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06 Mar
0

House Republicans vote to redirect federal money from hungry Oklahoma families

State of Oklahoma

House of Representatives

 

March 6, 2013

For immediate release

Contact: MaryAnn Martin, Ph.D.

(405) 962-7819

 

House Republicans vote to redirect federal money from hungry Oklahoma families

 

OKLAHOMA CITY- House Republicans voted today to redirect federal money used by Oklahomans who have fallen on hard times for food and bare necessities in order to make television commercials and radio spots.

While House Democrats argued that starving the needy is not a pro-family initiative, House Republicans were steadfast in the belief that HB 1909, which would redirect federal money from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program to create public service announcements, somehow helped hungry Oklahomans feed their families.

“A television commercial doesn’t pay the bills,” said Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah. “House Republicans seem to think it’s more important to take temporary assistance away from needy families in our state to suit their political agenda. They seem to think the poor in our state and those that have fallen on hard times don’t have families. But does that matter when you’re trying to feed your household? It is unimaginable that we let anyone go hungry to pay for an ad on T.V. that even the Republicans referred to today as ‘background noise’.”

In their weekly media availability, House Democrats will be addressing HB 1909 and other attacks on the working class and vulnerable communities this legislative session.

The House Democrats’ weekly media availability is on Thursday, March 7th media availability at noon in Room 432B on thefourth floor of the Oklahoma State Capitol.

 

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05 Mar
0

House Votes to Protect Students From Severe Allergy Attacks

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Media Division

March 5, 2013

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact: State Rep. Will Fourkiller

Capitol: (405) 557-7394

 

House Votes to Protect Students From Severe Allergy Attacks

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Severe allergy reactions can quickly end a life, according to the author of a House bill approved today by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 2101, by state Rep. Will Fourkiller, would allow school nurses to administer an epinephrine shot to students having a severe allergic reaction.

“This legislation could save a life,” said Fourkiller, D-Stilwell. “Anyone who has ever known someone with a severe allergy knows how important it is for them to be treated before they go into anaphylactic shock. There are young people out there who may not know everything they are allergic to and we need to have something on hand in schools to address a severe allergic reaction.”

House Bill 2101 was approved by a vote of 73-18 and now advances to the state Senate.

 

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05 Mar
0

Oklahoma Women’s History Heroes: Col. Katherine Scheirman

Katherine Scheirman

Colonel Katherine Scheirman, USAF (Ret.), MD, MHA, FACPE, spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, attaining the rank of Colonel. Her last assignment was as Chief of Medical Operations for U.S. Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein Air Base, Germany during the height of the Iraq War. During this assignment, she oversaw more than 700 medical personnel and 11 junior chiefs of medical staff, and was responsible for medical operations for 10 hospitals and clinics, an Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, and an Air Force squadron at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

During her career, Dr. Scheirman served as Chief of Medical Operations at Headquarters, Air Education and Training Command, as Chief of Medical Staff at Yokota AB, Japan and at Tinker Air Force Base hospital from 1994 to 1997. While at Tinker, Dr. Scheirman coordinated the military medical response to the bombing of the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building. She also served as Commander of the Air Force hospital at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, and as a squadron flight surgeon for the U-2s at RAF Alconbury, England. She led medical teams to El Salvador and the Ukraine, and provided medical support to the NASA Space Shuttle program in Africa.

Since she retired in 2006, Dr. Scheirman has been an advocate for veterans, active military members and their families, and for healthcare reform. She is the Oklahoma State Director for Doctors for America. She currently serves as chair of the Council of Fellows of the American College of Physician Executives, is a senior advisor to VoteVets.org, and is treasurer of the Oklahoma Democratic Party Veterans Committee. She worked with the ACLU to pass the Shaheen amendment to the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which provides military women the same coverage for abortion in cases of rape and incest as all other Federal employees, Medicaid recipients and prison inmates.

After growing up in Oklahoma and Texas, Dr. Scheirman earned her BA from Michigan State University, her MD from the University of Oklahoma, and her MHA from Baylor University. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Management.

04 Mar
0

Rep. Pittman Returns Unsolicited Tobacco Money

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Media Division

March 4, 2013

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact: State Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman

Office: (405) 557-7393

 

Rep. Pittman Returns Unsolicited Tobacco Money

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman announced today that she is returning campaign money received from a major tobacco company and is “respectfully” encouraging other Oklahoma lawmakers to take the same action.

The Altria Group Inc. political action committee made an unsolicited $250 contribution to Pittman’s 2012 election campaign, she said. The Altria Group, previously known as Philip Morris, is the largest tobacco company in the United States. Reynolds American Inc., the second-largest tobacco company in the United States, also operates a political action committee in Oklahoma.

“With all due respect to my esteemed colleagues, we need to recognize tobacco company money given to our campaigns for what it really is – blood money,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “Tobacco companies survive by addicting young people to deadly products. For decades, they’ve targeted our minority communities with intense advertising. They have even been convicted as racketeers.”

Pittman said in light of the state Senate’s recent vote against Senate Bill 36 to allow cities and towns to enact local tobacco policies, she will be joining the governor in promoting an initiative petition to put the question to a vote of the people.

The petition would require 82,782 signatures for a statutory change and 155,216 signatures for a constitutional change.

Pittman said she wants to help lead the charge in collecting signatures throughout Oklahoma County and wants residents to be prepared to sign onto the petition if they want to improve the long-term benefits that the initiative would have.

In 2006, a federal district court ruled the major cigarette manufacturers were guilty of fraud and racketeering under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The conviction was upheld unanimously in appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected further appeal without comment. The court found that, for more than 50 years, the tobacco industry “lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as ‘replacement smokers,’ about the devastating effects of smoking. They suppressed research, they destroyed documents, they manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction, they distorted the truth … so as to discourage smokers from quitting.”

“Like Governor Fallin’s family, my family has experienced the ravages of tobacco addiction,” Pittman said. “My mother smoked when she was pregnant with me. I was born with black lungs and was not expected to live three days. When I survived, my father named me Anastasia, or ‘resurrection’ in early Christian Greek. Several members of my family suffer from asthma.”

Pittman also announced that she would no longer accept campaign contributions, meals or other gifts from any tobacco company political action committee or from any individual registered as a lobbyist for a tobacco company or tobacco trade association.

“This is a corrupt industry,” said Pittman. “It has caused untold suffering and the early deaths of many thousands of our beloved Oklahomans. We should treat it appropriately. Children are suffering from early addicitions because of the actions of tobacco companies.”

“The RICO verdict found that their wrongdoing is ongoing,” said Doug Matheny, former director of tobacco prevention at the state health department. “It’s against Oklahoma values for lawmakers to accept contributions and gifts from the tobacco industry. Representative Pittman’s leadership is courageous and inspiring.”

Matheny has developed the website tobaccomoney.com to track campaign contributions, meals and other gifts distributed by registered tobacco lobbyists in Oklahoma.

Internal tobacco industry documents reveal that tobacco companies have overpaid lobbyists to enable them to make substantial campaign contributions in their own names. Oklahoma Ethics Commission records andtobaccomoney.com indicate that, since 2006, tobacco lobbyists have distributed a total of $229,871 in contributions and gifts to Oklahoma state legislators now in office. This includes $55,900 in tobacco company PAC funds. Also since 2006, tobacco lobbyists have distributed a total of $54,575 to various statewide legislative election committees.

Oklahoma’s tobacco settlement marked the state taking a stand against smoking, Pittman said.

“We are currently working to reduce smoking,” Pittman said. “We won money to address smoking. It is hard for me to believe that the Senate would choose to ignore a cost-free change to reduce second-hand smoke by giving cities and towns local control to decide if they want local ordinances to address smoking in business establishments.”

Pittman also wanted to remind people that certain state laws are not properly enforced.

“Giving cities the authority to set ordinances means they will figure out what works best for them, enforcement-wise,” Pittman said.

 

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26 Feb
0

Oklahoma Black History Heroes: Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Portrait


Ada Lois Sipuel was born February 8, 1924, in Chickasha, Oklahoma. An excellent student, she graduated from Lincoln High School in 1941 as valedictorian. Initially, she enrolled in Arkansas A&M College at Pine Bluff. After one year she transferred to Langston University in September 1942, where she majored in English and dreamed of being a lawyer. On March 3, 1944, she married Warren Fisher. On May 21, 1945, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher graduated from Langston University with honors. Her brother planned to challenge segregationist policies of the University of Oklahoma, but went to Howard University Law School to not delay his career further by protracted litigation. Sipuel was willing to delay her legal career in order to challenge segregation.

At the urging of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), twenty-one-year-old Fisher agreed to seek admission to the University of Oklahoma’s law school in order to challenge Oklahoma’s segregation laws and achieve her lifelong ambition of becoming a lawyer. On January 14, 1946, she applied for admission to the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

After reviewing Fisher’s credentials, the university’s president, Dr. George Lynn Cross, advised her that there was no academic reason to reject her application for admission, but that Oklahoma statutes prohibited whites and blacks from attending classes together. The laws also made it a misdemeanor to instruct or attend classes comprised of mixed races. Dr. Cross would have been fined up to fifty dollars a day, and the white students who attended class with her would have been fined up to twenty dollars a day.

On April 6, 1946, with the support of civic leaders from across the state, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher filed a lawsuit in the Cleveland County District Court, prompting a three-year legal battle. A young attorney, Thurgood Marshall, later a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, represented Fisher. She lost her case in the county district court and appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which sustained the ruling of the lower court, finding that the state’s policy of segregating whites and blacks in education did not violate the federal constitution.

After an unfavorable ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Fisher filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. On January 12, 1948, the nation’s highest tribunal ruled in Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma that Oklahoma must provide Fisher with the same opportunities for securing a legal education as it provided to other citizens of Oklahoma. The case was remanded to the Cleveland County District Court, to carry out the ruling.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in her favor, the Oklahoma Legislature, rather than admit Fisher to the Oklahoma University law school or close the law school to students both black and white, decided to create a separate law school exclusively for her to attend. The new school, named Langston University School of Law, was thrown together in five days and was set up in the State Capitol’s Senate rooms.

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher refused to attend Langston University School of Law, and on March 15, 1948, her lawyers filed a motion in the Cleveland County District Court contending that Langston’s law school did not afford the advantages of a legal education to blacks substantially equal to the education whites received at OU’s law school. This inequality, they argued, entitled Fisher to be admitted to the University of Oklahoma College of Law. However, the Cleveland court ruled against her, finding that the two state law schools were “equal.” The Oklahoma Supreme Court, predictably, upheld the finding.

After this second adverse ruling, Fisher’s lawyers announced their intention to again appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Oklahoma Attorney General Mac Q. Williamson declined to return to Washington, D.C., and face the same nine Supreme Court justices in order to argue that Langston’s law school was equal to OU’s law school. As a result of this concession, on June 18, 1949, more than three years after Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher first applied for admission to the University of Oklahoma College of Law, she was admitted. Langston University’s law school closed twelve days later.

Although Fisher was generally welcomed by her white classmates, she was forced to sit in the back of the room behind a row of empty seats and a wooden railing with a sign designated “colored.” All black students enrolled at the University of Oklahoma were provided separate eating facilities and restrooms, separate reading sections in the library, and roped-off stadium seats at the football games. These conditions persisted through 1950.

However, the end of segregation in higher education had already begun. In 1948 a group of six black Oklahomans applied to University of Oklahoma’s graduate schools in disciplines ranging from zoology to social work. All were denied admission under the same statute that denied admission to Fisher. Thurgood Marshall selected one of the six students, George W. McLaurin, to present yet another challenge to segregation in higher education. In a June 5, 1950, U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, the Court ruled that the restrictions of segregation imposed on McLaurin at OU impaired and inhibited his ability to study. The decision meant that blacks could no longer be segregated at OU and could now be admitted to graduate schools at all state-supported colleges and universities in the nation. The state soon realized that it could not create separate graduate programs for blacks similar to the sham law school it had quickly invented for Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher.

In August 1952 Fisher graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She earned a master’s degree in history from the University of Oklahoma in 1968. After briefly practicing law in Chickasha, Fisher joined the faculty of Langston University in 1957 where she served as chair of the Department of Social Sciences. She retired in December 1987 as assistant vice president for academic affairs. In 1991 the University of Oklahoma awarded Fisher an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

On April 22, 1992, Gov. David Walters symbolically righted the wrongs of the past by appointing Dr. Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher to the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, the same school that had once refused to admit her to its College of Law. As the governor said during the ceremony, it was a “completed cycle.” The lady who was once rejected by the university was now a member of its governing board.

On October 18, 1995, Dr. Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher died. In her honor the University of Oklahoma subsequently dedicated the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Garden on the Norman campus. At the bottom of a bronze plaque commemorating Fisher’s contribution to the state of Oklahoma, an inscription reads, “In Psalm 118, the psalmist speaks of how the stone that the builders once rejected becomes the cornerstone.”

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher

 

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