Whatzup Politics (1477)
Courses for groundwater professionals start with Drilling Basics Online
(STILLWATER, Oklahoma, Feb. 23, 2021)— A collaboration between Oklahoma State University and the National Groundwater Association aims to address a projected shortfall of geoscience workers and improve access to groundwater that is essential for people around the world.
Capturing groundwater is not possible without the proper workforce of water-well drilling contractors and pump installers who access and deliver groundwater for the use of drinking water, irrigation and other industries.
NGWA and OSU are creating a series of groundwater training courses delivered online with future development of classroom and field courses. The program will offer career development opportunities for industry professionals, university students and entry-level workers, and can prepare them for rigorous certification exams or could lead to university degrees. These courses will improve the safety and skills of drilling industry members and systematically address the critical shortage of professionals in the industry.
“As a land-grant institution, Oklahoma State’s mission is to address issues facing our state, nation and world,” said OSU President Burns Hargis. “As one of the few universities with a long history in groundwater education, we know that 98.5 percent of the drinking water available to people is in the ground. We also know that the infrastructure supporting groundwater needs to modernize, and we are proud to do our part to address the issue.”
National Groundwater Association CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC, said a significant number of knowledgeable and experienced geoscientists are aging into retirement.
“Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the field was projected to face a shortfall of 135,000 workers by 2022,” Morse added. “We need to train the next group of people who will manage groundwater and operate these rigs. That is obviously a serious problem not just for the industry, but for everyone considering that access to clean water increases life expectancy by 20-plus years. So NGWA was compelled to address this problem, and OSU will help us meet this challenge.”
Dr. Todd Halihan, a professor in OSU’s Boone Pickens School of Geology, agreed, noting that 44 percent of Americans rely on water from wells provided by the groundwater industry.
“Groundwater is the most stable water resource and doesn’t suffer from evaporation like surface reservoirs. People don’t realize how much groundwater research and infrastructure is here in Oklahoma from federal and university researchers, and industrial partners in drilling and consulting,” Halihan said. “It just makes sense to establish this collaboration between OSU and NGWA, a win-win for both their association and our university, and it will benefit countless individuals who rely on groundwater.”
The first course in the new program is Drilling Basics Online, a series of five, eight-hour sessions developed through the collaboration of industry professionals, scientists, engineers and experts in online education. The course covers the skills and competencies tested for on groundwater drilling exams.
Up to 5,000 people are expected to participate in this course in just the first two years, and it has unlimited capacity to accommodate high volumes of participants at any given time. Because it is self-paced and delivered entirely online, it is ideal for the non-drilling days of workforce employees as well as for those working at home and the currently unemployed.
OSU and NGWA are excited the initial funding for the program is in place and has been provided by private donors and industry sponsors.
NGWA and OSU have the established infrastructure for this program and have gained interested collaborators both nationally and internationally. Additional land-grant universities may deliver course content in the field, and the program may even expand internationally based on demand.
Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU has more than 34,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 24,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 100 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 275,000 students to serve the state of Oklahoma, the nation and the world.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives today approved legislation outlining the process to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate if the need arises.
House Bill 2173, authored by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, would allow the governor to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate with a temporary appointment until an election can occur. He started developing the legislation last session with Sen. Lonnie Paxton, but said the bill is even more important now because of the evenly-split partisan divide in the U.S. Senate.
“If a vacancy occurs in either of our state’s seats, not only does our state lose representation, but it also has broad national implications,” Hilbert said. “Oklahomans deserve to have full representation in D.C., and we must make provisions now in the event that this process is necessary.”
Forty-five states allow their governor to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy via temporary appointment. Currently, Oklahoma does not have any procedure in place to fill a vacancy, so a seat would sit empty until a special election or the next general election can occur. A special election under current law would take at least eight months to finish and cost taxpayers $1.2 million.
The bill specifies that the empty seat must be filled by a person of the same political party as their predecessor. Article 5, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits any sitting legislator from being appointed by the governor to any office or commission.
After former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn announced he would step down from his seat in Jan. 2014, the seat remained empty until U.S. Senator James Lankford was elected in a special election in Nov. 2014 to fill the remainder of Coburn’s term.
Having passed the House 54-42, HB 2173 now proceeds to the Senate.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives today passed legislation designed to help cut down on lengthy wait times currently occurring at the Oklahoma Dept. of Public Safety (DPS).
House Bill 1059 is authored by Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow, and would help the Dept. of Public Safety address the significant backlog that has built up as a result of the challenges brought by COVID-19 and the implementation of Real IDs.
“Lawmakers have heard from many of our constituents who are upset with the large backlog and months-long wait time at DPS offices, and I believe House Bill 1059 will be a positive step forward to help alleviate this problem,” Boles said. “These changes would make the process more efficient for Oklahomans and ease some of the burden on DPS.”
The legislation authorizes local tag agencies to issue commercial driver’s licenses renewals, replacements, change of addresses and downgrades for Class A, B and C licenses. Currently, DPS must process all of these requests.
The bill would also allow tag agents to issue an ID card even if the driver’s license is expired or suspended, as long as the person requesting the ID has an existing Oklahoma driver’s license file. Currently, the person requesting the ID must have a valid unexpired license to receive an ID card from a tag agent.
HB1059 would allow third party examiners to test anyone with a commercial driver’s license permit. Third-party examiners are only allowed to administer driver’s tests to their own students.
The bill passed the House 91-2 and is now available to be considered in the Senate, where it is authored by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan.
Defending Women’s Sports
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
On June 23rd, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law. This landmark legislation had one goal in mind: to protect women from sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, including sports. Because of the access to funding and opportunity this historic legislation created, there has been a 545% increase in the number of women playing college sports and a 990% increase in the number of women playing high school sports.
There is no doubt that Title IX has created lifechanging opportunities for countless female athletes and has opened the path for many of the top-level women in sports that we see dominate their respective field today. Yet somehow, we are on the verge of this historic protection being used counter to its intent.
The progressive “woke” movement is coming for women’s sports in the name of “gender equality” – a dangerous policy permitting biological men to compete against women if they claim an alternate gender status. Now, many school districts, sports leagues, and athletics organizations are allowing them to compete in women’s athletics. The consequences of this can be seen all over the country. In one instance, transgender athlete Cece Telfer first competed on the Franklin Pierce University men’s track and field team in 2016 and 2017 and after her transition, she joined the women’s team instead. She won the both the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles at the Women’s 2019 Track and Field NCAA Division II National Championships, edging out the closest female competitors by over a second and a half.
Allowing biological men to compete in women’s sports is unfair, unsafe, and completely undermines the purpose of Title IX. As the father of three girls involved in wrestling, I want them to be able to compete on a level playing field. This is why I am opposed to H.R. 5, the Equality Act, a bill that House Democrats are trying to pass this week and which would withhold federal funds from any school, college, or university that does not allow biological males who identify as females to compete on women’s sports teams.
Allowing states to grossly misinterpret and manipulate Title IX results in limited access to opportunity for women athletes across the country. Equality in sports should be a cause we can all get behind, because if our laws do not recognize the biological difference between men and women, females who compete in sports will be the ones to suffer the consequences.
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.
Existing programs jeopardized by attempt to privatize Medicaid
OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Rules Committee today unanimously approved a bill aimed at assuring the future of crucial partnerships between the state and medical programs at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.
House Bill 2299 by Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, resulted from concerns that these partnerships could be eliminated through the efforts to privatize Oklahoma’s Medicaid system. Roberts’ bill passed by a vote of 8-0. It now goes to the full House of Representatives.
“Today’s action by the Rules Committee should be a source of great relief not only to these two vital medical programs, their faculty and students, but also to thousands upon thousands of Medicaid recipients in rural and underserved parts of Oklahoma,” Roberts said. “Those are the people who stand to suffer without this legislation.”
More than one-third of all Oklahoma Medicaid patients are treated by the state’s two medical schools and their physicians. The Enhanced Reimbursement Payment Program allows physicians who provide education to medical students and residents affiliated with these medical schools to bill for treatment of Medicaid patients at a higher rate, since they are in a teaching environment. This program has both full-time university physicians and private affiliated physicians. This is a federal matching program and does not require any funding from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. The universities provide the matching funds for this program.
“HB 2299 provides protections for our Medicaid patients being treated by healthcare providers across the state,” said Richard W. Schafer, DO, President of the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association who endorses the bill. “Our fear is the managed care insurance companies have no history with our two medical schools and their vital programs, nor a vested interested in the long-term relationships between the teaching hospitals and the state. These partnerships will be an easy target, and without this bill, crucial policy will be set by these insurance companies without regard for the medical students and patients who benefit from these vital programs.”
Under HB 2299, known as the Oklahoma Medical Education Protection Act, the four managed care companies chosen to administer Oklahoma’s Medicaid program must protect the supplemental payment programs at their current level. The bill also prohibits these companies from attempting to divert patients away from the university teaching programs, their affiliated physicians or hospitals. Violations would be cause for terminating the contract.
Dustin Roberts represents District 21 in the Oklahoma House of Representative, which includes part of Bryan County.
OKLAHOMA CITY - State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, issued the following statement today after House Bill 2173 passed off the House floor.
“The last minute change to substitute completely new language into House Bill 2173 is pure political shenanigans. That’s why I dropped my support for this bill. What was previously a good bill to fix an election day loophole became what everyone despises - a political power grab at the expense of the people.
“Empowering the Oklahoma Governor and Speaker of the House to appoint a replacement for a sitting U.S. senator instead of letting the people decide is a return to the days of the smoke-filled rooms at the Capitol.
“What other choices will this body cancel from the people? Initiative petitions? Or maybe a presidential election? Not only does this bill NOT drain the swamp, it opens the floodgates and lays claim to land.
“If this bill makes it to the Governor, I encourage him to stand by his commitment to the ‘People’s Agenda’ by vetoing this outrageous incumbent selection bill.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – Updates to a bill named after Riley Boatwright, a Lexington Middle School student who died during a football game in September 2019, passed out of the House Common Education Committee today.
House Bill 1775, authored by Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, updates requirements for school boards in devising emergency action plans for all athletic events. Last year, Conley was the House author of SB1198, which created the Riley Boatwright Act and established the initial formation of such plans.
“The legislation we passed last year was a request from Riley’s family,” Conley said. “It is something they wished had been in place when their son was playing football, but their hope is that this will save the lives of other young people involved in athletics in their schools.”
HB 1775 renames the Riley Boatwright Act Riley’s Rule. It would require school boards, beginning in the 2021-22 school year, to coordinate with emergency medical providers in their area to create an Emergency Action Plan for all athletic facilities and events, including practices.
Conley said last year’s act required schools to have emergency medical plans for athletic events, but this year’s legislation strengthens language so schools know exactly what must be included in the plans. That was a request of Riley’s parents, Conley said.
An amendment to the bill specifies that schools don’t have to hire someone outside the district to prepare or manage the plan, but they do have to identify the person inside the district that will be responsible for administering the plan.
The amendment also specifies that if schools have a defibrillator everyone should know where it is located. In addition, the amendment removes the requirement that the plan be reviewed during a medical time-out prior to the start of all athletic games, instead allowing plans to be submitted digitally. Conley said she worked with the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration on the amended language of the bill.
Conley also thanked the Oklahoma Athletic Trainers Association, which proposed the language on the bill and strongly believes this language allows schools to work together with local emergency services to come up with a plan that best meets the needs of each community.
The Action Plan also shall:
- Include maps and directions with appropriate contact information for emergency medical services
- Define responsibilities for both medical and school officials
- Include a list of other medical equipment available
- Be distributed to all school officials involved in athletic activities
- Be rehearsed annually, prior to the start of the season, with school officials and local emergency medical providers
The bill passed the Common Education Committee with a vote of 14-0 and now is eligible to be considered by the entire House.
Sherrie Conley represents District 20 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Cleveland, Garvin, McClain and Pottawatomie counties.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-OKC, released the following statement today after House Bill 1630 passed the House floor Monday with a partisan vote of 78-18. House Bill 1630 modifies the provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act, streamlining the firearm licensing process.
“As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to enact policy that keeps Oklahoma communities safe,” said State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-OKC. “By removing the ability for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to examine medical records in the firearm renewal process, we are opening up the door for individuals with a history of mental illness or propensity for violence to carry firearms. I am committed to standing against policies that put Oklahomans' lives at risk and threaten the rights of safe and responsible gun owners. House Bill 1630 does both.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – A state Advisory Council on Traumatic Brain Injury is one step closer to fruition as House Bill 1010 unanimously passed the House Appropriations and Budget committee Thursday with a vote of 32-0.
HB1010, authored by Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, creates an Advisory Council on Traumatic Brain Injury to provide guidelines and advice to agencies and other entities. The TBI Advisory Council will work with the Dept of Health in collecting data, identifying needs, clarifying deficiencies in care, researching causes and promoting prevention.
“Today, Oklahoma is behind other states when it comes to addressing Traumatic Brain Injury,” Ranson said. “As science evolves, we need to adapt and institute policies that protect our state’s greatest asset - its people.”
This is the second time HB1010 has been through the House legislative process. It passed the House in 2020 but stalled due to COVID. She is appreciative of the bipartisan support the legislation has received.
“This is a constituent request bill by a TBI survivor/advocate named Alicia Murie,” Ranson said. “Her story and determination are inspiring, and today we took a step in recognizing that determination by unanimously passing this legislation in committee. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure this legislation makes it to the governor’s desk and is signed in law.”
Ranson’s office can be reached at (405)557-7411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House of Representatives Utilities Committee Chair Rep. Garry Mize, R-Guthrie, announced Monday his committee intends to hold hearings to examine the storm’s effect on utility bills and identify measures to prevent astronomically high utility bills after future storms.
The hearings are part of multiples steps announced by state leaders to examine the aftermath of last week’s storm.
“Every single county in our state was affected by last week’s winter weather,” Mize said. “Our constituents are worried about the storm’s impact on their utility bills, and as their elected officials, we need to understand how prepared or unprepared Oklahoma was for this storm and what, if any, policy changes should be implemented in preparation for future storms.”
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, joined Gov. Kevin Stitt and other elected leaders at Monday’s press conference.
“All 101 House members are working to connect our districts with necessary aid in addition to taking calls from constituents who are very concerned about increased utility bills,” McCall said. “In addition to efforts in our districts, we have an obligation to examine the situation at the legislative level, as well. The House will conduct hearings on the matter to ascertain what needs to be done going forward. I appreciate the leadership of Chairman Mize and the Utilities Committee for reviewing this matter for our constituents.”
A recording of the press conference may be viewed here.