Whatzup Politics (1233)
State Reps. Mark McBride, R-Moore, and Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, held two interim studies on Wednesday before the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education, over which they serve as chair and vice-chair respectively.
Both lawmakers hosted the first study – Exploration of Student and School Improvement Models and Digital Improvement Platforms – which looked at meeting the needs of schools, teachers, students and communities in the changing environment of digital transformation.
“Educators are working hard to navigate the challenge of starting back to school amid this COVID-19 pandemic,” McBride said. “Many districts are offering virtual or blended-learning models for their students in case they need to or just desire to work from home. But this has forced us all to take a look at what digital platforms are available statewide to make sure each student has equal access to rigorous education materials and high quality teaching so they are fully prepared for their future.”
Hasenbeck, a former teacher, said COVID exposed a need with which school already were grappling.
“Many of our teachers want to expand their digital learning knowledge, and COVID showed us they can learn these skills at the same time their students are learning,” Hasenbeck said.
“One thing COVID has done is infused more federal dollars into our schools so they can buy hardware and improve internet connections for teachers and students,” Hasenbeck said. “But this study is way beyond that. This is about increasing resources for our students and our teachers.”
She said just in the course of preparing for this study she and other lawmakers learned about many products that Oklahoma already has access to, but also others that will increase reading, math, science and other core skills in students.
Ryan Walters from Every Kid Counts spoke to the committee about the Learning Clearinghouse, with which his organization hopes to negotiate a statewide contract. This would be a place where students could log in to learn things they need to know. Hasenbeck said teachers could use this resource to help students who are either above or below grade level, so those students could be engaged while the teacher helps the rest of the class.
In the afternoon, Hasenbeck held a separate study examining teachers’ health insurance, retirement, retirement credit and flexible benefits and their ever-increasing costs.
“With term limits, we’ve lost some of the institutional knowledge we had in the Legislature about education budgeting,” Hasenbeck said. “I felt it was time for us to have this discussion to give all lawmakers a full understanding of everything that goes into a teacher’s benefits package and the true cost of each item. That way, when we’re having our yearly talks about the size of the education budget, we can fully distinguish between classroom dollars and teachers’ compensation.”
Hasenbeck invited a superintendent to detail the difference between compensation for a traditional versus a retired teacher. She also invited speakers to break down health insurance costs.
Mike Jackson, the new director of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) described how his office might be of use in the future to help lawmakers solve problems such as addressing the rising cost of state employee benefits. The State Department of Education also added to the discussion.
Mark McBride serves District 53 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Moore in Cleveland County. Toni Hasenbeck serves House District 65, which includes Cotton County and parts of Comanche, Grady and Stephens counties.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Ty Burns, R-Morrison, held an interim study examining the effects of misused tax exemptions and veterans’ benefits during Tuesday’s House Appropriations and Budget on Finance Subcommittee meeting.
Burns said he filed Interim Study 20-011 to learn in depth about details surrounding stolen valor, including misused veterans’ benefits, within the state. In such instances, a person may create a fake identification card or pose as a family member who is a veteran to take advantage of benefits such as tax exemptions, home loans, education benefits and pensions.
“Unfortunately, it’s very common for someone to misrepresent their service or take advantage of veterans’ benefits intended for a family member,” Burns said. “The misuse of these benefits and tax exemptions adds yet another roadblock that prevents veterans from receiving the benefits they need. My hope is that by identifying how this happens, we can consider steps to stop it from happening in the future so we can continue to protect our state’s veterans.”
Burns said one of his concerns was ensuring 501c3 nonprofits that raise money in Oklahoma spend a portion of that money within Oklahoma to aid the state’s veterans.
Joel Kintsel, who serves as executive director of Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, spoke at the interim study.
“I really appreciate the hard work Representative Burns and the committee put into today’s interim study,” Kintsel said. “It is so important to ensure that the service and sacrifice of genuine Oklahoma veterans is not diminished by those who seek to receive benefits they did not earn.”
According to an update from the Oklahoma Tax Commission, about 40,000 veteran identification cards have been in circulation since 2005. ODVA reported that they track about 22,000 of the current cards.
During the study, Burns and the other attendees discussed the possibility of crossover IDs to provide an extra layer of security and lower the risk of stolen identification. One suggested option was an added symbol on drivers’ licenses to identify the person as a disabled veteran.
Burns is a military veteran and became a decorated infantryman over his 20-year career. Burns was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and is the recipient of several awards, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Combat Infantry Badge.
The House approved more than 70 interim studies this year, which must be completed by Oct. 29. Interim studies give lawmakers the opportunity to meet, gather data and speak with experts on matters important to the state and that could potentially result in changes to existing legislation or new state law.
A video of the Burns’ interim study is available at https://okhouse.gov/Video/Default.aspx.
Rep. Ty Burns, R-Morrison, represents House District 35 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes Pawnee County and portions of Noble, Payne, Creek and Osage counties.
Don’t Use the Postal Service as a Political Pawn
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
You may have heard recently the United States Postal Service (USPS) needs more money now or they will permanently shut their doors. That is simply not true. Speaker Pelosi is attempting to scare the American people into believing her baseless conspiracy theory so she can implement her universal mail-in voting scheme.
Under this scheme, Pelosi Democrats want to essentially eliminate in-person voting and send every person over the age of 18 a ballot to their home in order to cast their vote, regardless of whether or not they are registered to vote or if they even asked for a ballot. At one time or another, we have all received someone else’s mail in our mailboxes. Sending every adult in the United States a ballot - whether or not they asked for one - undermines the integrity of our elections and creates an environment for voter fraud to run rampant.
Our election system is crucial to the foundation of our country and it must be secure. Every American should have confidence their vote will be counted. If you do not want to vote in-person because of health concerns, you can still request an absentee ballot be sent to you - just like you always have been able to do.
Universal mail-in voting is just another step towards socialism that will only create more problems than it will allegedly solve. Make no mistake, the Postal Service will not go under if we don’t give them money for universal mail-in voting.
The USPS provides a vital service to the American people, especially those in rural areas. 80 percent of veterans received their medications by mail, and more than half of small businesses rely on the USPS to do business. In the CARES Act passed earlier this year, the Treasury Department lent the USPS $10 billion to help them through the pandemic. We must continue to work to make the USPS more efficient and fiscally responsible so it can continue to serve the American people for generations to come.
It is reckless for Pelosi Democrats to attempt to use the Postal Service as a political pawn to push their socialist agenda.
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.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, today released a statement on the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
“This is a special day. Many American women fought hard to get their government to acknowledge their right to participate in our Democracy. We cannot recognize this day, however, without also recognizing that not all women gained the right to vote with the 19th Amendment.
That right would remain elusive for Black women until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Still, the 19th Amendment is a reason for Americans to celebrate. Over the last century, more Americans have gained the right to vote, and when more Americans can vote, our government better reflects the needs of its citizens.
“Yet, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary, let us also realize that the plight of the suffragettes still exists today.
“Recently, all across our state and country, elected female leaders have been insulted, attacked, and threatened in ways their male counterparts simply don’t experience in the course of their jobs. This is behavior that must change.
“In recognition of this historic movement, I hope that all citizens will look within themselves and ask how they can contribute to this march toward a more inclusive, stronger community.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, was joined by representatives from the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections and the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office as Gov. Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 3756 in a ceremony last week.
House Bill 3756, authored by Miller, authorizes the use of videoconferencing technology in all stages of civil or criminal proceedings except in jury trials or trials before judges.
“We started working on this legislation in September 2019 because videoconferencing seemed like a simple solution to help save our criminal justice system both time and money, as well as maintaining public safety,” Miller said. “Of course, we never could have predicted how much more valuable and useful the bill would become. There couldn’t be a better time to offer videoconferencing to Oklahoma’s district court system, which in turn impacts county jails and the Department of Corrections, and I appreciate the work done by its supporters to pass the legislation.”
Miller said the idea was proposed to her by Frank Urbanic, a criminal defense attorney and constituent of House District 82.
“What initially started as a way to allow an attorney to plead for his or her client without that client being physically present turned into a bill that brings our courts into the 21st century,” Urbanic said. “We’re only scratching the surface right now on the efficiencies produced by this legislation. Something we didn’t envision when we stared working on this legislation was the impact a pandemic would have on our court system. This legislation assures every court in the future that video teleconferencing is authorized when there are public health concerns.”
The Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections (DOC) and the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association (OSA) were among the groups supporting HB3756.
This bill helps propel the idea of expanding current technology to protect the public. The pandemic forces us to open our minds to alternative methods to accomplish the task,” said DOC spokeswoman Jessica Brown. “Virtual hearings are one such alternative. ODOC greatly appreciates Rep. Miller’s partnering with public safety to achieve passage of this bill.”
“Rep. Miller’s House Bill 3756 has advanced the use of virtual hearings for sheriffs across the state. This will provide an immeasurable cost savings for the citizens in Oklahoma,” said Ray McNair, who serves as executive director of OSA.
The bill was formally signed into law in May and will go into effect Nov. 1.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement in response to Governor Stitt’s announcement that he will enroll Oklahoma into the Lost Wages Assistance program.
“While we appreciate Governor Stitt’s concern for unemployed Oklahomans, it is disappointing that he would sign them up for a 50 percent reduction in their federal unemployment benefits,” Virgin said. “Oklahomans work hard, and they deserve to be protected. Decreasing this benefit hurts Oklahoma’s workforce, small businesses, and our communities that rely on sales tax to survive.
“It seems that the governor hopes he can enroll Oklahoma into this program, and then our state will be omitted from the higher unemployment benefit in the stimulus package Congress passes. Two days before the White House announced the federal unemployment program, Governor Stitt said Oklahomans didn’t need additional federal assistance. Unless he has changed his mind, it makes sense that this reduced-rate program is an attempt to limit the federal assistance Oklahomans receive.
“Oklahomans deserve to have a governor who is an advocate for their federal tax dollars coming home, not an adversary. Unfortunately, reduced federal unemployment isn’t the first time the governor has argued to keep Oklahoma’s federal tax dollars in Washington, D.C. His entire political career, he has advocated against the 9 to 1 match of Medicaid expansion.
“I understand the governor’s desire to reduce the national debt, but attempting to settle the liability of a nation on the backs of Oklahomans is cruel and unfair.”
OK House of Representatives Press Release
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, released the following today regarding to the nation’s COVID-19 response and the use of Hydroxycholorquine:
“I became a State Representative because I love our state and the incredible people of Oklahoma.
I have tremendous appreciation for our nation, which is the symbol of freedom throughout the world. Because of my passion for our country and state, I refuse to remain silent while the very foundation of our freedoms are being attacked and destroyed.
Our nation’s response to COVID-19 should produce fear in every person who stands for freedom, liberty and the United States.
First, we must establish that China developed this virus. It was designed to infect overweight, diabetic, elderly people who have low immune systems. Where are the majority of overweight diabetic people found? That would be America!
China knew about the outbreak of this virus and closed travel in their own country but continued to allow travel to the United States and the world. China begin buying up all personal protective equipment such as ventilators. When the virus was widespread, China made huge profits by infecting the world and selling protective and medical equipment. Let me run down all the facts that China has executed a biological and economic attack on our nation.
It is critical that we address China for their war-like aggression, but we also must address the equally the illogical domestic response to this virus. Allow me to explain how our response has been irrational. A rational response would require that we compare COVID numbers and statistics to other similar viruses that have occurred in the U.S. for instance, like tuberculosis and the H1N1 flu. These viruses reveal much higher infections rates and higher fatalities, but we had no shutdowns, no masks or no massive quarantine. It seems very irrational to destroy our economy, increase civil unrest, increase suicides, increase drug abuse including drug overdoses, increase domestic abuse and destroy our nation’s food chains for a virus with a 98% survival rate. It is even more unreasonable to close churches but declare abortion clinics essential, close schools but allow riots, and allow one business to remain open serving thousands wile demanding small businesses close. However, absolutely the most insane response has been denying doctors and patients the right to treat COVID with Hydroxychloroquine. Why are most of the media and Facebook shutting down reports and trying to shame doctors and patients for speaking verified truth. This is called censorship, and it is a deliberate violation of our First Amendment rights. How insane is that?
Finally I want to share my personal knowledge of Hydroxychloroquine. Sometime ago, I was having extreme trouble breathing. My chest hurt, and I struggled for every breath. I called doctors who all reported they would not test and would not treat. Each doctor’s office referred me to the state Health Department. In the course of preforming my job, I have been advised the Health Department is 35% inaccurate or just plain wrong in their testing. I would not go to the Health Department with those poor testing results. Plus, they do not treat COVID. In addition, I did not want to subject my family and friends to demands of forced house arrest by the Health Department. Instead, I found a very courageous doctor who is willing to risk her medical career to save lives. After days of suffering, I took Hydroxychloroquine along with a regiment of other medications. Within two and a half hours I was unbelievably better. My doctor demanded I lose weight and drop my blood sugar to continue treatment. I must add I am a cancer survivor, diabetic, overweight and have breathing issues. That means I am the 2% that dies from this virus. I am proud to say I lost over 30 pounds and significantly dropped my blood sugar. I am grateful for my doctor who I credit for saving my life.
In closing, I am encouraging Oklahoma doctors to take courage and begin treating COVID with Hydroxychloroquine. I am asking Oklahomans to demand our state allow the use of Hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID. Let’s stop the fear, learn the facts and restore Oklahoma. God bless you, your family, Oklahoma and our magnificent Nation.”
WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Energy Action Team co-chairs Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) joined House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) to applaud the Trump Administration's updated regulations on methane emissions that will provide much-needed relief to American energy producers:
"In Louisiana and across the country, American energy producers are fighting to survive the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic and economic shutdowns," said Whip Scalise. "Today’s action by the Trump Administration repeals overly burdensome, job-killing regulations and provides much-needed relief to struggling American energy producers and the jobs they support. The United States already has some of the strongest environmental standards in the world, proven by the fact that methane emissions have continued to decrease even as we have become the world leader in oil and gas production. I applaud President Trump for his efforts to strengthen American energy independence by reducing onerous regulations while continuing to ensure proper environmental protections are in place."
“I applaud the EPA’s recent announcement on the Methane Rule in furtherance of the Trump Administration’s Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan. “The 2016 Obama-era rule, conveniently implemented at the tail end of the Obama-Biden Administration, was overburdensome, costly, and ineffective. Oil and gas producers have an economic incentive to mitigate methane leaks. The U.S. was showing an improvement in methane emissions prior to the implementation of the 2016 rule, even while natural gas production in the U.S. increased. This is largely due to the ingenuity and technological advances in the oil and gas sector, not job-destroying government regulations. I thank President Trump for his actions to support American jobs and the American Energy Renaissance.”
The Obama-Era methane regulations would cost the American economy millions of dollars each year in regulatory costs, in addition to killing hundreds of American jobs,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin. “Methane emissions from oil and natural gas have significantly declined in recent decades without multiple, overlapping federal regulations, and this is no exception. These final rules will cut the red tape for producers while protecting our air and environment from pollution. Thank you, President Trump, for taking this action to support the American energy industry.”
On August 13, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced two actions on New Source Performance Standards for the Oil and Gas Industry. The regulations remove the transmission and storage segments from the sources that fall under the regulations and rescind methane requirements for the production and processing segments of the industry. The regulations also reduce how often certain facilities must be monitored for fugitive emissions; exempts low-producing wells from fugitive emissions monitoring requirements; and allows for greater flexibility in how monitoring occurs and who does the monitoring, among other things.
These actions are in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, which required the review of regulations that “burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.” These regulations will reduce regulatory burdens; save tens of millions of dollars in compliance costs; and allow for technological advancements while still protecting the environment.
OK House Press Release
OKLAHOMA CITY – House Majority Leader Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, today commented on the announcement by Gov. Kevin Stitt that the state is now ranked ninth in the nation for the status of highway bridge conditions, according to the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration. This includes interstates, U.S. highways and state highways that are the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) responsibility.
Sanders served more than four years as the chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Transportation, beginning in 2012, overseeing the budget for ODOT during that time. As a member of House leadership, he’s continued to work to protect funding for transportation in the state budget each year.
“One of the reasons I sought to serve in public office was to protect our state resources and to improve services for our citizens,” Sanders said. “One of our most valuable assets is our infrastructure. Well-maintained roads and bridges not only provide safe access for our residents but the backbone of our commerce system, which brings jobs to our great state and builds our economy so that we enjoy the best quality of life here in the heartland of America.”
Sanders said he was pleased to be among the class of Republicans that took majority in the Legislature more than a decade ago, that quickly moved to make transportation a priority in the state budget.
“We’ve worked hard to get more funding to ODOT so they could begin to strategically plan for long-term roads and bridges projects,” Sanders said. “At the same time, we carved out funding for the County Infrastructure for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) plan to maintain our rural roadways and to repair or replace hundreds of structurally deficient or obsolete bridges throughout the state.”
Sanders said transportation had been underfunded for decades prior to Republicans taking the majority of seats in the state Legislature since 2005. In 2004, nearly 1,200 of Oklahoma’s 6,800 highway bridges were considered structurally deficient, and the state was ranked as low as 49th place in national bridge condition rankings. The number of structurally deficient bridges has been reduced to 86 today, with each of those already scheduled for repair on ODOT’s eight-year plan, according to the department.
In addition, the current $879 million CIRB plan calls for replacement or rehabilitation of 313 bridges, 151 that are structurally deficient, over the next five years. These structures are maintained separately by counties.
The Legislature’s support for ODOT for FY20 totaled $905,523,856 in appropriated and dedicated state funding, a 248% increase in investment from FY06, when such funding for ODOT equaled $260,202,897.
“At times we had to fight tooth and nail to protect this funding for transportation against many other worthy causes, knowing that if we kept transportation as a priority it would bring the booming economy we desired to help us offer all other state services to our citizens,” Sanders said. “Learning today that we have achieved top ten status for the condition of our ODOT-maintained highway bridges feels like a personal victory for me and my fellow Republicans. This is a high note of my legislative career.”
Sanders represents District 59 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Dewey and parts of Blaine, Canadian, Kingfisher and Woodward counties.
Frix, Transportation Committee Comment on Top Ten Bridge Status
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, chair of the House Transportation Committee, and other Republican members of the committee today issued a joint statement on the announcement by Gov. Kevin Stitt that the state is now ranked ninth in the nation for the status of highway bridge conditions, according to the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration. This includes interstates, U.S. highways and state highways that are ODOT’s responsibility.
“Since Republicans took the majority in the Legislature more than a decade ago, we have made transportation a priority,” Frix said. “We’ve worked diligently each year to fully fund our Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s eight-year plan and our County Infrastructure for Roads and Bridges plan to maintain state and rural roadways and to repair or replace hundreds of structurally deficient or obsolete bridges throughout the state. Today’s news that we have achieved top ten status for the condition of our ODOT-maintained highway bridges is a fantastic endorsement of our commitment.
“Safe and well-maintained infrastructure is the economic lifeline of our state, as it helps us move our families and our products safely and efficiently. It’s another reason to claim Oklahoma as a hub for families and major businesses. Again, this year we made transportation a priority in our state budget, and we will continue that effort so that someday we will be No. 1 in both roads and bridges in America.”
In addition to Chairman Frix, Republican members of the House Transportation Committee include Vice Chair Rep. Ronny Johns, R-Ada, and members Reps. Dean Davis, R-Broken Arrow; Jim Grego, R-Wilburton; Tommy Hardin, R-Madill; Kenton Patzkowsky, R-Balko; Logan Phillips, R-Mounds; Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany; and Kevin West, R-Moore. Republican members of the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Transportation include Chair Todd Russ, R-Cordell; Vice Chair Nicole Miller, R-Edmond; Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont; Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee; Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau; Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond; and Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks.