Whatzup Politics (1404)
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.
OKLAHOMA CITY - Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, issued the following statement on the Governor's State of the State address:
“I appreciate the optimism of Governor Stitt’s state of the state speech. Senate Republicans are ready to work with the governor and our House colleagues to help Oklahoma rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, grow and diversify our economy, help state government deliver services more efficiently to taxpayers, and invest in the people of Oklahoma. I appreciate the governor’s acknowledgement of the constitutional authority of each branch of government and look forward to working with him as the session progresses.”
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement in response to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s State of the State Address:
“We heard a rosy picture painted by the Governor today, but the reality is that his actions, or more often, his failure to act, have cost Oklahomans financially, emotionally, and physically.
“At times during the past year, instead of focusing on our state’s pandemic response and at times our surging COVID case numbers and hospitalizations, Gov. Stitt has been distracted by national politics and political patronage.
“Today’s State of the State speech was no different. It was far from the call for unity Oklahomans desire. I’ve listened in the House Chamber to 11 different State of the State Addresses. Today’s speech was by far the most divisive. Unfortunately, the governor, today, chose to bring DC politics to Oklahoma, delivering more of a campaign speech than the united message that we need as a state and as a nation.
“The version of the last year that the governor sold to Oklahomans today was nothing more than revisionist history.
“Let me be clear, as COVID-19 rages in Oklahoma - January was our worst month, yet - no state wishes they would have responded to this pandemic as Oklahoma has.
“From his own lack of personal responsibility to the lack of public health policies enacted, Governor’s Stitt’s response to this pandemic has been an example of failed leadership.”
By State Rep. Rick West
Last week, I attended several budget meetings at the state Capitol.
The first was a presentation by State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. She said the State Department of Education is asking for an additional $17 million this year to pay for health care for teachers, bringing the total for the benefit to $552,578,785. She also wants $60,600 for textbooks, a $27,600 increase. Her total ask from the state for Fiscal Year 2022 is almost $3.2 billion – an almost $191.4 million increase. Another almost $1.6 billion is expected to come to the department from the federal government, including almost $826 million Coronavirus relief funds. Much of the federal funding covers child nutrition and special education services as well as the other federal title programs.
We also heard from the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education. For Fiscal Year 2022, the Regents are asking for an additional $88.8 million over their FY21 appropriation – a total of more than $859.2 million. Part of that is an additional $4 million to fully reimburse colleges and universities for the concurrent enrollment programs for high school juniors and seniors. Concurrent enrollment is a great program. It allows high school students to take college classes at no charge to themselves or their families. This earns them some college credit and gives them a good start if they decide to pursue a college degree.
Also last week, I attended the Appropriations and Budget for Public Safety Subcommittee meeting where we heard from the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET). I questioned the director on current qualifications that allow people with resident-alien status to be CLEET certified. In other words, people who are not citizens of the United States of American can get certified to arrest citizens. My House Bill 1118 would correct this by removing that language from statute.
We also heard from Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow. I got to ask him about prison farms. We have beef cattle and dairy operations in McAlester and a beef cattle operation in Stringtown, which sell their products to other facilities in the system. The catch is if wardens find cheaper prices elsewhere, they are not allowed to purchase them. My contract purchasing bill will help address this problem and others for our prisons and other state agencies.
I also asked Director Crow how big of a problem contraband tobacco is in our prisons. He held his arms wide open and said huge. My House Bill 1114 would correct this. It would allow inmates the ability to purchase tobacco from the prison canteens to smoke in designated areas. This would cut down on contraband and result in fewer write-ups that keep inmates in prison longer.
I’ll talk more in depth about each of these bills as they make their way through the legislative process. In the meantime, make sure to listen for me on KPRV radio every Thursday morning during the legislative session, I will give updates from the Capitol as well as discuss local issues. I want to make sure you know you always have a voice and a listening ear in state government.
If I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at .
- Rick West represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State representatives will consider legislation to provide people leaving incarceration with an easier path to receive reinstated drivers licenses and to require the Dept. of Public Safety to provide inmates with state IDs, and other relevant documentation to assist in obtaining post-release employment.
State Rep. Nicole Miller (R-Edmond) filed legislation to narrow the scope with which drivers licenses may be revoked following a criminal offense. House Bill 1795 gives the Oklahoma Dept. of Public Safety (DPS) flexibility to work with individuals on a case-by-case basis.
Current statute allows DPS to suspend or revoke a defendant’s license after arrest for certain crimes, an entirely separate process from any criminal proceedings following an arrest.
The bill also updates when a license could be revoked for failure to pay fines and fees. Current statute revokes licenses after failure to pay a single fine, but HB1795 would give more flexibility to the courts and DPS before revocation.
Miller held an interim study on the issue in 2019 after a constituent asked ways to streamline the process for her stepson to receive his license back after it was suspended due to a non-vehicular criminal offense. He was without a license for 16 years.
“It is incredibly difficult for someone convicted of a crime to receive their licenses once their sentence has been served, and this barrier to reentry prevents many Oklahomans from pursuing employment and education,” Miller said. “I believe that we can protect public safety while also encouraging people who have left incarceration to become productive members of society.”
Miller modeled the legislation after last year’s House Bill 1298, which was stalled in the legislative process after session was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Rep. Marilyn Stark (R-Bethany) filed House Bill 1679 to require the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections (DOC) to identify inmates leaving custody within the next nine months and begin gathering certain documentation to assist the inmate in obtaining post-release employment, including a two-year state ID.
Other documentation includes vocational training records, work records, state-issued identification cards, birth certificates, Social Security cards and resumes. In 2019, Stark held an interim study over providing state IDs for inmates upon their release.
“The Legislature has made remarkable strides in the area of criminal justice reform in recent years, but there’s still more work to be done,” Stark said. “House Bill 1679 would build off our previous work by providing people leaving incarceration with documents that are necessary to secure employment and housing, both of which make a person significantly less likely to reoffend.”
Rep. Brian Hill (R-Mustang) authored similar legislation last year and has co-authored HB1679, which is modeled after Stark’s House Bill 1310 and Hill’s House Bill 3113 from the 57th Legislature.
“If we want to break the cycle of violence and reduce the number of people in our crowded prison system, we must provide Oklahomans leaving incarceration with the resources and support they need to transition back into society,” Hill said. “Measures such as House Bill 1679 are common-sense and can significantly lower our state’s recidivism rate and improve the lives of many Oklahomans.”
Before the 2020 session was paused due to the pandemic, HB3113 and HB1310 both passed the House 96-0 but were not heard in the Senate.
The first session of the 58th Legislature resumes Monday, Feb. 1 at noon.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Pandemic precaution protocols for the 2021 legislative session were announced Friday.
To protect against the spread of the COVID-19 while preserving legislative functionality and public access, the Senate and House of Representatives will each:
- Continue livestreaming all proceedings online.
- Reduce committee room and legislative chamber gallery capacity to accommodate social distancing while strictly enforcing capacity limits, with committee seating first reserved for committee members and staff followed by the public.
- Establish committee overflow spaces throughout the building where committee proceedings will be broadcast in areas conducive to social distancing.
- Allow forms of remote voting upon approval of additional legislative rules once session begins.
- Continue the mask policy of masks should be worn where social distancing is not possible.
- Provide regular testing of members and staff.
- Prohibit public gatherings in legislative chambers, committee rooms and hallways.
- Limit floor appearances by the public.
- Continue regular and extensive cleaning, keep doors open where possible, increase availability of hand sanitizer, and display additional protocol and precaution signage throughout legislative space.
- Utilize a socially-distanced seating chart for joint sessions.
In addition, the Oklahoma State Department of Health made COVID-19 vaccinations available to all legislators earlier this month as part of its planned second tier of vaccinations. By early in session, a large majority of the Legislature will have been vaccinated in the interest of continuity of government.
The protocols will be regularly evaluated and are subject to change during session.
The 48-member Senate will allow remote voting for committee and proxy voting for floor votes.
“These protocols allow the Legislature to function without interruption while maintaining safety and access for members, staff and the citizens we serve,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Kim David, R-Porter. “Shutting down the Legislature or public access to it were not options, so we developed a comprehensive, bicameral approach that is reasonable and allows the people’s business to safely continue.”
The 101-member House will allow remote voting for committee votes. Floor votes can occur from desks on the fourth floor or from a designated members-only area in the fifth floor chamber gallery in order to reduce the number of members on the floor for social distancing flexibility. Plexiglass dividers have been installed on desks in the House chamber, where two members sit at each desk as opposed to one member at each desk in the Senate.
“Functionality, safety and transparency are all accounted for in these protocols,” said House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. “These are the same types of practical precautions legislative bodies and organizations of all kinds are using worldwide. It won’t be typical, but it is the right thing to do until the pandemic subsides enough to resume normal operations.”
The protocols were developed by legislator working groups led by David in the Senate and Echols in the House. The groups consulted with public health professionals and reviewed protocols at other legislative bodies to set the policies, which were recommended to and approved by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, in the Senate and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, in the House.
“I appreciate the work of my Democratic and Republican Senate colleagues, as well as Senate staff, for their work on pandemic preparations,” Treat said. “The threat from COVID-19 is real and should be taken seriously by all Oklahomans. With these protocols, we are taking steps to protect the health and safety of those who work in the Capitol and those who may visit. With that said, I still encourage those who do not need to be at the Capitol to remotely follow the work of the Legislature.”
Senate protocols can be viewed here.
“We are taking the pandemic seriously. These are significant, responsible changes that I applaud my colleagues for developing,” McCall said. “If you need to be at the Capitol, you can be here safely. If you do not need to be at the Capitol, you can still view all proceedings online and contact your legislators anytime.”
House protocols can be viewed here.
Reps. Logan Phillips, Trey Caldwell Call on Attorney General Hunter to Investigate Robinhood Stock Trading App
OKLAHOMA CITY – Reps. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, and Trey Caldwell, R-Lawton, today called on Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter to open an immediate investigation into the recent actions of the stock trading and investing app, Robinhood. Yesterday, in response to a large online group of retail investors targeting specific securities, Robinhood restricted trading of the stocks for a full trading day.
“The trading restrictions implemented by Robinhood are a clear example of market manipulation designed to protect big banks and hedge funds,” said Phillips. “The app claims to want to ‘democratize finance,’ but their actions over the past 48 hours have served to silence individual investors, including thousands of Oklahomans. I am calling on Attorney General Hunter to open an immediate investigation into the actions taken by Robinhood.”
The stocks restricted from purchase on Thursday included AMC; Bed, Bath and Beyond; Gamestop; Nokia; BlackBerry; Express; Koss and Naked Brand Group. The purchase of these stocks, which had been shorted by Wall Street investment firms, was encouraged on the popular Reddit page “r/wallstreetbets.” Due to the increase in purchase of these stocks among retail investors, the investment firms lost billions on their return, and Robinhood blocked the purchase of the stocks. Limited purchase power was restored as of Friday morning, and Robinhood cited “market volatility” as their reasoning for the restriction
“Robinhood can try to hide behind the excuse of ‘market volatility’ as their reasoning for restricting stock purchase, but in reality they were trying to keep the average citizen from winning in a system that favors Wall Street over Main Street,” said Caldwell. “They must be investigated and held accountable for their actions, which fly in the face of SEC rules designed to protect investors.”
There has been bipartisan demand for an investigation into this matter at the federal level, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a statement saying they will be “closely reviewing” Robinhood’s actions.
Joining Phillips and Caldwell in calling for the Attorney General to take action are Rep. Garry Mize, R-Guthrie and Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives today outlined COVID-19 precautions for the High School Page Program.
Every year, hundreds of students from across the state have the opportunity to take part in the House High School Page Program at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. Students participating in the program have the chance to view the legislative process up close and gain experience working in state government.
“The House Page Program provides a valuable opportunity for our state’s future leaders to participate in the legislative process and learn more about the intricacies of state government,” House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said. “Such expanded education programs help our youth become more well-rounded. I’m grateful we were able to create guidelines to allow our high school seniors the chance to participate in the program even in the midst of a pandemic.”
State Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, serves as director of the High School Page Program for the 58th Legislature.
“Students across the state have unfortunately had their schedules disrupted and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities cancelled due to the pandemic,” Hill said. “With these public health precautions in place, we hope to provide a memorable experience and safe learning environment for House Pages. Educating the next generation of Oklahomans so they are equipped to take their role in how they are governed is the honor of a lifetime.”
Pages accepted to the program are assigned for one week, Monday through Thursday, during the legislative session, which runs from the first Monday in February through the last Friday in May. The students work in the House Chamber during daily session, run errands for representatives and staff and take part in the House Page Mock Legislature on the floor of the House Chamber.
Hotel accommodations and chaperones are provided for all students and pages are transported to and from the Capitol daily. They are closely supervised at all times and are not permitted to leave the hotel or the Capitol.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, special provisions will be taken this year, including limiting participation in the program to high school seniors with a maximum of 12 Pages per week. Pages will eat in an assigned room in order to social distance and will be assigned separate hotel rooms. Multiple drivers and vans will be used to allow for social distancing. Additionally, participants whose school has been shifted online due to a COVID-19 outbreak will be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test no more than one week prior to the program’s start.
Interested high school seniors may visit https://okhouse.gov/Pages/Index.aspx to learn more information and to submit an application.
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) and 43 of his Republican colleagues today introduced the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, which would encourage and promote the construction of energy infrastructure across border lines with our North American neighbors.
“On his first day in office, President Biden directly attacked the American energy industry and our energy independence by cancelling a key permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline,” Mullin said. “No president should have the authority to unilaterally cancel such a large project that brings good-paying jobs and economic development to our country. This legislation simplifies the construction and operation of energy facilities that cross international borders and replaces the Presidential Permit requirements before constructing an energy facility that crosses the U.S. border between Canada or Mexico. Energy production in the United States plays a vital role in our country’s job creation and economic growth and this bill will prevent further political decisions that destroy the industry.”
The Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act would establish transparent, reliable procedures to provide regulatory certainty and enable the United States to further expand the mutually beneficial energy relationship with Canada and Mexico. By streamlining the construction and operation of international border-crossing facilities used for the import and export of oil, natural gas, and electricity, the United States can more efficiently continue the trade of energy products with neighboring countries.
The United States, Canada, and Mexico have always enjoyed the benefits of a firmly united and highly productive North American oil, gas, and electricity trade market. The value of energy traded between the United States and our North American neighbors exceeded $140 billion in 2015, with $100 billion in U.S. energy imports and over $40 billion in exports.
The cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline is going to cost 2,000 American jobs, with many already laid-off. Over 100 miles have already been constructed and billions of dollars have been invested in both the U.S. and Canada.
Cosponsors of the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act include:
Representatives Randy Weber (TX-14), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), David McKinley (WV-01) Troy Balderson (OH-12), Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), Daniel Meuser (PA-09), Michael Burgess (TX-26), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), French Hill (AR-02), Ralph Norman (SC-05), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Glenn Grothman (WI-06), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Greg Steube (FL-17), Dusty Johnson (SD-AL), Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Jim Baird (IN-04), Ronny Jackson (TX-13), Austin Scott (GA-08), Bob Latta (OH-05), Pete Stauber (MN-08), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14), Richard Hudson (NC-08), Lance Gooden (TX-05), Tom Cole (OK-04), Greg Murphy (NC-03), Bob Gibbs (OH-07), Lauren Boebert (CO-03), John Joyce (PA-13), Steve Chabot (OH-01), Pat Fallon (TX-04), Steve Womack (AR-03), Tracey Mann (KS-01), Michael Guest (MS-03), Brian Babin (TX-36), Yvette Herrell (NM-02), Kevin Hern (OK-01), Chris Stewart (UT-02), John Rutherford (FL-04), Scott Perry (PA-10), Stephanie Bice (OK-05), Fred Keller (PA-12), and Frank Lucas (OK-03).
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives and the State Senate redistricting offices held a virtual town hall meeting on the legislative redistricting process Monday night.
The two virtual meetings – the first Dec. 21 – gave lawmakers and redistricting staff the opportunity to answer questions and take comments from the public in real time. They were part of a series of 20 meetings held statewide in December and January to gather public input. The meetings were open to anyone who wanted to attend.
The Oklahoma Senate will hold its final meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in Owasso at the Tulsa Technology Center, Sycamore Room.
“We want the people of Oklahoma to have a say in who represents them both at the state Capitol and in the nation,” said State Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, chair of the House Redistricting Committee. “These meetings gave us a chance to explain the redistricting process, which is constitutionally required, and to learn from the public their concerns and their ideas for how they would like to be represented moving forward.”
“These public meetings allowed transparency into this process, and the virtual format gave us the opportunity to hear from people who could not get to one of the in-person meetings,” said State Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting. “I’m thankful to those who chose to participate in this process of making government work for the people.”
Every 10 years, the Legislature is constitutionally required to redraw Oklahoma’s legislative and congressional district boundaries to reflect population changes following the decennial census. Redistricting plans for state legislative districts must be completed by May 28, 2021, the constitutionally mandated conclusion of the first regular legislative session following the end of the census. Congressional redistricting has no deadline, but the Legislature aims to complete its work in time for the 2022 elections.
Meetings were livestreamed when possible, and video is archived. Previous House meetings can be viewed here: https://okhouse.gov/Video/Default.aspx and Senate meetings can be viewed here: https://oksenate.gov/live-chamber.
Anyone unable to attend the meeting may email comments to the House at , Senate at , or contact their state representative or state senator. All comments and public testimony will be shared with the committees.
Additional information about the redistricting process can be found here: https://okhouse.gov/Publications/Redistricting.aspx and here: https://oksenate.gov/redistricting.