Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lankford emails letter on fiscal cliff

U.S. Representative James Lankford today sent an email with the latest information and his perspective on the fiscal cliff.

"As you may have heard, the House will return to session this Sunday, December 30th, to respond to any potential Senate action on bills the House passed in May and August of 2012 to avoid the tax increases and across-the-board cuts of the 'fiscal cliff,'” Lankford wrote.

Click here to read the complete letter

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

History: Washington launches surprise attack

On the morning of December 26, 1776, Continental troops commanded by General George Washington launched a surprise attack on Hessisan mercenaries barracked at Trenton, New Jersey, scoring an important inspirational victory and capturing 918 prisoners, as detailed on this "Return of Prisoners."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lamb, Legislative Leaders Announce Commission on School Security

Lt. Governor Todd Lamb, Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and House Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon Thursday announced the formation of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security.

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb
“In light of recent events, the time has come for us to assess the current school security system in Oklahoma,” said Lt. Governor Todd Lamb. “The Oklahoma Commission on School Security will provide an avenue for some of Oklahoma’s finest to collaborate towards a common goal. With the right knowledge and resources, we can effectively provide a safer school climate for our most precious commodity.”

Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage and House Democratic Leader Scott Inman have agreed to work with Republican Leadership to form a non-partisan commission. The purpose of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security will be to study a number of school security factors and to provide suggestions and possible legislative recommendations for the 2013 legislative session. Some initial issues to be discussed within the commission’s study will include current school safety measures, local control and local empowerment and mental health.

“The events of the previous week have deeply impacted us all,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman. “This is a time to grieve for the families in Newtown, to hug our kids a little bit tighter, and a time to ask ourselves how we can respond appropriately. I am encouraged by the non-partisan, thoughtful approach shown my colleagues in legislative leadership. Together, we believe Lt. Governor Lamb, as an expert in physical security from his time defending the President of the United States, is particularly equipped to lead our Oklahoma Commission on School Security – I am thankful for his leadership and willingness to serve.”

Speaker-Elect T.W. Shannon
“What took place in Newtown is unfathomable and disturbing,” said House Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon. “Our schools have too often become soft targets for those who have no regard for the precious lives of our children and those who we trust to educate and care for them. As a father and Speaker-elect, there is no higher priority than the safety of our children. Now is the time for us to review the safety needs of our public and private schools. The purpose of this commission is to put forth ideas that will address the safety needs of both our metropolitan and rural school districts.”

“What took place in Newtown almost a week ago, an act of pure evil, is still so hard for all of us as Americans to understand,” said Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage. “As legislative leaders in Oklahoma, we feel the right thing to do is come together in a non-partisan way to look at how we might be able to create safer classrooms for our kids. We must address the physical security of our school facilities, as well as very challenging mental health issues. I look forward to the recommendations of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security.”

Rep. Scott Inman, Democrat Leader
“In light of the tragic events in Connecticut last week I welcome the opportunity for us all to come together in a bipartisan manner and discuss ways in which we can best protect the children of Oklahoma,” said House Democratic Leader Scott Inman. “I appreciate the willingness of the Speaker-Elect to solicit input and consider solutions that are not simply knee-jerk reactions to the tragic events of Sandy Hook Elementary School. I look forward to working in the days ahead with the Speaker-Elect on this important issue.”

Lt. Governor Lamb began the initial steps in increasing school security when he was in the Oklahoma State Senate and the principal author of the Oklahoma School Security Act. The act, Senate Bill 1941, required schools to practice lockdowns two times a year. The measure additionally defined electronic communication as a form of bullying. The Oklahoma School Security Act also created a place on regional Homeland Security Advisory boards for school administrators.

As a former United States Secret Service Agent, Lt. Governor Lamb will bring his law enforcement experience and serve as chair of the commission, working with legislative leaders to appoint commission members in the coming weeks. Various backgrounds will be represented on the commission to include homeland security, local police, local school personnel, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and mental health.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute Fellowship Applications Available

Applications are now available for Oklahoma fifth-grade teachers interested in receiving a fellowship to attend the 2013 Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute June 10 through 16 in the restored capital city of 18th-century Virginia.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence coordinates the selection of Oklahoma teachers to participate in the renowned teacher institute. Applications are available on the Foundation’s website at Completed applications must be postmarked by March 1, 2013.

Each fellowship recipient will receive an all-expense paid trip to Williamsburg, as well as a $300 stipend for classroom materials. While at Colonial Williamsburg — the world’s largest living history museum — Oklahoma teachers will have the opportunity to meet character interpreters of 18th-century people and be immersed in early American history through hands-on activities and reenactments of historic events. Participants will visit nearby Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English colony in America, and spend a day at Yorktown visiting the battlefields where the Continental Army forced the British to surrender. Participants also will meet daily with a peer facilitator to discuss interactive teaching techniques and develop creative lesson plans based on their experiences.

State Offers Security Seminars for School Officials, Law Enforcement

OKLAHOMA CITY – In the wake of the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, Governor Mary Fallin is encouraging school officials and law enforcement officers to take advantage of security training seminars offered by the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security.

“Preparing for the worst is the best way to save lives,” Fallin said. “All of us want to do everything we can to keep Oklahoma’s children and schools safe.  As school administrators evaluate their emergency response plans and campus security, I want to encourage them to take advantage of the resources and seminars offered by the Oklahoma Department of Homeland Security.”

At the seminars, Oklahoma homeland security officials cover a wide variety of topics with school officials, including the importance of developing, updating and exercising an emergency response plan.  Additionally, the training includes instruction for school officials on how to conduct a security survey to help identify and correct any potential security gaps.

The two-day seminars are provided at no cost and held at various locations around the state.  Local law enforcement officials are invited to attend with school officials in order to help coordinate in the event of an emergency.  In the last three years, the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security has trained approximately 400 school officials representing more than 150 school districts across the state.  Security seminars will be held again in 2013.  To sign-up, school officials should contact the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security at (405) 425-7296 or through the agency’s Web site at

“The seminars we offer have helped school officials and law enforcement officers develop policies that maximize school safety. I encourage every school to work with us to evaluate their security protocols and emergency response policies to see how we can create a safer environment for our children,” said Kim Edd Carter, director of the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security.

Additionally, the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security and the Oklahoma Council for Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) have partnered to provide law enforcement officers rapid response training to be utilized in active shooter situations that might occur in schools, theaters, shopping malls, or even churches.

“The goal of this training is to standardize the response efforts across all law enforcement agencies, so that if officers from different departments respond to the same incident, they all know how to quickly come together as a team and end the violence as soon as possible,” Carter said.

Law enforcement agencies wanting to provide the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) courses to their officers should contact CLEET at (405) 239-5100 or through the agency’s Web site at

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Inman Names Remaining Leadership Positions

OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Democratic Leader yesterday announced the final leadership positions within the caucus for the 2013-2014 legislative sessions. 

Last week Leader Scott Inman of Del City named Ben Sherrer of Chouteau the Democratic Floor Leader, and this morning he unveiled the assistant leadership team who will work with Floor Leader Sherrer to advance democratic ideals on policy issues in the House chamber.

“I have chosen exemplary leaders who bring integrity, enthusiasm and a strong work ethic to these positions,” said Leader Inman. “They are a diverse group of leaders and I appreciate the strengths in the differences between each of them.”

Appointed as Assistant Democratic Floor Leaders are Steve Kouplen of Beggs, Jeannie McDaniel of Tulsa, Brian Renegar of McAlester, Wade Rousselot of Wagoner, Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City and Emily Virgin of Norman. 

Mike Brown of Tahlequah was re-appointed to the position of Democratic Appropriations and Budget Advisor. 

“These are all critical appointments that will strengthen our caucus going forward, and both Floor Leader Sherrer and I are excited to work with such a dynamic, intelligent and committed group of public servants in the coming session,” said Leader Inman.

Friday, December 14, 2012

House Democrats Announce Leadership for 54th Legislature

OKLAHOMA CITY -  House Democratic Leader Scott Inman today announced his leadership team appointments for the 54th Legislature.

“I am incredibly proud to be surrounded by such a dynamic and energetic leadership team, and I know moving forward that they will each work tirelessly to champion our democratic ideals on the House floor,” said Leader Inman, D-Del City.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Speaker Shannon Announces Committee Leadership Posts

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon today announced committee chairs and vice chairs for standing House committees and appropriation subcommittees.

“After careful consideration, we chose members who we believe have the talent, experience and leadership qualities to lead these committees as effectively and efficiently as possible for the people of Oklahoma,” said Rep. Shannon, R-Lawton. “I am grateful for each of these members’ willingness to serve, and I look forward to the upcoming session.”

The House committee Chairs and Vice Chairs for the upcoming legislative session include:

Senate Democratic Leader Burrage announces leadership team

The Senate Democratic Caucus announced their leadership team for the 54th Legislature Monday. Senator Sean Burrage will once again serve as Democratic Leader.

“I’m honored to once again be entrusted to lead our caucus. I’m looking forward to working on those issues important to our members and constituents,” said Burrage, D-Claremore. “Our caucus members have a tremendous amount of expertise and we are anxious to put that knowledge to work for the citizens of Oklahoma and work with our colleagues across the aisle to strengthen Oklahoma’s economy and protect our state’s hardworking families.”

Burrage will be officially re-elected to his leadership position on Tuesday, January 8 when the Senate convenes for its Organizational Day.

The Democratic Leadership team is as follows:

Senate Committees for 2013-2014

(Members serve on multiple committees, with each committee scheduled to meet on an assigned day of the week to minimize scheduling conflicts.)

Agriculture and Rural Development Committee (Monday):

Friday, December 7, 2012

Secretary of State Glenn Coffee Stepping Down

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Secretary of State Glenn Coffee today announced that he will be stepping down to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Coffee has held his current cabinet level position in Governor Mary Fallin’s administration since January 2011. Prior to serving as secretary of state, Coffee was the president pro tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate.  Coffee will step down no later than Jan. 31, 2013.

“Serving the state of Oklahoma has been my dream since I was a small boy,” Coffee said. “Being able to serve on such a high level, first as senate president pro tem and then as secretary of state, is truly a dream come true."

“While I am sad to leave my post in the Fallin administration, I could not be happier with the course that Governor Fallin has charted for the state of Oklahoma. For the last two years I have had the great privilege of helping the governor craft policies that will continue Oklahoma’s forward momentum and help to spur job creation for decades to come. My thanks go out to Governor Fallin for giving me the opportunity to serve as secretary of state, and to all of the great men and women who worked with me during my years in public office.”

Fallin said Coffee brought a wealth of experience to the state Capitol.

“Glenn Coffee has been a fixture in Oklahoma politics for over a decade,” Fallin said. “As Senate pro tem, he helped to deliver the first ever Republican majority in the state Senate, setting the stage for unified conservative government. As secretary of state, Glenn continued his good work by helping to craft fiscally conservative budgets, landmark lawsuit reform and workers compensation legislation. His experience and wealth of knowledge will be sorely missed. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

The office of the secretary of state serves as a registry of Oklahoma’s official documents, filing and certifying executive orders, appointments and proclamations as well as publishing new statutes.  In addition to his official duties as the head of that agency, Coffee also served as Fallin’s lead negotiator on budget issues and issues related to Oklahoma water rights.

Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger will assume Coffee’s responsibilities as Fallin’s lead budget negotiator. The Fallin administration plans to retain Coffee as an outside consultant on water issues, although details of that arrangement have not yet been finalized.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Oklahoma House of Representatives Swears in One Last Member

OKLAHOMA CITY –State Rep. Aaron Stiles this evening became the final member to be sworn in by the Oklahoma House of Representatives for the upcoming Oklahoma Legislature. The swearing in came shortly after a drawn out recount and legal battle that stalled certification of the election for weeks.

"I'm just glad to be putting this whole thing behind us, and I'm ready to continue my service to the people of House District 45," said Stiles, R-Norman. "I am proud and honored to be representing the people of my district. I will spend these next two years the same way I spent the first two: putting politics aside in order to get things done for District 45 and the state of Oklahoma."

After a recount showed Stiles the winner by 16 votes, his challenger filed a number of petitions claiming "irregularities" in the election proceedings. However, the district court in Norman sided with Stiles, clearing the way for the election results to be certified.

Immediately after the court ruling, the Cleveland County Election Board certified the results and transmitted them to the State Election Board, which then certified the results and created an official certificate of election.

With the certification complete and the certificate of election in hand, the Chief Clerk of the House then was able to swear in Rep. Stiles.

"It has been a very hectic month," said Stiles. "Now that this is finally done, I'm looking forward to getting back to work and serving my constituents. That's the whole reason I ran for office to begin with."

Stiles said he will immediately begin working on getting legislation filed for the upcoming session, along with other official duties to prepare for next session.

Monday, December 3, 2012

House Leadership Appointments Announced

OKLAHOMA CITY – Incoming Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon announced the first round of appointments to powerful leadership posts today, tapping a diverse cross-section of the majority Republican Caucus.

"I have worked with these members for years as I served in the legislature, and now it is my honor to serve with them as leaders of this great body," said Speaker-elect Shannon, R-Lawton. "Each of them brings different talents, experiences and perspectives to our leadership team, and they will serve our colleagues well in their new positions."

Shannon chose Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, as Majority Leaders to help lead the House. Each will bring a unique perspective and experience to the job. Rep. Jordan, an attorney and businessman from Tulsa, and Rep. Johnson, a small business owner from Duncan, both bring separate talents that will help steer the House agenda both within the House of Representatives and with other branches of government.

Rep. Jordan expressed his eagerness to serve as Majority Leader.

"I'm honored to be serving at such a critical time in Oklahoma's history,” said Jordan. “There are many important issues before us, and it will take a lot of hard work and unity for us to come up with solutions. I look forward to being a part of that process, and I am grateful for the confidence placed in me by Speaker-elect Shannon."

"The House majority party is a diverse group of talented, experienced people who have lots of energy," said Johnson. "All of us will be working hard throughout the next session to push our specific bills through the legislative process. It gets pretty intense at times, so, one of the duties of the Majority Leader will be to help the Caucus stay focused. A unified Majority Caucus with common goals will be crucial to our success. I look forward to the task."

To serve as the next Majority Floor Leader, Shannon chose veteran legislator Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa. A former Majority Whip and senior member of the House, Peterson's legislative experience will serve the House well as the next Majority Floor Leader.

"I'm very humbled and honored to have this opportunity," said Peterson. "I am looking forward to serving with Speaker-elect Shannon in this new leadership role."

To serve as the next Majority Whip, Shannon chose Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada. Rep. Thomsen serves as a coordinator for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

"This is a very humbling opportunity for me, and I am honored that our Speaker-elect would ask me to serve in this capacity," said Thomsen. "I am very thankful to be able to serve my colleagues and my constituents in this leadership role, and I will do my best to earn their trust."

And finally, Shannon tapped Norman Republican Scott Martin to chair the powerful Appropriations and Budget Committee. Rep. Martin currently serves as the vice-chair of the Appropriations and Budget Committee.

"Chairing the Budget Committee is probably one of the toughest jobs in the House, but I'm up to the task," said Martin. "You don't make a lot of friends when you have to tell people 'no', but taking care of our tax dollars means we have to say 'no' to a lot of spending items.

“Considering all the uncertainty we are seeing with the federal budget, this could prove to be a difficult year for our budget here in Oklahoma. I'm honored to have this position, and I will work hard every day to watch over our tax dollars."

Shannon said he will be announcing other leadership positions in the coming weeks, including the list of committee chairmen and vice-chairmen.

"We haven't finalized every position yet, but I feel very confident we have a strong and talented group of leaders from throughout the Caucus," said Shannon. "Things feel really good right now. Our Caucus is energized and unified, and I am very optimistic about what we can accomplish this session."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bingman Announces Leadership Staff and Senior Senate Staff

Oklahoma Capitol - Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, announced Friday the members of his Leadership staff and members of the senior Senate staff for the First Session of the 54th Oklahoma Legislature.

Cheryl Boothe will continue to serve as Executive Assistant to the President Pro Tempore. “Cheryl has been a trusted aide for many years,” said Bingman. “I am thankful for her enthusiasm, talent, and commitment to Oklahoma. She will be essential to our success in the coming legislative session.” Boothe is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. Previously, she worked in the private sector before serving as an aide in both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate.

Amy McCord will return to the Leadership staff, managing the front desk as Administrative Assistant. Amy is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma and majored in Biology and Forensics. “Amy is a skilled and dedicated individual with a sincere desire to serve her fellow Oklahomans,” said Bingman. In addition to her service in the Pro Tem’s office, Amy works with her sister and mother as a wedding planner in Oklahoma City.

John Willbanks will remain part of the Leadership staff as Appointments Secretary for Boards and Commissions. “John is one of the most dedicated and earnest public servants I know,” said Bingman. “His broad experience, even temperament, and exceptional judgment makes him the perfect fit to manage the civic appointments process.” Willbanks is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma and holds a Public Relations Certificate from Rice University. Before joining the Leadership staff, Willbanks worked with former Appropriations Chairman Sen. Mike Johnson.

Trait Thompson returns to the Leadership staff and will serve as Senior Policy Advisor to the President Pro Tempore in the 54th Legislature. “Trait has proven himself as a bright policy mind with a thorough knowledge of the legislative process. His passion for promoting a pro-jobs, pro-growth environment in Oklahoma is admirable,” Bingman said. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Oral Roberts University with a graduate degree from the George H.W. Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University. Before joining the Leadership office, Thompson worked on the campaign staff of Governor Mary Fallin. In addition to his public service, Thompson serves as a member of the Capitol Preservation Commission and teaches in the Political Science Department at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City. Thompson is also an ordained minister. He resides in the Oklahoma City area.

Jonathan Nichols, a former member of the Oklahoma State Senate, joins the Leadership staff as General Counsel to the President Pro Tempore for the 54th Legislature. “Senator Nichols is a dedicated public servant and skilled legal advisor,” said Bingman. “I am excited to have Jonathan’s counsel and unique skill-set as we tackle the challenges facing Oklahoma.” Nichols graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law and spent several years as an award-winning Assistant District Attorney before being elected to the Oklahoma state Senate. During his time in the Legislature, Senator Nichols served as Republican Caucus Chairman, Chairman of the Rules Committee, and worked intently on public safety initiatives.

Nathan Atkins will again serve as Leadership Assistant to the President Pro Tempore and Communications Director. Atkins has an extensive background in government and conservative politics. “Nathan’s dedication to smaller, simpler, and smarter government serves the Senate Republican caucus well,” said Bingman. A native of Edmond, Atkins attended Edmond Santa Fe High School and the University of Southern California. Previously, Atkins managed the 2010 re-election campaign of Congressman Tom Cole. He was part of the team that worked to elect Congressman James Lankford in 2010, and has worked for U.S. Senator James Inhofe. Additionally, he is active in civic causes in the Oklahoma City community, where he currently resides.

In addition to Leadership staff, Pro Tem Bingman announced senior Senate staff positions.

Randy Dowell will continue serving as the Senate Chief of Staff and Fiscal Director. Dowell, a graduate of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, joined the Oklahoma state Senate staff as a Fiscal Analyst in 1999.

Bingman also announced he has selected Paul Ziriax, the Secretary of the Senate and the State Election Board Secretary, for a third two-year term. The Secretary of the Senate will be formally elected by state Senators in January. By law, the Secretary of the Senate also serves as State Election Board Secretary. The Secretary of the Senate directs the Senate's floor staff, is the custodian of official Senate records, and provides parliamentary assistance to the Senate's presiding officer. The State Election Board Secretary is the chief administrative officer of the State Election Board agency and is the state's chief election official.

Ziriax has served as Secretary of the Senate and State Election Board Secretary since 2009. Ziriax previously served for six years on the Senate staff as a media and policy advisor to the Co-President Pro Tempore and two Senate Minority Leaders, and was chief of staff and press secretary to former U.S. Congressman Wes Watkins.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nelson Statement on Oklahoma Supreme Court Ruling on Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, issued the following statement regarding the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling today that upheld the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program, reversing an earlier decision by a Tulsa district judge:

“The families who have been sued by the Jenks and Tulsa Union school districts for using the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program have even more reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving weekend. The decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court validates what I and many other people have been saying since the lawsuit was filed – that the school districts lack standing and that their vindictive actions against these parents were without merit. I am grateful to the attorneys who have stood with these parents for their hard work and effective legal defense of the scholarship program.

“As recently as last week, I received an emotional e-mail from a parent who detailed how being able to use the scholarship has changed their child’s life for the better. I’ve never doubted that we were right on the law and it’s nice to have the confirmation of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This is a program that saves the public school system money while benefiting children with special needs by giving them more educational options that meet their unique needs. Today’s ruling will allow these families to breathe a sigh of relief after months of uncertainty.”

Jenks and Union Schools Continue Vendetta Against Children with Special Needs (September 7, 2011)

Updated: Well established case law says House Bill 3393 is constitutional

Oklahoma Capitol - It is well established case law that a legislative act is presumed to be constitutional and will be upheld unless it is clearly, palpably and plainly inconsistent with the Constitution (1). The Oklahoma Supreme Court has consistently held that statutes should be construed whenever possible so as to uphold their constitutionality(2). There is no indication that the provisions of HB 3393 are plainly inconsistent with the Constitution. Other scholarship programs that were “neutral” or “of direct benefit to students” have been upheld by the Supreme Court and other courts. The unconstitutionality of a statute may not be urged by resort to hypothetical applications (3).

The rules on construing legislative language have also been clearly set by the courts. Construction which would render the legislation absurd must be avoided; rational constructions are favored if language fairly permits (4)

(1) Matter of Daniel Deborah and Leslie H., Okl, 591 P 2d 1175 (1979); In re Napier, Okl. , 532 P 2d 423 (1975).

(2) City of Norman v. Liddell, Okl., 596 P 2d 879 (1979); Newman v. Tax Commission, Okl., 596 P 2d 530 (1979); Post Oak Oil Co. v. Okla. Tax Commission, Okl., 575 P 2d 964 (1978); Ruble v. Redden, Okl., 517 P 2d 1124 (1973).

(3) In re Napier, Okl., 532 P 2d 423 (1975).

(4) In re Vrooman's Estate, 206 Okl. 8 , 240 P 2d 754 (1954); John C. Winston Co. v. Vaughan, 11 F. Supp. 954 (W.D.Okl. 1935) affmd. Vaughan v. John C. Winston Co., 83 F.2d 370 (10th Cir. 1936); City of Enid v. Champlin Refining Co., 112 Okl. 168, 240 P. 604 (1925).

AG Statement on Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Decision

Attorney General Scott Pruitt
Oklahoma City - Attorney General Scott Pruitt today issued the following statement regarding the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision on the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act:

"From the beginning, we believed it was improper for these school districts to sue the parents of special needs children simply for following the law. We are pleased Oklahoma’s Supreme Court agreed, and ruled that these school districts lacked standing to make their claims against the children’s families. The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act is the law and districts must follow the law." 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Updated: Oklahoma Will Not Pursue a State-Based Exchange or Medicaid Expansion

Speaker-Designate Shannon Applauds Decision

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today released the following statement announcing that Oklahoma will not pursue the creation of a state-based exchange or participate in the Medicaid expansion in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA):

“For the past few months, my staff and I have worked with other lawmakers, Oklahoma stakeholders and health care experts across the country to determine the best course of action for Oklahoma in regards to both the creation of a health insurance exchange and the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Our priority has been to ascertain what can be done to increase quality and access to health care, contain costs, and do so without placing an undue burden on taxpayers or the state. As I have stated many times before, it is my firm belief that PPACA fails to further these goals, and will in fact decrease the quality of health care across the United States while contributing to the nation’s growing deficit crisis.

“Despite my ongoing opposition to the federal health care law, the state of Oklahoma is legally obligated to either build an exchange that is PPACA compliant and approved by the Obama Administration, or to default to an exchange run by the federal government. This choice has been forced on the people of Oklahoma by the Obama Administration in spite of the fact that voters have overwhelmingly expressed their opposition to the federal health care law through their support of State Question 756, a constitutional amendment prohibiting the implementation of key components of PPACA.

“After careful consideration, I have today informed U.S. Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius that Oklahoma will not pursue the creation of its own health insurance exchange. Any exchange that is PPACA compliant will necessarily be ‘state-run’ in name only and would require Oklahoma resources, staff and tax dollars to implement. It does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the control of the federal government, that is opposed by a clear majority of Oklahomans, and that will further the implementation of a law that threatens to erode both the quality of American health care and the fiscal stability of the nation.

“Furthermore, I have also decided that Oklahoma will not be participating in the Obama Administration’s proposed expansion of Medicaid. Such an expansion would be unaffordable, costing the state of Oklahoma up to $475 million between now and 2020, with escalating annual expenses in subsequent years. It would also further Oklahoma’s reliance on federal money that may or may not be available in the future given the dire fiscal problems facing the federal government. On a state level, massive new costs associated with Medicaid expansion would require cuts to important government priorities such as education and public safety. Furthermore, the proposed Medicaid expansion offers no meaningful reform to a massive entitlement program already contributing to the out-of-control spending of the federal government.

“Moving forward, the state of Oklahoma will pursue two actions simultaneously. The first will be to continue our support for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s ongoing legal challenge of PPACA. General Pruitt’s lawsuit raises different Constitutional questions than previous legal challenges, and both he and I remain optimistic that Oklahoma’s challenge can succeed. 

“Our second and equally important task will be to pursue state-based solutions that improve health outcomes and contain costs for Oklahoma families. Serious reform, for instance, should be pursued in the area of Medicaid and public health, where effective chronic disease prevention and management programs could address the trend of skyrocketing medical bills linked to avoidable hospital and emergency room visits. I look forward to working with legislative leaders and lawmakers in both parties to pursue Oklahoma health care solutions for Oklahoma families.”

Speaker-Designate T.W. Shannon Comments:

Oklahoma House Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon released the following statement today in response to the announcement by Gov. Mary Fallin above.

“I applaud Gov. Fallin for her courage in taking a stand for the people of Oklahoma. Oklahomans have long opposed Obamacare because they recognize how intrusive and unworkable the law is going to be. Our Medicaid program is already unsustainable and needs to be reformed at the state level with solutions that reflect our unique challenges.

“Regarding the health insurance exchanges, it is important to understand that even if we were to create an exchange, the rules are written in Washington, D.C. and the exchanges are going to be controlled by the federal government. The law does not give the state enough flexibility to create an exchange model that would work for Oklahomans.

“Any state initiated exchange as allowed for under Obamacare would require Oklahoma to create a massive new bureaucracy and would enable new federal taxes on our employers. I am confident the lawsuit filed by Oklahom’s Attorney General to mitigate the harmful consequences of Obamacare is going to succeed, and the unworkability of the law will lead to its repeal.

“It is increasingly evident that reform will come from the state level. Oklahoma has drawn a line in the sand, and I am proud to stand with Gov. Fallin and our citizens to continue leading the fight against a federal government that increasingly overreaches and tramples the rights of individuals and the states.”

Monday, November 12, 2012

House Schedule for 2013 Legislative Session

Ready-or-not, Here We Come!

  • Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 11 a.m. - Oath of Office Ceremony, House Chamber
  • Friday, December 14, 2012 - Deadline for Representatives to request bill drafting for potential legislation
  • Thursday, December 27, 2012 - Deadline for Representatives to submit substantive bill language to staff for bill to be drafted with language by bill filing deadline
  • Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - Organization Day, Speaker of the House will be formally elected
  • Thursday, January 17, 2013 - Deadline to introduce bills for consideration during 2013 Legislative Session
  • Monday, February 4, 2013 - First day of the 2013 Legislative Session
  • Thursday, February 28, 2013 - Deadline for House Bills to be heard in House Committee
  • Thursday, March 14, 2013 - Deadline for House Bills to be heard in the House
  • Thursday, April 11, 2013 - Deadline for Senate Bills to be heard in House Committee
  • Thursday, April 25, 2013 - Deadline for Senate Bills to be heard in the House
  • Friday, May 31, 2013 - Sine Die, last day of the 2013 Legislative Session. (Governor has 15 calendar days after Sine Die in which to sign or veto bills passed during the last week of the Legislative Session.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Update 2: Charges Filed Against 2 Former DHS Workers in Serenity Deal Case

I will be posting more information as I get it ...

(Updated 11-9-12 at 8:00 p.m.)

Statement from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services reference misdemeanor charges filed against former child welfare workers in Serenity Deal case:
"The tragic death of little Serenity Deal shocked and saddened everyone at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.  We share the District Attorney's belief that the child welfare workers handling Deal's case, Jennifer Shawn and Randy Lack, were negligent in their duties which is why they were terminated last year.  We continue to regret the heartwrenching outcome of this child's case."

(Updated 11-9-12 at 6:00 p.m.)
Link to copies of the charges that were filed

Thursday, November 8, 2012

House Republican Majority Caucus Elects Leadership

OKLAHOMA CITY – Two days after the election that gave Republicans a historic 72-29 seat control in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the House Republican caucus today elected its leadership and re-affirmed state Rep. T.W. Shannon as their choice for House Speaker-elect.

Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon
Speaker-elect Shannon is only the sixth Republican speaker in state history.

“I am truly honored and, frankly, humbled by the support of my colleagues,” said Shannon, R-Lawton, who ran unopposed for the position. “We face many challenges in the upcoming session, but I view challenges as opportunities to lead and make our state better for every Oklahoman.

“Our nation is at a tipping point, and I truly believe Oklahoma can be a light for the rest of the nation to follow. Leaders in Washington, D.C. have proven they are incapable of leading. We have the will to get things done, and I am ready to collaborate with the entire House body to develop a conservative, free-market, limited-government agenda that will create strong, prosperous families and grow our economy.”

The Republican caucus also elected several top leadership positions today and voted on proposed caucus rules.

In addition to electing Shannon, the caucus chose state Rep. Mike Jackson as Speaker Pro Tempore-elect.

“I am looking forward to working with Speaker-elect Shannon and the members of the caucus,” said Jackson, R-Enid. “It is a privilege to serve the members, and I feel like 2013 is going to be a great year for the people of Oklahoma.”

State Rep. Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa, who also ran unopposed, was chosen as Caucus Chairman.

"It has been a privilege to serve the caucus as Chairman during the past two years, and I am honored to continue serving," said Watson. "Our caucus has continued to grow. We have a great opportunity to govern and I am excited about the potential we have to make a difference for the future of Oklahoma."

Other elected leadership positions include:

  • Vice Caucus Chairman, state Rep. Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, who ran unopposed.
  • Caucus Secretary, state Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, who ran unopposed.
  • Assistant Majority Floor Leader, state Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing.
  • Assistant Majority Floor Leader, state Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus.
  • Assistant Majority Floor Leader, state Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City.
  • Assistant Majority Whip, state Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher.
  • Assistant Majority Whip, state Rep. Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City.
  • Assistant Majority Whip, state Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell.
  • Assistant Majority Whip, state Rep. Sean Roberts, Hominy.

"I'm humbled that my colleagues feel I have good judgment and trust me to do the job," said Wright, who was elected for a second term. "I always look at this position as a way to serve the members, much like I serve my own constituents. Serving the caucus can be a thankless job sometimes, but it is vitally important if you are going to build coalitions that get the people's work done."

"I am very honored to be elected by my fellow representatives to a position of leadership," said Hall. "We have a great opportunity to enact truly conservative policies during the next two years and I plan on working as hard as I can to repay my colleagues for their support."

During the next several weeks Speaker-elect Shannon will announce additional appointed leadership positions.

On Wednesday, November 14 at 11:00 a.m., the newly elected members of the entire House will be sworn in at the Capitol. In early January, the full House will convene for an organizational day to formally elect House leadership.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nelson Wins! Final Results 55.4% to 44.6%

Oklahoma House District 87 - I received a friendly concession call from my opponent Nick Singer around 10 p.m. Election Day. He ran an aggressive race and was a formidable candidate in a diverse district. 

Thank you for your support, prayers and encouragement. I look forward to continuing the important work I began during the last four years. 

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Singer #
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In 2008, I won with 50.6% of the vote and in 2010 I won with 54.1% of the vote. 

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