Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Stitt opens Governor's DC office, hires ex-Lucas aide as lobbyist to represent state


OKLAHOMA CITY (March 26, 2021) – Today Governor Kevin Stitt named Christina Gungoll Lepore as Director of the Governor’s Washington, D.C. Office. A fourth generation Oklahoman originally from Enid, and former staffer for Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03), Christina has had a distinguished career in government affairs and public relations. 

“I am excited to have Christina in Washington to help us advance and defend key priorities for the State of Oklahoma,” said Governor Stitt. “It is critical for our success to have as many boots on the ground as possible to ensure Oklahoma is receiving its fair share, as federal dollars make up 40% of our state budget. Many other states, such as Texas, have long-standing state executive offices in our nation’s capital and it’s vital we are on a level playing field as we continue our ascent to becoming a Top Ten state.” 

“It is truly an honor to once again serve my home state of Oklahoma,” said Lepore. “I look forward to working with our outstanding Congressional delegation and all our federal partners to further enhance our strong state-federal partnership and move Oklahoma forward.”

Gov. Stitt commend State Board to upholding statute, affirm charter schools are public schools


OKLAHOMA CITY (March 29, 2020)— Governor Kevin Stitt released the following statement in response to the State Board of Education’s decision last week to settle a nearly 4-year-old lawsuit with the Oklahoma Charter School Association:

“I commend the State Board of Education for its lawful decision to uphold current statute and affirm that charter schools are public schools.

“This decision is the right one for Oklahoma students. The COVID pandemic has shown us that students learn in a variety of different ways and there is no one-size-fits-all school for every student. Public school students should not be punished for succeeding in a charter school setting. Further, existing statute makes clear that charter schools are eligible for local revenues.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Saturday, March 27, 2021

1889 Institute: School district funding during Covid-19 made worse by bad policy

Stress of School District Funding During Covid-19 Made Worse by Bad Policy
By Tyler Williamson, 1889 Institute

A recent article in The Oklahoman discussed the financial impact of the mid-year funding adjustment for Oklahoma school districts. School administrators bemoaned the adjustment, citing the hardships of the pandemic. This reduction should come as no surprise, however, considering how Oklahoma’s school district funding works.

State appropriated school district funding is allocated based on Weighted Average Daily Membership (WADM), a convoluted “per student” measure. WADM is then used to calculate how much funding a school district will receive from the state. Basically, the more students there are in a district, the more money the district will receive. Therefore, if a district loses students, it will receive less funding, and if a district gains students, it will receive more funding.

In 2020, Oklahoma school districts decided to shut-down in-person learning but were not adequately prepared to teach students virtually; consequently, they lost students to schools that did virtual schooling better. Over 60,000 students left traditional public schools and enrolled in various charter schools. Therefore, the traditional districts’ enrollment fell while charter school enrollment rose. As a result, based on our discussion of formula funding above, you would think that traditional school districts would lose funding and charter schools would gain.

OCPA column: federal bailout money is a bad trade

A bad trade
By Jonathan Small

What if someone offered to serve you nothing but dessert every day for a month—but in exchange you had to promise that you would forgo the opportunity to buy health food for the rest of the year? From an economic standpoint, that’s what congressional Democrats have offered Oklahoma with the latest round of federal bailout funding.

While Oklahoma government is expected to receive $2.1 billion in bailout funding, that money comes with a catch. One provision of the federal legislation prohibits states from using the money “to either directly or indirectly offset a reduction in the net tax revenue of such State or territory resulting from a change in law, regulation, or administrative interpretation during the covered period that reduces any tax (by providing for a reduction in a rate, a rebate, a deduction, a credit, or otherwise) or delays the imposition of any tax or tax increase.”

Put simply, congressional Democrats tried to strip states of their power over state taxes. They offer states a financial sugar high so long as we promise not to do anything that would improve our economic health long term.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

State House Committee passes bill to modify agency rule approval process

O’Donnell Wins Committee Passage of Bill to Modify Agency Rule Approval Process

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, on Tuesday passed a bill in the House Administrative Rules Committee that he said will ensure agency rules go through a more transparent and thorough process before being approved or repealed.

Senate Bill 913, by O’Donnell and Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, would create the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to review and recommend to the Legislature approval or repeal of agency rules.

“State agencies promulgate rules that once approved by the state Legislature have the full effect of law,” O’Donnell said. “The problem is, we currently have one House committee dedicated to overseeing rules from almost 200 agencies, boards and commissions during the crush of the four-month legislative session. This measure would establish a committee that would meet throughout the year to review these rules to see which might need to be removed or amended. This would lead to much greater transparency and greater input into the rule-making process.”

GOP Fever: Oklahoma's 2021 Voter Registration Map

I'm a bit behind due to recent craziness with work, but here we go with the latest installment of my long-running Voter Registration Maps series. These statistics are from the annual January 15th report from the State Election Board. (For nostalgia purposes, Democrats can look at my first map and see how much of Oklahoma was still blue and dark-blue in 2013)

Since last January, the GOP has taken the lead in sixteen counties: Adair County (5.43% GOP lead), Craig County (5.55% lead), Jefferson County (8.31% lead), Kiowa County (11.14% lead), LeFlore County (10.36% lead), Love County (1.06% lead), McCurtain County (1.23% lead), Marshall County (16.17% lead), Okfuskee County (0.81% lead), Okmulgee County (0.86% lead), Ottawa County (9.3% lead), Pittsburg County (2.18% lead), Pontotoc County (6.52% lead), Seminole County (4.87% lead), Sequoyah County (5.24% lead), and Tillman County (9.31% lead). 

Democrats hold the plurality or majority in just 15 counties: Atoka County (2.79% Democrat lead), Caddo County (0.11% lead), Cherokee County (9.55% lead), Choctaw County (3.63% lead), Coal County (35.6% lead), Greer County (1.36% lead), Harmon County (7.85% lead), Haskell County (3.69% lead), Hughes County (5.79% lead), Johnston County (0.21% lead), Latimer County (13.32% lead), McIntosh County (11.2% lead), Murray County (1.05% lead), Muskogee County (4.65% lead), and Pushmataha County (10.29% lead).

In January 2020, Democrats held majority status in 14 counties. As of January 15th of 2021, that had shrunk to just two: Coal (62.86%) and Latimer (51.81%).

Major County has the widest gap, with 78.39% Republicans and 12.45% Democrats.

Comanche County has the highest percentage of registered Independent voters at 20.48%, while Jackson County has the highest percentage of registered Libertarians at 0.897%. 

Over the next several days, we'll take a look at some more statistics and maps. For now, enjoy Oklahoma's rising GOP fever.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Gov. Stitt appoints Tricia Everest as Secretary of Public Safety

Everest to be fifth woman serving in Stitt Cabinet

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 22, 2021)— Governor Kevin Stitt today announced he has appointed attorney, nonprofit founder and philanthropist Tricia Everest as Secretary of Public Safety. Upon Senate confirmation, Everest will oversee over 55 agencies including the Department of Public Safety, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the Pardon and Parole Board, and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

“Tricia is a proven leader who has done a tremendous job over the last few years building successful relationships with law enforcement and delivering meaningful criminal justice reform for Oklahoma,” said Gov. Stitt. “I am confident Tricia’s wealth of experience and heartfelt passion for serving the state will translate into success in this role.”

“It is an honor to be appointed to serve in Governor Stitt’s Cabinet as Secretary of Public Safety,” said Everest. “As a native Oklahoman, I am deeply committed to the success of our state, especially when it comes to protecting our citizens and our communities, and I am ready to get to work to carry out Governor Stitt’s vision for a safe and just Oklahoma.”

Saturday, March 20, 2021

1889 Institute: COVID shows why gov't collective bargaining should be illegal

COVID-19 Illuminates Why Collective Bargaining with Government Employees Should Be Illegal
By Byron Schlomach

By one recent ranking of the fifty states and the District of Columbia, Oklahoma’s public schools are 48th in quality. Texas is big, diverse, and has immigration issues; nevertheless, it ranks 30th, ahead of Missouri (32nd), and Arkansas (39th), but behind Oklahoma’s other neighbors Kansas (27th) and Colorado (17th).

Demographics, culture, and other issues outside schools’ direct control play some part in the rankings. Still, our schools were not doing what they needed to do even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Things have only gotten worse. Since Oklahoma’s schools closed in March 2020, Oklahoma’s public schools have become intellectual wastelands. Unready to conduct classes online last spring, most of Oklahoma’s schools – at least the large districts – simply punted the rest of the school year. Things are only marginally better this year.

Yet, schools have not been a source of COVID-19 spread. Sweden and other European countries have demonstrated this fact, and a study from the United States shows COVID-19 spreading at a minuscule rate in schools, with just 0.04% of students being infected at school. There was apparently no transmission from students to adults in the schools.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Small: Critical race theory’s harms widespread

Critical race theory’s harms widespread
By Jonathan Small

What do Pepé Le Pew and a high-school student in Las Vegas have in common? Both are targets of adherents of Marxist-derived “critical race theory” and its offshoots—and many Oklahomans could soon join them.

Pepé Le Pew drew attention when a New York Times columnist, soon joined by other critics, complained the cartoon skunk “normalizes” rape culture. That the female cat in the cartoons is always fearfully, frantically trying to escape Pepé’s embrace is proof, they say.

Yet anyone who has seen the cartoons knows that’s not what’s occurring. The cat is desperately trying to flee—first and foremost—because Pepé is a literal skunk. His foul odor can be physically viewed wafting through the air as a dark cloud. All who cross his path run fleeing, man and beast alike.

The joke is that a guy who thinks he is irresistible to women actively repels them. That’s not condoning rape. It’s making fun of boorish men. While the laws of that time may not have dealt with sexual harassment as forcefully as today’s statutes, Pepé Le Pew cartoons show such men were not viewed as role models in the past but were instead objects of ridicule.

How does this tie to a student in Las Vegas? Keep reading.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Attorneys General ask Treasury Secretary Yellen to clarify stimulus language infringing on states' rights

Attorney General Hunter Asks Treasury Secretary Yellen to Clarify Position on Federal Control of State Finances 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking her to clarify whether the last-minute provision added to the latest coronavirus stimulus package strips state legislatures of their authority to provide further economic relief to their citizens by reducing state tax rates, or risk paying back federal aid.

The letter, signed by 21 attorneys general, says if the intent was to deny states the ability to cut taxes in any manner whatsoever, the act would likely constitute the greatest attempted invasion of state sovereignty by Congress in the history of the Republic.

The troublesome language in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 prohibits states receiving a portion of the $1.9 trillion relief package from cutting taxes until 2024. If a state fails to comply, that state’s government would be required to repay the Department of the Treasury the amount equal to the tax cut.

Attorney General Hunter said the Treasury Department has given little guidance on what the language means, and that it could discourage actions by states intended to help citizens.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

State House passes resolutions asserting state sovereignty, challenging federal overreach

Resolutions Asserting State Sovereignty Adopted by Oklahoma House of Representatives

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Resolutions 1009 and 1010 sponsored by Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon, were adopted in the Oklahoma House of Representatives today. The two resolutions assert Oklahoma’s state sovereignty in the face of multiple attempts by the federal government to usurp states’ rights. In particular, the resolutions are meant to combat H.R. 1, the “For the People Act of 2021” and H.R. 8, the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021.”

HR 1009 reasserts state sovereignty and the state’s authoritative powers as prescribed in the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and declares H.R. 1 to lie beyond the enumerated authorities delegated to the United States Congress in Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.

“H.R. 1, known as the For the People Act of 2021, is an attempt by the federal government to usurp our state’s election processes. More specifically, in Division A, Title I of H.R. 1, Congress seeks to commandeer the voter registration processes of the several states,” said Steagall. “Additionally, H.R. 1 directs the states to utilize third-party entities to manage the states’ congressional redistricting efforts – a work that is prescribed to this state legislature by the Oklahoma Constitution. This blatant federal overreach cannot be left unchecked.”

HR 1010 reasserts state sovereignty and the people’s reserved powers as prescribed in the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and declares H.R. 8 to lie beyond the enumerated authorities delegated by the people to the federal government.

“The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, or H.R. 8, is a clear violation of the limitations placed on the federal government prescribed in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution,” said Steagall. “The provisions of H.R. 8 contradict our constituents’ innumerable unalienable rights including their Fourth Amendment Right to be secure in their persons and effects, as well as their Fifth Amendment right to due process of law.”

HR 1009 and HR 1010 will be distributed to the President of the United States, President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and each member of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation.

Jim Bridenstine endorses Sen. James Lankford's 2022 reelection bid

Former NASA Administrator and Oklahoma Congressman backs United States Senator in 2022 re-election bid

(Oklahoma City) – Former NASA Administrator and Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine announced today his endorsement of U.S. Senator James Lankford when he is up for reelection next year.

Jim Bridenstine issued the following statement today:

"James Lankford is exactly what Oklahoma needs in a Senator. His exceptional intellect is only matched by his diligence and high integrity. When I was in Congress and at NASA, I could always count on James to be true to his convictions. He does what is right and makes his positions transparent. Oklahoma and America are well served by James. Our state strongly benefits from the proven conservative leadership of James Lankford in the United States Senate. He has my wholehearted support and endorsement."

Jim Bridenstine, Former NASA Administrator and Congressman
March 16, 2021

Monday, March 15, 2021

OCPA column: Prioritizing free speech for teachers

Prioritizing free speech for teachers
By Jonathan Small

How important is the right of free speech to you? To some, but fortunately not all, lawmakers, it’s not even worth a piece of paper and an email.

The nation’s two major teachers’ unions—the National Education Association and the American Federation for Teachers—both support many far-left political causes and candidates, including abortion on demand. As a result, the dues paid by members of those unions ultimately support those political causes.

Yet many teachers—including thousands in Oklahoma—do not support left-wing political causes. And the U.S. Supreme Court, in its 2018 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, ruled that employees cannot be forced to participate.

Partly in response to that ruling, Sen. Julie Daniels has filed Senate Bill 634, which would require schools to get annual reauthorization for union-dues withholding from employees. The bill requires that schools provide teachers with a form to sign each year that notes employees “have a First Amendment right, as recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, to refrain from joining and paying dues or making political contributions to a professional employee organization” and that they cannot be discriminated against it they choose not to join a union.

See where Oklahoma's $3.65B COVID-19 relief funds are going

The recently passed $1.9 trillion in new COVID-19 stimulus/relief funds are beginning to be distributed this week. In addition to direct payments to individuals, a substantial amount of money, some $360 billion, is going to state and local governments. Here's some information on that from reporter Jamie Dupree.

According to this spreadsheet link from the House Oversight Committee, approximately $3.65 billion will be coming to Oklahoma. Of that, $2.174 billion will go to the state, $541M will go to cities and towns, $767M will go to counties, and another $167M will go to state-led capital projects.

I'm going to try to embed the particulars below, taken from the above-linked spreadsheet. First up, the cities and towns with their allocated dollars (in millions):

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Legislation to modernize Oklahoma’s cosmetology laws passes House

Legislation to Modernize Oklahoma’s Cosmetology Laws Passes House

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that seeks to take away some of the red tape for Oklahoma’s barber and cosmetology professionals passed the House today with bipartisan support. 

House Bill 1807, authored by Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-OKC, modifies the current Oklahoma Cosmetology and Barbering Act to make the regulations around the industry easier to understand and the licensing process easier for Oklahomans entering the profession.

“This bill makes Oklahoma the best place to get your education if you want to get into the cosmetology or barbering industries,” Bennett said. “These reforms make it easier to get certified in what you want to do while not sacrificing instruction time.”

The idea behind this legislation is to lower the barrier of entry for an industry that, more than many others, allows a person to grow their own business and be their own boss. 

Omnibus gun rights measure passes Oklahoma House

Omnibus Firearms Bill Passes the House

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday evening which modifies the provisions for the carrying and possession of firearms in certain circumstances. The measure also cleans up and clarifies language from Oklahoma’s 2019 Constitutional Carry Law.

House Bill 2645, authored by Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, and presented on the floor by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, allows for the transport of firearms on public roadways if an individual is eligible to carry a firearm, clarifies laws regarding where and when firearms can be carried, allows for the carrying of firearms by municipal employees and changes the law regarding the carrying of firearms in establishments that serve alcohol.

“The passage of Oklahoma’s Constitutional Carry Law in 2019 was a great victory for the Second Amendment rights of Oklahomans,” said Echols. “This bill cleans up some of the language from the 2019 legislation, clarifies a few provisions that needed to be more fleshed out and makes changes necessary to ensure the Second Amendment rights of Oklahomans are not unnecessarily infringed upon.”

The measure provides that it is lawful for a person carrying a weapon to be in a designated bar area of a restaurant as long as the person is not consuming beer or alcoholic beverages and as long as the owner of the establishment allows the carrying of firearms on the premise. It modifies the penalty for violations relating to carrying a firearm into an establishment or consuming beer or alcoholic beverages while carrying by making the penalty a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250.

“The House has made protecting Second Amendment rights a priority,” said West. “The language clarifications in this bill help citizens more clearly understand when and where they can carry, and the changes to current law help further secure the constitutional rights of Oklahoma gun owners.”

HB 2645 passed by a vote of 78-19 and is now eligible to be heard by the Senate.

Senate passes bill to align school board elections with regular primary and general election dates

It's about time this happened:

Senate approves bill aimed at increasing voter participation in school board elections

OKLAHOMA CITY – Low turnout is far too common in local school board elections, but that trend would change thanks to a bill approved Wednesday by the Oklahoma Senate.

Senate Bill 962, from Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, would align school board election dates with the dates of primary and general election dates for county, state and federal offices.

Treat said low turnout in school board elections is due to those elections happening outside of the traditional election season dates.

House passes bill allowing school boards to authorizing school personnel to carry firearms

Bill Authorizing School Personnel to Carry Firearms Passes House

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill allowing boards of education to adopt policies authorizing school personnel to carry firearms on school campuses passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives Tuesday evening.  

House Bill 2588, sponsored by Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, would authorize the carrying of a handgun onto school property by school personnel if the person possesses a valid handgun license and meets other requirements authorized by the board of education of the district.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

1889 Institute: False Alarm -- Climate Change is not going to kill us all

False Alarm: Climate Change is not Going to Kill Us All
By Spencer Cadavaro

In recent years, apocalyptic predictions of climate change have been popular. As politicians and activists push their preferred policies to supposedly prevent climate change, their claims of what will happen if we do not adopt them grow more severe. One politician claimed, "The world is going to end in 12 years if we don't address climate change." I remember hearing similar predictions while growing up in the early 2000s about the ozone layer and polar ice caps. But their fearmongering overstates the dangers posed by a changing climate, and their solutions are unlikely to fix the problem. Indeed, their solutions will likely cause even more problems, especially for states where fossil fuels are a staple of their economy.

One of the more radical proposals to fight climate change involves making the United States carbon neutral by a specific year, such as 2030 or 2050. To do this, activists want to transition to an electrical grid that runs on renewable energy sources. Such a process would be expensive, costing nearly $6 trillion. Beyond the dollar cost, such an act would require massive amounts of land. According to an analysis by the Brookings Institute, wind and solar generation need ten times as much land to produce a similar amount of energy as coal or natural gas. We simply do not have the land necessary to make this happen.

House passes bill to require passing citizenship test as graduation requirement, Dems oppose

Believe it or not, but I actually am sympathetic to the argument the House Dems make in their press release response to the passage of this bill. Read on:

O’Donnell Bill To Require Citizenship Test for Students Passes House

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, on Monday won passage of a bill in the House that would help students become more engaged citizens.

House Bill 2030 would require high school students to pass the civics portion of the United States’ naturalization test in order to graduate beginning in the 2022-23 school year.

“Unfortunately, too many of our students graduate high school without basic knowledge of how our nation was founded or how our system of government works,” O’Donnell said. “This legislation would help correct that, leading to a more engaged and informed electorate in the future.”

O’Donnell explained this is the same test required of anyone desiring to become a citizen of the United States. Fourteen other states have adopted similar legislation.

HB 2030 would require subject matter standards for history, social studies, and U.S. Government courses in Oklahoma public schools to include the study of important historical documents, including the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation, and Federalist Papers. Subject matter standards for U.S. Government also must include simulations of the democratic process and lessons on the structure and relationship between national, state, county and local governments.

O’Donnell said he too many students graduate without being able to answer basic questions such as how many branches of government exist in the United States or what actually is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution. He said students would only have to achieve a bare minimum of a score of 60 in order to pass the test before graduation.

“That is not too high of a bar for young adults who will become part of our work force and our communities, and who will be future voters and perhaps even members of our government bodies,” O’Donnell said.

An amendment to the bill would exempt students that have an individualized education plan (IEP).

HB 2030 passed the House with a vote of 80-18. It now advances to the state Senate where it is authored by Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond.  

House Democrats Oppose More Testing for High Schoolers

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Members of the House Democratic Caucus released the following statements today in opposition to House Bill 2030, which requires Oklahoma public school students to take a citizenship test before graduation.

"I’m not concerned about making Oklahoma students take the US Citizenship test,” said Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City. “But, the concerns expressed about people in Portland, Seattle, and Washington D.C. won’t be solved by making Oklahoma students take a test.

“Oklahomans deserve better than political posturing in the guise of pandering to patriotism.”

“I like the idea of our students taking the US Naturalization test as an assignment as a part of a unit when the content is delivered, traditionally in the 8th grade,” said Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa. “I can’t support making it a graduation requirement which only creates more unnecessary mandatory testing for our children. Oklahoma parents have spoken loud and clear- our kids have testing fatigue. Testing isn’t the only way to assess a child’s mastery of a subject.

“This bill is ill-conceived, loosely designed, and poorly executed. It will not turn out well for Oklahoma children if we adopt loose testing protocols, security, and implementation.”

“As a former 8th-grade public school history teacher, I can attest that teachers already cover in-depth what the U.S. Naturalization Test assesses,” said Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman. “Further, as a believer in the importance of  hands-on kinesthetic learning, I know that children learn better by doing rather than by prepping for a one-time test, and if we really want our students to learn about civics on a deeper level, we should invest in civics curriculum that truly engages our children.”

“It is not our business to legislate standards, especially when we already have a civics curriculum,” said Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa. “Imposing test requirements that override the work of Oklahoma educators will not solve the problems we face. Students and teachers don’t need another mandate. They need a government that works for them. ”

Small: No excuse for lack of health care transparency

No excuse for lack of health care transparency
By Jonathan Small

We all know someone who has been price-gouged with a surprise medical bill.

Carolyn Coburn, widow of former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, recently made headlines when she revealed one Tulsa hospital sought to charge her (and her insurer) $4,000 combined for a COVID-19 test.

“Nobody should charge $4,000 to stick a Q-Tip up someone’s nose,” Coburn told Forbes.

Similarly, state Sen. Adam Pugh recalled how the bill for his child’s birth was abruptly cut in half once the hospital learned he was paying out of pocket, rather than through a third-party insurer. The cost of the delivery was the same regardless of payor, so why was the price discrepancy so great?

The answer is that health care, unlike nearly all other professions, operates with no price transparency, and providers are free to make up numbers as they go, leading to wildly inflated bills.

That’s one reason research indicates over 50 percent of U.S. bankruptcies are tied to medical debt.

Fortunately, there is a way to change that dynamic in Oklahoma by empowering consumers.

Monday, March 08, 2021

600,000 masks given to Oklahoma schools by anonymous donor

More than 600,000 masks going to Oklahoma schools, thanks to anonymous donor

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 8, 2021) – Thanks to an anonymous donor, every public school in Oklahoma will receive four KN95 masks for every teacher and school staffer. These shipments come at a time when the vast majority of school districts are having in-person learning amid a statewide drop in COVID-19 cases.

“Masks are important in our arsenal of successful COVID-19 mitigation strategies,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “We are extremely grateful to this donor for prioritizing our hard-working school personnel who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic.”

Column: SB734 is a prescription for lower-quality care

Price Controls Are Bad Medicine for Vulnerable Americans
by Naomi Lopez and Rafael Fonseca, MD

Senate Bill 734 would establish price controls on cutting-edge drug treatments, making it illegal for any health plan to purchase drug treatments where the price exceeded a government-determined reference price. This would apply to state government programs, as well as all private employer-sponsored health plans that cover Oklahomans. These price controls would be based on drug prices found in Canada, a country that explicitly rations care under its socialized medicine system to keep costs down. Put simply, that system is an innovation-killer — and should Senate Bill 734 become law, Oklahomans will be getting a prescription for lower-quality care.

While it may sound appealing to reduce the cost of prescription drug treatments, this proposal would be doing so at the expense of access to the newest, most effective drug treatments. In Canada, a new treatment cannot be sold for more than other drugs in the same therapeutic class, even if it results in better health care outcomes or avoids other costly interventions like surgery and hospitalization. That means that access to the newest treatments are often delayed for Canadian patients by months or, in some cases, years.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Schlomach: the high duty of elected officials and ways they fall short

The High Duty of Elected Officials and Ways They Fall Short
By Byron Schlomach

With a legislative session starting, it’s worth considering - What is the central, over-arching duty of an elected official? The Oklahoma Constitution’s oath of office requires Oklahoma public officials swear to “support, obey, and defend” the constitutions of the nation and the state, that the official will not take bribes, and will discharge duties as best he or she can.

Every individual acting in a governmental capacity in Oklahoma must act in the best interest of the people of the state as a whole. This high duty, executed as a public trust, is best characterized as a fiduciary duty wherein one puts the people’s interest above one’s own, preserving good faith and trust, with a duty to act in the people’s best interest.

Fiduciaries have the power and obligation to act in a person’s best interest and are held to high and strict standards of honesty, diligence, and responsibility. They must be conscientious, loyal, faithful, disinterested and unbiased. They must be free of deceit, conflict of interest, self-dealing, concealment, bribery, fraud and corruption. Too many elected officials fall short in many subtle ways. For example, elected officials probably aren’t doing their fiduciary duty if:

New PAC launches to support Oklahoma Republican women running for office


OKLAHOMA CITY (March 5, 2021)— A new Political Action Committee (PAC) launched today to help build the bench of Republican women running for elected office across Oklahoma.

The Promoting Oklahoma Women in Elections & Representation (POWhER) PAC is a network of grassroots individuals committed to helping inspire and support Republican women running for office at all levels of government and strengthening the network and unity of Republican women across the state.

Each year, the POWhER PAC will issue checks to eligible women running for election, hold member-only events with PAC endorsed candidates and host an annual networking event for members with former and current elected Republican women.

“We have seen an increasing number of Republican women from across the nation raise their hand to run for office, and we are committed to elevating that movement here at home,” said the POWhER PAC board members. “Our desire is to help inspire and support female candidates and give them the boost they need through financial support and our membership network. We welcome Republicans across Oklahoma - women and men - to join this grassroots effort to help talented, conservative women run for office, deliver change and lead our state at all levels of government.” 

Friday, March 05, 2021

Galbraith: train wreck legislation demonstrates the need for public testimony

Train Wreck Legislation Demonstrates the Need for Public Testimony
By Brad Galbraith

Shutting out Oklahomans’ voices in the legislative process leads to uninformed public policy. A recent hearing of the House Transportation Committee serves as just one example of the testimony deficiency in Oklahoma’s legislative process.

The committee recently considered House Bill 1048, sponsored by Representative Kerbs, which requires private railroads to maintain at least “two crewmembers in the control compartment of the lead locomotive unit of a train.”

Limited to the knowledge and testimony of the bill’s sponsor and the Secretary of Transportation, the committee unanimously voted to approve a simple bill that it believed was an innocuous codification of current standards that would protect public safety indefinitely into the future.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

State House passes bill prohibiting forced closure of churches, places of worship

House Passes Bill Prohibiting Forced Closure of Places of Worship

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed legislation to protect religious freedom and the constitutional right to worship.

Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, presented House Bill 2648, also known as the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, which dictates that anything closing places of worship would be considered a substantial burden on people’s freedom of religion.

“People came to this continent seeking religious freedom and to escape a tyrannical government, and our country’s founders had the wisdom to specifically outline the freedom to worship in one of our founding documents,” Hill said. “My faith, like many Oklahomans, is at the core of who I am, and this bill further protects our God-given right to worship.”

Small: For economic growth, personal income tax matters most

For economic growth, personal income tax matters most
By Jonathan Small

With Democrats holding Congress and the White House, most officials expect states to soon receive yet another round of federal bailout funding. That will translate into hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into Oklahoma government.

Without doubt, that federal policy is wasteful and will encourage state governments to also be wasteful. But Oklahoma can make lemonade from these lemons. As federal funds slosh into our state, Oklahoma lawmakers should simultaneously use un-earmarked state funds to strategically reduce Oklahoma’s personal income tax.

That will put the state on a path to strong economic growth and job creation and make us more economically competitive with Texas, Florida and Tennessee. The data make clear the single biggest advantage those three states hold over Oklahoma is that they do not impose a personal income tax.

1889 Institute: study shows Dental Assistant licensing is unnecessary

Dental assistants are licensed in only nine states, and in Oklahoma only since 2015.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (March 3, 2021) – The 1889 Institute has published “Dental Assistant Licensing in Oklahoma,” which applies criteria the Institute has applied to other licensing laws and finds the need for dental assistant licensing wanting. The questions asked by the 1889 Institute inquire about serious risk to the public and whether incompetent practitioners are difficult to detect. Since dental assistant work does not pose serious risk and incompetents are easy to sort out, there is no reason for licensing them.

“Was Oklahomans’ dental health suffering prior to 2015, when the dental assistant licensing law was passed?” wondered Spencer Cadavero, author of the paper and Research Associate at the Institute. “One would think there would be scores, or at least a dozen, stories of mangled mouths as a result of dental assistant malpractice for the legislature to pass such a law, but no such stories exist or are likely to,” he said.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

House passes bill to allow snow cone stands to stay open year-round

Have you ever scratched your head and wondered just why government can be so stupid? Try this one: in Oklahoma, snow cone stands cannot operate year-round. Because government is just stupid.

State Rep. Lonnie Sims is trying to change that, and his bill would allow snow cone stands that also sell hot beverages to apply for a year-round license. Read on:

House Says Selling Both Snow Cones and Hot Beverages Is ‘Snow’ Longer a Problem

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives today voted to stop giving hot beverages the cold shoulder.

House Bill 1772 by Rep. Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks, directs the State Board of Health to create a multi-seasonal license allowing snow cone stands serving hot beverages to remain open year-round.

State and National Data Show Steep Decline in Nursing Home COVID Cases

State and National Data Show Steep Decline in Nursing Home COVID Cases
Many Facilities Poised to Loosen Visitation Restrictions

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 26th) – Data released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) shows that new COVID-19 infections in long-term care (LTC) facilities have fallen to less than 10 percent of rates reported in late 2020. From February 11-18 of 2021, there were 39 new COVID cases among residents, according to data reported by OSDH. In the last week of December 2020, that weekly total was 443.

Additionally, test positivity rates continue to decline. In data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, far fewer Oklahoma counties are listed as “red.” In the last week of December 2020, 29 Oklahoma counties were listed as red counties for high nursing home positivity rates.  In the week ending on February 17, just 11 counties were listed as red.

Most skilled nursing facilities in Oklahoma have now held at least one vaccination clinic, and many have completed the three clinic process. Nationally, upwards of 80 percent of LTC residents have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those vaccinations appear to be contributing to declining rates of COVID transmission in nursing homes that are far outpacing the rest of the population, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Important work: State House passes bill... designating rescue animals the State Pet

 Looks like the State House has been busy with some really important matters...

McBride Bill to Name Rescue Animals the State Pet Passes House

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Mark McBride’s dog Cali gets another shot at fame this year after her owner once again successfully won passage of a bill designating rescue animals the state pet.

House Bill 1816 – known as Cali’s Law – is a revision of a bill that passed the House last year but was sidelined because of COVID-19.