Whatzup Politics (1090)
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
The opioid epidemic is personal to all of us. It is blind to party affiliation, socioeconomic status, geographic location, or age. We all know someone who has been affected by the opioid epidemic, whether it’s a friend, family member, or loved one.
Too many lives have been cut short by overdoses. In 2017, our country lost 70,237 people, including 775 Oklahomans, to drug overdoses. Since the start of the 21st century, we have lost nearly the same number of lives to the opioid crisis as we lost in World War II.
There is no silver bullet to remedy the opioid epidemic, but both sides worked together to turn the tide of the crisis by passing legislation that has had real impact on lives in our communities. One year ago, President Trump signed the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act into law. It is the single largest congressional effort to combat a drug crisis in history.
The SUPPORT Act advances treatment and recovery initiatives for patients across the country, helping them to get access to the treatment they need. Communities also now have resources that help them find grants and other funding opportunities to combat the epidemic. Additionally, the SUPPORT Act takes steps to protect our communities and bolster our efforts to fight deadly synthetic drugs, like fentanyl.
Two pieces of legislation that I sponsored were included in the SUPPORT Act: the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act and the Tribal Addiction and Recovery Act (TARA). With doctors writing 710 prescriptions for every 1,000 individuals insured in Oklahoma in 2017, it is clear we need to bring more accountability to opioid prescribing. The EPCS Act mandates e-prescriptions for all controlled substances under Medicare Part D so prescriptions can be tracked electronically across state lines.
Combatting the opioid crisis in Indian Country has been an uphill battle. American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest overdose rates among minorities and tribal health is chronically underfunded. Originally tribes had to partition states for access to opioid grants. TARA protects tribal sovereignty by providing tribes with direct access to State Targeted Response grants to fight the opioid crisis. My bill provides tribes with the resources needed to turn the tide of the opioid crisis in Indian Country.
Now, we’re seeing progress. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that overdose deaths are declining for the first time in nearly three decades.
The SUPPORT Act is a shining example of what can get done when we put politics aside and work together. But we can’t stop now. There is more that can be done and I remain committed to fighting back until we end this crisis once and for all.
Voters in LeFlore County who want to have absentee ballots mailed to them for the November 12 Special Election for the Town of Shady Point and Bokoshe School District should apply now, County Election Board Secretary Sharon Steele said today. Although the County Election Board can accept applications for absentee ballots until 5.00p.m. on Wednesday, November 6, Steele urged voters who want to vote by absentee ballot to apply early.
Absentee ballot application forms are available at the County Election Board office located at 103 N. Church St. An online version of the form can be filled out and submitted electronically at: www.elections.ok.gov
A print form can also be downloaded at that address.
Ballots must be in the hands of County Election Board officials by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
Steele said any registered voter may vote by absentee ballot in any election in which he/she is eligible to vote.
However, a voter must be registered and reside at an address within the geographical boundaries of a school district or a municipality to be eligible to vote in school district or municipal elections.
It is not necessary to give a reason for voting absentee.
" While anyone can vote absentee without giving a reason, the law still provides several advantages to absentee voters in some categories," Steele said.
By stating one of the following reasons on their applications, absentee voters can activate special conditions that make it easier for them to use absentee ballots.
The reasons are:
• Voters who are physically incapacitated and voters who care for physically incapacitated persons who cannot be left unattended may vote absentee. They may apply only by mail, by fax, by email, online or via an
agent who is at least 16 years of age and who is not employed by or related within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity to any person whose name appears on the ballot.
• Voters who are confined to nursing homes in the county may vote absentee. An Absentee Voting Board actually goes to the nursing home a few days before the election, sets up a small polling place and allows these persons to vote under circumstances similar to those at a regular precinct polling place. They may apply only by mail, by fax, by email, online or via an agent who is at least 16 years of age and who is not employed by or related within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity to any person whose name appears on the ballot.
• Military personnel and residents of the county living overseas and the spouses and dependents of each group are eligible receive absentee ballots. These voters may apply only by mail, fax, or by email. Military personnel should contact the Voting Service Officers in their units for application forms and additional information or visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program website (www.fvap.gov/oklahoma) for more information and instructions.
Residents of Oklahoma living overseas can obtain the same materials from any United States military installation and from United States Embassies and Consulates as well as on the FVAP website.
This was a joint release done with Senator Allen and Lundy Kiger
OKLAHOMA CITY – A dangerous five-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 59 (State Highway 9) in LeFlore County was finally advanced on the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s $6.5 billion 2020-2027 Eight-Year Construction Work Plan. Local officials and citizens have been eagerly awaiting the road repairs for several years. According to ODOT, the section of four-lane highway has been delayed in the plan since 2005 because of alignment issues, increased costs and state and federal budget cuts.
State Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, and Rep. Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau, were pleased with last week’s announcement and looking forward to the final phase of the project in FY’24.
“This is exciting news for residents and business owners who regularly drive on Highway 59 as well as visitors to the area. Not only will this new project improve the safety of the roadway but it will ensure a smoother ride, which benefits us all but especially local businesses when drivers aren’t avoiding bad roads,” Allen said. “On behalf of the people of LeFlore County and myself, I want to thank ODOT and our division engineer for their hard work in making this project a reality, and also Representative Kiger for continually working with me to better the quality of life for our citizens.”
The letting of the Right-of-Way portion of the project is scheduled to begin in mid-November of this year. The project will take place on US-59 from Sunset Corners extending west five miles. This first phase is estimated to cost $7.13 million.
The second phase will be the relocation of utilities, which is set to begin in FY’21 at an estimated cost of around $3.3 million. The grading of the road and bridge reconstruction is set to take place in FY’23 at an estimated cost of $10.9 million. The project will be completed with the surfacing of the roadway scheduled to begin in FY’24 at an estimated cost of $25 million.
“I want to thank ODOT Director Tim Gatz and Division 2 Engineer Anthony Echelle for recognizing the danger and importance of moving this project up and to begin letting the Right of Way next month,” Kiger said. “I also want to say that I'm proud to team up with Senator Allen on our district highway projects and making ODOT aware of the dangers of some of our highways, especially Highway 9 going west from Sunset Corners. Senator Allen has been a constant champion for highway projects over the past nine years in our area.”
Kiger also thanked ODOT for installing the turn lane on Long Lake Hill noting that it helped greatly in reducing possible accidents involving RVs and trailers trying to turn into the resort as well as cars racing to the top of Long Lake Hill traveling north to Poteau.
In all, the Eight-Year Plan includes nearly 1,400 projects. Another LeFlore County project approved for FY’20 is an intersection modification at US-271 and SH-112 at an estimated cost of $1.06 million.
In FY’21, the US-270 bridge over Caston Creek nearly one mile south of the US-271 Junction will be reconstructed at an estimated cost of just over $6.1 million.
Three more FY’24 projects were approved for LeFlore County including two new bridges at US-271 over Fourche Maline Creek 26 miles north of the Pushmataha County line and along SH-112 over Poteau River nearly half a mile north of Poteau. Another bridge along US-271 over an abandoned railroad track will also be removed just over 1.5 miles south of the US-270 Junction. The three projects are estimated to cost just over $15.5 million.
ODOT further explained that sometimes states do not have shovel ready projects available to start and cannot utilize their federal transportation appropriations. Those funds are reallocated through fourth quarter adjustments to states that do have projects available. In May, ODOT was informed that Oklahoma would be receiving $62 million in additional funding through the adjustment, which allowed the US-59 project to be moved up in the Eight-Year Plan.
Representatives Hern & Mullin denied access to non-classified impeachment inquiry materials, demand transparency
WASHINGTON— This morning, Representatives Kevin Hern (OK-01) and Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) requested access to the non-classified transcript of Ambassador Volker’s testimony with the Intelligence Committee but were turned away by Committee staff.
Reps. Hern & Mullin reaction after rejection from Intelligence Committee
Later in the morning, Reps. Hern and Mullin again attempted access to the SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) with over 40 Members of Congress and were able to gain access to the Intelligence Committee hearing, briefly, before Chairman Adam Schiff ended the hearing.
“Many of my constituents didn’t believe me when I told them that Members of Congress were being barred from access to impeachment materials,” said Rep. Hern. “Oklahomans are being completely shut out of this process – not one of the five representatives in our delegation are on any of the committees participating in the impeachment inquiry. Since this inquiry is happening behind closed doors, there are no Oklahomans with access to important documents, testimonies, and hearings. Instead, three of Congress’s most radical, anti-Trump socialists are there: Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. To watch this process move forward like this is baffling. I urge all Americans to keep fighting, call Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff every day and demand transparency in the process. You deserve to know what’s going on deep in the heart of our Capitol.”
“The most frustrating thing is that we’re talking about impeaching the President of the United States and it’s not transparent,” Mullin said. “Chairman Schiff and the Democrats won’t let other Members of Congress into the hearings or open them up to the public. Instead they are leaking one-sided statements that don’t give us the full picture of what’s happening in the hearings. The past two impeachments, Nixon and Clinton, were open and transparent for the American people to see, but this is nothing more than a political witch hunt.”
By Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy CEO Joe Dorman
The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) exists to help improve conditions for children and to promote their well-being. It is a broad mission, which means we are active on many fronts: educating the public and lawmakers about our issues, helping to craft policy solutions and push legislation, training advocates, and in some cases (like OKFoster Wishes, our holiday gift-drive for foster kids), directly providing services and resources to children.
Sometimes, however, our role is less direct, although just as rewarding. There are many individuals in the state outside of OICA who are doing excellent work on behalf of children, and we think part of our job is to shine a light on that work. At our Fall Forum, held earlier this month, we did just that by presenting two awards to individuals whose efforts on behalf of children are inspiring.
The first award we handed out was the Laura Choate Resilience Award. For those of you who do not know her story, Laura was a child in Oklahoma’s juvenile justice system in the late 1970s. Like many children in her position, she was physically abused within that system and left traumatized. But Laura persevered, becoming a plaintiff in the “Terry D.” lawsuit against the state which brought to light widespread abuses and helped to transform and dramatically improve conditions for children in state custody. She continues to be a passionate advocate for children to this day.
The Laura Choate Resilience Award is given to someone who endures trauma as a child but who rises above that trauma to make a positive impact for Oklahoma’s children. The OICA selection committee was proud to give this award to Joyce Rock, a specialist with the Oklahoma State Department of Education who found herself in a generational cycle of poverty, becoming pregnant as a teenager. She had someone believe in her and encourage her, which led her to become a teacher. She then went on to work for the state in some of the most high-risk school districts to become that a role model for countless young Oklahomans. We are inspired by her story and proud to highlight her achievements.
Our next award was established to recognize an unsung hero in child advocacy. The Steven A. Novick Advocacy Award was created to highlight the work of someone who dedicates their life to making the lives of children better. Mr. Novick was the attorney who pushed forward with the “Terry D” Lawsuit in which Laura Choate was a plaintiff. His legal success restructured how state government treated justice-involved youth.
OICA was honored to present the Stephen A. Novick Advocacy Award to Martha Cordell, a supporter of Tulsa Lawyers for Children. In addition to representing abused children, she supported a two-year research project to identify how to improve legal representation for children in foster care. We are very grateful to Martha for her dedication to Oklahoma’s children.
Next week, I will share with you the winners of the Melvin and Jasmine Moran Kidizenship Award. This award, created as a way to recognize the dedication of young Oklahomans who help other young Oklahomans, carries on in the tradition of the Kids Who Care Award, presented by KOCO Channel 5 and the Junior League of Oklahoma City. Our goal is to highlight the great work done by those under the age of 18 to make our state a better place.
There are many ways to help children, but one of them is to simply recognize and reward the good work being done on their behalf. Our hope at OICA is that by bringing attention to these dedicated and selfless individuals we are able to inspire others to follow in their footsteps and accomplish great things on behalf of Oklahoma’s kids.
(left to right) OICA CEO Joe Dorman, Martha Cordell and Steven Novick.
(left to right) Joyce Rock, OICA CEO Joe Dorman, Deborah Cornelison, and Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. Deborah is a school support specialist at the Oklahoma State Department of Education and nominated Joyce Rock for her award.
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after he voted to support H.Res. 630, condemning and censuring House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. The House tabled the resolution.
“Not only is Adam Schiff leading a witch hunt, he has also repeatedly lied to the American people,” Mullin said. “He spread false allegations about Russian collusion, made up a transcript of President Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president and lied about working with the whistleblower. He has abused his power as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee and must be held accountable.”
Mullin is a cosponsor of H.Res. 630.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Lundy Kiger (R-Poteau) today announced he is asking the Oklahoma State Department of Health to investigate the City of Heavener’s water plant and possible danger to public health and the environment.
“After the City of Heavener's water plant received seven Notices of Violations from the Aug. 28 water quality inspection by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, and the report stating there are possible threats to the environment and the public's health, I determined it was enough to make a written request to Gary Cox of the State's Health Department to take a serious look at the entire situation for the peace of mind of residents receiving water from the city,” Kiger said.
“Over the past five months while working on this issue, in public meetings there have been many residents describing rashes on their legs, back and arms that they didn't have until they bathed or showered with city water. There have also been a large number of people who have complained with stomach viruses and problems who have met with their doctors in trying to determine the causes,” he said.
“I am concerned for public health because DEQ thought it was important enough to include it in their report to the city and because there were violations related to high turbidity, low Ph, low chlorine and high manganese.
“High turbidity has occurred often, and when it does this is a great location for bacteria and living organisms to hide. When the water is used or consumed, it could put people at risk. Another concern is the low Ph, causing corrosive water to enter the distribution lines and causing the metal lines to break up and flake off metal and loosening the chemicals that are supposed to stay embedded in the pipes and not released. Other concerns are with water lines that the city is unable to locate that have stagnant water trapped (with no working valves to release this water) and with the city having more water loss than any place else in the state. There are reasons for concern for whatever else might also be entering the pipes and then being transported into the homes for use.
“I've asked the State Health Department to contact DEQ and discuss the violations to see if they warrant a real threat to the public's health. If they do, I would ask Health Department officials to meet with residents of Heavener to hear them describe their health issues and see if the failure of the city in making potable water is a possible cause for the health concerns that have been shared by the residents.
“In discussions with the State Health Department director, we are working on possible meeting dates. When a date is confirmed I will travel to Oklahoma City to meet with Commissioner Cox to discuss any possible next steps. I will keep the public updated on anything that is decided.
“My goal, as I've stated, is for the residents of Heavener to receive safe and clean water for use. But if there are real concerns for possible threats to the public's health, then I will do everything possible to make sure this is reviewed carefully.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – Building off of greater oversight and transparency initiatives by the House over the past three years, House Speaker Charles McCall has launched a new initiative to increase legislative oversight and assess the performance of agency governing boards.
“The Legislature has been too deferential and hands-off with these governing boards for most of state history, and the House is going to change that,” said McCall, R-Atoka.
Speaker McCall is assigning House committees to regularly monitor the governing boards of more than three dozen state agencies and identify legislators to attend governing board meetings as necessary – including attendance at private executive sessions as authorized by state law – so legislators can be better informed and increase their watchdog role over agencies.
Additional government oversight by the House began in 2016, when the House launched more robust budget hearings for the largest state agencies. In 2017 and 2018, the House exposed waste and mismanagement at agencies through agency accountability hearings. In 2019, the Legislature created the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, which next year will start providing legislators with independent budget information and agency performance reviews.
“Citizens want more oversight of government, and we are continuing to deliver it,” McCall said. “The House is continuing to build on the oversight efforts we have made in the past three years. This time, we are rolling up our sleeves, getting out of the Capitol and visiting agency governing boards ourselves to inform our policymaking. This work will occur year-round – regardless of whether the Legislature is in session.”
The initiative has five goals:
• Improve legislator understanding of agency governance and operations
• Assess each board’s oversight efforts and the effectiveness of the agency
• Monitor whether state appropriations are being used as intended and if adequate consideration is being given to potential liabilities attached to federal or other grants agencies may pursue
• Ensure enactment of new and existing laws, including rulemaking, is consistent with legislative intent and facilitates effective service delivery to the public
• Determine if executive sessions closed to the public are being used properly
“Oklahomans elected a record number of new legislators to bring real change to government, and this increased oversight is one way we will fulfill that voter mandate,” McCall said. “Between this House initiative, the creation of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency last session, and the fresh eyes the Stitt administration is bringing to the executive branch, it is very much a new day of accountability in state government.”
Oklahoma has nearly 200 boards and commissions overseeing state agencies. Many have existed for decades, or even since statehood.
“Quality Oklahomans serve on several of these boards, including many appointed by the legislative branch, but we as elected state representatives need to do more to monitor what these boards are doing or not doing. It is our constitutional duty,” McCall said.
A preliminary list of 40 boards that will be monitored and the committees assigned to them can be found here. Additional boards may be added in the future as warranted.
“The reality is there may need to be some wholesale restructuring of agency governance models in order to truly optimize government and improve service delivery for citizens. This effort will help sort out when and where that approach may be necessary,” McCall said.
McCall said the initiative complements efforts the governor’s administration is making to more proactively manage state agencies.
“Governor Kevin Stitt is doing a tremendous job providing stronger oversight of agency operations from the executive branch, and we are joining him in that effort from the legislative branch,” McCall said. “The direct hire and fire ability the Legislature recently granted the governor over some agency leaders, and the rebalancing of at-will board appointments, is already resulting in profound, positive culture change at state agencies. Oklahoma needs to build on this progress by placing additional agencies under similar structures.”
McCall added: “House members will not be attending these meetings as participants or to direct these entities. We will be there to observe and use information gleaned to improve our policymaking while ensuring agencies are giving taxpayers the best return on their investment. It will also heighten our ability to respond to constituent inquiries about agencies and services.”
Since its enactment in 1977, the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act has contained a provision authorizing legislators to attend private, executive sessions of governing body meetings, but the provision has rarely been invoked.
“This is an important oversight component of the Open Meeting Act that we intend to start use,” McCall said. “There are legitimate reasons for executive sessions, but when they are used for the wrong reasons, it is to the detriment of Oklahoma citizens.”
Guidelines will be put in place to ensure confidentiality of executive sessions is maintained when a House member attends.
“House members will not be able to publicly share information discussed in those sessions if it is confidential information. However, if a representative observes something truly egregious, we will not hesitate to exercise our constitutional authority and independence as the situation warrants,” McCall said.
Some House members have already started attending governing board meetings – including executive sessions.
Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, attended a Board of Education meeting and executive session in July. Reps. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, and Mark McBride, R-Moore, attended a University of Oklahoma Board of Regents meeting in September, and plan to attend meetings of other university governing boards in the future.
“The House members already attending these meetings have been warmly welcomed by the board members and agency staff, and we expect that will continue,” McCall said. “Ultimately, we see this as a partnership to foster better communication and cooperation between elected officials and agencies that results in a more functional government for Oklahomans.”
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
A few weeks ago, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives was opening an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. The Left has been dead set on impeaching the president since the day he was elected despite the fact there is no evidence he committed any high crimes or misdemeanors. Now they’re running a sham investigation behind closed doors to undo the results of the 2016 election.
This impeachment inquiry has been a disgrace to our legislative process and the American people are the ones who will suffer the consequences. Not only is it further dividing our country, it’s also preventing Congress from tackling issues that actually affect families across the country.
President Trump promised and delivered a better trade deal with our North American trading partners. The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is a renegotiation of the outdated NAFTA, is good for American farmers, ranchers, workers, manufacturers, and businesses. This is a huge opportunity to put the United States on a level playing field with our neighbors. Mexico has ratified the agreement and Canada has said they will ratify it, but Pelosi Democrats have been too caught up in impeachment proceedings to give it a vote on the House Floor.
Americans also want solutions to address surprise medical billing and the cost of prescription drugs. Republicans have worked in good faith to find a bipartisan agreement that could actually get signed into law, but the Democratic Caucus has rejected those proposals because they have been singularly focused on impeachment and furthering their failed socialist agenda.
In FY 2019, there were 811,016 apprehensions at our southern border. That’s more than double the number of apprehensions in FY 2018. Instead of finding a solution to address our broken immigration system, the Judiciary Committee is pursuing baseless impeachment investigations.
The longer this witch hunt goes on, the longer the American people have to wait for solutions to problems they face every day. Our country deserves better than this ridiculous charade.
Friday, October 18, is the last day to apply for voter registration in order to be eligible to vote in the November 12 Special Election for the Town of Shady Point and Bokoshe School District, LeFlore County Election Board Secretary Sharon Steelel said today.
Steele said that persons who are United States citizens, residents of Oklahoma, and at least 18 years old may apply to become registered voters.
Those who aren' t registered or need to change their registration may apply by filling out and mailing an Oklahoma Voter Registration Application form in time for it to be postmarked no later than midnight Friday, October 18.
Steele said applications postmarked after that time will be accepted and processed, but not until after November 12.
The County Election Board responds in writing to every person who submits an application for voter registration. The response is either a voter identification card listing the new voter's precinct nwnber and polling place location or a letter that explains the reason or reasons the application for voter registration was not approved. Steele said any person who has submitted a voter registration application and who has not received a response within 30 days should contact the County Election Board office.
Oklahoma Voter Registration Application forms are available at the County Election Board office located at 103 N. Church St., Poteau, and at most post offices, tag agencies and public libraries in the county.
Applications also are available at www.elections.ok.gov