02 Apr

Legislation Targets the Scourge of Diabetes

Legislation Targets the Scourge of Diabetes

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the State Department of Health would be directed by Senate Bill 250 to collaborate on development of goals for reducing the incidence of diabetes in Oklahoma.

The measure received overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature. The House of Representatives passed the bill, 67-18, on Thursday, and the Senate approved it, 39-4, on March 5.

The bill was supported by 23 House Democrats. They included Reps. Will Fourkiller of Stilwell, Claudia Griffith of Norman and Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City, all of whom are members of the Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Health; Rep. Jeannie McDaniel of Tulsa, a member of the House Committee on Public Health who also co-authored the measure; and House Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Del City.

The goals suggested in SB 250 would include improvements in health care services and prevention services, better procedures to control complications, and statistics, including the financial impact of diabetes and the number of Oklahomans afflicted with the disease. According to the State Health Department:

  • More than 329,000 Oklahomans 18 and older were diagnosed with diabetes in 2012, according to the state Health Department.
  • Oklahoma ranked ninth in the nation in 2012 for the percentage of the adult population diagnosed with diabetes.
  • The percent of the adult population being diagnosed with diabetes has been growing at a faster rate in Oklahoma than in the nation.
  • Nearly one in every four senior citizens (65 years and older) in Oklahoma has been diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Oklahoma’s Native Americans have been diagnosed more frequently, and die from diabetes at the highest rate of any other race or ethnic group in this state. Diagnosis rates include American Indians, 16.4%; African Americans, 12.3%; Caucasians, 11.6%; multiracial individuals, 9.5%; and Hispanic, 7.6%.
  • Diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in the nation in 2010, but in Oklahoma it was the sixth-leading cause of death that year.
  • Hospital admissions with diabetes as a primary diagnosis numbered 7,007 in Oklahoma in 2012.
  • During the past decade, hospital admissions for diabetes increased 21%.
  • Oklahoma adults reported the sixth-highest percentage of obesity – a key risk factor for diabetes – in the nation in 2012. The national average was 28.1%; Oklahoma’s rate was 32.2%.
  • Besides the obese citizens, another 35.6% of Oklahoma’s adults reported they were overweight in 2012.
  • One-fourth of all Oklahoma adults did not participate in any leisure-time physical activity in 2012.
  • Adults with lower socioeconomic status reported higher percentages of obesity and less leisure-time physical activity.
  • Oklahoma ranks sixth in the nation for the percentage of adults who are obese, and eighth in the nation for the percentage of adults who forego physical activity.
  • The number of Oklahoma children aged 10-17 who were deemed overweight or obese in 2011-12, based on their body mass index, was estimated at almost 34%.





Media Director, Democratic Caucus

Oklahoma House of Representatives

(405) 962-7819 office

(405) 245-4411 mobile

31 Mar

Legislation Endorsed by House Panel Would Help Veterans, Improve Access to Rural Health Care, Update Dental Statutes

Legislation Endorsed by House Panel Would Help Veterans, Improve Access to Rural Health Care, Update Dental Statutes

OKLAHOMA CITY – A trio of measures to help military veterans, along with legislation to update Oklahoma’s dental statutes and to expand the ability of physician assistants to practice medicine in remote areas, were all endorsed Tuesday by the Democrat members of a state House panel.

The House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Health approved Senate Bills 366, 398, 713, 753 and 781 on unanimous votes. Reps. Claudia Griffith, D-Norman; Will Fourkiller, D-Stilwell; and Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, supported all five bills, which now advance for consideration by the full A&B committee.

  • SB 398 would establish a burial assistance program for indigent military veterans. An amendment the subcommittee adopted would broaden the program to cover the costs of cremation, too.

Shelton voted for the measure, declaring, We should honor our veterans responsibly.” However, the Oklahoma City Democrat said, “There’s already a mechanism” for burying indigent citizens. “It’s the county’s responsibility.”

The provisions of SB 398 might involve perhaps four funerals a year, but the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs has no precise estimate on the number of burials/cremations nor the projected cost, the subcommittee was told.

The bill received a “do pass” recommendation on a 9-0 subcommittee vote.

  • The state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services would be instructed by SB 713 to fund seven “peer-supported, drop-in” centers for military veterans. Each facility would cost an estimated $35,000 to $40,000.

SB 713 would erect “the framework” for establishing the centers and involves no funding.

A drop-in center is euphemistically called “a coffee bunker” and is “a place where veterans can talk, share their concerns, receive job placement and get substance abuse referral,” the subcommittee was informed. A drop-in center in Tulsa accommodates up to 300 veterans a week, the panel was told.

  • SB 366 would create a grant program to help disabled military veterans buy or remodel housing that would be considered “disabled friendly.”

The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs has $170,000 set aside to provide 170 eligible veterans with $1,000 grants each, ledgers reflect. The intent of SB 366, though, is to provide special housing grants of up to $5,000 per veteran “for the purpose of bearing the costs not borne by the federal government for a specifically designed home for disabled veterans.”

Raising the grant limit to $5,000 would cost an additional $680,000, which is highly unlikely this year since the Legislature is coping with a $611 million shortfall in the Fiscal Year 2015-16 budget.

  • SB 753 would increase the ability of physicians’ assistants to practice medicine in remote areas, by removing limitations of physical supervision. For example, it would allow a physician to provide supervision via telemedicine.
  • SB 781, which the subcommittee embraced unanimously, 9-0, would update the State Dental Act.



Media Director, Democratic Caucus

Oklahoma House of Representatives

(405) 962-7819 office

(405) 245-4411 mobile

31 Mar

Democrats Continue to Fight for Education

Democrats Continue to Fight for Education
Republicans Meet Off-Site During Rally Events

Rally Photo2[March 31, 2015 – OKLAHOMA CITY, OK] Yesterday, thousands of Oklahoma parents, teachers, students, and advocates gathered at the State Capitol to ask lawmakers to support public education. This year is critical because with a $611 million budget shortfall the Governor and legislators went on record early as expecting even further cuts to numerous state agencies, including public education. The Governor was not in attendance at the rally this year – same as last year. Republican legislators went so far as to hold their weekly caucus meeting off-site and later only 9 out of 112 were seen by the crowd of thousands on the Capitol steps; conversely all Democratic legislators were in attendance and engaged throughout the day.

One theme was more vital than any other from yesterday’s speakers: we cannot show up one day a year and ignore the other 364, especially the 110 days each spring while the legislature is in session. We must remember the actions of our legislators when it comes time at the ballot box, and most importantly we must exercise our right to vote and replace those that do not support us.

Wallace Collins, chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, pointed out that “the majority of parents and teachers are not plugged in to what is going on at the Capitol and how it impacts and devastates our public education system. Many have little to no interaction with their Representative or Senator and then are often misinformed or misled by politicians once they do talk with them – legislators like Senator Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) have a habit of distorting the truth, particularly on education. Democrats and fellow education advocates, cannot carry the responsibility of fighting for more than 680,000 students alone, not when the Republican party remains in the majority. We must hold Republicans accountable for their pattern of bad behavior. The fact is that the Republican party doesn’t not support public education nor have any respect for teachers in this state. It is up to the voters to make legislators answer for their bad voting record and then strip them of their job when the time comes.”

Students face overcrowded classrooms, districts are dealing with massive teacher shortages, and technology and classroom resources continue to be back-burner items for lack of funding. Then, last week it became blatantly obvious that lawmakers do not support teachers as they are now being stripped of their right to payroll deduct their union dues while over a hundred other payroll deductions will continue to be allowed.

After the busses got back on the highway and teachers and parents headed home to prepare for the next day of school, it was clear, if we keep voting based on social issues like abortion instead of supporting education and strong fiscal policies, then nothing will change but wondering how much worse it will get before Oklahoma wakes up.

About the Oklahoma Democratic Party
The mission of the Oklahoma Democratic Party is to represent the working people of Oklahoma and the best way to do 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 or by calling (405) 427-3366.


31 Mar

Caretaker Abuse, Workers’ Comp Coverage for Roofers, Protecting Children, Elderly and Veterans Debated by State House

Caretaker Abuse, Workers’ Comp Coverage for Roofers,

Protecting Children, Elderly and Veterans Debated by State House

OKLAHOMA CITY – Pointing a laser beam at an airplane or helicopter in flight would be a state offense as well as a federal crime under legislation the House of Representatives endorsed Tuesday.

Other measures considered by the House would provide protections for senior citizens, military veterans, and for children, for employees of roofing contractors, and celebrate the 800th anniversary of a document that’s a foundation of our democratic government.

Watch Where You Point That Thing

Pointing a laser beam at an aircraft flying overhead would be a state misdemeanor offense, under Senate Bill 62. An initial violation could be punished with a fine of up to $100; the penalty for a second or subsequent offense would be a fine of up to $500 and/or a six-month county jail sentence.

Aiming a laser beam at a flying aircraft is a felony offense under federal law, a crime subject to investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. However, making the act a misdemeanor state offense would allow local authorities, such as a police department or a county sheriff’s department, to investigate the crime, the House sponsor of the measure explained.

The bill was approved by wide margins in both the House and the Senate and will be sent to the governor for her consideration.

No Rewards for Caretaker Abusers

Anyone convicted of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a senior citizen, a developmentally disabled individual, or any other vulnerable adult, would be barred by Senate Bill 725 from profiting from the victim’s estate, investments, joint accounts, jointly held property, life insurance or disability benefits.

The House embraced the measure, 87-0, and it also passed the Senate unopposed, 44-0.

SB 725 is similar to House Bill 1031 by Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, which died in the House Judiciary and Civil Procedure Committee, and House Bill 1349by Rep. Wade Rousselot, D-Okay, which received a “do pass” recommendation from the same committee.

Defining ‘Failure to Protect’ a Child

Legislation that its author said “gives a bright-line definition” of failure to protect a child from abuse was endorsed by the House.

Senate Bill 292 modifies the statutory definition of “failure to protect” to mean failure to take reasonable action to remedy or prevent abuse, or lying, concealing, or failing to report the identity of a person known to be committing abuse and/or neglectful acts.

Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, an attorney, suggested that the term “responsible” would be more appropriate than “reasonable” action.

And Rep. Ben Loring, D-Miami, cast the lone vote against the proposal. “I agree with the bill in principle, but I convicted plenty of folks under the existing language,” the former county prosecutor said.

The measure sailed through the House, 98-1, and was sent back to the Senate for consideration of a relatively routine technical amendment.

Fraud Prevention

Senate Bill 338 will allow the state Tax Commission to disclose an individual’s confidential tax information to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, to enable the HCA to determine whether an applicant qualifies for Medicaid benefits.

The House passed the proposal by an overwhelming margin, 86-8; every “nay” vote was cast by a Democrat. The bill, which previously breezed through the Senate, 40-0, was sent to the governor for her signature.

Safeguarding Military Veterans

Criminal background checks would have to be performed on nurse aides prior to their employment at medical foster homes in which care is provided exclusively to three or fewer veterans, and which is approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, under Senate Bill 115.

The proposal passed both the House and the Senate without a dissenting vote and was sent to the governor for her signature.

Workers’ Comp Coverage for Roofers

All contracts for commercial roofing projects, and any maintenance or repair to an existing residential structure, would have to require all employees working on that job to be covered by worker’s compensation insurance “as employees of the person registered under the Roofing Contractor Registration Act.”

No roofing contractor required to be registered with the state Construction Industries Board would be allowed to hire any out-of-state company or individual, or use any person or independent contractor, unless they have worker’s compensation insurance coverage.

SB 378 also provides that “in no event” could a homeowner be held liable for injury or death to anyone who is working for a registered roofing contractor that’s required to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for all of its employees.

Those conditions are proposed in Senate Bill 378. The bill narrowly passed the House on Tuesday, 53-43, and was sent back to the Senate for consideration of an amendment.

Notaries Must Be Law-Abiding Legal Citizens

An applicant for notary public would be required by Senate Bill 215 to be a U.S. citizen who has never been convicted of a felony, and is capable of reading and writing English. The proposal also would allow the Secretary of State to refuse to authorize or renew, or even revoke, a notary commission. The legislation also would prohibit an applicant from notarizing any document until the bond, seal and oath have been approved and returned by the Secretary of State.

The bill was approved by the House, 77-1, and by the Senate, 44-0, and was sent to the governor.

Overweight Truck Limits

Certain vehicle weight limit calculations would be changed by Senate Bill 638 from a schedule to a formula, requiring total gross weight to be determined using the Federal Bridge Formula. The legislation provides for an annual special overload permit that could be purchased, at a cost for $350, for vehicles hauling certain materials under certain conditions.

Vehicles transporting certain aggregates, oilfield equipment, or raw agricultural products, are currently required to purchase a special overload permit each year from the Corporation Commission, at a cost of $100. This fee is apportioned pursuant to the Oklahoma Vehicle License and Registration Act.

Under SB 638, operators of those same vehicles would be required to pay a $350 overload permit fee to the Department of Public Safety, and the funds would be deposited into the State Highway Construction and Maintenance Fund.

Besides redirecting the apportionment of the fee revenue, the change also would likely result in an increase in total collections, House analysts reported. Assuming the same number of permits issued in 2015 as in 2014 at 2,487, multiplied by the fee of $350, would produce fee revenue of $870,450 – an increase of $621,750 over 2014. This figure would increase or decrease depending on the number of permits issued.

SB 638 was approved by the House, 70-12, and was sent back to the Senate for consideration of an amendment.

Commemorating the Magna Carta

House Concurrent Resolution 1005 notes that this year marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

The Magna Carta “gave expression to a political settlement between rebellious English barons and a recalcitrant king,” but since then this historic document “came to be considered a ‘talisman of liberty’, giving impetus to the rule of law and constitutional government,” the resolution relates.

The Magna Carta was one of the earliest written expressions of natural and inalienable rights, “laying some of the theoretical groundwork” for the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the American Declaration of Independent in 1776, the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights, and the Oklahoma Constitution.

The Oklahoma State Capitol is hosting the “Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy 1215-2015” exhibit through April 5. The event is free and open to the public. The exhibit is displayed in the Supreme Court Hallway on the second floor of the State Capitol.

The Magna Carta is considered to be the founding document of English liberties and hence of American liberties. Because of the Magna Carta, the divine right of kings was superseded by government of and by the people and legal principles such as habeas corpus.

The Magna Carta stands at the heart of English and American law and has influenced the legal systems of many other democratic nations. For example, it “embodied the concept of right to due process of law” and “contained the idea of consent of the government, leading eventually to representative government,” HCR 1005 notes.

“There’s a direct link between the Magna Carta and our state government,” Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge said.

HCR 1005 was adopted by the House without dissent and was referred to the Senate for their consideration.




Media Director, Democratic Caucus

Oklahoma House of Representatives

(405) 962-7819 office

(405) 245-4411 mobile

30 Mar

Democratic Leader Advises Legislators Must “Make Our Children Their Top Priority”


Contact: Democratic Leader Scott Inman

Capitol: (405) 557-7370

Legislators Must ‘Make Our Children Their Top Priority,’
House Democratic Leader Advises Rally Participants

Rep. Scott Inman (D-94)

Rep. Scott Inman (D-94)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Supporters of public education who assembled by the thousands at the State Capitol on Monday should “demand that their legislators make our children their top priority,” House Democratic Leader Scott Inman asserted.

Last year an estimated 25,000 teachers assembled at the Capitol to rally for two things in particular, the Del City Democrat related:

  • Enactment of House Bill 2642, which would have guaranteed $600 million in new funding for public schools over the next decade, or $60 million per year;
  • “A halt to irresponsible tax cuts that did little to improve the lives of Oklahoma’s citizens but did a great deal more to erode funding for our students.”

“That’s why you rallied” at the Capitol a year ago, Inman said. “But today you rally because your elected officials … cavalierly ignored your top two demands…”

In fact, less than 24 hours after the education rally concluded and the teachers drove back home, “before the parking lot had been swept and the port-a-potties had even been hauled away,” the state Senate Finance Committee passed a measure to cut personal and corporate income taxes by $200 million per year, Inman recalled.

Simultaneously the Legislature was coping with a $188 million budget shortfall, and funding for public education had been reduced by more than $200 million – “more than any other state in the nation,” Inman said. In addition, HB 2642 died in a House/Senate conference committee on the last day of the 2014 legislative session.

Meanwhile, enrollment in public schools has grown by 40,000 students over the past six years, to 681,000 students; Oklahoma has the third-lowest average per-pupil funding level in the nation, leading only Nevada and Utah; and Oklahoma schools are coping with about 1,000 teaching vacancies.

Instead of injecting more money into school classrooms to alleviate these problems, the Republican-dominated Legislature has introduced voucher legislation “that will only serve to divert more money away from public education instead of toward it,” Inman said.

“And just as depressingly, the way they show their support for Oklahoma teachers is by passing House Bill 1749,” which would forbid any state agency from making payroll deductions “on behalf of a state employee for membership dues in any public employee association or organization or professional organization that … collectively bargains on behalf of its membership.” That measure cleared the Legislature last week and will be sent to the governor.

Inman exhorted his audience to “seek out and find your Representatives and Senators” and “call upon our governor” to “put an end to the fiscal insanity that has plagued our school children these last five years.”

Inman acknowledged that “these are tough budget times.” The Legislature has $611 million less to spend this year than it did last year. Nevertheless, he said, supporters of public education should demand three things this year:

  • The Legislature “must do more than pass another flat education budget, or worse yet, pass another budget that cuts funding for our schools.”
  • Raising Oklahoma’s “dismal” teacher salaries must be a priority among state lawmakers. Oklahoma’s average annual teacher salary is the fourth-lowest in the nation, ahead of only Mississippi, Idaho and South Dakota.
  • Curtail increased government mandates and high-stakes testing “that only serve to eliminate local control, not foster it.”

In response to those who ask how those proposed reforms would be financed, Inman offered three suggestions:

  • “Put a halt” to the looming state income-tax cut, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016. The Oklahoma Tax Commission has calculated that the reduction will cost the state treasury $57 million in Fiscal Year 2016, $147 million in FY 2017, nearly $199 million in FY 2018, and $267 million in FY 2019. Some or all of that revenue should be devoted to education, Inman indicated.
  • “Get a handle” on the billions of dollars in tax credits and exemptions “our state gives away.” Offering incentives to businesses is important, he conceded, but it’s not more important than educating children. “What have we accomplished,” he asked rhetorically, “if we entice businesses to our state but have failed to properly educate the workforce they need to fill their jobs?”
  • As the State of Oklahoma “grows out of this economic hole,” the Legislature “should treat our schools just like it has treated our roads and bridges,” Inman said. Since the Legislature has pumped an extra $59.7 million into state roads and bridges each of the last two years, and is tentatively scheduled to do the same for the next two years, as well, “then we certainly can see fit to spend $60 million to improve the lives of our kids,” the father of two young girls said.

“A lack of accountability” has enabled Oklahoma’s education shortcomings to fester, Inman said. Every legislator who was responsible for the failure of HB 2642 “and for passing those irresponsible tax cuts” was re-elected last year and sent back to the Capitol.

Inman urged those participating in the rally to confront their legislators and tell them, politely but bluntly, “If you can’t find a way to make educating our children YOUR top priority, then I’ll find a way to make replacing you MINE!”


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