Thursday, January 31, 2013

House Republican Caucus Unveils Pro-Growth Strategic Plan

OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Republican Caucus today unveiled their 2013 legislative agenda, which included a three-point plan addressing economic development, education reforms and infrastructure funding and maintenance.

Speaker T.W. Shannon
“Oklahomans have spoken loud and clear this year by voting in the largest Republican majority in Oklahoma history,” said House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton. “They want overreaching regulations that limit their freedom repealed. They want policies enacted that protect their rights, that encourage job growth and prosperity and that improves our education system so their children can have a brighter future.”

On infrastructure, Speaker Shannon proposed an eight-year, pay-as-you-go plan to directly fund the upkeep and repair of infrastructure.

“In the past, the model has been to neglect infrastructure to the point of decay and then to take out bonds to repair those needs,” said Shannon. “Our plan will be similar to the eight-year transportation plan we introduced last year that allows us to prioritize projects based on need and to pay our way as we go without adding more debt onto the backs of hardworking Oklahomans.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oklahoma House Republicans to Unveil Strategic Plan

OKLAHOMA CAPITOL -- Oklahoma House Republicans will release this session’s agenda and goals on Thursday, January 31 at the state Capitol.  Republican leaders will give brief statements on key agenda items and take questions from the media.

Who: Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, House Republican Caucus Leadership
What: Release of Republican Caucus Agenda
Where: Governor’s Blue Room, State Capitol
When: Thursday, January 31 at 11:30 a.m.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Lamb Releases Second Policy and Issues Report

Oklahoma City—Lt. Governor Todd Lamb recently released his second Lt. Governor’s Policy and Issues Report. The report stems from the Lt. Governor’s travels across all of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, in particular his series of six Small Business and Small Manufacturer summits held in various communities.
As Oklahoma’s Small Business Advocate, the Lt. Governor felt meeting with business owners was a priority in determining how to effectively move Oklahoma forward. During his visits, the Lt. Governor heard numerous relevant suggestions that he included in his report.
“The people of Oklahoma, who on a daily basis work to move this state forward, are the best sources for policy recommendations,” said Lt. Governor Lamb. “And as Lt. Governor is it my duty to listen and help address the challenges facing Oklahoma citizens.”
The specific content within the Lt. Governor’s Policy and Issues Report includes policy proposals in the areas of workers’ compensation reform, tax reform, workforce development, unemployment compensation, and tourism.
“The number one issue discussed among business owners was the critical need for workers’ compensation reform,” said Lt. Governor Lamb. “Some workers’ compensation measures have been approved in the past several years, but the call for an entire system analysis and reform by Oklahoma business cannot be ignored.”
Lt. Governor Lamb added the goal of his report is to generate legislation that will produce a growing, thriving Oklahoma.
“Making the state more competitive, educating a skilled workforce and providing accountability within government agencies and entities is the key to advancing our state and was the focus of my policy and issues report,” said Lt. Governor Lamb. “As we look ahead to a new year and a new legislative session, I am confident that these ideas and suggestions, submitted by Oklahoma voters themselves, will result in much needed reforms.”
The report can be viewed in its entirety on Lt. Governor Lamb’s website at

USDOE: Schools Must Provide Equal Opportunity in Sports to Students with Disabilities

Today, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights issued guidance clarifying school districts' existing legal obligations to provide equal access to extracurricular athletic activities to students with disabilities. In addition to explaining those legal obligations, the guidance urges school districts to work with community organizations to increase athletic opportunities for students with disabilities, such as opportunities outside of the existing extracurricular athletic program.

Students with disabilities have the right, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, to an equal opportunity to participate in their schools' extracurricular activities. A 2010 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that many students with disabilities are not afforded an equal opportunity to participate in athletics, and therefore may not have equitable access to the health and social benefits of athletic participation.

"Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

The guidance letter provides examples of the types of reasonable modifications that schools may be required to make to existing policies, practices, or procedures for students with intellectual, developmental, physical, or any other type of disability. Examples of such modifications include:

  • The allowance of a visual cue alongside a starter pistol to allow a student with a hearing impairment who is fast enough to qualify for the track team the opportunity to compete.
  • The waiver of a rule requiring the "two-hand touch" finish in swim events so that a one-armed swimmer with the requisite ability can participate at swim meets.

The guidance also notes that the law does not require that a student with a disability be allowed to participate in any selective or competitive program offered by a school district, so long as the selection or competition criteria are not discriminatory.

"Participation in extracurricular athletics can be a critical part of a student's overall educational experience, said Seth Galanter, acting assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). "Schools must ensure equal access to that rewarding experience for students with disabilities."

The mission of the Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. Among the federal civil rights laws OCR is responsible for enforcing are Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For more information about the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the anti-discrimination statutes that it enforces, please visit OCR's website at and follow OCR on twitter @EDcivilrights.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bipartisan “Parent Empowerment Act” Proposed by Senators

OKLAHOMA CAPITOL --Senator David Holt (R – Oklahoma City) and Senator Jabar Shumate (D – Tulsa) have introduced the “Parent Empowerment Act”, Senate Bill 1001, which will give Oklahoma parents the power to force a dramatic change in their students’ underperforming schools. 
The Parent Empowerment Act would create a process where if a majority of parents in an underperforming school sign a petition, they may transition the school to a charter school, or they may ask for the administrators of the school to be terminated. An underperforming school is defined as a school that has received a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ for at least the last two years under Oklahoma’s new grading system, or a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ for two of the last three years, as long as the most recent grade was a ‘D’ or an ‘F’. If the parents choose the charter school option, the charter school will first serve all students in the previous attendance boundaries of the school.
Sen. David Holt
R-Oklahoma City
Sen. Holt explained that charter schools provide more flexibility, and the goal of chartering an underperforming school under the Parent Empowerment Act would be to provide the flexibility needed to improve student performance at the school in a manner led jointly by motivated parents and school district leaders. The process of creating a charter school outlined in the Parent Empowerment Act is designed to create a collaborative relationship between the parents and the school district, rather than an adversarial one. 
“I think everyone involved in education wants the best for our kids, but sometimes schools underperform, and sometimes we all get stuck in a pattern we can’t seem to break,” said Holt. “The Parent Empowerment Act creates a path where parents can work hand-in-hand with school district leaders to break that pattern and set a new tone for their school. I believe this concept has the potential to dramatically improve the education being delivered to students in some of our most challenged schools.”
Sen. Jabar Shumate
“I have consistently been inspired by the parents in my district who have fought for a better education for their kids,” said Shumate. “Oftentimes, this has led them to stand up for more choices and more tools, and I have stood with them. The Parent Empowerment Act gives the parents in my district a new tool, and that’s a good thing for our kids. I don’t think that the education of the kids in my district is a partisan issue.”
The power given to parents in the Parent Empowerment Act is often referred to as a “parent trigger” and versions of it have been enacted in several other states, most notably California, where the first "parent trigger" school is now beginning its transition to a charter school. Senator Holt had previously announced in September his desire to give Oklahoma parents this power through 2013 legislation. Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi has endorsed a “parent trigger” law for Oklahoma, and noted education reformer Michelle Rhee’s education think tank recently did the same. SB 1001 will be considered in the 2013 legislative session that begins February 4th.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Agency Performance and Budget Hearings Scheduled

OKLAHOMA CITY – The House will begin holding performance and budget request hearings for state agencies this week in preparation for the upcoming legislative session, House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chair Scott Martin announced.

The hearings will be held over a two-week period at the state Capitol beginning on Tuesday, January 22.

Rep. Martin said the hearings are an important process for members to review how the agencies performed during the most recent fiscal year. The meetings give the agencies an opportunity to explain to the committee how the prior year’s appropriation was spent, whether new programs were added or old ones discarded and to present their budget request for the next fiscal year.

“I’m glad we were able to reinstitute these critical hearings for the upcoming session,” said Martin, R-Norman. “It’s our duty to provide oversight and evaluate agency budgets, and these hearings will give my House colleagues the chance to really dig deep into agency spending and thoughtfully consider any new request before session begins.

“It’s important to the taxpayers that every penny spent is justified and used wisely. These are taxpayer dollars we will be appropriating, and it’s incumbent on us to be good stewards of them. I’m confident these meetings will be beneficial for the legislature, just as it will be for our state agencies. While the budget is considered and passed during a short four-month timeframe, our vigilance over it never ends. I hope my fellow citizens feel free to attend these public meetings and listen to the proceedings.”

The Performance and Budget hearing schedule is as follows:

  • A&B Joint (with Senate) Human Services Subcommittee, Tuesday, January 22 at 8:30 a.m.
  • A&B Joint (with Senate) Judiciary Subcommittee, Thursday, January 24 at 9:00 a.m.
  • A&B Joint (with Senate) Natural Resources Subcommittee, Thursday, January 24 at 10:30 a.m.
  • A&B Public Health Subcommittee, Monday, January 28 at 8:30 a.m.
  • A&B Joint (with Senate) Career Technology Subcommittee, Monday, January 28 at 9:30 a.m.
  • A&B Joint (with Senate) Higher Education Subcommittee, Monday, January 28 at 2:00 p.m.
  • A&B Non-Appropriated Subcommittee, Tuesday, January 29 at 9:00 a.m.
  • A&B Joint (with Senate) Common Education Subcommittee, Tuesday, January 29 at 9:30 a.m.
  • A&B Transportation Subcommittee, Tuesday, January 29 at 10:30 a.m.
  • A&B Public Safety Subcommittee, Wednesday, January 30 at 8:30 a.m.
  • A&B General Government Subcommittee, Thursday, January 31 at 9:00 a.m.

All meeting notices with locations and agendas have been posted to the House website.

The 54th Legislature will convene on Monday, February 4.

Friday, January 18, 2013

House Completes Bill-Filing Process

OKLAHOMA CITY (January 18, 2011) – At the conclusion of the filing process on January 17 – the last day for state representatives to file legislation – there were 1,259 bills and 43 joint resolutions filed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives for the 2013 legislative session.

Last year, the House Chief Clerk’s Office reported that 962 bills and 26 joint resolutions were filed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives for the 2012 legislative session.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Budget Hearings for Human Services Agencies Set

Oklahoma Capitol -- The House A&B Subcommittee on Human Services is set to meet on Jan. 22 from 9-5 in Room 511A of the State Capitol for pre-session Budget Performance Hearings. 

This is a joint meeting with the Senate A&B Subcommittee on Health and Human Services

During the morning session we will look at DHS as a whole but we have asked the agency to prepare for in-depth discussions of progress on child welfare reform, the closing of the two resource centers and the status of the developmental disabilities waiting list.

The meeting will be streamed live over the internet through the State Senate's website

House of Representatives
State of Oklahoma

(To reflect change in location and start time)

January 16, 2013

TO:                                         A&B Human Services
SUBJECT:                             Performances Reviews

DATE:                                    January 22, 2013

TIME:                                    9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION:                         Oklahoma State Capitol Building
                                                Room 511-A


9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.          Department of Human Services

12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.          Lunch Break

1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.            Office of Juvenile Affairs
2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.            Department of Rehabilitation Services
3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.            Commission on Children and Youth
                                                Other Business and Adjournment

CHAIR:                                  Representative Jason Nelson
VICE CHAIR:                       Representative Jadine Nollan

MEMBERS:                           Representative Pat Ownbey
                                                Representative Pam Peterson
                                                Representative Anastasia Pittman
                                                Representative Dustin Roberts
                                                Representative Wade Rousselot

Monday, January 14, 2013

Members of Oklahoma Commission on School Security Announced

Oklahoma City—Lt. Governor Todd Lamb, Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, House Speaker T.W. Shannon, Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage and House Democratic Leader Scott Inman announced last week the members of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security.
Lt. Governor Lamb, a former United States Secret Service Agent, will serve as chair of the commission and looks forward to the work set to be accomplished.   
“Partnering with legislative leaders to create the Oklahoma Commission on School Security was a much-needed, proactive decision,” said Lt. Governor Lamb.  “Our children deserve safe and secure learning environments and this commission is committed to doing just that.  Each commission member brings experience from their respective field that will generate ideas and solutions to enhance school security.”
Members of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security include local school personnel, law enforcement, parents and health care professionals, and are as follows:
  1. Roger Webb – Headmaster, Oklahoma Christian School/former President, University of Central Oklahoma/former Commissioner, Department of Public Safety
  2. Maj. Gen. Lee Baxter (retired) –State Board of Education Member
  3. Dr. Ryan Brown – Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Oklahoma
  4. Lyn Watson – Oklahoma City School Board, District 1
  5. Randy Holley – Superintendent, Shattuck Public Schools
  6. Dr. Gary Quinn – Superintendent, Bartlesville Public Schools
  7. Kevin Burr – Superintendent, Sapulpa Public Schools
  8. Mike McClaren – Superintendent, Claremore Public Schools
  9. Dr. Trice Butler – Principal, Wilburton Middle School
  10. Dr. Sharon Brady – Assistant Director of Special Education, Lawton Public Schools
  11. Tammy Will – Teacher, Morrison Public Schools
  12. Dr. Eleanor Goetzinger – Behavior Specialist, Oklahoma City Public Schools
  13. Jerry McConnell – Director of Facility Operations, Moore Norman Technology Center
  14. David Prater – Oklahoma County District Attorney
  15. Kim Carter – Director, Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security
  16. Brandon Clabes – Midwest City, Chief of Police
  17. Captain Tim Dorsey – Captain, Edmond Police Department
  18. Darry Stacy – Cleveland County Commissioner, District 2
  19. Gary Rudick – Chief of Police, Tulsa Public Schools Campus Police
  20. Major James Blocker – Director of EMS, Oklahoma City Fire Department
  21. Gary Armbruster – Principal Architect, MA+ Architecture
  22. Phil Armstrong – Assistant Pastor, Metropolitan Baptist Church, Tulsa
“There is nothing more important than doing everything in our power to keep Oklahoma's kids safe,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman.  “I am tremendously thankful for these subject matter experts—they are generously giving of their time to help us build safer schools and address the fundamental problems that could potentially put our kids in harm’s way.  I appreciate their service.”
"Our children are our highest priority," said House Speaker T.W. Shannon.  "I applaud these men and women for volunteering their time and expertise to help safeguard the future of Oklahoma. My hope is they will strike the right balance between public safety and personal liberty."
 “We must have a serious, fact-driven discussion about the safety of our schools,” said Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage.  “The formation of the non-partisan Oklahoma Commission on School Safety is an important first step.  I applaud those who have stepped up to serve our state in this capacity, and I look forward to the findings of the commission.”
"As a parent, I never want to second-guess the safety of my children while they are at school," said House Democratic Leader Scott Inman.  "The Oklahoma Commission on School Security's work will be timely and necessary if we want to proactively create learning environments where our children feel safe, secure, and fearless throughout their education.  I look forward to the commission's findings and know these experts will provide us with a meaningful road map to ensuring our schools are secure."
Commission members will hold various meetings, the first set to convene at the Oklahoma State Capitol, Room 419-C, on January 22 at 1:30 p.m.  Meeting agendas will include speaker testimony and discussion on the various factors related to school security including but not limited to public safety, mental health, training, engineering and local control.  The commission plans on providing suggestions and legislative recommendations regarding school security for the 2013 legislative session.
Oklahomans across the state are encouraged to submit their ideas for study in the commission by calling the Lt. Governor’s office at 405-521-2161.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Oklahoma gets D+ from national school reform group

Oklahoma Capitol -- A new A-F school report card is out. This report card is not part of the state’s new A-F school grading system that sparked a minor rebellion by many school officials who would rather avoid such accountability.

The national organization StudentsFirst has released report cards grading education policy in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

Oklahoma received an overall grade of D+.

According to the report card summary, the grades do not assess student achievement, school quality, or teacher performance, but rather the policy environments that affect those outcomes.

Friday, January 4, 2013

House Committee Assignments Posted for 2013-2014

Oklahoma Capitol -- State representatives received finalized committee assignments today from Co-majority Floor Leader Dennis Johnson. The list of new House Committees with member assignments were posted to the Oklahoma House of Representatives website. Both Republican and Democratic members of the House are included in the posting.

Link to House Committees

AFP-OK Director Stuart Jolly Resigns, Takes New Position

Oklahoma City, OK – Americans for Prosperity today announced that Stuart Jolly, state director of the organization’s Oklahoma chapter, is resigning at the end of the month to become Executive Political Director of TeamCFA which focuses on the areas of free-market economics, school choice and charter school issues. Stuart’s responsibilities are now nationwide, with special focus on three regions surrounding North Carolina, Arizona, and Indiana.

Stuart has served as state director of Americans for Prosperity for over six years.
Americans for Prosperity is actively looking for candidates to fill the Oklahoma State Director position. You can see more details and apply by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

House Committee Schedule Set for 2013-2014 Sessions

Download copy of schedule

OKDHS hits first major reform milestone

Oklahoma Capitol—The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) has fulfilled a New Year’s resolution, so to speak—ensuring no more children under the age of two spend the night in a shelter. The “resolution” is the first major goal in the Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan, ensuring by Dec. 31, 2012 that all children under the age of two-years-old will be placed in family-like settings.

Deborah Smith
“This was a very important goal for our state to achieve not only for the Pinnacle Plan--it’s the right thing to do for young children,” said Deborah Smith, Director of OKDHS Child Welfare Services. “I am very proud of our child welfare staff. Achieving this goal has taken a lot of teamwork and I commend everyone for their efforts.”

“OKDHS cannot do this work alone and we would like to thank all Oklahomans who have stepped up recently to become foster parents,” said Smith. “We would also like to thank all of our private partners and the faith community for helping recruit, train and support foster families.”

Since July 1, 930 new foster parents have been recruited statewide.

Exceptions to the “under two” rule are allowed for medically fragile children requiring 24-hour supervision, large sibling groups of four or more, and teen moms with infants. Overnight is defined as “being present at midnight.” If a child should enter an emergency shelter after midnight, they would not be counted in this measure until the following night. This allows staff to put the children to bed and not move them around during the night hours.

The Pinnacle Plan is a five-year improvement plan created by OKDHS and key stakeholders for the improvement of the state’s foster care system. The plan includes numerous initiatives divided into seven major categories called “Pinnacle Points.”

“Pinnacle Point 1” refers to expanding the number of foster homes available and reducing the use of shelters statewide, particularly for young children. OKDHS committed to ensuring that children are cared for in family-like settings and outlined timelines to meet these goals.

Often, children are brought to shelters after removal from their homes to receive medical treatment, assess their needs, and to provide a safe shelter while a family member or a foster home is being located. The goal was to ensure these young children were placed in a home as quickly as possible without spending the night in the shelter.

The next major timeline the agency has committed to in the Pinnacle Plan is June 30, 2013. By that date, OKDHS must ensure no child under the age of six-years-old spends the night in a shelter, and the agency must have recruited 2,000 new foster families--500 more than had been previously recruited.

Other goals OKDHS has already achieved in the Pinnacle Plan include: increasing the reimbursement rates for foster parents, increasing salaries for child welfare workers, and restructuring the Child Welfare Division.

For those interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent, please contact the Bridge Family Resource Center at or call 1-800-376-9729. Those interested in a career as a Child Welfare Specialist should go to the OKDHS website and look under “Careers.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

History: 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, announcing, "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious areas "are, and henceforward shall be free."

Source: National Archives
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