Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Small: Tribes go AWOL on McGirt response


Tribes go AWOL on McGirt response
By Jonathan Small

Tribal-government officials say they can handle the new responsibilities placed on them as the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which effectively declared most of eastern Oklahoma to be the reservation land of the Muscogee, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole nations.

Yet, when given the opportunity to publicly discuss how they will preserve public safety on reservation land at a recent Tulsa forum, the leaders of all five tribes went AWOL. They didn’t respond to invitations. They didn’t show up.

That (in)action sent a loud message about the seriousness of tribal leaders and provides no comfort to the 1.8 million Oklahomans living in eastern Oklahoma.

Because of McGirt, state officials cannot arrest or prosecute criminals with any degree of tribal heritage in eastern Oklahoma, while tribal courts have little authority over non-Indians. That leaves the federal government to prosecute most crimes involving a tribal-member victim or perpetrator. Unfortunately, the federal government isn’t doing so.

Although federal law-enforcement officials are investigating major crimes (murder, rape, etc.), lower-level crimes such as theft are not being prosecuted. Rogers County District Attorney Matt Ballard said federal officials are declining to prosecute 95 percent of crimes reported to them. Seminole County District Attorney Paul Smith similarly said many crimes in eastern Oklahoma now “go unaddressed.”

The victims are citizens of all backgrounds—including tribal citizens. Who is going to protect those Oklahomans?

In convening and attending the forum, Gov. Kevin Stitt and district attorneys from areas affected by McGirt showed they are prepared to lead. Stitt also showed leadership in challenging the Biden administration’s effort to federalize mining regulation in eastern Oklahoma because of McGirt.

That’s in sharp contrast to tribal officials. While tribal leaders were invited to the Tulsa forum, the governor’s office received no response, despite numerous follow-up efforts.

Instead, Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill issued a statement decrying the forum as a “one-sided” political campaign that is “intended only to spread misinformation.” What information presented at the forum does the Muscogee Nation dispute? Hill didn’t say.

There has been an abundance of political rhetoric from tribal leaders like Hill, but an almost complete absence of meaningful conversation on how they will preserve public safety when both state and tribal governments have little ability to prosecute crimes on reservation land and the federal government isn’t prosecuting most crimes.

Oklahomans of all backgrounds deserve answers.

Some tribal officials describe McGirt as an opportunity. But the reality is that economic opportunity is going to be very limited and dwindle quickly in eastern Oklahoma if basic public safety cannot be maintained.

There is no path forward for Oklahoma that does not involve consistent enforcement of the law for all Oklahomans of all backgrounds. Those who duck this discussion forfeit their right to call themselves leaders.

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

Monday, July 26, 2021

Gov. Stitt appoints Judge Dana Kuehn to State Supreme Court


GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT APPOINTS JUDGE DANA L. KUEHN TO THE SUPREME COURT OF OKLAHOMA

OKLAHOMA CITY (July 26, 2021) ­­­­­­– Governor Kevin Stitt announced his appointment of Judge Dana L. Kuehn to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. This is Governor Stitt’s third appointment to the state Supreme Court. Judge Kuehn is the first woman to serve on both of the State’s high courts.

“I am honored to appoint Judge Kuehn to the Oklahoma Supreme Court,” said Governor Stitt. “Kuehn is a diligent public servant, and is well versed in many complex areas of the law. I have every confidence in her ability to uphold and defend justice for Oklahomans.” 

“As a lifelong Oklahoman, I feel such privilege for the opportunity to serve the state at this capacity. I share the governor’s passion in making Oklahoma the best it can be and am eager to do so through the Supreme Court,” said Judge Kuehn. “I am grateful to Governor Stitt for his faith and trust as I begin this new role.”

Prior to her appointment, Judge Kuehn served as an Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Judge since 2017. In this role, Kuehn was the 2021 Presiding Judge, the Vice- Presiding Judge from 2018 to 2020 and the Oklahoma Judicial Conference Vice President. Kuehn was an Associate District Judge of Tulsa County from 2006 to 2017, before moving to the Court of Criminal Appeals. She is also an experienced attorney and worked as a Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney and as an associate attorney at Steidley and Neal, before becoming a Judge.

House Dems demand Gov. Stitt reinstate COVID emergency declaration


Democrats Call for Governor to Change Course, Declare Emergency

OKLAHOMA CITY – Several Oklahoma House Democrats released statements today calling for Gov. Kevin Stitt to reinstate the emergency declaration for COVID-19. The statements follow several schools, including Broken Arrow, Owasso, and Stillwater, announcing policies to not quarantine students who have been exposed. 

State Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater:

“After speaking to leadership in some of these districts, it is becoming clear that they are following guidance from the state health department, which is concerning since the policies are not consistent with CDC guidelines. Stillwater is an education town, and the lack of consistent and fact-based policy from state leadership has left our entire community exposed and unprepared for this growing COVID wave. 

“Oklahomans, especially those making decisions to keep children safe, need better information from state leadership, and we need the Governor to declare a state of emergency.” 

State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City:

Gov. Stitt appoints John O'Connor to finish Attorney General's term


GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT APPOINTS JOHN O’CONNOR TO SERVE AS ATTORNEY GENERAL

OKLAHOMA CITY (July 23, 2021)— Governor Kevin Stitt announced today he has appointed John O’Connor to serve as the Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma. Under Article VI, Section 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution, and 51 O.S. § 10, the Governor has the authority to appoint an attorney general should the office be vacated prior to the term’s expiration. O’Connor will fill the unexpired term ending January 9, 2023.

“I am excited to appoint John O’Connor to serve as Oklahoma’s attorney general,” said Governor Stitt. “John is the right leader for this moment. As an attorney, John is known amongst his peers to be of the highest competence and integrity, receiving the highest possible ethical and legal ratings during his 40 years of practice. More importantly, John is a man of high moral character who will do the right things for the right reasons – not for personal gain. I have the utmost confidence in him to uphold the law and fight for all 4 million Oklahomans.”

O’Connor is an attorney at Hall Estill, a Tulsa-based regional full service law firm. He has 40 years of experience in the field of law, focusing on civil litigation including complex commercial and general civil litigation. O’Connor has an AV peer review rating through Martindale-Hubbell and has been recognized as an Oklahoma Super Lawyer, one of Oklahoma’s Top Rated Lawyers, and a Best Lawyer in America. He was also one of 10 attorneys who were selected by the Editorial Board of the Tulsa Business Journal to be recognized among Tulsa's 2012 Power Attorneys. In 2018, President Donald Trump nominated O’Connor to serve as a United States District Judge for the Northern and Eastern Districts of Oklahoma. O’Connor earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Oklahoma State University and graduated law school from the University of Tulsa College of Law.

“I am humbled and honored to have been selected by Governor Stitt to serve 4 million Oklahomans as attorney general protecting their interests and the State of Oklahoma,” said O’Connor. “There is much work to be done and I look forward to bringing my experience to the office in service to the good people of Oklahoma.”

O’Connor is an active member of his community. He is a past-President of the Rotary Club of Tulsa and served two terms as President and Director of Tulsa’s Ronald McDonald House. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Dillon International, Inc., an international country adoption agency, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association. Until recently, he also served on the board of trustees for OSU-Tulsa.

A Tulsa native, O’Connor has been married to his wife Lucia for 43 years. They have four children and 10 grandchildren.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

1889 Institute: Time to rethink Oklahoma's emergency powers


TIME TO RETHINK OKLAHOMA’S EMERGENCY POWERS
The legislature must be forced to act in extended emergencies.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (July 21, 2021) – The 1889 Institute has released “Rethinking Emergency Powers in Oklahoma,” a proposal to reform the state’s emergency powers provisions. It proposes that declared emergencies last only one week before the legislature must weigh in to extend such declarations by two weeks. After that, the legislature must pass explicit enactments according to warranted circumstances. Right now, Oklahoma’s Emergency Management Act allows the legislature to extend an emergency declaration indefinitely.

“The legislature—the body in which all laws originate—is the proper authority to determine the best path forward in an ongoing, long-term emergency situation,” said the study’s author, 1889 Research Fellow, Mike Davis. “Emergency powers are a dangerous tool, granting nearly unchecked power to officials at the executive level of governments. It should only exist with tight safeguards,” Davis said.

Davis also criticizes the way an emergency is defined in Oklahoma law.

Gov. Stitt appoints Greg Blackwell to Court of Civil Appeals


GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT APPOINTS GREGORY BLACKWELL TO COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS

OKLAHOMA CITY (July 21, 2021) – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Gregory Blackwell to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals.  This is the governor’s fourth appointment to the Court.

“Greg Blackwell has proven his legal expertise through his years of practicing and defending the law,” said Gov. Stitt. “I am confident he will serve on the Court of Civil Appeals with honor and commitment.”

"I'm humbled and grateful that the governor has appointed me to serve the people of Oklahoma as an appellate judge,” said Blackwell. “My career has taken me to many places, but I've never felt more at home than at the Court of Civil Appeals. I look forward to meeting my new colleagues, rolling up my sleeves, and doing the important work of the court for many years to come." 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

1889 Institute: OK taxes and fees are higher than Massachusetts as percentage of GDP


OKLAHOMA’S GOVERNMENT COULD BE SMALLER
Oklahoma’s taxes and fees are higher than Massachusetts’ as a percentage of GDP.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (July 7, 2021) – The 1889 Institute has updated “Oklahoma Government Revenues and Spending in Perspective,” a Fact Sheet that compares Oklahoma to the other states in total taxes and fees collected by state and local government as a percentage of the state’s GDP. Oklahoma ranks 13th among the states in how low its governments’ revenues are compared to other states.

The Fact Sheet also looks at state and local government spending in six categories: higher education, public education, public welfare, hospitals, highways, and corrections. Oklahoma spends more of its GDP on higher education than 32 other states, but spends more by this measure than only 9 states on public education.

“In looking at the spending rankings, it’s clear that Oklahoma could spend more efficiently in some areas,” said Jason Lawter, the study’s author and Fiscal Policy Fellow at the 1889 Institute. “This does require discernment, though, given that the state’s road needs may well justify Oklahoma outspending 33 other states in that area,” he said.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

State Rep asks for bizarre and belated election audit, gets rightfully slapped down by Election Board Secretary


Sometimes, I just don't understand why people do things. Over the past several years, and the last year in particular, there are many individuals who were otherwise solid who (at least temporarily) have lost most of the good sense that they previously possessed in a bizarre urge to pander to a certain crowd that will never be satisfied. They know full well what they're doing, and that their pandering will accomplish absolutely nothing other than inflame their intended audience and supposedly transfer some good will in their favor.

I don't blog to make people happy. I speak the truth where I see it. This obsession with indulging the Trump delusion that the election was stolen (and not the result of a botched campaign with a totally undisciplined candidate who undermined his own success at every turn, with the assistance of a willing and hate-filled media) will be the death of conservatism. 

Just stop it already and have some character. Quit selling your integrity to the Trump personality cult, the most views, and the latest outrage clickbait.

The latest in this sad saga is the following press release from State Rep. Sean Roberts. Possessing a voting record that is generally among the most conservative in the legislature, Rep. Roberts was a key player in the Platform Caucus, a core group of staunch conservatives who fought against major tax increases in 2017 and 2018. Now in his final term of office, it seems that Rep. Roberts might have lost some of that principle in a pursuit of cheap support and applause from the lowest common denominator in current GOP fads. Another elected official, further down this shameful track, would be State Sen. Nathan Dahm, but that's for another day. I'll offend enough people with this post for now.

Anyway, first up is the ridiculous Roberts press release, followed by a reasonable and well-stated response by the inimitable Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax.

Kim David announces campaign for Corporation Commissioner


David Running for Corporation Commissioner

Pledges strong, conservative leadership

Porter, Okla.: State Senator Kim David announced today that she is a candidate for Oklahoma Corporation Commission. 

“For the past decade, I’ve fought to ensure Oklahomans have reliable, affordable energy and strong infrastructure,” David said. “Serving on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is the next step in continuing this important work while growing jobs and opportunities in our state.”

As a Republican leader in the Senate, David recently helped advance one of the body’s most conservative legislative agendas in the history of Oklahoma, which was then signed by Gov. Stitt.

A historic figure in Oklahoma politics, David is the first woman since statehood to be named majority leader of the Oklahoma State Senate. She is also the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the first Republican woman to serve as majority whip.

David will seek to fill the seat of Commissioner Dana Murphy, who is retiring due to term limits.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Stitt's Secretary of Education, Ryan Walters, enters race for State Superintendent


SECRETARY OF EDUCATION RYAN WALTERS ANNOUNCES CAMPAIGN FOR OKLAHOMA STATE SUPERINTENDENT

“It is with great excitement that I announce my campaign to run for State Superintendent. As a teacher, I have spent my career advocating for and on behalf of our state's incredible educators and students and will continue to do so as I seek this new role as State Superintendent.”

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA -- Ryan Walters today announced his campaign for Oklahoma State Superintendent. Walters currently serves as the Secretary for Public Instruction. 

“I am thrilled to announce my campaign for Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction. Oklahoma is the best place to live, work, and raise a family in the nation but Oklahoma will only continue to thrive if we have an educated workforce to support our growing economy. 

Walters continued, “As an educator myself, I have enjoyed following my students and seeing how their education in my classroom and countless others directly contributed to their personal success. I will not stop until every Oklahoma student is given the educational opportunities to succeed to their highest potential. That is what is driving my run for state Superintendent.

Walters was named Secretary of Public Education by Governor Kevin Stitt in September of 2020. As Secretary of Education, Walters is responsible for various agencies, boards and commissions, including the State Board of Education, College and University Boards of Regents or Trustees, Office of Educational Quality and Accountability and the State Board of Career and Technology Education.  

“Serving as Secretary of Education alongside Gov. Kevin Stitt has prepared me for the state Superintendent role in countless ways. 

Friday, July 09, 2021

Trump Secretary of State Pompeo endorses Sen. James Lankford for reelection

We are just under a year out from the 2022 primary election here in Oklahoma, and the race for U.S. Senate is starting to take shape. Incumbent Republican James Lankford is running for a second full in the upper chamber, after winning a special election in 2014 to fulfill the last two years of Dr. Tom Coburn's second term. Tulsa pastor Jackson Lahmeyer is challenging Lankford from the right, with the support of QAnon-friendly crackpot and former Trump administration member Gen. Michael Flynn.

Former Secretary of State Latest to Endorse Lankford

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (July 5th) – James Lankford’s campaign for U.S. Senate announced today that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is the latest to endorse his re-election bid. Secretary Pompeo also served in President Trump’s administration as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He previously served as a member of Congress from Kansas.

Here’s what Mike had to say about supporting James:

GOP legislators call for State Education Board to immediately and fully implement anti-CRT law


House Republicans Call for State Education Board to Take Immediate Action to Implement House Bill 1775

OKLAHOMA CITY (July 8th) – A number of House Republicans today joined Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, in calling on State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister to take immediate action to fully implement House Bill 1775 at the July 12, 2021, State Board of Education special meeting.

West is the author of House Bill 1775, signed into law by the governor this year. The bill took effect July 1. Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, is the Senate author of the bill.

The measure prohibits Oklahoma public schools, colleges and universities from incorporating messages that promote or encourage race and sex discrimination in any course instruction. It also ensures students are not characterized, classified, categorically assigned characteristics, or shamed based solely on their race or sex. It also prohibits state higher education institutions from requiring mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling. Voluntary counseling is permitted.

“Teachers deserve clear guidelines when they start this school year so they can obey the law created by the passage of House Bill 1775,” West said. “To delay the implementation of rules that follow the intent of the legislation is a disservice to students, parents and educators, causing needless fear and confusion over what is allowed and disallowed in our public school classrooms.”

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Poll: Stitt state's most popular elected official, COVID no longer a priority for voters


Amber Integrated Releases Voter Survey Tracking Oklahoma Political Environment

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma-based public affairs firm Amber Integrated has released a survey measuring voter attitudes regarding their elected officials, political issues and current events. This survey was conducted from June 24-June 28, 2021, and included a pool of 500 registered voters in Oklahoma. This survey has a margin of error of 4.38% at a 95% confidence interval. 

Download the survey toplines and graphs here and crosstabs here.

Key findings include:

April Grace joins race for State Superintendent

Believe it or not, but election season will be on us before we know it. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is term-limited and thus her position will be an open seat in next year's election. The first two candidates to throw their hats in the ring are both Republicans, including Shawnee Superintendent April Grace (you can read more from NonDoc on both here). The other declared candidate is John Cox, who was the Democratic nominee for State Superintendent in 2014 and 2018.

Dr. April Grace Announces Run for State Superintendent 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021 — Having raised over $100,000.00 with over 350  individual donors, Dr. April Grace, who is currently serving as the Shawnee Superintendent of  Public Schools, announces her run for Oklahoma State Superintendent. Grace has been part of  the education community for over 30 years. She has been a classroom teacher, building  administrator, assistant superintendent, and superintendent.  

Saturday, July 03, 2021

OCPA column: Preserving Freedom


Preserving freedom
By Jonathan Small

In 1964, Ronald Reagan famously warned, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

As we celebrate our nation’s founding on July 4, Oklahomans should keep Reagan’s warning in mind. As a state, we have much to be thankful for this year, especially compared to many of our counterparts elsewhere. But there’s no guarantee that will last. We must protect our freedom, not take it for granted.

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate of 4 percent ranks 12th lowest in the country. In other states, the rate still hovers around 8 percent. A major reason for that difference is that Oklahoma officials moved quickly to reopen the state as much as possible, as quickly as possible, following the COVID-19 shutdown in spring 2020, while states that continue to have high unemployment rates typically kept activity shut down much longer.

State leadership, not blind luck, played a major role.

Friday, July 02, 2021

OSDH Office of Child Abuse Prevention seeks public input


OSDH Office of Child Abuse Prevention Seeks Input from Public

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Office of Child Abuse Prevention (OCAP) is seeking input from private and public agencies, organizations, citizens and consumers to monitor and enhance development of a comprehensive statewide child abuse prevention plan.

OCAP requests input from individuals who can provide feedback by completing a brief, five- to seven-minute online survey – available in both English and Spanish – by clicking here

“This is an opportunity for individuals in Oklahoma communities to share information on community resources that exist, and those that are needed. We want to know what you think works best to protect children in your community and across the state,” said Sherie Trice, Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) grant coordinator for the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “We’ve also included a follow-up section on impact, challenges and strengths gleaned during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

State Rep. Todd Russ announces campaign for State Treasurer


Todd Russ Announces 2022 Campaign for State Treasurer

(June 29th) State Representative Todd Russ announced today that he will seek the Republican nomination for State Treasurer next year. Russ is completing his sixth term in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. State Treasurer Randy McDaniel announced earlier this month he would not seek reelection.

“I am grateful for the leadership opportunities I have been given and the accomplishments during my time in the legislature.I believe my extensive background in banking and business, along with my understanding of the inner workings of state government, make me uniquely qualified to serve as Treasurer,” Russ said.

“It would be my honor to continue to serve the citizens of Oklahoma as their next State Treasurer. I hold the same conservative values as the vast majority of Oklahomans. I know the value of hard work and the importance of standing for Godly values and honest, ethical leadership,” Russ added.

Lucas joins colleagues in urging postponement of postal rate increase


Lucas Joins Congressman Grothman Urging No Postal Rate Increase

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined Congressman Glenn Grothman (WI-06) in sending a bipartisan letter to  Postmaster General Louis DeJoy requesting he postpone the proposed postal rate increase until January, 2022. This would be the second postal rate increase this year and would outpace the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

“We have heard clearly from employers in our districts and across the nation that a second increase in a single year will be highly disruptive and result in significant job losses and significant reduction in their use of Postal Service mail services. Many of these companies, especially small businesses, cannot afford a second increase, saying such action will reduce revenues and lead to job losses.” said the lawmakers. “While we continue to work to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the Postal Service through legislation, we believe it is vital that the Postal Service not take any action that will weaken its long-term financial success by chasing customers out of the mail market. All Americans depend on the preservation of this essential institution that is meant to be self-sustaining.”

Read the full letter here or below:

Friday, June 25, 2021

Small: Tax cuts put Oklahoma on a better path


Tax cuts put Oklahoma on a better path
By Jonathan Small

The How Money Walks website shows that Oklahoma lost $1.79 billion in adjusted annual gross income from 1992 to 2018 with many earners fleeing to states that have no income tax. This year, lawmakers took an important step to reduce or reverse that outflow by cutting the state penalty on work—Oklahoma’s income tax.

Thanks to the outcome of this year’s session, Oklahoma’s top income tax rate is poised to fall from 5 percent to 4.75 percent. That will still be far higher than the zero-percent rate in nine states that don’t tax wages at all, but it is also much better than the rates in most other states. Only a handful of states that impose an income tax will have a lower rate than Oklahoma.

In our region, Oklahoma will trail only Texas, which has no income tax, and Colorado, which has a 4.63 percent rate.

The ideal situation would involve full elimination of Oklahoma’s income tax, but cutting the rate is a step in the right direction.

Investment goes where it is wanted. The presence of an income tax is a strong deterrent to job creators, and the higher the rate the greater the deterrent. That’s why the nine states that impose no income tax on wages experienced a net increase in income from 1992 to 2018, according to How Money Walks.

More tax cuts coming? State on track to save $884M for next year's budget


BOARD OF EQUALIZATION CERTIFIES STATE OF OKLAHOMA ON TRACK TO SAVE ESTIMATED $884 MILLION IN FY2022
Governor Stitt praises Legislature for prioritizing savings and strategic investments

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 21, 2021)— The Board of Equalization, chaired by Governor Kevin Stitt, voted today to certify revenue and expenditures for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget that includes an estimated $884 million in unspent/unencumbered funds.

Specifically, the Board of Equalization certified $9,064,748,251 in authorized FY22 expenditures and an estimated $9,948,810,340 available in certified and authorized funds plus cash.

The FY22 appropriations increased 23% from FY21 actual expenditures, which is due in large part to the improving economic conditions in the state.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Lucas joins letter calling on ATF to withdraw proposed stabilizing brace restrictions


Lucas Advocates for Rights of Law-Abiding Gun Owners, Calls on ATF to Withdraw Stabilizing Brace Guidance

Washington, DC – Earlier this week, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined in sending a letter led by Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-08) to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland and Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Marvin Richardson urging the Department of Justice to withdraw proposed guidance on Stabilizing Braces.

In their letter, the Members outlined that the ATF has repeatedly stated, “the brace concept was inspired by the needs of disabled combat veterans who still enjoy recreational shooting but could not reliably control heavy pistols without assistance." As the ATF acknowledges there are legitimate uses for certain stabilizing braces, the letter points out that including a $200 tax in its rule is not an attempt to curb gun violence as suggested, but a direct tax on disabled combat veterans.

Stitt helps secure electric vehicle manufacturing investment; 2,000 jobs coming to Pryor


GOVERNOR STITT, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE SECURE HISTORIC ELECTRIC VEHICLE MANUFACTURING INVESTMENT FOR OKLAHOMA
Canoo to bring more than 2,000 jobs to Oklahoma and position state as innovation leader

FORT WORTH, Texas (June 17, 2021) – Governor Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce secured a historic electric vehicle manufacturing investment today as Canoo announced a commitment to create more than 2,000 jobs and build its first mega microfactory on a 400-acre site at the MidAmerica Industrial Park located near Tulsa, Okla.

Canoo Chairman and CEO Tony Aquila invited Governor Stitt and Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development Scott Mueller to the company’s inaugural investor relations day at Texas Motor Speedway to make the announcement.

“Oklahoma has always been a pioneer in the energy industry, and this partnership with Canoo shows that our state is an innovation leader in electric vehicle technology,” Governor Stitt said. “We are thrilled to partner with Canoo and Chairman and CEO Tony Aquila to provide high-paying jobs for Oklahomans and position America as the global leader for vehicle manufacturing for decades to come.”

Aquila praised the governor for his focus on innovation to diversify the state’s economy and Oklahoma’s business-friendly policies.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Gov. Stitt closes out 2021 legislative session action with 2 "pocket" vetoes


Governor Kevin Stitt took no action on the two remaining legislative bills on his desk, effecting a "pocket veto" on SB 236 and HB 1010. With this, the chapter finally closes on the 2021 Regular Session. Once census data is finalized, it is expected (and announced, I believe) that Governor Stitt will call a special session in the fall to deal solely with congressional district redistricting (all the rest of redistricting has already been dealt with).

In review, Governor Stitt's office showed the following statistics on measures that we sent to his desk for action:

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

OSDE uncovers $1.6 million in fraud at child-feeding sites during pandemic


OSDE uncovers $1.6 million in fraud at child-feeding sites during pandemic 

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 7, 2021) – In the wake of schools, community organizations and nonprofits having raced to provide free meals to children during the pandemic, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) uncovered a record amount of fraud at child-feeding sites across the state. Over $1.6 million in federal funds were improperly claimed for reimbursement since April 2020, OSDE officials found. The majority of improper claims were reported at child-care sites. 

The agency’s Office of Child Nutrition Services uncovered the fraudulent activity through a number of accountability measures, including an unannounced review process implemented in 2016 under State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.

“We are incredibly grateful for our schools and community partners that stepped up to ensure the nutritional needs of children were met over the last year, as hundreds of schools provided summer meals for the first time. Oklahoma families rely on these services, and we are committed to ensuring integrity for these programs that fuel young learners,” Hofmeister said. “Oklahoma will continue to leverage federal dollars to help our children gain supports to be healthy and successful, and it is our charge to safeguard that valuable investment by taxpayers.” 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Congressional Redistricting town halls set for July and August


Congressional Redistricting Meetings Scheduled

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 25th) – The Oklahoma House of Representatives and the State Senate redistricting offices today announced the schedule for town hall meetings on the congressional redistricting process. Legislators and redistricting office staff will answer questions and take comments from the public during the meetings.

Five in-person town halls are scheduled – one in each congressional district. Two virtual town halls also will be held for those who can’t attend one of the in-person meetings.

The town hall meetings are scheduled for:

Thursday, May 27, 2021

OK Congressional members introduce resolution to highlight the Tulsa Race Massacre centennial


Oklahoma Congressional Delegation introduces resolution to highlight the important history of the Centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre

Tulsa, OK – Members of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation released the following statements in support of a resolution introduced to Congress today honoring the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Representative Kevin Hern (OK-01) introduced in the House, and Senator James Lankford introduced in the Senate.

The resolution recognizes the history of Black Wall Street in Tulsa’s Greenwood district. It gives an accurate account of the violence that occurred on May 31 and June 1, 1921 and acknowledges it as the worst race massacre in the history of the United States. Furthermore, the resolution urges the Tulsa Race Massacre be taught in American schools and recognizes the important work of organizations like the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission and John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation.

Representative Hern (OK-01) said, “The Tulsa Race Massacre is an important piece of our history, and it’s important to own that. The destruction of Black Wall Street devastated economic opportunities for generations of Tulsa’s Black families. Our resolution honors the loss of those who were killed 100 years ago and acknowledges this painful memory in our city’s history as the horrific and race-motivated attack it was. 100 years later, we still have a long way to go. The centennial is an opportunity to remember, and this resolution helps us tell the world the accurate story of what happened on our streets in 1921 and how it shaped our city in the years after. As we move forward past this week’s centennial, we continue to strive for reconciliation. I’m proud of the recent investments in Greenwood to bring back Black Wall Street, and I hope to see it continue to grow and thrive at the heart of Tulsa.”

Governor Stitt signs FY2022 state budget package into law


GOVERNOR STITT SIGNS FY 2022 STATE BUDGET PACKAGE INTO LAW
Budget cuts taxes for all Oklahomans, invests record $3.2 billion in public education, replenishes state savings account to record high levels

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 24, 2021) – Governor Kevin Stitt signed additional legislation into law today as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 state budget package, including House Bill 2900, the general appropriations bill. The FY 2022 budget cuts taxes for all Oklahomans, invests a record $3.2 billion in education, and replenishes over $800 million in state reserve funds that were significantly reduced to offset pandemic-related revenue reductions last year for a record $1.3 billion in savings for the state of Oklahoma.

“This budget delivers the People’s Agenda and is a major win for Oklahomans in all corners of our state,” said Governor Stitt. “Because we kept Oklahoma open for business in 2020, we are able to make historic investments in education and other core services while cutting taxes and replenishing our state savings account. I commend Speaker Charles McCall, President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and the legislative leadership for their hard work to find common ground and create such a comprehensive budget package.”

House Bill 2900 authorizes $9.06 billion in spending for Fiscal Year 2022, which begins July 1, 2021.

Highlights include:

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

State House passes bill to limit school COVID-19 vaccine, mask requirements


House Passes Bill to Limit School COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 26th) – The House today passed a bill that would prohibit public schools, colleges, universities or CareerTech centers from implementing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition for admittance and from requiring only non-vaccinated populations to wear masks.

Senate Bill 658 is authored by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, and Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman. The measure also requires the State Department of Education and school districts to provide in any notice or publication provided to parents regarding immunization requests the immunization requirements of the school, including the requirement to either provide current, up-to-date immunization records or a signed and completed exemption form.

“Should the force of government be used to force citizens to do something they don’t want to do, or should it be used to empower the rights of citizens,” West asked. “This protects a student’s and a parent’s right to choose for themselves whether a vaccination is appropriate for them for their own personal health reasons or their religious or personal beliefs. This disallows discrimination against students and parents that choose to be exempt from such vaccinations.”

West said the measure is necessary as there has been a push for public schools and higher education institutions to require a vaccination against COVID-19 as a requirement for admittance or to require documentation that such a vaccine has been received in the form of a “vaccine passport.”

“For the sake of children throughout the state, I’m glad this bill is one step closer to becoming law,” Standridge said.  “With this legislation, vaccine passports for Oklahoma students will not exist.”

Additionally, the measure provides that a board of education for a school district or technology school district may only implement a mandate to wear a mask or any other medical device after consultation with the local county health department or city-county health department. Such a mandate must explicitly list the reasons for the mandate and shall reference the specific masks or medical devices that would meet the requirements of the mandate. Any mandate to implement wearing a mask or any other medical device shall be reconsidered at each regularly scheduled board meeting.

SB 658 in its final form passed the House with a vote of 76-18. It now moves to the governor for his consideration.

Friday, May 21, 2021

OCPA: DeVos never forgot to put children first


DeVos never forgot to put children first
By Jonathan Small

In a late 2020 interview with Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, conducted as Betsy DeVos was nearing the end of her tenure as federal Secretary of Education for President Trump, Hess asked Devos for an anecdote that captured the experience.

DeVos responded, “I remember talking with a group of young African American students in a school where they were benefiting from the Milwaukee voucher program and looking outside at a sea of middle-aged white protestors who apparently thought those students didn’t deserve that opportunity. I think that’s a pretty good microcosm of what my experience in office was like.”

Unlike her detractors, DeVos never forgot to place students first in policy debates. That’s why the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs chose DeVos as this year’s recipient of our organization’s Citizenship Award.

That award is provided to those who make great contributions to our state and nation. It’s hard to imagine anyone more deserving than DeVos. Thanks to her leadership and hard work—which long preceded her time in Washington—the lives of countless children have been changed for the better through school choice and the conversation on education today is increasingly child focused.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Williamson: Whose job is it anyway? Parents vs bureaucrats in educating kids


Whose Job is it Anyway? Parents Versus Bureaucrats in Educating Kids
By Tyler Williamson

A major principle of the school choice movement is that parents should be empowered to choose where and how their children are educated. This is a simple idea: parents are responsible for their children and should direct their education. Many opposed to school choice can’t seem to grasp this. They seem to think it’s the government’s role to educate children and view anything that breaks the status quo as a threat.

In an opinion piece for The Oklahoman, one writer invoked scripture in his rebuttal of school choice. But what does the Bible actually say? Psalm 127, says children are a blessing from the Lord. Later it says that children are like “arrows in the hand of a warrior” and the man who has “a quiver-full” of them is blessed. Proverbs 22:6 says to train up a child in the way he should go.

These verses (and others) indicate that children are a blessing to their parents, not just some vague blessing on society, and parents are commanded to train them. If parents aren’t given control and are forced to send their children to a school based on a home address, their ability to direct their child’s education is severely limited.

Rep. Sean Roberts challenges Dems on grocery sales tax talking point, offered ballot referendum


Creating a Ballot Referendum to End the Taxation on Groceries, by Rep. Sean Roberts

OKLAHOMA CITY – This week consisted of the House accepting or rejecting amendments, and we also came to an agreement on the budget with the Senate and the Governor. In a response to the budget, the Democrat Caucus said:

"While an extra $500 million in savings sounds nice, our citizens are literally paying the price. With this money, we could end the state sales tax on groceries, which would save Oklahomans more than $250 million per year.”

If my Democrats colleagues truly believe in reducing the tax burden on Oklahomans, why did they vote for the largest tax increase in state history, but fail to file a bill to remove the sales tax on groceries this session?

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Governor Signs “No Patient Left Alone Act”


Governor Signs “No Patient Left Alone Act”

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 12th) – Legislation allowing patients to designate a visitor to have unrestricted visitation has been signed by the Governor.

House Bill 2687, titled the “No Patient Left Alone Act,” is authored by Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin. She filed the legislation after hearing from constituents whose loved ones were not allowed to have a single visitor during the height of the pandemic.

“Many Oklahomans have been unable to see loved ones during the pandemic because the hospital or care facility has not allowed visitors since last March,” Hasenbeck said. “Adding isolation on top of health struggles drastically affects the patient’s mental health, and many people died without getting to see their family or friends one last time. I am very glad to see this bill signed into law so all Oklahomans can have at least one visitor while they’re hospitalized.”

The bill prohibits termination, suspension or waiver of visitation rights by the hospital, State Department of Health, or any governmental entity regardless of declarations of emergency by the Governor or Legislature.

Stitt to end extended unemployment benefits in June, announces $1200 to first 20k who get jobs


GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT, OESC DIRECTOR ZUMWALT ANNOUNCE RETURN TO WORK INCENTIVE
First 20,000 Oklahomans on unemployment to get back into the workforce will receive $1,200 incentive
All federal benefits to end June 26, 2021 

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 17, 2021)— Today Governor Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt announced a new Return to Work Incentive for Oklahomans who are on unemployment. The first 20,000 Oklahomans currently receiving unemployment benefits who return to the workforce will receive a $1,200 incentive using funds from the American Rescue Plan. All federal benefits will end June 26, 2021, giving Oklahomans six weeks’ notice of termination.

The Return to Work Incentive will be enacted via Executive Order 2021-15.

“This is the right move for Oklahoma,” said Governor Stitt. “Since our state has been open for business since last June, the biggest challenge facing Oklahoma businesses today is not reopening, it’s finding employees. For Oklahoma to become a Top Ten state, workforce participation must be at a top level and I am committed to doing what I can to help Oklahomans get off the sidelines and into the workforce.”

"As we emerge from the pandemic, it is important we continue to focus on rebuilding our economy, which means we need more Oklahomans to participate in our state's workforce," said Shelley Zumwalt, OESC Executive Director. "With today's announcement, which includes a strong return-to-work incentive program, OESC is placing top priority on helping claimants find stable employment or retraining opportunities. We have 28 offices across the state ready to help all of the state's citizens who are eligible to work but currently are not working and the hundreds of employers who are struggling to find employees."

Oklahoma employers applauded the decision.

“Every employer I speak with, inside or outside of the state, is struggling to recruit workers,” said Chad Warmington, president and CEO of The State Chamber. “While federal programs provided needed benefits at the height of the pandemic when businesses were forced to shutter, these benefits have now incentivized workers to remain on unemployment after we have safely reopened our economy. Employers are offering competitive wages with generous benefits packages and workers are still refusing to return to work. It was time to stop disincentivizing hope and opportunity for Oklahomans. Gov. Stitt recognizes there is no government program that can provide the same potential for individual economic freedom as a fully functioning private business can.”

“Georg Fischer Central Plastics stayed open and kept our employees safe during the pandemic. As businesses began to open back up, demand for our products skyrocketed, but our ability to add to our workforce was disappointing at best, with many stating they could make more on unemployment. These are not minimum wage jobs and offer career growth, excellent benefits and a safe and stable workplace. Today’s action by Gov. Kevin Stitt is a step in removing one of the barriers for Oklahoma to thrive,” said Dani Shields, Director of Human Resources for Georg Fischer Central Plastics, LLC.

“Over the last three months, Michelin North America has had difficulty in meeting customer demand due to labor shortages with both subcontractors and our core hiring populations in many of our manufacturing locations. We employ approximately 1,500 individuals in our Ardmore facility and are hopeful this change will help us fill our open subcontractor positions as soon as possible,” said Will Whitley, Director of State, Local Government Affairs and Community Relations for Michelin North America.

Governor Stitt’s executive order will direct OESC to end all federal benefits including Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) and Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) on June 26th.

Starting June 27, 2021 any claims filed after June 26, 2021 must be for benefits weeks prior to June 27, 2021. Any claims that are currently in the adjudication, appeals or in the Board of Review process that are filed for weeks prior to June 27, 2021 will still receive benefits for those weeks if their claim is approved. Claimants who are currently receiving Traditional Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits will continue to receive weekly benefits paid out of the UI Trust Fund, but like other programs will not receive FPUC or the additional $300 weekly federal benefit.

The $1,200 Return to Work Incentive is for claimants currently receiving PUA, PEUC or UI between May 2-15, 2021, and who have completed 6 consecutive weeks of employment of 32 hours a week or more with the same employer. The timeframe for eligibility for the incentive starts today, May 17, 2021 and will be ongoing through September 4, 2021. Claimants can begin uploading their information along with the six weeks of pay stubs starting June 28, 2021. Payments will begin dispersing the second week in July. The incentive is limited to the first 20,000 approved applicants.

Specific details on the incentive program and the federal benefits announcement are available at https://oklahoma.gov/oesc.html.

State House passes FY22 Budget bill


House Approves FY22 Budget Bill

OKLAHOMA CITY – The House today passed the appropriations bill to fund state government services for Fiscal Year 2022, which starts in July.

“This is the most comprehensive budget I have seen in my tenure,” said House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston. “It funds core services across the spectrum, and it gives parents, teachers and students everything they need for success in education.”

A&B Vice Chair Kyle Hilbert added, “This budget provides tax relief to individuals and businesses, makes targeted and historic investments in education, includes money for economic development, health care and infrastructure, and it leaves the state with the highest reserve balance in state history.”

House Bill 2900 passed the House with a vote of 82-19. It now moves to the state Senate.

Bills that specify spending limits for various state agencies also are still pending final passage. 

This budget appropriates $8.8 billion for Fiscal Year 2022, which starts in July. This compares to $7.7 billion appropriated for FY21 – a 14.3% increase. 

Senate leader comments on passage of education scholarship program


Senate leader comments on passage of education scholarship program

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, commended the full Senate for overwhelmingly passing Senate Bill 1080, which makes improvements to the Equal Opportunity Scholarship Act.

The Equal Opportunity Scholarship program provides tax credits to donors who voluntarily donate funds to support education. The grants can be used by private schools to support low-income families and by public schools for innovation or classroom support. Treat’s SB 1080 increases to $50 million the amount of tax credits available for the program, with $25 million for public schools and $25 million for private schools. Additionally, the bill adds transparency by increasing reporting requirements of the private schools’ scholarship granting organizations.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Columnist: Why I Refuse to Vote in Judicial Retention Elections


I Abstain: Why I Refuse to Vote in Judicial Retention Elections
By Tyler Williamson, 1889 Institute

Every two years, certain judges are placed on the ballot for a simple yes/no retention vote. These elections stem from Oklahoma’s judicial selection method, and ask voters whether they want to keep, or retain, certain judges. Elections are staggered so judges only face retention every six years. However, not a single judge has been voted out in the fifty-plus years since retention elections were instituted.

I would wager that the majority of Oklahoma voters, including me, a relatively informed voter, know next to nothing about the judges that come up for retention votes. That is unsurprising, considering most people don’t have the time to research and evaluate the legal philosophy and judicial track record of every judge. Thus, a look at election results from the past few elections tell a simple story: a majority vote yes on all of the judges, a decent minority vote no on all of them, while only a small fraction do research and make informed votes. To be clear, I am not lambasting Oklahomans for being uninformed. Many people I know personally vote “No” on all retention elections no matter who it is. I used to vote “No” by default as well. The problem is, it doesn’t matter how informed you are. The judicial selection system we use is extremely flawed, thus rendering your vote meaningless.

Consider the following:

OCPA's Small: Family beats any government program


Family beats any government program
By Jonathan Small

For this year’s annual Citizenship Award Dinner, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs was honored to have sports journalist Jason Whitlock as our keynote speaker. Whitlock is known for his refreshing takes on sports and social issues and didn’t disappoint.

While he touched on several topics, Whitlock, who is black, noted that those who suggest police are routinely killing innocent black men are ignoring data that show he is more likely to be shot by someone in his local neighborhood than by the police. He also noted that pop cultural influences have played a huge role in influencing youth to pursue lifestyles that end badly. Such influences are often more impactful than the “systemic racism” proclaimed by academics.

Whitlock’s comments brought to mind the “success sequence” identified by researchers with the left-wing Brookings Institution, who found individuals who do three things typically become middle-class earners.

Largest State budget in history includes tax cuts, more money for education and Hollywood


STATE BUDGET AGREEMENT REACHED
 

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 13, 2021)— A state budget agreement reached Thursday maintains all state core service funding, provides tax relief to individuals and businesses, and makes targeted new investments in key priorities like education, economic development, health care and infrastructure. The agreement also replenishes more than $700 million in state reserve funds that were significantly reduced to offset pandemic-related revenue reductions last year.

Under the agreement, the appropriated Fiscal Year 2022 budget would be $8.3 billion.

The high-level agreement, which is still being finalized between the Legislature and Gov. Kevin Stitt:

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Legislative redistricting chairs comment on final passage of redistricting plans

Click here for more details on the legislative redistricting maps

House, Senate redistricting chairs comment on final passage of legislative redistricting plans

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate each in bipartisan and overwhelming votes on Wednesday approved new legislative district maps [more info and roll call votes: House redistricting, Senate redistricting].

By law, the Legislature must redraw its legislative and congressional district boundaries to reflect changes in population every 10 years immediately following the decennial Census. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, redistricting plans for state legislative districts must be completed by the end of this year’s regular session.

“At the outset, we pledged to have an open and transparent redistricting process and we delivered. At every turn, we engaged with the public and sought their input in the redistricting process as part of our commitment to transparency. The results were maps that are more compact and better than the current legislative boundaries,” said Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle and chair of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting.

“The new redistricting boundaries ensure each Oklahoman has an equal voice in state and national government for the next ten years,” said. Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond and chair of the House Redistricting committee. “This year, every member of the House served on a redistricting committee, and over 20 public meetings, including virtual, were held to get as much input as possible into this important process. I’m glad to send these plans to the governor’s desk so they can be signed into law and fully implemented.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

OK Attorney General announces deal to return state's Hydroxychloroquine stockpile

Well, let's take a look at what we've got:
  • In January, Attorney General Mike Hunter filed a petition in district court for over $1.8 million over a personal protective equipment order that a company never delivered to the Oklahoma Department of Health.
  • In April, AG Hunter filed a lawsuit against a company for failing to deliver an order of ventilators to the Oklahoma State Department of Health at the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. In the lawsuit, the state claims the OSDH paid over $890,000 for 40 ventilators last April. The company had only delivered two ventilators by June 2020. Despite canceling the order in October, the company had 21 ventilators delivered in December. The Oklahoma State Department of Health returned the wrongfully delivered ventilators but has not received a refund.
And here we learn that the OSDH is getting a refund for returning $2.6 million worth of hydroxychloroquine that was purchased during the well-intentioned but seemingly misguided Trump-fueled craze for the drug last spring.


Attorney General Hunter Strikes Deal to Return Hydroxychloroquine Stockpile

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today announced he has reached an agreement with FFF Enterprises to return the state’s stockpile of hydroxychloroquine for a refund.

Based on the unique circumstances encountered by the Oklahoma Department of Health, the company has agreed to return to the Department of Health the full purchase price paid for the medication last year.

The Oklahoma State Health Department purchased hydroxychloroquine at the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic ​after the federal Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the drug as a treatment for the virus.

After ​the federal Food and Drug Administration revoked the emergency use authorization, the Oklahoma State Health Department asked the attorney general to get involved.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Gov. Stitt signs bill prohibiting “Critical Race Theory” curriculum


Governor Signs Bill Prohibiting “Critical Race Theory” Curriculum

OKLAHOMA CITY – The governor today signed a bill that will prohibit Oklahoma public schools, colleges and universities from teaching “Critical Race Theory” and from requiring mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.

House Bill 1775 is authored by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore.

“I’m grateful to the governor for seeing the need for signing this crucial legislation,” West said. “Already, this harmful indoctrination has infiltrated Oklahoma schools from as early as pre-kindergarten classrooms all the way through college courses. Some of our state universities currently are requiring this mandatory training for their freshman students.”

West notes that much of the curriculum, often referred to as “Critical Race Theory” is based on Marxist ideology that is designed to teach children to hate American exceptionalism and distrust others based on skin color or sex. Additionally it teaches that most laws and systems in America are historically rooted in the racist oppression of people of color and other marginalized groups. It promotes the theory of implicit bias and inherent racism due to one’s skin color.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

OCPA column: Starting a bonfire with your money


Starting a bonfire with your money
By Jonathan Small

Do you think the problem with state government is agencies are too small and inexpensive? Perhaps Republicans in the Oklahoma House of Representatives do, because they’ve voted to increase the number of state employees by more than 1,000 and dramatically boost the cost of Medicaid expansion.

Due to passage of an initiative petition, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program will add hundreds of thousands of able-bodied adults to the rolls starting in July, costing anywhere from $164 million to $374 million based on estimates.

But now House Republicans have voted to further boost the added cost by up to another $277 million per year. That should leave all citizens shaking their heads—especially since another option exists.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has called for contracting with private managed care companies that would be paid a fee to oversee implementation of Medicaid benefits. Those companies would direct patients to preventative care and early treatment, which costs less, ultimately reducing expensive hospitalizations. If costs exceed what the private companies are paid, the private company pays the difference, protecting Oklahoma taxpayers from price shocks.

But House Republicans have voted to instead have the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) handle cost-control internally. If the OHCA doesn’t control costs, there are no financial penalties for failure. In fact, the agency would probably ask for more funding.

But that’s not the worst of it.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Gov. Stitt: "COVID-19 no longer an emergency", withdraws State of Emergency Declaration

GOVERNOR STITT WITHDRAWS COVID-19 STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARATION

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 3, 2021) – Governor Kevin Stitt today signed Executive Order 2021-11 to withdraw and rescind the COVID-19 State of Emergency effective Tuesday, May 4.

In a video message, Gov. Stitt pointed out that Oklahoma’s 7-day average of new cases is down 94% from its peak and among the lowest per capita rates in the country. Stitt also mentioned that hospitalizations are down 90% and are stable.

The governor said his decision was made possible by the collective actions taken by Oklahomans over the past year.

Friday, April 30, 2021

State House passes bill prohibiting “Critical Race Theory” curriculum in public education systems

Critical Race Theory (here's a brief primer on it from Pulpit & Pen, plus some more videos and podcasts on it from Todd Friel and Wretched) is going to destroy American society unless leaders rise up and speak out against this Marxist ideology that is sweeping through the education and entertainment industries. 

Kudos to the Oklahoma Legislature for taking a stab at this issue.

In this post: press release from the authors of the measure, press release from House Democrats who are just appalled at it [insert shocked face], and supportive comments from OCPA President Jonathan Small.


Bill Prohibiting “Critical Race Theory” Curriculum Passes House

OKLAHOMA CITY – A House bill, amended in the state Senate, that will prohibit Oklahoma public schools, colleges and universities from incorporating certain messages about sex and race into any course instruction earned final passage in the House today. The bill also will prohibit requiring mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling in the schools.

House Bill 1775 is authored by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Governor Stitt signs pro-life 'Heartbeat Bill'

Governor Stitt continues to tout his willingness to sign any pro-life bill that makes it to his desk. I'm more convinced than ever that the truly consistent and committed pro-life position should be to abolish abortion now and end the incremental/regulation strategy that has dominated the pro-life effort for the last five decades.

If we're willing to fight for a heartbeat bill, or requiring abortionists to be OB-GYNs, or whatever other bill fits the description of "pro-life" these days, let's [figuratively] fight for real and go for full-blown abolition.


Governor Signs Heartbeat Bill

OKLAHOMA CITY – Gov. Stitt this week signed a bill that will stop abortions from being performed once an unborn child is determined to have a detectable heartbeat.

House Bill 2441 by Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, would allow for abortion only if a medical emergency exists that threatens the life of the mother.

“All life is precious and deserves to be safeguarded,” Russ said. “This law will decrease the number of abortions performed in our state and protect the lives of innocent unborn babies. I’m thankful to all who helped accomplish this.”

Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, the Senate author of the legislation, secured passage of the bill in that chamber.

"I believe life begins at conception, but with the detection of a fetal heartbeat no one can doubt that the baby in the womb is alive and must be protected.  HB 2441 will do just that,” Daniels said.  “I am grateful to the members of both chambers and to Governor Stitt for supporting this legislation.”

Minister, Paul Abner, president of the group Oklahoma Faith Leaders, was a significant advocate and voice for the faith community of Oklahoma, expressing support of this measure at the state Capitol.

"If we've learned anything during this past year, it is the value of human life. We've seen an incredible movement across the United States and the world to protect it,” Abner said. Still we continue to neglect those who have no voice - the unborn. But yesterday, Oklahoma took a huge leap toward defending the sanctity of life, as Governor Kevin Stitt signed HB 2441 into law. Thankfully, Rep. Todd Russ had the courage to introduce this legislation, commonly known as the heartbeat bill. The faith leaders whom I represent boldly supported this legislation and worked diligently to get it passed. We are incredibly grateful to all of our state legislators who helped vote this important legislation into law and stood up for life in Oklahoma.”

HB 2441 requires reasonable medical judgment to determine that a mother has a condition that so complicates her medical condition that it necessitates the abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or serious or irreparable physical harm to her.

Todd Russ represents District 55 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Roger Mills and Washita counties and parts of Beckham Greer and Kiowa counties.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Such a priority: Oklahoma now has rescue animals as the state pet

Call me a killjoy, but I would much rather our State legislators spend their time on actual legislative work rather than frivolous things like this.

Rather than naming a state pet, or some bridge, or filing joke bills to ban paper straws and get your name in the news again like some drug junkie out for another hit... how about the state legislature do some of the following:
But by all means, go ahead and waste time and effort on pointless measures like the following...


Gov. Signs Bill Naming Rescue Animals as State Pet

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Mark McBride’s dog Cali is ready for her moment as the spokesdog for the state after the governor signed a bill designating rescue animals the state pet.

Cali, an 80-pound Catahoula mix McBride adopted from the Moore Animal Shelter, served as the inspiration for Cali’s Law, House Bill 1816.

“I’d never let a dog in my house before I got Cali,” McBride said. “Now, my wife and I have a second rescue dog, and we just love them both. We’re hoping others will join us in adopting other rescue animals, which in turn will help our municipalities reduce the cost of running their shelters or building bigger ones for lost or abandoned pets. We’re counting on this legislation helping us spread the word.”

Gov. Stitt signs bill to protect right to worship

Governor Signs OK Religious Freedom Act

OKLAHOMA CITY – On Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act to protect the constitutional right to worship.

House Bill 2648 dictates that anything closing places of worship would be considered a substantial burden on people’s freedom of religion. The bill’s author, Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, filed the legislation after learning that many states’ governments had forced places of worship to close throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is of the upmost importance that we ensure our God-given right to worship is protected no matter the circumstances,” Hill said. “Our country was founded upon the promise of religious freedom for all, and we must preserve that right for generations to come. My faith, like many Oklahomans, is at the core of who I am, and I’m very grateful that my colleagues in the Legislature and Governor Stitt have stood up to protect of our First Amendment right to worship.”

Saturday, April 24, 2021

1889 Institute: The Economic Fantasizing of the Green Advocates


The Economic Fantasizing of the Green Advocates
By Byron Schlomach

In a confirmation hearing for President Biden’s Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, Senator Ted Cruz complained about Biden killing the Keystone XL pipeline, eliminating 11,000 jobs. Buttigieg responded that “Biden’s climate agenda will create a net increase in jobs.” Buttigieg’s response, commonly given by climate activists when challenged on jobs, is pure, unmitigated, economic balderdash.

New technology, from steam engines to robotics, has generally freed resources to expand opportunities and increase standards of living. Green advocates presume, therefore, that any new technology will do the same. But there is a key feature of innovations that expand opportunity and jobs. They make production cheaper.

True growth-inducing innovations, like steam, the Bessemer process for producing steel, and refining and burning fossil fuels for energy are always a chance to lower costs. Consequently, they are adopted voluntarily. There is never any need for governments to force, bribe (through grants and subsidies), or tax advantage companies into adopting innovations that are truly beneficial – that is, that lower costs and produce a higher standard of living on top of more jobs for us all.