Schools Superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister commented today on Rep. Jason Nelson’s HB 3399, which would allow school districts to delay the implementation of controversial Common Core standards in Oklahoma schools.
“While Rep. Nelson’s bill is a step in the right direction, it ultimately does nothing to give local school districts the authority they should have to determine their own high standards,” the Republican said.
“Delaying Common Core may give districts more time to prepare for the consequences of implementation, but the fact still remains that parents and teachers have no say in the process. I fundamentally believe local school districts and their unique community of parents and teachers should be the ones to decide what their children learn and how they learn it.
“There is no doubt that we need to set high standards for our children, and expect excellence. But forcing one set of standards on schoolchildren from New York to California is not the best way to achieve that. This issue needs to be fixed, not merely delayed.”
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett buried his primary challenger, Councilman Ed Shadid, in Tuesday’s mayoral election.
With 224 of 235 precincts reporting, Cornett had 31,447 votes, or 65.7 percent, to 15,734, or 32.9 percent, for Shadid. Two other candidates, Phil Hughes and Joe B. Sarge Nelson, were drew 1.4 percent.
|235 of 235 Precincts Completely Reporting
|JOE SARGE NELSON
Mar 4 2014 | Posted in General
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Mayor Mick Cornett appears headed for a resounding reelection tonight, as early returns show him burying challenger Ed Shadid.
With 13 of 235 precincts in, Cornett had 2,977 votes, or 67.4 percent. Shadid had 1,354 votes, or 30.7 percent.
Mar 4 2014 | Posted in General
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Thirty-one documents related to the Affordable Care Act that Gov. Mary Fallin has refused to release and that are the subject of a lawsuit against her will be archived and made available to the public after Fallin leaves office, her spokesman said.
Fallin’s office, however, has not yet decided whether to stipulate that release of the archived records be delayed for a certain period after her term ends.
“The law states that those documents will be archived and will eventually be open to the public to view, either immediately or with some delay. They will not be destroyed,” Alex Weintz, communications director for Fallin, told Oklahoma Watch in an email.
The documents could be released sooner if Fallin loses a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and a media website seeking the records, but it’s not clear when that case will be resolved.
If Fallin were to delay the archives release, she would be the first governor to set such a condition that state archivists are aware of, according to the Oklahoma Archives and Records Management Divisions, which keep records of historical importance. Jan Davis, administrative archivist, said she knew of no similar restrictions set by previous governors; papers from former governors usually are made public as soon as they are processed.
Fallin is running for re-election this year, which means her office would turn over correspondence and other records to the State Archives as early as January 2015 if she loses, or as late as January 2019 if she wins. Her office already has archived some documents, such as event invitations, that aren’t needed for administrative purposes, Davis said.
In March 2013, in response to requests from various news media, Fallin’s office released more than 50,000 records, mainly emails, related to her decisions not to create a state health-care exchange or expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. She withheld 31 records totaling 100 pages, asserting an exemption, “executive privilege,” that does not appear in the state’s Open Records Act. Officials in Fallin’s office said the records involved attorney-client communications and private deliberations on public-policy decisions.
In April 2013, the ACLU, representing Vandelay Entertainment LLC, sued Fallin and the Governor’s Office seeking release of the records. Vandelay does business as The Lost Ogle, a satirical website based in Oklahoma City.
The ACLU lawsuit, filed in Oklahoma County District Court, continues with briefs being prepared.
Under Oklahoma law, state agencies and departments must keep all records created in conducting official business; correspondence such as emails must be held by agencies for at least three years or until they’re no longer needed for administrative reasons. The agencies choose what to preserve, but no record can be destroyed without the State Archives’ approval. Agencies send records to the State Archives and, after being processed, they are made available to the public. The Archives and Records Commission, which oversees the archives and records divisions, can restrict public access to some records; typically those are materials such as sealed court cases and adoption records, Davis said.
The papers of Oklahoma governors through Gov. Brad Henry are available for review. Gov. Frank Keating’s records fill about 35 cubic-foot boxes, archivists said. Henry’s records fill more than 500 boxes, and about 10 percent of those are still being processed; no catalog of them has been posted online yet. Both collections are in paper form and include emails selected by the governors’ offices and printed out.
The State Archives does not have a digital library online and has no capability to allow people to view records stored on computer disk. Additional funding and staff would be needed for a digital system. Electronic communications are stored on the computer servers of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, but decisions about purging and archiving are made by state agencies and the State Archives.
Brady Henderson, legal director for the Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU, said he doesn’t expect the lawsuit against Fallin to be resolved at the district court level because the losing party will probably appeal.
In response to Weintz’s statements about archiving the emails, Henderson said: “Keeping the documents is better for the people of Oklahoma in the long run than destroying them. (Delaying release after Fallin’s term) still raises concerns over government transparency, though.
“On the state level, governors’ files don’t require the same level of secrecy as documents concerning national security, like battlefield reports or documents about terrorism,” he said.
Mar 4 2014 | Posted in General
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House Media Division
Rep. John Bennett said today the Ninth Circuit Court has made a blatant attack on First Amendment rights in their ruling on Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School Dist.
“As a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who has taken an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and all that America and our flag stands for, I am completely disgusted by another blatant attack by a court on the First Amendment,” said Bennett, R-Sallisaw. “The Ninth Circuit Court has ruled that a public school can ban the American flag on school grounds and even display other flags in its place.”
The unanimous three-judge panel said schools can curb civil rights to ensure campus safety and in the case had sufficient and justifiable reasons for their actions.
The court points out that the rights of students in public high schools are limited and that student speech could be restricted if school authorities foresee disruption stemming from the speech.
“The school’s poor policy decision was affirmed by an already confirmed liberal-minded Ninth Circuit,” Bennett said. “It’s an unbelievable strike at the First Amendment. In legalese, this is called a heckler’s veto. This is when a heckler, the opponent of a particular viewpoint, is able to threaten violence or cause such a disruption that the authorities shut down the viewpoint with which they disagree. In other words, they win. They don’t like a viewpoint; they cause a ruckus; and that viewpoint they didn’t like gets silenced.”
Ironically, a heckler’s veto is unconstitutional, according to the Ninth Circuit Court.
A previous case by the court famously states that “[n]either students [n]or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
“I want to be very clear, because I can already see that I might be labeled racist or a bigot,” Bennett said. “This has nothing to do with the substance of the free speech I think should be protected. There is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating Cinco de Mayo in public school. There is absolutely nothing wrong with students displaying the Mexican flag, the British flag, or any other flag. We have a rich cultural history in America. America was built on diversity and I agree we are a melting pot of ideas, backgrounds and interests. I don’t object to the flags of other countries being displayed. I simply object to the premise that the American flag can rightfully be shunned. We are Americans and our schools and courts should not trample over a symbol of our nation.
“I encourage citizens to join the ACLJ. They are preparing to file a friend-of-the-court brief defending the American flag and patriotic free speech. Already thousands of Americans have signed on to the brief; join them today by calling the petition hotline at 1-877-989-2255.”
Governor Mary Fallin
The Oklahoma Capitol was built in 1917. Since then it has been the People’s House – a place where state business is conducted and laws are written and passed. It is also a living museum where school children and other visitors come to learn about the history of their state and the workings of their government. For many who pass through Oklahoma, it is the lasting impression they have of our home.
I am proud of this building. I am proud of the work that has gone into acquiring and preserving the priceless portraits, paintings and murals that showcase our history. When the dome was completed in 2002, I thought the people of Oklahoma finally had the kind of beautiful, functional Capitol building they deserved.
Unfortunately, the Capitol has been allowed to slowly decompose. Scheduled maintenance and repairs have been put off and unfunded for years.
The results have been predictable: the building that should be a source of pride for our state and its citizens has become an embarrassment and a safety hazard.
The exterior is falling apart, to the point where we must actually worry about employees and visitors being hit by falling pieces of the façade.
The yellow barriers outside are an eyesore and an embarrassment. The electrical system is dangerously outdated.
Raw sewage is literally leaking into our basement. As I told the Legislature in my State of the State address this year, on “good” days you can see the disrepair. On bad days, you can smell it.
It is absolutely essential that this kind of deterioration stops, and we begin the process of restoring and repairing this beautiful building.
That means, first and foremost, finding a funding source.
Oklahoma’s Capitol architect believes repairs will cost $160 million. As a state, we have two ways of coming up with that money: we can pass a bond, and pay back the cost of the repairs over time; or we can appropriate cash from our existing revenue.
Some of our legislators have expressed an interest in paying in cash. They are worried about debt and the added cost of interest. They are fiscal conservatives, like I am, and I understand their motivations. In fact, because Oklahoma is such a conservative state, we have one of the lowest debt rates in the nation.
Having low debt is good, but the fact remains that paying in cash for a large, one-time expense like Capitol repairs can be unrealistic and undesirable. Think of a family buying a $160,000 house. For almost every family, paying in cash is impossible. A responsible loan is the most realistic way to cover that cost. Even for a wealthier family, paying in cash might be possible but undesirable. Sure, a well-off family might be able to free up $160,000 in cash, but they might also have to take their children out of college to do so.
That’s the position the state of Oklahoma is in today. We have a $160 million expense on our hands. Diverting $160 million to Capitol repairs means taking money away from education, public safety, and other very real needs. That’s not fiscally conservative; it’s just irresponsible.
The good news is that, like a mortgage, a bond is a common-sense, affordable alternative. Debt
payment would amount to about $10.3 million a year. Furthermore, most of the state’s modest debt is soon coming off the books. In 2018, 41 percent of Oklahoma’s debt will be retired, and more than 86 percent will be eliminated in the next 13 years.
That means a bond for Capitol repairs can be added without significantly adding to state debt in the long term.
Pursuing a bond may also help our credit rating. Last year, state Treasurer Ken Miller and I went to New York City to visit with credit rating agencies like Moody’s. One of the first things they told us was that our state would have trouble getting a better credit rating until we invested more in our infrastructure, including the state Capitol.
All of this means that a bond issue is the best, most realistic way of funding Capitol repairs. I am asking our legislators, as well as all the people in Oklahoma, to lend their voices to the chorus of support for responsible repairs and restoration to one of the great jewels of our state: the People’s House at 23rd and Lincoln.
Lobbyist Nate Webb has been tapped to serve as president of the Oklahoma Credit Union Association – a subsidiary of the Cornerstone Credit Union League. Webb is replacing Gary Jones, who is retiring effective March 31.
Cornerstone CEO Dick Ensweiler says Webb is a welcome addition to the organization.
“Nate has played an instrumental role in communicating the credit union difference with elected officials in both Oklahoma and Washington for the past three years. He knows credit unions,” notes Ensweiler. “As a partner with Capitol Gains, LLC, a lobbying firm in Oklahoma City that has represented the league for many years, Nate has been retained by the league to represent credit unions before legislators and regulators.”
From January 2007 to February 2011, Webb was chief of staff in the office of then Congresswoman [and now Governor] Mary Fallin. From October 2003 to December 2006, he served as chief of staff when Fallin was Lieutenant Governor. Congressman Steve Largent named Webb as his communication director when Largent was a candidate for governor in 2002.
Mar 3 2014 | Posted in General
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Word this afternoon that Rep. Mike Reynolds has been named chairman of the House Government Modernization Committee, replacing Rep. Jason Murphey.
Murphey has been a critic of new Speaker Jeff Hickman, who removed Murphey and appointed Reynolds. Murphey disagreed with Hickman over the disposition of the House Calendar Committee instituted by former Speaker T. W. Shannon.
Murphey confirmed the change late today in an email.
The change is one of several made by Hickman today.