52th Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

January 22nd, 2015

In preparation for the start of the 1st Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature, the House of Representatives conducted its Organizational Day in which there was no change in the Office of Speaker in that Speaker Jeffrey Hickman, R-Fairview, was re-elected to that position. The only change was the election of Representative Lee Denny, R-Cushing, as Speaker Pro Tempore. Her role will be to chair the daily operations of the House. The only issue that raised its head during this day was the issue that our state’s budget is said to be $300 million behind last years’ revenue and that state agencies are being warned that they should prepare to reduce their budgets for their 2015/16 operations.
As I discussed in the last Journal, we are seeing Governor Fallin move to accept new money from the national Affordable Care Act (ACA). This may indicate that she is being influenced by Republican Governors from several “red” states to find ways of accepting this federal money without being seen as selling out her anti-ACA position. Let’s look at some of the specifics of a proposal to see if we can join other Republican states such as Wyoming, Indiana, Tennessee, and Utah in finding a compromise solution to our possible acceptance of the Medicaid Expansion which would help a high percentage of our citizens who are currently left out of any financially reasonable health care plan. Of course, any such plan would have to be accepted by the current national administration because it cannot deviate from the federal health care law. The foundational principle of this $28 million proposal is its stipulation that if the state’s share of funding for this plan goes beyond 10% they will have the right to drop out of it. Under this plan, those earning100 to 138% of the federal poverty level—for a single person, $11,670 to $16,105 a year—would have no monthly premiums. Based on a summary of the proposed plan, premiums could range from about $20 to $50 a month, depending on household size and income. People earning less than 100% of the poverty level would not have to pay monthly premiums. But they could owe small co-payments as could higher income groups for certain services. Those classified as “medically frail” would get Medicaid, which has a slightly more comprehensive benefits package for certain services.
However, I have found that a western state, Wyoming, with Republican leadership, Governor Mead has proposed to the Obama administration an amended form of acceptance of Medicaid expansion. At least three other Republican governors in the following states: Indiana, Tennessee, and Utah, are negotiating with the Obama Administration for modified forms of the Medicaid expansion program. It is my hope that the Republican leadership of our state can gain control of their “Obama paranoia” to consider something that places our state in a greater control position while helping the very deserving lower income citizens and our emergency room hospital programs. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the annual income level at which a family of three makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid in Oklahoma is $9,104.
A recent report indicates that there is a big increase in new customers signing up for health insurance in Florida, Texas and other states using the federal insurance marketplace. But in states running their own insurance exchanges, the numbers are more modest. This report documented that 87% of those selecting health plans for next year in the federal exchange had qualified for subsidies that would reduce their premiums. These increases came primarily from states that had previously discouraged their citizens from participating but currently have found ways to accommodate the federal program as part of their approach to provide health care.
In light of our Governor asking for and accepting a $2 million grant through the ACA, we may find that we may join other “red” states in setting aside politics in order to provide greater healthcare opportunities for our citizens.

If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday

51th Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

January 22nd, 2015

As we move into the new 55th Legislative session, I believe that our state health care may come into play. Part of my reasoning is based on a recent report that Morton Clinic, one of Tulsa’s main providers of primary health care for the uninsured, announced that it will not be able to accept new patients from the population in 2015 because of state cuts to funds for care of the uninsured. This is reflective of a recent national Gallup-Health ways’ report in which Oklahoma received its ninth-lowest score in the country. It is not surprising that this index placed our state in this embarrassingly low place since it asked residents about their emotional and physical health in addition to how safe they feel. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality gave us the fourth-lowest score in the nation in terms of health care quality. An example of the basis for their ranking was that the state has a poor record of delivering mammograms to women between 50 and 74. Patients at Oklahoma hospitals also gave their doctors and health clinics below-average satisfaction scores. While there are exceptions to these reports and indexes, they are sufficient to cause the legislature to spend some of its time reflecting on our state’s policy concerning our citizens being provided an opportunity to have a healthy life for themselves and their families.
Some of the reasons for the above information come from our state seeming to maintain a steadfast position of opposition to accepting the expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). Even though this will provide health care for thousands of Oklahomans and assist our local hospitals in providing care in their emergency rooms, the state leadership has politicized this under the cloak of “Obama-Care” with the continued focus on the anticipation that the cost will eventually be phased in with the state paying a higher percentage of the cost. For example, while the federal government has been paying the entire amount since its inception in 2012, in 2015 the states will be obligated to pick up 10 percent of the cost. This process has captured the fears of those leaders of our state in the expressed dangers of the invasive nature of the federal government. These fears are a bit confusing in light of the fact that our Governor has recently asked for and received a $2 million Affordable Care Act grant.
This award is rather significant in that it represents a change in Oklahoma’s general reluctance to participate in programs authorized by the infamous “Obamacare” approach to healthcare. Our state is one of 28 states that chose to receive funding in the second round of State Innovation Models which totaled $665 million. The Governor’s spokesperson stated in a somewhat interesting manner the following: “It is not about expanding the size or scope of government, but making the services we already offer better and more efficient.” The U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary stated the federal government’s enthusiasm in having Oklahoma join in this potential expansion of the ACA by stating, “We are committed to partnering with Oklahoma to advance the goals we share: better care, smarter spending, and ultimately, healthier people.” I am pleased to see our Governor modify some of her previous isolationist positions on this topic and hopefully our state will be able to change the dire statistics that I shared at the beginning of this Journal.

If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday

50th Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

January 8th, 2015

As our 55th Legislature looms on the horizon, we are considering legislation that will be filed. At this point I am filing five bills in rough draft form that include the following. 1. On education I am calling for a two year moratorium on the Quantifiable Teacher/Principal Assessment which is based on student academic performance. If placed into effect as it is now written this will result in a series of law suits each time a teacher is placed on a plan for improvement an subsequently not re-hired after a hearing. The problem as I have shared with you is that there is no equity in the current assessment criteria. Secondly, also in education, I am calling for the annual salary cap of $15,000 for retired teachers who are back in the classroom to be replaced with a $30,000 cap. This is designed to address the critical shortage of certified educators. Thirdly, I am asking that we allow widows of 100 percent disabled veterans to have a state sales tax exemption of $15,000. Currently a disabled veteran of this capacity is granted a $25,000 sales tax exemption. Fourth, I am calling for the Department of Corrections (DOC) to discontinue placing prisoners in private facilities until all DOC and county jails meeting DOC stipulations are operating at 75 percent capacity. Lastly, I am asking for legislation which specifies a “setback” range from petroleum drilling using the “fracking” process for homes and schools.
While we are looking forward into events that will take place in 2015, I would like to discuss a lawsuit that is before the Oklahoma Supreme Court this year. It deals with a law that allows a student with disabilities to use public funds to attend a state-accredited private school of their choice that provides educational programs addressing their special needs. This lawsuit was originally filed by public school administrators who sued the State Department of Education claiming that the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act was in violation of our State Constitution in that it provides public funds to religious based institutions. Initially there was controversy as to whether the schools had to issue the allocated funds directly to the parents rather than the private religious schools.
To solve this the proponents of this attack on our state laws had legislation passed which had the money go to these private schools directly from the State Department of Education. This approach was then challenged but the Courts dismissed the case in 2012. In August of 2014 an Oklahoma Judge ruled that the program was unlawful if the scholarships were taken to schools that incorporate their religious teachings into their school program. He made exceptions to this ruling where these private schools were “religious” in name only. Although the district court held that scholarships going to certain religious schools were unconstitutional, the judge stayed or withheld his ruling pending review by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This Court has indicated that it will decide this case and it is possible that a decision could be issued without a hearing in early 2015. It is my sincere hope that this, the highest court in our state, will consider the actual wording of Article 2, Section 5. Public money or property—Use for sectarian purposes. No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such. This exact wording in our Oklahoma Constitution is much more inclusive and expansive than our U.S. Constitution on this matter. I will be shocked if the State Court will read this and say that your tax dollars can be used to help finance these religious private schools that are currently receiving state funding under the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarship Program.

If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday

49th Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

January 3rd, 2015

As we prepare for the swearing in of a new State Superintendent of Education on January 12, it would be wise to review the current Superintendent, Janet Barresi’s last act in that role. First, she cancelled the last scheduled meeting of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Commission which was scheduled to formulate a recommendation for the State Board of Education to adopt concerning the Student Learner Outcome (SLO) portion of the quantifiable part of the state mandated teacher evaluations. This is the portion which consists of the 35 percent of the evaluation based on students’ classroom achievements impacting close to 80 percent of the students in our public schools. The other area or about 20 percent are those students who take state mandated testing which is referred to as the Value Added Method or VAM. However, with the cancellation of the Commission meeting, Supt. Barresi initiated her own guidelines for the State Department of Education (SDE). It is here that I have found disturbing information concerning the source of her guidelines.
First, it is stated on the SDE website on page 3 of its TLE Newsletter that the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) does not require specific assessments to be used in the development of SLOs and that districts will need to make decisions regarding the selection and approval of this 35 percent portion of the evaluation. Here one finds that there is a list of 5 assessments to be used when deciding which will be approved for their teachers. The list is as follows: 1. State Tests; 2. Districtwide Assessment; 3. Common Assessment; 4. Individual Classroom Assessment (purchased); and 5. Individual Classroom Assessment (created). To assist this process, the SDE recommends that the “Districts refer to the Colorado Resource Board for assessments that have been formally vetted….” “To access this resource, please click her: http://www.coloradopic.org/assessment.” Herein lies the problem.
On the Colorado Dept. of Education website one finds that its State Board of Education has adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It is stated that “The standards were developed …to prepare our children for college and the workforce.” “The CCSS provide consistent, shared learning targets for each grade level for students across schools, districts, and states.” (emphasis is mine) This latter point underscores the fact that this is part of the Common Core agenda that the Oklahoma legislature passed legislation during the last Session of the 54th Legislature that forbids the OSDE and any of its Districts from implementing these Common Core Standards. I am totally confused, as many of our state school district leaders are, concerning the intent of the State Department of Education’s recommendation to follow a system that is in direct violation of Oklahoma law. Some might say that Colorado changed since its original adoption of the CCSS in 2010. However the following evidence disputes that claim. In my research on Colorado’s educational criteria for recent national trends on education standards and specifically referencing the Common Core Academic Standards I found the following news report in the Denver Post written by Kevin Simpson in February of this year. He states the following: “In Colorado the Department of Education has guided a statewide, teacher driven effort to produce sample curricula that address the new standards. This year students and their families are seeing classroom changes triggered by Common Core Standards.”
Was this the parting shot of our current State Superintendent of Public Education whereby she was authorizing the school districts under supervision to violate state law? However, her timing was not well planned since the state’s public schools will be under new leadership and hopefully the Governor and Legislature has learned a series of very valuable lessons. Now the challenge will be: Were the lessons truly learned? You will find out as the First Session of the 55th Legislature begins its work on February 2nd of 2015.

If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday

48th Journal Entry of the Second Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

December 26th, 2014

As we move toward the beginning of the new legislative session we are receiving indications of our ability or lack of capacity to adequately fund core services of our state government such as public education, health care, corrections, and public safety. Perhaps we should start this analysis with the press release by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jeffrey Hickman, R-Fairview. This refers specifically to the projections by the Oklahoma Board of Equalization for the state revenue based on 2014 and its impact on our budget for the 2015/16 budget. “The estimate to be considered of $60 million more than last year shows the continued strength of our economy.” He goes on to conclude that this will meet the trigger needed to cut state revenue by changing the state income tax rate from 5.25% to 5%. This will result in a reduction of $48 million in tax revenue for next year’s budget.
The Speaker’s press release then throws a curve at the reader when he adds that “due to oil prices and agricultural commodities being on the decline we find that funds used to supplement the general revenue at levels of previous years are insufficient. As a result “state agencies should make preparations now, in their current budgets, for fewer dollars in next year’s budget.” In other words we are going to cut state revenue through tax cuts, which will not have a positive financial impact on close to 40% of Oklahoman tax payers at the very same time that our state’s citizens will experience cuts in funding for the state’s core services. Another concerning aspect of this budget analysis is that the tax cut will only help 60 percent of the state’s tax payers while the cuts in the agencies’ budgets will impact the 40 percent of lower income citizens. In other words, those who can afford a reduction of services are the only ones that will gain by the reduction in the state’s revenue sources while those that will not gain by the tax cuts will also be those that experience hardship with the cutback on state core services.
Supporting this area of concern is State Treasurer Ken Miller’s statement that the Equalization Board anticipated a $300 million hole in the Fiscal Year 2015/16 state budget. He was referring to revenue projections that indicate approximately $6.9 billion will be available for the Legislature to appropriate next year, an amount that is 4.1 percent less than the 7.2 billion the Legislature appropriated for the 2014/15 Fiscal Year. I must ask how the Speaker can proclaim that our economy is strong enough to cut income tax rates at a time when we cannot maintain any continuity in our budgeting process. This level of duplicity reminds me of the quote: “The strength of a society can be measured by its ability to withstand the contradictory policies and proclamations of its leaders.”
I would like to conclude this journal with an update on a health care issue that came under study of a Joint House Public Health and Senate Health and Human Services Committee on the 24th of November. While the topic impacts a large number of youth in our state the source of its solution is derived from a substance that is currently considered illegal. The testimony of parents with children experiencing these debilitating seizures was very emotional as one would expect. The focus was on the powerful effect of limiting these seizures and improving brain functioning by going to other states to acquire and or be treated by the use of cannabidiol oil or CBD which is a compound in marijuana. The oil is non-psychoactive and not addictive and is not inhaled and does not provide the effect of being high. The House author, Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, testified that 12 states have legislation dealing with this medical approach and he would like Oklahoma to be one of the states to start studying the effects and different usages of CBD for medical use. Darrell Weaver, Director of Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs testified that he supported this effort but stated that “this is not about legalization of marijuana.”

If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me, please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com Ed Cannaday
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