Whatzup Politics (1501)
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Scott Fetgatter today received passage of Senate Bill 1033 through the House of Representatives. The bill will allow the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD) and the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Association (OMMA) to enter into agreements to hire more agents.
“In 2018 we bought the ticket and took the ride when it came to medical marijuana in Oklahoma,” Fetgatter said. “There weren’t many regulations and stakeholders on all sides of the issue have been looking for structure. This industry has blossomed over the past 3 years and we have been working to make sure there are structures in place to regulate and help give guidance to those working within it. I’m proud that this session we were able to pass so many important pieces of legislation that do just that.”
In addition to SB 1033, there were a number of other pieces of legislation passed to better regulate medical marijuana and give clarity to the duties of OBNDD and OMMA including:
House Bill 2272 which compels OMMA compliance in conducting inspections on new licensees. It also forces any foreign ownership to disclose by Oct. 1 or have their license revoked.
If an entity lies about foreign ownership on their form, they will also have their license revoked.
House Bill 2646 which gives OMMA additional authority to revoke licenses.
House Bill 2904 which is a limits bill that includes language on mandating OMMA to hire an additional 62 compliance and enforcement positions, six positions to perform legal and financial duties, four investigatory officers and four positions to perform planning and logistics duties.
Fetgatter said that in crafting these bills lawmakers were listening to the will of their constituents who requested that the industry be better regulated and illegal black market activity be reined in within the state of Oklahoma. SB 1033 will now make its way to the governor’s desk.
By Rep. Rick West
Couple of issues to highlight that got taken care of this last week of session:
Several legislators this week announced plans to open temporary mega centers in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to help address the backlog of about 300,000 people waiting to get a REAL ID. The Department of Public Safety experienced many issues surrounding technology in switching to REAL ID systems. Then COVID forced them to limit how many people could apply in person at a time. These centers are only temporary. They shouldn’t affect our rural tag agents.
Another issue we addressed this year is funding for rural school districts in low property value areas. We found we have 334 school districts throughout the state that receive less in local ad valorem taxes than other districts. To bring these districts to the same level of funding as others, we are going to use medical marijuana taxes and the Common School Building Equalization Fund.
The Legislature also passed Senate Bill 422, which will allow various types of proof of eligibility to be presented to receive agricultural tax exemptions. You could present copies of IRS Schedule F, IRS form 1065 or IRS form 4835, or any equivalent form prescribed by the Internal Revenue Service, with respect to a federal income tax return; a one-page business description form provided by the Oklahoma Tax Commission; Farm Service Agency form 156EZ; or other documents at the discretion of the Oklahoma Tax Commission that verify active agriculture production.
This is something our local farmers and ranchers have asked for. I’m hoping the governor will sign it before you even read this.
I also want to give a quick overview of this legislative session. Conservatives showed up in force and passed some good legislation.
We cut personal income taxes for all taxpayers by 0.25%. We protected our Second Amendment rights by declaring Oklahoma a Second Amendment Sanctuary Sate, free from any government attempt to confiscate or buy back firearms. We protected our right to gather at church no matter what state of emergency we might be in. We passed several anti-abortion bills that will protect the lives of the unborn. We protected the 10th Amendment rights of our state with a bill that will allow us to examine and potentially litigate against any executive order or federal rule that we find to be unconstitutional.
It’s not always what you pass, however, it’s what you stop.
Of the 3,000 bills or resolutions we started with this session between the House and Senate, we cut that down to only 600 bills sent to the governor to be signed into law. So far, he’s signed 541 of those and let three become law without his signature.
The truth is, everyone elected to office comes to the Capitol with a list of things they want to get accomplished, but at the end of the day we only want good solid laws in place that protect our freedoms and keep us clear of too much government regulation.
Even though we are in interim, I still have a fulltime legislative assistant available to help with any issues that arise. If I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rick West represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.
CYMI: During National Foster Care Month, Mullin Introduces Legislation to Connect Foster Youth with Mentors
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, introduced a bipartisan resolution earlier this month to recognize May as National Foster Care Month. He also introduced bipartisan legislation to connect young people in foster care with mentors.
“As an adoptive parent of three, I am committed to ensuring every child has a safe, supportive, and forever family,” Mullin said. “There are more than 400,000 young people in the foster care system across the country and we must make sure the system in place is effective and functions properly. During National Foster Youth Month, we recognize the challenges these youth face and the importance of doing everything we can to set them up for success in the future.”
“We must make sure foster youth have the resources they need to successfully transition into adulthood,” Mullin continued. “Mentors provide advice and support and often are the only person foster youth feel they can turn to in times of need. I’m proud to join my colleagues on the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth to introduce the Foster Youth Mentoring Act that would expand mentoring programs for foster youth and improve outcomes once they leave the system.”
By Rep. Rick West
The House this week passed the overall appropriations bill to fund government services for Fiscal Year 2022, which starts in July. I gave a broad overview of the budget last week, but I want to go back and give some additional details.
First, I want to talk about the money transportation will get. During the pandemic, the Legislature set aside some funding from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s ROADS Fund to be spent on other core functions of government if needed. We appropriate $17 Million more to transportation this year than last to restore that. We are making a $200 million investment in speeding up the department’s eight-year plan through the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The County Improvement for Roads and Bridges fund is also made whole with an increase of $20 million,
One great thing in this budget is the Department of Transportation has agreed to allow the Legislature to add an authorization section in the General Appropriation bill for the ROADS fund of $575 million. This is money that normally is apportioned off the top and therefore gets little scrutiny in how it’s spent. This gives us greater transparency.
This budget also includes tax cuts. Personal income tax gets cut by .25% for all taxpayers, allowing people to decide for themselves how best to spend their hard-earned money. Corporate income tax goes from 6% to 4%. This should be an incentive for businesses to locate in our state and bring more jobs, another way to boost the economy.
The Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) will receive an additional $15.5 million, up 17%. These grants go to rural communities to help with projects such as road repairs, equipment purchases, utility infrastructure and more. The dollars are much needed and much appreciated.
We’re also appropriating about $10 million to help the state with whatever comes along in the wake of the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision regarding the prosecution of crimes on tribal land.
At the same time, we save about $800,000 with this budget, bringing our state savings to about $1.3 billion. If we’ve learned anything in this state, it’s how important it is to have some savings during a downturn.
One thing I want to remind everyone is this $8.8 billion we will appropriate for Fiscal Year 22 is not all the money that comes into the state. If we looked at every single funding source, we probably take in about $26 billion. This includes licenses, fees and permits, which flow through to the agencies that use this money to conduct their business in serving the public. It includes interest and investment revenue and it includes federal money that gets spent administrating federal grants and programs, as well as other sources.
But of the amount we do appropriate, here’s a breakdown: 47.2% for education; 19.9% for health care; 9.6% for human services; 8.7% for transportation; 7.9% for public safety; 2.2% for judiciary; 2.2% for general government; 1.4% for natural resources; 0.7% for finance; and 0.2% for miscellaneous.
Remember to listen to me on KPRV Radio each Thursday morning during the legislative session. And if I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at email@example.com.
- Rick West represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.
Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener, recognized Hunter Edmondson in the House of Representatives on May 13 for his first place win last November in the FFA Sporting Clays championship.
Edmondson is a senior at Heavener High School. He’s participated in FFA Sporting Clays events the past four years and had the best overall score and was first place winner in the Nov. 5, 2020, meet.
“Achieving at the championship level in any field requires extreme effort, skill, and determination,” West said. “Hunter deserves our congratulations for his outstanding season. He’s made his family, his school and all of LeFlore County proud. It was great to get to honor him in the House of Representatives.”
West presented Edmondson with a citation on the House floor.
- Rick West represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.
Rep. Rick West recognizes Hunter Edmondson and his mother Cebrina Edmondson on the House floor. Hunter’s dad, Bryce, and sister, Bryleigh, watched from the gallery.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma House Democrats released the following statement today after Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Oklahoma is ending the state’s participation in federal pandemic unemployment assistance.
House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman:
“Last week, Republicans announced a reduction in the corporate tax rate in their budget proposal. Today, Republicans announced a reduction in benefits for Oklahoma’s workforce. These aren’t political narratives but reality.
“This reality has made it clear that the number one priority of the GOP is to remove money and benefits from working Oklahomans and increase the profitability of corporations and their out-of-state shareholders.
“I do want to extend thanks to the Biden Administration for the American Rescue Plan, which will allow Oklahoma to provide a $1200 bonus to those who can return to the workforce in the coming months. Any help to our workforce is welcomed.”
Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-OKC:
“Rejecting federal unemployment benefits before they expire this September is shortsighted and punitive. There is no proof that these benefits are contributing to a worker shortage. Even while many schools haven’t fully reopened and childcare facilities have long waiting lists, Oklahoma’s unemployment rates are relatively low — right around where they were in 2017 and a little higher than they were in 2019 pre-pandemic.
“These federal unemployment benefits kept money flowing through our economy, helping families make ends meet and strengthening the recovery for all Oklahomans.
“Oklahoma must stop putting the desires of big corporations above the needs of Oklahoma families.”
Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa:
“This administration and several of my Republican colleagues in the House have pushed an ideology that says we should run government like a business. The problem with this ideology, as this issue shows, is that businesses count wins and losses based on profit, but a state government counts wins by improving the quality of life for its citizens. This policy change is a loss for the people of Oklahoma.
“Even the $1200 bonus the Governor touted is a product of funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.”
Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-OKC:
“This pandemic has been especially hard on women in the workforce. Through surveys and studies, we have discovered that increased domestic roles, lower wages, and decreased health outcomes due to stress have led to increased hardships for women, especially mothers.
“This action today does nothing to address these issues and plenty to make them worse. We need solutions for child care. We need to address the workforce issues we already know exist and have only been exasperated due to the pandemic, like the wage gap between men and women.
“We must do better for our mothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters. We must do better for our citizens. Now is the time for solutions, not the creation of more problems.”
Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman:
“After having helped hundreds of hardworking Oklahomans navigate an overtaxed unemployment system, and after getting to know many struggling families from all over the state, it’s clear that extra federal unemployment benefits have been and continue to be a lifeline for folks whose livelihoods have been affected by this devastating and ongoing viral pandemic. We need to continue to support folks, not cut them off.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that updates allowable uses for qualified higher education expenses under the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan was signed into law by the governor.
House Bill 1962, authored by Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs, aligns the state’s language with the federal government’s definition. The bill unanimously passed the House and Senate.
“Oklahoma’s college savings plan has helped many students attend college and enjoy all the benefits provided by higher learning,” Nollan said. “This bill simply ensures those same students will have the same opportunities as students in other states when it comes to how they are allowed to use this money.”
Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, authored the legislation in the Senate.
“I’m happy to see House Bill 1962 signed into law,” Quinn said. “It’s important that our state College Savings Plan mirrors the federal plan so students can access their funds to pay for all types of college expenses, including tuition, fees, books and other supplies.”
Nollan said the bill was requested by State Treasurer Randy McDaniel, a former House member. She explained that the federal government expanded the definition of allowable uses under Section 529 of the Federal Tax Code over the past few years. With the passage of this bill, Oklahoma’s definition of qualified higher education expenses will align with the federal definition. Funds currently can be used for tuition, supplies, and room and board at accredited colleges, universities, career technology centers, and business schools.
McDaniel explained that the federal government has made important adjustments regarding the allowable uses for college saving plans. He said his efforts in working with Nollan were to keep the state current with those changes. Among the newest provisions, he highlighted the fact that 529 funds now can be used for apprenticeships and for student loan debt up to $10,000.
“The recommended changes help ensure the lasting success of a program focused on increasing the number of college graduates, while reducing burdensome student debt,” McDaniel said. “I encourage families to invest in their children’s future education and prosperity by contributing to the Oklahoma College Savings Plan.”
Oklahoma’s 529 College Savings Plan just celebrated its 20-year anniversary and both Nollan and McDaniel are excited about its future. The plan, which was started from scratch, now boasts over $1 billion in assets. The initial contribution amount recently was reduced to just $25, making it even easier for parents or guardians to save for their child’s college education.
Mullin, Speier Reintroduce Bipartisan I am Vanessa Guillén Act to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence
WASHINGTON— Today, Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, along with co-leads Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Troy Balderson (R-OH), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Jason Crow (D-CO), and 168 additional co-sponsors, reintroduced the I am Vanessa Guillén Act in honor of the late SPC Vanessa Guillén and the many survivors of military sexual violence who have bravely come forward in the wake of her disappearance and brutal murder.
The I am Vanessa Guillén Act would revolutionize the military’s response to reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by making sexual harassment a standalone offense within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and moving prosecution decisions of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases out of the chain of command, as well as establishing a process for compensating servicemembers who survive sexual violence when the military has been negligent. It also reforms the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) introduced her companion legislation co-sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the U.S. Senate today.
SPC Guillén’s brutal murder became the catalyst for long overdue change when her family refused to let her case be neglected by Army leadership at Fort Hood. This month, the Army’s internal investigation found that SPC Guillén was sexually harassed by her platoon sergeant and that her command was aware of the allegation but did nothing. Last year’s Independent Review Committee report found that the Army’s sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention and response programs had failed at Fort Hood, and the I am Vanessa Guillén Act incorporates recommendations from the independent review. The Guillén family supports the I am Vanessa Guillén Act.
Specifically, the I am Vanessa Guillén Act would:
Move prosecution decisions on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases outside of the chain of command to an Office of the Chief Prosecutor within each military service;
Create a standalone military offense for sexual harassment;
Establish trained sexual harassment investigators who are outside of the chain of command of the complainant and the accused;
Require both DoD and GAO to conduct separate evaluations of the military services’ Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) programs;
Reform and professionalize the Army’s SHARP program by establishing civilian leadership and ensuring that victim advocates and sexual assault response coordinators are full-time positions and report to an independent chain of command; and
Establish a process by which servicemembers can make claims for negligence and seek compensatory damages against DoD in the case of sexual assault or sexual harassment.
“The issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue – it’s an American issue. We must strengthen the military’s ability to protect its most important resource, which is the people who willingly sign-up to protect all Americans,” Congressman Mullin said. “The I am Vanessa Guillén Act will also encourage survivors to come forward to report sexual assaults and sexual harassment and to provide justice. This is about protecting our men and women in uniform and I will keep fighting so no family has to go through what the Guillén family has gone through.”
“One year after the senseless murder of SPC Vanessa Guillén, and after two damning reviews, the need for fundamental reform of the military’s approach to sexual assault and sexual harassment has never been more urgent. Military leadership has had decades to solve this problem, yet continues to fail. Toxic command climates, rampant sexual violence, lack of accountability, and retaliation against survivors continue to worsen,” Chair Speier said. “Congress must enact these reforms this year to achieve justice for Vanessa Guillén and all survivors of sexual violence. We must send a message to all servicemembers about the nation’s expectations for their conduct and the culture of the military. Congress must pass the I am Vanessa Guillén Act this year.”
“With the reintroduction of the I am Vanessa Guillén Act, we want to make sure that transformative and comprehensive reform happens for how the military treats victims of sexual assault within their ranks,” Congresswoman Garcia said. “This is a step in getting justice for Vanessa. And progress has been made but we need to do more. Vanessa Guillén, a daughter of immigrants who wanted to serve her country, has forced the most powerful military in the world to change and be better. I want the Guillén family to know that we stand with you and will continue fighting until the bill becomes a law.
“Our military servicemembers risk their lives for our nation, and in return, it’s our country’s obligation to ensure their safety,” Congressman Balderson said. “I am proud to once again support this legislation, which takes important steps to ensure survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military can tell their stories without fear of retribution as they seek the justice they deserve.”
“More than one year ago, the unspeakable tragedy of Spc.Vanessa Guillén’s murder shocked our nation and shed new light on the epidemic of unchecked harassment, assault, and retaliation throughout our armed forces,” Congresswoman Escobar said. “Vanessa’s memory sparked a movement for justice and accountability that I am honored to carry forth through the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act. I look forward to working with my colleagues, Chair Speier, Secretary Austin, and the Biden administration to advance this bipartisan legislation and put an end to this toxic culture in the armed forces and protect those who bravely put their lives on the line for our country.”
“In basic training I was taught everything from marksmanship to the chain of command, but preventing sexual assault was not a priority,” Congressman Jason Crow said. “The military failed Vanessa Guillén and we will continue to fail our service members until we create a system and culture of accountability. It is Congress’ role to decide what sort of military our nation will have and we must pass the I am Vanessa Guillén Act to protect our women and men in uniform.”
“Vanessa Guillén’s story underscores why we need a stronger, more effective response to sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military,” Sen. Hirono said. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act shifts prosecutorial decisions for sexual harassment and sexual assault outside the chain of command and requires sexual harassment allegations to be investigated outside the immediate chain of command. These changes are in line with the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Independent Review Commission’s preliminary recommendations. I have advocated for years to change how the military addresses sexual harassment and sexual assault, and it is past time for us to make necessary changes that respect survivors and restore faith in the military justice system by passing the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act.”
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 13, 2021) – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister today commended state leaders after the announcement on the Fiscal Year 2022 state budget agreement. The agreement includes a record $3.2 billion in funding for common education.
"After such a very challenging year in the wake of the pandemic, the budget agreement announced today is tremendous news for students, teachers and, in fact, all Oklahomans who benefit from a strong educational system," Hofmeister said.
"An additional $137 million for the school funding formula and $60 million for textbooks will go a long way toward ensuring our children are on track academically. We are grateful to the House and Senate leadership and Gov. Stitt for this considerable investment in public education."
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma House Democrats released the following statement in response to Gov. Kevin Stitt and legislative Republicans announcing their state budget for Fiscal Year 2022.
“Budgets are a product of the priorities of their authors," said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin. "Both Democrats and Republicans proposed tax cuts this week. Republicans focused on lowering the tax burden on corporations, while House Democrats focused on working Oklahomans and their families.
"Both Democrats and Republicans proposed savings. Democrats called for more than $300 million in savings, while Republicans called for $800 million.
"While an extra $500 million in savings sounds nice, our citizens are literally paying the price.
"With this money, we could end the state sales tax on groceries, which would save Oklahomans more than $250 million per year. We could do this and restore and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, which puts money directly back into the pocket of Oklahoma workers.
"Finally, we can not in good conscience vote for any budget that sends $25 million of hard-earned taxpayer money to private schools. ”