Archive for February, 2008

Sen. Gumm: Parents Rally for "Nick’s Law"

February 29, 2008

From the OK Legislator’s Blog:

On Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008, Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, conducted a State Capitol news conference on “Nick’s Law.” The proposal would mandate that health insurance cover early diagnosis and treatment of autism. This package is coverage of the news conference aired that day on the Oklahoma News Report – the only statewide news broadcast.

New Pound Seizure Legislation Defeated

February 29, 2008

According to the Journal Record, OK HB 2550, which would have required animal shelters to donate euthenized animals to animal brokers, in addition to research institutions which they are already required to do, was defeated in committee this week.

Phil Richardson (R-Minco), who authored the legislation, said it was needed because,

Animal rights groups have been putting pressure on animal shelters not to release the bodies of euthanized animals. They have chosen to make a political issue of it, and caused animal shelters not to release these animals for educational uses. Richardson told members of the House Public Health Committee. I’ve been contacted by the president of the American Association of Veterinary Anatomists, from North Carolina, and this has become a real issue with obtaining animal specimens for veterinary colleges. I’ve spoken with the dean of the OSU veterinary school. This is a problem that we have, and it’s increasingly becoming more of a problem.

Animal rights groups are concerned that by creating more of a market for the dead animals, unscrupulous dealers might resort to having animals euthenized more quickly or stealing pets.

The Oklahoman quotes Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma state director for the Humane Society:

The public needs to trust that their animal shelter’s primary mission is the humane disposition of the animals in their care…The Humane Society has no objection to animal shelters voluntarily giving dead animals to a veterinary school, for example, “as long as no money changes hands.

The Oklahoma Insider reports others were concerned about Oklahoma’s reputation, and quotes veterinarian Brian Gordon:

I think it opens the door to Class B dealers…I’ve dealt with these dealers for 20 years. I’ve found that they are often liars and are disreputable individuals.

This bill will become national news. When this happens, the public trust…will be damaged, and the research effort in this state will be harmed. We will become known as the supplier of dead dogs throughout the United States.

Randy Terril, according to the Journal Record, pointed out the irony over this concern vs. the concern, or lack thereof for the same type of proctions for human beings:

State Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, remarked on the level of phone calls he has received in opposition to HB 2550, adding that no one has opposed the use of human cadavers in a display currently at Science Museum Oklahoma.

Coburn: U.S. Indian Healthcare Bill "Morally Bankrupt"

February 29, 2008

The Albuquerque Journal is reporting that a bill designed to “boost programs at the federally funded Indian Health Service, prompt new construction and modernization of health clinics on reservations, and attempt to recruit more Indians into health professions…increase tribal access to Medicare and Medicaid….[and] authorize spending about $35 billion for Indian health care programs over the next 10 years” passed the Senate Tuesday, 83-10.

PhotobucketIt also, according to the Journal, “Contains a resolution sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) that would formally apologize to American Indians for centuries of government mistreatment. The resolution acknowledges a long history of government misconduct against Indians, including forced relocation from tribal lands, theft of tribal assets and the breaking of treaties and covenants.”

Indian Country writes:

The bill, at least eight years in the making and often a subject of exceptional controversy over issues that ranged from the narrowly medical and technical field to broad constitutional questions, provides up to $16 billion for Indian health care through the next five fiscal years. Just as importantly to its backers among tribes, the bill updates the responsiveness of tribes and the IHS in numerous priority areas, including cancer screening, diabetes treatment, disease prevention, youth suicide and mental health intervention, traditional approaches to healing and in-home health care, recruitment to the health profession as practiced in Indian country, and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

Pro-Life Groups are celebrating the amendment to the bill which will prevent tribal women from receiving abortions at taxpayer expense. CitizenLink quotes Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council:

I applaud the Senate for voting to prevent Indian Health Service funds from being used to pay for abortions. The majority of the Senate has now shown they agree with most Americans that government funding of abortion is morally wrong.

Nonetheless, Tom Coburn (R-OK) argued that the legislation does not address any real issues, and that the money may not even be there to pay for benefits promised. He called the legislation “morally bankrupt” and added it was like:

…Taking out a new loan on a car when you can’t afford food for your family…Why are we putting off fixing the system? So we could tell everyone that we did something when in fact we did nothing.

To become law, Jerry Reynolds reports,

The bill, S. 1200 in the Senate, awaits action in the House of Representatives. An identical version of it has passed the House Resources Committee and is now before the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Oklahoma Poultry Litter Lawsuit Threatens National Manure Transfer Industry

February 29, 2008

We reported earlier this week that Rick Stubblefield, Adair County representative of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission (OSRC) wrote a letter to the Tahlequah Daily Press, in which he explains that existing manure transfer programs are actually creating a shortage of fertilizer in the Oklahoma watershed area, rather than too much.

The Muskogee Phoenix is reporting today that Stubblefield, along with Steven Randall, also of the OSRC, also filed that information in a brief in federal court in support of the poultry industry.

The OSRC is denouncing this action, according to the report:

Oklahoma Scenic Rivers commissioners Gerald Hilsher and Ed Brocksmith said the motion, brief and supporting documents filed by Stubblefield and Randall are not supported by the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission.

[…]

Brocksmith said there has been no vote by the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission nor any discussion that would lend any official support or credence to Stubblefield and Randall’s request or assertions.

This discussion about the potential effect on manure transfer programs, however is happening on a national level. Rod Smith of Feedstuffs reports that a number of amicus curiae reports are being filed, and that,

Even cattle producers are lining up to defend the chicken and turkey producers in the action…Sen. Mark Pryor (D., Ark.) said the case has implications well beyond the watershed, Arkansas and Oklahoma and the poultry industry. He explained that an outcome supporting Edmondson would set a precedent that would establish litter and manure from livestock and poultry as hazardous waste and would expose livestock and poultry producers to significant cleanup costs and other penalties.

V. Burns Hargis: "The purpose of the law is so that boards don’t hire themselves."

February 29, 2008

V. Burns Hargis and his supporters have been successful in changing Oklahoma law to facilitate expediency at Oklahoma State University. V. Burns Hargis was officially hired as the new president of OSU in December, but because he’d served as a regent at the school until he resigned to run for the office of president of the school, he had to wait a year from his board resignation date to begin serving as president.

New Oklahoma requirements, signed into law yesterday by Brad Henry shorten the wait time to six months, allowing Burns Hargis to start immediately, rather than waiting until July. Regarding the change in the law, Burns Hargis told the Oklahoman he thought the spirit of the law has been preserved:

…but I think it’s been made more practical. The purpose of the law is so that boards don’t hire themselves.

KTEN.com reports that one of Burns Hargis’ “first priorities will be increasing private investment in the school in Stillwater.”

The Oklahoman also reports that one of Hargis’ “first duties will be spending time at the state Capitol talking with legislators,

‘…Because the majority of the money that OSU has to operate on, as well as any other higher institution, is state money. Obviously what happens here at the Capitol the next three months or so is critical to next year’s budget.’

“He also wants to beef up private donations, he said, as the state’s share of the university’s budget has decreased in recent years.”

Parents Rally for "Nick’s Law"

February 29, 2008

On Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008, Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, conducted a State Capitol news conference on “Nick’s Law.” The proposal would mandate that health insurance cover early diagnosis and treatment of autism. This package is coverage of the news conference aired that day on the Oklahoma News Report – the only statewide news broadcast.

HB 1804 – Where’s the "Shock and Awe?"

February 28, 2008

Laws in Arizona and Oklahoma cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants are getting mixed reviews regarding their effectiveness. Since illegal immigrants are not registered anywhere as such, it is impossible to get accurate numbers, so estimates are done largely based on opinion.

Earlier this year, Sonora, Mexico and the Houston, TX area began appealing for relief, claiming that the influx of those fleeing legislation in both states was creating hardships for their welfare systems. The complaints from Mexico came only about two weeks after the Arizona legislation became effective, and Houston was complaining within less than three months.

The question here, is whether the hardships endured by the welfare agencies were reactive or proactive – were they an actual result of sudden mass migration out of Arizona and Mexico? Or were they simply anticipating what New Jersey Rev. Miguel Rivera, a latino-rights activists refers to as “ethnic cleansing“?

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat and Gazette interviewed folks on both sides of the Oklahoma-Arkansas border, and reports that there may not quite be the “shock and awe” anticipated with OK HB 1804’s immigration reform becoming effective:

Along Arkansas’ western border, school districts report no influx of Hispanic students. In eastern Oklahoma, landlords, school administrators and builders said they see few, if any, signs of a large-scale migration.

“I was expecting a doomsday scenario,” said Paul Kane, chief executive of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa. But the Nov. 1 effective date came and went with no contractors calling in to report a shortage of framers or roofers, he said.

“A lot of the hysteria was just that,” Kane concluded. “It was hysteria.” Rivaled only by Arizona for putting up a hard front against illegal immigration, Oklahoma has made it a felony to drive an illegal alien to work or to rent an apartment to an illegal alien….(more)

So, why hasn’t there been the anticipated change? What about the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants that were predicted to flee to surrounding states and Mexico in search of jobs and government aid?

Part of the problem may be that Oklahoma business owners have been intimidated by the threat of being sued at the Federal level for discrimination if they try to obey the law at the local level.

The Tulsa World reported on Monday:

Oklahoma’s immigration law was one of the first passed by a state and is viewed by some as the most stringent.

It already has drawn a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and local chambers in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, which are asking the court to bar the state from implementing provisions on verifying eligibility for workers and authorization status of independent contractors.

Those provisions, the lawsuit claims, place an unreasonable and unfair burden on Oklahoma businesses.

As the Democrat and Gazette concluded:

Observers say immigrants are staying because they realize that the get-tough law is only as tough as its enforcement…Police statewide have not adopted a proactive enforcement posture that includes making workplace raids. “Once they realized Oklahoma had not turned into a Gestapo state, they thought they would come on home,” [Paul Kane] said.

For his part, [Lonnie Vaughan of the anti-1804 group United Front Task Force] still is shuttling immigrants without driver’s licenses to the church where he is associate pastor. “Every time I get in the van, I’m committing a felony,” he said, convinced that some of the flock are in the country illegally. But he said he doesn’t believe, even in the state with America’s toughest immigration law, Oklahoma would bring a felony charge against a citizen for driving someone to church.

Merit Pay Bill for Teachers Advances

February 28, 2008

OK HB 3390 moves to the full house after being approved by the Education Committe yesterday. This bill, authorized by former Speaker Cargill, who is critized the current pay-scale, which is based on years of service:

That’s a 19th-century industrial model of compensation. Pay raises should be targeted to teachers who go the extra mile, work hard.

Thad Jones, co-author of the bill and chair of the Education committe explained,

There are no mandates in this legislation – school districts can decide if they want to participate and if they do, they are able to craft a plan around their local needs.

Each plan must include the following components:

  • Growth in student achievement based on a nationally recognized test, student attendance goals and improvement or gains in graduation rates (this component will make up a majority of the basis for the award/bonus)
  • Professional development
  • Collaboration and/or mentoring
  • Principal and peer review by trained evaluation teams

Democrats and the Oklahoma Education association are critical of the bill, which they say does not adequately address the fact that Oklahoma teacher salaries are currently below the regional average.

Political Group Takes Aim at Term Limits

February 28, 2008

An organization formed in 2006 to oppose the so called “Taxpayers Bill of Rights” (Tabor) will focus this election cycle on a slate of issues dealing with fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency in state government. Oklahomans for Responsible Government (OFRG) is setting its sights this election cycle on term limits for statewide office holders. The group is working to seek passage of measures allowing Oklahomans to vote on the issue.

Sources tell the Oklahoma Political News Service that OFRG has significant resources to mount a strong campaign for its legislative agenda. The group says it will “be active at the Capitol and the grassroots level” across the state as it works to develop support for its agenda.

OKPNS will continue to investigate.

Seattle Times: "Carpet Bagger Mick Cornett"

February 28, 2008

From the Seattle Times “Talk About It” Blog:

“This guy’s a gem. This seems to be a commercial with OKC Mayor Mick Cornett stating why and how OKC will become a “Big League City”. Must be nice being able to introduce a bill that will pay for $100 million in Ford Center upgrades without raising taxes. Wait, isn’t that why they are even voting in the first place, lol.”

Related:

Letter to the NBA board of Governors from Save our Sonics…