02 Apr

House Democrats Urge Legislature to “Fund Ed First”

State of Oklahoma

House of Representatives


April 2, 2013

For immediate release

Contact: MaryAnn Martin, Ph.D.

(405) 962-7819

House Democrats urge legislature to “Fund Ed First”


OKLAHOMA CITY- House Democrats pressed their colleagues Monday afternoon on the House floor to invest in Oklahoma’s education system by finally passing an education budget and “Fund Ed First.”

In 2003, the legislature mandated the passage of a common education budget by April 1st.

The only time the deadline has been met and education has received their budget by April 1st was by the last Democratic-controlled Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2004.

“The legislature breaks the law and there are no repercussions,” said Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner. “We should be held accountable. I attempted to run a bill this year that would take a day’s salary from representatives and senators for every day after April 1st that they failed to pass an education budget. It wasn’t heard by committee. If we can’t live up to the law, we should have to pay. Our folks at home do.”

“Our schools need this budget by April 1st so they can make staffing decisions for the next academic year,” said Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum. “Yet year after year, the legislature has dragged its feet passing a budget. Would a business owner do that? I don’t think so. We don’t even know what the supplemental budget is from last year. Let’s be responsible and help our schools properly educate our children with the proper funding.”

“Knowing our budget by spring helped me as a school administrator plan for the upcoming year,” said Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville. “We talk a lot up here about the uncertainty for business owners due to an uncertain tax code. Imagine planning for a school district, whatever the size, with no sense of your budget for the coming year. We have the power to fix that and we should.”

“House Republicans tried to repeal the ‘Fund Ed First’ statute in committee, and thankfully that didn’t make it to the floor of the House,” said Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City. “As elected officials, as lawmakers, this House cannot blatantly disregard the law.”

“With looming federal cuts underway through Federal Sequestration, now more than ever our timely state investment is needed for providing local school districts the resources they need,” said Rep. Seneca Scott, D-Tulsa. “Teachers and support personnel are some of main winners when we invest in our schools with growing state revenues. Our children will also reap the rewards. However, we all lose when we kick the can down the road.”

Democratic Floor Leader Ben Sherrer of Pryor motioned Monday afternoon to suspend the House Rules in order to comply with state law and pass an education budget, including a $100 million increase to meet the needs of Oklahoma schools.

Sherrer’s motion was defeated by a partisan vote, 27-60.



25 Mar

Oklahoma Women’s History Heroes: Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief
Elizabeth Maria Tallchief
(born January 24, 1925) was the first Native American to become prima ballerina. From 1942 to 1947 she danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but she is even better known for her time with the New York City Ballet, from its founding in 1947 through 1965. Known professionally as Maria Tallchief, her family called her Betty Marie. Betty learned the Osage traditions from her grandmother, Eliza Bigheart Tallchief. Maria is the sister of notable ballerina Marjorie Tallchief.

She was born in Fairfax, Oklahoma, to Alexander and Ruth Porter Tallchief. Her greatgrandfather, Peter Bigheart, negotiated for the Osages concerning oil revenues that made the Osage Nation wealthy. a father who was a chief in the Osage Nation and a Scots-Irish mother.

Of her childhood she wrote, “I was a good student and fit in at Sacred Heart (Catholic school). But in many ways, I was a typical Indian girl — shy, docile, introverted. I loved being outdoors and spent most of my time wandering around my big front yard, where there was an old swing and a garden. I’d also ramble around the grounds of our summer cottage hunting for arrowheads in the grass. Finding one made me shiver with excitement. Mostly, I longed to be in the pasture, running around where the horses were…”.

She enjoyed music, dancing and ballet. Her desire to pursue a career in the arts was a challenging dream for a Native American child in those days. The family moved to Beverly Hills, California, in 1933, where she was instructed in ballet by Ernest Belcher until she was twelve years old. Then she studied ballet with Bronislava Nijinska for five years. Madame Nijinska’s philosophy of discipline made sense to Tallchief. “When you sleep, sleep like a ballerina. Even on the street waiting for the bus, stand like ballerina.”

Tallchief left Los Angeles at the age of 17 and auditioned in New York City. She joined the [[Ballets Russes|Ballet Russe] and quickly became a featured soloist. After a tour in Canada during 1942, the company asked her to change her name to Maria Tallchieva. She declined to change her Osage name, but agreed to be called Maria Tallchief.

Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine wrote several of his most famous works for her. The two were married on August 16, 1946. The marriage ended in 1952, though they continued to work together as dancer and choreographer. They had no children. She was the first prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet from 1947 to 1960, where Balanchine was the principal choreographer. Her performance of Balanchine’s The Firebird in 1949 and their earlier collaboration at the Paris Opera elevated Maria Tallchief onto the world stage. She also originated the role of the Sugarplum Fairy in Balanchine’s version of The Nutcracker, in 1954.

Tallchief continued to dance with the New York City Ballet and with other groups until her retirement in 1965. She was director of the Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet from 1973 to 1979. With her sister Marjorie, she founded the Chicago City Ballet in 1981 and served as its artistic director until 1987. From 1990 to present she has been artistic advisor to Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet.

Maria married Elmourza Natirboff on October 4, 1952, but ended the marriage in 1954. She then married Henry “Buzz” Paschen, a Chicago builder, on June 3, 1956. This second marriage lasted until his death in 2003. They had one daughter, Elise Paschen (born 1959), an award-winning poet who served as the Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America from 1988 to 2001, and currently teaches in the writing program at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Maria Tallchief’s younger sister, Marjorie Tallchief, also had a successful career as a ballet dancer and was for several years “première danseuse étoile” of the Paris Opera Ballet. She worked with her sister Maria many times over the years.

20 Mar

Veteran at Norman Care Center Says Residents in Peril

State of Oklahoma



March 20, 2013


Rep. Richard Morrissette, District 92
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd.
State Capitol –Room 543
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Contact: Jacklyn Brink-Rosen

(405) 557-7404

Veteran at Norman Care Center Says this Morning that Residents Are Now in Peril

Today, March 20, 2013, Veteran’s Appreciation Day at the State Capitol

(Oklahoma City, OK) “This morning an email from a resident of the Norman veteran’s care center was sent to Senator Simpson and myself regarding an issue brought to my attention yesterday. We have been in touch with a particular resident who claims that due to staffing cuts, residents are in peril. Baths and medication have not been provided in a timely manner, per the resident. I find this painfully ironic on the day we are set to recognize the sacrifice of our beloved vets, said state Rep. Richard Morrissette. District 92.

I spoke with the resident this morning and he has given his permission for the following message to be released to the public:


Last Friday employees’ off-property smoke breaks were taken away.  There was a similar response at Talihina over longer shifts, staffing shortages were so bad here last Friday and Monday that baths were cancelled on many wings. Some veterans went 4 and 5 days without a bath. Last Thursday on the 3-11p shift, one floor had just one aide per side.”

Questions should be referred to Morrissette’s Capitol office at (405) 557-7404


20 Mar

Speaker T.W. Shannon Condemns Children?

For Immediate Release
March 20, 2013
Contact: Trav Robertson


Disabled Children Feel Effects of Republicans’ Poor Fiscal Policy

Oklahoma City– The Northern and Southern Oklahoma Resource Centers in Enid and Pauls Valley respectively will be closing due to a lack of funding from the State of Oklahoma. These centers provide a home to children that are too mentally or physically challenged to care for themselves. The long-range effects of Speaker T.W. Shannon and Governor Mary Fallin’s “fuzzy math” of lowering taxes without a plan to provide supplemental income for essential services has already begun to impact the lives of those who are less fortunate.

House Republicans voted for Speaker Shannon’s bill to cut $120 million from state revenue in an effort to put back approximately $6.33 per month in the average taxpayer’s pocket.

“Money goes a lot further when it is pooled together,” said Chairman Wallace Collins. “Speaker Shannon is sending a message to these kids, who have no place else to go, that they are not worth the investment.”

House Bill 2053 would have allowed the Department of Human Services to develop an action plan for the state-administered resource centers, which have approximately 200 employees each, but Speaker Shannon essentially killed this piece of legislation by not allowing it to be heard on the house floor.

“How can government become more efficient if you do not give it the chance?” asked Chairman Collins.

The deadline for bills passing the house of origin was March 14, 2013.


18 Mar

Oklahoma Women’s History Heroes: Jari Askins

Jari Askins

Jari Askins (born April 27, 1953) is an American lawyer and Democratic politician from the US state of Oklahoma. She was the 15th Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, being the second female and the first Democratic female to hold that position.

Askins was born on April 27, 1953, in Duncan, Oklahoma. She graduated from Duncan High School in 1971. She then attended the University of Oklahoma to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 1975. While at OU, she was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Askins received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1980. After graduating from OU, she entered into private practice.

Special District Judge of Stephens County, Oklahoma:

In 1982 Askins was appointed Special District Judge of Stephens County, Oklahoma. She served from 1982 to 1990, winning reelection in 1986. Under the administration of Governor of Oklahoma David Walters, Askins entered the executive branch of government. She was the Chair of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board from 1991 to 1992, serving as the Board’s first female chair. Askins served as Deputy General Counsel to Governor Walters from 1992 to 1994. Her last assignment under Governor Walters was as the Executive Director of the Pardon and Parole Board from February to November 1994.

Oklahoma House of Representatives:

Before Governor Walters was succeeded by Republican Frank Keating, Askins ran, and was elected to, the Oklahoma House of Representatives, beginning her term in 1995. She served six terms in office (12 years, the maximum combined service allowed in the Oklahoma Legislature as the Representative of the 50th House District, which includes her home town, Duncan.

During her final term (2005–2006), she was elected and served as Democratic House Leader, the first woman to lead a caucus in the state’s legislature.

Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor:

After reaching the maximum 12 years as state representative (Oklahoma has mandatory term limits), Askins filed in the Democratic primary election to replace outgoing Republican Mary Fallin as Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma. In the primaries, Askins faced former State Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson, lobbyist Pete Regan, and Jim Rogers. In the Democratic primary on July 25, 2006, Hobson received 18.17% of the vote, Regan received 29.05%, Rogers received 12.56%, and Askins received 40.22%.

Askins, in accordance with Oklahoma state law, faced Regan in a runoff for the party’s nomination. In the run-off election on August 22, 2006, Askins received 95,087 votes (53.81%) to Regan’s 81,622 votes (46.19%). Askins became the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, and she was elected on November 7, 2006. Her opponent was Republican Speaker of the House Todd Hiett. Before serving as lieutenant governor, Askins served in all three branches of the government of Oklahoma: legislative (state representative), executive (Chair of the Pardon and Parole Board), and judicial (Special District Judge).

On December 28, 2006, Mary Fallin resigned her office effective January 2, 2007 in order to be sworn in to Congress. Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry appointed Askins (who was at that point the Lieutenant-Governor elect) to serve the final days of Fallin’s term. Askins then took office for her full term on January 8, 2007.

As Lieutenant Governor, Askins has served on various boards and commissions, including chairing the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission and the Oklahoma Film and Music Advisory Commission. Governor Brad Henry also named her as “Oklahoma’s Small Business Advocate”.

Askins announced on January 4, 2009 that she would run for Governor in 2010 to succeed term-limited Brad Henry. She was the first candidate to declare an intention to run.

As announced on July 27, 2010, Jari Askins won the Democratic primary against current Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and was on the November ballot for Governor, facing Republican candidate Mary Fallin. Fallin won the election and became the first female governor to serve the state of Oklahoma. The Askins vs. Fallin race and the simultaneous Diane Denish vs. Susana Martinez race in New Mexico were the third and fourth cases of woman vs. woman gubernatorial races in U.S. history.