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The McCarville Report
Category archives for: State Government

Mark Costello: School Choice Is Beneficial

Labor Commissioner Mark Costello says school choice is beneficial and he explains why that’s important to him, and to parents: http://www.ocpathink.org/articles/2813


Murphey: The Improved Pardon & Parole System

Rep. Jason Murphey

(Earlier) I wrote about the national recognition provided to one of Oklahoma’s successful information technology projects. It’s important to note that this is just one of numerous successful ongoing IT projects which are making Oklahoma government more open and accessible to the state’s taxpayers. These project have come about due to a strong ethic of modernization which has taken root throughout Oklahoma’s state governance structure.

Here is one more example.

In August, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers announced their list of finalists for the 2014 State IT Recognition Awards. That list included a key Oklahoma IT modernization which is already reportedly saving millions of taxpayer dollars every year.

For many years now, Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board has operated through an antiquated system which depended on multiple data re-entry processes into an underpowered database program from the mid-1990s. The program had been in use for so long that it had reached its capacity and state employees were forced to create multiple iterations of the database to house the information of the offenders they were charged with tracking. This inefficient process led to long delays in the pardon and parole process while the multiple data entries raised the prospect that human error could result in a dangerous mistake taking place within the corrections system.

The delay within the pardon and parole system became so pronounced that in an effort to deal with the delay an attempt was launched to remove the Governor from the important responsibility of approving paroles.

The Pardon and Parole Board asked the state’s web developers at OK.gov to create a new unified system for tracking their caseload. This new system replaced the multiple iterations of the old database and is set to provide several different forms of savings; for example, the time to prepare a docket for the review of the Pardon and Parole Board has dropped from four weeks to just three days; overall parole processing time has decreased from 30 to 90 days to just five to 10 days, which resulted in an approximate cost savings to Oklahoma taxpayers in fiscal year 2014 of 13.4 million dollars; and, the Board can now adjudicate cases on a weekly basis instead of monthly.

The reform has also provided transparency by allowing crime victims to view real-time results from the hearings. This has the double benefit of cutting cost to the Pardon and Parole Board as their incoming call volume has dropped simply because victims can now track parole hearings online.

The importance of this reform is reflected by its placement as a finalist for the State IT Recognition award. That award will be given later this year.

Oklahoma’s new IT successes are being made possible through the dedicated efforts of the state’s online web team, the Web Developers at OK.gov, the employees of our state Information Services Division, the members of the Government Technology Applications Review board who oversee various components of Oklahoma’s new information technology infrastructure and state agency officials such as those at Pardon and Parole which have seen the opportunity to modernize and have done so.

Next week, I will write about how one of the IT transparency reforms has had a very meaningful impact on a local House District 31 resident.


State PTA Calls For Barresi Resignation

The Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association is joining the chorus of calls for state Superintendent Janet Barresi to resign from office immediately.

Barresi has “continued to erode the relationship between the state Department of Education and the school boards, administrators, teachers and parents of Oklahoma public schools,” Oklahoma PTA President Jeffery Corbett said in a statement Friday.

The call comes a day after Lee Baxter, a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Education, demanded at the end of the board’s regular meeting that Barresi step down immediately rather than wait until her term is over in January.

Read the rest of this story at TulsaWorld.com.


Tulsa World Wants Barresi Resignation

Today’s Tulsa World calls for Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi’s resignation. A subscription is required to read the editorial online.


Barresi: ‘He’s a son of a bitch’

Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, offended by remarks made by a Board of Education member, called him a “son of a bitch” after the meeting. Here’s the Tulsa World’s report:

A State Board of Education member called for the immediate resignation of State Superintendent Janet Barresi at a Thursday morning meeting.

Lee Baxter, a Lawton resident who was appointed to the board by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2011, said he feels it is in the best interest of public education in Oklahoma that Barresi resign rather than wait to leave office when her term ends in January.

“I want the venom stopped. I’m sick of the lack of collaboration and blatant disrespect for our school administrators, and I think it needs to stop soon,” Baxter said. “The way I think that needs to happen is for the state superintendent to relinquish her role now. I don’t believe that will happen.”

Baxter’s comments came at the end of Thursday’s meeting in the State Capitol. Barresi sat lock-jawed during Baxter’s remarks, which went on for about five minutes.

She quickly adjourned the meeting and turned and watched as Oklahoma City board member Bill Shdeed shook Baxter’s hand and told him, “That took a lot of courage.”

Then Barresi turned to board member Bill Price of Oklahoma City and gestured animatedly with one hand and said, “He’s a son of a b—-!”

Baxter said he was responding to calls in a Wednesday afternoon press release and in public comments at Thursday morning’s Board of Education meeting by state Rep. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud. Smalley accused Barresi of cronyism for hiring the husband of a top state education executive in a new assistant state superintendent position.

A spokesman for Fallin said the governor had no comment on the calls for Barresi’s resignation.

Baxter acknowledged that Barresi has the authority to hire anyone she wanted, but he questioned why the hiring process wasn’t transparent enough for the state board members to be informed in advance. He also called it unethical, saying: “It’s cronyism. Anywhere it is cronyism.”

Smalley told the board earlier in the meeting, “Do not set the traps for the future for whoever sits in this position down the road. … Publicly call for these resignations and stand with me to do the right thing.”

After the meeting, Barresi told reporters she would not resign.

“I understand I have failed at politics, but I am not going to fail at my obligation to the children of Oklahoma,” she said.

She also pledged to provide her successor with “robust transition” assistance even though “that opportunity was not afforded to me by my predecessor.”

Barresi, who was defeated in June’s primary election, recently created a new position — assistant state superintendent of accreditation and compliance — and hired the husband of her general counsel Kim Richey to fill it.

Richey’s husband, Larry Birney, is a career law enforcement official who made headlines statewide when he resigned as executive director for the Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET, in Ada in 2011 after three years there. The resignation came after a formal panel was formed to investigate his conduct.

He worked previously as an officer with the San Antonio Police Department for 35 years.

Baxter, in his remarks, said the nature of Birney’s exit from CLEET was yet another one of his reasons for questioning the hire. But he made a point of saying how much he respected Richey as an attorney and appreciated her legal counsel to the board.

In a press release sent out Wednesday afternoon, Smalley said it was “a good ol’ boy hire” and called for the immediate resignations of Barresi, Richey and Birney.

That wasn’t the sole issue Baxter cited in calling for Barresi’s resignation. He said no real progress on the development of new English and math standards for Oklahoma public schools can occur as long as Barresi is associated with the process.

“What’s now been done is to create a system for Oklahoma that stands separate from the state superintendent and separate from the state Department of Education because, sadly, today anything with education associated with the state department has become toxic,” he said. “It can’t pass in the Legislature. It can’t be supported by teachers. It can’t be supported by administrators. It can’t be supported by parents. It’s simply toxic.”

New standards are going to be developed because the Oklahoma Legislature voted to remove the Common Core standards being used in most other states earlier this year.

Barresi had initially tapped Teri Brecheen, executive director of reading and literacy at the state Education Department, to oversee a multi-tiered standards-writing process that called for several rounds of public meetings. But this summer, the state board rejected that plan as too complicated.

Baxter said Barresi had “been quick to point the finger” at the state board for delaying the process, but he said Barresi herself made that delay necessary and it could drag on as long as she remains in office.

“That’s why the move to set standards has gone slowly — we want standards for our kids that Oklahoma accepts, not rejects. If that takes an extra couple of months so be it,” he said.

“I also reject the idea the only people who know or want reform are within the state (education) department and with the superintendent. I know I want it, I know the governor wants it, I know the Legislature wants it, most of the superintendents I know want it, and I know parents want it.”

He said he hopes Oklahoma elects a state superintendent “who favors reform and at the same time is willing to collaborate with others.”

Earlier in the meeting, Barresi challenged the board to accept her nomination of Brecheen to the steering committee that will oversee the writing of academic standards.

Board member Amy Ford, who is now heading up the process, recommended a list of steering committee members to the rest of the board at Thursday’s meeting. Barresi said she had submitted Brecheen’s name previously, but it had been “rejected.”

Her motion to add Brecheen to Ford’s list of steering committee failed because no other board member seconded the motion. The board then split with Barresi 6-1 to approve the membership of the committee.


Education Board Meeting Anything But Smooth

The Board of Education meeting was anything but smooth, as outgoing Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi continues to come under fire: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-board-of-education-delays-decision-to-rehire-testing-company/article/5345670


Ethics Commission Schedules Hearings

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission will hold a series of three informal hearings in early October to solicit input from citizens as the Commission considers possible amendments to its Ethics Rules, Director Lee Slater said today.

The Rules govern ethical conduct of campaigns for state office and state questions and ethical conduct of state officers and employees.

The hearings are scheduled as follows:

Friday, October 3, at 10 a.m.

                Rogers State University Centennial Center

Conference Rooms B and C

1701 W. Will Rogers Blvd.

Claremore, OK

Monday, October 6, at 2 p.m.

Meridian Career Tech

Rooms A102 and A103

1312 S. Sangre Rd.

Stillwater, OK

Thursday, October 9, at 2 p.m.  

Norman Public Schools Administrative Services Center

Conference Rooms A, B and C

131 S. Flood

Norman, OK

At least one member of the Ethics Commission will attend each of the hearings.

In 2013, the Commission conducted similar informal hearings as a prelude to formal hearings as the Commission completely revised its Rules for the first time in more than two decades.  The purpose of the informal hearings is to establish a dialogue between the Commissioners and the public, especially those who are directly affected by the Rules.

For more information, contact Lee Slater at (405) 521-3451 or lee.slater@ethics.ok.gov


Pruitt Announces Amicus Brief In Support Of Religious Freedom

Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced that Oklahoma joined nine other states in an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in the United States Supreme Court to support an Arizona church’s fight against a local sign ordinance that the church says stifles its freedoms under the First Amendment.

The brief asks the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a sign ordinance passed by the Town of Gilbert, Ariz., which places size limitations on signs put up by churches and non-profit entities, but does not impose similar restrictions on other signs, including political signs. A local church, Good News Community Church, and its pastor, Clyde Reed, filed the lawsuit against the ordinance.

“Religious liberty is not only a fundamental right, but it was also one of the founding principles of our country,” Attorney General Pruitt said. “This current ruling of the Ninth Circuit creates an avenue for government to systematically favor speech, and in this case, disadvantage religious speech. By joining in the amicus brief, we hope to ensure that religious liberty continues to be protected by the First Amendment.”

The Town of Gilbert’s ordinance restricts signs promoting the events, meetings, or activities of non-profit groups, including local churches, while it broadly permits any political or ideological signs.  For example, political signs can be up to 32 square feet, displayed for many months, and unlimited in number.  An ideological sign can likewise be up to 20 square feet, displayed indefinitely, and unlimited in number.  A church’s signs however can only be 6 square feet, may be displayed for no more than 14 hours, and are limited to four per property.

The brief was signed by attorneys general from nine other states, including West Virginia, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

To read a copy of the amicus brief, go to http://bit.ly/1poMAH0.


Small: Still Waiting For Transparency

Jonathan Small
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs

It was recently announced that the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Board of Investors certified $52.7 million in earnings for use in the coming year.

This news is yet another testament to the fact that state revenues and spending are at all-time highs.

The Board of Investors should be commended for their transparent process of informing the public about how much is generated by the endowment’s investments every year. The certification is an increase of $13.6 million over the prior year and due in part to the substantial size of the endowment of more than $975 million. Given the substantial amounts available from the endowment and payouts to Oklahoma, over $242 million in earnings to date and payouts totaling $1.17 billion, it’s an understatement that tobacco use, particularly traditional combustible tobacco use is big money for the state of Oklahoma.

On November 19, 2012, in an Oklahoma House of Representatives interim study, “State Agency Loss of Federal Funding Contingency Plans,” Mike Fogarty, then CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, testified to the heavy dependence of the state on revenue from taxes on traditional tobacco products. In response to a question from a participant in the study about whether or not a significant decline in tax revenue had transpired with the heavy push to reduce tobacco use, Mike Fogarty responded: No … We’d hope that fewer people would buy and smoke cigarettes, and we are actually often quoted as saying, we need people to go buy cigarettes, we just don’t want them to smoke, because we are dependent on the revenue [on tobacco products]. But the fact of the matter is that tax [taxes on tobacco products] has not gone down. We along with our partner agencies the Health Department and others would like to see cigarette purchasing go to zero, but if it did, we would be here talking about the loss of state revenue…[emphasis added].”

Understanding how much money the state makes off of traditional combustible tobacco use, whether through heavy excise taxes or settlement payouts, it’s discouraging that some state agencies still refuse to be transparent with Oklahomans about the varied risks between combustible tobacco use and non-combustible use of tobacco or alternative products.

OCPA has highlighted the problem of the lack of transparency related to the varied risks of the various uses of tobacco previously.

Sadly, in an age where information is more accessible than ever and the state of Oklahoma has more money than ever, websites and information from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services still portray all types of tobacco products are as equally dangerous.

Thankfully lawmakers stopped a power-grab attempt this legislative session by state bureaucrats with a religious dedication to non-transparent regulation of tobacco and alternative products.

These bureaucrats wanted to use the cover of prevention of youth access to alternative tobacco and non-tobacco products as a means to regulate all tobacco and alternative products the same which would lead to taxing them the same. We are still waiting for transparency from health related state agencies and hopefully these state agencies will follow the lead of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Board of Investors as it relates to transparency.

Oklahomans’ health depends upon it. – See more at: http://www.ocpathink.org/articles/2805#sthash.fNqyzsc1.dpuf


Execution By Nitrogen Gas?

Rep. Mike Christian says Oklahoma must find a new way to execute prisoners, and suggests it might be by the use of nitrogen gas: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-lawmaker-suggests-alternative-method-of-execution/article/5342300


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