Blog

20 Mar
0

RELEASE: State House Floor Activity Monday 3-20-2017

House Debates State Agency Spending Audits, Dilapidated/Abandoned Property, Military Veterans Registry, Tax Credit for Military Families, Safety ‘Halo’ for Bicyclists, Nursing Home Administrator Requirements, Handguns on Buses

OKLAHOMA CITY (20 March 2017) – An ad hoc commission to audit expenditures of state government agencies “in order to identify opportunities for savings” would be created by a bill the House of Representatives approved Monday.

The legislators also endorsed measures that would target dilapidated or abandoned properties, create a registry of all military veterans in the state, authorize a tax credit for military families, modify requirements for nursing home administrators, establish a religious holiday, enlarge a safety “halo” for bicyclists, allow handguns on buses, and resurrect a measure that appeared dead last week.

Audits of State Agency Spending Proposed

All state agencies would be evaluated at least once every four years “in order to identify agency-specific efficiencies,” House Bill 2311 stipulates.

The commission would be authorized to contract with a private company, a non-profit or academic institution to assist with the spending audits.

Opponents noted that every year the Legislature examines the budgets of all appropriated state agencies (which number approximately 70). Consequently, “That information is already available, isn’t it?” asked Rep. Shane Stone, D-Oklahoma City.

Opponents also pointed to the potential cost of the proposed audits.

State Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, wrote recently that state agency chiefs testifying in Senate committees have said that examinations of their agencies by the State Auditor & Inspector have cost “from $8,000 to as much as $26,000.”

Similarly, Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, provided a document which showed that the Payne County Commissioners paid the State Auditor & Inspector’s Office almost $362,000 over the past four fiscal years for audits of the county’s ledgers.

Objections notwithstanding, HB 2311, by Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, passed, 64-24. All votes in support of the measure were cast by Republicans, and all votes against were cast by Democrats.

Identifying Expenditures to Meet Program Requirements

State agencies would be required by House Bill 1942 to include in their annual budgets a description of all federal funds received for any program in which the agencies participate, the requirements of those programs, and the amount of “expenditures spent to meet the requirements of” those programs.

The GOP-sponsored bill passed in split vote, 65-23. The measure was supported by 64 Republicans and one Democrat; all 23 “nay” votes were cast by Democrats. Now the bill will be referred to the Senate for consideration.

Eliminating Municipal Eyesores

A municipality would be empowered by House Bill 1381 to require the owner of dilapidated or abandoned property to “provide the name, physical address and telephone number” of an individual designated to “receive and respond to communications concerning the property” that’s targeted for abatement. The municipality “shall not assess any additional charge when requiring the information,” HB 1381 specifies.

Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, asked whether it is accurate that approximately half of the rental properties in Tulsa are deemed to be substandard. The author of the bill, a Tulsa Republican, confirmed that estimate.

HB 1381 passed the House by a vote of 69-20. Two dozen Democrats, including Proctor, joined 45 Republicans in support of the measure; every vote against the proposal was cast by a Republican. The bill will now be transmitted to the Senate for consideration.

Under a House bill enacted in 2014, registration of any real property by any municipality is “declared to be a statewide concern and shall be prohibited.”

No municipality is allowed to enact or attempt to enforce through fees, civil fines or criminal penalties “any ordinance, rule or regulation to require the registration of real property,” the law decreed. That derailed programs in Del City, Midwest City, Oklahoma City, Stillwater and Bartlesville that were designed to eliminate blighted buildings and neighborhoods, House Democratic Leader Scott Inman and Reps. Cory Williams and then-Rep. Kay Floyd lamented.

However, a municipality is not barred from enacting and enforcing rules and regulations to require owners of real property to comply with established occupancy standards spelled out by ordinance and state law.

Veterans Registry

The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) would be directed by House Bill 1198 to create a registry of all military veterans in this state.

The information would include each veteran’s name, dates of service, branch of military service, rank, and, if applicable, the date of the veteran’s death and the location of his/her burial.

The data sought would apply only to anyone who was on active duty and received an honorable discharge from the armed services.

The bill passed the House, 90-0, and was referred to the Senate for consideration.

A companion measure, Senate Bill 456, would require the ODVA to create and administer a registry of military veterans who are totally service-disabled. That bill passed the Senate, 45-0, and was transmitted to the House.

Daycare Tax Credit for Deployed Military Families

The House unanimously endorsed a measure that would create a state income-tax credit for daycare expenses incurred by families of deployed military personnel.

House Bill 1312 by Rep. Collin Walke would authorize a tax credit for daycare expenditures on a qualifying dependent child during any period when a member of the armed services is deployed “to another location in support of combat, contingency operation, or natural disaster” for 30 or more consecutive days, during which time the service member is unable to be accompanied by his/her family at government expense.

The proposed credit would start in tax year 2018 and could not be used to reduce the claimant’s tax liability “to less than zero,” HB 1312 provides.

The legislation would apply to dependent children 12 or younger at the time the daycare expenses were paid, and permissible expenses would be limited to the care of a child “for not more than 12 hours per day.”

“Servicemember” is defined in the bill to mean a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, the Reserve Corps of the nation’s Armed Forces, or the Oklahoma National Guard.

“This credit would be a valuable benefit to military families whenever a parent is deployed to a combat zone or a disaster area for an extended period,” said Walke, D-Oklahoma City.

HB 1312 was approved 89-0 by the House and will be referred to the Senate for consideration.

Nursing Home Administrator Requirement Modification

The statutory requirements for would-be administrators of nursing homes is subject to amendment by House Bill 1551.

The bill would bar the State Board of Examiners for Long-Term Care Administrators from requiring a nursing home administrator to have a four-year college degree in order to be licensed or certified if the candidate has “10 years of experience in administrative management, with five years of experience as a certified assistant administrator in a long-term care facility.”

Brett Coble, administrator of Meridian Nursing Home in Comanche, OK, said prospective nursing home administrators in this state have to complete two exams. One is a 100-question state standards test, and students must achieve a score of at least 75. Administrator candidates also must undergo a National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards Exam of 150 questions, on which a minimum score of 113 (75%) is required.

Nursing home administrator candidates in Oklahoma also must complete a 16-week Administrator University course.

In addition, if an administrator candidate has a four-year college degree in a health care field, he/she must participate in a 560-hour “Administrator in Training” (AIT) internship program. If the nursing home candidate has no college diploma, or a degree in some field other than health care, he/she must complete an AIT program of 720 hours.

Former state Rep. James Lockhart of Heavener, who on Monday became administrator at the Heavener Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, said he spent more than $10,000 and worked and studied for more than a year to obtain his license and complete his requisite training.

“It can be a costly endeavor for someone doing it on their own,” Coble conceded, “but a lot of facilities will pay for their people to become licensed.”

HB 1551 passed in a split vote, 57-35, and will be referred to the Senate for consideration.

Christian Holiday Endorsed

“Good Friday,” the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, would be designated as a paid state holiday under House Bill 1444.

Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary.

Paid holidays this year for state employees were/are New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and the day after, Christmas Day and the day after.

HB 1444 passed the House, 69-24 – it was supported by 46 Republicans and 23 Democrats, and was opposed by 22 Republicans and two Democrats – and was transmitted to the Senate for consideration.

Workers’ Compensation

Two bills that constituted 373 total pages of proposed amendments to the workers’ compensations statutes – House Bills 1462 and 1921 – strolled through the House uncontested Monday, because their titles were stricken. That’s a procedural motion which indicates the bills will be subject to House/Senate negotiations before a final product is presented for consideration.

But a third workers’ comp measure, House Bill 2242, which encompasses seven pages, triggered substantial floor debate and barely scraped by.

It provides that if a subcontractor fails to carry workers’ comp insurance on his/her employees, liability would devolve to the person or entity for whom the work is being performed, unless an intermediary contractor carries workers’ comp insurance.

Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, insisted that if a subcontractor fails to secure workers’ comp insurance, HB 2242 would shift the burden of paying for an injured worker’s medical treatment from the prime contractor to the person for whom the work is being performed: i.e., the homeowner.

HB 2242 squeezed through the House, 52-39, but was held for reconsideration of the emergency clause, which failed on a 49-25 vote.

Give Cyclists Some Space

The “lateral safe distance” between a motor vehicle and a bicycle on a two-lane road would be expanded by House Bill 2191 from 3 feet to 5 feet. On a multi-lane road, a motor vehicle driver would be required to move into another lane to safely pass a bicyclist.

The driver of a motor vehicle causing a collision, crash, fall or physical injury to a cyclist would be fined $500. If the mishap caused the cyclist’s death, the fine would be $5,000.

When asked whether HB 2191 would create a “special class,” Rep. Cory Williams, author of the measure, said that state Transportation Department workers are a specially protected class, and he noted that bicyclists are “highly vulnerable”. Oklahoma has “a huge cycling community,” the Stillwater Democrat added.

The bill passed in a split vote, 53-33, and will be transmitted to the Senate, where it is sponsored by Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa.

Guns on Buses

State law provides that no one but an authorized law enforcement officer may board a bus while transporting a “dangerous or deadly weapon.” House Bill 1721 would authorize an exception for persons who have been issued a concealed-carry license “pursuant to provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act.”

State law further provides that it is illegal to discharge a firearm into or within any bus, terminal or other transportation facility. However, HB 1721 would authorize an exception in the event “such action is determined to have been in defensive force resulting from reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.”

Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, told the Republican author of the measure that he rides the bus virtually every day and has never encountered a situation where he thought a firearm was needed.

HB 1721 passed the House, 75-8. The opponents were Democrats Meloyde Blancett, Regina Goodwin and Monroe Nichols, all of Tulsa; Claudia Griffith, Norman; Cory Williams, Stillwater; Cyndi Munson, Collin Walke and George Young, all of Oklahoma City. Bennett said he was on the ’phone, trying to contact officials at EMBARK (formerly Metro Transit), Oklahoma City’s public bus system, about the measure, when the vote was closed; consequently, Bennett was officially listed as “excused” when the vote was recorded.

House Votes to Reverse Course

Legislation that was previously derailed squeaked by on reconsideration Monday.

The Republican measure, House Bill 1577, would require the State Department of Education to include on its website an itemized accounting of vacant or unused properties of Oklahoma’s school districts.

The House rejected the idea, 35-56, on March 13. But the Republican author of the measure succeeded in resurrecting the bill Monday and it passed on reconsideration, 51-36.

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

16 Mar
0

Call for Senator Shortey’s Resignation

For Immediate Release
March 16, 2017

Media Contact:
Angela Allmond, Communications Director
405-536-2417
Oklahoma Democratic Party

Call for Senator Shortey’s Resignation

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Democratic Party commends the Senate for demanding Sen. Ralph Shortey’s immediate resignation in light of child prostitution charges. It is impossible for Shortey to perform his duties and maintain the trust of his constituents and fellow legislatures.
 
The Oklahoma Democratic Party condemns child sexual exploitation and extends its sympathies to the Shortey family, the victim and victim’s family. Sexual exploitation has long-reaching and devastating effects on victims. Counseling resource services are available, and it is our hope that anyone that has experienced sexual exploitation will come forward and seek the assistance needed.
 
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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.

15 Mar
0

RELEASE: OKC Legislators Condemn Insulting Treatment of Muslims

OKC Legislators Condemn Insulting Treatment of Muslims

OKLAHOMA CITY (15 March 2017) – Rep. Cyndi Munson and Rep. George E. Young, Sr., a retired Baptist minister, declared Wednesday that they stand with the Oklahoma Muslim community “against racism and bigotry that tarnish our great state.”

Young, D-Oklahoma City, said he was disturbed after a Republican House colleague demanded that three Muslim students who tried to visit a Republican House member at his State Capitol office earlier this month were instead handed a questionnaire they were told they had to fill out. Among the items on the form was this question, “Do you beat your wife?”

“I was stunned and appalled when I heard about this disgraceful episode,” Dr. Young said. “I have worked with the Muslim community on more than one occasion, and was the keynote speaker at their Capitol Day rally last year.

“I attended the opening of their new community clinic and participated in the school supply giveaway at Mercy School in Edmond,” an Islamic-based school for students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12.

Muslims “have made, and continue to make, valuable contributions to our community,” the Reverend Young said. “These bigoted attacks are unwarranted, hurtful, and are certainly not the way Christians should behave toward their fellow man.”

“When a group of constituents brought the list of questions to my office, my heart shattered,” said Munson, D-Oklahoma City. “I cannot fathom creating such a barrier to the people that insults my Oklahoma brothers and sisters.”

CAIR-OK “is located in House District 85,” she said. “They deserve, and do receive, the exact same type of representation as any other group in my district and nothing less.

“As a woman of the Christian faith, I am determined to do everything I can to treat people – regardless of their faith – with respect, honor and value. That is my job as a leader and a follower of Jesus. My heart breaks, knowing that people in our state who work, create, raise their children, and serve their community are mistreated simply because of their religious beliefs. It is sad, frustrating, hurtful, and damages the very beliefs of freedom we hold dear in our state and country.

“I will continue to do whatever I can to make sure our Capitol is welcoming to every and all Oklahomans.”

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

14 Mar
0

RELEASE: Senator Shortey Should Suspend Himself from Official Activities

For Immediate Release
March 14, 2017

Media Contact:
Angela Allmond, Communications Director
405-536-2417
Oklahoma Democratic Party

Senator Shortey Should Suspend Himself from Official Activities

OKLAHOMA CITY – Statement from Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair, Mark Hammons:

While a final resolution should await completion of the police investigation, Sen Ralph Shortey owes it to his constituents and all taxpayers to suspend himself from all official activities. This is far too embarrassing to have him speak, vote or represent Oklahoma on any issue.

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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.

14 Mar
0

RELEASE: House Legislative Update

House Supports Tougher Penalties for Abuse of Elderly, Authorizes Out-of-State Tax Auditors, Approves Flag Pledge Measure, Votes to Transfer S.E. Oklahoma Facility from Tourism to Ag Dept.

OKLAHOMA CITY (14 March 2017) – The state House of Representatives voted Tuesday to strengthen penalties for offenders who abuse the elderly or the incapacitated.

Penalties for abusers of senior citizens or incapacitated individuals would be stiffened by House Bill 1406, which the House approved overwhelmingly, 81-3.

State law dictates that anyone convicted of an offense against the elderly or incapacitated must be incarcerated, and the first 30 days of the sentence is not subject to probation, suspension nor deferral.

If the crime committed against an elderly or incapacitated person is assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, aggravated assault and battery, or caretaker abuse, neglect or exploitation, HB 1406 stipulates that the offender would not be eligible for probation, suspension or deferral for the first 60 days of his/her sentence.

The bill also would enhance penalties for anyone committing a subsequent offense against an elderly or incapacitated person.

“Certainly we need criminal justice reform,” said Rep. Mickey Dollens, an Oklahoma City Democrat who authored HB 1406. “We shouldn’t fill our prisons with non-violent offenders, nor people coping with addictions or mental health problems. But prison is definitely warranted for those who commit violent crimes – people who pose a danger to our society – and especially those who abuse the elderly or the physically or mentally impaired.”

Approximately three weeks ago a 53-year-old Oklahoma City man was arrested and accused of beating to death a 94-year-old woman during a 2013 residential invasion; her neighbors said it was the third time the victim had been attacked inside her own home. And just last month a 21-year-old woman was sentenced to life in prison for the beating death of an 83-year-old Bluejacket woman during a robbery.

HB 1406 will now be referred to the Senate for consideration.

Out-of-State Tax Collectors

House Bill 1427 would direct the Oklahoma Tax Commission to establish a field office outside of this state and hire at least five full-time auditors whose principal duty would be to pursue the collection of unpaid taxes owed to the State of Oklahoma by remote sellers or out-of-state individuals, firms and corporations.

The legislation would authorize the agency to lease office space, but does not specify the state in which the office would be established.

The Republican author of the measure said his bill would focus on “collections from remote vendors” that have stores or employees in this state.

The State of Oklahoma audits out-of-state companies to ensure that they abide by state tax laws. The Oklahoma Tax Commission issued 471 assessments as a result of audits of multiple tax types (such as sales taxes) in tax years 2014-17, according to Rick Miller, director of the OTC’s Tax Policy and Research Division.

Those included 464 assessments of vendors and companies in 43 states (primarily Texas, California, Arkansas and Kansas). They also included six assessments of companies in three Canadian provinces (Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario), plus one assessment of a company in the Mexican state of Jalisco, ledgers reflect.

Nevertheless, Oklahoma doesn’t have a presence near those companies’ headquarters, the author of HB 1427 said. For example, he said, neighboring Texas has tax offices in Tulsa, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Fiscal analysts calculate that the cost of establishing a field office in another state and compensating no fewer than five tax auditors would be $450,000.

The House endorsed the measure, 70-17, and will deliver it to the Senate for consideration.

GOP Fee Increase Narrowly Approved

House Bill 1670 would increase by $1 – from $9 to $10 – the fee collected from anyone convicted of any offense, including traffic infractions but not parking and standing violations, that can be punished by a fine of $10 or more.

The additional revenue – estimated at $550,000 to $600,000 annually – would be earmarked for the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET).

A fiscal analysis indicated 60.53% of the revenue would be used to help finance CLEET operations, 33.64% would be used for facility-related expenses at CLEET’s Ada campus, and 5.83% would be routed to the state’s General Revenue Fund.

The Republican bill passed the House, 51-37, and will be sent to the Senate.

Tax Impact Analysis Endorsed

House Bill 2209 would require the state Tax Commission to prepare an “incidence impact analysis” on any bill or proposal that would increase, decrease or redistribute state taxes by more than $20 million. The analysis also would, “to the extent data is available on changes in the distribution of the tax burden,” identify “the incidence effects that would result if the bill were enacted.”

The Tax Commission does not anticipate any increase in administrative costs if HB 2209 is enacted.

The House supported the measure, 84-0, and transmitted it to the Senate.

Special Commission Would Review School Finances

A bipartisan School Finance Review Commission would be created by House Bill 1578 to “conduct a review of all matters related to school finance, including but not limited to teacher compensation, benefits and administration costs.”

The eight-member committee would be comprised of individuals appointed by the Governor, the Lt. Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President Pro Tempore, the House Minority Leader and the Senate Minority Leader, along with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the executive director of the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability.

The commission would be directed to submit its first report of its findings by Jan. 1, 2019. None of the appointees could be an elected official, and the committee members would receive no compensation or travel reimbursement for their service.

Appropriations to education consume more than half of the state budget, the Republican author of the measure noted.

More than one House member indicated the proposed panel would simply duplicate services already provided by the State Department of Education.

The House passed the bill, 64-26, and referred it to the Senate for consideration.

Political Party of Limited Gov’t Proposes Unfunded Mandates

A revised version of House Bill 1684 would require every school district adopting a four-day school week to submit a plan to the State Board of Education, estimating the potential cost savings and educational impact of the shorter week.

The bill failed on a bipartisan vote Tuesday, 45-43, although the Republican author of the proposal served notice that he may bring the bill back up for reconsideration.

Opponents argued that the measure was tantamount to an unfunded mandate.

Opponents also emphasized that school districts have scaled back to four-day school weeks to trim expenses because their state funding has declined dramatically in recent years. At last count, 218 sites in 97 school districts have enacted four-day school weeks.

Because of the latest in a series of state revenue failures, state school funding for the current fiscal year is more than $100 million lower than it was last year. In fact, the Legislature’s appropriation for public education for the current Fiscal Year 2017 is less than the appropriation was in FY 2009, fiscal ledgers show. During that same eight-year period, student enrollment grew by almost 49,000, to 693,710, according to records of the State Department of Education.

Oklahoma’s per-pupil funding for public schools fell 26.9% between FY 2008 and FY 2017 – the deepest cuts in the nation.

Another proposed unfunded mandate that was derailed was House Bill 1577.

That Republican measure would have required the State Department of Education to include on its website an itemized accounting of vacant or unused properties of Oklahoma’s school districts.

The House rejected the idea, 35-56, on Monday.

Alternative Certification Requirement Repealed

State standards for alternative certification would be lowered by House Bill 1957, which would remove the requirement of two years of specialized work experience in a particular field if the applicant has only a bachelor’s degree.

The House approved the bill in a split vote, 72-21.

Oklahoma schools are coping with a severe teacher shortage.

The House previously approved a related measure, House Bill 1362 by state Rep. Regina Goodwin, and transmitted it to the Senate.

HB 1362 would direct the State Department of Education (SDE) to publish a report each year about emergency teaching certificates.

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,” Goodwin, D-Tulsa, said earlier this year. “I want to know what kind of impact certified teachers have on student performance.”

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, records indicate. The SDE estimates more than 52,000 students are being taught by an emergency certified teacher.

According to the SDE, the principal areas in which emergency certifications were issued in the current Fiscal Year 2016-17 were elementary education, science and mathematics, and early childhood education; other major areas were social studies, English and language arts, and health education.

The top 10 counties with the greatest number of new teachers are Tulsa, Oklahoma, Cleveland, Canadian, Comanche, Garfield, Muskogee, Pottawatomie, Rogers and Kay, SDE records show.

Patriotic Proposals Approved

House Bill 2277 would require students in Oklahoma public schools to recite the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag every day rather than just once a week, as current state law mandates. The state statute, in accordance with federal law, authorizes an exemption for students “who do not wish to participate” in the pledge.

In a related matter, state law also requires instruction in the history and etiquette “relating to the United States flag” to be presented “in one or more grades” in every school district in Oklahoma.

The author of HB 2277 said the Stars & Stripes “symbolizes the patriotism, dedication and courage of those who have made this the greatest country in the world to live in.”

The measure was endorsed Monday by the House, 93-1, and was transmitted to the Senate for consideration.

In a similar vein, House Bill 1337, the “Freedom to Display the American Flag Act,” would ensure that Old Glory can wave unfettered throughout Oklahoma.

The bill, by Rep. Chuck Hoskin, D-Vinita, would imprint in state statutes a prohibition against any policy or agreement that would restrict or prevent a member of a residential association from displaying the U.S. flag at “a reasonable height” of no more than 20 feet, on property within the association. The bill expressly refers to an owners association, condominium association, cooperative association or residential real estate management association.

HB 1337 breezed through the House, 92-0, and was transmitted to the Senate, where it is sponsored by Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton. The bill is co-authored by Reps. Matt Meredith, D-Tahlequah; Ben Loring, D-Miami; and Johnny Tadlock, D-Idabel.

Hoskin said his measure was prompted by a retired Marine who moved to Grand Lake. The Texas transplant told Hoskin that while in the Lone Star State he lived in a neighborhood that had a homeowners’ association which forbade him from flying the American flag. He asked Hoskin whether Oklahoma safeguards a homeowner’s freedom to fly the flag.

Hoskin, a U.S. Navy veteran, scoured the statutes, and HB 1337 is a result of that search.

The bill is identical to one Hoskin introduced last year which passed the House of Representatives, 91-0, but died in the Senate without receiving a floor vote.

“The truly remarkable thing is that a bill of this type would even be needed in this nation,” Hoskin said.

A third measure with a patriotic theme is pending in the House of Representatives.

House Bill 2192 by Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, proposes to expand the list of monuments accepted for placement on the State Capitol grounds.

A monument to the U.S. Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution) was authorized by a bill enacted last year. HB 2192 would allow “a suitable monument … displaying the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States.” All three amendments arose from the Civil War.

Ÿ The 13th Amendment, which was ratified on Dec. 6, 1865, abolished slavery.

Ÿ The 14th Amendment, ratified July 9, 1868, contains the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses.

Ÿ The 15th Amendment, which was ratified on Feb. 3, 1870, prohibits denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude [a/k/a slavery].

The proposed monument would be designed, constructed and installed on the Capitol grounds “by private entities at no expense to the state,” the legislation pledged.

HB 2192 received a “do pass” recommendation from the General Government Oversight and Accountability Committee and was referred to the calendar for a vote by the full House.

Facility Would be Transferred from Tourism to Ag

Administration of the Forest Heritage Center in Beavers Bend State Park in McCurtain County would be transferred from the state Tourism and Recreation Department to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, under House Bill 1372.

Rep. Johnny Tadlock, D-Idabel, said he filed the measure because he believes the Agriculture Department “could promote it the way it should be promoted,” emphasizing the character and timber-related economy of the area. The House endorsed the measure, 79-9, and referred it to the Senate.

The Forest Heritage Center in Beavers Bend State Park is a museum-in-the-round and features unique displays and 14 large dioramas (painted by Harry Rossoll of Atlanta, Ga., the artist who created Smokey Bear) that cover prehistoric forests, Caddo Indians, papermaking in the South, 1940’s lumbering, and forest Appreciation. These dioramas tell the story of prehistoric forests, Caddo Indians, paper-making in the South, 1940s lumbering and forest appreciation. Each diorama is accompanied by a taped narration. Visitors to the Forest Heritage Center will discover unique wood art, historical documents, antique forestry tools, homestead memorabilia and a research library filled with books, periodicals and other materials pertaining to forestry.

The center is open year-round and the State of Oklahoma “pays all of the bills on that building,” said Dick Dutton, executive director of the Tourism and Recreation Department. Since no admission fee is charged, attendance figures are not compiled, Dutton said.

The legislative appropriation to the Tourism and Recreation Department in Fiscal Year 2017 was slashed by 11.65%, and that was before additional reductions made after the state revenue failure that was declared last month. Although tourism is Oklahoma’s third-largest industry, appropriations to the Tourism and Recreation Department have been slashed by 36% over the past decade, House fiscal records reflect.

Since state agencies were advised recently to prepare for budget cuts of up to 14.5%, on the heels of the revenue failure last month, the Tourism and Recreation Department has identified 16 state parks, one state golf course, 80 full-time employees, Oklahoma Today magazine, and the Miami travel information center as potential targets of budget cuts.

The parks include Talimena State Park near Talihina, Great Plains State Park near Snyder and Mountain Park, Cherokee Landing State Park, Natural Falls State Park in Delaware County, Red Rock Canyon State Park near Hinton, Great Salt Plains State Park in Alfalfa County, Lake Eufaula State Park, Lake Wister State Park south of Poteau, Alabaster Caverns State Park south of Freedom and north of Mooreland, McGee Creek State Park east of Atoka, Foss Lake State Park between Clinton and Elk City, Osage Hills State Park east of Pawhuska, Greenleaf State Park near Braggs, Lake Texoma State Park, Grand Lake State Park near Langley, Boiling Springs State Park near Woodward, plus Grand Cherokee Golf Course near Langley.

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