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Saturday, October 20th, 2018Last Update: Tuesday, July 31st, 2018 11:05:57 AM

Winter 2018

By: Constitution Staff

Bills Filed in Legislature

January 18 was the last day for state legislators to file legislation for the Second Session of the 56th Legislature. In the Senate, a total of 706 bills were filed along with 23 joint resolutions. In 2017, 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. There were 1,193 bills and 32 joint resolutions filed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives for the 2018 legislative session. Last year, the House reported that 1,340 bills and 24 joint resolutions were filed. The 2018 legislative session will reconvene on Monday, February 5.

Commissioners of the Land Office

State Reps. Tom Gann (R-Inola), Rick West (R-Heavener) and Kevin Calvey (R-Oklahoma City) have co-authored House Bill 8384, legislation that would require the Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO) to raise Oklahoma teacher salaries by $5,000 starting next school year using part of the almost $2.4 billion currently in the CLO fund. The agency has also been called the School Lands Commission and the state Constitution grants the CLO its authority to hold sections of land in each state township, granting property and oil and gas leasing rights for the sole purpose of supporting common education. The measure specifies the money will not count as a chargeable against school districts that receive money through the state funding formula, meaning they will not get less formula money in exchange for receiving additional funding for teacher pay.

According to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the CLO’s total portfolio was almost $2.4 billion for 2017. Total program revenues were $322.8 million, compared to $87.6 million in 2016. In 2017, the CLO distributed more than $143.6 million, $103.4 million to K-12 schools, the highest total in state history. The distribution is done according to the Average Daily Attendance of each school as provided by the state Department of Education. The CLO distributed more than $35.9 million to universities and colleges and $103.4 million for public buildings. This was an increase of $11 million from the apportionments of fiscal year 2016.

Amending SQ 640

House Speaker Pro Tempore Harold Wright (R-Weatherford) has authored legislation to direct the Oklahoma Secretary of State to refer to the people an amendment to Section 33 of Article V of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma. House Joint Resolution 1032 looks to amend the state’s constitutional requirement for the number of votes needed in the Legislature to pass revenue raising legislation. Currently, due to the passage of State Question 640, which was passed in March of 1992, revenue-raising legislation requires a three-fourths vote of both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate. Wright’s legislation would change the requirement to pass revenue-raising measures to three-fifths of the Legislature (60%). “This has been the most difficult legislative year since I was elected,” Wright said. “Partly because of two special extraordinary sessions but also because it has been impossible to pass necessary revenue measures to provide for adequate core services in Oklahoma: roads and bridges, public safety, education, public health and corrections.”

Limiting State Government Salaries

State Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow) drafted legislation to limit the amount of tax dollars spent on the salaries of statewide elected officials, agency heads, and other highly compensated governmental employees. The legislation would limit the salary of the governor to three times the average salary of state legislators, limit the salary of any agency head to no greater than the governor’s salary and limit the salary of any employee of a state agency to 90 percent of the employee’s agency head salary. “We have agency heads making more money than our governor,” Ritze said. “If the governor is the chief executive of our state agencies, agency directors should not make more than the governor. Some of Oklahoma’s biggest problems, when you look at fiscal mismanagement or even outright fraud, fall at the feet of overpaid agency heads. This is the type of waste that our government needs to get rid of and quickly. We need this money to fund services for Oklahomans, not the bank accounts of bureaucrats.” Ritze notes that while these reforms limit the size of the salary of most or all state employees, most state employees aren’t currently compensated fairly. One of the reasons for this, Ritze believes, is that their bosses are making more than they should.

Paying for Special Elections

In the wake of nine special elections in 2017, state Senator Ron Sharp (R-Shawnee) wants the legislators who leave office mid-term to help pay for the special election to fill their vacant seat. Sen. Sharp filed Senate Bill 1006 which would require that campaign funds from the exiting lawmaker be placed in the State Election Board Revolving Fund up to the amount necessary to cover the cost to the state to conduct the special election. On average, a special election for a state House seat would be approximately $20,000 if a primary and general elections are necessary. For the Senate the cost of a full special election cycle is about $40,000. “When we run for office, we take an oath to uphold Oklahoma’s Constitution and serve our constituents faithfully,” said Sharp. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be burdened with a large special election bill when someone quits mid-term to seek other opportunities or they’re removed from office because of legal or ethical issues. This bill will remove some of that taxpayer burden by using members’ remaining campaign funds to cover some of the costs of special elections.”

Wind Tax Credits

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland (R-Slaughterville) is submitting legislation to halt tax incentives for renewable resources. If passed, it would impact the wind and solar power industry in Oklahoma. House Bill 2908 would repeal Senate Bill 440 which allowed the zero-emission energy facilities to collect tax credits. “It’s time we do away with this costly tax credit,” said Cleveland. “The government is not your sugar daddy, no matter how hard the wind industry may wish. Wind companies are no longer in their infancy, and the industry is stable enough to stand on its own feet.” Credit for electricity generated by zero-emission facilities cost Oklahoma $66,876,581 for Tax Year 2015, according to Cleveland. “There has been plenty of talk about raising taxes on everyday Oklahomans recently, including efforts by major Oklahoma businesses to advance the cause. Before we tax our citizens to death, lawmakers must seriously consider scaling back tax credits available to billion-dollar industries,” said Cleveland. “Does big wind need those tax dollars more than our friends and neighbors? I don’t think so.”

Legislator Finds GPS Tracker

State Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore) says he found a GPS tracker attached to his vehicle and suspects the wind industry is behind it. McBride spoke to a Moore police officer about his suspicions on December 4 after finding the tracking device attached by a magnet to the bottom of his pickup bed. According to the police report, McBride explained he was in the process of writing legislation against wind farms which could influence wind farm corporations negatively. The president of The Wind Coalition called McBride reckless for making such an accusation. The legislator was critical of the wind industry in opinion pieces published in September in The Oklahoman and The Journal Record and wrote that he would be introducing legislation imposing a gross production tax on wind energy. McBride, who is vice chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, estimated that the tax would bring in $100 million per year.

Incentive Evaluation Commission Report

On December 15, the Incentive Evaluation Commission submitted and posted its final report on 12 state economic tax incentives reviewed in 2017. Under a law enacted in 2015, all state tax incentives must be reviewed by the commission once every four years. The reviews must recommend whether the incentives be retained, reconfigured or repealed before submitting a final report for consideration by lawmakers. As required under the state’s Incentive Evaluation Act, the report was submitted to Gov. Mary Fallin, Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz and House Speaker Charles McCall. The report was posted on the Oklahoma Department of Commerce website, documents.ok.gov and on the commission’s website. The commission’s report includes the final evaluations of independent consultant Public Financial Management Inc. (PFM) after the firm spent several months in Oklahoma analyzing data and meeting with stakeholders; the commissioners’ votes on PFM’s recommendations; and written comments commissioners submitted on the evaluations and incentives. The commission’s actions were as follows:

PFM recommended reconfiguring the High Impact Quality Jobs Program incentive, while the commission voted to repeal the program; PFM recommended the Capital Gains Deduction be repealed, but the commission voted to retain; the recommendation from PFM on the Clean-burning Fuel Vehicle Credit was to retain and reconfigure, with the commission voting to modify the recommendation to not sunset the vehicle credit, but retain the infrastructure of the program while improving the reporting on the credit.

PFM’s recommendations approved by the commission included reconfiguring the Home Office Tax Credit incentive; retaining but making some revision to the 21st Century Quality Jobs incentive; retaining the Quality Jobs and the Small Employer Quality Jobs incentives, but making some revision to include Oklahoma Department of Commerce modifications; and repealing the Ethanol Fuel Retailer Tax Credit, the Economically At-risk Lease Tax Credit, the Production Enhancement Rebate and the Re-established Production Rebate.

On the Coal Tax Credit Program, there was a split vote of 2-2 due to an absent commissioner.

The commission approved PFM to move forward with evaluations of the year three incentives scheduled for 2018.

Fent Takes on Special Cash Fund

Jerry Fent is back in court challenging another act of the Oklahoma Legislature. Fent filed a lawsuit on January 5 charging that a fund used to transfer money from other funds is unconstitutional. “For 31 years the Special Cash Fund has been unconstitutional,” Fent says. Fent alledges that the legislation that created the fund violated several provisions of the of the Oklahoma Constitution, including the limitation of general appropriations bills to spending and the single-subject rule. The Legislature often directs that money be moved from other funds to the Special Cash Fund and then appropriates money from the Special Cash Fund. Fent says that since 1988 over $3 billion dollars has been unconstitutionally appropriated from the fund. Fent is a retired attorney in Oklahoma City who over the past decade since his retirement has filed numerous lawsuits concerning the unconstitutional actions of state government. He has been successful in many of those lawsuits.

Legislators’ Pay Cut

On November 16 the Oklahoma Legislative Compensation Board voted 4-3 to cut the pay of state legislators by 8.8 percent. Some board members who voted “no” favored even deeper cuts, with one calling for a reduction of at least 50 percent. The pay cut is scheduled to take effect following the November 2018 elections. Wesley Milbourn, the board chairman, said after the vote that the decision to cut legislative pay was done to bring Oklahoma legislator’s compensation more in line with those received by lawmakers in nearby states. Oklahoma legislators currently receive a base pay of $38,400 a year, so the 8.8 percent pay cut will reduce their pay to about $35,021. Legislative leaders, who are paid a little higher salary, will see their pay cut by the same 8.8 percent.

Increased Revenue Sign of State Recovery

The State Board of Equalization met in December and announced that state revenues are expected to increase by $425.3 million, significantly reducing the state’s budget deficit for the next fiscal year which begins on July 1. State Rep. Kevin Calvey (R-Oklahoma City) issued a statement following the announcement: “These increased revenues are proof that Oklahoma’s economy is recovering. Growth in the economy happens when we have a stable economic environment and a stable, low-rate tax structure. Lawmakers should not harm this recovery with tax increases. The majority of the state’s elected officials were put in place because Oklahomans want their elected officials to make state government more efficient, rather than to raise taxes. The scandals at the Health Department and other agencies show we have much work to do to ensure Oklahoma’s state agencies are using tax dollars efficiently and effectively.”

State Purchasing Program Using Amazon

The State of Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) announced on January 9 that it has implemented Amazon Business in order to simplify the purchasing process, maintain tax compliance and allow state agencies to take advantage of the wide selection and competitive prices on the Amazon Business marketplace. Amazon Business is built on Amazon’s familiar, easy-to-use shopping experience, and provides access to hundreds of millions of products – everything from IT accessories and lab equipment to education and food-service supplies. By using Amazon Business, approximately 4,600 State of Oklahoma P-card (Purchase Card) holders can take advantage of features such as competitive business pricing and quantity discounts on select items, business-optimized search and browse functionality, enhanced reporting and reconciliation that offers increased visibility into purchasing data, and convenient shipping options. Amazon Business purchases will not supersede Mandatory Statewide Contracts. Additionally, the P-card user will still be held accountable to ensure compliance with State Use as well as Oklahoma Correctional Industries.

Student Enrollment Up in Oklahoma

The number of students enrolled in Oklahoma government schools continued to rise in 2017, increasing by more than 1,000 from the previous year. A total of 694,816 students were enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at the start of the school year, an increase of 1,106 over the 2016 total of 693,710 and 21,626 more than in 2012. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister emphasized that the state should be prepared to continue serving a growing student population each year. “Once again, Oklahoma schools are educating more students than ever before with few new resources,” Hofmeister said. Districts record enrollment every year on October 1 and report the figures to the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE). Currently, Oklahoma has 512 traditional public school districts, 1,795 total school sites, 28 charter school districts and 58 charter school sites.

Statewide, student population percentages shifted slightly this year. Most significantly, the percentage of white students dipped below 50 percent for the second year in a row to 48.85 percent compared to 49.36 percent in 2016. The number of Native American students decreased again this year, while the percentage of Hispanic students and students of two or more ethnicities continued to increase. This school year, Oklahoma’s student population is:

48.85 percent white

17.23 percent Hispanic

13.59 percent Native American or Alaskan Native

9.33 percent two or more races

8.61 percent black

2.39 percent Asian, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

Medical Marijuana on June Ballot

Gov. Mary Fallin set a June election date for the medical marijuana ballot measure.

Fallin filed an executive proclamation placing State Question 788 on the June 26 primary election ballot. The governor’s other option was to place the issue on the November general election ballot. Supporters of an initiative petition asking voters to legalize medical marijuana gathered enough signatures in 2016 to schedule a statewide referendum on the measure. The initiative petition for a medical marijuana vote was circulated in 2016, but was delayed that year because of the timing of elections and then Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s attempted rewording of the ballot title. “Backers of this proposal to legalize medical marijuana followed procedures and gathered the more than 66,000 required signatures to submit the issue to a vote of the people,” said Fallin. “I’m fulfilling my duty as governor to decide when that election will occur this year.”

The initiative does not change the state Constitution, but instead would make a change to statutes. A statutory change could be repealed by the Legislature, while amending the state Constitution would make it harder for future legislatures to repeal the changes. For an initiative petition not requiring a constitutional change, petitioners must gather only 65,987 signatures rather than the 123,725 required for a constitutional change. After failing to gather enough signatures for a constitutional change, supporters opted for the lower requirements for the statutory change. If approved by voters, the measure would permit doctors to recommend a patient for a state-issued medical marijuana license. A license holder would be allowed to legally possess up to 3 ounces of the drug, six mature plants and six seedlings. These limits can be increased by individual counties or cities. A 7 percent tax would be applied to retail sales, with the money going first to finance regulatory expenses. Then, 75 percent of excess funds would go to common education and 25 percent to drug and alcohol rehabilitation. There are currently 26 states that have medical marijuana programs.

Sen. Lankford Speaks on Late-term Abortions

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford spoke on the Senate floor in support of pro-life legislation and the pro-life grassroots community a day before the 45th annual March for Life in January. Lankford serves as the co-chairman of the Values Action Team (VAT) and has long advocated to protect life and to protect religious freedom. In his speech Lankford said late-term abortions are an area we should find common ground on and should be able to protect these children: “We in America, because of the pro-abortion lobby and the activists around, have lost track of this simple fact. We are one of seven nations in the world that allow elective abortions after 22-weeks of gestation. In fact, of those seven nations that allow abortions after 22 weeks of gestation, three of those: Canada, Singapore, and the Netherlands allow elective abortions only until 24 weeks, just two weeks later. But there are only four countries in the world that allow elective abortions at any moment. You ready for this club? Four nations that are like us. The United States, Vietnam, North Korea, and China. That’s it. Those four nations allow elective abortions at any stage like we do. That is a horrible club for the United States of America to be in. They are some of the worst human rights violators in the world, and that’s the elite club that we find ourselves in. The pro-abortion lobby is so powerful and is so wealthy and they’re so engaged they’re not willing to even relent that even one child’s life could be protected, even when they’re clearly viable. Leaving the United States in this horrible collection with Vietnam, North Korea, and China on abortion policy. At five months old, a child in the womb can kick, stretch, yawn, smile, suck its thumb, and feel pain. It’s a viable child. Late-term abortions represent only 1.3 percent of all abortions in America. I would contend we should stop this practice altogether. 191 nations already do, that they don’t allow this, 191 nations. There’s no reason we should not as well.”

Safeguards on Emergency Warnings

On January 16, Gov. Mary Fallin announced that procedures are in place to prevent a false warning being sent by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM). As part of those procedures, members of a team within the agency will discuss the need for an alert and approve messaging before an alert is issued, the governor said. Oklahoma’s approach differs from Hawaii, in which one employee doing a routine test mistakenly hit a live-alert button. The message warned of an impending ballistic missile threat. “The safeguards used by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management ensure that when a warning message is issued Oklahomans should indeed begin to take precautions and that it is not a false alarm,” said Fallin. Warning messages in Oklahoma usually deal with dangerous weather conditions. The last time OEM issued an emergency alert was during the January 2011 blizzard when numerous motorists were stranded on highways across the state. The alert notified motorists how to request help. OEM tests the Emergency Alert System monthly.

Democrats Continue to Include Independents

Oklahoma law prevents independents from voting in a political party’s primary elections unless that party allows them to participate in its elections to select its nominees. After regaining ballot status last year, Oklahoma Libertarians opened their primary elections to independents, mainly because there was limited time for their voters to reregister as Libertarians. But, they have since decided not to allow independents to vote in their primary elections in 2018. State Republicans will continue to limit participation in the selection of Republican candidates to registered members of their party. But, Oklahoma Democrats will again allow independents to vote in their primary elections.

Democrats, who saw their registration number fall into second place behind Republicans, first opened their primaries to independents in 2015 in order to maintain a relationship with those who had either left the party or who had not decided to register as Democrats. Announcing their decision for the 2018 elections, Democratic Party Chair Anna Langthorn wrote that every voter deserves a voice. “Independent voters continue to be the fastest-growing group of voters in our country and Oklahoma,” she said. “Many independents across the state share our Democratic values. As the population of registered independents grows in Oklahoma, and across the country, the (party) strives to keep them engaged in the Democratic process.” Langthorn said it is too early to tell if the original decision to open primaries had a favorable benefit for the party. But, as the party prepares for the 2018 elections, Langthorn said they will include independents in their party’s outreach plan.

Changes at Office of Management and Enterprise Services

At the end of October, Gov. Fallin made a change of leadership at Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES). With Secretary Preston Doerflinger named interim director at the trobled Oklahoma State Department of Health, she appointed Denise Northrup to fill the position of director of OMES which was vacated by Secretary Doerflinger. Northrup served as the chief operational officer for OMES since November 2016, and prior to joining OMES served as chief of staff for the office of the governor.

New Secretary of Health and Human Services

Also in late October, Gov. Fallin named Steven Buck, the executive director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA), to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services on her executive Cabinet. Buck, who has spent most of his professional career working with mental health agencies and organizations. His appointment still must be confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate. He will continue to serve as OJA’s executive director. As Secretary of Health and Human Services, Buck will be responsible for about 80 agencies, boards and commissions, including the Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma State Health Department, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSA). Buck has served as OJA’s executive director since February 2016. Before joining OJA, Buck served nine years as deputy commissioner for communications and prevention at ODMHSAS.

Lopez to Serve as Education, Workforce Secretary

Gov. Fallin announced on January 3 that Secretary of State Dave Lopez will also serve on her executive Cabinet as Secretary of Education and Workforce Development. His appointment still must be confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate. From 2013 to 2014, he served as interim superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools while the school board launched and concluded a national search for a permanent superintendent. He previously served as president of Oklahoma City-based American Fidelity Foundation and as president of Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc. Prior to that, he had a 22-year career with SBC Communications (now AT&T), including serving as president of SBC Oklahoma and as president of SBC Texas. Lopez succeeds Natalie Shirley, who was named to the post in January 2015. She recently resigned as president of Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City. She begins her new duties later this month as president and chief executive officer of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Slavonic Nominated Assistant Secretary of the Navy

On December 6, President Trump nominated Retired Rear Admiral Gregory Slavonic to be the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Slavonic is a native Oklahoman and currently serves as Chief of Staff in the Office of Senator James Lankford. “Rear Admiral Greg Slavonic is the model of public service. He has dutifully served our nation in the Navy, and he has served the people of Oklahoma as my Chief of Staff. He has been nominated to serve our country again in the Department of Defense. I am very proud of his long career and dedication to this nation. Greg has been my Chief of Staff for three years. His leadership will be missed on our team, but he will be a tremendous asset to the Navy. I fully support his nomination and look forward to Greg continuing his distinguished career as Assistant Secretary of the Navy,” said Sen. Lankford. Prior to Slavonic’s role in Lankford’s office, he was a senior leader at the Computer Sciences Corporation, where he planned and executed several nationwide US Navy community outreach engagements. He also served as Executive Director of the Jim Thorpe Association; and as President of Flagbridge Strategic Communications, a consulting company focused on strategic communications and leadership. Mr. Slavonic retired from the US Navy after a 34-year career, where he originally enlisted as a Seaman Recruit and, after repeatedly distinguishing himself, was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral. During his Navy career, he held four command assignments, served in combat deployments to Vietnam, Operation Desert Shield/Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was awarded numerous decorations.

Inman Decides to Complete Term

State Rep. Scott Inman (D-Del City) announced in October that he was dropping his bid for governor and that he planned to resign from his seat in the Oklahoma House in January. However, on December 22, the longtime leader of the Oklahoma House Democrats announced that he would keep his state House seat and continue serving his constituents in House District 94 until his term is up in 2018. Due to the 12-year legislative term-limits, Inman cannot run for reelection in 2018. While he will complete his current term in the Oklahoma House, he is staying with his decision to drop out of the race for governor, citing the strain of the campaign on his personal life. House Democrats had already picked Rep. Steve Kouplen of Beggs as their new leader.

Announcing his decision to continue serving in the Legislature, Inman said: “After much consideration and consultation with my family, I have decided to honor the trust and faith shown to me by the citizens of Del City and south Oklahoma City when they elected me to serve as their representative for the sixth time in November of 2016. Today, I am announcing my intent to return to the Oklahoma House next session to complete the important work facing our great state. As the Legislature continues to work toward a bipartisan budget solution to address the myriad fiscal challenges facing our kids, seniors and veterans, I want to ensure my constituents have the voice and the representation they rightfully deserve.”

Bingman Running for Corporation Commission

Former Oklahoma Senate Pro-Tempore Brian Bingman announced that he will run for a seat on Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC). Bingman began his career as a petroleum landman for Continental Oil Co. (now Conoco-Phillips) soon after graduating from college. Today, he is vice president of land and operations for Uplands Resources. He served 12 years in the Oklahoma Legislature, and served as the Senate leader, a job he held for six years before being term-limited from office. While in the Senate, Bingman was principal author of comprehensive workers compensation reform measures, which lowered rates for businesses statewide by instituting a new, administrative system and replaced a system whose opponents say enriched lawyers at the expense of businesses and workers. He was one of the more moderate Republicans in the Legislature with a cumulative average of 59% on the Oklahoma Conservative Index and scored only 40% during his final session in 2016. There are three seats on the OCC with one seat scheduled for election every two years. The seat up for election this year is currently held by Commissioner Bob Anthony who is running for reelection. So, Bingman would be opposing Anthony in the Republican primary.

Humphreys Forced to Resign from OU Board

Following a two-hour closed meeting, Kirk Humphreys was forced to resign from the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents effective with the beginning of the spring semester. As vice chairman, Humphreys was next in line to be chairman. Humphreys is a real estate developer, served as mayor of Oklahoma City, and was a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2004. Humphreys came under fire for comments he made as one of the panelists on “Flash Point” which airs on Oklahoma City’s Channel 4. On the December 10 edition of the Sunday morning talk show, during an exchange with state Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) concerning sexual harassment and the recent resignation of a legislator, Humphreys said homosexuality was wrong and appeared to make a link with pedophilia. OU President David Boren issued a statement in response to Humphreys’ comments: “The university strongly reaffirms and takes great pride in its commitment to a welcoming, diverse and inclusive community which respects people of all backgrounds. We value and respect all members of our university family.” Humphreys later apologized for a lack of clarity and said he regretted his comments. “For clarification, my moral stance about homosexuality is that it is against the teachings of Scripture. Although, I know that upsets some people, it is my belief. In America, we have the right to believe as we choose and to freely express that belief,” said Humphreys. It appears that he was wrong – about being able to freely express that belief.

Manning Running for U.S. Senate

Oklahoma native Chelsea Manning (a transgender “woman” formerly Bradley Manning) is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland. was imprisoned for leaking classified government documents. Manning, 30, will run as a Democrat, pitting him/her against two-term Sen. Ben Cardin in the state’s June primary. Cardin is Maryland’s senior U.S. senator, and the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Manning, an Army private, was convicted by court-martial in 2013 of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks and sentenced to 35 years in prison. President Obama commuted the sentence and Manning was released from military prison last year after serving seven years. He was born Bradley Edward Manning in 1987 in Oklahoma City, and later lived near Crescent, Oklahoma.

Death of Norman Lamb

Former Republican state Sen. Norman Lamb died January 5 in Enid. Lamb, 82, was the father of Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb. He was elected to the Senate in 1971 and served for nearly two decades, acting as floor minority leader for three years. In 1995, Norman Lamb was appointed as state Secretary of Veterans Affairs by former Gov. Frank Keating. He remained in the position until 2011, serving under Keating’s successor, former Gov. Brad Henry. A native of Canute and graduate of Enid High School and the University of Oklahoma School of Law, he served in active duty and reserve roles in the U.S. Army for 33 years, retiring with the rank of colonel. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2007. Lamb also served as a county attorney in Grady County, assistant municipal counselor in Oklahoma City and chief prosecutor and assistant district attorney for Garfield County.

Death of Alfred “Al” Snipes

Al Snipes was, for many years, the epitome of the grassroots Republican activist that built the Republican Party in Oklahoma in the years when it was not “in” to be a Republican. He died on December 29 at age 82. Snipes was married to Rebecca Snipes for 50 years, and she preceded him in death. In 2001, he remarried Shirley Olson.

Snipes was often called “the father of the Oklahoma County Republican Party.” He served on the board of Oklahoma City Community College for four terms, but generally was a loyal soldier in supporting Republican candidates. In addition to his political activities, he was a leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The Journal Record newspaper named him one of the 100 most influential businessmen in Oklahoma history.

Death of Denzil Garrison

Another important figure in the development of the Oklahoma Republican Party, Denzil “Denny” Garrison of Bartlesville, died on January 15 at the age of 91. Garrison served 16 years as a state legislator. He was first elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1956 and to the Senate in 1960 and served until 1972. In 1974 he ran for governor of Oklahoma, losing a tough race to State Senator Jim Inhofe in the Republican primary. Some observed he seemed less than enthused about supporting the more conservative Inhofe against the Democratic nominee, David Boren, and, in fact, went to work for Boren after the election as legislative liaison. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma law school, Garrison practiced law in Bartlesville and prior to running for office, he served as county attorney for Washington County.

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Winter 2018

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Letters to the Editor for Winter 2018

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In The News

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Races for Congress
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Statewide Secondary Offices
In addition to the governors office, a host of secondary statewide offices, and one seat for the...

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Race for Governor Continues
Mary Fallin was prohibited by term-limits from seeking a third four-year term in 2018. With the seat...

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Medical Marijuana Approved by Voters
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