Longtime state Senator Jerry L. Smith, who had been retired from the Oklahoma Legislature for a decade, died Friday. He was 71.
Smith was forced to give up his Senate District 39 seat in Tulsa County in 2004 because of term limits. The Republican lawmaker and attorney first served in the Legislature in 1972 as a House member representing District 76.
Smith was the husband of Sally Howe Smith, who is the Tulsa County Court Clerk.
Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) released the following statement today regarding House Bill 1597:
“After further consideration, I have decided to withdraw House Bill 1597, known as ‘The Business Protection Act.’ The bill as introduced did not accomplish my desired purpose.
“Across the country, business owners are being sued by individuals who are asking the owner to perform a service or provide a product that is contrary to their deeply held religious beliefs. When these business owners have refused because of conscience, they were then sued having to face legal battles that resulted in their losing their business and even facing jail. I wanted a tort bill that limited damages between the business owner and the customer ensuring that the business owner would not lose their livelihood.
“I will support the efforts of my colleagues who have introduced bills that do what I intended. I will work with the governor, the speaker of the House and Senate pro tempore to protect the business interests of our state so that all our citizens who take the risk of opening a business can prosper and thrive.”
Jonathan Small & Senator Ervin Yen
Many policy issues will be considered by the Legislature during the 2015 session. No doubt health care will be a topic of discussion. As health care costs continue to grow and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) changes how people get medical care, everyone’s looking for policy reforms and innovations that can make acquiring high-quality health care a reality for more people.
While opinions on health care and the ACA differ, common-sense solutions should be supported. Health care policy reforms must be pursued. Many patients, doctors, employers and providers feel overwhelmed by the current system. Doctors and patients often express that they feel as if they’re just a number and not a name. They feel that in the typical health care model, costs continue to rise with no end in sight. They often feel that the health care system inappropriately at times involves a bureaucracy or a middleman that makes getting services needlessly complex and expensive.
Oklahoma is getting national attention for the growth of direct care arrangements. Direct care arrangements between doctors, patients and employers work similarly to many services consumers buy. In a direct care arrangement, the doctor provides a prospective patient with a set fee for monthly services or a one-time fee for a specific procedure. Doctors across the nation now offer family and primary care services for less than the cost of a phone bill per month and provide excellent care.
For one-time surgical procedures, direct care arrangements make the experience for the patient, doctor (and often the paying employer) more efficient, at a lower cost with higher quality.
Direct care arrangements are resulting in patients being able to trust that they’ll be affordably cared for, not just “covered.” Direct care arrangements facilitate and expand something patients and doctors both long for — a direct relationship with a doctor. Direct care arrangements provide affordable options with predictable costs. These arrangements often make the process of acquiring health care a simple and manageable experience, even removing inappropriate bureaucracy and the middleman when a go-between isn’t necessary.
Direct care arrangements also are freeing patients and even employers to better allocate resources for health insurance, stabilizing costs and letting consumers use health insurance when more appropriate or needed.
Given these outcomes, direct care arrangements should be encouraged. But some are attacking the patient-doctor relationship, asserting that direct care arrangements should be regulated by state insurance departments. This is absurd. Citizens are free to buy multiple goods and services without such exchanges being deemed as “insurance.” The direct purchase of medical services and products should be no different.
To protect the rights of doctors, patients, employers and other providers, lawmakers should provide statutory protections against direct care arrangements being deemed insurance. Let’s make sure Oklahomans are affordably cared for, not just “covered.
Yen, a cardiac anesthesiologist, represents District 40 in the Oklahoma Senate. He is a Republican. Small is executive vice president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank (www.ocpathink.org).
Mike McCarville’s Opinion
Which is the more disappointing: Rep. Sally Kern’s outrageous bill, or Governor Fallin’s weak-kneed response to it?
Kern’s bill would allow restaurants to refuse to allow service to gays and lesbians just because they are…gay and lesbian.
House Bill 1597 would allow businesses to refuse service “to any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, group or association,” and be immune from civil liability. I guess it could be worse; it could say “to any black (or Jewish, or Catholic, or Gypsy) lesbian….”
Regular readers will know I am no advocate of the alternative life style.
They also know, I hope, that unfairness or the perception of it drives me nuts. As in unequal pay for women. As in stupid administrative rules in our schools. As in discrimination against those of color or ethnicity.
I have no doubt of Sally Kern’s devotion to the country, nor the depth of her beliefs.
This proposal, however, is one that stinks; it is something one might expect in Nazi Germany. Oh…it did happen there, didn’t it?
Enough of the hate, Rep. Kern.
Her proposal should be given the heave-ho, and by her. Now.
As to the governor’s refusal to give an opinion…not the stance of a strong leader. Disappointing, the act of a person without a strong backbone, or a sense of outrage.
Oklahoma has been blessed with resources that boost our economy. For most of modern history, the oil and gas industry has been one of the bedrock industries building our state and providing good jobs to thousands of Oklahomans. While it has been a blessing, the revenue generated has been a curse for the Oklahoma Legislature.
When the oil patch is booming, the Legislature can’t resist the temptation of gross production revenue as it makes state budget decisions.Spending grows with new programs created and old one expanded. More stable revenue streams are reduced and supplanted with the milk and honey from the oil patch. At the Capitol, legislators seem to believe that the revenue will continue to flow forever.
Unfortunately, we’ve been here before. In the 1980s, the Legislature cut revenue and increased spending with the oil boom. When the energy cycle went bust, Oklahoma was forced to raise taxes dramatically and reduced spending to core services which crippled our state. It was a crisis that Oklahoma managed to rebound from in the late 1990s only to see the same thing happen again in 2002-2003 when we faced a $427 million shortfall. Fast forward to present day, Oklahoma again faces such a fiscal crisis due to our state’s overreliance on gross production revenue in our state’s budget.
In 2007, I introduced a constitutional amendment that would stabilize the state budget by stopping lawmakers from continuing roller coaster budgeting with gross production revenue. Its provisions were simple. For yearly budgeting, it would have required the certification of a 10-year average of gross production tax revenue from oil and natural gas. It would also have limited Legislative appropriation of revenue above that average to one-time expenditures such as infrastructure needs or even a tax rebate to taxpayers. This common-sense approach to our budgeting died because of politicians’’ desire to approve unrealistic fiscal policies and increased spending that is now returning to haunt our state.
Oklahoma must learn from her past. We cannot keep repeating the same mistakes and expect a different result. It’s time for the Legislature to give the people of Oklahoma a chance to change our budgeting process through a constitutional amendment that will halt the see-saw spending and bring greater stability to our state.
Kenneth Corn is a former state senator who chaired a subcommittee on Appropriations and Budget
Some believe that momentum is building for action to be taken on the Native American Cultural Center, and Rep. Harold Wright is throwing his full support behind it.
The Weatherford lawmaker says that no action is the worst action.
Here is the lengthy argument he wrote on Facebook:
“It’s time to move on the Native American Center. The Oklahoma Native American Center, located at the crossroads of I-40 and I-35 in Oklahoma City, has become an albatross around the necks of Oklahoma Legislators. The concept of the Native American Center was established by Governor Henry Bellman…who believed that the Center would attract tourists world wide to Oklahoma.
“A State Native American Educational Authority was established, and the project was started in the 90′s on land donated by Oklahoma City.
“The legislature authorized bonds to build the facility, but the Authority ran out of funds and have been unable to finish the project. The Authority came back to the legislators in 2008, asking for additional money to finish the project. Because of term limits, none of the current legislators were in office when the project was started. Legislators have been hesitant to provide additional funds
to complete the Center. Over 90 Million dollars have already been spent, and its estimated to cost over 80 million to complete the project. Oklahoma City leadership and Oklahoma Nativ American Tribes have raised 40 Million and are asking the legislature to match the 40-Million.
“There are three solutions to the problem: 1. pay the bonds and give the facility back to Oklahoma City to complete, 2. match the raised funds and complete the facility, 3. demolish the facility and give the land back to Oklahoma City. It’s costing thousands of dollars a month to keep the Center moth-balled until funds can be raised to finish the project. That’s the dilemma, facing legislators, but the worst action is no action….it’s time for the legislature to get off dead center and get the job done.”
Rep. Will Fourkiller
Rep. Will Fourkiller, a Democrat from Adair County, is considering a race to challenge principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Bill John Baker, sources tell The McCarville Report.
The race now features a rematch between Baker and former Chief Chad Smith. Four years ago, the race between Smith and Baker was so close that a recount couldn’t determine a winner and a new election had to be held.
The race also featured a battle in federal court over whether the Cherokee Freedmen, the descendants of Cherokee slaves, would be allowed to vote.
Also in the race for chief is a member of the Cherokee Council, Cara Cowan Watts, from Claremore.
The election is in June and Fourkiller would not have to give up his House seat to run and perhaps not to serve. Another Democrat House member, Rep. Chuck Hoskins of Vinita, is Baker’s chief of staff at the Cherokee Nation.
In a Facebook post, State Auditor Gary Jones says a state legislator should earn
the same salary as a beginning teacher. “I have said Oklahoma lawmakers pay
should be the same as beginning pay of a teacher.”
Jones was responding to former State Rep. Corey Holland on Facebook who said
Oklahoma’s lawmakers were among the best paid while teachers are among the
worst. Holland is now a school principal in Cache, where Jones also lives. His
wife also is a teacher in Cache.
Holland’s post said this: “Fact 1: Only 13 states pay their state legislators more than Oklahoma pays. 47 states pay their teachers more than Oklahoma pays. When asked about bills filled to lower the pay of legislators, Speaker Jeff Hickman was quoted as saying, “The truth is you get what you pay for.” I agree completely. Fact 2: A new Oklahoma legislator makes $38,400. A new Oklahoma teacher makes $31,600. his isn’t about being divisive. We should pay our legislators well bccause they spend countless hours working that most folks never see. The same is true for
teachers. I fear if we don’t address teacher pay soon, the teacher shortage will reach critical status.”