Governor Mary Fallin is naming Major Gen. Myles Deering as her Secretary of Veterans Affiars, Oklahoma Watch has learned.
Fallin’s spokesman, Alex Weintz, confirmed the changes Friday afternoon. Weintz said Deering would replace Gen. Rita Aragon, who was stepping down as state VA secretary. Aragon has been named to a new post: governor’s liaison for veterans affairs.
Weintz also confirmed that Fallin will name Brig. Gen. Robbie L. Asher as adjutant general, replacing Deering. Asher will command the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard.
Dec 19 2014 | Posted in General
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Oklahomans will benefit from much needed tax relief in 2016 after the vote by the Board of Equalization that the revenue triggers in a bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law last session have been met.
With dozens of legislators in attendance, the board approved a motion to certify the income tax cut trigger provisions of Senate Bill 1246. SB 1246 requires a comparison between Fiscal Year 2016 estimated general revenue to the Fiscal Year 2014 certified general revenue total. Because projected FY 16 revenue is $60.7 million more than FY 14 revenues, the personal income tax rate will be reduced from 5.25 percent to 5 percent in tax year 2016.
“I thank Governor Fallin for encouraging legislators to attend the Board of Equalization meeting to learn more about the certification process,” said House Speaker Jeffrey W. Hickman, R-Fairview. “I am pleased to know that Oklahomans will get to keep more of their hard-earned money through a much deserved tax cut that will put more money into our economy.”
The estimates approved by the board project revenues that could be enough to also trigger a deposit of almost $37.8 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Despite this, the Legislature could face budgetary challenges as the projections approved today are 0.3 percent or $25.6 million less than what was certified for last year’s budget. The recent drop in oil prices, as well as lower prices in agricultural commodity markets could continue to put pressure on state revenues.
“The Oklahoma economy is stable, and I am hopeful the current geopolitical circumstances that are driving down the price of oil are temporary,” said Hickman. “Even though our economy is strong, all entities which receive state tax dollars should be making preparations now in their current budgets for fewer dollars in next year’s budget, just like Oklahoma families and businesses do every day.”
Rep. Jason Murphey
Shortly after the conclusion of the 2012 legislative session, I wrote an article based in part on my observations of the last stressful days of that session.
In that article I explained how I have enjoyed the opportunity to see the governance process up close and from a legislator’s vantage point. I like to carefully observe and think about how processes work – and could work better – and I try to learn from the actions of the personalities involved in setting the policies that affect so many.
This includes taking note of how legislators operate under all conditions, especially the stressful conditions of the fast-paced legislative environment. I see where rhetoric meets up with reality.
Here is my observation which I shared in that 2012 article. There are plenty of legislators who wear faith on their sleeve. They use God in their campaign materials, participate and even organize public prayer events, and speak at the various church and faith-based groups which attend events at the capitol.
When I see a lawmaker publicly proclaiming their faith, I have learned to not take the proclamation at face value but to instead wait and observe that person’s actions.
Some of those same lawmakers also lose their temper when things don’t go their way; defend the dishonest legislative process status quo that allows legislators to hide their true position from their constituents; vote based on personality conflicts instead of on principle; and, retaliate against those who have slighted them. They may not hesitate to stick a finger in your face and tell you what they think when you fail to do what they want.
In short, their actions do not match their words. These politicians ignore two of the very foremost tenets of the Christian faith. They fall into the temptation to act deceitfully and fail to treat others as they would like to be treated.
This leads me to question whether these politicians really believe, or if perhaps some of them are playing politics with God’s name. I would suggest the latter to be a dangerous practice.
Before a politician campaigns on the platform of faith he must be prepared to consistently apply and follow the principles of faith in his own life.
Much like a preacher must straighten out his life before he starts preaching, a politician should do the same prior to entering the political arena on a faith-based platform. He must remain honest – not an easy task in the political environment – and treat others courteously even under the most difficult of circumstances. When a politician aggressively promotes his faith and subsequently acts in a way not consistent with its most important principles, he risks doing far more harm than good.
There is a tremendous calling for Christians to serve in government. Much of our founding values and our legal code were built on Judeo-Christian principles. These are the principles that have made our nation great and they are under attack like never before. I have observed instances where elected officials actually defend these principles and live their faith at the same time. But I have also noted they aren’t necessarily always the ones who push to the front of the line to declare that faith.
I have tremendous respect for those elected officials who proclaim their faith not through their words but through their actions: not an easy task in politics. They show the best way to demonstrate the importance of Christianity is to simply practice its principles no matter how stressful the environment, and people will notice.
Scott Pruitt and Jonathan Small
Writing in The Hill
Imagine a rule that raises the cost of electricity, hurts the most poor among us, cuts domestic jobs and results in a dramatic re-shaping of the American electricity system. Now imagine that this rule was never voted on by Congress.
This is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, a rule that undercuts the states’ abilities to manage their own power grid and will raise the cost of energy dramatically.
Those hurt most by the Clean Power Plan will be the most vulnerable among us-the poor, the single mothers, the elderly and minorities. Households earning less than $10,000 per year spend an astounding 60-80 percent of income on energy costs, and those earning between $10,000 and $30,000 per year spend greater than 20 percent of their income on energy. It is no surprise that the inability to pay utility bills is a leading cause of homelessness in U.S.The EPA’s proposed rule could increase the typical household’s annual electricity and natural gas bills by $680, or 35 percent, by 2020, escalating each year thereafter as EPA regulations grow more stringent, according to a study by Energy Venture Analysis.
While cost of energy will certainly be impacted, the reliability of our states’ power grid is also threatened. When federal regulators mandate that states use more renewable energy sources, nuclear or hydro-electric power than -fossil-fuel fired power the state’s infrastructure may not be prepared for the fuel switch.
The Southwest Power Pool, a regional transmission organization that serves an eight-state region that includes Oklahoma, has warned that the rule “introduce[es] the very real possibility of rolling blackouts or cascading outages that will have significant impacts on human health, public safety and economic activity within the region.”
Oklahoma and other states have managed their retail electricity markets in such a way that has provided affordable, reliable energy to their citizens for nearly a century. States’ individual departments of environmental quality have protected the well-being of their state’s air quality and the health of their citizens. It is an insult that this administration assumes that the EPA knows better than state regulators close to home.
In the words of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Commissioner Tony Clark, “[States] will have entered a comprehensive ‘mother may I?’ relationship with the EPA that has never before existed.”
The Obama administration implemented this plan because they believe that climate change is an issue. However, it is not certain that this rule will make a demonstrable impact on greenhouse gas emissions. One projection estimates that by 2050, the proposed guidelines would reduce sea level rise by only 1/100th of an inch (the thickness of three sheets of paper) and reduce the average global temperature increase by less than 2/100th of a degree. EPA justifies the proposal by counting reductions (“co-benefits”) in emissions of other pollutants already regulated by EPA.
Not only do states not need the ineffective hand of the federal government determining what fuel sources it uses, but the EPA does not have legal authority granted under the Clean Air Act. States should be left to make decisions on the fuel diversity that best meets their electric generation needs. The EPA’s proposal overrides state authority by forcing states to prioritize non-fossil-fuel generation over fossil-fueled generation. This is a direct violation of states’ traditional role in making their individual energy policies.
EPA is attempting to make fundamental and irreversible changes that will jeopardize our power grid while offloading responsibility to the states that have to answer to their citizens. Oklahoma will always challenge the EPA, or any other federal agency, when it exceeds the statutory authority it is granted.
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office along with attorneys general in 16 other states and state think tanks like the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs and legislators in 17 other states have voiced concerns over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan. This proposed rule should be withdrawn, or at least stayed, until the courts have a chance to weigh in on legal challenges against these regulations.
Pruitt is the attorney general of Oklahoma. Small is the executive vice president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
Dec 16 2014 | Posted in General
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Oklahoma Policy Institute
Oklahoma’s most recent elections saw the lowest voter turnout in over 50 years. Less than one-third of Oklahoma’s voting age citizens participated in an election that chose the state’s governor, the entire Congressional delegation, and numerous other offices. In nearly two-thirds of state House races, the winning candidate took office without any opposition in the general election.
“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that our democracy is broken,” said David Blatt, Executive Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute. A new report from OK Policy examines what’s behind these disturbing trends and what Oklahoma can do to reverse them.
“As recently as 2006, Oklahomans voted at or above the national average,” said Blatt, who authored the report. “If Oklahoma passed reforms to make it easier, more of us would vote, and more regular people would have a say in the future of our state.”
In surveys, the top reasons given by the registered voters who don’t make it to the polls is that they were too busy, or that an illness or disability stopped them from voting
The report identifies a range of possible reforms to improve democratic participation in Oklahoma, which include:
- Voter Information Pamphlets - In at least 16 states, state law require that election officials publish and distribute a voter information pamphlet. that helps voters be more informed about the issues and candidates they are voting on.
- Online Voter Registration - Online registration, already in place in 13 states, saves money, increases the accuracy of voter lists, is easier for voters, and reduces the chances of Election Day mix-ups.
- Extend mail-in voting – Mail-in elections, in place in three states, are less expensive and administratively simpler to operate, and eliminate a host of problems associated with voters not being able to get to the polls or not knowing where to vote. Alternately, seven states currently allow voters to opt for “permanent absentee status,” which means that they will automatically be mailed an absentee ballot for each election.
- Ballot Access Reform – Oklahoma has the nation’s most restrictive ballot access laws. Lowering the threshold for political parties and independent Presidential candidates to get on the ballot, as well as reducing the signature threshold for initiative petitions, would give Oklahoma a fuller range of choices.
- Open Primaries - In Oklahoma, all primary elections are restricted to registered party voters, which leaves the growing number of political independents with no voice in selecting which candidate will appear on the general election ballot. A majority of states operate some form of open primary system.
- Instant Run-off Primaries – Oklahoma’s current primary run-off system consistently has been shown to depress voter turnout. An alternative is the instant run-off, or preferential ballot, which allows voters to more fully express their electoral preferences and encourages candidates to engage a broader range of voters.
“We can debate the best solutions, but we can’t deny that the current system is falling short,” Blatt said. “Hopefully this research will motivate more state leaders to take the problem seriously and make reforms that help more Oklahomans to be informed and engaged citizens.”
You can download the full report at okpolicy.org/brokendemocracy.
You can watch an animated video summarizing the report at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzja2wjBExU.
Dec 16 2014 | Posted in General
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Senator-elect James Lankford today announced his appointment to four Committees for the upcoming 114th Congress in the U.S. Senate: the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Indian Affairs.
“I am honored to bring our Oklahoma values of common sense, integrity and hard work to these important Senate Committees,” said Lankford. “These key assignments will enable me to promote conservative values within our long-lost appropriations process, encourage efficiency throughout the federal government, and relentlessly demand transparency on behalf of hard-working American taxpayers. The U.S. Senate needs to maintain an Oklahoma perspective on national security, intelligence and counter-terrorism strategies, as well as Native American affairs.”
The Senate Committee on Appropriations is the largest committee in the Senate, and is widely considered one of the most powerful Committees in Congress. The Committee produces legislation that allocates funds for the federal government on an annual basis and uses the power of the purse to conduct regular oversight through the funding process. The last Oklahoman to serve on the Senate Committee on Appropriations was Senator Don Nickles, from the 100th through the 103rd Congress (1987-1995).
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs maintains broad jurisdiction over the operations of the federal government, as well as specific oversight responsibility over the Department of Homeland Security. A recognized leader of congressional oversight, Lankford has served on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee throughout his four years in the U.S. House of Representatives. During the 112th Congress, he served as Chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform, and Lankford currently serves as Chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements. Retiring Oklahoma Senator Dr. Tom Coburn currently serves as the most senior Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence provides legislation to authorize, fund, and oversee all American intelligence-gathering operations. The Committee produces legislation that authorizes funding for the intelligence agencies and provides numerous legal authorities and requirements.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has jurisdiction to study the challenges of American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native communities.
On Tuesday, January 6th, Lankford will be sworn in as the 18th U.S. Senator from the State of Oklahoma.
Former Oklahoma County Republican Party Chair, Oklahoma Republican Party Vice-Chair, and current Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women’s State President, Pam Pollard, today announced she is a candidate for chairman of the Republican Party. Pollard, speaking to the High Noon club, said she entered the race to bring her nearly 20 years of experience to the position.
She will face incumbent Chairman Dave Weston and former Senator Randy Brogdon.
“The Republican Party is dealing with an identity crisis in today’s political environment. We must bring in groups who vote republican yet are not part of our party. It’s about adding and multiplying not subtracting and dividing. We must get organized and give voters a reason and opportunity to be a part of the Republican Party.”
Pam has proven leadership skills having been elected 12 times to Republican Party and Republican Women positions. She has lead the Republican Women for the last year to reach out to younger women through their online club and brought in nationally recognized speaker Star Parker to help engage more minorities in the Republican Party.
“I am very proud to have served as State President this past year. Our women are known throughout the state as an integral part of the Republican Party having volunteered hundreds of hours of time and made combined Federation contributions to candidates of over $53,000.”
“I am running for State Chairman to bring my leadership and experience to the GOP. I will be a strong voice for the grassroots at our Capitol, supporting our elected officials–both financially and on the doorstep–but always be a strong reminder of the principles and platform of the Republican Party.”
“I look forward to crisscrossing the state over the next few months with my plan to lead this Party.”
The Chairman’s election will take place on April 11, 2015 at the Republican State Convention in Oklahoma City.
Dec 15 2014 | Posted in General
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The Partnership for a New American Economy today released a new study showing how expanding the Visa Waiver Program to six new countries – Brazil, Hong Kong, Israel, Poland, South Africa, and Turkey – would result in $7.66 billion additional spending and 50,000 American jobs within five years.
The Partnership also released a new ad in its series highlighting the need for immigration reform across broad sectors of the economy. This ad showcases the role of international tourists as significant revenue generators and American job creators.
“Responsible expansion of the Visa Waiver Program is good for the tourism industry in Oklahoma. As an example, just in the last month we have welcomed citizens from Argentina, Brazil, Israel, and Poland to Oklahoma City who are members of an international association headquartered right here, but they have to acquire a Visa to be able to come to their headquarters or any other location in the USA for US based events of that association”, said Mike Carrier, President of the Oklahoma City Convention & Tourism Bureau.
“No one wants to open our borders in an irresponsible manner. We need to make the flow of legal travel between nations a positive experience instead of the challenge that is so often presented to our international friends,” Carrier continued.
Dec 15 2014 | Posted in General
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