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Jun 14, 2024
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Representatives Commend Governor's Line-Item Veto of Education Budget Limits Bill

A group of legislators on Friday praised the governor's line-item veto of Sections 15 and 16 of Senate Bill 1122, which would have placed spending limits on the State Department of Education (SDE) for its Fiscal Year 2025 budget, which goes into effect July 1. The statement is issued by Reps. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid; Chris Banning, R-Bixby; Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle; Rusty Cornwell, R-Vinita; Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont; David Hardin, R-Stilwell; JJ Humphrey, R-Lane; Tom Gann, R-Inola; Jim Grego, R-Wilburton; Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa; Mark Lepak, R-Claremore; Cody Maynard, R-Durant; Jim Olsen, R-Roland; Clay Staires, R-Skiatook; Kevin West, R-Moore; and Rick West, R-Heavener. "We'd like to thank Governor Stitt for his thoughtful line-item veto of Sections 15 and 16 of Senate Bill 1122," they said. "These portions of the bill would have done nothing to improve the education of Oklahoma students and instead would have significantly damaged the Department of Education's ability to carry out its mission." The lawmakers said Section 15 of SB1122 would have required SDE to apply for every federal grant, while Section 16 would have included provisions that forbid SDE from using any money to secure media interviews or public relations, or for other public promotional purposes. The group noted that no other agency is subject to these restrictions. State agencies are granted the autonomy to decide which grants to apply for and almost every state agency spends money to communicate to the public about particular programs or services offered. Section 16 would have singled out and severely limited SDE in this function. The lawmakers spoke about the Teacher of the Year program, teacher recruitment efforts, certain financial disclosures, and other public relations messages that would have been hampered should this measure have been signed into law. On Friday afternoon, the governor issued Executive Order 2024-12, which prohibits all state agencies, rather than inequitably highlighting a specific agency, from entering into sole source contracts with public relations, marketing, or communications firms and vendors, as well as requires all PR vendors be procured through a 30-day request for proposal.



Jun 14, 2024
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One-Time Appropriation Gives FFA Leadership Camp a New Lease

Legislation funding much-needed renovations of the Oklahoma FFA Alumni Leadership Camp, located near Wagoner, has been signed into law. House Bill 2927 grants a one-time $9.5 million appropriation to improve housing options at the camp and purchase maintenance equipment for the buildings and grounds. The alumni camp, which began 52 years ago, has been held at the Wagoner location for over four decades. Six other Oklahoma CareerTech student organizations utilize the property as well, but deteriorating conditions recently forced FFA to relocate its leadership event. House Speaker Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, is an FFA alum and former FFA camp student director who coauthored HB2927. He said the campground is synonymous with the alumni camp experience. "This camp has been a part of the FFA experience for decades, but previously the children and grandchildren of alumni who grew up hearing about this site had no choice but to relocate," Hilbert said. "These repairs couldn't have come at a better time. Protecting that history is important, and I'm thankful this one-time appropriation will help preserve that legacy for many more generations." Jacey Fye, executive director of the Oklahoma FFA Foundation, thanked legislators for their support. “This will make a positive impact on Oklahoma FFA members for generations to come,” Fye said. Oklahoma FFA Alumni Council Secretary Jarrod Johnson is a former camper who can attest to the value of the FFA leadership experience. “Without this appropriation,” Johnson said. “A permanent home for our camp and other events would only be a dream. Rep. Hilbert made it a reality.” Shawnee business owner Randy Gilbert serves on the board of directors and is past president of the Oklahoma FFA Foundation. He, too, is excited to see the camp renovated. “The opportunities that mold our Oklahoma FFA students will continue to make them the best leaders in our state,” said Gilbert, who is also an FFA alum. “We appreciate the long relationship we have with the Oklahoma FFA Association." Oklahoma FFA Alumni Advisor Kurt Murray, who has overseen the Alumni Camp for more than 20 years, said, “I’m excited about going back. The camp will be open to FFA members from all 366 chapters in all 77 Oklahoma counties.” Murray expects it will also be used by other agricultural youth organizations, other CTSOs, church camps, corporate retreats, family reunions, and hobby or special interest groups. The $9.5 million appropriation will be administered by the Oklahoma Department of Ag, Food and Forestry. After the renovation is complete, the campground will be owned and managed by Alumni Leadership Camp, LLC, a non-profit group wholly owned by Oklahoma FFA Alumni. The camp will operate from revenues generated through rentals and usage by public and private groups, including FFA.



Jun 12, 2024
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Newton, Garvin Comment on Prior Authorization Act Being Signed into Law

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Carl Newton, R-Cherokee, this week commented on the Ensuring Transparency in Prior Authorization Act being signed into law.    House Bill 3190 establishes timeframes and policies for prior authorizations by insurance companies when health care services and procedures are sought.   "I'm very pleased we were able to get this act passed and signed into law," Newton said. "This will be great for Oklahoman patients seeking care as it will allow their doctors more time to spend with them and less time on administrative functions. The act also ensures medical professionals are the ones determining what qualifies for prior authorization."   Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, is Senate author of the measure.   “I’m thrilled House Bill 3190 has been signed into law to simplify the prior authorization process and make it more transparent for physicians and patients alike,” Garvin said. “This measure will allow doctors to focus on treating patients instead of getting bogged down by tedious paperwork. Notably, this law also ensures medical professionals and their patients, not insurance bureaucrats, are determining the best course of treatment.”   The act requires health insurance companies to: Employ licensed medical professionals to make determinations that deny care; Modernize authorization systems; Publish prior authorization requirements online; and Honor prior authorizations for at least 45 days, or six months in the case of chronic conditions.   Newton said he worked with multiple health care providers, insurance groups and patient advocates to ensure the language is clear for everyone involved.    The bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2025. 



Jun 6, 2024
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Rep. Rick West Comments on Governor Signing Protection from WHO Mandates

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener, on Thursday commended the governor for approving legislation that protects Oklahomans from being compelled to follow vaccine, mask or other health mandates imposed by international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN) or the World Economic Forum (WEF). West is the House author of Senate Bill 426, which the governor signed into law Wednesday. "The Biden Administration has proven ready and willing to accept mandates proposed by these non-elected global organizations that would severely limit the personal liberties of all Oklahomans and Americans," West said. "I'm glad the majority of our legislative members stood together and said no to this intrusion." West said the act became necessary after Biden administration officials expressed support of the creation of a new pandemic treaty to reform International Health Regulations, overseen by the WHO, and potentially enforced by the UN, with sanctions possible by the WEF. He said he had overwhelming constituent support for the measure. Sen. George Burns is the principal author of the measure. “I am pleased to see Senate Bill 426 signed into law,” Burns said. “This legislation stands as a testament to our commitment to protecting the rights and liberties of Oklahomans. By prohibiting the enforcement of mandates and recommendations from the World Health Organization, the United Nations, or the World Economic Forum, we ensure that the decisions affecting our residents are made by their elected representatives and local authorities. I am grateful to Governor Stitt for his support and to my colleagues in the Legislature for their dedication to safeguarding our state's sovereignty.” SB 426 establishes that the WHO, the UN and the WEF have no jurisdiction in this state or its political subdivisions. Neither shall the state or its subdivisions be compelled to engage in the enforcement of, or any collaboration with the enforcement of, any requirements or mandates from these global entities. The legislation further states that any requirements or mandates issued by the WHO, the UN, or the WEF shall not be used to direct or otherwise impose any requirements, including those for masks, vaccines or medical testing. The measure also prohibits the gathering by these organizations of any public or private information about the state’s citizens or residents. The act is now effective. 



Jun 4, 2024
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OK Legislature Passes 'Alyssa’s Law' to Enhance School Security

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Legislature has taken a significant step toward ensuring the safety and security of students and staff in schools across the state with the passage of House Bill 4073, also known as “Alyssa’s Law.” This landmark legislation, authored by Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, and Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, implements a mobile panic alert system in all school districts starting with the 2024-25 school year. The act is named after Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. She was the victim of a school shooter who killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018. Key Features of Alyssa’s Law include: Real-time coordination: The mobile panic alert system will connect emergency service technologies to ensure real-time coordination among multiple first responder agencies. Enhanced 911 integration: The system will integrate with public safety answering point infrastructure to transmit 911 calls and mobile activations, providing immediate alerts to designated school personnel. Comprehensive emergency response: Emergency responders will receive vital information such as floor plans and caller location to assist during emergencies, ensuring a prompt and efficient response. “We’ve prioritized school safety over the past couple of years, and Alyssa’s law ties school security together by coordinating our schools and law enforcement," Rep. Wallace said. "The most secure buildings have vulnerabilities when communication isn’t clear.” By adopting HB 4073, the Oklahoma Legislature also has ensured local school choice and free market competition for school mobile panic button systems. The legislation tasks the State Board of Education with adopting a list of approved mobile panic alert systems that meet rigorous standards. These systems must: Automatically alert designated school personnel during an emergency initiated by smartphone application, phone call, text message, or other technology. Provide emergency responders with critical situational information during a 911 call. Integrate designated school personnel with emergency responders for real-time situational updates. Sen. Weaver added, “Allowing the best private vendors to show our schools their options was a priority for us while making sure any school security system adheres to common standards. In the end, we wanted to provide our local schools the ability to choose the school security system that best fits their needs.” HB 4073 also allows schools to tap into existing funding under the “School Security Revolving Fund.” The Legislature has made historic investments for Oklahoma student safety, totaling $50 million a year for the School Security Revolving Fund. This funding will support school mobile panic alert systems. “Passage of Alyssa’s Law is a monumental achievement for the safety of our students and school staff,” said State Superintendent Ryan Walters. “This legislation ensures that our schools are equipped with the necessary tools to respond swiftly and effectively to emergencies, providing peace of mind to parents, students and educators alike.” HB 4073 has been sent to the governor for his consideration of signing it into law. 



Jun 3, 2024
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Women's Bill of Rights Signed into Law

Legislation codifying the Women's Bill of Rights, which preserves biological sex as a distinct legal category, has been signed into law. Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, authored House Bill 1449, which defines "sex" as a person's biological sex at birth and clarifies how people of both biological sexes are treated under state law. "The persistent encroachment of men into women-only spaces, whether that's in locker rooms or entrepreneurship programs, threatens the health, careers and lives of women across the world," Hasenbeck said. "The signing of the Women's Bill of Rights makes permanent the responsibility we all have to ensure women and girls are safe in their protected spaces. I'm grateful to have worked on this meaningful legislation with Senator Garvin the last two years and glad the governor signed it quickly." The Women's Bill of Rights states that "equal" in reference to sex will not be construed to mean identical and that differentiating between the sexes will not necessarily be construed as unequal treatment. The measure also forbids unfair sex discrimination while allowing for recognition of the differences between sexes on issues related to biology, privacy, safety or fairness. HB1449 was authored in the Senate by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan.  "Women worked for years to achieve many of the same rights and protections afforded to men, and I am certain that those women who fought for equality never dreamed we would be back here, over one hundred years later, fighting for the rights of women all over again," Garvin said. "The Women’s Bill of Rights preserves that progress by prioritizing the safety and security of Oklahoma women. I am thankful that Governor Stitt has been a champion for women in his tenure and appreciate his commitment to preserve our rights." HB1449 takes effect Nov. 1.



May 31, 2024
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McBride Comments on Oklahoma-Israel Exchange Commission Legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, on Friday commented on legislation that would reestablish the Oklahoma-Israel Exchange Commission that has been sent to the governor. McBride is the House author of Senate Bill 729, which passed the Senate on Thursday with House amendments. "Israel is one of the United States' best allies, and Oklahoma has had a longstanding relationship with the Israeli people." McBride said. "This bill would help us better facilitate economic exchange with this important trade partner, including in the technology sector, which would greatly benefit our state." The purpose of the commission shall be to promote trade, joint action on policy issues, exchanges, economic support, and other opportunities of mutual benefit. SB729 establishes that the commission shall be located in Jerusalem and shall be comprised of nine members who would not all have to be in Israel. Members of the commission – appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate, speaker of the House of Representatives and the governor – must be a representative of either an Oklahoma public institution of higher learning, the Israeli-American community in the state, an Oklahoman industry engaged in or seeking to engage in trade with Israel, or a trade association engaged in or seeking to engage in trade with Israel. Legislative members shall serve a two-year term.  The commission shall report its findings, activities, results and recommendations to the president pro tempore of the Senate, the speaker of the House and the governor within one year of its initial meeting and by Feb. 1 of each succeeding year.



May 30, 2024
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Humphrey Asks DOC Director to Justify Pay Raise

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, on May 29, sent a letter to Oklahoma Department of Corrections Executive Director Steven Harpe asking him again to provide verification of how his $90,000 pay increase was authorized. Humphrey said in the letter that he's repeatedly asked Harpe for this information. He said he's even provided copies of the Oklahoma Titles and Statutes that outline procedures for increasing a director's pay. "According to Oklahoma law, such raises must be approved by the Department of Corrections Board and compensation shall be determined by the governor," Humphrey said. Humphrey said the director told legislators during a budget hearing that he had transferred his salary as director of the Office of Management and Enterprise services to his position as director of DOC. Humphrey said he asked House legal staff to examine the legality of such a move and was provided with statutes confirming the director's pay shall be approved and fixed by the DOC board after being determined by the governor. "I'm once again politely asking you to provide tangible evidence that you received authorization for this $90,000 pay increase," Humphrey wrote in his letter to Harpe. As chair of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee and as an elected official, Humphrey said he believes it is his duty to obtain straightforward and rational documentation on this matter. He said if he fails to receive a satisfactory response, he'll be compelled to prepare a probable cause affidavit and publicly request charges be filed for the crime of embezzlement. A full copy of the letter can be found here: Humphrey_Request_DOC_55cb0d7fa7.pdf (dgbf0g52sf9l0.cloudfront.net) .



May 30, 2024
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House Adjourns Sine Die After Historic Conservative Achievements

The Oklahoma House of Representatives adjourned sine die Thursday after supporting Oklahomans' priorities and passing numerous pieces of conservative legislation.   "I have always said that the House is the body closest to the people, and we showed that once again this session by passing multiple pieces of legislation that were priorities of our constituents," said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, who is term-limited after serving as the longest-tenured speaker in state history. "Throughout my time in the Legislature I have taken service to my district, and the citizens all across our state, very seriously, and it has been an honor to serve as Speaker of the House for the past eight years. President Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘Nothing worth having comes easy.’ I have seen that to be true through both highs and lows during my time in the House, but I am proud to say that without a doubt our state is in a better place now than it was when I was first elected. That is only possible through the effort of my Caucus, and I am thankful for their support over the last decade as we have made Oklahoma a better place to live, work and raise a family.” The Legislature sent over 430 bills to the governor this session, including bills to address illegal immigration, codify the Women's Bill of Rights and prohibit ranked-choice voting within the state. The House also launched an easily accessible online budget dashboard that details appropriations for the previous fiscal year, state agencies' budget requests, and each chamber's official negotiating position. "The House Budget Transparency Portal has given Oklahomans an unprecedented amount of access to the budget process,” McCall said. "Through the hard work of House staff, Oklahomans have been able to see every step of the budget process play out, and can see exactly where their hard earned tax dollars are being spent. Although the House would have preferred to see an income tax cut included, the budget passed by the Legislature is a good budget that funds core services and decreases government spending from last year. I’m proud of the House negotiating team for their hard work throughout the process, and confident that Oklahomans will be pleased with the result.” The House Republican Caucus' major accomplishments throughout the two-year 59th Legislature include:  Education: Invested a record $1.5B in new funding to public K-12 education between FY19-FY25, including $839.5M in FY24 and FY25 (HB1934, HB2901, HB2903, HB2904, SB1118, SB1119, SB1121, SB36X, SB1125, SB1122) Established a tiered system of refundable tax credits for parents who choose to send their children to private schools or homeschool them (HB1934) Invested $10M into a three-year program to employ a literacy instructional team in school districts (SB1118) Created a three-year school safety pilot program (HB2903, HB2904) Supported six weeks paid maternity leave for public school educators (SB1121) Updated graduation requirements to require four years of math and six credits in subjects aligning with their Individual Career and Academic Plan (HB3278) Required school personnel to include a student's parent or guardian in any electronic communications (HB3958) Allowed class credit for students completing a religious or morality course from an independent entity as approved by the school board (HB1425, sent to governor) Tax Relief: Eliminated the 4.5% state sales tax on groceries (HB1955), providing the largest single-year tax cut in state history House Republicans also passed a slate of income tax (HB1954, HB1953, HB2285, HB1040X, HB1002XXX, HB2949, HB2950) and corporate tax reductions (HB2948), but the Senate did not act on the measures. States' Rights: Protected religious organizations from discrimination due to their religion (SB404) Codified the Women's Bill of Rights (HB1449, sent to governor) Ensured children do not undergo irreversible gender reassignment surgeries (SB613) Extended the protest period in the initiative petition process to 90 business days (HB1105, sent to governor) Kept Oklahoma's elections free and fair by prohibiting ranked-choice voting (HB3156) Public Safety: Created the crime of impermissible occupation when someone willfully and without permission enters and remains in Oklahoma without having first obtained legal authorization to enter the U.S. (HB4156) Overhauled the state's outdated sentencing structure for felony offenses (HB1792, sent to governor) Provided $18M for sheriff and deputy pay raises in the FY2025 budget (HB2914, sent to governor) Increased the punishments for domestic abuse against a pregnant woman (SB1046) and for strangulation against an intimate partner (SB1211) Expanded workers' compensation claims for law enforcement to include post-traumatic stress disorder (SB1457) Created a task force to study the implementation of a business court system in Oklahoma (SB473, sent to governor) FY2025 Budget: $12.47B state budget for FY2025 (SB1125, sent to governor) $25M additional funding into the school funding formula $27.6M for CareerTech to address its waitlist $240M for new engineering and science facilities at OU and OSU $350M for the new Oklahoma Capital Assets Maintenance and Protection Fund to cover deferred maintenance at state properties, state parks and public colleges and universities $30M to increase reimbursement rates for developmental disability service providers $3M to provide 300 additional individuals with developmental disability services $15M increase to provide services to pregnant women $74M to complete the new DPS training facility in Lincoln County $2.5M for DPS academy to train more Highway Patrol troopers $27.5M for new OSBI headquarters building $1.5M to address the rape kits backlog $45M in disaster relief to help tornado-impacted counties $200M to Rural Economic Transportation Reliability & Optimization (RETRO) Fund  $50M to DEQ to upgrade levees along the Arkansas River $12.7M to Oklahoma Water Resources Board to leverage federal funding in community water supply $41M for airport economic development projects The 60th Legislature will be seated in November and convene for Organizational Day on Jan. 7, 2025. The next legislative session begins Feb. 3, 2025.