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30 Jan
0

House Democrats 2013 Legislative Agenda

State of Oklahoma

House of Representatives

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

January 30, 2013

 

Democratic Leader Scott Inman

State Capitol Building Rm. 548

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  73105

Contact: MaryAnn Martin, Ph.D.

405-962-7819

 

House Democrats Announce 2013 Legislative Agenda

 

OKLAHOMA CITY- House Democrats outlined today their priorities and positions for the 2013 legislative session.

“The issues in front of the Oklahoma legislature this year will define not only our progress as a state in the coming year, but also in the years to come,” said Democratic Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City. 

“Our legislative agenda reveals our priorities as a caucus as well as the differences between Democratic and Republican values,” said Leader Inman. “As Democrats, we believe that we must create policies that increase the standard of living in Oklahoma for all of our state’s citizens, not just the most affluent sectors. We also believe we must do justice to the hardships and challenges many Oklahomans face through proactive policy. We believe we have done so by carefully crafting a legislative agenda that will accomplish our goals.”

Legislative priorities for the House Democratic Caucus include the budget, health care, public safety and transportation, education, and worker’s compensation reform. House Democrats believe their vision for the 54th legislative session will fortify Oklahoma and capitalize upon the strengths of its people and resources, in contrast to the Republicans’ policies that will enrich the few at the cost of the many. 

The Budget: Reinvesting in Oklahoma

Disrepair recently prompted Gov. Mary Fallin to again ask that legislators create a funding plan to fix the sewage, plumbing, and electrical problems in the state capitol building.

“We’ve known about this problem for a very long time,” Fallin said in a January 18th article in the Oklahoman. “We’ve got to get some guts and deal with the issue and take care of it.”

House Democrats, however, disagree that “guts” have anything to do with the governor’s refusal to use growing revenues to restore funding to a broad spectrum of core state programs and agencies that have seen up to 20 percent in cuts over the past five years while asking to increase the state’s indebtedness by issuing bonds in order to pay for the capitol building’s repair.

“Oklahomans deserve a responsible budget that doesn’t increase our debt,” said Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, Democratic Ranking Member on the Appropriations and Budget Committee. “Whereas the Republican agenda has been to shrink government by starving it through the legislative process and gutting funding to, for instance, public broadcasting and senior nutrition and veterans’ centers, Democrats propose a reasonable budget that restores funding to core public services and a tax policy that is fair and equitable for all Oklahomans.” 

The House Democrats recommend a pay-as-you-go approach to the budget that reinstates dollars for under-funded and crucial state services, protects our revenue stream, and, learning from Kansas’ experience, sees no promise for increased, widespread prosperity after a reduced or eliminated state income tax. 

“Our Caucus will also continue to oppose any cuts to the state income tax,” said Leader Inman. “The House Democratic Caucus believes that a strong and vibrant Oklahoma can only grow its economy if we support a sound, fiscally responsible budget that doesn’t slash revenues while pushing the state further into debt.” 

Health Care: Investing in Oklahoma’s Health Care Needs 

A strong and vibrant Oklahoma relies upon not only a fiscally responsible budget, but also a healthy citizenry. With Governor Fallin refusing to expand Medicaid, the House Democrats reiterate their position that investing in our state’s health care system is also a prudent investment in its long-term economic future.

“A healthy state and a healthy economy go hand in hand,” said Leader Inman. “The expansion of Medicaid would bring us closer to this reality for the thousands of Oklahomans who are currently unable to afford and access health insurance. But with nearly $600 million in uncompensated care being delivered every year, our doctors and hospitals at the front lines of our health care system, especially in rural areas, are struggling to survive.”

The House Democrats believe that at the state level, our government should assist in providing medical care for our most vulnerable communities, including veterans, seniors, children, and others who cannot meet their basic needs without help. The Democratic Caucus also supports Gov. Fallin’s call to increase funding for mental health care in Oklahoma.

“An unhealthy state and a health care system incapable of meeting the needs of its residents,” said Leader Inman, “does not cultivate an environment suitable for attracting businesses. As Democrats, we believe that we can maintain a climate conducive to attracting businesses to Oklahoma while protecting our citizens with the health care mandates so many Republicans oppose.” 

“I am looking forward to the debate on how Oklahoma citizens without access to affordable health care can benefit from new health insurance exchanges,” said Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, and Democratic Ranking Member on the Public Health Committee. “This will be a challenge for legislators as we work to comply with federal law while keeping an eye on improving the lives of those amongst us who can be healthy productive individuals with an affordable safety net of care.”

Transportation and Public Safety: Investing in Infrastructure and Security

Oklahoma’s long-term economic health and its ability to attract and maintain business also depend upon a sound infrastructure and a secure populace. Deep budget cuts to transportation and public safety in recent years, however, have adversely affected the State of Oklahoma’s obligation to provide safe roads, bridges, and public spaces for all of our residents.

House Democrats call to fund the state’s investment in the Department of Transportation’s 8-year program to fix Oklahoma’s roads and crumbling infrastructure, reversing the $100 million raid by the governor and the Republicans on DOT’s budget in 2011. 

House Democrats support increased funding for agencies tasked with protecting the public, in order to remedy what Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Dacoma, called a “life or death situation” regarding staffing and funding levels for the Departments of Public Safety and Corrections. 

“Because of draconian budget cuts over the past four years, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Corrections are sorely under-funded and under-staffed,” said Leader Inman. “With increased funding, we can increase our Corrections officers’ salaries, as well as the number of corrections officers, state troopers and law enforcement officers, and full-time employees at OSBI and the medical examiner’s office.” 

After the recent school shootings in Newtown, Conn., a prominent theme in bills filed by the legislature this year center on school safety. House Democrats adamantly support secure schools for all Oklahoma students but caution against knee-jerk laws that fail to take the budget into consideration and overburden education and public safety agencies with more unfunded mandates and liabilities. 

“The bottom line is, how much is the state willing to pay for school security?” asked Rep. Brian Renegar, D- McAlester, and Democratic Ranking Member on the Public Safety Committee. “How much is our leadership willing to spend on safety for our children? Education and public safety have both been under-funded for the past four to five years, even though these are both core functions of government. Now our leaders must decide how they will adequately fund both these areas in order to protect students and the general public.” 

Education: Investing in Oklahoma’s Students

Recent events have indeed renewed our concerns regarding our children’s security in school. Parents and care takers must feel confident that their children are not only physically secure at school every day, but that the most precious members of our society are receiving a sound education.

House Democrats believe that a community that truly values human life will arm all its members with the intellectual and emotional tools of a rigorous education necessary to navigate modern life. 

Our Caucus believes that the key to a sound education for our children include the availability of brick-and-mortar schools unburdened by unfunded legislative mandates or administrators lacking educational expertise. 

House Democrats also believe in reinstating many of the programs and incentives which have seen drastic cuts by Republicans in recent years, including National Board Certification bonuses.

“Our schools and educators are undergoing a series of transitions that are the result of legislation based on the assumption that our public schools are failing,” said Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, Democratic Ranking Member on the Common Education Committee. “I wish we would put our legislators and other elected officials under the same scrutiny as our educators and schools.” 

House Democrats support the State Board of Education’s request for $300 million additional funds for Oklahoma schools, including $37 million to be allotted this school year.

“A primary way to attract businesses to our state is through a strong and successful public school system that prepares our students for the jobs companies are looking to fill in the future,” said Leader Inman. “Our Caucus believes that we should reinvest in our schools to prevent further teacher layoffs, increasing class sizes, and the elimination of important programs like art, band, and advanced placement. We believe these are investments in our children and our future that will pay dividends, many times over.” 

Summary of House Democrats’ Legislative Agenda

·         Reinvesting in Oklahoma through a “pay-as-you-go” budget, rather than relying upon bonds and increasing our state’s indebtedness.

·         Utilizing growing revenues to reinstate full funding for core public sector services, including education, transportation, and public safety.

·         Protecting Oklahoma’s revenue stream and tax base through opposition to reductions in the state income tax.

·         The expansion of Medicaid and access to affordable health care for all Oklahomans.

·         Increasing funds for mental health care.

·         Continuing support for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s eight-year plan to fix roads and infrastructure.

·         Increasing funding for the Departments of Corrections and Public Safety, for increased salaries for corrections officers, and added corrections and law enforcement officers, state troopers, and employees at OSBI and the medical examiner’s office.

·         Reinstating funding to public schools and programs such as the National Board Certified Teacher bonuses.

 

House Democratic Contacts, by Area of Expertise

 

Budget: Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, (405) 557-7408

 

Health care: Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, (405) 557-7334

 

Public safety: Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, (405) 557-7381

 

Education: Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, (405) 557-7375

 

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29 Jan
0

Cedar Fever Illness at Record Levels

State of Oklahoma

HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

January 29, 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

Cedar Fever Illness at Record Levels

Morrissette Files Two Additional Cedar Control Measures: HB1515 and HB1656

(Oklahoma City, OK) “According to what I’m hearing from health professionals, the allergen plaguing state workers and others here in central Oklahoma is cedar pollen and now they have a name for the symptoms: Cedar Fever.” said state Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-OKC).

Record numbers of Oklahomans are seeking treatment for a variety of flu-like symptoms and the culprit in many cases is cedar pollen, according to reports. Symptoms include headache, nausea, feeling feverish without a temperature, swelling, muscle aches, sore throat, itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes.

In 2011, Morrissette passed from the House and Senate HB1486, the Woody Biomass Energy Initiative, to organize state support via a commission for the development of alternative energy solutions using cedar biomass. The bill would have encouraged the harvest of millions of cedar trees. But, on April 20, 2011, Governor Mary Fallin chose to veto the legislation saying that previous legislation by Morrissette should suffice: HB2686, the Eastern Red Cedar Registry Board. However, that measure dealt with the development of a data set to be gleaned from individuals registering with the board with the goal of linking land owners to harvesters and possible markets for cedar trees. A result oriented census was to be created from the registered members’ activities but three years post passage Morrissette says the board has failed completely at addressing any of the bill’s objectives and to ask the board to take on oversight of biofuel development is not a viable option.

“I have reintroduced the cedar biomass bill as HB1656 -2013 and I am confident that we have proven the need for the establishment of the commission. Nearly all 50 states have now officially addressed utilization of biomass to establish a support mechanism and provide guidance in the development of this key alternative energy resource. In this time of Oklahoma drought and wildfires, we need to be collecting underbrush, cedar trees and other woody materials, and, if we can use this material as energy, that just makes good common sense.”

Texas has mostly mountain cedar and Oklahoma has primarily juniperus virginiana or Eastern Red Cedar. Cedar Fever now impacts both states, with cedar proliferation to blame.

“If we don’t start putting these things on the ground for use as a biomass or for furnishings or whatever, it’s conceivable that Cedar Fever could pose an even greater health threat in the very near future. We have individuals developing pneumonia after cedar allergy flare ups. I wouldn’t want to have a child with asthma in this environment.” said Morrissette.

Last session, Morrissette filed cedar bill HB2695-2012 with Sen. Ron Justice as Senate author. That bill was entitled the Oklahoma Resource Reclamation Act and passed the House but failed in a Senate committee due to confusion over land value categorizations. That issue has now been addressed with the assessor’s office and Morrissette has re-filed the bill as HB1515-2013. The focus remains cleaning up unoccupied lands infested with cedar that pose fire hazard and water loss issues.

“With cedar overtaking 700 acres a day in Oklahoma, we lost ground with HB2695’s failure in the Senate but we’re back and ready to try again.” concluded Morrissette.

 

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17 Jan
0

Lawmaker Wants to Set Higher Bar for State Superintendent

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Media Division

January 17, 2013

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact: State Rep. Curtis McDaniel

Office: (405) 557-7363

 

Lawmaker Wants to Set Higher Bar for State Superintendent

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Curtis McDaniel today filed legislation to ensure candidates for state superintendent are at least as qualified as individual school district superintendents.

House Bill 1501 would require candidates for state superintendent to have completed a standard master’s degree and a program in education administration approved by the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation with an emphasis on district-level leadership skills, which are equivalent to the educational requirements for a superintendent of schools.

“I do not know how it came to pass that Oklahoma requires district superintendents throughout the state to have a higher level of professional training than the state superintendent, but I aim to fix this glaring oversight,” said McDaniel, D-Smithville. “As a school administrator for over 16 years, I am aware of the importance of qualified professionals in education. It stands to reason that we require highly qualified educators at every level.”

McDaniel also announced a second bill that would localize the high school diploma appeals process. Currently, the appeals process is administered by the state board of education.

House Bill 1502 would put the appeals process in the hands of individual school districts.

“Local control has long been an objective of the Oklahoma Legislature and I think this bill gives us an opportunity to tweak a process that has turned into a headache for the state board while supporting the ability of local communities to make their own education decisions,” McDaniel said.

Today is the last day for filing legislation for the 2013 session, which convenes Feb. 4, 2013.

 

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16 Jan
0

Petition for Medicaid Expansion

If you haven’t…
Please sign our Petition to be DELIVERED to Governor Mary Fallin on Tuesday, February 5th at 12:00pm at this link:
And if possible attend the Rally for Medicaid Expansion for Oklahoma– on Tuesday, February 5th at 12:00pm on the north steps of the State Capitol.  Sign up to Join in Solidarity at this FB link: http://www.facebook.com/events/254719717991638/

 

Petition for Oklahoma to Accept Federal Funding to Expand Medicaid

 

Petition Statement
Whereas, many adults in Oklahoma—including persons with disabilities, the chronically ill, and the elderly—currently have inadequate, or no healthcare coverage, because they are currently ineligible for Medicaid, and
Whereas Oklahoma has the opportunity to expand its existing Medicaid program to provide healthcare for an estimated 130,000–190,000 additional individuals, by accepting this federal funding, and
Whereas expanding the state’s Medicaid program to provide healthcare for these individuals would improve their health, and the quality of their lives,and would also provide substantial economic benefits to Oklahoma, by saving the state millions of dollars in uncompensated healthcare costs, and would create thousands of new high-paying jobs in healthcare, and related fields, which would generate significant new tax revenues for the state of Oklahoma.In Consideration thereof, We, the under-signed citizens of Oklahoma, respectfully request that the Honorable Mary Fallin, Governor of the State of Oklahoma, accept these federal funds being offered in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, to expand the state’s Medicaid Program.

______________________________

Thank You,
Susan McCann
Member, Coalition for Medicaid Expansion (CFME)

15 Jan
0

Pinnell Defends Fallin’s Hypocrisy

For Immediate Release
January 15, 2013
Contact: Trav Robertson
405.427.3366

 PINNELL DEFENDS FALLIN’S HYPOCRISY

Continues Hypocrisy with Wasteful Spending 

Oklahoma City– Governor Mary Fallin has hired the firm of former Republican Governor of Utah Mike Leavitt for $500,000 to assess Oklahoma’s health care options. “Fallin keeps the good ol’ boy system alive by hiring one of her cronies, who isn’t even from Oklahoma, with federal money,” said Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins.

Governor Fallin, who serves as the vice chair for the National Governors Association (NGA), has flip flopped and now supports using federal dollars. Fallin previously refused to work with President Obama’s administration who had offered Oklahoma $54 million to set up a health insurance exchange through the Affordable Care Act. Apparently, the use of federal money to line the pockets of her political friends is a good idea, but using it to help provide health care for Oklahomans is not.

Oklahoma Republican Party Chair Matt Pinnell in a party-line response stated that, “We want an Oklahoma based plan. We want a plan that works for Oklahoma. What the federal government is trying to do will not work for the state of Oklahoma. It’s unaffordable and irresponsible.”

Chairman Collins responds, “Fallin calls for Oklahoma plan but hires out-of-state consultants? And when given the opportunity to have Oklahoma control our health insurance exchange she turns down the funding and hands the responsibility to the Federal Government? Talk about unaffordable and irresponsible!”

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