Tuesday August 22, 2017

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Whatzup Politics
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By Rep. Rick West   The Oklahoma Supreme Court
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  OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener,
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Whatzup Politics

Whatzup Politics (1088)

OKLAHOMA CITY – According to Mike Hunter, Oklahoma Attorney General,  Hunter joined a bi-partisan coalition of 49 attorneys general urging Congress to affirm that all law-enforcement agencies retain their traditional authority to fight sex trafficking.

In a letter to Congress, the attorneys general ask representatives to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to clarify that states, localities and territories retain authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of child sex trafficking wherever they operate, including online through websites like

“Sex trafficking is a horrific crime that often preys upon the most vulnerable citizens,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Amending the CDA gives courts clarity and expands the ability of all law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute those who participate in the sex trade. Anything we can do to stop this heinous act needs to be a priority.”

The intention of the CDA is to protect children from indecent material online. It was never was intended to place facilitators of child sex trafficking outside the reach of law enforcement. However, according to the attorneys general, the CDA is being used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children.

In part, the letter reads – “federal enforcement alone has proved insufficient to stem the growth in online promotion of child sex trafficking. Those on the front lines of the battle against the sexual exploitation of children – state and local law enforcement – must have clear authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of these and other horrible crimes.”

In some cases, courts have interpreted certain provisions of the CDA to provide immunity from state prosecution to online classified ad sites, such as, that promote and profit from human trafficking.

“It is both ironic and tragic that the CDA, which was intended to protect children from indecent material on the Internet, is now used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children,” the attorneys general wrote.

In addition to Oklahoma, the following states and territories signed the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

By Rep. Rick West


I’ve written before about the great people in LeFlore County, about how we band together and lift our community up time and time again. On Aug. 12, I had the privilege of attending Gordon’s Youth Foundation’s annual scholarship dinner and fundraiser, where I watched two students receive scholarship money to attend college.


Roy Gordon founded his Youth Foundation in 2007, and if you’ve ever met Roy, it’s no surprise that he is passionate about young people and education. Roy is the cream of the crop here in LeFlore County. He served our country bravely for 20 years as a Sgt. First Class in the U.S. Army, both on active and reserve duty. He also worked faithfully for Whirlpool for 37 years.


You just don’t see that kind of commitment all that often anymore. Roy has taken his unmatched commitment and he’s gone further – he’s financially committing to these economically disadvantaged kids that may not be able to attend scholarship without financial aid. And with the community’s support, he’s helped many kids achieve their goals of obtaining college degrees.


Former Oklahoma Sooner running back Marcus Dupree spoke at the event, encouraging students and reminding them that they can attain their goals if they just stick with them. The scholarship dinner gave us all an opportunity to remember that the future really does lie in the hands of our youth. And if that evening was any glimpse of what the future of LeFlore County will be, we have bright days ahead of us.


This upcoming weekend will reinforce those same feelings, I’m sure. The sixth Dr. John Montgomery Scholarship Banquet in Poteau is Saturday, and I am certain the community will show up in force again. LeFlore County lost a legend when Montgomery died in 2014, but he’s left his mark in a big way.

Seven high school students from the area will receive scholarships at this weekend’s event, and we have Dr. Montgomery to thank for that. During his life, he helped organize the local NAACP chapter and acted as a mentor for young veterinarians in our community. He invested in LeFlore County throughout his life, and he continues to do so after his death.


Dr. Montgomery and Mr. Gordon should serve as role models for all of us. Their honorable actions have bettered our community in a tangible way. They saw the value of our young people, and they took steps to invest in those kids so they could have a promising future. What an honor it is for LeFlore County to be the home of these two great men.


As always, I’m around if you need me. You can call the office at 405-557-7413 or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Thank you, and God bless you and our children.



OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced the appointment of Maxey Reilly as associate district judge for Okfuskee County.
Reilly’s appointment is effective immediately. She replaces David N. Martin who retired.

Reilly, of Okemah, is an attorney with the Stinnett Law firm in Okemah. Before that she worked 10 years as an assistant district attorney for Creek and Okfuskee counties, primarily serving the Okemah office. She was very active in starting Okfuskee County’s drug court. She handled felony, misdemeanor, traffic, drug court, forfeiture, juvenile delinquent and juvenile deprived cases.
In 2008, she was named the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s law enforcement agent of the year. Bikers against Child Abuse named her prosecutor of the year in 2014.

“Maxey Reilly will serve the residents of Okfuskee County well,” said Fallin. “She has an exceptional knowledge of the law, and has the acumen and temperament necessary to be a successful judge.”

Reilly earned a bachelor’s degree and a juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma.

She has served as president of the Okemah Chamber of Commerce, and has served on the local PTA. She has organized community events and has performed volunteer work.

“I want to use my knowledge and experience to positively impact as many people as possible,” Reilly said. “I appreciate Governor Fallin’s confidence in me, and am extremely honored to serve the people of Okfuskee County as associate district judge.”


Press Release

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Office of Management and Enterprise Services has approved premium rates for health, dental, life, disability and vision insurance plans to be offered to state, education and many local government employees, retirees and dependents for 2018.

The rates were recommended by the Oklahoma Employees Insurance and Benefits Board and approved by OMES Director Preston L. Doerflinger.
The rates presented at Thursday’s board meeting included increases of roughly 3.5 to 8 percent for HealthChoice health plans. HealthChoice is the state’s self-funded insurance plan administered by OMES.

HealthChoice High plans had an adjustment average of 4.05 percent, less than half of the 8.4 percent increase seen last year. The good news for retirees is that premiums for HealthChoice Medicare Supplement plans will remain the same as 2017.

“We’ve worked really hard to keep the HealthChoice rates as low as they can be for public employees,” said OMES Employees Group Insurance Division Administrator Frank Wilson. “Through various cost-containment initiatives, we’ve been able to hold rate increases well below what we’re seeing with other health plans around the country.”

HealthChoice Basic plans premiums will increase an average of 7.7 percent in 2018, and HealthChoice HDHP plans premiums will increase an average of 7.83 percent. The HealthChoice Dental plan will see an average increase of 13.75 percent, but premiums for HealthChoice Life and HealthChoice Disability plans will remain the same.

In addition to HealthChoice, three other health maintenance organizations will remain as options: Aetna, CommunityCare and GlobalHealth.

For primary current employee members, Aetna will offer a monthly premium of $675.62, an 18 percent increase over last year; CommunityCare will offer a premium of $882.30, a 3.7 percent increase; and GlobalHealth will offer a premium of $593.36, a 12 percent increase. There will also be four commercial dental vendors offering 10 plans in addition to HealthChoice Dental. There will be four vision carriers.

“We always look at how this impacts all members of a plan,” OEIBB Chairman Jimmy Williams said. “It’s not just a number we come up with. We also look at the impact it has on families. I assure you, this process is not taken lightly at all.”

The approved rates for all health, dental, life, disability and vision insurance plans will take effect Jan. 1, 2018, and can be viewed at



Press Release

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today said the Legislature must return in special session to deal with the $215 million shortfall caused by a proposed smoking cessation fee being struck down.

“No money can be spent from any state fund unless the Legislature specifically appropriates it,” said Fallin. "Let's be clear. The director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) does not have the authority to transfer monies to the affected agencies from different sources without legislation directing him to do so.”

Article 5, Section 55 of the Oklahoma Constitution states that no money shall be paid out of the state treasury, except through an appropriation by law.
Fallin said state law (Title 62, Section 34.55) allows the director of OMES to borrow money from treasury funds to satisfy monthly allocations of appropriations made from the General Revenue Fund, but the appropriation has to be made by the Legislature.

The three agencies that received the bulk of the money from the proposed cessation fee are the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (DMHSAS), and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA).

DMHSAS would have received $75 million (about 23 percent of its total appropriation), OHCA would have received $70 million (about 7 percent of its total appropriation), and DHS would have received $69 million (about 10 percent of its total appropriation).

Without legislative intervention, DMHSAS said it would run out of state appropriations in November. OHCA said it would run out of state funds in January and DHS said it would out of state funds in May.

The funding shortfall is the result of the Oklahoma Supreme Court last week striking down a smoking cessation fee approved this past legislative session.
Fallin said she and her staff have been discussing options with legislative leaders of both parties.

“A special session is the best option,” the governor said. “Failure to meet in special session would mean $215 million would be cut mostly from these three state agencies. These agencies and the people they serve cannot sustain the kind of cuts that will occur if we do not find a solution.”



Press Release


OKLAHOMA CITY (16 August 2017) -- Oil companies facing litigation over earthquakes blamed on wastewater disposal wells will “use every legal tactic at their disposal to delay, delay, delay,” a former state legislator said Wednesday.

Richard Morrissette, an Oklahoma City attorney, made that assertion after a hearing Tuesday in Cleveland County District Court in the case of a Lincoln County couple who sued two oil companies in 2014 over damages and injuries alleged to have occurred during the magnitude-5.7 Prague earthquake in 2011.
“Collectively, these oil companies have deep pockets, so they can afford the legal fees,” Morrissette said.

Scientific research has linked the rash of earthquakes that have shaken Oklahomans in the past eight years to an ocean of saltwater from oil/gas development that has been injected deep underground under high pressure into thousands of disposal wells throughout the state, Morrissette noted.

Most recently, a pair of magnitude-3.1 tremors struck Tuesday night along the Oklahoma-Kansas state line.

Earlier this month, a magnitude-4.2 earthquake struck Edmond the night of Aug. 2, knocking out electric power to 1,900 residents. It was the sixth tremor logged in that area in three days, including a 3.6m ‘quake almost 24 hours before, records indicate.

Less than a month before, eight earthquakes were logged between Cushing and Stroud during a five-day period, July 14-18; those temblors ranged in magnitude from 4.2 to 2.7.

Most, if not all, of the seismic activity in this state in recent years has been linked to disposal wells injecting into the subterranean, porous Arbuckle formation.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry in this state, is complicit in the ‘quakes, Morrissette charged.

“No matter how much evidence is gathered, indicating that the Arbuckle is saturated, the Corporation Commission continues to allow oil and gas companies to inject their wastewater into that formation until yet another earthquake – or a cluster of earthquakes – shakes the entire surrounding area.” Nearly 1,000 disposal wells inject into the Arbuckle, commission records indicate. “The Arbuckle formation should be declared off-limits immediately and forthwith,” Morrissette suggested.

The Corporation Commission, he said, is “an ancient regulatory board that will do almost nothing to protect Oklahomans from Devon, Continental, Chesapeake” and other energy production companies, “because Larry Nichols and Harold Hamm control this state.”


OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener, issued the following statement after meeting with the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Republican Caucus yesterday.


The group discussed how to move forward after the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared Senate Bill 845 unconstitutional.


The bill, known as the Smoking Cessation Act of 2017, would have generated $215 million by placing an additional $1.50 per pack fee on cigarettes.


“I walked away from the meeting Monday feeling confident that our state has several options as we seek to deal with the Supreme Court’s decision. We need to wait for the Supreme Court’s opinions on two other cases it also heard Aug. 8 before we finalize any plans to ensure the Legislature is taking the most efficient, fiscally responsible steps to fill this new hole. There’s no need to panic, though – health care agencies have enough money to last until the end of the year and possibly into the beginning of 2018. Truth is, I expect we’ll have a plan in place long before December or January.


“The economy is rebounding, and our state is on better footing than it was a year ago. We’ll get out of this economic contraction cycle soon enough, but in the meantime, we need to focus on making wise fiscal decisions every step of the way.”

Friday, August 18th is the last day to apply for voter registration in order to be eligible to vote in the September 12, 2017 Pocola and Poteau Special School Bond Election, and the Town of Howe Special Municipal Election, Leflore County Election Board Secretary Sharon Steele said today.

Steele said that persons who are United States citizens, residents of Oklahoma, and at least 18 years old may apply to become registered voters.

Those who aren't registered or need to change their registration may apply by filling out and mailing an Oklahoma Voter Registration Application form in time for it to be postmarked no later than midnight Friday, August 18, 2017.

Steele said applications postmarked after that time will be accepted and processed, but not until after September 12, 2017.

The County Election Board responds in writing to every person who submits an application for voter registration. The response is either a voter identification card listing the new voter's precinct number and polling place location or a letter that explains the reason or reasons the application for voter registration was not approved. Steele said any person who has submitted a voter registration application and who has not received a response within 30 days should contact the County Election Board office.

Oklahoma Voter Registration Application forms are available at the County Election Board office located at 103 N. Church St., Poteau, and at most post offices, tag agencies and public libraries in the county.


Applications also are available at


Press release


Lawmakers must “keep promise” to protect vulnerable seniors


With the Supreme Court having struck down a cigarette fee designed to shore up Oklahoma’s underfunded Medicaid program, nursing homes and their residents are now bracing for budget cuts and closures. Early reports indicate that, without the over $200 million in state revenue generated from the fee, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority will be forced to cut the Medicaid reimbursement rate to health care providers. Nico Gomez, the President and CEO of the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers, estimates that a funding reduction could put many Oklahoma nursing homes out of business.


For Travis Belk, a 90-year-old Medicaid recipient who lives in The Gardens skilled nursing facility in Sapulpa, the funding crisis is hitting close to home.


“Our lawmakers told us they created a budget that protects Medicaid and keeps homes like this one open,” said Belk. “They need to keep that promise and find a way to fix this. The people here – my friends – don’t have a lot of options. This is our home and this is where we get our medical care. Our lawmakers can’t just say ‘we tried’ and then let our health care system collapse.”


Oklahoma nursing homes are uniquely vulnerable to cuts in Medicaid rates because 70 percent of their residents are Medicaid recipients, a much higher percentage than for most other health care providers. Oklahoma’s Medicaid reimbursement rate for nursing homes is already one of the lowest in the nation. Gomez says Oklahoma nursing homes already lose, on average, about $300,000 in uncompensated care from Medicaid recipients.


“Funding for our facilities and for Medicaid has already been cut to the bone,” said Gomez. “In fact, over 100 nursing homes have been forced to close over the last two decades, in part because of the $93 million in annual funding reductions the nursing profession has sustained. We can’t go any lower and have a sustainable health care infrastructure that takes care of vulnerable and elderly Oklahomans. Any further cuts could lead to the dismantling of the nursing home profession in our state. I cannot imagine that our legislators or governor, much less their constituents, want that to happen. I sincerely hope they act and act quickly for the sake of the thousands of elderly Oklahomans who rely on the care they receive in nursing homes.”


The Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers represents the interest of more than 18,000 residents and 19,000 professionals that work in Oklahoma’s long-term care facilities. The mission of OAHCP is to assist its members in providing the highest quality care to the seniors, individuals with disabilities and vulnerable Oklahomans who live in our facilities. We advocate for the enhancement of that care so that Oklahoma long-term care residents may live in the comfort and dignity they deserve. For more information please visit



Press Release


$215 Million in Potential Cuts Will Devastate Services for Children and Families


The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) today called on lawmakers to address the $215 million in state funding lost after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled a new cigarette fee to be unconstitutional. The loss of the cigarette fee immediately blows a hole into the budgets of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA), the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (DMHSAS), leaving the agencies with no way to cover the costs of core services.


OICA CEO Joe Dorman said Governor Fallin and the State Legislature should quickly convene a special session to ensure that children and other Oklahomans are not the victims of a new budget hole.


“Because of the haphazard way this year’s budget was crafted, the state has now essentially defunded the agencies responsible for Oklahoma’s adoption and foster care programs, for child health and nutrition, for mental health services that keep families safe and intact, and for basic access to medical care. That is an outcome that can satisfy exactly no one, regardless of your political party or your priorities.


“Our policymakers have a moral imperative to fix this problem and to ensure that children, families and the senior citizens who rely on these services are not the victims of poor budget-writing,” said Dorman. “The intention of the Legislature was to adjourn having funded these agencies, however imperfectly it was done. They need to keep their promises to their constituents by coming back to the Capitol for a special session and creating a new budget that adequately funds core government services.”


About OICA
The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by a group of citizens, to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk.

Our mission statement is: “Creating awareness, taking action and changing policy to improve the health, safety and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.“


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