Author Archives: Kara Joy McKee

What are the core values of Together Oklahoma?

by | October 6th, 2016

[Note: The launch of the new membership process for Together Oklahoma is still coming soon, but not quite as soon as we promised in last week’s email. We’re busy training TOK volunteer leaders to welcome new members and make sure they get the best possible first impression of Together Oklahoma. Thanks for bearing with us!]


As we develop our Together Oklahoma network, the staff and leadership team members have been discussing how to describe the principles underneath what we are building. We are a statewide coalition of advocates for better budget and tax policies, but what does that mean?

Of course Together Oklahoma is a work in progress because it’s being created as we speak by the volunteer members, but here are the beginnings of a vision for our future:

Envisioning Together Oklahoma

  • We confidently affirm that a budget is a moral document, and we are deeply troubled by what our current state budget says about Oklahoma values.
  • Working together, we seek the best ways to provide prosperity for all Oklahomans in a thriving economy and with safe, healthy, equitable, and prosperous communities. We connect Oklahomans who share this mission to the facts and to each other.
  • We insist on transparency and accountability from elected leaders, and we commit ourselves to fulfilling our responsibilities as active citizens. We focus on our home state because policy decisions made here are what affect us most and what we have the most power to affect.

Does that capture it well? Is there anything you would add or change? I’d love to hear your response!

Just one week left to register for Fall Policy Boot Camp

The next big opportunity to put these principles into action is coming soon! If you aren’t already signed up for one of OK Policy’s Fall Policy Bootcamps – on Oct 14th in Tulsa or Oct 15th in Edmond – I hope you’ll register now. This is a great way to get the information you need to be ready when the bills start flying around the Oklahoma House and Senate next year.

Other Upcoming Events

 As always, you can see these things and more at our website


If it is not in our hands, how do we grab it?

by | September 20th, 2016
Photo by Courtney Carmody

Photo by Courtney Carmody

At some point, you’ve probably experienced government as something other than the democratic and representative institution that our ideals say it should be. Many Americans have come to believe that government is not in our hands. But if it isn’t in our hands, don’t we have a responsibility to get a grip?

If government of the people, BY the people, and for the people, isn’t happening the way it should, then we must go BEYOND VOTING to fix it.

  • The least we can all do is learn about the state questions and the candidates so we can cast an informed ballot on November 8th.
  • We can take it to the next level by helping to educate our friends and neighbors about voting and the important issues.
  • And we can join Together Oklahoma members all over the state to ask the candidates these important questions.

If you want your legislators to listen to you during the legislative session, start building your relationships with them now. The candidate questions give you a great chance to make an impression and get your candidates thinking about how to fix the budget emergency BEFORE they get swept up in the chaos at the Capitol. 

Coming soon…

We’re hard at work building a structure and a strategy for this grassroots advocacy network. At the end of September, Together Oklahoma will be launching some new opportunities for you to engage with planning events, communicating with the public, or doing research and analysis to boost budget and tax advocacy in your area.  Stay tuned for that email coming your way!

Other Opportunities

Don’t miss your chance! You have until this Friday, September 23rd to get your early bird discount registration for one of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Fall Policy Boot Camps (FallPol). These intensive, one-day policy trainings will be held Friday, October 14th at OSU-Tulsa and Saturday, October 15th at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond.

Register for the Tulsa FallPol here or the Edmond FallPol here.

The cost of the Fall Policy Boot Camp is $90 for early bird registration or $105 after Sept. 23rd. It includes light breakfast, lunch, and a networking reception at the end of the day. The final deadline to register is Saturday, October 10th.

Space is limited, so register soon to ensure your spot in the program!

Click here to find more events tonight, this weekend, next week, and beyond.

Think legislators aren’t doing their jobs right?

by | September 13th, 2016

Photo by Derek Bridges

If you think legislators aren’t doing their jobs right… well, State Questions mean YOU and I are the legislators.  Are you ready for the responsibility and privilege of deciding the direction Oklahoma will go on these important state questions?  Don’t sweat it!  There are lots of opportunities for you to get the facts and make your decisions before November 8th.

This week Oklahoma Policy Institute launched their very useful 2016 Oklahoma State Question Guide! In addition to fact sheets about each of the state questions, it will be updated regularly with links to media reporting and discussions about each question. Download the fact sheets and explore the links HERE!

If you find you are often complaining that Oklahoma is going to hell in a hand basket, this is another chance for you to help turn this basket around.  In times like these we have to go BEYOND VOTING!  So what does that look like? In addition to sharing the fact sheets and other good information about each of the state questions, you can bring folks with you to these great events:

Tulsa – State Question Forum with Women Lead and the League of Women Voters
September 20th, 2016, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Sun Building, 907 S. Detroit Ave Room 1025A , Tulsa, OK
This forum will discuss SQ777, SQ779, and SQ790

Lawton – Policy at the Shop with TOK and Revols at Ice Tre’s Barbershop
September 24th, 2016, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
2104 W. Gore Lawton, Oklahoma 73501
Free and Open to the Public

OKC – State Question Forum with Women Lead and the League of Women Voters
September 27th, 2016, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, 6100 N. Robinson Ave, OKC, OK
This forum will discuss SQ777, SQ779, and SQ790

OKC – House District 85 accountability session with VOICE
September 29, 7:00pm – 8:30pm
Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ, 3901 NW 63rd St, Oklahoma City, OK 73116

You can see even more events on our TOK events calendar and you can invite us to speak to your group using this little form.

We are all depending on each other to cast informed votes on November 8th, help others get informed, work on campaigns, and otherwise go BEYOND VOTING this year to get Oklahoma out of the budget hole and on the right track.  We’ll be giving you more ways to go beyond voting in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Thanks, welcome, and some fantastic opportunities!

by | August 30th, 2016

baileyAs advocates for fair and adequate funding for core public services, you probably want to learn more about the state budget, criminal justice reform, poverty, and other critical policy issues affecting our state, right? Well, you’re in luck: registration is now open for OK Policy’s second Fall Policy Boot Camp (FallPol). This year, we will host two FallPols — one at OSU-Tulsa on Friday, October 14th and one at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond on Saturday, October 15th.

FallPol is an intensive, one-day policy training intended primarily for emerging professionals working for non-profits, advocacy groups, government, and businesses, as well as educators, parents, civic volunteers, and other rising leaders with an interest in Oklahoma issues but without in-depth familiarity with the state’s policy landscape. Advocates and professionals with expertise in one policy area who wish to be better informed across a broader canvas of issues will find this training especially useful. 

You can see the full schedule here. You can register for the Tulsa FallPol here or the Edmond Fallpol here. The cost of registration is $105 and includes breakfast and lunch. Early bird registration is available at a discounted rate of $90 until Friday, September 23rd. The final deadline to register is Saturday, October 10th. All sales are final.

Space is limited, so register soon to ensure your spot in the program!

If you need financial assistance to attend, send an email providing a brief description of your circumstances to Please indicate whether you need a full scholarship or a partial scholarship ($45 registration). A limited number of scholarships will be made available on a first come, first served basis. The scholarship deadline is September 30th.

Big Thanks!

Thanks to all who attended the Candidate Letter Writing Workshop in Norman last Saturday and an especially big thanks to Claudia Swisher and Merleyn Bell for coordinating the event and to Elizabeth Perry and Patricia Bagajewicz for bringing delicious food to share!  Those of you who missed it can still be sending your own letters to candidates; HERE are the questions we suggest you ask them.  The sooner they know you care about the budget, the sooner they can start making plans to make responsible choices!  You can find email addresses for most of the candidates here. 


Speaking of talking to legislators and candidates, I would like to take a moment to welcome Bailey Perkins to the Together Oklahoma team.  As Outreach and Legislative Liaison, Bailey will be building relationships with leaders across the state and since she’ll be based in OKC she’ll be able to help our team be present at more events .  She’ll also be helping us learn the best ways to make our voices heard in the important public policy debates that Oklahoma will face in the coming years. You can reach her at

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, Aug 30th, 5:30-7:30 Together Oklahoma Mixer in Tulsa at Pancho Anaya Bakery-
2420 E Admiral Blvd, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74110

It’s time to start building our team for Together Oklahoma advocacy to stop the cutting, fund the budget. You’ve been involved in state budget advocacy or member of the TOK team before and we are excited to have you back with us this fall.

Tuesday, September 6th, 6 PM – 8 PM Norman- WLN State Question Discussion

Women Lead Network and Oklahoma League of Women Voters will address the language of the questions, their impact, and the arguments for and against. Additionally we have invited advocates from each side of the issues to answer questions. Invite your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors to attend. This meeting is free and open to the public and Together Oklahoma members are encouraged to attend. (Check out OK Policy’s State Questions Page HERE)



Celebrate and Save the Date!

by | August 9th, 2016
Photo by Carly, Aba, and Preston

Photo by Carly, Aba, and Preston

Nothing like a week with bright enthusiastic Oklahoma college students to make me feel some hope for the future!  For a fourth year in a row, 60 of Oklahoma’s best and brightest attended the OK Policy Summer Policy Institute. After SPI, the students shared comments like:

  • “The summer policy institute helped prepare me to be a better and more educated leader. The institute not only provided the motivation to become more politically involved, but also the knowledge necessary regarding methods to take action.”
  • “The SPI helped de-mystify policy and advocacy and gave me the knowledge, tools, and confidence to engage more fully in the legislative process in Oklahoma.”
  • “I think a great value of SPI is something I heard over and over again the past few days from fellow students – ‘I feel like I should stay in Oklahoma now.’ The students come away feeling empowered to make change when often they have felt discouraged before.”

I don’t tell you all this to make you jealous, but to let you know that there are new leaders getting the tools they need to help us make a difference. Plus, you can also be one of those stepping to the challenge. Save the Date: Oklahoma Policy Institute is putting on two Fall Policy Boot Camps (FallPol) this year on October 14th in Tulsa and October 15th in Oklahoma City. FallPol is an intensive, one-day training on key issues affecting our state, similar to the Summer Policy Institute but not limited to students. We’ll announce more details and registration information soon.

If you read OK Policy’s daily news updates, you’ve seen that bad news about the budget just keeps rolling in, but that isn’t all that is going on.  Take heart and know that Okies all around you are getting involved like never before.

Make sure to double check to see if you have a runoff election happening in either of your districts on August 23rd and have a great week!

The “We Voted” Winner and the Plan for Prosperity

by | July 26th, 2016
Maddi Laizure 2

Photo by Maddi Laizure

Hooray for all of you who voted in the primary! Primary runnoffs are coming up on August 23rd. Three cheers for everyone who is taking the time to communicate with legislative candidates about our priorities!  Today I’d especially like to give a cheer for Maddi Laizure who won our Together Oklahoma We Voted Ussies contest on June 28th.  Thanks Maddi!  We appreciate your use of the hashtag #TOKVotes to show your voting pride but most of all we’re glad that you and yours got out to vote!

Maddi will be receiving a basket of goodies from the Together Oklahoma staff.  Make sure you like and check our TOK Facebook page to know the next time we have a contest. It is an election year so there will be several more chances to show our  communities that we care, by getting out to vote. In the mean time please keep asking candidates these important questions.

Speaking of the candidates, are you all doing more than voting to help your favorite candidates win?  These candidates for state legislative seats can’t do all the work by themselves. As a matter of fact, not helping is a good way to ensure that the people who win are the people who already have the most resources – be they the best candidate or not. 

Now that you’ve connected with the candidates in your area I hope you are finding ways to offer your services – via volunteer hours and/or a monetary donation to the candidates you like best.  Every little bit of engagement creates opportunities for us to not only elect the candidates we want in office but also it gives us a chance to develop relationships with the candidates.  Those relationships are essential when it comes time to advise our legislators about the issues that matter most!  You can find contact information for most of the candidates HERE.

An Oklahoma Agenda for Broad-Based Prosperity

OK Policy has just published a new policy agenda for Oklahoma that can help the state reverse its negative trends and build broad-based prosperity. The agenda comes in two parts: part one outlines how Oklahoma can create a better budget and tax system that would put out finances on a more sustainable path in a way that is fair and responsible to the needs of regular families; part two outlines policies that would help to restore America’s basic bargain for Oklahoma families — that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.  Click here to download both parts as a PDF

The best way to encourage new candidates and incumbent lawmakers to use these resources as a source of information and policy ideas as they campaign over the coming months and prepare for next year’s legislative session, is if they hear about it from you.  Let folks know about the Agenda for Prosperity and have a great week!

When’s the right time to reach out to candidates and legislators? NOW!

by | July 13th, 2016
Photo by ribarnica

Photo by ribarnica

Write to the candidates! No really, right now is when they are trying to make an impression on you, and if they are smart, that means they are trying to figure out what matters to you. Let’s make it easy on them, shall we? Here is the list of candidates.  Here are some tips for individual advocates and non-profit organizations.

When advocating to candidates you should:

  1. Make sure you know what legislative districts you are in by checking here.
  2. View this chart to see what candidates are still running in your districts. You can write to just the ones in the area or you can write to as many as you like. They are learning about Oklahoma and that means they need to hear from you. (note that the list only includes Senate seats that are being contested in 2016. We will be adding the odd-numbered Senate districts shortly)
  3. Send a letter or an email the candidates running to represent you and very briefly introduce yourself. Tell them what you care about and why, and let them know what you are looking for them to do if they are elected. Be sure to be polite and assume that they are genuinely interested in making Oklahoma better.
  4. Ask them when might be a good time to meet with them and discuss your policy priorities. Most candidates will be happy to set up a meeting with one or more constituents, or they might invite you to a meeting that they already
  5. Make a list of questions to ask, being sure to include questions about how they plan to fix our structural budget deficit problems. You can find our sample candidate questions here.
  6. Practice telling your story so that each candidate can get a sense of who you are and what matters to you in under 3 minutes.
  7. Take notes on what your candidates have to say so you can follow up with them with a thank you note that reminds them of the things you hope they’ll prioritize if elected.
  8. If you find a candidate you  like, consider donating even a small amount of time or money to their campaign.  People tend to remember the folks who help them along the way.  Now is the time to establish yourself and/or your organizations as helpers and advisers for our future leaders.

Today, this very day, there are candidates running for office all over our state who have never heard your story and who may know little to nothing about the issues that matter to you. It turns out that this is a great time to help future legislators form their opinions. They need to hear from the people the represent before they have to start doing the hard work of representing.

We’ve all learned the hard way how difficult it is to advocate for what’s important to you in the last days of legislative session, right? Let’s get out ahead of the game.


What do your candidates plan to do about the budget?

by | July 12th, 2016

NOW is the time to be asking the candidates what they plan to do to get Oklahoma out of the hole and on a road to prosperity.  

They are trying to make an impression on YOU and by asking these questions you can both find out where they stand AND get them thinking about issues they may not have considered.  

Do future you a favor and respectfully ask the candidates about the issues that matter most. Here are some questions you might ask:

  1. Oklahoma is in a hole and I want to know if you are ready to stop digging.  If elected do you plan to cancel the next income tax cut and give Oklahoma time to recover before enacting any further tax cuts?
  2. We’ve cut the income tax by over $1 billion since 2004, with a large majority of the benefit going to the highest-income households.  If elected will you work to restore a top rate of 6 to 7 percent on very high incomes?
  3. Last session lawmakers cut the Earned Income Tax Credit by close to $30 million, taking an important tax benefit away from many low-income working families who have received little or nothing from the recent tax cuts. If elected will you support working families by either restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit or boosting the Sales Tax Relief Credit?
  4. Will you work to end unnecessary tax breaks, for example by restoring gross production taxes to the long-established rate of 7 percent, ending subsidies for wind energy, and ending the tax exemption of Oklahoma-held capital gains?
  5. As you are probably aware, some multi-state corporations shift their Oklahoma income to out-of-state subsidiaries in other to avoid paying state taxes.  If elected, do you plan to work to help Oklahoma to join other states who have adopted combined corporate reporting, which ensures that multi-state corporations pay their fair share of taxes, just like local business?
  6. As we saw last year, the supermajority requirement created by SQ 640 prevents lawmakers fro responding flexibly and appropriately to the needs of Oklahomans, even a crisis.  Will you help develop a ballot initiative to repeal SQ 640 or craft a less restrictive alternative?
  7. For years the state budget bill has been kept secret until the final days of session and then brought up for a final vote within days or hours of being introduced. We want legislators and the public to have adequate time to scrutinize and debate the budget before it comes to a vote.  If elected, will you work to require a minimum of one week between when the budget bill is introduced and when it can come up for a vote?

There are 7 questions above.  

  • You can get 7 people together and each ask one question,
  • you can ask them all at once in a letter,
  • you can attend 7 candidate events and ask one each time,
  • or you can do it some other way

Whatever you do,  make sure questions about taxes and the budget get asked!  The candidates need to know that making responsible decisions about funding will be their most important job

Our other priorities will continue to fail if we cannot pay for the education, infrastructure, and safe, healthy communities that Oklahomans need.  Get them thinking about it now! Ask the questions and look forward to some thanks from future you.  We are in this together both today and tomorrow!

Who’s your voting buddy?

by | June 27th, 2016

ussieIt’s election day!  Many of you have already voted early and others are just heading to the polls right now.  Woohoo!

If you want to research what’s on your ballot before heading to the polls, you can use these links:

There are also ride shares being coordinated and voter questions being answered on our Facebook event, I’m Voting in the June 28th Oklahoma Primary and bringing my friends!

Share your “We Voted” Ussie

To celebrate our right to vote, we’ve come up with a great prize to be awarded to someone who posts a “We Voted” Ussie today using the hashtag #tokvotes on Twitter or Facebook. (An ussie is a selfie of more than one person.) All you have to do is bring a friend, vote, take an ussie, and share it with the #tokvotes hashtag to enter.

We’ll randomly choose a winner from all the ussies submitted.  In the meantime, you all win the prize of gratitude from me and all your neighbors who know that Oklahoma is worth voting for!

Legislators won’t take us seriously if we don’t show up.

by | June 21st, 2016
Photo by KOMUnews / CC BY

Photo by KOMUnews / CC BY

One week from today, important primary elections for state offices will happen across Oklahoma. You are not the only one who knows that legislators won’t take us seriously if we don’t show up to the polls.   

More than 1,000 Oklahomans like you have joined our Facebook event, I’m Voting in the Oklahoma Primary and bringing my friends!  It is time to show our current and future legislators that we are serious about fair and adequate funding for public services, and a growing number of Oklahomans are with us.

Here are some ways to find key info and take action during the elections:

Together Oklahoma is a non-partisan coalition, so this is not an effort to campaign for or against any candidates for public office. We are campaigning for YOU to do more than cast your own informed ballot. Your vote is essential but, as you can see above, there is more that you can do if you are serious about improving Oklahoma.