The McCarville Report
Archive for: August, 2017

Link: Lankford’s Town Hall Meeting

U.S. Senator James Lankford held a town hall “community conversation” Tuesday night at Oklahoma Christian University.

You can watch the meeting on Lankford’s Facebook page here.

AG Files Motion to Put Sierra Club Tax Challenge on Hold

The Sierra Club is one of several entities or individuals suing the state for revenue measures passed in the final week of this year’s session. OK Energy Today reports the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has filed a motion to delay the Sierra Club’s case while the merits of a similar lawsuit filed by gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Attorney Gary Richardson is decided.

Read the OK Energy Today story here.

Pruitt’s Travel Habits Come Under Scrutiny

The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general is taking a look at EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tax payer funded travel to Oklahoma and other destinations. The Oklahoman’s Justin Wingerter writes the investigation was started due to congressional requests and a hotline complaint concerning Pruitt’s travel habits.

Read The Oklahoman story here.

Letter Asks State Agencies for Budget Cutting Scenarios

As lawmakers gather information to fix a budget hole caused by an unconstitutional fee they passed during the regular legislative session, letters have been sent to state agencies asking them to outline new budget cutting scenarios. The Oklahoman‘s Dale Denwalt writes they are being asked to provide the impact of a 3.17 percent across-the-board cut, as well as, a scenario where education and corrections are saved from cuts, while other agencies shoulder a larger reduction.

Read The Oklahoman story here.

Lankford to Hold Community Conversation Tuesday Evening

Senator James Lankford will hold a “community conversation” Tuesday evening at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond. The town-hall like meeting is meant for Oklahomans to air their concerns and opinions about policy developments in Washington, D.C.

It takes place from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in Oklahoma Christian University’s Garvey Center.

Septemberfest Set for September 9

Gov. Fallin and First Gentleman Wade Christensen will host Septemberfest on Saturday, September 9, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.

“Welcoming Oklahoma families to the Governor’s Mansion and the Oklahoma History Center is one of our family’s favorite events every year,” Fallin said. “Celebrating our state’s history and culture is the perfect way to spend a fall day.”

Septemberfest celebrates what makes Oklahoma unique. The event was founded in 1997 by Friends of the Mansion, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to preserving and improving Oklahoma’s historic Governor’s Mansion as well as its grounds and furnishings. The Oklahoma History Center began co-hosting Septemberfest in 2004.

“Septemberfest is a gift passed from governor to governor for the people of Oklahoma, and it continues to grow each year,” said Studio Architecture President Jim Hasenbeck, who is in his 15th year as chairman of the event. “It’s exciting to welcome new generations to this fall tradition.”

The festival features more than 50 attractions for people of all ages. Activities include:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Bungee station
  • Clowns
  • Chuck wagon cooking
  • Face painting
  • Laser tag
  • Museum exhibits
  • Oklahoma musicians and performers
  • Pony rides
  • Square dancing
  • Storytime with Gov. Fallin

The Oklahoma History Center will be open and free to the public all day, while tours of the Governor’s Mansion will be available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Food vendors will be on site and families are encouraged to bring picnics to enjoy on the lawn.

Septemberfest is free and open to the public, with no registration or tickets required. For more information, visit www.okhistory.org/historycenter/septemberfest or call (405) 557-0198.


OCPA: Use TSET to Protect Vital Services

By OCPA President Jonathan Small

In the final hours of the 2017 Legislative session, lawmakers desperate to find revenue passed Senate Bill 845 to impose a $1.50 per pack tax on cigarettes. Except that, to get around constitutional limits on legislative power, they labeled the measure a “fee.”

The Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously struck down the revenue provisions of Senate Bill 845 earlier this month. This has left some elected officials claiming they must pass new and larger tax increases during a special legislative session. To strengthen their case, they have the same doom-and-gloom predictions they trot out for every tax debate: nursing homes will close, rural hospitals will fail, health and human services will be depleted. All this supposedly because lawmakers couldn’t constitutionally pass a tax on tobacco.

But if lawmakers want to use tobacco money to protect vital services, there’s a better place to look.

It’s called the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, or TSET. This is a public trust that manages money received by the state as a result of the tobacco lawsuit and settlement from years ago. This fund alone recently topped $1 billion, and it gets $50 million a year deposited to the endowment plus spends about $50 million in earnings every year.

TSET does a few important things, but it also has plenty of questionable spending. Right now, TSET is spending around $770,000 to lecture Oklahomans to drink more water. Last year, public outrage forced TSET to change course when it attempted to create a new administrative position with a salary of $250,000 a year.

So, when you take a billion dollar bank account, growing every year and generating annual earnings around $50 million, then factor in some questionable spending, it’s obvious TSET offers state leaders an alternative to increasing the tax burden on working Oklahoma families. The money is already there to prevent all of the doom-and-gloom scenarios.

This is why OCPA has called on lawmakers to allow Oklahomans to vote on reforming TSET and accessing those funds to stabilize reimbursement rates for nursing homes and rural hospitals. This could also fund the Physician Manpower Training Commission. It could all be done without taking away from TSET tobacco cessation programs or the current endowment.

Believe it or not, some have ridiculed this suggestion simply because it’s not a tax increase.

The state Constitution does say that reforming TSET requires a vote of the people. But so does passing any tax hike that has less than three-fourths support in both legislative chambers. Why not let Oklahomans vote to break down this funding silo, just a little, in order to shore up some basic services?

It’s time to use TSET funds to protect rural hospitals, nursing homes, and other vital services instead of increasing the tax burden on working Oklahoma families.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (www.ocpathink.org).

Cole: A Winning Strategy in Afghanistan

By Congressman Tom Cole

For sixteen years, the United States has been engaged in military conflict in Afghanistan and has maintained a presence there to prevent terrorists from taking over the country and recreating the conditions that led to 9/11. Throughout our time there, our men and women in uniform have diligently eliminated terrorist threats, protected local civilians and supported rebuilding the Afghan defense forces. But as terrorism across the globe changes and grows, we still are facing the challenges of preventing another attack from occurring on our soil. When President Trump announced the new US strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia, it was made clear that our mission to eradicate terrorism in Afghanistan will continue until the job is done.

Afghanistan and the surrounding areas have been known to be breeding grounds for terrorists groups. Under President Trump’s strategy, U.S. efforts will be implemented three-fold through diplomatic, economic and military actions. Through these means, the United States will be able to support the Afghan government and its defense forces to fight terrorists groups like the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS. Although the burden of the fight will be upon the Afghanistan forces, under this renewed strategy, the U.S. will be prepared to strike terrorists anywhere in Afghanistan.

The President’s call for support and action from Pakistan and India has been long overdue. The bordering nation of Pakistan has been critical to our fight against terrorism for years, but President Trump’s strategy asks for more action against terrorists groups that can and have grown roots there. Our goal to defeat the enemy in Afghanistan requires an understanding and recognition from Pakistan that they have a role in this fight to find and defeat terrorist groups in the area as well. The President also called on India, an important regional power, to play an even larger and more robust role in the fight against terrorism. This kind of pressure is needed to prove that these nations will be transparent and wholly supportive of our counterterrorism efforts.

While we await concrete numbers and analysis, I have full confidence in the President’s method and leadership in going forward with this plan. The President has surrounded himself with the best leaders in national security and defense. They assisted the President in conducting a thorough review of the costs and consequences of continuing our efforts in Afghanistan. Whatever the costs, troop numbers and projected timeline may be, it is my hope that Congress will set aside its partisan divisions and give its full support for this plan.

Our continued presence in Afghanistan will ensure that our goal of keeping American safe is always met. A solid strategy like this one is the next step to meeting the needs of a changing world. By promoting a democratic, safe approach, this plan will support stability and peace in the area. Most importantly, it keeps our nation safe. President Trump, our military leaders and especially our service members deserve the full support they need to succeed.

Murphey: Real World Vs. Legislative World

By Rep. Jason Murphey

Though far removed from reality, the legislative world does share some aspects with the real world.

Consider the case of the individual who has fallen into the habit of frequent cussing.

Upon encountering this individual at Walmart or on the street, the average good-hearted listener will likely excuse this individual’s tendency to use profanity as being “a little rough around the edges.”

It’s much harder to give this person the same consideration if he shows the bad judgment of cussing in front of children.

There are some things that a person with even a modicum of good judgement learns to avoid.

There are moments in the Legislature when legislators show a similar lack of judgement.

One of these moments occurred this year.

In recent weeks I have explained some of the strategies used throughout last session by a group of tax increase ideologues as they positioned legislators to support their plans for new taxation. They proposed new tax after new tax.

The general public wasn’t aware of all of these proposals; however, careful observers took note as increase after increase won the approval of the Appropriations Committee before losing momentum and being exposed as unrealistic.

The committee approved proposals ranging from the far reaching 36% increase in the state gas tax, applying a tax on rental vehicles, a new tax on Paypal transfers, and finally, a “widow’s” tax that levied a tax whenever a car was transferred from one family member to the other.

These new taxes were impossible to justify, especially given that overall state spending appeared to reach an all time high of almost 19 billion dollars last year. Considering that the Legislature had failed to establish even the most minimalistic of actual, meaningful oversight of that state spend; nonetheless, perhaps the especially kind-hearted observer could extend the benefit of the doubt and give legislative leadership the consideration of being “a little rough around the edges.”

That consideration clearly ended when the committee approved a $165M tax grab that would have capped your ability to claim charitable deductions on your state income tax.

The charitable tax deduction exemplifies an extremely important principle: individuals should be empowered to decide which entity most effectively adjudicates compassion — a private charity or the government.

When government takes money, it does so in a way that all too often isn’t efficient; however, a charity which ceases to function ethically and efficiently must face the consequences of the free market.

The deduction allows an individual to align his giving with his faith. A charity can provide actual solutions to societal ills — faith-based solutions — an ability not so readily available to government entities.

In explaining their position for the cap, a leading appropriations officials told the committee: “I hope we don’t think that Oklahomans will stop giving to charity just because they can’t deduct it from their taxes.”

This quote consummately embodies the mindset of those who advocate for more and bigger government. They seem to believe that Oklahomans have access to an unlimited supply of cash and they will continue to spend and donate, regardless of how high tax rates soar.

Of course, this mindset ignores a very basic law of reality: Oklahomans can’t give what they no longer have to give.

Had this plan gone forward, I believe there would have been a decline in charitable giving — an outcome that would have had a dramatic impact on Oklahoma charities.

Young: Five Pillars of Progress for Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus

By Rep. George Young

Let me begin by stating what a wonderful pleasure it is to have the opportunity to pledge my time and action; in positive efforts to move the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus further in its process of becoming more accessible in service to all Black Oklahomans. It is crucial that OLBC be viewed as an organization of resource and outcomes. This is a process that I am extremely happy to further push during my tenure. I have so much gratitude for those who have served in this capacity prior to my administration. I am still moved by the thoughtfulness of this body and Sen. Kevin Matthews in the recognition for my late wife the Rev. Dr. Thelma Chambers-Young. The recognition was a new implementation within this organization and that act of kindness increases my want to do the best job that I can for this body.

We are out of session, out in our respective districts, doing the work that affords our constituents an opportunity to meet us unobstructed without the time constraints of session. In addition, the travel schedule to legislative conferences and policy educational forums is in full force.

I will be presenting to the Caucus our Five Pillars of Progress or the areas of concerns that I feel are most important to our constituents and to our state.

  1. Education
  2. Criminal Justice Reform
  3. Health Care
  4. Economic Development
  5. Social Justice

Education is the foundation for me. I am blessed to have been selected to be an Early Childhood Education Fellow with the National Conference of State Legislators. We have had several events to date and my starting philosophical point has changed, or should I say been revised. I have been concern about our starting point in the educational process and I placed it at:  Head Start, Pre-K, Kindergarten, First through Sixth grade. Well, I now think the educational process emphasis needs to be: (What I call Negative 9 or pregnancy) Pre-Natal and birth to 3 years old. The brain science has shown that the work begins in the womb with the care of the mother and child and the concern of making sure that the pregnancy is as trauma free and healthy as possible.

Criminal Justice Reform is under attack. With the successful campaign to pass State Questions 780 and 781 we began the process of taking low level possession crimes and making them misdemeanors, not felonies.  780 would take a formula and quantify the savings from imprisoning people and send a portion of that back to the counties for substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Health Care is the issue that has been front and center on the national stage, but here in Oklahoma the health disparities that exist in our state is one of the reasons for our low national standing.  In addition the denial of our state’s executive officer to expand Medicaid is almost as criminal as the many attempts to take away health coverage by those in DC. Our uninsured rate is very high.

Economic Development is one of the major issues on our agenda. The Caucus has worked hard on getting state agencies to play by the written rules and to give contracts to entities of colors. We still push this item and we are making some in roads. In addition, the promise of the American Dream has lots to do with the ability of individuals to find decent jobs with decent salaries. A minimum wage increase is on the table again. A better description is a “living wage.”

Social Justice – (Children, Youth, & Families) Families are under attack and we need to be fully engaged in the work of helping our families to become strong, vibrant entities in our communities and to regain their place as the backbone of our very existence. I will be asking the Caucus to help me create a Children Caucus in the House.

I will be presenting these Pillars to our Caucus for discussion and hopefully they will dictate to me the necessary adjustments in order for us to have a more responsive act to the needs of our constituents and state.

We are planning a series of Town Hall meetings around the state. We had a very successful first time event of elected officials in Oklahoma County. I will be meeting with the elected officials, community leaders, faith leaders, and others across the state in their community to fine tune our Pillars of Progress. We are trying to if we can have an open public forum following these leadership meetings to hear from a broader group of citizens. Please look for dates in venues in your community.

As we broaden our scope, we pray we broaden the communication and participation of more concerned individuals.  Help us to by your Caucus and your connection to State level concerns.

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