Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fallin Appoints Natalie Shirley as Secretary of Education and Workforce Development

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced that Natalie Shirley, president of Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC), will be joining her Cabinet as secretary of education and workforce development. Shirley will begin serving on Monday, January 26.

Shirley became president of OSU-OKC in 2011. She is the first female president in the OSU system.

Prior to her role at OSU-OKC, Shirley served as Oklahoma secretary of commerce and tourism for former Governor Brad Henry. She also served as the executive director of the Department of Commerce, the state’s leading economic development agency. Shirley has also served as president of ICI Mutual, an insurance company.

Fallin called Shirley a perfect fit for helping to achieve a goal outlined in the governor’s inaugural address: increasing educational attainment.

“One of my top priorities going into 2015 is to increase educational attainment in Oklahoma,” said Fallin. “We know that the best way to help Oklahomans – especially those living in poverty – is to get them the skills they need for a good job. Similarly, the best way we can support our businesses and grow our economy is to produce a more educated workforce. Making that goal a reality will take a cooperative effort between Oklahoma public education and our business community.

“I’ve asked Natalie to help oversee and energize that public/private partnership and work to ensure we are increasing educational attainment in Oklahoma. I believe she has the experience and the skill-set we need for that important task. Natalie has been a successful president at OSU-OKC; she has been a leader in both the public and private sector; she is respected by members of both political parties; and she has experience working with and managing large government agencies. Most importantly, she is absolutely committed to ensuring that Oklahoma provides the best education possible to our students.”

Shirley currently serves on the board of directors for the United Way of Central Oklahoma, SSM Health Care of Oklahoma, the Girl Scouts, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, BancFirst, the Oklahoma State Fair Board, AAA Oklahoma/South Dakota, as a trustee on the Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum and on the community development advisory council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

"I am honored Governor Fallin has asked me to join her Cabinet,” said Shirley. “As an educator and business person, I know that a great foundational education, learning a skill and earning a degree can produce lifelong benefits. This is turn will make Oklahoma a stronger and better place to live and work.”

Shirley received a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University and a law degree from the University of Oklahoma.

She and her husband, Russ Harrison, have six children.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Morrissette Files ‘Right-to-Try’ Legislation

Oklahoma Would Join Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri, Arizona

OKLAHOMA CITY – According to the Pew Charitable Trust, some critics of the years-long federal Food and Drug Administration drug approval process, with its requirement for multiple clinical trials, contend that it is much longer than it should be, thereby keeping some promising drugs from those who might benefit.

Withholding drugs from the most gravely ill has fueled several states to pass so-called “right-to-try” legislation that would make these drugs available, without FDA approval, to terminally ill patients with no other option.

“The Goldwater Institute, a conservative non-profit that defends states’ rights, created model legislation in Colorado, and I have used that model to draft my legislation,” House Bill 1074, said state Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-Oklahoma City).

“I am especially concerned for our children diagnosed with terminal illness, who for want of a drug may be stuck in some trial for a decade, when a second chance at life might be possible,” the Oklahoma City Democrat said. “This is a pro-life issue and it seems we have all waited long enough for the process of clinical trials to improve without any relief. It is the system that’s terminal.”

Legislation in four states has now passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. All of the existing laws and the Morrissette proposal leave the decision to try an unapproved medication to the patient, the doctor and the drug company.

In all participating states, the laws are supposed to open up access to drugs that passed through just the first stage of clinical trials and are part of ongoing trials. It has yet to be determined if ‘right-to-try’ legislation will withstand a legal challenge from the federal government.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Speaker Announces Additional House Leadership Appointments

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman announced additional leadership positions today, naming assistant majority leaders and assistant majority whips.

“We are fortunate to have a talented, diverse and hard-working body of men and women in the House of Representatives,” said Hickman, R-Fairview. “We have been very diligent in selecting members to serve in leadership roles to work with all members of the House to help ensure a successful legislative session for our state.”

The assistant majority leaders will work closely with Majority Leader Charles Ortega, who will be responsible for assigning bills to committees and determining the list of bills approved by committees, which will be available for consideration by the full House. They will also work with Floor Leaders Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City) and Lisa Billy (R-Lindsay) to develop the schedule for hearing bills on the House floor and directing floor activity during daily legislative sessions.

“I am excited to get to work with this team of lawmakers as we direct the activity of the House floor,” said Ortega, R-Altus. “These legislative leaders are deliberative and fair, and they take their duties very seriously, as our constituents expect us to. Working with our members, I am confident the people’s business will be conducted in an efficient and orderly manner.”

The assistant majority whips will work with Majority Whip Gary Banz, who will be responsible for assisting the floor leaders and for ensuring that votes are in place and members are in attendance. The whips also serve as a communication system for the members.

“Moving our legislative agenda through the House and keeping a large caucus focused is a process based on relationships, trust and experience,” said Banz, R-Midwest City. “These assistant majority whips are highly respected men and women in the House of Representatives, and I believe they are a good team to help the House be successful.”

Assistant Majority Leaders:

Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha
Doug Cox, R- Grove
Tommy Hardin, R-Madill
Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa

Assistant Majority Whips:

Marian Cooksey, R-Edmond
Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City
Randy Grau, R-Edmond
James Leewright, R-Bristow
Mark Lepak, R-Claremore
Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs
Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore
Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa
Justin Wood, R-Shawnee

Former Democratic Senator, Jabar Shumate, takes school choice post

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 8, 2015) - Today the Oklahoma Federation for Children, a state affiliate of the American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, is pleased to announce that former Democratic Oklahoma State Senator Jabar Shumate is joining the staff as Director of Legislative Affairs and State Director for Oklahoma. Shumate resigned from the Oklahoma Senate at the beginning of the year to take on promoting school choice policies in the state full-time.

“We are thrilled to have such a dedicated ally and experienced legislator join our Oklahoma team,” said Bob Sullivan, co-chair of the Oklahoma Federation for Children. “Jabar is committed to extending educational options and choice to every child in Oklahoma, and we are excited that he is joining our efforts to give every child regardless of their background the opportunity to learn in a high-quality setting.”

“Jabar has been a champion for school choice throughout his time in office and we are excited to have him continue to work with us as a member of our staff,” said Russell Perry, co-chair of the Oklahoma Federation for Children. “His hard work and dedication to providing students the opportunity to go to the school that best suits their needs is inspiring and he will be a great addition to the team.”

Since 2012, Shumate served as a Democratic Senator for Oklahoma’s 11th Senate District. He has been an advocate and champion for educational choice throughout his term, and has authored and introduced numerous education bills to the Oklahoma State Senate. Shumate’s legislative experience and keen political insight will be tremendous asset in Oklahoma and throughout the country. Featured at several national conferences, Shuamte is a sought-after speaker in the ed reform community who has addressed legislative leaders throughout the country about the need to break down barriers to educational choice.

The Oklahoma Federation for Children is chaired by Bob Sullivan of Tulsa and Russell Perry of Oklahoma City. The OK Federation for Children works to increase the array and quality of K-12 educational options available to Oklahoma’s children. The Oklahoma Federation for Children is a state-based project of the American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Oklahoma House Re-elects Speaker Hickman

Denney Elected as Speaker Pro Tempore

OKLAHOMA CITY – Today, the Oklahoma House of Representatives convened for Organizational Day and opened the First Session of the 55th Legislature by formally re-electing Rep. Jeffrey W. Hickman for a second term as speaker of the House.

“The challenges before us are great,” said Hickman, R-Fairview. “The democratic process will get noisy. There will be agreement about where we want our state to go, but disagreement about how we get there. It won’t be easy, but our founding fathers didn’t intend for it to be. Through all of this, I pledge to you as your Speaker, to serve with respect for each elected member of the People’s House, to be firm but fair, to ensure the majority can conduct the people’s business but that the rights of the minority are protected, realizing that majority and minority on many issues before us will not be divided by political party.”

Hickman is the 43rd House member to serve as speaker since Oklahoma was granted statehood in 1907 and the seventh Republican speaker in state history.

The House also took a full vote and elected Rep. Lee Denney to serve as speaker pro tempore. Denney is a veterinarian and has served as chair of the Appropriations and Budget Education Subcommittee for the past six years. She is the second woman in Oklahoma history to hold this office, both of which have been Republican.

“Oklahoma is blessed to have skilled legislators with overwhelming intelligence and talent, and for them to choose me to serve in this capacity is a great honor,” said Denney, R-Cushing. “I look forward to working with House Speaker Hickman, returning members and our new freshman class of legislators this upcoming session.”

The House will reconvene on February 2nd at noon to continue the First Session of the 55th Oklahoma Legislature.

Speaker Announces House Committee Appointments

OKLAHOMA CITY – Speaker Jeffrey W. Hickman announced House committee appointments for the 55th Legislature today.

“The House is fortunate to have members from a variety of backgrounds and expertise,” said Hickman, R-Fairview. “Through hard work and their desire to create a better Oklahoma, I am confident that our members will take the lead on policy and ensure Oklahoma remains one of the fastest growing economies in our country.”

Link to the complete House committee membership for the 55th Legislature

Monday, January 5, 2015

Shumate resigns from Senate; Special Election dates set

Sen. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa, announced his resignation from the Oklahoma Senate last week. His resignation was effective today. In making the announcement Shumate issued the following statement:

“Most of my professional career has been dedicated to serving the people of north Tulsa in the Oklahoma Legislature. It’s been an honor to represent the citizens of Senate District 11, and before that, the constituents of House District 73.

“However, I was recently encouraged to pursue other opportunities that will allow me to continue to work to improve education and champion other issues I am passionate about.

“I am proud to have served in the Oklahoma Legislature, and it has been a privilege to work with my fellow members. I want to express my thanks to our staff for their dedication and professionalism, and my gratitude to the citizens of Tulsa for allowing me to represent them.”

Gov. Mary Fallin today set the key dates for filling the vacant Senate seat. The candidate filing period for the Special Election to fill the Senate District 11 seat is January 19, 20 and 21. The Special Primary Election is set for April 7 and the Special General Election is set for June 9. In the event a Special Primary Election is not necessary the Special General Election will be held on April 7.
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