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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.

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT APPOINTS STEVE BUCK AS SECRETARY OF HUMAN SERVICES & EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES

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Oklahoma City, Okla. (February 15, 2019) – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Steve Buck as the Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives, a cabinet position that requires Senate confirmation.

“Steve has a proven track record for bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the most vulnerable in our state are taken care of and given opportunities for a bright future,” said Stitt. “Steve’s passion and vision to continue to improve Oklahoma’s services supporting children and families will play a critical role on the cabinet as we work to move the entire state forward.”

As secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives, Buck is responsible for 34 agencies, boards and commissions, including the Department of Human Services and Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs (OJA). He previously served the state as secretary of health and human services under the Fallin administration.

As OJA’s executive director, Buck is responsible for the overall management of the agency’s operated and contracted programs and services. He works directly with the agency’s governing board to facilitate agency priorities, planning and operational performance. Before joining OJA, Buck served nine years as deputy commissioner for communications and prevention at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Prior to that, he worked 10 years for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in multiple roles, including national director of state policy and executive director of NAMI Oklahoma. Buck and his wife, Lisa, have four daughters and two sons. A native Oklahoman, he is a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a masters in administration leadership from the University of Oklahoma.

“Steven Buck is a champion of children and families; a proven leader who brings an extensive scope of experience to Oklahoma as a wonderful steward of people and physical resources. I know him to be a person of integrity who exemplifies a heart for all Oklahomans and a passion to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens receive the services they need most. He is a convener, a collaborator and a servant leader, bringing together foster providers, parents, governmental agencies, mental health services, the judicial system, and the public-at-large. He is truly among Oklahoma’s greatest treasures and will be a wonderful addition to the Governor’s cabinet.” – Karen Vinyard Waddell, Former DHS Commissioner; Chair, Count Me In 4 Kids, and President/CEO, the Lynn Institutes 

“I have had the pleasure of working with Director Buck in his many leadership roles in our state.  He has always approached his work with a heart of service and is uniquely qualified to be secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives.  Steven’s passion for people, particularly children is unmatched.  Governor Stitt couldn’t have picked a better person to advise him on these issues.”  Scott C. Martin, President/CEO, Norman Chamber of Commerce

“I have known and worked with Steve Buck for many years.  I consider him a transformational leader, an innovative thinker, a truly principled, transparent individual, an unwavering advocate for children and families and a valuable partner who is always willing to think outside the box.  As Governor Stitt reimagines Oklahoma’s future, Steve will be an invaluable asset as secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives.  Huge thanks to Governor Stitt for appointing Steve Buck to fight for the children and families of Oklahoma.”  Sarah Roberts, Senior Program Officer, Inasmuch Foundation 

“Steve is a man of integrity and a selfless individual. Through my association with him for some 30 years, I have found him to have a servant’s heart and an ability to communicate with all he comes in contact. He will serve our state well.”  Phil Kennedy, Owner and President, Comanche Home Center, Lawton 

“I couldn’t be more excited for Director Steven Buck’s appointment to Governor Stitt’s cabinet as secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives. Steve’s work is not a job, but rather a calling. As a true advocate for youth and justice, Mr. Buck will unquestionably make a positive difference for our state.”  Lee Roland, Author, Public Speaker and Education Consultant

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.

Senate Review March 22 2018

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We’re into the second half of the legislative session.  Being that last week was the deadline for floor action on Senate bills, we were extremely busy.  We heard more than 300 bills in the last two weeks. 

Senate Republicans voted strongly (85%) in favor of the revenue package presented Thursday night through HB 1033.  We voted on HB 1033 that would generate $450 million for a 12.7 percent teacher pay raise and a $2,500 state employee raise.  The measure would have increased the GPT from 2-4 percent on all wells ($126 million); increase the gas diesel tax by six cents ($170 million); and increase the cigarette tax by $1/ pack ($152 million). 

            SB1033 failed by two votes, only two votes away from the constitutionally-required three-fourths majority.  But we’re not done.  We will keep working to find a solution to create revenue that our Democratic colleagues can agree with.  While the bill to pay for the raise failed, the actual bill (SB133) creating the raise passed overwhelmingly so as soon as we find a revenue source, the vehicle is there ready to move forward.

Unfortunately, revenue raising measures must get approved by 75 percent of both the Senate and House.  In the Senate that is 36 votes and in the House, it’s 76 votes.

The source of the gridlock in Oklahoma is that we require super majority approval for revenue raising measures. SQ 640, enacted by voters in 1992, has led to the current gridlock and made it virtually impossible to approve reasonable revenue plans to shore up the state budget and provide teacher and state employee pay raises. 

The Senate recently approved SJR61 which would send SQ640 back to the vote of the people for them to modify SQ 640 so that 75 percent support for tax increases is required except for increases to sales and use taxes, which would only require a 60% (3/5) support from the House and Senate. 

Also this week, I finished up my remaining bills that passed off the Senate floor.  These included:  SB1364, which modifies procedures for sale of certain property and SB1365 modifies the maximum amount of certain county retirement contributions. SB1369 is a bill that clarifies language relating to police and fire arbitration. SB1372 extends the billing cycle of the State Medicaid Program and, lastly, SB1488 creates a lifetime landowner license.

            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.

NewsOK: Poll shows three-way tie in GOP gubernatorial primary

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Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Kevin Stitt and Mick Cornett are in a three-way tie for first in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, according to a survey released Wednesday by Magellan Strategies.

The survey of 644 likely Republican voters showed 19 percent expressed support for Lamb; 19 percent for Stitt; and 17 percent for Cornett.

The automated voice recorded survey was conducted on April 18, 19 and 22, according to the Colorado-based company. The survey has a margin of error of 3.86 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

According to the survey, President Donald J. Trump has an approval rating of 80 percent in the state, while Gov. Mary Fallin’s approval rating is 20 percent.

Stitt is a Tulsa businessman running as an outsider. Cornett is the former mayor of Oklahoma City.

Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson received 12 percent in the survey; Yukon pastor Dan Fisher received 5 percent; and Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones received 5 percent.

The undecided was 23 percent.

The primary election is set for June 26, with the run-off primary scheduled for Aug. 28.

Previous polls this year have shown Cornett and Lamb as the frontrunners, with Stitt in third and very high amount of undecided voters.

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.

The marathon continues

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We now have six weeks left in the first session of the 56th Legislature. My first session at the Capitol has flown by so far, and now is the time we really start getting into specifics with appropriations and budget bills.

 

Committee meetings wrapped up on April 13, so most bills that did not clear committee are dead for the remainder of the session. However, there is an exception for revenue-related legislation. The Appropriations & Budget Committee’s deadline is April 20, but there is some flexibility on that deadline as well, and it is not unusual to see additional bills pop up after that date.

 

I’m sure many of you are aware of the budget proposals that are being floated. The governor has her plan; the Democrats in the House proposed one of their own; even the state auditor has come up with a tax proposal. I’m sure you are wondering where we Republicans are in our budget process.

 

There are many items still up in the air, but House Republicans are about to start proposing several building blocks for a balanced budget. Leadership has a plan in place, and we will begin taking up revenue-raising measures as well as other possible solutions in the next couple of weeks. Chances are there will be a number of tax credits, exemptions and deductions on the table before we see anything like a tax increase. I plan on reviewing every proposal carefully as we seek to close the $878 million projected shortfall in next year’s budget. As those bills come up, I will be sure to update you with any major developments.

 

Even though budget work has yet to be finalized, the Judiciary – Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee and the Public Safety Committee passed some significant criminal justice reform measures last week. These bills were part of Gov. Mary Fallin’s justice reform package and are meant to better Oklahoma’s corrections system. I’m not in either committee, but I was glad to hear the bills are progressing, and I look forward to voting on them when the measures come before the House floor.

 

If you remember, we are currently hearing Senate bills in the House. The third-reading deadline for those Senate bills is April 27, meaning all of those measures will have to receive a hearing by that date to stay alive. At that point, the House will review any amendments senators added to our legislation. If we approve those changes, the bills can progress to the governor’s desk. If we do not approve the amendment, the bill can go to a conference committee to iron out any details.

 

As always, please feel free to reach out if you need anything. Being your state representative is one of the most gratifying jobs I have ever had, and I want to do as much good as I can. You can call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7327 or email me at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov. Thank you, and God bless.

Shelby and Ryleigh Watkins serve as pages for Senator Chris Kidd

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Comanche High School senior, Shelby Watkins, and sophomore, Ryleigh Watkins served as Senate pages for State Sen. Chris Kidd, R-Waurika, during the tenth week of the legislative session from April 9 – 12, 2018. Shelby and Ryleigh are the daughters of Waurika residents Chris and Raquel Watkins.

Senate bills filed for 2018 session

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The Senate has completed filing bills for the Second Session of the 56th Legislature. A total of 706 Senate bills were filed along with 23 Senate Joint Resolutions. In 2016, a total of 831 Senate bills and 46 Senate Joint Resolutions were filed.

The deadline does not apply to appropriations bills which can be filed throughout the session. In addition, substantive bills can be introduced during the session after the filing deadline. In order for this to occur, the Majority Floor Leader must assign it to a committee and the entire committee becomes the published author of the bill. Such bills must still be heard on the floor by March 22, the deadline for floor votes on legislation originating in the Senate. Measures not heard within that time frame will be considered dead and cannot be reconsidered.

The process of authoring bills by committee was first adopted by the Senate in 2015 to do away with shell bills, which were bills with no language used as vehicles for measures later in the session. The change was aimed at increasing transparency in the legislative process.

Legislation can be read and downloaded through the official State Senate website at www.oksenate.gov by following the link for Legislation at the top of the homepage. The Senate website also includes daily agendas, meeting notices, calendars, and other helpful information.

You can also follow the Oklahoma State Senate on Twitter at OKSENATEINFO.

The Senate offers streaming audio and video from the Senate Chamber, as well as from all committee rooms. Wireless Internet access is available to all Capitol visitors throughout the Senate gallery, rotunda, committee rooms, offices and press rooms.

The 2018 legislative session will reconvene on Monday, February 5.

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