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22 Mar
0

RELEASE: Senate Democrats Statement on Shortey Resignation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Democratic Leader John Sparks
Capitol: (405) 521-5553

Oklahoma Senate Democrats comment on resignation of Ralph Shortey

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate Democratic caucus issued a statement Wednesday through their leader, Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, commenting on the resignation of Ralph Shortey.

“We are aware that Ralph Shortey has resigned his seat in the Oklahoma Senate. We are glad he has submitted his resignation effective immediately and that he made this decision in a fairly prompt and straightforward manner.

The people of Senate District 44 deserve a senator they can rely on and respect. They deserve to replace him with a senator who will be focused on the needs and concerns of southwest Oklahoma City as quickly as possible.

Therefore, we are calling on the governor to promptly set a special election at the earliest possible date to fill Ralph Shortey’s now vacant seat.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all those affected by this situation.”

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22 Mar
0

RELEASE: House Supports Dementia/Alzheimer Legislation

House Supports Legislation to Require Training In Care of Dementia/Alzheimer’s Patients

OKLAHOMA CITY (22 March 2017) – Medical professionals who care for senior citizens and dementia patients would be required to undergo specialized training each year, under legislation the state House of Representatives passed Wednesday.

House Bill 1620 by Rep. Cyndi Ann Munson, D-Oklahoma City, would direct the State Board of Health to develop rules requiring all medical and direct-care staff of state-licensed nursing and specialized facilities, adult day-care centers, assisted living centers, home health agencies and hospice agencies to complete a minimum of one hour of in-service training each year in Alzheimer’s and dementia-related care.

The curricula would have to include:

  • a description of the typical progression of the disease;
  • a review of common psychiatric and behavioral symptoms and how to approach them;
  • alternatives to physical and chemical restraints;
  • strategies for providing person-centered care; and
  • strategies for addressing social needs and providing meaningful activities for patients afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

HB 1620 was supported overwhelmingly in the House, 82-2, and will be referred to the Senate.

“I am so grateful to my colleagues for their support of House Bill 1620,” Representative Munson said. “I am overwhelmed by the support and interest in working together to make life easier for those who are affected by this disease, and their caregivers.”

Alzheimer’s is “a devastating disease” that affects many Oklahomans, she said. The State Plan, which was developed in 2009, has provided a guide for the Legislature to make addressing Alzheimer’s and dementia a priority. “It is my honor to serve on the Oklahoma State Alzheimer’s Caucus and continue the great work my predecessor, the late Rep. David Dank, championed for so many years during his legislative career,” Ms. Munson said.

An estimated 61,000 Oklahomans aged 65 or older had Alzheimer’s in 2015. Approximately $437 million in Medicaid funds were spent to care for low-income Oklahomans aged 65 and older who were living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia that year, ledgers reflect.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s and by 2050 an estimated 16 million will contract the disease. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in this nation. One-third of all seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, the association reports.

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

22 Mar
0

Nunes’ Pathetic Charade Proves He’s Running A Trump Protection Racket

DNC: Nunes’ Pathetic Charade Proves He’s Running A Trump Protection Racket

WASHINGTON – DNC Senior Adviser Zac Petkanas issued the following statement:

“Former Trump transition member Devin Nunes blew what little credibility he had left with this pathetic charade. This isn’t an investigation; it’s a protection racket for Donald Trump and his fragile ego. All Nunes has achieved is to prove that we need a real independent investigation and to raise serious questions about why the Trump team was in communication with foreign individuals under FISA warrant. It’s time for an independent 9/11 style commission and a special prosecutor. Now.”

21 Mar
0

Is Corporation Commission Considered Archaic?

Is Corporation Commission Considered Archaic?

OKLAHOMA CITY (21 March 2017) – A task force to evaluate whether the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is “properly structured to efficiently operate in the 21st Century” would be established by legislation the state House of Representatives endorsed Tuesday evening.

House Bill 1377 would create a “Twenty-first Century Corporation Commission Task Force.” The bill would direct the panel to conduct:

  • a performance assessment of agency workload levels, time required to process its workload, and the agency’s reputation among its stakeholders;
  • a structural assessment of the composition of the commission the impact of Open Meetings Act requirements, trends related to the commissioners’ six-year terms of office, the “appropriateness” of the current number of commissioners (three), and the “effectiveness” of leadership and authority;
  • an assessment of the state mission to determine accuracy “in light of modern-day agency functions,” “appropriateness and necessity,” and whether performance of certain functions would be better suited in other agencies;
  • a funding assessment to determine whether the agency is properly funded, the current funding mechanisms that are available to the agency;
  • a staffing evaluation to determine whether the agency is “properly staffed” to meet its mission, whether the staffing structure of the agency is efficient, and whether the staff has “the autonomy needed to perform their duties.”

Although an amendment to HB 1377 specifies that the panel would be comprised of 14 members, the author of the legislation, Rep. Weldon Watson, indicated that number may increase. The intent of HB 1377 is to “develop a dialogue between the Corporation Commission and those they regulate, advocacy groups, ratepayers and others,” the Tulsa Republican said.

At a minimum the task force is expected to include state legislators, representatives of the oil/gas industry, someone from a pipeline utility or pipeline company, plus representatives and customers of the electricity utility industry, the telecommunications industry and the transportation industry.

The task force would be instructed by HB 1377 to prepare and deliver its final report by 1 December 2018 to the Governor, the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tem.

The Corporation Commission was established at statehood in 1907, by Article IX, Section 15, of the Oklahoma Constitution.

Today the state agency has approximately 57 field personnel in its Oil and Gas Conservation Division who are responsible for monitoring 200,000 oil, natural-gas and wastewater disposal wells, and has approximately 18 fuel specialists (field inspectors) who monitor 44,000 fuel storage tanks (primarily at service stations) throughout the state. The agency has 15 inspectors to oversee 255 natural-gas and hazardous liquid pipeline operators, more than 39,000 miles of natural gas pipelines and more than 3,800 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines. The commission regulates approximately 400 utilities such as electricity, natural-gas and telephone companies, cotton gins, and a few small, privately owned water companies. And the Corporation Commission has a Railroad Department that has jurisdiction over railway crossings of roads, streets and highways in Oklahoma.

HB 1377 passed the House without opposition, 91-0, and will be transmitted to the Senate. The bill’s title was stricken, which will enable the House and the Senate to fine tune the measure before a finished product is ready for consideration in both chambers.

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

21 Mar
0

RELEASE: Renew Tax Credit for High-End Economic Development Projects

House Supports Legislation That Would Renew Tax Credit for High-End Economic Development Projects

OKLAHOMA CITY (21 March 2017) – Economic development legislation that would enable the state Tourism and Recreation Department to offer inducements to private companies to create or expand high-dollar “tourism attractions” received overwhelming support from the House of Representatives.

House Bill 2131, the Tourism Development Act, was endorsed 84-5 by the House on Tuesday and will be transmitted to the Senate for consideration. Two dozen House Democrats joined 60 Republicans in support of the proposal.

The bill is intended to “take facilities that are not generating any taxes” – including the now-vacant First National Bank building in downtown Oklahoma City – “and make them tax producers” via public-private partnerships, House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols said.

HB 2131 stipulates that a qualifying project must attract at least 25% of its visitors from out-of-state, cost at least half a million dollars, have a “significant and positive impact” on this state, be open and operating to the public on a “consistent basis” and not adversely affect employment.

The bill defines a “tourism attraction” to mean:

  • a cultural or historical site
  • a recreational or entertainment facility
  • an area of “natural phenomena or scenic beauty”
  • an indoor or outdoor play or music show
  • a botanical garden
  • a cultural or educational center, or
  • a destination hotel whose location and amenities make the hotel itself a destination for tourists.

HB 2131 “would not cost the state anything,” said Echols, R-Oklahoma City. A developer would be allowed to retain sales tax proceeds equal to 10% of the approved costs on any project that was priced at less than $1 million, or 25% of the sales tax proceeds from any tourism project costing more than $1 million, HB 2131 provides.

The tax credits would be capped at a collective total of $15 million per year and would expire after two years, although the executive director of Tourism and Recreation could extend the credits for up to four more years under certain circumstances.

The bill specifies that approved costs would include obligations incurred for labor and to vendors, contractors, subcontractors, builders and suppliers in connection with the acquisition, construction, equipping and installation of a tourism attraction project; the cost of procuring real estate or rights in real property in connection with a tourism attraction project; all costs of architectural and engineering services; costs associated with the installation of utilities in connection with a tourism attraction project, including water, sewer, sewage treatment, gas, electricity and communications.

HB 2131 would restore, at least in part, tax credits that expired two years ago, Echols indicated.

Renovation of the First National Center will be a catalyst for “bringing life to the heart of downtown” Oklahoma City, said Gary Brooks president of Cornerstone Development and owner of First National Center.

Redevelopment of the 33-floor building will create an estimated 1,585 construction, hotel, and retail/commercial jobs from the start of construction through operations, Echols said. In addition, more than 700 people “will permanently live and work in the renovated building,” Brooks said.

Cornerstone Development, in a partnership with Rose State College and the City of Oklahoma City, will provide environmental training to produce applicants to work on the First National site during the renovation. “This training could act as a catalyst for Rose State College in their proposal to combine asbestos abatement training with the wastewater training in their 2017 grant application to EPA for Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training,” said Amanda Alewine, associate planner with the City of Oklahoma City.

Cornerstone also has pledged to reserve space within the project for a business incubator “that can assist both entrepreneurial startups as well as existing small businesses,” Brooks said. Discussions are under way for the Small Business Development Center of Oklahoma, headquartered at Durant, to assist in operating and supporting the incubator, he said.

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