Archive for the ‘Rep. Blackwell’ Category

House Leader Opposes Education Funding Cut

March 27, 2007

House Speaker Pro Tempore Gus Blackwell vowed today to oppose a plan that would slash the amount of lottery funds going to state schools.

“Whether you voted to create the lottery or opposed it, everyone should agree that lottery funds are earmarked for education,” said Blackwell, R-Goodwell. “Because a majority of people voted this into law, I am sworn to uphold that law and oppose any effort to divert that money. And Governor Henry, as the state’s biggest lottery booster, must ensure its operations start living up to the promises he made to children, families and teachers.”

Oklahoma law requires that education programs receive 35 percent of lottery proceeds beginning in the third year of operation. However, Oklahoma Lottery Commission Executive Director Jim Scroggins recently said lawmakers should divert a significant portion of that money and use it to increase the size of lottery prizes.

The law already requires that at least 45 percent of lottery revenue be used for prizes with another 20 percent designated for administrative costs. If Scroggins’ plan goes into effect, millions of dollars will becut from school budgets to prop up the floundering lottery.

Because state law requires lottery money to be divided among numerous education programs, Oklahoma’s K-12 schools get just under 16 percent of gross lottery revenues.

“Think about it: Our K-12 public schools get less than 16 cents out of every $1 spent on a lottery ticket, and Director Scroggins thinks that’s too much,” Blackwell said.

Most of the lottery states that border Oklahoma provide just 24 percent to 29 percent of gross revenue for state programs, including education. Scroggins has suggested those states should be a model for Oklahoma.

“Oklahoma is one of the only states in the region that has committed a serious share of lottery funds to education,” Blackwell said. “I don’t think we should abandon that commitment just to help bureaucrats mask their failures.”

Due to declining performance critics believe is caused by poor management, lottery officials recently announced that that this year’s sales will total just $244 million instead of $413 million as originally promised. That means the state’s share for education programs fell from $124 million to just $83 million. The lost revenue has created budget problems for schools across the state and threatened teacher pay increases.

“Lottery sales have plummeted, which is exactly what opponents of the lottery predicted. This loss now hurts our school budgets and Director Scroggins wants to further cut their share of that declining dollar,” Blackwell said. “Our schools deserve better treatment.”

Speaker Pro Tempore Issues Terse Statement Against Fellow Member

February 23, 2007

Oklahoma House Speaker Pro Tempore Gus Blackwell (R-Goodwell) issued the following statement Thursday regarding actions on the House floor by Rep. “Lucky” Lamons (D-Tulsa) during the debate on House Bill 2100. Lamons tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to merge the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics with the Department of Public Safety.

“Like any lawmaker from either party, Representative Lamons is required to follow the rules of floor debate. It’s against the rules to debate something that isn’t under consideration. Representative Lamons was warned three times that he was violating the rules, but he ignored the warnings every time.

“Representative Lamons has a history of flaunting the rules. He apparently thinks the rules don’t apply to him, unlike the other 100 members of the House. This is just another example of Representative Lamons disrupting regular order when he is unable to manipulate the process to his advantage.

“Representative Lamons tried to amend the bill twice. Both his amendments failed. In fact, for the last 20 years, this amendment has failed consistently, both under Democrat and Republican leadership. Instead of abiding by the wishes of the majority, he continued to try and promote his own amendment in debate. But the rules require he debate the bill before the members. It’s my job to uphold the rules of the House.”

HB 2100 would create a commission to “identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in state agencies.” The powerful ten member commission would consist of four members of the House; four members of the Senate; one person from the private sector appointed by the Governor; and one person from the private sector appointed by the Lieutenant Governor.

The members will be charged with reviewing the policies and procedures of all state agencies once every twelve years. They’ll seek public input through hearings and will make recommendations on each agency to the full Legislature. The commission will have the power to abolish agencies if the legislature doesn’t vote to continue them.