09 Feb

Holt Abandons Oklahoma Teachers for Rubio

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[Oklahoma City, OK, February 9, 2016] In the midst of a billion dollar budget failure, discussions of a $900 million sales tax increase, teacher pay raises, and a host of other major policy agendas, Senator David Holt (R-OKC) has taken a vacation to campaign for presidential candidate Marco Rubio in New Hampshire.

“We find it really hard to believe that during this perilous time in Oklahoma, and at the start of the short four month legislative session in which the Senate has just three weeks to report the first round of bills from committee, that Senator Holt feels he has enough free time to go on the road campaigning for another candidate,” said Sarah Baker, Communications Director for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

Baker continued, “Not to mention, the candidate he’s chosen continues to trail behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Why does campaigning for a third-place candidate rank higher in priority than doing the business which he was elected to do and is paid for by Oklahoma? It appears that when you run unopposed in your last election that you can do whatever you want no matter the responsibilities you have at home.”

This year, Holt introduced a complicated six-piece proposal for teacher pay raises without tax increases which includes two items that must go to the voters and the other four elements have to make it through the legislature. “If Senator Holt is really taking this proposal seriously, it seems incredibly unwise for him to leave at a time that is so crucial to getting his bills past the first legislative deadline just 12 working days away,” Baker stated. “I can’t imagine that if he is truly taking his proposal seriously that he’d up and leave to campaign for Marco Rubio in another state.”

Every year since his election in 2010, Holt has introduced various pieces legislation to introduce new tax cuts. He has been a staunch supporter of charter schools, education savings accounts (ESAs), and school vouchers. Just this year Holt has introduced 33 bills; numerous pieces cover teacher pay, criminal justice reform, and even some affecting Oklahoma elections. Holt sits on Appropriations, General Government, Judiciary, and Public Safety committees and is the Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Select Agencies.


08 Feb

We Should All Be Mary Fallin’s Friend

Mary_Fallin[Oklahoma City, OK, February 8, 2016] If you are Mary Fallin’s friend, your job is likely safe and you may even get a pay raise. Even if you are not personally friends with her, as long as your boss or employer is in her favor, everything is probably golden for you in the immediate future. Unfortunately, it seems that Oklahoma students and teachers aren’t friends of the Governor.

Mary Fallin’s habit of putting the needs of her friends, family, and campaign contributors before the needs of millions of Oklahomans has a long history. Whether it is exempting positions and doling out salary increases during a hiring and salary freeze, allowing her daughter and friends to mooch off of taxpayer property, or giving millions in tax breaks to her biggest corporate donors, Mary Fallin clearly cares very little about the trainwreck she’s made of Oklahoma.

The words from Fallin’s State of the State Address are just that. It is unlikely to see teacher pay raises this year – despite numerous bills to address it – as Oklahoma’s budget crisis continues to grow. The amount of push-back Fallin is currently experiencing on pushing a $900 million sales tax increase to counteract her disastrous income tax cut is evidence that even her own party can’t get on the same page with her office or her goals. Mary Fallin is unwilling to make the hard decisions – like selling her plane – that would prioritize the needs of Oklahoma over her own desires and those of her cronies.

It is safe to say that in the coming months whatever you may hear from either Mary Fallin or her office are simply words with no substance or basis in reality.


08 Jan

Oklahoma Education Cuts: The Deplorable Results of Republican Leadership

“Deplorable is the only word that comes to mind after yesterday’s announcement from the State Superintendent that a $47 million cut will eliminate programs in our public school systems,” said Sarah Baker, Communications Director of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. “While we are having debates over earthquakes, executions, and more tax breaks for billionaires, we are starving our children of a quality education. Oklahoma ranks at or near the bottom of every marker for public education. And just when you think the only way to go is up, the legislature and their irresponsible and reckless decisions have forced the elimination of funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and other ‘education initiatives,’ and slashed as much as 50-percent of teacher training programs and staff development. And although the Oklahoma Republican Party, just earlier this year, criticized SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) recipients, they have quite literally just taken food out of the mouths of children through a reduction of school lunch matching funds which address the hunger of thousands of children across Oklahoma who depend on school meals for most or all of their nutritional needs.”

In addition to the numerous cuts that students and teachers will be hit with in the middle of a school year, the prospect of closing or consolidation of entire school districts is a likely future step, sooner rather than later. Rural school districts will face hard decisions in the coming months unless the legislature and Governor decide to act. The Republican legislature fails to make public education a priority at every turn, and we expect them to act no differently this time. In some cases, larger urban school districts have minimal reserve funds to access, but those funds have been dwindling for years and with no relief in sight, could be dried up by the start of the 2016-2017 school year, only eight short months away.

Republicans have controlled the entire system in Oklahoma – from both houses of the State Legislature, to all statewide offices, all the way to the Governor’s office – for six years, and the contemptible conditions of our public schools rests squarely on their shoulders. Oklahoma Republicans have continued to show their lack of concern for Oklahoma’s children, middle class, seniors, and veterans through their quixotic legislative actions to give tax cuts in the middle of one of the worst budget failures Oklahoma has seen. No doubt the same Republican leaders, who pushed though damaging pieces of legislation over the past six years, which have led us to where we are today, will remain unrelenting for the next five months, unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.

Baker went on to say, “In an election year like 2016, candidates will be talking about how they ‘value’ public education, but we have a solid track record for a majority of the legislature that tells parents otherwise. The argument for ‘school choice’ becomes a lot easier for Republicans when they starve public schools of funds and resources, forcing parents to consider long commutes and expensive options because their State Senator or State Representative has refused to take action and properly fund schools in their own districts. This is manipulation at its finest, and Oklahoma is losing.”

07 Jan

The Magnitude of Failed Leadership: Speaker Silent While State Shakes

Oklahoma has experienced 24 earthquakes in the last day with a magnitude of 2.5 or greater; two in Alva over night, three in Edmond, and 19 in Fairview including a 4.7 and 4.8 that were less than one minute apart. The latest earthquake hit Fairview around 10:45 a.m. this morning with a magnitude of 2.6. This is not the first time Fairview has experienced significant earthquakes – in November 2015 they experienced a series of earthquakes including a 4.3 magnitude on November 15th.

In November, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) put forth an advisory that the wells within 3-6 miles of the epicenter of the November 15th earthquake reduce their volume by 25 percent, and wells within 6-10 miles cease operation and reduce depth. Unlike the plan set forth earlier this week in response to the recent Edmond earthquakes, there was no timeline for implementation listed and we are unable to verify at this time whether the suggested action for the Fairview wells has actually been taken. In contrast, no action has been taken or suggested to date in response to any seismic activity in the Alva area which hosts a large number of disposal wells in the vicinity.

Fairview and Alva both lie within Oklahoma House District 58, currently represented by none other than Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman. During the 2015 legislative session Speaker Hickman introduced two bills – HB 2178 and SB 809 – that tied the hands of local municipalities to have control over fracking activity in their areas. HB 2178 passed the House on a party-line vote but was never introduced in the Senate.

SB 809 however, passed the through the legislature – again on a party-line vote in both the House and Senate – and was subsequently signed by the Governor on May 29, 2015. The most concerning aspect of this bill is that localities “may not effectively prohibit or ban any oil and gas operations, including oil and gas exploration, drilling, fracture stimulation, completion, production, maintenance, plugging and abandonment, produced water disposal, secondary recovery operations, flow and gathering lines or pipeline infrastructure. All other regulations of oil and gas operations shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Corporation Commission.”

Russell Griffin, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Democratic Party added, “Speaker Hickman has been silent through all of the recent seismic activity in his district and it is time for him to step up, take responsibility, and take action. Furthermore, it is time that Speaker Hickman admits the legislation he so vehemently fought for last year was wrong for Oklahoma, wrong for the people in his own district, and fractures the foundation of what we consider local control.”

05 Jan

Pruitt Request for Third-Party Audit is Shameful and Irresponsible

Whether it’s a feeble attempt by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to sue over another state’s ability to enact its own laws (Colorado), the blatant attempt at a cover-up after a botched execution (Clayton Lockett), or burning through state money in numerous unsuccessful lawsuits dealing with such pressing issues like keeping a slab of marble on the Capitol grounds, it’s obvious to the people of Oklahoma that Pruitt is not truly concerned with his responsibility to protect Oklahoma’s interest.

Now Pruitt’s office wants to refuse to allow Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones – an elected representative of the people and a member of the same political party – the access and ability to perform an audit of the Attorney General’s office over hurt feelings from statements Jones made in a previous news article. Jones, a Republican, continues to be the seemingly only voice of reason in Oklahoma Republican leadership by calling out the ridiculousness of the legislature’s inability to manage a budget and create revenue streams and the irresponsibility of actions of various state agencies – namely the Attorney General’s office – to make fiscally responsible decisions when Oklahoma is facing one of the worst budget crises ever.

Time and again we see news of Pruitt’s ethical violations, obvious cover-ups, and lopsided arguments that not only benefit special interest groups and wealthy campaign or Super PAC (political action committee) donors, but also are detrimental and wholly irresponsible to the people of Oklahoma. The disappointment sets in when evidence and coverage of these deplorable and irresponsible actions are drowned out by political rhetoric from the entirety of the Oklahoma Republican Party in an effort to create as much distraction – even if purely by accident and idiocy – as possible so that their constituents can’t see the source of the fire for all of the smoke.

“Scott Pruitt has proven time and time again he can’t be trusted as a good steward of taxpayer funds. He wants to outsource a job to a third-party that could very likely be partisan-based or benefit one of his campaign contributors or contributors of his PAC or Super PAC instead of allowing the State Auditor and Inspector, the chief financial officer of the State of Oklahoma, to do the job he was elected by the people to do. This shows a complete lack of respect for ethics and accountability in elected office and a lack of responsibility for taxpayer dollars especially during a revenue crisis. We say shame on the Attorney General’s office for even suggesting such an outlandish proposal,” stated Russell Griffin, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office has not undergone a comprehensive audit since 2009 and we can only begin to speculate what Pruitt is afraid Jones might find once the books are opened.


Read Oklahoman article: Oklahoma attorney general seeks to select own independent auditor (January 4, 2016)