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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Legislative Session is Coming


 It’s time again for the annual migration of lawmakers from across the state of Oklahoma to the State Capitol to take part in the legislative session, which starts Feb. 3. The governor will open the session with his second State of the State Address in which he will outline his budget hopes and his priorities for the coming fiscal year. It will be up to the Legislature, however, to draft the final state budget, determining how much in appropriations each state agency will receive to deliver programs and services to all Oklahomans.

All indications are this will be a flat budget year. With oil and gas revenues slowing down, we will be unable to increase most agency budgets as we have the past two years. The good news, however, is that we are still sitting on a record-high amount for the state budget – $8.3 billion as of the last figures released from the State Board of Equalization. The board meets again in February to give us final certified numbers for how much we should expect to appropriate for Fiscal Year 2021. While we will not have large increases for state agencies, we should be safe from needing to cut anything except for areas where we find efficiencies. We also intend to save more money this year to offset future downturns.

This session looks to be a busy one for a variety of reasons. For one, we had 2,240 new bills filed between the House and Senate. This is in addition to the 2,192 carried forward from the first session of the 57th Legislature. Only a fraction of these bills will become state law, however. But this means both legislative chambers will have much work to do to sift through each bill to determine its merits before advancing it through committee hearings and onto the floor for a vote. Once measures are passed in their chamber of origin, they must go through this process in the opposite chamber. Only the bills that survive get sent to the governor for his consideration of final passage into law.

The Legislature goes through this weeding-out process each year. Your input on bills helps me and other lawmakers determine what is important to you and what should be left on the editing room floor.

One of the areas of intense focus for me this year will be health care policy. State Question 802 – started by an initiative petition of voters, not lawmakers – continues to put pressure on the Legislature to deal with the issue of Medicaid Expansion. No ballot measure to expand Medicaid has failed in any state where it has been proposed. SQ802 seeks to expand Medicaid constitutionally to able-bodied adults who qualify. The governor has promised to unveil his alternative health care plan very soon, which may put a dent in the state question’s popularity. My committee already is prepared for either scenario. We must do everything we can to ensure any health care plan can be paid for, operated in a fiscally responsible way, and help Oklahomans become healthier. 

Please feel free to reach out to me with your questions or concerns at marcus.mcentire@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7327.

State Senator Chris Kidd Announces Re-election Campaign


Waurika, OK- Current State Senator and former public school teacher, Chris Kidd, is proud to announce his re-election campaign for Senate District 31.  

“We’ve had a great four years and I can’t tell you how proud I am to have served the hard-working and generous people of this community,” says Kidd.  “I took every opportunity to stand up for our values, find real solutions to everyday problems, and I’m ready to keep fighting.”

Chris grew up on his family farm, where he is still involved in the day to day operations, and understands that agriculture is the backbone of our rural communities.  “As your State Senator, I believe we must stand up for our rural communities for them to thrive. This includes increased support for our farms, public school systems, and rural healthcare needs.” 

Senator Kidd has also been an outspoken advocate for law enforcement and first responders, authoring legislation to provide them with the needed resources to keep our communities safe. 

While in the State Senate, Chris served on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education as the Vice-Chair, in addition to the Education Committee, Agriculture and Wildlife, Veterans and Military Affairs, and Committee Membership.  He has proven he is dedicated to finding ways to move our state forward. 

“I’m looking forward to earning the vote of my constituents once again.  It has been an honor to serve each of you and I look forward to the work we can continue to do on behalf of Senate District 31 and Southwest Oklahoma.” 

Chris Kidd married his wife Linsdey in 2019 and is grateful to his family for their continued support as he launches his re-election campaign. 

Get Ready for Open Enrollment 2020 What you need to know before applying


Open enrollment for 2020 individual health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) starts November 1 and ends December 15. If you want your coverage to start on January 1, you must sign up by December 15. With a new insurer available for the Oklahoma City area, there are some important things you need to know about the 2020 open enrollment before you apply. I urge all Oklahomans who plan to enroll for 2020, to not automatically renew. Look closely for changes. 

In 2017 and 2018, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) was the only insurance carrier offering plans in the Oklahoma exchange. However, Medica joined the Oklahoma exchange for 2019 with coverage available in all 77 counties. In 2020, Bright Health also joined the Oklahoma exchange and offers plans in Oklahoma, Canadian and Cleveland counties.

  •  If you are currently uninsured: you can visit healthcare.gov to compare plans and enroll in a plan that meets your health care needs.
  •  If you already have health insurance: you will be automatically re-enrolled in your existing plan if it is still available. Even if you are satisfied with your current plan, review your coverage and compare plans to ensure you can select the best option for you.

Keep in mind that cost-sharing subsidies are available only on silver plans and subsidies available on silver plans have changed. Shop around to look for coverage that truly meets your needs. I encourage you to check with your agent to help you sort out your options.

You can visit https://www.healthcare.gov/see-plans/ to view plan options, estimate monthly premiums and total annual out-of-pocket costs for each plan, and learn how to buy a plan. You can also determine if you qualify for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at https://www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip/.

To help make the application process quicker and easier, make sure you have everything you need to apply by reviewing this checklist (PDF). Also, check out these tips about the Health Insurance Marketplace at heathcare.gov.

In addition to those resources, directly visit or call these insurers available for Oklahoma’s exchange for 2020:

If you have questions about other insurance issues, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.



OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted unanimously Friday to recommend the sentences of 527 state inmates be commuted, the largest such action in state and national history. The office of Governor Kevin Stitt will process the recommendations by end of day Friday for final approval.

“This is a historical day for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma, as we send the largest single day commutation of sentences in our nation’s history to the governor’s desk,” said Steven Bickley, Executive Director of the Pardon and Parole Board. “With this vote, we are fulfilling the will of Oklahomans. However, from day one, the goal of this project has been more than just the release of low level, non-violent offenders, but the successful reentry of these individuals back into society. It has been a moving experience to see our state and community partners help connect our inmates with the resources they need for a successful reentry and I thank Governor Stitt, DOC Director Scott Crow, and the many local nonprofits, churches, and job creators that stepped up to ensure these inmates have every opportunity for success.” 

“I applaud the Pardon and Parole Board’s dedication to fulfill the will of the people through the HB 1269 docket, giving hundreds of non-violent, low-level offenders an opportunity at a second chance,” said Governor Stitt. “I also thank the Department of Corrections and the many non-profits who are stepping up and working hard to connect our inmates with the resources they need for a successful transition. This event is another mark on our historic timeline as we move the needle in criminal justice reform, and my administration remains committed to working with Oklahomans to pursue bold change that will offer our fellow citizens a second chance while also keeping our communities and streets safe.”

Friday’s historic vote on the single-stage commutation docket is the result of months-long collaboration among numerous state entities, including Pardon and Parole, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Office of Governor Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Oklahoma District Attorneys Council and Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

The board considered 814 inmates’ cases during the special meeting which was held the first day HB 1269 took effect. The 2019 law enabled the Pardon and Parole Board to hold an accelerated single-stage commutation docket to review the sentences of inmates in prison for crimes which would no longer be considered felonies if charged today.  In 2016, Oklahomans passed criminal justice reforms that made simple drug possession a misdemeanor and increased the felony dollar threshold from $500 to $1000 for felony property crimes.

The Board recommended to the Governor 527 inmates for commutation, 75% male and 25% female.  Because 65 inmates have detainers, 462 inmates will be released on Monday, November 4.  Of the inmates receiving a favorable recommendation: the average age was 39.7 years old, they had been incarcerated for the past three years, the recommendation was to commute 1,931 years resulting in inmates being released 1.34 years early on average.  Had these inmates served their full uncommuted sentence, it could have cost the State of Oklahoma approximately $11.9M for continued incarceration based upon the average costs.

In addition to the sheer number of inmates who received recommendations for commutation, this collaborative effort produced numerous other notable “firsts” in Oklahoma history.

With the leadership of the governor’s office, Pardon and Parole, and dozens of nonprofits, Oklahoma Department of Corrections held its first ever transition fairs for inmates’ at 28 facilities across the state.  More than 200 people from 45 community partners, nonprofits, and state agencies attended.  These fairs connected 781 inmates with the services they may need once released.

In another first, having done the necessary release work in advance, Oklahoma Department of Corrections will be ready to release the commuted inmates on Monday, November 4.  ODOC expects to receive the signed commutation certificates from the governor’s office Friday afternoon, thus enabling the facilities to work over the weekend processing the discharge paperwork, transferring inmates’ trust account money to debit cards, and preparing the necessary inmate discharge medications. 

Finally, in another first, ODOC was able to remove another major hurdle for many offenders as they return to society by arranging for recommended inmates to have a valid state-issued driver’s license or state-issued ID prior to discharge.  Removing this obstacle required through a massive coordinated work effort by ODOC staff and special grant funding from the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Arnall Family Foundation, along with assistance from TEEM (The Education and Employment Ministry). 

Sen. Sharp continues fight to stop distracted driving


OKLAHOMA CITY – Continuing his efforts to make Oklahoma’s roads safer, Sen. Ron Sharp has filed legislation to once again try to outlaw the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving unless it is with hands-free technology.  Senate Bill 1088 would expand the Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act of 2015 to try to decrease the number of distracted drivers on Oklahoma roads.  

            “Currently, texting while driving or using any device to surf the internet or post to social media is illegal.  However, drivers can still hold their phone to talk or use other electronic devices while driving,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “Last year, there were nearly 8,800 crashes and 35 deaths, including three in my Senate district, caused by distracted driving throughout the state. We need to strengthen the law.  It’s just too dangerous and the costs are too high. We must do all we can to make Oklahoma’s roads safer.”
            SB 1088 would strengthen the law to prohibit not just texting while driving but using any kind of hand-held device while behind the wheel unless it is with a hands-free accessory.  The bill would not apply to those using their phones in emergencies.

            According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office’s (OHSO) 2018 Oklahoma Crash Facts, approximately 21,000 Oklahomans were involved in nearly 8,800 crashes caused by some form of distracted driving.  The largest age group of distracted drivers were those 20-24 followed by the 25-29 age group. More than 8,100 of the driver conditions reported were marked as “apparently normal”, “unknown” or “other” meaning the driver was not intoxicated, drugged, medicated, tired or sick.  

Nearly 1,800 drivers admitted that an electronic communication or some other kind of device distracted them. Again, the largest age group distracted by electronic devices was those ages 15-29. Around 4,200 drivers said something else distracted them inside their car while the other 2,900 said they were distracted by something outside their car.

            “The collision reports show that more than 90 percent of distracted driving accidents last year weren’t caused by alcohol, drugs, illness or being tired. Most of these individuals were distracted by electronic devices or something else in their vehicle.  While we can’t prevent all the distractions that happen inside vehicles, we can stop the use of electronic devices without hands-free capabilities,” Sharp said.  “We’ve got to take this issue seriously and help keep Oklahoma drivers’ eyes on the road where they belong.”

OHSO breaks down distracted in four categories including distraction by an electronic communication device, other electronic device and something other than an electronic device inside the car or outside the car. The agency combines all four categories in order to examine overall distracted driving crashes. OHSO also noted that distraction while driving is largely self-reported, so the actual numbers are more than likely much higher.

Sharp has been a strong advocate for strengthening Oklahoma’s texting and driving/distracted driving laws having filed numerous legislation since 2012. He filed similar language to SB 1088 with SB 44 in 2017 but the bill was not given a hearing in Senate committee. He was also the original Senate principal author of the Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act of 2015 (HB 1965) before authorship changed to the full Senate Public Safety Committee. 

Get Ready for Electric Scooters: Who is Responsible?


Fall is finally here in Oklahoma. Between the golden leaves and cool crisp air, you will begin to see electric scooters flooding the city streets. These rental scooters can be found along the curb in hundreds of U.S. cities including Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, and Stillwater. Before you download the app and hop on, there are a few things you should know to protect yourself.

According to Consumer Reporters, eight people in the U.S. have died while using a rent-by-the-minute dockless electric scooter since the fall of 2017. One of those deaths was a 5-year-old boy who was riding with his mother in Tulsa in April.

Along with numerous injuries, these deaths highlight the potential dangers of the scooters. Understanding the insurance implications related to electric scooters will help you make responsible decisions.

Your health insurance could help defray the cost of medical bills in case of an accident. But what if you are riding a scooter and you hit a pedestrian, damage someone’s property or cause a car accident? You might think your auto insurance would kick in; however, most car insurance doesn’t generally cover vehicles with less than four wheels. Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may cover an accident that occurs on a traditional bicycle, but it does not cover motorized bike or scooter trips. 

The two largest scooter companies in the United States generally place the responsibility for accidents on riders by listing in their rental agreements that riders relieve the companies of liability. You must agree to those terms before you can ride. And despite the scooter companies’ liability insurance, responsibility for damages is likely to fall on your shoulders because of the terms and conditions agreed upon when you downloaded the app.

What can you do to protect yourself? Call your insurance agent. You may be able to add an umbrella policy to your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. An umbrella policy can cover more scenarios and include higher limits for coverage than a typical policy.

There are a few other ways to protect yourself on an e-scooter.

  • Wear a helmet: While it is not required by law in Oklahoma to wear a helmet while riding a scooter or a bicycle, it is highly recommended. 
  • Operate the scooter in right-hand lanes and bike lanes where possible: Your agreement with your scooter rental company will tell you to use streets and bike lanes. Riding motorized scooters on sidewalks is illegal in most cities, and you can be cited for doing so. Know where you can ride before you hop on.
  • Keep your eyes on the road: You may be tempted to share photos or videos of your new adventure on social media while operating. Always pay attention to the road. 
  • Inspect the scooter before you ride: Check to make sure the brakes are working properly before taking off.

I’m encouraging everyone who plans to ride an electric scooter, to get ready. Know your coverage. Anticipate what could happen, and know what your insurance will and won’t cover. And most importantly, be careful. 

You can also watch my recent ride on an e-scooter on the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s YouTube channel.

If you have questions about other insurance issues, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.

Sen. Sharp files legislation allowing DAs to decide charges for hate crimes


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


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


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


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.