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President Pro Tem-designate Greg Treat files bill creating legislative watchdog office

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Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) will evaluate agency spending and performance

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate President Pro Tem-designate Greg Treat on Thursday filed legislation to create a legislative fiscal watchdog office to help lawmakers better fulfill their oversight role of state agency spending and performance.

Senate Bill 1 creates the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) to provide the Legislature with objective, verified data lawmakers can then use as they consider and make critical policy decisions.

“Real numbers and objective data will help the Oklahoma Legislature make better-informed decisions when writing the state budget, setting policy, and tracking whether programs are meeting or exceeding our expectations,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

“The most important duty the Legislature has is to write the budget and provide oversight of agency spending and performance. In most cases, the Legislature depends on the agency itself or the executive branch to report data on spending and performance. Agencies present only the data they want us to see not necessarily what we need to see. Agencies tend to focus more on outputs and not outcomes. That’s not how we are going to turn Oklahoma around. The Legislature needs independent, objective data so that we can make better-informed decisions,” Treat said.

Key parts of SB 1:

  • LOFT will conduct performance evaluations of agencies, programs, or specific divisions;
  • LOFT would have open access to all agency data and budgets;
  • LOFT would be overseen by a bicameral, bipartisan committee;
  • LOFT would have six to eight independent, nonpartisan office staff;
  • Data gathered by and reports produced by LOFT would be available to the public.

Treat pointed to the recent Health Department scandal as one of the best reasons why an office like LOFT is needed.

“Last year, the Legislature was told the Health Department needed $30 million immediately or they agency couldn’t make payroll and there would be catastrophic public health implications. As we know now, the department didn’t need the money and the agency’s finances were in shambles. That is unacceptable and must not continue,” Treat said.

“Well more than half of the states have a legislative oversight office like LOFT. It helps provide accountability and oversight among the branches of government. The legislative, executive, and judicial are co-equal branches of government. They serve as a check on one another’s power. We need an independent, nonpartisan office like LOFT to provide the Legislature with real numbers as we make decisions on how to get the best outcomes and returns on each and every tax dollar,” Treat said.

From Senator Chris Kidd March 15 2018

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This week is the deadline for floor work on Senate bills.

I have five remaining bills (SB 1364, 1365, 1369, 1372 & 1488) that will be taken up by the full Senate this week. 

            Work is continuing on the FY’19 budget.  The Senate decided, in order to be as thorough as possible, to bring back the largest state agencies and a few others based on their budget requests for a second round of budget hearings in light of recent revenue updates.  Typically, budget hearings are held by appropriations subcommittees during the interim. A second round of hearings will allow the full Senate to learn more about the agencies’ spending practices and budgeting needs. 

            To date, we’ve heard from the Departments of Education, Mental Health and Human Services, CareerTech, the Ethics Commission, OHCA and the State Regents.  Their presentations are available on the Senate website under Committees and Appropriations. 

            The State Treasurer announced this past week that revenues are continuing to grow, which is great news but we must continue working to improve the budgeting system and strengthen our economy. 

            It is important we find new and reoccurring revenue so we may continue to fund core services. It’s equally important to find structural budget reforms.   This past week, the Senate approved a series of apportionment or “off-the-top” reforms.  This is money is taken out of the General Revenue Fund (GRF) and put directly towards certain programs.  Over time, this has been done to ensure a certain level of funding for these programs but it has tied the legislature’s hands during economic downturns.  Being that the funding is protected in statute, the legislature can’t just go in and move money when the state is experiencing extreme shortfalls like those experienced the last few years.   The legislature appropriates only 45 percent of the state’s total revenue.

These reforms will cap numerous apportionments streams at a three-year average and direct any money collected in excess of that be deposited into the GRF.

           A major milestone in criminal justice reform was reached this past week as well.  The governor, legislative leaders and district attorneys announced an agreement to advance six criminal justice reform measures this session, as well as develop a coordinating council to oversee future criminal justice reform efforts.  If approved, these measures will ensure more Oklahomans are productive, taxpaying citizens rather than costing the state through incarceration.  The bills will also help significantly slow the projected growth in corrections’ cost.  The savings can then be reinvested in education, health care and mental health programs that will yield further positive results for our citizens and our state.

Senate Republicans respect teachers and believe they deserve a pay raise. We have repeatedly passed revenue plans to fund a $5,000 teacher pay raise but they have failed in the House. The Senate will continue to work to find a solution. I’m confident we will find a way to pay our teachers what they deserve.

            We’ve been fortunate to have outstanding pages so far.  I want to thank Central senior Conner Kern and Walters senior Shalyn Bowles for taking time away from their studies to come help us at the state Capitol.

            At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

Senate Pro Tem comments on court’s ruling on SQ 799 referendum petition

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus, released the following comment regarding the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling on State Question 799 and referendum petition:

“I am pleased the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the effort to repeal HB 1010xx. The Legislature took extraordinary steps in passing HB 1010xx and it is absolutely necessary to fully fund the largest teacher pay raise in state history and the significant increase in education funding passed this session. We should all now turn our focus toward working for the resources and reforms necessary to support our teachers and ensure our children get the best education possible.”

New law to allow Oklahoma farmers to grow hemp

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Lonnie Paxton applauded Gov. Fallin for signing legislation Tuesday to help grow Oklahoma’s agriculture industry by allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp. House Bill 2913, by Sen. Paxton, Rep. Jon Echols and Rep. Mickey Dollens, creates the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program.

“Currently, Oklahoma can import hemp but can’t grow it.  This will help diversify our state’s struggling economy and will provide a tremendous boost to the agriculture industry,” said Paxton, R-Tuttle.  “This new industry will potentially create thousands of jobs and put hundreds of millions of dollars a year into our economy.  There’s a strong possibility that it could easily become a $1 billion industry.”

The new law will allow universities or farmers contracting with universities to cultivate certified hemp crops for research and development for industrial uses.  The Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry will manage the program.  A revolving fund will also be created for all registration, lab, and inspection fees paid by program participants.

Hemp is the strongest natural fiber in the world and has been found to have more than 50,000 uses including rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation and biofuel.  Being a weed, it is drought tolerant taking one-third the amount of water of alfalfa.  The benefits of cultivating this plant is that it can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre per year, which is four times what an average forest can yield and it does not require chemicals such as pesticides or herbicides. Hemp could yield Oklahoma farmers as much as $1,500 per acre.

The new law, which went into effect upon being signed, was made possible by the Agricultural Act of 2014 allowing the growing of hemp under pilot programs overseen by universities.  Nearly 40 other states already have industrial hemp programs.

Statement from Senate Democratic Leader on Oklahoma Supreme Court Ruling on State Question 799

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OKLAHOMA CITY- Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks released the following statement on the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to declare Referendum Petition 25, State Question 799 invalid and stricken from the ballot:

 

“Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that State Question 799, Referendum Petition 25 is invalid. While the Oklahoma Constitution empowers citizens to initiate a referendum petition, it is also very clear what the process and procedures are which must be followed to place the referendum on the ballot. In their rush to begin collecting signatures, the group calling itself ‘Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite!’ and former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn failed to include an accurate gist explaining the purpose of the referendum, and also did not attach an exact copy of the law it seeks to repeal.

 

With the effort to repeal the revenue package by referendum stalled, the focus should now return to enacting long term, sustainable revenue to properly fund education in Oklahoma.”

State Takes First Step toward Improving Auto Insurance Verification System

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) has awarded a contract for the new Oklahoma Compulsory Insurance Verification System (OCIVS). The new system, hosted by MV Solutions, Inc., will be overseen by the Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID). The current system has been managed by the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Senate Bill 115, passed in 2017, transferred authority of the system from DPS to OID.

“This will go a long way toward solving Oklahoma’s uninsured driver problem,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “This brings us one step closer to creating a real-time, reliable database for law enforcement officers, court clerks, district attorneys and tag agents to verify auto insurance coverage. Those trying to drive without insurance are about to get a rude awakening.”

Commissioner Doak will notify all private passenger auto insurance companies in Oklahoma they are required to participate in OCIVS using a web service that allows access to the insurer’s real-time book of business. The previous system allowed companies to upload data on a weekly or monthly basis, making it difficult for OCIVS users to access current policy information. In order to create the most effective system possible, Commissioner Doak is committed to using every regulatory tool at his disposal to ensure that insurance companies comply with the requirements of the system.

Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, was the principal Senate author of SB 115.

“Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the nation,” said Sharp. “We have to change that. A better verification system can make a big difference. OID has the resources and regulatory authority to ensure compliance and manage the system efficiently.”

SB 115 was coauthored by Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia.

“Our state’s high number of uninsured drivers leads to higher premiums for everyone,” said Moore. “Once people realize this database is accurate and updating in real time, they’ll be much more likely to keep their auto insurance current instead of risking a costly fine.”

The new law authorizes the insurance commissioner to initiate an administrative proceeding against an insurance company that is not providing vehicle insurance policy information to the online verification system. It also allows for license plate numbers to be used for verification.

Commissioner Doak’s letter to private passenger auto insurance companies notifying them of the new requirements is linked below and attached to this email.

About the Oklahoma Insurance Department
The Oklahoma Insurance Department, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, is responsible for the education and protection of the insurance-buying public and for oversight of the insurance industry in the state.

One Oklahoma child will get $5,529 toward their college savings

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OKLAHOMA CITY (June 4, 2018) – State Treasurer Ken Miller announces the launch of the 2018 Summer Savings Adventure Sweepstakes, which will see one Oklahoma child win $5,529 toward an Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan account.

Working together with two Oklahoma City Adventure District Partners, Science Museum Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Zoo, the Summer Savings Adventure encourages families to take time this summer to plan how they will pay for college.

“The first and best advice for anyone looking to pay for a college education is to make a plan,” said Miller, board chair of the Oklahoma 529 Savings Plan (OCSP). “Summer is great time for families to research the resources available to them, like OCSP, look at their budget and start saving for their children’s futures.”

This is the third year OCSP has partnered with the Oklahoma City Zoo and Science Museum Oklahoma for the sweepstakes. Miller said it’s a great fit because each organization is dedicated to a mission of lifetime learning.

“We couldn’t have better partners than the Oklahoma City Zoo and Science Museum Oklahoma,” Miller said. “Generations of families have made lifelong memories and explored the sciences at both of these Oklahoma institutions, and I’m proud that they are helping OCSP to raise awareness about saving for higher education.”

The 2018 Summer Savings Adventure Sweepstakes officially launches today and will close on July 31, 2018. Sweepstakes entry, official rules and additional information is available at www.ok4saving.org. The winner will be randomly selected and formally announced shortly after the sweepstakes concludes.

The sweepstakes is open to Oklahoma residents who are parents, grandparents or legal guardians who are at least 21 years old and have a child or grandchild 16 years old or younger who is also an Oklahoma resident.

OCSP serves almost 30,000 account owners with more than $850 million in college savings assets. OCSP account owners make an average monthly contribution of $269 to their accounts. (Data through 12/31/17.)  For more facts and figure about how Oklahomans are saving for college, visit www.ok4saving.org/documents/OK_infographic_may2018.pdf.

For more information about the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan visit www.ok4saving.org or call (877) 654-7284. Funding for OCSP prizes comes from the marketing budget of the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan; no state funds are used.

 About the OCSP

 Introduced in April 2000, the Oklahoma 529 College Saving Plan (OCSP) is Oklahoma’s direct-sold 529 college savings plan. It is designed for families who want to direct their own 529 college savings accounts. The plan is managed by TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc. Introduced in March 2009, OklahomaDream 529 Plan is offered through financial advisors and is managed by Allianz Global Investors.  As of April 30, 2018, combined assets in both plans exceed $1 billion.

Oklahoma taxpayers may deduct, from their Oklahoma adjusted gross income, up to $10,000 in contributions to the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan for individual taxpayers and up to $20,000 for taxpayers filing a joint return with a five-year carryforward. Read the Disclosure Booklet carefully.

Consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing in the Oklahoma College Savings Plan. Please visitwww.ok4saving.org or call toll-free 1-877-654-7284 for a Plan Disclosure Booklet containing this and more information. Read it carefully.

 Check with your home state to learn if it offers tax or other benefits such as financial aid, scholarships and protection from creditors for investing in its own 529 plan.  Investments in the Plan are neither insured nor guaranteed and there is the risk of investment loss.

 Taxpayers should seek advice based on their own particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. If the funds aren’t used for qualified higher education expenses, a 10% penalty tax on earnings (as well as federal and state income taxes) may apply.     

 Investments in the Plan are neither insured nor guaranteed and there is the risk of investment loss.

TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., Program Manager. TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, member FINRA and SIPC, distributor and underwriter for the Oklahoma College Savings Plan.

From Senator Chris Kidd

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Work is steadily ramping up again as interim studies are getting underway in preparation for the next legislative session.  These are all public meetings and can be watched live on the Senate website.

 I’ve been getting a lot of questions about two issues I’d like to discuss in this column.

1. The audit of the Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs

2. Nursing home closures around the state and in our district.

 The VA audit was released at the beginning of August.  The audit revealed there is a serious lack of communication throughout the agency as well as low employee morale.  The communication problem became apparent when constituents were unaware of recent rule changes at the Lawton-Ft. Sill Veterans Center, until the changes had already taken place. It was even more apparent and troubling; I too was unaware of any rule or policy changes until I was informed of these changes by concerned constituents. This proved to me the findings of the audit were accurate. I feel our state agencies should always communicate any policy or rule changes clearly and effectively with the legislature especially when changes are made that have a direct impact on the citizens of our state, moreover, changes that impact those who have served and defended our country, our veterans.  

 Please know that I am working with the ODVA and its administration to address the issues and find solutions concerning our veteran’s centers, especially the Lawton-Ft. Sill Veteran’s Center. Our veterans deserve our respect, honor and only the best care. 

 The second issue I’d like to discuss is Oklahoma’s nursing home industry.  Within the last few months, several of our states long-term care facilities have closed their doors due to a lack of adequate funding. It is critical and of utmost importance that we make a significant investment in our nursing home industry or face many more closures around the state.  Not only will this displace hundreds of residents, but hundreds of working Oklahomans will lose their jobs.  What’s even more concerning is rural Oklahoma will feel the brunt of this problem where jobs are few and places of employment are scarce. 

 For the last several years our state has had to deal with deficient budgets, resulting in a lack of investment that has left the state ranked as one of the worst for nursing care facility funding.  We can and we must do better.

 The AARP recently ranked our state’s nursing homes as some of the worst in the nation based on several factors for quality of care.  The report ranks Oklahoma lowest in the country of nursing care per resident per day nationwide.  In addition, our senior citizen population is growing at an alarming rate.  The number of citizens 85 or older is expected to increase by 38% or 95,000 from 2015.    We must do all we can to prevent the closure of nursing homes and strengthen this industry for future generations.

I’m pleased to say that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, in collaboration with state and legislative leadership, are giving the first across-the-board reimbursement rate increases since 2009 to long-term care and other SoonerCare (Oklahoma Medicaid) providers.  The increases will go into effect October 1.  Long-term care facility provider rates will be increased by four percent and three percent for other certain contracted provider types or groups.  The three percent will put SoonerCare physician rates at around 89 percent of the Medicare physician fee schedule.  It will also impact most provider types like hospitals and pharmacies. While this is a positive step, it’s my hope we once again increase funding to our long-term care facilities to a level that accurately reflects the true cost of care for nursing home residents during the next legislative session.

 It’s important to note that no new state funds, carryover or one-time funds were used for these increases.  Instead, because of SB 1605, the increases will be funded through program and administrative savings and record drug rebate collections. 

This is a step in the right direction for providing better care to our elderly and disabled.  Like our veterans, they deserve only the highest quality of service.

 At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

GOVERNOR-ELECT KEVIN STITT ANNOUNCES TRANSITION TEAM

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (Nov. 13, 2018) – Governor-elect Kevin Stitt today announced formation of Oklahoma’s Turnaround, the transition team for the Stitt administration.

The transition team will work with Governor-elect Stitt to recruit Oklahomans to serve in a Stitt administration and to build out Oklahoma’s Turnaround transition team to include issue-centered advisory committees on the following seven topics: Education, Economic Growth, Government Efficiency, Infrastructure, Health, Public Safety, and Native American Partnerships.

Oklahoma’s Turnaround Team will develop policy proposals for the upcoming legislative session, prepare the governor-elect’s budget proposal, and ensure an orderly transition to the new administration.

“I am grateful for the talented Oklahomans who are rolling up their sleeves and already getting to work on making our state Top Ten. The transition team will be focused on recruiting fresh, new leadership to assist in Oklahoma’s turnaround,” said Governor-elect Kevin Stitt. “Over the next week, we will be expanding the team to include committees focused on policy priorities for the first Legislative session.”

For those interested in applying for Oklahoma’s Turnaround or to serve in a Stitt administration, Oklahomans are encouraged to visitwww.OklahomaTurnaround.com.

The executive team is as follows:

Marc Nuttle will serve as chair of the transition team. Nuttle is a lawyer, author, consultant and businessman who has had a varied career. He has represented and advised Presidents of the United States, leaders of foreign countries, state officials and corporations. Nuttle has worked on government policy and has predicted economic trends.

Matt Pinnell is Lieutenant Governor-elect. Pinnell is a small business owner with his wife, Lisa. Most recently, Pinnell was tapped to lead the transition team for Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. Prior, Pinnell served as Director of State Parties for the Republican National Committee from 2013 to 2017 and served as Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party from 2010 to 2013.

Melissa Houston serves as Labor Commissioner, appointed in 2015. Before serving as labor commissioner, Houston was chief of staff and policy adviser in the state attorney general’s office. She has also served as the chief of staff for the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security for nine years and an attorney for the Truth in Sentencing Policy Advisory Commission.

Aamon Ross was the Campaign Manager for Stitt for Governor 2018. Before serving as Campaign Manager, he was a consultant to a variety of companies and industries and negotiated large scale contracts. Additionally, Ross has owned several small businesses and led numerous teams while working in medical device sales for over 14 years.

Sean Kouplen is Chairman and CEO of Regent Bank in Tulsa. Kouplen holds numerous statewide leadership positions including Chairman of the OSU-Tulsa Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Hospitality House of Tulsa, and Board of Directors for MetaFund, Salvation Army of Tulsa, and SouthPoint Church.

Mike Mazzei is the President of Tulsa Wealth Advisors | Raymond James. Mazzei is a former member of the State Senate, representing Senate District 25 from 2004 to 2016. Mazzei previously served as the Senate Finance Chairman from 2008 to 2016.

Corbin McGuire served as Chairman for the Stitt for Governor campaign. McGuire started RNM Recruiting 14 years ago and serves as Managing Director. RNM Recruiting is a technology search firm that focuses on permanent placements nationwide. Corbin graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1995 and currently resides in Tulsa.

Geoffrey Long was general counsel for the Stitt for Governor campaign and will serve as the General Counsel to the transition team. Before entering private practice, he previously served as an attorney for the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, Oklahoma Attorney General, and other state agencies.

Donelle Harder was Deputy Campaign Manager and spokesperson for the Stitt for Governor campaign. Before joining the campaign, Harder was Vice President at the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association and had previously served as Communications Director for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and for the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. She comes with more than 10 years of experience in political advising, strategic communications, and government relations.

The transition office is scheduled to open on Thursday. The office is located on the first floor of the State Capitol and will be open Mondays thru Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except for on holidays. The transition office phone number is 405-522-8804.

Sen. Nathan Dahm calls on legislature to correct years of veto decisions

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‘Over the last eight years we have seen decisions from the governor that are out of step with the will of the people, with the Republican party platform, and with the Constitution.’—Sen. Nathan Dahm

Broken Arrow, OK – Sen. Nathan Dahm has started the process for legislators to call themselves back into session to pass legislation vetoed by Gov. Mary Fallin.

“Over the last eight years we have seen decisions from the governor that are out of step with the will of the people, with the Republican Party platform, and with the Constitution,” said Dahm, R-Broken Arrow. “We have seen Governor Fallin use her veto pen to kill bills that would have brought transparency and accountability to government, reined in out of control agency rules, get parents more involved in education, restore our Second Amendment rights, return local control back to communities, secure parental rights in healthcare decisions, streamline and modernize state government, restore private property rights, change the budgeting system for long term planning, and more. This would afford us the opportunity to correct those mistakes without having to wait another year to do so.”

In order to enter a special session, two-thirds of both the House and the Senate must agree to return.

“The Oklahoma Constitution allows for the Legislature to call itself back into session with two-thirds of both the House and the Senate. It appears likely we will return back to the Capitol for at least one more special session this summer or fall. If we will be returning for another session, it would seem an opportune time to simultaneously deal with these measures the Governor has vetoed,” Dahm said.

So far, the following members have already signed on to the resolution: Reps. Sean Roberts; Greg Babinec; Bobby Cleveland; Jeff Coody; Jon Echols; George Faught; Tom Gann; Lewis Moore; Zack Taylor; Kevin West; Rick West; Mark Lawson; and Sens. Nathan Dahm; Josh Brecheen; James Leewright; and Anthony Sykes.

Dahm has the first ever veto override of a Republican governor by a Republican legislature in state history. In 2014 Fallin vetoed HB2461, a pro-Second Amendment bill supported by the NRA, OK2A, and other gun rights groups when she included the bill in a group of vetoes in an attempt to force the legislature to focus on her preferred agenda items. The Legislature overrode the veto in a historic move and by doing so furthered Second Amendment protections that would have otherwise been stalled by Fallin.

Dahm represents Oklahoma’s 33rd district. He was first elected in 2012.

For more information, contact Sen. Nathan Dahm, 405-521-5551 or dahm@oksenate.gov.

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