center
The Oklahoma Department of Commerce operates the State Data Center for the state of Oklahoma. A partner of the U.S. Census Bureau, the State Data Center ensures Oklahoma’s citizens, communities, and businesses have access to critical Census data.

Stillwater GOP Rep spoke at rally with anti-Constitutional Carry petition signing

State Reps. John Talley (R-Stillwater) and Trish Ranson (D-Stillwater)
State Rep. John Talley (R RINO-Stillwater) recently spoke at a Moms Demand Action rally and anti-Constitutional Carry petition signing in Stillwater on August 18th.
Veto-referendum petition signing at the Stillwater event
Talley earned a Conservative Index score of just 20 during the 2019 legislative session, making him the most liberal Republican legislator. One House Democrat and two Senate Democrats scored higher than Talley, even during a session largely devoid of moderate Democrat legislators.

Stillwater's Republican State Senator Tom Dugger missed the vote on HB2597, the Constitutional Carry bill. Of 9 votes that the Senate took that day, that was the only measure Sen. Dugger missed. In all likelihood, he "walked the vote". Both Talley and Stillwater's other State House representative, Trish Ranson (D), voted against the measure when it came to the House floor. Ranson also attended and spoke at the August 18th rally with Talley.
State Rep. John Talley and one of the rally speakers
Stillwater-area Republicans and gun-rights advocates should remember this in the 2020 election cycle.

WSJ: An Oklahoma Opioid Stickup

The Wall Street Journal opined yesterday on the recent news out of Cleveland County, where a district judge gave Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter a favorable ruling that ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572M to the State over its role in the opioid crisis.

Here are some excerpts from the opinion piece:
An Oklahoma Opioid Stickup
The $572 million ruling greatly expands product liability tort law.

[Wall Street Journal Editorial Board] The ruling Monday by an Oklahoma judge that Johnson & Johnson must pay $572 million for selling opioids will be cheered by everyone who wants a scapegoat for the scourge of addiction. But the ruling could have far larger, and more dangerous, consequences by opening a vast new arena for product-liability suits.

Mr. Hunter has since focused on his $17 billion claim that Johnson & Johnson “abate” the alleged public nuisance caused by opioid addiction. Public-nuisance torts usually involve damage to property, and the remedy is enjoin or correct nuisances. But state AGs and the trial bar have been stretching public-nuisance law beyond its intended purpose. New York City and Oakland, California, have tried to use public-nuisance law to sue oil companies for damages they claim they will incur in the future from climate change.

Oklahoma’s opioid shakedown is equally dubious. J&J’s opioids, which include a fentanyl patch and crush-resistant pill, constitute less than 1% of Oklahoma’s prescription opioid market. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drugs and their black-box warnings, and they’re still legal. Patients may only obtain the drugs with prescriptions through government-licensed pharmacies.
Judge Balkman also stretches the traditional public-nuisance limitation with respect to property damage by claiming that J&J is liable because its sales reps were trained in their Oklahoma homes, used company cars and sent messages to homes of thousands of Oklahomans via computers. By this standard, cell manufacturers could be liable for damages caused by distracted drivers.

The state’s $572 million “abatement” claim is brimming with pork to fund government agencies, new opioid treatment centers and licensure boards such as the Board of Dentistry and Veterinary Board. Patients won’t receive much benefit, but the plaintiff attorneys who helped Mr. Hunter will be winners, having already raked in $60 million from the Purdue settlement. [...]

You can read the full editorial here, but it is behind a paywall.

Here are some other perspectives on the ruling. From the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform:
“An Oklahoma Opioid Stickup”: The Wall Street Journal editorial board took aim at yesterday’s ruling by an Oklahoma judge that Johnson & Johnson must pay $572 million for what Judge Balkman called “misleading marketing” of opioids in the state, even though the company’s sales make up less than one percent of Oklahoma’s prescription opioid market. Little of that money will go directly to plaintiffs, but their lawyers will take home $90 million.

As the editorial board points out, the ruling relied on a distorted application of public nuisance law, which does not require a direct causal link between a defendant’s action and harm to a plaintiff. With this bench verdict, Judge Balkman has added fuel to many of the over 2,000 cases in the federal opioid litigation in Ohio which rely on public nuisance. He has also effectively confirmed that public nuisance laws can be used to skirt the more stringent requirements of product liability law, validating recent efforts by the trial bar and state AGs to use this legal theory as a basis for suing energy companies over climate change. As ILR President Lisa Rickard said in response to the ruling, under public nuisance “almost any industry could be the target of large-scale litigation.

From the Independent Women's Forum:
Today’s verdict distorts public nuisance law beyond recognition and puts manufacturers of all lawful products at risk.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Today’s verdict by Judge Thad Balkman that Johnson & Johnson must pay $572 million to the Oklahoma state government as penance for the opioid crisis puts manufacturers of all lawful, but politically unpopular, products at risk.

The lawsuit brought by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sought billions in damages from the producers of federally regulated prescription opioids. Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals settled with the state without admitting wrongdoing prior to trial.

The epidemic of opioid abuse is a serious public health issue that requires complex and interdisciplinary public policy solutions. Unfortunately, Judge Balkman’s decision punishes the makers of valuable prescription medicines and does little to solve this complex public health problem.

Judges should not be allowed to regulate the distribution of federally-controlled medicines outside of the normal regulatory process or to redistribute wealth from the private sector to the public sector for the purpose of funding government spending. That is, quite simply, an abuse of the system of the American justice.

Jennifer C. Braceras, the director of Independent Women's Forum’s Center for Law & Liberty, issued the following statement in response to the verdict:

“Sadly, most people today know of someone who has grappled with opioid addiction. But lawsuits brought by publicity-seeking politicians won’t solve the problem. The verdict is a victory for taxation by litigation, but it is consumers who will pay the price in the form of higher prices and reduced access to pain medications for patients who need them.”

Read the IWF Legal Brief on public nuisance lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies HERE.

FreedomWorks super PAC endorses Terry Neese for Congress


Oklahoma City, OK – Terry Neese, conservative Republican candidate for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, has earned the endorsement of FreedomWorks for America, an organization committed to promoting free enterprise, individual liberties, and constitutionally limited government.

“Oklahoman conservatives have a principled champion of small government and economic freedom in Terry Neese,” said Noah Wall, FreedomWorks for America Executive Director. “Not only does Terry Neese know what it takes to operate a successful small business, she has impressive distinction of having worked tirelessly to pass legislation, which upon being signed into law by President Ronald Reagan allowed women business owners to obtain small business loans and credit cards without a male signature. FreedomWorks for America is proud to stand by Neese as she challenges out-of-touch incumbent Kendra Horn in 2020.”

“Like me, FreedomWorks for America is committed to holding our government accountable and fighting for policies that protect free-market principles and our personal freedoms,” said Terry Neese. “As the Congresswoman for the 5th District, I will help President Trump fight the radical Left’s assault on our free-market principles and protect our Constitution at all costs.”

FreedomWorks for America is the latest to join the list of current and former conservative legislators, public officials, leaders, and organizations who have endorsed Terry Neese for U.S. Congress. Since launching her campaign in April, Neese has earned the support of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5), former Republican 2016 Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, Shawnee Mayor Richard Finley, RightNOW Women PAC, and Eagle Forum PAC.

For more information on Terry or her campaign, you can visit

Anti-Constitutional Carry petition: Stillwater council supports, Blanchard council opposes

Yesterday, the Oklahoma City council voted against lending support to the petition that hopes to stop Constitutional Carry here in Oklahoma. At least two other city councils took positions on the issue yesterday.

The Stillwater City Council passed a resolution that supports the initiative petition effort. The vote was 4-0 (one member was absent).

The Blanchard City Council passed the following resolution by a vote of 3-2, opposing the petition and supporting Constitutional Carry.

OKC Council rejects resolution supporting anti-Constitutional Carry petition

Yesterday, the Oklahoma City Council voted down a resolution that supported the initiative petition that seeks to stop implementation of Constitutional Carry in Oklahoma, charting a different course than OKC Mayor David Holt, who signed the petition a week ago.

From The Oklahoman:
The Oklahoma City council rejected a measure Tuesday to show support for a statewide vote on permitless carry in Oklahoma.

An effort is currently underway to gather enough signatures to halt a new law that would allow Oklahomans to carry a gun without a license or training. The petition seeks a statewide vote on the issue next year.

The council vote was five to four, with James Greiner, Larry McAtee, Mark Stonecipher, Todd Stone and David Greenwell voting against the measure.

Mayor David Holt joined JoBeth Hamon, Nikki Nice and James Cooper in supporting the measure.

Hamon had introduced the measure asking the council to publicly support the petition effort.
Opponents of the Constitutional Carry law have until 5pm Thursday to collect about 60,000 valid signatures in order to keep HB 2597 from going into law on November 1st and instead putting it to a statewide vote in 2020.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

AG Hunter celebrates after judge issues $572M judgment in opioid trial

Attorney General Hunter Celebrates Major Victor for the State after Judge Balkman Issues $572 Million Judgment in Opioid Trial
 Johnson & Johnson held liable for harm caused to Oklahomans, fueling opioid epidemic

NORMAN, OKLA.  – Attorney General Mike Hunter today commended Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman for ruling in the state’s favor and ordering Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries to pay $572 million to abate the ongoing opioid epidemic in Oklahoma.

The judge’s ruling is the first of its kind in the country to find an opioid manufacturer liable for the harm caused from the opioid crisis in the United States.

“Today is a major victory for the state of Oklahoma, the nation and everyone who has lost a loved one because of an opioid overdose,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Judge Balkman has affirmed our position that Johnson & Johnson maliciously and diabolically created the opioid epidemic in our state. Our evidence convincingly showed that this company did not just lie and mislead, they colluded with other companies in route to the deadliest manmade epidemic our nation has ever seen. When deaths and sales of the drugs began to skyrocket in tandem, the company repeatedly ignored the problem and built its billion dollar brand out of greed and on the backs of the pain and suffering of Oklahomans.

“It is my hope that this judgment will provide some solace to the thousands of families, who have tragically lost a loved one due to an opioid overdose. It should also inspire a sense of optimism in those still struggling with an opioid addiction because we remain committed to abating the crisis, thus bringing about a brighter future for those suffering and our state.

“Additionally, I continue to be grateful for the talented team of attorneys who worked on this case. It took tremendous courage to take this case on. These are attorneys who have suffered greatly not just during this case with substantial time away from their families and forgoing taking on other cases, but many on this team have also lost loved ones to an addiction to these deadly drugs. They know firsthand the anguish of burying a family member, who they first had to watch spiral into despair.

“Finally, just as we have said at different stages of the case when Johnson & Johnson pulled out all the stops to try to derail or stall the case, we appreciate Judge Balkman’s wisdom and openness. He saw through the company’s desperate acts to delay justice for Oklahomans.”

To read Judge Balkman’s judgment, click here.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there have been nearly 400,000 overdose deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2017. Evidence presented by the state during trial showed that since 2000 approximately 6,000 Oklahomans died from an opioid overdose, while thousands more are still struggling with addiction.

Through evidence presented at trial, the state successfully showed during this time period that Oklahoma doctors were targeted over 150,000 times by Johnson & Johnson sales representatives. The sales representatives aggressively marketed and bombarded doctors with pseudoscience and misleading information that downplayed the risks of opioids, leading to the public nuisance. As a result, when opioid sales in Oklahoma began to skyrocket, the death toll from unintentional prescription drug-related overdoses mounted, leaving behind broken homes, families and communities.

OK2A, 36 legislators file challenge against anti-Constitutional Carry petition

Earlier today, the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite!, the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee, 22 GOP members of the State House and 14 GOP members of the State Senate filed a challenge in the State Supreme Court aimed at tossing out the initiative petition being circulated by anti-gun groups that aims to send permitless carry to a state vote in hopes of overturning the new law.

Specifically, their brief states that 'The “gist” of the referendum effectively contains six separate clauses, two of which are blatantly false, inaccurate, misleading, and inflammatory, and the remaining four of which are inaccurate, misleading and inflammatory.' If their challenge is confirmed, the petition could be thrown out.

The cover sheet of the brief is below, listing the names of the 36 legislators that signed on, including House Speaker Charles McCall and House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (and yet, now that I look at it again, notably missing Senate President Greg Treat). Of interest to Muskogee area residents, State Sen. Kim David (R-Porter), State Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah), State Rep. Avery Frix (R-Muskogee), and State Rep. Kevin McDugle (R-Wagoner) are on the list; none of the other legislators in or touching Muskogee County signed on to the brief.

More information:

Monday, August 26, 2019

New Post Office opens up in Muskogee

Today marked the grand opening of the new Post Office in Muskogee, kicking off the beginning of a new era for the United States Postal Service in Muskogee.

Since 1965, the Muskogee Post Office has been located on West Okmulgee Avenue, in a building with one-direction access and minimal parking. Although the new office, on the southeast end of Arrowhead Mall in part of what used to be the Sears Department Store, is 18,000 square feet compared to the previous 26,000 square feet, Muskogee Postman Chris Baker told the Muskogee Phoenix that it "will be more efficient."

For decades, visitors to the post office could only enter from the eastbound lanes of Okmulgee, and had about 14 parking spaces to choose from in front, plus a few parallel spots on the one-way side street. Backing out from the narrow front parking strip could be risky business, especially if a vehicle was next to you, as visibility was limited.

Now, the post office parking is virtually unlimited, as some 250+ spots are in the old Sears area, in addition to the adjacent parking for the rest of Arrowhead Mall.

The new post office is sharp, clean, and visually appealing. It's nice to see the old Sears space back in use, rather than sitting vacant as it has for the last five or so years.

All in all, it's a win for Arrowhead Mall, it's a win for the Post Office, and it's a big win for customers.

Music Monday: It Is Not Death To Die

This week's Music Monday is It Is Not Death To Die. The original lyrics were penned by Henri Malan (1787-1864) and translated by George Bethune (1847). Bob Kauflin wrote the music, chrous, and alternate lyrics in this version.

The words to this song speak of the peace that those who possess eternal salvation through Jesus Christ can have when facing the prospect of death.

Enjoy! Lyrics are posted below.

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

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

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

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Tulsa Mayor Bynum: "I don’t jump into the fray on state initiative petitions"

File this under A Tale of Two Cities Mayors.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum weighed in the other day on the initiative petition that aims to stop permitless/Constitutional carry from going into law. His position? Not that of fellow Republican Mayor David Holt of Oklahoma City, who signed the petition.

Bynum won't jump in on the petition. Commenting about his aim to work as a bridge-builder among a diverse set of viewpoints and political positions, Bynum said "I don’t jump into the fray on state initiative petitions" or other political dividing lines, as it could negatively impact his efforts in city government.

Read his full statement below:

Bynum wrote:
Please pardon me for a lengthy but important aside. Some things don’t fit in sound bites...

When I ran for mayor, I pledged to the citizens of Tulsa that I would focus on bringing our city together to focus on our greatest challenges. We’ve done that, and I am incredibly proud of the way Tulsans have gone about it. Racial disparities, LGBTQ rights, welcoming immigrants, police/community relations, 1921 graves - these are all potential controversies but we are being transparent and working as a community to address them.

And we’re working together on basic municipal issue areas too. We have a bipartisan City Council working with a bipartisan Mayor’s Office as a team - an approach we haven’t historically enjoyed in Tulsa. The City and the County are working as a team - most notably during the recent flood. Tulsa and our suburbs are working as a team to grow our economy - we’re excited about Milo’s Tea in Owasso and the outlet mall in Jenks.

How do we do work together in such an unprecedented way on issues that historically were avoided due to controversy? My approach as mayor has been that we do that by picking our fights.

We recognize that good Tulsans voted for different gubernatorial candidates last year, and good Tulsans will vote for different presidential candidates next year.

Good people disagree. And it becomes harder and harder to work together if you continually point out your disagreements.

So if you’re in a job like mine, you focus on the things you can really make a difference on - and you bring together people who otherwise disagree on the other stuff to fix those things within your purview. You sacrifice your right to express your opinion on every issue in service to the job you’ve been given.

So, I know it makes some of my friends angry that I don’t weigh in on every Trump or AOC tweet. I don’t sign a group letter telling Jim Inhofe and James Lankford how they should vote on a bill in the US Senate. I don’t jump into the fray on state initiative petitions.

As a citizen, you should feel free to do all of these things. As a citizen, I have opinions on all of them too. But as mayor, I have a responsibility to pull our city together so we can move it forward.

Some think this is playing politics. Hate to break the news to those analysts, but the politics on all of these issues is pretty simple in Oklahoma. If that’s what I cared about, I’d just go with the flow.

But I love Tulsa like most people love their mom. I’ve got 473 days left in the term you gave me to channel the passion and energy of every Tulsan into making this the best city we can make it. And “every Tulsan” means all you awesome folks who are upset with one another about these other issues. We need your help in making this a safer city, a city of opportunity for everybody, a city we will be proud to leave to our kids.

I post this because it has become an issue in the last week, and I see it only getting more frequent as we head into next year’s national elections. I want you to know why I am doing what I’m doing. Feel free to disagree with my approach, but I hope you can at least see the reasoning behind it.

Most importantly: I hope you’ll join me in trying to make Tulsa a better place.

Cory Booker weighs in on effort to stop Permitless Carry in Oklahoma

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), candidate for president in 2020, made this statement of support today for the initiative petition (SQ 803) that seeks to stop the implementation of permitless or 'Constitutional' carry in Oklahoma.

Joshua Harris-Till, President of the Young Democrats of America and a two-time candidate for Congress in Oklahoma's 2nd District, posted the video online.

HB 2597 was the first bill signed into law by Governor Stitt in February 2019, after passing the House by a vote of 70-30 and the Senate by a vote of 40-7. HB 2597 established “Constitutional Carry,” allowing the concealed or unconcealed carry of firearms by any person who is at least twenty-one years of age or at least eighteen years of age and in the military, if the person is not otherwise disqualified to purchase a firearm.

On August 12th, State Rep. Jason Lowe (D-OKC), Joshua Harris-Till (President of Young Democrats of America), the Oklahoma Chapter of Moms Demand Action, and others announced their intent to stop the measure. On August 21st, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt (Republican, ostensibly) signed the petition.

Opponents of the Constitutional Carry measure are making a big push in the Tulsa and especially the Oklahoma City metros to garner the requisite signatures to put the implementation of the law on hold until the 2020 election.

OCPA column: Politicians wrong to bash two-job earners

Politicians wrong to bash two-job earners
By Jonathan Small

Growing up, my parents worked multiple jobs. As an adult, my wife and I have done the same. Now some prominent politicians suggest that two-job workers are a sign of economic weakness. That shows they don’t understand family budgets or the truth about the broader economy.

Part of the attack is purely political. National economic growth is a problem for Democrats wishing to win the presidency, as is the low unemployment rate. Dismissing that low rate as a product of overworked, two-job individuals is how some politicians have responded.

Yet low unemployment numbers are not the result of people working multiple jobs. The unemployment rate is calculated on an individual basis. It counts the number of people without a job who are actively looking for one. A person with multiple jobs does not lower the unemployment rate any more than someone with a single job.

Furthermore, economic data doesn’t suggest two-job individuals are common, let alone widespread. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 5 percent of the 162 million Americans who have jobs hold more than one job. And just 5 percent of that 5 percent hold two full-time jobs.

That’s why those with multiple jobs worked an average of 42.95 hours, compared to 39.7 hours among those working one job.

Only 325,000 people—0.2 percent of the workforce—work more than 70 hours a week. And many of those individuals do so by choice, and for praiseworthy reasons. I know, because I’ve lived it.

Growing up, my local public school had poor performance and wouldn’t meet my needs. So my mom chose to homeschool me, which is a full-time job in itself. But she also cleaned office buildings, and took on part-time positions as an administrative assistant. Meanwhile, my dad worked in IT—at one point, holding two full-time IT jobs at the same time—and cleaned office buildings. Growing up, I often helped them with cleaning work and had a janitorial job in high school.

When my wife and I were first married, I held a full-time job as a state budget analyst. She worked as an executive assistant. But we also cleaned homes and office buildings. I also worked as a driver for a car dealership, and my wife worked as a clerk. Why? We did those extra jobs to save money for a down payment on a home, to purchase a car, to save money for our first baby and choose better educational options for our children.

The free-market system allows people to improve their lot in life through hard work. In many cases, a person working two jobs is not a sign of the free market’s flaws, but proof of its value. Rather than “pity” those who choose to work hard, politicians should praise them—and the system that has so richly benefited those individuals.

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

WaPo: OK's 5th District 2nd-most likely to flip in 2020

The Washington Post's political analysis blog The Fix published a list today of the "top 10 House races of 2020", and Oklahoma's 5th District lands in at number two:
10. Georgia’s 7th (Republican held but will be OPEN in 2020).
9. Illinois’ 14th (Democratic held).
8. New York’s 11th (Democratic held).
7. Pennsylvania’s 10th (Republican held).
6. Texas’s 23rd (Republican held but will be OPEN).
5. New Mexico’s 2nd (Democratic held).
4. New York’s 22nd (Democratic held).
3. South Carolina’s 1st (Democratic held).
2. Oklahoma’s 5th (Democratic held). Political analysts say Rep. Kendra Horn’s (D) win in this Oklahoma City district was the one of the biggest surprises for Democrats in all of 2018. She is just the third woman Oklahoma has sent to Congress, ever. This is another district that Trump won by double digits (13.5 points) and another case in which Republicans like their potential nominees, such as state Sen. Stephanie Bice and entrepreneur Terry Neese.
1. Utah’s 4th (Democratic held).
You can read the full article, with commentary on the other nine seats, at this link.

Neese announces opposition to anti-Constitutional Carry petition

The stir over permitless (aka Constitutional) carry continues as opponents collect signatures to place the measure on a statewide ballot in hopes of keeping the measure from going into law. The center of the effort seems to be in Oklahoma County, where prominent figures including Oklahoma City's Republican mayor are supporting the repeal petition.

Terry Neese, one of the Republican candidates seeking to flip the 5th Congressional District red again, is out with a statement indicating her opposition to the anti-Second Amendment campaign:


Oklahoma City, OK – Terry Neese, conservative Republican candidate for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, today reaffirmed her support for permitless carry and her willingness to stand against any actions taken by city, state, or federal legislators to infringe on our Second Amendment rights. Neese’s statement comes after Oklahoma City's Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon announced her intention to introduce a resolution that, if approved by the Council, would demonstrate its support for an initiative petition seeking to halt the implementation of H.B. 2597.

“As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I oppose this resolution and will not be signing the petition - nor do I support putting it up for a vote in 2020," said Terry Neese. "The Constitution gives every law-abiding American the right to bear arms and I will oppose any action - at any level of government - that seeks to infringe on the Second Amendment.”

Signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt this year, H.B. 2597 would allow residents and nonresidents 21 years of age or older, as well as active-duty military over the age of 18, to carry a firearm without a permit.

For more information on Terry Neese or her campaign, visit