26th Journal of the Second Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

July 21st, 2016

            In my next Journal I will list and describe the 51 interim studies that have been authorized by House Leadership.  Of these I have been able to find 5 of which relate to the state’s suffering education programs including Common or Public, Career Tech, and/or Higher Education.  Curiously, four of these five are uniquely authored by legislators who have “termed out” or will no longer serve in the legislature that relate to any of the three areas of education.   This low percentage of studies on education is interesting in light of the fact that these three areas fiscally constitute over 50 percent of the budget.  I am not sure what message is being sent by leadership—maybe that our state’s education programs are at such a high level that there is no need to focus a study on them while it is of greater concern to have a specific study on the impact of “Radical Islam, Sharia Law, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the radicalization process.”  This particular study is creating a firestorm in the media and is being seen as a last ditch desperate attempt by its author to convince the constituents in his eastern Oklahoma House District that this issue outweighs the crises that is going on in all the major budget cuts in areas such as Veterans Affairs and Public Safety whose budgets have been cut to the point of their inability to function at the level needed to provide our state with its critical services.  Equally interesting is the fact that there has been no approved Interim Study on “Funding of the Department of Safety.”

            On the issue of Public Safety, the Oklahoma Policy Institute has recently published an article stating the following.  “We have a lot of sympathy for Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson, who is trying to keep the Oklahoma Highway Patrol on the roads in the face of an inadequate state budget.”  The Commissioner is faced with several options all of which include the potential for layoffs, furloughs or other dramatic moves such as cancelling this year’s planned Trooper Academy which provides the very critical replacements for those Troopers that are set to retire this year.  These dramatic moves are due to the legislature’s funding cuts for DPS by $11 million for the 2016/17 budget.  With this agency having the primary responsibility of providing a safe environment for our state, it is a bit ironic, if not foolhardy, that our leadership is willing to spend money to have an Interim Study on Oklahoma’s perilous dangers caused by Islamic Terrorism while cutting the very Department that would have to deal with such a threat if it were to move from the world of fantasy to reality.  Another irony is that the author of this Islamic Terrorism Study is the Chair of Public Safety Appropriation and Budget Sub-committee where the approval of the Department of Public Safety budget cuts originated. 


25th Journal of the Second Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

July 14th, 2016

               It is very critical that the citizens of our state be made aware of the fact that State Treasurer, Ken Miller, has published data confirming that Oklahoma has been in an economic recession for more than a year.  He bases this report on data produced by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.  To meet this classification, the state’s economy must experience two consecutive quarters of economic contraction or decline.  Data shows that we have actually experienced negative growth or failures for three consecutive quarters.  It is a bit startling to find that Oklahoma’s fourth quarter Gross Domestic Product data shows a change of -2.8 percent resulting in our state ranking 48th of the 50 states.  Equally shocking is the fact that our state leaders pushed through a budget holding on to over $1billion in income tax cuts for the top 20 percent of our state’s wealthiest individuals and business entities at the very time this group failed to produce any form of economic growth that could justify the continued expansion of tax cuts.  In addition, the legislature had the statutory responsibility of reviewing and taking appropriate action on the $2 billion of long standing tax exemptions for specified businesses and their owners.  A classic case in point is the $4 million tax exemption that is annually granted to the owners of Thunder Basketball.  If we had scrutinized this yearly gift to some of the wealthiest citizens of our state, we would have found that this state issued gift did not generate a real cause for this sports team remaining in Oklahoma City with only one of its team members being a citizen of this state.  Instead of taking a responsible approach to this problem, the state leaders chose to cut funds by $330 million to 11 state service agencies such as Departments of Mental Health, Veterans Administration, Health Care, etc. In the area of education, we saw cuts to Higher Ed totaling $153 million, Career Tech-$15 million, and Common Education, after one removes all the distractions, $153 million.  In this latter category, the citizens of our state not being told the truth by being told that Common Education budget was flat.

            With the State Questions about to be finalized for the November Ballot, we find that one of the more controversial items, SQ 777, known as the “Right to Farm Bill.” has caused concern by those sensing a loss of protective measures relative to the impact on local environmental conditions.  Opponents of this question have filed an appeal to try and keep the measure on farming practices off the statewide ballot by filing an accelerated appeal in the case.  The hope is that the Oklahoma Supreme Court will take up the matter before the Oklahoma Election Board prints the November Ballots in late August. 


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



24th Journal of the Second Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

July 7th, 2016

           The 24th Journal brings our focus to activities at the local level which causes us to take pride in communities which come together to assist our fellow citizens that have certain needs.  Specifically, I am referring to this year’s “Feed the Children/God’s Helping Hands” event at Eufaula High School last month. I had the honor of introducing J.C. Watts Jr., President and CEO of Feed the Children and former Congressman and OU Quarterback who grew up in Eufaula.  This setting provided over 400 pre-identified families with food and essential personal hygiene products. 

            Another focus at the local level is Governor Fallin’s appointment of one of our local leaders, Grant Humphreys, to serve on the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission.  Mr. Humphreys is the town founder of Oklahoma’s newest municipality, Carlton Landing, a resort community on Lake Eufaula in Legislative District 15.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in real estate from Baylor University and has been a very active leader in expanding the numerous attractions and accommodations in this lakeside community. 

            At the state level, another area of the budget process that must be assessed is the fact that this budget is classified as “credit negative” or meaning that our revenue reserve is the lowest in 22 years!  Governor Fallin signed two bills that appropriated more than $75 million from the Constitutional Reserve, or Rainy Day Fund.  The $6.8 billion budget bill, SB 1616, is $360.7 million less than the original FY 2016 budget.  It is at this point that the leadership entered the fantasy world of budgetary double talk by indicating that Common or Public Education was held harmless with a “flat-budget.”  What we have concluded, including State Supt. of Public Education, Supt., Hoffmeister, is that the state education budget is not “flat” or without loss of revenue from previous years when we find that there were numerous areas, such as textbooks, and alternative education, that had no line-itemed revenue attached.  In addition, the education budget began with a $58 million hole or short-fall from the previous year’s loss of revenue.   Superintendents across the state are beginning to hear the proverbial “thump, thump, thump” sounds that are indicative of one driving with a “flat tire.”  Perhaps that is more descriptive of public school’s financial operational situation this current school year with what the state leaders like to call a flat budget situation.  Our public school leaders are going to become very good at “changing that flat tire” on the side of a very busy highway with bumper to bumper operational mandates.


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


23rd Journal of the Second Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

June 30th, 2016

          Characteristic of the effects of the budget cuts to numerous state agencies, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has been meeting to consider closing some of its smaller Agencies based on lack of revenue or because more fiscally efficient services can come from larger county offices.  DHS employment comes under Oklahoma Public Employees Association Executive Director Sterling Zearley who stated that each of the county offices was being thoroughly evaluated.  He said, “blame should not be placed on DHS, which has done a good job handling budget cuts from the state legislature.”  Part of the problem relates to our state’s inability to meet the revenue match to qualify for federal funding.  DHS is in communication with the federal government so that the amount subject to being lost will be limited if certain state funding is cut. 

            As I continue to process the effects of cuts to services provided for our citizens because of the actions of the past legislative session, I am especially concerned with the $15 million in cuts to the Department of Mental Health.  This is particularly alarming when one considers that our state currently ranks 3rd in the nation for prevalence of mental illness, with about 22.4 percent of the population having symptoms requiring some level of treatment, and 2nd in the nation for prevalence of substance abuse.  It is estimated that 700,000 to 950,000 Oklahomans need mental health and substance abuse related services while only 195,000 citizens actually receive services.  These numbers include both juveniles and adults. Oklahoma also has higher rates of crime, incarceration, and homelessness due to metal health related issues.  These figures are even more disconcerting when we recognize that there are approximately 215,000 people in rural Oklahoma who do not have access to a mental health provider.  Complicating the issue is that a large portion of this population does not have access to a primary care physician either due to provider shortage or lack ability to pay for these services since 62,000 people in rural Oklahoma have no health insurance.  Because of leadership budget cuts ($15 m) in this area, our state is placed as the 46th lowest in per capital funding for mental health services. 

            As we continue to wrestle with the effects of the multi-billion dollar holes in our budget and fiscal policies, we find an interesting report from the Oklahoma Watch stating that the Oklahoma Ethic Commission filings show a total of 195 lobbyists gave out $344,600 worth of gifts from January through May.  It was more than double the first half of 2014 when stricter lobbying policies were in place.  More than 90 percent of these gifts were granted during the 4 months of the legislative session.  A popular example of these gifts were Oklahoma City Thunder tickets, including those for playoff games.  It is a bit ironic that the state leaders chose to continue the $4.4 million tax exemption to the Thunder owners which contributed to our $1.3 billion budget shortfall.    


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



22nd Journal of the Second Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

June 23rd, 2016

           State legislative leaders do not agree with State Superintendent of Education Hoffmeister referring to the budget cuts in public education as “line itemed” budget categories.  These include categories such as Textbook, Alternative Education and Remediation that are traditionally identified and assigned a fiscal value in what is labeled as Public School Activities Budget.  From the records that are now available, it appears that the State Department of Education (OSDE) will experience an estimated $38 million shortfall in this area.  To make matters worse, we were notified that there will be a $16.3 million loss in the Common Education Technology Revolving Fund.  This is one of six revenue sources used to make up the state’s appropriation to the State Aid Funding Formula for Fiscal Year 2016 for education.  This area was originally funded at $47.3 million but currently only $31 million has been received.  It appears that funding of education continues to be on a downward spiral just as schools are beginning to plan for the next school year leaving administrators in a true quandary in their attempt to provide mandated services.         

            Another area of concern on the Oklahoma education front is the awareness that our state could fall behind Mississippi relative to teacher pay since that state passed a sales tax measure providing teachers with a $2,500 annual pay increase for two years.  Even the very conservative South Dakota state legislature passed a sales tax intended to give their teachers an $8,500 yearly salary increase.  This leaves Oklahoma at the bottom of the nation in terms of teacher salaries.  We do have a state question (SQ 779) which will be on the November ballot providing for a 1 cent sales tax which could help the national image of our state relative to educational funding.  It will be up to the citizens of the state to address this issue because their legislative leaders chose to dodge this area of responsibility.

            Drug dealers, using the interstate highway system as routes to transport their illegal contraband and cash, have switched from cash to cards as means of negotiation currency.  To address this, our law enforcement (Oklahoma Highway Patrol) under the Department of Public Safety oversight began using Electronic Recovery and access to Data readers with 16 such devices assigned to troopers.  These are intended to apprehend those involved in identity theft or other illegal activities involving monetary transactions.  When there is probable cause evident, the trooper can ‘freeze’ assets related to these cards especially if a driver has possession of dozens of cards.  Over 25 other states use this new technology and their use has been upheld by the courts but Governor Fallin has called for the discontinuance of this law enforcement tool “until DPS can educate the public and calm the fears of the motoring public.”  My concern is that those violating our laws by changing from cash to cards will see this as a momentary free pass to travel though our state without being held to the same level of scrutiny as they experience in neighboring states.   

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