Whatzup Politics (1307)
Newsletter from US Senator James Lankford
Dear Oklahoma friends and neighbors:
The past two weeks have been exceptionally painful for our nation as we grieve for the loss of life, emotional damage to our communities and families, and damage to property and businesses. Last week I sent out a a note on the death of George Floyd and on our nation’s ongoing dialogue on racial reconciliation just days before the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. We’ve come a long way in the 99 years since the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, but we clearly still have a ways to go.
As we work to intentionally hear each of our different perspectives and learn from our diverse backgrounds, we should put that knowledge to work in our families, communities, churches, and workplaces. It would be much better if 100 years from now we can look back on this difficult time and the often violent history that led us here and be able to say, "That was when everything and everyone changed for the better."
I challenge each of us to continue to work through the family and heart issues to end racism together, but let’s take some wise counsel from Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who walked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and be “constructive” rather than “destructive” in these conversations and in our actions. We can do many things to help in this situation, but I think one way to solve the issues we face is to invite a family of another race into your home for a meal—even if it’s a social distancing outdoor picnic right now.
If you have other ideas, share them—with my office, with your family, with leaders in your communities, at your churches. Be the example for your children and the nation of how to treat all people with dignity and respect. Oklahoma can lead the nation in racial reconciliation, if each family chooses to get out of our comfort zone to listen and learn.
This week, I participated in an important discussion on Oklahoma City’s KFOR news station with OKC Mayor David Holt and United Voice Oklahoma leaders, Rev. Clarence Hill, Jr., and Minister Cece Jones Davis. I was honored to participate in this dialogue. CLICK HERE to watch the conversation.
Tomorrow is the 76th anniversary of the D-Day invasion by Allied forces during World War II. On June 6, 1944, Allied forces waded through waist-deep waters amid hailing enemy gunfire to storm the beaches of Normandy, France, in an invasion called Operation Overlord, or “D-Day” as it is called today. It was a joint naval, air, and land assault that marked the start of the Allied forces’ campaign to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe. More than 6,000 Americans died that day. Their sacrifice and heroism marked the beginning of the end of World War II.
We owe our deepest gratitude to those who gave their last full measure of devotion and saved a continent—and eventually the world—from tyranny, from the Holocaust, and from complete destruction. To those who wore the cloth of our nation halfway around the world: we are eternally grateful. To your families: thank you for sharing your loved ones with our nation so we can be safer and live out our liberty. World War II veterans are sadly very few these days, so if you have a WWII veteran or a veteran of any war in your family, please remind them how much our nation appreciates what they did for us.
CLICK HERE to watch the video about my visit with other senators to Normandy on the 75th anniversary of D-Day last year.
UPDATE: Coronavirus Response in Oklahoma
The Senate was in session every week but one in May, and we anticipate being in session every week in June to continue to address the coronavirus pandemic and also remain focused on the other important legislative and nominations work the American people need us to do. One area of my focus for our coronavirus response has been on phone calls with veterans’ organizations and the VA to ensure that we are able to provide veterans with the care and support they need during this pandemic. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the conversations I’ve had this week regarding the federal response to COVID-19:
This week, I spoke to Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister about funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for Oklahoma’s schools and learning programs, especially in the wake of the altered landscape many of our students faced with distance learning this spring semester. Additionally, this week I joined several of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to speak to Oklahoma and national nonprofits to continue to work on ensuring nonprofits can fully serve their communities during this pandemic and any future emergency. I also spoke to the Oklahoma Pork Council this week about how we can ensure stability in our food supply chain to ensure our markets can sustain us in future emergencies.
As we continue to implement the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), it remains an important program that many Oklahoma small businesses and nonprofits have accessed to ensure they are able to stay connected with their employees. The PPP has saved 50 million jobs nationwide. As of this week 61,412 Oklahoma small businesses, nonprofits, veteran organizations, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and Tribes have received $5,414,559,493 through the PPP to help support their businesses during this time. The Senate also passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act by unanimous consent to extend the loan forgiveness period from 8 weeks to 24 weeks. President Trump signed the bill into law today.
CLICK HERE to read more about CARES Act funding for Tribes and Tribal members in our state.
Also, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, another existing Small Business Administration (SBA) loan given a boost by the CARES Act, has approved 34,063 advances for $107,229,00 and 7,274 regular loans totaling, $550,155,644 in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma economy continues to pick back up as businesses reopen and Oklahomans slowly and safely return to their routines. Our agriculture and energy sectors continue to reel from the coronavirus, but our farmers, ranchers, and producers and our energy producers continue to find ways to innovate and feed and fuel our nation. CLICK HERE to watch my speech on the Senate floor about the struggles facing our Oklahoma agriculture and energy industries.
Even with the PPP, thousands of Oklahomans have applied for Unemployment Assistance (UA) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to help get them through this time. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, the state entity that administers UA and PUA, was inundated with never-before-seen numbers of unemployment applications and continues to work to get them processed and get Oklahomans who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 the temporary assistance they need. National unemployment numbers released today showed the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May. Although we still have work to do, that is good news.
A few days ago, I was on a call with the Secret Service to receive an update on its fraud investigation surrounding unemployment in our state. They are equally committed to ensuring bad actors are kept out of these essential systems and have a thorough plan to partner with FBI field offices, local banks, federal agencies, and law enforcement in this effort. If you need assistance with UA fraud, you can access Attorney General Hunter’s office’s information on how they are preventing fraud and scams related to the coronavirus and what to do if you feel you’re a fraud or scam victim, CLICK HERE.
Please stay safe and engaged. The issues facing our nation haven’t stopped, and we shouldn’t stop productive dialogue about how to solve them. My team remains available to help via phone, email, and teleconference as needed to solve issues with federal agencies, answer questions, and receive your ideas and opinions. I receive a report each day of everyone who calls my office and what they called about—yes, even your voicemails. So please keep your ideas, concerns, and solutions coming for our nation.
I recently wrote a piece about how we will weather this storm together. CLICK HERE to read it.
Preserving Religious Liberty during Coronavirus
Protecting religious liberty and ensuring people can practice and live their faiths or have no faith at all remain top priorities for my work in Congress. During the pandemic, many houses of worship moved to virtual services or discontinued services out of an abundance of caution for their parishioners. However, the First Amendment protects Americans’ right to choose to have a faith, practice a faith, or freely change their faith without government intrusion. Some states and localities imposed unfair restrictions on houses of worship even as the state began to reopen other similar businesses and venues. I have worked to ensure Oklahoma and our nation do not impede the free exercise of religion for people of faith.
The Justice Department and Congress are working to protect freedom of religion under stay-at-home orders. I was recently joined on my podcast, The Breakdown with James Lankford, by Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice Eric Dreiband. Dreiband wrote an opinion piece on how the Justice Department is standing up for civil rights amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
CLICK HERE to listen to my podcast with Assistant Attorney General Dreiband.
In May, the White House announced that houses of worship are considered essential and should not be unduly burdened by restrictions that are lifted or not imposed on other organizations.
CLICK HERE to read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) interim guidelines for communities of faith.
CLICK HERE to read more on my letter to senate leadership regarding the inclusion of help for nonprofits in the next proposals for coronavirus relief.
Continuing to Stand Up for Life during Coronavirus
In addition to the LIFE Now Act, I have worked with my colleagues to ensure that we continue to ensure federal taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions, especially after it was announced that Planned Parenthood received improper PPP funds for which the organization is not eligible. Following the announcement, I joined several senators to send letters to Attorney General Bill Barr and SBA Administrator Carranza to implore them to initiate investigations into how Planned Parenthood, a more than $1 billion, multi-state organization was able to get $80 million of taxpayer money by pretending to be a "small business."
CLICK HERE to read my letter to AG Barr.
State Department Oversight
On May 28, I learned that the Department of State hadn’t processed a single passport since March 19, creating a backlog of 1.6 million applications. Other government agencies—and my offices—adapted quickly to the safer-at-home recommendations and activated emergency preparedness plans to ensure employees could work from home safely and still protect Americans’ personal information. Unfortunately the State Department failed to adopt similar practices for employees processing passport applications. On June 3, I sent a letter, joined by several other senators, to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to get answers and assess what we need to do to solve this for any future needs. Earlier this week, I talked at length with several senior leaders at the State Department on how we can get passports going again.
CLICK HERE to read the letter.
Keeping You in the Loop
This week, I supported the nomination of Michael Pack to lead the US Agency on Global Media (USAGM), a global network agency comprised of five media organizations that are tasked with connecting people around the world to support freedom and democracy. I advocated for reforms to the USAGM in the defense authorization bill several years ago to replace the chairman with a Senate-confirmed CEO to lead the agency among other needed reforms. Michael Pack will be the first person to be confirmed by the Senate to fill this role since those reforms passed. CLICK HERE to learn more about the USAGM and my ongoing work to reform the agency and its media organizations.
In early May, the Oklahoma Solicitor General, Mithun Mansinghani, argued before the US Supreme Court on behalf of the State of Oklahoma in the case, McGirt v. Oklahoma. This case is significant because it is the second of two cases before the Supreme Court involving crimes committed by Tribal members on Tribal land, specifically the Muscogee (Creek) territory in northeast Oklahoma. The McGirt case will determine whether or not Congress disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Reservation land before or after statehood. This is a complicated case, and I will continue to track and work with our Oklahoma Tribes as we wait for the Court’s decision in a few weeks.
Last month, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Senator Inhofe and me to honor the life and legacy of former Oklahoma Senator, Dr. Tom Coburn. Dr. Coburn was a friend, a mentor, and a fierce defender of our Constitution and of taxpayer dollars. CLICK HERE to watch my speech on the Senate floor in tribute to Dr. Coburn and the value he placed in the work done by the Senate.
I recently cosponsored the bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which would recapture a limited number of unused visas from prior years and allocate them to doctors and nurses who can help in the fight against COVID-19. The bill would not increase current immigration numbers and will not displace American workers. It simply ensures that unused green cards can be allocated to visa applicants in the healthcare industry, particularly to ease the nurse shortage in our nation during this historic coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath, CLICK HERE to learn more about the bipartisan bill.
Two weeks ago, the Senate voted to confirm a well qualified Oklahoma attorney, Mr. John F. Heil, III, to serve as a US District Judge for the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Oklahoma. The Senate continues to work through Executive and Judicial Branch nominations as part of our duty to provide advice and consent. CLICK HERE to watch my speech on the Senate floor in support of Mr. Heil’s confirmation.
Senator Inhofe and I recently introduced a resolution, which passed unanimously, to honor the life and commitment to the law of the late Judge Lee Roy West. Judge West, who passed away on April 24, 2020, was a former Chief Justice of the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Judge West served on the federal bench for nearly 40 years and received numerous accolades throughout his career. Judge West was beloved by his friends, colleagues, and of course his family, and he will be missed as a part of our federal court family. CLICK HERE to learn more about Judge West.
Don't forget to keep encouraging the high school students in your life to consider applying to serve our nation and attend one of our esteemed military service academies. Applicants must receive a nomination by a Member of Congress. Interested applicants can visit my website for more information on how to apply and how to participate in my recommendation selection process. CLICK HERE for my web page on the academy process.
On May 21, the US Department of State announced that the US would no longer participate in the international Treaty on Open Skies. That is a great decision. Open Skies has allowed Russian spies to gather intelligence in the air and on the ground in many American communities. CLICK HERE to read more about my support for President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Open Skies treaty, and CLICK HERE to read the letter I sent President Trump last December regarding the Treaty.
Last week, the Senate voted to confirm President Trump's nominee, John Ratcliffe, as the new Director of National Intelligence. I supported Mr. Ratcliffe’s nomination and look forward to his work to ensure our intelligence community can continue to help prevent terrorism and also maintain privacy standards for Americans.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman and I sent a letter to President Trump last month urging him to use Inspectors General (IG) to ensure taxpayer dollars are used in the most effective and efficient way. With trillions of taxpayer dollars spent by the federal government to respond to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, independent IGs should be in place to prevent waste, fraud, and mismanagement. CLICK HERE to read our letter.
In God We Trust,
United States Senator for Oklahoma
If you would like more information on these topics or any other legislation currently before the US Senate, please do not hesitate to call my DC office at (202) 224-5754. My Oklahoma City office can be reached at (405) 231-4941 and my Tulsa office at (918) 581-7651. You can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram for updates on my work in Congress.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 5, 2020
State Election Board: Oklahoma Financial Institutions to Offer Free Absentee Voting Services
(Oklahoma City) – The Secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board joined representatives of the Oklahoma Bankers Association, Oklahoma Credit Union Association, and Community Bankers Association of Oklahoma today to announce that financial institutions across the state plan to offer free absentee voting services to all Oklahoma voters.
Participating banks and credit unions will offer one or more of the following services to voters:
- Free ID copy (lobby and/or drive-thru)
- Free absentee ballot notarization (lobby and/or drive-thru)
Voters can find a list of participating banks and credit unions at elections.ok.gov. Services and hours may vary by location.
“Banks and credit unions are in almost every community in Oklahoma. They’re our neighbors and community partners and they realize the importance of democracy. That’s why we’re excited to work with these financial institutions to ensure that every voter—both customers and non-customers alike—have free and convenient absentee services available to them,” said Paul Ziriax, Secretary of the State Election Board.
Craig Buford, President and CEO of the Community Bankers Association agrees.
“The Community Bankers Association of Oklahoma is proud of the hard work and diligence of the Oklahoma Legislature and the Oklahoma Election Board to streamline the absentee ballot process while maintaining its integrity. Community Financial Institutions are not just the backbone of Oklahoma’s economy, but leaders in their communities. This partnership was a natural fit as we all work together to protect one of our most cherished rights, the right to vote.”
“Community banks across Oklahoma are excited for the opportunity to make absentee voting easier for all Oklahomans,” said Adrian Beverage, Chief of Staff and Executive Vice President for Government Relations for the Oklahoma Bankers.
According to Nate Webb, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Credit Union Association, “Voting is one of the greatest privileges we enjoy as Americans. Oklahoma credit unions are pleased to help our fellow Oklahomans participate in the process.”
While participation by banks and credit unions is voluntary, associationfficers said they have had a positive response of support from financial institutions across the state.
The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is Tuesday, June 23, 2020 (5 p.m.) before Election Day. Absentee ballots must be received no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day.
For more information about absentee voting in Oklahoma, visit our website at elections.ok.gov. Voters with specific questions should contact their County Election Board or the State Election Board at (405) 521-2391 or
June 4, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislative leaders on Thursday filed an action with the Oklahoma Supreme Court in response to a recent federal court motion by Gov. Kevin Stitt that poses significant risk to states’ rights and the Oklahoma Constitution’s separation of powers.
In a May 28 filing in a federal court case concerning tribal gaming compacts, Stitt asked a federal judge to rule on the Oklahoma attorney general’s recent determination that Oklahoma law does not authorize the governor to enter into tribal gaming compacts offering gaming activities that are prohibited by Oklahoma law, such as sports betting.
“Federal judges decide matters of federal law, not matters of state law, and at issue is a matter of state law. Asking federal judges to decide a matter of state law is a dangerous intrusion into states’ rights,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
To prevent the problematic legal precedent the executive branch’s request to the federal judge would create, legislative leaders asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to step in and rule on the matter.
“This filing is about much more than gaming compacts. It is a federalism filing to protect states’ rights and the rule of law,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. “While we have all due respect for the federal courts, this is not a question for the federal courts to decide.”
The legislative leaders’ request for the Oklahoma Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction on the matter would allow the question the executive branch asked of the federal judge concerning the governor’s authority under state law to be answered by the Oklahoma Supreme Court instead.
“The Oklahoma judiciary – not a federal judge – is the proper party to interpret Oklahoma laws. This is a basic, fundamental state right that must be upheld,” Treat said.
Treat and McCall made the filing jointly in their capacities as the elected leaders of each legislative chamber.
“If Oklahoma cedes authority to a federal judge on this matter, it risks ceding to a federal judge on any other state matter. I am confident that this was not the governor’s intent, but we cannot allow that to happen. The federal government has already usurped too many issues that belong at the state level. This is a chance to protect power ‘reserved to the States’ and stand up for the sovereignty and authority of all areas of Oklahoma state government,” Treat said.
The legislative leaders’ filing states that “the Governor’s authority to negotiate and bind the state to his Agreements is a state law question” and asks the Supreme Court to take up the matter.
“We did not want to take this action, but it was a necessary response to prevent a problematic precedent from being set,” McCall said. “The filing is not about any individual or any issue other than protecting states’ rights, upholding our Constitution and setting proper precedents for those who serve the public today and in the future.”
“The executive, judiciary and legislative branches are three co-equal branches of government. When one of the branches acts outside its scope and authority, it is incumbent on the other branches of government to reign in and restore the balance of power in our system,” Treat said.
Treat and McCall requested an official attorney general’s opinion in April after the governor announced proposed gaming compacts with two tribal nations that contain sports betting and other provisions expressly prohibited by state law.
In Attorney General Opinion 2020-8 issued May 5, Attorney General Mike Hunter determined the governor “has the authority to negotiate compacts with Indian tribes but he cannot bind the state to any such compact if doing so authorizes activity prohibited by state law or would otherwise be contrary to state law.”
Gaming agreements the governor announced with two tribal nations in April include gaming activities that are expressly prohibited by state law, which prompted the attorney general to note in his official opinion that “the Governor can no more permit gambling prohibited by state criminal law via unilateral compact than he could agree to allow a Tribe to sell illicit controlled substances to members of the public in Indian country.”
On May 28, the governor asked for ongoing mediation between his office and several tribal nations in a federal lawsuit over gaming compact matters to be paused so the federal judge overseeing the case can rule on whether the Oklahoma attorney general’s opinion on the governor’s authority was correct.
The legislative leaders’ filing Thursday asks for that question of Oklahoma law to be posed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court rather than the federal judge. The filing can be viewed by clicking the links below:
Public Service Announcement Submitted by Paul LaRosa, Candidate for LeFlore County Commissioner District #2
Le Flore County (LFC) is very independent and is a live-and-let-live oasis within a world that regulates everything. As a lifetime LFC resident, I do not want to be hemmed in by more than absolutely necessary. In fact, I would go so far as to say that all I want is to be included in the major decisions which directly effect my family, business and community that I may protect the things I love. I also want you to be able to protect the things that matter most in your life. Having said that, modern technology is directly impacting all of us and it is not going away.
LFC has cell towers even though we do not have the best internet service and therefore we will be heavily solicited to set up 5-G. I can look up to the top of Cavanal and there stand cell towers. I can look out across the Poteau Valley and see cell towers. My point is: Who decides these things? Who is safeguarding our Valley? Hot Springs, Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Denver, and LA are working on long range plans to bring safe and lucrative 5-G to their constituents. Who is planning on doing this for us? The answer must be the LFC County Commissioners. I want to do this job.
5-G technology is a form of electromagnetic impulse, except that the ‘waves’ of the impulse are shorter than ever before and vibrate faster. While this will effectively include everyone in the IoT web, there are some known drawbacks. When 5-G waves are increased, they can cause bodily damage. President Trump specifically eliminated certain foreign parts from American 5-G installations to prevent nefarious use. Now is the time to address our personal and community concerns.
Negotiating the building and installation of cell towers or 5-G sender-receivers in LFC is the responsibility of the County Commissioners. President Trump meant 5-G to also be a lucrative source of income (streams). The LFC process must begin with public postings of such proposals. I will hold public hearings in my district. Simultaneously, I propose that LFC cease any further agreements and/or installations of cell towers and/or 6-G transmitter-receivers until an LFC ‘policy’ is developed and finalized.
I want to make it clear that first and foremost I support LFC residents who may be considering selling or leasing land to 5-G carriers like Verizon. The ‘owner’ in either case would be Verizon. These large corporations operate all over the world and deal with restrictions and fees similar to what I am proposing. Negotiating terms and conditions to use our collective air space will not lose opportunity but will garner respect for our heritage.
There are certain obvious concerns which even the most hardened skeptic should realize. Cell towers do not belong near schools, residences, or hospitals and perhaps businesses. In other communities erecting cell towers is not only strictly monitored and controlled, there is also a significant ongoing fee, such as a rent, which is collected by the community because the air rights are held in common. The owners of the towers should be required to carry insurance, submit a plan for upkeep and maintenance, and provide for removal in the event they vacate the property. Some communities even require cell towers to camouflage their appearance as pine trees like the ones in Shawnee, Oklahoma, or the palm trees along California freeways!
We cannot stop time. The technology of the 21st Century is upon us now. We have a duty to understand the long-range impact and obligation to manage our best options.
We can do better and be better!
The 2020 Vote is an Investment in Our Future
Vote for me, Paul La Rosa,
Le Flore County Commissioner District #2
Paid for by Paul LaRosa
UPDATE June 2, 11:34 AM
There is still time to meet the candidates running for office in LeFlore county before the June 30th Primary Election. Here are the dates OKWNEWS knows about as of today.
June 5--Meet the Candidates Luncheon at Poteau Chamber/Reynolds 12-1 PM $8
June 9--Dinner, Dessert and Debate Reynolds Center Dinner at 6:00 $8 (Proceeds go to Recovery Ranch and Second Chances Recovery) Debate at 7:00 (no cost for debate only, if you arrive after the dinner)
June 16--Spiro Town Hall 6 PM (Location TBA)
June 19--Talihina Candidate Speaking, Food, Auction and Door Prizes at 6:30 Grade School Gym parking lot so bring your lawnchair. They will move inside if it rains. Pancake Supper available as well as drawings for $200 in food.
June 22--Heavener Meet and Greet (Info on time and location TBA)
June 25--Republican Regular Monthly Meeting Dutch Treat Western Sizzlin (Time TBA)
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.