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25 Feb
0

House Speaker Bars 1.1 Million Oklahomans From Legislative Process, Inman Charges

House Speaker Bars 1.1 Million Oklahomans From Legislative Process, Inman Charges

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 25, 2016) – For the first time in state history, a Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and his leadership team have shut out more than one million Oklahomans from the legislative process.

As the first quarter of the legislative session comes to an end, in an unprecedented act of partisanship, House Republican leaders have refused to allow any legislation authored by a House Democrat to be brought up for a vote on the House floor.

“Not one House Democrat has had a bill placed on the House calendar, much less debated and voted on by the entire House membership,” Minority Leader Scott Inman said. “The people we represent have been deprived of their constitutional right to a voice in the legislative process,” the Del City Democrat said.

The 30 House Democrats and the 1.1 million Oklahomans they represent – Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike – are being “stonewalled,” Inman said. “This is the most partisan Speakership in the 108-year history of this state.”

House Democrats filed 215 bills this year. Of those, 42 have been approved by House committees “and many of those passed unanimously,” Inman said.

The Democrats’ bills have focused on topics such as protecting worker rights, reducing mandates imposed on public schools, assisting victims of domestic violence, increasing the statute of limitations for children who have been victims of crime, granting courts the power to consider post-traumatic stress disorder as a mitigating factor when sentencing a combat veteran convicted of a crime, and enabling victims who prevail in asset forfeiture proceedings to recover attorney fees, court costs and interest.

Yet not one of those 42 measures has been scheduled on the House calendar for a floor vote,” Inman said. “This is unprecedented and unconscionable.” At no time in state history has the majority party completely excluded the minority party – and with the exception of one two-year term, Democrats controlled the House of Representatives from statehood in 1907 until the general election of November 2004, a period of almost a century.

House Democrats have been shut out because, “We are opposed to raising taxes on middle-class Oklahomans while the governor and the Republican leadership refuse to roll back that fiscally irresponsible income-tax cut, refuse to index the gross production tax, and refuse to even discuss accessing federal funds to cover hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans who are uninsured,” Inman said.

Delaying the income-tax cut that went into effect Jan. 1 has bipartisan support in the Legislature, Inman noted, pointing to the Senate Finance Committee’s approval Tuesday of SB 1073 by Sen. Mike Mazzei. “I would much rather delay a tax cut than vote to increase taxes and start new taxes,” the Tulsa Republican said.

At a time when 1 of every 5 Oklahomans has no health insurance, House Republicans passed a bill this week that would throw 111,000 low-income Oklahomans off the state Medicaid rolls. Meanwhile, the Sayre hospital closed its doors Feb. 1, joining seven other hospitals that have filed for bankruptcy since 2010, Inman said. “Virtually all of those people who would be thrown out of the Medicaid program will inevitably wind up in hospital emergency rooms, putting even more pressure on our health-care system.”

The rules of the Legislature decree that March 10 – two weeks from today – is the deadline for House and Senate bills and joint resolutions to be voted on in their house of origin.

The “partisan obstructionism from Republican leaders is particularly troubling,” considering the fact that the Democrats spent the first four weeks of the session working with the governor and the Republican House leadership in “a bipartisan fashion, without rancor,” on issues such as criminal justice reform, Inman said.

It is in that spirit that House Democrats call upon the Speaker and his leaders to “abandon their divisive political strategy and join us in a bipartisan effort to solve the critical issues facing Oklahoma citizens,” Inman said. “Doing so requires them to treat our members, our legislation, and our constituents with the respect and consideration they deserve.”

If the Republican leaders refuse to change their position, “House Democrats will use every available legislative procedure at our disposal to ensure our citizens’ voices are heard,” Inman vowed.

“It is my sincere hope that our Republican colleagues will resume the civility and professionalism that have defined this Speaker and this Legislature the last few years. Facing a $1.3 billion budget hole, a crisis in public education, health care and public safety, the people of Oklahoma demand it and deserve it.

“All we ask for is fairness in the process.”

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22 Feb
0

KFOR – Hillary? Bernie? Oklahoma Democrats ready for Independent input in primary election

17 Feb
5

Republicans Play Hide-and-Seek With Public School Money

[Oklahoma City, OK, February 17, 2016] We aren’t really sure how the executive branch of the state of Oklahoma misplaces over $40 million in education funds, but we are sure that it happened. After yesterday’s news of the recent “discovery” that there was a balance of $43.8 million in the 1017 Fund, we can only wonder why the money wasn’t found prior to the devastating news in December that there would be major cuts to account for an expected shortfall.

“We aren’t talking about pocket change or a few dollars we find when vacuuming under the couch cushions. We are talking about a huge chunk of money that no one seemed to realize was sitting in the bank. The Republicans continue to want to run public schools like a business – which they are not and should not be since we shouldn’t be trying to profit off of our children – but maybe they should be more concerned with running the state government more like a business,” said Sarah Baker, Communications Director for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

“Governor Fallin, Ken Miller, and Preston Doerflinger continue to show the people of Oklahoma just exactly how incompetent they are and unable to do their job. Revenue shortfalls, budget failures, tax cuts, and now lost money are just further examples that the executive branch has no idea what they are doing. School districts cannot continue to operate under this kind of leadership; leadership that makes it nearly impossible for school boards and administration to properly plan for not just the remainder of this year, but the next fiscal year as well. The constant back-and-forth is giving the state of Oklahoma whiplash.”

It is incredibly clear with this revelation that every office under the executive branch needs a full and complete audit to determine just exactly what is going on with our money. The audit should be performed immediately and the results made available to the people of Oklahoma as soon as it is completed. The people of Oklahoma have the right to know what is going on, even if the Republicans in the executive and legislative branches have no clue.

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12 Feb
1

Budget Failures and Buyouts

Budget Failures and Buyouts
Taxpayers Continue Paying for Fallin’s Failures

[Oklahoma City, OK, February 12, 2016] Yesterday it was announced that Fallin’s general counsel, Steve Mullins, had accepted a buyout and will be moving on to something else professionally. Mullins is the third person directly related to the ongoing grand jury investigation regarding drug “mix-ups” in 2015. Robert Patton, State Corrections Department Director, and Anita Trammell, Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden also resigned or retired after their testimonies to the grand jury.

“Suspicion is definitely high right now and we all are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the grand jury investigation,” said Sarah Baker, Oklahoma Democratic Party Communications Director. “Furthermore, it is very concerning that at a time when the state is facing a now $1.3 billion revenue failure – a budget hole that is likely to grow as session moves forward – the Governor’s general counsel would receive a presently undisclosed buyout after giving his grand jury testimony. The Governor’s general counsel is not a position which can remain vacant so we can only wonder now how much these ‘mix-ups’ are going to continue to cost the taxpayers of Oklahoma. How many other severance packages or buyouts can we expect to see relating to this investigation.”

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12 Feb
0

Fallin Tells Taxpayers To Wait In Line

[Oklahoma City, OK, February 12, 2016] This week the Oklahoma Democratic Party followed up on their efforts to uncover the cost of Mary Fallin’s trip to Paris in June 2015, and all items and persons relating to said junket. The original open records request for the information was made on June 16, 2015, more than seven months ago.

In a response provided yesterday by Michael McNutt, Fallin’s Communications Director, he said that the Oklahoma Democratic Party wants to “leapfrog others who filed open records requests before it.” This could not be further from the truth; however, we do expect that the Governor’s office provide information requested by all parties, including the Oklahoma Democratic Party in a reasonable amount of time. The Open Records Act states that “[a] public body must provide prompt, reasonable access to its records.” It is the opinion of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, on behalf of the taxpayers and constituents of Oklahoma, that seven months with no results is neither prompt nor reasonable – yet par for the course with this inept Republican administration.

“We have been more than reasonable and patient while waiting on the Governor’s office to provide the information we requested. Even in November we reached back out to her office requesting the information or at minimum a timeline of when we could expect the information to be provided. The response from her office was essentially for us to wait in line,” stated Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Mark Hammons. “The Governor’s office has a bad habit of dragging out litigation in an apparent attempt to wear down her opposition or find a loophole to avoid providing information that the taxpayers of Oklahoma have a right to know.

“We have gone well past the timeframe originally outlined to the Governor’s office in which we would seek legal relief for this situation but her office has continued to refuse to comply. The Governor and her staff left us no option other than to pursue this through the courts. The simple fact is that the Governor’s refusal to provide information requested is a bad habit and she has been subsequently sued multiple times for this same reason. It is our goal to not only uncover exactly what happened regarding her trip to Paris but also bring to light the continued incompetence of the Governor and her office in fulfilling her duties and responsibilities as executive of the State of Oklahoma.”

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