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10 May
0

Two State Representatives Concerned About DOC Plan To Send Work Release Inmates to State Prison

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is reneging on contracts it negotiated with at least two Oklahoma communities to provide facilities and funds to establish inmate work release centers, two state Representatives charged Monday.

The state Board of Corrections voted May 5 to approve a plan by interim Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh to close the agency’s 15 work centers across the state and transfer those 1,171 inmates to the State Reformatory at Granite. The 114-year-old reformatory will become a minimum-security institution, Corrections Department Communications Director Terri Watkins said.

In turn, the 1,183 medium-security inmates housed at Granite will be moved to a privately owned prison at Sayre. The department plans to rent the North Fork Correctional Facility from Corrections Corporation of America for five years, starting in June. The contract allows the state to rent the 18-year-old facility for free for the first 18 months; the next three and a half years will cost the state $37.5 million. North Fork was closed last year after California removed its inmates from the facility.

State Rep. Johnny Tadlock, D-Idabel, has requested a meeting with Allbaugh to discuss the pending changes.

The Corrections Department inked a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the City of Idabel and the Idabel Industrial Authority, concerning a community work center in Idabel, on 25 May 2011. Records indicate the Oklahoma National Guard turned over its armory in Idabel to the City of Idabel for use as an inmate residential and work center.

The McCurtain County Community Trust contributed $100,000 for renovations to the armory. The City of Idabel donated the converted building to the Corrections Department for use as a community work center. A quit claim deed on the building, which was filed with the McCurtain County Clerk on 5 March 2014, provides that title to the building reverts to the city should it “cease to be used” by the state agency.

Watkins said all 15 work release centers are operated under contracts that expire on June 30 each year.

The Idabel work release center houses 90 state convicts, some of whom are employed by the city and the county in areas such as sanitation, maintenance of the county fairgrounds, and trash collection, Tadlock related. The offenders are paid $27 per month, Watkins indicated.

“I realize that it’s not up to the state to provide jobs,” said Tadlock, the former sheriff of McCurtain County. “But our community has invested time and money and a donated building for this program. Will Corrections reimburse us for that $100,000?”

In addition, “The only way local residents who are employed at our work release center could keep their jobs would be to move to Sayre or Granite,” Tadlock continued. “Yet they have ties to our community. Idabel and McCurtain County have had an expectation that this work release center would remain in operation.”

Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, concurred. His district includes the Earl A. Davis Work Center at Holdenville. It houses 69 inmates, some of whom work for the City of Holdenville and some who work for Hughes County.

“Why is Corrections pulling inmates out of these work release centers, when state prisons are at 122% of their design capacity?” Kouplen wondered.

The Idabel work center costs $1,028,000 to operate for one year, and the Holdenville center costs $1.1 million annually to operate, ledgers reflect. “That doesn’t include medical expenses,” Watkins added.

The annual operating cost for all 15 work centers, including medical, is $17.7 million, Watkins said. The average cost per inmate housed at a work release center is about $42.35 per day, compared to an average daily cost of $41.75 per day for a minimum-security prison, the Corrections Department claims.

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives

19 Apr
0

Father of Rep. Morrissette Dies After Lengthy Illness

State Rep. Richard Morrissette, left, during the celebration of the 93rd birthday of his father, Robert Joseph Morrissette, right.

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 19, 2016) – Robert Joseph Morrissette, the father of state Rep. Richard Morrissette of Oklahoma City, died peacefully in his sleep today at his home in Somersworth, N.H., after a lengthy illness.
“I was with him on March 13 when he celebrated his 93rd birthday,” Representative Morrissette said. “I knew no other home while growing up, other than our small wood-frame house where my family of six lived,” he added.

“Dad was a child of the Great Depression, and was an FDR Democrat his entire adult life,” Representative Morrissette said.

The elder Morrissette fought with Gen. George Patton’s Third Army during World War II. Corporal Morrissette earned several campaign ribbons, including the European Theater of Operations ribbon. “Twenty years ago my family and I attempted to have Dad revisit France, including the D-day landing areas, but he emphatically refused to go back,” Representative Morrissette said.

Mr. Morrissette worked at the naval shipyard in Portsmouth, N.H., for 40 years. There, along with his co-workers, he helped build nuclear attack submarines during the Cold War between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. “He almost became a Catholic priest – but didn’t,” Representative Morrissette recalled.

The elder Morrissette was an avid drummer who taught himself how to play the drums at an early age. “During my childhood Dad earned a second living playing in several bands, working in places such as VFW halls, Eagle Foundations and other events to earn extra income for his family,” Representative Morrissette said.

Mr. Morrissette was married to the same woman, Teresa Marie Morrissette, for 49 years, until her death in 2001. “Dad lived by himself for the last 15 years since the passing of my mother,” Representative Morrissette said.

The couple had four children: sons David, Richard, and James Morrissette, and daughter Denise Marie (Morrissette) Daigle. Mr. Morrissette also is survived by four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, one most recently born on March 6, 2013.

Mr. Morrissette was bilingual, fluent in French as well as English. “He tried to teach me French, but it just didn’t take,” Representative Morrissette said with a chuckle.
Funeral mass arrangements are pending.

18 Apr
0

“Open Carry” by Untrained Gun-Toters is Scary

By Dr. George E Young Sr
State Representative, House District 99

I am aware of a degradation of not only civil discourse, but also in how we as a people are beginning to place a lower value on human life and personal respect. It is quite evident that we have moved to a point that it is OK, judging by the rhetoric, to say ugly things to each other publicly and to even promote violence toward those with whom we have a difference of opinion.

I don’t agree with this change, but do not think it is as rampant as news coverage would lead us to believe. However, what does cause me concern is a piece of legislation considered in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

A bill debated recently would allow the citizens of Oklahoma to openly carry a weapon of their choice – and there would be no requirement for them to be trained or familiar with the operation of that weapon.

I am all for anyone legally owning a weapon and keeping it in their home for protection, and going through training to be qualified to openly carry a firearm. The example the sponsor of the legislation put forth was Vermont. Our problems in Oklahoma are different from those in Vermont. We are no worse than citizens of Vermont but we are different.

I am afraid that individuals with Victim Protection Orders would be able to carry weapons to terrorize those who have sought protection from such individuals. I am also just plain frightened that if I were to laugh too loud, talk too loud or walk too fast, someone would shoot me simply because they have the means to do so. I am saddened by where we as leaders are going.

And if that were not enough, the debate on this bill was supported by misquoting and misrepresenting Scripture. I have two passages that were not quoted on the House floor, but I would like to give them now: John 13: 34-35 and John 15:12.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

“This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you”

Try these on for size before you load your gun and buckle your holster.

14 Apr
0

Governor Sheds Crocodile Tears Over State Budget

With just six weeks left in the 2015 legislative session, Governor Mary Fallin introduced her “Executive Budget 2.0” this week to the House and Senate. The legislature has failed to discuss any proposals or options as of yet to address the $1.3 billion budget hole which Governor Fallin, Speaker Hickman, and Secretary Doerflinger have created through inaction and a palpable desire to appease their friends and campaign contributors.

Not only has the Governor proposed a second set of budget “options” to the legislature after her first set of suggestions were rejected and ignored by legislators in her own party as unsustainable or outlandish, but she waited to hold a press conference at the same time as more than 30 educators were joining together at the Capitol to file for office and talk about Republicans’ disastrous public education policy.

“It was rather opportunistic for the Governor to hold a press conference, drawing media away from these candidates and their message, while she and her Republican leadership continues to get raked over the coals for the very issues that brought these teachers to file for legislative office in the first place. Her talk about supporting public education, teacher pay raises, and even the woes of shrinking access to rural healthcare, is a mockery of what is really going on within the Executive and Legislative branches of our state government,” said Sarah Baker, Communications Director for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

“Nothing good has come from her leadership or that of the Republican legislature. It is troublesome to watch her stand in front of a room full of people and talk about “tough decisions” and “tightening our belts.” If we tighten the belt anymore, we’re going to lose our bottom half. Oklahoma Republicans, especially the Governor, continues to blame everyone else for what’s happening as they sit idly by, reciting tired talking points and failed rhetoric. There is nothing of substance coming from the Governor and the legislature knows this – even members of her own party.

“The Governor suddenly seems concerned with the crisis of public education and rural healthcare. Where was this outrage when more than 20,000 parents and educators showed up on the Capitol steps two years ago? Where was this outrage when leaders in her party chose to cut funding to education when oil was going for more than $100 a barrel? This fake outrage from Mary Fallin is timed perfectly to coincide with the fact that Democrats and educators are flocking to the Capitol to put their name on a ballot in hopes of shutting down the circus which has become our state government. The Governor’s crocodile tears over four-day school weeks and closing nursing homes are nothing more than a political ploy in an attempt to fool voters into thinking that Republicans, in an election year, care about the rest of us.

“Fallin isn’t worried about giving teacher pay raises or properly funding education. We know this because she, along with her entire party, continue to tell Oklahomans that educators are “whiney” and just keep asking for more. They give themselves a big pat on the back for flat funding proposals despite growing populations, then suggest that communities, and now even the state, borrow their way out of financial ruin – a plan which we can all agree is a horrible idea. And we hate to break it to the Governor, but it’s time she stop comparing managing a state with more than 3.8 million people to that of managing a household budget – this isn’t like giving up cable television and it’s time Republicans stop making that comparison. Instead, the Republicans insistence on extending corporate tax breaks and pushing through tax cuts in a budget shortfall is akin to quitting your job and blaming everyone else for not being able to pay your mortgage. This is about people’s lives and the future of Oklahoma and Governor Fallin has squandered it all away.

“We have news for Governor Fallin, Speaker Hickman, and the rest of the Republican ‘leadership’: Oklahomans are tired of your lunacy and Democrats are running for office to make necessary changes and put Oklahoma back on track.”

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24 Mar
0

GOP Legislature’s Maladroit Management of State Budget Continues to Punish Public Education

[Oklahoma City, OK, March 24, 2016] House and Senate Democrats recently won a key victory for students by pressuring Governor Fallin to allocate state funds to alleviate Oklahoma’s school budget crisis. Governor Fallin initially opposed the measure but, following the leadership of House Democratic Leader Scott Inman, agreed to release $51 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to fund public education. While a welcome move, the amount released is less than the amount requested by the Oklahoma State Superintendent [1] and is a mere one-third of the revenue that will be lost annually from January’s cut to Oklahoma’s top rate of individual income tax. [2]

Given the funding crisis, the disastrous budgetary effects of GOP education proposals are more important than ever.

Oklahoma GOP leaders recently delayed bills relating to Education Savings Accounts, which would create a voucher system diverting state funds to private schools. Oklahoma’s teachers and students argue that there would be no accountability for any inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars, and that funds would be better utilized in the under-funded public schools attended by ninety percent of Oklahoma’s students. The State Education Department estimates that Education Saving Accounts would cost the department $1.5 million and, if three percent of eligible students participate, would cost local districts $68.9 million [3], an astonishing sum for a program benefiting so few students. Rather than delay these wasteful proposals, Republicans should listen to Oklahoma’s teachers and students and abandon them entirely.

Following the delay of Education Savings Accounts, Republicans are now focused on their “Humanity of the Unborn Child Act,” HB2797, which would force Oklahoma’s public high schools to teach that “abortion kills a living human being and is against public policy”. As Oklahoma does not currently require any sex education in its schools, this extremist “humanity of the unborn” syllabus could be the only sex education that some Oklahoma students receive, and would waste teaching hours at a time when the possibility of a four-day school week has not been averted. Thankfully, the bill has been postponed after a fiscal impact statement prepared by Oklahoma’s Department of Education estimated that the policy would cost approximately $5 million. [4] The bill’s GOP senate sponsor claims that the bill can be amended to eliminate any fiscal impact, though this will obviously be impossible unless the bill is abandoned entirely.

GOP support for this new educational mandate is at odds with their recent efforts to deregulate schools with SB1187, the “School District Empowerment Act,” which would remove public schools’ obligations to have certified teachers and pay teachers the state minimum salary, while also relaxing background check requirements. The bill, which has already passed the Senate, helps Republicans avoid funding Oklahoma schools by allowing children to be taught by an untrained, uncertified or grossly underpaid teacher, placing the future of Oklahoma’s already-suffering students in further jeopardy.

As ever, Republicans face a choice between helping Oklahoma’s children, or appeasing their donors and extremist base. Ahead of the November elections, Oklahoma’s parents should watch carefully which side their GOP representatives choose.

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Citations:
Hofmeister asks Fallin for $56 million in supplemental funding. NewsOK.com, 4 Mar. 2016. http://newsok.com/article/5482874
Panel agress to delay income tax cut despite objections by state leaders. News Channel 4, 23 Feb. 2016. http://kfor.com/2016/02/23/panel-agrees-to-delay-income-tax-cut-despite-objections-by-state-leaders/
Oklahoma lawmakers abandon school voucher plan. NewsOK.com, 10 Mar. 2016. http://newsok.com/article/5484142
Costs may scuttle Oklahoma anti-abortion curriculum bill. CNSNews.com, 19 Mar. 2016. http://cnsnews.com/news/article/costs-may-scuttle-oklahoma-anti-abortion-curriculum-bill