Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pursuit announces 3rd annual scholarship competition; video or essay on debt, accountabilty issues


Founded by the late Dr. Tom Coburn, Pursuit is a non-partisan organization aimed at making government transparent, exposing wasteful spending, and inspiring future generations to get involved. They recently announced their third annual scholarship competition. Read below for details:

3RD ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIP COMPETITION
[OurPursuit.com]


There is a lot at stake for the future of young Americans. Even prior to the response to the crisis we are currently facing, both political parties had already placed our nation on an unsustainable fiscal course. In the absence of decisive action from our leaders, one generation of Americans is about to leave the next generations with an unbearable financial burden.

The national debt is more than $25 trillion, soon to exceed the size of our entire economy. There is another $100 trillion in unpaid for promises coming down the pike. Report after report warns of wasteful spending and unsustainable deficits, yet year after year nothing is done by our elected leaders to address them.

If this continues, millennials and generation Z will spend their peak earning years paying for the excesses and promises they had no knowledge of or say in. However, this is not an unsolvable problem. It’s a grand opportunity. But young Americans must start speaking up now.

Pursuit will award four scholarships to incoming Freshmen, Sophomores, or Juniors enrolled in an American university or community college who produce a video (maximum 5 minutes) or write an essay (maximum 2500 words) on one or a combination of the following topics:

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Attorney General Hunter: unmarked stimulus debit cards not always a scam


Attorney General Hunter: Unmarked Stimulus Debit Cards Not Always a Scam

OKLAHOMA CITY – In response to reports that some Americans are mistakenly discarding stimulus debit cards, Attorney General Mike Hunter today urged Oklahomans to not assume the unmarked envelopes containing cards are junk mail.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced last week the agencies had begun the process of sending nearly 4 million Visa debit cards loaded with the $1,200 stimulus payments to Americans.

The debit cards are arriving at households in plain envelopes, leading to confusion and individuals mistaking it for junk mail or fraudulent activity.

Attorney General Hunter is encouraging Oklahomans to open such correspondence and ensure they are not accidentally throwing away their stimulus payments.

1889 Institute: excessive credentialing wastes talent, limits opportunity


Excessive Credentialing Wastes Talent, Limits Opportunity
By Byron Schlomach

We, as a society, think university-granted degrees are more valuable than they actually are. Consequently, college degrees are often demanded to qualify for a job when degrees are not necessary. A degree might even cause us to think someone is qualified when they are anything but.

While I was in graduate school, two tenured economics professors vehemently argued to me that United States silver coins had never actually consisted of the element, silver. Actually, prior to 1965, they were 90 percent silver. I’d already had doubts about the true value of an advanced degree, but that discussion put my doubts into overdrive.

Many state jobs require a college degree for one to be hired, but could be filled by individuals with relevant experience but who have no degree. The 1889 Institute identified several state agency openings that unnecessarily required college degrees. Organizational skills can be obtained in a number of ways without college. Many state information technology positions require college degrees, but IT experience and certifications produce well-qualified candidates.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Oklahoma to begin Phase 3 of reopen plan on June 1st


OKLAHOMA TO BEGIN PHASE 3 OF OPEN UP AND RECOVER SAFELY PLAN ON JUNE 1
Additional guidance issued for individuals and businesses

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 29, 2020) – Oklahoma will proceed to Phase 3 of the Open Up and Recover Safely plan Monday, June 1, Governor Kevin Stitt announced Friday.

Oklahoma currently has just 708 active COVID-19 cases out of nearly 4 million residents and 5,236 people have already recovered.

Active cases in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, the state’s two largest, make up less than 0.03% of the population in their respective counties.

As of May 28, 188,665 tests have been performed with just 3.77% coming back positive. Since Phase 2 of the OURS plan was initiated May 15, 69,914 tests have been performed and just 2.1% have been positive.

“We are making responsible decisions based on the data in our state,” said Gov. Stitt. “While cases continue to decline 36 days into our reopening, it is important Oklahomans remember COVID-19 is still in the United States and we must continue to be diligent about washing our hands frequently, maintaining physical distance and protecting our most vulnerable populations.”

Under Phase 3, businesses may resume unrestricted staffing at their worksites by observing proper CDC-recommended social distancing protocols and are recommended to continue increased cleaning and disinfecting practices.

OKGOP clarifies: no primary endorsements from the State Party

It seems that some candidate(s) is insinuating an endorsement by the Oklahoma Republican Party, prompting the following statement by leadership of the OKGOP:
OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON PRIMARY RACES

Be it known, to all registered Republicans, that the Oklahoma Republican Party does not endorse any candidate running in a Republican primary.

Any candidate running in a primary and implies or states they have the endorsement of the Oklahoma Republican Party is not being truthful and is intentionally misleading voters.

AG Hunter: Long-term care facitilies can't garnish Medicaid recipients' stimulus funds


Attorney General Hunter Advises Long-Term Care Facilities that Stimulus Funds Cannot Be Taken from Medicaid Recipients

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 27, 2020) – Attorney General Mike Hunter today sent a letter to nursing homes and assisted living facilities statewide to inform administrators that taking Medicaid recipients’ COVID-19 stimulus funds is illegal.

According to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the economic impact payments are considered a tax credit, therefore exempt from federal benefits programs such as Medicaid.

Signed by Pres. Donald Trump in March, the CARES Act included $2.2 trillion for emergency assistance to Americans and businesses financially struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorney General Hunter said his office is monitoring the situation and will take action if necessary.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

COVID-19: Oklahoma Exceeds 90,000 Testing Goal for May


Oklahoma Exceeds 90,000 Testing Goal for May

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 28, 2020) - The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today the State has surpassed its goal to collect and test more than 90,000 specimens in the month of May. As of Wednesday, May 27, OSDH had processed 113,264 specimens collected for COVID-19 testing since the first of the month, with a total of 183,632 tests conducted since COVID-19 was first detected in early March.

OSDH published the latest numbers yesterday in its Executive Order COVID-19 Report to Governor Kevin Stitt and demonstrated that as COVID-19 testing increased over the month of May, the percentage of positive cases dropped to a record low of 3.8% in Oklahoma.

“Testing is paramount to controlling the spread of COVID-19,” Interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye, MD said. “Reaching this goal is only a starting point in the strategy for Oklahoma. In order to increase progress on minimizing the spread of COVID-19, we will continue to expand testing accessibility, increase contact tracing efforts and encourage Oklahomans to remain steadfast by continuing to follow State and CDC guidelines.”

The State of Oklahoma was able to achieve its testing goal due to more than 80 OSDH county health departments' testing locations, alongside Oklahoma City-County Health Department and Tulsa Health Department, as well as the State’s testing strategy with long-term care facilities as well as state prisons. This led to an average of 4,324 tests conducted daily.

Lucas introduces legislation to protect U.S. mineral supply chains


Lucas Introduces Legislation to Protect U.S. Mineral Supply Chains

Cheyenne, OK – Today, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04) and Rep. Michael Waltz (FL-06) in introducing the American Critical Mineral Exploration and Innovation Act of 2020. They were joined by House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (UT-01), and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23).

The American Critical Minerals Exploration and Innovation Act aims to reduce America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals by supporting responsible domestic mineral development. Minerals, with applications including healthcare, defense systems, and renewable energy technology, are essential to our modern way of life. China has dominated the critical minerals market for years, controlling the vast majority of the global supply.

Currently, 14 of the 35 critical minerals identified by the U.S.G.S. are imported to the U.S. at a rate of 100%. Ensuring a stable supply of critical minerals for electric car batteries, smartphones, healthcare equipment, and a range of other technologies and products, begins with encouraging responsible critical minerals development, production, and innovation here at home.

“Critical minerals power technologies ranging from cell phones to medical equipment to renewable energy storage. China holds an overwhelming advantage in access to critical minerals and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it dangerously clear that we can’t take our supply for granted. We need to be forward-thinking about how we develop our resources and manage our access to critical minerals. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bill which not only helps secure our supply of critical minerals, but also accelerates research into critical minerals development and technologies” said Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03).

1889 Institute argues that Oklahoma mayors acted unlawfully with COVID-19 orders


OKLAHOMA MAYORS ACTED UNLAWFULLY WITH COVID-19 ORDERS
The mayors of Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Norman lacked authority under state law to order shelter in place.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (May 27, 2020) – The 1889 Institute has published “An Argument that Oklahoma’s Mayors Acted Unlawfully During COVID-19.” The legal analysis is authored by the Institute’s Legal Fellow, Ben Lepak, a municipal law expert given his experience counseling 24 elected officials across three Oklahoma counties in a previous position. He makes the case that mayors improperly issued shelter in place orders under a state law intended to combat riots and looting, not pandemic. The study argues that city social distancing rules more restrictive than the state’s are invalid.

“The mayors of Oklahoma’s three largest cities took extreme measures limiting their citizens’ freedoms and harming them financially without proper legal authority,” said Lepak. “These mayors claimed legal authority under laws that simply were never intended for containing a pandemic,” he said.

In the study, Lepak examines city ordinances and state laws governing the mayors’ orders, and concludes that the mayors misapplied the Riot Control and Prevention Act of 1968 and local city ordinances based on that Act. These laws were passed in response to social unrest in the late 1960s due to racial tensions and opposition to the Vietnam War.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Morton Blackwell's Conservative Leadership PAC endorses Hill for Congress

Fresh on the heels of an endorsement by David Barton, 5th District GOP candidate David Hill has announced another endorsement by a respected conservative icon:


Conservative Leadership PAC Endorses David Hill for U.S. Congress
Conservative Icon Morton Blackwell describes Hill as “the conservative champion we need.”

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Conservative Leadership PAC announced its endorsement of David Hill in the Republican primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District.

"David Hill’s real-world business experience and conservative values make him the right choice in this race," said Morton Blackwell, founder and Chairman of the Conservative Leadership PAC.  "Today more than ever, we need true conservatives, not politicians who are conservative when standing for election but moderates or liberals when in office," Blackwell continued.  "David Hill is the conservative champion we need on Capitol Hill. We are excited to support him."

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

David Barton endorses Hill for Congress, hosting rally in OKC on June 18th


David Barton Endorses David Hill andAnnounces Rally for June 18th
Conservative author, historian, and speaker David Barton will host a rally for David Hill in Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY — David Barton, best-selling author, historian, and speaker, announced his endorsement of David Hill in the Republican primary for U.S. Congress for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District. Along with the endorsement, Barton announced that he will host an event on behalf of David Hill:

"Rebuilding America"
June 18, 2020 at 7:30 PM
The Hobby Lobby Finance & Technology Center
7707 SW 44th Street, Oklahoma City, OK

"What we need in America right now are leaders with the courage of their convictions, unafraid to standup for President Trump, fight the liberal lunacy in Washington, and rebuild America!" stated David Barton. "That’s why I’m supporting David Hill for Congress. He’s not a politician. He’s a God-fearing constitutionalist and a manufacturer who will support Trump and fight for America."

Monday, May 25, 2020

Music Monday: Mansions of the Lord

This week's Music Monday is Mansions of the Lord from film We Were Soldiers, performed by the West Point Band and West Point Glee Club.

On this Memorial Day, we honor all those who have died in service of the country.


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.

Bill Allowing Videoconferencing in District Court Becomes Law


Bill Allowing Videoconferencing in District Court Becomes Law

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 21, 2020) – Courtrooms across the state will now be allowed to use videoconferencing in district court proceedings after being signed by the Governor.

House Bill 3756, authored by Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, authorizes the use of videoconferencing technology in all stages of civil or criminal proceedings except in jury trials or trials before judges.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted the flexibility and usefulness offered by videoconferencing,” Miller said. “The utilization of videoconferencing in district courts has the potential to save our criminal justice system both time and money, as well as maintaining public safety. I’m thankful Governor Stitt signed this legislation that will maximize efficiencies and bring our District Court technologies into the 21st century.”

Tom Coburn's annual gift to taxpayers: GAO duplication report savings now total over $400 Billion


Coburn Originated Duplication Report Savings Now Total Over $400 Billion

The 10th edition of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) duplication report came out this week. With it, comes a massive update in its projected savings.

Since the report’s inception, GAO reports that it has generated $439 billion in taxpayer savings, up $166 billion from just last year!

The annual GAO Duplication report was created by an amendment offered by our late founder, Senator Coburn during the 2010 debt ceiling hike debate (you can read more about the history and legacy of this amendment in a joint op-ed I published with Dan Lips here).

Since 2011, GAO has outlined 908 actions across 325 areas of duplication, fragmentation, and inefficiencies for Congress and the Executive Branch to address.

The good news is, 519 of these have been addressed (57 percent) resulting in $393 billion in financial benefits so far and $36 billion more yet to be accrued.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Stitt names Col. Lance Frye, MD, as interim Oklahoma Commissioner of Health


GOV. STITT ANNOUNCES INTERIM OKLAHOMA COMMISSIONER OF HEALTH

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 22, 2020) – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the selection of Colonel Lance Frye, M.D., as the interim Oklahoma Commissioner of Health. Col. Frye will begin leading the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) as interim commissioner effective immediately. 

“Col. Frye is a proven leader and highly qualified medical expert who has faithfully served our country and state with a focus on the health of those around him for over 25 years,” said Gov. Stitt. “As a respected health care professional who has vast experience operating under pressure, I have full faith in his ability to continue upon the momentum we have seen OSDH undergo over the past eight months and lead this critical agency as we respond to the worst pandemic in a century.”

“Thank you Governor Stitt and Secretary Loughridge for trusting me to serve in this role at such a critical time in our State’s history,” said Col. Frye. “Governor Stitt has said his number one goal is to protect the health and lives of Oklahomans, and that is a mission I am honored to carry out. We are all in this together, and I am confident we will continue the great progress we have made in our fight against COVID-19.”

Frye currently serves as the interim department chair, residency program director and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, and State Air Surgeon for the Oklahoma Air National Guard (OKANG).

1889 Institute: Health Care is a Right? Not if People are Free


Health Care Is a Right? Not if People Are Free
By Byron Schlomach

It’s common for some to declare a right to health care. Most Democrat candidates for President made this assertion. But while this sounds high-minded and merciful, it actually asserts a right to enslave others.

Everything humans consume must be produced by someone. That includes health care. Therefore, to claim a fundamental human right to consume something for free is to claim a right to another human’s labor. The word for this is “slavery.”

Scoffing at this fact is easy. After all, doctors in nations that provide free health care are paid and hardly look like slaves. But a gilded cage does not change the moral calculus. Mutual enslavement by taxation is not moral, much less workable, when the taxes pay for something that is not truly of mutual benefit to all, as with national defense and police services.

Suppose all agreed in a small, isolated town that all had a right to free health care administered by the only doctor. The doctor would go bankrupt and could not treat anyone for lack of supplies, so the townspeople tax themselves to pay the doctor according to his prices.

At first, he charges what he has in the past. But since no individual pays for care, the doctor is soon over-worked, so he repeatedly raises prices. He soon has the best house in town, great facilities, and many assistants, but the townspeople are being impoverished. They decide to limit the doctor’s prices and services. At this point, the doctor is practically enslaved, along with everybody in town who must pay for everybody else’s health care.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Comanche Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe respond to tribal opposition letters


Comanche Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe respond to tribal opposition letters
Tribes discuss “critical moment in Oklahoma’s Indian gaming industry”

Oklahoma City (May 22, 2020) -- The Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe said today their compacts are legal, are similar to many other previously-approved gaming compacts and assert their tribal sovereignty in a way that will benefit their people and the state.

The tribes released a legal memo today in response to recent tribal opposition letters. In the letter, which was sent to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, both tribal Chairmen counter the arguments recently released by the Chickasaw Nation, the Quapaw Nation and the Wichita & Affiliated Tribes. The memo also calls attention to the fact that each feature of the agreements has been part of previously approved compacts over the last several decades.

“The complaints from our fellow tribes have no legitimate legal basis, as the compacts are legal, were negotiated in good faith and should be approved,” said Otoe-Missouria Tribe Chairman John R. Shotton. “These compacts are the product of the most fundamental aspects of tribal sovereignty.”

In the memo, the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe outline the reasons the compacts are legal and should be approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The compacts were validly formed
As noted in an earlier memo responding to the attorney general’s opinion, the governor of Oklahoma has the authority to enter into these tribal gaming agreements without approval from the other branches of government. According to the new memo, the Chickasaw letter to Sec. Bernhardt places undue emphasis on the role of the legislative branch and attorney general in the tribal-state compact approval process. Regardless of former processes in Oklahoma, this new compact was formed validly under the authority that rests with the governor.

In fact, the memo states, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma has explicitly recognized that the governor “has been and continues to be the party responsible for negotiating compacts with the sovereign nations of this state.”

The compacts include the meaningful concessions from the state required for federal approval
When determining compact approval, the Department takes into consideration whether an agreement provides the tribe with substantial economic benefits, as well as if the state offers a meaningful concession for the sharing of revenue. Opposition currently claims the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria compacts allow for unlawful taxation on the basis there is no meaningful concession in exchange.

In reality, the compacts reduce the revenue-share payments both tribes would make to the state, while continuing to offer everything it offered in the previous compact. When comparing the tribes’ current revenue-sharing payments to the amount they would pay under the compacts, the memo says the savings for the tribes are significant, allowing them to put additional funds toward important tribal programs.

The compacts do not erode tribal sovereignty
In its letter, the Quapaw Nation listed several features of the compacts that, in their view, “erode tribal sovereignty.” However, the memo outlines that in addition to the compacts not eroding tribal sovereignty in the slightest, all of the features have either been approved in prior compacts or do not affect any change in the tribes’ existing obligations.

“Every sovereign tribe has the right to enter into intergovernmental negotiations with the State, and every sovereign tribe has the right to choose what is best for its tribal members,” the memo reads. “We were faced with a fairly simple decision: (A) continue litigation against the state and thus remain in our current compacts; or (B) engage in good-faith negotiations with the state in an attempt to secure better opportunities to improve the well-being of our tribal members. We chose the latter option.”

The concurrence given in the compacts is lawful and follows precedent
Through Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, there is a two-part process for tribes to have new lands taken into trust for gaming eligibility. The compacts include a concurrence from the governor that lands in six counties (three for each tribe) can be taken into trust pursuant to this process. The two-part determination would also require approval at the federal level.

The Chickasaw, Wichita and Quapaw all take particular grievance with this section of the agreement but, according to the memo, this two-part determination process is entirely separate from the compact approval. That is, federal approval of the compacts does not automatically result in new lands becoming eligible for gaming. This aspect of the compacts should therefore not be a consideration in the legality of the compacts. Furthermore, similar compacts including such provisions have been approved by the Department of the Interior.

Approval of the compacts would not be a breach of the trust responsibility
Finally, the Chickasaw Nation argues the approval of the compacts would be a breach of the Department’s trust responsibility, as other tribes may have lands in the development counties. However, the memo outlines both the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe also have deep historical connection with these lands, and again reassures that the compacts alone do not make lands in those counties eligible for gaming. The tribes will need to follow the Section 20 process to obtain final approval of any planned land acquisitions.

“Our compact is legal and we look forward to approval from the Department of the Interior,” said Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson, Sr.

The Department of the Interior has 45 days to review and approve both the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe compacts and is expected to make a ruling on or before June 8.

About the Comanche Nation
The Comanche Nation is located in Southwest Oklahoma, with headquarters located right outside of Lawton. The tribe currently has approximately 17,000 enrolled tribal members with 7,000 residing in the tribal jurisdictional area around the Lawton, Ft. Sill, and surrounding counties. In the late 1600’s and early 1700’s the tribe migrated from their Shoshone kinsmen onto the northern Plains, ultimately relocating in Oklahoma. For more information about The Comanche Nation, visit https://www.comanchenation.com.

About The Otoe-Missouria Tribe
The Otoe-Missouria Tribe is located in North Central Oklahoma in Red Rock. There are currently 3,288 members enrolled in the tribe with 2,242 living in Oklahoma. The tribe was relocated to Oklahoma in 1881 from its first reservation on the border of Nebraska and Kansas. For more information about the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, visit https://www.omtribe.org/.

Following veto override, rural broadband expansion council to be created


Legislature enacts bills to set rural broadband expansion plan

OKLAHOMA CITY – All stakeholders will be at the table in public meetings to craft an actionable rural broadband expansion plan for Oklahoma under legislation enacted by veto override Friday.

House Bill 4018 and Senate Bill 1002 cause a 14-member council to develop a plan to improve availability, quality and affordability of high speed internet in rural Oklahoma, which lags significantly behind the rest of the country in access to high speed internet.

“We are bringing all stakeholders together for step one of what will be several years of successful rural broadband expansion in Oklahoma,” said Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, an information technology college professor who carried the legislation. “Legislators don’t want to see any wasted resources, whether public or private, so we have asked for a coordinated plan that prevents wasteful efforts while getting rural constituents the internet they need.”

Phillips coauthored the legislation with House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka.

“Representative Logan Phillips worked tirelessly throughout the legislative interim and session to craft this very strong legislation that will produce real results for rural Oklahomans for years to come,” McCall said. “As a lifetime rural Oklahoman, I applaud Representative Phillips, Senator Leewright and all stakeholders for collaborating on a teamwork-driven approach to this major issue for our constituents.”

The legislation was carried in the Senate by Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow.

“Even before the pandemic, rural Oklahoma needed faster, cheaper internet in a serious way,” Leewright said. “The pandemic only heightened rural Oklahoma’s broadband need, and I am pleased rural Oklahomans are now at the table to work on this issue, along with providers responsible for delivering the service.”

The Rural Broadband Expansion Council includes representation appointed by the House, Senate and governor to ensure all expertise and perspectives are represented in developing a rural broadband expansion plan. Rural-specific interests represented on the council include broadband providers, health care, business, municipalities, electric cooperatives and citizens. Other interests represented are large national wireless providers, information technology academics and state agencies with technology assets.

“These bills are about bringing people together to chart a shared path forward,” McCall said. “The council will utilize the expertise of proven private sector experts, since they will be chiefly responsible for executing the plan, rather than relying solely on state agencies with mixed track records on technology projects. This approach will produce the best outcome for citizens, and we look forward to collaborating with all parties on this important effort going forward.”

The bills take effect immediately and require the council to be named and convened within 60 days. All meetings of the council, which will be staffed by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, will be subject to the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.

OCPA column: Transparency fuels profanity at Capitol


Transparency fuels profanity at Capitol
By Jonathan Small

As one transitions from a child to adult, perception changes with age. That’s certainly been my experience when it comes to politics.

I first visited the Oklahoma Capitol as a child in the 1980s, going with my parents to advocate on behalf of some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Today, I still do the same thing as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, advocating for free-market policies that provide the greatest prosperity to the largest number of people.

The response to my work as an adult, however, is not the same as the response I received as a child.

This year OCPA launched our new Legislative Scorecard and a watch list. One of the first bills to be scored was authored by the chair of an appropriations and budget subcommittee who was also part of the House Republican leadership team.

Lucas leads Science Committee members in requesting FBI briefing on Chinese hacking of US COVID-19 research


Lucas Leads Science Committee Members Requesting FBI & CISA Briefing on Chinese Hacking of U.S. COVID-19 Research

Cheyenne, OK – Republican Members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee sent a letter to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) today. The letter was prompted by a joint CISA and FBI report issued May 13, 2020: People’s Republic of China (PRC) Targeting of COVID-19 Research Organizations.

The report publicized recent attempts by China to steal public health data and intellectual property by hacking U.S. organizations conducting research on COVID-19. The CISA and FBI announcement warned that, “the potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.”

The Committee Members requested a briefing to better understand the challenges America’s research institutions and companies are facing from these threats, and how the FBI and CISA are working to detect and prevent such attacks.

“Taking into consideration the vital research these U.S. institutions are conducting in order to develop vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus that is devastating the entire world, such malicious targeting is reprehensible,” the Members wrote.

Tag agent online renewal bill will go into effect November 1st after Legislature overrides veto


Tag agent online renewal bill enacted

OKLAHOMA CITY – Online motor vehicle tag renewals can be processed by local tag agents under legislation enacted via veto override Friday.

House Bill 4049, by House Speaker Charles McCall, requires the state to offer citizens renewing vehicle tags online with the option to digitally renew their vehicle tag through their local tag agent.

“Local tag agents provide a valuable service, especially in rural Oklahoma. As digital becomes the new normal, these tag agents will be able to continue serving their communities. I appreciate Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols and Representative Brian Hill for accurately clarifying what the bill does and does not do.”

OK to receive Decontamination System for N95 Masks, processing in Muskogee


Oklahoma to Receive Decontamination System for N95 Masks

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 22, 2020) – Hospitals, health care workers, and first responders in Oklahoma will soon have the option of recycling their N95 masks with the state receiving a new decontamination system developed by Battelle, a global research and development organization headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.

The Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System is a self-contained, mobile system that uses high concentration, vapor phase hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate N95 masks.

Oklahoma will not incur a cost for the new service. Battelle was awarded a contract by the Defense Logistics Agency on behalf of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide N95 decontamination at no charge to health care providers.

“My first priority has always been to protect the health and lives of Oklahomans,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt. “This system will help us continue to protect our health care workers and first responders as we stay proactive in our fight against COVID-19. Oklahoma is better when we work together.”

“This system is a way to ensure an uninterrupted supply of critical PPE is available to health care workers and first responders in our state for the long-term,” Interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye said. “Oklahoma’s stockpile of PPE is in good shape now and through proactive partnerships like this we can add an extra layer of insurance that it will remain that way.”

Tulsa businessman and council candidate donates 1,000 N95 masks to local churches


Tulsa Businessman & City Council Candidate Justin Van Kirk Donates 1,000 N-95 Masks to Local Churches

Tulsa, OK -- Justin Van Kirk, a young Tulsa Businessman running for Tulsa City Council District 7, donated 1,000 N-95 masks to local churches across the Tulsa Community. He states, "There's been no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the world as we know it. However, we must never allow the challenges we face to disrupt us or keep us from expressing our faith. We know that as churches are beginning to open back up, we still want to be cautious under these uncertain circumstances. So my wife and I had this idea of buying masks and donating them to local churches."

The Van Kirks chose Sheridan Church, Evergreen Baptist Church, The Park Church of Christ, and World Outreach Church, among several others within Tulsa, to donate the N-95 masks. The N-95 masks are recommended by the (CDC). The churches will distribute to staff, employees, or church-goers and will be made available to those who may be most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

OCPA offers solution for 35% legislative pay raise


OCPA offers solution for 35-percent legislative pay raise

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 21, 2020)—Oklahoma lawmakers are poised to receive a 35-percent increase in their taxpayer-funded salaries this November at a time when thousands of taxpayers have lost their jobs due to the oil and gas downturn as well as governments’ response to the coronavirus outbreak. Lawmakers have said they have no choice because the raise was mandated by the constitutionally created Legislative Compensation Board.

Today, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs unveiled a proposal that would resolve the issue.

“Many legislators say they don’t want the pay raise at a time when so many of their constituents are suffering, but feel their hands are tied,” said Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. “But if constitutional requirements are binding lawmakers, they can give voters the chance to change the Oklahoma Constitution.”

Small said lawmakers still have time this session or can convene in special session to approve a joint resolution that will place a constitutional amendment before voters before the raises go into effect. That amendment would simply freeze legislative pay at its current level for two more years.

Gov. Stitt vetoes SB 1046, says would not provide stable funding for Medicaid expansion plan


GOVERNOR STITT VETOES SB 1046

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 21, 2020) — Governor Kevin Stitt today vetoed Senate Bill 1046, which would not provide a stable funding source for the SoonerCare 2.0 Medicaid expansion plan.

The initial proposal to fund SoonerCare 2.0 included recurring provider assessment fees through the Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program. SB 1046 only provided SHOPP funding for Fiscal Year 2021, which would leave Medicaid expansion unfunded for Fiscal 2022 and further exacerbate the state’s projected budget deficit.

“From day one, I’ve said one-time funds are not the way pay for Medicaid expansion,” said Gov. Stitt. “This bill doesn’t fully fund SoonerCare 2.0 in the first year, and it doesn’t even consider funding for the second year. I will always protect the taxpayer and I will not sign unfunded mandates in the middle of a massive budget deficit.”

Hill accepts 5th District debate invite, applauds choice of Lankford as moderator


David Hill Accepts Debate Invitation
Hill applauds choice of Senator James Lankford to moderate discussion

OKLAHOMA CITY — David Hill, successful manufacturer and candidate for Congress, accepted an invitation to participate in a debate on May 29th hosted by the Congressional District 5 Republicans.

"Last week, we promised to appear in any debate, in any place, at any time, and we are happy to fulfill that pledge today," stated Abby Roesch, campaign manager for David Hill for Congress. "There are very real differences among the Republican candidates for Congress, and this will be a great opportunity to showcase how someone from the business world can better represent conservative values than those who have been a part of the political establishment," Roesch continued.

The debate will be moderated by Senator James Lankford and broadcasted live on local radio.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Shepherd’s Law, providing for licensure of midwives, becomes law


Shepherd’s Law, providing for licensure of midwives, becomes law

OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation creating a system for licensing midwives has been signed into law.  Senate Bill 1823, creating Shepherd’s Law, was signed into law Monday by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

State Sen. Brenda Stanley, a former educator, is principal author of SB 1823, also known as Shepherd’s Law, named for the baby of a former student--the infant died a day after a planned home delivery that went wrong.  Stanley, R-Midwest City, expressed her thanks to supporters inside and outside the Capitol for helping move the bill all the way through the process.  Stanley noted that Certified Professional Midwives are already regulated in 34 other states.  She said getting SB 1823 signed into law is an important step for Oklahoma.

“Shepherd’s Law provides for licensure, oversight, accountability, informed consent, and preserves parental choice about who they want to use, whether it’s an obstetrician, a lay-midwife, or a licensed, certified midwife,” Stanley said.  “Ultimately, I believe this bill will help us better protect the health and safety of mothers and babies.”

Voters to decide on using TSET funds for Medicaid expansion program


Senate approves bill to use TSET funds for Medicaid; SJR27 will send plan to voters to decide

OKLAHOMA CITY – A plan to help pay for Medicaid in Oklahoma passed off the Senate floor Friday. Senate Joint Resolution 27, by Senate Majority Floor Leader Kim David, R-Porter, refers to Oklahoma voters a constitutional amendment to allow a larger portion of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund (TSET) annual settlement payments to go towards paying for either the governor’s Medicaid expansion program or Medicaid expansion that may result from the approval of a pending state question.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Former Edmond Mayor Saundra Naifeh endorses Neese for Congress


TERRY NEESE ANNOUNCES THE ENDORSEMENT OF FORMER EDMOND CITY MAYOR SAUNDRA NAIFEH

Oklahoma City, OK – Terry Neese, conservative Republican candidate for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, has earned the endorsement of former Edmond City Mayor Saundra Naifeh. In a statement released today, Naifeh urged Republicans in the 5th District to unify behind Neese, the one true conservative in this race who can defeat Kendra Horn and help President Trump deliver his agenda and protect our conservative values from being destroyed by the radical Left.

Legislature raided pension assets for election-year state workers' retirement boost


Lawmakers vote to raid pension assets for benefit increase
by Ray Carter, Director, Center for Independent Journalism
 
May 15, 2020 -- Lawmakers voted Friday to approve an unfunded increase in state workers’ retirement benefits, a step that accelerates the ongoing financial deterioration of Oklahoma’s state pension systems and reduces current workers’ future retirement security.

House Bill 3350 provides a 4 percent “cost of living adjustment” (COLA) to most retired state government workers, but provides no funding to cover the cost, instead draining the pension systems’ corpus for the cash.

Opponents noted the legislation repeats the mistakes of the past, when lawmakers routinely raided pension assets to provide COLAs as a vote-buying exercise during election years, and ultimately left the Oklahoma government with one of the worst-funded pension systems in the nation.

“Today, your legislation gives an unfunded, 700 million dollar benefit to state retirees—who I agree deserve it—but it’s not paid for,” said Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle.

Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, said he was “not going to crawl under a rock and ignore the financial mistakes that continue to be made by this body and other bodies so that people can ‘like’ me.”

“Why are we taking the same financial destructive path of previous administrations?” Quinn asked. “You know what I’m talking about. A system that was one of the fifth-worst systems in the entire United States, almost $16 billion underfunded, giving away COLAs in election years. We’re doing the same thing. Just a different group of people.”

“I’m not going to vote to raid the funds,” said Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville.

Citing wasteful spending, Stitt vetoes four bills


Citing wasteful spending, Stitt vetoes bills
by Ray Carter, Director, Center for Independent Journalism

May 18, 2020 -- Continuing his emphasis on fiscal conservatism, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed four measures on Monday and called on lawmakers to instead eliminate wasteful spending. Among the bills vetoed were two providing state matching funds for “endowed chairs” at Oklahoma colleges, a program that has long been plagued by high taxpayer costs.

Stitt vetoed House Bill 2749 and House Bill 2750, which both dealt with the Oklahoma State Regents’ Endowment Trust Fund. That fund is used to match private donations for endowed chair positions at state colleges.

HB 2749 would have placed a cap of $671.2 million on state matching funds for the program.

In his veto message, Stitt wrote, “Since the State began matching these donations, approximately $500,000,000 has been matched with no input from the legislature or Governor as to what types of chairs and professorships would be matched. Instead of simply placing a cap, the more fiscally responsible course would be to eliminate matching monies altogether.”

Monday, May 18, 2020

Music Monday: The Ballad of Davy Crockett

I'm in the middle of reading a biography on David Crockett, one of America's first and most legendary folk heroes, so this week's Music Monday is The Ballad of Davy Crockett, from the 1950's Walt Disney television miniseries.

Enjoy!


See below for all previous Music Monday posts. Do you have a song you'd like to suggest for a future Music Monday? Email me at JamisonFaught@MuskogeePolitico.com.

State Rep. Lowe urges Gov. Stitt to veto 'Anti-Red Flag' gun rights bill

In what is the most surefire way to get a pro-Second Amendment bill signed by Governor Stitt, the most prominently anti-gun member of the Oklahoma Legislature is calling on the Governor to veto what would be the nation's first "anti-red flag" measure.


As Governor Decides, Lowe Urges Veto of Senate Bill 1081

OKLAHOMA CITY -- State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-OKC, released the following statement urging Gov. Kevin Stitt to veto Senate Bill 1081, which is an attempt to preempt the federal government from enforcing any future federal “red flag laws.”

“We often hear Second Amendment advocates talk about ‘responsible gun ownership’” Lowe said. “So the question needs to be asked ‘what happens when a gun owner is not responsible?’

Sunday, May 17, 2020

OCPA column: Lives and livelihoods are decimated by surgery bans


Lives and livelihoods are decimated by surgery bans
By Jonathan Small

The U.S. health care system is starting to collapse, and lives and livelihoods are being endangered and lost. The cause of this malady is easy to diagnose: excessive government restrictions imposed in the name of fighting COVID-19. The cure is simple: Lift the government restrictions on society, including those impacting provisions of much-needed medical care.

Due to COVID-19, many states imposed bans on “elective” surgeries in response, which were even labelled “non-critical luxuries.”

This was done to save beds for COVID-19 patients and preserve personal protective equipment.

Sadly, these onerous government orders put many medical providers on the verge of bankruptcy and caused real harm, including death, for patients nationwide. And it turned out the COVID-19 hospitalizations never appeared in the numbers projected, so those extra hospital beds were not needed.

One local cardiologist, Dwayne A. Schmidt, recently noted Oklahoma’s ban included patients with large, high-risk aneurysms. One of Schmidt’s patients suffered a life-changing heart attack at home after his surgery was delayed.

I personally know stories of a young man whose body suffered and weakened because he could not get the surgery he needed. I also know personally of a woman who faced the danger of not having a timely aortic valve replacement.

The ban has also destroyed the finances of many health care providers. Now mass layoffs and furloughs are underway. Becker’s Hospital CFO Report says 256 hospitals across the nation have furloughed employees. The providers laying off medical workers include Mercy, which is furloughing employees across a four-state system that includes Oklahoma, Poteau-based Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center, Integris Health in Oklahoma City, and HillCrest HealthCare System in Tulsa.

A report by the American Academy of Family Physicians has predicted most counties in the country could face a shortage of family medicine providers if coronavirus restrictions continue through June because doctors will be forced to permanently close their doors.

Even so, Oklahomans are fortunate that our state’s “elective” surgery ban has been lifted. People in other states are not so lucky. For the sake of lives and livelihoods, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has been forced to file a lawsuit on behalf of three medical practices to challenge Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order that continues to ban “elective” procedures in that state.

The announcement of the lawsuit noted one Michigan patient forced to postpone gallbladder surgery has now developed gangrene. Michigan physician Jordan Warnsholz warned the government shutdown “has put my patients directly at risk.”

A policy that causes the collapse of health care infrastructure while increasing the lethality of non-COVID-19 medical conditions is a policy that should be abandoned; let’s pray that happens immediately.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Bill passed by Legislature would exempt schools from penalty for carryover funds due to COVID-19

I'll be very curious to find out just how much in 'excess carryover dollars' Oklahoma's public schools have when that figure is available.


Schools Allowed Carryover with No Penalty if Bill Signed

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that grants a one-year exemption from penalties for school districts that have excess carryover dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic won final passage in the House of Representatives on Friday evening. Without this change, some Oklahoma school districts would have been subject to fines for having too large of a carryover balance.

House Bill 3964, by State Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, prohibits the State Department of Education from assessing a penalty against a school district that exceeds the general fund carryover limits for the current fiscal year.

The bill as amended by the Senate passed the House with a vote of 84-1 and the Senate with a vote of 44-2. It now moves to the governor’s desk to await his signature to become law.

“With the litany of changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts are experiencing a decrease in expenses compared to the usual school year,” Caldwell said. “With lower transportation costs and utility savings as an example, many districts may have larger carryover funds than normal. It is important that we allow our schools to retain these dollars without a penalty so they can utilize them next year as they continue to adapt to any necessary changes.”

Caldwell said it is prudent for schools to have some carryover funding to respond to mid-year adjustments and emergencies such as happened this year. If districts exceed limits placed in statute for two years in a row, however, they are assessed a penalty from the State Department of Education. Caldwell said this regulation is in place because these funds are taxpayer dollars, and they are expected to be used for the benefit of students in the form of teacher pay, classroom expenses and other needs.

“This is an extraordinary year, however,” Caldwell said. “I appreciate my colleagues in the House and Senate for agreeing to give our districts some latitude with this funding this year.”

OK Legislature passes nation’s first 'Anti-Red Flag' bill to protect gun rights


Steagall Wins Passage of Nation’s First Anti-Red Flag Bill

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon, on Friday won passage of the nation’s first anti-red flag bill in the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a vote of 77-14.

Senate Bill 1081, The Anti-Red Flag Act, authored in the state Senate by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, formerly won passage in that chamber with a vote of 34-9. It now moves to the governor for his consideration to be signed into law.

“This bill would stop any action from the federal government or even from local or state authorities that would infringe on the Second Amendment rights of our citizens,” Steagall said.

Steagall said the measure is necessary as a growing number of states have adopted such laws and federal legislative proposals have offered grants to compel states, counties or municipalities to enact policies that would allow a court or other entity to confiscate firearms or restrict gun access to otherwise law-abiding citizens deemed to be an imminent danger.

“People already endure background checks, age regulations and other measures that serve as a check on whether they are deemed eligible to own or operate a firearm,” Steagall said. “Giving the government even more power over this decision is a flagrant violation of several rights guaranteed us under the United States Constitution. I find it impossible for any red-flag law to respect due process or the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. I have taken the oath to protect our Constitution seven times throughout my 22 years of service and nine deployments in the military, an oath that I take very seriously. I will not stand idly by and let this freedom be stripped from us.”

1889 Institute: Tyranny and Covid-19(84)


Tyranny and Covid-19(84)
By Spencer Cadavero

Alongside the coronavirus, another pandemic is gripping our country, one that we will feel the consequences of long after we reach herd immunity. This latter pandemic can be dubbed COVID-1984, and it will rot the roots of the Tree of Liberty. The consequence will be a government emboldened by a citizenry far too passive in the face of numerous local government abuses.

Mayors are attempting to wield greater power than they actually possess. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced her intention to continue enforcing a stay at home order, despite being blocked by a court order. New Orleans’ Mayor Latoya Cantrell, is requiring businesses to keep logs of all their customers. The information will be used to track down people who may have come in contact with anyone infected. She calls this the city’s new normal. The mayor of Jackson, Mississippi issued a ban on open carry of firearms in the city, claiming this power comes from the authority vested in him through emergency management statutes invoked to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Local police departments are also responsible for government abuses. Tulsa’s police department announced that while the city is opening up, they will strictly enforce social distancing guidelines. But not with warnings, instead they’ll issue citations and arrest anyone who breaks social distancing protocol. On April 14th, the Raleigh police department broke up a protest against the shutdown. When pressed for a reason for stopping the protesters, they claimed, “Protesting is a non-essential activity” – yes, Raleigh is in the USA. This isn’t the only instance of police cracking down on first amendment rights. In Greenville, Mississippi, cops broke up a drive-in worship service, based on an order from the town’s mayor. They threatened $500 fines to anyone who did not comply, despite churchgoers following CDC guidelines, keeping their windows up, and keeping distance between their cars.

Many states and cities forced closures of barbershops and hair salons because getting a haircut is supposed to be dangerous. However, in multiple cities, police departments have exempted themselves. ‘Do as I say not as I do’ is a classic in the tyrant’s handbook. Two women in Ladario, Texas were arrested in an undercover sting operation for offering illegal beauty services. They are facing fines of $2,000 and/or 180 days in jail for having the gall to offer to paint nails in exchange for money. Shelley Luther, a Dallas salon owner, was arrested at the end of April for opening her business early. She could have avoided jail time if only she admitted how selfish she was for wanting to feed her kids and employees.

There are many more examples like the ones listed above. Once upon a time, Americans would not have tolerated such behavior from their government. We stood up to tyranny. Surely we can do it again. But that requires us to actually stand up and say, “Enough is enough.”

Spencer Cadavero is Research Associate for 1889 Institute.

Stitt, Pinnell and Bynum comment on report that Tesla is considering Tulsa for new factory


STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT REGARDING TESLA REPORTS

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 15, 2020) – Governor Kevin Stitt released the following statement today in response to media reports regarding Tesla considering Oklahoma for a new factory:

“To the press, we can't comment on any pending proposals.

To Elon Musk and Tesla, the people of Oklahoma love our trucks, we love our rockets and we would love to partner with you here in our great state. As a Tulsan myself, I can tell you that confusing the names Tulsa and Tesla has happened more than once, so it would only be appropriate to have a Tesla factory right here.

Oklahoma is open for business and our world-class workforce, business-friendly policies and caring people make us an excellent choice for companies worldwide. When you consider our state’s central location – providing access to a wide customer base – and Tulsa’s nationally-recognized quality of life and strong manufacturing workforce, we would make a great long-term partner for a world-class company like Tesla.

When you factor in our state’s automotive engineer workforce tax credit, it makes even more financial sense for Tesla to set up shop in Tulsa.” – Governor Kevin Stitt


Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum:
While I can not comment on potential projects, it is clear that Tesla and Tulsa were forged in the same spirit. Both founded by pioneers who dreamt big and made it happen. Both trying to change the world with a new kind of energy. Both investing big in what matters most: people. Tulsa is a city that doesn’t stifle entrepreneurs - we revere them. And as Tesla continues to rapidly change transportation all around the world, I can’t imagine a better place for them to further that important work than Green Country.

Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell:

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Oklahoma Capitol Press Corps renders invaluable service to citizens


While Oklahomans are busy at work, the State Legislature deliberates on legislation that will affect their lives. Keeping up with events at the Capitol can be nigh impossible for the average citizen, especially when the Legislature runs late-night sessions and committee meetings, pulls legislation out at the last minute, and operates in ways and uses language that the average Oklahoman is unfamiliar with.

Unknown to most people, there is a small band of journalists and media personnel that are assigned to observing the legislative session, many of whom do as-it-happens reporting on Twitter rather than just the evening print or television stories. They bring much needed light and transparency to an oftentimes dim and hidden state government.

Legislature intends to end 2020 legislative session today


This just in: the Oklahoma Senate plans to conclude the 2020 legislative session and adjourn Sine Die today:
I've compiled a Twitter list with members of the media that cover news at the State Capitol. Several of these journalists are at the Capitol for the entire legislative session, rendering invaluable service in bringing awareness to what the Legislature is doing. Keep an eye on it for any last-minute legislative action:

Sen. Thompson withdraws campaign "personal slush fund" bill after heat from the press


Last night, I wrote a post entitled OUTRAGE: Senate Approps Chair amends bill to allow campaign funds for use as personal slush fund. In short, legislation was amended by State Senator Roger Thompson, chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee and one of the handful of individuals in the state responsible for crafting state budgets, that would remove "personal use" restrictions from political campaign and committee funds, allowing them to be used for any purpose from paying a mortgage, to going on vacation, to plastic surgeries. In short, a tax-free personal slush fund.

Thanks to a vigilant press corps at the Oklahoma State Capitol, that bill was exposed to the public, and Sen. Thompson has now pulled the bill.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission went public on Twitter around 10:40am yesterday, expressing grave concerns with the legislation. Clifton Adcock with The Frontier followed that up by publishing an article around 5pm, 'As legislative session winds down, Senator proposes amendment to allow politicians to spend campaign funds on vacations, mortgages, gifts and other personal expenses'.

Before The Frontier published their article, neither Thompson nor the other authors of HB 3996 responded to messages asking for comment.

Thompson's amendment had largely escaped attention for almost 72 hours, but by the time I published my post around 7:40pm, Thompson was already making moves to withdraw his atrocious amendment.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

OUTRAGE: Senate Approps Chair amends bill to allow campaign funds for use as personal slush fund


This is a long post, longer than most, but it's very important. Please read it in full so you can find out what the some members of legislative leadership are trying to slip through!


It's the fading moments of the Oklahoma legislative session, prime time for the traditional slipping in of woolyboogerslegislation that would otherwise attract great outrage but are passed swiftly in order to avoid the public eye.

House Bill 3996 is now one such measure.

I'm going to borrow some from a great article at The Frontier:
As the Oklahoma Legislature enters the final days of its 2020 regular legislative session, a last-minute proposed amendment to a bill in the Senate has emerged that would allow politicians to use campaign money to pay for personal expenses including country club dues, mortgage payments, vacations and a other personal items.

The proposed amendment to House Bill 3996 authored by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, would remove the state’s prohibition against candidates for office and office holders spending money donated to their political campaign committees for personal use. The amendment, which would replace all language in the original bill that was approved in March by the House, has yet to be voted on by the Senate.
You can read the amendment filed by Sen. Thompson. It's shocking.

Gene Stipe would be weeping in pride and envy at the brazenness of this move.

Here's the timeline of the measure:

1889 Institute recommends more education reforms


1889 INSTITUTE RECOMMENDS MORE EDUCATION REFORMS
Only institutional reforms will make a difference.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (May 13, 2020) – The 1889 Institute has published “More Education Reforms to Make a Difference,” which extends the list of suggested reforms from its earlier publication, “Education Reforms to Make a Difference,” released in January. This new paper argues for the following reforms to be enacted:

  • Prohibit Collective Bargaining and Pass a Meaningful No-Strike Law – school district officials can be effectively elected by unions in low-turn-out elections and be conflicted in their fiduciary duty to taxpayers as a result; Oklahoma’s no-strike law allows school boards to give permission for teachers to strike against the state, a loophole that needs closing,.

Governor assembles bipartisan legislative group to help advise on CARES Act fund distributions


GOVERNOR STITT ANNOUNCES BIPARTISAN GROUP OF LEGISLATORS TO HELP ADVISE ON CARES ACT REIMBURSEMENTS

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 12, 2020) – Governor Kevin Stitt today announced a bipartisan legislative advisory group to work with his administration to effectively distribute approximately $1.2 billion in federal funds provided to Oklahoma under the CARES Act.

“The legislators on this committee have the pulse of the communities they serve,” said Gov. Stitt. “I’ve said that Oklahoma is better when we work together, and I am excited to have their input on how we can use these federal funds to serve and enhance the lives of all four million Oklahomans.”

The Stitt administration has been working for several weeks on establishing the framework for advisory groups and a robust tracking and reporting system for CARES Act reimbursements. Work also continues on a portal for local governments to submit COVID-19 related expenses for reimbursement under the CARES Act.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

House Dems explain why they voted to override vetoes... of budget bills they opposed


Last week, House Democrats largely opposed three bills that plugged some of the budget shortfall by cutting the amount of funds that were supposed to go to teacher, firefighter, and law enforcement pension funds, as well as money from transportation (replacing those funds by more bond indebtedness). On May 5th, 18 of 23 House Democrats voted against HB 2741, 19 voted against HB 2742, and 8 voted against HB 2743. Today, they reversed course. On HB 2741, just Rep. Mickey Dollens (D-OKC) voted against overriding Gov. Stitt's veto, Dollens and Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa) voted against overriding the veto of HB 2742, and only Dollens voted against the override of HB 2743.

The House Democrats were against the bills before they were for them?

Democrats Strengthen Veto Majority in Support of Public Education

OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement announcing that members of the House Democratic Caucus would join legislative Republicans to override Governor Stitt’s veto of House Bill 2741, House Bill 2742 and House Bill 2743.

“This legislative body, led by Republican majorities in both chambers, spent a large portion of last year’s legislative session giving the governor more power. Conversely, Republican leadership has spent this session trying to protect the legislature from an overzealous executive branch instead of taking back those increased powers.

Legislature prepares for battle royale with Gov. Stitt, starts veto override votes


Legislative leaders set veto override votes

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Legislature will consider overriding Gov. Kevin Stitt's vetoes of budget legislation today. The House of Representatives returns to session at 5 p.m. and the Senate is currently in session. Overrides of budget legislation vetoes will be taken up today.

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, issued the following joint statement:

"The Legislature will initiate veto overrides immediately. Since the governor refused to do so, legislators will rise to the moment to enact a balanced budget for the people of Oklahoma that protects education from deep cuts without harming the transportation or public retirement systems. The deep education funding cuts the governor’s vetoes cause are unnecessary and unacceptable, as is his false rhetoric about the bills’ effect on the transportation and retirement systems.”

UPDATE: The Legislature is voting even as we speak. You can follow my Capitol News list on Twitter for live-tweets of the events, which are swiftly unfolding: