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Monday, January 27, 2020
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Sen. Sharp files legislation allowing DAs to decide charges for hate crimes

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OKLAHOMA CITY – In an effort to deter future hate crimes and ensure criminals are held accountable, Sen. Ron Sharp has filed legislation strengthening Oklahoma’s hate crime law.  Senate Bill 1083 would allow districts attorney to choose whether to charge hate crime offenders with a misdemeanor or felony. 

            “When working to improve public safety, it’s important that criminals be held accountable for their crimes and that their punishment reflect the severity of their crimes,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee.  “Currently, Oklahoma’s hate crime statutes are not strong enough and I want to thank D.A. Allan Grubb for bringing this to my attention.  This bill will enable district attorneys to look at the evidence of a hate crime and decide what punishment best suits the circumstances to ensure justice is fully served.”

            Under current law, a first time hate crime offense is a misdemeanor while subsequent offenses are felonies.  SB 1083 will give DAs discretion when deciding what charges to file.

The bill was requested by Pottawatomie District Attorney Allan Grubb. Grubb filed hate crime charges including aggravated assault and battery, and conspiracy and malicious intimidation, in July against Devan Johnson and Brandon Killian for the brutal beating of Jarric Deshawn Carolina on June 22.  The two white men were caught on tape repeatedly punching, kicking and shouting racial slurs at Carolina, who is black, outside the Brick House Saloon in Shawnee.  Carolina’s life-threatening injuries put him in ICU where he spent two days on a ventilator.  He has since returned home where he is still recovering and has been unable to return to work.  Carolina developed an eye socket injury and has trouble walking and remembering things.

“Hate crimes are becoming more prevalent, and as District Attorneys, it’s important we have the ability to file charges that fit the crime.  Mr. Carolina had a brutal crime committed against him yet under current law, these two men can only be charged with a misdemeanor.  That isn’t adequate justice. They nearly killed Mr. Carolina and deserve a much harsher sentence,” Grubb said.  “I want to thank Senator Sharp for filing this important public safety legislation and hope it makes it through the legislative process quickly to ensure future hate crime victims receive fair justice and offenders are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

            The two men were charged with aggravated assault and battery and conspiracy and malicious intimidation, all of which fall under Oklahoma’s hate crime statute. Killian has also been charged with preparing false evidence for punching himself in the face repeatedly to make it appear Carolina had hurt him. After getting out on bail, Killian was arrested again in July in Oklahoma County after missing a court date for prior drug and stolen vehicle charges.

            SB 1083 will be assigned to committee when session begins in February.

Senator Kidd Appointed to OCAST Governing Board

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Oklahoma City (October 7, 2019) – Russell W. Teubner and Senator Chris Kidd have been appointed to the Oklahoma Science and Technology Research and Development Board, the governing board for the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. OCAST is the state’s technology-based economic development agency.

 Teubner is founder and CEO of HostBridgeTechnology, a software solutions company in Stillwater. Governor Kevin Stitt named Teubner to the board to serve in the small business category – the category formerly held by Brent Kisling before becoming director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. By statute, Kisling remains on the board in his new capacity.

President Pro Tempore Greg Treat appointed Senator Chris Kidd to the OSTRaD board succeeding Senator Jason Smalley. Senator Kidd is from Waurika and serves District 31.

Mr. Teubner earned his Bachelor of Science in management science computer systems from Oklahoma State University in 1978. He is broadly recognized as a serial entrepreneur and serves on several boards and councils, including the board of directors for Simmons Bank.

Senator Kidd from Waurika, is a fifth generation Oklahoman. He received an associate degree in agricultural science from Murray State College, and then went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural sciences and natural resources. Kidd is also a graduate of the 2014 Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program and Leadership Oklahoma’s Entrepreneurial program. Kidd was elected to the Oklahoma state Senate in November of 2016. In addition to his work for the State Senate, Kidd and his father operate a cattle ranch in southern Oklahoma.

Commerce Staff is Taking Oklahoma to the World

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OKLAHOMA CITY– When Governor J. Kevin Stitt was inaugurated on January 14, 2019, he promised that in his administration he would “take Oklahoma to the world and bring the world to Oklahoma.” The Oklahoma Department of Commerce (Commerce) has been delivering on that promise during the first six months of his administration. From the inauguration through June 30, Commerce’s recruitment staff met with 2,881 companies and site selectors over the course of 40 call trips, events and trade shows to spread Oklahoma’s positive business message. 

During that time, Commerce recorded 38 business announcements. An announcement represents a decision by a company to add jobs and/or investment to the state. Jobs, salary and investment numbers are projected by the individual companies and reported by Commerce.

These following numbers were reported and represent Commerce-assisted projects:

  • Business Announcements: 38
  • Projected New Direct Jobs: 3,111
  • Average Salary for New Jobs: $61,331 (33.34% above state average)
  • Projected New Investment: $1.439 billion
  • Oklahoma Counties with Business Announcements: 17

Compared with historic data for the same time period over the past four years, the first six months of 2019 resulted in the most company announcements, second most new jobs, highest average annual salary, second highest wage growth (when compared to the state average), highest new investment and tied for most Oklahoma counties with business announcements.

While gross domestic product (GDP) data is only available for the first quarter of 2019, it shows impressive growth. With 3.9% growth, Oklahoma saw the sixth largest increase of all states. 

“We have been working hard to deliver a turnaround that ensures a better future for all Oklahomans. One of the ways we’re moving toward that goal is by getting out and telling the world that Oklahoma is open for business,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “I am proud of the hard work being done by the Commerce team. We have set some tough, but measurable goals, and they have been up to the challenge of bringing new jobs and investment to Oklahoma.”

“Our team works with such passion and professionalism – it’s not surprising that we’re seeing the fruits of their efforts,” said Sean Kouplen, Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development. “The reception and interest we’ve experienced with companies and site selectors is very encouraging and I am confident we will continue to see more companies choosing to expand and invest in Oklahoma.”

From July 1 to the end of 2019, Commerce staff is scheduled to participate in another 32 trade shows, call trips and events in their efforts to bring Oklahoma to the world.

Oklahoma Senate Update

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We reached a historic budget agreement last week that will provide funding to vital state services.  It provides more than $8.1 billion for our 64 appropriated state agencies plus puts $200 million into state savings. 

 With state revenues continuing to increase and beat last year’s monthly estimates, next year’s budget looks to be a great one as well.

 This year, I’m especially pleased with the raises for our state employees and educators.  This will help retain the excellent individuals we already have as well as recruit new ones, lower classroom sizes and lower the very costly turnover rates at our state agencies.

 In addition to providing an average $1,220 raise for certified personnel, the budget will put another $74.3 million through the funding formula allowing local districts to address whatever needs they feel are most important whether that be classroom supplies, hiring new staff or other matters.

  Healthcare is a major concern in our district and I’m pleased to say this was a major component of the budget. Nearly $63 million will go to train physicians to work in rural hospitals. More than $100 million will be reallocated to increase provider rates for nursing homes, physicians and hospitals. We’ll also be saving $29 million to help the OHCA protect Medicaid provider rates to counter decreases to Oklahoma Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). Another $2 million will go to help decrease the Developmental Disability Services wait list and there will be a 4% increase ($8 million) to developmental disability provider rates. Nearly $5 million will be provided to increase immunizations and staff county health department throughout the state.

  Ensuring the safety of our roads and bridges is critical for commerce, tourism and our daily commutes. The Department of Transportation’s 8-year plan will be fully funded and we’ll also be restoring $30 million to the CIRB for county road improvements.  

 Being that we live in a mostly rural district, another important aspect of the budget is the $1.1 million for wildfire mitigation and additional resources for rural fire fighters as well as $1.5 million to improve rural flood control dams.

  Thanks to this budget, we could see as many as 80 new Highway Patrol troopers on the roads next year following the creation of two new trooper academies. The high turnover rate at our state prisons is also a major safety concern, and we’re hoping to retain these dedicated correctional officers as well as recruit more by providing a $2 per hour raise, which will work out to around a 14% or $4,000 increase.

  Efforts to reform our criminal justice system are ongoing. We must lower our nonviolent offender population in our 24 state-operated correctional facilities.  We have the highest incarceration rate in the nation.  Studies have shown that addiction and mental health issues landed a majority of our state’s nonviolent offenders in prison.  For this reason, we’re going to start funding more mental health and diversion programs to address the causes of these nonviolent crimes to help these individuals avoid re-entry and become independent citizens. We’re also working to decrease the number of fees and fines that offenders are faced with once they’re released. They’ve paid their debt to society and it’s hard enough for them to gain employment with their record and we want to lessen some of their financial burden.

Sen Chris Kidd, a former Ag teacher and FFA advisor, was proud to welcome and introduce the FFA Choir to the Senate on Wed., May 1.

 At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 427, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

Legislation Providing More Inclusiveness in OK Veterans Registry Signed into Law

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation providing for greater inclusiveness of Oklahoma military personnel and veterans in the Oklahoma Veterans Registry was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt in late April.

The Oklahoma Veterans Registry is a voluntary registry of all Oklahoma residents serving on active duty or in the Oklahoma National Guard, as well as all honorably discharged veterans residing in the state. The purpose of the registry is to provide better access to state and federal benefits.

Rep. Tommy Hardin (R-Madill) and Sen. Frank Simpson (R-Ardmore) were the authors of House Bill 1198, which created the registry in 2017. The law stipulated that the registry must be completed by 2020.

“This tool provides a straightforward way for our veterans to access information about their current state and federal benefits, as well as find out about other benefits they may be eligible for,” Hardin said. “The registry is a simple way for our state to increase the level of care we can provide for our veterans.”

A bill passed this session, Senate Bill 358 by Simpson and Hardin, creates a new requirement that the State Dept. of Health provide a list of all deaths of Oklahoma veterans to the Veterans Registry so that the registry remains current.

Hardin said the registry went live Wednesday. He and Simpson are both veterans and were the first Oklahoma veterans to sign up for the registry. On Thursday, members of the Legislature’s bicameral, bipartisan Veterans Caucus also enrolled in Veterans Registry.

“I am proud to have played a small part in the creation of the Oklahoma Veterans Registry,” Simpson said.  “Our state agencies will now be able to verify veteran status. This will ensure that only our veterans are receiving benefits reserved for them and prevent those who do not qualify from abusing those benefits.”

Oklahoma veterans can sign up for the registry at okvets.ok.gov by clicking on the Oklahoma Veterans Registry link.

It’s official; ribeye designated as state steak

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A bill naming the ribeye as Oklahoma’s official state steak has been signed into law. Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt is the author of Senate Bill 21 along with House principal author Rep. Trey Caldwell, R-Lawton.  

Murdock said with 5.1 million head of beef cattle in Oklahoma, the state is ranked third in the nation in beef cattle.  He said declaring the ribeye the state’s official steak is aimed at drawing attention to that industry.

            “I want to thank Governor Stitt and my fellow legislators for supporting this bill,” Murdock said.  “The whole idea is to honor and promote Oklahoma’s cattle industry.  We have 51,000 beef producers in our state, and they operate in all 77 counties with annual cash receipts for cattle sales totaling $3.3 billion.  I’m proud to honor their contributions to our economy and to our tables.” 

            Murdock said he chose the ribeye to be the official steak because it’s the most flavorful steak there is.  Although the bill doesn’t take effect until November 1, he said it’s not too early to celebrate by ordering or grilling a ribeye for dinner.

            For more information, contact Sen. Casey Murdock at 405-521-5626 or email murdock@oksenate.gov.

Senate approves nonviolent offender sentencing reform measure

OKLAHOMA CITY – As part of ongoing criminal justice reform, the Senate approved legislation Thursday to reduce incarceration rates of repeat nonviolent offenders.  House Bill 2009, authored by Sen. Bill Coleman (R-Ponca City) and Rep. Garry Mize (R-Guthrie), will reduce the sentences of repeat nonviolent offenders with no history of violent or sexual offenses. 

            “Right now in Oklahoma, offenders serve 70 percent longer for property crimes and 79 percent longer for drug crimes than the national average. Excessive sentencing for repeat nonviolent offenders has caused Oklahoma to have the highest incarceration rates in the nation, which is extremely expensive for taxpayers and does nothing to help these individuals re-enter society as self-sufficient, productive citizens,” Coleman said.   “Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana…they’ve all reduced crime and incarceration rates at the same time.  I think it’s time for Oklahoma to do the same.  Let’s get our growing prison population under control and make Oklahoma more in line with the rest of the country on sentencing for nonviolent offenders.”

Currently, a second or subsequent offense of nonviolent crime carries as much as twice the original crime sentence.  Under HB 2009, subsequent offenses will get no more than the maximum sentence plus an additional quarter of the maximum. For example, a 10-year sentence can currently become a 20-year sentence on repeat offenses. Under HB 2009, a ten-year sentence could only increase to a 12.5-year sentence for nonviolent second and subsequent offenses.  

“I am happy to author House Bill 2009.  Oklahomans are asking for strides to be made in regards to Criminal Justice Reform,” Mize said.  “This priority bill takes a step in the right direction to help get our prison population under control and move us out of the #1 spot in a category we don’t want to lead.”

It is estimated that HB 2009 could reduce Oklahoma’s prison population by as much as 17 percent over ten years providing cost savings to the Department of Corrections (DOC) depending on how many individuals receive the reduced sentence. According to DOC, it costs an average of $58.70/day or $21,425.50/year to incarcerate an inmate.
            HB 2009 now returns to the House for final consideration.

Governor signs bill protecting undercover officers

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The governor has signed legislation into law to protect the confidentiality of undercover law officers.  Senate Bill 679 was authored by Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, and Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City.  

            “As the former Director of the Bureau of Narcotics, I recognized the roll of the undercover, covert agent in our state is different than a uniform patrol officer. The covert officer relies upon his or her identity not being exposed,” Weaver said.  “Defendants at times believe they have been deceived. They feel it’s a personal blow when they find out the person they have been dealing with is actually a law enforcement officer, so there’s a high level of resentment and hostility. This is different than the patrol officer who has the marked vehicle sitting in front of their house. This bill simply puts a layer of protection for these officers to secure their identity.”

Under SB 679, law enforcement agencies can request that their county assessors keep personal information for undercover or covert officers off the internet.  That information includes the home address for themselves, their spouse, domestic partner or minor child of the officer as well as telephone numbers or emails.  In order to have that information kept off the web, a law enforcement official would have to obtain a court order based on a sworn affidavit by the official stating that the individual whose information is to be kept confidential is an undercover or covert officer. 

“I was happy to author this bill that protects the personal information of those who are working undercover to keep our citizens and our communities safe,” Kannady said. “I’m grateful for the work these individuals perform, and I will do everything I can to help them do their job without needless worry.”

For more information, contact Sen. Darrell Weaver at 405-521-5569 or email darrell.weaver@oksenate.gov.

April Recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month by OK Legislature

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The month of April was proclaimed Child Abuse Prevention Month by the Oklahoma Legislature with the passage today of a House Concurrent Resolution authored by State Rep. Mark Vancuren, R-Owasso, and Sen. Paul Scott, R-Duncan.

House Concurrent Resolution 1002 passed unanimously in the House. It now moves to the state Senate.

“Our children are our most precious resource,” said Vancuren, a former high school teacher and coach. “And yet so many of them are abused or neglected. All Oklahomans must work together to find solutions to remedy this problem. Our children deserve the brightest future we can give them.”

The resolution proclaims that 15,951 Oklahoma children were confirmed to be victims of child abuse and neglect in state fiscal year 2018, and that child abuse and neglect affects every segment of society. It calls for input and action from all Oklahomans to combat the long-term psychological, emotional and physical effects experienced by the victims.

The resolution goes on to say that protective factors are conditions that reduce or eliminate risk and promote the social, emotional and developmental well-being of children. Effective child abuse prevention activities succeed because of the partnerships created between child welfare, education, health, community-based and faith-based organizations, businesses and law enforcement agencies. Communities must make every effort to promote programs and activities that create strong and thriving children and families.

The resolution calls for all to work together as a community to increase awareness about child abuse and promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families in a safe, stable, nurturing environment. It maintains that prevention remains the best defense for Oklahoma children and families.

The resolution urges all citizens to recognize this month by dedicating ourselves to the task of improving the quality of life for all children and families.

Concurrent resolutions bypass the governor and are sent directly to the Secretary of State upon approval.

Bill to create statewide sexual assault kit tracking system signed

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Governor signed legislation Monday to help Oklahoma law enforcement investigate sexual assault crimes by creating a statewide tracking system for sexual assault evidence collection kits.  Sen. Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma City) is the author of Senate Bill 967, and was a member of the 2017 Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE).

            “The task force agreed a major challenge solving sexual assault cases was that law enforcement agencies around the state were using tracking systems that weren’t compatible with other systems.  There needed to be a consistent process to investigate and solve these sexual assault cases,” said Floyd.  “By having one tracking system, law enforcement will be able to cross-reference thousands of crimes and DNA samples to solve more cases and prevent future sexual assaults.”

            SB 967 directs the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s (OSBI) Criminalistics Services Division to create a statewide electronic tracking system for rape kits including those found in the 2017 statewide audit. It will track a kit’s location and whether it has been processed. By January 1, 2020, all law enforcement agencies, forensic labs, medical providers and others in the state who have custody of rape kits will be required to participate in the tracking system. The system will also be accessible anonymously by victims.

“Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of rape and attempted rape in the nation. This new tracking system will better ensure that all kits are tested and DNA collected, and will provide more accessibility for allowing victims to track their kits,” said Floyd.  “Most rapists will commit multiple crimes, typically until they’re caught. Having this DNA evidence in one statewide system will hopefully help solve more cases and provide some peace to the victims knowing their assailant is no longer walking free.”

SB 967 will go into effect July 1, 2019.