21 Apr

RELEASE: DNC Chair Tom Perez Statement on Women’s Fundamental Rights

Perez on Women’s Fundamental Rights

DNC Chair Tom Perez released the following statement on the DNC’s strong belief in securing reproductive health, justice, and rights for all.

“Democrats trust women to make their own decisions. Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state. That is why I will be convening women leaders from across the country in the next week on how we can make sure our Democratic candidates and elected leaders are living up to these fundamental values.

“Whatever one’s personal beliefs about choice, no government should legislate them onto others. That is a fundamental principle Democrats of all backgrounds have always fought for, and we will continue to do so at local and national levels. At a time when women’s rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country, we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.

“I fundamentally disagree with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health. It is a promising step that Mello now shares the Democratic Party’s position on women’s fundamental rights. Every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same, because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.”

19 Apr

OICA CEO Joe Dorman Suspending Young Children from School Would be Disastrous for Them and Society

Suspending Young Children from School Would be Disastrous for Them and Society

By OICA CEO Joe Dorman

With a $900 million budget shortfall dominating this year’s legislative session, many lawmakers are looking to balance the budget by cutting government spending. As advocates for children, our job at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is to shield Oklahoma’s youngest and most vulnerable residents from any “cost-cutting” measures that would adversely impact them and, in some cases, negatively change the trajectory of their entire lives.
One of those measures is Senate Bill 81, which seeks to lower the grade level at which a student can be suspended from school. Currently, out-of-school suspension is permissible only at the sixth grade level and above. SB 81 would allow children as early as third grade (only 8 or 9 years old) to be suspended. In addition, the bill would reduce the requirements for counseling programs available to these children, who are the ones who need it the most.
If you’re pinching pennies, this bill helps save money by kicking young kids out of class, reducing their services, and getting the state off the hook for paying to educate and counsel them.

If, however, you are trying to educate a generation of children to become productive adults, it undermines that goal in almost every way. In fact, in the long term, it will probably also cost the state more money, fueling the “school to prison pipeline,” as children who can’t make it in school turn to antisocial behavior and crime. It will also negatively impact children with special needs and children of color.

Senate Bill 81 allows children to be suspended from school and sent home for up to two semesters at a pivotal time in their education, when they need to be learning foundational skills that will have lifelong importance. The third grade has been documented as a critical school year for a child’s academic success or failure. This is the year children are required to pass the state-mandated reading proficiency test. If the test is not passed, a student is required to repeat the third grade. Suspending a child during or right before this critical year vastly undermines their chances to develop the skills they need to pass this test.

Furthermore, children forced out of school for disruptive behavior may be sent back to the source of their stress, trauma, and unhappiness. Children who act out are often reacting to negative influences in their home environment. Stigmatized and failing academically, these children are far less likely to graduate high school, and high school dropouts are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. Oklahoma voters just passed sweeping criminal justice reforms at the ballot box; this bill is likely to undermine the success of those changes.

Students with disabilities also have a lot to lose. These students are twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension as non-disabled students, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education. Children most vulnerable to suspension, those who act out and misbehave in class, often have learning disabilities and emotional or mental health needs. The only way to help these students prepare for an independent life is to provide them opportunities through education.

There ARE solutions to early behavioral issues that help children; suspension isn’t one of them. Please share that message with your legislator and ask them to vote “no” on SB 81.

19 Apr

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.


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

18 Apr

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.


17 Apr

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.