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The Seminole Producer - Sun., March 17, 2013 - Section B - Page 12

Senate Gives Bipartisan Approval to Anti-Smoking Legislation

Cities that want to ban smoking in municipal parks would have the legal authority to do so under a measure approved by the State Senate on Wednesday. Members voted 44 to 1 in favor of Senate Bill 501 authored by Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer. The legislation would give local governments the authority to ban smoking on any property they own or operate, including municipal parks and sports complexes. "Many communities in Oklahoma had already approved city ordinances to do that, but the Attorney General recently ruled that was a violation of state law limiting local government control over the use of tobacco," Simpson said. "SB 501 establishes that right for county and municipal governments." Among those praising passage of the bill was Oklahoma Municipal League Board President Homer Nicholson, who also serves as Mayor of Ponca City. "This is a good bill and I am happy to see it passed," Nicholson said. "I think it is to the benefit of all citizens of the state of Oklahoma to be more aware of smoking and second-hand smoke. Statistics indicate that about 6,000 Oklahomans die each year because of smoking, and many of these deaths are from second-hand smoke. SB 501 gives local control to cities in their efforts to better protect people from the dangers of tobacco." Dr. Stephen Cagle, Chairman of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department Board, also applauded passage of the measure. "On behalf of our board I want to thank Sen. Simpson for his continued hard work in protecting the health of Oklahomans. This represents a step in the right direction," Cagle said. "Anytime you can diminish people's exposure, especially children, to these toxins and carcinogens you're doing a good thing. There's more work to be done in the fight against tobacco-related illness and deaths, but this is definitely a positive step." Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, also voiced his strong support of SB 501. "People have a choice about whether to do business with a restaurant or other establishment that allows smoking," said Johnson. "But when it comes to city parks, those are owned by the public. I fully support the right of their locally elected officials to enact smoking bans on government properties. SB 501 ensures that they can." SB 501 will now be sent to the House of Representatives. This past week, some of the most heated debate of the session occurred as a Senate committee took up a measure that would have given Oklahoma communities the right to determine their own smoking ordinances. Currently, Oklahoma is one of only a couple of states that forbids municipalities from enacting any smoking ordinances that are more restrictive than those approved at the state level. Many communities throughout our state have asked for that right, but that request was denied when the committee voted six to two against Senate Bill 36. Those opposing the bill argued restaurants had already complied when the law was changed a few years ago to require them to install separate ventilation systems and areas for smokers to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke. They said it was unfair to change the rules after they'd already gone to great expense to follow the law. Others argued towns that didn't restrict smoking in businesses such as restaurants might have an unfair economic advantage over those that did. The head of the State Health Department urged the committee to approve the bill, telling members that six thousand Oklahomans die every year from smoking. Although we have enacted programs to reduce the number of smokers in our state, this is still one of the highest smoking states in the nationone out of every four adult Oklahomans is a smoker. Several communities wishing to improve their citizens' health had already taken steps in that direction by banning smoking in public parks. But just this month the Attorney General said Oklahoma communities that had passed smoking bans in municipal parks did not have the authority to do that under current state law. Even Governor Mary Fallin had made this policy change one of her top priorities in her State of the State address this year. She stated that when Pueblo, Colorado had banned smoking in local taverns and restaurants, they saw the city's heart attack rate go down. Although the bill was not approved, the Governor held a press conference the next day and announced she would look at changing state law using an initiative petition as another way to reduce smoking deaths in Oklahoma and improve the health of our citizens. As a result, ultimately, the people of this state may have the final say on this issue. As always if you have a question about a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (405) 521-5541 or by email at It is an honor to serve as your voice at the State Capitol. If I may be of help, please contact me. May God Bless you!

Unlikely Legislator Offers School Voucher Amendment to HB 1062

A House Democrat opposed to school vouchers amended a bill that will allow guns in school so that parents who object can send their children to private schools. House Bill 1062 allows a handgun to be carried into an elementary or secondary school by a teacher or administrator with a certain amount of training, if the school district permits it. The school board of education must also pay for the gun training, which must occur during the summer. "If the House passes this bill, they should at least let parents who object to gun-toting teachers and principals opt out," said Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City. "I would not support vouchers otherwise, but if parents feel their children are unsafe- and arming teachers does not secure our kids- than schools should provide vouchers so kids can go elsewhere. There are other ways to address the issue of school security than effectively militarizing our schools." Shelton also offered an amendment to HB 1062 that would make schools provide cell phones in each grade, in case of emergencies. "Our children need less violence in their lives, not more," said Rep. Mike Shelton, DOklahoma City. "I understand that we want solutions to the mass gun violence against school children, but why should we make violence more natural for our children than it already is by allowing teachers and administrators to carry guns? Children do not need to feel comfortable with adults with gun holsters walking around them. If this is our solution, then parents need other options for their children."

AARP Oklahoma Praises House Resolution

A spokesperson for AARP Oklahoma today praised a resolution passed by House lawmakers recognizing Oklahoma's family caregivers and encouraging the creation of a special unit within the Aging Services Division of the Department of Human Services focused on supporting caregivers. "We are so pleased that Oklahoma lawmakers passed this resolution and, in doing so, showed their awareness and concern for the aging population in their communities," said Marjorie Lyons, state president of AARP Oklahoma. "I would especially like to thank Representatives Harold Wright and David Dank, who authored the resolution and who are strong advocates for Oklahoma's aging population." House Resolution 1008, by state Reps. Harold Wright and David Dank, notes that the population of Oklahoma that is 85 years or older is projected to reach 131,000 in 2032 and that nationally 70 percent of people with Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder live at home and need assistance. The resolution further notes that threefourths of older people living in the community receive personal assistance exclusively from unpaid caregivers and that this type of care is much less expensive than nursing home care. An estimated 596,000 adults in the state provide care to adult relatives or friends, which equates to an estimated 570 million hours and an estimated $6 billion each year. Wright said AARP Oklahoma is a powerful advocate for the aging population. "This is an organization that keeps the Legislature informed about aging issues and regularly brings us policy solutions to important problems faced in our state," said Wright, R-Weatherford. "I am proud to work with them on these policy solutions. They are a great resources for Oklahoma legislators."

Food Stamp Users Must Work

The Oklahoma House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a major initiative to reform social programs.. House bill 1909 would require able-bodied recipients ages 18 to 50, who are not disabled or raising a child, to perform at least 20 hours of work activities as a condition of receiving food stamps. Those work requirements come from the 1996 Welfare Reform Law, by President Clinton. Currently able-bodied individuals do not have to fulfill work requirements due to waivers handed out by the federal government. This bill will order DHS to no longer seek those work requirement waivers. "I hope this legislation will end a longstanding cycle of generational welfare recipients, too many people are raised on a cruel cycle of government subsidized poverty," Representative Legislation that would allow veterans to purJames Lockhart said. "Hopefully this bill will chase a lifetime hunting and fishing license has encourage personal responsibility and motivation been approved by a House committee. to strive for a better life." House Bill 1500, by state Rep. Jason SmalThe bill will now move on to the Senate. ley, would allow Oklahoma veterans who have been honorably discharged from active military duty, National Guard duty or military reserve ATTABOY! NICE HOME RUN duty to purchase a lifetime hunting and fishing LA 'MP FOR A HAT TRICK! license for $200. "It is important to hold up our veterans and honor their sacrifices on our behalf," said Smal-

Bill in House kills

Bi g Bird in Oklahoma
Public broadcasting will lose all public money if HB 2218 passes the House during deadline week. House Bill 2218 will reduce appropriated funds until fiscal year 2022 to the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, which broadcasts quality, commercial-free children's, arts, and cultural programming. After 2022, OETA will no longer receive public funds. "I don't think this bill reflects the will of the people," said Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa. "Public broadcasting is a rich cultural resource. People love what they get to watch on OETA and we all gain from having it. This bill is an attempt to suffocate one of the people of Oklahoma's most valuable assets, which is already on life support from reduced appropriations from the legislature. Our constituents need to know about this bill and what we'll lose if it passes." Currently, OETA only receives approximately a third of its funding, $3.8 million, from state appropriations. "OETA is a highly valued organization, cherished by so many Oklahomans," said McDaniel. "Legislators must be good stewards to protect this important education, entertainment, and history outlet. We must preserve this agency and work together with their board as we build for tomorrow's audiences." "With that in mind," said McDaniel. "Rather than HB2218, we should implement a process to carefully consider the role of OETA in our future. This jewel in Oklahoma's crown is a collaboration of public/private funds. While the state of Oklahoma provides approximately 36 percent of the program's funding, we must work together to assure the program's continuance and look to a strong and healthy tomorrow."

Committee Approves Lifetime Hunting/Fishing Licenses 4 Vets

ley, R-Stroud. "One of the best things Oklahoma has to offer is outdoor recreation, so we wanted to make it a little easier for all veterans, not just disabled veterans, to obtain a license that will allow them to hunt and fish for the remainder of their lives." House Bill 1500 was approved unanimously by the House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. If approved by the House Calendar Committee, it will be available for consideration on the House floor.


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