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The McCarville Report
Archive for: January 24th, 2013

Holt Seeks ‘Black Friday’ Legalization

Senator David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, has introduced legislation to make “Black Friday” sales and other low-price retail sales legal in Oklahoma.

Under current law, which was originally enacted in 1941, retailers must sell products for at least six percent more than they paid for it.

holt2A December 2011 opinion from the Attorney General confirmed that state law bars all “Black Friday” and other low-price sales, even if they are only temporary.  As a result, many retailers, including the largest retailer in the state, are shutting down their “Black Friday” and other low-price sales until Oklahoma’s laws are modernized.

Senate Bill 550 would change that for all products, except for fuel and prescription drugs.

“Oklahomans are well aware of the ‘Black Friday’ phenomenon that most Americans enjoy, and I think our consumers should be allowed to be a part of it,” Holt said.   “If a retailer wants to sell a 70-inch television for $50 on ‘Black Friday’, that’s good for consumers, it’s good for our economy, and it reflects a free market decision that retailers should be allowed to make.”

Holt said the outdated law puts Oklahomans at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states where retailers can legally offer significant bargains for “Back-to-School” and holiday sales, including “Black Friday”, the biggest shopping day of the year.   By forcing Oklahomans to leave the state to shop, retailers, consumers, and core government services are all negatively impacted.

The existing law impacts deals on everything from Thanksgiving turkeys to televisions to clothing, and all products in-between.  The existing law doesn’t just apply to low-cost prices that may occur during special sales, but all low prices that a retailer may charge any day of the year.   It is believed that only two states have a law that bars these low prices – Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

The current law also puts Oklahoma retailers who don’t comply at great risk.  Companies doing business in Oklahoma have been sued under the law for giving consumers a bargain on products.   Retailers are also subject to arrest for giving consumers a bargain.

“Why should Oklahomans have to drive to Texas to enjoy lower prices at stores that we have in Oklahoma?” said Holt.   “The profile of this existing law is rising just as ‘Black Friday’, ‘Back-to-School’, and other sales are taking on more prominence.   No retailer wants to get arrested or sued for charging a low price.   I have serious concerns that Oklahomans will never again enjoy any ‘Black Friday’ or other low-cost sales until this antiquated law is modernized.”

Holt said his bill protects the fuel industry and prescription drugs from changes to the existing law, and would continue to safeguard consumers from predatory pricing that can lead to unfair competition.  SB 550 will be considered in the 2013 legislative session that begins February 4th


Barresi Seeks Whopping $37.7 Million Supplemental

barresinewState Superintendent Janet Barresi will request $37.7 million in supplemental funding for this school year to the state Legislature next week to fund the flexible health benefits allowance for education employees, and reforms such as the Reading Sufficiency Act and Achieving Classroom Excellence remediation.

“This request comes on behalf of school superintendents,” State Superintendent Janet Barresi. “If approved, can be used by schools this year to help pay for programs that help children learn to read and be fully prepared for end-of-instruction tests.”

This will be made to a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee on January 29. Superintendent Barresi in December submitted a budget request that asked for an increase of $289 million for the FY 2014 school year.

Included in this supplemental appropriations request is:

  • $8.5 million to fully fund the flexible health benefits allowance for state educators for the remainder of this fiscal year.
  • $6.5 million for the Reading Sufficiency Act
  • $15 million to fully fund Achieving Classroom Excellence remediation
  • $5.9 million for school formula funding to bring student funding factor up to the level it was at the end of last school year to account for student growth.
  • $1.8 milliion additional funding for the state’s Student Longitudinal Data System and technology needs in the State Department of Education to help in fully implementing reforms.

Pruitt Says Judge Agrees To Deferred Prosecution

Attorney General Scott Pruitt

Attorney General Scott Pruitt

Former Pittsburg County Special  Judge William Layden Jr. Thursday agreed to a deferred prosecution to avoid a  trial for his part in a drug court embezzlement scheme, Attorney General Scott  Pruitt said.

Layden, 62, was  indicted in October 2011 by the Attorney General’s Multicounty Grand Jury on a  charge of conspiracy to defraud the state, after he interfered with a joint  investigation into the Pittsburg County Drug Court. The drug court coordinator,  Angela Marcum, was indicted in June 2011 on charges of embezzlement and  destroying records. She is awaiting trial.

As part of his agreement, Layden agreed to pay more than  $4,700 in restitution to the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office to cover  one-third of the cost of an audit by the agency. He also agreed not seek public  or judicial office and not violate any laws.


Jones: Audit Questions New Cordell Mayor’s Actions

auditorAuditor’s Office

An audit released today by State Auditor Gary Jones questions apparent sweetheart deals and possible fraud perpetrated on the residents of New Cordell by current and former city officials.

The audit questions the legality of the town’s mayor receiving additional salary while also serving in the positions of Acting City Administrator and General Manager of the New Cordell Utilities Authority. The action appears to be in direct conflict with state law, the Authority’s trust indenture, an Authority resolution, and an Attorney General’s Opinion.

The audit also cites the failure of the town to enforce utility billing and collection policies for some customers, including one current and four former town officials, other town personnel, and extended family members.

“Sometimes you look at a situation and it just doesn’t smell right,” said State Auditor Gary Jones. “Here is a town in which the Mayor is able to double the salary of his elected position by persuading the council to let him serve as Acting City Administrator. He then gets an additional $48,000 a year contract from the same board to serve as General Manager of the town’s utility authority. It looks like an effort to do an end run around the obvious conflict of interest that exists. The Mayor also continued to draw his salary after the board chose not to renew his contract with the Authority and that’s just part of what’s wrong in New Cordell.”

The audit is critical of the Mayor’s use of the town’s Fuelman card while ostensibly on official business and questions other payments that coincided with the Mayor’s band, the Damon Jackson Band, performing at various functions for which he was personally reimbursed for expenses and the band was compensated for its performance.

“Some of this appears to be little more than a blatant and deliberate attempt to legitimize feeding at the public trough at the expense of New Cordell residents,” Jones said. “It’s not okay for public officials, at any level, to skirt the law for personal gain by finding ways to do something they are otherwise prohibited from doing.”

 

The investigative audit report has been submitted to the District Attorney, District #2, for its review. Read the full Special Audit Report at the State Auditor’s website, www.sai.ok.gov.


Cole Named To Smithsonian Board Of Regents

cole4Congressman Tom Cole released the following statement after being appointed by Speaker John Boehner to the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents.

“The Smithsonian Institution is an invaluable national resource for education and historic preservation.  Millions of visitors to Washington, D.C., have enjoyed free access to Smithsonian museums and benefitted from the opportunity to learn more about our national and natural history by viewing the institution’s remarkable collection of artifacts.

“It’s an honor to serve this distinguished organization, and I look forward to working with the Board of Regents to continue the Smithsonian Institution’s prestigious legacy.”

Vested by Congress with the responsibility for administration of the Smithsonian Institution, the Board of Regents is made up of the chief justice of the United States, the vice president of the United States, three members of the United States Senate, three members of the United States House of Representatives, and nine private citizens.

A former college instructor in history and politics, Cole holds history degrees from Grinnell College (B.A.), Yale University (M.A.), and the University of Oklahoma (Ph.D.).


Too Many Meds?

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Three Congressmen Support ‘No Budget, No Pay Act’

uscapitolmoneyThree Oklahoma congressmen supoorted the “No Budget, No Pay Act” while the state’s two freshmen, Jim Bridenstine and Markwayne Mullin, voted against it.

Those voting in favor issued these statements:

Frank Lucas: “I am pleased the House passed H.R. 325, the No Budget, No Pay Act today,” said Lucas. “We have consistently worked in the House to come up with commonsense solutions to reduce government spending. In the past two years, we have passed two budgets in the House, and now it is time for leaders in the Senate to follow our lead and do the same. The Senate has failed to produce a budget in over 1,300 days, and I am proud this legislation forces them to pass a budget and set forth a plan to help tackle our nation’s debt disaster.”

James Lankford: “The No Budget, No Pay bill is a simple solution to a systemic problem in Washington: almost four years without a budget,” said Chairman Lankford. “If House or Senate Members fail to do their basic responsibility, their pay will be withheld until their work is done. We cannot continue to dig our nation further into debt without any federal budget planning, as mandated by law.  Our nation’s $16.4 trillion in debt is exacerbated by trillion-dollar deficits each year for the last five years. The House proposes a ten-year plan to solvency. The President’s budget proposes infinite debt limit increases, but the Senate has no budget plan at all. This time-limited, rather than dollar-limited suspension of the debt ceiling for 90 days is the result of an opaque Treasury whose fiscal outlook is difficult to assess in dollars. We must utilize this opportunity to encourage the Members of the Senate to finally pass a budget, so we can begin the bicameral work of passing a national budget.”

Tom Cole: “The Senate’s failure to pass a budget in nearly four years is disgraceful.  House Republicans have voted repeatedly to cut spending, but progress in reducing the debt is impossible without cooperation from Senate Democrats. The ‘No Budget, No Pay Act’ ensures that Senate Democrats will not be paid if they refuse to do their jobs.  The legislation sets a schedule for an orderly budgeting process and prevents a repeat of the last-minute fiscal negotiations that harm the economy and jeopardize our credit rating. The House has acted to prevent debt default and work toward balancing the budget in 10 years.  It is now the Senate’s responsibility to act by passing their first budget in four years.


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