Whatzup Politics (1399)
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after voting against H.R. 1319, the Biden Bailout package.
“The Biden Bailout is exactly what it sounds like: a bill full of wasteful government spending, blue state bailouts, and Democratic wish list items that hinder our economic recovery from the pandemic,” Mullin said. “Of the $1.9 trillion, only 9 percent will actually go to COVID relief and 45 percent isn’t even going to be used this year. That is unacceptable and reckless. With $1 trillion from previously enacted relief bills still unspent, we should be focusing on getting that relief to those who need it most and getting our economy fully reopened.”
H.R. 1319 costs $1.9 trillion and includes:
$510 billion for Democrat-run states that chose to shut down
$471 billion for liberal policies that destroy jobs
$422 billion for another round of direct government payments to individuals
$325 billion for non-COVID Democratic wish list items
Only $160 billion for actually combatting COVID-19
$12 billion in foreign aid
And a federal mandate forcing states to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after voting “no” on H.R. 5, the Equality Act. This legislation would withhold federal funding from any college or university that does not allow biological men to compete in women's sports, as well as gut protections for churches and other religious organizations.
“The Equality Act is a misguided bill that would ultimately eliminate Title IX protections for women,” Mullin said. “There is no doubt that Title IX has given female athletes lifechanging opportunities and allowing transgender individuals to compete in women’s sports is unfair, unsafe, and completely undermines the original intent of Title IX. As the father of three girls involved in wrestling, I want them to be able to compete on a level playing field. If our laws do not recognize the biological difference between men and women, female athletes will be the ones to suffer the consequences.”
“Additionally, the Equality Act would gut the crucial Religious Freedom Restoration Act protections for churches and religious organizations,” Mullin continued. “These groups should not be forced to provide services that go against their beliefs and that’s exactly what would happen under this bill. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right and I whole-heartedly oppose any effort to take away that right.”
House Committee Approves Randleman Bill to Increase Number of Mental Health Facilities in Eastern OK
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, secured passage Wednesday of a bill to allow for more mental health services in eastern Oklahoma.
Under rules implemented by the Oklahoma Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), the state is divided into service areas, with each service area allowed only one community mental health center. House Bill 1637 would remove the limit of one public mental health center, as well as allow for private and nonprofit centers to operate.
Randleman, a licensed psychologist, told the House Public Health Committee he filed the bill after realizing the lengthy travel times some constituents were enduring to access mental health services. Eastern and southeastern Oklahoma is serviced by a facility in McAlester, which is a several hour drive for some constituents of Randleman’s, whose district extends as far north as Lake Tenkiller in Sequoyah County.
“These travel times are unacceptable and only prohibit people from accessing mental health services they need,” Randleman said. “Rural areas of our state have a great need for these services and it’s time we addressed this issue.”
Randleman also pointed out that the center in McAlester is only equipped to handle adults and does not have an adolescent stabilization unit, resulting in adolescents traveling about four hours one way to access services in Tulsa.
House Bill 1637 passed the House Public Health Committee and is now eligible to be considered on the House floor.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The House today passed education bills that would allow Oklahoma students to transfer between public school districts at any time and that change the school funding formula to make money follow the student and curb the number of non-existing – or ghost – students currently allowed in the system.
“This is the type of big education reform Oklahomans have overwhelmingly asked for to make our state the best place for families,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. “Collectively, these reforms build on the historic education investment made three years ago by maintaining and maximizing all money in the common education system while ensuring families retain control of their children’s education decisions. Open transfer ensures equity regardless of geography by benefitting urban and rural areas alike. This is good education policy that works well in all parts of the state. I am proud of the House for delivering on our priority to improve outcomes and empower families in the education system.”
House Bill 2074, by McCall, known as the Education Open Transfer Act, and House Bill 2078, which amends the school funding formula, passed with votes of 77-22 and 68-30, respectively. Both bills now advance to the Senate.
“Parents must maintain the ability to consider another public school if they find their child’s needs are not being met at their current school,” said Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow. “House Bill 2074 protects parents’ right to decide the best education pathway for their child while also maintaining a school districts’ local control. I am honored to have played a part in passing this important piece of legislation, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have for Oklahoma’s children.”
Boles said he worked with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the State Department of Education and many school superintendents to amend HB 2074 to address many of their concerns. The measure would allow student transfers from one public school district to another at any time during the year. It also would allow receiving districts to determine capacity limits for each grade level at the schools in their district. Posting of transfer data would be required on each district’s website by the first day of each quarter. Numbers also would have to be reported to the State Department of Education and made available to the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. A district could deny a transfer if a student has 10 or more unexcused absences in one semester, or if the student has violated discipline rules existing in state statute. A student transfer would be limited to two times per school year, and the student could re-enroll at any time in their home district.
Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, authored House Bill 2078.
“This common-sense reform is very simple: It makes money follow the student - no more and no less” Hilbert said. “If we ever want to change our status of being bottom ten in education outcomes, we must quit doing things the way they’ve always been done. The current formula results in students being double or triple counted if they move between schools. This has to end.”
Hilbert said if nothing is done, virtual charter schools still will be paid for students that no longer on their membership rolls once in-person learning resumes. He said using current figures, about $200 million would be spent on 55,000 students that don’t actually exist.
Under HB 2078, school districts would use student counts from the immediate preceding year, and growing districts could use current-year counts for the mid-year adjustment if they choose. It also would give districts greater flexibility in the amount of money they are allowed to carry forward from one fiscal year to the next. This allows districts to continue hiring teachers and staff to meet student needs, but cuts down on paying for students no longer on the rolls.
Both bills now advance to the state Senate. Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, is the Senate author of HB 2074. Sen. Zack Taylor is the Senate author of HB 2078.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement after two major school transfer and funding bills passed off the House floor on Wednesday.
“While the stated rationale for House Bill 2074, which radically changes public school transfer policy, and House Bill 2078, which calls for reducing the three-year average funding formulation, is to reform public education for better outcomes, the unfortunate reality is that it will only further hurt schools and the students they serve.
“Both bills focus on pulling funding and students from schools who are struggling so as to incentivize them to ‘perform better.’ The problem is this -- it fundamentally does nothing to address what is truly needed to help the students in those schools.
“There are three major reasons that schools who are not performing well are struggling.
All the schools that are struggling and not performing well have some of the poorest districts in the state. That brings students who are food insecure, who have high adverse childhood experiences, whose families move often and are in general living in very stressful circumstances that affect the students’ academic performance.
The challenging school environment created when serving poverty-stricken districts places extraordinary pressures on teachers in the classroom on top of not having adequate classroom resources or acceptable student-teacher ratios.
We currently have an extremely low number of counselors in our schools. In fact, our counselor-student ratio is more than 2 times the national recommended level. Teachers can’t handle this kind of student population alone and without resources.
“If we want to improve student opportunities and academic success, then we should not ‘punish’ these schools but rather put forth more substantive policies that address these fundamental issues, such as what we have recommended in our legislative education policy platform.
"House Democrats proposed 11 different education-specific proposals to help improve our education system as well as several pieces of legislation designed to create opportunity and put more investment into struggling Oklahoma communities. Unfortunately, none of these bills have been heard on the House floor.
"If we want a better public education system, we need to acknowledge the source of the challenges our system faces and develop a long-term solution that truly tackles these difficult problems and helps our schools be successful.”
For more on the proposals that House Democrats have put forward to help address struggling schools, visit www.oklahomafocused.com.
House Bill Raising Death Benefits for Emergency Service Personnel Referred for Analysis by Banking Committee
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that will increase the amount of death benefits for any firefighter, paid or volunteer, or law enforcement officer who is in the pension system and passes away, was referred for an actuarial analysis by a vote of 8-0 in the House Banking Committee yesterday. The actuarial analysis will determine the fiscal impact of the bill.
Rep. Dick Lowe, R-Amber, is the author of House Bill 2461, which is named in honor of fallen Oklahoma City firefighter Andy Davis. Davis was a 20 year veteran with OKCFD and comes from a family of public servants. His brother, father, uncle and several other family members have served in fire departments. Davis tragically passed away due to COVID-19 complications on Dec. 24, 2020.
“Our firefighters and law enforcement officers continuously put their lives on the line to keep us safe,” Lowe said. “We cannot begin to match our gratitude to their sacrifice, but it is my hope that this bill will help ease some of the financial burden felt by the families of our fallen protectors. I think it is only fitting that the bill be named after Maj. Davis, a man who devoted his life to serving and protecting. His death was a tragic loss to his family, community and the State of Oklahoma. This bill will help his memory live on in the minds of those he served and served with.”
HB 2461 would change the amount of death benefits due to the beneficiaries of firefighters and law enforcement officers who are members of the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System and Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System from $5,000 to $15,000 for those members who die on or after July 1, 2021. This is the first update to the benefit amount in over 30 years.
“The average funeral now costs over $11,000,” added Lowe. “This bill adjusts the death benefit for inflation and helps give the families of our fallen heroes some small financial peace of mind when their loved one passes. It’s just the right thing to do.”
Courses for groundwater professionals start with Drilling Basics Online
(STILLWATER, Oklahoma, Feb. 23, 2021)— A collaboration between Oklahoma State University and the National Groundwater Association aims to address a projected shortfall of geoscience workers and improve access to groundwater that is essential for people around the world.
Capturing groundwater is not possible without the proper workforce of water-well drilling contractors and pump installers who access and deliver groundwater for the use of drinking water, irrigation and other industries.
NGWA and OSU are creating a series of groundwater training courses delivered online with future development of classroom and field courses. The program will offer career development opportunities for industry professionals, university students and entry-level workers, and can prepare them for rigorous certification exams or could lead to university degrees. These courses will improve the safety and skills of drilling industry members and systematically address the critical shortage of professionals in the industry.
“As a land-grant institution, Oklahoma State’s mission is to address issues facing our state, nation and world,” said OSU President Burns Hargis. “As one of the few universities with a long history in groundwater education, we know that 98.5 percent of the drinking water available to people is in the ground. We also know that the infrastructure supporting groundwater needs to modernize, and we are proud to do our part to address the issue.”
National Groundwater Association CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC, said a significant number of knowledgeable and experienced geoscientists are aging into retirement.
“Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the field was projected to face a shortfall of 135,000 workers by 2022,” Morse added. “We need to train the next group of people who will manage groundwater and operate these rigs. That is obviously a serious problem not just for the industry, but for everyone considering that access to clean water increases life expectancy by 20-plus years. So NGWA was compelled to address this problem, and OSU will help us meet this challenge.”
Dr. Todd Halihan, a professor in OSU’s Boone Pickens School of Geology, agreed, noting that 44 percent of Americans rely on water from wells provided by the groundwater industry.
“Groundwater is the most stable water resource and doesn’t suffer from evaporation like surface reservoirs. People don’t realize how much groundwater research and infrastructure is here in Oklahoma from federal and university researchers, and industrial partners in drilling and consulting,” Halihan said. “It just makes sense to establish this collaboration between OSU and NGWA, a win-win for both their association and our university, and it will benefit countless individuals who rely on groundwater.”
The first course in the new program is Drilling Basics Online, a series of five, eight-hour sessions developed through the collaboration of industry professionals, scientists, engineers and experts in online education. The course covers the skills and competencies tested for on groundwater drilling exams.
Up to 5,000 people are expected to participate in this course in just the first two years, and it has unlimited capacity to accommodate high volumes of participants at any given time. Because it is self-paced and delivered entirely online, it is ideal for the non-drilling days of workforce employees as well as for those working at home and the currently unemployed.
OSU and NGWA are excited the initial funding for the program is in place and has been provided by private donors and industry sponsors.
NGWA and OSU have the established infrastructure for this program and have gained interested collaborators both nationally and internationally. Additional land-grant universities may deliver course content in the field, and the program may even expand internationally based on demand.
Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU has more than 34,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 24,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 100 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 275,000 students to serve the state of Oklahoma, the nation and the world.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives today approved legislation outlining the process to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate if the need arises.
House Bill 2173, authored by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, would allow the governor to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate with a temporary appointment until an election can occur. He started developing the legislation last session with Sen. Lonnie Paxton, but said the bill is even more important now because of the evenly-split partisan divide in the U.S. Senate.
“If a vacancy occurs in either of our state’s seats, not only does our state lose representation, but it also has broad national implications,” Hilbert said. “Oklahomans deserve to have full representation in D.C., and we must make provisions now in the event that this process is necessary.”
Forty-five states allow their governor to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy via temporary appointment. Currently, Oklahoma does not have any procedure in place to fill a vacancy, so a seat would sit empty until a special election or the next general election can occur. A special election under current law would take at least eight months to finish and cost taxpayers $1.2 million.
The bill specifies that the empty seat must be filled by a person of the same political party as their predecessor. Article 5, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits any sitting legislator from being appointed by the governor to any office or commission.
After former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn announced he would step down from his seat in Jan. 2014, the seat remained empty until U.S. Senator James Lankford was elected in a special election in Nov. 2014 to fill the remainder of Coburn’s term.
Having passed the House 54-42, HB 2173 now proceeds to the Senate.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives today passed legislation designed to help cut down on lengthy wait times currently occurring at the Oklahoma Dept. of Public Safety (DPS).
House Bill 1059 is authored by Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow, and would help the Dept. of Public Safety address the significant backlog that has built up as a result of the challenges brought by COVID-19 and the implementation of Real IDs.
“Lawmakers have heard from many of our constituents who are upset with the large backlog and months-long wait time at DPS offices, and I believe House Bill 1059 will be a positive step forward to help alleviate this problem,” Boles said. “These changes would make the process more efficient for Oklahomans and ease some of the burden on DPS.”
The legislation authorizes local tag agencies to issue commercial driver’s licenses renewals, replacements, change of addresses and downgrades for Class A, B and C licenses. Currently, DPS must process all of these requests.
The bill would also allow tag agents to issue an ID card even if the driver’s license is expired or suspended, as long as the person requesting the ID has an existing Oklahoma driver’s license file. Currently, the person requesting the ID must have a valid unexpired license to receive an ID card from a tag agent.
HB1059 would allow third party examiners to test anyone with a commercial driver’s license permit. Third-party examiners are only allowed to administer driver’s tests to their own students.
The bill passed the House 91-2 and is now available to be considered in the Senate, where it is authored by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan.
Defending Women’s Sports
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
On June 23rd, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law. This landmark legislation had one goal in mind: to protect women from sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, including sports. Because of the access to funding and opportunity this historic legislation created, there has been a 545% increase in the number of women playing college sports and a 990% increase in the number of women playing high school sports.
There is no doubt that Title IX has created lifechanging opportunities for countless female athletes and has opened the path for many of the top-level women in sports that we see dominate their respective field today. Yet somehow, we are on the verge of this historic protection being used counter to its intent.
The progressive “woke” movement is coming for women’s sports in the name of “gender equality” – a dangerous policy permitting biological men to compete against women if they claim an alternate gender status. Now, many school districts, sports leagues, and athletics organizations are allowing them to compete in women’s athletics. The consequences of this can be seen all over the country. In one instance, transgender athlete Cece Telfer first competed on the Franklin Pierce University men’s track and field team in 2016 and 2017 and after her transition, she joined the women’s team instead. She won the both the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles at the Women’s 2019 Track and Field NCAA Division II National Championships, edging out the closest female competitors by over a second and a half.
Allowing biological men to compete in women’s sports is unfair, unsafe, and completely undermines the purpose of Title IX. As the father of three girls involved in wrestling, I want them to be able to compete on a level playing field. This is why I am opposed to H.R. 5, the Equality Act, a bill that House Democrats are trying to pass this week and which would withhold federal funds from any school, college, or university that does not allow biological males who identify as females to compete on women’s sports teams.
Allowing states to grossly misinterpret and manipulate Title IX results in limited access to opportunity for women athletes across the country. Equality in sports should be a cause we can all get behind, because if our laws do not recognize the biological difference between men and women, females who compete in sports will be the ones to suffer the consequences.
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.