Blog

13 Mar
0

RELEASE: DNC – Confirmed: 24 Million To Lose Health Care Under Trump

Confirmed: 24 Million To Lose Health Care Under Trump

WASHINGTON – DNC Chair Tom Perez released the following statement after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their analysis of TrumpCare, the Republican health care bill:

“Donald Trump’s ‘insurance for everybody’ pledge was a big fat lie. 

“The CBO, which is headed by a Republican-appointed director, just made it clear that Trump’s health care plan will cause up to 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance. At the same time, the plan slashes Medicaid, drives up the cost of care for older Americans, and defunds life-saving services provided by Planned Parenthood. The only winners here are Trump, and the corporations and rich people who get to pocket new tax breaks.

 “Of course, instead of admitting that the bill would leave millions without health insurance, Republicans are desperately trying to discredit the CBO with more ‘alternative facts.’ The American people are smarter than that.”

13 Mar
0

RELEASE: Recurring Empty Promises of a Pay Raise by State Rep. David Perryman

‘Recurring Empty Promises of a Pay Raise’

By State Rep. David Perryman

For centuries, March 19 of each year has marked the return of thousands of orange-tailed cliff swallows to the area in and around San Juan Capistrano, Calif.  The annual 6,000-mile migration of the mud-nesting birds from their winter home in Argentina is one of the most reliable and amazing rituals in the animal kingdom.

Just as predictable as the arrival of the swallows is the annual ritual of Oklahoma lawmakers filing a plethora of legislation to raise teacher’s salaries.  This year was no different.

In fact, the defeat of State Question 779 last November has spurred a greater number of teacher pay hike bills than at any time in recent memory.  In the House of Representatives, seven or eight bills with names like the Oklahoma Education Act of 2017, the Oklahoma Education Reform Act of 2017 and the Oklahoma Teacher Pay and Incentive Act of 2017 have been filed.

For fear of taking a back seat to the “generosity” exhibited by state Representatives, on a single day last month a Senate committee approved not one, not two, but SIX different Senate bills, each touting a great “plan” to give teachers a raise.

The ‘plans’ ranged from $500 per year for 10 years to a single raise of $10,000.  Competition for creativity among legislators was intense.  One plan called for raises of $1,000 in year one, $2,000 in year two and $3,000 in year three.  Another reversed the increments by starting with $3,000 in the first year.

Unfortunately, each and every proposal represented political pandering at its worst.  Not one plan included a viable means by which to fund the teacher pay raises.  In a state where legislative leadership in either house cannot even fund a five-day school week, it is laughable that they really want teachers to think they are supportive of a pay raise.

The ruse they are engaged in is the moral equivalent of presenting an essential employee with a beautifully wrapped empty box.  Sadly, it happens year after year as Oklahoma teachers are treated like Lucy infamously treats Charlie Brown.  The only difference is that it is the Oklahoma Legislature that jerks the football away just as it’s within reach.

Honestly, there are many legislators who want to give teachers a raise and they would but for Oklahoma’s self-inflicted financial crisis.

Remember, this year’s revenue failure means that seven of the last 10 state budgets have failed, and the reason for that failure is crystal clear.  The legislators who have controlled the budget for the past 10 years do not have the courage to tell the oil and gas industry that it should pay at least the regional average in gross production taxes, and do not have the courage to say NO to dogmatic ideologists who preach trickle-down economics, and do not have the courage to say NO to corporate interests that annually receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits and incentives.

Consequently, the state’s revenues are not sufficient to pay incentives and credits AND fund government services.  Instead, the state borrows money and raises fees to make up for the fact that income taxes have been cut by $1.022 billion per year over the past dozen years while state agencies have faced budget cuts of 40% or more.

Any other state would take steps to resolve the problem – but not Oklahoma.  In Oklahoma, voters go to the polls and pull the same lever expecting a different outcome.  Until legislators gain courage, rural health care will not improve, state employees will continue to qualify for food stamps, potholes will not fill themselves, and teachers will not receive a raise.

Aristotle said, “One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day.”  Similarly, one brief moment of hope does not make a person entirely happy.  Recurring empty promises of a raise will continue to destroy Oklahoma’s educational system.

Ask any teacher: “It’s no longer the thought that counts.”

Call 405-557-7401 or write David.Perryman@okhouse.gov (Representative Perryman is a Democrat from Chickasha.)

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile

09 Mar
0

RELEASE: DNC – Pruitt Should Familiarize with his Agency’s Website

DNC – Pruitt Should Familiarize with his Agency’s Website

EPA: “Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.”

CNBC: EPA chief Scott Pruitt says carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.

“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see ,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“But we don’t know that yet. … We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

Pruitt’s view is at odds with the opinion of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere,” NASA and NOAA said in January.

Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma attorney general, where he rose to prominence as a leader in coordinated efforts by Republican attorneys general to challenge President Barack Obama’s regulatory agenda. He sued or took part in legal actions against the EPA 14 times.

Democrats and environmentalists opposed Pruitt’s nomination to lead the EPA due to his close relationship with fossil fuel companies and his history of casting doubt on climate change. Conservatives and the energy industry have cheered his efforts to push back on what they view as over-regulation under Obama.

Pruitt maintained on Thursday it’s possible to be pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-environment all at once.

“This idea that if you’re pro-environment you’re anti-energy is just something we’ve got to change so that attitude is something we’re working on very much,” he said.

Asked whether he would seek to roll back the EPA’s 2009 determination that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a danger to public health, Pruitt suggested he would like to see Congress take up the issue.

“I think all those things need to be addressed as we go forward but not least of which is the response by the legislative branch with respect to the issue,” he said.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA has the authority to regulate heat-trapping gases from automobiles. In 2014, it determined the agency could also regulate some sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants.

Pruitt also called the Paris Agreement, an international accord aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change, “a bad deal.” He said it puts the United States on a different playing field than developing countries like China and India.

The United States has vowed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In comparison, China has committed to reach peak carbon emissions levels by 2030, but will try to reach that point sooner.

“I happen to think the Paris accord, the Paris treaty, or the Paris Agreement, if you will, should have been treated as a treaty, should have gone through senate confirmation. That’s a concern,” he said.

The Paris Agreement was negotiated by the State Department, and future adherence to U.S. commitments made under Obama will be guided by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson, the former chief of Exxon Mobil, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he believes the United States should remain a party to the Paris Agreement.

07 Mar
0

Tulsa Equality Center Vandalized

For Immediate Release
March 7, 2017
 
Media Contact:
Angela Allmond, Communications Director
405-536-2417
Oklahoma Democratic Party

Tulsa Equality Center Vandalized

OKLAHOMA CITY Statement by Oklahoma Democratic Party Executive Director, Sarah Baker, on the Tulsa Equality Center vandalization:

“The the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center, headquarters for Oklahomans for Equality, was vandalized last week . This Tulsa community center is the state’s main organization serving the LGBTQ community in Northeastern Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Democratic Party stands with our friends at the Equality Center and its staff and volunteers. We call on people across the state to stand up and speak out against acts of hatred and terrorism such as this and similar acts of vandalism at least three other LGBTQ organizations around the country this past weekend.

“Often these types of events happen in other places and many of us, even in Oklahoma, never imagine that they will happen in our own backyard. This attack comes at a time where our own LGBTQ community is experiencing some of the most vitriolic and systemic hatred in decades. The recent actions of individuals and groups from the extremist far-right is not just a violation of one community; it is a violation of all communities in our state and across our country. This behavior goes against the very fabric of the principles of freedom which we claim to stand for as a nation.

“Now is not the time for silence. Now is the time to stand up and speak out against intolerance. Now is the time to stand up for our friends and neighbors. We must not let actions like this go unnoticed or ignored. We must be vigilant in our efforts to protect those in our community.”

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The mission of the Oklahoma Democratic Party is to represent working people in Oklahoma and the best way to accomplish that is to elect Democrats to all areas of government. Oklahoma Democrats are progressive and sensible. We are optimistic about the future, and we are determined to see Oklahoma’s traditional values upheld. More information about the Oklahoma Democratic Party can be found at www.okdemocrats.org or by calling (405) 427-3366.

07 Mar
0

RELEASE: House Democratic Caucus – Lottery ‘Tweak’ Projected to Produce More Money for Schools

House Gambles on Lottery Bill to Raise More $$, Approves More Court Fees and Higher Mining Fees, Passes Several Education-Related Measures

 

OKLAHOMA CITY (7 March 2017) – On the fifth attempt, the state House voted Tuesday to modify the allocation of proceeds from the state lottery. The Representatives also sanctioned still more court fees, and endorsed a fee increase on mining operations in Oklahoma.

The legislators also authorized remediation for students who receive a low score on a college entrance exam, supported modification of financial literacy courses, approved a dyslexia task force, endorsed substitution of a language course for a computer course, and voted to require the State Department of Education to publish an annual report on emergency teaching certificates issued by the agency.

Lottery ‘Tweak’ Projected to Produce More $$ for Schools

Finally, on the fifth try, legislation to lift a mandated cap on the state lottery was approved in the House of Representatives.

The first $50 million of net proceeds from the lottery would be earmarked for the Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund, under House Bill 1837.

Existing state law requires 35% of the net proceeds from the lottery to be dedicated to education. Removing that mandate would enable more money to be allocated to prizes, which in turn would generate more lottery ticket sales and thus more money for education, said Rep. Leslie Osborn, author of the bill.

The Lottery Commission estimates that HB 1837 could produce an extra $110 million for educational programs over the next five years, said Osborn, R-Mustang.

HB 1837 provides that net proceeds which exceed $50 million would be devoted to pre-kindergarten through third-grade reading initiatives, and to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.

The legislation also stipulates that the annual maximum percentage for administrative costs of operating the lottery may not exceed 3% of sales.

HB 1837 cleared the House on a 70-25 vote Tuesday and now advances to the Senate. The bill was endorsed by 47 Republicans and 23 Democrats, and was opposed by 24 Republicans and one Democrat.

Former state Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, introduced similar legislation for four consecutive years, 2013-2016, and all of his bills died in House committees: once in Rules and three times in Appropriations and Budget.

HB 1837 “still has to continue through the legislative process,” Shelton, who “termed out” of the Legislature last year, said Tuesday. “I hope, for the good of our schools, that the bill passes the Senate, too, and is signed into law.”

Shelton praised Osborn for “helping me when I ran my bills; I owe her a debt of gratitude,” he said.

“I just wish that politics hadn’t interfered with my bills all those years. It cost us millions of dollars that could have helped our school kids and our classroom teachers.”

More Court Fees Proposed

The House narrowly approved a proposal to impose two new civil court fees.

House Bill 2306 by Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, would create a $25 fee for each subpoena issued in a civil case. Last year 2,600 subpoenas were issued in civil cases in Oklahoma, court records reflect. Thus, House fiscal analysts estimated that $65,000 in additional revenue would be generated by HB 2306 for county court funds.

The bill also would create a $25 fee for filing a “motion to enter” in a civil case. The amount of revenue that would be generated by that proposed fee “is contingent upon the amount of motions filed,” House fiscal analysts reported.

Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, who carried the measure on the House floor, said the proposed fees would not be applicable to small claims cases nor to victim protection orders.

Just to be certain, House Minority Leader Scott Inman made a motion to attach an amendment that would expressly decree that the fees proposed in HB 2306 would not extend to VPOs. The Republican-dominated House spurned the motion on a 22-62 vote.

Inman, D-Del City, pointed out that access to Oklahoma courts is growing progressively more expensive.

Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa, said the cumulative effect of court fees is “putting the system in favor of those who have financial resources, regardless of the merits” of their cases.

And Rep. Jason Lowe, a criminal defense attorney, said his clients and their families “go downtown, asking the state for help.” It is “just not right … for us to impose a fee for them to bring witnesses to court to protect them,” said Lowe, D-Oklahoma City.

Kannady, a practicing attorney, maintained that “it’s expensive” to operate Oklahoma’s courts.

It’s certainly expensive to use the courts, said Rep. David Perryman, who also is an attorney. Filing a small-claims petition costs “a couple of hundred dollars by the time you add in additional court fees and costs of service,” he said. A court summons requires a fee, getting the summons served costs a fee, and requesting a jury trial at the county courthouse requires the applicant to post a $349 fee, he said.

“Before you even start to talk about attorneys’ fees, you’re out several hundred dollars,” the Chickasha Democrat said. “All of these fees are an impediment to justice.”

HB 2306 passed in a bipartisan split vote, 51-42. The proposal was supported by 50 Republicans and one Democrat, and was opposed by 25 Democrats and 17 Republicans.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

Raising Mining Fees

A measure that would increase the fee on the production of minerals other than coal mined in Oklahoma passed the House of Representatives in a split vote Tuesday.

House Bill 1844 would require operators of non-coal mining operations to pay the state Department of Mines a fee of one and one-fourth cents per ton of minerals they produce; the current fee is a penny per ton.

State statute defines “minerals” to mean limestone, gypsum, asphalt, clay, copper, granite, gravel, lead, marble, salt, sand, shale, chat, tripoli, caliche, volcanic ash and zinc, but not oil or gas “and any other mineral found naturally in a liquid or gaseous state.”

In response to a question from Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, Jim Rodriguez, executive director of the Oklahoma Aggregates Association (OKAA), told the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services that the industry supports the measure.

“The appropriated amount going to the Department of Mines has been cut significantly over the past several funding cycles, and federal funds the department receives have been reduced, too,” Rodriguez said later. “The industry wants to ensure that the Department of Mines can operate in a reasonable manner. We want to support their operations, in order to protect workers and the state.”

The proposed fee increase will generate “around $188,000 to $200,000” per year, Rodriguez estimated.

The state Department of Mines was appropriated $775,772 by the Legislature for the current Fiscal Year 2017. That was 11.7% less than the agency was appropriated for FY 2016, and 22.26% less than the agency was appropriated 10 years ago, ledgers reflect. During that same period, revenue from agency fees increased 35%: from $850,000 in FY 2007 to $1,149,000 in FY 2017.

Production in Oklahoma of minerals other than coal totaled 78 million tons (primarily limestone, sand and gravel, granite, gypsum and clay) in 2015 (the latest year for which statistics are available), according to the state Department of Mines website.

The aggregates industry employs more than 3,500 people in Oklahoma, the OKAA reports. Its member companies produce more than 90% of the crushed stone and 70% of the sand and gravel consumed annually in Oklahoma, and OKAA producers export 15 to 25 million tons of aggregate materials each year for use in other states and countries, the organization says.

HB 1844 passed the House, 62-33. It was supported by 10 Democrats and 52 Republicans; opponents included 14 Democrats and 19 Republicans.

Now the bill will be referred to the Senate for consideration.

School Credit Proposed for ‘World’ Languages

One credit of “world” language would count toward graduation in lieu of one credit of computer education, under House Bill 2156.

“World” language is a more appropriate term than “foreign” language, said Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs, author of HB 2156, because it encompasses not only foreign languages (such as Spanish) but also classical languages (Latin and Greek) and native languages (i.e., tribal languages such as Cherokee, Choctaw, etc.). As a general rule, a world language is spoken internationally, as a second language, by a large number of people; English is a world language, and so are French, Arabic and Chinese.

The bill passed the House, 86-6.

“I don’t think our students are getting enough computer exposure,” said Rep. George E. Young, Sr., one of those who opposed the measure. HB 2156 “seems to be a ploy to offer something less significant for the future,” the Oklahoma City Democrat said.

Remediation Authorized

House Bill 1790 would authorize school districts to offer a remediation course for high-school students who score below a 19 on the American College Testing (ACT) exam or below an equivalent score (990-1020) on the SAT exam.

The bill, by Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, a retired school teacher/administrator, passed the House unanimously, 93-0. The measure now will be transmitted to the Senate, where it’s sponsored by Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, a retired educator.

Dyslexia/Education Task Force

The House unanimously endorsed a measure to create a Dyslexia and Education Task Force that over the next year and a half would create a handbook that would serve as a guidebook for schools on intervention and identification of the reading disorder.

House Bill 2008 by Speaker McCall breezed through the House, 96-0, and will be referred to the Senate for consideration.

Dyslexia is characterized by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. Different people are affected to varying degrees. Problems may include difficulties in spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, “sounding out” words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud, and understanding what one reads. Dyslexia can be managed through early identification, researchers say.

Two-thirds of Oklahoma fourth graders read below proficiency levels in 2015, records reflect; blame was attributed at least in part to suspected dyslexia.

Teaching Students ‘Financial Literacy’

Personal financial literacy courses in public schools would include education about managing a bank account, rather than simply balancing a checkbook, House Bill 1694 provides. The legislation also would boost fees to underwrite the program.

Other areas of instruction include understanding interest, credit card debt, and online commerce; rights and responsibilities of renting/buying a home; savings and investing; planning for retirement; bankruptcy; banking and financial services; understanding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid; loans and borrowing money, including predatory lending and payday loans; understanding insurance; identity fraud and theft; charitable giving; understanding the financial impact and consequences of gambling; earning an income; and understanding state and federal taxes.

Fulfilling the requirements for a personal financial literacy “passport” is a requisite for achieving a high school diploma in Oklahoma.

Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, school districts “shall provide instruction in personal financial literacy to students during grades 9 through 12,” HB 1694 mandates. Until then, financial literacy will continue to be taught in grades 7 through 12.

The bill also dictates that beginning with the 2020-21 school year, teachers of financial literacy will be required to undertake “ongoing professional development training” in the subject.

HB 1694 would increase from 5¢ to $1 the fee assessed against each lender on every deferred deposit loan it issues. The legislation stipulates that 75¢ of the levy would be earmarked for a new Personal Financial Literacy Education Revolving Fund and the other 25¢ would be deposited in the Consumer Credit Counseling Revolving Fund.

The proceeds deposited in the financial literacy fund would be used by the State Department of Education “for the purpose of developing and providing guidelines, materials, resources, including online curriculum, training and professional development of teachers in the area of personal financial literacy…”

The House endorsed the measure, 88-10, and transmitted it to the Senate.

Tracking Emergency Certifications

The State Department of Education would be directed by House Bill 1362 to publish an annual report about emergency teaching certificates. The measure passed the House Tuesday on an 87-8 vote.

The report would include the total number of certificates issued throughout the state, the school district and the specific school in which each of those teachers was assigned, the subject matter taught by each of those teachers, the total length of time in which the teacher taught under an emergency certificate, and demographic information, including student poverty levels, racial composition, and disability percentages at the specific school in which he/she was assigned.

Carolyn Thompson, chief of government affairs for the SDE, said the department already compiles this information but it’s not assembled in one unified report.

“We need to know where teachers who receive emergency certification are being placed,” Rep. Regina Goodwin, author of HB 1362, said earlier this year. “I want to know what kind of impact certified teachers have on student performance,” the Tulsa Democrat added.

Because of the rash of vacancies in teaching ranks across Oklahoma, the number of emergency certifications has skyrocketed: from 32 in the 2011-12 school year to 1,063 emergency certifications requested by 265 school districts during the 2015-16 school year, and 1,082 issued from July through December 2016, ledgers reflect. The SDE estimates more than 52,000 students are being taught by an emergency certified teacher.

The principal areas in which emergency certifications were issued the last two years were elementary education, early childhood education, mathematics and social studies. Applicants for certification must pass a test in their requested subject area(s).

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile