Whatzup Politics (1396)
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is a finalist for the national 2020 RareVoice Award for state legislators.
The RareVoice Awards are hosted by the Rare Disease Legislative Advocates (RDLA), a program of the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases. Echols was selected as a finalist for the award because of his legislative work on rare diseases and for the disabled community.
“Government bureaucracy should never prevent people from receiving care or medicine that could relieve their pain,” Echols said. “Having family members who suffer from rare diseases opened my eyes to the numerous Oklahomans who struggle to manage their care and pain every day and made it an easy decision to run legislation that would help them achieve a higher quality of life. I’m hoping this award will bring more attention to the health care and pain management struggles many Oklahomans face every day.
In 2015, Echols authored House Bill 2154, also known as Katie and Cayman’s Law, which allowed for the use of cannabis oil for children with disabilities. Echols saw Oklahomans’ need for alternative medicine after his niece was diagnosed with epilepsy.
He cofounded the Waiting List Caucus in 2018, a bipartisan work group focusing on legislation to annualize funding for Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waivers, of which more than 7,600 Oklahomans were awaiting with an average wait of more than 12 years.
In 2019, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Echols’ House Bill 2632, which protects patient access to pharmacy services, minimizes pharmacy benefit managers’ conflicts of interests, and prohibits retroactive claim adjustments and denials.
Echols is a lifelong resident of Oklahoma City and a small business owner. He has represented House District 90 since 2012 and currently serves as the House majority floor leader.
RDLA supports the advocacy of all rare disease patients and organizations and is committed to growing the patient advocacy community by amplifying patients to be heard by local, state and federal policy makers.
The awardee for each category will be named in a virtual ceremony Dec. 10. For more information, visit www.rareadvocates.org/rarevoice-awards/.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, will hold an interim study next week focusing on death penalty practices and procedures.
The study will be held before the House Public Safety Committee. It begins at 9:30 a.m. and is scheduled to run until noon on Wednesday, Oct. 14, in Room 206 at the state Capitol.
"The majority of Oklahoman's agree with having the death penalty as an option,” McDugle said. “I just want to make sure that when we start the death penalty again that we are properly trained and that each individual we put to death is guilty and deserving. Some of those on death row have new evidence in their cases since 2015, and we want to make sure all new evidence is looked at before we send someone to the chamber."
Speaking on death penalty cases in Oklahoma will be:
- Don Knight, Death Row inmate Richard Glossip’s Attorney
- Craig Sutter, executive director of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System
- Christy Shepherd with the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission
- Bob Ravitz, Oklahoma County public defender
Speaking on the future of the death penalty in Oklahoma will be:
- Mike Hunter, Oklahoma attorney general
- Scott Crow, director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections
- Trent Baggett, chief executive officer of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council
- Adam Luck, a member of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board
McDugle represents District 12 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Wagoner County.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, held an interim study today focusing on ways the Legislature can best protect and support law enforcement.
The study was held before the House Public Safety Committee, which Humphrey chairs.
“There are so many narratives in the public right now about how our police, sheriffs or other law enforcement agencies need to be reformed,” Humphrey said. “Combine that with outright attacks on our law enforcement officers, and it becomes a toxic mix. And yet, the majority of legislators and I believe the public at large value and support our police and other law enforcement and want to do all we can to protect them.”
The study looked at ways legislators can do a better job to support training, education and mental health resources for law enforcement officers themselves as well as for helping them as they interact with the public. Also part of the discussion was ways to better fund such training. Humphrey said the study will help inform him and other lawmakers as the write legislation for the coming legislative session.
Presenters at the study included:
Moore Police Chief Todd Gibson who detailed some of the horrific scenarios law enforcement officers are involved in on a daily basis and the kinds of mental health resources that are needed to help them deal with this as part of their jobs;
Durant Police Chief Randy Houser spoke about ways Oklahoma’s legal system has failed officers, reading an emotional letter from Officer Rick Ford who lost his son and three of his son’s friends in a fatal car crash caused by a repeat drunk driving offender.
Jerad Lindsey, chairman of the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police, spoke on the status of law enforcement issues.
Jesus Campa, director of the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET), spoke on the agency’s response to law enforcement issues; and
Don Spencer with the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association detailed some legislative changes that are needed to clarify state laws as they relate to firearms and security guaranteed under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Justin Humphrey represents District 19 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Atoka, Bryan, Choctaw and Pushmataha counties.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Freedom of Information Oklahoma this week awarded its annual Sunshine Award to House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City.
The award recognizes a public official or governmental body that has shown a commitment to freedom of information.
The nomination letter for Rep. Echols states that he is “not only a leader in the House of Representatives, but is an advocate for transparency in government. He is willing and able to work with all sides of an issue to craft laws that live up to the spirit of the Open Meeting and Open Records Act. He is respected by the Capitol Press Corps as a person that is accessible and gives honest answers to difficult questions. Sometimes his willingness to engage in a frank discussion of both sides of FOI-related issues is misinterpreted. But Jon Echols is a believer that all sides of an issue should be discussed and considered if we are going to enact the best public policy. The FOI Sunshine Award recognizes persons that have shown a commitment to freedom of information. Majority Leader Echols has done just that and is a deserving recipient of The Sunshine Award.”
Echols said he’s honored to be nominated for and to receive this prestigious award.
“Government transparency is of the utmost importance to me,” Echols said. “People in this state and in our nation elect representatives to conduct government business on their behalf. By doing that, they expect that process to be open and transparent and to be given access to all that goes into passing legislation that then becomes the laws that govern them.”
Echols said since being elected to the House in 2013 and during his time as majority floor leader, he has worked hard to increase transparency in the legislative process.
“Adding a daily floor calendar to better show the bills that will likely come before the House each legislative day is an example of this,” he said. “Making myself accessible to members of both the majority and minority parties and to the media, and thereby the public, on a daily basis is another part of this transparency. Again, I’m honored to be recognized for my efforts, and I promise to continue to make government as transparent as possible as I continue to serve.”
Echols said transparency became especially important when the pandemic hit Oklahoma this March, forcing the Legislature to modify its rules and procedures.
“It was very important to me that the House be as open as possible when we had to change legislative processes to safely meet and keep government functioning at the onset of the pandemic,” Echols said.
Founded in 1990, FOI Oklahoma is a statewide organization actively supporting those individuals and organizations who are working to open records or provide access to meetings illegally closed. The organization’s Board of Directors consists of attorneys, educators, journalists, state and elected officials, librarians and private citizens from all across Oklahoma.
Jon Echols serves District 90 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Cleveland and Oklahoma counties.
Dear Oklahoma friends and neighbors:
On September 18, our nation mourned after the passing of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a judicial legend, a brilliant mind, a mother, a wife, and a friend and mentor to many. Although not everyone agreed with her judicial philosophy, she impacted our nation as an example of determination and achievement. Last week Justice Ginsburg was the first woman and first Jewish American to “lie in state” in the US Capitol after also “lying in repose” at the Supreme Court, where I was able to pay my respects in person. Cindy and I continue to pray for her loved ones as they process their grief for her loss.
Justice Ginsberg’s death left a vacancy on the Supreme Court, which sets off a chain of events dictated by the Constitution. Presidents have the power to nominate justices, and on September 26, President Trump nominated US Circuit Court judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat vacated by Justice Ginsburg’s passing. If the President puts forward a nominee, the Senate alone has the authority to provide advice and consent. The House has no action or involvement in the process. The Senate will move forward with her nomination, and I will participate in that advice and consent process, which will begin with meeting Senators on Capitol Hill, move to hearings in the Judiciary Committee starting October 12, and if approved by the Committee, eventually to a vote before the full Senate.
Fifteen times in our nation’s history, there’s been a vacancy on the Supreme Court during a presidential election year. Each time, the president has nominated someone to fill the seat that same year. Of those 15 times, eight involved a Senate majority and a president of the same party, and seven were under divided government (different parties in control of the Senate and presidency). In the eight cases of same-party control, the Senate confirmed all but one nominee, Abe Fortas, nominated by President Lyndon Johnson, who had serious ethical and personal financial problems raised during his confirmation process. For the seven times under divided government, only two nominees were confirmed, and the last one was in 1888.
Currently, the Senate Majority and the President are of the same political party, and confirming a Supreme Court nominee during a presidential election year under these circumstances is consistent with Senate precedent. Even though there has been a great deal of political rhetoric about the process, we are following the exact same precedent Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and then-Senator Joe Biden of Delaware previously affirmed when they were in the same situation.
When considering judicial nominees, I work to determine whether a nominee interprets the text of the law as written by Congress or by our Founders in the Constitution. Congress writes the laws, not judges or justices. Culture does change, and laws should change with our culture. But the law should change through a vote in Congress, not through a novel interpretation of a Supreme Court Justice. When courts change the meaning of a law, they are blurring the clear boundaries of checks and balances in our Constitution. In her remarks last Saturday following President Trump’s nomination, Judge Barrett said of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who she clerked for, “His judicial philosophy is mine, too.” She went on to say that “A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policy makers and must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold."
Then a law professor at Notre Dame, Judge Barrett was most recently confirmed with my support in October 2017 as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, so a great deal of the background work for her nomination is already complete. Judge Barrett graduated first in her law school class at Notre Dame. She is highly qualified, experienced, and has the proper temperament, attitude of fairness, and legal scholarship to make her a stellar nominee. Her education, experience, and personal convictions all play an important role in her judicial philosophy as a strict constructionist. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, she will be the first mom with school-age children to serve on the Court, and she will replace Justice Ginsburg on the Court as the only current Justice to graduate from a top-level university that isn’t Harvard or Yale.
Judge Barrett is a also a member of the Catholic Church and has not been shy to share her strong faith background. Interestingly, the subject most called into question during her previous Senate confirmation was not her exemplary qualifications, her top-notch education, her preparedness to serve, or her reasoned application of the law. It was her Catholic faith. In America, you may have a faith and live that faith or have no faith at all, in private and public life—whether you’re Catholic like Judge Barrett, Jewish like the late Justice Ginsburg, or any other faith.
During her previous nomination hearing, Judge Barrett was challenged by Democrat Senators to explain her faith by asking questions like “are you an ‘orthodox’ Catholic?” Another Senator was concerned about Judge Barrett because the “Dogma lives loudly in you.” They suggested she could not be an impartial judge because of her faith, a destructive and incorrect accusation they are pursuing again. Article VI of the US Constitution is clear:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
We do not exclude people from serving our nation because of their faith or lack of faith. In our nation, all of us—including judges and senators—have the ability to not only worship but to freely exercise our faith. I hope this confirmation process will not continue to devolve into a personal attack of Judge Barrett, her family, or her faith. I spoke about my concerns with challenging Judge Barrett’s faith as a measure of her qualification to serve on the Court in a speech on the Senate floor on September 30.
CLICK HERE to watch my floor speech this week.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina announced this week that the Committee plans to begin four-days' worth of hearings on October 12th, and I hope my fellow Senators on both sides of the aisle will focus on Judge Barrett’s legal and judicial background as well as her rulings and opinions, rather than partisan political attacks trying to tear her down. In the 1980s Americans watched Senate Democrats destroy Robert Bork, then watched the dramatic and painful hearing of Clarence Thomas in the early 90s—both under the leadership of then- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden. Justice Kavanaugh’s deeply personal and tumultuous hearing was just two years ago.
Some people try to predict how a nominee for the court will rule on certain topics; that is speculation. During his hearing, Democratic Senators said they believed John Roberts could destroy health care in America:
Thankfully, from my point of view, you lost the case. If you had won it, it would have put millions of American consumers and families at risk of losing coverage for necessary health care.
Yet Chief Justice Roberts was the deciding vote to protect the Affordable Care Act years ago. Justice Gorsuch has been an outspoken advocate for Tribal sovereignty, and he voted with Justice Ginsburg to expand LGBT rights in the Bostock case earlier this year. In fact, Justice Kavanaugh voted with Justice Ginsburg 67 percent of the time last year.
Judge Barrett’s hearing and the potential media circus around it will likely be noisy, and she will also likely have hundreds, if not thousands, of questions for the record to answer in writing following her hearing. Through her career Judge Barrett has carried with her the wide and often very public support of colleagues, fellow professors, and others who agree with her judicial philosophy, even people who don’t necessarily agree with her, and people who know her well.
Of their colleague, Judge Barrett, every full-time member of the law faculty at Notre Dame wrote in a letter supporting her confirmation to the Seventh Circuit in 2017:
As a scholarly community, we have a wide range of political views, as well as commitments to different approaches to judicial methodology and judicial craft. We are united, however, in our judgment about Amy. She is a brilliant teacher and scholar, and a warm and generous colleague. She possesses in abundance all of the other qualities that shape extraordinary jurists: discipline, intellect, wisdom, impeccable temperament, and above all, fundamental decency and humanity. Indeed, it is a testament to Amy’s fitness for this office that every full-time member of our faculty has signed this letter.
A group of more than 70 law professors from around the nation, including President Obama’s Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, stated in a letter supporting her confirmation to the Seventh Circuit in 2017 that:
In short, Professor Barrett's qualifications for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit are first-rate. She is a distinguished scholar in areas of law that matter most for federal courts, and she enjoys wide respect for her careful work, fair-minded disposition, and personal integrity. We strongly urge her confirmation by the Senate.
I look forward to meeting with Judge Barrett personally in the coming weeks to learn more about her and the way she would like to serve on the highest court in the land. As the process moves forward, please continue to reach out to my office, if you need assistance with a federal agency or to share your ideas, opinions, questions, and concerns on this or other topics. Regardless of the noise in Washington, my staff and I are here to serve all Oklahomans, and we remain honored to do so.
In God We Trust,
United States Senator for Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY -- State Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, is set to host a virtual interim study on law enforcement reform at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6.
The study will be held in the House Public Safety Committee.
“For generations, black and brown people interacting with officers are more disproportionately pained and impacted than our white counterparts when we are stopped, arrested, prosecuted, or killed,” said Goodwin. “We say the names of souls, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Eric Harris, Elliot Williams, Jeremy Lake, Joshua Barre, Joshua Harvey, Terence Crutcher, Derrick Scott, Robert Harris and so many more who were killed by the hands and knees of people sworn to uphold the law. Often, injustice beats us. We must keep pressing and enact good law and policy changes to gain justice.”
The focus of the study is to present credible information and insight to address challenges and injustices many Oklahomans face.
“I hope we can have bipartisan agreement to pass significant legislation in critical areas,” Goodwin said. “Whether its changes to qualified immunity, police union collective bargaining agreements, use-of-force, or body cams, we are going to have several capable presenters speak on issues and provide solutions hopeful to both the public and law enforcement. The good we do together makes Oklahoma better.”
Presenters, in alphabetical order, include Rhonda Bear, Stand in the Gap Ministries; Brett Behenna, attorney; Jacqueline Blocker, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform; Chris Brown, Saint Francis Hospital; Sara Brown, She Brews Coffee; Tiffany Crutcher, Terence Crutcher Foundation; Drew Diamond, Jewish Federation of Tulsa/retired Tulsa Police Chief; Prof. Stephen Galoob, University of Tulsa School of Law; Loretta Radford, OKC University School of Law Criminal Justice Center/Former US Attorney; Former Speaker of the House Kris Steele, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.
The study can be viewed online at www.okhouse.gov.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, will hold an interim study Tuesday, Oct. 6, that examines how lawmakers can best protect and support law enforcement.
The study is scheduled before the House Public Safety Committee, which Humphrey chairs. It starts at 9:30 a.m. in Room 206 at the State Capitol.
Humphrey invites law enforcement and media outlets to attend the study to get a broader overview of the topics discussed.
“We will look at the mental health needs of our law enforcement officers and how the policy environment affects them,” said Humphrey, himself a former Department of Corrections employee. “The study also will examine statistics of harmful incorrect narratives of police brutality, and we will discuss training and accountability of officers. Last we will present a list of suggested bills for legislators to consider during our next legislative session.”
Additional presenters scheduled to speak at the study include:
- Chief Todd Gibson, City of Moore, speaking on officer mental health;
- Jerad Lindsey, chairman of the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police, speaking on the status of law enforcement issues;
- Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training Director Jesus Campa on CLEET’s response to law enforcement issues; and
- Don Spencer with the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association on suggested legislation.
Justin Humphrey represents District 19 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Atoka, Bryan, Choctaw and Pushmataha counties.
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after the House passed the H.R. 925, the Heroes Act 2.0. Mullin was not present for the vote due to supporting his son’s ongoing rehabilitation from a wrestling injury but would have voted “no” on the bill.
“Once again, Speaker Pelosi has put a bill on the floor that is nothing but a socialist wish list full of provisions that don’t have anything to do with fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mullin said. “We have already spent trillions of dollars in relief funding which has yet to be fully used. Spending another $2.2 trillion, without fully utilizing what has already been appropriated, is reckless. We should be focused on bringing relief to families who need it instead of using this crisis to push a political agenda.”
H.R. 925 is a recycled version of Pelosi’s bill which passed the House in May. It includes:
- Defunding the police by removing $600 million from the original Heroes Act intended for the COPS Hiring program and state, local, and Tribal law enforcement assistance.
- Extending the $600 per week UI supplement through Jan. 31, 2021, plus a transition period to allow the supplement to continue through March 31, 2021 for those who have not exhausted their benefits, meaning businesses will be competing with unemployment benefits for workers through spring of 2021.
- Allowing illegal immigrants to receive direct stimulus payments.
- Removing safeguards in the Paycheck Protection Program that would prevent taxpayer money from bailing out Planned Parenthood.
- Providing “deferred action” and work authorization during the emergency declaration and for 90 days after for illegal aliens working in jobs that could be held by out of work Americans.
- Federalizing elections, with only five weeks until election day, by including strict, impossible to achieve mandates on how states must run their elections, including early voting, no ID requirement for in-person voting, same-day registration, and no excuse vote by mail without safeguards or restrictions on ballot harvesting.
- Expanding Obamacare through a new Special Enrollment period, which has already been rejected by the White House.
- Prohibiting funds from supporting educational freedom for families.
- Using hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money to bailout state and local governments for decades of fiscal mismanagement instead of assisting with COVID-19 recovery.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of the House Democratic Education Policy Group released the following statements in response to State Auditor Cindy Byrd’s findings from an investigative audit into Epic Youth Services.
Each of the lawmakers responding to Auditor Byrd’s findings are former Oklahoma public school educators.
“As we have said from the beginning, our concern has never been about our teachers that work for Epic,” said State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa. “Our concerns have always been upstream. Were Oklahoma tax dollars being spent on our students? Today it appears we found out they were not.”
“As somebody who believes in accountability and transparency, hearing that it was such a struggle to get information for this audit from Epic Youth Services is disheartening,” said State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman. “While I believe there is a place in our state for virtual charter schools, I believe it is our place to ensure that the taxpayer knows exactly how and on what their money is spent.”
“It is completely inappropriate to allow $125 million meant for Oklahoma public school students to be managed outside the purview of Oklahoma taxpayers,” said State Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa. “We owe our citizens a thorough accounting just as we owe all our public school students a quality education.”
“Today we learned that one person is responsible for managing funds on both the public and private side of the business,” said State Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater. “This lack of accountability and oversight is especially alarming as Epic has now grown to the state’s largest school district.”
Lawmakers from the House Democratic Education Policy Group first started voicing concerns regarding Epic’s business practices more than a year ago. Provenzano said this about the school in July of 2019:
“This school has consistently demonstrated questionable actions in how money is spent (most often not directly on students), financial decisions, the way attendance is calculated, and their questionable record keeping. Given the strict oversight the state Department of Education has for brick-and-mortar schools, I am eager for their response to this situation and their plans to keep this from ever happening again.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, the chair of the House Common Education Committee, on Wednesday held an interim study examining Oklahoma schools’ versus other regional states’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Oklahoma students and those around the nation have suffered during this current pandemic,” Baker said. “In many instances, they’ve had to adapt to virtual education or to blended-learning models, and they’ve lost learning time in vital subject areas, putting them at risk of not being prepared for their next grade or even graduation. Even upon being able to return to their classrooms this fall, many are facing changes to the classroom structure and different standards for participating in extracurricular activities. The point of the study was to look at our response as a state. Additionally, we looked into some of the practices being implemented in surrounding states. It is important to learn what we are doing well and where we can make improvements in our educational performance so our students can continue to excel as we prepare them for graduation and the future work force.”
Oklahoma school districts were forced to close in March in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Students moved to virtual instruction, while many markers of student success were suspended for the year, including testing and the statewide Schools’ A-F Report Card.
School districts were allowed to reopen in August for the current school year, with each district deciding its own method of instruction. Many districts are offering virtual or blended-learning models as well as in-person classes, and many have varying policies on mask wearing, social distancing, frequent handwashing, facility cleaning and other health and safety measures to keep students and educators safe.
Baker said schools are continuing to face challenges as cases of COVID continue to surface throughout many areas of the state.
“Our educators are becoming innovative in their delivery so they can accelerate each student’s progress, which is a state and regional goal,” she said. “I especially want to express my appreciations to the superintendents that spoke during today’s study giving all educators ideas for student success during this unprecedented time.”
Supt. Chuck McCauley of Bartlesville Public Schools discussed the importance of becoming competitive in the educational field so students will want to stay in their home districts when they have other learning options with which to choose. Supt. Geri Gilstrap of Stilwell Public Schools spoke about “boot camps” the district offers to parents and grandparents who are partnering with their child virtually to learn the basics of technology. This allows them to help the child be more engaged and successful. Both presenters discussed the strong desire by most students to attend school in person.
Additional presenters at the study included:
- Stephen Pruitt from the Southern Regional Education Board who gave an overview of the regional response to reopening education after COVID;
- Carolyn Thompson, deputy chief of staff and chief of government affairs with the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) spoke about Oklahoma’s educational response to COVID;
- Tiffany Neal, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction with OSDE spoke about remediation;
- Dr, Pam Deering executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators spoke about superintendents concerns and responses to the health crisis; and
Rhonda Baker serves District 60 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Caddo and Canadian counties.