Thursday, May 7, 2009
Oklahomans gather together on April 15, or tax day, to protest what they called the high taxes and excessive spending in Washington. This has led many lawmakers to pay attention to what most people consider to be the #1 issue: The Economy.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Voter ID Has New Life
A bill that would mandate all Oklahomans to show indentification in order to vote has new life after the governor vetoed a similiar measure today (04/08).
Senate Bill 4 was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry because he said the bill would try to disenfranchise those who have a hard time receiving an ID, such as the elderly or minorities.
But that did not stop Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, from getting a similiar bill past the House. Tibbs said this issue is important because it makes sure the voting process is fair.
"We addressed several Democratic concerns by allowing the free voter ID card as an eligible form of identification, but obviously Gov. Henry is more interested in political posturing than protecting our voting process," said Tibbs. "The House and Senate have spoken, now the governor has spoken. We believe it is time to allow the people of Oklahoma to have their say."
The new bill that past the House would bypass the governor and let the people of Oklahoma vote on the measure. Oklahomans will be able to decide if they agree with the governor or Tibbs in 2010.
Sen. Debbe Leftwich talks about the new child pornography bill that she co-authored in the Senate. She hopes the new bill will make child predators think twice before downloading child pornography.
Oklahoma Cracking Down on Child Predators
Several Oklahoma lawmakers are trying to strengthen the penalty for those who transmit child pornography via any electronic device.
Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, is the House author of Senate Bill 1020, which would give those who transmit child pornography a sentence of five years to life in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
The current law states that an individual would receive a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if he or she sends any child pornography. Unlike the old law, the bill would include some new technologies including sending child pornography via the internet and cell phones.
“I’ve carried almost all of those statutes clamping down on sex offenders and tightening up on the child pornography offenses,” Terrill said. “It’s an area that’s pretty important to public safety and it’s an area that I care a lot about for obvious reasons.”
The bill passed the Senate unamimously on March 9 with a 44-o vote, and then it passed the House on April 7 unanimously with a 95-0 vote. The bill now heads to the governor where he is expected to sign it into law.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
A bill that would allow women to defend themselves if they feel the life of their unborn child is threatened passed the House Monday (03/30).
Senate Bill 1103, authored by Sen. Glenn Coffee (R-OKC) and Rep. Mike Thompson (R-OKC), states that a "a pregnant woman is justified in using force or deadly force against another to protect her unborn child."
Rep. Mike Thompson said the bill was a request by the group Americans United for Life. He said there was a case when a Michigan woman was protecting her unborn child from her boyfriend; the woman stabbed a knife in the boyfriend. He said Oklahoma will not replicate what has happened in Michigan.
"I wanted to do it to protect mothers and unborn children," Thompson said.
The bill passed the Senate early this year with a 44-0 vote. The House passed the bill in another unanimous vote of 95-0. The bill now goes to the Senate where lawmakers will look at the House amendments to the bill, then it will go to the governor where he is expected to sign it into law.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
With over 5,000 students dropping out of high school every year in Oklahoma, the governor finds it necessary to implement a 'graduation coaches' program designed to prevent more students from dropping out in the future.
Democratic Gov. Brad Henry said his new program, which is embodied in House Bill 1050, would allow schools to recruit mentors to help students combat obstacles that may prevent them from graduating which includes mentoring both academically as well as helping students cope with emotional issues.
“Within every community in Oklahoma are caring, talented and intelligent people who can make a real difference in the lives of our students,”Henry said. “The graduation coaches will give them that opportunity.”
Georgia implemented a similiar plan in 2006, and has seen results with a 3.1 percent increase in high school graduates from 2006 to 2008. This may lead to not just more students graduating high school, but more students attending higher educational institutions such as OU.
The plan passed the House with a 94-1 vote. The bill is now in the Senate where it is expected to pass before the legislative session ends in May.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Patricia Fennell was outraged as she read Senate Bill 1156, a piece of legislation that may soon become Oklahoma law.
“This bill would say Oklahoma is unfriendly toward immigrants,” said Fennell, executive director of the Latino Community Development Agency.
Fennell, like representatives of other ethnic minorities in Oklahoma, are concerned about the implications of enacting what some people have characterized as “English-only” legislation.
One version of the legislation, which has already received the Senate’s unanimous approval and will be taken up soon in the House, would make English the “official common language” of Oklahoma.
SB 1156, authored by Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, states that no state agency would be required to "provide any documents, information, literature or other written materials in any language other than English."
Anderson said his two-sentence bill would not require state agencies to produce anything in any language unless they are required to do so by federal law, but neither would it prohibit them from doing so if they so chose.
Anderson said he is confident his bill would work because other states have enacted similar legislation.
"This is the same language they've used in Missouri, and it seems to have worked," Anderson said.
Missouri’s new law, which mandates that "English shall be the language at all governmental meetings" in that state, won the approval of more than 80 percent of Missouri residents when it appeared on the ballot there last year.
The main difference between Anderson's bill and Missouri's law is that Anderson's bill does not require state agencies to produce written materials only in English, making the bill optional. Missouri requires the use of English only in any document produced by the state.
Anderson acknowledges that his bill was not meant to penalize those who disobey his legislation, but rather to set a precedent and get the issue "off the radar screen."
"It's been a divisive issue for a couple of years," Anderson said. "It doesn't create jobs or help the budget crisis in Oklahoma."
While Fennell said she disagrees with Anderson’s bill, she feels even more passionate about another bill because of her past opposition to its sponsor, who led a legislative campaign to crack down on illegal immigrants two years ago.
Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, has authored legislation this year that he said, unlike Anderson’s bill, would enact policies that give the state “real, official English.”
Terrill called Anderson’s bill a "meaningless, symbolic gesture." He said because Anderson wants to just get the controversial issue off the legislative agenda, he does not really believe in enacting official English in Oklahoma.
"My proposal is a real, meaningful, enforceable, official-English bill," Terrill said. "Anderson's bill is a worthless, unenforceable, sham piece of legislation that he is trying to pass off as official language."
Terrill's House Joint Resolution 1042 would declare English the "official language of the state of Oklahoma." It would direct government agencies not to "permit the use of any language other than English for any governmental documents."
Terrill said the resolution would even block some federal mandates from taking effect in Oklahoma. They include Executive Order 13166, issued by President Clinton in 2000, which states that a state agency must provide taxpayer-funded services in languages other than English when requested to do so.
Terrill said this would get rid of all services aimed at different languages, allowing the state to keep more resources.
"By not being under Executive Order 13166, my proposal would actually save money," Terrill said.
Terrill also cited Missouri's state question last year as a model for his resolution. But Missouri's proposal did not include a way to enforce its provisions.
Terrill's resolution would give Oklahoma citizens the right to sue the state if they see a violation in his legislation.
Anderson said this would open up the state to frivolous lawsuits, costing the state both money and time. He said the state cannot afford this risk during the current budget crunch.
But Terrill said frivolous lawsuits would not occur if his measure passed, and insisted the provision would be necessary for enforcement of the measure.
"The reason we authorize private causes of action is that that is the enforcement provision," Terrill said. "The reason we do that is a mechanism for holding government accountable."
Terrill said there would be some exceptions to the law, including the languages used by Native Americans.
“Tribes are not racial or ethnic entities,” Terrill said. “They are political classifications, so it is perfectly appropriate as well as legal and constitutional to exclude them from the scope of this bill.”
Despite this exception, some Native Americans such as Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby said they do not support the bill.
“The English-only resolution ignores the very fabric that makes up the framework of what is Oklahoma,” Anoatubby said. “The resolution is unnecessary and divisive.”
Anderson and Terrill are not the only individuals fueling the debate over official English in the Legislature. Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, co-sponsored Terrill's legislation. Even though Sykes voted in favor of Anderson’s bill, he insists Terrill's legislation is the best official-English proposal.
"I like the version I've introduced better, and that language is now in Terrill's resolution," Sykes said. "I support the concept of English as our official language. I just think our version is better and really gets to the intent of what most of the people of Oklahoma want in a better way."
HJR 1042 has won approval by the House last week. Oklahoma citizens may be one step closer to deciding if Terrill’s bill is the better version when they go to the polls in 2010 if HJR 1042 wins the approval of the Senate in the coming weeks. Anderson’s SB 1156, which cleared the Senate 46-0, would not require a vote of the people but must be signed by the governor to take effect.
Voter ID Fraud Addressed
A bill dealing with voter fraud passed the House floor Wednesday (3/11).
House Bill 1037, authored by Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, states that voters must provide a photo identification in order to cast their ballots, aiming at preventing voter fraud.
Critics said the bill would disinfrancise the elderly and minorities because those are the individuals that have a hard time buying a photo identification. This has led the critics to declare the bill as enacting a poll tax on those individuals.
"We're not trying to take anyone's right away from them," Tibbs said. "We are trying to protect this right that many American citizens have."
The bill passed the House by a vote of 59-39, splitting largely between party lines. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Richard Dawkins, an atheist, criticizes Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, for showing disapproval of his visit to OU.
Alum Blasts OU for Dawkins Appearance
A lawmaker, who was also a former OU football player, authored a resolution criticizing an OU department for indoctrinating students in "one-sided study and thinking."
In House Resolution 1014, Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, said because OU is a publicly funded institution, the Department of Zoology needs to stop excepting the Darwinian theory of evolution as "doctrinal dogmatism," and think of it as a "hypothetical construction within the disciplines of the sciences."
Thomsen also authored HR 1015, furthering his criticism of OU by addressing Oxford professor and atheist Richard Dawkins' appearance at the university Friday (3/6), saying Dawkins' statements "demonstrate an intolerance for cultural diversity and diversity of thinking and are views that are not shared and are not representative of the thinking of a majority of the citizens of Oklahoma."
"We need to send a message that both sides of the issue need to be addressed," Thomsen said.
Both resolutions will be introduced on the House floor later this week (3/9-3/13).
Friday, March 6, 2009
A popular energy drink will not be banned in Oklahoma thanks to a failed amendment by an Oklahoma lawmaker.
Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, wanted to "ban any food or beverage with the name of a controlled or dangerous substance," which would have included the popular energy drink 'cocaine'.
He was criticized on the House floor for trying to attach this amendment to Rep. Randy Terrill's (R-Moore) bill.
"I don't know why he would want to bring this to the attention of a bunch of 13-year-old goofballs," Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, said on the floor.
After criticism, the amendment was then scratched from the bill.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
A bill in the Oklahoma Legislature aims at addressing students' religious rights while in the classroom.
Reps. Mike Reynolds and Sally Kern, both R-OKC, said House Bill 1001 would help to save school districts money by addressing all religious freedoms students have while in the classroom in a single statute. By having everything in one bill, it would save school district attorneys time by not having to research every Supreme Court decision dealing with the issue.
Democratic Gov. Brad Henry vetoed a similiar bill last year, saying the bill would allow groups who consider themselves "religious" to come to the classroom that may not be religious at all, such as Satanists, which may be offensive to students. Kern said this assumption is entirely wrong.
"This doesn't apply to groups," Kern said. "This applies to students. This bill makes sure when they walk over the school threshold they do not lose their 1st amendment rights."
The bill passed through committee in late February, but Kern said it is unknown when the bill will be heard by the full House for debate.
A bill declaring English the "official common language" of Oklahoma passed the Senate Tuesday (3/3), making it one step closer to becoming law.
The bill would not require state agencies to produce any documents in English, neither would it prohibit them from producing documents in other languages.
Patricia Fennell, executive director of the Latino Community Development Agency, said she is disappointed, but not surprised that the bill passed.
"I think the passing of "English-Only" bills is racism," she said. "It says Oklahoma is unfriendly toward immigrants."
The bill is now on its way to the House and should be heard next week.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Other "English-Only" Bill Sparks Controversy
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
English May Become Common Language: Officially Anyway
Friday, February 20, 2009
Coffee said he is glad the bill passed, and hopes it will be a benefit to all rape victims in the state.
The bill will be heard by the entire Senate floor in the coming weeks.
A copy of the actual bill filed by Sen. Jonathan Nichols. Even though the bill will not be heard this session, Nichols still seeks to pass the legislation through an amendment in another bill. Photo by: Clint Sloan
Domestic Violence Bill Fails in Committee
A bill increasing jail time and fines for domestic violence offenders failed to pass committee by the critical deadline Thursday (2/19).
Senate Bill 788, authored by State Sen. Jonathan Nichols (R-Norman), elevates the penalty of a domestic violence offender from a misdeameanor to a felony.
According to the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, more than 370,000 Oklahoma women are beaten on a regular basis. Nichols said this is a growing problem for Oklahoma women, and even though his bill did not pass, he will still make the issue of domestic violence heard in the legislature.
"I will keep on trying," Nichols said. "This is too important an issue facing our state."
While Nichols' bill will not be considered , there is still a chance he could attach the measure to another bill or wait until next year's session to pass it as a separate bill.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
A soldier walks into the National Weather Center. Knowing their lives may be taken in an act of war, they will have the comfort knowing their families may be given an adequate education. Photo by: Clint Sloan
Military Families May Receive Help for College
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Unfortunately for the students, the State is battling a nearly $1 Billion deficit, which makes it even harder for students to accomplish their goal. Still, students are optimistic that lawmakers would realize the importance of education and somehow spare education in the budget cuts.
"Education is everything," university college freshman Tyler Smith said. "For families that struggle with that [providing higher education], funding makes it easier for kids to go to college."
Students, like Smith, are confident lawmakers will not cut funding this legislative session, which may maintain or even lower students' tuition next semester.
Friday, February 6, 2009
State Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) said the low gas prices hurt the state because Oklahoma is an energy-driven state with an energy-driven economy. High energy prices have produced surpluses for state government, but with the current low energy prices, the budget shortfall could be worse than the already projected $500 million gap.
"[The deficit] could go to $600 million if gas remains low," Terrill said. "I think it's pretty clear the economic downturn is probably going to be worse next year."
A greater economic downturn means less jobs and makes it harder for college students to find work after graduation, but Terrill said he is still pushing for a state energy plan that would create more jobs and provide residents with alternative energy besides oil or natural gas.
Terrill said Oklahoma should be at the forefront of the nation in not only developing natural gas technologies, but also wind, solar and geothermal. He said he hopes he can deliver a new state energy plan this legislative session.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Ken Miller (R-Edmond) said educational funding may get cut despite Democratic Gov. Brad Henry's promise that the funding for education, public safety, transportation and healthcare will remain untouched.
Miller said the legislature has a constitutional obligation to balance the state budget, and that takes precedence over educational funding.
"To say that those agencies are not going to get cut is a committment I can't make," Miller said.
Educational cuts may make Oklahoma universities anxious to raise tuition and fees, but because OU is enacting a tuition-lock policy, this likely will not affect OU as much as other universities.