Editor’s Notebook: As Democrats press to use Rainy Day Fund, Richard runs, and some House “Demo” bills advance

OKLAHOMA CITY – From an editor’s notebook, Democrats are in the news despite their minority status at the state Capitol. Some examples:

Senate Minority Leader John Sparks, D-Norman and his House peer, Rep. Scott Inman of Del City, have combined forces to push for the state to access the “Rainy Day Fund.”

The pair said the announcement of another 4 percent shortfall in projected money available for appropriation led them to issue the call.

In December, Gov. Fallin’s Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, had already said at least three percent cuts would be needed to balance the state budget in the current fiscal year. The Board of Equalization (BOE) has approved both lower revenue projections, in the wake of 70 percent drops in the price of oil and consequent stress on state government revenues.

Oklahoma’s combined “revenue failures” are now seven percent in the current fiscal year.

Doerflinger and Fallin have expressed deep reluctance to access the RDF (technically, the constitutional reserve) this fiscal year, because next year’s revenue crunch may be even worse.

In recent days, at least a handful of bills with Democratic authorship edged forward.

Nine bills garnered time for floor debate this past week. As reported by CapitolBeatOK in late February, Minority Leader Scott Inman and a group of his colleagues complained vociferously that Republican leaders were not letting their measures gain consideration on the floor. Of the 51 Democratic-sponsored bills on House “general order,” 41 had cleared unanimously in committee.

In other news from the minority side of the House, State Rep. Richard Morrissette says he will run for the Corporation Commission post now held by Republican incumbent Dana Murphy.

Morrissette had been pounding on the commission for what he calls an inadequate response to the surge of earthquakes in Oklahoma, rooted in the

proliferation of waste-water injection wells over recent years.

Morrissette’s House Bill 2595 secured unanimous (90-0) approval on the House floor on Wednesday (March 2). That measure allows judges to consider a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when sentencing military veterans charged with a crime.

On another front, Rep. Morrissette said a new federal report confirms the wisdom of legislation he co-sponsored in 2015.

With sponsorship in the upper chamber from Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, the “Right to Try Act” (House Bill 1074 last year) embodied the idea, as Morrisseette put it last year, “that if one’s physician understands that the disease a patient has will ultimately kill them, but the investigational drug will not, it’s time to remove barriers that limit doctors from providing the care they are trained to give.”

Morrissette’s bill empowered seriously ill patients (and their doctors) willing to try investigational medicines, in hopes medications mired in the federal bureaucratic slog might prove beneficial.

A new report from the Goldwater Institute of Arizona, entitled “Dead on Arrival: Federal ‘compassionate use’ leave little hope for dying patients,” documented that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) procedures are, according to a summary Morrissette circulated this past week, “loaded with disincentives that prevent drug companies from making investigational treatments available to dying Americans.”

Congress is holding hearings on proposals like Morrissette’s – already state law here – to ease access to medications.

The report only serves to underscore the importance of our bill from last session. I am very encouraged to know that Oklahoma now has ‘Right To Try” in place.” Said the bill’s author, state Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-OKC).

The only concern that we had was for the possibility that the federal government could come in and prevent the law from being implemented here in Oklahoma, but Maryland’s Assistant Attorney General has made a good case for that not to happen and the feds are listening.”