Whatzup Politics (1404)
Treat files separate bill to modernize the law
OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat filed legislation Thursday to extend exemptions to the state’s Open Meeting Act that allowed public bodies to meet virtually during the coronavirus pandemic.
Treat said Senate Bill 1031 reinstates the same exemptions to the Open Meeting Act that were signed into law in 2020 but expired in November. He indicated his preference for the Legislature to fast-track the bill early in the legislative session.
“At the time, in-person gatherings were limited to very few people but we knew public bodies had to meet to conduct business. That’s why the Legislature worked together to implement temporary exemptions to the Open Meeting laws to allow public bodies to meet virtually. The need remains for public bodies to continue to be able to meet virtually and Senate Bill 1031 reinstates the flexibility for public bodies to hold virtual public meetings until the pandemic is behind us,” Treat said.
As written, the exemptions to the Open Meeting Act in SB 1031 would remain in place until the governor’s emergency declaration expires, Treat said. He said the same procedures public bodies followed in 2020 related to these exemptions would be in place again under SB 1031.
Additionally, Treat filed Senate Bill 1032 which contains language to update the Open Meeting Act. Treat said he plans to work with stakeholders like the Oklahoma Municipal League and the Oklahoma Press Association on SB 1032 and that the bill would go through the typical legislative process.
“The temporary exemptions the Legislature passed last year gave public bodies flexibility to meet virtually and conduct business. Equally important, it increased transparency of those bodies by providing increased access to many more Oklahomans. More parents were able to virtually attend their local school board meetings. More taxpayers were able to follow the work of their local city and county governments. And it was all because meetings moved online due to the pandemic. So much of our life now is conducted online, and in the short-term will remain so due to the pandemic, it makes sense to carry forward the measures that brought increased access and transparency to government at all levels,” Treat said.
SB 1032 requires all public meetings at a physical location include a virtual livestream for citizens to be able to view meetings virtually, unless the governmental entity faces technical or logistical difficulties. The bill also automatically allows for completely virtual public meetings immediately upon a declaration of emergency by the governor, in all counties covered by each emergency declaration.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives completed bill filing Thursday, Jan. 21 for the first session of the 58th Legislature. A total of 1,942 House Bills, 44 House Joint Resolutions and 2 House Resolutions were filed.
The full text of the bills, along with additional information including authors and co-authors, can be found online at www.okhouse.gov.
Last year, the Clerk of the House reported 1,361 House Bills, 16 House Joint Resolutions and 4 House Concurrent Resolutions were filed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 session was temporarily paused and a vast majority of bills did not complete the legislative process.
For the 2019 session, 1,733 House bills and 21 House Joint Resolutions were filed. For the 2018 session, 1,193 House bills and 32 House Joint Resolutions were filed.
The House is comprised of 82 Republicans and 19 Democrats. The first session of the 58th Legislature will begin Monday, Feb. 1 at noon with the State of the State address from Gov. Kevin Stitt in the House Chamber.
WASHINGTON— On the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-2) reaffirmed his full support of protecting the lives of the unborn.
“Every human life is precious,” said Mullin. “As a father of six, I cannot express enough how precious the lives of innocent children are. From the moment of conception, each child is worthy of life and protection from harm. In the 117th Congress, I will continue in my work to safeguard the rights of the unborn. As Americans, we have the moral, ethical, and personal responsibility to be the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
Mullin is a cosponsor of several bills that reaffirm his commitment to pro-life policies including:
- H.Res.60 - Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that January 22, 2021, be formally acknowledged as "National Sanctity of Life Day."
- H.Res.58 - Memorializing the unborn by lowering the United States flag to half-staff on the 22d day of January each year.
- H.R. 380 - Pregnant Women Health and Safety Act, which would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges to a local hospital and to adhere to basic safety standards.
- H.R. 381 - Abortion Is Not Health Care Act, which ends the Internal Revenue Service’s treatment of out-of-pocket abortion costs as a medical expense.
- H.R. 188 - Women’s Public Health and Safety Act, which gives states the freedom to defund Planned Parenthood through Medicaid.
- H.R. 243 - Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from awarding family planning grants to entities that either perform abortions or entities which fund abortions elsewhere.
Mullin was also a cosponsor of the following bills in the 116th Congress and will cosponsor them again once they are introduced in the 117th Congress:
- The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which requires appropriate medical care for children who survive abortion procedures and imposes strong criminal penalties for failure to provide such care.
- The Defund Planned Parenthood Act, which prohibits, for a one-year period, Planned Parenthood from accessing any federal mandatory or discretionary funds and authorizes $235 million to be reallocated to the thousands of comprehensive community health centers which do not perform abortions.
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would make the Hyde Amendment and other current abortion funding prohibitions permanent and government-wide, and it would ensure the Affordable Care Act (ACA) faithfully conforms to the Hyde Amendment.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Appropriations and Budget Committee next week will hold public meetings to hear from six state agencies that receive the largest share of state appropriations.
“These meetings allow the public to hear details of budget requests from the state agencies that receive the lion’s share of state appropriations,” said State Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, the House Appropriations and Budget Chair. “This also gives our representatives a chance to ask detailed questions in a more relaxed forum than exists once the legislative session gets underway.”
The House is scheduled to hear from the Oklahoma State Department of Education at 9:30 a.m. and the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 25; the Oklahoma Department of Human Services at 9:30 a.m. and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 26; the Oklahoma Department of Transportation at 9:30 a.m. and Oklahoma Management and Enterprise Services at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 28.
Social distancing will be followed. Visitors and staff should wear masks where social distancing is not possible. Meeting content will be livestreamed on the House Website: https://www.okhouse.gov/Video/Default.aspx.
A full list of meetings can be viewed here: https://www.okhouse.gov/Committees/MeetingNotices.aspx.
The Oklahoma Legislature is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget each year before the end of its session. Wallace said these public meetings help in that process by giving some of the state’s larger agencies a chance to explain details of their budget requests as well as present performance data from prior year funding.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, along with a group of nine Senators sent a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt urging him to rethink his plan to enter into a Managed Care contract for Oklahoma’s Medicaid population.
Burns said documents from the governor’s office show moving the state’s Medicaid population to an out-of-state managed care system would not save the state money.
“My district is on the border between Oklahoma and Texas, so I have constituents with experience working with managed care in Texas, and none of the people I’ve spoken to who’ve had to deal with managed care systems believe it’s good for patients or the healthcare system,” Burns said. “Based on my conversations, they aren’t sure who it’s good for other than the out-of-state insurance companies and their stockholders.”
The lawmakers said the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) is one of the best Medicaid agencies in the nation and they hope the governor will delay signing any managed care contract until he can come together with the Senate and House to find a solution that is affordable and will provide better healthcare outcomes for Oklahomans.
The following Senators signed the letter:
- Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro
- Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair
- Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant
- Sen. Tom Dugger, R-Stillwater
- Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain
- Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Broken Arrow
- Sen. Roland Pederson, R-Burlington
- Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman
- Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore
Every 10 years, the Oklahoma Legislature is constitutionally required to redraw legislative and congressional district boundaries using the latest U.S. Census data. For more information about the Oklahoma Senate's redistricting process, visit https://www.oksenate.gov" data-auth="NotApplicable">www.oksenate.gov, or submit your redistricting questions at .
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, has filed House Bill 2234, The DRIVE Act, to ensure all vehicles utilizing our state highways are contributing to the cost of maintaining this system in a fair and equitable manner.
Joining as co-authors of the legislation are State Reps. Brian Hill, R-Mustang; Dustin Roberts, R-Durant; Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, Todd Russ, R-Cordell, Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, Nicole Miller R-Edmond; and State Sens. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole; and James Leewright, R-Bristow.
“Currently, this infrastructure is funded largely with fuel taxes that road users pay at the gas pump,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “As more Americans transition to heavier electric, battery-powered automobiles, a greater burden is placed on our state’s fuel tax revenue, which inevitably will begin to decline.
“This problem is not unique to Oklahoma and is one that all fifty states must address at some point in the near future.
“While some states have passed laws that are punitive to the electric vehicle industry, the intent of this legislation is simply equity. This is a three-part bill, which goes to great lengths to collect revenue in a fair manner.”
Part 1 of this bill enacts a tax per kilowatt hour at public for-profit charging stations. This will allow non-Oklahoma residents to support the funding of the road infrastructure they are utilizing while in the state. As the bill currently reads, a vehicle with a 50KW battery could fully charge for a tax of $3.50 or less. For comparison, a vehicle with a 16-gallon gas tank would pay $3.04 in state gas taxes to fill up completely, the proposed difference due to vehicle weight. The bill does not enact a tax on anyone utilizing residential charging stations.
Part 2 of this bill enacts an annual vehicle registration fee for electric vehicles tied directly to what the average comparable vehicle model powered only by a combustion engine would spend in a given year in fuel taxes as well as on weight. Annual registration fees are the method most states have used to collect revenue from their residents for EV use. What makes this legislation unique, the lawmakers said, is that instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, the fee will vary based on vehicle model so that a two-door electric sedan pays less than a four-door electric pickup.
Part 3 of the bill recognizes that while most EV users charge their vehicles at home, there are some who don’t or who take the occasional road trip. In order to avoid double-taxing Oklahoma residents, the legislation supplies a tax credit for Oklahomans for the amount of taxes paid at public charging stations up to the amount of their annual electric vehicle registration fee.
The revenues from this bill will be placed into the Driving on Road Infrastructure with Vehicles of Electricity (DRIVE) Fund, which will supplement the state’s current ROADS Fund. The ROADS fund has been instrumental in taking Oklahoma from bottom ten to top ten in the country in bridge conditions.
“It has taken many years and much input from stakeholders to reach this point,” the lawmakers said. “Thankfully, we have a framework in place with this legislation to ensure Oklahoma will have adequate funding for our transportation infrastructure for generations to come, and that all users will contribute equally to its success.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, this week filed legislation that would establish a Bigfoot hunting season.
House Bill 1648 would direct the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Division to promulgate rules establishing the annual dates of the season and creating any necessary specific hunting licenses and fees.
“Tourism is one of the biggest attractions we have in my House district,” Humphrey said. “Establishing an actual hunting season and issuing licenses for people who want to hunt Bigfoot will just draw more people to our already beautiful part of the state. It will be a great way for people to enjoy our area and to have some fun.”
Humphrey said he doesn’t want people to actually kill Bigfoot, so he will be working with the state wildlife and tourism departments to craft final language for his bill that specifies only the trapping of Bigfoot. He also hopes to secure at least $25,000 that can be used as a bounty for the first person to trap the creature.
“A lot of people don’t believe in Bigfoot, but a lot of people do,” Humphrey said. “Just like some people like to go deer hunting, while some don’t.”
Humphrey said he’s filed numerous pieces of legislation this year on more serious matters, such as censorship, protecting the beef industry and others. But to him, tourism is just as important to his House district for the amount of dollars it draws. HB 1648 has the potential to increase that presence and the resulting dollars to boost the local economy, he said.
Humphrey said the town of Honobia, OK, already has an annual Bigfoot festival each October, so the hunting season ideally would coincide with that.
“Having a license and a tag would give people a way to prove they participated in the hunt,” Humphrey said. “Again, the overall goal is to get people to our area to enjoy the natural beauty and to have a great time, and if they find Bigfoot while they’re at it, well hey, that’s just an even bigger prize.”
Justin Humphrey represents District 19 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Atoka, Bryan, Choctaw and Pushmataha counties.
MEDIA ADVISORY: Final Virtual Redistricting Meeting Scheduled
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives and the State Senateredistricting offices will hold its final virtual town hall meeting on the legislative redistricting process at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25.
The meeting will give the public the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions in real time.
The meeting link and additional details can be found here: https://www.okhouse.gov/Publications/VirtualMeets.aspx.
No signup required; everyone is welcome.
“The redistricting process gives the public the opportunity to have a say in who represents them by how their legislative and congressional districts are drawn,” said State Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, chair of the House Redistricting Committee. “This is one of the foundational tenets of our free society, and it’s important that even with public health concerns we have a forum such as this available to the people we represent.”
“The virtual town hall format gives the public who cannot attend in-person the same opportunity to share their ideas and concerns with lawmakers and redistricting staff,” said State Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting. “It’s important this process remain transparent and provides the accountability we promised.”
By law, the Legislature must redraw its legislative and congressional district boundaries to reflect changes in population every ten years immediately following the decennial Census.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives and Oklahoma Senate have held a series of town halls throughout the state in December and January to encourage public input in the redistricting process. The meetings have been open to anyone who wished to attend.
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.
Information about other meetings scheduled across the state can be found here: https://oksenate.gov/press-releases/oklahoma-senate-house-announce-statewide-redistricting-meeting-dates.
A map showing meetings throughout the state can be found here: https://okhouse.maps.arcgis.com/apps/instant/minimalist/index.html?appid=ef335bbb2dea41dc9eb4Ibb029d5a8800.
Additional information about the redistricting process can be found here: https://okhouse.gov/Publications/Redistricting.aspx or here: https://oksenate.gov/redistricting.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation to increase the opportunity for Oklahoma students to benefit from play-based learning in public schools was filed today for the 58th Legislative Session.
The Oklahoma Play to Learn Act, House Bill 1569, is the product of a 30-person task force of educators and education advocates State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, put together and has led since 2019. Its focus is to empower Oklahoma educators to use play-based learning in their classrooms.
“I genuinely believe children learn best through hands-on, play-based learning,” said Rosecrants, the bill’s author. “It simply isn’t focused upon as it should be in our schools, as I saw with the experiences with my children in their early childhood education.”
The Oklahoma Play to Learn Act has three different planks:
- Declares legislative intent to focus on the importance of child-centered, play-based learning as the most rigorous and most developmentally appropriate way for children in the early childhood grade levels to learn.
- Allows early childhood educators to create learning environments that are developmentally appropriate and involve play-based learning opportunities that focus on movement, creative expression, exploration, socialization, art and music.
- Directs school districts to provide ongoing early childhood professional development opportunities for early childhood educators and administrators, which may include existing professional development programs from the State Department of Education.
Rosecrants views the act as a positive for students and also school districts.
“The teacher shortage is felt sharpest in the early childhood grade levels,” Rosecrants said. “By letting prospective early childhood teachers know that they can teach kids the way they were taught to teach them, this legislation can be part of the solution to Oklahoma’s teacher retention problem.”
The legislation passed the House last session but stalled due to COVID. Rosecrants hopes the new group of legislators see the same value in the legislation that the previous group did.
“This is a good piece of legislation that will benefit thousands of Oklahoma school children per year,” Rosecrants said. “I am optimistic that this body will agree and pass this legislation, but we still don’t want to take anything for granted.”
Rosecrants encourages anyone who supports play-based learning to call or email their legislators in support of House Bill 1569.
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
The peaceful transfer of power is a pillar of our democracy. While every transition has been peaceful and our nation has always endured, some transitions have tested our strength and resilience.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, tensions between the North and South were at an all-time high. Ahead of his inauguration in March of 1861, seven states broke away from the Union. In the days following the inauguration, four more states seceded and ignited the Civil War.
In 1936, President Herbert Hoover and President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt despised each other and had many heated meetings on the effects of the Great Depression before Roosevelt took office. After a contentious election in 2000, the country went weeks without knowing the winner. Even after President George W. Bush was eventually declared the winner, the country felt deeply divided.
This year’s transition has not been smooth sailing and there are many people who still have concerns about the outcome of the election. We’ve weathered rocky transitions in the past and ultimately come together and grown as a nation, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took time, hard work, and a dedication to our country. This transition is no exception. There is no challenge too great for Americans to overcome and I am confident we will band together.
Today, we transferred power to a new president. Now, we must work together to move our country forward, just as we have throughout our history.