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Wednesday, January 31, 2007 

Organizers Deem First "IdeaRaiser" A Success

Organizers and participants of the first IdeaRaiser, part of Speaker Lance Cargill’s 100 Ideas Initiative, are calling the event a success. IdeaRaisers are public meetings designed to encourage input and discussion about ideas and suggestions on how the state’s next 100 years can be improved. The IdeaRaiser, held Tuesday night at the Presbyterian Health Foundation, had more than 100 participants and included discussion on how to foster the biotech industry, medical researchers, local entrepreneurs and other health professionals in Oklahoma and making life better for Oklahomans in general. "I am very proud to have been a part of the first IdeaRaiser. Speaker Cargill is taking a bold step toward making Oklahoma's next century a great one. Hopefully these IdeaRaisers will produce the kinds of innovative ideas that will make Oklahoma a leader in the biotech fields and many others,“ said Hershel Lamirand, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Health Center Foundation. Others had similar praise for the event, including Dr. David Parke II, president and CEO of the Dean McGee Eye Institute, who said, “I think Speaker Cargill is doing precisely what this state needs: a focus on its future and engaging its entire populace in the process.”
James Tomasek and A.J. Kirkpatrick listen as Dr. Steve Young makes a point at the first IdeaRaiser, held Jan. 30 in Oklahoma City.
Dr. Robert Mannel, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Cancer Institute, said the IdeaRaiser gave an opportunity for Oklahomans to “build the Oklahoma of the future and not rely on what we’ve done in the past.” One group’s ideas were bundled into a collection they called the “Tear Down That Wall Initiatives.” The group’s first idea would “put Oklahoma on the map with the most student instructional days in the nation and pay for this by streamlining administrative functions. Second, the state should promote legislation to allow Tulsa and Oklahoma City to explore consolidation of services, specifically transport and mass transit. The group’s third recommendation was for the state to begin “breaking down ‘silos’ in healthcare.” They suggested connecting medicine to data by creating individualized medicine while still protecting privacy. Other suggestions included attracting a federal research laboratory to Oklahoma through a major unified state effort, focusing oil and gas revenue on alternative energy research and increasing the retention of college graduates through loan forgiveness and tax credits. Organizers said they were looking forward to hosting upcoming events. The next IdeaRaiser will be held in Tulsa next month. Posted at 1/31/2007 06:16:00 PM |

Speaker Cargill & House GOP Announce Safe Families Platform

Rep. Rex Duncan (at podium) and House Republican leaders announce details of their "Safe Families" agenda for the 2007 Legislative session at the Oklahoma City Police Department's Bricktown substation today. Behind Duncan, L-R: Rep. Steve Martin, Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. Randy Terrill, and Rep. Sue Tibbs.
Speaker Lance Cargill and House Republican leaders unveiled the "Safe Families" platform in their 2007 "Year of Ideas Agenda" in advance of the upcoming legislative session. The final portion of the "Ideas Agenda" focuses on public safety, immigration reform, faith-based solutions, investments in infrastructure. The Safe Families platform is the final portion of the 2007 House GOP Year of Ideas Agenda. House leaders unveiled the first two platforms last week and earlier this week. Speaking at the Oklahoma City police department's new Bricktown substation today, Cargill said the "Safe Families" platform of the agenda aimed to boost public safety, protect children, offer immigration reforms and increase investments in the state's transportation infrastructure. "Oklahomans deserve to live in a safe state, free from violent criminals and dangerous predators, said Cargill (R-Harrah). We must be tough on crime, but also on the causes of crime, by fostering partnerships with faith-based and volunteer community organizations to help reduce repeat offenders. Our neediest citizens should be protected by a social safety net that has not been frayed by the strain of illegal immigration. And a safe Oklahoma must include a quality transportation infrastructure not only to support economic growth and to boost opportunity, but to protect lives." Highlights of the four-plank Safe Families platform includes this legislation: Law and Order House Bill 1051, a measure authored by Speaker Cargill to prevent student-aged sex offenders from attending the same school as their victims, something state law currently does not allow school districts to do. Cargill introduced a similar measure last year. However, it died in the Senate. House Bill 1927, authored by Rep. Kris Steele (R-Shawnee) would require local court-appointed special advocates to undergo a background check conducted by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. House Bill 1816, authored by Rep. David Dank (R-Oklahoma City) would increase the penalty for sex offenses against children under 12 to a minimum sentence of 25 years and not more than life imprisonment. No minimum sentence currently exists for such offenses. House Bill 1649, by Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa), implements a State Plan for Coordination of Efforts for Prevention of Sexual Violence through a public awareness campaign, establishment of a coordinator within the health department, development of sexual assault resource teams, and more. House Bill 1742, authored by Rep. Rex Duncan (R-Sand Springs), will offer a 10-year concealed carry license as an option for gun owners. Currently, concealed handgun licenses are valid for 5 years. Pointing to Oklahoma's prisons, Rep. Gus Blackwell said that House GOP leadership remains committed to investments in public safety coupled with reform. "We will continue to invest in public safety this year, and make sure the Department of Corrections is adequately funded", said Blackwell (R-Goodwell). "At the same time, government accountability is a top priority for the House Republicans, so we will keep a close watch over taxpayer dollars." Immigration Reform "Our immigration reforms are about upholding Oklahoma's laws, and respecting immigrants who come to our country legally," said Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore), who will carry the House GOP's immigration reform legislation in House Bill 1804. "Our reforms are also focused on making sure Oklahoma's neediest citizens have access to a social safety net that has not been strained by illegal immigration. Illegal immigration has serious financial consequences for Oklahoma, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars." Terrill said House Bill 1804 would include five major components:
  • Ending identity theft by restricting access to government identification and information.
  • Stopping voter fraud by requiring proof of citizenship.
  • Ending taxpayer subsidies for illegal aliens.
  • Enhancing law enforcement so that state and local law enforcement will be able to detain and hold illegal aliens.
  • Penalties for employers who knowingly employ illegal aliens. Faith-based Solutions Speaker Cargill has authored House Bill 2101, the Transformational Justice Act, similar to legislation that passed the House last year. The legislation died in the state Senate last year. The measure would encourage state prisons to partner with faith-based, community and voluntary organizations to help inmates rejoin society and reduce the rate of repeat offenders. "Oklahoma's prisons should be preparing inmates to function in society when they get out, not simply warehousing them so that they commit more crimes once released," said Cargill. "Faith-based and volunteer organizations can play a vital role in reducing prisoner recidivism, and I think it's just common sense to take advantage of programs that are already working." Protecting Investments in Roads and Bridges "Oklahoma's transportation infrastructure was neglected for years before Republicans pushed through the past two years' worth of reforms," said Rep. Mike Thompson (R-Oklahoma City) chairman of the House Transportation Subcommittee. "We will make it a priority to follow through on funding commitments, so that we can continue to fix our crumbling roads and bridges."
  • Related: Gov. Henry proposes "Smart on Crime" Plan Posted at 1/31/2007 01:52:00 PM |

    Cargill Team Off To A Good Start

    Short Landings By Dick Hefton, founder The Sun Our astute new State House Speaker Lance Cargill we predict will make his hometown of Harrah proud of his leadership capabilities as he engineers reform in the legislature. This week he announced a move to abolish some 18 obsolete, unnecessary and redundant boards and committees in a move to streamline the legislative process. We think the idea is great. On the list for abolition is a committee to study Alzheimer’s. I forget what the other 17 were. Posted at 1/31/2007 11:34:00 AM |

    Kingfisher County Prosecutor Takes on ‘Video Vigilante’ Case

    Staff and wire reports A Kingfisher County prosecutor has been appointed to handle the pandering case against self-proclaimed “video vigilante” Brian Bates and his wife. Bates and his wife, Vickie, are accused of paying prostitutes to lure clients into areas where he could film them. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater disqualified himself to avoid any appearance of impropriety in the case against Bates, who openly endorsed Prater in last November’s election and was a vocal critic of Prater’s predecessor, Wes Lane. Attorney General Drew Edmondson appointed District Attorney Cathy Stocker, of Enid, as Prater’s replacement. Stocker then assigned the case to Bryan Slabotsky, who runs her office in Kingfisher County. This is the second time Stocker’s office has been asked to review a case involving the “video vigilante.” Stocker’s office also was assigned to investigate whether Bates broke any laws in September when he allegedly handed out fliers critical of Lane to prospective jurors at Oklahoma County District Court. Read more... Related: "Washington Times: Tables Turn On Vigilante" "Video Vigilante, Wife Arraigned On Pandering Charges" Posted at 1/31/2007 11:17:00 AM |
    Tuesday, January 30, 2007 

    Democratic House Members Announce Initiatives to Lower the Cost of Healthcare

    Democratic Members of the State House announced today the first part of their "Vision for Oklahoma’s Second Century"- a legislative package that ensures "all Oklahomans receive access to affordable healthcare and prescription drugs." “Access to affordable healthcare should not just be a privilege for the wealthiest Oklahomans,” said Democratic Leader Danny Morgan, D- Prague. “As Democrats, we will make sure that every Oklahoman has the right to affordable healthcare, while also maintaining a fiscally responsible system.” The Democratic vision for healthcare contains fourteen pieces of legislation. Highlights of the platform include: Oklahoma Hospital Quality and Access Act (House Bills 1435 and 1354) Representative Lucky Lamons, D- Tulsa, and Representative John Auffet, D- Stilwell legislation are measures that would allow the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to assess a Hospital Quality and Access Fee from hospitals in Oklahoma. The fee would be 0.875% of gross hospital patient revenues. Funds generated by the fee will be used to increase the level of Medicaid reimbursement for inpatient and outpatient hospital services, emergency room care and physicians. Allow Patients to Choose Their Doctor (House Bills 1904 and 2131) House Bill 1904 by Representative Rebecca Hamilton, D- Oklahoma City and House Bill 2131 by Representative Richard Morrissette, D- Oklahoma City, would give the patient the right to choose the doctor who treats them when injured on the job. Put Same Restrictions on Pharmaceutical Drug Sales Representatives as Lobbyists (House Bill 1938) House Bill 1938 by Representative Ryan McMullen, D- Burns Flat, would put the same restrictions on pharmaceutical drug sales representatives as lobbyists. Under the provisions of the bill, drug sales representatives would have to register with the Oklahoma State Ethics Commission and follow their guidelines. Increase Medicaid Coverage for Children (House Bill 1746) House Bill 1747, by Representative Chuck Hoskin, D- Vinita, would increase the income eligibility guidelines for Medicaid program for children to 200% of the federal poverty level. The current level is set at 185%. Healthplex Specialty Care Access Act (House Bill 1583) This bill by Representative Lucky Lamons would direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to implement provisions of the Act to assist indigent individuals gain access to specialty medical care by establishing sites for delivery of specialty care and to assist in the training if residents and medical students. Raise the O-EPIC Federal Poverty Level to 200% (House Bill 1747) Increases the income eligilibility guidelines for participation in the O-EPIC Premium Assistance Program. He wants to increase it from 185% to 200%. Geriatric Medical Loan Program (House Bill 1830) This bill by Representative Ryan Kiesel, D- Seminole, creates the Oklahoma Geriatric Medical Loan Repayment program within the State Department of Health. The program will, upon available funding, provide educational loan repayment assistance for up to five Oklahoma licensed physicians who have completed a fellowship training program in geriatrics, including geropsychiatry, per year. The geriatric specialists who enter the program agree to provide medical care in a designated Geriatric Specialist Shortage Area of the state for five consecutive years and agree that 30% of the patients they treat will be Medicaid recipients. Require Private Prisons to Treat Mental Health Patients (House Bill 1844) This bill by Representative Wallace Collins, D- Norman, would require private prisons that contract with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to provide mental health treatment. Provide a tax deduction equal to health care expenses that are not reimbursed (House Bill 1888) This bill by Representative Richard Morrissette adds amendatory language which provides a tax deduction equal to the following health care expenses that are not reimbursed: · Inpatient hospital care up to $50,000 · Doctor visits · Prescriptions up to $2000 · Rehabilitative care up to $20,000 · Nursing home care up to $20,000 · Home health care up to $20,000 It also adds language stating that resident or part-time individuals with income less than $35,000 are allowed a credit against the tax imposed by Section 2355 of this title fifteen (15%) of the earned income tax credit allowed under IRS rules. Allow Pharmacies to Sell Discounted Prescription Drugs to Elderly and Uninsured (House Bill 1899) Representative Hamilton authors this bill that directs the Board of Pharmacy to adopt rules that would allow pharmacies to sell discounted or low cost pharmaceuticals to elderly and uninsured persons. The bill would also require the Board to list all legitimate Canadian web-based and mail order pharmacies on its website. Assistance for Medicaid Part-D beneficiaries (House Bill 2037) House Bill 2037 by Representative Jerry McPeak, D- Warner, directs the Department of Human Services to establish a program to assist Medicare Part D beneficiaries by paying the amount between $2,000 and $5,000 (commonly referred to as the “donut hole”) that is not covered by the program for prescription medications. Oklahoma Drug Price Disclosure Act - House Bill 2137 House Bill 2137 by Richard Morrissette establishes the Oklahoma Drug Price Disclosure Act. The measure requires manufacturers of prescription drugs dispensed under federal or state program in Oklahoma to submit a report to the Chief Executive Officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority regarding certain pharmaceutical pricing criteria for each drug. The bill also provides that a violation of the Drug Price Disclosure Act is a violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act if the manufacturer sells or offers to sell a prescription drug at price that is in excess of the best price for that drug that has been reported by OHCA. Posted at 1/30/2007 04:39:00 PM |

    House Speaker Lance Cargill Announces "Open House" Policy for Presidential Candidates

    Speaker Lance Cargill announced today that the Oklahoma House will have an "open house" policy during the upcoming legislative session to hear from presidential candidates. Cargill said that he is asking House Minority Leader Danny Morgan to help contact and schedule Democratic presidential candidates. And Cargill said that two Republican presidential candidates have already sought out opportunities to speak to House lawmakers. "We're approaching a historic presidential election in two years. Neither party will have an incumbent running for the highest office in the land," said Cargill (R-Harrah). "With such an open field for candidates, I think it's important that we do everything we can to maximize Oklahoma's visibility and impact in the presidential primary selection process. I hope all of the major presidential candidates take advantage of this opportunity." Oklahoma's presidential primary is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2008 - one of the earliest in the nation. Cargill said the Oklahoma House chamber would be open to announced candidates from any major party to speak to lawmakers during the regular session. Those accepting the invitation will be provided a 15-20 minute opportunity to address the entire House. "This is good for Oklahoma, and good for democracy," said Cargill, who said the House has already been contacted by U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, for upcoming speaking appearances. Cargill said the House will also provide full gallery access to the general public, as well as access to the House lounge to either party for post-speech receptions and media availabilities. Posted at 1/30/2007 04:00:00 PM |

    We Must Win In Iraq

    By Sen. Jim Inhofe The Daily Oklahoman The conflict in Iraq has cost our nation far more in lives and resources than we imagined at its onset, yet this is no reason to retreat — we cannot afford to lose. We must maintain a determined, yet flexible strategy, one that allows us to take the fight to the enemy while enabling us to react to the fluid circumstances of war. I have had several opportunities to observe firsthand the situation on the ground in Iraq and I have generally been encouraged by what I have witnessed. Last January, I traveled to Iraq after the first permanent free elections. The pride and excitement was palpable as I spoke with Iraqis who for the first time exercised their new freedom in shaping their families' futures. I believed that the country was on a positive course and progressing towards a functioning democratic society. I returned to Iraq in June last year. At that time, we had just killed the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the final Iraqi cabinet positions had been appointed. I was optimistic as a result of these accomplishments, but the implications from the bombing of the Golden Mosque had not yet been felt. I was told by Iraqi leadership that there were sufficient numbers of American troops to provide security for the country. Several U.S. generals agreed with the Iraqis' assessment and said that our current strategic focus was to emphasize a significant increase in the number of combat ready Iraqi troops. Since that time, the trajectory of Iraq has changed. While I do not join those who would throw up their arms and claim defeat in the face of setbacks, I will say that we have made some errors. The president was right to take responsibility for decisions that have turned out for the worse. Despite the missteps, I share the president's outlook that losing is not an option and that with the proper sustained strategy we can win in Iraq. To those who want to leave Iraq without winning, I contend that fighting terrorists in Iraq is better than fighting them in America. Read more... Posted at 1/30/2007 12:08:00 PM |

    Wilson Research Strategies: Great 2006 Election Cycle Recap

    From Modern Patriot Chronicles: Selling Republicans to the American electorate in 2006 was akin to booking Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown for the New York Philharmonic. Let's just be gratuitous and say it didn't go so well. Before Election Day in 2006, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. After the election,Republicans lost both the House and the Senate to Democratic Party control. For Wilson Research Strategies (WRS), while Oklahoma wasn't as fruitful in 2006, 54 of the 72 WRS clients were successful in the 2006 election cycle. That's 75% for those who are counting. I'm not all that surprised. This last election cycle, I spent a little time with WRS Founder-CEO Chris Wilson and had the opportunity to meet some of the amazing people on his staff. Wilson, who is very talented, has also surrounded himself with some very talented individuals. However, and let me be very clear. While I admire the organization that Wilson has put together, I don't always admire WRS clients. While I supported WRS client Mick Cornett for the U.S. House 5th District seat, I could not bring myself to support Oklahoma County DA Wes Lane who was also a WRS client. I'm not suggesting that WRS clients be blindly supported. I'm just making the observation that WRS is really topnotch firm with topnotch people. Now back to the WRS 2006 election recap. Read more... Posted at 1/30/2007 10:09:00 AM |

    Sen. Inhofe Praises Fish & Wildlife Service for American Burying Beetle Status Review

    Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, praised yesterday's decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to conduct a status review of the American Burying Beetle. "Today's announcement is long, long overdue but clearly the correct decision. Thanks to the considerable conservation efforts of Oklahoma's oil and gas industry and development community, as well as Oklahoma farmers and ranchers, the Midwest populations of the beetle are flourishing to the point where I believe they no longer need the protection of the ESA," Senator Inhofe said. The Endangered Species Act requires that the FWS conduct a status review at least once every 5 years to ensure listed species have the appropriate level of protection under the Act. The review will assess the American Burying Beetle to determine whether its status has changed since the time of its listing and whether it should be delisted or classified differently. The American Burying Beetle (ABB) was listed as an Endangered Species in 1989 based on museum and collector's data (not actual scientific study data). Since its listing, the ABB has been found in many areas and is much more widespread than originally thought. (See FWS web link on ABB here). "Throughout my tenure as a Senator and during my Chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I have urged FWS to take a good look at the American Burying Beetle and consider a change in its protected status under the ESA. I look forward to working with the affected communities in Oklahoma and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that a complete, thorough and scientific evaluation of the beetle is done," Senator Inhofe added. As the Chairman of EPW, Senator Inhofe has held several hearings that have dealt with the ABB issue, including one in 2003 and 2004. Additionally, the ABB was a featured topic of Senator Inhofe in all of the hearings on the Endangered Species Act held in the 108th and 109th Congresses. Related: Video of Senator Inofe's Floor Speech on "The Polarizing Politics of the Polar Bear" Posted at 1/30/2007 10:05:00 AM |

    Harrison Says Scuffle Was ‘Most Humiliating Experience’ of His Life

    By Doug Russell News Editor It was the most humiliating experience in his life, state Rep. Terry Harrison said about a scuffle at the Southeast Expo Center. Harrison, D-McAlester, was visiting areas damaged by the Jan. 13 ice storm when, as part of the damage tour, he stopped off at the Southeast Expo Center on Jan. 17. He, his father and Ricky Wall wandered away from the main group looking at damage with Gov. Brad Henry and went to a specialized catering trailer on the south side of the Expo Center. Harrison’s father and Wall went to one end of the trailer, while Harrison himself went to the other. That’s where the scuffle occurred. Read more... Posted at 1/30/2007 10:00:00 AM |

    Oklahomans Carrying Concealed Guns on Rise

    Monday, January 29, 2007 

    Speaker Cargill & House GOP Announce Healthy Oklahoma Platform

    Second part of House GOP year of ideas agenda focuses on healthcare reforms & traditional values House Speaker Lance Cargill (at podium) and other House Republican leaders announce their Healthy Oklahoma platform for the 2007 Legislative session Monday at a special press event at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa. Behind Speaker Cargill, L-R: Rep. Pam Peterson, Rep. Skye McNiel, Rep. Chris Benge, Rep. Kris Steele, and Rep. Tad Jones. Speaking at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa on Monday, Speaker Lance Cargill and House Republican leaders launched the second platform in their 2007 "Year of Ideas Agenda." "Oklahoma's pioneer spirit remains strong after the first 100 years of our history. Now we should harness that spirit to create a healthier society in our state," said Cargill (R-Harrah). "2007 should be the year of ideas. We have an opportunity this year, in our centennial year, to lay the groundwork for our state's second century. And our healthcare system is a vital part of that future. Oklahoma is blessed with citizens who are hard working and who uphold traditional values. At the same time, we face challenges, and it's time for solutions." The Healthy Oklahoma portion of the House GOP agenda will focus on creating a healthier society in Oklahoma. Cargill and House leaders will unveil the final portion of their agenda later this week. Highlights of the four-plank Healthy Oklahoma platform: New Healthcare Reforms Rep. Kris Steele (R-Shawnee), chair of the House Health Subcommittee, has authored House Bill 1928 to expand health savings accounts (HSAs) as an option to state employees. Health savings accounts are personal and portable accounts that allow individuals to set aside pre-tax dollars toward medical and long-term care expenses. "We must continue to look to market-based solutions for health care options, said Steele. "Health savings accounts put consumers in charge of their health care decisions, and we think state employees should be allowed to have that choice. Health savings accounts will also reduce many of the problems we currently have in health care such as overuse of medical services and rising costs." Other legislation in this area includes: * House Bill 1818, authored by Rep. Scott Martin (R-Norman), establishes a new task force to study and make recommendations on using information technology to reduce health care costs, share health care data more efficiently and establish a regional health information organization. The task force would make recommendations. * House Bill 1601, authored by Rep. Jeff Hickman (R-Dacoma), would make physical education and arts education available to all Oklahoma students. Strengthening Traditional Family Values House Bill 1317 by Rep. John Wright (R-Tulsa). HB 1317 would ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to perform abortions. The measure would make it unlawful for a state employee to perform an abortion or for state funds to be used to counsel for abortion. An exception is provided to save the life of the mother. House Bill 1652 by Rep. Pam Peterson. HB 1652 would close loopholes in existing law by establishing an objective standard for medical emergency abortions. Senior citizen & retiree issues House Bill 1294, authored by Speaker Cargill, offers free park days for senior citizens. Incentives for green space and recreational areas House Bill 2108 by Speaker Cargill would take advantage of Oklahoma'sbeautiful natural terrain and moderate weather to set aside more green space in the state for the enjoyment of citizens. Posted at 1/29/2007 10:21:00 PM |

    Gov. Henry to Unveil Early Childhood Education Initiative

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Governor Henry says he wants to provide early childhood education opportunities to more children across the state. Henry plans to announce a new childhood education initiative tomorrow. He says research shows early education makes them more likely to succeed in school and later in life. In recent years, Oklahoma pre-kindergarten's program has garnered national attention as one of the best in the nation. It's earned praise from the National Institute for Early Education Research. Currently, the state and its school districts partner with faith-based and privately-run early education facilities to offer instructional programs to pre-kindergarten children. About 70 percent of the states four-year olds are participating in the voluntary state program. Speaker Cargill released this statement regarding the Governor's proposals: "House Republicans are committed to excellence in education - the key to knowledge-based 21st century economy. That's why earlier this week we announced an education agenda that includes innovative rewards for quality teachers as well as a focus on fostering pioneering programs like charter schools. We encourage the governor to join us in supporting these initiatives. While we continue to have concerns about the level of spending the governor is proposing this week, we look forward to examining the details of his proposal. We will wait for final budget numbers before the session begins, and we'll also ensure that any investments we make this year are fiscally prudent." Related: "State Fudging On Academic Performance Measures" OKPNS Flasback: "Gov. Henry Should Put His Money Where His Mouth Is" "Lottery Sales Lagging" Posted at 1/29/2007 10:23:00 AM |

    Speaker Cargill & House GOP to Unveil 2nd Portion of 2007 Agenda

    House Speaker Lance Cargill (R-Harrah) and other House Republican leaders will hold a special Tulsa press event this morning at 10 a.m. at St. John Medical Center, located at 1923 S. Utica Avenue in Tulsa. Speaker Cargill and House Republicans will hold the second of three press events outlining their agenda for the 2007Legislative session. The first portion of the agenda - the Entrepreneurial Society platform - was announced Tuesday, Jan. 23. Posted at 1/29/2007 10:08:00 AM |

    Fallin Gives Prescription for Republican Comeback

    Apparently not content with being a back bencher in the 110th Congress, or a member of the minority during her Congressional career, Freshman Congresswoman Mary Fallin has been quoted often in the national press lately. Fallin is quoted again today in the Washington Times on the recent House Repulican Caucus retreat. "We have to show the American public that we can get things done," said Rep. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma. Voters "want to see Congress work on real solutions to real problems." Read more... Related: From Mickey's Musings: "Fallin Watch: Bipartisanship Talk A Ruse?" Posted at 1/29/2007 09:08:00 AM |

    Lawmakers Are Treated to Dinners, Athletic Events

    Staff and wire reports Oklahoma lawmakers in the second half of 2006 were wined and dined by lobbyists with $200 dinners and expensive football and basketball tickets and golfing fees. Reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission last week detailed thousands of dollars spent on lawmakers and other public officials by registered lobbyists. Tickets to athletic events rivaled costly dinners and golfing fees in popularity, according to lobbyist reports, which were still coming in Friday, four days after Monday’s deadline. One expenditure on two lawmakers was literally for a wine tour in California. A report filed Friday showed Okla-homa State University showered more than 80 House and Senate members with season tickets to OSU football games valued at $250. Read more... Posted at 1/29/2007 07:26:00 AM |
    Friday, January 26, 2007 

    Congress Can Improve Energy Needs

    By Sen. James Inhofe President Bush is right, America is far too dependent upon foreign powers for our energy needs and we must improve the nation’s energy security. Congress should build upon the significant gains made in passing the bi-partisan energy bill in 2005 where Congress made a commitment to advancing clean technologies and expanding domestic energy production. While chairman of the EPW Committee, I worked with my colleagues to include several provisions in the energy bill that have helped expand refinery capacity, expand the use of nuclear energy and strengthen security at nuclear facilities, and improve permitting processes so we can explore our domestic resources in an environmentally-conscious manner. These provisions continue to benefit Oklahoma and the nation as a whole. Read more... Posted at 1/26/2007 05:22:00 PM |

    Fallin Asks Fellow House Members To Oppose Energy Tax Increases

    From The Tecumseh Countywide News: Oklahoma Congresswoman Mary Fallin addressed the full floor of the House of Representatives this week, encouraging her colleagues to oppose legislation that would undermine Oklahoma's oil and gas industries and move the nation further away from energy independence. Fallin instead proposed a two-part solution, acknowledging the role that both traditional and alternative energy forms can play in our future. "The answer to America's energy crisis lies in expanding our oil and gas production in the short term, while investing in renewable energy sources in the long term," Fallin said. The legislation backed by Congressional Democrats would raise taxes on oil and gas companies in the United States, which would ultimately discourage domestic energy companies from further exploration. Fallin argued that this tax increase comes at a time when the U.S. most needs to increase production of its own energy resources. To not do so, said Fallin, would represent "both a national security threat and an economic threat to the nation." Read more... Related: Rep. Fallin's post today on the The Hill's Congress blog: "The President’s Dedication to Domestic Policy" Posted at 1/26/2007 02:11:00 PM |

    Calling All Freaks, Nuts, and Conspiracy Theorists

    The dominant wing of the Democratic party will be in full splendor tomorrow afternoon at the Capital. Peace House-Tulsa is sponsoring, along with a host of other "peace" groups, a rally with "music, speakers, tables and booths" at the Capitol's South Plaza. A "peace walk" will follow immediately afterwards. The lead sponsor of the event, Peace House-Tulsa, was founded last September by two Tulsa Unitarian Universalist Ministers and a local peace activist. The Unitarian Universalist Church says on its website regarding Jesus Christ's Deity, "[Jesus] was a savior because he was a God-filled human being, not a supernatural being." Regarding the Bible being the infallible word of God: "We do not, however, hold the Bible-or any other account of human experience-to be either an infallible guide or the exclusive source of truth. Much biblical material is mythical or legendary" According to their website, Peace House-Tulsa is an "incubator for peace and justice." The organization's stated mission is to "pursue justice through education and nonviolent action, practicing kindness and compassion for all beings, so that peace may prevail on earth." Sounds like the Congressional Democrats' Iraq plan to us. They're hoping their new building can "host a wide range of activities including classes, discussion groups, meditation, music-making, social gatherings, retreats, etc." "We envisioned a place where women, children and men could come together to teach and learn new ways of interacting, new ways of solving problems, new ways of changing the world," the founders said on the website. So all you aging baby boomers, break out the tye dye t-shirts and start practicing your "hey hey - ho ho" protest chants for tomorrow afternoon; it's going to be trip down memory lane. This rally is also for you 20 somethings who get your news from Sean Penn and the Dixie Chicks. You'll have the full attention of the powers that be in Washington and the Democratic leadership in Oklahoma City. Posted at 1/26/2007 12:35:00 PM |

    Poultry Companies Want to Question Oklahoma AG

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) Arkansas poultry companies targeted in a lawsuit over water quality in Oklahoma waterways want Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson to be considered a witness for the pending federal trial in Tulsa. Lawyers for the poultry companies have filed court papers seeking to take a deposition from Edmondson, who is the lead attorney in the case against the 14 companies. U-S Magistrate Judge Sam Joyner is to address the issue at a hearing in Tulsa on February 15th. A lawyer for the poultry companies says Edmondson's statements outside of court have put him in the position of being a witness. A spokesman for Edmonson's office says the poultry companies are engaging in gamesmanship and that Edmondson should not be summoned to testify.

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    Posted at 1/26/2007 12:19:00 PM |

    Rep. Fallin Quoted in "Tipsheet"

    From the Latest News Tipsheet: CAMBRIDGE, Md. -- Republicans spent the second day of their three-day retreat at a resort on Maryland’s Eastern Shore talking about the how to define themselves in the 2008 elections and enlisting the help of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to help generate new ideas. "Speaker Gingrich outlined the hard work it is going to take to develop new solutions," Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters assembled in a restaurant near the hotel where members convened. Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.), one of 13 new Republican members elected to the lower chamber last year, said, "We have to be the party of ideas and solutions and we have to shop the American people that … we are going to have to redefine our image." Posted at 1/26/2007 11:36:00 AM |
    Thursday, January 25, 2007 

    Lt. Governor Askins: Still Irresponsible?

    Madame Lt Governor Jari Askins claimed in this election commercial last fall that "people that know me know I'm a conservative, not a liberal!" Really?? According to "The lieutenant governor's office is requesting $198,000 more for the coming fiscal year than was appropriated for FY07. Askins said the office was not in need of a supplemental appropriation. She said it didn't quite seem right that the second-highest office in the state receives the equivalent of less than $50,000 a month in state monies to run its staff" "Other technical needs for the lieutenant governor's office include updating the Web site to make it more interactive, Askins said. Customizing that is needed is a contract expense, she explained. Normally, changes on state-owned Web sites are handled through the state's Web developer," Posted at 1/25/2007 09:30:00 AM |

    Representative Judas? posted this this week: "Mike Reynolds, who voted "present" during the Lance Cargill vote for Speaker may be "banished" by the GOP House Caucus. Sources close to the story indicate that Reynolds hasn't been playing ball very well. He had the audacity to question some "questionable" election funding during this past cycle. GOP operatives have been sniffing in the Democrat Cloakroom and dropping hints of the "banishment vote". We are not sure whether this is just a threat to "send a message" to Reynolds, or a "warning of things to come", however, the questions regarding illegal campaign financing should become more interesting after the final ethics campaign contribution reports are filed in the next few weeks. More to follow" ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Sources tell OKPNS that there isn't any questionable election funding as the story claims. Election activity on the part of House Republicans had been heavily vetted by multiple attorneys - including a former US attorney. As for the "banishment" rumors, Rep. Reynolds violated a major caucus rule: everyone MUST vote for the Caucus choice for Speaker on the floor. Reynolds blatantly broke that rule, and the punishment is very clear: expulsion. He can be reinstated at any time. OKPNS has learned that "there are more than enough votes to throw him out for his treachery." Posted at 1/25/2007 07:58:00 AM |

    Tulsa Mayor Urges End to Federal Restrictions on Gun Tracking

    WASHINGTON (AP) Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor joined mayors from around the country in Washington to urge an end to federal restrictions on information that could help local police track illegal guns. In Washington with the U-S Conference of Mayors, Taylor joined other members of a coalition known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns to bring attention to the illegal gun trade and seek help from the federal government. The coalition is targeting a bill it believes keeps the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies from sharing trace data that could help local police combat illegal guns. Taylor cited Tulsa's escalating murder rate and acknowledges she might be facing off with the powerful gun lobby.
    Posted at 1/25/2007 07:30:00 AM |
    Wednesday, January 24, 2007 

    Henry Proposes Funds for College Scholarships

    At a state capitol news conference today, Governor Henry announced he would seek a permanent, dedicated funding source for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program, otherwise known as Oklahoma’s Promise-OHLAP. Henry will ask the Oklahoma Legislature to earmark a percentage of one of Oklahoma’s largest revenue sources, the income tax, specifically for the college scholarship program. “Because of its growing popularity, Oklahoma’s Promise needs more financial support,” said Gov. Henry. “The program has attracted more and more students each year, but it has never had a permanent, dedicated revenue source large enough to accommodate its growth. We need to keep the promise we made to students and designate a large funding source for the scholarship program.” OHLAP allows students with family incomes of less than $50,000 to earn free tuition for college or career technology schools if they take a college curriculum in high school, make good grades and stay out of trouble. Gov. Henry wants to earmark 1.25 percent of state income tax receipts as a permanent funding source for OHLAP. Ken Miller, vice chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, issued the following statement today regarding the governor's announced plan to earmark 1.25 percent of state income tax receipts to fund the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP): "This announcement today demonstrates a fundamental difference between House Republicans and the governor. House Republicans will continue to ratchet down the income tax to boost economic growth and opportunity, while the governor proposes to tie spending to this harmful tax. We all want to find ways to make college more affordable for all Oklahomans. And while OHLAP is a good program, it's never a good idea to tie spending to the income tax. Earmarking the tax that hurts job creation the most is not the way to build Oklahoma's future." Posted at 1/24/2007 07:30:00 PM |

    Lawmaker Seeks Further Restrictions on Abortions

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) An anti-abortion lawmaker from Oklahoma City is seeking to further restrict the practice in Oklahoma. Republican state Representative Sally Kern wants to prohibit doctors from performing abortions unless they have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they practice. Her bill also would increase requirements under the Parental Notification Act by requiring women seeking abortions to provide proof of their age and parents who authorize abortions for minors to provide signed, dated and notarized letters of consent. Posted at 1/24/2007 06:00:00 PM |

    GOP Shying Away From Tax-Cut Push

    By MICK HINTON World Capitol Bureau OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Republican leaders appeared to be softening their bid for more income-tax cuts Tuesday, saying they will wait to see what happens with natural gas prices. "We are supportive of more tax cuts, but we want to be prudent in our approach," said Rep. Ken Miller, a member of House Speaker Lance Cargill's leadership team. Miller, R-Edmond, said the GOP leaders "want to have a better handle on the revenue picture for the upcoming year" before expanding a call for tax cuts. He did not rule out the possibility, however. "I hope the governor would support lowering income tax that historically has been one of the highest in the entire country," Cargill said. In 2006, before Oklahoma's latest income-tax cut, the state was rated 25th in the nation in the income-tax category, according to information provided by the Federation of Tax Administrators. Read more... Posted at 1/24/2007 06:07:00 AM |
    Tuesday, January 23, 2007 

    Governor Announces Plans To Boost Health Coverage

    Governor Brad Henry is calling on the Legislature to expand a program to help small businesses provide health insurance for their employees. The program called "Insure Oklahoma" helps eligible small businesses - with 50 or fewer employees - provide health insurance for their workers. Funded by the governor's tobacco tax, the tax has fallen short of projections since its inception. Currently, the premium assistance program limits eligibility to employees earning no more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. (about $37,000 a year.) The Governor wants to extend that limit to 200 percent of the poverty line, (about $40,000 a year) the maximum allowed by the federal government. According to Henry, the expansion would enable as many as 118,000 more Oklahomans to be eligible for the program Under the program, the state pays 60 percent of the cost of health insurance premiums for the workers, while the business pays 25 percent and the employee pays the remaining 15 percent. “One in five Oklahomans has no health insurance, and the implications of that are far-reaching and serious,” Gov. Henry said. “Uninsured citizens end up in our emergency rooms, with hospitals and insurance companies passing those costs on to those who have insurance.” House Speaker Lance Cargill and Senate Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee cautioned Governor Henry about his proposal to expand an insurance program that has so far failed to meet expectations. According to a Jan. 9 article in The Oklahoman, the governor's insurance program only had 1,394 enrollees in 72 of the state's 77 counties as of December. "While we look forward to seeing more details of the governor's proposal, unfortunately his insurance program has not met expectations," said Cargill (R-Harrah). "I have real concerns about investing more of the taxpayers' money in a program that has been oversold and has under-delivered. While we must help the children of this state, particularly with the affordability and availability of health care, I think we should take a cautious approach and focus our efforts where they'll make a difference." Added Senate Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, "We're willing to study his proposal, but the governor should be very cautious about expanding government programs in what could be a tight budget year. We need to be looking at more market-based solutions that can reduce costs while increasing access to quality care." Posted at 1/23/2007 05:27:00 PM |

    Speaker Cargill & House GOP Announce Entrepreneurial Society Agenda

    House Speaker Lance Cargill (R-Harrah) speaks at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City, where he and House Republican leaders announced the Entrepreneurial Society portion of their 2007 Legislative agenda today. House Speaker Lance Cargill and House Republicans took the first step in laying out a new vision for the state's second century today. Speaking at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) -- a premiere 60-year-old research facility that is a focal point for a growing bioscience industry in the state -- Cargill introduced the first part of the House Republican caucus 2007 legislative agenda. (Audio) The Speaker said the Entrepreneurial Society platform will focus on removing barriers to economic growth and opportunity in Oklahoma. Cargill and House leaders will unveil more of the agenda over the next two weeks. "It's time to create an economic environment that rewards hardworking families and entrepreneurs, not punish them with a burdensome bureaucracy and an unfair tax burden,said Cargill (R-Harrah). It's time to promote a wise fiscal policy and require more accountability from government. It's time to foster a first-class educational system to create a talented and capable workforce. And we must create a fair and balanced legal system, one that ensures access to our courts for those with legitimate claims, but does not subject our citizens to unfair shakedown lawsuits, forced settlements to avoid bankruptcy and lengthy and costly jackpot justice lawsuits." The 2007 House Republican agenda aims to build on landmark reforms passed within the past two years. Highlights of the six-plank Entrepreneurial Society platform: "Fighting for Taxpayers" Cargill said the House GOP will fight to preserve and continue last year's tax cut agreement, on track to bring income taxes down to 5.25 percent. And Cargill said the House will pass a childcare tax credit to support stay-at-home moms. "Promoting Excellence in Education" Legislation in the House GOP agenda for education will include House Bill 1593 focused on expanding the Academic Achievement Awards program and House Bill 1589 to encourage the development of charter schools. "Government Efficiency & Accountability" House leaders have already announced plans to eliminate nearly 20 state boards and task forces that have been inactive for years or duplicate other state entities. Additional legislation includes: House Bill 2100: Commission on the Accountability and Review of State Agencies Bill (CARSA): Authored by Speaker Cargill, this bill will create a special commission to evaluate the need for each state agency, identify duplication in services and consider changes that will improve the efficiency or service of state government. The 10 member commission will conduct reviews every 12 years. Recommendations will require an up or down vote by lawmakers. House Bill 1073 - Listing of State Agency Appropriated Funds: This measure will require state agencies to publish on their Web sites an accounting of funds appropriated by the Legislature. "Common Sense in the Courtroom" House Bill 1620 "Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform". The Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform bill has numerous features, including limiting the amount a defendant can be required to pay to secure the right to appeal; making it harder for frivolous lawsuits to make it to trial; limiting unreasonable class-action lawsuits; limiting the plaintiff to only be liable for its proportionate share of damages, excluding criminal cases; limiting non-economic damages in civil suits to a reasonable amount; and protecting school officials from being sued for reasonably punishing unruly students. House Bill 2106 “ Business Courts": Authored by Speaker Cargill, HB 2106 will create a specialized court docket to handle commercial and corporate disputes. House Bill 1475 "Medical Liability": This measure lifts the restriction on the medical specialties under which the $300,000 non-economic damages cap applies. "Research & Economic Development" House Bill 2105 "Second Century Entrepreneurship Center": HB 2105 will create a "one-stop shopping" location for entrepreneurs. Housed within the State Department of Commerce, the Second Century Entrepreneurship Center will offer information about local permitting, licenses, state and local codes as well as business forms for applications, tax identification numbers, and any other forms required by the state before business can be conducted. "Protecting Property Rights" The property rights of families have been under attack across the country. Oklahoma's House GOP pledges to strengthen state law protecting families' private property.


    Posted at 1/23/2007 01:53:00 PM |

    Hearing on Texas Lawsuit Over Water Sale Ban is Canceled

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Today's hearing on a lawsuit by a Texas water district over Oklahoma's ban on selling water out-of-state is being canceled. There was no immediate reason given for canceling the hearing that was scheduled before federal Judge Joe Heaton. The Tarrant Regional Water District in north-central Texas filed the lawsuit against the state on January eleventh saying the ban on out-of-state water sales violates the federal commerce clause. The lawsuit names the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Water Conservation Storage Commission. The Tarrant Regional Water District has more than a million-and-a-half customers which include residents of Fort Worth and Arlington. Related: State Wastes Dollars in River, Former Governors Say: Previous Plans to Sell Water to Texas Ended Before They Began Posted at 1/23/2007 10:23:00 AM |

    New Lobbying Bill to Criminalize Political Bloggers?

    By Nate Anderson One of the Democratic priorities for the new Congress was passage of a lobbyist reform bill, but the introduction of S.1 into the Senate has caused a veritable firestorm of controversy. That's because section 220 of the bill introduces disclosure requirements for "paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying." The Traditional Values Coalition calls this section the "most expansive intrusion on First Amendment rights ever proposed in the United States Senate," while chairman Richard Viguerie says that if it passes, "We'd be living under totalitarianism, not democracy." But are these accurate statements, or is truth the first casualty of rhetoric? S.1 would change the rules for lobbyists. It bans all gifts from lobbyists, imposes restrictions on trips and accommodation offered to elected officials, and requires all "earmarks" to be identified in spending bills, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But the bill also wants to bring disclosure requirements to the murky world of astroturf groups (so-called because they mimic real grassroots organizations). This is certainly a noble goal; undisclosed corporate money washes through so many front groups now that it can be difficult to tell when opinions are genuine and when they are bought and sold. Section 220 of the bill "would require grassroots causes, even bloggers, who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report quarterly to Congress the same as the big K. Street lobbyists," said Viguerie in a statement, but the truth isn't that simple. Read more... Posted at 1/23/2007 10:12:00 AM |

    Speaker Cargill & House Republicans to Launch 2007 Legislative Agenda Today

    Speaker Cargill and House Republicans will hold the first of three press events at 10:30 this morning to outline their agenda for the 2007 Legislative session. The event will be held at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, located at 825 N.E. 13th Street in Oklahoma City, near the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Speaker Cargill and media will receive a brief tour of the OMRF facilities This will be followed by formal comments from Speaker Cargill and other House leaders concerning the 2007 Legislative agenda. Posted at 1/23/2007 09:58:00 AM |

    New Report Finds that Oklahoma’s Economic Recovery Leaving Many Behind

    A new study, named "The State of Working Oklahoma: The Uneven Recovery Leaves Many Behind" by the Tulsa based Community Action Project, reveals the state’s strong economic growth of recent years has failed to distribute its benefits widely across the state’s population. The study concludes that "positive economic trends, including increased production, rising profits and falling unemployment, have been accompanied by a declining standard of living for most Oklahoma wage earners and their families." “This State of Working Oklahoma report reveals the extent to which middle- and lower-income Oklahoma families are feeling the squeeze between stagnant incomes and rising costs,” said David Blatt, Director of Public Policy for the Community Action Project, which released the report. “Even during a period of overall economic prosperity, wages and incomes for most households are growing less rapidly than inflation”. One of the report’s key findings is that between 2001 and 2005, the median wage in Oklahoma, adjusted for inflation, declined by nearly 1 percent. Median household income declined 4.5 percent over the same period. At the same time, income inequality in Oklahoma has been rising as the distribution of total personal income in the state has declined for all income groups except those in the highest income percentile. Part of the decline in wages and income can be attributed to a profound structural change in the Oklahoma labor force in which many Oklahoma workers are losing jobs that offered higher wages and benefits in high-paying manufacturing and information sectors only to be forced to compete for lower wage job openings. “The impact of structural changes are felt not only in the loss of income but also in the accompanying loss of job security, health insurance and pension benefits for many workers”, noted Jim Alexander, an economist at CAP who authored the report along with Kenneth Kickham of the University of Central Oklahoma. As income has declined or stagnated for the typical, middle-class Oklahoma household, prices for medical care, gasoline and utilities have increased, including a nearly 60 percent increase in health insurance premiums between 2000 and 2006. The report concludes with several policy recommendations that the Legislature should consider for building opportunity and increasing security for working Oklahomans. The recommendations include expanding health insurance coverage, raising the state earned income tax credit, promoting savings for higher education, improving consumer protections on payday loans and promoting quality early childhood education. Posted at 1/23/2007 09:43:00 AM |

    Higher Education Should be Affordable to Everyone

    House Speaker Lance Cargill wasn’t just being prophetic when he said one of the biggest civil justice issues of the 21st century will be the affordability of a college education. He was being dead-on accurate. On the federal level, House Democrats made one of their first goals of the new session to cut interest rates on student loans. The measure got strong bipartisan support and would slice rates on the subsidized student college loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent in stages over five years. About 5.5 million students count on the loans each year. College costs have increased substantially in Oklahoma over the last several years, as well as across the nation. Other big issues when it comes to higher education include interest rate breaks for parents who are taking out college loans for their children. Also at issue is finding ways to increase federal college grants to help the poor meet rising college tuition. These are weightier issues and will take more debate than can be accomplished in a 100-hours public relations timeline; still, it is a move in a positive direction. Read more... Posted at 1/23/2007 09:37:00 AM |

    House Republicans Aim for More Recruitment of Women in 2008

    By Aaron Blake (EXCERPT) Full Story Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the new chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), hopes a shift toward recruiting more women will help Republicans chip away at Democrats’ newfound majority in 2008. “I think women candidates, as a rule, make better candidates than men,” Cole said, adding later, “We have not put the emphasis on finding and recruiting them that we should.” Cole calls fellow Oklahoma Rep. Mary Fallin, the other Republican woman newcomer, “a perfect candidate.” Like Bachmann, Fallin raised her children before going into state politics. She became the state’s first woman lieutenant governor in 1994 and this month became the first woman in Congress from her state since 1920. Fallin, who told The Hill on Friday that she will serve on the NRCC’s executive board, suggested the disparity between woman members in the parties might be partly based on both a different recruiting emphasis and the fact that women tend to lean more toward the Democrats. Posted at 1/23/2007 09:19:00 AM |

    OK Ethics Commission Bans Political Action Committees From Contributing to One Another

    In a move that will certainly face a constitutional challenge on the grounds of free speech, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted Monday to ban political action committees from contributing to one another. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, had proposed the ban. The rule change will take effect unless the Legislature rejects them. Posted at 1/23/2007 09:00:00 AM |
    Monday, January 22, 2007 

    State Wastes Dollars in River, Former Governors Say: Previous Plans to Sell Water to Texas Ended Before They Began.

    From Red Orbit Breaking News: By Tony Thornton, The Daily Oklahoman Jan. 21--The two governors who preceded Brad Henry agreed that Oklahoma is flushing at least $100 million per year into the Red River, but both gave up on selling water to Texas, calling the idea political suicide. Low-ball offers by Texas water districts also foiled any plans to sell excess water from the Kiamichi Basin, said former Gov. David Walters and Howard Barnett, who was chief of staff for Gov. Frank Keating. The biggest obstacle, both men agreed, was a few well-organized "zealots" primed to torpedo any legislation aimed at a water sale. Their opposition is so embedded, "it may be like the Sunnis and the Shiites" trying to negotiate a peace plan, Walters said. The idea of selling southeastern Oklahoma water surfaced before Walters took office in 1991 and reappears occasionally, thanks largely to north Texas' population growth and concerns about how the metroplex will get its water in 50 years. Earlier this month, the Tarrant Regional Water District announced it was seeking to buy 460,000 acre feet, or 15 billion gallons, per year. The water would come from three southern Oklahoma tributaries before it reaches the Red River, where it becomes too salty to drink. Two days after making the announcement, the water district, based in Fort Worth, filed a federal lawsuit claiming Oklahoma's moratorium on out-of-state water sales violates interstate commerce laws. A hearing on the matter is set for Tuesday in Oklahoma City. Gov. Brad Henry had no comment on the lawsuit but said no water should be sold out of state until completion of "a detailed and exhaustive review" of Oklahoma's water needs is finished, probably in 2010. Read more... Posted at 1/22/2007 10:31:00 AM |

    Terrill Authors Immigration Reform, Tax Cut Bills

    By Jaclyn Houghton The Norman Transcript OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma lawmakers are gearing up to sift through more than 2,000 legislative bills when the session begins Feb. 5. The deadline to file a bill was Thursday and House members had filed 1,195 bills, 45 joint resolutions and 11 concurrent resolutions. Senators had filed 1,091 bills and 30 joint resolutions by 11:30 p.m. on Thursday. Of the 1,654 House bills and joint resolutions filed last year, only 336 became law, according to House media. Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, filed several pieces of legislation in hopes his will make it through the lawmaking process. Here are a few of his bills. Read more... Posted at 1/22/2007 09:46:00 AM |

    First Two "IdeaRaisers" Announced

    Details of the first two IdeaRaisers for House Speaker Lance Cargill’s 100 Ideas Initiative have been announced with one event taking place in Oklahoma City and the other in Tulsa. Executive Director Thad Balkman said the first IdeaRaiser is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Presbyterian Health Foundation Colloquium, located at 655 Research Parkway, Suite 100 in Oklahoma City. The second IdeaRaiser is slated to be held in Tulsa at the Greenwood Cultural Center on Feb. 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Balkman said the Oklahoma City event will focus on fostering the bioscience industry in Oklahoma and the Tulsa event will focus on education in Oklahoma. The public is invited to the events and are welcome to join in the discussion about the topics or to discuss others. Cargill and numerous other legislators will be in attendance at the IdeaRaisers. The Oklahoma City event will also include Rep. Doug Cox, the only medical doctor serving in the State House of Representatives. Balkman says more IdeaRaisers are slated to be held across the state. Posted at 1/22/2007 09:33:00 AM |

    State's Medicaid Enrollment Jumps 6.5 Percent in 2006

    TULSA, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma's Medicaid provider says enrollment in the government-sponsored Medicaid health care program for the medically indigent jumped 6-point-5 percent last year. Mike Fogarty, head of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, says he attributes the increase to public-awareness campaigns that tell families they may qualify for Medicaid. The Kaiser Family Foundation says the increase in the number of poor and disabled people signed up for Medicaid was greater last year in Oklahoma than most of the nation. Nationally, growth was the lowest since 1999 at 1-point-6 percent. The number of children covered by Medicaid has nearly doubled in the last decade. About 65 percent of the more than 740-thousand Oklahomans on Medicaid is younger than 18. About 20 percent are aged, blind or disabled. Posted at 1/22/2007 09:19:00 AM |
    Friday, January 19, 2007 

    OKPNS FLASHBACK! TIPLINE: "Whose Side Is Ron Black Really On?"

    Ron Black -"The 400lb Gorilla" - opines on his "Daily Rant" today - on last year's Oklahoma District Attorney's race between incumbent Wes Lane and challenger David Prater: "I've received a number of emails from readers/former listeners to the program asking, "Where's Wes?" Frankly, I have no idea. Rumor has it that on the south side of Oklahoma City, you'll find a few small Lamar billboards with Wes' face saying, "Thank you." I haven't seen them myself, but that's what I've been told. Personally, I can't imagine former District Attorney Wes Lane NOT getting back into the political game at some later date because he rather enjoyed te (sic) spotlight of being an elected official. But after losing to his former employee, David Prater, it's got to be pretty tough to get back in the saddle again. The McCarville Report had a story/analysis of the race some time ago, but one thing that was missed in the analysis/polling data was the fact that Prater just ran a superior campaign (and he didn't use negative attack automated calls either)." We are reposting below an editorial response we received from the tip line regarding a September article Black wrote about the race: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Friday, September 08, 2006 BREAKING - OKPNS received the following editorial in response to an article posted by Oklahoma’s 400lb Gorilla, Ron Black, consultant to both Republican nominee for Auditor and former state Republican party chairman Gary Jones and Corporation Commissioner and former congressional candidate Denise Bode. “Why is Ron Black stumping for David Prater? Is the latest marketing technique among so-called consultants to flack for the opposition to create a need for your services? Does Ron Black think that by pointing out David Prater’s campaign plans on his website that District Attorney Wes Lane will drop his current team and hire him? After Ron Black spent $1.3 million of Denise Bode’s money and still lost to Mick Cornett’s $250,000 it doesn’t seem likely. Black says he doesn’t understand why Wes Lane is prosecuting Brian Bates. Can we buy Ron Black a dictionary so he can look up the word ‘pandering'? Foot, meet mouth, Ron. This sort of thing is fine for radio shock-jocks who aren’t accountable for what they say, but for campaign consultants who speak on behalf of Republican nominees? Let me put it this way, no one will be stealing the title of “the Great Communicator” from Ronald Reagan and bestowing it on Ron Black any time soon. Today, on his blog, Black writes: “I am still trying to wrap my head around why our District Attorney, Wes Lane, is going after [Brian Bates] so aggressively. Charges were filed, then dropped. Then a Grand Jury was convened and charges filed, now dropped. But now charges are again being filed on a County level against Bates and his wife. The charges are for ‘pandering’. According to the dictionary, to “pander” is to “furnish clients for a prostitute or supply persons for illicit sexual intercourse.” Bates has been charged with paying prostitutes to have sex with men: hence, it would appear he committed pandering. Case closed? Enough for us. "Everyone knows Wes Lane is a Republican and everyone knows David Prater switched to the Democrat Party to run against Wes, so why is Ron Black telling his friends and readers about the support Prater is receiving?” asked an insider close to Party Chairman Tom Daxon. As a Republican consultant, Ron should start acting like a spokesman for his party, if indeed he has one. And if he doesn’t have a true party affiliation, then Republican candidates should know this up front.” Oklahoma Political News Service will continue to monitor this developing story. Posted at 1/19/2007 12:13:00 PM |

    Minuteman Founder Visits Tulsa to Rally for Border Security

    By TOM DROEGE World Staff Writer Roughly 300 people turned out Thursday to hear the founder of the Minuteman Project speak in Tulsa about the national security dangers of illegal immigration. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is an invasion," said Jim Gilchrist. "This is not some guest worker coming across the border to borrow a cup of sugar." Gilchrist, of California, founded the Minuteman Project in 2004 as an initiative to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border for illegal crossings by immigrants. Since that time, the organization's membership has climbed into the thousands, with Minuteman groups starting in many states, including Oklahoma. Speaking at the Brady Theater at an event sponsored by radio station KFAQ (1170 AM), Gilchrist rallied the crowd to applause and shouts of approval. He said that each day, 11,000 people cross illegally into the United States from Mexico. "This is how nations are conquered peacefully," Gilchrist said. "This is a covert Trojan-horse invasion that has been going on since 1965." State Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, also spoke during the event. Read more... Related: Rep. Terrill Sends Letter to Attorney General Posted at 1/19/2007 11:20:00 AM |

    State Planned Economy?

    Freshman Congresswoman Mary Fallin, along with three of her Oklahoma Congressional colleagues (Cong. Frank Lucas did not vote), voted against eliminating federal subsidies and tax breaks for the oil and gas companies. Fallin cited concerns that the bill would violate valid leasing contracts, setting up a potential legal quagmire and financial bonanza for attorneys. "It opens up the floodgates for taking litigation," said Representative Mary Fallin, this is a trial lawyer’s dream bill." The bill also includes language that directs money to renewable energy projects. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s said this bill is only the start of an "aggressive effort" to address the nation’s energy needs and climate change by "investing in American ingenuity." Sounds like good old fashioned, Soviet style, state economy planning to us. If the private sector doesn't sense a potential future profit in investing in renewal fuel research, then what does Nancy Pelosi see that the private sector doesn't? Mrs. Speaker, "American ingenuity" is sparked by ideas and the profit motive, not the government deciding where to allocate tax revenues. Posted at 1/19/2007 10:18:00 AM |
    Thursday, January 18, 2007 

    100 Ideas Initiative Nets First 100

    The one week old "100 Ideas Initiative" has reached a milestone in its efforts to have lawmakers more engaged with their constituents. The organization, founded by House Speaker Lance Cargill and headed by former Representative Thad Balkman, has logged over 100 ideas from Oklahomans on its website. The site, was launched as part of a statewide initiative to "find the best 100 ideas for Oklahoma’s second century." "The 100 Ideas Initiative has picked up real momentum over the past week, and I've been pleased with the level of participation so far," said Cargill, who officially unveiled the project on Jan. 10. "This first milestone shows that Oklahomans are excited about sharing their good ideas for our state's future." Former Rep. Thad Balkman, executive director of the initiative, said he was excited to have reached the first milestone. “This is just the beginning of the 100 Ideas Initiative,” said Balkman. “We look forward to receiving the next 100 ideas and the next 1,000.” Balkman said the ideas, submitted primarily through the website came flowing in through e-mail, mail, and through online submissions. Submitted ideas ranged from eliminating the state sales tax on groceries to creating incentives for biofuels and biofuel research. In addition to accepting submissions via mail, e-mail and online, the project will host “IdeaRaisers” across the state which will invite the public to attend, share and discuss varying ideas. Balkman said an announcement detailing the specifics of the first two IdeaRaisers, scheduled to be held in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, will be released later in the week. Posted at 1/18/2007 10:54:00 AM |

    Alliance for Oklahoma's Future Releases Online Legislative Resource

    The Alliance for Oklahoma’s Future has released its 2007 Legislative and Budget Primer, a new online guide for the upcoming Oklahoma legislative session. In a release, The non-partisan organization says the primer is an "invaluable resource intended to help Oklahoma citizens better understand how their state legislative system really works”. “Whether you are a complete novice to the legislative process, a six-term legislator, or anyone in between, the 2007 Legislative and Budget Primer will provide you the information you need to be better informed and better engaged on the issues you care about,” stated Alliance for Oklahoma’s Future Chair David Blatt. Information available in the primer includes: A comprehensive listing of the leadership, including committee and subcommittee chairs, in both the State House and Senate. An explanation of how the State Senate will function with a historic 24-24 political party tie through a Power-Sharing Agreement, including a step-by-step explanation of all the stages in the legislative process. The basics of the budget process that determine how much money is available to be spent by the Legislature each year, including a preview of major funding commitments state legislative leaders will be facing this session. The 2007 Legislative and Budget Primer can be downloaded as a PDF or viewed directly online as a PowerPoint from the Alliance website. The Alliance is also making hard copies of the primer available upon request. Posted at 1/18/2007 10:15:00 AM |
    Wednesday, January 17, 2007 

    Watts Being Booted Out Of GOPAC?

    The McCarville Report Online is reporting that a major shake up is brewing at GOPAC which may include a native son. GOPAC was founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "Former Congressman J. C. Watts, since 2003 the head of GOPAC, the Republican group that recruits, trains and seeks to elect and reelect Republicans nationwide, may be about to get the boot." Read more... Posted at 1/17/2007 12:45:00 PM |

    Tulsa Republican Plans Run for Inhofe's Seat in Senate

    From the Tulsa World: Tulsan Stephen P. Wallace says he intends to campaign for the U.S. Senate seat now held by fellow Republican Jim Inhofe in 2008. Inhofe is expected to seek re-election. Wallace, who might be best known for his unsuccessful 2004 challenge to the city of Tulsa's settlement of a lawsuit against several poultry producers, has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission and issued a press release announcing his candidacy. Wallace, 57, said he intends to focus on judicial reform and accountability. He is a graduate of Cascia Hall and holds degrees from Loyola of Chicago and Southern Methodist universities. Wallace operates the Independent Justice Institute, a for-profit company that specializes in taxpayer demand petitions. Posted at 1/17/2007 12:29:00 PM |
    Tuesday, January 16, 2007 

    Big Brother Knows Best

    The Tulsa Whirl today has amazingly covered the egregious actions of a bureaucratic government monopoly. The agency in question is the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training. Broken Arrow Police Chief Wuestewald is feeling the wrath of a government monopoly when its turf is being threatened. "CLEET" oversees police officer training for most statewide agencies. Though it is nice to finally see a major Oklahoma publication cover a story of potential political intimidation, where are the stories and follow up stories examining the alleged political intimidation of Attorney General Drew Edmondson and State Auditor & Inspector Jeff McMahan? Chief Wuestedwald is concerned with the amount of training hours CLEET graduates are required to have. CLEET requires a minimum of 360 hours of training to certify officers. A state-trained cosmetologist, meanwhile, receives about 1,500 hours of training. He is proposing to start his own police academy. He has told government authorities he is ready to proceed, he only needs approval. "We already have the trainers on staff; we've got the facility." "The curriculum is already written." "We will fund it ourselves." Read more... Posted at 1/16/2007 08:33:00 AM |
    Monday, January 15, 2007 

    Insert Your Own Caption

    (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
    Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and other leaders of the U.S. Conference of Mayors met Friday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Is it just us, or does Mayor Cornett look a bit skeptical? Posted at 1/15/2007 01:18:00 PM |

    Caucus Meetings to Begin for GOP

    TULSA, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma Republicans are preparing to chart the course of their part for the coming year. Republicans will hold precinct caucus meetings Tuesday night, the first step in selecting delegates to county and state conventions. State G-O-P Chairman Tom Daxon is expected to be challenged for the job by his predecessor, Gary Jones of Lawton, and perhaps a candidate from Oklahoma County. Opposition to Daxon surfaced during the 2006 campaign, when some lawmakers began operating their campaigns out of the Oklahoma County Republican Party. Oklahoma Ethics Commission filings show legislators' campaign funds contributed more than 110-thousand dollars to the Oklahoma County G-O-P in the weeks leading up to the 2006 general election. Posted at 1/15/2007 01:00:00 PM |

    Political Rumors

    From okdemocrat: "Whispers in smoke filled backrooms say Brad Carson is raising money for one more race in 2008." Read more... ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- From Chris Wilson plans to choose his Party's Chair? "Is Chris Wilson and his associates trying to hand pick the next Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman. Word around GOP circles is the current Chairman Tom Daxon didn't listen to Wilson and may be too close to CHS for Wilson and others." Read more... Posted at 1/15/2007 12:59:00 PM |

    State Seeks Solution for Medicaid Costs Recovery

    By Janice Francis-Smith The Journal Record OKLAHOMA CITY – A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has states worried about how they can recoup their Medicaid costs when the patient wins a too-small tort liability award. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is asking the Oklahoma Legislature to address the situation this session. The court rendered a decision in Arkansas Department of Human Services v. Ahlborn in May. Nineteen-year-old Heidi Ahlborn had been severely and permanently disabled in a car accident. Arkansas’ Medicaid program paid out more than $215,000 for her medical treatment. Through settlement agreements with auto insurers, Ahlborn was awarded a total of $550,000, only $35,000 of which was designated for actual medical expenses. The court record shows Ahlborn’s settlement amounted to only about one-sixth the cost of her total damages. The state of Arkansas asserted a lien to recover the entire amount of Ahlborn’s medical expenses. Recovering the full $215,000 from Ahlborn’s award would require the balance be subtracted from funds the court had awarded Ahlborn for lost wages or pain and suffering. The court record notes that Arkansas did not ask to participate in the settlement negotiations and did not seek to reopen the judgment after the case was dismissed, but only intervened in the case when the lien was asserted. The Supreme Court ruled against the state, declaring Arkansas’ law to be in conflict with federal law. “Arkansas’ statute squarely conflicts with the federal Medicaid law’s anti-lien provision … which prohibits states from imposing liens ‘against the property of any individual prior to his death on account of medical assistance paid . . . on his behalf under the state plan,’” reads the court ruling. Arkansas had argued that the amount of money it sought to recover for medical costs was not Ahlborn’s property but the state’s, and that Ahlborn had lost her property rights the instant she applied for medical assistance. The court rejected that argument, in part because Arkansas had seen fit to create a lien on the proceeds. “(The Arkansas Department of Human Services) would not need a lien on its own property,” the court found. The Supreme Court ruling further declared that states may not establish any law in conflict with the anti-lien provision of the Medicaid Act, which prohibits reimbursement out of damages awarded for lost wages or pain and suffering. Oklahoma and other states are seeking a legal remedy that would comply with federal law while making state Medicaid costs a priority when courts award damages, said Lisa Gifford of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. “We haven’t seen it get really horrible here in Oklahoma,” said Gifford, but the Medicaid systems in Utah and Michigan have already had legal trouble in recouping their medical costs. A settlement in Michigan would have reimbursed that state’s Medicaid program just 10 cents on the dollar, she said. Related: Cost of Medicaid For Illegal Aliens Almost $10 million Posted at 1/15/2007 12:44:00 PM |

    Lawmakers Seek To Build On Anti-Abortion Laws

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) State lawmakers already have filed several anti-abortion bills to build on restrictions approved by legislators in recent years. Federal statistics show about 7-thousand abortions have been performed in Oklahoma each year during the past decade. Oklahoma lawmakers passed several anti-abortion measures in 2005 and 2006, including provisions requiring written parental consent for a minor to have an abortion. It has yet to be seen if those changes have led to a reduction in abortions in Oklahoma. Republican state Senator Brian Crain wants to change the legal definition of abortion to include the practice of using drugs to kill a fetus before it is removed. Another measure Crain expects to file next week would prohibit insurance companies from covering state employees for abortion procedures. Posted at 1/15/2007 12:29:00 PM |

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