Whatzup Politics (1501)
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation to help small businesses and support economic development throughout Oklahoma has passed the Oklahoma House today with a vote of 69 to 21.
House Bill 2726, authored by Rep. Ajay Pittman, D-OKC, introduces language into the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Control Act that would allow Oklahoma small businesses to offer bottle service to their customers.
“This bill was a request bill from many small businesses in my district and throughout Oklahoma City,” Pittman said. “What we are doing is creating parity with what other states offer and what consumers want. Economic Development was at the top of my list of priorities when we started this journey, now we can see how we can restore our business communities from multiple things that challenge their success.”
The legislation does not increase or encourage alcohol consumption nor does it remove any safeguards put in place to curb alcohol-related incidents. This measure will also promote additional safety precautions that prevent hospitality staffers from making additional trips to serve patrons.
“This legislation isn’t about alcohol as much as it is about helping small businesses in House District 99 and throughout Oklahoma,” said Pittman. “This legislation will add a second layer of safety for families or patrons that gather in support of our professional sports teams and other celebrations.”
HB2726 is now eligible to be heard in the Oklahoma Senate.
State Rep. Ajay Pittman’s office can be reached at (405)557-7393 or email@example.com.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed legislation to protect religious freedom and the constitutional right to worship.
Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, presented House Bill 2648, also known as the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, which dictates that anything closing places of worship would be considered a substantial burden on people’s freedom of religion.
“People came to this continent seeking religious freedom and to escape a tyrannical government, and our country’s founders had the wisdom to specifically outline the freedom to worship in one of our founding documents,” Hill said. “My faith, like many Oklahomans, is at the core of who I am, and this bill further protects our God-given right to worship.”
House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is a co-author of the bill.
"This country was founded by individuals seeking freedom to worship in the manner they so choose without persecution," Echols said. "I can think of nothing more patriotic than protecting those rights for future generations."
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
HB2648 passed the House 80-18 and is now available to be considered by the Senate, where it is authored by Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill designed to help homeless youth gain access to housing, medical care, education and other services passed the House today with a vote of 82-6.
House Bill 1739, by Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, creates the Connecting Futures Act, which is designed for youth between the ages of 15 and 18. The measure would direct the state Department of Human Services, working with social service providers, to design a pilot program addressing the needs of minors who are not supported by parents or guardians and who are not in state or tribal custody. The act would not deprive a parent or legal guardian of any parental or legal authority.
“Unfortunately we have a number of young people in our state whose needs are not being met, and they need our help,” Dills said. “This program will help us identify barriers facing these youth so we can find solutions and resources to assist them.”
Dills said the program is aimed at youth who, for whatever reason, don’t fit into the state’s foster care system but who aren’t with their parents. Many of these teens don’t even have access to necessary documents such as their birth certificates or social security numbers, which leaves them unable to secure a driver’s licenses or employment. Too many end up in poverty, in the state’s penal system or worse, she said.
The Connecting Futures Act could change this trajectory and help these young people become successful adults, Dills said.
HB 1739 now advances to the Senate where Sen. Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City, is the author.
- Sheila Dills serves House District 69 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of Tulsa County.
By State Rep. Rick West
The House last week passed two pieces of legislation that focus on protecting our state’s rights as outlined in the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. I co-authored both measures.
House Bill 1236 gives the Oklahoma Legislature the right to ask our state attorney general to review any federal executive order, federal agency rule or federal legislative action to determine constitutionality. This measure also would keep an organization that gets public funds from implementing any action that restricts a person’s rights or is deemed unconstitutional.
House Resolution 1005 asserts Oklahoma’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and provides guidelines for federal government agencies and agents that operate within, or whose actions have an effect on, Oklahoma and its citizens.
We’ve already seen a number of actions recently on the federal level that threaten our economy and our personal freedoms. These measures will help ensure we’re protected from such broad federal overreach.
Meanwhile, this was committee deadline week. The next two weeks we’ll be hearing many bills on the House floor. Those that pass move to the Senate. Then we’ll start getting Senate bills to consider.
Here’s a look at bills I passed in committee this week:
House Bill 1115 would allow for chemical castration of anyone convicted of a sexually violent offense before they could be paroled or released from prison. This bill was passed by the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee with a vote of 3-1.
House Bill 118 would remove a provision that currently allows a resident alien to be employed as a peace officer. Someone with resident alien status is not a U.S. citizen, and they shouldn’t be allowed to arrest citizens. This bill also passed by the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee with a 3-1 vote.
House Bill 1120 would allow a state agency that is subject to the Central Purchasing Act but that is in a county without access to contracted vendors to be able to purchase necessary equipment or supplies from a local business without having to obtain a waiver or permission. Right now, I’ve got agencies that can’t even go to their local hardware store for de-icer because they didn’t go through Central Purchasing. Instead, they would have to wait to get something that might be more expensive or may even come from out of state. This bill will ease up a silly government regulation. It passed the General Government Committee 7-0.
House Bill 2930 is a request bill from the Department of Agriculture. They want to update the Agriculture Enhancement and Diversification Program to include first-time farmers and veterans who are agriculture producers and businessmen. This bill passed the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee 15-0.
Remember to listen to me on KPRV Radio each Thursday morning during the legislative session. And if I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rick West represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after voting against H.R. 1319, the Biden Bailout package.
“The Biden Bailout is exactly what it sounds like: a bill full of wasteful government spending, blue state bailouts, and Democratic wish list items that hinder our economic recovery from the pandemic,” Mullin said. “Of the $1.9 trillion, only 9 percent will actually go to COVID relief and 45 percent isn’t even going to be used this year. That is unacceptable and reckless. With $1 trillion from previously enacted relief bills still unspent, we should be focusing on getting that relief to those who need it most and getting our economy fully reopened.”
H.R. 1319 costs $1.9 trillion and includes:
$510 billion for Democrat-run states that chose to shut down
$471 billion for liberal policies that destroy jobs
$422 billion for another round of direct government payments to individuals
$325 billion for non-COVID Democratic wish list items
Only $160 billion for actually combatting COVID-19
$12 billion in foreign aid
And a federal mandate forcing states to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after voting “no” on H.R. 5, the Equality Act. This legislation would withhold federal funding from any college or university that does not allow biological men to compete in women's sports, as well as gut protections for churches and other religious organizations.
“The Equality Act is a misguided bill that would ultimately eliminate Title IX protections for women,” Mullin said. “There is no doubt that Title IX has given female athletes lifechanging opportunities and allowing transgender individuals to compete in women’s sports is unfair, unsafe, and completely undermines the original intent 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. If our laws do not recognize the biological difference between men and women, female athletes will be the ones to suffer the consequences.”
“Additionally, the Equality Act would gut the crucial Religious Freedom Restoration Act protections for churches and religious organizations,” Mullin continued. “These groups should not be forced to provide services that go against their beliefs and that’s exactly what would happen under this bill. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right and I whole-heartedly oppose any effort to take away that right.”
House Committee Approves Randleman Bill to Increase Number of Mental Health Facilities in Eastern OK
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, secured passage Wednesday of a bill to allow for more mental health services in eastern Oklahoma.
Under rules implemented by the Oklahoma Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), the state is divided into service areas, with each service area allowed only one community mental health center. House Bill 1637 would remove the limit of one public mental health center, as well as allow for private and nonprofit centers to operate.
Randleman, a licensed psychologist, told the House Public Health Committee he filed the bill after realizing the lengthy travel times some constituents were enduring to access mental health services. Eastern and southeastern Oklahoma is serviced by a facility in McAlester, which is a several hour drive for some constituents of Randleman’s, whose district extends as far north as Lake Tenkiller in Sequoyah County.
“These travel times are unacceptable and only prohibit people from accessing mental health services they need,” Randleman said. “Rural areas of our state have a great need for these services and it’s time we addressed this issue.”
Randleman also pointed out that the center in McAlester is only equipped to handle adults and does not have an adolescent stabilization unit, resulting in adolescents traveling about four hours one way to access services in Tulsa.
House Bill 1637 passed the House Public Health Committee and is now eligible to be considered on the House floor.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The House today passed education bills that would allow Oklahoma students to transfer between public school districts at any time and that change the school funding formula to make money follow the student and curb the number of non-existing – or ghost – students currently allowed in the system.
“This is the type of big education reform Oklahomans have overwhelmingly asked for to make our state the best place for families,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. “Collectively, these reforms build on the historic education investment made three years ago by maintaining and maximizing all money in the common education system while ensuring families retain control of their children’s education decisions. Open transfer ensures equity regardless of geography by benefitting urban and rural areas alike. This is good education policy that works well in all parts of the state. I am proud of the House for delivering on our priority to improve outcomes and empower families in the education system.”
House Bill 2074, by McCall, known as the Education Open Transfer Act, and House Bill 2078, which amends the school funding formula, passed with votes of 77-22 and 68-30, respectively. Both bills now advance to the Senate.
“Parents must maintain the ability to consider another public school if they find their child’s needs are not being met at their current school,” said Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow. “House Bill 2074 protects parents’ right to decide the best education pathway for their child while also maintaining a school districts’ local control. I am honored to have played a part in passing this important piece of legislation, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have for Oklahoma’s children.”
Boles said he worked with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the State Department of Education and many school superintendents to amend HB 2074 to address many of their concerns. The measure would allow student transfers from one public school district to another at any time during the year. It also would allow receiving districts to determine capacity limits for each grade level at the schools in their district. Posting of transfer data would be required on each district’s website by the first day of each quarter. Numbers also would have to be reported to the State Department of Education and made available to the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. A district could deny a transfer if a student has 10 or more unexcused absences in one semester, or if the student has violated discipline rules existing in state statute. A student transfer would be limited to two times per school year, and the student could re-enroll at any time in their home district.
Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, authored House Bill 2078.
“This common-sense reform is very simple: It makes money follow the student - no more and no less” Hilbert said. “If we ever want to change our status of being bottom ten in education outcomes, we must quit doing things the way they’ve always been done. The current formula results in students being double or triple counted if they move between schools. This has to end.”
Hilbert said if nothing is done, virtual charter schools still will be paid for students that no longer on their membership rolls once in-person learning resumes. He said using current figures, about $200 million would be spent on 55,000 students that don’t actually exist.
Under HB 2078, school districts would use student counts from the immediate preceding year, and growing districts could use current-year counts for the mid-year adjustment if they choose. It also would give districts greater flexibility in the amount of money they are allowed to carry forward from one fiscal year to the next. This allows districts to continue hiring teachers and staff to meet student needs, but cuts down on paying for students no longer on the rolls.
Both bills now advance to the state Senate. Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, is the Senate author of HB 2074. Sen. Zack Taylor is the Senate author of HB 2078.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement after two major school transfer and funding bills passed off the House floor on Wednesday.
“While the stated rationale for House Bill 2074, which radically changes public school transfer policy, and House Bill 2078, which calls for reducing the three-year average funding formulation, is to reform public education for better outcomes, the unfortunate reality is that it will only further hurt schools and the students they serve.
“Both bills focus on pulling funding and students from schools who are struggling so as to incentivize them to ‘perform better.’ The problem is this -- it fundamentally does nothing to address what is truly needed to help the students in those schools.
“There are three major reasons that schools who are not performing well are struggling.
All the schools that are struggling and not performing well have some of the poorest districts in the state. That brings students who are food insecure, who have high adverse childhood experiences, whose families move often and are in general living in very stressful circumstances that affect the students’ academic performance.
The challenging school environment created when serving poverty-stricken districts places extraordinary pressures on teachers in the classroom on top of not having adequate classroom resources or acceptable student-teacher ratios.
We currently have an extremely low number of counselors in our schools. In fact, our counselor-student ratio is more than 2 times the national recommended level. Teachers can’t handle this kind of student population alone and without resources.
“If we want to improve student opportunities and academic success, then we should not ‘punish’ these schools but rather put forth more substantive policies that address these fundamental issues, such as what we have recommended in our legislative education policy platform.
"House Democrats proposed 11 different education-specific proposals to help improve our education system as well as several pieces of legislation designed to create opportunity and put more investment into struggling Oklahoma communities. Unfortunately, none of these bills have been heard on the House floor.
"If we want a better public education system, we need to acknowledge the source of the challenges our system faces and develop a long-term solution that truly tackles these difficult problems and helps our schools be successful.”
For more on the proposals that House Democrats have put forward to help address struggling schools, visit www.oklahomafocused.com.
House Bill Raising Death Benefits for Emergency Service Personnel Referred for Analysis by Banking Committee
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that will increase the amount of death benefits for any firefighter, paid or volunteer, or law enforcement officer who is in the pension system and passes away, was referred for an actuarial analysis by a vote of 8-0 in the House Banking Committee yesterday. The actuarial analysis will determine the fiscal impact of the bill.
Rep. Dick Lowe, R-Amber, is the author of House Bill 2461, which is named in honor of fallen Oklahoma City firefighter Andy Davis. Davis was a 20 year veteran with OKCFD and comes from a family of public servants. His brother, father, uncle and several other family members have served in fire departments. Davis tragically passed away due to COVID-19 complications on Dec. 24, 2020.
“Our firefighters and law enforcement officers continuously put their lives on the line to keep us safe,” Lowe said. “We cannot begin to match our gratitude to their sacrifice, but it is my hope that this bill will help ease some of the financial burden felt by the families of our fallen protectors. I think it is only fitting that the bill be named after Maj. Davis, a man who devoted his life to serving and protecting. His death was a tragic loss to his family, community and the State of Oklahoma. This bill will help his memory live on in the minds of those he served and served with.”
HB 2461 would change the amount of death benefits due to the beneficiaries of firefighters and law enforcement officers who are members of the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System and Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System from $5,000 to $15,000 for those members who die on or after July 1, 2021. This is the first update to the benefit amount in over 30 years.
“The average funeral now costs over $11,000,” added Lowe. “This bill adjusts the death benefit for inflation and helps give the families of our fallen heroes some small financial peace of mind when their loved one passes. It’s just the right thing to do.”