Whatzup Politics (1399)
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation to protect animals from mistreatment and abuse has been filed for the 58th Legislature.
House Bill 1581, authored by Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-OKC, prohibits pet stores from selling commercially-bred animals. The stores, however, can continue offering animals for adoption from in-state rescues and shelters.
“Unfortunately, puppy mills do still exist,” Dollens said. “Commercial retailers purchasing these animals are what is keeping the industry alive.
“Additionally, our shelters are at times overrun with dogs without owners to claim them. This legislation protects animals and helps shelters find homes for the animals in their care.”
House Bill 1580, authored by Dollens, creates requirements for the way dogs are left outside. The legislation addresses the type of tether, the use of chains and padlocks, and prolonged periods of being left in severe weather.
“I would like to think that all Oklahomans treat their pets humanely,” Dollens said. “Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. This legislation puts into place minimum protections that will protect animals.”
Dollens recognizes this legislation may not rise to the importance of other bills this session, but the OKC legislator believes the House can make many improvements to the lives of Oklahomans during a session, including the non-human type.
“I remain dedicated to finding solutions for the problems Oklahomans have experienced during COVID,” Dollens said. “How we treat animals speaks to our humanity. We must treat animals with respect.”
HB1581 is set to be heard in the House Business and Commerce Committee.
HB1580 is scheduled for the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed several measures Wednesday that Republican leaders say advance the cause of life and will help save unborn lives.
The measures approved by the committee were:
- Senate Bill 918 by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, which would, in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the central holdings of Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey, restore the state’s authority to prohibit abortion.
- Senate Bill 584 by Senator Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, which would prohibit state funding or funding from any political subdivision of the state for any health care provider found guilty of trafficking in fetal body parts.
- Senate Bill 612 also by Dahm, which would create a new law making an abortion procedure illegal in Oklahoma unless it is required to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.
- Senate Bill 778 and Senate Bill 779, both by Senator Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, which would provide safeguards surrounding the use of abortion-inducing drugs.
“Any legitimate attempt to save the lives of the unborn will always have my full support. We cannot be distracted by attempts to delegitimize the drive to advance the cause of life. All lives are precious, have innate worth, and should be protected and respected at all stages. These measures are practical steps that have a real chance to save lives, and I applaud my Republican colleagues for advancing these bills and look forward to their passage by the full Senate,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
Senator Greg McCortney, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, praised his colleagues for their bills protecting the lives of the unborn.
“Senate Republicans are committed to protecting the sanctity of life and I’m proud that the Health and Human Services Committee advanced worthy measures to advance that goal. All life is precious and should be valued and protected, and these measures will continue our successful efforts to advance the cause of life,” said McCortney, R-Ada.
The measures now advance to the floor of the Senate for consideration.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, filed two bills to provide mental health resources and training for students and educators.
House Bill 1568 would add mental health instruction to health education curriculum. Starting in the 2022-2023 school year, the State Board of Education would collaborate with the Oklahoma Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) to adopt standards and approve age-appropriate curriculum options for students in grades kindergarten through 12.
Boatman said the training would help students develop an understanding of mental health issues and how they impact the overall wellbeing of themselves and their peers. He hopes the training would increase understanding and help remove some of the stigma surrounding mental health care.
House Bill 1886 would require mental health training for educators beginning in the 2022-2023 school year for all certified teachers, administrators and support staff who interact with students. These employees would be required to complete at least eight hours of mental health training in their first year of employment, and at least five hours of additional training every three years following. Training hours would follow employees if he or she moves to another school district.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted the mental health of many Oklahomans, but especially our students, many of whom have missed a significant amount of time in the classroom and with their peers,” Boatman said. “The impact of the pandemic and months of isolation on our children’s mental health is something that will not be fully realized for years.”
“Teachers, who spend hours with our students every day, are our front line in spotting potential mental health issues,” Boatman continued. “However, in order to effectively recognize when a student is struggling with their mental health, our educators must have the tools and training to help our students receive the help they need.”
HB1568 and HB1886 would allow school districts to partner with nonprofits to provide or assist with mental health education if the nonprofit has been approved by the State Board of Education and ODMHSAS. HB1886 would also allow school districts to develop their own curriculum for educators.
HB1886 stipulates that, at a minimum, required mental health training for educators would include:
- Strategies and action plans for helping students who are experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or who are in crisis;
- Introduction to common mental health challenges for youth;
- Review of typical adolescent development;
- Information on topics, including, but not limited to, anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders and eating disorders;
- Information about the services provided by community-based organizations related to mental health, substance abuse and trauma;
- Information about the impact trauma and adverse childhood experiences can have on a student's ability to learn;
- The availability of mental health evaluation and treatment by telemedicine; and
- Information about evidence-based strategies for prevention of at-risk behaviors.
“These bills would allow the State Board of Education to partner with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and local nonprofits to fulfill this need, rather than bearing those costs on their own,” Boatman said. “I hope that the State Department of Education realizes the importance of providing students and teachers with these invaluable resources.”
HB1568 has been recognized as a legislative opportunity and key issue by Health Minds Policy Initiative, a Tulsa-based nonpartisan team of policy and mental health experts who collaborate with state and local leaders to advance innovative policies to prevent and treat mental illness and substance abuse disorders in Oklahoma.
HB1568 and HB1886 are available to be considered in the House Common Education committee.
Rep. Jeff Boatman, a Republican, represents House District 67 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes a portion of Tulsa County.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation renewing exemptions to the Open Meeting Act put in place last year during the coronavirus pandemic.
Senate Bill 1031 by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat reinstates the same exemptions to the Open Meeting Act that were signed into law in 2020 with some minor changes.
Among the changes from the 2020 exemptions are:
- Requires materials provided to members of the public body during a virtual meeting to immediately be made available to the public on the public body’s web site;
- Requires public bodies to conduct meetings in the manner described on the public notice of the meeting;
- Requires any necessary passcodes to access videoconferencing to be included in the public notice of a meeting; and
- Makes the exemptions effective until Feb. 15, 2022, or until 30 days after the expiration or termination of the state of emergency declared by the governor to respond to the threat of COVID-19, whichever date first occurs.
“The threat from COVID-19 is real and all of us are trying to take the appropriate steps to protect the health and safety of our family, friends and neighbors. That includes public bodies, which need to continue meeting during the ongoing pandemic but in a safe manner. This bill provides public bodies the flexibility to hold virtual public meetings until the pandemic is behind us. I am thankful for the quick action and support of the Oklahoma Senate on this measure and am encouraged that our colleagues in the House have plans to do the same,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
SB 1031 now heads to the Oklahoma House.
OKLAHOMA CITY – In its inaugural meeting Wednesday morning, the House States Rights Committee approved legislation to protect religious freedom and the constitutional right to worship.
Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, authored House Bill 2648, or the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, which dictates that anything closing places of worship would be considered a substantial burden on people’s freedom of religion.
He said he filed the bill after witnessing how many religious organizations were unable to meet for several weeks due to government restrictions on the size of gatherings or emergency orders that did not deem places of worship as essential.
“Our country was founded on the premise of religious freedom for all, but we have seen and continue to see situations across the country where Americans’ right to worship has been trampled and ignored by overreaching bureaucracy,” Echols said. “A person’s sincerely held faith is an integral part of their life, especially how they cope with difficulties, and forcing places of worship to close for weeks or months at a time during a state of emergency or crisis is un-American and goes against the very core of our nation.”
Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, who co-authored the legislation, presented the bill before the committee.
“For many like myself, my faith is as essential as the food I eat or the air I breathe,” Hill told the committee. “And I think that is constitutionally protected by our First Amendment and by our Oklahoma Constitution.”
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
House Bill 2648 passed committee 5-1 and is now available to be considered on the House floor.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, has filed legislation that will protect student funding by clarifying language governing contractual agreements between schools and educational management organizations.
House Bill 1735 will ensure school boards retain control of such contracts and that funding appropriated for students actually goes toward their learning needs and not into private accounts with little or no oversight.
“Several Oklahoma schools have partnered with educational management organizations to help manage items such as grading, testing and other components of a student’s education,” Dills said. “Gaps in statute exist, however, that leave schools paying large amounts to private management companies and leaving questions over whether funding is actually going toward the student they are responsible for educating. It’s incredibly important going forward that we protect student funding and ensure taxpayer dollars are going where they are intended. This measure increases such transparency and accountability.”
HB 1735 clearly defines and distinguishes between public and private dollars. It requires regular accountability audits to ensure the for-profit management company and the school are following the law. The bill also requires fee-for-service contracts and competitive bidding requirements as well as creates fiscal responsibilities of the sponsor, including a cap on the fee the sponsor receives at 3% or $500,000, whichever is less.
In addition, the bill clearly defines the responsibility of the school to adhere to rules for administrative costs and it addresses transparency when conflict of interest exist. It also requires board training for school board members and sponsors.
Dills, the chair of the House Republican Caucus, said HB 1735 builds on important reforms signed into law the last two years that added additional transparency and accountability for Oklahoma’s schools.
“I want better accountability and transparency throughout all education funding,” Dills said. “These changes to statute will provide more protections for our students and reassure our taxpayers that their dollars are being spent wisely and as intended.”
President Biden’s Assault on American Energy
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
It was no secret President Biden planned to destroy the oil and gas industry if elected president and in the first week of his administration, he took action to do just that. American energy production plays a vital role in our country’s job creation and economic growth, especially in Oklahoma. His assault on the oil and gas industry will threaten our national security, raise prices for American families, and kill jobs.
Within hours of being sworn in, President Biden issued an executive order cancelling a key permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. The economic impact of this is significant. It will directly cost 2,000 American jobs, with many already laid-off, and severely impact thousands more. Over 100 miles of the pipeline have already been constructed and billions of dollars have been invested in both the U.S. and Canada.
No president should have the authority to unilaterally cancel such a large project that brings good-paying jobs and economic development to our country. That’s why I introduced the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, which will prevent further political decisions from destroying the energy industry.
President Biden also signed another executive order banning new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. During the Obama Administration, these same policies resulted in gas prices higher than $4 per gallon, utility bills that skyrocketed, and thousands of jobs lost. This is the last thing we need during a global pandemic when many families are already struggling to make ends meet.
With the stroke of a pen, years-worth of progress toward American energy independence was undone. President Biden promised to work for all Americans in his inaugural address, but these unilateral executive actions are taking our country in the wrong direction. I will continue to fight back against these reckless decisions.
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 – A bill to allow for public bodies to meet virtually has been filed for the 58th Legislative Session.
House Bill 1758, authored by Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, permits public bodies to host meetings or allow members to attend virtually if the posted agenda announces the body’s intention to do so.
“It is the 21st Century,” Ranson said. “We have the capability to not only let the public view but also participate virtually, and we should use it.”
Ranson credits the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as inspiration for the bill.
“We got into a situation where it wasn’t safe for our public bodies to meet,” Ranson said. “The Legislature, failing to act, just compounded the problem. Putting this into place now would prevent us from being in this situation in the future, which will protect local governments’ ability to act and respond to their citizen’s needs in time of emergency.”
If you support protecting this protection for local governments, contact your area legislator in support of HB1758.
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) today announced seven nominees from Oklahoma’s Second Congressional District to our country’s service academies. Nominations are available for the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Receiving a nomination from a congressional office is the first step in the process of attending a service academy and a nomination does not guarantee admission.
“Attending a service academy is an invaluable experience that shapes young men and women into our next generation of leaders,” Mullin said. “This year, there was more interest than ever in applying to the academies and I am honored to nominate seven students for three of the academies. I wish these bright applicants the best as they continue the application process.”
The list below includes the names, hometowns, and high schools of the students, as well as the academy to which they have been nominated.
U.S. Naval Academy
Rowan Howell, Beggs, Okla. – Lakeside High School
Blake Simmons, Muskogee, Okla. – Muskogee High School
Christian Tidwell, McAlester, Okla. – McAlester High School
U.S. Air Force Academy
Coby Buck, Durant, Okla. – Calera High School
U.S. Military Academy at West Point
Henry Auer, Lenapah, Okla. – Oklahoma Union
Blaine Jones, Tahlequah, Okla. – Tahlequah High School
Bailey Ross, Watts, Okla. – Westville High School
OKLAHOMA CITY – House Republicans reacted favorably to components of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s State of the State speech Monday.
On the State of the State speech: “Governor Stitt’s leadership has Oklahoma positioned for big success this session. The governor will find strong support in the House for keeping the economy open, resuming in-person school, empowering parents and improving school finances. On those and all other issues, we appreciate and will reciprocate the governor’s pledge to work together and have a productive session for all Oklahomans.” - House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka
On vaccination progress: “I’m grateful Governor Stitt is actively encouraging Oklahomans to do their research and consider receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. Herd immunity would allow Oklahomans to return to our schools, help our businesses thrive and return to our normal lives. I'm pleased our state is making significant strides in rolling out the vaccine.” - Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay
On public school funding formula reform: “Every year our schools receive less money per student because our formula sends out money for ghost students, students that do not actually exist. We must end this practice of watering down school finances by funding schools based on the number of students they actually have in their classrooms.” - Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow
On open transfer: “Our parents and children deserve to choose the education model that works best for their student, and I’m glad the governor is encouraging schools to offer multiple learning options. Our parents and students need the flexibility offered by open transfer, and a one-size-fits-all approach to education does not serve anybody’s best interest.” - Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow
On civil service reform: “It is very encouraging to hear Governor Stitt prioritize the type of civil service reform that can positively transform state government for employees, managers and - most importantly - the taxpaying citizens. Having worked on this issue for years, I am pleased Governor Stitt is at the table with all stakeholders this session to help get this to the finish line.” - Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond
The governor’s State of the State address marked the launch of the first session of the 58th Legislature. A recording of his address is available at www.okhouse.gov.