14th Journal of the Second Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

April 27th, 2016

             It’s always been a pleasure to have Pages from my legislative district    serve in the House of Representatives and this last week it was my privilege to have Jocelynn McIntyre, a Senior at Vian High School as Page.  She was selected by the other Pages as the Page of the Week: a truly great honor.  During our Page breakfast, several educational issues were discussed and Jocelynn captured the true essence of effective teaching when she stated that students have different learning styles and a teacher should adapt his/her teaching approaches to students’ differing learning styles. 

            During the late hours of the night before the House adjourned the 13th week, we were presented with Senate Joint Resolution 72 (SJR 72) which, with passage of both House and Senate, will go to a vote of the people in the November General Election.   If this Resolution is passed by Oklahoma voters, it would delete Section V of Article II from our state constitution which states, “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 the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”  Those presenting this Resolution proclaimed their intent was to remove this language so that a monument representing the Ten Commandments as found in the Bible could be placed on state property or the Capitol grounds.  I found myself voting for this based on my acceptance of this interpretation. I began receiving calls and texts from educators not long afterwards asking if I voted for the “school voucher” bill.   I responded that I had not and asked what specific legislation that they were addressing.  Their response was SJR 72!  I began discussing this with them and they see this bill as a “Trojan Horse” in that if passed will allow public revenue to be directed to private parochial or religious schools.  From that view it resembles the Education Savings Account Bill allowing state education revenue to be used by parents for any school, public or private which I voted and debated against.  Now I find myself voting for it within the context of the hidden agenda in SJR 72 and my job is to make known to my constituents the full story and caution them of the legendary advice coming from the expression “Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.”, which alludes to the story of the wooden horse of Troy,

 before they vote on it in November

             Some legislators argue that public funds can already be used for religious private schools under the 9-0 Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling related to the Lyndsey Nicole Henry Scholarship.  However, this ruling restricted state revenue to be used solely for students with identified Learning Disabilities. The removal of the language of Section 5 of Article II of our state Constitution would have no such restrictions.  If SJR 72 is passed by a majority vote in November, it will have the effect of financially destroying our public education system as we know it. Is that truly what we want in District 15?   I hope that voters will take time to learn what SJR 72 does and vote against it if our State Attorney General allows it to be placed on the November Ballot. 

 

Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK  74455, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov,   918 448 5702.  Legislative Assistant, Glenda Johnson, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. 

 

 

13th Journal of the Second Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

April 20th, 2016

             I was honored to spend time this week with Gore High School student, Frannie Pool, who served as a House Page.  As Vice President of her school’s National Honor Society, Frannie also had the opportunity recently to join with her fellow members of this organization as their Superintendent, Mr. McCrary, brought them to the Capitol to observe the legislature in session, be recognized by the House of Representatives, eat lunch in Bricktown, and tour the Capitol.  It is always a pleasure to have students visit us at the Capitol. 

            This election cycle has generated one of the largest candidate filings that we have had in years.  From visiting with many of the new candidates, the central focus was to become a legislator to help protect citizens in the state from the majority party’s indifference to adequate funding of core services such as education, health, and public safety.  It will be interesting to see if it changes the direction that the current leaders are following or if they ignore these concerns and focus on moving the funding for these agencies from other sources such as highway and bridge maintenance or place user fees and taxes on services currently exempt from taxes into a revenue stream to cover the $1.3 billion hole in the state’s budget.  I also believe that many of those filing are frustrated with all the “behind closed doors” deals that are being made by the leaders of the majority party. 

                        This week we had legislation for which I found myself using “Constitutional Privilege” rather than administering a yes or no vote.  This is the first time in the ten years of serving as a State Representative that I have utilized this option.  The reason for this action on SB 1128 was that the title on this bill was posted on the House Informational Board as “Teacher’s Pension: Creating the Pension.”  As a retired teacher, I would be violating an ethics rule of voting on legislation which could have a positive or negative impact on my financial status since this is supposedly legislation which would create a revolving fund for revenue to be stored that could provide me with a “Cost of Living Adjustment” or revenue based on my retired status as a former teacher. 

            To the best of my memory we have been visiting the issue of proposing a National Constitutional Convention for several years.  This year it takes the form of Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJR4).  In particular, this Resolution was presented in an attempt to require a Convention of States for the purpose of amending the U.S. Constitution to mandate that our nation must maintain a “balanced budget” as a basis of our national government’s fiscal operations.  If this were to occur, it would be the first such an event in our nation’s history.  Two aspects of this caused me to take a no vote on this.  First, the actual wording of Article V authorizes the U.S. Congress to select the “mode of ratification” of the proposed changes.  This becomes troubling because it is this same body that has placed our nation’s government in this current major deficit standing.  Secondly, Oklahoma is currently in more of a budget deficit than the budget of our US government is.

             

Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK  74455, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov,   918 448 5702.  Legislative Assistant, Glenda Johnson, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. 

 

 

 

12th Journal of the Second Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

April 12th, 2016

          As we enter the 11th week of this Session, the state leaders continue to postpone addressing the massive $1.3 billion hole in our state budget.  It appears that they believe that avoiding this grants them leave of being responsible for the crisis that comes with promoting a collective annual $1 billion cut in state income taxes.  This in turn assures that our state services, such as public safety, education, health care, and corrections, will not have adequate funding to provide our citizens with services which will meet the basic needs of a state in today’s society.  The House Democrats called a press conference to formally declare a state of emergency due to the Republican leadership’s refusal to address the dire impact of policies of income tax cuts and special tax incentives to special interest groups while ignoring the declining role of the state’s responsibility to provide fundamental services to the citizens of our state.  The $1.3 billion short-fall in this year’s budget has forced House Democrats to call for a “Disaster Declaration Due to Leadership Failure.”

            Instead we found ourselves wasting time with unreasonable legislative approaches to the administration of punishment in our public schools.  A case in point was the two-hour farce of addressing SB 911 which would allow school boards to develop discipline policies which would have students provide mandatory community service as disciplinary punishment for violation of specified school policies.  This would require that the school district provide an appeal process before a specified committee for that purpose.   There was absolutely no language in the bill which would restrict a “chain-gang” approach to discipline to insure that it would be restricted only to the school campus nor was there any restrictive language that would prevent such discipline from being applied to trivial offenses as, for example, passing a note to another student during a study-hall setting.  Fortunately, the House author, Rep. Wood, R-Shawnee, allowed Rep. Grau, R-Edmond, to make a friendly amendment which removed this silliness from the bill and sent it back to the Senate where it was passed by an impressive vote of 32 yes and 13 no.  Hopefully, they will not re-enter what we deleted in this bill.  Meanwhile we wasted a day of the state’s taxpayer revenue pretending to be doing the people’s business and avoiding the life threatening monster in the room—the $1.3 billion hole in the budget.

            In my journals, I most always write on what is happening at the state level, but I am making an exception in this journal as a deadline is fast approaching that could impact a large number of people living in District 15 and US citizens.  This new law which goes into effect May 1st has the potential of impacting a certain segment of our population who should qualify for Social Security benefits in the next several years who may lose a portion of their anticipated future income if they do not act by April 29th.  This is the result of The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 which will close the “file-and-suspend” and the “restricted application” strategies.   Because May 1st falls on a Sunday, April 29 of this year is the deadline for avoiding this limitation of options for spousal benefits based on a person’s spouse’s work record.  If you are in this age category, please do not fail to check with the Social Security office.

             

Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK  74455, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov,   918 448 5702.  Legislative Assistant, Glenda Johnson, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. 

 

 

 

 

11th Journal of the Second Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

April 5th, 2016

            I concluded last week’s Journal with the drastic news that our state and district health care providers will be experiencing major cuts to their state funding source even up to 25 percent of existing revenue.  This message created a firestorm that even our “heads in the sand” state leaders could not avoid.  They have gone for several years rejecting federal matching funds by refusing to participate in the Medicaid expansion that has been available to Oklahoma if we agreed to participate in the federal health care program.  As our state is facing a $1.3 billion shortfall, the health care providers such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and physicians have been placed in a crisis mode.  This, in turn, caused the Governor, House Speaker, and Senate Pro Temp to call a “closed door” meeting with limited access as the Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO, Nico Gomez, presented his health care survival plan.

            This included a plan to approve the acceptance of a 1 to 9 funding ratio from the federal government.  That’s right!! If we can raise $100 million to help balance the budget and assist in funding health care we will be eligible to receive $900 million of that federal money that is a portion of what our state businesses and residents have been paying into the federal coffers but what state leaders have been refusing to accept because they, either don’t like the current President or are fearful that our state and citizens may actually be a functioning part of the United State of America (that dreadful Federal Government).  Perhaps it takes a major fiscal crisis for our leaders to come to their senses and serve their state constituents in a manner that resembles some level of rationality. 

            In summarizing this plan, we must first recognize that this will help stabilize Medicaid provider rates, while moving 175,000 children and pregnant women from Medicaid to private insurance plans.  This, in and of itself, can be a problem so we must add another part of the puzzle which would be the creation of a new Insure Oklahoma program providing health care coverage for adults from 19 to 64 years of age and with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. This is based on the principle that those in this group could have a choice of commercial insurance plans with premiums based on their income levels.  Complicating these proposals is the portion which is designed to generate funds to cover the reduction in reimbursement rates and fees charged by doctors and hospitals.  This needed revenue source would take the form of an increase of $1.50 per pack tax on cigarettes.   This will require a super 3/4 majority vote of both legislative houses or with a simple majority vote it could be placed on a ballot initiative for a vote by the state’s citizens during the general election in November.   The problem with this latter item of this attempted solution is that there will very likely be major opposition to any type of tax increase to fill the $1.3 billion budget hole.  Even if all other parts of the equation passed, the entire plan will fail if voters reject the tax increase on cigarettes,

            If you would like to receive my notes regularly, please send your request to my email address below.

 

Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK  74455, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov,   918 448 5702.  Legislative Assistant, Glenda Johnson, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol. 

 

 

 

10th Journal of the Second Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

March 31st, 2016

Journal 9 ended on a negative note concerning those state leaders attempting to derail the state’s new education standards for math and English.  However, the reports that we have now is that these efforts died when both the House and Senate adjourned for the week without considering a final bill.  These standards, which have been two years in development, will take effect by default since we took no action to stop or change them.  It may be said that the lack of leadership in this case appears to have won the day.  

Having students serve as House Pages creates a source of wonderful memories as a former teacher.  In our eighth week of this Session, I was blessed to have Paige Powell, a Senior at Stigler High School and Drake Pound, a Senior at Porum High School serving as my House Pages.  It was fascinating to observe their work in their mock legislative session as they wrestled with issues of time change and appropriate diets in our schools.  I have always been impressed by student’s willingness to serve as legislative pages. 

            One of the special honors experienced as a State Representative is to have the opportunity to present to the House members the Veteran of the Week from District 15.   I was granted this privilege by having Stigler resident, Terry Scantlen, honored for his service in both the Navy and Army during campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.   He led the members in the Pledge of Allegiance and expressed his appreciation to the members for being the recipient of this honor. He was presented a U.S. flag that had flown over the Capitol.   As a fellow veteran, it gives me great pride to have had this opportunity three times during my 10 years of legislative service. 

            As we move toward consideration of Senate passed legislation, the House’s responsibility for the budget is beginning to take its toll on agency fiscal planning and services.   One case in point is the Department of Human Services (DHS) which has cut its employee staff by over 1,200 fulltime workers and now DHS beneficiaries are preparing to feel the crunch.  This will take the form of switching to quarterly rather than monthly payments for state supplemental assistance thereby impacting over 88,000 of Oklahoma’s neediest citizens.   Another area where our fiscal demise is taking a serious toll is through budget cuts for more than 73,000 of our low income citizens with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.  The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services announced last week that they would have to cut an additional $13 million making its total cuts since January come to almost $23 million.  When we factor in federal matching funds in this area we find the negative impact on treatment statewide will exceed $36 million.  This occurs at the same time that our Governor, House Speaker, and Senate Pro Temp refuses to consider any of the $2 billion of “off the top” sweetheart fiscal deals with wealth based entities in and outside of the state.  These two examples make me think of a recent article by Wayne Greene in the Tulsa World where he describes what is happening in our state as “Economic Cleansing” that seems to have a lot of similarity to the “Ethnic Cleansing” in the Balkans in the 1990s.  Except in economic cleansing, the targets are not the Serbs or the Croats, but the poor people of Oklahoma.     

 

Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK  74455, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov,   918 448 5702.  Legislative Assistant, Glenda Johnson, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol.