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22 Feb
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RELEASE: DNC Chair Statement on White House Rollback of Transgender Protections

DNC Chair Statement on White House Rollback of Transgender Protections

WASHINGTON – DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile released the following statement:

“It’s clear that the most extreme elements of this administration are in total control. There is no group, no matter how vulnerable, that they won’t target, and absolutely no Republican official who can stop them is lifting a finger to do so. Secretary Betsy DeVos and others in the Trump administration know transgender kids are at increased risk of bullying and suicide, and yet she and this entire administration signed off on this shameful action anyway. This isn’t politics, it’s disgusting violence that targets the most vulnerable members of our society.”

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22 Feb
0

RELEASE: House Dems Caucus – 2 Patriotic Bills Approved by House Committees, Third Scheduled for Consideration Thursday

2 Patriotic Bills Approved by House Committees, Third Scheduled for Consideration Thursday

OKLAHOMA CITY (22 February 2017) – Patriotism is in full bloom at the State Capitol, embodied in three pieces of legislation in the House of Representatives.

House Bill 1337, the “Freedom to Display the American Flag Act,” would ensure that Old Glory can wave unfettered throughout Oklahoma.

The bill, by Rep. Chuck Hoskin, would imprint in state statutes a prohibition against any policy or agreement that would restrict or prevent a member of a residential association from displaying the U.S. flag at “a reasonable height” of no more than 20 feet, on property within the association. The bill expressly refers to an owners association, condominium association, cooperative association or residential real estate management association.

HB 1337 breezed through the House Committee on Business, Commerce and Tourism, 13-0, Wednesday; it was supported by five Democrats and eight Republicans.

Hoskin, D-Vinita, said his measure was prompted by a former Texan who moved to Grand Lake. The man told Hoskin that while in the Lone Star State he lived in a neighborhood that had a homeowners’ association which forbade him from flying the American flag. The ex-Texan asked Hoskin whether Oklahoma safeguards a homeowner’s freedom to fly the flag.

Hoskin, a U.S. Navy veteran, scoured the statutes, and HB 1337 is a result of that search.

The bill is identical to one Hoskin introduced last year which passed the House of Representatives, 91-0, but died in the Senate without receiving a floor vote.

“The truly remarkable thing is that a bill of this type would even be needed in this nation,” Hoskin said.

House Bill 2192 by Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, would expand the list of monuments accepted for placement on the State Capitol grounds.

A monument to the U.S. Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution) was authorized by a bill enacted last year. HB 2192 would also allow “a suitable monument … displaying the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States.” All three amendments arose from the Civil War.

  • The 13th Amendment, which was ratified on Dec. 6, 1865, abolished slavery.
  • The 14th Amendment, ratified July 9, 1868, contains the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses.
  • The 15th Amendment, which was ratified on Feb. 3, 1870, prohibits denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude [a/k/a slavery].

The proposed monument would be designed, constructed and installed on the Capitol grounds “by private entities at no expense to the state,” the legislation pledges.

HB 2192 is scheduled to be considered by the General Government Oversight and Accountability Committee at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

House Bill 2277 would require students in Oklahoma public schools to recite the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag every day rather than just once a week, as current state law mandates. The state statute, in accordance with federal law, authorizes an exemption for students “who do not wish to participate” in the pledge.

In a related matter, state law also requires instruction in the history and etiquette “relating to the United States flag” to be presented “in one or more grades” in every school district in Oklahoma.

HB 2277 was endorsed unanimously by the House Committee on Common Education earlier this month and is on general order in the House, awaiting a floor vote.

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

21 Feb
0

RELEASE: School Vouchers Divert Public Funding and Taxpayers’ Money to Unaccountable Private Schools

For Immediate Release
February 21, 2017

Media Contact:
Angela Allmond, Communications Director
405-536-2417
Oklahoma Democratic Party

School Vouchers Divert Public Funding and Taxpayers’ Money to Unaccountable Private Schools

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Bill 560, introduced by Senator Rob Standridge R-Norman, is no more than an avenue for Republicans to push privatizing education. Instead of diverting taxpayer’s money to voucher programs that take additional funding away from struggling Oklahoma public schools, lawmakers should be concentrating on how to bring in revenue to increase teacher pay, incentives to retain teachers in Oklahoma, and improving public education.

HB 560 is limited to Oklahoma, Cleveland, and Tulsa Counties. Students that qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program would be permitted to use 90% of their state aid towards private schools, while only 10% would remain in the district for public schools. Most eligible and better performing private schools approved by the Oklahoma Private School Accrediting Council, a requirement for voucher qualification, cost families tens of thousands in tuition. This makes the difference in the average available $2,700 a drop in the bucket to the total cost of a private education and cost prohibitive to many low-income students on the federal reduced lunch program.

Most voucher programs limit the government’s ability to administer oversight and accountability measures on private schools. There is little evidence to support that school vouchers deliver better outcomes for students while taxpayers’ money is used to give private schools the control to choose who can attend versus an all-inclusive public education.

At a time when Oklahoma is experiencing a growing budget crisis, and potentially another $34.6 million in cuts to all agencies, public schools and our children will suffer the most harm from losing addition funding to school privatization in the form of vouchers.

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The mission of the Oklahoma Democratic Party is to represent working people in Oklahoma and the best way to accomplish 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 www.okdlive.wpengine.com or by calling (405) 427-3366.

21 Feb
0

RELEASE: House Democratic Caucus – Third House Measure in Five Years Filed To Ban Smoking in Vehicles Carrying Minors

Third House Measure in Five Years Filed To Ban Smoking in Vehicles Carrying Minors

OKLAHOMA CITY (21 February 2017) – For the third time in five years legislation has been filed to statutorily forbid smoking in a vehicle in which a child is being transported.

House Bill 1344 by Rep. Donnie Condit, D-McAlester, would make it illegal for the driver or a passenger in a motor vehicle to smoke cigarettes, pipes or cigars “if a child is also present” in the vehicle. The fine for violating the proposed law would be $20, equivalent to the penalty for a seat-belt violation.

“A lake patrolman from McAlester asked me to run this bill, and it sounded like a good idea,” Condit said.

HB 1344 cleared the House’s Public Health Committee on a 7-1 vote Tuesday. The next step would be placement on the House calendar for a floor vote on the proposal.

Two years ago Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, filed HB 1341, which would have decreed, “No person shall smoke in a motor vehicle in which there is a child present.” The measure was referred to the House Committee on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Controlled Substances, where it died without receiving a hearing.

Four years ago Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, introduced HB 2013 to forbid smoking in a vehicle transporting a minor. The bill was assigned to the House Committee on Public Health, where it, too, died without receiving a hearing.

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

20 Feb
0

RELEASE: House Dem Caucus – Civics, Dyslexia, Unfunded Mandates, Administrative Co-Ops, Incidence/Distribution of State Taxes Debated in House

Civics, Dyslexia, Unfunded Mandates, Administrative Co-Ops, Incidence/Distribution of State Taxes Debated in House

OKLAHOMA CITY (20 January 2017) – Legislation to require students to be knowledgeable about civics, to eliminate unfunded mandates on schools, and to track the incidence and distribution of state taxes, were debated Monday in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Civics Knowledge Recommended

Legislation that would require all students to pass a civics exam in order to graduate from high school or receive a GED diploma cleared a House committee Monday in a split vote.

House Bill 1941 by Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, was endorsed 10-4 by the House Committee on Common Education.

The legislation provides that starting with the 2018-19 school year, all Oklahoma school students would have to take and pass the United States Citizenship Test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Baker, vice chair of the Common Education Committee, said the course materials and test are available on-line, free of charge. “Nothing would have to be purchased,” she said.

The civics exam consists of 100 questions; a minimum score of 60% would be required to pass. A student could retake the test “as many times as necessary for passage,” the bill stipulates. “They can take it as many times as they need in order to be proficient by the time they graduate from high school,” Baker said. The test “creates a basic understanding of our government and the importance of civic engagement,” she told the committee.

“For the last few years we have decreased testing” for Oklahoma school students, said Rep. Katie Henke, R-Tulsa, a former teacher. “What’s the need for this?”

“Only 24% of high schoolers are proficient in civics,” Baker said. “Immigrants to our country know more about our government than American students do.” The dictionary defines civics as the study of the rights and duties of citizens and of how government works.

Democrat Rep. Mickey Dollens, a former classroom teacher at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, indicated that all elected state officials should be required to take and pass the test, too.

Oklahoma students are required to take and pass a U.S. history class, but are not required to pass a U.S. history test, in order to graduate from high school, according to Carolyn Thompson, director of government affairs for the State Department of Education.

Forbidding Unfunded Mandates

House Bill 1115 would prohibit the Legislature from imposing new mandates or amending existing ones “in a way that increases costs on public school districts” unless sufficient funding is provided to pay for them.

“I appreciate the intent behind this, but couldn’t we just vote ‘no’” on new mandates?, asked House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City.

HB 1115 is intended to be “a reminder for future legislators,” replied Rep. Avery Carl Frix, R-Muskogee, author of the proposal.

The Appropriations and Budget Committee passed the measure, 24-0, and referred it to the House calendar for a floor vote. All House Democrats on the committee – Reps. Emily Virgin of Norman, Steve Kouplen of Beggs, Ben Loring of Miami, Eric Proctor of Tulsa, Jason Dunnington of Oklahoma City, and Inman – supported the bill.

Cost-Saving Co-ops Proposed

A measure endorsed by a House panel Monday would encourage school districts to identify “any possible cost-sharing administrative co-ops” that could be implemented with “neighboring” school districts.

House Bill 1236 received a do-pass recommendation on a 9-1 vote by the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education. Members of that panel include Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, a former school teacher/administrator; Rep. Regina Goodwin and Rep. Monroe Nichols, both D-Tulsa.

HB 1236 now advances to the full A&B Committee.

At a minimum the report would identify potential savings through the use of administrative co-ops or other cost-sharing agreements “in the areas of personnel, licensing, professional and overhead/transportation costs” through an “administrative unification of multiple districts.”

The bill stipulates that no school district would be compelled to dissolve or consolidate with another district if HB 1236 were enacted.

The bill would direct the State Board of Education to develop rules for the creation of awards for school districts that implement “administrative co-op plans.” No less than 75% of any savings reported from the proposal would be earmarked for salary increases for teachers and other school personnel at the participating schools.

Dyslexia Task Force Proposed

An amended version of House Bill 2008 by Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, would create the Dyslexia and Education Task Force.

Over the next year and a half the 19-member panel would create a handbook that would “provide guidance for schools, students and parents in identification, intervention and support” of students afflicted with dyslexia.

The bill was approved 15-0 by the Common Education Committee on Monday.

Also Monday, Dyslexia Awareness Day was observed at the State Capitol, and Decoding Dyslexia OK held a news conference. Dyslexia is a reading disorder.

5-Day School Weeks Debated

A measure that would require most of the school year to consist of five-day weeks was held over to next week because of questions and some suggested tweaks of the proposal.

House Bill 1684 would mandate that 80% of a school year “shall consist of five-day school weeks,” with “not less than six hours devoted to school activities” each of those days.

A local school board could elect to extend one or more school days to more than six hours in order to reduce the number of school days “for up to 20% of the school year,” so long as the total amount of classroom instruction time amounted to at least 1,080 hours per year, HB 1684 provides.

Report on Incidence, Distribution of State Taxes

A biennial report on the incidence and distribution of state taxes would be developed by the Oklahoma Tax Commission under a measure approved Monday by a House panel.

House Bill 2209 was approved 4-0 by the Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on General Government. It now will be referred to the entire A&B Committee.

HB 2209 would require the state Tax Commission to submit to the Legislature every other year a report on “the overall incidence” of income and sales taxes and other excise taxes. The report would have to include data:

  • about “overall income distribution,” using some “appropriate” measure of equality and inequality;
  • by income classes;
  • about “other appropriate taxpayer characteristics.”

HB 2209 also would direct the Tax Commission to prepare “an incidence impact analysis” of the effect on “representative taxpayers” of any legislative measure that would increase, decrease or redistribute state taxes by more than $20 million.

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1762489584032199&id=100008135227880

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

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