Casey Murdock

 

 

10-4-18

Work continues at the Capitol this fall in preparation for the 2019 legislative session. Multiple interim studies are being held each week dealing with issues ranging from bullying and education innovations to how Oklahoma can better attract and retain medical specialists such as neurologists, gerontologists and neuro-psychologists—all of particular importance as our population ages and more citizens succumb to diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

One of my own requests for an interim study will be held on Tuesday, October 23 at the Capitol, which is a study on energy taxation. Later that same day there will be a study looking at online sales taxes. To find out more about upcoming meetings, including accessing meeting notices or streaming video from them, you can go to the Senate’s official website at www.oksenate.gov. Meeting notices are found under the "Committees" tab. Links to streaming video can be found by scrolling down the home page.

In addition to the interim studies, I have continued to prepare for the session by holding a series of town hall meetings. So far, we’ve already had meetings in the communities of Waynoka, Laverne, Boise City, Guymon, Fairview, Woodward, Mooreland and Ringwood. Upcoming meetings include Fargo, Shattuck, Arnett, Beaver, Hooker and Texhoma. I want to thank all who have made it out for these meetings to date, and encourage those of you who live in the communities where upcoming meetings will be held to attend if at all possible. I sincerely want your input on issues and concerns to help me do the best job possible representing District 27 in the State Senate.

October 1st marks the first major shift in Oklahoma’s retail liquor laws since the mid-1980s. Beginning in October, retail liquor stores can begin selling chilled wine and strong beer, and for the first time, grocery and convenience stores can begin selling those same items. Other types of alcohol will still be sold in liquor stores only. In order to level the playing field, liquor stores will also be able to stay open longer hours, moving from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. to midnight. Additionally, counties will have the option to call for a vote of their citizens to determine whether to allow Sunday sales at liquor stores.

One major shift will be the end of low-point beer sales. Many beer distributors had an outlet for this product as it was the only one that could be sold in grocery and convenience stores in Oklahoma. But with the change of the law allowing the sale of strong beer, these distributors will be moving in that direction, ending the sale of low-point beer, commonly referred to 3.2 beer.

These changes were made possible by a vote of the people in 2016. While some statutory changes were approved by the legislature, those would not have occurred without the initial vote by Oklahoma citizens.

And a final note—I was very gratified this past week when I received notification from NFIB, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization, that I had a 100 percent voting record for issues important to small businesses. In my view, the passage of such legislation is critical for the sustainment and success of small businesses. They truly are the backbone of Oklahoma’s economy.

Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government. You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

8-30-18

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods, Woodward counties

 

For Immediate Release:  August 27, 2018

                                             

            The most essential building block for success in school and throughout life is learning to read.  But if a child has parents who cannot read, there is a much higher chance that child will also be unable to read. 

            The statistics are jarring.  Two-thirds of students who can’t read well by the end of the fourth grade will wind up behind bars or on welfare.  Eighty-five percent of all juveniles who wind up in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and more than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate. 

            People who can’t read are more likely to live in poverty.   Teenage girls between 16 and 19 who are at the poverty level or lower with below average reading skills are six more times likely to become unmarried mothers, which begins yet another cycle of poverty.  Three out of four food stamp recipients do not have adequate reading skills.

            But for years, the Northwest Oklahoma Literacy Council has been working to give adults the reading skills they need to succeed.  Based in Woodward, they have programs that serve 100 or more adults each year in communities throughout northwestern Oklahoma.

            The Oklahoma Department of Libraries recently awarded a Literacy Grant to the Northwest Oklahoma Literacy Council for $7,120 to assist with their efforts. They offer basic instruction for low-level and non-readers as well as English acquisition throughout the area.

            The cost of illiteracy to our society is shocking.  National organizations estimate illiteracy costs our country more than $300 billion a year in terms of lost earning potential and reliance on public assistance through welfare, medical care or prisons.  For those who cannot read, it means they face much higher chances of poverty and a poorer quality of life.

            I’m grateful for the work of the Northwest Literacy Council, their volunteers, and our local libraries, librarians and additional volunteers who work to promote reading for all age levels.

            If you are a parent or grandparent, remember one of the most important things you can do for your children or grandchildren is to read to them.  Children who are read to from an early age are more likely to develop a lifelong love of reading that will help them succeed in school, in the workforce and in so many other ways.  And no matter what kind of resources a family has, our public libraries offer the free use of books, computer access and other programs to help that effort.

            For more information, you can contact the Northwest Oklahoma Literacy Council at 580-254-8582.

            Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government.  You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

7-19-18

 

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods, Woodward counties

 

For Immediate Release:  July 13, 2018

                                             

            Thirty states and the District of Columbia have approved medical marijuana—our state just joined those ranks with the passage of State Question 788 during our June primary election.  The question was placed on the ballot as a result of an initiative petition by supporters of the concept.  While the question passed by a sizable margin, it was largely the state’s metropolitan areas that carried the vote.   If you look at a map of the state and how people voted on this state question, not a single county in the panhandle or in western Oklahoma voted in favor of medical marijuana.

            Governor Mary Fallin had broached the idea of a special session to address how best to implement and regulate the sale and use of medical marijuana, but later raised concerns that there simply would not be enough time to implement rules before the new law took effect.  However the State Board of Health had already begun drafting rules that would address specific areas.  Two of the emergency rules approved by the board this past week banned the sale of smokable marijuana as well as requiring a licensed pharmacist would be on staff at each medical marijuana distillery.

            That vote came on Tuesday.  On Thursday, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore-designate announced the formation of a bi-partisan group of House and Senate members to begin working with all medical marijuana stakeholders on determining the best way to move forward in implementing the state question.  The leaders stated it was necessary to find a way of implementing the sale of medical marijuana that respects the will of the voters while protecting public safety and addressing concerns from business and medical communities.

            While the statement acknowledged the hard work of the Health Department and its commissioner in formulating the draft rules, concerns were raised that the adoption of last minute amendments without public comments undermined the public’s confidence in the system.    In fact a group of Senators began working on this very issue before the session adjourned.  The bipartisan working group of House and Senate members can now build upon that work.  The leaders will announce which members will be a parting of the working group next week.

            While the passage of the state question reflects the will of the people, it is important that it be implemented in an orderly way that also protects the health and safety of all our citizens.

            I will keep you posted on this effort.

            Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government.  You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods, Woodward counties

 

For Immediate Release:  June 18, 2018

                                             

            This is a patriotic time of year—we recently celebrated Flag Day, and we’re now coming up on Independence Day, marking the signing of our Declaration of Independence from England, which happened on July 4, 1776.

Sandwiched in between these holidays, Oklahoma just held its 2018 primary elections. 

Of course there will be many runoffs following the election, but the outcome that has been most heavily covered is the approval of State Question 788, allowing the use of medical marijuana.  While it passed by a wide margin, no counties in the Panhandle or western part of the state voted in favor of it.  One concern that has been raised by many Oklahomans is that the new law is written so loosely, it really is closer to a recreational marijuana bill than one strictly limited to medical use. 
       The governor has discussed the possibility of having a special session to tighten the new law by adding medical and regulatory language.  Public statements from leaders in both chambers indicate there are some reservations about making too many changes to a state question that was just approved by the majority of citizens.  I will let you know how that proceeds.
       Of course that state question was the result of an initiative petition circulated by supporters.  Another initiative petition that’s gotten a lot of attention in recent weeks was one to repeal the funding package for the teacher pay raise. The initiative petition was rejected by the State Supreme Court as unconstitutional, saying that the “gist” or explanation of what the state question would do was misleading, and that other required information was omitted.  The group that wrote and circulated the petition has until July 18 to gather 41,000 valid signatures on a new initiative petition that corrects the problems pointed out in the high court ruling.
           Another court ruling that Oklahoma has been waiting on came down a few days ago.  For years, local businesses in communities throughout our state and across the state have said they were placed at an unfair disadvantage, because while they collected and paid in sales taxes, most Internet businesses did not.  A previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling said only those Internet businesses that had brick and mortar stores in a state were required to do so—but that ruling was made when only a fraction of the public even had internet access.  There’s been a huge shift since then, and more and more people are shopping on the web. 
          The ruling that came down from the U.S. Supreme Court closes that loophole.  It’s estimated that in addition to hurting businesses in our towns and cities, the loophole has been costing our state, counties and local communities about $300 million a year in lost revenue that could have been used for our schools, for roads and bridges, public safety and other core services. This decision provides a much more level playing field in the current economy.
           Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government.  You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

6-21-18

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods,

For Immediate Release:  June 15, 2018

            This past Thursday, June 14, was Flag Day, marking the 1777 vote by the Second Constitutional Congress to adopt the Stars and Stripes as our nation’s flag.  It makes me proud that so many of our friends, neighbors and fellow citizens here in the Panhandle fly Old Glory, not just for Flag Day, but every day.  When I see it, I’m reminded of the freedoms our flag represents, and the many Americans who fought for those freedoms.
    One of the fundamental rights this nation was founded upon was that our government’s power was to come from the people—that happens every single time there’s an election.  There are people all over the world who are still denied the right to have a say in their governments or the laws that impact their lives.  Yet in this country, far too many people do not bother to participate in elections. 
          I bring this up because Oklahoma has an election just around the corner—Tuesday, June 26 is the state’s Primary Election date.  The deadline to request an absentee ballot is 5 p.m., June 20, and early voting will be held Thursday, June 21, from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., Friday, June 22 from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Saturday, June 23, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. You can request or download an absentee ballot by going to the State Election Board website at https://www.ok.gov/elections/index.html or you can request one from your county election board.  You can participate in early voting at your county election board as well. 
           I urge every registered voter to take the time to study the candidates and issues and then follow through by casting your vote—it isn’t just a right, it is a responsibility all of us as citizens share.         Even though the session ended weeks ago, I am already working on issues ahead of the 2019 session.  One of those is working to get more exemptions for farmers carrying fuel.  Current limits do not even accommodate the amount that large tractors and combines can hold.  I would like to see an exemption of up to 999 gallons for fuel. Oklahoma farmers already have to fight the market and Mother Nature—they should not have to fight burdensome government regulations as well.
          Speaking of Mother Nature, as you know the hot, dry weather has caused yet another round of wildfires.  I would humbly ask everyone to say a prayer a good soaking rain.  In the meantime, I want to point out what an excellent job the Oklahoma Forestry Service has done coordinating with local departments and helping with helicopters and other needs.
           Finally, I recently received the Transformer award from the Oklahoma Wind Coalition.  I am appreciative of the honor, and for all they do for our state.
            Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government.  You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

6-7-18

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods, Woodward counties

For Immediate Release:  June 1, 2018
            Whether you are a business owner, a teacher, a parent, or a public servant, effective communication is a critical skill to help achieve the best results possible.  Effective communication means more than just being someone who isn’t afraid to talk in front of a crowd—it’s just as important to be a good listener—because if a person is simply talking, they aren’t learning anything new.
            I’m so grateful for the opportunity to visit with so many men and women from communities throughout the Panhandle through our local Chamber of Commerce series known as “eggs and issues.”  It’s a series of breakfast meetings that gives community leaders and businesspeople the opportunity to share their concerns and views on issues before the Legislature, and gives us a chance to better serve our constituents.  This week I was finishing to the series with Seiling, Fairview and Woodward.  Again, I want to express my thanks for all who made the effort to participate in this important dialogue about public policy and how it impacts our district.
            Belonging to civics organizations, local churches and other clubs are all ways we can be of service to our neighbors and communities.  Through the individual actions of citizens and through the organizations they belong, they help make our towns, cities and state better for all of us. 
            Joe Larry Mayer of Guymon was one of those men—a fifth generation farmer and rancher who loved his land and his family, and was dedicated to the service of others going back to his school days when he was an active 4-H member.  His awards and honors for all he did for agriculture and more could fill several of these columns.  He was a member of the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame and an Oklahoma State Regent for Higher Education for nine years. He served on the USDA farm Service Association Committee under President George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and was on Governor Frank Keating’s transition team as appointments advisor. Just this session he was appointed to the Oklahoma State Board of Agriculture—yet another effort on his part to use his knowledge to better agriculture throughout Oklahoma. He will be deeply missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Mayer family.
            Lastly, we are grateful for the rain we received this past week.  As of this past Thursday evening, only Texas and Cimarron Counties remained under the Governor’s burn ban. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we’ll seen see those counties cleared as well.
            Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government.  You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

5-24-18

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods, Woodward counties

 

For Immediate Release:  May 18, 2018

                                             

            American citizens are explicitly guaranteed specific rights, or freedoms, under the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. These rights had been denied the American colonists when they were under English rule—rights that are so fundamentally important they should never be taken for granted.  By denying the colonists these rights, England was trying to control the lives of their citizens and suppress opposition to the government.  Having fought for those freedoms in the American Revolution, our young country was determined to protect them for generations to come.

            The Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and further states that right shall not be infringed.  I believe in the right of citizens to be able to own arms and protect themselves and their families. If this right is also not to be infringed, it certainly makes you wonder about efforts at the state and federal level to control, restrict or license the possession of arms by law-abiding citizens.  For this reason, I supported Senate Bill 1212 this past legislative session.

            SB 1212 is known as the “constitutional carry” bill, which simply ensures law-abiding citizens can protect themselves without receiving permission from the government, or being forced to purchase expensive licenses to do so.  This bill was approved on wide margins in both chambers, but recently, Governor Mary Fallin vetoed this bill, preventing it from becoming law.

            This past week, the senator who authored that bill announced he was seeking the support of two-thirds of each chamber in order for the Legislature to call itself back into special session to override the governor’s veto of SB 1212.  I support efforts to override that veto.

            I would also like to have the opportunity to override another important bill that was recently vetoed by the governor.  Senate Bill 1442 deals with an unfair and unconstitutional practice of basically forcing counties to foot the bill for holding inmates who are awaiting a spot in a state Department of Corrections facility.  These are not county inmates—these are inmates who have been tried and convicted in state courts, but because of overcrowding and other issues, are sometimes sent to county jail before being placed in state prison.  Current law gives counties only three days to file the paperwork necessary to be reimbursed for the expense of housing these inmates—not enough time.  We approved legislation extending that period to five days. 

In addition, the State Attorney General has issued an opinion stating it is unconstitutional to require counties to pay for the housing of state inmates.  State operations must be funded with state dollars—local property taxes cannot be used for this purpose. 

            The five day window would have helped counties better recoup the cost of housing these state inmates.  The governor’s veto makes it easier for the Department of Corrections to continue leaving many counties holding the bag for this expense, which can be millions and millions of dollars and is in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution. 

            I believe both of these vetoes were wrong and should be overturned.

            Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government.  You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

5-17-18

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods, Woodward counties

 

For Immediate Release:  May 11, 2018

                                 

           

            According to Oklahoma’s Constitution, the Legislature must complete all work on the state budget and policy issues to be concluded by no later than 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May—this year the deadline was May 25.  This year we fulfilled those responsibilities three weeks before that deadline, and adjourned the concurrent special session focusing on education in mid-April.

There were tremendous challenges to meet, but ultimately, we succeeded in passing the largest teacher pay increase in our state’s history.  We also succeeded in funding a pay raise for our hard-working state employees, many of whom have gone nearly a decade without a pay increase.  We have continued to work to identify savings and efficiencies, and determine the best priorities for the resulting resources, as well as working to strengthen Oklahoma’s budgeting process.  We also approved a series of budget limit bills to ensure legislative oversight of agency spending.  The budget is balanced and we will be in the strongest position in many years as we begin looking ahead to the 2019 session.

We’ve continued to seek common-sense solutions to help us better address Oklahoma’s prison overcrowding by finding better ways of holding nonviolent offenders responsible for their actions—programs like our drug courts that are proven to reduce recidivism, and turning lives around through GED completion and family unification. These reforms will also result in savings which can be redirected to education, health, mental health and other core services that will further reduce our state’s prison population.

I’m also very gratified that our houses of worship will now have legal protection when the lives of worshipers are threatened.  Oklahomans already had those protections within their homes and businesses, but places of worship were not included in the statutes.  The bill we passed this session will extend legal protections to the members of a church who may try to intervene in an active shooter situation. In addition, the church itself will be shielded from lawsuits that could otherwise force them to close their doors.
        Finally, I want to mention that this past Thursday evening, I had the honor of attending Panhandle State’s 2018 Commencement—the 108th for the university.  Officials anticipated more than 340 degrees would be awarded.  For more than a century, OPSU has played a vital role in providing educational opportunities to the Panhandle—opportunities that have changed lives and provided economic opportunity for this district.  The 2018 graduates are now a part of that legacy. I want to offer my sincere congratulations to them, the administration and the faculty at Panhandle State.

            Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government.  You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

5-3-18

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods, Woodward counties

 

For Immediate Release:  April 27, 2018

                                 

           

            This week the full Senate gave approval to the fiscal year 2019 budget.  After years of moving from one budget shortfall to the next, steps taken in previous years and work we’ve done this spring are helping us get the state budget on firm financial footing.  We’ve reformed tax preferences that did not produce the benefits intended when they were originally enacted.  We’ve taken a hard look at how off-the-top funding has often hamstrung lawmakers’ ability to prioritize funding during particularly challenging economic cycles.  Through long meetings, negotiations and discussions, we were able to identify and pass new revenue streams to help avert the use of one-time funds—another issue that had resulted in a cycle of shortfalls.

            For the first time in years, agencies were spared additional cuts with this budget.  Also for the first time in years, we have been able to make greatly needed investments in core services vital to health, safety and well-being of our citizens—and we are on track to complete this work before the constitutional deadline of May 25

            The fiscal year 2019 budget is $7.6 billion and will make possible long overdue raises for teachers, support staff and other state employees.  It means we will be able to invest $33 million for new textbooks and place an additional $17 million in new state aid funding—dollars that will make an impact in classrooms throughout Oklahoma.  The budget also provides $7.5 million for concurrent enrollment—a program that let students jump start their degrees by taking college classes while still attending high school.

            Education is definitely the priority in this budget, with the Appropriations Education Subcommittee receiving 51.1 percent of the FY ’19 budget.  But there are other important investments that will also help move our state in a positive direction. 

            The budget includes $11 million in criminal justice reform initiatives that will help us better deal with nonviolent offenders through programs that hold these individuals accountable for their actions, but gives them the tools they need to turn their lives around. 

            We’ve also appropriated $4 million to the Office of Emergency Management for disaster relief, and $400,000 to the Department of Agriculture for rural fire fighters—these are programs that have been especially important to us in Senate District 27.

            The reforms we’ve already enacted will continue to help us strengthen our budget process.  The investments we’ve made in education, health, mental health, and public safety will also help move our state forward—and with those investments also comes accountability through $2 million for agency performance audits conducted by the Agency Performance and Accountability Commission. 

            I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished this session and grateful for the input from people throughout the district as we look for ways to move Oklahoma forward.   

            Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government.  You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

4-12-18

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods, Woodward counties

 

For Immediate Release:  April 13, 2018

                                 

            Even though the vast majority of news coverage out of the state Capitol this past couple of weeks has been focused on education and the legislation working its way through the special session focusing on our schools, the clock is still ticking on the regular legislative session.  Under the state’s constitution, all work must be completed no later than 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May.

            Thursday, April 12, marked the deadline for Senate committees to hear and vote on bills that were originally filed in the House of Representatives.  This past Wednesday alone, we had more than 30 bills on the agenda for the Senate Appropriations Committee. Other committees met to continue working through House measures as well. We completed our work by the Thursday deadline, and now our attention will focus on floor debate and votes on those House measures that made it through the Senate committee process.  Our deadline for final floor consideration of House bills is already nearing quickly—April 26

            In the remaining weeks of the session, our attention turns to conference committee reports—those are bills where special conferees work out compromises between House and Senate versions of legislation for final consideration by each chamber.  But the biggest job ahead is to negotiate the details of the fiscal year 2019 budget.  One of the largest sections of the budget was already approved in the Senate when we met our April 1 deadline to approve the budget for public education.  In the coming weeks, we will focus on the budgets of other state agencies, including Public Safety, Corrections, Transportation, Health, Mental Health and others.

            We also learned that the two-week long education rally at the Capitol was drawing to a close.  In recent days, I was visited by teachers from Senate District 27 representing many of our school districts, including Guymon, Balko, Goodwell and Woodward.  It was my pleasure to meet and talk to these dedicated educators, and I thank them for being involved in the process and for all they do on behalf of our children.

            Finally, I want to offer my congratulations to Jimmy Emmons.  He represents the third generation on his family farm in Dewey County, where he produces several crops and has a cow-calf operation.  Jimmy is the recipient of the Leopold Conservation Award for conservation efforts on their farm.  He and his family came to the Capitol and were given a citation on the senate floor. Jimmy is the first Oklahoman to win this award honoring achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.  Again, congratulations to Jimmy and the Emmons family for their conservation efforts.           

            Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government.  You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

 
 

 

4-5-18

By Sen. Casey Murdock
Senate District 27
Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods, Woodward counties
For Immediate Release:  March 29, 2018
            My Oklahoma roots run deep—and I want my children and grandchildren, and yours, to be able to call this home for a long time.  But for years, there’s been a failure to make the investments necessary to make sure there will be jobs and opportunities here for generations to come.  When it comes to building the best future possible, it comes down to making sure education has the resources necessar
to prepare our kids for success.
       After countless long, hard hours, days and months of negotiations, discussions and debates, rural, urban, Republican and Democrat legislators came together to approve the largest pay increase for teachers in the history of Oklahoma.  The passage of this legislation means instead of being nearly last in the country, Oklahoma’s teacher pay will now rank second in the region.  The plan provides for a $6,100 pay increase—that’s a16 percent increase.
            Furthermore, for only the second time since the law was first passed, the Senate approved the fiscal year 2019 education appropriations as required under the “fund education first” statute on the books.  The fiscal year 2019 appropriation will provide education with $2.9 billion in total funding, which represents a 19.7 percent increase.  This will also ensure critically needed resources will go directly to the classroom.
            This investment required funding, and bipartisan support from every part of the state to make this happen.  The funding will come from an increase in the gross production tax, increasing it to five percent on all wells, as well as an increase in the cigarette tax of $1 per pack and increase gas by three cents and diesel by six cents. Another bill also provides for adjustments to the state income tax code to provide further resources.
            We also approved additional legislation to boost salaries of education support personnel and that of state employees.  Many of them had gone ten years without a raise.
            None of these discussions, negotiations or votes were undertaken lightly.  At the end of the day, we had to look at the proposals before us and decide if they would provide the opportunity we so greatly needed to move our state forward. 
            I believe the measures we approved will accomplish that. With the passage of these bills, we are moving Oklahoma in the right direction for a stronger, brighter future.
            Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about state government.  You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

3-15-18

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

We’re entering into the sixth week of session and completing floor consideration of bills in their House of Origin. My first two weeks have been hectic as I transitioned from the House to the Senate and am having to learn how the Senate works. Being a smaller body, they have different rules and procedures for their committees and floor work that I’ve had to learn quickly. I’m also getting to know more of my Senate colleagues that I haven’t had a change to get to know until this point. I had to stay late last week to catch up after the storms.

Just over 360 Senate bills made it out of committee along with nearly 70 carryover bills from last session. This week, we made it through around 140 bills so we’re probably going to be working longer days this week to meet Thursday’s deadline. Granted some Senators may decide not to have all of their bills heard because of duplication or knowing they won’t have the votes to pass. I’d guess we’re going to be considering only around 170 or so more bills.

To get a better grasp of the fiscal needs of state agencies in light of the budget numbers approved last month by the State Board of Equalization, the Senate has holding weekly budget hearings with the state’s largest agencies along with some smaller ones based on their budget requests.

Revenues are steadily climbing, which is promising but we’ve got obligations to fulfill that are going to allow for a flat budget at best. Total 12-month collections are up by $929.3 million or 8.6 percent. Collections from every major revenue stream except for corporate income tax from the past year compared to the previous one have shown growth. However, we can’t become complacent. We must continue working diligently to create new streams of revenue while saving money through apportionment reforms and other means.

Last week, several of my colleagues and I worked to kill the committee substitute for SB 1392, in the Appropriations Committee. The original bill sought to stop the sales tax exemption for qualifying agricultural purchases totaling less than $25,000 per year for sales occurring after November 1, 2018. The exemption would be paid in the form of a refund. However, the substitute brought forth in Appropriations maintained the point-of-sale feature of the exemption but would have modified the qualifications and procedures for claiming the exemption. For applications made after November 1, 2018, they would have been required to show that they have reported income from farming on a tax return. There was a special refund provision for applicants who are so new to farming that they have not yet filed their first income tax return with farm income.

I also want to address our local teachers. Please know that House and Senate Republicans have brought forth and approved multiple plans to fund various levels of pay raises for you all. Our efforts, however, were blocked by a handful of House Democrats who keep changing their demands as to how to fund the pay raise but we aren’t giving up. I would recommend, though, if you participate in the walkout to visit our Democrat friends in the House and urge them to do what’s right and approve any future bills that will create revenue for your much-needed pay increase.

This week, the Senate overwhelmingly approved SJR 70, which proposes a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment that expands the uses of certain ad valorem taxes levied by a school district for operations including pay raises.

We also approved its companion bill, SB 1398, which authorizes the use of school district building funds to be used for district operations including pay raises. Both of these measures would give local districts more flexibility in deciding what their most critical needs are and put these funds towards those efforts.

I will tell you that I’m concerned about the timing of the proposed walk-out and how long it takes to get a bill through the legislative process but we will do our best.

Please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about government. You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

Casey Murdock was sworn into his office Monday, Feb. 26, 2018

Chief Justice Douglas Combs administers the oath of office to Sen Murdock. Wife Amiee and son Scott are to the right.

3-1-18

By the time you read this I will have been sworn into the state Senate. The ceremony was 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26.

I’m representing Senate District 27, which covers Northwestern Oklahoma and the entire Panhandle. I’m not leaving House District 61 so much as I’m just moving over to a different legislative chamber. No need for goodbyes. I’ll still be serving your interests.

In the Senate, I’ll be serving on the following committees: General Government, Agriculture and Wildlife, Public Safety, the full Appropriations and Budget Committee and the A&B Natural Resources and Regulatory Subcommittee.

The deadline for bills to be passed out of committee is March 1, so I’ll have a short window to get fully immersed in these committees this session. Thankfully, I’m already familiar with a number of bills to be considered.

I’ve already had my first meeting with the Majority Caucus in the Senate. I’m excited to work with these senators on future legislation and an overall plan for putting the state on a successful economic track for the future.

On that line of thought, the state Board of Equalization met last week to certify revenue for Fiscal Year 2019, which starts in July. The board estimates we will have a budget gap of about $167 million between what was appropriated for FY18 and what will be available for FY19. This is great news considering the dire predictions just last fall that the revenue gap could be as much as $800 million and the $1.3 billion shortfall we faced just two years ago. It is possible that by the time we agree on a final appropriations package for FY19 the gap could be nonexistent or much smaller.

In the meantime, we are very close to closing the books on the FY18 budget. The House and Senate both passed House Bill 1020XX last week to appropriate the final bit of revenue to state agencies. We were about $45 million short of being fully funded for FY18; this bill cuts less than 1 percent across the board for our agencies. The bill is expected to be signed by the governor this week. Once that happens, our second special session should be adjourned.

I will be in office 525 on the Senate side. If you find yourself at the state Capitol, stop by. I’ll get you an updated phone number in a future column.

 

2-22-18

I’ll be sworn into the Oklahoma state Senate at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Even though I will now be senator instead of representative, I will still be at the state Capitol representing your interests and taking care of business for Northwest Oklahoma. If you have any issues, please still continue to call my office phone and they will get your call to me.

At the Capitol, we are working to finish our second special session, closing out the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. We have to find about $45.7 million, or 0.67 percent of the original $6.8 billion appropriated for the fiscal year.

Next week, we’ll be getting revenue numbers from the state Board of Equalization for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. I expect the numbers to be much better than predictions last fall.

By the time you read this, I should have gotten all of my House Bills passed off of the House floor and advanced to the Senate, where I can hear them from that chamber. My intent is to have all my House work cleaned up and finished so it can continue moving through the legislative process.

Last week, I passed a public safety bill out of committee that I will be able to present from the Senate side. The deadline for all bills to be passed out of committee is March 1. Once bills are out of committee, they are eligible to be heard by the full House or Senate, depending on where they originate.

On a final note, I want to discuss the vote last Monday on the Step Up Oklahoma plan. The major revenue portion of this bill failed to receive the three-fourths majority required by the state Constitution to pass. I voted no.

I realize a lot of teachers are upset because that bill did not pass. I have voted for a teacher pay raise every year I’ve been in office, but this bill was much more than just a teacher pay raise. There were a lot of hidden things in this bill that would have been harmful for District 61. I am not a no vote on a straight teacher pay raise, but I had to be no on something bad for my district. When I first ran for office, I vowed not to vote for something I would have to hang my head over once I got back home. This bill would have put me to shame. I’ll continue to work to get a teacher pay raise as well as funding for other necessary state services, just as I work to protect freedom and taxpayer dollars from waste and abuse. I’ll keep in touch.

 

1-15-18

Step Up Not the Right Plan for NW Oklahoma

By Rep. Casey Murdock

On Monday, the House voted on the Step Up Oklahoma plan. As you probably heard, I voted no, and I wanted to explain.

I realize Oklahoma is in a tough spot fiscally and we need to look at revenue sources, but this plan is just not right for Northwest Oklahoma. There were good parts of the plan, but the bad parts simply outweighed the good.

For one thing, voting on such a major piece of legislation in the second week of session without it going through the regular process is the wrong way to do this. I know people get frustrated with how slow government works, but the process is in place for good reason. Letting the process work, I have seen more times than not that you wind up with a much better law because of the process itself. Letting 101 lawmakers and 48 senators fully vet something as important as a more than $600 million tax increase assures that people in every area of Oklahoma get taken into consideration.

Second, this plan messes with our basic core tax structure; I have problems with that.

Although I am the first to tell you teachers need a pay raise, so do all state employees. We need a plan that will address them as well. Another concern I had is this plan does not assure me that schools off of the state funding formula would receive the money for the teacher raise.

I truly believe we can do better than this, and I am confident we will do better than this this session. Session has just started, after all. Our state revenue coming in is so much better this year than last. The Board of Equalization is releasing numbers this week for the fiscal year 2019 budget, and I am confident we will discover we will have flat budget for the year ahead – much better than the $800 million budget hole predicted last fall.

This begs the question of whether we really need more than $600 million in tax increases. Let me offer a further breakdown of what this would do for the average taxpayer. It lowers the standard income tax deduction for those making more than $25,000 filing single, $37,500 filing as head of household or $50,000 for married filing jointly. It would add a 6-cent tax on gasoline and diesel. It would add a $1.50 cent tax on cigarettes and additional tax on other tobacco products.

This could negatively affect District 61’s economy, and I fear it could hurt our towns by pushing people across the border to buy fuel and cigarettes. While they are there, they might go ahead and buy groceries and other products. What’s good for Oklahoma City is not always good for Northwest Oklahoma. Oklahoma City does not have to worry about their consumers going across state lines to buy cigarettes or gasoline. We do.

While the Step Up plan was the most major piece of legislation considered this week, there is still other business taking place. My drone bill passed out of committee last week and will head to the floor for a vote. I still have other bills in committee.

One final note: young people who want to page from the district should contact my office. I get four pages in the House, and will have four pages in the Senate. Even when I move from the House, I can still use my slots; the students would just report to another representative. This actually gives students in Northwest Oklahoma double the opportunity to participate in the page program.

Casey Murdock serves District 61 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7384 or via email at casey.murdock@okhouse.gov.

 

 

1-8-18

The legislative session will have begun by the time you read this.

As I’m writing this, I just got off the phone with the speaker of the House. After many conversations, I feel confident I have convinced House leadership not to mess with county ad valorem taxes when it comes to the Step Up Oklahoma plan This plan, put forward by a number of business leaders from across the state, would increase revenues to pay for a $5,000 teacher pay raise and fund core government services while also instituting a number of reforms aimed at making state government more accountable, transparent and efficient. The plan may come to a vote on the House floor as soon as this week.

In the meantime, I’ve been in discussion with folks who work for local offices of the state Health Department. I know some workers are facing furloughs and some services are threatened with being cut. I have been working on this with our local office officials and have made calls and sent letters to the state department to explain how important these services are to us who live in the Panhandle. Our residents have to drive further than anyone else in the state for these services. If they must make cuts, they do not need to be in Northwest Oklahoma.

Just a reminder of a few of the bills I’ve filed for this legislative session:

One is my drone bill, brought forward from last year. This had the votes to pass last year, but I laid it over because I had given a Senate colleague my word that I would have certain language in the bill that inadvertently got left out of the final version. This is about personal property and privacy rights.

Another bill focuses on giving local school boards the final say over whether or not a charter school can move into a district. This is a matter of local control. Local school boards are in a much better position to make this call instead of it being determined by the state Board of Education.

A third bill deals with the bidding process for counties to allow them to take bids and buy road materials for a full year instead of project by project. This common-sense measure will allow counties to get a better deal by buying and will save some money.

Remember, next week is Valentines Day. Show some love.

 

 

 

November 2, 2017

Budget Plan Gives Teachers a Pay Raise, Funds Healthcare

By Rep. Casey Murdock

House Speaker Charles McCall alongside the governor and the state Senate leader this morning laid out a budget plan that if passed with replace funds to three Oklahoma healthcare agencies and give teachers and state employees a much needed pay raise.

The plan includes raising the tax on a package of cigarettes by $1.50, raising the tax on gasoline by 6 cents, revising taxes on alcohol and restoring the earned income tax credit for Oklahoma’s lowest earners. Together, the revenue will restore the $215 million missing currently from the budgets of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Department of Human Services; plus, it will fund a $3,000 teacher pay raise and give state employees a $1,000 pay raise.

Without the revenue, cuts to the three healthcare agencies mentioned above will put programs in danger that serve children, senior citizens, those who are disabled and those who pose a danger to themselves or others because they lack adequate mental health care. Without these services, we risk greater healthcare costs in the long run and increased incarceration rates for those who can’t get alternative services.

There has not been an increase to the minimum teacher salary schedule since 2008. We’re losing highly qualified teachers to surrounding states where they can draw more pay, and our classrooms are being filled with teachers who have received emergency certifications instead of the education and training provided those who go the traditional certification route.

State employees haven’t had a pay raise in 11 years. These are people who provide necessary services such as health department inspections, educational support services, transportation, public safety and more.

While this budget plan certainly isn’t perfect, it’s the best compromise we could make at a time where Oklahoma is still climbing out of the recession and recovering from the depression of the energy sector. This plan will put us on firmer financial footing as we move into the future, and it will ensure healthcare services can continue for those who need them most.

Casey Murdock serves District 61 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7384 or via email at casey.murdock@okhouse.gov.

 

 

October 26, 2017

We’re in week three since the governor called a special session of the Legislature, and we’re only slightly further along in budget negotiations that we were in February.

The problem really is that a majority of the Legislature believe a limited amount of revenue should be raised to fill the $215 million budget hole left by the state Supreme Court’s ruling that the Smoking Cessation Act of 2017 was unconstitutional. The act would have raised the fee on a pack of cigarettes by $1.50, with the revenue going primarily to three healthcare agencies. Without the funding, we risk losing senior nutrition programs, childcare supplements, help for disabled adults, programs that allow the aging to remain in their homes and others.

Most lawmakers in rural Oklahoma know the hardships our rural hospitals and nursing homes face on a daily basis to provide Medicaid services and to keep the doors open to those in need. We want to help them. But, any plan to raise revenue takes a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of the Legislature. This requirement was put in place by a vote of the people in 1992. It keeps the Legislature from raising taxes without the consent of the taxpayer. This is a good thing. But, in the House of Representatives, the two-thirds majority equals 76 votes. Republicans hold 72 seats. The one tax increase many Oklahomans have said they would support is the cigarette tax. A majority of House Republicans have said they would support this, and a number of Democrats have said they would support it. But, the Democrats will not support it as a stand-alone vote. They want to tie it to an increase in gross production tax, an elimination of sales tax credits for wind, an increase fuel tax, an increase in the income tax for high-income earners, an addition of taxes on a number of services not currently taxes. This is a lot of tax increases that the majority of conservative Republicans just will not support.

So we stand at an impasse.

Thankfully, the speaker recessed the House to a call of the chair on the third day of the special session, meaning taxpayers will not be charged the $30,000 a day it costs for the special session while budget negotiations continue between House and Senate leadership and the governor’s office.

We initially were told to be ready to return to session Monday afternoon this week, but later were told no deal had been reached. So we wait.

In the meantime, I’ve attended every caucus meeting and expressed the wishes of my constituents in Northwest Oklahoma. I’ve attended policy working groups to make sure we are moving in a positive direction for the future of Oklahoma once we are past this current budget impasse. I continue to work every day for the people who live in my district. I continue to be a small-government conservative who wants to keep necessary core government services running but who refuses to bloat government at the cost of the taxpayer. I’ll keep you updated on our progress.

 

 

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