Friday, April 27, 2012

Expunged Records Admissible Evidence

House Bill 3091 modifies the state law to allow members of the judiciary, district attorneys, the youthful offender, counsel for the youthful offender, employees of juvenile bureaus and the Office of Juvenile Affairs who are assigned juvenile court intake responsibilities, and the Department of Corrections to access records that have been expunged pursuant without a court order for the purpose of determining whether to dismiss an action, seek a voluntary probation, file a petition or information, or for purposes of sentencing or placement in a case where the person who is the subject of the sealed record is alleged to have committed a subsequent youthful offender act, a juvenile delinquent act, or any adult criminal offense.  Provided, any record sealed pursuant to this section shall be ordered unsealed upon application of the prosecuting agency when said records are requested for use in any subsequent juvenile delinquent, youthful offender, or adult prosecution.
Records expunged shall be admissible in any subsequent criminal prosecution to prove the existence of a prior conviction or prior deferred judgment without the necessity of a court order requesting the unsealing of said records.
Admissible records include those where a person was charged with a misdemeanor, the charge was dismissed following the successful completion of a deferred judgment or delayed sentence, the person has never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, no misdemeanor or felony charges are pending against the person, and at least two (2) years have passed since the charge was dismissed.
If the person was charged with a nonviolent felony offense, as set forth in Section 571 of Title 57 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the charge was dismissed following the successful completion of a deferred judgment or delayed sentence, the person has never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, no misdemeanor or felony charges are pending against the person, and at least ten (10) years have passed since the charge was dismissed.
The person was convicted of a misdemeanor offense, the person has not been convicted of any other misdemeanor or felony, no felony or misdemeanor charges are pending against the person, and at least ten (10) years have passed since conviction or the person was convicted of a nonviolent felony offense, as defined in Section 571 of Title 57 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the person has received a full pardon for the offense, the person has not been convicted of any other misdemeanor or felony, no felony or misdemeanor charges are pending against the person, and at least ten (10) years have passed since the conviction.
This bill has passed both the house and senate and will be sent to the governor next.

Cannaday Calls for Moratorium on Graduation Tests

State Rep. Ed Cannaday today called for a moratorium on new testing requirements for Oklahoma high school seniors, saying appropriate oversight is not in place.
“The entity charged with overseeing the testing process has never even met, which brings into question the validity of the entire system,” said Cannaday, a Porum Democrat who is a former school administrator. “As a result, I agree with fellow educators who have argued for lifting the requirement this year.”
High school graduation testing requirements were enacted in 2005 as part of Achieving Classroom Excellence, or ACE, law. This year’s seniors are the first to have to meet the requirement.
Under that law, students must pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams in Algebra I, English II, Algebra II, geometry, English III, biology or U.S. history.
At this week’s meeting of the State Board of Education, Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller asked for all Oklahoma students who have failed to pass four of seven end-of-instruction tests to be granted a waiver. Miller argued that the tests are not valid because an independent oversight group has failed to carry out its responsibilities.
In 2009, lawmakers established the Educational Quality and Accountability Board to oversee and govern the testing program. The group has yet to meet.
“Without the oversight board, the whole testing program can be called into question,” Cannaday said. “I believe Oklahoma students should not be required to meet graduation standards that have not been given the review required by state law.”

The Heartbeat Informed Consent Act Signed into Law

Sen. Dan Newberry today issued the following statement regarding the Governor’s signing of Senate Bill 1274, the Heartbeat Informed Consent Act. The law will require abortion providers to inform patients they have a right to hear the heartbeat of their unborn child before it is aborted.
“I’m tremendously grateful for the Governor’s support in this effort to reaffirm the central importance of pro-life values in Oklahoma. This law is part of a broader effort to establish a culture of life in our state – one which places protection of the innocent and vulnerable among our greatest values and priorities.
“Women deserve to have as much information as possible before they make the life-altering decision to end a pregnancy. As more information is made available to patients, my hope is that they will choose life for their children.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

bill strengthening protections for stalking/domestic violence victims

The Senate gave unanimous approval to House Bill 2396, by Sen. Kim David and Rep. Wade Rousselot, to better protect victims of domestic violence by increasing protective orders from three to five years. The measure would also allow lifetime protective orders in certain cases.
The bill came to the Senate floor on Wednesday, which was also Domestic Violence Awareness Day at the State Capitol and was a legislative priority for the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Oklahoma is currently 11th in the nation in the number of women killed by men. David said increasing the length of time a restraining order remains in effect is important to the safety and well-being of domestic violence victims.
“In developing this legislation, I’ve worked with victims of domestic violence and stalking who’ve been harassed and terrorized for years, but have to return to the courts every three years to renew their protective orders. They have to be in the same room with the person who has victimized them without any guarantee the protective order will be renewed,” David, R-Porter. “This bill will make a tremendous difference in the lives of these individuals by ensuring they always have that protection and aren’t forced to continually face their abusers in court every few years.”
Under HB 2396, a judge could issue a lifetime protective order if an individual has a history of violating any court or governmental orders or has a previous felony conviction for stalking and a court order for a final Victim Protection Order has previously been issued against the person in this state or from another state. The protective order would remain in effect until modified by the court. If the defendant is behind bars, the protective order would remain in full force during the period of incarceration.
“In 2010, 51 Oklahomans, mostly women and children, were victims of domestic homicide. More than 25,000 were victims of domestic violence,” said Rousselot, D-Okay. “This bill gives us another tool to better protect victims of stalking and domestic violence, and hopefully will help us save lives.”
HB 2396 now goes to the governor for consideration.

Oklahoma Prisons at Capacity

At Capacity
During the past twelve months (April 2011 – March 2012) we notice very little change in the Oklahoma prison population. On average there are 24,252 in the system each month.  Part of the reason for little change in population may be due to the fact that Oklahoma DOC reports that the system has been at an average 97% capacity over the same time period.
In 2008 Oklahoma's prison system reached a record-breaking 98.6% of capacity as well. Four years later little has changed. In March 2012 it was at 98.1%. The maximum security prison population was at 90.4% while the medium security was at an amazing 99.6% capacity in March.
According to BJS in 2009, the most recent data available, 53% of state prison inmates were serving time for violent offenses, 19% for property, 18% for drug, and 9% for public order or other offenses.
Early Release Law
Remember that last year the last year HB 2131 went into effect. It has not been easy to find exact numbers released as a result of the change in the law. It was original estimated to be a few hundred people.
"The numbers we initially thought were going to be out haven't really materialized," said parole officer Jeff McLaughlin.
"There's a risk they are going to violates rules," said McLaughlin. "There's a risk they are going to violate the law again. I think this is a calculated risk, I think over all our statistics prove it’s successful."
The DOC stated that as a result of the legislative change to the Community Sentencing Statute in November no offender(s) have been released from a prison as a direct outcome of the change.
The community sentencing program is designed to diverted offenders from entering the prison system and not a reentry program.
Oklahoma’s Recidivism Rate was at 22.8% in March 2012. This is the number of people that return to prison within 3 years after release. In January of 2011 the rate was 23.3% so we have seen a slight improvement in the number.
Oklahoma continues to have one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country. According to a Pew Research study, between 2004 and 2007 the national recidivism rate was 43.3% while Oklahoma’s (at that time) was the 3rd lowest at 26.4%.
If a state incarcerates a large proportion of lower-risk offenders, then its recidivism rate might be comparatively low, because such offenders would be, by definition, less of a risk to return to prison. A state with a larger percentage of serious offenders behind bars, on the other hand, might experience higher rates of re-incarceration when those offenders return to the community.
Oklahoma exemplifies the example: “A lot of people who might be put on probation or diverted into an alternative program in another state wind up going to prison in Oklahoma,” notes Michael Connelly, administrator of evaluation and analysis in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. “These lower level folks aren’t as likely to recidivate, so it benefits our overall numbers and makes us look like we’re doing an even better job than we’re doing.”
The majority of the people re-incarcerated in Oklahoma, 58%, were due to technical violations of parole or probation rather than committing another crime. The national rate for return to prison for technical violations was about 49% of those returning to prison.
Our neighbors in Arkansas reported 0% due to technical violations as they have implemented two distinct programs as alternatives to traditional incarceration for adult offenders who fail to comply with the terms of parole supervision. However the number of people returning to prison for new crimes nearly tripled over the same period.
Corrections Reform Bill
We reported last month that House Bill 3052 proposes sweeping reforms to Oklahoma's Criminal Justice system. The bill is the work of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative and addresses supervision for felony offenders released from prison, provides for grants to local law enforcement, requires mental health and substance abuse assessments for those arrested of a felony offense and outlines intermediate sanctions for those committing technical parole and probation violations, among other things.
HB3052 is expected to control the increase in prison growth by increasing substance abuse treatment, reducing violent crime, strengthening supervision, and reducing recidivism.  Prison costs will be reduced over time as these reforms are implemented. The utilization of intermediate revocation facilities will provide significant cost savings, which will offset the additional costs associated with treatment, screening, and supervision.
Oklahoma’s prison spending has leapt 30 percent in a decade, while crime rates have not declined. In March 2012 annual cost for a medium security inmate was estimated at $14,228 while annual cost for Pardon and Parole were at $996. That is $13,282 less to parole a medium security inmate than house them. For a minimum security inmate the savings for parole is $12,590 annually. Granted, not all of these folks would be welcomed back on the street immediately. The bill is a plan to reinvest savings from more inmates paroled in alternatives to incarceration.
Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman today issued the following statement regarding the passage of House Bill 3052. The measure was developed through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, and is intended to reduce crime while controlling the growth of the state’s prison population.
"Oklahoma's criminal justice system is broken. Our prisons are on an unsustainable fiscal path, and police in our communities simply do not have the resources they need to fight crime effectively," said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. "Today, the state Senate moved to adopt a historic justice reform, one that is tough on crime and fiscally conservative. Together, we will reduce our violent crime rates, give our crime fighters the tools to do their job, and put the state of Oklahoma on a path toward a criminal justice system that keeps our families and communities safe. I want to commend Senator Nichols for shepherding this important bill to success in the Senate, and I applaud House Speaker Kris Steele for his hard work and leadership on this issue."
The plan envisions spending perhaps $110 million on various programs instead of on several thousand new prison beds. Kris Steele said the state can “bend the curve” of increased costs – seeing roughly a 2 percent growth in prison population with reform, versus a 9 percent jump without it. And without reform or new beds the state cannot handle the influx of a 9% growth. Actually, even a 2% prison population growth may be beyond current capacity.

Driver License Suspension Change

A new bill proposing a change in the class D driver license revocations was sent to the governor today. All revocation, suspension, cancellation and/or denial periods of time of driving privileges as provided in this chapter shall be considered served upon successful graduation from an Oklahoma Drug Court Program created and administered pursuant to the Oklahoma Drug Court Act and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, unless evidence of drug and/or alcohol use occurring post-graduation is acquired by the Department of Public Safety.
This applies only if you are otherwise eligible for a license.
Senate Bill 1874 will effectively allow you to have driving privileges reinstated upon completion of DUI School or drug court program. If you have a 6 month suspension and finish the school or counseling in 3 months you will be allowed to drive again. Assuming you do not test positive for drugs during probation.

Ballot Access Reform Headed to Governor

HB 1058 modifies the requirement for establishing a political party from requiring the signatures of registered voters equal to at least five percent of the total votes cast in the last General Election to requiring the signatures of at least 22,500 registered voters.
26 O.S. § 1-108 states "petitions seeking recognition of a political party, in a form to be prescribed by the Secretary of the State Election Board, shall be filed with such Secretary, bearing the signatures of registered voters equal to at least five percent (5%) of the total votes cast in the last General Election either for Governor or for electors for President and Vice President. Each page of such petitions must contain the names of registered voters from a single county."
Five percent of those who cast a vote for Governor in 2008 in Oklahoma are equal to 51,739. That is the number of valid signatures that must be turned in to the Secretary of the Election Board. In order to ensure that we get the required amount of valid signatures, the OKLP Chair has set a goal of 64,000, providing a 25% cushion.
The law was changed to a percentage requirement in 1974 from a requirement of 5,000 signatures. The OKLP has worked feverishly with Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform to return the law to its former requirement. In HB 1058, OKLP and OBAR asked for 5,000 initial recognition (with 22,500 to maintain Ballot Access) as a political party in the state of Oklahoma. HB 1058 passed in the House last legislative session and was referred to the Rules Committee in the Senate.
The bill passed the house and will be headed to the governor soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

March OK Unemployment

March OK Unemployment
The new claims filed for the week ending on 3/31/2012 filed for unemployment increased by 99 from 2,391 to 2,490. The average weekly new claims remained relatively stable from February to March. Those numbers were 2,434 and 2,426 respectively. In March of 2011 the average weekly new claims filed were 3383.
Continued unemployment claims increased by 417 from 22,903 to 23,320 for the week ending on 3/31/2012. The average number of weekly continued claims (people remaining unemployed) in March was 23,315, down from February average of 24,509, a drop of 5%. The average March continued claim was much better than 2011’s is also 28,923. This represents a decrease of 5,736 or 20% decline in the people remaining unemployed in Oklahoma since last year at the same time.
Oklahoma continues to have one of the lowest (12th lowest) unemployment rates at 6.0%, using seasonally adjusted numbers. It is 6.4% for the unadjusted numbers.
April Unemployment - Initial
The new claims filed for the first week in April was up 641 to 3,131 while the continued unemployment claims dropped by 249 to 23,701.
Image 1 below shows the Initial Claims filed this year with the increase mentioned above for the first week in April.

Image 2 shows the continued claims that continue to fall this year.

Bill for Hearing or Visual Impaired Students Sent to Governor

Senate Bill 1119 requires that school districts provide parents of students with auditory or visual impairment with written information during the individual education program process about programs offered by the Oklahoma School for the Blind and the Oklahoma School for the Deaf for which the students may be eligible.
School districts serving students with auditory or visual impairments also must make sure staff assigned to work with those students have access to resources provided by the Oklahoma School for the Blind and the Oklahoma School for the Deaf.
If approved by the governor the law will begin July 1, 2012.

Bill Lowers Turnpike Penalties

SB1640, sent to the governor today, modifies the penalty for evasion of payment of tolls to $25.00 for each violation.  Currently the penalty is $25.00 for the first violation, $50.00 for the second violation if incurred within 18 months of the first violation, and $75.00 for the third violation if incurred within 18 months of the first violation.
This would make the evasion fine a flat $25.00 for each occurrence rather than an upward scale. So it will be cheaper to run the toll than before, but still much more expensive that tossing in a dollar or so.

Heartbeat Informed Consent Act Heads To Oklahoma Governor

The House voted 75-12 on Thursday for the Heartbeat Informed Consent Act. This bill gives a woman the opportunity to hear the heartbeat of her unborn child through the use of the fetal heart monitor.
“Thanks to advances in modern medicine, we’ve gone from the days when people claimed a baby was ‘just a clump of cells’ to being able to see the truly astounding process of development in the womb,” said Peterson, R-Tulsa. “This legislation simply ensures that a woman is given the opportunity to assess that information. Our laws should not be stuck in the 1950s when it comes to medical issues.”
Senate Bill 1274 would apply to situations where the unborn baby is eight weeks or older, and the woman would have the choice of whether or not to hear the heartbeat during a standard pre-procedure exam.
“It is important to ensure informed-consent rights,” Peterson said. “There’s a much greater array of medical data now available to women, and we should not allow them to be denied access to that knowledge.”
Peterson noted the bill is in keeping with U.S. Supreme Court rulings. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court’s majority declared, “In attempting to ensure that a woman apprehend the full consequences of her decision, the State furthers the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed…”
“This legislation simply gives a woman the opportunity to hear the heartbeat of her unborn child through the use of the fetal heart monitor,” Peterson said. “A pregnant woman who enters an abortion clinic is faced with a decision that will forever change two lives.  It is for that reason the woman needs to be fully informed. Whether you're pro-life or pro-choice you should be for this bill if you do not want women misled.”
The bill now proceeds to the governor to be signed into law.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Law to Modify Requirements of Drug/Alcohol Counselors Signed

Today Governor Fallin signed a bill into law that changes the educational requirements for licensed alcohol and drug counselors.
SB 1277 defines licensed alcohol and drug counselor/mental health (LADC/MH) to mean an LADC who meets the Oklahoma Board of Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors requirements related to treatment within the counselor’s scope of practice of mental health disorders regardless if they are co-occurring.
The measure modifies the existing requirements for a license to practice as an LADC by expanding the degree requirements to include a master’s degree in other recognized clinical counseling fields and defines required graduate level courses. For licensure, the measure requires a master’s degree and at least one year (2,000 hours) of full-time supervised work experience providing behavioral health services, 1,000 hours of which must consist of direct client contact. Licensure as a mental health professional with at least 15 hours in master’s level substance abuse specific coursework also qualifies an individual to apply for licensure as an LADC.
The measure defines the scope of practice of an LADC to include the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders if the individual meets the specified educational requirements. It prohibits LADCs licensed prior to the effective date of the act from including in their scope of practice the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders unless the LADC holds a master’s degree that meets the educational requirements for licensure as a licensed professional counselor, a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed marital and family therapist or a licensed behavioral practitioner or has a co-occurring disorders certification.
This law will take effect on November 1, 2012.

OK Tax Cut Passes Senate

The Oklahoma Senate has passed a measure to slash the state's personal income tax over the objections of Democrats who argue it will jeopardize critical state needs.
The Senate voted 31-15 on Tuesday for HB 3038, a bill that cuts the top rate from the current level of 5.25 percent to 4.95 percent beginning in 2013. The bill also contains triggers to further reduce the income tax every year by one-quarter of 1 percent if certain revenue growth triggers are met.
Initially, the bill slashed the top rate immediately to 2.25 percent and gradually eliminated the income tax, but Republican leaders have acknowledged such a deep cut is unrealistic.
Democrats say reducing the income tax will threaten funding for education, health care, public safety and transportation.
“Oklahoma does not have enough revenues to even begin to meet critical needs in education, health, public safety, transportation and other services our citizens depend upon. House Bill 3038 will further erode those resources. We’re 48th in the nation in the health of our citizens. If this becomes law, we’ll soon be 50th. We’re close to last when it comes to teacher pay and per pupil spending. We’ll soon be dead last in those categories, too. Supporters claim we’re going to see businesses and people flock to Oklahoma if we end the income tax. When they see Oklahoma’s schools, roads and bridges, and our public health all ranked last in the nation, this will be the last place in the nation they’ll want to come.”—Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore
“The State Capitol building is crumbling around us. We don’t know how we’re going to pay for the DHS reforms that are supposed to prevent more Oklahoma children from dying in state custody. We have yet to restore funding cuts in education and other critical areas in the wake of the national recession. No one promoting the elimination of one-third of the state’s revenue is addressing these issues, except with vague claims that this will bring in more jobs, more taxpayers and that will take care of it. These are empty political promises that will leave thousands of Oklahomans without vital services and many more with a lower quality of life.”—Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Sayre
Supporters of the bill say they are confident it will lead to job growth by giving Oklahoma one of the top business climates of any state.
Republican Representative David Brunbaugh says that legislators are looking for ways to save in other departments.
"We're actually looking at everything across the board, all agencies. We're going to be looking at waste inefficiencies and non-core services to look at where we can identify savings," Brunbaugh said.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Oklahoma Income Up in 2011

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis data Oklahoma’s per capita income rose 6% in 2011 from 2010 levels. The per capita income in 2011 for Oklahoma was $32,277 in 2011. The national change was 4.3%. This is still lower that the high in 2008 of $37,694. Per capita personal income is total personal income divided by total midyear population.
The graph below shows the per capita income trends since 2000. The data shows that there was a stagnant period from 2001 to 2003 then a steady climb until dropping in 2009.

This is consistent with the national trends as shown in graph below.

The BLS shows that hourly earnings in 2012 have declined slightly since January. In January the average hourly wage in Oklahoma was $21.03 and in February moved to $20.75. This is $.01 less than February of 2011. The $.28 drop in hourly wages equates to about $10.00 per week in income.

This decline in hourly wage may be attributed in part to the increase in the number of employed people in Oklahoma. The total number employed climbed by 4,945 from January to February of 2012. The unemployment numbers from January to February dropped by .1% or 2,524 persons.
The number of people employed in Oklahoma has risen steadily since July of last year as the graph below shows.

At the same time the unemployed numbers have risen for most of 2011 and then declined this year as the graph below shows. The total unemployed in February was 106,569.

While this seems contradictory the population has also grown in Oklahoma by 31,324 or .8% in 2011 to 311,591,917.

Additionally, the labor force has grown by 21,011 since July of 2011 as the graph below displays.

March numbers will be posted when they become available.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bill to Protect Victims of Human Trafficking Sent to Governor

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.  


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods for human use that present no health hazard. These "Food Defect Action Levels" listed here are set on this premise--that they pose no inherent hazard to health.
Here are the hazardous levels;
Allspice: Average of 30 or more insect fragments per 10 grams, Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 10 grams
Berries: Average of 4 or more larvae per 500 grams or Average of 10 or more whole insects or equivalent per 500 grams (excluding thrips, aphids and mites)
Frozen Broccoli: Average of 60 or more aphids and/or thrips and/or mites per 100 grams
Ground Paprika: Average mold count is more than 20%, Average of more than 75 insect fragments per 25 grams, Average of more than 11 rodent hairs per 25 grams
Ground Cinnamon: Average of 400 or more insect fragments per 50 gram, Average of 11 or more rodent hairs per 50 grams
Chocolate: Average is 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams when 6 100-gram subsamples are examined or
Any 1 subsample contains 90 or more insect fragments, Average is 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams in 6 100-gram subsamples examined or Any 1 subsample contains 3 or more rodent hairs
Canned Citrus Juice: Average mold count is 10% or more, 5 or more Drosophila and other fly eggs per 250 ml or 1 or more maggots per 250 ml
Red Fish and Ocean Perch: 3 % of the fillets examined contain 1 or more copepods accompanied by pus pockets
Hops: Average of more than 2,500 aphids per 10 grams
Macaroni and Noodle Products: Average of 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples, Average of 4.5 rodent hairs or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples
Popcorn: 1 or more rodent excreta pellets are found in 1 or more subsamples, and 1 or more rodent hairs are found in 2 or more other subsamples or 2 or more rodent hairs per pound and rodent hair is found in 50% or more of the subsamples or 20 or more gnawed grains per pound and rodent hair is found in 50% or more of the subsamples
There are more items listed, these are just a few. We have been ingesting these things for some time, but the thought of rodent poop in our popcorn is just a bit much.

Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say

Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.
The paper written by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva claims that abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus' health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.
The claim is that because a baby is incapable of attributing his or her own existence they have no right to life.  The writers stated that “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.”
They argue that a person is “at least in the condition to value the different situation she would have found herself in if she had not been harmed. And such a condition depends on the level of her mental development, which in turn determines whether or not she is a ‘person’.” Anyone who is put to death will be incapable of understanding the different situation they would have been in had they lived.
Following this case, if my parent has Alzheimer’s and is thus incapable of knowing the situational difference if harmed, this allows us to kill humans who have Alzheimer’s or other mental illnesses.
The writers’ seem to believe that giving this murder a different name aid acceptance. They wrote ”In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasize that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk. Accordingly, a second terminological specification is that we call such a practice ‘after-birth abortion’ rather than ‘euthanasia’ because the best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice, contrary to what happens in the case of euthanasia.”
The important point they make- is it really any different to kill a baby in the womb than killing it out of the womb?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

OK Committee Votes to Protect Second Amendment Rights

Members of a state House committee have voted to increase the legal protection of citizens’ constitutional rights.
Senate Bill 1760, by state Sen. Anthony Sykes and state Rep. T.W. Shannon, would specify that Oklahomans’ Second Amendment rights cannot be taken away during a declared state of emergency.
“While government may assume greater police powers to preserve public safety during times of emergency, the government should never be allowed to strip citizens of their most basic constitutional rights,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “This legislation simply makes clear that Oklahomans will continue to have the right to self-defense during emergency situations.”
Shannon noted that law enforcement officials reportedly seized guns from citizens who were not engaged in acts of lawlessness after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, which led many states to reconsider laws dealing with an official state of emergency.
Senate Bill 1760 amends the Oklahoma Riot Control and Prevention Act to state that “neither the governor nor any official of a municipal or state entity shall prohibit or suspend the sale, ownership, possession, transportation, carrying, transfer and storage of firearms, ammunition and ammunition accessories during a declared state of emergency that are otherwise legal under state law.” The bill would apply to situations where a state of emergency has been declared to deal with a public disorder, disaster, or riot.
Under the bill, the Oklahoma Riot Control and Prevention Act would continue to allow the governor to issue proclamations imposing a curfew, banning the sale of alcohol, targeting individuals using explosive devices,  and other activities the governor “reasonably believes should be prohibited to help preserve and maintain life, health, property or the public peace” during a disaster or riot.
“In a situation where a riot is severe enough that the governor declares a state of emergency, citizens in the affected area will likely have much greater need for self-defense than at any other time,” Shannon said. “It makes no sense to force those law-abiding citizens caught in a bad situation to disarm when they may be threatened with violence by lawless individuals.”
Senate Bill 1760 passed the House Public Safety Committee on a bipartisan 12-0 vote. It now proceeds to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

New Law Limits Liability of Districts that Allow Groups to Use Facilities for Physical Fitness

Governor Mary Fallin today signed into law Senate Bill 1882.  The legislation limits the legal liability of school districts that open indoor or outdoor facilities on a voluntary basis to community groups or individuals for physical activity if a loss or claim results from use of school property and facilities made available for public recreation outside normal school hours except for claims resulting from willful and wanton acts of negligence.
Fallin asked the legislation to be passed in her State of the State Address as part of her agenda to encourage physical fitness and increase health indicators across the state of Oklahoma.
“Becoming a healthier state will not only save lives, it will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and improve our economy,” Fallin said. “That’s why we’re doing everything we can to help encourage our citizens to exercise and stay fit.”
“Unfortunately, many districts have been reluctant to open up school property to their local communities after hours due to concerns about potential lawsuits. This legislation clarifies liability laws and concerns about legal risks, making it easier for schools to voluntarily open up their playgrounds, tracks, basketball courts and other facilities. That in turn will provide communities with another safe place for residents to play sports, workout and get healthy.”
“Furthermore, this legislation will also assist schools who do choose to open up their facilities to the public in becoming Certified Healthy Schools, as well as provide an increased opportunity to receive funding through the Certified Healthy School Rewards program. I applaud the Legislature for sending this measure to my desk as well as the Fit Kids Coalition and the American Heart Association for their work on this issue.  My thanks go out in advance to those schools that choose to share their facilities with their local communities.”
SB 1882 was authored by Senator Greg Treat and Representative Fred Jordan.
Officials with the American Heart Association and the Fit Kids Coalition supported the measure and praised the governor for signing the bill into law.
“Oklahomans often face real barriers when making the choice to move more. With SB 1882 being signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin, we have taken a step in the right direction to make the healthy choice an easier choice,” said Amber England, director of Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition.
“Shared use agreements will pave the way for communities to connect with schools and provide opportunities for families to become healthy together. These community-driven decisions will help shape a healthier future in Oklahoma for generations to come.  We applaud Governor Fallin’s leadership in giving communities the tools they need to transform their communities into places that value a culture of health and wellness.”
Tony Maranto, chairman of the Central Oklahoma American Heart Association, said, “With the signing of Senate Bill 1882, Oklahoma takes a monumental step towards creating healthier communities and encouraging our citizens to be physically active.  With so many schools being in the heart of our neighborhoods it is a natural solution to provide open access to these facilities. This is a great opportunity to encourage increased physical activity among the citizens of Oklahoma and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.”

Report Shows Business Leaders Express Confidence in Oklahoma’s Business Climate

Governor Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce today announced findings from the business climate survey.
During December and January, nearly 5,400 business leaders from all 77 counties responded to the governor’s request for input. Their companies represent more than 250,000 jobs and more than 20 percent of Oklahoma’s total workforce.
The large number of survey responses brings a high degree of confidence in the survey results.  The margin of error for questions in the report ranges from 0.9 percent to 1.6 percent, which is a 95 percent confidence interval. Percentages of respondents are similar to state breakdowns for industry, number of employees and geographic dispersion.
“I want to thank all of the business owners and executives who took the time to respond to this survey,” Fallin said. “We asked in-depth questions about their opinions on a wide range of business development factors. We heard from businesses of all sizes, from all areas of the state. Their perspectives are vital to planning our economic future, and we appreciate their investment in our state.”
Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Dave Lopez said Commerce continues to explore the survey’s findings, talking to business and economic development leaders on in-depth issues dealing with business climate strengths and opportunities for improvement, workforce, business expansion and infrastructure, government services, and top challenges facing executives. This additional information will be released in a series of articles over the coming months. The first, Workforce Challenges and Opportunities, will be released on May 15.
Survey feedback will help state leaders identify and better understand the issues existing Oklahoma businesses think are most important to creating jobs and strengthening the state’s business climate.
Oklahoma’s existing businesses are confident.
“Survey findings show Oklahoma is far ahead of national projections in the essential area of business optimism,” Lopez said.
Oklahoma’s business optimism outperforms national rates by almost 20 percent. Seventy-eight percent (78 percent) of Oklahoma business leaders responding said they were optimistic about the future for business in Oklahoma and confident their business will grow in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma is also strong for Entrepreneurs, with 65 percent of Oklahoma business leaders who believe Oklahoma provides a good climate for entrepreneurs.
By contrast, national surveys indicate only 60 percent of U.S. business leaders are optimistic about the growth of their business in the next six months.
“Existing businesses create more than 85 percent of the jobs in our state,” Lopez continued. “For these companies to report a confidence level that significantly exceeds national averages tells us we have a strong foundation for more future growth.”
Oklahoma leaders cite strengths and opportunities for improvement.
The survey asked business owners and executives for feedback on the areas where Oklahoma excels. Respondents scored the state high for: quality of the higher education system (two- and four-year colleges and universities), access to supplies required to conduct business, CareerTech system’s workforce prep programs, affordable housing options for employees and recreational opportunities.
Oklahoma leaders also provided valuable feedback on opportunities for improvement. Survey respondents cited workers’ compensation costs as the number one area needing improvement, followed by access to sufficient public funding sources, business incentives, business assistance programs and business tax structure.
The following information outlines findings in other areas.
Oklahoma businesses are hiring. With Oklahoma’s low unemployment rates, it’s no surprise that 37 percent of state businesses report plans to hire in 2012, compared to 28 percent of national business leaders who expect to hire in the first six months of 2012.i When the time frame is spread out to three years, 69 percent of Oklahoma businesses expect to increase the size of their workforce.
Oklahoma businesses are growing. With 51 percent of state businesses expanding or upgrading existing locations in the next three years, 28 percent adding locations and more than 60 percent adding new products or services, Oklahoma companies are on a steady upward trend. This growth curve far surpasses the projected U.S. commercial expansion rate of only 3.3 percent.
Oklahoma leaders are positive on infrastructure. While CNBC ranks Oklahoma 35th for infrastructure and transportation, Oklahoma businesses are overwhelmingly favorable, with 84 percent reporting sufficient access to resources and infrastructure.
Oklahoma business leaders are less than positive about government services. More than half of company owners and executives do not believe future state legislation will have a positive impact on their businesses and that state employees treat businesses as valued customers. Only half believe the regulatory environment is business friendly.
Oklahoma executives list their top challenges. Survey respondents reported customer loyalty and retention as their top business challenge, followed by increasing sales and growth, managing corporate reputation, managing in an unpredictable economic climate and adapting to change.
The full survey report is posted at

Cherokee Nation criticizes bill to limit role of tribes in policies

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is coming out against SB 1050, a bill that limits the role of tribes in setting certain state environmental policies.
The bill removes the word "tribal" from state laws that otherwise take tribes into account. A Cherokee Nation attorney said the measure would harm tribal-state relations.
“By passing this law, Oklahoma risks damaging the cooperative relationship it has built with the tribes – a relationship that has produced a significant economic benefit for the state,” Sara Hill, the tribe's senior assistant attorney general, told The Cherokee Phoenix.
Sen. Greg Treat (R), the sponsor of the bill, says tribes can still offer their views on state matters. But tribal laws won't carry any weight if the measure passes.
Treat also said the Environmental Protection Agency has a “liberal agenda,” and is using the tribes “as a vehicle” to expand its power.
“My message to tribal members and all Oklahomans is that his bill is about common sense and stopping the overreach and burden of the federal government,” Treat said. “I believe any form of government – whether it be tribal, local, state or federal – has a tendency to want to increase its power and control over citizens.”
Under a rider that was tucked into a federal transportation bill, Oklahoma tribes are barred from obtaining treatment as state status from the Environmental Protection Agency unless they reach a "cooperative agreement" with the state. No other tribes are subject to such prohibitions.

Bill will give public/press access to important prescription statistics

SB 1065 authorizes the Director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control to disclose statistical information gathered from the central repository to the general public.  The information is to be limited to the types and quantities of controlled substances dispensed and the county where dispensed.
Sen. Gary Stanislawski said the bill has been approved by both chambers and is one step closer to becoming law.
Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, is principal author of Senate Bill 1065, which deals with the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). The database is maintained by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD) to track prescriptions of specific types of drugs, like Vicodin.
Physicians, pharmacists and law enforcement can access the PMP to search a patient’s prescription history. The purpose was to identify patients who would visit multiple doctors to obtain duplicate prescriptions, raising flags about possible addiction or the illegal distribution of dangerous drugs.
“When the PMP was created, there were concerns about the inappropriate disclosure of private medical information, and so it was a misdemeanor to share any of this data with the public or the press,” Stanislawski said. “The unintended consequence was that it made sharing non-identifying statistical data illegal, even though there are many positive, legitimate uses for the information.”
SB 1065 changes the law so that statistics can be shared while protecting private medical information.
“Mental health professionals, universities and other researchers would be able to track increases in certain kinds of prescription drug abuse and identify trends that could be extremely helpful from not only a law enforcement perspective but for treatment and academic analysis,” Stanislawski said. “This could provide us with some very important tools in our efforts to fight prescription drug abuse.”
SB 1065, co-authored by Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, and Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, is now awaiting consideration by Gov. Mary Fallin.

Governor Signs Legislation Limiting Liability at Gun Ranges

Legislation signed by Governor Mary Fallin would limit the liability of owners, employees and customers for injuries that take place on gun ranges, gun shops and gun clubs.
Senate Bill 875, by state Sen. Anthony Sykes and state Rep. Dennis Johnson, would limit liability for injuries if the party in question acted in good faith. Liability would not be limited if the party involved acted intentionally, willfully or with wanton disregard for the safety of those injured.
Sykes said the legislation helps bolster the Second Amendment rights of Oklahomans.
“This measure will enhance our ability to exercise Second Amendment rights,” said Sykes (R-Moore). “Anyone who belongs to a gun club, uses a shooting range, or simply wants to purchase a firearm will benefit from this act.”
“It’s not likely that you will get shot on a gun range, but there is a higher risk of getting shot on one than say in your own home,” said Johnson (R-Duncan). “Due to this, gun ranges and the people who frequent them are vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits. Creating a higher standard of culpability in order to sue is a reasonable and appropriate change to current law. I was extremely proud to see this legislation signed into law.”
Johnson said the legislation would limit the cost of liability insurance for these small businesses.
“This will help reduce the cost of liability insurance for these small businesses that are already struggling in our tight economy,” Johnson said.
The owner of Murf’s Guns in Duncan said he was pleased by the Legislature’s support of small business.
“This is common-sense legislation that is very much needed for small businesses in Oklahoma,” owner Ken Murfree said. “These are tough times and whatever lawmakers and the governor can do to mitigate some of the cost of doing business is much appreciated.”
The legislation takes effect on Nov. 1, 2012. 

School Administrator Professional Development Pilot Program

Senate Bill 1185 instructs the State Board of Education, subject to the availability of funds, to establish the School Administrator Professional Development Pilot Program. The pilot program will require professional development academies for two groups of principals. Principals between their second and fifth year as principal must complete 10 hours of academy designed to improve leadership and organizational skills. Any principal of a school that does not make adequate yearly progress will be required to complete six hours of academy the year after the school did not meet adequate yearly progress. The academy will include information on education leadership, resolving complex problems, communications and developing self and others.
The State Department of Education must develop a list of approved professional development providers and will pay, subject to the availability of funds, all reasonable costs associated with attending the academy including tuition, fees, mileage and lodging.
Representative Lee Denney stated "I don’t think the programs are missing anything, we want our principals to have this training between years 2 and 5 and any time the school fails to meet AYP." She added "We have training and this is mandating when the training must happen."
The bill has passed the Senate and passed the House Appropriations and Budget Committee today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Unprecedented Act of the Court?

President Obama appeared to challenge the “unelected” Supreme Court not to take an “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” step of overturning his health reform law.
“Ultimately, I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” Obama said.
Is it truly unprecedented? In 1803 Marbury v. Madison was the first instance in which a law passed by Congress was declared unconstitutional. The decision greatly expanded the power of the Court by establishing its right to overturn acts of Congress, a power not explicitly granted by the Constitution. Initially the case involved Secretary of State James Madison, who refused to seat four judicial appointees although they had been confirmed by the Senate.
The Wall Street Journal noted: “President Obama is a former president of the Harvard Law Review and famously taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. But did he somehow not teach the historic case of Marbury v. Madison?”
On April 3rd President Obama agreed that the Supreme Court does have the right to overturn Congressional laws. He added that the Supreme Court has never restrained Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause. “We have not seen a Court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on an economic issue, like health care, that I think most people would clearly consider commerce—a law like that has not been overturned at least since Lochner. Right? So we’re going back to the Thirties, pre-New Deal,” he said.
Lochner was one of the most controversial decisions in the Supreme Court's history, giving its name to what is known as the Lochner era. In the Lochner era, the Supreme Court issued several controversial decisions invalidating progressive federal and state statutes that sought to regulate working conditions during the Progressive Era and the Great Depression.
In 1995, United States v. Alfonso Lopez, Jr., 514 U.S. 549 set limits to Congress's power under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Lopez raised serious questions as to how far the Court might be willing to go in implementing judicial safeguards against federal encroachments on state sovereignty. This precedent takes special significance in cases where the federal government is attempting to limit private conduct.
In 2000, United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598 the Supreme Court judged that parts of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 were unconstitutional because they exceeded congressional power under the Commerce Clause and under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals asked Attorney General Eric Holder to explain whether or not he agrees with the President that it would be “unprecedented” for the Supreme Court to strike down a law that had been duly passed by Congress. Holder has responded, with a three-page, single-spaced letter, as Smith requested.
In the letter Mr. Holder acknowledges "The longstanding, historical position of the United States regarding judicial review of the constitutionality of federal legislation has not changed and was accurately stated by counsel for the government at oral argument in this case a few days ago. The Department has not in this litigation, nor in any other litigation of which I am aware, ever asked this or any other Court to reconsider or limit long-established precedent concerning judicial review of the constitutionality of federal legislation."
It does not appear that the DOJ is questioning the authority if the Supreme Court. That does not change the stance that the president took, however.
Appearing on Neil Cavuto’s “Your World” show Wednesday, the Judge Napolitano warned that Obama was systematically flouting the system of checks and balances established by the founding fathers.
“A few months ago he was saying the Congress doesn’t count. The Congress doesn’t mean anything. I am going to rule by decree and by administrative regulation.” Napolitano said.
“Now he’s basically saying the Supreme Court doesn’t count. It doesn’t matter what they think. They can’t review our legislation. That would leave just him as the only branch of government standing.”
“I think he has some problems with understanding the Constitution or accepting limitations on his power.” the Judge added.

Liability law will protect public shelters during natural disasters

A bill to protect public buildings used as shelters during natural disasters from liability claims has been signed into law. Senate Bill 1316, by Sen. Ron Justice and Rep. Fred Jordan, modifies the Governmental Tort Claims Act by adding an exemption from liability for cities, towns, counties or other entities that open public buildings up to citizens during emergencies like tornadoes.
“Given the number of natural disasters that Oklahoma experiences each year, it was important to get this bill signed into law,” said Justice, R-Chickasha. “Public entities won’t have to be afraid of lawsuits because they opened their doors to the public during tornadoes or other natural disasters. This is a win-win for Oklahoma citizens and public entities that want to help their communities.”
The legislators noted that SB 1316 does not require public facilities to serve as natural disaster shelters. The new law will simply protect those entities that choose to let the public in during such events from being liable for any injuries individuals might incur while in the building or from being turned away because the facility is full.
“This legislation addresses a major public safety issue for Oklahomans in all 77 counties, and I’m pleased that it made it through the legislative process so quickly,” said Jordan, R-Jenks.
The new law will go into effect November 1, 2012.