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12 Apr
0

RELEASE : House Legislative Updates

Resolution adopted by the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma, regarding equality for the blind and their experiences at the State Capitol

Resolution Regarding the Oklahoma State Legislature, 2017-03

WHEREAS, The National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma is the largest and most diverse advocacy organization of the blind in the State of Oklahoma; and

WHEREAS, the Oklahoma Legislature, comprised of the House of Representatives and the Senate, whose Members are elected officials representing the people of Oklahoma, meet in session annually to draft, debate and pass legislation which ultimately becomes law in the state of Oklahoma; and

WHEREAS, there are approximately 135,000 blind Oklahomans who are directly affected by the actions of the Oklahoma Legislature; and

WHEREAS, the blind of Oklahoma possess the capacity, knowledge and experience of blindness to understand issues directly affecting them and who, because of their unique experiences, are most qualified to speak on matters concerning the blind; and

WHEREAS, HB 1861 and SB 733 regarding the Older Blind program, diverting funding from the Department of Rehabilitation Services and placing it in the direction of Newview Oklahoma, a private, non-profit sheltered workshop, and HB 2230 regarding the exemption of County Jails from participation in priority contracts for blind managers, were introduced in the 56th Oklahoma Legislature, First Regular Session, and were authored without consultation with nor consideration of the blind constituents of Oklahoma; and

WHEREAS, a group of approximately thirty to forty constituent members of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma met on March 1, 2017, to attend committee meetings regarding the proposed legislation which had been referred to committees in the House of Representatives; and

WHEREAS, the County and Municipal Government Committee met regarding HB 2230 with the Committee Chair, Representative Sean Roberts, having previously given permission for a representative of the Oklahoma Association of Blind Merchants, a Division of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma, to be recognized and to speak regarding our opposition to the proposed legislation; and

WHEREAS, after objection from the bill sponsor, Representative Mulready, the Committee Chair did not honor the agreement to allow a blind constituent to speak against the measure and instead allowed the Tulsa County Sheriff to be recognized and to speak in favor of the legislation; and

WHEREAS, Committee Chair Roberts further disrespected the blind persons in attendance by not providing verbal description of the voting after having been requested to do so by one of his own committee members, thereby not affording the blind attendees the opportunity to understand the tally and procedures of the vote, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

WHEREAS, the Appropriations and Budget Committee met regarding HB 1861, with the same above-mentioned constituent members of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma in attendance for the entirety of the four-hour committee meeting, and said blind constituents were not acknowledged or recognized by the Committee Chair, Representative Leslie Osborn, and were not provided an opportunity to speak in opposition to the proposed legislation; and

WHEREAS, blind constituents, their friends and family members have, in good faith and belief in the democratic process, contacted their respective Representatives and Senators by phone, e-mail and social media on multiple occasions regarding opposition to the proposed legislation that will undeniably affect the blind community; and

WHEREAS, the above legislation continues to move forward with complete disregard to the input provided by blind constituents, even though the blind of Oklahoma are united against the above measures and the only supporters are entities who stand to profit at the expense of quality services and jobs for the blind.

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma, in Convention assembled in the City of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, this ninth day of April, 2017, that we condemn and deplore the actions of The Oklahoma Legislature, including the House of Representatives and the Senate, for demonstrating a pattern of disrespect and disregard for the blind of Oklahoma and for failing to faithfully represent the people of Oklahoma;

BE IT Further Resolved that We, the blind of Oklahoma, seek to speak for ourselves regarding matters concerning the blind and engage the members of the Oklahoma Legislature to work together in crafting and authoring legislation regarding issues related to blindness and the blind of Oklahoma so that we may share our knowledge and experiences with blindness in order to assist the Oklahoma Legislature in creating effective policies regarding the blind.

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

11 Apr
0

RELEASE: DNC Perez – “TX Republicans Intentionally Discriminated” in Voter ID Case

Tom Perez: “TX Republicans Intentionally Discriminated” in Voter ID Case

WASHINGTON – Former Justice Department official and DNC Chair Tom Perez released the following statement after a federal court ruled that a Texas voter ID law is intentionally discriminatory and violates the Voting Rights Act:

“Today’s ruling confirmed what we’ve known all along: Texas Republicans intentionally discriminated against Latino and African American voters in order to keep them from the ballot box. I led the effort at the Justice Department to challenge this law and others like it, and I’m pleased that for the second time in a month a federal court has blocked intentional race discrimination by the State of Texas. But our work here is far from over. The GOP has made it clear that they’re going to continue their dirty business of silencing Latino and African American voters. With Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, and without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, Democrats have to fight even harder to make sure every eligible voter can cast their ballot on Election Day.

“At the DNC, we’re working to build an aggressive voter protection operation. We need a fully-funded team of legal experts integrated in the states and an organized effort on the ground to respond rapidly whenever and wherever voter suppression happens. That’s what the Democratic Party is all about, and I promise to be at the forefront of this fight.”

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10 Apr
0

RELEASE: Oklahoma Senate Approves Earlier Sunset of Wind Tax Credit

For Immediate Release: April 10, 2017

Oklahoma Senate Approves Earlier Sunset of Wind Tax Credit

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz released the following statement after the Senate approved HB 2298, which moves up the sunset date of the zero-emissions tax credit to July 1, 2017.

“The zero-emissions tax credit did what it was supposed to do—help the wind industry get off the ground in Oklahoma. Our state ranks third in the nation in terms of wind power and will likely remain among the leaders in wind power for the foreseeable future. The state is facing extraordinary budget challenges, and we can no longer afford the zero-emissions tax credit. This measure provides certainty to the wind industry and stability in the long-term for the state budget. I appreciate my Senate colleagues for overwhelmingly approving this measure.”

HB 2298, authored by Schulz, R-Altus, and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, passed the Senate by a vote of 40-3. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for consideration.

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10 Apr
0

“Come Together and Fight Back” Tour with Sanders and Perez

Sanders and Perez Announce “Come Together and Fight Back” Tour

Senator Bernie Sanders, DNC Chair Tom Perez and other Democratic Party leaders will be traveling to nine “red” and “purple” states starting on April 17th. Along with local activists they are tentatively scheduled to hold rallies in Maine, Kentucky, Florida, Nebraska, Utah, Montana, Arizona and Nevada. More information will be released in the coming days. The purpose of their trip is to begin the process of creating a Democratic Party which is strong and active in all 50 states, and a party which focuses on grassroots activism and the needs of working families.

Sanders and Perez stated: “At a time of massive income and wealth inequality and a shrinking middle class, we need a government which represents all Americans, not just Wall Street, multi-national corporations and the top 1 percent. Regardless of where they live or their political affiliations, most people understand that it is absurd for Republicans in Congress to support huge tax breaks for billionaires while pushing for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They understand that the recent Republican health care proposal which would have thrown 24 million Americans off of their health insurance, substantially raised premiums for older workers and defunded Planned Parenthood while, at the same time, providing almost $300 billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent is a disgraceful idea.”

Sanders and Perez will speak out for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, pay equity for women, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, combatting climate change, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, criminal justice reform, comprehensive immigration reform and tax reform which demands that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.

07 Apr
0

RELEASE: Okla. Ship of State is Capsizing By State Rep. Ben Loring

Okla. Ship of State is Capsizing, And We’re All in the Same Boat By State Rep. Ben Loring

MIAMI, OK (7 April 2017) – I have been told about a recent poll that claims more than one-third (36%) of Oklahoma’s voters mistakenly believe “the Democrats” control the Legislature, and the poll goes even further in that the same voters are evenly split at 50/50 as to which party is responsible for the state’s current economic crisis.

After my immediate sense of indignation subsided, I began to think about this a little more rationally. Basically what that poll is saying is the voters don’t care whose fault it is; they don’t want finger-pointing. What they need and want is that we, your elected leaders, fix the problem. And the voters are right. It is not a D or an R who needs to fight to keep our schools from increasing to 30+ students in a classroom and our rural hospitals from closing. It is not a D or an R who needs to keep our state parks open to serve as an economic generator to businesses, hotels and eateries for miles around. It is legislators who need to step up and lead this state through this crisis. And the voters are right to expect that from both the D’s and the R’s.

And the numbers (for instance, 73 R’s to 26 D’s in the House, with two vacancies) require it. They necessitate that the D’s and R’s work together to get done the things that the voters expect of us.

For example, to pass a bill that raises revenue – which everyone except the most dim-witted understands needs to be done – requires 76 affirmative votes in the House of Representatives. The R’s can’t do it on their own; they don’t have 76, and obviously the D’s can’t do it, either. The state cannot withstand another budget year of slashing and destruction. So, we have to work together.

That is not to say everyone should expect the D’s and R’s to march down Lincoln Boulevard arm in arm, singing “Kumbaya”. There are differences; philosophical and pragmatic disagreements, as to what needs to be done.

The most significant issue is: Who is going to pay for it? Is the burden of the tax increase or the reduced service or benefit going to fall primarily on the backs of the poor, the ever-diminishing middle class, or the wealthy? The injured worker or the corporation that profited from his or her labor? When the polluter, the criminal, or the parent that neglects his or her child fails in their moral duties, to what extent should the state government step in, protect the victim and try to undo the damage? When we are trying to fix or sustain someone, whether we are talking about the sick, the mentally ill, the addict, the disabled, the suffering veteran, the struggling victim of domestic abuse, the student pursuing his or her education to break the cycle of generational poverty – what role should our state government play in that endeavor? And how much of the tab should be picked up by Oklahoma taxpayers?

There are lots of rumors flying around the State Capitol rotunda about how this budget crisis is going to be addressed. There is the D plan. Various R’s claim to have a plan. These will be fleshed out over the next two months. No side is going to get everything they want. There will be give-and-take. But the important thing is that there is conversation going on between both sides right now – not as much as there should be, but more than at any other time in my limited experience here.

So what are we really talking about? One of the R proposals is to eliminate the itemized deduction on your state income taxes. That means everybody would have to take the standard deduction. I don’t like that one bit – not because it is an R idea, but because it hurts families that pay a mortgage; it hurts families that tithe to their church, etc. In other words, it hurts large segments of my constituency and similar folks all across the state. So I would most probably vote against this. But if we can agree to something else which is worthwhile to the state and my constituents, and that offsets the disadvantages of this idea in return for a “yes” vote, I certainly would consider voting for it.

We are all in this together and there is a lot we can accomplish by working together. However, after releasing the D’s’ “Restore Oklahoma Plan” to get the state out of its financial hole, and encouraging constituents to email all Representatives what they like or dislike about our plan, or for any other reason a citizen has to contact all Representatives, leadership shut down the IT system for incoming emails to multiple Representatives. Really? That is open, transparent, responsive government that encourages everyone to work together?!

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.

(Representative Loring is a Democrat from Miami.)

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