The McCarville Report
Category archives for: General

Coburn Hits Federal Spending With New Silly List

Senator Tom Coburn is out with his final list of absurd spending by the federal government:

Bingman, Hickman Endorse Hofmeister

Senate President Pro-Tempore Brian Bingman today endorsed Joy Hofmeister, and said she’s the perfect leader to advocate for educators in Oklahoma and to address the teacher shortage.

“Due to the force of her personality, and tenacity, she can build the coalitions necessary to address the teacher shortage in Oklahoma while also strengthening standards and improving our educational system,” said Bingman.

“She is a classroom teacher, has run a business, served on the state Board of Education and has the broad scope of experience necessary to manage a state agency.

“Most importantly, she has the support of educators across Oklahoma. Educators helped to recruit Joy Hofmeister to run for state superintendent after she stood courageously and advocated on their behalf. She is willing to be a good listener and ask the right questions.

“We have to address the teacher shortage, and I need Joy to help lead the effort to improve job satisfaction for our Oklahoma educators,” he said.

Hofmeister said she’s honored to have the endorsement of Senator Bingman, and looks forward to working with him to improve compensation for teachers.

“To be effective, you have to be willing to work with legislative leaders who have the authority to make policy and budget decisions. That is just a fact. Senator Bingman helped to reverse the decline in education funding last year and has always advocated for our public schools,” Hofmeister said.

Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman Endorses Hofmeister;

Two Pledge to Solve State’s Teacher Shortage

Oklahoma Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman today endorsed Joy Hofmeister for State Superintendent of Public Instruction and said she’s the right leader at the right time to start addressing Oklahoma’s teacher shortage.

“We face serious issues in education, and we started in my first session as House Speaker by prioritizing school funding,” Hickman said. “I now need Joy as a partner to start addressing Oklahoma’s teacher shortage and to make classroom instruction in public schools a priority.

“Joy Hofmeister has proved herself to be a strong advocate for teachers and public education, including rural schools, important to my district in Northwest Oklahoma. She is the candidate who already has relationships with leaders in the Legislature, who will listen to her and work with her to bring about substantive change.

“In the tradition of independent leaders like Governor Henry Bellmon, Joy Hofmeister had the courage to stand alone as a member of the State Board of Education to oppose policies with which she disagreed. Public education needs Joy Hofmeister right now more than ever, and it’s critical she is elected.”

Hofmeister said she’s honored to have Speaker Hickman’s endorsement.

“Jeff Hickman has always been a friend to public schools, and to bring about needed changes, we have to build coalitions starting with people who are our friends,” said Hofmeister. “Now that Jeff Hickman is the Speaker of the House, we are in a strong position to achieve the change we all know is needed.

“As the next state superintendent, my first priority will be to develop a plan to increase job compensation and job satisfaction for our state’s teachers,” Hofmeister said. “The teachers are treasures for Oklahoma and every day they are fostering the potential of our young people. How can we expect them to do so when morale is at an all-time low? I look forward to working with Speaker Hickman to develop a strong plan to move forward. I’m very optimistic.

“To the teachers of Oklahoma, I say ‘we can get this done!’ and Speaker Hickman’s support is a very big step in the right direction,” Hofmeister said.


Cox, Hofmeister Spar Over His Salary

Dr. John Cox and Joy Hofmeister faced off Tuesday night in a joint appearance that turned a bit testy at one point:

U. S. Chamber Endorses Lankford

Today the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed Congressman James Lankford.

U.S. Chamber Senior Vice President and National Political Director, Rob Engstrom announced the Chamber’s endorsement at a meeting of top business leaders in Oklahoma City this morning.

“James Lankford is the right voice for job creators in the United States Senate. James Lankford’s 92% lifetime rating with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce demonstrates his commitment to our job-creating entrepreneurs and the American Free-Enterprise system. He understands that too much taxation, litigation and regulation is the wrong prescription to fix our ailing economy.  A vote for jobs is a vote for James Lankford for U.S. Senate,” Engstrom said.

“I am honored to be recognized by the U.S. Chamber,” Lankford said. “We must take real steps to get the federal government out of our daily lives and turn our economy around.”

“Our tax code is entirely too long, too complicated and it redistributes wealth instead of creating equal opportunity and encouraging growth. With partners like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we can reform the tax code, balance the budget and win back the American people’s trust in their government,” Lankford concluded.

Along with strong support from voters across Oklahoma, Lankford has culminated a long list of endorsements from conservative leaders and groups including The National Federation of Independent Business, Concerned Women Political Action Committee, Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum PAC, Governor Mike Huckabee, Governor Mitt Romney, Senator Rand Paul, Chairman Paul Ryan, Chairman Darrell Issa, Governor Bobby Jindal, Ambassador John Bolton and Jay Sekulow among others.

Pruitt: Biblical Principles No Reason For IRS Scrutiny

pruitt2Attorney General Scott Pruitt

President John Adams said, “Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion.” However, the federal government may be signaling its intention to forego the wisdom of President Adams. Recently, a Wisconsin-based atheist organization hailed its “victory” over the IRS after settling a lawsuit alleging the agency had failed to enforce the federal tax code laws prohibiting tax-exempt religious groups from electioneering.

Since 1954, the Johnson Amendment has expressly prohibited pastors from endorsing political candidates through sermons delivered from the pulpit. Such actions are what the IRS has monitored since the implementation of that law. But never has the federal government gone beyond that and attempted to police the content of sermons preached from the pulpit even where there is no specific candidate endorsement.

The lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained to the IRS about so-called electioneering violations by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association after it urged citizens in newspaper ads to vote along biblical principles. The atheists also complained about a letter an Illinois Roman Catholic Bishop sent to Catholics stating, “Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord.”

Those actions clearly are not candidate endorsements, but are examples of pastors and priests exhorting their flocks to abide by important lessons from the Scriptures. The law allows clergy to address important societal issues such as the sanctity of life or the sanctity of marriage. It would be troubling, to say the least, if the IRS has agreed to take punitive action against churches based on the content of sermons delivered from the pulpit. Yet, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is claiming victory because the group said the IRS has agreed to new protocols regarding enforcement of the federal tax code.

My office has asked both the IRS and Department of Justice for a copy of the settlement agreement and any new enforcement protocols agreed to as part of the settlement. Shockingly, the federal agencies have yet to respond to our request. We remain undeterred in our effort to obtain this information. I have also written to Oklahoma pastors and clergy to encourage them to contact my office if they encounter new IRS protocols.

The founders of our country clearly believed in the importance of protecting the ability of Americans to freely exercise their faith, enshrining that very right in the First Amendment of our constitution. The First Amendment also guarantees our right to free speech, which at its core protects our ability to engage in the political process. Where those two fundamental rights intersect hangs the right of religious organizations to encourage their members to engage in the political process in a manner consistent with the core tenets of their religions. The IRS shouldn’t punish pastors and priests for the content of their sermons and should they try the agency will be met swiftly and strongly by my office in the courtroom.

Murphey: The State Questions

The 2014 State Questions

Every two years, prior to the November elections, I write an article describing the state questions which will be on the upcoming general election ballot. As a legislator I have the benefit of having already considered these questions during the preceding two years because most state questions are approved by the Legislature prior to placement on the ballot.

I think this is the easiest year to write about these questions because there are only three on the ballot, and they are not controversial.

I supported each of these proposals.

State Question 769 won legislative approval in 2013 after an Oklahoma district attorney and member of the Oklahoma National Guard became involved in a legal question over whether or not the Oklahoma Constitution allowed him to serve as an active member of the military while holding office. SQ 769 seeks to remove any doubt as to the ability of office holders such as a district attorney to serve in the Guard.

Oklahoma’s Constitution currently allows disabled veterans to receive an exemption from most property taxes. State Question 770 allows disabled veterans to sell their home and transfer the exemption to their new home during the same calendar year with no drop off in the exemption.

State Question 771 provides this same exemption from property taxes to the surviving spouse of a military member who is killed in the line of duty. The exemption will no longer apply if the surviving spouse remarries.

You may be curious to know why there are so few questions on this year’s ballot.

This is actually a testament to the fact that the Legislature and Governor have worked out many of the issues of consequence.

For example, in 2010, the Legislature sought to bypass the previous Governor by sending questions directly to the voters. As a result, Oklahoma voters were challenged to choose between 11 questions covering several controversial issues. These issues included the proposal to place term limits on statewide elected officials; created Oklahoma’s voter ID law; declared English as Oklahoma’s official language; sought to prohibit Oklahoma’s participation in the national health care proposal (an initiative which has since been part of Oklahoma’s lawsuit against the federal government); and the attempt to prevent the use of Sharia law in Oklahoma.

Since that time, with the election of a new Governor, the tension between the Governor’s office and the Legislature has dropped considerably, and the Legislature is not bypassing the Governor’s office this year through the issuance of special questions.

However, there are still tense moments between the various branches of government. In the near future I plan to detail some of them.

Lankford Endorses Hofmeister

Hofmeister Campaign

Rep. James Lankford today endorsed fellow Republican Joy Hofmeister in her bid to become Oklahoma’s next State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“Joy Hofmeister is a mom, a strong conservative, and an experienced educator with a passion for students, teachers and families. I trust her to work collaboratively to promote higher standards, to increase graduation rates and have a positive impact on the schools in our state,” Lankford said.
“I am honored to endorse Joy for State Superintendent, and I look forward to working with her for the future of Oklahoma,” Lankford said.
Hofmeister said she was pleased to have Lankford’s support.
“It’s an honor to have the endorsement of a visionary leader like Congressman Lankford. Oklahoma is focused on education like no other time in our state’s history, and I am hopeful that together we can address our challenges and create a stronger public education system,” she said.
Hofmeister is a former classroom teacher, educator, and small business owner serving thousands of Oklahoma families for more than 15 years. She was also a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Education.
For nearly two decades, Hofmeister supported her local Parent Teacher Association and has been a member of the Jenks Public Schools Foundation.
The general election is Tuesday, November 4.

OPEA Cites Pay Raise ‘Inconsistency’

Oklahoma Public Employees Association

The recent disclosure of pay increases for some state agency directors shows another example of inconsistency in Oklahoma’s state employee compensation system. A recent compensation study showed that state employee compensation lags more than 20 percent behind private sector compensation and Oklahoma began to implement a five-year plan to bring pay closer to the private market.

The director salary list shows that some agencies took a different approach in raising directors’ salaries with some getting as much as a 58 percent increase.  If a five-year plan is appropriate to bring front-line workers closer to market, it seems reasonable to use the same approach to raise directors’ salaries.

OPEA believes that the state needs to continually review all state agency positions, including agency heads, to ensure that compensation is sufficient to recruit and keep talented employees.  Raising front-line and support staff compensation to be closer to market should be the top priority of all state agencies and director pay raises should be handled the same as their staff salaries.  If a five-year plan to improve compensation is used for front-line staff, a five-year plan should be used for directors.

Governor Fallin, House Speaker Hickman and  Senate President Pro Tem Bingman all questioned the way the agency directors’ salaries were carried out at a time state agencies were cutting some budgets. OPEA joins them in requesting that state agency boards and commissions look at all employees’ salaries and prioritize those positions with low compensation or high turnover before raising directors’ pay.

Oklahoma has begun a long-range plan to improve compensation by increasing compensation for targeted state employees who perform a wide array of services for Oklahoma citizens. We will continue to work with lawmakers to bring compensation closer to market. OPEA understands the need to make these changes over a period of time. What we don’t understand is why some agency boards and commissions believe the need to increase the bosses’ salaries should not follow the same plan.

Barresi Seeks Waiver Reinstatement

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi and senior staff from the State Department of Education (SDE) asked for immediate reinstatement of Oklahoma’s flexibility waiver from No Child Left Behind in a conference call late Monday with high-level officials from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE).

“With word from the state Regents for Higher Education last week that our current state standards in English and math are indeed considered college- and career-ready, we have asked USDE for an immediate decision to return flexibility to Oklahoma schools,” Barresi said. “Such flexibility would come in the expenditure of federal funds and the removal of the burdensome federal requirements that exist under No Child Left Behind.”

The SDE will now begin the process of resubmitting the waiver request.

USDE rejected Oklahoma’s waiver extension request in August, saying the state was unable to demonstrate state standards were college- and career-ready. The decision came after a repeal of Common Core State Standards in English and math with the passage of House Bill 3399. The legislation directed the state to revert to Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) standards in the two subject areas, which had been in place prior to Common Core’s adoption in 2010.

When HB 3399 was signed into law in June, the SDE immediately asked the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education to help determine if PASS standards could be considered college- and career-ready. One of the definitions of such status is based on state college remediation rates, which in Oklahoma have hovered at about the 40th percentile for years.

On Oct. 16, the Regents announced that a study of PASS standards revealed that if students achieve mastery of the standards they could be considered college and career-ready.

The State Board of Education, in the meantime, is overseeing the process of writing new state standards in English and math. The standards are to be in place by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.

Salary Increases Raise Eyebrows

A new report shows some state agency leaders have received huge pay increases and Governor Fallin, among others, voices concern that all of them may not have been warranted:

gopad2Paid for by the Oklahoma Republican Party. Not authorized​ by any candidate or candidate's committee.

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