Whatzup Politics (1501)
OKLAHOMA CITY – Reps. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, and Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, today held combined interim studies focusing on potential updates to the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. The studies were held before the House Judiciary-Civil Committee.
“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed some startling gaps in our Landlord-Tenant laws that we feel must be addressed to better protect both parties,” Bush said. “Private property owners should expect the right to quickly regain access to their property if they are not able to collect rent. But on the other hand, we need a compassionate and equitable solution for tenants who are struggling.”
“Oklahoma’s landlord tenant laws are overdue for a review,” Bennett said. “They are outdated, and our disproportionately high rate of evictions suggests that something isn’t working. Just like I don’t think there’s a justifiable reason Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any other place in the country, I don’t believe that Oklahoma renters are somehow worse than those in other states. It appears that the issue lies in the language of our laws, and my hope is that this study will yield some constructive reforms with bipartisan support.”
Becky Gilgo, executive director of Housing Solutions, showed Oklahoma has had over 17,000 evictions since the pandemic started. She said landlords and tenants alike are negatively affected by evictions as both suffer financially.
“Oklahoma landlords are working incredibly hard to keep their tenants housed and balance the needs of running a business that their own livelihoods depend on,” Gilgo said in her presentation.
She said out-of-state corporations result in most evictions – 83% - taking advantage of Oklahoma’s legislative environment to prey on residents and resulting in an outsized impact on the state’s eviction courts.
She said 18% of those surveyed in Tulsa’s annual Point in Time Count attribute their homelessness to an eviction in the past year.
“Evictions disrupt our communities, drain our social services and threaten our public schools,” Gilgo said.
Katie Dilks, executive director of the Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation, showed that Oklahoma’s eviction rate in 2016 was 4.24%, with one in 20 rental households facing eviction annually. That is double the national average and ranks Oklahoma sixth highest nationally.
“This isn’t because our state is poorer, or because rents are higher,” Dilks said. “It is directly to our laws and policies.”
Dilks said the purpose of the Landlord-Tenant Act is to first ensure adequate, safe and habitable housing, second to protect the property rights of owners and third to protect tenants from unsafe living conditions and harassment.
Dilks said there are two primary challenges: lack of protection against harassment and exploitation, and inability to ensure safe and habitable properties.
She had three suggestions for House members studying this issue.
First, increase the deduct and repair cap, which is currently set at $100, to a meaningful level. If a repair costs less than $100, a tenant may currently tell the landlord they will fix it themselves and deduct the amount from rent.
Second, create anti-retaliation laws to ensure predatory landlords are not trapping tenants in unsafe conditions. Third, support localities to adequately investigate and address code violations, including creating property registries.
Eric Hallett with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma also spoke about the effects of retaliation against tenants. He said this results in poor housing conditions and supports discrimination and abusive behavior. He would like to see the notice period for eviction for tenants be lengthened to allow them to schedule time off work and arrange for childcare as well as to bring counterclaims. He repeated the concern about repair and deduct cap.
Dilks said 48 states currently have anti-retaliation protections while Oklahoma has the lowest deduct and repair cap in the country. She said none of our neighboring states bar property registries. In her opinion, these moves will strengthen communities and can only negatively impact negligent or predatory landlords.
Jeff Jaynes, executive director of Restore Hope Ministries in Tulsa, and Ginny Bass Carl, executive director with Community Cares Partners, and Tim Newton, a landlord, showed a series of before and after pictures of properties that have been rehabilitated and several photos of families that have been positively impacted through their partnership.
Study participants also heard tenant perspectives.
Information from the Tulsa Housing Authority suggested there are better options than eviction court when rents are late. The authority nearly eliminated eviction filings in two years by asking how they can help renters who are late on their payments rather than recommending immediate eviction.
Other study presenters included Mack Haltom, executive director of the Tulsa Day Center; former Rep. Josh Cockroft, now senior director of government affairs with the Oklahoma Realtor Association; Keri Cooper, speaking on behalf of the Oklahoma Apartment Association; Elliott Nelson with Business Impact and Ryan Gentzler with the Oklahoma Policy Institute.
- Carol Bush serves District 70 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Her district includes part of Tulsa County. Forrest Bennett serves District 92, which includes part of Oklahoma County.
I’ve been at the state Capitol for the past week attending multiple interim studies. Here’s a rundown of some of the topics covered.
First up, was property rights under the Oklahoma Landlord, Tenant Act. The study exposed judges who are allowing tenants to break lease agreements. This is basically like them giving someone else your personal property. Landlords can wait up to a month or more to regain their property. They pay costs of up to $5,000 to file paperwork, serve notice, repair their dwellings and absorb other costs when contracts are broken.
Add in the Center for Disease Control’s moratorium, which recently was ruled unconstitutional, and you have the worst case of government overreach. This study’s author believes the moratorium was not really about preventing disease but a much deeper agenda of developing a national infrastructure at the cost of the taxpayer.
A study in the Senate focused on the overprescribing of painkillers and opioids as well as the high cost of addiction. This relates to the study I will hold Nov. 1 to look at methadone and methadone clinics. This is a problem we must get under control.
Another study focused on the agriculture sales tax exemption. We ran legislation last session that allows applicants to qualify for renewals by filing the IRS F form, IRS form 1065, IRS form 4835, any equivalent form prescribed by the IRS, or a one-page business description form provided by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. This made renewals easier, but we’ll see legislation next year that makes things easier still. The one thing for sure is that this tax exemption will be protected and preserved.
Also last week, the House Public Safety Committee studied the link between mental health services and law enforcement intervention. One study author, a licensed psychologist, said the state needs more mental health crisis units. Law enforcement also needs more help in recognizing when an individual is dealing with a mental health disorder and what treatment is most appropriate.
The Senate also heard from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation about their desire to increase fees for lifetime hunting licenses. They promise this would allow unlimited black bear tags, but I’ve heard this before. This agency has a lack of oversight as it is, so I’m not a fan of letting them increase this fee without something more solid.
One final study I attended was on the topic of police high-speed chases. One problem happens when such chases cross county, municipal, tribal and state government boundaries. Then it becomes an issue of jurisdiction and chain of command. Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day protecting the public from those who break laws and try to elude capture. We must do everything possible to make their jobs easier as they keep the public safe.
As always, if I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rick West represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, today held an interim study on state broadband assets. The study was held before the House Technology Committee, which Phillips chairs.
“Oklahoma has the opportunity to utilize our current fiber assets to better serve residents across our state,” Phillips said. “In order to do this, we need to better understand what assets we currently have before we consider what is needed for the future. That was the purpose of today’s study.”
Phillips explained with the necessity of virtual school and work after the onset of the pandemic, the need for more broadband in the state is critical. Public school students, business owners and those that offer state services to residents must have a robust, available broadband network to participate in education, commerce, healthcare and more going forward. This is of particular importance to those in rural areas that currently are not connected to the internet.
Study presenters included Von Royal, executive director of OneNet; Alan Stevenson, assistant state maintenance engineer with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT); and Jerry Moore, chief information officer of the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES).
Those attending the study were shown various fiber maps that outline active routes utilized to support various state agencies and multiple other entities as well as Indefeasible Rights of Use (IRU) carrier routes, which the state has the right to utilize. Attendees also were shown commercial carrier fiber routes.
Presenters detailed where the state is missing capacity and leased circuits as well as detailed tie-ins to existing fiber. It was explained that OMES needs more detailed mapping for operations as well as for further analysis.
South Carolina was given as an example of where state broadband assets are working well. Additional needs for Oklahoma include increasing capacities, enrollments and diversity as well as prioritizing areas of investment. Presenters showed an overlay of needs vs. capabilities.
Recommended next steps include the Oklahoma Rural Broadband Expansion Council working to identify the state’s fiber assets and creating detailed maps to share with the Legislature for consideration of legislation that might be needed to expand the state’s broadband network.
- Logan Phillips serves District 24 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes parts of Hughes, Okfuskee and Okmulgee counties.
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after voting against the Build More Inflation Act, which passed the full Energy and Commerce Committee. The Build More Inflation Act is part of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion tax and spend spree.
“The Build More Inflation Act is a step closer to a complete socialist takeover by the Democrats,” Mullin said. “From a massive investment in the Green New Deal to expanding government-controlled health care, this $1 trillion portion will kill jobs and take away freedom. And this is just a fraction of the larger, $3.5 trillion tax and spend spree that will saddle future generations with crippling debt. The American people are already paying more for just about everything and they are the ones who will suffer the consequences. This is not what our country is about. I will continue to fight back against these dangerous policies and reckless spending.”
The $1 trillion package includes:
A tax on natural gas, driving up costs of energy and manufacturing.
Unrealistic clean energy standards to meet Paris Climate Accord standards.
More federal health spending and control than Obamacare.
Expansions of Medicare, making it closer to insolvency.
Incentives to keep children out of school and prioritize remote learning.
Handouts to the Federal Trade Commission without privacy protections for Americans.
Democrats rejected almost all amendments submitted by Republicans including amendments to:
Exempt farmers, ranchers, and agriculture operators from the Natural Gas Tax. The tax is estimated to cost $6,500 per dairy cow, $2,600 per head of cattle, and $500 per swine each year.
Prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions.
Ensure federal emergency response system funding does not go to entities that support defunding or abolishing the police.
Ban the use of critical minerals from China and the Taliban as well as from forced labor.
Ensure federally recognized Indian Tribes aren’t subject to burdensome Green New Deal regulations.
Prohibit the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, today issued the following statement after the governor and the state auditor announced an investigative audit of the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System (OCAS) at the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE).
Caldwell and 21 other lawmakers requested the audit last November after a report from State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd of EPIC Charter Schools revealed the OSDE failed to properly monitor the OCAS for compliance.
“I appreciate Governor Stitt calling for an audit of the State Department of Education. Following on the heels of the report from the state auditor last year that identified serious shortcomings in the department’s compliance efforts, 22 legislators asked the governor to further investigate these claims. With today’s announcement, Governor Stitt has followed through on the promise he made to Oklahoma taxpayers.
“With a historic $3.1 billion investment in public education by the legislature, in addition to over $2 billion in new federal aid, it is more important now than ever that Oklahoma taxpayers know our education dollars are going toward the classroom where they belong. I was disappointed to hear Superintendent Hofmeister call financial accountability and transparency an attack on public education, especially after the concerns raised publicly by Oklahoma’s auditor.”
- Chad Caldwell serves District 40 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Enid and parts of Garfield County.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola, today held an interim study on property rights, specifically looking at the parameters of the Oklahoma Landlord, Tenant Act. He says the act has been subverted by activist judges and the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) moratorium on evictions that was found unconstitutional.
“In this interim study, we wanted to give a voice to the small, mom-and-pop landlords and hear from national and state experts on this issue,” Gann said. “Landlord property rights have been violated, and our freedoms are under attack like never before.”
He opened the study by quoting from the recent court opinion and order of the United States District Court of Eastern Texas, in Terkel v. the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on Page 2 states, “The federal government cannot say that it has ever before invoked its power over interstate commerce to impose a residential eviction moratorium. It did not do so during the deadly Spanish Flu pandemic. Nor did it invoke such a power during the exigencies of the Great Depression. Id. The federal government has not claimed such a power at any point during our Nation’s history until last year.”
Gann said, “It would seem the federal government has a broader agenda in using a moratorium through the CDC than just disease control.”
As stated on page 19 of Terkel vs CDC, “Finally, the government concedes that its view of constitutional authority would allow federal eviction moratorium or any reason, including views on ‘fairness.’ The Government’s argument would thus allow a nationwide eviction moratorium long after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. The eviction remedy could be suspended at any time based on fairness as perceived by Congress or perhaps an agency official delegated that judgment.”
As late as July 21, 2021, Gann noted an article by Christian Datoc that quoted a statement from the Washington Times: “The Whitehouse is working with states and local governments to ‘develop a new National infrastructure’ to provide rental aid and prevent restrictions in the future once the moratorium expires.”
Gann said such broad authority over state remedies begins to resemble a prohibited federal police power.
Today’s interim study was sparked after Gann ran a bill last session that would have prevented local judges from amending rental contracts to extend the time of tenancy. The measure provided that the provisions in the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act are enforceable even during a catastrophic health emergency. The bill failed to pass in the House.
Gann said the legislation was written after he heard from Jennifer Garner, a landlord from his district who participated in today’s study. Last year, she had to take a tenant to court for failure to pay rent. Even though the tenant was not affected by COVID-19, the judge ruled the landlord could not evict.
Garner told committee members and attendees she wanted to see areas of the Landlord Tenant Act updated to better clarify the process.
“This act is very vague in many instances,” Garner said. “And while the news may portray this as a very swift process, it can stretch to a month or more by the time paperwork is filed and notice given, and we are able to regain possession of our property.”
She also explained the numerous fees landlords must pay to regain their own property. Even when judgments are rendered, they are often beyond what a tenant can pay and landlords will never recover that money, she said.
Darryl Baskin with the Tulsa Association of Realtors said he’s had to terminate tenancy for a variety of reasons including for tenants who were running meth labs and even committed murder. He said the process of evictions have cost up to $5,000.
There are many emotional stories told by tenant advocates to judges as to why a tenant cannot pay rent, he said. But unjust or arbitrary judgments drive smaller landlords out of the market, which reduces affordable housing and increases the threat of homelessness. It’s imperative, he said, that solutions are found.
Luke Wake with the Pacific Legal Foundation said 70% of the rental market is owned by mom-and-pop landlords who are equally hurt by the lack of income and face as many struggles as tenants in events such as the pandemic. He said the government’s current actions basically result in confiscation of private property. The foundation is a nonprofit law firm that has won 14 Supreme Court battles surrounding the rights of private property owners.
Keri Cooper, speaking on behalf of the Oklahoma Apartment Association, said evictions are not profitable. Landlords would much rather maintain their renters. Still, when rents are not being paid, evictions are a landlord’s only recourse
Another problem, she explained, is that rental assistance is only available to the tenant and not directly to the property owner.
Garner said rental assistance is often too burdensome a process for many tenants. One organization has a 22-page application that requires multiple documents to be uploaded, for instance.
Gann said this issue is not about trying to deny someone tenancy but about reestablishing the rule of law and not the whim of judges or overreach by the federal government.
“These small landlords are people who have invested in the real estate market and who have to continue to maintain their mortgages and other costs while receiving no return on their investment,” he said. “Their tenants, meanwhile, are not required to provide any burden of proof that they’ve been negatively affected by COVID yet are given shelter from being evicted. Many who qualify due to COVID-19 have simply ignored the resources available to them as only 11% of the relief funds have been distributed.”
- Tom Gann represents District 8 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Mayes, Rogers and Wagoner counties.
This year marks 20 years since the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001. It also marks 20 years of American resiliency and bravery. 20 years since first responders and bystanders ran towards the scene to save others instead of running away to save themselves. 20 years since countless Americans joined our armed forces, many sacrificing their lives in the fight against terrorism. 20 years of our country never forgetting but rising from the ashes.
There will never be enough words to comfort those who lost their sons, daughters, moms, dads, uncles, aunts, grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, neighbors, and friends in this senseless act. We lost seven Oklahomans amongst the nearly 3,000 innocent lives taken that day. We’ve also lost almost 7,000 members of our U.S. military defending our homeland against terror in the years since. But while we mourn their loss, we will always be grateful for the sacrifice they made for freedom.
To honor those who lost their lives, we must remember how we felt on the days after. We were all one— we were all Americans. We did not live in fear like the terrorists intended. Instead, we came back stronger. We checked in with our neighbors. In what may have been our nation’s darkest hour, Americans stood united on a day that would mark the beginning of a long battle against evil.
Our nation is a beacon of hope, and our flag represents freedom across the world. Under extreme pressure is when we show what we are truly made of and on 9/11, Americans proved liberty and justice will always prevail.
Today and every day, we must never forget.
Want to stay up-to-date on what I’m doing in Oklahoma and Washington on your behalf? Sign up for my newsletter by visiting Mullin.house.gov/newslettersignup.
Speaker McCall opposes Biden mandate proposals, applauds new law allowing Oklahoma to challenge federal overreach
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, issued the following statement opposing overreaching federal mandates announced by President Joe Biden:
“The Oklahoma Legislature acted aggressively this session to stop unconstitutional federal overreach like President Biden proposed today. We saw this coming and are already prepared to block it in Oklahoma. This type of unilateral overreach is precisely why House Bill 1236 and the additional litigation funds for the attorney general were such big priorities this session. I applaud the attorney general for utilizing the tools the Legislature provided to defend Oklahoma’s rights as a state. President Biden is about to see the U.S. Constitution still matters in Oklahoma. This isn't the only unconstitutional Biden administration action Oklahoma needs to challenge. Our country is a republic of states, not a monarchy, and the president does not have the constitutional authority to issue these type of edicts.”
HB 1236 established an intrabranch process for legal challenges of federal rules, executive orders or Congressional actions harmful to the rights of Oklahomans and the state of Oklahoma. It passed the Legislature and was signed into law in May, with an immediate effective date. The bill was principally authored by McCall and Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, and coauthored by nearly all 82 members of the House Republican Caucus.
Voters in Le Flore County who want absentee ballots mailed to them for the September 14 Special Municipal Election for the Town of Wister should apply now, County Election Board Secretary Sharon Steele said today.
Absentee ballots are available to any registered voter, provided they are eligible to vote in the election requested. No excuse is needed to vote by absentee ballot.
The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is 5 p.m. Tuesday, September 7.
Voters can submit a request using the OK Voter Portal at oklahoma.gov/elections/ovp. Request forms are also available at oklahoma.gov/elections and at the County Election Board office located at 103 N. Church St., Poteau.
Steele reminds voters to allow time for an absentee ballot to be received, completed, and returned by mail to the County Election Board. "With some exceptions, all absentee ballots must be notarized before being returned. Voters should give themselves plenty of time to make sure all steps have been followed and that the ballot is returned correctly in order to be counted,"Steele said.
Voters exempt from having a ballot notarized include those who are physically incapacitated, those who care for physically incapacitated individuals that cannot be left alone, and voters confined to nursing homes. Those voters may opt to have their ballot witnessed by two people.
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after it was announced the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan was completed.
“This is a sad day for our country,” Mullin said. “Americans have been stranded in Afghanistan by the Biden Administration and are now left to defend themselves from terrorists overrunning the country. One motto of our military is ‘leave no man behind.’ But today, that’s exactly what President Biden did. American exit did not have to be this way and there must be accountability for this complete and utter failure. The service and sacrifice of our service members and their families was not made in vain, and it will never be forgotten.”