March 31,2011

05/06/11 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome

This last weekend, when I left Pittsburg County, I put a disk into my vehicle CD player and listened to a sermon by Rev. Felix Waller from the King?s Church.  The CD was given to me by a neighbor, and Rev. Waller is her pastor.  She gave it to me because, at the end of the sermon, he had made a reference to political parties, and she thought I would be interested   As we know, God moves in mysterious ways, and listening to this message caused me to reflect on this application in my ?political life.?

 The sermon was on David and the Israelites first worshipping God and obeying his word, and then, as they became comfortable and more confident, they started straying from God?s word and making decisions on their own.  I thought about elected officials, from their election through serving for ?however? many years.

             Anytime I hear a really good sermon, I start forming analogies in my mind with me as the elected official.  So I started correlating God?s Word with the People?s Will.  As elected officials, we tend to start by doing the people?s will that we heard about while we were campaigning; then as we continue to serve, we sometimes quit asking our constituents for their opinions, I guess because, like the Israelites, we get comfortable or just busy.  I have always tried to keep up with the People?s Will.  That is why I am sending out surveys.  You can call it staying close to your ?roots? or seeking your people?s will.  No matter what you call it, I just think it is the right thing to do. 

 With that in mind, I have another ?major? survey question on which I would like your response.  There is a bill that allows the Governor to appoint the following statewide elected positions:  State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Commissioner of Labor, Commissioner of Insurance and the three Corporation Commissioners.  So what do you think?  Should we keep electing these officials, or should we give the Governor the power to appoint these positions? 

 Your responses to my previous opinion requests on Daylight Savings Time (DST) and the two gun issues were tremendous as they helped to shape my votes on these issues, though the DST bill did not advance to the House Floor for a vote.

 We are finally starting to see some legislation that is dealing with our prison overcrowding situation.  Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa) is the House author of SB 956, which passed the Senate by a vote of 46-0 and has now passed out of the Public Safety Committee in the House.  This bill allows first-time offenders who are primary caregivers of minor children to be placed on the electronic monitoring program, instead of incarceration.  This would save the State, not only incarceration costs but also DHS costs of foster care of the children.  A few weeks ago we also passed a bill that would allow sheriffs to take advantage of the electronic monitoring program on inmates waiting to be picked up by the DOC.

 On the water front, I was visited by Richard Wheatley, a lobbyist and a concerned water person, who has been studying my ?basin of origin? water bill that I have filed the last three years.  He is proposing a plan that would do the same thing by creating ?water trusts? in the thirteen different basins that would give control of the water in those basins to the people who live in those basins.  It would achieve the same goal that I was promoting, but in reverse order.  I was trying to pass legislation to create these different districts in statute.  His idea is to create these districts first, then create legislation that the state would accept them for beneficial use.  There is more than one way to skin a cat, huh?

             I am going to end this article with some comments by our Pastor of the week, Brent Kellogg of the Cornerstone Church, which is a Southern Baptist Church in Tulsa.  After this week, he realized that pastors and elected officials have a lot in common.  Both have huge responsibilities of which the public may not be aware.  Both need to be thick-skinned and tenderhearted.  Integrity is demanded.  He charged us ?to stay the course, don?t give up, stay true to your convictions, and ?Don?t Leave Without Jesus!?

 Visitors this week included Career Tech folks, Dr. Smith from Eastern, and County Officers from both Pittsburg and Latimer Counties.  Also I had three students from the Oklahoma School of Science and Math ?shadow? me on Monday.  They were Carolina Vega Recalde from Red Oak, Justine Alexander from Kiowa, and Max Angst from Hartshorne. 

 

March 17, 2011

03/17/11 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome

I was really surprised by the number of press releases our Governor put out this week, pushing us to pass important legislation. During this important deadline week, I called her office to congratulate her on staying engaged, only to find that she is in the Bahamas on vacation.

            This week we passed two important ad valorem tax bills, both of which will be presented for a vote of the people.  The first, HJR 2002, freezes property tax on seniors and eliminates a cap on income for seniors to qualify for the freeze.  The second, HJR 1002, would reduce the amount an assessor can raise our property taxes per year from 5% to 3%.

            On Monday the House spent 1½ hours reprimanding two members of the House, one for interrupting a Pastor while he was giving a devotional, the second for using foul language and making a threatening statement about another member in a member?s office, but not in his presence.  We spent $40,000 of taxpayers? money, reprimanding these two legislators, which means nothing.

            During the last two weeks the Legislature has taken teachers? due process away, attempted to freeze State employees? retirement and removed cost of living raises from all retired employees, whether they may be a teacher, policeman, firefighter or other State employee; AND we have not passed anything to increase jobs in the State of Oklahoma.

            We did, by the way, roll back some fees that the Legislature passed so freely in the previous Legislative session.  Last year we increased fees on vending machines from $50 to $150.  HB 1674 rolled back that fee to $75.00.

            One of the biggest disappointments, HB 1235 by Sherrer (D-Pryor), would make pseudoephedrine a scheduled drug.  The pharmaceutical lobby has kept this bill from coming to the House floor, even though it passed out of Committee.  Mississippi passed similar legislation a year ago, and in just eight months, they have seen a 65% reduction in meth labs.  Because of this success, Mississippi drug agents are able to focus investigations on large drug distribution organizations, instead of ?user? meth labs.  Since

the Federal government is no longer going to pay for lab cleanups, Mississippi will not be impacted like Oklahoma.  I guess House Leadership is more concerned about pharmaceutical profits than trying to control our meth problems.

            Every year that I have been in the Legislature we have been asked for supplemental funding for the Department of Corrections.  This year we were asked for

$9 million in supplemental funding to eliminate furloughs.  I wholeheartedly agree there is reason to furlough, but then to require officers to work double shifts is counter-productive to saving money.

            SO, the House Leadership runs SB 970 which allows the DOC to cannibalize itself.  Oklahoma Correctional Industries (OCI) is a division of DOC that I spoke of last week.  They build furniture, benches, etc., as well as run an agriculture service which allows Oklahoma prisons to raise food to feed the inmate population.  Because of Ag services, Oklahoma is second lowest in the nation in what it costs to feed the inmate population.  SB 970 takes $5 million out of OCI?s account to put back in DOC?s budget to reduce furlough from three down to one day a month.  What we should have done is give the full $9 million, without taking operational money out of OCI, and remove all furloughs!  Shame on us for not being responsible!  Shame on us for locking up a huge population of people, then not paying for the cost of incarceration!

Because this is deadline week, there is no way I can report on every bill.  In the next few weeks, I will play catch-up

             Visitors from home this week were:  Brenda Calahan, Cami Parks, Estella Bennett-Mask, Claudia K. Lester, Brian Weaver, Jerry and Barbara Donathan, Paula McGee, Melissa Hoover and Janice Bernardi-Weaver.  Come by anytime.  You are always welcome.

  God Bless.  John 3:16

 

March 10,2011

03/13/11 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

There is a clamor at the Capitol to grab any money in any accounts to help balance the budget. This also occurred during the last oil and gas bust of the early 1980?s. At that time, the legislature robbed money from the Teachers? Retirement System, which was never repaid, and that is one of the major reasons why the teachers? pension fund is underfunded.

This is happening on a smaller scale now, but is affecting many more agencies in the process. We have bills consolidating many different agencies and boards, not to streamline or shrink state government, but to rob those agencies and boards of their carry-over money!

Let?s talk about ?carry-over? money. Carry-over money is an indication that an agency, board, or entity is watching the way it spends allocated funding. The unspent money is ?saved? for the next year ? in case of revenue failure. This is good financial planning. I really fear the next ?carry-over? we rob will be from schools.

We have a specific bill to rob OCI, which is the division of the DOC that uses inmate labor to build furniture, benches, and a variety of items. This actually helps inmates build skills and reduces recidivism of these inmates. The legislature wants to rob OCI of their bank account that they use to buy raw materials for construction of marketable items to state entities and non-profits. This is like killing the goose that laid the golden egg. What is really ironic is that all the Legislature really needs to do is cancel out a few of the non-job producing tax credits that the state gives to corporations.

On to other bills - SB 741 by Fields (R-Pawhuska) creates the ?Oklahoma Water Center Act.? The gist of this act is that it names a further board to assist in the implementation of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, which, by the way, has not been completed. We haven?t even had the public feedback sessions, which begin next month in 13 different towns in Oklahoma. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!! This act also instructs the center to plan for the sale of water out of state. That?s right; I never believed I would see that in print. Part of the planning would be to determine value of water/foot of water, which the Comprehensive Water Plan did not even study.

I intend to expend all my energies to kill this bill. Sometimes success at the Capitol isn?t judged by the bills you pass, but by the bills you help kill. This applies here.

We heard a couple of education bills. HB 1746 by Nelson (R-Oklahoma City) creates a mandate for our local schools that requires 65% of money expended by a school shall be spent in the classroom. Charter schools will not be required to do this, but public schools will. If a school district does not receive any state money from the formula, it still must meet the mandate. This bill died on the House Floor.

HB 1830 by Newell (R-Seminole) removed due process from school teachers if they are terminated. Trial de nova is a teacher?s last relief in District Court. This was taken out of state law today.

One of the last bills this week to pass was HB 1381 by Cox (R-Grove). This hospital provider fee levies a 2% hospital fee and that fee will allow our hospitals to receive a two to one match from the federal government. Presently, 46 other states are getting our federal tax dollars back on this same program. This legislation has the ability to save some of our rural hospitals and could bring back $326 million annually to reimburse our hospitals to help pay for the money they lose, due to uninsured patients.

Visitors from home this week included: Mike Ward, and Bobby Logsdon from Oklahomans for Independent Living; Shawna Cason; Deanna Cheek, Ms. Wheelchair of Oklahoma; Dr. Steven Smith, Dr. Jeff Duff, Jim Pratt, Heath Marco, Aaron Boatright, Jim Poder, Mark Parker, Doug Basinger. Rodney Leamy, Mike Caniglia, Rick Beames, Mark Showell and Jim Henley. It is always good to have visitors from home.

God Bless All of You!! Genesis 1:1

 

Feb. 24,2011

03/12/11 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome

I am very pleased with the response I have received from my feedback questions in last week?s article -- not only in the responses, but also the insightful reasons for the answers. 

Overwhelmingly, responses were in favor of changing our time schedule so that we would not fall back an hour in the fall.  One person responded that having the extra hour in the evening actually generates considerable economic activity.  Another stated that in cold winter months, any additional daylight could be used for physical activities from which our state?s population could benefit.  A further response, which I didn?t think about, was that older citizens don?t get out much after dark. 

On the gun issues, a large majority of respondents were against ?open carry? and guns on campuses.

HB 1359 passed the House today.  This bill creates a Task Force on Foster Care, which means we will have major reform in legislation on foster care.  There is widespread belief that, in some instances, foster care is a revenue generating income for some families and not a heartfelt service with good intentions.

SB 878 passed out of committee and is a comprehensive overhaul of the state?s current worker?s compensation system.  Since it is such a large bill and hasn?t passed from the main body of the Senate, I won?t give any details.  Just trust me:  It is a HUGE reform package.

HB 1456 by Rep. Denney (R-Cushing) requires the State Department of Education to develop a school report card on each school.  The following grades will be given ?A? meaning that schools are making excellent progress; ?B? means schools are making above average progress; ?C? means schools are making satisfactory progress; ?D? means schools are making less than satisfactory progress; ?F? means schools are failing to make adequate progress.

Schools with an ?A? grade shall have greater authority over the allocation of the total budget of the school that is generated from the state aid formula.  Therefore, the schools with lower scores will receive less money, which would keep them from hiring more teachers or aides to help bring their grades up.  This defies common sense.  What we really need to do is grade family life and factor that into school grades! 

This has been a special week to me because the Chaplain of the Week in the Oklahoma House of Representatives has been my Pastor, James Collins, of Frink Baptist Church.  He was accompanied by his wife, Forrestine.  He opened each day with a very appropriate prayer and on Thursday, which is our last day, he gave a devotion.  The best evaluation of his devotion is that ?God hid brother James behind the cross.  He quoted Deut. 4:32 and stated that we are looking for truth and the only truth is in God!  He went on to talk about how we put on ?different faces? to adjust to different situations, when we should only have one face.  That is the face Jesus wants us to have.  Boy, did this hit home with me.  This devotion was very well received by the legislature; in fact, Rep. Dennis Johnson from Duncan came up to me after the Devotion and told me that in the six years he has been here, Brother James? devotion ranks in the top three he has heard.  Praise the Lord!!!

I had quite a few visitors from my home district and they are:  Canadian FFA students, Heather Finch, Amanda Brown, Dustin Finch, Sara Lawson, Jessie Matthews and Ag Instructor, Amber Hitchcock.  Also visiting were Joe Buzidragis, Candice Scarpitti, Kelby Kennedy and Jo Ann Vermillion.

 God Bless You!  Deut. 4:32

 

March 3, 2011

03/11/11 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome

This is deadline week for getting bills out of committee and, to say the least, we have had some interesting bills. 

            HB 1796, authored by Sue Tibbs (R-Tulsa), passed the Public Safety Committee.  This bill will place a state question on the ballot in the fall of 2012,  which will let the people decide on open carry of guns.

             HB 2087, authored by Randy Terrill (R-Moore), allows faculty on college campuses to carry concealed weapons if the Administration agrees to it.  HB 1652 allows concealed weapons locked in vehicles on Career Tech?s campuses.  This bill is authored by John Enns (R-Waukomis). 

            HB 1690, authored by Todd Russ (R-Cordell), allows non-violent offenders convicted of a felony, after completing their sentencing and probation period and if they have not been convicted of any other felony since the original conviction, to be considered to have a full and complete pardon and to have the right to possess any firearm!  If the crime is a violent one, that person would need a pardon from the Governor.

            HB 1316, authored by Danny Morgan (D-Prague), creates a $100 to $500 fine for a person under 18 using any hand held mobile phone whatsoever.  It will be illegal to text at any age.  It will be illegal to use a mobile phone in a school zone or construction zone.  This bill allows municipalities to enact similar ordinances but can go no further than State law.  HB 1797 by Sue Tibbs (R-Tulsa), brings Oklahoma into compliance with Federal laws, outlawing texting by commercial drivers.

            Rep. Ben Sherrer (D-Pryor) authored HB 1235, which passed out of committee.  This bill would reclassify pseudoephedrine as a schedule III drug in the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substance Act.  This would require a prescription, which would also require daily reporting to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.  This will further tighten restraints on this drug that is used to produce methamphetamine.  This is a bill whose end result will be tough on crime and will shrink state government.  To be in possession of pseudoephedrine would require a script; this would slow down people going to neighboring states, acquiring large quantities and bringing it back for meth production.  Over 30% of incarcerated people in our prisons are in for meth and meth related crimes  Since this is where we presently spend 7% of our state budget, this would help shrink state government. 

            SB 864 by Sykes (D-Moore) allows for jury awards to be altered by insurance in force by a person.  This is what we refer to as a ?collateral source rule.?  Under the rule, a judgment against a negligent party is reduced by funds the injured party may receive from another source.  For example, if you are killed by a negligent motorist and a jury awards your surviving spouse $500,000, then the award could be reduced by the amount of YOUR life insurance paid to YOUR spouse.  So, the wrongdoer profits from your responsible act of providing for your family. 

            Now for an explanation:  The bill I just wrote about will not make the headlines, but the gun bills will, and, unfortunately, they will tremendously overshadow ?crappy? bills like SB 864, which will penalize a citizen who is practicing responsible family protection values.

            Visitors from my home district this week included:  Ann Bullard, Lois Walden, Sequoyah Roberts, Sue Hardcastle, Charlene Corvia, Mandy Carter, Debbie Quadracci, Dr. Doug Auld, Kim Rose, Marjorie Hass, Paulette McCord, Bill McCord, Newell Soar, Al Collins, Juanita Tubler, Vernon Bullard, Jon Mendez, Bradley Ontman, Hannah Montgomery, Alyssa Peters, Sara Amos, Marcie Winklepleck, Brandt Dixon, Cindy Mitchell, Vanessa Boyles, and Beth Johnson. 

 Thank you all for coming.  It is always good to see folks from home, so please stop by anytime you are in the area. 

 God Bless You!  John 3:16.

 

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Weekly update from Oklahoma City on the status of Bills in the House.

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