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


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


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

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


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 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


“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: