Wednesday, January 31, 2024

State Auditor finds financial mismanagement in City of Wynnewood forensic audit

State Auditor Cindy Byrd


OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (January 30, 2024) - Oklahoma State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd today released her forensic audit report for the City of Wynnewood. This audit was requested by a citizen petition asking the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office (SA&I) to look into several areas of concern occurring between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2021.  

Among the findings of interest are a general lack of diligence regarding the commingling of sales tax money earmarked for specific purposes. A total of $696,731.92 from the Arbuckle Master Conservancy District was inappropriately transferred to the city’s utility bank accounts.

State Rep. Banning files bill to move school-board elections to legislative election cycle

Banning Files Bill to Move School-Board Elections

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Chris Banning, R-Bixby, has filed legislation seeking to change the date of school board elections in Oklahoma.

House Bill 3563 would place school board members on the same cycle as House and Senate elections. It would also move three-year terms to two-year terms and five-year terms to four-year terms.

"Over the last decade, legislation similar to House Bill 3563 has been proposed," Banning said. "This bill differs from others because of its simplified structure. The goal here is to consolidate elections to save taxpayers' money and increase voter turnout."

OKGOP turmoil over State Committee meeting legitimacy, Lankford criticism

There is another divide going on in the Oklahoma Republican Party, again centered around the leading figures in the party: State Chair (and State Senator) Nathan Dahm, and State Vice Chair Wayne Hill. I'm a little out of the loop, this latest spat appears to center around a canceled State Committee meeting, followed by a new meeting called under a rarely-used party rule (Hill's version here).

Gov. Stitt announces final recommendations from AI task force


OKLAHOMA CITY (January 22, 2024) - Today, Gov. Kevin Stitt released the final recommendations from his task force on artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies. Created to establish Oklahoma as the top state for responsible and proactive AI implementation, the task force laid out strategies and goals to make government more efficient and prepare the workforce for tomorrow's economy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Small: Proposed commutation rules unwise

Proposed commutation rules unwise
By Jonathan Small

Oklahoma law allows individuals convicted of crimes to seek a commutation, which changes their sentence to one less severe, in situations where officials determine an unjust or excessive sentence has been handed down.

For example, after Oklahoma voters chose to lower the penalties for certain property crimes a few years ago, individuals previously convicted of those same crimes for the prior longer sentences were able to seek commutations.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Brecheen reschedules telephone town hall to February 6th

NEW DATE: Congressman Josh Brecheen Reschedules Telephone Town Hall to February 6th at 7 PM CT

Washington, D.C. (January 29th) – The Office of Congressman Josh Brecheen announced today that the telephone town hall originally scheduled for January 30th has been moved to Tuesday, February 6th at 7 PM CT.

The change in schedule is due to tomorrow’s House Homeland Security Committee markup of impeachment articles against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, which is expected to go late into the night.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Gov. Stitt snaps back as Pro Tem Treat says Senate won't act on his tax cut special session

Another year, another special session for possible tax cuts, another spat between pro-tax-cut Governor Stitt and tax-cut-hesitant Senate Pro Tem Treat. Treat won't take action on tax cuts in special session, to which Gov. Stitt snaps back:

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Small: Time for income tax cuts for working families, small businesses

Time for income tax cuts for working families, small businesses

OKLAHOMA CITY (January 25, 2024)— Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs President Jonathan Small today urged lawmakers to cut Oklahoma’s personal income tax to help struggling families and encourage job growth.

State Senators file legislation to limit virtual school days

Senators file legislation to limit virtual school days

OKLAHOMA CITY (January 23rd) –Sen. Kristen Thompson, R-Edmond, and Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, have filed legislation to limit virtual instruction in Oklahoma’s public schools. Under Senate Bill 1768, instruction would only take place virtually in the event of inclement weather, staff shortages caused by illness, building maintenance issues, or if found necessary by school administrators.

MAPS: Oklahoma voter registration changes, 2023 to 2024

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.

In this post, I have graphics showing registration leader by county, majority/plurality by county, and registration swing by county. We'll look at some additional data in another post. Take a look, and share with your friends:

Monday, January 22, 2024

State Rep. Humphrey responds to critics of gang legislation, pledges update of bill

Humphrey Responds on Gang Legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 19th) – Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, today responded to critics of legislation he filed that targets Hispanic gang members in an attempt to protect Oklahomans from illegal activity by Mexican and other drug cartels that have brought fentanyl and other illegal drugs into the state and that perpetuate other illegal activity such as sex and labor trafficking.

House Bill 3133, as it is currently worded, states that any person who is of Hispanic descent living within the state of Oklahoma; is a member of a criminal street gang as such term is defined in state statutes; and has been convicted of a gang-related offense enumerated in state statute shall be deemed to have committed an act of terrorism and will be subject to property forfeiture.

Humphrey said he hadn't considered the language offensive, but after consulting with others, he intends to change the measure to read something along the lines of anyone involved in a transnational criminal organization that includes documented and known gang affiliation.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Allie Friesen tapped as new commissioner for Dep't of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services


OKLAHOMA CITY (January 19, 2024) - Today, Governor Kevin Stitt announced Allie Friesen as the new commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS).

"Allie has been on the frontlines of helping families struggling with mental health disorders for over a decade, and I’m glad to have her on the team," Governor Stitt said. "ODMHSAS serves as an intersection of outreach, advocacy, and lifechanging restoration, and Allie will be the best person to promote our mission of wellness and recovery in Oklahoma."

Small: State should not penalize parents

State should not penalize parents
By Jonathan Small

Oklahoma, like most states, has a compulsory education law. If you don’t homeschool or send your child to a private school, you are required to enroll your child in a public school. Failure to do so means you can face fines and up to 15 days imprisonment on a third offense.

But if parents enroll their child in the “wrong” public school, they can face up to one year in jail.

Put simply, the potential consequences for neglecting a child’s education are far less severe than the consequences for trying to get your child in a safer public school with a better academic atmosphere.

Fortunately, one lawmaker wants to put an end to that mixed message.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

RINO Labor Commissioner Osborn touts transgenderism, abortion

Ray Carter | January 12, 2024

A Republican women’s organization is calling on Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn to switch parties and officially become a Democrat due to Osborn’s participation in a group that touts transgenderism and abortion to youth.

For several years, Osborn has openly opposed the policy goals of Republicans on everything from tax cuts to protecting children, and she has even called on voters to oust Republican lawmakers.

In a recent press release regarding Osborn’s activities, members of the Oklahoma City Republican Women’s Club declared, “We are asking her to change her party affiliation as her current actions and apparent values to the protection of children and families are contrary to the principles of the Republican Party.”

Until recently, Osborn was a member of, and one of six officers on, the board of directors for Honestly, an Oklahoma City organization focused on “youth sexual health.”

The organization’s website declares that a “lot of young people have sex” and that in Oklahoma County “it happens a lot sooner than you’d think.” The group’s website does not appear to include any material that encourages children and teens to delay sexual activity until the age of maturity.

Annual voter registration report reveals steady growth

Annual Voter Registration Report Reveals Steady Growth

(Oklahoma City) – The Oklahoma State Election Board has released its annual voter registration report showing 2,301,188 registered voters in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s official voter registration statistics are counted every year on January 15.

According to Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax, the largest number of Oklahoma's voters are Republicans, who make up 51.7% of registered voters. Democrats are the second-largest party with 28.4% of registered voters.

State Auditor Byrd finds $137k misappropriated by Payne County Sheriff's office employee


OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (January 18, 2024) - Oklahoma State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd today released her forensic audit report for the Payne County Sheriff’s Office. The Payne County Board of County Commissioners requested the State Auditor & Inspector’s Office (SA&I) to investigate the financial activity of a Sheriff’s Office employee.

The audit report reveals that, between 2010 and 2022, Administrative Assistant Linda Farley was responsible for a total of $137,698.52 in misappropriated and questioned expenditures. Farley is accused of misappropriating $82,176.54 by using a Sheriff’s Office credit card and submitting altered and/or fabricated invoices for payment.

State Sen. Hamilton files bill to require schools report library inventory to OSDE annually

Hamilton files bill to require schools to list all available library materials

OKLAHOMA CITY (January 16th) – Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, filed legislation to ensure public and charter school libraries are free from inappropriate materials. Senate Bill 1208 would require each public school district and charter school to submit an inventory of their library materials to the State Department of Education each year.

Cong. Brecheen schedules telephone town hall for Jan. 30th

Congressman Josh Brecheen To Host First Telephone Town Hall of 2024 on January 30th at 7 PM CT

Washington, D.C. (January 17th) – Congressman Josh Brecheen will be hosting a telephone town hall on January 30th at 7:00pm CT.

During the call, Congressman Brecheen will provide an update on some of the most pressing policy issues facing our country, including our more than $34 trillion national debt, and answer live questions from constituents.

Friday, January 19, 2024

State Rep. Rick West bill would require OSSAA to accept cash at games

Rick West Bill Would Require OSSAA to Accept Cash at Games

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 9th) – Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener, recently filed legislation that would require an organization such as the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) to accept cash for admittance to sporting events or any other activity where payment is required.

OCPA praises effort to ban ranked-choice voting

OCPA praises effort to ban ranked-choice voting

OKLAHOMA CITY (January 19, 2024)—Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs President Jonathan Small today praised lawmakers for seeking to ban ranked-choice voting in Oklahoma, noting that ranked-choice voting undermines public confidence in election outcomes and reduces transparency.

“Everywhere that ranked-choice voting has been tried, it has caused enormous problems,” Small said. “With ranked-choice voting, hand recounts become impossible, election results may not be known for weeks, and ballots become increasingly lengthy and confusing. Oklahoma already has one of the best, and most transparent, election systems in the nation. We don’t need to ‘fix’ our system, especially not with a half-baked idea like ranked-choice voting.”

Legislature completes bill filing for 2024 session

The Oklahoma Legislature bill filing deadline* has passed, and for once, after a new record last year, the pile of paper has lessened somewhat. The last time fewer new bills were filed was in 2018. Even-numbered years, being the second half of each two-year legislative term, tend to have fewer measures filed than the first [odd-numbered] year of the term. 

2024: 2,077
2023: 3,079
2022: 2,299
2021: 3,049
2020: 2,240
2019: 2,815
2018: 1,954
2017: 2,242

Read on for the press releases from the House and Senate.

OCPA column: Goals for 2024

Goals for 2024
By Jonathan Small

Just as citizens make new year’s resolutions, policymakers should also set goals for the next 12 months. With the 2024 session beginning in roughly one month, this is a perfect time for lawmakers to take that step.

First up: reforming Oklahoma’s judicial-selection process. Instead of allowing the executive branch to nominate judges and requiring legislative approval for confirmation—the system installed by our nation’s founding fathers at the federal level—Oklahoma uses a 15-member Judicial Nominating Commission that operates in secret to select judicial nominees.

State Senate's GOP head joins Dem leaders in calling Gov. Stitt's tax cut special session a "waste, "stunt"

It's not often that the Republican Senate Pro Tem and the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate speak from the same playbook, but it seems they do when it comes to dealing with Gov. Stitt's insistence that Oklahoma taxpayers get a break:

Gov. Stitt appoints Shelley Zumwalt as Secretary of Tourism


OKLAHOMA CITY (January 16, 2024) - Today, Governor Kevin Stitt named Shelley Zumwalt as Oklahoma Secretary of Tourism following a historic year for Oklahoma's tourism industry.

"Shelley Zumwalt has proven herself to be a tourism powerhouse and a compelling ambassador for Oklahoma," said Governor Stitt. "After seeing the historic numbers from last year, I've never been more excited for the future of Oklahoma's tourism industry -- and that means having Shelley at the helm."

State Rep. Rick West files bill to protect privacy of homemade food producers

Rick West Bill Would Protect Privacy of Homemade Food Producers

OKLAHOMA CITY(Jan. 16th)  – Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener, has filed legislation that would amend the Homemade Food Freedom Act to protect the private information of producers.

House Bill 2975 would  allow producers of homemade food products to obtain a registration number to affix to their product labels instead of the current requirement that they list their name, phone number and the physical address where the food is produced on all products sold. The $15 registration fee would be voluntary.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Gov. Stitt calls special session for personal income tax cut

Gov. Stitt is giving the Legislature another shot at passing a personal income tax. Previously, the House has supported the idea, but the Senate has not. Maybe this time will be different?


OKLAHOMA CITY (January 16, 2024) - Today, Governor Kevin Stitt called for a special session of Oklahoma’s 59th Legislature beginning January 29, 2024, to seek a .25% reduction in the personal income tax for every Oklahoman.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Stardust Power picks Muskogee for nation's largest battery-grade lithium refinery, $1B+ investment

Big news for Muskogee:

Rendering of new plant, courtesy of Stardust Power


GREENWICH, Conn., and TULSA, Okla., January 11, 2024 – Stardust Power Inc. (“Stardust Power” or the “Company”), a development stage American manufacturer of battery-grade lithium products, announced today that it has selected Southside Industrial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma to build a new battery-grade lithium refinery, and is expected to be eligible to receive up to $257 million in state and federal economic incentives for the facility build-out. The Company may also be eligible for further federal grants and or incentives offered by the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense.

Stardust Power selected Muskogee, Oklahoma for its central refinery because of Oklahoma’s central U.S. location, facilitating delivery of lithium inputs and shipment of battery-grade lithium products over multiple transportation routes to support the Company’s refining operations. The area’s superior intermodal freight transport options as well as a highly skilled workforce trained in oil and gas engineering were other key factors. Additionally, Oklahoma is recognized as an emerging national leader in sustainable power, including solar and wind, supporting Stardust Power’s commitment to limit its carbon footprint.

Friday, January 12, 2024

OCPA calls for state investigation of OU student fee use

OCPA calls for state investigation of OU student fee use

OKLAHOMA CITY (January 10, 2024) — Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs President Jonathan Small today called on state lawmakers to launch an investigation into the University of Oklahoma’s use of mandatory student fees following a recent report indicating student fees were wasted placing women’s menstrual products in men’s bathrooms on campus.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Sen. Seifried aims to create pilot program to limit student phone usage in schools

Sen. Seifried files legislation to create pilot program to limit student phone usage in schools

OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Ally Seifried, R-Claremore, has filed legislation creating a pilot program to allow Oklahoma public schools to create phone-free school sites. Senate Bill 1321 would provide grant-style funding for up to nine middle or high schools to cover the costs associated for sites going cellphone free for the duration of the school day.

Seifried said the goal of the program was to remove distractions for students in order to increase educational outcomes, in addition to, limiting the damaging effects of cellphone use on students’ mental health and wellbeing.

AG Drummond to testify before House committee in impeachment hearing against Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas

Drummond to testify before U.S. House committee in impeachment proceedings against Biden’s Homeland Security Secretary

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 8, 2024) - Attorney General Gentner Drummond will testify Wednesday to the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee as part of that panel’s impeachment proceedings against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The action comes in the wake of Mayorkas’ failure to secure the nation’s southwest border. 

Drummond was invited to testify due to his focus of ridding Oklahoma of the foreign nationals who have invaded the marijuana industry. He is expected to tell committee members how the recent influx of illegal immigrants into the U.S. has allowed criminal enterprises, primarily populated by Mexican and Chinese nationals, to jeopardize public safety through drug trafficking and other crimes. 

HERO: Rep. Gann files bill to protect Oklahomans from Orwellian tax-by-the-mile plan

For some background, read this article from ('Oklahoma task force recommends implementing per-mile road tax'). ODOT, at the direction of a task force formed by the legislature in 2021, is wanting to charge Oklahomans per mile driven as opposed to by fuel tax at the pump.

This would be a "voluntary program" to start... like every government program ever. Miles would be submitted manually by participants... or via a government tracking device on your vehicle. Nothing could ever go wrong with that, right?

Enter State Rep. Tom Gann, taxpayer defender extraordinaire:

Gann Files Bill to Protect Oklahomans from Overreaching 'Road User Charge' Plan

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 9th) – Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola, has filed what he called "a pivotal bill aimed at safeguarding Oklahomans' freedom and privacy."

House Bill 2970 comes in response to what Gann termed are growing concerns over the Oklahoma Road User Charge (RUC) Task Force's controversial "Road User Charge" proposal.

State Rep. Jim Olsen files bill to display Ten Commandments in public school classrooms

Olsen Files Bill to Display Ten Commandments in Public School Classrooms

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 2nd) – Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, has filed legislation to require the Ten Commandments be displayed in all public school classrooms.

House Bill 2962, filed Friday, would require each classroom to clearly display a poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments, measuring at least 16 inches wide and 20 inches tall, beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. The bill also outlines the specific text to be used for the display.

Monday, January 08, 2024

State receives first made-in-Oklahoma electric vehicles from Canoo

Move out of the way, Slug Bug, the Roly-Poly is coming through:

State receives first made-in-Oklahoma electric vehicles from Canoo

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (Dec. 29, 2023) – Today, the State of Oklahoma received its first three made-in-Oklahoma electric vehicles from Canoo as an innovative part of the state’s ongoing fleet modernization initiative. At a combined cost of $119,850, these three Lifestyle Delivery Vehicles (LDVs) are the first of their kind in the state fleet, with one each assigned to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Corrections.

Small: 'Land acknowledgements' a farce

Land acknowledgements a farce
By Jonathan Small

In the performance-over-substance world of the political left, “land acknowledgements” have become a ritual at many public meetings. Those acknowledgements, which note the land on which an event takes place was once controlled by various Native American tribes, are a farce. Otherwise, those spouting the acknowledgement would do more than talk.

But they don’t—including at many Oklahoma locations.