Archive for January, 2007

Speaker Cargill & House GOP Announce Safe Families Platform

January 31, 2007

Rep. Rex Duncan (at podium) and House Republican leaders announce details of their “Safe Families” agenda for the 2007 Legislative session at the Oklahoma City Police Department’s Bricktown substation today. Behind Duncan, L-R: Rep. Steve Martin, Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. Randy Terrill, and Rep. Sue Tibbs.

Speaker Lance Cargill and House Republican leaders unveiled the “Safe Families” platform in their 2007 “Year of Ideas Agenda” in advance of the upcoming legislative session. The final portion of the “Ideas Agenda” focuses on public safety, immigration reform, faith-based solutions, investments in infrastructure.

The Safe Families platform is the final portion of the 2007 House GOP Year of Ideas Agenda. House leaders unveiled the first two platforms last week and earlier this week.

Speaking at the Oklahoma City police department’s new Bricktown substation today, Cargill said the “Safe Families” platform of the agenda aimed to boost public safety, protect children, offer immigration reforms and increase investments in the state’s transportation infrastructure.

“Oklahomans deserve to live in a safe state, free from violent criminals and dangerous predators, said Cargill (R-Harrah). We must be tough on crime, but also on the causes of crime, by fostering partnerships with faith-based and volunteer community organizations to help reduce repeat offenders. Our neediest citizens should be protected by a social safety net that has not been frayed by the strain of illegal immigration. And a safe Oklahoma must include a quality transportation infrastructure not only to support economic growth and to boost opportunity, but to protect lives.”

Highlights of the four-plank Safe Families platform includes this legislation:

Law and Order

House Bill 1051, a measure authored by Speaker Cargill to prevent student-aged sex offenders from attending the same school as their victims, something state law currently does not allow school districts to do. Cargill introduced a similar measure last year. However, it died in the Senate.

House Bill 1927, authored by Rep. Kris Steele (R-Shawnee) would require local court-appointed special advocates to undergo a background check conducted by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

House Bill 1816, authored by Rep. David Dank (R-Oklahoma City) would increase the penalty for sex offenses against children under 12 to a minimum sentence of 25 years and not more than life imprisonment. No minimum sentence currently exists for such offenses.

House Bill 1649, by Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa), implements a State Plan for Coordination of Efforts for Prevention of Sexual Violence through a public awareness campaign, establishment of a coordinator within the health department, development of sexual assault resource teams, and more.

House Bill 1742, authored by Rep. Rex Duncan (R-Sand Springs), will offer a 10-year concealed carry license as an option for gun owners. Currently, concealed handgun licenses are valid for 5 years.

Pointing to Oklahoma’s prisons, Rep. Gus Blackwell said that House GOP leadership remains committed to investments in public safety coupled with reform.

“We will continue to invest in public safety this year, and make sure the Department of Corrections is adequately funded”, said Blackwell (R-Goodwell). “At the same time, government accountability is a top priority for the House Republicans, so we will keep a close watch over taxpayer dollars.”

Immigration Reform

“Our immigration reforms are about upholding Oklahoma’s laws, and respecting immigrants who come to our country legally,” said Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore), who will carry the House GOP’s immigration reform legislation in House Bill 1804. “Our reforms are also focused on making sure Oklahoma’s neediest citizens have access to a social safety net that has not been strained by illegal immigration. Illegal immigration has serious financial consequences for Oklahoma, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Terrill said House Bill 1804 would include five major components:

  • Ending identity theft by restricting access to government identification and
    information.

  • Stopping voter fraud by requiring proof of citizenship.
  • Ending taxpayer subsidies for illegal aliens.
  • Enhancing law enforcement so that state and local law enforcement will be able to detain and hold illegal aliens.
  • Penalties for employers who knowingly employ illegal aliens.

    Faith-based Solutions

    Speaker Cargill has authored House Bill 2101, the Transformational Justice Act, similar to legislation that passed the House last year. The legislation died in the state Senate last year.

    The measure would encourage state prisons to partner with faith-based, community
    and voluntary organizations to help inmates rejoin society and reduce the rate of repeat offenders.

    “Oklahoma’s prisons should be preparing inmates to function in society when they get out, not simply warehousing them so that they commit more crimes once released,” said Cargill. “Faith-based and volunteer organizations can play a vital role in reducing prisoner recidivism, and I think it’s just common sense to take advantage of programs that are already working.”

    Protecting Investments in Roads and Bridges

    “Oklahoma’s transportation infrastructure was neglected for years before Republicans pushed through the past two years’ worth of reforms,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (R-Oklahoma City) chairman of the House Transportation Subcommittee. “We will make it a priority to follow through on funding commitments, so that we can continue to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.”

  • Related:

    Gov. Henry proposes “Smart on Crime” Plan

    Cargill Team Off To A Good Start

    January 31, 2007


    Short Landings

    By Dick Hefton, founder
    The Sun

    Our astute new State House Speaker Lance Cargill we predict will make his hometown of Harrah proud of his leadership capabilities as he engineers reform in the legislature.

    This week he announced a move to abolish some 18 obsolete, unnecessary and redundant boards and committees in a move to streamline the legislative process. We think the idea is great. On the list for abolition is a committee to study Alzheimer’s.

    I forget what the other 17 were.

    Kingfisher County Prosecutor Takes on ‘Video Vigilante’ Case

    January 31, 2007


    Staff and wire reports

    A Kingfisher County prosecutor has been appointed to handle the pandering case against self-proclaimed “video vigilante” Brian Bates and his wife.

    Bates and his wife, Vickie, are accused of paying prostitutes to lure clients into areas where he could film them.

    Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater disqualified himself to avoid any appearance of impropriety in the case against Bates, who openly endorsed Prater in last November’s election and was a vocal critic of Prater’s predecessor, Wes Lane.

    Attorney General Drew Edmondson appointed District Attorney Cathy Stocker, of Enid, as Prater’s replacement. Stocker then assigned the case to Bryan Slabotsky, who runs her office in Kingfisher County.

    This is the second time Stocker’s office has been asked to review a case involving the “video vigilante.”

    Stocker’s office also was assigned to investigate whether Bates broke any laws in September when he allegedly handed out fliers critical of Lane to prospective jurors at Oklahoma County District Court. Read more…

    Related:

    “Washington Times: Tables Turn On Vigilante”

    “Video Vigilante, Wife Arraigned On Pandering Charges”

    Democratic House Members Announce Initiatives to Lower the Cost of Healthcare

    January 30, 2007

    Democratic Members of the State House announced today the first part of their “Vision for Oklahoma’s Second Century”- a legislative package that ensures “all Oklahomans receive access to affordable healthcare and prescription drugs.”

    “Access to affordable healthcare should not just be a privilege for the wealthiest Oklahomans,” said Democratic Leader Danny Morgan, D- Prague. “As Democrats, we will make sure that every Oklahoman has the right to affordable healthcare, while also maintaining a fiscally responsible system.”

    The Democratic vision for healthcare contains fourteen pieces of legislation. Highlights of the platform include:

    Oklahoma Hospital Quality and Access Act (House Bills 1435 and 1354)

    Representative Lucky Lamons, D- Tulsa, and Representative John Auffet, D- Stilwell legislation are measures that would allow the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to assess a Hospital Quality and Access Fee from hospitals in Oklahoma. The fee would be 0.875% of gross hospital patient revenues. Funds generated by the fee will be used to increase the level of Medicaid reimbursement for inpatient and outpatient hospital services, emergency room care and physicians.

    Allow Patients to Choose Their Doctor (House Bills 1904 and 2131)

    House Bill 1904 by Representative Rebecca Hamilton, D- Oklahoma City and House Bill 2131 by Representative Richard Morrissette, D- Oklahoma City, would give the patient the right to choose the doctor who treats them when injured on the job.

    Put Same Restrictions on Pharmaceutical Drug Sales Representatives as Lobbyists (House Bill 1938)

    House Bill 1938 by Representative Ryan McMullen, D- Burns Flat, would put the same restrictions on pharmaceutical drug sales representatives as lobbyists. Under the provisions of the bill, drug sales representatives would have to register with the Oklahoma State Ethics Commission and follow their guidelines.

    Increase Medicaid Coverage for Children (House Bill 1746)

    House Bill 1747, by Representative Chuck Hoskin, D- Vinita, would increase the income eligibility guidelines for Medicaid program for children to 200% of the federal poverty level. The current level is set at 185%.

    Healthplex Specialty Care Access Act (House Bill 1583)

    This bill by Representative Lucky Lamons would direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to implement provisions of the Act to assist indigent individuals gain access to specialty medical care by establishing sites for delivery of specialty care and to assist in the training if residents and medical students.

    Raise the O-EPIC Federal Poverty Level to 200% (House Bill 1747)

    Increases the income eligilibility guidelines for participation in the O-EPIC Premium Assistance Program. He wants to increase it from 185% to 200%.

    Geriatric Medical Loan Program (House Bill 1830)

    This bill by Representative Ryan Kiesel, D- Seminole, creates the Oklahoma Geriatric Medical Loan Repayment program within the State Department of Health. The program will, upon available funding, provide educational loan repayment assistance for up to five Oklahoma licensed physicians who have completed a fellowship training program in geriatrics, including geropsychiatry, per year. The geriatric specialists who enter the program agree to provide medical care in a designated Geriatric Specialist Shortage Area of the state for five consecutive years and agree that 30% of the patients they treat will be Medicaid recipients.

    Require Private Prisons to Treat Mental Health Patients (House Bill 1844)

    This bill by Representative Wallace Collins, D- Norman, would require private prisons that contract with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to provide mental health treatment.

    Provide a tax deduction equal to health care expenses that are not reimbursed (House Bill 1888)

    This bill by Representative Richard Morrissette adds amendatory language which provides a tax deduction equal to the following health care expenses that are not reimbursed:

    · Inpatient hospital care up to $50,000
    · Doctor visits
    · Prescriptions up to $2000
    · Rehabilitative care up to $20,000
    · Nursing home care up to $20,000
    · Home health care up to $20,000

    It also adds language stating that resident or part-time individuals with income less than $35,000 are allowed a credit against the tax imposed by Section 2355 of this title fifteen (15%) of the earned income tax credit allowed under IRS rules.

    Allow Pharmacies to Sell Discounted Prescription Drugs to Elderly and Uninsured (House Bill 1899)

    Representative Hamilton authors this bill that directs the Board of Pharmacy to adopt rules that would allow pharmacies to sell discounted or low cost pharmaceuticals to elderly and uninsured persons. The bill would also require the Board to list all legitimate Canadian web-based and mail order pharmacies on its website.

    Assistance for Medicaid Part-D beneficiaries (House Bill 2037)

    House Bill 2037 by Representative Jerry McPeak, D- Warner, directs the Department of Human Services to establish a program to assist Medicare Part D beneficiaries by paying the amount between $2,000 and $5,000 (commonly referred to as the “donut hole”) that is not covered by the program for prescription medications.

    Oklahoma Drug Price Disclosure Act – House Bill 2137

    House Bill 2137 by Richard Morrissette establishes the Oklahoma Drug Price Disclosure Act. The measure requires manufacturers of prescription drugs dispensed under federal or state program in Oklahoma to submit a report to the Chief Executive Officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority regarding certain pharmaceutical pricing criteria for each drug.

    The bill also provides that a violation of the Drug Price Disclosure Act is a violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act if the manufacturer sells or offers to sell a prescription drug at price that is in excess of the best price for that drug that has been reported by OHCA.

    Open Door Policy

    January 30, 2007

    This is my first attempt at a blog, so forgive me if I mess this up somehow. I hope this column and future press releases will keep you educated about the happenings at the State Capitol.

    I want to start out this week by congratulating our newest Miss America, Lauren Nelson. Lauren is from Lawton and did a fantastic job of representing our state, not only at the pageant, but as Miss Oklahoma leading up to her victory. Lauren is a great example of young people working towards their dreams and achieving them. What is even better for Oklahoma is that Lauren is following Jennifer Berry of as Miss America, which means Oklahoma has back-to-back Miss America’s in our Centennial year.

    Committee meetings are currently being held at the Capitol. The purpose of these committees is to review ideas that were filed as bills to see how much merit they present. Many of these bills will be brought back before the committees once session starts next Monday should they prove the idea has potential.

    One idea that I’m working on this year is remodeling the states Incident Management system for fire departments that respond when it is a group situation. I’ve been working with various groups involving fire protection and this bill will be a team effort from all areas to reach some type of solution.

    We will also look at reducing the cost of training to the volunteer firefighters and hopefully restructuring the trainings where they will occur at local career techs, rather than mainly in Stillwater.

    A final portion of this bill will create an award to recognize the “Firefighter of the Year” and this will be presented by the Governor on the first day of the legislative session each year.

    Another idea that I have been asked to work on with Senator Kathleen Wilcoxson, a Republican from Oklahoma City, is to find some type of solution to reduce the number of uninsured motorists here in our state. We are looking at requirements that could possibly show the transfer of a title from one individual to another, then recording this transfer with the Department of Public Safety and the State Insurance Department for verification of insurance.

    This issue is a very complex one and many have tried to find a realistic solution. While people pay month-to-month payments on their insurance, individuals can cancel their policy anytime after the first month and this prevents issuance of any type of sticker over a period of time.

    If anyone has any suggestions on this bill or others, please feel free to mail them to me and I will go over them. I’m smart enough to know that I don’t have all the answers on these questions and that’s where we need each of you helping with ideas for better solutions. I hope I will be able to take your ideas and craft policy that will best represent our state.

    It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me and discuss one of these or another issue, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502, or directly at 1-405-557-7305. I can be reached locally at (580) 476-2626, my e-mail address is joedorman@okhouse.gov at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    House Speaker Lance Cargill Announces "Open House" Policy for Presidential Candidates

    January 30, 2007

    Speaker Lance Cargill announced today that the Oklahoma House will have an “open house” policy during the upcoming legislative session to hear from presidential candidates.

    Cargill said that he is asking House Minority Leader Danny Morgan to help contact and schedule Democratic presidential candidates. And Cargill said that two Republican presidential candidates have already sought out opportunities to speak to House lawmakers.

    “We’re approaching a historic presidential election in two years. Neither party will have an incumbent running for the highest office in the land,” said Cargill (R-Harrah). “With such an open field for candidates, I think it’s important that we do everything we can to maximize Oklahoma’s visibility and impact in the presidential primary selection process. I hope all of the major presidential candidates take advantage of this opportunity.”

    Oklahoma’s presidential primary is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2008 – one of the earliest in the nation. Cargill said the Oklahoma House chamber would be open to announced candidates from any major party to speak to lawmakers during the regular session. Those accepting the invitation will be provided a 15-20 minute opportunity to address the entire House.

    “This is good for Oklahoma, and good for democracy,” said Cargill, who said the House has already been contacted by U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, for upcoming speaking appearances.

    Cargill said the House will also provide full gallery access to the general public, as well as access to the House lounge to either party for post-speech receptions and media availabilities.

    Public Cord Blood Bank Can Save Lives

    January 30, 2007

    We’ve all heard about the potential of stem cells to cure a wide range of life threatening illnesses. We also know the controversy surrounding this research and the moral questions it raises.

    There is a means to collect stem cells that is free from controversy: the collection of stem cells from umbilical cords of newborn babies. Cord blood donated following the birth of a healthy baby is rich in blood-making cells. These cells can be used to treat children and adults with certain cancers and otherwise fatal blood disorders.

    Sadly, this potentially life-saving option is not available to most of us due to the high cost of testing, processing and storing cord blood cells. We’ve all seen commercials for private cord blood banks that never mention the cost. It’s almost like the old saying, “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.”

    Also, private cord blood banks cater to family members genetically related to the infant whose cord blood is collected. The benefit is narrowly directed, and private banks never tell you there are a few public cord blood banks across the nation.

    Senate Bill 139 would create the first publicly funded cord blood bank here in Oklahoma, allowing every family to donate their infant’s cord blood without regard to their personal wealth. A family’s socioeconomic status should never stand between life and death.

    By making this service available to more people, chances are increased that more Oklahomans could benefit from cord blood cells. Immune types are specific to ethnic groups. Because of that, cord blood from a diverse array of individuals increases the chances to save lives.

    How important is this? Almost three-quarters of children and adults requiring a bone marrow transplant do not have an immune matched sibling who could be a donor.

    In those desperate cases, the only option is to find an unrelated donor through the national bone marrow and cord blood registries. The more people who donate cord blood, the better chance there is to save a life.

    Texas is ahead of us in this effort. The Texas Legislature approved between $2-$3 million in grants that began their cord blood bank in 2005. That state money is being combined with private donations, a model that could serve as a good template here in Oklahoma.

    We owe it to ourselves to catch up. There are cases of children whose lives flickered before transplants of stem cells made possible by cord blood donations. Many of those once-flickering souls now shine brightly in the form of healthy children.

    Think of it: $3.5 million – about one dollar for every man, woman and child in our state – could save countless lives today and those yet unborn. It is a small price to pay, and we dare not let this chance to save and improve lives pass us by.

    We Must Win In Iraq

    January 30, 2007

    By Sen. Jim Inhofe

    The Daily Oklahoman

    The conflict in Iraq has cost our nation far more in lives and resources than we imagined at its onset, yet this is no reason to retreat — we cannot afford to lose. We must maintain a determined, yet flexible strategy, one that allows us to take the fight to the enemy while enabling us to react to the fluid circumstances of war.

    I have had several opportunities to observe firsthand the situation on the ground in Iraq and I have generally been encouraged by what I have witnessed. Last January, I traveled to Iraq after the first permanent free elections. The pride and excitement was palpable as I spoke with Iraqis who for the first time exercised their new freedom in shaping their families’ futures. I believed that the country was on a positive course and progressing towards a functioning democratic society.

    I returned to Iraq in June last year. At that time, we had just killed the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the final Iraqi cabinet positions had been appointed. I was optimistic as a result of these accomplishments, but the implications from the bombing of the Golden Mosque had not yet been felt. I was told by Iraqi leadership that there were sufficient numbers of American troops to provide security for the country. Several U.S. generals agreed with the Iraqis’ assessment and said that our current strategic focus was to emphasize a significant increase in the number of combat ready Iraqi troops.

    Since that time, the trajectory of Iraq has changed. While I do not join those who would throw up their arms and claim defeat in the face of setbacks, I will say that we have made some errors. The president was right to take responsibility for decisions that have turned out for the worse. Despite the missteps, I share the president’s outlook that losing is not an option and that with the proper sustained strategy we can win in Iraq. To those who want to leave Iraq without winning, I contend that fighting terrorists in Iraq is better than fighting them in America. Read more…

    Wilson Research Strategies: Great 2006 Election Cycle Recap

    January 30, 2007

    From Modern Patriot Chronicles:

    Selling Republicans to the American electorate in 2006 was akin to booking Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown for the New York Philharmonic. Let’s just be gratuitous and say it didn’t go so well.

    Before Election Day in 2006, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. After the election,Republicans lost both the House and the Senate to Democratic Party control.

    For Wilson Research Strategies (WRS), while Oklahoma wasn’t as fruitful in 2006, 54 of the 72 WRS clients were successful in the 2006 election cycle. That’s 75% for those who are counting. I’m not all that surprised. This last election cycle, I spent a little time with WRS Founder-CEO Chris Wilson and had the opportunity to meet some of the amazing people on his staff. Wilson, who is very talented, has also surrounded himself with some very talented individuals.

    However, and let me be very clear. While I admire the organization that Wilson has put together, I don’t always admire WRS clients. While I supported WRS client Mick Cornett for the U.S. House 5th District seat, I could not bring myself to support Oklahoma County DA Wes Lane who was also a WRS client. I’m not suggesting that WRS clients be blindly supported. I’m just making the observation that WRS is really topnotch firm with topnotch people. Now back to the WRS 2006 election recap. Read more…

    Sen. Inhofe Praises Fish & Wildlife Service for American Burying Beetle Status Review

    January 30, 2007

    Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, praised yesterday’s decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to conduct a status review of the American Burying Beetle.

    “Today’s announcement is long, long overdue but clearly the correct decision. Thanks to the considerable conservation efforts of Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry and development community, as well as Oklahoma farmers and ranchers, the Midwest populations of the beetle are flourishing to the point where I believe they no longer need the protection of the ESA,” Senator Inhofe said.

    The Endangered Species Act requires that the FWS conduct a status review at least once every 5 years to ensure listed species have the appropriate level of protection under the Act. The review will assess the American Burying Beetle to determine whether its status has changed since the time of its listing and whether it should be delisted or classified differently. The American Burying Beetle (ABB) was listed as an Endangered Species in 1989 based on museum and collector’s data (not actual scientific study data). Since its listing, the ABB has been found in many areas and is much more widespread than originally thought. (See FWS web link on ABB here).

    “Throughout my tenure as a Senator and during my Chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I have urged FWS to take a good look at the American Burying Beetle and consider a change in its protected status under the ESA. I look forward to working with the affected communities in Oklahoma and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that a complete, thorough and scientific evaluation of the beetle is done,” Senator Inhofe added.

    As the Chairman of EPW, Senator Inhofe has held several hearings that have dealt with the ABB issue, including one in 2003 and 2004. Additionally, the ABB was a featured topic of Senator Inhofe in all of the hearings on the Endangered Species Act held in the 108th and 109th Congresses.

    Related:

    Video of Senator Inofe’s Floor Speech on “The Polarizing Politics of the Polar Bear”