Whatzup Politics (1278)
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, chair of the House Transportation Committee, and other Republican members of the committee today issued a joint statement on the announcement by Gov. Kevin Stitt that the state is now ranked ninth in the nation for the status of highway bridge conditions, according to the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration. This includes interstates, U.S. highways and state highways that are ODOT’s responsibility.
“Since Republicans took the majority in the Legislature more than a decade ago, we have made transportation a priority,” Frix said. “We’ve worked diligently each year to fully fund our Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s eight-year plan and our County Infrastructure for Roads and Bridges plan to maintain state and rural roadways and to repair or replace hundreds of structurally deficient or obsolete bridges throughout the state. Today’s news that we have achieved top ten status for the condition of our ODOT-maintained highway bridges is a fantastic endorsement of our commitment.
“Safe and well-maintained infrastructure is the economic lifeline of our state, as it helps us move our families and our products safely and efficiently. It’s another reason to claim Oklahoma as a hub for families and major businesses. Again, this year we made transportation a priority in our state budget, and we will continue that effort so that someday we will be No. 1 in both roads and bridges in America.”
In addition to Chairman Frix, Republican members of the House Transportation Committee include Vice Chair Rep. Ronny Johns, R-Ada, and members Reps. Dean Davis, R-Broken Arrow; Jim Grego, R-Wilburton; Tommy Hardin, R-Madill; Kenton Patzkowsky, R-Balko; Logan Phillips, R-Mounds; Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany; and Kevin West, R-Moore. Republican members of the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Transportation include Chair Todd Russ, R-Cordell; Vice Chair Nicole Miller, R-Edmond; Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont; Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee; Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau; Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond; and Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks.
The members said transportation had been underfunded for decades prior to Republicans taking the majority of seats in the state Legislature since 2005. In 2004, nearly 1,200 of Oklahoma’s 6,800 highway bridges were considered structurally deficient, and the state was ranked as low as 49th place in national bridge condition rankings. That number has been reduced to 86 today, with each of those already scheduled for repair on ODOT’s eight-year plan, according to the department. In addition, the current $879 million CIRB plan calls for replacement or rehabilitation of 313 bridges, 151 that are structurally deficient, over the next five years. These structures are maintained separately by counties.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Agriculture & Rural Development Committee on Wednesday heard three interim studies.
A combined study by State Reps. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee, and Garry Mize, R-Guthrie, looked at redefining and updating the Home Bakers Act, Farm-to-Table and other similar laws, as well as examining state and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) meat inspection practices.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting impact on the food supply chain has demonstrated a need for further examination of opening the market to include home-based food producers, farmers markets and food trucks,” Mize said. “Oklahoma’s cottage laws currently limit access to a variety of food suppliers, which in turn can prevent our most vulnerable citizens from obtaining healthful and nutritious foods.”
In the afternoon, Kerbs held a separate study on poultry management guidelines. Kerbs, who serves as chair of the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee, said he received a lot of questions on the subject during session and wanted to take time during the interim to address them.
“As government officials, it’s important that we regularly take a look at guidelines within various industries to ensure we are not placing unnecessary burdens on Oklahoma’s businesses while protecting the public,” Kerbs said. “Interim studies give us the opportunity to examine these guidelines in close detail and consider possible changes we could make to improve the market and provide Oklahomans with more choices, and that’s exactly what we accomplished today.”
State Reps. Rusty Cornwell, R-Vinita, and Ty Burns, R-Morrison, ended the day with a study that examined potentially adding more meat inspectors within the state given the addition of CARES Act funding to reopen and expand meat processing plants.
Cornwell said, “With the addition of $10 million in CARES Act funding to go toward much-needed expansion of meat processing plants, our next step must be to follow up with having enough meat inspectors to ensure a safe product.”
He and Burns are looking at the most economical short-term fix for the state by proposing the state consider veterinarian and veterinarian medical students from Oklahoma State University to see if some of those might be interested in helping fill this void.
“COVID-19 caused a shortage in the food supply chain and a long backlog in meat processing,” Burns said. “It exposed the need for us to be more self-reliant as a state. These changes will help us feed Oklahomans while keeping our food costs low.”
The studies were the first of more than 70 interim studies to be held in the House through Oct. 29. Interim studies give lawmakers the opportunity to meet, gather data and speak with experts on matters important to the state and that could potentially result in changes to existing legislation or new state law.
Dell Kerbs serves District 26 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of Pottawatomie County. Garry Mize represents District 31, which includes parts of Logan and Oklahoma counties. Rusty Cornwell represents District 6, which includes Craig County and parts of Mayes and Rogers counties. Ty Burns represents District 35, which includes Pawnee county and parts of Noble, Payne, Creek and Osage counties.
Staying Healthy Takes More than Wearing a Mask
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
Staying healthy during these times means doing more than just wearing a mask. It also means ensuring you are trying to live a healthy lifestyle, which can help prevent serious health complications and reduce the risk of health issues.
Here are a few things you can do to maintain healthy living. I’m not saying I’m necessarily the best at these myself, but I try every day.
Stay active. My morning workout is like my morning cup of coffee, I need it to get my day going. Physical activity is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. While the gym might be closed or have restrictions, there are many exercises you can do from the safety of your home like push-ups, sit-ups or the dreaded burpees. You can also take a walk around your neighborhood or go for a hike at a nearby park. Plus, the vitamin D, which we can get from the sun as well as other sources, is important to our overall health.
Get good sleep. Listen, this is one thing I am not good at and I average well below the recommendation. Getting enough sleep helps your body’s immune system. When the days get busy, sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice. One third of American adults say they get less than the average recommended amount of seven to nine hours of sleep per night and that can affect our overall health. Try to allow yourself to get the amount of sleep you need each night.
Eat a balanced diet. I am about 50/50 on this one and sometimes people say my diet is more like a 12-year old boy’s diet. Sometimes I substitute a strawberry milkshake for a protein shake. Food is fuel for our bodies and provides the nutrition we need to live. Spending more time at home these days can cause us to snack more than usual and make less healthy choices. Try to reach for fruits or vegetables to snack on instead of chips and sweets.
Don’t neglect your mental health. I try to start every morning with a 30-minute devotional, spending time with the Lord, reading and praying. It seems to center me and gets me focused. The last thing I say is “love the people, love the call” because being angry and frustrated throughout the day doesn’t help anybody. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. At a time when our world is changing rapidly, we sometimes need to take a deep breath and find our center again. My center is focusing on the Lord. Find what works for you. Stay connected to loved ones through phone calls or video chats. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help.
It’s never too late to invest in your health. At a time when society is focused on ways to stay healthy, there is no better time to make a positive change in your lifestyle that will benefit you and your family long after this is over.
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.
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) today announced the 2020 Congressional App Challenge (CAC) for students in the Second District.
“The Congressional App Challenge gives students the opportunity to get creative and practice skills they learn in STEM education,” Mullin said. “I encourage students of all skill levels to participate and I look forward to seeing the new apps they create.”
Students are encouraged to register online by September 10th before submitting their app by the deadline of October 19th. The online registration can be found at https://www.congressionalappchallenge.us/students/student-registration/.
The competition is open to all middle and high school students, regardless of coding experience. Students may participate as individuals or in teams of up to four students. The CAC accepts computer programs (or apps) written in any programming language, for any platform (desktop/PC, web, mobile, raspberry Pi, etc.). The winner’s app is eligible to be featured on display in the U.S. Capitol building, on house.gov and on the Congressional App Challenge website.
For more information about the Congressional App Challenge, please visit www.CongressionalAppChallenge.us or call Mullin’s Claremore office at 918-283-6262.
House Democrat Orders Up Study on COVID-Related Employment Issues
Oklahomans Asked to Share COVID Employment Experience
OKLAHOMA CITY -- State Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-OKC, is slated to begin an interim study on how COVID-19 has affected employment and wages in Oklahoma.
The South OKC representative hopes to focus the study on what went wrong for Oklahoma workers during this crisis, and where we can make improvements going forward. COVID brought to light issues relating to FMLA, lost wages, health insurance access, and more.
“COVID has touched every aspect of life for all of us,” Bennett said. He acknowledged that the economic fallout from this pandemic will affect us all for some time to come, but that “there is no doubt that for Oklahoma’s low and middle-income workers, those who survived paycheck to paycheck prior to this pandemic and face even greater challenges now, the situation is considerably more difficult.”
The goal of the study is to develop and implement policies to permanently address these issues. To do this, Bennett is hoping to get a good mix of subject matter experts and real-world experiences from Oklahomans. From the experts, Bennett hopes to paint a picture of how well Oklahoma workers were positioned, relative to other states, for an economic crisis like COVID.
“This is a unique challenge with a unique opportunity,” Bennett said, “because we have the ability to hear real-time dispatches from workers from across the state. We owe it to the people of Oklahoma to seek out their stories, and not simply rely on the data points that legislators typically review before making policy decisions.
“Please send me an email with your story. In order to fix this problem, we need to hear from people it has affected. We are scheduled to present this study to the Government Efficiency Committee on the morning of Sept. 17. Legislators are shown graphs and stats related to this crisis nearly every day, and I think it is important that we are reminded of the people those data represent. With your help and your voices, that is what I intend to do with this study.”
Press Release from Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus
OKLAHOMA CITY -- State Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, attended a ceremonial bill signing with the governor Thursday for legislation that protects the pension benefits of officers disabled as a result of a violent act while on duty.
The Sergeant Schoolfield Line of Duty Act (House Bill 3330) guaranteed that qualifying officers would receive 100 percent of their pensions benefits instead of a modified percentage.
“As my legislative career comes to a close, getting this legislation passed was one of the highlights of my time in the House,” Perryman said. “This bill didn’t just provide pension benefits to officers who are disabled. It also provided financial security to the officers that serve our communities daily.”
When Perryman first heard the story of former Chickasha Police Officer Matthew Schoolfield he couldn’t believe the state’s pension system’s rules were so ruthless to officers who were injured while on duty.
“I was shocked, frankly,” Perryman said. “This issue is compounded by having a group of lawmakers in the Legislature hellbent on pushing legislation to increase the number of situations our officers respond to where a gun is involved.
“There is a certain irony in the fact that during the same session Governor Stitt signed House Bill 3330 to provide increased pension benefits to officers injured by people who have no business possessing a firearm, he also signed Senate Bill 1081, which makes it more difficult for courts to limit possession of firearms by unstable individuals, even when their friends, families, and neighbors attempt to intercede in pursuit of safety.”
A 2013 National Institution of Health study titled The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Firearm Homicide Rates in the United States, 1981–2010 showed that with each percentage point increase of gun ownership, homicides increased by .9%.
Additionally, a 2015 study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine titled Firearm Ownership and Violent Crime in the U.S. showed that a higher level of firearm ownership equated to a higher amount of firearm assaults and firearm robberies. The study showed that these trends maintained across all economic groups.
“I’m all for responsible gun ownership,” Perryman said, “but that word ‘responsible’ has to mean something. By not having any criteria for ownership - like an effective firearms safety class - the Legislature has increased the likelihood that a police officer will encounter both a gun and an irresponsible gun owner. There is nothing pro-law enforcement about making their job more dangerous.”
NAACP Recognizes Senator Kamala Harris's Appointment to Major Party Ticket as 'Defining Moment in U.S. History'
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, released the following statement on the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as a candidate on the presidential ticket of a major political party:
Throughout the history of this nation, Black women have been at the forefront of moving us toward a more representative and unified society. From the voting booth to grassroots movements, Black women have fought for and uplifted this country with their vote and voice. But their representation in the highest levels of government has never matched their unwavering participation in our democracy. Today's announcement of a Black woman, Sen. Kamala Harris, as the first vice-presidential candidate of a major political party, breaks down one of these barriers in historic proportions. That it comes at a time in which Black Americans face dueling threats from a global health crisis and ingrained racism is all the more powerful.
This moment is long overdue. For far too long, we have undervalued Black women's political power and their role in shaping our culture, communities, and country. The selection of Sen. Harris as a vice-presidential candidate on a major party ticket is the culmination of the tireless work of Shirley Chisolm, Charlene Mitchell, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer Barbara Jordan, Ida B. Wells, and Myrlie Evers in their fight for representation and equality. Their sacrifices, told and untold, made it possible for Sen. Harris to make political history today. Regardless of party affiliation, every American should be proud that this milestone was finally reached.
While we do not support a political party, we recognize the overwhelming significance of this moment and what it means for this nation. We must not allow coverage of Sen. Harris's historic candidacy to decline into ugly racist and sexist stereotypes and attacks. We call upon the media, members of both political parties, and the people of this nation to honor this historic moment and treat Sen. Harris's candidacy with the respect and esteem it deserves throughout this election season.
As the presidential campaign progresses, the NAACP remains steadfast in our pursuit of full participation in democracy for Black people. With our ongoing commitment to dismantling institutional injustice, uplifting Black culture, and maximizing our economic and political power, we know that this pivotal moment sets the stage for our continued work to realize equal justice.
Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
The NAACP is a c4 organization (contributions are not tax-deductible), and we have a partner c3 organization known as NAACP Empowerment Programs (contributions are fully tax-deductible as allowed by the IRS).
NOTE: The Legal Defense Fund – also referred to as the NAACP-LDF was founded in 1940 as a part of the NAACP, but separated in 1957 to become a completely separate entity. It is recognized as the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and shares our commitment to equal rights.
OKLAHOMA CITY – House Majority Leader Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, today attended the ceremonial bill signing for House Bills 2804 and 2877.
HB 2877 strengthens the role of victims’ impact panels in helping to stop driving under the influence (DUI) offenses in Oklahoma and will help reduce the number of repeat offenders. The measure was a request by victims’ impact panel programs currently operating in Oklahoma. It follows up on successful DUI legislation Sanders passed in 2016 that strengthened prosecution of repeat drunk drivers by creating the Impaired Driving Elimination Act, moving all DUI cases to a court of record, ensuring district attorneys statewide would have access to records of DUI offenses to reduce repeat offenses.
HB 2804 requires dyslexia screening for kindergarten through third-grade students not reading on grade level beginning in the 2022-23 school year. The bill builds upon House Bill 1228, passed last year, which provides professional development for teachers across Oklahoma to help them better recognize signs of dyslexia in their students.
Sanders said both pieces of legislation are items of significant importance to him during his legislative career.
“I have fought always on the side of victims of crime, to see that their voices are heard and their needs considered in matters of criminal sentencing,” Sanders said. “At the same time, I’ve been a strong advocate for children diagnosed with dyslexia who too often got left behind their peers in reading and other academic subjects because their condition remained undetected or undiagnosed.
“I’m incredibly grateful to have won passage of these two important pieces of legislation and to see them become part of the Oklahoma statute. Victims of drunk drivers will now have an opportunity to speak to those who commit this heinous crime, and children statewide will benefit from screening that will help them learn to read on grade level and achieve academic success.”
Both bills were signed into law in May and took effect July 1. Ceremonial bill signings allow lawmakers and those influential in helping to draft the legislation or those most affected by it to attend.
Sanders thanked State Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, and State Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, the Senate authors of HB 2804 and HB 2877, respectively, for their work in getting the bills passed in the state Senate. He also thanked members of the Dyslexia and Education Task Force, the Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma and the State Department of Education for their help in drafting HB 2804, and members of the victims’ impact panel programs for their help with HB 2877. Representatives from all groups attended today’s bill signings.
House Majority leader Mike Sanders along with his wife, Nellie, and sons Davis and Walker, and Tiffany Jenkins and Michelle Keiper from Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma attend a ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 2804 in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office on Monday, Aug. 10.
Sanders represents District 59 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Dewey and parts of Blaine, Canadian, Kingfisher and Woodward counties.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, and Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, attended the ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 2587, the Nondiscrimination in Health Care Coverage Act, and House Bill 2588, which allows Oklahoma courts to grant guardians the power to consent to withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining procedures.
House Bill 2587 and House Bill 2588 were formally signed into law in May.
Roberts, who chairs the House Public Health Committee, said HB2587 prohibits any state agency from developing an adjusted life-year calculation for individuals with a disability in order to determine their health care coverage. The bill also requires state agencies to consult with organizations advocating for individuals with disabilities and older adults before implementing health coverage changes.
HB2588 requires issuance of a separate court order that contains specific findings of fact and conclusions of law required under the Oklahoma Advance Directive Act to grant authority to a guardian to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment of a ward.
“I was honored to carry these bills during the legislative session, and I believe their impact will be valuable to our most vulnerable Oklahomans,” Roberts said. “I firmly believe these measures will ensure proper care and treatment for individuals. I appreciate Senator Daniels for serving as Senate author of these bills and the Governor for acting quickly to sign these bills into law."
Both bills were carried in the Senate by Daniels.
“These bills reaffirm that Oklahomans believe each individual life has value,” Daniels said. “Those who are elderly, disabled or chronically ill deserve just as much access to care and treatment as others. Their lives must not be reduced to a calculated formula when critical healthcare decisions are being made.”
HB2587 and HB2588 will take effect Nov. 1.
Workforce, Small Business, Education Communities Focus of Letter to Congressional Delegation
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, today sent a letter on behalf of the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus to each of the seven members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation to express the caucus’s disagreement with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s assessment that Oklahoma doesn’t need an additional stimulus package.
“We feel we simply cannot let the governor’s statement stand as the only assessment of Oklahoma’s needs,” Virgin said. “The purpose of this letter is to advocate for the constituents who have reached out to us during this pandemic.
The letter details the struggles of constituents who have reached out to members of the caucus during the pandemic. From Oklahomans recently laid off or returning to work with fewer hours to Oklahoma small business owners who are in desperate need of financial assistance, the House Democratic Caucus has fielded calls and emails from constituents affected by this pandemic in a multitude of different ways.
“The needs of Oklahomans are many,” Virgin said. “We respectfully ask that you ignore the governor’s misguided comments and do what is in your power to bring this money home.”