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Saturday, February 29, 2020

After Oklahoma Republicans side with OEA, union touts transgender reading program


After Oklahoma Republicans side with OEA, union touts transgender reading program
by Ray Carter, Director, Center for Independent Journalism

(February 27, 2020) Two days after six Republican senators joined Democrats to defeat legislation opposed by the Oklahoma Education Association, which is a National Education Association state affiliate, the union is promoting a national day of school readings on transgender issues.

“The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools Program and the National Education Association (NEA) invite you—our friend and ally—to join us in our fifth annual Jazz & Friends National Day of School & Community Readings on Thursday, February 27, 2020,” a joint announcement declares.

The NEA and the Human Rights Campaign are urging teachers to read three specific books to students: “Julián Is a Mermaid,” “I am Jazz,” and “They She He Me: Free to Be!”

The NEA/Human Rights Campaign announcement said reading those books would provide children “a sense of belonging,” allow students to “learn about diverse backgrounds,” and develop “an understanding about the wider world.”

The summary for “Julián Is a Mermaid” says the book is about a boy who sees several women “spectacularly dressed up” and “how all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes—and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?”

The summary for “I am Jazz” explains, “From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body.”

The summary for “They She He Me: Free to Be!” cites a School Library Journal review as stating, “The authors have succeeded in creating a gorgeous and much-needed picture book about pronouns and gender fluidity.” The book description further states that “They She He Me: Free to Be!” helps “break down assumptions of who is ‘she’ or ‘he’ and expand beyond the binary to include ‘they’ and more.”

According to Opt Out Today, a project of the Freedom Foundation, of the $466 in dues paid by an Oklahoma teacher to the OEA in 2017-18, $189 went to Washington, D.C. to the NEA. That money helps directly and indirectly fund NEA programs and events like the Jazz & Friends National Day of School & Community Readings.

Earlier this week, several Republican senators voted to kill a bill that would have given teachers greater ability to choose alternatives to the OEA/NEA for representation. In killing that bill, critics note the lawmakers indirectly preserved funding for the OEA/NEA and its various political activities, which include not only events like the transgender reading program but also lobbying in favor of gun control, abortion, and more.

Senate Bill 1716 would have required that Oklahoma teachers be given the opportunity to hold a “secret ballot election” every four years to recertify a union. While teachers can choose not to join a union in Oklahoma, if they do join they are limited to just one choice, and that entity was often selected as the school’s designated bargaining union decades ago.

If teachers believe an entity other than the OEA/NEA better represents their values, supporters of SB 1716 note the process to decertify a union is currently onerous and requires teachers to publicly identify themselves as union critics, creating the potential for retribution. With SB 1716, supporters said teachers would have been given the chance to re-evaluate unions on a routine basis without the threat of retaliation.

The OEA strongly opposed the legislation. Six Republican senators sided with the OEA/NEA and voted to kill the bill in committee: Sens. Chris Kidd, R-Waurika; Tom Dugger, R-Stillwater; Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee; Paul Scott, R-Duncan; Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City; and Joe Newhouse, R-Broken Arrow.

Individuals who previously served in the Legislature say it is a mistake when lawmakers defer to interest group pressure rather than local citizens.

“When I was serving in the House, I always felt my job was to represent my constituents, not a political group such as the OEA or the NEA,” said former Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan. “It’s not that they don’t have a say, because they certainly have  a legal right to advocate and all of those things, but at the end of the day when I take my vote I’m thinking of about your average parent with children in school—is this going to be better for them, or not, overall? And that was always my viewpoint. I honestly never really tried to impose my will on them, and I certainly didn’t allow them to impose their will on me. Because at night, I had to sleep with the decisions I made.”

Former Rep. Pam Peterson, a Republican whose district included the Jenks school district, recalled voting in support of charter schools, a school-choice option strongly opposed by the OEA/NEA and similar groups. Families buy homes in the Jenks area due in part to the school, she noted, but other families cannot afford that form of school choice and charter schools gave them a better alternative.

“That was, I thought, in the best interest of the children of the state to allow more choices for them outside of their ZIP code if their ZIP code didn’t allow them to have a good school,” Peterson said.

She cast her vote in favor of charter schools with local school officials sitting in the House gallery at the time.

“You just have to stand on principle,” Peterson said.

Sen. David Bullard, a Durant Republican and former teacher, was among the lawmakers who defied the OEA/NEA and voted in favor of SB 1716. His vote hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated in his district.

“I am grateful for Senator Bullard’s stand,” said Bill Ledbetter, senior pastor at Fairview Baptist Church in Durant. “We have to, in this country, come the realization that we don’t affirm someone in destructive, damaging behavior, like a transgender reading would do. Furthermore, that invades the rights and the freedom and the privacy of young people who go to school but don’t hold to those ideals, so it’s just very difficult to make that fair. It imposes on other people.”

1889 column: Spending it like they stole it



Spending It Like They Stole It

By Mike Davis

When does government have the right to spend taxpayer money? When should the government be forbidden from spending taxpayer money? 1889 Institute has developed five questions that should be asked before any government entity spends a single dime. These questions are:
  1. Is a program consistent with the mission of Oklahoma’s government? This purpose was spelled out in our state constitution: “Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessing of liberty; to secure just and rightful government; to promote our mutual welfare and happiness, we, the people of the State of Oklahoma, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” Secure and perpetuate liberty (notice this comes first). Secure just and rightful government. Promote (not provide or establish) mutual welfare and happiness. 
  2. Is the program or agency fulfilling a need only government can effectively fill? Government is funded through threat of force. If you refuse to pay taxes, eventually men with guns will come for you. Therefore, government must not to step in where it is not needed. Lawmakers should carefully consider whether the use of force to accomplish a given end is morally justified before committing taxpayer money.
  3. Are the benefits from a program or agency unambiguous, obvious, and universal? Ideally, the benefits from government programs would also be measurable. When this is infeasible, they should be large and obvious. The benefits of courts, police, fire departments, and sewer systems are obvious, though impossible to measure. These benefits accrue to everyone. 
  4. Do the benefits of a program indisputably outweigh the costs? Remember to factor in the total cost of the program, not only the state’s contribution. For example, Oklahoma would only be on the hook for 10% of Medicaid expansion, but if the benefits cannot be shown to outweigh the cost of both state and federal investments, then Medicaid should not be expanded.
  5. Does the existing program show evidence of past success? Success means measuring effects, not effort. Look at tangible results of a program, such as student performance on a national standards tests. Effort is the input into the program, like how many 4 year olds are enrolled in pre-k. For all our spending on pre-k, there is no evidence of a positive impact. It should therefore be cancelled or restructured.
These principles apply to all levels of government and all forms of spending. There is no such thing as non-taxpayer-funded government spending. Federal money spent by states? Do you pay federal taxes? Money from corporate taxes? Do you buy things from corporations?

Government actors spend taxpayer money. They have a responsibility to spend it like they earned it, not like they stole it.

Mike Davis is a Research Fellow at 1889 Institute. He can be reached at mdavis@1889institute.org. 

Friday, February 28, 2020

Robert McMaster announces candidacy for HD83

Republicans are hoping to re-take House District 83 this election, the seat that was held by now-State Treasurer Randy McDaniel for twelve years (2006 to 2018). Democrat Chelsey Branham won the 2018 election, defeating Republican Jason Reese by a vote of 52.2% to 47.8% (a difference of 689 votes).

Current GOP candidates are Eric Roberts and Robert McMaster, who submitted the following announcement release:


“A Fresh Face for Real Change”

Political Newcomer Robert McMaster announces his candidacy for State Representative in Oklahoma House District 83.  House District 83 includes parts of Edmond, NW Oklahoma City, The Village and Nichols Hills and is currently represented by Chelsey Branham, Democrat, who narrowly won in 2018.

As a father of four and a blue-collar worker, Robert McMaster knows what issues matter most and uses his education and experience to propose new real change.  His platform of Healthcare, Education and Criminal Justice Reform looks to create a prosperous and safe Oklahoma.  He also stands for Free Speech, Lower Taxes and 2A rights, which is a staunch difference from Ms. Branham.  Unlike Ms. Branham, Robert McMaster stands against socialism and big government programs as they infringe on individual rights and increase taxes.

Originally from MS, Robert McMaster moved to OK in 2013 and worked as a retail manager.  After meeting his wife and growing their blended family, he became an In-House Investigator with a prestigious criminal defense firm in Oklahoma City in 2016.  Since then, Robert has worked hard to protect the rights of his fellow Oklahomans and his work has assisted in a multitude of favorable outcomes for clients.  He is an Eagle Scout as well as a member of the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association, Masonic Lodge, and other organizations.

To donate or join his grassroots campaign, check out his website at https://www.robertmcmasterforhd83.com or other social media sites at Robert for HD 83 in 2020.

House committee passes bill to seize vehicles operated by illegal aliens with criminal convictions


House Public Safety Proceeds Bill to Seize Vehicles Operated by Illegal Immigrants with Criminal Background

OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Public Safety Committee yesterday passed House Bill 4136, which authorizes law enforcement to seize any vehicle operated by an illegal immigrant who has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.

House Bill 4136 was authored by State Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy), who said the purpose behind the bill was to curb illegal immigration and keep citizens safe.

“Our communities are sadly forced to cover the cost of illegal immigrants who break the law,” Roberts said. “We have an obligation to keep our citizens safe, and this is a strong step to keep our communities safe from illegal immigrants who have committed dangerous crimes.”

Roberts said that Oklahoma has a database that allows law enforcement to check for criminal history and immigration status. The Oklahoma Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems (OLETS) list people who are unlawfully in the U.S. and have been convicted of a crime.

The bill passed the House Public Safety Committee by an 8-5 vote and is now available to be considered on the House floor.

Rep. Sean Roberts, a Republican, serves District 36 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Osage and Tulsa Counties.

OCPA: Parents justified in student privacy concerns

Parents justified in student privacy concerns
By Jonathan Small

Recently, thousands of Oklahoma students’ names and home addresses were obtained from the Oklahoma Department of Education and used for mailers. Parents were understandably upset.

In Arizona, the state Department of Education released parent names and individual account information for more than 7,000 student-beneficiaries of a school-choice program. Parents were understandably upset.

But now Oklahoma lawmakers are telling parents not to worry about student privacy, even though newly passed legislation mandates reporting requirements that experts believe could allow identification of individual students.

House Bill 1230 imposes new regulations for the Lindsey Nicole Henry (LNH) Scholarship Program that include releasing LNH data by school site and recipient demographics including race, income, and disability. Families are rightfully concerned by those requirements because the legislation did not include student-privacy safeguards typically included in other reporting mandates.

It’s not unreasonable for parents to worry that it won’t take long for people to identify students by name if a report shows a private school has just a handful of LNH recipients and one is a low-income black child with autism.

Children served by LNH private-school scholarships either have special needs, such as autism, or are foster and adopted children. Many are survivors of abuse—including, at times, severe bullying in public schools that prompted suicide attempts before the LNH program provided an alternative. Why should the state make it possible for those children’s former tormentors to identify them and their new school? And why should the state allow anti-school-choice radicals to identify specific families? If you don’t think there’s reason for concern on that front, you have not seen the vitriol school-choice opponents aim at low-income families online.

LNH recipients are not unreasonable in expecting privacy to be safeguarded because those protections are given elsewhere to other students. For example, when state testing results are released by school district, the data is withheld in instances where the number of test-taking students is so low that reporting on results could allow identification by inference.

The children with special needs targeted by HB 1230 deserve comparable protections.

The Republican Party often presents itself as a champion of deregulation in the name of individual liberty and job creation. President Trump has slashed regulations at the federal level, which experts agree has contributed to strong economic growth. At the state level Gov. Kevin Stitt wants to cut regulations by 25 percent. So why has a GOP-controlled Legislature chosen to head the opposite direction when it comes to a program that serves needy children?

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs believes in accountability. But the troubling provisions of HB 1230 do nothing to deter or identify potential fraud. They only create potential hardship for families that already face more than their fair share of challenges. To make Oklahoma a place where more families can thrive, Oklahoma policymakers should stand up for those families, not add to their burdens.

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

House committee passes bills protecting teacher and student contact info


Rep. Tammy West Passes Bills Addressing Breach  of Teachers’, Children’s Private Information

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Tammy West (R-Oklahoma City) passed two bills in committee recently addressing the breach of private information of public employees, including public school teachers, and children.

House Bill 3040 and House Bill 3460 will protect private and personal contact information for current and former public employees and Oklahoma public school students.

“This will keep third parties from being able to mine this sensitive information and capitalize on it,” West said. “This strengthens the language in statute to remove all doubt about how this information is to be protected and kept private.” 

House Bill 3040 shields certain private information, such as home addresses and phone numbers, social security numbers and private email addresses or private mobile phone numbers of current and former public employees from public inspection or disclosure.

House Bill 3460 allows all educational institutions to designate specific student information, such as a student’s name, address, and phone number, as classified directory information. Any educational institution that is not the primary custodian of the directory information, but that can access the directory for educational purposes, is prohibited from releasing or selling the information without written consent of the local school board. The State Board of Education and the State Department of Education are not permitted to designate student information as classified directory information, as stated above, but shall keep personally identifiable student information confidential unless authorized otherwise by federal law.

West said in the last month there have been two concerning breaches of private information. While such actions already are illegal, this legislation helps clarify the law and establishes expectations.

West said the language of the bills was a combined effort of the Oklahoma Public Employee Association, the Oklahoma Press Association and the State Department of Education.

Rep. Mike Osburn (R-Edmond) was a co-principal author of the bills and is chair of the House Government Efficiency Committee where the bills passed.

“Strengthening our privacy laws to protect our citizens’ private information should be one of the highest priorities,” Osburn said. “I was proud to work with Rep. West on this important legislation.”

Both bills are now eligible to be considered by the entire House.

Three Democratic state legislators endorse different candidates

With the Oklahoma Presidential primary on Tuesday, several of the Democratic candidates have made some effort at reaching Oklahoma voters. Michael Bloomberg made another campaign stop in the OKC metro this week, and candidates like Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren have had their campaigns make swings through on the campaign trail.

Public endorsements by state legislators, however, seem to have been few and far between. Of the 33 Democrats in the legislature, I've only seen three of them endorse one of the fourteen Democrats on Oklahoma's presidential primary ballot:


Endorsements so far:



State Rep. Fetgatter comments on House passage of Industrial Hemp legislation


Fetgatter Comments on Passage of Industrial Hemp Legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 27, 2020) – Rep. Scott Fetgatter (R-Okmulgee) today commented on the passage of a concurrent resolution that promises to advance the industrial hemp industry in Oklahoma.

House Concurrent Resolution 1015 recognizes that research, development, processing, manufacturing and production of industrial hemp qualifies for Oklahoma state incentives.

“Oklahoma needs to be the center of industrial hemp manufacturing,” Fetgatter said. “Just like our new state logo shows our state as a multi-faceted hub, we believe this resolution will strengthen what our farmers are able to do with this product and attract new businesses such as biotech companies, industrial-grade producers and manufacturers to our state as well.”

Fetgatter said he worked with leaders from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and the state Department of Agriculture on the legislation so the industrial hemp industry can utilize state commerce incentives for manufacturing and processing.

Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Sean Kouplen said, “We are happy to help find incentives that hemp growers and manufacturers will qualify for. We can help find locations, whatever they need. We are excited to welcome this industry to our state.”

Jon Chiappe, director of research with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, said, “Our agency is a problem solver, ensuring we help our businesses address any barriers that would keep them from being successful in our state.”

Fetgatter said the resolution is a continuation of legislation passed in 2018 by House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City) and State Rep. Mickey Dollens (D-Oklahoma City), which allowed Oklahoma farmers to participate in a pilot program to grown industrial hemp.

Fetgatter said industrial hemp has been grown in America since the Colonial period and has been used for products ranging from textiles to paper and rope to modern-day construction materials and fiberboards. He said hemp is a protein that can be ingested by both humans and livestock. He said the product is low-cost and generally low-input as a crop and is believed to have strong market potential because of its diversity of uses.

He said Oklahoma is a perfect place to grow industrial hemp as a rotation crop, noting it increases soil fertility and nutrients and reduces soil erosion and crop stress from weeds as well as limiting concentration of pests.

“This will benefit our agriculture producers and give our farmers a way to add to their income,” Fetgatter said. “It also will prompt research institutions to further their studies of this product.”

HCR 1015 passed the House with a vote of 69-4 and now passes to the state Senate for consideration. State Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle) is the Senate author of the resolution.

Rep. Scott Fetgatter represents District 16 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Muskogee, Okmulgee, Tulsa and Wagoner counties.

House passes bill to incentivize rural doctors


House bill to increase doctors in rural areas includes tribal component

OKLAHOMA CITY – The House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday to address doctor shortages in rural areas.

House Bill 3823, by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, authorizes a $25,000 tax credit for doctors who move to a rural community to practice. It passed 84-3 and heads to the Senate.

Doctors who are new to the rural area and establish their primary residence there would be eligible for the credit. The bill defines rural communities as any municipality with a population of less than 25,000 that is at least 25 miles from the nearest municipality with a population greater than 25,000.

The bill also applies to doctors who live within the boundaries of a tribal jurisdiction and are employed by a tribally owned or operated health facility or federal Indian Health Service facility.

“It will take a multifaceted approach to address rural Oklahoma’s doctor shortage, and tribal health care services are an important part of that solution,” said McCall, whose district contains parts of the Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation, both of which operate several health care facilities within their jurisdictions.

The bill was heard in the House on Cherokee Nation Day at the Capitol and is supported by the Cherokee Nation and other tribal nations offering health care services.

“Speaker McCall’s bill is the best thing to happen in Cherokee Nation’s effort to recruit the best and brightest doctors and to keep them in rural Oklahoma,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “It’s something we, at the Cherokee Nation, struggle with, but it’s not just our tribe, it’s something our region and the entire state struggles with. This bill is creating an incentive for physicians to practice in rural Oklahoma, and we know once they get there, they will stay.”

The bill would limit the exemption only to doctors who graduated from a medical or osteopathic school in Oklahoma.

“Oklahoma ranks near the bottom of states for access to primary care in rural areas, and the majority of those primary care physicians we do have in rural Oklahoma are closing in on retirement,” McCall said. “We have to find ways to encourage providers to move into and practice in rural communities. This would allow those doctors to take that money they saved and invest it in their practices, to pay student loans and to invest in the local community.”

A doctor could claim the credit for up to five years. The credit would end once a total of $1 million was claimed statewide. McCall said the bill is essentially a pilot program, and he would seek to expand the credit if it encourages doctors to relocate to rural parts of the state.

McCall introduced a similar measure last session, House Bill 2511, which passed out of the House by a vote of 98-2 before stalling in the Senate.

“There is strong support for this proposal. We hope to see it through to the finish line this session, along with several other health care improvement measures,” McCall said.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Roll Call: Jim Inhofe to announce reelection plans on March 6th


From RollCall.com:
Inhofe to announce reelection decision in March

Senate Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe on Monday said he will announce March 6 whether he will seek a fifth term.

An aviation enthusiast, the Oklahoma Republican has said for years that as long as he can fly a plane upside down, he will continue to run for reelection. Candidates in Oklahoma have until April 10 to register to seek public office.

“When you chair, arguably, the most significant committee in the United States Senate, once you are a candidate you are not looked at as the chairman as much as you are a candidate, and we have a lot to do,” Inhofe said. “There are a lot of people that are going to be running against me, if I make that decision.”
You can read the rest of the Roll Call article here.

Senator Inhofe will turn 86 two weeks after the November 2020 general election, putting him at age 91 if he served another full term in the U.S. Senate, where he has been since 1994.

Back in December, the Muskogee Politico Insiders Panel discussed rumors over Sen. Inhofe's reelection plans, or lack thereof. You can read that fascinating commentary at this link. If Inhofe opts against running for a fifth full term, it will shake up the Oklahoma political scene. You can bet on a tremendous shuffle of candidates and incumbents up and down the ballot to be the aftermath of a retirement announcement, if that's what ends up being the case.

Senate passes bill to clarify concealed carry rights for medical marijuana cardholders


Senate passes measure protecting gun rights for medical marijuana cardholders

The full Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to protect the Second Amendment rights of medical marijuana cardholders.

Senate Bill 959, authored by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, clarifies that anyone authorized to use medical marijuana would also be allowed to have a concealed carry permit. Even though Oklahoma is a constitutional carry state, some citizens may want a permit if they travel to other states that require them and offer reciprocity.

Current Oklahoma law precludes citizens from being eligible for a handgun license if they have any violation relating to illegal drug use or possession. SB 959 would clarify that this prohibition does not apply for applicants or licensees in possession of a medical marijuana card. The measure would make it illegal for a person to carry or use a gun while under the influence of medical marijuana.

“Our Second Amendment rights outlined in the United States Constitution are very clear – the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed,” Dahm said. “We cannot discriminate against medical marijuana cardholders because of their personal medicinal decisions. All Oklahomans should have their Second Amendment rights protected, and I’m glad my colleagues agree that we must uphold the Constitution.”

The measure now heads to the House of Representatives for a vote. Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is the House author for the bill.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bill adding sale of bee-related products to ag tax-exempt status advances through Senate committees


Senate committee passes a honey of a bill

(Feb. 25th, 2020) The Senate Finance Committee has passed Senate Bill 1388, which would incentivize urban gardeners across the state to raise honeybees by giving tax exempt status to any bee product sold. The measure is authored by Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa.

Ikley-Freeman said a food desert in her district forced her to look at alternative ways for constituents to access fresh produce. This examination led her to a pollinating force: honeybees.

“Since much of Senate District 37 is in a food desert, many of my constituents have solved this issue by becoming urban gardeners,” Ikley-Freeman said. “There are several great extension programs available that provide folks with seeds to plant their own gardens, but we are unfortunately missing a key factor for successful gardening, which is pollination.”

Ikley-Freeman said that while many people are attempting to grow their own produce, a lack of pollination can make it a fruitless pursuit. For example, it could lead to zucchini plants that never grow a zucchini, she said. 

“Not only will raising bees increase the success of local gardens, but it will also give Oklahomans an opportunity to make their own honey, candy, soaps and lotions, and then sell those products tax free at their local farmers market,” Ikley-Freeman said.

A producer that sells agricultural products directly from their farm, orchard, garden or dairy is already exempt from sales tax. SB 1388 simply adds bee products to the tax-exempt list.

“I’m hopeful this legislation will encourage people across the state to look into beekeeping,” Ikley-Freeman said. “Something as simple as a honeybee could give many Oklahomans a second stream of income.”

The measure now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a vote. [Blogger's note: the bill passed the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday by a vote of 17 to 0. It now heads to the Senate floor.]

House committee passes bill to bring transparency on state lawsuits


O’Donnell Passes Bill  to Bring Greater Transparency on State Lawsuits

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R-Catoosa) yesterday saw advancement of a bill that would bring greater transparency to the process by which the state hires and pays for outside attorneys or legal agencies to represent its interests.

House Bill 3390 would require the state to make available to the public a list of attorneys and firms furnishing legal services along with a schedule of fees paid. The bill also caps the fees the state would pay to $1,000 per hour or a scale from 2% to 15% depending on the amount recovered from $20 million to less than $10 million with the state payment not to exceed $10 million. Any case that is believed to cost more than $1 million will need to be first submitted to the Legislative Oversight Committee overseeing the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT).

The bill passed in the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 15-0.

“The goal of this measure is to bring transparency to state lawsuits,” O’Donnell said. “A more transparent bidding process is good for everybody in the state.”

HB 3390 also specifies that past or present relationships between legal counsel and the state be disclosed when contracts are proposed and that the reasons for hiring outside counsel be explained to the public. The bill further requires that before entering into a contract for legal representation with private attorneys or firms, an official of the executive branch must receive proposals for three qualified private attorneys or firms with the contract being based on the most economical and the service judged to be in the best interest of the state.

O’Donnell said the bill is still a work in progress and may see further amendments before it is brought to the House floor.

TW Shannon to Dems: Stop promising me 40 acres and a mule


Former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon had some strong reaction to the Democratic presidential debate last night:
This debate is embarrassing at best and disingenuous at worst. Every Time black voters are mentioned someone promises billions of dollars in free stuff. It’s offensive. Black communities like other communities need access to a quality education and job opportunities-not promises of free stuff the federal government can’t afford. The greater the freedom, the greater the prosperity. Stop promising me 40 acres and a mule. #woke

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Initiative petition modernizations pass House Rules Committee



Initiative Petition Modernizations Pass House Rules Committee


OKLAHOMA CITY – The process for state questions would be more transparent and modernized under two bills passed by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, authored House Bills 3826 and 3827 to improve the initiative and referendum petition processes used to place state questions on the ballot in Oklahoma.

“These common sense improvements make the petition process more transparent and functional for citizens,” McCall said. “Petitions for state questions are increasingly popular, and government needs to handle these petitions more transparently and efficiently than it does now.”

HB 3827 addresses a lack of transparency in campaign finance for state questions.

The current definition of “state question” used by the Ethics Commission says a state question becomes a state question when the governor sets an election date, which allows campaigns for or against state questions to avoid disclosing donations and expenditures until that time. State question campaigns will often have been accepting donations and spending money for months or even years before an election date is set by the governor.

HB 3827 says a state question becomes a state question when the Secretary of State assigns a state question number, which typically occurs shortly after the petition is filed.

“While some initiative petition groups truly are grassroots citizens, many are out-of-state, well-funded, sophisticated political machines. The public deserves to know the finances and interests behind these campaigns when they are considering signing petitions, just like they deserve to know the same of candidates,” McCall said. “Transparency helps voters make better choices.”

HB 3827 treats state question campaigns more like candidates for office, who are required to begin disclosing fundraising and expenditures once they have raised at least $1,000, regardless of whether they have filed for office.

To modernize the petition signature counting process, HB 3826 authorizes the Secretary of State to use electronic signature counting equipment and software so petition signatures can be cross referenced with the voter registration database maintained by the Election Board. Only registered voters are permitted to sign initiative and referendum petitions.

“It shocks most Oklahomans to know that, in the year 2020, signatures are hand-counted and not cross referenced with voter rolls,” McCall said. “There needs to be a more efficient, accurate way to count signatures than the antiquated process used today.”

HB 3826 requires the initiative and referendum signature gathering form to include each signatory’s printed first name, last name, zip code, house number, and month and day of birth. Any entry not matching three of these five criteria during cross referencing with the voter database would not be counted.

The current petition form collects a signature, printed name, address, city and county. Signature gatherers sign an affidavit attesting to the accuracy and eligibility of the signatures gathered. No further verification is done.

“This bill tightens up a very lax process to improve accuracy,” McCall said.

The bills were presented in committee by Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa.

“Changing the Constitution or state law with a state question is a major action that should not be taken lightly. These bills give voters stronger assurances of transparency and process integrity that are befitting of the magnitude of the matters they may see on their ballot,” O’Donnell said.

The bills now advance to the House floor. If the bills become law, they would take effect in November 2020, meaning they would not affect state questions under consideration this election cycle.

State Senate passes bill requiring seat belts for children in back seats


Senate passes legislation requiring children to wear seat belts

The full Senate prioritized child safety on Monday with the passage of Senate Bill 1303.

Authored by Sen. Roland Pederson, R-Burlington, the measure would require any child under the age of 17 to wear a seat belt while riding in the back seat of a vehicle. Current Oklahoma law only requires children under the age of eight and passengers in the front seat to buckle up.

“Oklahoma is the only state in the entire country that doesn’t require seat belts for kids over the age of eight, and it’s no coincidence that vehicle fatalities are the number one cause of death for children eight and older here in Oklahoma,” Pederson said. “The bottom line is, children are being hurt and dying simply because we don’t require them to wear a seat belt.”

AAA reports Oklahoma ranks 50th in the nation in protecting children in car crashes.

Pederson said he decided to run the measure after speaking with Drummond Family, Career and Community Leaders of America members Danica Jordan and Destiny Hudson. Both girls lobbied for stricter seat belt requirements after experiencing firsthand the lifesaving difference a seat belt can make.

“I’m glad Danica and Destiny brought these troubling statistics to my attention,” Pederson said. “We know seat belts save lives, and it’s past time for our children to buckle up. If we want to be a Top 10 state, we need to take action to protect the safety of our children.

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, is the House author for the bill.

Osburn introduces civil service reform measure


Civil Service Reform to be Introduced by Rep. Osburn

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond, has introduced a major modernization of the state’s civil service system.

The civil service system, also known as merit protection, is essentially the state’s human resources model for the state workforce. It has not received any major update since the early 1980s and is widely viewed as outdated and ineffective.

“Every taxpayer should be interested in this issue because the state’s biggest expense is its workforce. We will do far better for Oklahoma’s taxpayers and state employees alike by modernizing this extremely outdated system,” Osburn said. “The effect of this bill in practice will be more profound than almost any other policy we pass. It empowers the state workforce like never before, which will be truly transformational across the entire government.”

Osburn, who held an interim study on the topic last year, has worked with several stakeholders to develop a plan to be introduced in House Bill 3094 that will:

  • place all new hires into unclassified civil service, effective Jan. 1, 2021;
  • allow existing classified employees a choice to transfer to unclassified civil service or remain in the existing classified service until they leave their job; and
  • preserve due process for unclassified employee protests of disciplinary actions – including protections for whistleblowers and appeals of alleged politically-motivated actions – that would be heard before independent administrative law judges.

HB 3094 will be heard Wednesday in the House Government Modernization Committee, which Osburn chairs.

“This bill starts the process to make state government a more attractive employer, set employees up to succeed and keep the protections necessary for a strong civil service,” Osburn said. “It will remove mountains of red tape so managers can actually manage, good employees can be rewarded and prospective employees can pursue state service without byzantine application processes.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt identified civil service modernization as a priority in his State of the State speech.

The current civil service system was put in place in 1982 and has not received any significant updates since then. It is overseen by the Merit Protection Commission, a six-person state agency governed by a nine-member commission.

Osburn served on the Merit Protection Commission from 1996 to 1999.

“Even then, the system was a dinosaur that needed to be modernized. That’s even more true today,” Osburn said. “As a commissioner, it was easy for me to observe both the deficiencies and benefits of the system. The needle we are trying to thread is to throw out the deficiencies while keeping the benefits, and I believe this bill does that.”

Under the bill, the Merit Protection Commission would remain in place until no classified employees remained in state government. The bill assigns administration of the new, unclassified civil service system to the Human Capital Management Administration within the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

If passed, the bill would allow each agency and managers within the agency to set hiring, promotion, pay and other human resources policies for unclassified employees in a manner that meets the needs and resources of each agency.

The state has more than 30,000 employees across more than 100 agencies. Today, about two thirds are classified employees.

“Two thirds of the state workforce can’t be managed with the current best practices in human resources because the archaic civil service system prevents it,” Osburn said. “It’s time to modernize the system and unleash innovation. Ultimately, this leads to better management, better performance, better pay and a stronger workforce that provides improved value to taxpayers.”

House A&B passes bill to expand apprenticeship opportunities


Bipartisan Bill to Expand Apprenticeship Opportunity Passes A&B

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bipartisan-backed bill to expand employment opportunities for Oklahomans has passed the House Appropriation and Budget Committee with a vote of 27 to 1.

House Bill 3378 -- authored by Rep. Meloyde Blancett (D-Tulsa), Rep. Mickey Dollens (D-OKC) and House A&B Chair Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) -- would offer employers a $1,000 tax credit per registered apprenticeship position. The plan allows each employer up to 10 apprenticeship credits per year.

“Our economy is strongest when everyone has a skill that can earn a good living - with or without a college degree,” said Dollens. “In 2018, Oklahoma had 99 apprenticeship programs and 1,516 active apprentices across the state. I believe we can grow that number to 300 programs with 2,300 active apprentices by 2022. It’s with this goal in mind that I authored HB3378 which allows Oklahoma business owners to claim an apprenticeship credit for expenses related to apprenticeship training programs.”

In order to qualify for the apprenticeship credit, an apprentice position must be registered with the US Department of Labor and meet the quality standards outlined through the federal government. Each industry has its own standards, which are regulated by the US Department of Labor.

“Over the next ten years, Oklahoma’s economy is projected to grow by 135,000 jobs and more than 70 percent of jobs will require some kind of education or training beyond high school,” Blancett said. “Expanding apprenticeships across the state will help to bridge the skills gap and fill jobs in diverse industries such as information technology, healthcare, energy, aerospace, construction, advanced manufacturing, hospitality, financial services, and more.”

The legislation received a boost in support when Wallace signed on as a coauthor.

“With previous decades of pushing four-year college degrees, combined with the aging out of licensed contractors in electrical, plumbing and mechanical trades, we’ve left a gap in our skilled trades,” Wallace said. “Without new recruitment of apprentices, journeymen and contractors, that gap will continue to grow. This bill gives employers the incentives they need to attract and train these future workers, which ultimately results in more and better-paying jobs for the Oklahoma economy.”

House Bill 3378 is now available to be heard on the House Floor.

Second Amendment Sanctuary movement now has 25 county sheriffs on board

Following new declarations over the weekend, 25 Oklahoma counties now call themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries.

Logan County Sheriff Damon Devereaux started a movement among county sheriffs in Oklahoma last week when he declared his county to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. Since Saturday, four new counties have joined with declarations of their own. I also discovered three county commission boards that passed resolutions supporting their sheriff's sanctuary declaration.

There are at least two other counties where sheriffs have made Sanctuary-sympathetic comments, but I'm waiting until they put pen to paper before adding them to this list.

The following list is in roughly chronological order, with links to each county's official statement.
  1. Logan County SheriffCounty Commissioners
  2. Stephens County Sheriff
  3. Canadian County Sheriff
  4. Haskell County Sheriff, District Attorney
  5. Bryan County Sheriff
  6. Pittsburg County Sheriff, District Attorney
  7. LeFlore County Sheriff
  8. Cimarron County Sheriff
  9. Coal County Sheriff
  10. Cotton County Sheriff, County Commissioners
  11. Kiowa County SheriffCounty Commissioners
  12. Pushmataha County Sheriff
  13. Latimer County Sheriff
  14. Atoka County Sheriff
  15. McCurtain County Sheriff
  16. Major County Sheriff
  17. Johnston County Sheriff
  18. Ottawa County Sheriff
  19. Choctaw County Sheriff
  20. Lincoln County Sheriff
  21. Caddo County Sheriff
  22. Blaine County Sheriff
  23. Creek County Sheriff, County Commissioners 
  24. Carter County Sheriff
  25. Osage County Sheriff

Monday, February 24, 2020

House Committee passes bill requiring issuance of valid state IDs to inmates upon release


Committee Advances Bill Requiring DOC, DPS to Issue Valid State IDs for Inmates Upon Release

OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Public Safety Committee advanced legislation Thursday to require the Dept. of Corrections and Dept. of Public Safety to coordinate to issue valid state identification to inmates upon their release.

House Bill 1310 by Rep. Marilyn Stark (R-Bethany) would create the “Inmate ID Act of 2020.” The act would require the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections to coordinate with the Dept. of Public Safety to provide REAL ID Noncompliant Identification Cards to all offenders who don’t have a state-issued ID prior to their release.

“The Legislature has taken important steps to aid criminal justice reform, but the changes implemented over the last few years won’t be as effective without focusing on our recidivism rate as well,” Stark said. “A lack of state ID contributes to the struggles our state’s former inmates face upon release. One of the biggest hindrances when a person is released is employment, and they need a state ID to find a job. Without a state ID, they can’t even visit a food bank.”

The Dept. of Corrections would identify inmates expected to leave custody within the next nine months and begin the process of gathering the documentation required to issue a REAL ID Noncompliant Identification Card. The ID cards would be valid for four years from the month of issuance; however, IDs issued to an inmate aged 65 or older would be valid indefinitely from the month of issuance.

The bill also stipulates that if no other form of identification is available, DPS must allow the use of a DOC-issued consolidated record card to serve as a valid identification to obtain a REAL ID Noncompliant Identification Card. Any ID issued through this process would be valid for two years from the month of issuance and would be nonrenewable.

“Inmates can easily lose track of their personal belongings while they’re imprisoned, and sometimes they need a little time after release to track down their birth certificates and other government-issued forms of identification,” Stark said. “However, the state has already identified each person in the system, so a two-year ID would go a long way toward helping an inmate after their release until they can find their original identification documents.”

Under HB1310, if an inmate needing a state-issued ID has been convicted of any offense required to register under the Sex Offenders Registration Act, their ID will be valid for one year from the month of issuance and must be renewed annually during the time they are on the Sex Offender Registry.

Although HB1310 was filed in 2019, Stark held an interim study over state IDs for inmates upon their release in November to learn more about the topic before filing language this session.

HB1310 passed the House Public Safety Committee 13-0. It is now available to be considered on the House floor.

Rep. Marilyn Stark, a Republican, serves District 100 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Her district includes portions of Bethany, Oklahoma City and Warr Acres.

Music Monday: "Nimrod" from Elgar's Enigma Variations

This week's Music Monday is Variation IX (Adagio) "Nimrod" , from Sir Edward Elgar's Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 (aka, the Enigma Variations). Jonathan Scott performs this solo organ arrangement on the largest pipe organ in Asia, at the WeiWuYing - National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts in Taiwan.


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.

February 17th, 2020: Wayfaring Stranger
February 3rd, 2020: My City Was Gone (Rush Limbaugh theme song)
January 27th, 2020: My Next Thirty Years
January 20th, 2020: Music for the Royal Fireworks
January 13th, 2020: Overture from The Cowboys
January 6th, 2020: I Am Resolved
December 23rd, 2019: Angels We Have Heard On High
December 16th, 2019: I Wonder As I Wander
December 9th, 2019: O Come, All Ye Faithful
December 2nd, 2019: I Saw Three Ships
November 25th, 2019: Count Your Blessings
November 18th, 2019: Poor Wayfaring Stranger
November 11th, 2019: Over There
November 4th, 2019: Great Speckled Bird
October 28th, 2019: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
October 14th, 2019: Batman Theme
September 30th, 2019: These Are My People (Johnny Cash)
September 23rd, 2019: Pictures at an Exhibition (Great Gate of Kiev)
September 16th, 2019: The Streets of Laredo (Piano Puzzler)
September 9th, 2019: I'm Ready To Go
August 26th, 2019: It Is Not Death To Die
August 5th, 2019: 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)
July 29th, 2019: Let It Be Said Of Us
July 15th, 2019: Bach's "Little" Fugue in G Minor
July 8th, 2019: The Majesty and Glory of Your Name
July 1st, 2019: Medley of Sousa Marches
June 24th, 2019: Seventy-Six Trombones
June 17th, 2019: I Want To Be That Man
June 3rd, 2019: "Les Toreadors" from 'Carmen'
May 20th, 2019: Lonesome Road
May 13th, 2019: Mr. Mom
April 29th, 2019: Have Faith in God (Muskogee's hymn)
April 15th, 2019: The Government Can
March 25th, 2019: Transcendental Étude No. 4, "Mazeppa"
March 18th, 2019: St. Patrick's Day in the Morning
March 11th, 2019: What Wondrous Love is This
March 4th, 2019: Scandinavian Waltz
February 18th, 2019: Adagio for Strings
February 11th, 2019: 'Romance' from 'The Gadfly'
February 4th, 2019: Columbia, Gem of the Ocean
January 7th, 2019: Loch Lomond
December 31st, 2018: Auld Lang Syne
December 24th, 2018: Remember O, thou Man
December 17th, 2018: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
December 10th, 2018: Carol of the Bells (medley)
December 3rd, 2018: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
November 26th, 2018: Happy Birthday
November 19th, 2018: My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness
November 12th, 2018: Hymn to the Fallen
October 29th, 2018: A Mighty Fortress is Our God
October 22nd, 2018: Hymn to Red October
October 15th, 2018:  Indian Reservation ("Cherokee People")
October 8th, 2018: Wagner's 'Columbus Overture'
October 1st, 2018: Danny Boy
September 24th, 2018: Dvorak's 'From The New World' Symphony, 4th Movement
September 17th, 2018: Deep River
September 10th, 2018: Muleskinner Blues
September 3rd, 2018: Boomer Sooner
August 20th, 2018: Psalm 23
August 13th, 2018: Ashokan Farewell
August 6, 2018: How the West Was Won
July 23rd, 2018: I Just Can't Wait to Be King
July 16th, 2018: 'Jupiter' from 'The Planets'
July 9th, 2018: Hail to the Spirit of Liberty
July 2nd, 2018: Turn The Tide
June 25th, 2018: Good Guys Win
June 18th, 2018: Watching You
June 11th, 2018: Adoration
June 4th, 2018: March from 'A Moorside Suite'
May 28th, 2018: Taps
May 21st, 2018: Listz's La Campanella
May 14th, 2018: Handful of Weeds
May 7th, 2018: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
April 30th, 2018: Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53 ("Heroic")
April 23rd, 2018: Blow Ye The Trumpet
April 16th, 2018: Asturias (Leyenda)
April 9th, 2018: Old Mountain Dew
April 2nd, 2018: His Life For Mine
March 19th, 2018: See, the Conqu'ring Hero Comes!
March 12th, 2018: Choctaw Nation
March 5th, 2018: Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal
February 19th, 2018: The Olympic Spirit
February 12th, 2018: Olympic Fanfare and Theme
January 29th, 2018: Hail to the Chief
January 23rd, 2018: Waltz in A-Flat Major, Op. 39 No. 15
January 15th, 2018: Bleed The Same
January 8th, 2018: Saint-Saëns' Symphony No.3 'Organ' (Maestoso)
December 25th, 2017: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
December 18th, 2017: I Saw Three Ships (The Piano Guys)
December 11th, 2017:Who Is He In Yonder Stall
December 4th, 2017: Carol of the Bells (Mannheim Steamroller)
November 27th, 2017: Joy to the World!
November 20th, 2017: We Gather Together
November 13th, 2017: Mansions of the Lord
November 6th, 2017: Träumerei
October 30th: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
October 23rd, 2017: In Christ Alone
October 16th, 2017: When I'm Knee Deep In Bluegrass
October 9th, 2017: I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb
October 2nd, 2017: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major (Brahms)
September 25th, 2017: Beethoven's Sonata No. 8 in C minor ('Pathétique')
September 11th, 2017: Have You Forgotten?
September 4th, 2017: Bach's Double Violin Concerto
August 28th, 2017: Noah Found Grace In The Eyes Of The Lord
August 21st, 2017: The Heavens Are Telling The Glory of God
August 14th, 2017: Beethoven's 5th Symphony
August 7th, 2017: 'Lift High The Name Of Jesus' medley
July 31st, 2017: Fanfare for the Common Man
July 24th, 2017: Variations on 'Happy Birthday'
July 10th, 2017: Summer (Presto) from Vivaldi's Four Seasons
July 3rd, 2017: Freelance Fireworks Hall of Fame
June 26th, 2017: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
June 19th, 2017: A Christian Home
June 12th, 2017: Ol' Man River
June 5th, 2017: Choctaw Cowboy
May 29th, 2017: Armed Forces Salute
May 22nd, 2017: Double Bass Concerto No.2 in B minor
May 15th, 2017: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major
May 8th, 2017: The Army Goes Rolling Along
April 17th, 2017: He Is Alive
April 10th, 2017: Surely He Hath Borne/And With His Stripes/All We Like Sheep
April 3rd, 2017: Here Comes Carolina
March 27th, 2017: 'Spring' from Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'
March 20th, 2017: Symphony No. 5 ("Reformation") Finale
March 13th, 2017: The Pigeon on the Gate
March 6th, 2017: Finlandia
February 27th, 2017: When I Can Read My Title Clear
February 20th, 2017: William Tell Overture - Finale
February 13th, 2017: 'Romance' from 'The Gadfly'
February 6th, 2017: White Winter Hymnal
January 30th, 2017: Hail, Columbia
January 23rd, 2017: Hail to the Chief
January 16th, 2017: Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
January 2nd, 2017: Auld Lang Syne
December 26th, 2016: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
December 19th, 2016: I Wonder as I Wander
December 12th, 2016: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
December 5th, 2016: A Christmas Festival
November 28th, 2016: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
November 21st: Beethoven's 'Hymn of Thanksgiving'
November 14th: Hymn to the Fallen
November 7th: This World Is Not My Home
October 31st, 2016: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
October 24th, 2016: 'Mars', from 'The Planets'
October 17th, 2016: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
October 10th, 2016: Spain
October 3rd, 2016: International Harvester
September 26th, 2016: 'The Imperial March' from Star Wars
September 19th, 2016: Awake the Trumpet's Lofty Sound
September 12th, 2016: Before the Throne of God Above
September 5th, 2016: The Hunt
August 29th, 2016: Liberty
August 22nd, 2016: Summon the Heroes
August 15th, 2016: Bugler's Dream
August 8th, 2016: Olympic Fanfare and Theme
August 1st, 2016: 'Prelude' and 'Parade of the Charioteers' from Ben-Hur
July 25th, 2016: How The West Was Won
July 18th, 2016: Six Studies in English Folk Song
July 11th, 2016: From Everlasting To Everlasting
July 4th, 2016: The Stars and Stripes Forever
June 27th, 2016: Rule, Britannia!
June 20st, 2016: Bugler's Holiday
June 13th, 2016: Ride of the Valkyries
June 6th, 2016: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54, Allegro Vivace
May 30th, 2016: Armed Forces Salute
May 23rd, 2016: Paid in Full (Through Jesus, Amen)
May 16th, 2016: Overture from 'Carmen'
May 9th, 2016: L'Arlesienne Suite No. 1 - Prelude
May 2nd, 2016: My God Is a Rock
April 25th, 2016: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
April 18th, 2016: Paganini's Caprice No. 24 in A Minor
April 11th, 2016: Fantasia on a 17th Century Tune
April 4th, 2016: Hark The Sound/I'm a Tarheel Born
March 28th, 2016: Rustle of Spring
March 21st, 2016: 'Ode to Joy' sung by a 10,000-voice choir
March 14th, 2016: Hard Times Come Again No More
March 7th, 2016: 'The Suite' from Downton Abbey
February 29th, 2016: Moonlight Sonata
February 22nd, 2016: Liebestraum No. 3
February 15th, 2016: Help Is On The Way
February 8th, 2016: God of Grace and God of Glory
February 1st, 2016: 'My Story'
January 25th, 2016: Israeli Concertino
January 18th, 2016: What Grace is Mine
January 11th, 2016: "Meditation" from Thaïs
January 4th, 2016: Praeludium and Allegro
December 28th, 2015: Appalachian Carol
December 21st, 2015: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
December 14th, 2015: O Holy Night
December 7th, 2015: Christmas Fantasy
November 23rd, 2015: Simple Gifts
November 16th, 2015: Preacher Tell Me Like It Is
November 9th, 2015: Armed Forces Salute
November 2nd, 2015: Amazing Grace
October 26th, 2015: The Harmonious Blacksmith
October 19th, 2015: Liberty Fanfare
October 12th, 2015: The Majesty and Glory of Your Name
October 5th, 2015: Elgar's 'Enigma' Finale
September 28th, 2015: Stayed on Jesus
September 21st, 2015: Great Gate of Kiev
September 14th, 2015: Nearer, My God, To Thee

Saturday, February 22, 2020

State Question to modernize Oklahoma’s Constitution advances from Senate committee


Senate committee passes state question proposal to modernize Oklahoma’s state constitution

The Oklahoma Constitution is well overdue for an upgrade. That’s according to State Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Broken Arrow, who authored Senate Joint Resolution 31, which would give power to the people to decide if the state should call a Constitutional Convention to propose alterations, revisions and amendments to the document. Although it has been amended over the years through state questions, the constitution has not undergone a comprehensive review since it was first drawn in 1906.

The proposal passed the Senate Rules Committee unanimously on Wednesday.

“We have one of the longest state constitutions in the nation, and it’s filled with archaic topics and concerns that are no longer relevant in today’s world,” Newhouse said. “The document references communication via telegram, spells out the flash point and gravity of kerosene, and even elaborates against railroad monopolies. At one point in history those were important issues, but I think it’s safe to say our state has changed with the times and our constitution hasn’t.”

The Oklahoma Constitution requires a vote of the people every 20 years to decide if it should be revised, amended or re-written, which is evidence the original drafters knew updates would be necessary, Newhouse said.

Contrary to the law, it’s been 50 years since legislators proposed a state question to give voters a voice in the matter.

Although Newhouse acknowledges revisiting a document of such importance can be an overwhelming decision for voters, he said organizing a bi-partisan working group to analyze the document prior to the vote and recommend changes that make sense for all Oklahomans could make the decision easier.

“Oklahoma is transforming to become a Top 10 state,” Newhouse said. “Modernizing our constitution, removing antiquated language and allowing our government to become more efficient for our citizens is vital to ensure our state is successful for years to come. Now is the time to make our state constitution work for us.”

SJR 31 will now go before the full Senate for a vote.