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19 Apr
0

RELEASE: House Dem Caucus – ‘Caregiver Support Act’ Approved by Legislature

‘Caregiver Support Act’ Approved by Legislature

OKLAHOMA CITY (19 April 2017) – A measure intended to “help us better care for our loved ones” has passed the Legislature and is headed to the Governor’s desk.

House Bill 1357, the “Oklahoma Caregiver Support Act,” was endorsed 78-6 by the House of Representatives and 39-0 by the Senate.

More than half a million Oklahomans spend an average of 21 hours each week “taking care of a mother or father, husband or wife, sister or brother, son or daughter, a friend or someone else,” said Rep. Regina Goodwin, principal author of HB 1357.

“There are resources, information, counseling, training, and even some money – $360 vouchers for those who qualify – to help ease the load of caregivers who juggle schedules, work and finances to care for loved ones,” the Tulsa Democrat said.

HB 1357 would direct the Aging Services Division of the state Department of Human Services to “work with caregiver community groups across the state in a cost-neutral manner, using existing resources, to:

  • support expansion of the number of locations in which services are provided to caregivers “via workshops and sites closer to home,” Goodwin said;
  • ensure that the geographic locations of these sites include low-, mid- and high-economic-income areas “in order to provide greater accessibility” to caregivers;
  • provide that the locations selected include schools, city and county facilities “in which no usage fee shall be charged.”

The bill also would instruct the DHS to support awareness of information about services available to caregivers; assistance to caregivers in gaining access to available services; individual counseling, support groups and caregiver training; and respite care to provide caregivers with temporary relief from their responsibilities.

Goodwin said her bill had “broad support” from the DHS, the Caregivers Coalition, the AARP and Morton Health Clinic, among others.

The Senate sponsor of HB 1357 was Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie.

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

18 Apr
0

RELEASE: DNC New Officer Rolls Announced

DNC Announces New Officer Roles and Responsibilities

The Democratic National Committee today announced roles and responsibilities for the incoming DNC officers. In addition, the DNC announced that Jaime Harrison of South Carolina will join the leadership team as Counselor and Associate Chair. Harrison brings with him a wealth of grassroots and state party building experience and is currently the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, the first African American to hold that position.

“We are proud to usher in a new day at the DNC with a roster of extremely talented and diverse officers to lead our party’s turnaround,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “The DNC leadership team is moving full steam ahead, enacting a true 57-states and territories strategy that ensures we are fighting for votes and putting our values into action in every single zip code.”

Michael Blake, Vice Chair – New York State Assemblyman Michael Blake was born in the Bronx, New York to Jamaican Immigrants. He is in his second term, representing the 79th District. Blake began his political career in the 2006 “Yes We Can” training program. He then managed three winning state legislative races in Michigan, became President Obama’s 2008 Iowa Caucus Constituency vote director, and served in eight additional states, including Michigan, where his team won all seven races as part of their Coordinated campaign. Blake later served as White House Associate Director of Public Engagement and Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. In, 2012 Blake was National Deputy Operation Vote Director for President Obama.

Blake’s portfolio will include base and constituency mobilization, local and municipal elected official outreach, millennial outreach, African American outreach, progressive outreach, vendor diversity, building the bench through candidate recruitment, and fundraising. He will also serve as a liaison to the DNC’s Eastern Caucus, Black Caucus, and Youth Council.

Karen Carter Peterson, Vice Chair of Civic Engagement and Voter Participation – Karen Carter Peterson is serving her second term as chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party — the first woman to ever hold the post. She represents New Orleans and parts of Jefferson Parish in the Louisiana State Senate where she serves as the Chair of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. During her time in the Louisiana House her peers elected her to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore.

Carter Peterson’s portfolio will include voter participation and protection, cybersecurity, State Attorneys General, Secretaries of State, African American outreach, and fundraising. She will also serve as a liaison to the DNC’s Southern Caucus, Black Caucus, and Women’s Caucus.

Bill Derrough, Treasurer – Bill Derrough helps fix financially-challenged companies, non-profits, and governmental entities. Currently co-head of restructuring at Moelis, over the past 30 years he has helped restructure hundreds of entities across the U.S. representing over $600 billion. Bill’s nonprofit board service has included the Boy Scouts of Greater New York, Lambda Legal (leading national LGBT legal rights organization), a San Francisco AIDS hospice, several educational entities and several Catholic charities.

Derrough’s portfolio will include budget development, long-term strategic planning, branding, cybersecurity, business outreach, tech outreach, LGBT outreach, and fundraising. He will also serve as a liaison to the DNC’s Western Caucus and Small Business Council.

Maria Elena Durazo, Vice Chair – Maria Elena Durazo is Vice President for UNITE HERE International Union, which represents more than 270,000 hospitality workers in the U.S. and Canada. Under her leadership in 2016, UNITE HERE and its Las Vegas local, the Culinary Union, led an unprecedented citizenship drive, helping more than 2,000 residents apply for citizenship.

Durazo’s portfolio will include organized labor and Latino outreach, as well as fundraising. She will also serve as a liaison to the DNC’s Western Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, and Labor Council.

Keith Ellison, Deputy Chair – Since 2007, Keith Ellison has represented Minnesota’s 5thCongressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District has one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the nation. In 2015, Ellison unveiled the Voters First Campaign, which aimed to increase voter turnout through grassroots organizing, campaign coordination, and low-dollar fundraising.

As DNC Deputy Chair, Ellison will be charged with grassroots mobilization and fundraising, outreach to progressive and labor communities, coordination with the national campaign committees, and online voter engagement including Democrats Live. Ellison will also serve as a liaison to the DNC’s Western Caucus, Ethnic Council, Midwestern Caucus, Native American Council, Black Caucus, and Labor Council.

Jaime Harrison, Counselor and Associate Chair – As South Carolina Democratic Party Chair since 2013, Jaime Harrison has overseen successful initiatives including the John Spratt Issues Conference, James E. Clyburn Political Fellowship, the First in the South Primary, and Democrats Care.

Harrison will be integral to building a 57-state and territory strategy and will lead DNC initiatives including the State Party Partnership, training programs, vendor diversity, and 2020 planning including the convention, debates, and nominating process. He will also serve as a liaison to the DNC’s Southern Caucus, Rural Council, Disability Council, and Native American Council.

Ken Martin, Vice Chair, ASDC President – Since 2011, Ken Martin has served as chair of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota and chairs the DNC’s Association of State Democratic Chairs (ASDC). ASDC’s mission is to help build strong state parties in order to elect Democrats from the State House to the White House.

Martin’s Vice Chair portfolio will include the 57-state and territory strategy, State Party Partnerships, DGA, rural outreach, fundraising, and building the bench through candidate recruitment. He will also serve as a liaison to the DNC’s Midwest Caucus, Rural Council, and Military/Veterans’ Council.

Grace Meng, Vice Chair – Congresswoman Grace Meng was born and raised in New York City, attended public schools, and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1997. After attending Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, she served as a public interest lawyer before representing Queens in the New York State Assembly in 2009 and the U.S. House of Representatives beginning in 2013. As a DNC Vice Chair, Grace focused her efforts on representing diverse constituencies within the Democratic Party.

Meng’s portfolio will include rebuilding the DNC’s surrogate program, coordination with the national campaign committees, Congressional Liaison, women and AAPI outreach, as well as fundraising. She will also serve as a liaison to the DNC’s Eastern Caucus, AAPI Caucus, Women’s Caucus, and Senior Council.

Henry R. Muñoz III, National Finance Committee Chair – Henry R. Muñoz III is a nationally respected voice in the discourse about the imprint of Latino culture and identity upon American Society in the 21st Century. A Designer, Social Activist, Opinion Leader and Philanthropist, Muñoz works across multiple platforms that converge at the intersection of politics and the built environment. As Chairman of the Board and CEO of Muñoz & Company, Mr. Muñoz leads one of the largest and oldest minority-owned design practices in the country. Under his leadership, Muñoz & Company has pioneered an approach to architecture and design that acknowledges the rapidly shifting demographics of the United States.

Munoz will be the primary lead in the DNC’s fundraising efforts and will lead Latino and LGBT engagement. He will also serve as a liaison to the DNC’s Southern Caucus and Small Business Council.

Jason Rae, Secretary – Jason Rae has been a lifelong Democrat, attending county party meetings in rural Barron County, Wisconsin on a bicycle before he could even drive. He was first elected to the DNC in 2004, when he was just 17 years old and has been re-elected three times. Since his election more than a decade ago, Jason has worked hard to elect Democrats up and down the ballot, to increase participation among young people and LGBT Americans, and to help build greater transparency of the party.

Rae’s portfolio will include DNC member communications, millennial and youth engagement, LGBT outreach, as well as fundraising. He will also serve as a liaison to the DNC’s Midwest Caucus, LGBT Caucus, and Youth Council.

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17 Apr
0

STATEMENT: Rep. Renegar, DVM Health Care in a Veterans’ Center Is Not the Same

Health Care in a Veterans’ Center Is Not the Same as in a Nursing Home

By State Rep. Brian Renegar, DVM

McALESTER (17 April 2017) — Following is a statement release that I, along with State Reps. Dale Derby, R-Owasso, Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, and Chuck Hoskin, D-Vinita, delivered to the media recently.

When our soldiers go off to war we tell them, “You take care of us and we will take care you.” We have committed to our veterans that they will receive the highest level of care. The highest level of care in Oklahoma has always been our seven veterans’ centers and the medical amenities they provide. These amenities have included physical therapy, pharmacies, EKGs to monitor heart medications, and blood chemistry labs to monitor their kidney and other organ functions. The kidney function tests are important to gauge what type of IV fluids are to be administered, and it is imperative that they get results in one to two hours, not 24 hours.

Now come Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs directives that the EKG machines are to be locked up and blood chemistry machines are to be taken away. There is a move to decrease the level of care for our veterans and move our veterans’ centers to the level of care of nursing homes. But why?

In 2015 when Director Major General Deering and Deputy Director Colonel Elliott took over the ODVA, the software CPRS was going out of date and they faced the task of spending a large sum of money to update it. CPRS is the same program that the Federal VA uses and can communicate with the Federal VA.

At that same time they hired Tina Williams, an RN, to be in charge of the healthcare day-to-day function of the centers. She previously had a record of running nursing homes and making questionable decisions. She had also worked for the State Health Department. She directed Deering and Elliott, who had NO healthcare experience, to a software program: “Point Click Care.” With Deering and Elliott not having any knowledge of healthcare, they chose Point Click Care.

Unfortunately Point Click Care is software designed for nursing homes. It does not have codes for the medical amenities that veterans’ centers provide at a higher level of care. So the answer to our question seems to be that they chose the wrong software, as they are determined to lower the standard of care at our veterans’ centers down to a nursing home status.

What deleterious effects are there toward moving to a nursing home status? First, dementia veterans are adversely affected by any move, even a trip to an emergency room or other medical provider for an EKG or other tests. When treating dehydration, healthwise, it is unfeasible to draw blood and send it to a private lab and get results 24 hours later, when an in-house test will give you kidney function results within an hour. THIS is a lowering of level of healthcare for our veterans.

We believe that Director Deering put his healthcare trust with the wrong person.
We are, therefore, asking the Attorney General to launch an investigation by his office of the ODVA and request the State Auditor to perform an emergency audit of the ODVA.
In addition, we request that the ODVA return the EKG machines to the healthcare providers at the veterans’ centers, allow blood chemistry machines to remain in place and “freeze” any termination of healthcare providers at our veterans’ centers, until the investigation is complete.

We believe there is an appearance that the bill to close Talihina (SB 544) is a smokescreen for reducing medical amenities at all seven veterans’ centers.
If the ODVA says that the reduction of these services is to save money, ask them how Deering, Elliot and Williams received a combined total of $25,000 in raises in the last six months, yet the Legislature cut the ODVA $6.7 million in the last 24 months and in the face of a nearly $1 billion deficit by the state this year.

I believe this is of utmost importance and I believe you need to be kept aware of the changes.

Unfortunately there is a pattern of behavior by our Governor that is not good for Oklahomans. Gov. Fallin appoints as Director of Corrections Joe Allbaugh, who has no experience in Corrections; he immediately moved to increase the privatization of Corrections.

She also appoints General Myles Deering, who was our Adjutant General but has no experience in healthcare, to head the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs our seven veteran healthcare centers. Since he has been there he has privatized the employment for the veterans’ centers and now he is in the process of privatizing the laboratory services previously being performed at the centers.

Third, Governor Fallin appoints Deby Snodgrass, who was an accountant at Chesapeake Energy, to run our Department of Tourism. Snodgrass is moving to close our state parks because they are not making a profit. Our state parks were never created to make a profit but rather to draw urban and out-of-state people to our rural areas to increase our commerce. Snodgrass refuses to accept this concept. Do you know why? Because she had NO experience in tourism when she took over the Department. Do we see a pattern?

On another subject, I will not vote for a pay raise for teachers if the Legislature cuts funding to our public school classrooms. And I am proud to let you know a huge percentage of teachers tell me that’s the way they feel, also.

The talk around the Capitol is on the budget for next year, but I am more concerned about our funding for this year, especially in education. Our area schools have been notified by the State Department of Education of a cut in funding for April, on top of the revenue failure, the reduction of 1017 funds and the March cut in funding.

The total loss for McAlester is $397,130 for this period, and for Wilburton, $114,374, just to name a couple. Of the $397,130 cut to McAlester, $176,880 comes in part from the corporate tax decrease, and of the $114,374 cut to Wilburton, $51,561 comes in part from the corporate tax decrease. The decrease in these corporate taxes is due to tax credits turned into our treasury instead of actual dollar payments. That is why I harp on corporate tax credits.

15 Apr
0

RELEASE: Statement by Leader Inman on Brumbaugh’s Passing

Statement from House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City Regarding the Death of Fellow Rep. David Brumbaugh

I am so saddened to learn that a colleague and a friend, Rep. David Brumbaugh, has passed suddenly.

David was a good man with a heart for Christ. While we didn’t agree on a variety of issues, he was always respectful and sincere in his beliefs and his dealings with my caucus and me.
On behalf of my entire caucus, I want to extend the deepest of sympathies to David’s family and his companions in the House Republican Caucus. May the Lord grant you peace and comfort during this difficult time.

And may we all remember that there are so many things more important than politics – that those things that unite us far outnumber those that divide us.
May we never take this life and God’s blessings for granted.

13 Apr
0

RELEASE: House Dem Caucus Update – Legislators Support Science Education Measure

Legislators Support Science Education Measure, Suspension for Violent 3rd Graders, Increase in Scholarship Income Limits

OKLAHOMA CITY (13 April 2017) – A state House panel narrowly approved a measure Thursday that ostensibly is intended to “create an environment” in classrooms that “encourages students to explore scientific theories,” but that critics contend is merely a back-door entry to teach creationism alongside evolution.

Committees in the House of Representatives also endorsed measures that would allow aggressive students as young as third-graders to be suspended from school, raise the family income limits for a state scholarship program, and repeal a state history assessment.

The Science Education Act

Senate Bill 393, the Science Education Act, passed the House Committee on General Government Oversight and Accountability on Thursday, three days after it was withdrawn from the House Committee on Common Education.

The vote was 4-3. Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, the lone Democrat on the Oversight/Accountability Committee, voted against the measure.

The legislation provides that its purpose is to “create an environment within public school districts that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.

The bill also mandates that school administrators “shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.” Also, teachers would be authorized to help students “understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories…”

SB 393 declares that it just “protects the teaching of scientific information and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.”

The bill will be referred to the House calendar for a floor vote by the full House.

Out-of-School Suspensions

Senate Bill 81 would lower the grade level at which a student could be suspended from school for violent behavior: from the sixth grade to the third.

State law allows school officials to suspend a student for committing assault, attempting to cause “bodily injury”, or acting in a manner that could “reasonably cause” bodily injury to an education employee or a person who is volunteering for the school.

A violent student can be suspended for the balance of the current semester and the next consecutive semester, state law provides. However, the term of the suspension can be modified by the school district’s superintendent “on a case-by-case basis.”

When a student is suspended out-of-school for more than five days because of violent behavior, his/her parent/guardian is responsible for providing “a supervised, structured environment” in which the student must be placed, and the parent/guardian bears responsibility for “monitoring the student’s education progress” until the child is readmitted to school.

Also, school administrators must provide the student with an education plan that is designed for the student’s “eventual reintegration … into school.” That plan must provide “only for the core units in which the student is enrolled,” state statute stipulates.

The House Committee on Common Education endorsed SB 81 in a unanimous 13-0 vote and referred it to the calendar for a floor vote.

One Less Test

Senate Bill 2 would abolish the requirement to test high-school students on U.S. history, starting with the 2017-18 school year.

Current state law requires the statewide “student assessment system” to include an examination in U.S. history at least once “during the grade span of 9 through 12.”

The Common Education Committee approved the bill, 10-5.

Supporters of the measure included Reps. Donnie Condit, D-McAlester, a retired school teacher/administrator; Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, a former high-school English teacher; Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, also a retired teacher/administrator; and George Young, D-Oklahoma City, who has five “traditional” non-charter elementary schools in his legislative district and who recently served as “Principal for a Day” at Lee Elementary School under the sponsorship of the OKC Public Schools Foundation.

“It makes no sense to require a state test in U.S. history when the ACT doesn’t require such an assessment,” Cannaday and Condit said.

Two former educators authored SB 2: Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, and Rep. Katie Henke, R-Tulsa.

Scholarship Limits Increased

The maximum adjusted gross income limit for incoming college/university/postsecondary CareerTech students to qualify for an Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program scholarship would be raised by Senate Bill 529. Currently the limit is $50,000. It would rise to $55,000 in 2020-21, and to $60,000 in 2024-25.

The bill includes a restriction: Starting with the 2018-19 school year, no “Oklahoma’s Promise” scholarship awarded via OHLAP could be used to pay for any remedial, non-credit-earning courses.

Since its inception in 1992, the “Oklahoma’s Promise” scholarship program has helped more than 75,000 Oklahoma students earn a college education, records of the State Regents for Higher Education show.

SB 529 received a “do pass” recommendation from the House Appropriations and Budget Education Subcommittee on a 9-1 vote. Supporters of the proposal included Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, and Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum. The sole vote in opposition was cast by Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa.

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