Saturday, December 7, 2013

We the People - The Temple of Liberty


There are points in the course of time in which a noble direction has been shifted enough to warrant measures of redirection. Those points where a strong foundation has had built upon it a weakened frame. The foundations - the core values - are sturdy and enduring. The framework that has been erected around and upon this foundation has been, from time and neglect, found in need of repair.

The framework, that "our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that 'all men are created equal'" is as enduring as the word of our creator. The instinctual ideals of liberty and freedom in their framework of a government that is of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth, is stronger than ever.

In order for this framework to have upon it a building of majesty and beauty that is profitable for all people must , from time to time, be renovated and repaired. The open floor plan of freedom has had walls of intrusion laid upon the foundations of liberty and justice for all, causing a separation of the people from the government. The rooms of government are now locked and hidden from the people whose fathers and mothers gave their last full measure of devotion to protect the openness of this liberty.

We the people are the builders and maintainers of the temple of liberty that is this great nation. The great commission of the protection of the tangible daily execution of freedom has been passed from generation to generation in this land of liberty. This noble task is inherent in those of us living here today. It is therefore, our duty to restore the government by the people of the people and for the people for this generation and generations to come.

In order for us to maintain a nation maturing in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal, we must maintain a government that is of the people by the people for the people. It is of the people in our fellow citizens being the servants of the public good. By the people as we elect and place the people we believe hold fast to the actual execution of liberty and justice for all. It is for the people in the written precepts - the law and the rules and regulations - that are in accordance with and protecting of the individual liberty of all people. This republic can only stand of the people by the people and for the people.

The time has come to remove the walls of secrecy and deceit that have degraded this temple of liberty. It is time for a war of knowledge and reason to remove the corporate interests that have taken this government of the people away from the people. We must be strong and abhor the notion of convenience that begets a false security in the loss of liberty. We must actively seek those citizens that are dedicated to the preservation of a government that is of the people by the people for the people. These people will marginalized and demonized by the media that is owned by the same corporate builders of the walls of deceit. We must not let our decisions be made for us as this is the greatest loss in the constant battle for independence. It is time to eschew the material media ensnarement, the bread of circuses of our time, for the interaction with our fellow citizens to rebuild and restore the temple of liberty.

James T. Garrett

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Special OK Legislative Session

Governor Mary Fallin



Gov. Mary Fallin announced  special legislative session will begin Sept. 3, 2014. Fallin’s executive order designating the session limits it to lawsuit reforms enacted in House Bill 1603, an omnibus package enacted in 2009 with bipartisan support. The Oklahoma Supreme Court in June ruled the legislation violated a state constitutional “single-subject” rule.

Nearly every state legislator with a prison in their district has signed onto a petition calling for corrections funding to be addressed if a special session is called, according to state Rep. Gus Blackwell.

As of Aug. 5, the state corrections system is at 97.7 percent capacity, or has filled 25,348 or the 25,946 state and contract beds available. There are 1,672 inmates in county jail that are awaiting transfer to the state corrections system, with a typical wait time of approximately 8 to 10 months. As of July 1, 61.68 percent of the correctional officer positions are filled.

According to the Department of Corrections, there is approximately $7 million remaining in the revolving funds referenced by Governor Mary Fallin when she rejected a supplemental appropriations request of the agency. Nearly $5 million in the revolving funds cannot be used by the agency unless they receive specific authorization from the Oklahoma Legislature, which they have yet to receive.

“Public safety is the number one legitimate core function of government,” Blackwell, R-Laverne. “It’s essential that we make sure that the officers and staff of the Department of Corrections are able to perform their jobs in an atmosphere of safety and that the citizens of Oklahoma are kept safe from the danger inherent in overcrowded prisons. The continued low number of officers coupled with the high incarceration rates is producing a situation that is conducive to extremely problematic scenarios in the DOC facilities.

In response to Governor Mary Fallin’s call for a special legislative session to revisit tort reform in Oklahoma, Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage stated “If the governor believes that tort reform is such a pressing issue that she must call a special session, then surely the safety and protection of DOC employees ought to also be on the agenda."

“The Democrats in the State Senate believe that a special session to revisit this issue is a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars,” said Burrage, D-Claremore. “At a cost of $30,000 per day, we are looking at spending close to $250,000 to fix a problem.”

“But, if this is a done deal, let’s make this special session worth the time and the cost and handle the critical issue of the December 31 cutoff date on Insure Oklahoma. If the Governor and the legislature stand idle on this issue, 30,000 hard working Oklahomans who have access to health care through Insure Oklahoma will lose that coverage as they ring in the New Year.

Because of that deadline, this is something we literally cannot wait until 2014 to address. The Republican leadership here at the Capitol clearly has its priorities wrong if they believe that addressing lawsuit reform in a special session is more important than finding a solution to providing access to healthcare for these hard working Oklahomans.”

Fallin didn’t extend her legislative call explicitly to health care. Many legislators had hoped she would so the looming demise of Insure Oklahoma could be addressed but majority Republicans likely have the votes to move a dozen or more bills through the pipeline three weeks from now.

Fallin’s Executive Order 2013-30 specified that “any legislative should be drafted in such a way to ensure that Article 5, Section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution, or any other Constitutional provision, is not violated.”

Twelve-month gross receipts to the Oklahoma treasury are at an all-time high

cashTwelve-month gross receipts to the Oklahoma treasury are at an all-time high, having surpassed in July the previous record high set in December 2008, State Treasurer Ken Miller announced today at a State Capitol news conference.

Gross receipts for the past 12 months total $11.3 billion and are $12.6 million, or 0.1 percent, above the previous record high, Miller said.

“By at least this one measure, Oklahoma has regained and moved past the ground it lost during the Great Recession,” Miller said. “The revenue recovery – from peak to peak – took four years and seven months.”

Twelve-month gross receipts hit a trough in February 2010 of $9.4 billion. Since then, collections have grown by more than $1.9 billion or 21 percent, Miller said.

Gross receipts in July were strong, totaling almost $924 million, up by $69 million or more than 8 percent from July of last year. All major revenue categories are up with the biggest increases coming from gross production and motor vehicle tax collections.

Tax officials say motor vehicle collections, up by 11 percent, and sales tax collections, up by 4.2 percent, were impacted by recovery from the May tornadoes, with rises reported in the retail construction materials and auto sales sectors.

Monthly receipts from oil and natural gas severance taxes are higher than collections from the prior year for a third consecutive month, following more than a year of negative reports. 

This week’s Baker Hughes report showed 168 development wells underway in Oklahoma, with 149 for oil and 19 for natural gas. Of those, 152 are horizontal and 13 are deeper than 15,000 feet.

Oklahoma’s employment picture remains better than the national average. June state unemployment was set at 5.1 percent, compared to the U.S. rate of 7.6 percent for the same month.

Looking forward

Miller said that while national economic growth has been underwhelming during the first half of the year, there are signs of an improving economy ahead.

“Broad economic indicators such as home construction, capital stock and investment, and inflation-adjusted income, are pointing toward increased growth, but threats remain,” he said.

“Second quarter growth was slightly impacted by federal spending reductions, especially military spending cuts, but the economy was strong enough to push past this fiscal drag,” Miller said. “Accelerated growth is expected for the remainder of the year, but a continued budget impasse in Washington could lead to a government shutdown and potential disruption of the economy.”

July collections

Receipts for July set gross collections at $923.85 million, up $68.88 million or 8.1 percent from July 2012.

Gross income tax collections, a combination of personal and corporate income taxes, generated $270.73 million, an increase of $23.39 million or 9.5 percent from the previous July.

Personal income tax collections for the month are $258 million, up $23.26 million or 9.9 percent from the prior year. Corporate collections are $12.73 million, up by $132,000 or 1 percent. The state’s top income tax rate was reduced from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent in January 2012.

Sales tax collections, including remittances on behalf of cities and counties, total $369.22 million in July. That is $14.78 million or 4.2 percent higher than July 2012.

Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas generated $69.45 million in July, an increase of $11.13 million or 19.1 percent from last July. Compared to June reports, gross production collections are up by $1.6 million or 2.4 percent.

Motor vehicle taxes produced $64.33 million, up by $6.37 million or 11 percent from the prior year.

Other collections, consisting of about 60 different sources including taxes on fuel, tobacco, horse race gambling and alcoholic beverages, produced $150.11 million during the month. That is $13.21 million or 9.6 percent more than last July.

Twelve-month collections

Between August 2012 and July 2013, gross revenue totals $11.3 billion. That is $299.81 million or 2.7 percent higher than collections for the previous 12-month period.

Gross income taxes generated $4.15 billion for the period, reflecting an increase of $268.97 million or 6.9 percent from the prior 12 months.

Personal income tax collections total $3.52 billion, up by $189.47 million or 5.7 percent from the August 2011 to July 2012 period. Corporate collections are $629.03 million for the period, an increase of $79.5 million or 14.5 percent over the previous period.

Sales taxes for the period generated $4.22 billion, an increase of $157.69 million or 3.9 percent from the prior 12-months.

Oil and gas gross production tax collections brought in $726.2 million during the 12 months, down by $125.99 million or 14.8 percent from the previous period.

Motor vehicle collections total $682.47 million for the period. This is a decrease of $10.94 million or 1.6 percent from the trailing fiscal year.

Other sources generated $1.52 billion, up $10.08 million or 0.7 percent from the previous 12 months.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Ethical Violations and Retaliation: How to Get Promoted at the Bureau of Indian Affairs

From Cause of Action

According to a Department of the Interior, Office of the Inspector General (DOI OIG) report  and numerous complaints filed by Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) employees, Jeanette Hanna, the former Regional Director of the Eastern Oklahoma Regional Office of the BIA, mismanaged tribal trust funds, abused her authority, retaliated against employees, steered contracts, and had an inappropriate relationship with a government contractor that created a conflict of interest.  The DOI OIG report reveals that there were at least 17 formal complaints, 2 separate DOI OIG investigations, and 4 different reviews by the BIA and the DOI Office of Policy, Management and Budget (PMB) of Hanna’s behavior between 2005 and 2011.  Just how badly must a federal employee behave before getting fired?

In November 2009, the BIA placed Hanna on detail in Washington, DC, while the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs (AS-IA) reviewed her alleged ethical violations.  Hanna remained on detail for more than 500 days longer than allowed by agency rules.  However, no action was ultimately taken by the AS-IA, so the DOI OIG initiated an investigation in August 2011 after receiving information that BIA officials failed to act on the complaints against Hanna.

During the AS-IA’s formal review of the complaints against Hanna, investigators interviewed BIA employees who were “physically shaking” because they were so afraid Hanna might retaliate against them.  As the AS-IA discovered, Hanna had previously installed 40 “extra” security cameras with live feeds she used to monitor employees in her regional office, and the initial AS-IA report confirmed that Hanna engaged in retaliation and harassment of employees.  However, this report appears to have been ignored by higher ups at the AS-IA, who dismissed the findings as “minor personnel issues” and just so happen to be friends with Hanna.

Hanna not only fostered a hostile work environment.  The DOI OIG’s report ultimately found that the failure of the BIA and AS-IA to ensure Hanna followed agency spending procedures cost the government nearly $200,000.  After reviewing travel vouchers from Hanna’s detail filed by the AS-IA (to whom she had been assigned even though it was the AS-IA investigating her), investigators found an almost complete failure to comply with tax laws and agency regulations.  In sum, Hanna was reimbursed over $130,000 in travel costs, as she often traveled between Oklahoma and DC, with her $117-a-night hotel room sitting empty for weeks for at a time.  Perhaps even more outrageous, Hanna decided she required an agency-provided SUV for the over-two-year detail in DC “because of the snow,” as she later explained to investigators.

Following the DOI OIG’s referral, the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the District of Columbia declined to prosecute this case.  While the USAO might have determined that the evidence did not warrant a criminal prosecution (even though Hanna still owes significant back taxes on her travel reimbursements), it is disturbing that such blatant disregard for agency regulations and federal law has warranted no punishment for Hanna.

To read the full story, see CoA’s investigation analysis here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

May Data Show Steady Growth in Oklahoma


Oklahoma’s economy continued to exhibit steady growth during May, State Treasurer Ken Miller said today as he released the monthly gross receipts to the treasury report.

For the first time in 18 months, gross production tax collections exceeded the same month of prior year, climbing to $63.89 million in May. That is $790,000 or 1.2 percent above May of last year. Starting almost two years ago, gross production collections began to drop, hitting a trough in August 2012. Since then, collections have trended upwards.

Total collections for the month of $883.8 million reflected growth of 2.9 percent over May of last year. That compares to an average growth rate of 2.3 percent during the past 12 months.

Twelve-month collections now total $11.247 billion and are only about $36 million below Oklahoma’s peak 12-month collections of $11.283 billion set in December 2008.

“Oklahoma’s economy continues to show improvement,” Miller said. “The increase in gross production collections is most encouraging. Crossing the monthly collections threshold this month is heartening as we have been observing general growth during the past several months.”

Income tax and sales tax collections rose during the month, up by 4.6 percent and 3.8 percent respectively from May of last year. Motor vehicle collections were below prior year collections by 5.2 percent.

Other indicators

The state’s unemployment rate continues to reflect the strength of the Oklahoma economy, Miller said. Oklahoma’s 4.9 percent April unemployment rate compares to a national rate of 7.5 percent.

April unemployment in the Oklahoma City metro was set at 4.1 percent, down from 4.7 percent in March. It is the lowest jobless rate out of the nation’s 49 largest metropolitan areas, a distinction held for the past 13 months.

The Business Conditions Index for Oklahoma remained above growth neutral for May, dipping slightly to 55.6 from April’s 59.8. The survey shows average hourly wage growth of 6.2 percent, much higher than both the U.S. and regional averages. The results indicate positive growth will continue for the next three to six months.

May collections

The revenue report for May shows gross collections at $883.8 million, up $24.91 million or 2.9 percent from May 2012.

Gross income tax collections, a combination of personal and corporate income taxes, generated $280.88 million, an increase of $12.39 million or 4.6 percent from the previous May.

Personal income tax collections for the month are $272.31 million, up $14.15 million or 5.5 percent from the prior year. Corporate collections are $8.57 million, down by $1.76 million or 17 percent.

Sales tax collections, including remittances on behalf of cities and counties, total $348.35 million in May. That is $12.81 million or 3.8 percent above May 2012.

Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas generated $63.89 million in May, an increase of $790,000 million or 1.28 percent from last May. Compared to April reports, gross production collections are up by $6.75 million or 11.8 percent.

Motor vehicle taxes produced $59.04 million, down by $3.21 million or 5.2 percent from the prior year.

Other collections, consisting of about 60 different sources including taxes on fuel, tobacco, horse race gambling and alcoholic beverages, produced $131.63 million during the month. That is $2.13 million or 1.6 percent more than last May.

Twelve-month collections
Between June 2012 and May 2013, gross revenue totals $11.247 billion. That is $252.8 million or 2.3 percent higher than collections for the previous 12-month period.

Gross income taxes generated $4.129 billion for the period, reflecting an increase of $275.45 million or 7.1 percent from the prior 12 months.

Personal income tax collections total $3.48 billion, up by $161.65 million or 4.9 percent from the June 2011 to May 2012 period. Corporate collections are $644.37 million for the period, an increase of $113.8 million or 21.4 percent over the previous period.

Sales taxes for the period generated $4.209 billion, an increase of $210.24 million or 5.3 percent from the prior 12-months.

Oil and gas gross production tax collections brought in $706.49 million during the 12 months, down by $233.46 million or 24.8 percent from the previous period.

Motor vehicle collections total $684.71 million for the period. This is a decrease of $4.08 million or 0.6 percent from the trailing 12 months.

Other sources generated $1.518 billion, up $4.65 million or 0.3 percent from the previous 12 months

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Just a Thought


Age is a quantitative scale not a qualitative measure of a person. At 20 we are told "you are too young to do these things" then at 30 we are told "you're too old to do these things". So, according to the rules of men, we are only allowed to "live" for 8 or 9 years? That is not what life is meant to be. That is not what God has said- that is what man has tried to teach us.

The rules of mean are made to control people not liberate us. The rules of society are mostly built on prejudice and fear rather than on wisdom and love. Clearly, I am not speaking about incarcerating a thief or murderer or rapist, I am talking about the everyday rules that people have made to tell us do not touch, stay within a certain age range of people you see and activities in which you participate.

Rules are made for manipulation like pop fashion and pop- well- anything. Rules of what to wear, what to see, what to do and with whom to see them are meant to take your money and liberty at the same time.

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—"Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Col 2:20-23)

New OK Laws–Criminal History for Candidates


Senate Bill 287 was signed into law. It says that if the candidate has ever been ultimately determined by a court of proper authority to be guilty of a misdemeanor involving embezzlement or a felony under the laws of this state or of the United States or who has entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to such misdemeanor involving embezzlement or felony or who has been convicted of a crime in another state which would have been a misdemeanor involving embezzlement or a felony under the laws of this state or has entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to such crime or at the time of filing the Declaration of Candidacy is named in an outstanding warrant for arrest for such an offense, in this or any other state, the candidate shall provide the following information on a form prescribed by the Secretary of the State Election Board:
1. The name of the offense;
2. The date of conviction or issuance of the outstanding warrant; and
3. The county and state of conviction or issuance of the outstanding warrant.
The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to an offense for which the candidate has received a pardon.

Keep in mind state law prohibits a person from filing for office for 15 years after such a conviction.

Oklahomans to enjoy ‘Black Friday’ sales and lower prices



Beginning November 1st, Oklahoma consumers will enjoy legal "Black Friday" and other low-price sales for the first time since the 1940s. Senate Bill 550, by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, has been signed by Gov. Mary Fallin after passing the Senate, 29-16, and the House, 65-15 in the closing days of the 2013 session.

Under previous law, which was originally enacted in 1941, retailers were generally required to sell products for at least six percent more than they paid for it, at all times on all products. A December 2011 opinion from the Oklahoma Attorney General confirmed that state law barred all “Black Friday” and other low-price sales, even if they were only temporary. Many retailers who may not have been fully complying with the law shut down their "Black Friday" and other low-price sales until Oklahoma's laws were modernized. It is believed that only two states had a law so restrictive – Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

The previous law put Oklahoma communities at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states where retailers can legally offer significant bargains. By forcing Oklahomans to leave the state to shop, consumers, retailers, and core government services were all negatively impacted.

SB 550 allows Oklahoma retailers to sell general merchandise products at any price below their cost up to 15 days in a row on a specific product, up to 10 times a year. Groceries, drugs, gas, and lumber will still be subject to the law as before, but the pricing of all other products will fall under the provisions of SB 550.

"I have never believed that Oklahomans should pay higher retail prices only because the government says they should. Under the provisions of SB 550, the consumer will enjoy low prices on the products they expect when they expect, and that’s the way it should be," Holt said. "The previous law undermined a free market economy and its effects had been detrimental to our citizens. Nevertheless, it's taken 70 years to amend it. For making this happen, I want to thank Governor Mary Fallin, Representative Tom Newell, President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, Senate Business and Commerce Chairman Dan Newberry, the members of the Senate conference committee, our co-authors, and all the members who supported it in the Legislature.”

“Oklahomans will now be able to enjoy the same sales consumers in other states do,” Newell said. “I believe the free market helps businesses and consumers. As such, this law was outdated, and I am glad to have been able to help change it.”
SB 550 will take effect November 1, 2013, just in time for Oklahomans to enjoy their first true "Black Friday" sales.
Oklahoma Wal-Mart Ad
Out of State Wal-Mart Ad

CUTLINE FOR ADS: Pricing disparities like this will be a thing of the past after the signing of Senate Bill 550. These Walmart circulars, one from Oklahoma and one from Oklahoma’s bordering states, illustrate the higher prices that Oklahoma law required Walmart to charge consumers during its 2012 ‘Black Friday’ sales.

Changes to Child Abuse Law in OK


The Department shall electronically record each referral received by the hotline and establish a secure means of retaining the recordings for ninety days. The recordings shall be confidential and subject to disclosure only in those cases in which criminal charges related to the referral have been filed. If the court orders the disclosure of the referral, the Department shall redact any information identifying the reporting party unless otherwise ordered by the court.
Additionally, the amended law now states that any person with prolonged knowledge of ongoing child abuse or neglect who knowingly and willfully fails to promptly report such knowledge may be reported to local law enforcement for criminal investigation. Upon conviction shall be guilty of a felony. For the purposes of this paragraph, "prolonged knowledge" shall mean knowledge of at least six months of child abuse or neglect.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

US Senate Votes Against GMO Labeling


An ABC Poll showed nearly everyone — 93 percent — says the federal government should require labels on food saying whether it's been genetically modified, or "bio-engineered" (this poll used both phrases). And according to the Huffington Post/YouGov survey, 82 percent of Americans think GMO foods should be labeled. With such a vast majority of the United States citizens wanting the GMO foods labeled it would make sense that the folks representing us would require labeling on the foods, correct?

The Senate voted overwhelmingly – 71 to 27 – against an amendment to the sweeping farm bill, squashing a measure that would not have required labeling of genetically modified organisms, but merely would have let states decide if they wanted to require such labeling. Oklahoma’s senators voted against the amendment and the full list can be seen here who voted against it.

“The concept we’re talking about today is a fairly commonsense and non-radical idea,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the sponsor of the amendment, said shortly before the vote. “All over the world, in the European Union, in many other countries around the world, dozens and dozens of countries, people are able to look at the food that they are buying and determine through labeling whether or not that product contains genetically modified organisms.”

Sanders has noted that more than 3,000 ingredients are required to be labeled, but genetically modified ingredients are not part of that list. His state and Connecticut have passed laws to require such labeling, but Sanders said local leaders fear that large biotech corporations such as Monsanto could sue the states on the grounds that they are preempting federal authority. He said his bill would make clear that states can do what they want on the issue.

It is no surprise that over 3/4’s of Americans disapprove of the job that congress is doing on average in a number of recent polls. It also no surprise that 68 percent of Americans believe the federal government has gotten out of control and is threatening the basic civil liberties.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Post conviction DNA Act signed into law


Governor Fallin signed House Bill 1068, “Postconviction DNA Act” into law today. This new law states that a person convicted of a violent felony crime or who has received a sentence of twenty-five years or more and who asserts that he or she did not commit such crime may file a motion in the sentencing court requesting forensic DNA testing of any biological material secured in the investigation or prosecution attendant to the challenged conviction.

People that are currently incarcerated, on parole, on sex offender registration or discharges case can petition the court to have their evidence re-examined. The court may grant the request if it is not found that the request is a delay tactic and there are better methods of testing that when the case was originally tried. That is, request for DNA testing is made to demonstrate the innocence of the convicted person and is not made to unreasonably delay the execution of the sentence or the administration of justice.

If the court finds that a third party laboratory must conduct the testing due to the inability for the OSBI to do it, then the court shall require the petitioner to pay for the testing.

According to the OSBI, it will cost approximately $1,000 per case for the post-conviction DNA testing. The fiscal impact to the OSBI would be dependent upon the number of cases where the sentencing court orders post-conviction DNA testing.

According to the Administrative Director of the Courts, if the costs will be paid from local court funds, it will adversely affect the funds paid into the State Judicial Revolving Fund and require the Legislature to appropriate additional General Revenue to support the courts. Although it is unknown how many convicted persons will request post conviction DNA testing, and/or appointed counsel, the Court Administrator expects the cost per case to be substantial. The fiscal impact to the courts would be dependent upon the number of cases where the court appoints counsel for petitioners.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

OK House passes bill to protect gun owners rights


Law-abiding gun owners should not face felony charges and jail time for simply boarding a bus with a firearm, according to the author of a bill approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Thursday.

Under current law, anyone found boarding a bus or other form of public transportation with a firearm, concealed or otherwise, is guilty of a felony. House Bill 1558, by state Rep. Paul Wesselhöft and state Sen. Kyle Loveless, would allow licensed gun owners to board a bus with their firearm without fear of reprimand. The legislation was approved by a 79-12 vote and proceeds to the Oklahoma Senate for a final vote to determine whether it will be sent on to the governor’s desk.

“In my time in the Legislature, I have run into so many curious laws on the books,” said Wesselhöft. “Law-abiding gun owners aren’t familiar with these obscure statutes regarding guns, but they could face a felony charge. The intent of the Second Amendment is to give individuals the right to defend themselves. When state law makes it so complicated and difficult to exercise that right then reform is needed. I think that’s why we saw bipartisan support of the bill.”

Wesselhöft said the main concern of opponents is a misguided fear of law-abiding gun owners.

“The data is very clear on this,” he said. “Criminal and mentally ill individuals who do not legally have access to guns are the ones that are using them to hurt people. It is not common for a law-abiding gun owner, like the ones this bill supports, to commit crimes.”

The bill has now moved to the senate for consideration.

EPA Continues Illegal Release Producers' Personal Information


The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is appalled to learn that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to illegally release information on cattle operations to the activist groups Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council. In this latest action, the agency again admitted it had released too much information on livestock producers, specifically producers from Montana and Nebraska. This action happened less a month after the agency found it had released too much information on livestock producers in 10 states.  
NCBA Past President J.D. Alexander, a cattle feeder from Pilger, Neb., and whose information was released to the activists groups in the initial EPA action, said it is clear “someone at EPA is either completely incompetent or intentionally violating federal law. Either way, this action shows EPA cannot be trusted with sensitive information and should not have the authority to procure or disseminate it. NCBA is calling for an investigation by the Office of Inspector General into this matter.”
The records released in February by EPA include names of producers and operations, locations and in some cases even personal phone numbers for farmers and ranchers who own beef, swine or poultry operations. Most of the 80,000 facilities listed are not regulated under the Clean Water Act (CWA), some having as few as 12 head of livestock. After NCBA and other livestock groups expressed outrage over the initial release of information, EPA conducted a review of the records and admitted it released too much personal information for 10 of the 29 states included in the documents. After a second review, the agency once again said too much information was released for operations located in Nebraska and Montana.
“These actions by EPA once again prove that the agency is incapable of properly doing its job. Nowhere in law is EPA required to obtain and display such personal information on all these livestock operations. On the contrary, the federal government should be protecting its citizens from unwarranted attacks,” Alexander said. “Instead, EPA has once again threatened the health and safety of America’s farmers and their families, as well as decreased the security of our food system. Now they have politely asked these activist groups twice to return those documents with extremely sensitive information on them. What makes EPA think that these groups will listen and act appropriately in order to protect hardworking farming and ranching families, those families that environmental activist groups want out of business?”
He added that NCBA continues to pursue legislative action that would prevent the agency from being able to make these devastating mistakes.
Nebraska Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer said the fact that EPA disregarded the privacy of cattle producers in their home state of Nebraska and across the country shows the agency continues to act as if it is above the law.
“EPA’s disclosure of personal and confidential information of private citizens and business owners – including 3,500 Nebraskans – demonstrates a complete disregard for their privacy and safety. Now, we have learned that, in the agency’s mismanaged attempt to recover the information, the EPA failed to request the return of hundreds of Nebraskans’ personal data that should not have been released,” said Fischer. “This whole episode is more than a mere comedy of errors; it represents a pattern of disturbing disregard for the rights of our citizens. I believe Nebraskans – and Congress – deserve a thorough, independent and speedy review of the EPA’s handling of the deliberate disclosure and botched recovery process.”
Johanns agreed with Fischer, stating that “EPA’s ongoing assault on America’s agriculture producers is nothing short of alarming.”
“EPA’s disregard for the privacy of farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and across the country is, at best, woeful negligence, and at worst, a flagrant effort to aid organizations seeking to radically dismantle agriculture practices, with no regard for what it takes to feed the world. I certainly hope EPA’s release of sensitive personal data was not part of a larger agenda to jeopardize American agriculture operations, but its track record does not help its case. EPA must now explain how it will ensure private information is not abused

IRS Not Alone in Attacks on Conservative Groups


We have heard the recent revelations that the IRS targeted conservative groups for refusal of tax exempt status. A Republican senator says that the Environmental Protection Agency has made it more difficult for conservative groups to obtain information is no different from the burgeoning scandal at the IRS.

Shortly after the IRS admitted to targeting conservative groups, it was reported that the EPA has routinely denied fee waiver requests from conservative groups seeking government records, while at the same time, approving such requests to environmental groups.

“We know the Obama EPA has completely mismanaged FOIA, but granting fee waivers for their friends in the far-left environmental community, while simultaneously blocking conservative leaning groups from gaining access to information; is really no different than the IRS disaster,” Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an emailed statement.

The free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute revealed that since January 2012 the EPA granted fee waivers for 75 out of 82 Freedom of Information Act requests sent by major environmental groups and only denied seven of them — a 92 percent success rate for green groups. However, the agency rejected or ignored 21 out of 26 fee waiver requests from conservative groups — an 81 percent rejection rate.

“Their practice is to take care of their friends and impose ridiculous obstacles to deny problematic parties’ requests for information,” said CEI senior fellow Chris Horner.

When a fee waiver is denied, it generally stops the FOIA request as many groups don’t have the resources to pay the fees associated to get the FOIA.

In 2009 the Department of Homeland Security added persons or groups “rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority” to its terrorists watch list.

Internal Department of Justice emails obtained by The Daily Caller show Attorney General Eric Holder’s communications staff has collaborated with the left-wing advocacy group Media Matters for America in an attempt to quell news stories about scandals plaguing Holder and America’s top law enforcement agency.
Dozens of pages of emails between DOJ Office of Public Affairs Director Tracy Schmaler and Media Matters staffers show Schmaler, Holder’s top press defender, working with Media Matters to attack reporters covering DOJ scandals.

Other Soros-funded groups including the Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21, the Center for Public Integrity, Mother Jones and Alternet have worked to pressure the IRS to target conservative nonprofit groups. The subsequent IRS investigation flagged more than 100 tea party-related applications for higher scrutiny, including applications that included the words "Tea Party" and "patriot."

The IRS scandal can be traced back to a series of letters that the liberal groups Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Democracy 21 sent to the IRS back in 2010 and 2011. Both groups were funded by George's Soros's Open Society Foundations. The CLC received $677,000 and Democracy 21 got $365,000 from the Soros-backed foundation, according to the Foundation's 990 tax forms.

It has also been confirmed that the Treasury Department unfairly profiled conservatives around that time, the Congressmen are wondering if that could have been a factor in the selection of certain dealerships for closure.

The IRS scandal "raises serious questions about past decisions made by the [Treasury] Department regarding auto dealership closures that occurred in 2008 and 2009," reads the letter. "We formally request that the Treasury Department provide all e-mails, phone records, notes, memoranda, reports, and other communications regarding the decision-making process for dealership closures from the Automotive Task Force headed by Car Czars Steve Rattner and Ron Bloom."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

House Sends School Empowerment Bill to Governor


Legislation creating a process for the deregulation of schools headed to the governor’s desk will empower educators and students and end needless state interference, state Rep. Jeff Hickman said today.
“Oklahoma’s teachers and school administrators are capable of educating students without endless red tape from politicians at the State Capitol,” said Hickman, R-Fairview and House author of the bill. “For years, educators have shared their frustration with mandates sent down to them from Oklahoma City. If signed into law, this legislation will give educators more flexibility in how they serve their students.”
House Bill 2131 allows school districts to choose to opt out of most of the same mandates from which charter schools are exempt. Those decisions would be made at the local level to better address community needs and give districts increased resource flexibility.
“I believe our students will thrive if we create a better education environment by encouraging innovation and freedom,” said Hickman. “It doesn’t make sense to maintain an outdated education model. We have said for years we need more local control of our schools, and this legislation gives schools that control.”
Many standards are kept in place in the bill, including the minimum salary schedule, participation in the Teacher’s Retirement System, use of the state health insurance plan, background checks for teachers, teacher evaluations, teacher certifications, administrator certification, school board training and graduation requirements.
The legislation requires school districts to apply for exemption from mandates, which would be subject to the approval of the State Board of Education, Hickman said. It also pushes the district transfer deadline back from April 1 to the first Monday in June, so parents have more time to apply for a transfer, if desired.
“I appreciate the bipartisan support for this legislation which gives school districts the opportunity to be exempted from some state mandates that don't make sense for their school system and which gives more local control to the school boards, administrators, teachers and parents in the operation of their schools,” Hickman said. 

Drivers Licenses Fee Increase Passed in OK



The Oklahoma Governor signed Senate Bill 652 into law. As previously noted, the law will raise the fee for drivers licenses and state issued id’s $10.00.

Senator Barrington pointed out that this is the first fee increase the agency has had in ten years and will help cover the ever-increasing costs of providing services to the public.

“Instead of asking for an increased appropriation, the agency requested this $10 fee increase, which will help generate approximately $8.7 million to help hire additional driver license clerks; pay for new hardware and software required to maintain the Driver License division as well as assist the agency in fixing and updating the state’s 800MHz radio system, which is used by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, emergency personnel and law enforcement officers throughout the state,” said Barrington.

“This is an important bill that addresses several issues within the state Department of Public Safety including keeping the agency in federal compliance and providing it with much-needed funding,” said Barrington, R-Lawton.

In order to comply with new federal CDL regulations set to take effect July 1, 2014, SB 652 establishes a commercial learner permit for those applying for a commercial driver license. The permit will be valid for 180 days and may be renewed once for an additional 180 days. Barrington noted that failure to comply with the new federal rule would put Oklahoma out of compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which would put Oklahoma’s CDL program in jeopardy and also up to 10 percent of federal highway funds that are awarded to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

SB 652 allows the Department to accept skills test results from another state. The bill also requires the Department to conduct an annual criminal history background check on designated examiners and allows the agency to revoke the driving privileges of anyone convicted of fraud related to examination or issuance of a commercial learner permit and for failure to submit to skills reexamination.

SB 652 will become law on November 1, 2013.

Gov. Fallin signs bill regulating boat rental


With lake season quickly approaching, Gov. Fallin signed legislation Monday to ensure eligibility for boat rental businesses to operate in state parks. Sen. Bill Brown, author of Senate Bill 374, said the measure will protect legitimate, rule-abiding businesses.
“This bill was requested by a boat rental business owner at Beaver Bend Lake in southeast Oklahoma who is competing against individuals who are renting boats to tourists by taking ads out in the local paper. These individuals aren’t running legitimate businesses because they don’t have contracts with the Department of Tourism or a business license,” said Brown, R-Tulsa. “They’re hurting the legitimate business owner because they can rent their boats for less because they don’t have all of the overhead expenses. This isn’t fair but it’s happening all over the state. We need to protect those business owners who are following the law.”
The bill requires boat rental businesses operating in state parks to have a valid written contract with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department or the agency that owns the lake. This contract is in the form of a use permit, which amounts to 10 percent of gross sales. Business owners must also have a business license issued by the state; a visible, commercially-accessible public location; and a tax permit as well as any other required local permit.
Those who fail to meet the minimum requirements will be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500, 30 days in the county jail or both.
SB 374 goes into effect November 1, 2013.

OK Senate passes Fiscal Year 2014 Budget


The Oklahoma state Senate passed  the Fiscal Year 2014 General Appropriations Budget to fund state government operations. HB 2301 passed the Senate by a vote of 28-20.
HB 2301 is a fiscally conservative budget plan for Fiscal Year 2014, including targeted increases in resources for teaching in the classroom, child welfare, and the maintenance of state-owned assets. Most state agencies will not see an increase in spending under HB 2301. In total, the General Appropriations Budget includes approximately $7.1 billion.
President Pro Tem Brian Bingman called HB 2301 a balanced budget with a focus toward basic priorities.
“This is a responsible and fiscally conservative budget, with increases targeted to core government services—education, infrastructure and human services,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “The budget includes more than $90 million of additional funding for common education—money to keep the promises we’ve made to support historic education reforms, to fund benefits that our teachers depend on every month, and to put more dollars in the classroom.”
Examples of targeted increases include:
• $91 million for common education, including: $74 million in FY 2014 to support reform efforts and get more resources into classrooms; a $17 million supplemental for common education to fund teacher health benefits and other costs in FY 2013
• $33 million for Higher Education and $3 million for Career Technology to support operations and the goal of awarding more degrees and career certificates
• $40 million for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to support operations, including Sooner Care
• $1.2 million for the Department of Health to support infant mortality reduction initiatives and to implement new inspections of long term care facilities for veterans
• $17.4 million for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse to support initiatives including suicide prevention, prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment, counseling for children with mental illnesses, and “smart on crime” initiatives like the Justice Reinvestment Act
• $44 million for the Department of Human Services to support operations, including the implementation of the Pinnacle Plan and the reduction of the waiting list for services offered to individuals with developmental disabilities
• $30 million to the Maintenance of State Buildings Revolving Fund and $60 million for repairs and renovation of the State Capitol
Senate Appropriations Chairman Clark Jolley noted the importance of targeted funding increases for core government services.
“This budget represents a conservative approach to limit the growth of government while still investing in teaching in the classroom, in child welfare, and our infrastructure management,” said Jolley, R-Edmond. “We know we need to see increased dollars go to kids in the classroom, and we must press forward with monumental reforms to our child welfare services. These are fundamental core services, and this budget fulfills our most important commitments while delivering on a tax cut for the people of Oklahoma.”
HB 2301 will now advance to the governor for her signature.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Expansion of racketeering law in Oklahoma


Governor Mary Fallin signed SB 549 into law today which adds  crimes relating to exploitation of elderly persons or disabled adults, computer crimes, unlawful proceeds, insurance fraud, and workers’ compensation fraud to the list of crimes which can be considered racketeering activity under the provisions of the Oklahoma Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The penalty for racketeering is an additional minimum of ten years imprisonment.

The clause that caught my attention is Unlawful Proceeds. According to §21-2001. Unlawful proceeds - Counsel - Banks - Imprisonment and fines.

  • It is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to receive or acquire proceeds and to conceal such proceeds, or engage in transactions involving such proceeds, known to be derived from any violation of the Oklahoma Statutes.

This seems a little open ended- any violation of the Oklahoma Statutes.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Obama administration deny request to extend funding for the Insure Oklahoma program


The federal government has denied the state of Oklahoma's request for a waiver that would extend its Insure Oklahoma program, which is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, the governor's office said Wednesday.

Gov. Mary Fallin last year rejected the Democratic president's proposals to expand the Medicaid health care program in Oklahoma to comply with the Affordable Care Act and to establish an online marketplace for the uninsured to shop for health insurance.

She requested federal officials grant a waiver to allow Insure Oklahoma to continue. Insure Oklahoma provides state funds along with Medicaid funds that are matched by small businesses and their employees to buy private health insurance coverage.

"This is the latest bad news in the ongoing train wreck that is the Affordable Care Act," Fallin said.

"Insure Oklahoma is a program that has been providing affordable health insurance to approximately 30,000 low-income Oklahomans since 2005," Fallin said. "It is exactly the kind of successful, state-based solution to health care needs that the federal government should be encouraging. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration seems intent on dismantling the program, as evidenced by the recent denial of Insure Oklahoma's Medicaid waiver."

“The president promised the American people, ‘if you like your  health insurance, you can keep it.’ He has not kept his word. Thirty thousand Oklahomans participating in Insure Oklahoma – and many more Americans across the country – are being forced off their health insurance plans.”

“The president also promised the nation’s governors his administration would grant states the flexibility to pursue state-based solutions rather than one-size-fits-all policies. Again, that has proven to be untrue, as Oklahoma and other states are now finding their programs and waivers under assault by the Obama Administration.”

Fallin concluded: “I encourage the president to keep his promises and reverse his decision to gut one of Oklahoma’s most successful health initiatives.”

Sen. Dan Newberry said the Obama administration’s decision to deny the state’s request to extend funding for the Insure Oklahoma program, unless Oklahoma institutes the Obamacare exchanges, will force many thousands of Oklahoma’s neediest and most vulnerable off their health insurance plans.

Newberry said the administration’s denial of funding effectively holds the state hostage in its efforts to provide insurance access to low-income Oklahomans.

“This move is just the latest in a long line of decisions confirming that Obamacare will curtail consumer choice and mandate where and how citizens can receive medical treatment,” said Newberry, R-Tulsa. “Even if it deprives the poorest citizens of access to affordable healthcare, the administration is willing to dismantle successful state programs that don’t fit their one-size-fits-all vision for a nationalized healthcare system. This is an example of an arrogant and out-of-touch Washington.”

Insure Oklahoma provides health coverage for approximately 30,000 low-income Oklahomans. The denial of federal funding will effectively eliminate the program at the end of the year.

“Insure Oklahoma is not just a successful program, it is a program approved by popular vote and represents the will of the people,” Newberry said. “This illustrates how easy it has become under this administration for the liberties of Americans, afforded to them by our Constitution’s 10th Amendment, to be stripped away by this oppressive tyranny. It is also a direct violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Oklahoma leaders are obligated to oppose this federal overreach, and should continue to do so.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Marriage as a tool campaign



House Bill 1908 was sent to the governor on May 6th, 2013. The law would create a statewide public service announcement campaign, under the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, promoting marriage as a tool against poverty and targeting all members of the public.

The bill specifically excludes a person appointed or elected to any public office in this state from appearing in the public service announcement campaign. It further stipulates that no person, persons, or business entities employed in political consulting or receiving payment through funds related to any campaign for public office in this state shall be contracted to produce, develop, or otherwise provide any services related to the campaign.

Oklahoma Drivers License Fee Increases


SB 652 establishes a commercial learner permit for those persons making application for a commercial driver license. The permit is valid for 180 days, which may be renewed one additional time for 180 days. The measure also increases the fees for driver licenses by $12.00 from $21.50 to $32.50. The cost of a Class A or B license increases $41.50 to $51.50 and a Class C license increases from $31.50 to $41.50. The cost of a replacement license will increase from $10.00 to $20.00

For folks aged 62 the cost of a Class D or motorcycle license increases from $11.25 to $21.25, aged 63 the cost goes from $7.50 to $17.50 and for those 64 years of age the cost increase is from $3.75 to $13.75.

If you have a simple state issued ID that cost will increase if this bill is passed into law also. The current cost of $10.00 to receive a new, renewal or replacement ID will increase to $20.00. No charge for the ID will be incurred by folks 65 or older for the state issued ID.

The license agent will receive $4.00 for each license issued or renewed for operating expenses, as noted in the bill. Ten Dollars will be deposited to the Department of Public Safety Revolving Fund for all original or renewal issuances of licenses.

The bill allows the Department to accept skills test results from another state. Requires the Department to conduct an annual criminal history background check on designated examiners. The bill also allows the Department to revoke driving privileges of a person convicted of fraud related to examination or issuance of a commercial learner permit and for failure to submit to skills reexamination.

The bill was sent to the governor today, May 7th and is awaiting her signature.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Counterterrorism Caucus Announces Oklahoma Chapter of CAIR Ties to Imam


The Counterterrorism Caucus of the state Legislature announced today evidence collected against the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and its ties with an Imam who has supported terrorists in the past.

At its recent annual banquet, Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Outreach Director of the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., delivered the keynote address at CAIR’s banquet. The Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center was identified in the 9-11 Commission Report as the mosque frequented by several of the 9-11 hijackers.

James Lafferty, chairman of the Virginia Anti-Sharia Task Force, had this to say about Abdul-Malik: “In his public statements, Abdul-Malik demonstrates regularly his contempt for the rule of law and his support for terrorist acts against America ... and praises those who have attacked our country and attempted to kill the President of the United States. No American should honor this man or his disgraceful words and behavior.”

A letter from VAST included links to newspaper articles which cited several incidents from Abdul-Malik’s past:

- He defended Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a Dar Al Hijrah, member who is serving a life sentence in a federal prison for nine counts of terrorism including a plot to assassinate President George W. Bush, kill members of Congress and bomb restaurants, nightclubs and other public places across America.

- He also defended Ali Al Timimi, a Muslim cleric of Fairfax, Va., who was convicted in April, 2005, and is serving a life sentence in a federal prison for counseling others to wage war against the United States and use firearms and explosives in furtherance of violent crimes.

- He was often cited as the spokesman for the Dar Al Hijrah mosque and he used his position there to defend numerous convicted terrorists and question the judicial system in the United States.

Past newspaper reports show Abdul-Malik’s extreme positions.

“Our whole community is under siege,” Abdul-Malik told the New York Times on Feb. 27, 2005. “They don’t see this as a case of criminality. They see it as a civil rights case, as a frontal attack on their community. The feeling I get here on a daily basis must be what it was like to be a member of Martin Luther King Jr.’s church following the case of Rosa Parks. People always ask: ‘What is the latest from the courthouse?’”

And on April 27, 2005, he told the New York Times Muslims aren’t free to speak their minds in the United States.

“There is a view many Muslims have when they come to America that you could not be arrested for something you say,” Abdul-Malik said. “But now they have discovered they are not free to speak their minds. And if our opinions are out of vogue in the current climate, we feel we are all at risk.”

State Rep. John Bennett, Counterterrorist Caucus chairman, said CAIR and other groups like it have been identified as front organizations for terrorist groups.

“In the case of U.S. vs. The Holy Land Foundation, the largest terrorist-financing trial in the history of the U.S., CAIR was identified as a Muslim Brotherhood front organization and an unindicted co-conspirator,” said Rep. Bennett-R, Sallisaw. “In fact, CAIR and several others petitioned the federal court to have their names removed from the co-conspirator list.

“But U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Solis denied their motion in a Memorandum Opinion issued on July 1, 2009. In doing so, Solis wrote: ‘The government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America, the North American Islamic Trust, the Holy Land Foundation, the Islamic Association of Palestine and Hamas.’”

Rep. Bennett added that the caucus had discovered a letter from the FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office in which Special Agent in Charge James Finch says that the FBI cannot participate in a planned Muslim Community Outreach Program because of the “planned participation by the Oklahoma Chapter of CAIR.”

“As we have said repeatedly, we believe that the vast majority of Muslims in Oklahoma are peace-loving, productive members of society,” Rep. Bennett said. “We support wholeheartedly their constitutional right to practice their religion in peace.

“The stated, two-fold goal of the Muslim Brotherhood, however, is to establish global Muslim rule, or a ‘caliphate,’ and to replace our constitution with Sharia law. To say, as some have suggested, that CAIR is a Muslim civil rights group is simply inconsistent with the evidence. The theme of CAIR’s annual banquet this year was Upholding our Constitution, Defending our Faith. One has to wonder whose constitution they’re talking about.”

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bill prohibiting transfer of food stamp benefits



Senate Bill 887 makes it unlawful to transfer any food stamps or coupons, or any benefit or debit card or any other device authorizing participation in the food stamp program, to a person who is not authorized by this act and rules of the Department of Human Services to acquire, possess, or use the transferred food stamps or coupons, or any benefit or debit card or any other device authorizing participation in the food stamp program.

Any district attorney who enters into a deferred adjudication or who negotiates for a deferred sentence with a defendant charged with a violation of the provisions of this section shall present the defendant with a disqualification consent agreement as part of the deferred adjudication or sentence.

The bill was sent to the governor on May 1st, 2013.

Food Stamp Law Signed by Governor


Governor Mary Fallin

Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill re-imposing a work requirement for able-bodied food stamp recipients.

House Bill 1909 was authored by House Speaker T.W. Shanon and requires able able-bodied individuals, ages 18 to 50 who are not disabled or raising a child, to perform at least 20 hours of work activities as a condition of receiving food stamps. These work requirements come from the 1996 Welfare Reform Law. Currently, able-bodied individuals do not have to fulfill work requirements due to waivers handed out by the federal government. This bill will prohibit DHS from seeking those work requirement waivers. 

“Unfortunately, some believe compassion is measured by how many people you can keep on a government aid program,” said Speaker Shannon, R-Lawton. “We must change the paradigm to how many people we can get off government assistance. We must encourage able-bodied people to break their addiction to government subsidies and gain self-sufficiency. Through personal responsibility, hard work and a drive to better one’s situation, people can establish their independence and begin down the road of prosperity.”
Under federal law, unemployed individuals are able to receive food stamps for up to 90 days. After 90 days, these able-bodied persons must fulfill the 20 hour work requirement to continue to receive food stamp benefits.

"We want to encourage a culture of responsibility here in Oklahoma," said Joe Griffin, spokesman for Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon. "We want people to break the cycle of poverty and move on to prosperity."

“Oklahoma has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation,” said Speaker Shannon. “That is because we believe the best social program is legitimate work and a paycheck.”

HB 1909 will go into effect November 1 of this year.

The average number of people receiving food stamps in Oklahoma in 2012 was 614,947. With the population 2012 estimated by the US Census Bureau at 3,814,820, about 16% of the population is currently receiving food stamps.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tax Bill Sent to Gov.


The Oklahoma House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 2032, a measure that will give Oklahomans much needed income tax relief.

HB 2032 calls for the current 5.25 percent personal income tax rate to be reduced to 5.0 percent in 2015. A second cut will take place in 2016 resulting in the personal income rate to be lowered to 4.85 percent.  Oklahoma Republican leadership supports the tax cuts due to their commitment to reduce the tax burden on citizens and to soften the blow from tax hikes imposed by the federal government.

“Since we began reducing our state income tax, we have seen record revenues in Oklahoma,” said House Speaker T.W. Shannon. “Hardworking Oklahomans should keep more of their hard earned money because they will either save it or spend. That is how you grow an economy. Unfortunately, the leadership in Washington, D.C. fails to see this.”

Over the past 15 years, Oklahoma has reduced the income tax rate from 7.0 percent to 5.25 percent a reduction of roughly 25 percent. Since the legislature began cutting the tax rate, Oklahoma has seen a 47 percent increase in revenues from $1.9 billion to $2.8 billion.

“I applaud my fellow representatives for standing up for the people of Oklahoma,” said Speaker Shannon, R-Lawton. “Oklahoma is continuing to prove that conservative principles lead to prosperity.”

HB 2032 will now go to the desk of Governor Fallin to be signed into law.

Exam Results Should Be Allowed to Be Invalidated Following Technical Issues


Several Oklahoma lawmakers are calling on State Superintendent of Education Janet Barresi to let local school boards determine if scores from required state exams should be invalidated after a series of technical malfunctions interrupted the testing on consecutive days this week.

State Reps. Arthur Hulbert, John Bennett, Katie Henke, Dustin Roberts,  and Jason Smalley believe the results should be allowed to be invalidated. How students perform on these exams affects not only how students are graded, but also how teachers are evaluated, how schools are graded under the new A-F grading system, and whether a student is allowed  to graduate.

“I have received many emails from schools throughout the state, both inside and outside of my district, over  the last 14 days since April 17 in regards to  issues with the required Core Curriculum and End of Instruction Tests,” said Hulbert, R-Ft. Gibson. “How can we expect our children to be adequately engaged in a test they may have had to start and stop a couple of times? “Unfortunately, these errors have cost our students and teachers valuable time they could have used for learning. ” The fair thing to do for these students and teachers this year is to allow these exams to be voided so that our students and schools are not negatively affected. We have placed too much emphasis on these exams to allow external technical issues to negatively impact people’s lives.”

“We must take into consideration the variables involved when our school children have to deal with a cpu program going up and down and its detrimental effects it has on their ability to successfully take a test,” said Bennett, R-Sallisaw. “The teachers and children have to deal with the negative effects of the system going down – a test that impacts their future.

At the very least, they should be allowed to re-take the tests if they feel they were negatively affected by the mitigating circumstances involved. We must as legislators, teachers  and parents ensure they get a fair shot at this.”
“It is ridiculous to think that our children and schools should be held responsible for the technical difficulties of an outside testing company,” said Henke, R-Tulsa. “If these high-stakes tests cannot be administered in a timely manner and without interruption, then the scores should not be used to determine students' abilities and future standings. The bottom line is that we have a testing problem in our state and country and this is just one example of how it is negatively affecting our education system.”

“Only the local school districts administering theses test really understand the burden that this has become,” said Jason Smalley, R-Stroud. “Imagine the mid-level performing students that have been kicked out of a test for an hour and have to log back in and keep trying over and over. Their mind and focus are toast, its becomes a total loss of focus.”

“This is a great example of putting too much emphasis on state testing,” said Roberts, R-Durant. “The Department of Education needs to take a step back and look at the harm to our students by continuing to push these tests this year.”

Bill to help save lives of young binge drinkers wins final Senate approval


Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk is the next stop for legislation meant to encourage underage drinkers to call for help if one of their friends becomes unresponsive. Senate Bill 1, by Sen. Cliff Branan and Rep. Mike Jackson, was given final passage with a unanimous Senate vote on Tuesday. Branan said the measure would protect an individual from being charged for underage drinking if they call for help for a friend who may have consumed lethal amounts of alcohol.
“As a father, and as a senator, I do not condone underage drinking—but we know it happens. I personally know a family whose child died from alcohol poisoning after binge drinking while away at college,” said Branan, R-Oklahoma City. “His friends were afraid that if they called 911, they would end up getting in trouble, either with the law, their parents, or their college for underage drinking. They didn’t call anyone, and the young man died. We don’t want that to happen again.”
Binge drinking is defined as rapidly consuming five or more drinks in a row. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by young adults under the age of 21 in this country is in the form of binge drinking. Consuming too many drinks can result in alcohol poisoning, a condition that can cause brain damage or death unless the individual receives prompt medical attention.
“If this becomes law, I believe it will help prevent deaths by encouraging young people to seek help for a friend who may have alcohol poisoning,” said Jackson, R-Enid. “Young people can be intimidated by the repercussions, but when you are talking about drinking so much alcohol that can cause permanent brain damage or death, we want to encourage them to get help for their friend before it’s too late.”
Branan explained under the provisions of SB 1, if a person calls 911 to help someone who may have alcohol poisoning and stays with the friend until help arrives, the caller would be protected from being arrested for underage drinking.
“This could happen to anyone’s child. It could be an honor student or a stand-out athlete who never gave their parents grief, but made an immature, foolish decision to binge drink,” Branan said. “I cannot imagine knowing that someone could have saved your child’s life, but was too afraid to help. I believe if SB 1 becomes law, it will save lives.”

Oklahoma House Passes Monumental Workers Comp Reform

workmans comp

The Oklahoma House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 1062, a measure that creates monumental reform to Oklahoma’s workers compensation system.

SB 1062 will convert the state’s current judiciary workers compensation system to an administrative system. Oklahoma is one of only a handful of states that still uses an adversarial judiciary system and businesses suffer from some of the highest workers comp insurance rates in the country due to the system’s inefficiencies.  Currently, workers who are injured on the job could wait years for a benefits judgment due to the slow and costly legal process under the current judicial system.

“This is an epic reform, decades in the making,” said House Speaker T.W. Shannon, the House author of SB 1062. “For far too long, injured workers have been neglected and small businesses have been punished by an adversarial system that only benefits personal injury attorneys. Today, that system is dead, replaced by a strong new administrative system that will protect injured workers and lower costs for businesses.”

Under the administrative system proposed in SB 1062, workers compensation cases will be heard by an administrative judge, and cases will receive quick resolutions.

“We must compete with other state’s in our region for skilled workers and business,” said Rep. Leslie Osborn, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and presenter of HB 2032. “That means Oklahoma must move to a system that quickly and adequately addresses workers comp cases. Neither workers nor businesses will tolerate an archaic system in a 21st century job market.”

“Businesses will be pleased but it is the workers who will see  what I believe is the greatest benefit,” said Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “The new administrative system is designed to help workers get back on the job through therapy and vocational rehabilitation so they can move on with their lives.”

SB 1062 will now move to the Oklahoma Senate for final approval of the House’s amendments and will then move to the desk of Governor Fallin to be signed into law.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New Laws signed by OK Governor

Legal Scales

Manufactured Home Sales

HB 1078 would prevent a manufacturer from selling, exchanging or lease-purchasing a manufactured home to a person who is not a licensed manufactured home dealer.

Handgun License

HB 1243 states a person subject to the provisions of a deferred sentence for the offenses of:

  • any assault and battery which caused serious physical injury to the victim or any second or subsequent assault and battery,
  • any aggravated assault and battery,
  • any stalking or a similar law of another state,
  • any violation of the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act or any violation of a victim protection order of another state,
  • any violation relating to illegal drug use or possession,
  • an act of domestic abuse as defined by Section 644 of this title or an act of domestic assault and battery or any comparable acts under the law of another state

shall not eligible for a handgun license for three years and shall begin upon the final determination of the matter.

Property Tax

HB1265 directs the county assessor to reassess properties damaged by fire, lightning, storms, winds, floodwaters, overflow of streams or other natural events, and present the reassessment to the board of tax roll collections for their consideration. The measure also extends the deadline, from January 1 to October 1 of the taxable year involved, to amend clerical errors when the name of the true owner is incorrect.

The measure relates to procedures of county boards of equalization in instances where properties are damaged, impaired or destroyed by natural events and the reassessment of value based on the change is considered by the board of tax roll corrections. Changes in fair cash value will depend on the amount of value altered by the natural event.

Space Flight Immunity

HB1882 creates the Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act to limit the liability of a space flight entity if a participant of space flight activities is injured. The measure requires the space flight entity to post a warning statement, inform participant of the risks associated with space flight activities as required by state and federal law and receive informed consent from the participant.

Protective Order Processes

HB 1912 reads that a court may not require the victim seeking a protective order to seek legal sanctions against the defendant including, but not limited to, divorce,separation, paternity or criminal proceedings prior to hearing a petition for protective order.

This law also states the court shall not impose any term and condition that may compromise the safety of the victim including, but not limited to, mediation, couples counseling, family counseling, parenting classes or joint victim-offender counseling sessions.

Oklahoma Temporary Motorist Liability Plan


Governor Mary Fallin signed HB 1792 into law on April 29th, 2013, also known as the Oklahoma Temporary Motorist Liability Plan.

The Oklahoma Temporary Motorist Liability Plan will provide minimum vehicle liability insurance coverage for the payment of loss resulting from the liability imposed by law for bodily injury, death and property damage sustained by any person arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation or use of a vehicle when a citation is issued and the vehicle license plate has been seized.

“We simply cannot afford uninsured driving in our state any longer,” said Insurance Commissioner John Doak. “Not only does it raise auto insurance rates for all Oklahomans, but if an uninsured driver hits your car, the costs could cripple you financially. We must put an end to this serious problem.”

“Unfortunately, right now, the fine for driving uninsured is less than the cost of insurance,” said Doak.

Coverage shall only be provided by the Oklahoma Temporary Motorist Liability Plan from the time period beginning when the citation is issued and the vehicle license plate is seized until the owner of the vehicle either obtained documentation from the Department of Public Safety showing the owner of the vehicle has secured for the payment of loss resulting from the liability imposed by law for bodily injury, death and property damage sustained by any person arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation or use of the vehicle meeting the minimum vehicle liability limits, or provides proof of insurance.

A daily cost for the insurance will be established. The daily cost of coverage shall be paid to the county sheriff’s office and the fine and fees associated with the traffic ticket shall be paid to the court clerk. The daily cost of coverage shall be calculated on each twenty-four-hour period from the time the citation was issued. Sherriff's officers will not be allowed to exempt anyone from the premiums.

In addition to fines for failure to comply with insurance laws and daily forced placed insurance costs there will be a $125.00 fee in order to retrieve the license plate back from the sheriff's office.

Around 25 percent of Oklahoma motorists are uninsured, according to Chuck Mai, Oklahoma AAA Vice President.

An evaluation by the Oklahoma Insurance Department found that approximately 563,692 vehicles in Oklahoma are uninsured, resulting in an $8.8 million dollar loss for the state’s General Revenue Fund and Police and Firefighter Pension Funds.

AAA is part of an Insurance Department task force with other industry representatives to examine the problem of uninsured drivers in the state.

Uninsured drivers also boost the cost for insurance premiums for other drivers, Mai said.

Rates can be affected depending on the number of accidents involving uninsured drivers in a certain geographic area, he said.

“Our rates are certainly higher than if everyone had insurance,” Mai said. “If you are struck by an uninsured driver, it is difficult to collect on any damages to your vehicle. Consequently, your insurance rates will typically rise, and those of the entire pool can rise as well.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

OK Senate approves ‘Protect Against Pedophiles Act’

after school recreation

The full Senate has given unanimous approval to House Bill 2228, creating the “Protect Against Pedophiles Act.” The measure, by Senator Kyle Loveless and Rep. Joe Dorman, gives schools a greater ability to protect Oklahoma children from predators by conducting background checks for adults volunteers. The measure was approved on Monday, 44 to 0.

“Pedophiles actively seek paid or volunteer positions that will bring them into contact with children. That’s one of the reasons we screen teachers and other employees,” said Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. “But according to federal law, those schools cannot screen volunteers unless state law specifically authorizes it. House Bill 2228 will give our schools that authorization.”

“As a parent, when I drop my daughter off at school, I want every measure that is reasonable to ensure her safety and I think today we are one step closer to maximizing the safety of our children.” Loveless said.

According to HB 2228, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) would conduct the criminal background check, which would be paid for by the school district or the volunteer. College students who are required to spend time in public schools as part of their curriculum, such as education majors who do student-teaching, would be required to pay the fee themselves.
Dorman said the background checks would include finger printing, making it more difficult for predators to hide past crimes.

The bill also defines "Prospective volunteer" as a parent, guardian or any
individual who intends to volunteer in a capacity that gives him or her direct contact with students on a regularly scheduled or continuing basis or that gives him or her supervisory responsibility for students at a school site or on a school-sponsored trip.

“There are individuals using a false identity in order to be able to enter our schools and interact with students, according to OSBI information,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “This bill gives schools a tool to catch these individuals, whether they are pedophiles or simply adults who should not be interacting with students.”

HB 2228 now returns to the House of Representatives for approval of Senate amendments.

New Procrastinators Law - Driver’s License Renewal After Expiration


Legislation signed into law today will give individuals with an expired license more time to obtain a new one by simply providing the expired license.
Currently, Oklahomans have 30 days after the date of expiration to renew their license or they must provide a birth certificate to obtain a new license.
House Bill 1082, by state Rep. Pat Ownbey and state Sen. Frank Simpson, would allow an expired license to be used as proof to obtain a new license for up to a year.

The measure states that no person has a property interest in a driver license and would require a person who has had their driving privileges suspended or revoked to apply for a new driver license upon completion of reinstatement.

“The intent of the birth certificate requirement was to prevent fraud, but it really should be targeted towards new license applicants rather than renewals, even one year after expiration of the original license,” said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. “The current requirement has been the source of a lot of trouble for many of my constituents and it was very clear to me that it needed to be amended.”

The new takes effect Nov. 1.