Sunday, April 22, 2012

AG’s Victim Services Unit Certifies First Faith-Based Program for Adult Survivors of Trafficking

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Attorney General’s Victim Services Unit has certified Oklahoma’s first program to offer services to adult victims of human sex trafficking.

“One of our goals at the Attorney General’s Office is to help create a network of resources for victims of crime and their families,” Attorney General Scott Pruitt said. “Certification is an important step in ensuring that any victims’ program is operating at the highest standards.”

DaySpring Villa of Tulsa will provide the new service along with its women’s and children’s programs. DaySpring Villa is Oklahoma’s only faith-based, certified domestic violence shelter and sexual assault program.

Wilma Lively, DaySpring’s executive director said “We at DaySpring Villa consider it a privilege to be able to offer services to hurting women and their children.”

According to the FBI, human trafficking generates $9.5 billion in yearly revenues worldwide. Sex traffickers often operate sex businesses disguised as modeling studios, health spas, massage parlors or bikini bars.

Last year, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline – (888) 373-7888 – received 102 calls from Oklahoma.

Some warning signs that someone may be a trafficking victim include:

· Not free to leave, or come and go as they wish;
· Under 18;
· Is in the commercial sex industry and has a manager;
· Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only in tips;
· Works excessively long or unusual hours;
· Is not allowed breaks or suffers unusual restrictions at work;
· The workplace has high security measures – opaque windows, boarded up windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.

For more information, go online to the Attorney General’s website at or contact DaySpring Villa at (918) 245-4075. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Digital Learning: A Map and a Plan for the Future

By Janet Barresi, State Superintendent of Public Instruction (Friday, April 20, 2012)

Most good road trips start with a map and a plan.

This week, stakeholders throughout our state gathered for the State Department of Education’s first Digital Learning Summit. The goal was to begin work on a vision and strategy overview based on the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning to put our students on the road to success in the fast changing landscape of digital learning.

We invited educators, legislative leaders, policymakers and stakeholders from all groups interested in public education. General Sessions were live-streamed for all Oklahomans to provide input and ideas. Breakout sessions focused on each of the 10 elements. General sessions featured dynamic speakers – Richard Culatta from the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Ed Tech, and Tom Vander Ark, founder of and author of “Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World.” Each got us fired up about all the possibilities that exist for our students.

As I’ve traveled the state, I’ve seen great examples of digital learning already in progress. First-graders in Howe Public Schools, for instance, were all writing blogs. Elementary students in Clinton showed me digital book reports created in their Creative iPad Class. Students in every district are testing online. For some districts this creates a challenge. In Haworth – the furthest southeast district in the state – they have limited bandwidth. The superintendent told me they sometimes have to shut down all extra Internet use while testing is in progress. School districts in the Panhandle are in an even more challenging circumstance.

I’m hoping the Digital Learning Summit will help us address some of these issues and others – such as making sure we get a handle of vetting the quality of the digital programs so school districts will have confidence in selecting materials for classrooms.

We’ve already made progress, announcing partnerships this year with Oklahoma Educational Television Authority and SAS Curriculum Pathways to offer thousands of free online resources and lesson plans to students, teachers and families throughout Oklahoma. At the Digital Learning Summit I announced our new presence on iTunes U, another free resource offering hundreds of thousands of lessons.

The Digital Learning Summit is just the beginning of the journey. There is much work ahead, but now we have a much better grasp of our map and our plan.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fallin to Speak this Morning at OKC National Memorial Annual Ceremony

Fallin will speak today at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum’s Annual Remembrance Ceremony at approximately 9:15 am.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today released the following statement on the 17th anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing:
“Seventeen years ago today, an unimaginable and shocking act of terrorism was perpetrated on Oklahoma City and on our nation. One-hundred and sixty-eight lives were lost in that terrible attack, including 19 small children. The horror, the brutality and the evil of the Murrah bombing can never be overstated.
“It was an attack that could have easily crippled our city, and left our people hopeless. It did not. Instead, the people of Oklahoma banded together – with the help of volunteers and well-wishers from across the nation and even the world – to overcome. We worked together; we comforted one another; and we rebuilt. Today we are a more prosperous city and a stronger people.
“On this anniversary, I would ask that all Oklahomans as well as all Americans remember and pray for the victims of this terrible tragedy and their families. I would ask as well that we remember and honor the emergency responders and the countless volunteers who arrived on the scene and worked without rest or food to pull survivors from the rubble. Lastly, I would ask our citizens to join me in giving thanks to God for the strength of our community and the resiliency of our people, without which we could never have recovered from such a tragedy.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program to Continue During Appeal

Nelson Praises Decision to Maintain Scholarship Act

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Jason Nelson today said Tulsa district court judge Rebecca Nightingale’s order allowing students to continue using special-needs scholarships is the right decision.
“Allowing the program to continue during the appeal is the right thing to do,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “I know the decision by the judge to grant a stay comes as welcome news to the parents and students who are currently benefiting from the law. I look forward to the Oklahoma Supreme Court taking up the appeal of Judge Nightingale’s ruling where I believe it will be overturned. The law is clearly constitutional if numerous similar state programs are any indication. Opposition to this law is parochial and political – not constitutional.”
The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act allows students with a disability on an individualized education program (IEP) to receive state-funded scholarships to attend private school. The scholarships are funded with money already designated for the child’s education.
In response, the Jenks and Union school districts sued some of the parents of children with special needs who obtained the scholarships provided by the law.
Nightingale ruled against the program because some scholarship recipients used the funds to attend private schools with a religious affiliation.
Her decision not only puts the scholarship program at risk, but also many other state programs. Medicaid, which pays for health care for the poor, is one of the largest state programs imperiled by the Jenks/Union lawsuit since many state hospitals have religious affiliations.
Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, is representing the parents in the lawsuit.
“We are pleased the students will continue learning in an environment that can address their needs,” said Baxter. “However, it is unfortunate that the school districts decided to spend their money suing the families of disabled students instead of supporting opportunities for students with disabilities to succeed. It’s like suing grandma because she signed up for Medicare.”
“It was a win-win situation,” said Baxter. “The scholarships meet pressing needs without imposing additional costs on the state.”
“This decision is unprecedented,” said Baxter. “The Oklahoma Supreme court has been clear for decades that the State can contract with private entities—including religiously-affiliated entities—to provide services the State would otherwise provide directly. What the State cannot do is exclude some service providers simply because they are religiously affiliated, which is what the district court’s ruling would lead to.”
Additional Information:

Case Page

Judge's Order Staying Judgment Pending Appeal
(April 17, 2012) 

Judge's Entry of Judgment (April 16, 2012) 

Democrats Put Politics Before Policy on Severe Weather Liability Law

Veto Override Attempt Fails

OKLAHOMA STATE CAPITOL -- An attempt to override a governor’s veto of House Bill 2296, which would offer limitless liability protection to mobile home park owners who allow residents to seek shelter in their offices during severe weather, failed by a vote of 47-50 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
House Bill 2296 passed the House unanimously last month.
On Friday, Governor Fallin vetoed HB 2296, by Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, and Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, citing concerns about possible unintended consequences.
Gov. Mary Fallin
“After a thorough review of House Bill 2296, I felt that it had the potential to provide legal amnesty to individuals who encouraged the residents of mobile home parks to take shelter in structures that were unsafe,” said Fallin. “This would have the unfortunate and unintended consequence of actually putting lives in jeopardy rather than protecting them. This was obviously not the intent of the authors of this bill, which is why I vetoed the legislation.”
House Republicans are working on a more comprehensive liability protection policy that will address the governor’s concerns. The new language will be included in an amended version of House Bill 2419 by Rep. John Enns, R-Enid. The amended version of HB 2419 will offer liability protection to any individual who offers shelter to another during severe weather rather than offering protection only to mobile home park owners.
On Monday, the House postponed action on an attempt to override the veto of HB 2296 when Speaker Kris Steele’s motion to table the move to override passed.
Speaker Kris Steele
“The intent was never to block a vote on the veto override, but to ensure an informed vote on the veto override,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “In the course of our caucus deliberations on the veto, we identified a House bill currently awaiting action in the Senate that could be amended to address the issue and secured a commitment from the governor to work on compromise language for that bill.”
Proctor said he hoped to insert the language of his bill into another piece of legislation. 
Steele extended an offer Monday evening to House Democrats to work together to develop a compromise, but Proctor opted instead to try to override the veto again Tuesday. The veto override attempt failed.
“The House Republican Caucus cares about this issue and is moving forward with Governor Fallin to develop appropriate liability protection for those who open their doors to others during disasters,” said Steele. “The amended bill will address the governor’s concerns through a more comprehensive policy that meets and exceeds the intent of House Bill 2296. It will offer more protection to more people.”
HB 2419 by Rep. Enns contains an emergency clause which would allow the more comprehensive liability protection to become effective immediately. HB 2296 by Rep. Proctor would not become effective until November 1, well after the severe storm season this spring. 
Fallin is working with legislators to develop the comprehensive policy.
“Moving forward, I am absolutely committed to working with lawmakers on new legislation that accomplishes the intended goal of HB 2296, which is to encourage our citizens to open their businesses or homes to other citizens in times of crisis, said Fallin. “Speaker Steele has already shared with my office an early draft of a ‘Good Samaritan’ law that not only achieves those goals, but broadens the scope of HB 2296 in a way that will positively affect even more Oklahomans.”
Fallin visited Woodward earlier this week where a tornado killed six people and injured many more early Sunday morning. 
“I have talked to families very recently whose ability to reach a storm shelter or sturdy building meant the difference between life and death,” said Fallin. “I will continue to do everything in my power to improve access to those safe places in times of emergency.”
Steele expressed regret that Democrats opted for politics over policy. 
Rep. Eric Proctor
“A good faith offer was made to House Democrats to work on a compromise bill with Governor Fallin and they rejected that offer to work together in favor of an all-or-nothing approach with the veto override,” said Steele. “I communicated to Representative Proctor that I wanted him to take a lead on this compromise, but he declined. It’s disappointing that some would rather play politics with this issue than work collectively on a compromise. Nonetheless, we are doing our jobs and moving forward with the governor to address this issue.”
Proctor said that if the bill carried by Rep. Enns is not signed next week he will again attempt a veto override on HB2296. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Your Rights as a Parent of a Child in Special Education

1.  You have the right to full, free and individual testing of your child's educational needs.

2.  You have the right to have your child re-evaluated at least every three years if necessary.

3.  You have the right to request an IEP meeting at any time.  (Common reasons are to address changed medical or behavioral needs.)  

4.  You have the right to written notification from your child's school in your native language of the school's intention to evaluate, place in Special Education, to hold an IEP meeting or to stop Special Education services.

5.  You have the right to see your child's school records at any time and have copies made.

6.  You have the right to request that a record be explained, changed or destroyed.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Senator AJ Griffin takes oath of office

(Oklahoma State Capitol) -- Businesswoman AJ Griffin is officially on the job as the Senate’s newest member. Griffin was elected in a special election held April 3 to fill the District 20 seat, which includes Logan, Noble, Pawnee and Kingfisher counties.

“It is a humbling experience to stand in the Senate Chamber, hand on the Bible and realize the tremendous responsibility the citizens have entrusted to me, but I am also honored by that trust and excited about working with constituents and my fellow senators to help move our state forward,” said Griffin, R-Guthrie.

The Oath of Office was administered by Oklahoma State Supreme Court Chief Justice Steve Taylor during a ceremony attended by members of the Senate, supporters and family members, including Griffin’s husband, Trey, and daughters Alexandra, 13 and Reagan, 11.

Griffin and her husband own a construction material business and are also deacons in the First Christian Church. In addition, she serves as Executive Director of Logan Community Services and is a former president of the Guthrie Chamber of Commerce.

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman welcomed Griffin to the Senate.

“Senator Griffin comes to us with a proven track record of success in the business and non-profit worlds. I'm confident she will be prepared on day one to help move Oklahoma forward with a pro-jobs, pro-growth agenda,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “Her expertise in helping struggling families, along with her passion for meaningful reform at DHS, couldn't come at a more important time. She’s also a mother and a person of faith who lives the values that define the people of Oklahoma. I know she’ll do a fantastic job on behalf of the citizens of Senate District 20.”

Governor Fallin Announces Judicial Appointments

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin this week announced two judicial appointments.
Thomas E. Prince has been appointed to the position of District Judge of the 7th Judicial District (Oklahoma County), while A. Clark Jett has been appointed to the position of Associate District Judge in Texas County. Neither appointment requires Senate confirmation.
“Each of these men has a distinguished legal career and a proven dedication to the law,” said Fallin. “I am confident they will serve our state well in the judiciary.” 

Prince is replacing Judge Twyla Gray, who is deceased. Prince has been practicing law in Oklahoma since 1982, when he graduated from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. He is currently self-employed, practicing business and corporate law, employment law, health law and a variety of other fields as the sole practitioner at the Prince Law Office in Edmond. Prior to that, Prince was a partner at the York & Slater law office in Oklahoma City.

Prince received his bachelor’s degree from Southern Arkansas University. He is a native of Idabel, Oklahoma. He and his wife Cheryl have five children.
Jett is replacing Judge Ryan Reddick, who resigned. He is a partner at the Wright, Dale & Jett law firm in Guymon, where he has worked since 1977. He is a general practitioner with an emphasis on land titles and conveyancing (the transfer of legal titles from one person to another).
Jett graduated from the University of Oklahoma law School in 1977 after earning a bachelor’s degree, also at OU. He and his wife Rebecca Sue have three children.

Two-year Revenue Growth Streak Ends as Collections Fall

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s two-year revenue growth streak has come to an end as total revenue collections in March fell slightly lower than collections from the same month last year, State Treasurer Ken Miller said last week as he released the March gross receipts report.
Total collections for the month were $920.6 million, down by about $2.6 million or 0.3 percent from March of last year. Miller said the biggest drop among the major sources of revenue came from the gross production tax, which fell by more than one-third.
Income tax collections were lower for the first time in eight months with negative corporate income tax collections weighing down the slightly positive personal income tax receipts.
Sales tax receipts are the only major revenue source that outperformed the previous year with collections surging 15 percent compared to March 2011.
Watching the energy sector
“In the coming months, we will closely watch the energy sector as it is a leading sector of Oklahoma’s economy,” Miller said.
Gross production collections were down in March for a fourth consecutive month, reflecting the impact of low natural gas prices. On Monday, the spot price of natural gas closed at its lowest point for the year, below $1.90 per thousand cubic feet (mcf), at the Henry Hub in Louisiana, the primary marketplace for Oklahoma-produced natural gas.
“While one month does not a trend make in overall revenue collections, four continuous months of decreasing gross production collections is getting trendy,” Miller said. “And due to the timing of gross production collections, March receipts reflect market activity from January. We should expect a period of shrinking natural gas tax collections until prices rebound, especially if the price triggers a lower extraction tax rate.”
Miller said state financial authorities will keep a close eye on natural gas prices.
“Next year’s official revenue estimate reflects natural gas at $3.64 per mcf,” he said. “In addition, state law mandates the currently assessed tax rate of seven percent be lowered to four percent if the average monthly price falls below $2.10 per mcf.”
Miller said the energy sector, which helped bolster Oklahoma’s recovery from the national recession, is tied to approximately one-third of the state’s economic activity.
“Undoubtedly, the strong price of crude oil is helping to compensate for the downturn in natural gas prices,” he said.
The exact percentage of gross production revenue generated by natural gas in March is not yet calculated, but the trend over the past several months has been downward. In October, it was 51 percent. In February, it was 35 percent.
Some positive news

Human Trafficking Bill Sent to Governor

Rep. Sally Kern
R-Oklahoma City
OKLAHOMA CITY (April 12, 2012) – State senators today approved legislation that would help protect the victims of sex trafficking and sent it to Governor Mary Fallin to be signed into law.

House Bill 2518, by state Rep. Sally Kern, expands the definition of human trafficking to include the act of recruiting, harboring or transporting a minor for the purpose of prostitution. The legislation also prohibits any attempt to claim the minor’s consent as a means of defense.

“This legislation will help district attorneys prosecute individuals involved in exploiting young men and women,” said Kern (R-Oklahoma City). “Sex trafficking is a horrendous crime that has become sadly prevalent in the U.S. Few people realize how widespread it has become because the crime is concealed in so many ways. Sex traffickers use violence, threats, false promises, debt bondage and other forms of control to keep their victims in line. That’s why the legislation has a provision dealing with consent, because no one should defend their crime by saying a child agreed to be exploited”

Oklahoma City police recently intervened when a 15-year-old girl was found prostituting on South Robinson Avenue.

“It is happening here in Oklahoma and we need to do what we can to help stop it,” Kern said. “It breaks my heart to hear of a young girl forced to participate in such a dehumanizing crime.”

House Bill 2518 passed unanimously in both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reward Schools Recognized by State Board, Legislators

The State Board of Education and State Legislators recognized 127 Reward Schools from throughout Oklahoma in a special Board meeting and in a ceremony at the State Capitol on Monday, April 9, 2012.
Reward Schools are those in the top 10 percent of performance in all assessments from three years worth of data ending in 2010-11, or those in the top 10 percent of schools that have made high progress in reading and math. The designation was granted as a result of Oklahoma’s flexibility request from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act under No Child Left Behind from the U.S. Department of Education.
“We are proud of the work the students and the educators at these schools have done to merit the distinction of being Reward Schools,” State Superintendent of Instruction Janet Barresi said. “The students have proven they are on track to being college, career and citizen ready by the time they graduate. This will not only serve them well in their future but bodes well for the future work force and leadership of our state as well.”
In addition to recognition, reward schools may be provided more autonomy regarding state and federal funds, as well as be exempt from annual monitoring of certain accreditation requirements and certain site plans. Reward schools also may be provided financial rewards as funding is available.
In addition, Reward Schools will be offered grant opportunities for those willing to partner with Priority Schools, Focus Schools, or schools earning grades of C, D, or F in the State’s A-F School Grading System, as funding is available. Representatives from reward schools also will be invited to participate in various advisory groups and councils and will be invited to provide training sessions at statewide conferences and regional workshops.
Oklahoma’s High-Performing Reward Schools by district or category are:

Graduation Program Helps Foster Kids

Oklahoma Capitol -- Several years ago, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) implemented a plan to help the state’s foster care children through the sometimes difficult high school years.

The Graduation Advocacy Program (GAP) focuses on students in grades nine through 12 in the Oklahoma City Public School system. Three full-time Graduation Specialists divide a caseload of 50-80 students at any given time in 17 Oklahoma City high schools.

“‘GAP’ is still relatively new,” said Clay Zahn, OKDHS Independent Living Coordinator.  “We began back in the 2009-2010 school year, and in just those three years we have helped nearly 250 kids. The youth in our foster care face the same issues we all faced those many years ago. But these kids also have certain other complexities related to being in foster care.”

The challenges can be many, according to Zahn. “Frequent placement changes are one of the biggest obstacles,” he said. “That can result in a change in schools, community, friends, and their overall support system; that often results in poor academic progress.”

To help provide support and service, OKDHS' graduation specialists have special knowledge and experience often only found within GAP.
“The role of the graduation specialist calls for experience and training working specifically with foster youth, including issues related to abuse and neglect,” Zahn said.  “They must be equipped to navigate successfully through the child welfare system. This means working in a multi-disciplinary system that includes attorneys, placement and service providers, child welfare and tribal workers, among others.”

Each graduation specialist has his or her own caseload which fluctuates depending on the number of foster youth placed within their area. They must understand and be prepared to deal with issues related to kids in the foster system. One of those issues might be placement or custody changes, termination of parental rights, adoption and guardianship, as well as being separated from their siblings.
“In addition, a graduation specialist needs to be able to tell their youth about educational programs that can help them if they decide to go to college. They need to have a general understanding of tuition waivers, education and training vouchers and the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program,” Zahn added.

All of this requires not only a working knowledge, but perhaps more importantly the time to deal with many issues facing foster youth. Currently, GAP is limited to the Oklahoma City Public Schools. In a perfect world, Zahn says the program would be expanded to Tulsa and rural areas of the state.
“I would like to see that happen,” Zahn said, “but with the state’s budget the way it is, I don’t see that happening any time soon.”

For additional information on OKDHS’ Graduation Advocacy Program, contact Clay Zahn via email at or by phone at (405) 521-3778.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I will miss Rep. Sue Tibbs; Services Set

(Oklahoma State Capitol) Friend and colleague Rep. Sue Tibbs passed away yesterday evening. My thoughts and prayers are with her husband Homer, her family and many friends. 

Rep. Tibbs passed away at 9:15 p.m. Friday due to complications from a long battle with cancer. Tibbs, 77, was with her family at her home in Tulsa when she passed.

Tibbs, R-Tulsa, had represented House District 23 since 2000. 

Services have been set for:

Wed., April 11 at 2pm in the main sanctuary of:
Grace Church
9610 South Garnett
Broken Arrow, OK

Burial will be at Floral Haven Cemetery following the service
6500 S. 129th East Ave.
Broken Arrow, OK 74012

Funeral Arrangements by Floral Haven Funeral Home

Memorial Service  will be held at the State Capitol
Thursday, April 12,  at 1pm in the House Chamber
In lieu of flowers you may make donations in Sue's name to
either :

Free in Christ Ministries      OR    Family & Children's Services

P.O. Box 252                                 Attn: Women in Recovery
Coweta, OK  74429                       650 S. Peoria Ave.
918-277 -4274                                Tulsa, OK74120

House Speaker Kris Steele:

“Sue Tibbs was as dedicated and determined a person as you’ll ever meet. She was an incredibly effective, fair legislator who was widely admired for her strong sense of conviction and faith. Her determination was most evident as a passionate champion in the areas of corrections reform and voter identification in which her legacy will be forever evident. She was our colleague, but to many of us, she was the kind of friend anyone would like to have. Sue never complained or allowed her illness to get in the way of her service to the people of Oklahoma. She and I were elected together and often talked about finishing our term together. Serving alongside her was one of the great joys of my time in the Legislature. She is an amazing individual who touched and changed my life and the lives of many, many others. She will remain with us in spirit and her presence and influence will be evident for years to come. The thoughts and prayers of the entire House of Representatives are with her family and friends during this difficult time.”
Governor Mary Fallin:

“Representative Sue Tibbs was a tireless public servant who cared deeply about her constituents and the state of Oklahoma. She was an influential and important figure at the State Capitol, and she will be remembered for the hard work and dedication she brought to her position as a legislator. My thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family – especially her husband and two children – during this difficult time.”
Cathy Keating:
“A lovely lady has left her mark on the state and my heart.”
Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell:
"I want to offer my sincere condolences to the Tibbs family on their loss. You never had to wonder where Sue stood on an issue, and I respected that. Sue represented the people of District 23 well, and she will be greatly missed."

Below is a recent story about Rep. Tibbs by Patrick B. McGuigan at CapitolBeatOK (Published: 15-Mar-2012)

Tulsa’s Sue Tibbs: tough lady, criminal justice reformer, loyal friend

After 12 years at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, serving Tulsa’s District 23, Sue Tibbs is optimistic about the state’s future because “I believe in the people of Oklahoma. I believe we’re a strong people, with good ideas and good judgment.” 

Chairwoman of Public Safety and a key player on the Appropriations & Budget Human Services subcommittee, as well as General Government and Judiciary, she has been a trailblazer for other Republican women, and women in general.

A friend and fellow legislator, Pam Peterson, was her roommate during legislative sessions for seven years. Peterson reflects, “She is an amazingly loyal person. When she’s with you, she’s with you.

“When she speaks on the floor, everybody listens. She is greatly respected. She’s not flashy. She speaks very intentionally. She has power and influence because of who she is. 

“The tenacity of the woman is just incredible. She’s not the youngest member but she could run circles around many of the others, including younger members.”

Peterson insists Tibbs is “as tough as any male,” yet gentle as a dove in matters of faith. A committed Christian and a member of Tulsa’s Grace Church, she hosts a Tuesday noon hour devotional at the Capitol, an event she inherited from former Rep. Joan Greenwood.

In her first race, back in 2000, Tibbs defeated a popular Democratic incumbent, Betty Boyd. Eventually, the Republican made the district her own, winning reelection easily in both 2008 and 2010. 

In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Tibbs was asked to list her most significant achievements in public life. She replied, “My most significant achievement, I believe, is being able to serve my constituents on a daily basis.”

Another success is a long marriage to Milton Homer Tibbs. They have two children: Debra West and Elli Dodd. 

She continued with reflections on priority issues, saying she is intensely focused on “the prison reform area. Being able to recognize that some people have made mistakes and wish to have a second chance, giving them that opportunity and truly seeing these programs work, changing lives for whole generations.” 

Concerned with the Sooner State’s high rates of female incarceration, Tibbs early on became an advocate of criminal justice reform. She was one of the first elected officials to study Tulsa’s acclaimed Women in Recovery (WIR) program, an effective example of the potential for what is now known as “justice reinvestment.” 

Last August, Tibbs was a featured speaker at the summer graduation for WIR, congratulating women who had turned their lives around after struggles with addiction, crime and dysfunction. She’s a heroine to the staff and supporters of WIR. 

Tibbs introduced a young Methodist minister from Shawnee, a fellow legislator named Kris Steele, to the Tulsa program. After he became speaker, Steele championed the drive to make Oklahoma’s policies “right on crime” – wise, judicious, compassionate, cost effective and reform-oriented.

Her work on voter ID issues made her a hero to fellow conservatives. She comments, “I started working on voter ID my first year at the Capitol, and was thrilled to present my driver’s license to be able to vote in the presidential primary on Saturday, March 3.” Oklahoma Eagle Forum named her a legislator of the year for her work in that arena.

A graduate of Tulsa Central who also attended Tulsa Junior College, Tibbs is part of the last group of Republicans to have served in the minority at the state House.

One friend is a leading Democrat, Senator Jerry Ellis of Valliant. He told CapitolBeatOK, “She was so easy to work with in the House, and we did so for six years. I was in the majority there for two years, and then in the minority for four years, before I came to the Senate.

“She is one of those people for whom party affiliation did not enter into it. It was always just the issue with Sue Tibbs.”

Ellis, remembering his House years with Tibbs, concluded, “I still have, as a keepsake, a note she wrote me. She thanked me for working with her on one of those early issues when we were in the House. She is a dedicated public servant, a wonderful person.”

Tibbs says important work remains undone in Oklahoma City. She reasons, “I believe one of the most important issues facing Oklahoma is becoming and remaining a business-friendly state. We are finally moving in that direction. We finally have a governor who is willing to step up to the plate and make those hard decisions, then stick with them to cause this to come about.

“I do believe we can successfully eliminate the taxes necessary to accomplish this over a 10-year period. I hope the Legislature will also remain positive in this area, and move ahead with this plan.

“Oklahoma has the opportunity to grow our tax base by attracting companies to our Great State. Our work force is second to none. Now is our opportunity to provide them with good paying jobs.

“Another very important issue is consolidating some agencies – making sure duplication of services [is] stopped, which of course will save the taxpayers’ dollars and, in the long run, provide more service to more people.”

Her greatest concern remains, “Our prison system. I truly believe Oklahoma needs to rewrite our criminal code. Kansas compares in population with Oklahoma and, a few years ago, decided they needed to rewrite their code.

“Their prison population dropped, saving Kansas taxpayers an incredible amount of money.  This money was then able to spent on other services, or returned to the taxpayers.

“Oklahoma spends about $500 million a year on Corrections funding, believing we were getting smarter on crime, when in fact we weren’t. We live in the Bible Belt where we believe in forgiveness and second chances. We must continue to work toward that end, not re-election.”

Peterson’s face lights up when a reporter asks her about Tibbs. She says, “She is the strongest woman I’ve ever met. Her spirit and determination, her strong will have impressed me.” 

On a busy day at the state Capitol, when asked about Sue Tibbs, Speaker Steele told CapitolBeatOK she "is the epitome of dedication, courage and determination. She is a true public servant who understands the issues facing our state and cares deeply about the needs of her constituents. It is an honor to serve alongside her in the state Legislature."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Committee Clears Bill to Improve Data Gathering

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 5, 2012) – Legislation that would help lawmakers in their appropriation and policy decisions has been approved by a House committee.

Senate Bill 1451, by state Sen. Rick Brinkley and state Rep. Pat Ownbey, would require state agency strategic plans to include an analysis of the appropriated level needed to achieve certain listed measures for each of the five fiscal years of the plan.

“This bill, which is titled the Oklahoma Program Performance Budgeting and Accountability Act, is an attempt to have these agencies not only address expected changes in their services but also how they plan to meet those plans financially over a five-year fiscal period,” said Ownbey (R-Ardmore). “The more feedback and information we receive from state agencies, the better our decisions will be. This is a straightforward bill and I appreciate the support of my colleagues.”

The legislation was approved by the House General Government Committee and now proceeds to the House floor for consideration.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Institute for Child Advocacy Holding Press Conference Today

Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy Executive Director Linda Terrell
Annette Deal – Serenity Deal’s grandmother
Dr. George Young – Holy Temple Baptist Church
WHAT:      Press Conference – OICA will host a press conference to discuss the
                   economic burden of child abuse and the importance of child abuse
                   prevention, the recent developments with the DHS lawsuit settlements
                   and the opportunities to fix our broken child welfare system. Annette 
                   Deal, grandmother of 5-year-old Serenity Deal, will speak briefly about
                   how bold reform to the OK Child Welfare system must happen to
                   ensure no child faces the same fate as Serenity.
WHEN:     Tuesday, April 3, at 11 a.m.
WHERE:  Governor’s Conference Room 2nd floor at the Capitol
WHY:        In 2010, Oklahoma had more than 7,200 confirmed cases of child
                  abuse and neglect; that year, OKDHS assessed and investigated
                  45,811 cases of possible child abuse or neglect. Currently, there are
                  about 8,000 children under the care of about 1,000 DHS employees
                  and caseworkers. The overall economic burden of child abuse reaches
                  billions of dollars annually, including an estimated $1.2 Million in lost
                  productivity for businesses throughout Oklahoma and the United States.
                  Action must be taken to prevent cases like Serenity Deal’s and the
                  countless others like hers from happening again. Our Serenity Project
                 calls for recommendations to reform the broken Oklahoma DHS - child
                 welfare system in order to better protect our kids.
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