Casey Murdock

 

108 S Douglas - PO Box 490

Beaver, Oklahoma 73932

A Positive Web Page for Beaver, Oklahoma

 

 


5-30-19

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

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

For Immediate Release:  May 24, 2019

            This past Thursday, we concluded work on the 2019 legislative session—and I have to say that in all my time in first the House and now the Senate, it was probably the most positive and most productive session I’ve worked on.  We addressed complex and important public policy issues and worked to prioritize targeted investments in education, public safety, transportation and health care, yet still put aside additional savings for future downturns in the economy.  I think this session has left us in a much stronger position as a state and will benefit our citizens for years to come.

            We had been preparing for this session for months, with budget meetings and negotiations and interim studies to examine a number of issues that were ultimately addressed in committees and on the floor.

            As a strong Second Amendment supporter, I was thrilled that the first bill signed into law this year was Constitutional Carry.  Our right to protect ourselves and our families must always be honored and defended. 

            Rural Oklahoma is the backbone of this state, and I’m very pleased I was able to pass legislation that will directly support and help the people of this district.  I was able to get legislation passed and signed into law that will help farmers and better protect us from wildfires.

            We enacted legislation that will also better protect the rights of crime victims in our state, and I’m pleased we’ve addressed the need to get more Highway Patrol Troopers on the road by next year. We also passed legislation that will help us solve missing and unidentified persons cases.

            All of the legislative goals Senate Republicans set out before the session even began were achieved, including legislation promoting greater transparency and accountability, additional commitments to education and common sense criminal justice reform that will both save our state money and reduce recidivism.

            I’m very gratified for the legislation we passed this year to help and support our veterans, including a long overdue sales tax exemption for the American Legion and legislation to better assist disabled and vulnerable veterans.

            I also am extremely grateful for the input I have received from many of you throughout Senate District 27 this past year—whether it was in the town hall meetings we held leading up to the session, phone calls, emails or visits here to the Capitol, please know how much I appreciate hearing from you so that I can better represent our district in the State Senate.

            Throughout the year, if you have any questions or comments about state government please feel free to contact me at 405.521.5626 or email murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

5-23-19

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

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

 

For Immediate Release:  May 20, 2019

                                                        

            In communities throughout the panhandle, northwestern Oklahoma and across the state, our schools are the heart and soul of our communities.  Providing additional funding for education has been a top priority for me throughout my service in the Legislature, and certainly for the 2019 session. 

That’s why I am very happy to report to you that the budget agreement announced last week includes significant new investments for our public schools, our colleges and universities and our career-techs.  We’ll also make investments in our transportation infrastructure, public safety, health and include targeted investments for agriculture and rural Oklahoma—all without any new or increased taxes.

            The 2020 fiscal budget year, which begins July 1, will include a $203 million increase for public education.  This includes funding that will result in an average $1,220 teacher pay raise.  Another $5.5 million will go to fully fund the Reading Sufficiency Act—the first time it’s ever been fully funded.  It’s aimed at making sure Oklahoma students have the reading skills necessary to succeed in school and life.  There’s also an additional $74.3 million for local schools to use to address the needs they prioritize, including hiring additional teachers, counselors, or other staff as deemed necessary. There’s also an $18 million boost for our career tech centers and $28 million for higher education institutions.

            I have called for a desperately needed salary increase for our corrections officers.  This budget will boost their salary by $2 per hour, a 14 percent raise.  This will bring their pay to the regional average and help DOC recruit more corrections officers to help address staffing shortages. We’re also including funding for two new trooper academies, which will help us get an estimated 80 new troopers on the road next year.

            State employees, who went many years without pay increases, will receive pay raises of up to $1,500, which is on top of last year’s raises of up to $2,000.

            We’re investing more in criminal justice reforms which will ultimately save the state money in the long run.  And speaking of savings, this budget agreement calls for putting aside an additional $200 million in our state’s emergency savings fund to help us better weather future economic downturns—we don’t know when that may be, but we know at some point, it will happen.  This additional savings will help us shore up core government services when that happens.

            We all know how important transportation is, particularly to this part of the state.  The budget agreement fully funds the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s 8-year plan—and as I reported earlier, we’ve restored $30 million in funding to a program supporting county roads and bridges.

            We’re also investing more in a special program to support physician training for rural hospitals and we’re reallocating funds to increase provider rates for physicians, hospitals and nursing homes.  New investments will be made to decrease the Developmental Disability Services wait list and increase provider rates.  There’s also additional funding for county health departments.

            For rural Oklahoma, the agreement includes additional funding for wildfire mitigation and for rural fire fighters, plus funding for an additional state veterinarian.

            While there are always many more needs and wants than resources, I believe this budget represents carefully targeted investments in key areas that will move Oklahoma forward for a long time to come.

            This is your State Capitol, and I look forward to welcoming you to the Senate. You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

5-16-19

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

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

For Immediate Release:  May 13, 2019

            Intense budget negotiations continued at the Capitol this past week.  I think an important point that needs to be made is that even though there are different ideas about the details, the Senate, the House and the Governor have all agreed for months that we need to make additional investments in education.  While last year’s teacher pay raise bill was the largest in the state’s history, we knew there was more to be done. 

            Throughout this session, my fellow Senate Republicans and I have been engaged with teachers, administrators and patrons from our districts, and overwhelmingly, the majority told us they want more money for the classroom.  The specific needs they have talked about include being able to lower class sizes.  There’s a tremendous need for more support staff, such as counselors and for supplies, including textbooks and other materials for the classroom.

            Senate Republicans have proposed investing an additional $200 million into classroom funding.  Those resources would more than cover the price tag for the Governor and the House to achieve their goal of an additional $1,200 pay raise for teachers.  Funding that raise would cost about $70 million, which would leave another $130 which could be used to meet the classroom needs outlined by our education professionals.

            Last year’s $460 million investment in public education was historic.  Yet at the time, we said additional investments would follow.  Senate Republicans have remained consistent on this point, as evidenced by our proposed investment of $200 million dollars beyond what we committed to last year.

            We’re also continuing to work through confirmation hearings on executive nominations to state boards and commissions, and final consideration of legislation still moving through the process.

            As of the end of session last week, 231 Senate bills had been sent to the Governor, with 201 of them signed into law.  There have been 178 House bills sent to his desk, with 138 of them signed.  I’ve personally had seven Senate and House bills that I’m the principal author on signed into law by the Governor. 

            It’s always gratifying when you get a bill all the way through the process and the Governor adds his signature to it.  Of course I was very happy to see Senate Bill 21 signed into law, which declares the ribeye to be the official steak of Oklahoma.  Ranching is a huge part of our state’s history, culture and economy.  This is a great way to celebrate the contributions of tens of thousands of Oklahomans who work 365 days a year to put food on our tables.

            This is your State Capitol, and I look forward to welcoming you to the Senate. You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

5-9-19

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

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

 

For Immediate Release:  May 6, 2019

                                             

           

            With the Constitutional deadline of May 31 approaching, the focus remains on the budget—negotiations have been productive, and we anticipate announcements soon.  All sides have a shared priority of investing more education.  The Senate and the House are very close on deciding the total amount of additional resources—the discussion now is centered on exactly how to spend it. 

            The House and Governor have expressed their support for using those funds for another teacher raise.  Leaders in the Senate have placed a priority on putting that money into the classroom, but have consistently stated the two are not mutually exclusive.  Whatever the final decision is, we do know that there will be another significant investment in common education this year.

            This past week we learned that our efforts to increase teacher pay last year have resulted in significant improvement in our ranking for teacher pay.  A new national ranking reported that Oklahoma had jumped from 49th in the nation to 34th in average teacher pay.  But when you factor in the cost of living in Oklahoma, we’re actually 11th highest in the nation and rated 1st in the region. 

            On the floor, we’re continuing to work through Senate bills that were amended on the House side.  When those amendments are rejected, there’s the opportunity to continue working on measures in conference committees so a compromise version can be ironed out.

            We also continued working through executive nominations.  It was announced earlier in the session that the Senate wanted to strengthen the confirmation process.  As committees continue working through those nominations, observers had a first-hand look at a much more robust vetting of candidates, which is an important check and balance in this process.

            Although we were focused on getting through consideration of amendments and executive nominations on the floor this past week, we also were treated to an incredible performance from the FFA state choir. What a talented group of young people!

I know many of you probably participated in FFA growing up in northwestern Oklahoma and the Panhandle—it’s an organization that continues to serve a vital role in the lives of young people throughout the state of Oklahoma.

            I want to thank and commend all those who participate in FFA, an agriculture education organization that prepares our young people for lives focused on self-reliance, hard work, leadership and service to others.

            This is your State Capitol, and I look forward to welcoming you to the Senate. You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

5-2-19

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

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

 

For Immediate Release:  April 29, 2019

                                             

           

            I am very happy to report that my legislation designating the Ribeye as Oklahoma’s official state steak is one step closer to being signed into law.  Last Thursday was the final day for the Senate to hold floor votes on bills that came over from the House and vice-versa. I was extremely pleased that before the House adjourned, they overwhelmingly voted in favor of this legislation.

            As I’ve said before, I think this designation is a great tribute to all the ranchers in Oklahoma who work so hard to feed people throughout the state and across this great nation.  It brings positive attention to our agriculture industry and to our state as a whole.

            The House also gave approval to one of my bills that is aimed at helping fight wildfires—that’s really a critical issue for northwestern Oklahoma, as we know all too well.  Senate Bill 870 would allow counties, with permission from the landowner and under the direction of forest rangers, to dig trenches and cut firelines in an effort to prevent wildfires on private land.  Again, this can only occur with the written permission of the landowner.  This law takes effect this coming November 1. This could help protect untold acres of land, prevent the loss of livestock, and even save lives.

            One of my measures that had already made it all the way through the Senate and the House was signed into law by the governor this past week.  Senate Bill 347 will help our agriculture sector.  Previously, fuel trailers were limited to carry a maximum of 119 gallons of diesel fuel.  My legislation would enable drivers to carry up to 1,000 gallons.  It’s a common sense reform that will help our farmers and ranchers take care of their day-to-day operations. 

            Now that we’ve passed the April 25 deadline for floor votes on bills from the opposite chamber, we’re going to see the focus of our work shift more to the 2020 fiscal year budget, which begins this July 1.  Even though the process isn’t usually spotlighted until the closing weeks of the session, the fact is work on the budget began during the interim and has continued throughout the 2019 session, with meetings between Senate and House leaders and the governor’s office being held throughout the session.  Many major areas of agreement have already been identified, and you’ll probably start hearing more about the details in the next week or two.

            Work will also continue on legislation where the Senate and House passed slightly different versions—many of these will go into conference committees so the author can work with conferees in developing a unified version of the bill to send back to each chamber for a final vote. 

            According to Oklahoma’s Constitution, the Legislature must conclude its work no later than 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May.  I am hopeful we will be able to pass a balanced budget and complete work on other bills before that deadline.

            This is your State Capitol, and I look forward to welcoming you to the Senate. You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

4-18-19

Murdock’s Minutes
By Sen. Casey Murdock
Senate District 27
Beaver, Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Texas, Woods, Woodward counties
For Immediate Release:  April 15, 2019
   Our state and this Senate district is filled with men and women who have a heart for service and stand ready to put the safety and welfare of others before their own.  This past week, my fellow members and I had the privilege of honoring some of these heroes at the State Capitol.
Members of law enforcement never know what each day will bring.  Sometimes what appears to be a routine call or stop can become something far more dangerous.  You may recall the name of Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Austin Ellis.  Last August in the Woodward city limits, he observed a driver not wearing a seat belt.  When Trooper Ellis tried to pull the driver over, the man fled a short distance before stopping in a parking lot of a motel.  The driver refused to comply when Trooper Ellis told him to show his hands and exit his vehicle, and after a few minutes, began firing several rounds at Ellis with a 9-millimeter handgun.  Ellis exchanged fire.
Despite being injured, Trooper Ellis pursued the suspect when he fled in his vehicle.  Ellis called for backup and when they arrived, along with an ambulance, only then did he seek treatment for his injuries. The suspect was later arrested, treated for a gunshot wound and then taken to jail. 
Trooper Ellis suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung and was eventually airlifted to an Oklahoma City Level One Trauma Center.  Fortunately, Austin made a full recovery and returned to work.  This past week, we honored Trooper Ellis, who was named a 2018 Trooper of the Year for Heroism.
The following day, we met in a special joint session of the Legislature to honor the 45th Infantry and Oklahoma’s National Guard.  Not only do these men and women answer the call to serve their nation in times of conflict, they also do a tremendous service on behalf of their fellow citizens right here at home, particularly when we face natural disasters like wildfires, tornadoes and flooding.  It is always a privilege to be able to pay tribute to these outstanding Oklahomans each year at the Capitol.
Finally, I want to mention a bill that I was able to receive approval for in a Senate Committee before the April 11 deadline—this legislation would be extremely helpful to another group of Oklahomans on the front line of our public safety efforts.  Our prisons are tremendously overcrowded and we do not have enough prison guards.  The ones we have often work 12 hour days guarding some of the most dangerous inmates in our state.  For that, they receive about $13.74 an hour.  This legislation would give corrections officers a $2.00 an hour pay increase.  That legislation now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
To all our active military and veterans, to all who serve in law enforcement, to our corrections officers, firefighters and other first responders, I want to again thank you for your service and sacrifice.            This is your State Capitol, and I look forward to welcoming you to the Senate. You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

 

4-11-19

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

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

For Immediate Release: April 8, 2019

This past Wednesday was Agriculture Day at the Capitol. It’s an opportunity to showcase the importance of agriculture in Oklahoma to every man, woman and child in our state. Farmers and producers bring samples and displays and talk about what it is they do and the impact they have in our lives—it’s always one of the days people most look forward during the legislative session.

I was principal author of Senate Resolution 3 which was heard and unanimously approved on Agriculture Day, paying tribute to the importance of agriculture in Oklahoma. Jimmy Harrel of Elk City was also presented with Governor Kevin Stitt’s Outstanding Achievement in Agriculture Award.

Jimmy grew up learning about farming ranching and riding with his family. He participated in 4-H and FFA in high school and after graduating from OSU with a double major in Animal Science and Vocational Agriculture, he went on to teach vocational agriculture for several years. A man of many interests and talents, he eventually became one of the owners of the Bank of Western Oklahoma with branches in Weatherford, Woodward, Vici, Cordell, Elk City and Geary. He continues to support the future of agriculture in our state through the Oklahoma Youth expo, donated his resources and time to help today’s youth become tomorrow’s leaders. Congratulations to Jimmy Harrel for this well-deserved honor.

I also want to congratulate Seiling Elementary School teacher Amanda Templin for being named a 2019 Ag in the Classroom Exception Teacher. I also want to congratulate Seiling Elementary student Ethan Rohla, the kindergarten poster contest first place winner for the 2019 Oklahoma Agriculture Poster contest. Congratulations also to Kinsley Pike, the pre-kindergarten poster contest 1st place winner. She’s a student at Cornelsen Elementary in Fairview.

Lastly, I want to urge your support for the Turpin Robotics team. They won their regional championship to advance to the First Lego League World Championships in Houston. They’re raising funds for this trip and will be holding drawings for raffles on Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Turpin School Auditorium. Congratulations to the Turpin Robotics team, and thank you to all who are supporting them.

This is your State Capitol, and I look forward to welcoming you to the Senate. You can reach me by calling 405.521.5626 or emailing murdock@oksenate.gov.

 

3-14-19

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

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

For Immediate Release: March 11, 2019

As we began the sixth week of the 2019 session, we had a full load of work ahead. With a March 14 deadline for the full Senate to vote on bills that began in this chamber and had won committee approval, we knew we had some long days ahead. As of Monday morning, there were 333 bills and joint resolutions awaiting Senate votes.

I have about a dozen bills that are either awaiting votes by the full Senate or have already been approved and sent over to the House.

Of course one of my bills awaiting a House committee vote is the bill making the ribeye the official steak of Oklahoma. We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on that one. I can’t tell you how many people emailed or texted to say after hearing about the bill they were going to go out that night and have a ribeye steak. It’s even made national news. You can see the story at this link: https://www.msnbc.com/mtp-daily/watch/icymi-oklahoma-has-a-high-steaks-bill-in-the-works-1447023171592. The point is, Oklahoma’s cattle industry is vital to this state’s economy, and I’m very pleased to help promote it and the countless Oklahoma stores and restaurants that sell Oklahoma beef, especially ribeye steaks.

Senate Bill 304 is one of mine that is awaiting a floor vote. It’s a simple bill—it prohibits someone from flying a drone over agricultural property without the property owner’s permission. The bill includes land used for farming, ranching, hunting, fishing or forestry purposes. Even if you live out in the country in the middle of a farm or ranch, you should have the right not to be spied on with a drone. There are exemptions, including for law enforcement or someone working under the direction or on behalf of law enforcement and oil and gas companies if they’ve notified the property owner in advance, although that notice wouldn’t be required for an emergency evaluation of a pipeline or utility infrastructure. Violators would face a fine of up to $500 or up to a year in jail or both.

Another bill that’s already been sent over to the House is Senate Bill 544, and it deals with people who sell prepared or processed foods at farmers markets. I know we have people in the district who like to make salsa, pies or other homemade goods to sell at local farmers markets, but the licensing fee can be pretty costly. For people who don’t have restaurants or commercial bakeries but sell exclusively at farmers market, this bill drops the fee from $100 to $25.

I had also proposed government accountability legislation this year—these concepts were championed by the leaders in both chambers and the governor. Leadership versions of those measures are now working their way through the House and Senate. Under the current system, agency directors are not directly accountable to the governor. They are hired by a board or commission appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. These measures enable the governor to hire and fire the executive directors of his choice at five of the state’s larger agencies.

I believe this will make the agencies much more responsive as the governor works to implement the programs and priorities he promised voters he would pursue. And there’s a direct accountability to the voters that doesn’t exist in the current system. If the agencies aren’t performing the way the public thinks they should, they can go straight to the top and fire the man who put those directors and policies in place. In other words, they can hold the governor accountable at the next election.

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.

 

3-7-19

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

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

 

For Immediate Release:  March 4, 2019

                                             

             We just passed the deadline for getting Senate bills out of our committees and we’re focusing now on getting those measures heard on the floor by the March 14 deadline. It’s been a very busy four weeks, but very productive.  We’ve already tackled quite a few important bills this session.

            I was very proud to cast my vote on the Senate floor Wednesday for the Constitutional Carry Bill.  I’m a staunch defender of our Second Amendment rights.  Under House Bill 2597, Oklahomans 21 and older could legally carry a firearm without a permit.  Veterans, active duty, and reserve military over the age of 18 and over would be allowed to carry without a permit under this same bill. 

The fact is that 15 other states already allow Constitutional Carry, and because of reciprocity laws, people who enjoy this freedom in their home state can also enjoy Constitutional Carry when visiting or working in Oklahoma.  This includes citizens from bordering states like Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri.  It’s just our own citizens who do not currently have this right. 

            It should be pointed out the bill also has important protections in it.  The legislation prohibits felons and those with domestic violence convictions or those who have been adjudicated as having a mental illness from carrying a firearm.  Current protections that allow private property owners, including businesses to prohibit firearms from being carried will continue under this bill.  It also maintains the ability of colleges and universities to set their own policies about firearms on campuses. The same day the Senate joined the House in passing HB 2597, Governor Kevin Stitt signed it into law. It takes effect this November.

              Speaking of our governor, earlier on Wednesday the Senate Rules Committee approved five pieces of legislation that will give the governor the authority to hire and fire the heads of five different state agencies—The Department of Corrections, the Health Care Authority, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Office of Juvenile Affairs.  Right now the heads of these agencies are hired by boards or commission.  Many of those board members may have been chosen by a previous governor. 

Although these are executive branch agencies, if the governor has a policy or program he’d like to prioritize as part of his agenda, those boards and directors can simply ignore him if they want to. And because they are all appointed, there’s no accountability directly to the public.  Allowing the governor to hire and fire the people who run the executive agencies will ensure he can enact his agenda—and if it isn’t in line with what the public wants, he will be held directly accountable at the next election.

            Another bill winning committee approval by this past week’s deadline was Senate Bill 1, which will create the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT).  This will give the Legislature accurate, objective financial information about all state agencies.  LOFT will be overseen by a bipartisan committee of House and Senate members.  It will conduct performance evaluations of agencies, programs or specific divisions and will have open access to all data and budgets.  It will be staffed by a small group of nonpartisan, highly educated professionals and all of the reports produced will be available to the public.

            This legislation will help us make even better budget decisions and increase transparency on behalf of the public.  This bill and the bills giving the governor authority over choosing specific agency directors will be voted on by the full Senate in the next couple of weeks.

            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.

 

 

2-28-19

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

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

For Immediate Release: February 25, 2019

Week three of the 2019 session is over and the pace can best be described as fast and furious as we work to get bills heard in committee by the February 28 deadline. Some of our most high profile bills have already been voted on and are headed to the full Senate for a vote.

Those of you who know me understand that I am a staunch believer in our citizens’ Second Amendment rights. This past week, a Senate committee gave approval to a measure known as Constitutional Carry. Under this bill, Oklahomans 21 and older would be able to carry a firearm without a permit. Additionally, veterans, active duty and reserve military 18 and over could carry without a permit.

It’s very important to point out there are protections built into the bill. Felons and people convicted of domestic violence are those adjudicated as having a mental illness would be prohibited from carrying a firearm. Current protections for property owners to be able to prohibit firearms will continue, and colleges and universities will still be able to set their own policies regarding firearms on their campuses.

What many people may not realize is that 15 other states already allow constitutional carry, and because of reciprocity laws, those citizens can enjoy that right even when in Oklahoma, and that includes people visiting or working here from Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri—so we actually have constitutional carry happening in our state, but not for our own citizens. It’s time for Oklahomans to enjoy that same right.

I also want to note that I was very happy to get the full approval of the Senate for my bill making the ribeye the official state steak of Oklahoma. This is something I am very serious about and I think it is extremely appropriate. We have 5.1 million head of beef cows in Oklahoma and we’re third in the nation in the number of beef cows, with annual cash receipts for cattle sales in our state totaling $3.3 billion. Ranching is a huge part of our history and our contemporary identity—we have some 51,000 beef cattle ranchers in Oklahoma and they’re in all 77 counties.

I cannot even imagine the Scissortail Flycatcher not being our official state bird, or "Oklahoma!" not being our official state song. They help us promote our state and the things that make our Oklahoma so special. Promoting our beef industry and the ribeye steak—hands down the best cut there is—helps us promote Oklahoma in a very positive way. This bill now moves over to the House of Representatives and it is my sincere hope that they will work quickly to get this to Governor Kevin Stitt’s desk for his signature.

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.

 

2-7-19

Murdock’s Minutes

By Sen. Casey Murdock

Senate District 27

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

This past week, the Senate Republican Caucus released our 2019 legislative agenda. While there are many areas of interest and importance that will come before the Senate this session, this agenda focuses on four areas we’ve identified as top legislative priorities this year.

Last year the State Health Department, a major state agency, said they didn’t have enough money to pay the bills and their payroll. It turns out, after they let go some 200 employees and requested a $30 million supplemental appropriation, it was all unnecessary. Call it mismanagement or poor accounting—but good, experienced medical professionals and other employees lost jobs for no reason.

That serves as an excellent example of why the Legislature needs accurate, independent fiscal data when determining appropriations for state agencies. The Senate Republican agenda calls for the creation of a legislative budget office to provide greater accountability and transparency of taxpayer dollars. That office would also be able to assess the success or failure of specific programs within agencies which would enable us to be better stewards of public dollars.

Our agenda also calls for greater accountability by agency directors. Currently they are appointed by boards and commissions and may have little or no interest in helping an incoming governor reach the policy goals he or she has set forth. Regardless of what party our chief executive belongs to, they should have the ability to pick the people they believe can best help them achieve those goals. Our agenda would enable the governor to directly choose the directors of five of our state’s larger agencies.

Education remains a top priority for us in 2019. Last year we approved the biggest pay increase for teachers in state history. It was an important step to help us keep good teachers here in Oklahoma where they are needed. But there is more to be done. Several districts in the state had reduced their schedule to four-day work weeks. Companies that would like to locate in Oklahoma or expand existing operation and create new jobs need to know that we have a highly educated workforce they can draw from, and that our schools can offer an excellent educational experience to their employees. Having schools only open four days a week has hurt our reputation throughout the country. We need to restore 5-day school weeks.

For decades, Oklahoma has been locking up nonviolent offenders. The result is increasingly overcrowded prisons that often are simply revolving doors. State’s that have invested more in alternative programs that hold these individuals accountable while getting them into substance abuse treatment and giving them access to mental health programs have seen both their prison populations and crime rates decrease. We’ve made a good start in passing criminal justice reform in recent years, but we are dedicated to building on that effort this session.

Each of these priorities will help our caucus enact public policy that will truly move Oklahoma forward. As we begin the 2019 session, I am optimistic that this will be a very productive session 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.