Saturday, October 28, 2023

AG Drummond sues over Catholic charter school, draws ire from Stitt and Walters

This is from the 20th, but it's newsworthy enough to go ahead and post despite being "old news" at this point. Attorney General Gentner Drummond is once again lining up against Governor Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Ryan Walters, this time over the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board's approval of a Catholic public charter school, which is touted (or decried, depending on the perspective) as the first publicly funded religious charter school in the nation.

Drummond thinks the approval violates the state and federal constitutions, while Stitt and Walters disagree and think it would instead violate religious liberty to deny the charter.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Gov. Stitt, Treasurer Russ celebrate Oklahoma's credit outlook upgrade


OKLAHOMA CITY (October 27, 2023) - Governor Kevin Stitt and Treasurer Todd Russ today celebrated Oklahoma's strong financial standing after Moody's Investors Service revised the state's credit outlook from stable to positive.

Small: Arguments against religious charter schools fall short

Arguments against religious charter schools fall short
By Jonathan Small

The Catholic Church wants to open the nation’s first religious public charter school here in Oklahoma. After reviewing the application, the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board has voted to approve creation of the online St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School.

That decision has drawn pushback from some, but opponents’ arguments are weak.

Officials react to closure of Ardmore Michelin plant


OKLAHOMA CITY (October 26, 2023) - Governor Kevin Stitt, [U.S. Senator James Lankford,] State Senator Jerry Alford (R-Ardmore), and State Representative Tammy Townley (R-Ardmore)issued the following statements today following the news of the Michelin Tire Manufacturing facility ceasing operations in Ardmore:

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Oklahoma delegation applauds new House Speaker

After three weeks, quite a bit of intrigue and several false-starts, the U.S. House of Representatives once again has a Speaker at the helm, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). Oklahoma's congressional delegation is supportive and complimentary of their chamber's new leader.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

State House interim study examines restructuring criminal justice system

Humphrey Examines Restructuring Criminal Justice System

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, today held an interim study to detail his ideas on restructuring the state's entire criminal justice system.

IS23-025 was heard by the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, which Humphrey chairs.

"We believe the criminal justice system in Oklahoma is broken and that what we are doing as legislators is simply putting Band-aids on the system," Humphrey said. "This isn't going to work. We need a new system, one that actually changes criminal behavior and reduces our prison population while keeping our people safe."

Monday, October 23, 2023

Lankford calls on Biden admin to reverse “Don’t Say Dad” rule

Lankford Calls on Biden Admin to Reverse “Don’t Say Dad” Rule

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and their colleagues sent a letter to address the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recently proposed rule that would eliminate “gender-specific” words like “paternity,” “mother,” and “father” from federal regulations guiding the Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program. The letter urges President Joe Biden to rescind this “Don’t Say Dad” rule and to stop attempting to erase biological sex from federal law. 

State Senate committee studies solutions to reverse state's turkey population decline

Senate committee looks for ways to increase state’s turkey population

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Tourism and Wildlife Committee heard from wildlife experts Monday about why Oklahoma has seen a significant decline it its turkey population. Sen. Blake “Cowboy” Stephens, R-Tahlequah, requested the study to find possible legislative solutions to increase their numbers.

“As someone who grew up hunting in rural Oklahoma, I’m extremely concerned and saddened by the disturbing drop we’ve seen in our state’s turkey population in recent years,” Stephens said. “We have a legislative and moral responsibility to protect not only our state lands, but the species that inhabit them, including the wild turkey.  I appreciate the recommendations we received from our state’s wildlife experts and am looking forward to working with my colleagues to help better protect the majestic thunder chicken as it is fondly referred to.”

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Small: Anti-ESG law having impact

Anti-ESG law having impact
By Jonathan Small

In recent years, state lawmakers voted to prevent state funds from being invested by entities that boycott energy production through “Environmental Social Governance” (ESG) policies.

The goal was two-fold. First, the law would keep Oklahoma taxpayer money from being used to harm the overall state economy, which remains heavily dependent on oil-and-gas production. Second, it would maximize the return on state pension fund investments, benefitting retirees.

Republican Troy Golden throws hat in ring for HD22

The 2024 primary will be here before you know it. Here's an announcement from a candidate in Oklahoma State House District 22:

Conservative Republican Troy Golden Announces Candidacy For
Open State Representative Seat - House District 22

October 17, 2023 – Conservative Republican Troy Golden announces his candidacy to serve Oklahomans living in Johnston, Murray, Atoka, and part of Coal County that comprise Oklahoma House District 22. 

While the Republican primary election takes place next June 18, 2024, Troy’s campaign is well underway, working to earn votes in this open seat election. The seat is open due to current House Speaker Charles McCall reaching the years of service legal limit, which requires the seat to be vacated.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Walters touts benefits of 'Back to Basics' plan at Woodward Tech Facility

Walters Touts Benefits of Back to Basics Plan at Woodward Tech Facility
TAP Program Starts Kids on Technology Early

Woodward, Okla (October 18th) – State Superintendent Ryan Walters toured the High Plains Technology Center (HPTC) in Woodward today, met with local civic leaders, and continued to tout the benefits of his Back to Basics plan. 

“The Technical Applications Program is forging new ground with a partnership between our schools and the business community,” said Walters. “Right here in Woodward, students are starting early in developing the technical skills they need to be successful adults. Our schools have focused too much on social experimentation and woke indoctrination and not enough on forging healthy, productive adults.”

Lankford: national security risk with Iranians on terror watch list crossing border

Lankford Raises National Security Concerns Over Iranians Illegally Crossing Southern Border 

WASHINGTON, DC (October 17th) – Senator James Lankford (R-OK), lead Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, shared a video to continue to draw attention to the national security crisis at our southern border with Iranians on the terror watch list who are entering the US illegally.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Small: A-to-F grades provide transparency. Some school officials want to toss them.

A-F grades provide transparency
By Jonathan Small

A-to-F letter grades are a longstanding way of signifying academic achievement. That’s why some school officials now fight to get rid of grades for both students and schools.

In 2011, Oklahoma lawmakers voted to assign A-to-F grades to schools to give parents some indication of school performance and allow comparison with other districts. Ever since, status-quo defenders have sought to eliminate the transparency measure.

During a recent study, Bixby Public Schools Superintendent Rob Miller called for lawmakers to eliminate school grades. When asked why A-F grades are bad for schools if they are okay for students, Miller responded: “We are moving away from A-to-F grades as quickly as we possibly can,” but admitted Bixby still gives elementary students “a final grade, simply because our parents ask for it.”

Monday, October 16, 2023

AFP comments on OK Tax Commission's proposed rules for Parent Choice Tax Credit Act

With the passage of HB 1934 and signing by Gov. Stitt, landmark 'school choice' legislation is now law in Oklahoma, providing tax credits of $5,000-$7,500 for private school students (depending on household income) and $1,000 tax credits for homeschool students (with a cap of $5,000,000, or 5,000 students for now, though estimates put the Oklahoma homeschool student population from a low of 25,000 to 120,000 on the high end). 

A relatively little-known aspect of law and government is that state and federal agencies must develop and publish rules to put most legislation into effect. Typically, there is a public comment period for citizens to have some input on the impact of proposed rules before the rules are finalized (and in some cases sent to the legislative branch for approval).

John Tidwell, State Director for Americans for Prosperity Oklahoma (which advocated very heavily for the bill), submitted the following letter during public comment on the proposed rules put forth by the Oklahoma Tax Commission:

Friday, October 13, 2023

OSDE: First wave of teachers receive $7.5M in new signing bonuses

From the Oklahoma State Department of Education:

Teachers Received $7.5 Million in New Teacher Signing Bonuses
Most Successful Teacher Recruitment Effort in OSDE History 

Oklahoma City, Okla (Oct. 12th) – The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) announced that the first wave of teachers eligible to receive the Oklahoma Teachers Signing Bonus will begin receiving payments today. Teachers from 200 districts across the state of Oklahoma will receive signing bonuses. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Dusty Deevers wins SD32 GOP primary, advances to December general election

The primary for the Senate District 32 special election was held this evening, with Republican and Democratic voters chosing their respective nominees to face off in the December 12th general election.

In a tight - and contentious - four-way GOP primary, Elgin pastor Dusty Deevers emerged triumphant, leading the field by 6.3% with just over 37% of the vote. Deevers will be a fantastic conservative addition to the State Senate, assuming he continues on to win the general election.

Hern backs out of House Speaker race, Brecheen picks Jordan

With the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican conference is in the midst of a multi-way race for the next Speaker. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) were early names, while Oklahoma's 1st District Congressman Kevin Hern openly considered joining the race. In the past 48 hours, there have even been rumors that some members may seek to renominate McCarthy for the position. Earlier this week, Hern officially declined to put his hat in the ring, while 2nd District Congressman Josh Brecheen endorsed Jim Jordan:

Federal judge upholds Oklahoma's ban on gender transition procedures for minors

A federal judge for the District of Northern Oklahoma has upheld Senate Bill 613, a measure passed during the 2023 legislative session that bans "gender transition" procedures for children under 18 years of age. Pat McGuigan at the Oklahoma City Sentinel has more on the story here; below are comments from Gov. Kevin Stitt, State Sen. David Bullard, and State Rep. Kevin West.

OK State Dep't of Education touts success of teacher signing bonus program

Here's some positive news from State Superintendent Ryan Walter's brief tenure that is getting overlooked:

OSDE Speaks to States About Success of Teacher Signing Bonus Program

Oklahoma City, Okla – The Oklahoma State Department of Education spoke today to representatives from across the nation on the success of Superintendent Walters’ first of its kind Teacher Signing Bonus program. This program is the gold standard for innovation, problem-solving, and solution-oriented approaches to address the teacher shortage nationally.

The Teacher Signing Bonus has far exceeded expectations, and the program recruited over 530 certified teachers who did not teach in an Oklahoma public school in the previous year. In combination with the across-the-board teacher pay raises and the Oklahoma Teacher Empowerment Program, this marks the beginning of a more aggressive approach to address Oklahoma’s growing teacher shortage.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Conservative senators lament Senate's abrupt killing of Stitt's tax-cut special session

Despite being the most conservative governor Oklahoma has likely ever seen, the Republican leadership in the State Senate has pretty much decided to oppose most of Gov. Kevin Stitt's policy proposals. Given that much of what Stitt has pushed for are ideas that candidates like Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat have campaigned on in the past, it seems to primarily be a battle of egos and political futures.

With state coffers flush with taxpayer money, Governor Stitt had the audacity to suggest that the Legislature do something to give taxpayers a break and stop seizing so much of their money. On Tuesday, without so much as taking the slightest move towards considering anything in Gov. Stitt's special-session call, Pro Tem Treat moved to adjourn the Senate 'sine die', thus effectively ending the special session a handful of hours after it began.

So far, at least four conservative GOP senators have spoken out in disappointment at the move, and the Senate's failure to provide tax relief for Oklahomans. Read on for comments from State Sens. Warren Hamilton, Cody Rogers, Blake Stephens, and Rob Standridge (in order from first received to most recent):

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Poll: Oklahomans oppose race-based tax exemptions

Poll: Oklahomans oppose race-based tax exemptions

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 2, 2023) — A new poll shows Oklahomans strongly oppose exempting individuals from paying state income tax based on their status as a member of a Native American tribe.

According to the survey, conducted by WPA Intelligence (WPAi) on behalf of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), 63% of voters agree that members of Native American tribes in Oklahoma should be subject to the same tax laws as all other citizens in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Small: Great opportunity for tax cuts

Great opportunity for tax cuts
By Jonathan Small

For both moral and fiscal reasons, the time is right to cut Oklahoma’s personal income tax.

The moral case is easy to make. Due to rampant inflation during the Biden presidency, families have steadily lost ground. Tax cuts will allow Oklahoma families to keep more of their earnings and help fill the hole.

Chairman Dahm: 'OKGOP stands by Governor Stitt in his pursuit to cut taxes'

OKGOP Chairman and State Sen. Nathan Dahm

Chairman Dahm: OKGOP stands by Governor Stitt in his pursuit to cut taxes

Oklahoma City, OK (October 02, 2023) - The Oklahoma State Republican Party Chairman released the following statement of support today for Governor Kevin Stitt’s conservative agenda ahead of the upcoming special legislative session:

Humphrey bill would remove sales tax on motor vehicle purchases

Humphrey Bill Would Remove Sales Tax on Motor Vehicle Purchases

OKLAHOMA CITY (Oct. 2nd) – Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, has filed a bill for the upcoming special session that would remove the 1.25% sales tax on motor vehicle purchases.

The move would leave in place the 3.25% excise tax paid on such purchases.

"We've effectively been double taxing Oklahomans who buy a motor vehicle," Humphrey said. "With the governor's special session call to consider tax cuts, this should be an easy one to consider."

Special Session: House Dems seek grocery tax end, expand EITC and low-income sales tax credits

House Democrats File Special Session Tax Relief Bills For Working Families

OKLAHOMA CITY – Today House Democrats announced three bills their caucus has filed for the upcoming special session that provide tax relief to everyday Oklahomans.

“The Governor called this special session to find ways to provide tax relief to Oklahomans and we are putting forth our measures that will do that for working families, not just the wealthy few,”  said House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City.

Monday, October 02, 2023

Walters pushes new literacy effort, declares this week "Teach Kids to Read Week"

Image by pressfoto on Freepik

OSDE Declares “Teach Kids to Read” Week

Oklahoma City, Okla. (October 2nd) – In conjunction with Moms for Liberty, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) has declared this week “Teach Kids to Read Week” in the State of Oklahoma.

Brecheen explains why he voted against 'swampy, status-quo Continuing Resolution'

I'm a little behind, but here's 2nd District Congressman Josh Brecheen explaining why he voted against the 'continuing resolution' government funding measure (the only other member of Oklahoma's congressional delegation to oppose the latest kick-the-can spending bill was 1st District Congressman Kevin Hern).

Congressman Josh Brecheen Votes Against Swampy, Status Quo Continuing Resolution (CR)

Washington, D.C. (September 30th) – Today, Congressman Josh Brecheen voted against H.R. 5860 - Continuing Appropriations Act, 2024 and Other Extensions Act.

“We should not be funding the government at current levels when our national debt is more than $33 trillion and the average family of four is spending $1,200 more a month to buy the exact same goods and services. If we are going to fund the government, we need meaningful cuts to spending and we need to secure our border,” said Congressman Josh Brecheen.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Rep. Brecheen postpones October town halls due to House session schedule

Congressman Josh Brecheen Postpones October In-Person Town Halls
Washington, D.C. (October 1st) – The office of Congressman Josh Brecheen notifies constituents that the in-person town hall meetings scheduled for Monday, October 2nd, Tuesday, October 3rd, and Wednesday, October 4th have been postponed due to legislative business in Washington, as the House of Representatives will now be in session this week.