12th Journal Entry of the 2nd Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

April 19th, 2014

It is with great honor that I share with you that having filed as District 15 State Representative for the 55th Session without opposition I will have both the honor and duty to continue to serve in that office.  My commitment to the constituents of this District will remain the same as the previous eight years:  staying in contact with you through being present at public events and communicating by publishing this Journal in addition to responding to inquiries sent to me through my Capitol office and by electronic formats.  While maintaining contact with those in the District, I will continue working diligently to represent your views and concerns in the legislative process in Oklahoma City.   This can be a frustrating process since there are competing views of what constitutes vital issues for the wellbeing of the state’s citizens.  This is often based on the population bases in the urban versus rural areas of the state which usually defy a “cookie cutter” approach to solving problems.  This can be magnified by political partisanship.  However, in the area of education,  I have seen movement toward “working across the aisle” especially in the area of education between legislators who are committed to protecting our public schools from attacks by various interest groups attempting to remove funding from our local schools’ budget.  This loss of funding is going to various alternative forms of education such as charter schools, virtual or online programs, private, and home schools. At times these alternative forms are combined to drain the state common education formula budget to the point that the local district will have to reduce programs that have insured that the student leaving the public school setting is truly  well rounded in his/her education as they proceed to the next level of college or career advancement.   

             I am encouraged to share the news that SB 573 authorizing formation of charter schools in our rural areas has been removed from the House Calendar.   

There have been various sayings that relate to the way our political systems serve the interests and needs of the citizens within its territorial boundaries, whether it be the nation, state, county, or municipality.  A recent bill that was passed out of the House reminds me of my favorite observation in this area.  Specifically, it states: the strength of a society can be measured by the ability of its citizens to function while their political leaders are driven by various degrees of hypocritical or contradictory posturing. Recently, the House of Representatives demonstrated such a level of hypocrisy when passing SB 1023.  The context of this violation of consistency in laws and policy is the regular diet of statements and ranting about one level of government (particularly the federal level) over-reaching and interfering with the legitimate operation of another level (state level).  This was done by the language of the bill which forbids any governmental entity within the state from mandating a minimum wage and employee benefits such as vacation and sick-leave days.  My no vote on this bill was based on the principle that is frequently expressed in this Chamber which states that all “good and honorable politics is based on local control.”  In other words, the closer you get to the citizens in your rule making is the true proximity of real democracy the government provides.  This bill contradicts this golden rule of Oklahoma conservative politics and therefore reflects the high level of hypocrisy that our so-called conservative leaders proclaim.  I am sure we will survive this and gain even greater strength as occurs when a bone is broken or flesh is torn and is mended to become even stronger than its original state.  I believe that is what is meant by the above statement concerning living under a government which practices hypocrisy as a standard means of operation.   

Another example of hypocrisy being the means of political maneuvering here at the Capitol is the decision of the Speaker of the House, Rep. Hickman, R- Fairview, who has made a ruling that a particular bill concerning authorizing revenue in the Unclaimed Property Account to be used to finish the Native American Cultural Center will not be heard unless 51 of his Republican Caucus members agree to support it.  Let me see now, there are 29 Democrats in the House, but he seems to be saying that our votes do not count on some issues.   But I thought in a democracy, all votes counted.  Oh well, maybe that does not apply in a Republican House of Representatives or should we call it the House of Hypocrisy? 

 

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  

 

11th Journal Entry of the 2nd Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

April 11th, 2014

We set aside a day each year when the Senate joins the House to give special recognition to those serving in the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry.  As a veteran having served in the 25th Infantry Division as an infantry rifleman and then squad leader from 1959-’62, I appreciate our honoring those who serve this nation with a commitment to serve and protect this nation and its citizens.   I do get frustrated when I realize that those serving in the legislature and having served in the military are down to about 15 percent.  In other words 85 percent of our legislators have not made the commitment to serve in the defense of this state and nation.   The problem with these figures is that when we make an enormous show of admiration to those who have served it seems like a rationalization for not having served. 

However, we did act on these noble expressions of gratitude by passing SB 1830 which I co-authored and it passed out of the House with a vote of 92 to 0 and was signed by the Governor on April 7.  This legislation requires higher education institutions to grant a leave of absence to students who are members of the military and are called into active duty or receive orders for duty assignment transfers while enrolled at a college or university.  This bill provides certain conditions in that the student would receive an incomplete grade and the leave of absence cannot exceed five years.  The student who has completed a minimum of fifty percent of all class work prior to being called to active duty and  completes all classes upon return from active duty would not have his/her grade point average penalized or experience a loss of institutional financial aid.   

There are times in the legislature when I take pride in any evidence of bi-partisanship.  We often have the image that we are in two hostile camps—Republicans versus Democrats.  This week we saw evidence of the contrary on an education bill, SB 1654 which was passed out of the Senate by a vote of 44 to 0.  This bill’s House author is Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison which calls for the discontinuing of state mandated testing in grades 3 through 8 in Social Studies and Writing.  This effort is supported by both the state administrators association, CCOSA, and the State School Board Association; and from emails received I would conclude that their members are in agreement with their organizations’ lead.   In opposition we find current State Superintendent Barresi and those following her lead in the House Common Education Committee.  This was evidenced when the Chair, Rep. Coody, R-Lawton, allowed two speakers outside of the Committee to attack the bill presented by her Vice Chair, Rep. Casey.  Their debates took over 10 minutes each.  However,  when it came time to debate for the bill the Chair wanted to merely allow myself and Rep. Casey 1 minute each.  After protests, that time was expanded to 2 minutes for both sides.  It passed out of the Committee on a vote of 11 yes to 8 no. 

As the Co-author of this bill and a former Social Studies teacher, I wrestled with this bill thinking that it might marginalize this very important area of study if we remove the state mandated testing from grades 3 to 8 in our public schools.  However, as I reflected on my work with students in this area and being recognized by the Oklahoma Council for the Social Studies as Oklahoma’s 1992-3 Social Studies Teacher of the Year for these efforts I came to the following conclusion.  During that time we did not have state mandated subject area testing.  Instead, I was teaching students to become involved in their learning by participating in numerous programs relating to the classroom subjects of Social Studies.  Among these programs were Citizen Bee, Model United Nations, Model Congress, We the People consisting of Simulated Congressional Hearings, and Mock Trials.  As I visit with students that were involved in these programs, I have been able to conclude that their efforts to gain a command of the subject material came, not because of some state mandated test, but because they were given the encouragement and focus to actually use what they learned in the classroom.  I must conclude that these standardized tests required by our state constitute an excuse or rationalization based on the belief that our public school administrators and teachers are not committed or qualified to teach without the direct oversight of the all powerful State Department of Education and its current leader, Superintendent Barresi.  It is my hope that this bill will be heard by the entire House so that it can be sent to the Governor for her signature so that we will be making a first step in a direction that is long overdue.     

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  

 

10th Journal Entry of the 2nd Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

April 3rd, 2014

 

             During my years associated with education in Oklahoma I have experienced several moments of joy and inspiration.   These include times in the classroom or watching my students perform in programs such as mock trials, model congress, and Citizen  Bee just to name a few.   On March 31 I felt that my experience level was magnified by several hundred degrees.  What I am referring to is the statewide educators’ rally at the Capitol where over 25,000 educators came to express their concern that their state officials had failed to hold the education of the state’s children as a high priority.   There were numerous speakers all calling for a change in the direction of our commitment to public education.  Signs were displayed stating that we have been failing to demonstrate an adequate level of commitment to education and our teachers.  I must add that I was most impressed with the extremely high level of civility in the atmosphere and actions of those in this rally.   This speaks highly for our educators. They were truly wonderful role models for the youth of our state on this very memorable day.    

While this was seen as a very positive event, there have been some legislators expressing opposition to it.  They indicated that educators need to be in their school educating rather than attempting to directly influence the process of government at the Capitol.  I strongly disagree with that view of our role as being isolated from constituents.   However, the Superintendent of Warner’s school district, Mr. David Vinson, answered these negative concerns in an e-mail that he sent to me.  “In my opinion it is irresponsible for you to blast citizens of our state for coming to the Capitol with concerns.  No school ‘missed a day’ to attend the rally.  Yes, school was not in session yesterday at many school sites across our state; however each school is making changes in their calendars to replace the day.”  He went on to explain that all schools are required by law to attend 180 days or 1080 hours each year.  In addition, his email documented the financial concern that his school district has with the yearly funding loss since 2009 of close to $400,000 totaling $1,500,005 in lost revenue.  With those two pieces of information, I am again gratified with the level of civility demonstrated by those attending this rally that addressed very serious issues.  

The third part of this story includes the action taken by the Senate days after the rally.  Their Finance Committee by a vote of 8-2 passed HB 2508 which is the $200 million tax cut bill.  This was a major focus of the rally in that it is believed that we cannot fund education if we continue to reduce revenue sources.  Another slap in the face was the full Senate passage of HB 3399 with amendments that did away with the traditional PASS objectives and also rejected the Common Core objectives that the state had agreed to in 2010.  The schools now are left to the mercy of the current State Superintendent and her Board as to what their responsibility will be for preparing students.  The third attack came by the Senate cutting the education funding bill, HB 2642 from $57.5 million to $29 million.  This too was a significant counter to the message sent by the teachers.  Apparently the Senate was not listening.  Now when these House Bills come back to us you will find out if we were listening.  If not, then I assume educators will hold members of both legislative bodies accountable for their votes by asking them to stay home until they learn to listen to those who know what they are talking about on education issues.   

An event that took place in the House of Representatives that was very meaningful and unusual was my issuing a legislative citation to Alex, a certified Service/Mobility Dog who was raised and trained by Jim and Donna Baxter from Porum Landing.  Alex has recently been assigned to Sally Harrison, a fourth grade teacher at Meeker living and working with MS. Alex joined her to the podium on the floor of the House where  she described to the members how Alex accompanies her in school which allows her to walk steady and be a highly effectively and engaging teacher.  Jim and Donna are currently training another Service Dog named Rally.  However, everyone attending the Porum Landing Volunteer Fire Dept. activities still misses Alex. 

  

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 

  

 

9th Journal Entry of the 2nd Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

March 28th, 2014

           Spring break week is somewhat uneventful as far as legislative issues go.  However, the high point of the week is the Oklahoma Youth Expo Legislative and Celebrity Show at the Oklahoma City Fair Grounds.  It was an honor to be allowed to show a commercial heifer entered by Porum High School Senior, Kylie Powell.  My showmanship of her heifer was greatly enhanced by Kylie’s patient coaching.  It is always a treat to work with show stock that students have spent an enormous amount of time training and grooming.  Parents and communities should be especially proud of these committed young people. 

It is always a pleasure to have a student from one of our District’s schools serving as a Page for the House of Representatives.  This week we enjoyed having Morgan Linduff, a senior from Gore High School, serving in that capacity.  As one of fifteen high school student pages she had the responsibility of assisting fellow House members by transporting messages and texts of issues from the Floor to various parts of the Capitol and attending formal education committee and rural caucus meetings.  A special part of her experience was the entire group of Pages from across the state having their own mock legislative session.  In this Morgan had an opportunity to demonstrate her debating skills as she presented opposition to a bill making it legal for a person with an appropriate permit or license to have a weapon on their person on a public school campus.      

I am pleased to share with my constituents that I have been assigned to the House Administrative Rules Committee where we will address issues concerning any state agency which requests any changes in their administrative process or rules.  My initial impression is this is a very critical position in that many times agencies will change their rules and procedures and this will have the effect of law on our constituents.  This will give us an opportunity to call these agencies to report their changes to this Committee.   

As we begin the phase of session where the bills that have been passed out of the Senate come to House Committees for our consideration we will be challenged to find resolutions on issues that have divided both Democrats and Republicans.  An issue that will be carried into this period from the first is the educational controversy concerning Oklahoma’s acceptance and development of Common Core standards.  The House has sent to the Senate an amended HB 3399 on a vote of 78-12 after a late night lengthy discussion and debate.  This bill going to the Senate repeals the Common Core statutes and replaces them with state originated standards that would become effective in the 2016-2017 school year.  Governor Fallin and State Superintendent of Education have endorsed these standards but the Tulsa School District has been dedicating its focus on Common Core and their Superintendent has stated that they will continue to implement these standards regardless of this legislation.  Perhaps he recognizes that 45 other states have committed to use these standards to prepare their students for college and careers.  My vote with the majority was based on the belief that our End of Instruction and third through eighth grade criteria referenced testing does not correlate to college or higher education standards.   It is my hope that when this bill which requires coordination between higher education and the State Department of Education goes to the Senate we will come up with ACT driven testing standards focus that relates to college and career preparation.   

I am looking forward to the Educators’ Rally at the Capitol on the 31st of March.  It is very impressive to see our public schools willing to come together to address the state’s commitment to fund education at the level needed to provide a quality education for our state’s youth.  It is equally sad to hear legislators and politicians try to say the educators have no business coming to their Capitol to discuss issues that impact their school districts and classrooms.  This line of thought makes me believe that those wanting parents, teachers, administrators to stay away from what they consider their little empire or private domain need to attend one of the school’s basic government or social studies classes to be made aware that this is not the politicians and legislators personal turf.   

 

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 

  

 

8th Journal Entry of the 2nd Legislative Session of the 54th Legislature

March 21st, 2014

            As a former administrator of a public school, I worked with students often having many projects to raise money for their school clubs or organizations.  One of the more popular fundraiser activities was the sale of fireworks during the time of our national holiday, the Fourth of July.  In the past these activities were limited in a small part by a sales tax being placed on their fireworks products purchased for sale.  I co-authored HB 2550 introduced by Rep. Roberts, R-Durant, which would help this issue by stating “A student group shall make application for the exempt transaction card not later than thirty (30) day prior to the anticipated first date upon which fireworks are anticipated to be purchased.”

Since I believe we should be financially supportive of our students attempting to achieve post-secondary education, I joined in an attempt to require that they be held accountable for money they received under the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program, a state funded scholarship awarded to students that qualify academically and financially.  HB 2778 by Rep. Nollan, R-Sands Springs, will require that a student on this scholarship who withdraws from the course or unit after the add/drop deadline established by the college or university shall have that amount removed from their next scholarship payment or repaid to the program.  The State Regents for Higher Education will be required to establish a process which will allow a student to apply for a waiver from the repayment requirements of this subsection based on certain hardship criteria established by the Regents.  This does not apply to those students who have been enrolled prior to the 2014-2015 school year. This loophole costs the state an estimated $5 million a year in lost revenue that could go to approximately 1,600 additional scholarships for students that comply with the guidelines of this program.   

A bill HB 2922 that passed out of the House by a vote of 81/10 by Rep. Coody, R-Lawton, requiring the SDE and their contracted testing companies must have all End of Instruction Tests back to the schools by June 1 if the student who took the test is a senior.  If it is not received by that time,  he/she is exempt from any applicable requirements relative to the test.  Perhaps of more significance was the section of this law that required the Third Grade Reading test which is required to be promoted to the Fourth Grade.  This law will require the results be returned by the second Friday of May of the year the student took the test. 

            There are times when we use the amending process as a means of fixing a bill.  Such was the case on HB 2367 by Rep. Trebilcock, R-Tulsa, which was initially amended to increase the travel allowance for each county commissioner and sheriff from $600.  to $950.  or an estimated 58.3%.  My amendment of this amended bill is to increase the travel allowance of county assessors, county clerk, court clerk and county treasurer by the same 58.3%.   This increase is optional and will come from each applicable agency’s budget. 

            There were two more bills that I co-authored which were passed out of the House and are headed for the Senate next week.  First, HB 2773 by Rep. Nollan, R-Sands Springs which provides another safety net under the Reading Sufficiency Act which has created a storm of resistance when third grade students  are retained due to their unsatisfactory score on this exam.  This bill would allow an appeal to a panel of the school’s teacher, parent or guardian, principal and reading specialist if one is hired by the district.  This appeal would be based on hardship or extenuating circumstances as identified by the team and this team will have authority to recommend the student’s promotion to the Fourth Grade.  Secondly, I joined Rep. Denny, R-Cushing, by co-authoring HB 2642 which provides the basis of increasing the revenue stream directly to our public schools districts’ revenue formula by creating a Securing Educational Excellence Fund.   The funds for this will come from our State General Revenue Fund in the amount of $57,500,000 annually based on revenue certified by the State Board of Equalization prior to the school year.  This is to be taken off of the top of the fund and going directly to the schools’ budget on a monthly basis.  This has a minimum revenue growth trigger of a 1% increase in state revenue for the initial increase and each year after the same increase is required to have the cumulative increase to take place.  If there is not an annual increase in general revenue the proposed revenue fund increase will be reduced proportionally to the lack of the 1% increase.

           

            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