Whatzup Politics (1134)
RICK WEST TO RUN for OKLAHOMA STATE HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES, DISTRICT 3
Many of you know me and know that I am a man of my word. While serving as your State Representative in 2017- 2018, I worked hard to set a new level of accountability for elected officials to our community. I tried to treat you the way I wanted to be treated. That was why I began weekly articles in the local news outlets, spent time on KPRV each week discussing the issues, and kept Friday office hours to listen to people who dropped by. I studied and researched each bill that came up for a vote. I checked to see how people in Leflore County, not big money organizations, wanted me to vote.
It was not easy to ‘vote my district’ each time as it often meant going against “leadership’ or stepping away from solutions I knew might bring other benefits later on. By that I mean that ‘going along’ in the legislature is how members move up in influential committees and power relationships. It was, however, the right thing to do and it let me look everyone back home, right in the eye, and tell the truth about what was happening.
I decided then that I had to be diligent about PAC (Political Action Committees), lobbyist gratuities or special interest money because their influence starts out soft but their aim is to rope you in close so that you work only for them.
I am announcing my candidacy for Oklahoma State Representative, District 3, and I will not take any PAC, lobbyist, or special interest money. I am not a billionaire, or even a millionaire, and I need financial help to do this, but it will have to come from the ordinary people of Leflore County who want me to represent them…and no one else. I will represent my district and no place else.
There are some additional issues that I have outlined as being of importance for Leflore County the next two years. In 2020, the cultural pressure to centralize government and eliminate local input or authority is at the core of most of the upcoming decisions and changes. I believe the best and most productive government is the government that is closest to the people. Therefore, I will work with you to:
- Protect parental control and influence in our schools as well as local decision making by local boards rather than state or federal departments.
- Maintain open lines of defense in the constant battle in OKC to consolidate school districts as the only solution for efficient rural schools.
- Work with our county elected officials and state agencies to create and enforce proven solutions that protect our beautiful, heritage landscape while simultaneously supporting residential and commercial land development.
- Support the unique needs and challenges of our first-responder community.
- Protect large- and small-scale ranching from detrimental and costly regulations.
- Protect Leflore County first responders, their unique skills, and their need for significant supplemental help in order to deliver the fine service that they do every day.
- Support local tourism and all of its related service businesses through state agencies, monies from state tourism, publications and continued outreach to potential audiences for Spiro Mounds, Wister Lake, and Rune Stone Park.
- Support and inform Veterans in Leflore County, as if they are an institution or department, because Vets are one of Leflore County resources.
Because we are living in extraordinary times that have redefined normal communication, I genuinely invite you to contact me with any question or concerns that you might have. Thank you for your support.
Remember, the most important action you can take is to vote for me on June 30th in the Primary and again on Nov. 3rd in the General Election.
God Bless America
47152 Walker Mountain Road, Heavener, OK 74937
Press Release for Immediate Release
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau, today accused Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Justin Brown of failing to communicate with Oklahoma daycare owners.
“Director Brown has claimed to me personally how great his organization communicates with daycare businesses,” Kiger said, “but to date, I’m not seeing it, and I have two examples to prove my points.”
Kiger said he posed questions to Brown related to the $50 million DHS received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and how the department decided to spend the money by giving it directly to parents and bypassing daycare businesses that are struggling, with over 850 closing since the first of the year.
“Then, in another move by DHS, the decision was made to make all family members, including step-brothers and sisters, eligible to become daycare businesses and get paid to keep the kids of relatives, many of whom we now have learned were attending a licensed daycare,” Kiger said.
“From what I see in the actions by Director Brown, I’m not sure if he really understands the importance and need for daycares in our state, or if licensed daycares are really a high priority for him,” Kiger said.
He said the most disturbing issues comes from one of the largest daycare associations, made up of licensed daycare owners from all over the state. He said licensed owners in his district have tried to communicate with Director Brown by email, and for weeks they received no reply back and no confirmation that was requested to confirm the email was received by DHS.
Kiger said since Director Brown hasn’t responded, he’s issuing a public list of concerns.
DHS received approximately $50 million from the CARES Act that clearly shows in the funding parameters that the state is to be the first option for using the money. Funds may be used to provide continued payments and assistance to childcare providers in the case of decreased enrollment or closures related to the Coronavirus, and to assure that daycares are able to remain open or to reopen, he said.
There are approximately 38 states providing some type of funding from the CARES Act directly to daycares because they understand if daycares close down there won’t be enough businesses open to take the kids whose parents will be going back to work, he said.
Also, DHS is eligible to use approximately 30% of the $50 million for administrative services. He asked how much of this 30% DHS will keep.
Kiger said the Licensed Child Care Association of Oklahoma (LCCAOK) has spoken with childcare providers across the state to hear their concerns and issues with being able to remain open and to support Oklahoma’s economy.
LCCAOK also has researched what other states across the U.S. are doing in an effort to help support their child care providers. LCCAOK desires to have a joint meeting with DHS, Oklahoma legislators and childcare providers across Oklahoma to determine the best appropriation of funds from the CARES Act to ensure providers can remain in business.
Upon research conducted by LCCAOK, Kiger said it has been discovered that other states are using Child Care & Development Block Grants (CCDBG) and money from the CARES Act specifically to support childcare programs. Oklahoma’s current plan to give unemployed families 60 days of free child care will not help stabilize the childcare industry, he said, and this will cause hardships for providers farther down the road and risk instability to Oklahoma’s workforce and economy.
DHS has stated that the money for the fiscal year has already been allocated and there are no funds to pay enrollment vs. attendance, Kiger said. In response, LCCAOK has constructed a list of 10 items that can be accomplished with the 70% of CARES Act funds that are designated for childcare stability.
Kiger, LCCAOK and other legislators supportive of licensed daycare facilities are calling on DHS to appropriate funding to help providers in the following ways:
- Pay all licensed child care providers $25 per 1/2 licensed capacity per week for 16 weeks. This would be retroactive for the weeks of March 16, 2020, through July 3, 2020. This will exclude Head Starts, tribal-only programs, summer programs, day camps and before- and after-school programs. (This action is based upon support implemented in Virginia.)
- All licensed childcare providers will receive a one-time supply/cleaning stipend based upon licensed capacity. Programs licensed for 25 children or less will receive a $750 stipend. Programs licensed for 26-100 children will receive a $1,500 stipend. Programs licensed for 101 or more will receive a $3,000 stipend. This will exclude Head Starts, tribal-only programs, summer programs, day camps and before- and after-school programs. (This action is based upon support implemented in Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Kansas and New York.)
- Licensed childcare programs that remained open during this time will receive a one-time stipend based on licensed capacity for the additional operating costs and providing care to essential workers. Programs licensed for 25 children or less will receive a $750 stipend. Programs licensed for 26-100 children will receive a $1,500 stipend. Programs licensed for 101 or more will receive a $3,000 stipend. This will exclude programs that were not open during the pandemic, Head Starts, tribal-only programs, summer programs, day camps and before- and after-school programs. (This action is based upon support being offered by Louisiana, Massachusetts and Tennessee.)
- Licensed child care programs that remained open during this time will receive a one-time stipend of $500 per full-time employee to be issued to teachers as a hazard pay for working. Full time employees include, but are not limited to family home providers, owners, directors, staff and any other employee who works at least 30 hours per week. This will exclude programs that were not open during this pandemic, Head Starts, tribal-only programs, summer programs, day camps and before- and after-school programs. (This action is based upon support being offered by North Carolina.)
- Parent copays will be waived for the months of May and June. (This action is based upon support being offered by Florida, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.)
- Ensure that DHS will not use more than 30% of the money allocated by the CARES Act for administrative use. The remaining 70% of funds will be allocated directly to child care providers.
- DHS will undergo a voluntary audit of CCDBG and CARES Act funds.
- Due to the current situation, DHS will put on hold any plans to implement the Pyramid Model, QRIS 5-Star or any other new project for at least two years. In addition, there should be no increase of staffing towards these programs and currently employed staff for these projects should move to currently open positions or the position should be eliminated. No new positions will be created. This will ensure that no money from the CARES Act is used to fund additional agency programs.
- Due to the current situation, the required three yearly visits to programs shall include accreditation visits, CACFP reviews, tribal visits, fire inspections and health inspections.
- Due to the numerous licensed childcare providers who have openings for children, all unlicensed and “pop-up” programs will be prohibited beginning immediately.
The term “program” refers to any licensed childcare provider. This includes family home programs and center programs. This also refers to providers who accept private pay and/or subsidy payments.
LCCAOK believes that there is adequate funding to implement these changes. This funding will come from the $50 million from the CARES Act. Additional funding should remain from the current fiscal year’s CCDBG funds due to the decreased amount of subsidy payments being made for the months of March, April and May.
LCCAOK requested a written response by DHS confirming its letter has been received by 11:00 a.m. May 6, 2020. Additionally LCCAOK formally requested a response and action to its letter no later than 11:00 a.m. May 15, 2020. Of course both of these dates passed without response from Director Brown, Kiger said.
Again, LCCAOK formally requested a Zoom meeting with DHS, Oklahoma legislators and childcare provider organizations to discuss funding options that will not solely benefit unemployed families, but ALL families and childcare providers in Oklahoma as Oklahoma repairs its economy.
“A working childcare industry is critical for the economy to get back to previous levels,” Kiger said. “Our childcare providers make it possible for Oklahoman's to work.”
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, issued the following statement after Governor Kevin Stitt vetoed Senate Bill 1046, which provided a significant portion of the funding necessary to implement the governor’s own Soonercare 2.0 healthcare plan.
“More than 540,000 Oklahomans don’t have health insurance,” Virgin said. “While the governor looks for the right time to do something about our ballooning healthcare crisis, Oklahomans will continue to go without the care they need because they can’t afford to go to the doctor.
"For nearly a decade, Oklahomans have watched other states accept federal dollars and expand coverage for their citizens while Oklahoma Republicans have offered nothing but political talking points.
"In fact, Oklahoma Republicans did not present a plan to address our state’s uninsured crisis until Governor Stitt presented one this past February. Then he vetoed it.
"As a state, we cannot wait another decade for Republicans and Governor Stitt to find ‘the right time’ to bring home federal healthcare dollars. Fortunately, we don’t have to. In a bit more than a month, through an election, Oklahoma citizens will get to decide if it’s ‘the right time’ to expand health coverage. Let’s all hope that the people of this state will show more empathy than the majority party has for the hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans without insurance.”
June 5 is the deadline to register to vote (or update your registration) for the June 30 Oklahoma Primary.
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) today highlighted legislation he supports to hold China accountable for the role they played in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Chinese government and the communist party lied about where COVID-19 originated and covered up how bad it really was for months,” Mullin said. “They are directly responsible for the pandemic which has cost us too many lives and livelihoods, all while completely devastating our economy. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure China is held accountable for their actions.”
Legislation Mullin has cosponsored includes:
- R 6863, the COVID-19 Accountability Act: If China doesn’t assist in any COVID-19 investigation by the U.S., our allies, or U.N. affiliate, as well as close all wet markets and release all pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, then President Trump can impose multiple types of sanctions on them.
- R. 1811, the Countering the Chinese Government and Communist Party’s Political Influence Operations Act of 2019: Requires the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to counter political influence campaigns, ensure U.S. citizens are protected and Chinese nationals living temporarily in the U.S. know intimidation or surveillance by the Chinese government is an unacceptable invasion of their rights.
- Res. 909, Support an International Investigation of China’s Handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Condemns China’s actions during the pandemic. Shows U.S.’ support for an international investigation into the handling of COVID-19 by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the impact on the U.S. and other nations. Calls for a mechanism to get compensation from the Government of China for the harm, loss, and destruction they brought upon the world.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation requiring all Oklahoma public high schools to offer at least four Advanced Placement (AP) courses to students beginning in the 2024-25 school year was signed into law by the governor Tuesday.
House Bill 3400, authored by State Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, and State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, allows schools to choose the type of AP courses offered.
“Data-driven research shows that high school students are better prepared for higher education coursework and the workforce when they take a blend of both AP and concurrent enrollment classes,” said Baker, the chair of the House Common Education Committee. “Performing well in these classes and on subsequent exams also help reduce the cost of college tuition. In addition, having a skilled and trained workforce puts Oklahoma in a better position to attract job creators and build a stronger state economy.”
Stanislawski, chair of the Senate Education Committee, is serving his final regular legislative session due to term limits. He said he was gratified that this was his last measure to present to the full Senate.
“Throughout my time in the Senate, I’ve fought to expand educational opportunities throughout Oklahoma,” Stanislawski said. “I appreciate the opportunity for this to be my final bill, promoting advanced placement courses, regardless of what zip code a child lives in. That’s a legacy we can all be proud of.”
Baker said schools will be able to select the platform on which to offer these courses, whether in a traditional classroom setting, a virtual option or through an area CareerTech. The bill directs the State Department of Education to provide information to all local boards of education, to be distributed to students and parents, on available opportunities and the AP enrollment process. Virtual schools also would need to make these course options available.
Nearly six in 10 Oklahoma schools do not currently offer a single AP course, many of those in rural areas. Baker said this legislation is a way to ensure all students throughout the state have access to at least some AP courses so they are equally prepared for higher learning and the job market.
She said this measure builds on several investments the state has made to expand AP, including allocating funding for teacher training, test fee assistance for low-income students, and grants for districts to start new AP programs.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill requiring dyslexia screening for early elementary students not reading on grade level was signed into law by the governor Tuesday.
House Bill 2804, authored by House Majority Leader Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, and Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, requires screening for dyslexia for students in kindergarten through third grade who are not reading on grade level beginning in the 2022-23 school year.
“I’m thankful to the governor for signing this legislation that will be life-changing for these children,” Sanders said. “Too many of our children with dyslexia have been left behind in learning, and getting them the help they need is as simple as properly identifying this disorder. When these kids catch up with their peers in reading and other subjects it not only leads to a happier school experience but a better life.”
Bice said the issue was personal because her godson was dyslexic. She thanked the governor and fellow legislators for supporting the legislation.
“With proper screening, we can get dyslexic children the help they need to become stronger readers, giving them the tools to be successful in school and in life,” said Bice. “This is going to make a positive difference in the education outcomes of countless Oklahoma children.”
HB 2804 requires the State Board of Education to develop policies for dyslexia screening, and to adopt a list of approved qualified dyslexia screening tools. The bill also requires school districts to provide the State Department of Education with data about dyslexia, including the number of students screened for dyslexia each year, the number of students identified, and the process used to evaluate students.
“Our student advocates have given a face to dyslexia in Oklahoma. They have struggled to learn to read, but have been determined not to see others have the same fate. As their parents and educators, we have advocated for HB2804. Alongside the State Department of Education, the Dyslexia and Education Task Force, and members of the Legislature, we have worked to improve reading outcomes for struggling readers, including students with dyslexia,” said Michelle Keiper and Tiffany Jenkins of Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma. “Change in education is never easy, but OSDE is providing the leadership needed in the Reading Sufficiency and Special Education departments. Together we are making great improvements in Oklahoma.”
Last year, Sanders secured passage of House Bill 1228, which provides professional development for teachers across Oklahoma to help them better recognize signs of dyslexia in their students. Adding screening through HB 2804 was the logical next step, he said.
Sanders also authored legislation this year to add the Dyslexia Handbook to the list of tools available to teachers, parents and school administrators at no cost through the State Department of Education. Sanders said all of the legislation was a recommendation by the Dyslexia and Education Task Force and the SDE as well as Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma. All of the bills represent several years’ worth of work on this issue.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- State Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-OKC, released the following statement in response to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s claim to media outlets that the governor had no authority over the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
“In less than a month, the governor has gone from ‘give me another week’ to fix Oklahoma’s unemployment system to ‘the governor has no authority,'" Dollens said. "This type of leadership does little to help Oklahomans and falls short of the job Oklahomans elected us to do.
“Last year, the Legislature gave the governor unprecedented powers over government agencies. This session, media outlets dubbed him ‘the most powerful governor in state history.’ Now, while people suffer, his answer is ‘the governor has no authority?’
“The governor’s comments are a great example of what I have said for the past month. The governor and his administration paint a pretty picture during press conferences and press releases, but it isn’t based in reality, where thousands of Oklahomans are currently struggling to financially survive. The Legislature allocated $50 million to the governor to use to fight COVID-related problems. Perhaps the governor should have put some of those tax dollars into the obviously broken unemployment system instead of stocking up on arthritis medicine and scapegoating responsibility.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – The governor on Tuesday signed into law a bill that strengthens the role of victims’ impact panels in helping to stop driving under the influence (DUI) offenses in Oklahoma and will help reduce the number of repeat offenders.
House Bill 2877, by House Majority Leader Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, was a request by victims’ impact panel programs currently operating in Oklahoma. It follows up on successful DUI legislation Sanders has passed in 2016 that strengthened prosecution of repeat drunk drivers by creating the Impaired Driving Elimination Act, moving all DUI cases to a court of record, ensuring district attorneys statewide would have access to records of DUI offenses.
“I’ve fought much of my legislative career to curb the horrible crime of driving under the influence, which leaves death and devastation in its wake,” Sanders said. “This law ensures that those offenders who commit this crime will now have to face their victims or even worse the family members of those victims who were killed as a result of their actions,” Sanders said. “This strategy has proven to be 90 percent effective in our state, and it will save lives.”
Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, is the Vice Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Senate author of HB 2877.
“This is an important measure that is going to make Oklahoma roads safer and save lives. We have too many cases of repeat DUI offenders and we’ve got to stop that,” Paxton said. “House Bill 2877 will also make sure that Oklahoma’s impact panels are legitimate and following all necessary rules and regulations. I want to thank my legislative colleagues for supporting and Governor Stitt for signing this important public safety measure into law.”
The legislation accomplishes three things:
First, it puts teeth in the enforcement of current statutory requirements for operating a victims’ impact panel. The District Attorney’s Council now will collect information and certify the panels by ensuring they meet all statutory requirements and operate properly.
Second, the bill ensures that all defendants are being sent to a victim’s impact panel and standardizes the sentencing requirements statewide.
The bill also makes the fee for a victim/offender reconciliation program and Victims’ Impact Panel program a flat $75 instead of the sliding scale that now exists across the state.
Sanders said victims’ impact panels have to pay a $1,000 filing fee and the fee helps offset that and the cost of services provided. Equalizing the fee throughout the state ensures residents in rural areas will have access to such panels without having to make a long drive to attend.