Whatzup Politics (1233)
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) made the following statements today after an update from the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs on their response to coronavirus, specifically regarding the impact at the Claremore Veterans Center. View the update press release here.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 cases stemming from the Claremore Veterans Center was extremely concerning. I am relieved ODVA immediately saw the issues at hand, took the necessary steps to fix the problems and will ensure something like this does not happen again,” Mullin said. “I am confident in the leadership of the ODVA and Governor Stitt and their commitment to Oklahoma’s veterans. We owe no greater debt than to those who have served our country and they deserve the highest quality of care.”
“Our veterans deserve the high quality care they have earned. Period,” said Inhofe. “After my office learned of the situation at the Claremore Veterans Center, we were highly concerned and immediately contacted the Governor’s team and the appropriate state and federal entities to offer any assistance necessary. As a state operated facility, I appreciate the willingness of the Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs and his team to promptly bring in the Oklahoma State Department of Health to implement any needed reforms to slow the spread of coronavirus in the facility and provide the best quality care for all patients. I will continue to collaborate with their teams in Oklahoma and ensure they have access to federal assistance moving forward if needed.”
“I am thankful the Claremore Veterans Center has taken swift action to address the tragic outbreak of COVID-19 cases and deaths at the facility in the last month,” said Lankford. “Claremore’s management team is working directly with ODVA and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) to curb the spread and protect veterans, their families, and staff at the center. COVID-19 poses a difficult situation and a serious, unique threat to each veteran care facility. I am grateful for ODVA’s diligent efforts to keep facilities clean and safe and immediately address this spread. I will continue to work with the Oklahoma congressional delegation to ensure the State, Claremore Veterans Center and ODVA have what they need to keep our veterans safe.”
“The Department of Veterans Affairs will continue to work closely with the state nursing home in Claremore and the Oklahoma State Health Department to ensure Veterans receive the best possible care,” said VISN-19 Director Ralph Gigliotti, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Our first priority is a safe environment for Veterans and we will work closely with the state of Oklahoma to ensure they deliver that kind of care. We are all in this together. VA will continue to provide guidance and expertise as needed during these unprecedented times.”
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to end his pursuit for a legal ruling that agrees with his position on the compacts.
“The governor’s compact negotiations are starting to look like a stimulus package for trial lawyers,” Virgin said. “Having already spent $1.5 million, the governor is wasting money that could be spent on resources that help our citizens. If the governor continues to pursue this through the appeals process, more money will be spent on lawsuits that could have instead helped schools, our state’s IT infrastructure, or our healthcare community. I encourage the governor to reflect on his position and ask if continuing a pursuit with an uncertain outcome is worth the risk of not protecting Oklahomans.”
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) highlighted the work the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has done to implement the Safe Drinking Water Act in rural areas today during an Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee hearing on drinking water standards. Shellie Chard, Director of the Water Quality Division at DEQ, testified at the hearing on behalf of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA).
“I have worked with DEQ for almost 25 years. We have worked together on many water treatment plants and we have worked together on many infrastructure needs,” Mullin said.
“From a professional perspective, I would rather work with DEQ any day of the week than work with the EPA at all,” Mullin continued.
Full video of Mullin’s remarks can be found here.
Responsible Recreation: How sportsmen and women continue to set an example in the age of social distancing
News Release from Oklahoma State Senator Mark Allen
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in many changes to which we must all adjust. Phrases like “self-quarantine” and “social distancing,” rarely used or completely unheard of several months ago are now a part of our daily vocabulary. As we adjust to this “new normal,” America’s sportsmen and women, a group that I am proud to represent as a co-chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, have found a way to pursue their outdoor passions while much of the world seemingly stood still. By participating in outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, sportsmen and women are setting an example for those looking for safe and responsible recreational opportunities.
While millions of Americans have been forced to limit their travels due to mandatory stay-at-home orders, activities like hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and many other outdoor activities have provided an outlet for Americans to safely recreate as they can be enjoyed while practicing social distancing and adhering to other COVID-19 safety guidelines. As restrictions start to ease, Americans are flocking to the woods, waters, fields, and trails to take advantage of our outdoor resources, with many discovering nature’s wonders for the first time.
This newfound interest in outdoor recreation represents an invaluable opportunity to introduce Americans to activities like hunting and fishing and the vital role sportsmen and women play in conservation. In addition to the numerous documented mental and physical health benefits gained through these activities, maintaining access to hunting and fishing opportunities gives Americans a chance to procure their own locally sourced meat. Due to many of the impacts of COVID-19, this ability to be self-reliant is at a premium.
With all of this in mind, these unprecedented times represent a chance for a new generation of sportsmen and women to discover the passion that many of us already share. Be it through scouting for upcoming fall hunting seasons, or landing that first largemouth bass, now is the time to lead by example and plant the seeds for the next generation of sportsmen and women.
Increased participation in hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting has enormous conservation benefits as well through the American System of Conservation Funding. This “user pays-public benefits” approach relies on the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and self-imposed excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing tackle, and motorboat fuel to fund many state fish and wildlife management agencies. In addition, these activities support local economies which, during these unprecedented times, has become incredibly important. In fact, recent surveys report that Oklahoma’s 779,000 hunters and anglers spend $1.6 billion annually while pursuing their outdoor passions.
Unfortunately, the ability of America’s sportsmen and women to participate in their outdoor endeavors were not uniformly protected as statewide orders were announced. In fact, several states saw actions that hindered or even eliminated the ability to participate in our treasured outdoor traditions. While largely enacted in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, these actions severely limited our outdoor opportunities without any measurable increase in public safety. To ensure that such restrictive actions are not used again, it is up to sportsmen and women to practice responsible recreation, showing by example that our outdoor pursuits can be performed safely. This can be accomplished by following a few simple guidelines.
- Plan ahead; purchase licenses and park passes online, if available
- Recreate close to home
- Adhere to best practices for avoiding COVID-19
- Follow state and federal guidelines
- Pack out your trash as a courtesy to others and to avoid the appearance of overuse
- Share your adventures in a respectful way on social media outlets
To learn more about how others are using these challenging times as an opportunity to spend more time outdoors, search for #ResponsibleRecreation on social media. Likewise, for more information on recreating responsibly, or to take the Responsible Recreation pledge and help lead by example, visit www.responsible-recreation.org.
MAKE IT COUNT OKLAHOMA! An undercount in the census of just 2 percent can cost the state $1.8 billion in lost federal money over the next 10 years. Fill out your census form, Oklahoma. Learn more at: www.2020census.gov.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The leader of the Oklahoma Senate on Friday released the list of approved studies for the 2020 interim. Senators submitted 64 requests and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said that 39 study requests were approved.
Treat said the study requests were assigned to the standing Senate policy committee with jurisdiction over the subject matter of the request. Now that the studies have been assigned to Senate committees, committee chairs will determine when to conduct the studies, Treat said.
This legislative interim presents logistical challenges which led to fewer interim studies being approved, Treat said. Due to the ongoing renovation of the Capitol, the Senate only has one available committee room for use this interim. Treat also said the Senate intends to implement social distancing due to COVID-19 which further limits the ability to hold more studies.
“In a typical year, we can accommodate most interim study requests. But this is not a typical year. With only one Senate committee room available for use and the need to implement social distancing due to COVID, we limited each senator to no more than two approved study requests. There are some great topics to cover this year and I look forward to what ideas develop during interim studies,” Treat said.
The list of approved studies is available on the Senate website. When interim studies are scheduled, Senate committees will send hearing notices, which also will be published on the Senate website.
Treat said interim studies must be completed by Friday, October 30.
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 7608, the first Fiscal Year 2021 spending package. Mullin was not present for the vote due to supporting his son’s ongoing rehabilitation from a wrestling injury but would have voted “no” on the bill.
“This spending package is nothing but a socialist wish list that will never become law,” Mullin said. “Not only does it drastically exceed our budget agreement, it also removes existing bipartisan provisions and includes numerous poison pills, like rolling back pro-life protections and tying President Trump’s hands when it comes to national security. We have to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, especially during the pandemic when we’ve had to spend trillions in supplemental funding for our response, and this spending package does not do that.”
- Rolls back pro-life policies including the Administration’s Mexico City policy and weakens the Kemp-Kasten Amendment to provide millions of dollars in funds for the United Nations Population Fund, which participates in the management of a coercive abortion program.
- Lacks funding for the border wall and any funding to design, construct, or carry out projects along the southern border.
- Fails to hold the World Health Organization (WHO) accountable and undermines the President’s notice to withdraw from the WHO.
- Provides $500 million for the Green Climate Fund.
- Prohibits Trump Administration reforms to reduce regulatory burdens.
- Provides $15 billion for the Democrats’ partisan, green deal infrastructure bill.
- Recklessly limits America’s domestic energy production by restricting oil and gas production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, preventing new offshore energy exploration and prohibiting the mining of metals in northern Minnesota.
- Permanently prevents this and any future Administration from making changes to welfare programs that simply require working age, non-disabled adults without children to go back to work in times of low unemployment.
We Can’t Let Fear Sacrifice Freedom
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
The COVID-19 pandemic has instilled fear in the hearts of many Americans. Since the pandemic began, there have been numerous mandates attempting to dictate how we must live our lives that have mostly been made out of fear. Experts predicted up to 10 percent of people who got COVID-19 would die from the virus, but that was not the case. Today, over 99 percent survive with most never showing symptoms from the virus.
In municipalities and states across the country, one can be fined hundreds of dollars for going out in public without a face mask. In Tulsa, not wearing a mask in public carries the same penalty as criminal trespassing, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct or similar offenses.
In Kentucky, a couple was placed on house arrest and forced to wear ankle monitors because they refused to sign documents requiring daily check-ins with their local health department and limit their travel anywhere after one of them tested positive for COVID-19.
Businesses were deemed either “essential” or “non-essential” and only “essential” businesses were allowed to remain open. These forced closures decimated livelihoods and many businesses many never reopen. How can we let the government decide what is essential to us? A business that is considered “non-essential” to one person might be an essential part of another person’s life. The government should never be picking winners and losers.
In times of crisis, our country has always turned to the Lord and prayed for strength and healing. Because the government decided our churches were “non-essential,” they had to shut their doors when we needed them most. For me and most Oklahomans, church is an essential part of our lives. It’s absurd some leaders across the country have said it’s okay to gather in large groups to protest, but not in a church to pray and worship together.
Where does it stop? Our constitutional rights and freedoms don’t disappear because we are afraid of the unknown. The fears COVID-19 has created cannot compromise the basic fundamentals of our country.
Wearing a face mask should be a personal choice, not a government mandate. If businesses and other entities want to require a face mask for entry into their establishment or make people sit 6 feet apart, then that is their right. It’s not the government’s place to mandate what we have to do to be able to leave our homes or tell us that we can’t go to a place of worship to pray during a national crisis.
Americans are resilient and we always rise to the occasion. We need to come together to help our country, our state, our communities, and our neighbors through this tough time, not let it divide us. Remember, this country was built on the ability to choose.
President Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It has to be fought for and defended by each generation.” We cannot let our fear cause us to sacrifice our freedom.
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.
Press Release from the Office of the President Pro Tempore Senator Greg Treat
OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate leaders Thursday announced more details of the process the Oklahoma Senate Select Committee on Redistricting will use as the Senate prepares for redistricting next year upon receipt of data from the 2020 U.S. Census.
The moves will ensure the general public’s role in the upcoming redistricting process in the Senate, said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
“Redistricting will be one of the most important issues considered by the Legislature next year. The Senate has been working on redistricting for months and we are preparing for the culmination of that work by taking steps to ensure the general public’s role in the process. The Senate is committed to an open and transparent process as we conduct our constitutional duty to draw state legislative and congressional districts in Oklahoma using data from the 2020 Census,” Treat said.
Senator Lonnie Paxton, chair of the Redistricting Committee, said the public will have an important role in redistricting and that the Senate redistricting process will include:
- Public hearings at locations across the state with the opportunity for the public to offer comments at the hearings;
- The public submission of proposed maps of state legislative and congressional districts; and
- Public notice given before action taken by the committee.
If needed, Paxton said the Senate redistricting committee would take steps such as providing remote participation to accommodate social distancing necessary due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the Senate will also make its resources available to local officials if they so choose to help them draw county commission districts, city council districts, and local school board districts.
“The Senate is committed to transparency in the redistricting process and holding public hearings and accepting maps from the public will help us achieve that goal,” Paxton said.
More details about public hearings and the process for submission of proposed maps by the public will be announced later this year, Paxton said.
Treat emphasized the important role that Census data plays in redistricting.
“Census data from the federal government will be used to draw the new district lines,” Treat said. “The best thing the public can do right now for redistricting is complete the Census.”
To complete the 2020 U.S. Census, visit https://my2020census.gov/.
WASHINGTON— During today’s Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) pressed pharmaceutical executives on their companies’ manufacturing capacity for a potential vaccine and what they are doing to ensure they will be able to meet the demand.
“We’re responding better than any other country out there. We’re testing more, we’re developing more, and the rest of the world is depending on our country to find the vaccine,” Mullin said during the hearing.
All five witnesses stated they are increasing their manufacturing capacity within the United States and not relying on China for any of the products in the U.S. supply chain.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Members of the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus today responded to Governor Stitt announcing his plan to give at least $10 million out of $39.9 million in the GEER funds to private schools.
The Democratic lawmakers point out that private schools have additional opportunities to generate revenue, like tuition and forgivable federal small business loans, that public schools don’t have.
Since the GEER fund was announced by the US Department of Education in March as an effort to help schools navigate the pandemic, Oklahoma Democrats and Oklahoma’s public education community have made it clear that these public funds should not go to private schools.
“Private schools in Oklahoma have been granted millions in forgivable federal small business loans, while public school districts have not had that option,” said Rep. Melissa Provenzano. “Adding $10 million of the GEER funds to the tax dollars these private schools have already received, it appears that private schools are being placed in a much better position to safely return to school next month.”
Ninety percent (703,000) of Oklahoma’s students attend public schools. After accounting for homeschooled students, private school students make up less than 10 percent (39,000) of our state’s student population.
“It is no surprise that after months of receiving federal GEER funds, Gov. Stitt has finally chosen to spend them in a way where children and families have to compete with one another through another grant program to see relief,” said Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater. “We need public education funding for all students without the added barriers.”
By creating private school vouchers with public dollars, our state’s public school system, which is already underfunded, will suffer financially.
"I’m disheartened to see that Governor Stitt still seems to think it’s OK to spend public dollars on private schools, in any fashion,” said Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman. “These voucher-type schemes only serve to further harm our public schools.”
The governor chose to spend significantly more dollars on private school students than the public school students he is constitutionally mandated to serve.
“When you do the math on the number of students, even if the rest of the GEER fund money he apportioned goes to public schools, which is no guarantee, the governor allocated significantly more per private school student than public school student,” said Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City. “Like more than $225 dollars more per student, which is obviously unacceptable.”
"None of this spending is in response to COVID-19,” said State Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa. “He is spending it on private interests exactly as he would if no pandemic had occurred."