Go vote and then get ready!

by | November 14th, 2017

(Many of you have items on your ballot today so don’t forget to check! Go to the election board website to look up your ballot or check out the resources on badvoter.org)

We have seen the chaos of special session devolve into a slash and dash band-aid on the gushing wound that is our state budget. I don’t know about you, but I am not impressed. As David Blatt so aptly put it in a statement from OK Policy yesterday

“Lawmakers had PLENTY of sensible options for recurring revenues that could have balanced the budget responsibly. Instead, they are doubling down on one-time money and cuts.”

We will be watching what they do this week. Keep your eye on updates from the Special Session FAQ on okpolicy.org to see what develops.  Most likely our legislators will vote and adjourn this week. 

So now what?

As many of you have noticed, I am transitioning out of my role as Together Oklahoma coordinator to become one of y’all, in the trenches, as a citizen advocate.  I pledge to you that in the coming year I will be with you using all of our Together Oklahoma tools to express my dissatisfaction and to intensify the pressure on legislators to ensure that next session finally brings a different and better approach. Are you with me? It is time to get ready!

November 30th is our next big action and training and I need you there! Once again our statewide Together Oklahoma meeting will be video linked with multiple locations around the state and I want to see your face in person or on that monitor.  

This will be my last meeting as coordinator so don’t let me down. I will be introducing leadership teams for TOK Tulsa, TOK OKC, TOK Norman, and hopefully other chapters as well.  If you want to help organize a chapter of Together Oklahoma please make sure I have your information in the membership form.

It can be hard to keep fighting when times get this tough but please do not despair. We are in this together and we are NOT giving up!

With sincere gratitute and hope for the future,

-KJ McKee 

Are we going to let them forget us?

by | November 2nd, 2017

Sometimes it seems like many state legislators are in a bubble that the realities of life in Oklahoma cannot penetrate. This has been a hard year, but one positive takeaway is that I am seeing more of those bubbles burst. Thanks to your advocacy efforts, more legislators are hearing your stories. BUT so far that hasn’t turned into the budget policy actions and political courage that we so desperately need.

Leave them NO EXCUSES!

Please don’t give them a chance to forget who elected them and what is happening all around us!  Like I always say, visits are best so keep going up there, but calls, hand-written letters, tweets, and emails should all be flowing their way too. Find your own two legislators here and when you reach out, ask them for a response so you can be sure they have heard your position on the impact of continued cuts.

I want to remind you that David Blatt and the OK Policy team are updating this Special Session FAQ with the latest information about what is going on. OK Policy also published a new article yesterday explaining what the Legislature is trying to do now that efforts to pass a bipartisan deal have fallen apart. There are also important stories and links in In The Know every morning.  You can read these, share them around, and help Oklahomans know the truth!

I know you may be tired of this. I am too. But our elders and loved ones with disabilities need the SoonerCare supports that help them stay in their homes instead of going to a nursing facility. Our state workers need a raise for the first time in 11 years. Our teachers and young families need investments in education so they don’t have to leave the state. The key to all of this is persuading our legislators to empathize, be brave, and do right.  Here is a short and useful video about how to build that empathy. We can do this! I believe in us!

WHAT is going on at the Oklahoma State Capitol?

by | October 20th, 2017

The Oklahoma mental health community delivered a press conference on Wednesday, October 18th that shook the state.  If our legislators don’t act soon, many clinics will close, people will lose access to treatment, and Oklahomans will get furloughed or lose their jobs.  We knew this could be coming, but many of our friends and neighbors didn’t.

The good news is that there seems to be a groundswell of support for showing up to stop this catastrophe, fund our schools, fund child abuse prevention, invest in senior nutrition, and save all the other services we’re about to cut.

The bad news is that our legislature still seems to be stuck without a plan, or at least without a plan that the House leadership is willing to put up for a vote.  

Here’s what you can do:

1. Come to the Capitol beginning next week on Tuesday, October 24th and continuing as long as legislators are there! On Tuesday meet us at 9 am, on the Senate side of the 5th floor balcony, to get your Together Oklahoma name tag and to talk strategy. At 10am we’ll go down to the 4th floor rotunda to join our friends from the Oklahoma Mental Health Association.

2. Call your legislators’ offices, and ask others to make calls too. We are still calling our fellow Oklahomans all over the state to give them this info, because social media and emails like this one aren’t enough to reach ALL the people who should be taking action. Help us make calls by signing up here!

If you’re unsure of what to say, here’s an example script:

“Senator/Representative ______ thank you for your time.  I know you are working on getting a new budget together and I’m visiting/calling to implore you to do everything in your power to get it right! These cuts have to stop!  We have good solutions like restoring the GPT to historic levels, voting for a new income tax on wealthy Oklahomans, increasing the cigarette and gas tax and many others.  Anything less than a comprehensive revenue deal leaves Oklahoma vulnerable with kids under-educated, mental illness untreated, and seniors who have worked their whole lives going hungry.  This is not the Oklahoma I believe in and I don’t think it is what you’d call the “Oklahoma standard” either.  What are you going to do to fix this budget?  Who else do you want me to talk to in order to make sure we get a good budget passed this week?  I am taking notes, watching votes, and I’m going to follow up with you, so please help me help you.”

Oklahomans all around you are waking up to the disasters that will happen if our legislature doesn’t act! Help your neighbors get this information and #SaveOurStateOK!

Update: On Monday, October 23rd legislators announced another inadequate budget option. Oklahoma’s structural budget problems will not be solved while lawmakers insist on asking nothing from the wealthiest households and most profitable businesses in our state. This proposal simply continues the political grandstanding that has prevented the obvious, popular, and fair solution preferred by a large majority of Oklahomans. More on that at OK Policy’s official statement here

Legislators are headed back to the Capitol next week, and so are we

by | October 4th, 2017

We’re hearing that legislators are likely to return to special session next Monday, Oct 9th, and we will be there too. Sign up for your shift visiting the Capitol or making calls to TOK members here!

We will continue calling Oklahomans all weekend and activating them to speak out, because legislators need to hear from us BEFORE they go back to the Capitol and make votes that affect all of our lives. Sign up to make a few calls here!

We had a great turnout for our Community Conversation with the SOS Coalition in Lawton. Next we’ll be in Stillwater on Tuesday, October 10th. If you live nearby any of our stops, don’t miss the #SaveOurStateOK budget tour!

NO new cuts! Fix the shortfall! Teacher pay raise! sing it with me now

by | September 26th, 2017

Do you know what a big deal it is that Republican Senators are coming up to me at the Capitol saying, “I don’t know what we are going to do, but I can tell you this, NO MORE CUTS!” 

They are finally starting to get it! Saying it out loud is the first step to taking action, but that doesn’t mean they are ready to really #GetItRightOK.  You’ve got to call them today because important votes are happening this week.

Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget meets today at 11 am.

Call these folks now and tell them we want:

What You Can Do

Contact Governor Mary FallinHouse Speaker Charles McCall, and Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz to insist that they use Special Session to find the revenues needed to fund state services.

  • Governor Mary Fallin (405) 521-2342 E-mail contact form
  • Speaker Charles McCall (405) 557-7412  charles.mccall@okhouse.gov
  • President Pro Tem Mike Schulz  (405) 521-5612  schulz@oksenate.gov

Also contact your own Representative and Senator. Look them up here:

Locate your state Senator and Representative

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ex: 2300 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Please do this now!

If you have time text or call a few of your friends and have them do it too.  

We have won some important battles with the misguided philosophies that have plagued our state.  Keep it up!

KJ

Exactly how many of us does it take to level the playing field?

by | September 19th, 2017

There are more than 300 registered lobbyists in Oklahoma. Some of them do this work for the right reasons, but many others are working for well-funded special interests who absolutely DON’T want what you want.

If we are going to counterbalance money power with people power, we need effective citizen advocates to vastly outnumber the special interest lobbyists. Legislators tell us it takes 7 real connections with their own constituents about any given bill to make them give that issue a deeper look.  How many of your fellow constituents are doing what it takes?

We have so much people power just waiting to be used. And during the special session that starts next week, we have a unique chance to focus that power on the budget.

1. Have you called your two legislators about your concerns about the budget?  

Now’s a great time to do that, and you can find talking points here.

2. Have you asked 6 of your friends and neighbors to do #1 with us and helped make sure they follow through?  

That’s a great next step after you contact legislators yourself.

3. Have you signed up to come to the Capitol with us during special session or to call your fellow TOK members in other districts?  If you have done one and two, and you have more care to give, I hope you will do three. The sign-up sheet is here. We have detailed instructions, scripts, and helpers to assist you every step of the way.

We are counting on you!

-KJ

If you need more info, here are some resources that can help:

 

5 Steps Toward Our Second Chance #GetItRightOK!

by | September 12th, 2017

Good news!  Our legislators will be in Special Session beginning Monday, September 25th. It’s good news because we don’t need to wait until spring to strengthen core services. 

Now that lawmakers have a second chance to get the budget right, they shouldn’t waste it. So I’m going to lay out how we can help them succeed.  As we’ve told them before, they have many good options to raise the revenues needed to protect our schools, health care, and public safety and more from yet another round of damaging cuts. It’s time to get beyond political gridlock, make the agreements necessary to pass recurring revenues, and stop kicking the can down the road with one-time funds or across-the-board cuts.

There is plenty of reason to be concerned that they WON’T get it right without enormous outcry from constituents. We can do that, but we’ll need to work together!
Here is what we need from you:

  • FIRST– Call your own two state legislators NOW and use these talking points to help make sure they #GetItRightOK 
  • SECOND – Follow up your call with an email thanking them for receiving your call, and telling them again how you want them to #GetItRightOK
  • THIRD – Ask friends to use our talking points to do the first two things with you to #GetItRightOK. Don’t skip this one! We are trying to counter balance money power with people power so we need your help to get more constituents.
  • FOURTHSign up! Take a look at this schedule and pick a day and time you can help us call other TOK members to remind them and/or join us at the Capitol during special session. We people calling from every district and we need need to have people at the Capitol watching and visiting legislators’ offices every single day of special session! They need to look in our eyes as we cheer them on to #GetItRightOK
  • FIFTH – If you still have some fire in your belly after completing tasks 1-4, we’ve got plenty more you can do!  Once you’ve done the options above, respond to this email and you and I will find a task that suits you best. (Or you can always join the ongoing conversation in TOK Slack)

Again: Call, Email, Ask a Friend, and Sign UP (If you still want to do more, let us know in Slack!)

We can do this!  They CAN do this!  It is time to #GetItRightOK! 

If you need more info, here are some resources that can help:

 

 

How to ask a friend to join our efforts

by | September 12th, 2017

Grassroots advocacy is more effective with more people!  We don’t need you to try to go Lone Ranger in these situations, because legislators are not going to listen to only you or me.  

Asking people to help can be a little uncomfortable at first.

You may feel nervous about the reactions you’ll get when you bring up taking action to make things better.  All of us know at least a few people who like to complain, but who will never step up to fix the problem.  

The good news is, there are fewer of those folks than it may seem! MOST Oklahomans want to make things better, but they often don’t know how.  

YOU have the power to offer your friends and neighbors some effective strategies that can change their lives and make our whole state better.  Don’t waste that opportunity. After all, having a failing state that is dangerous, uneducated, and unhealthy is WAY worse than inviting your friend, right?

Some great ways to grow the team:

  1. Figure out who you should ask.  

    • Who do you know who has already brought up one of these issues: the state budget, our failing schools, underfunded senior nutrition, Medicaid, and foster care programs, the awful condition of the Oklahoma roads, the closure of state parks and museums, the overcrowded and understaffed prisons, the increasing fines and fees from state agencies, the companies who won’t move to Oklahoma, and so on.  I bet you can think of several right of the bat! Make a list of them.
    • Who of the people who have brought up those issues do you like and get along with? Look at your list and think about who you will enjoy, or at least not mind, spending a little time with you. 
    • Don’t underestimate yourself or other people.  You don’t have to be an expert to bring someone to the team.  They don’t have to be totally sold on the idea of advocating to give it a try.  Remember, most of us want to help but we just don’t know how.  If you don’t believe me, think about all that support we see every time there is a natural disaster.  We know how to deal with the aftermath of tornadoes because we learned how to do it.  It is time to learn how to help ourselves and help our state get back on track with responsible policies!
  2. Offer one small opportunity to do something right away! 

    • We all have to start somewhere. Help your friend build their confidence so that they can feel that they are doing something right away. Here are some small opportunities to try:
      1. Them them out for coffee and to ask questions about how budget cuts are effecting them and their family.  Show them specific information from OK Policy or other good sources that relate to those issues.
      2. Invite them to join you in making calls to legislators.  Between the two of you, there are likely only 4 calls to make on most issues.  It is a lot more fun when you can cheer each other on!
      3. Ask them to be your moral support as you talk to a legislator either on the phone or in person. This one is especially good if you have someone who is just too distressed to take action on their own yet.
      4. Invite them to a TOK event.  We always try to make our meetings and events matter, so bring them to check it out in person. (Find our events here or on togetherok.org)
      5. Ask them to come to the Capitol with you or to help you make calls to constituents who need to be calling their legislators!  We are signing up for shifts right now.  They can come with you and check out the scene even if they aren’t ready to do any talking to legislators.
  3. See how that goes and do it again!

    • If they liked A, try E or any of the others.
    • If they didn’t like D, see if they’d like B instead.
    • If they aren’t interested in doing more, move on and ask somebody else.  They may come around eventually or they may not.  It is okay either way!
  4. Talk to your fellow TOK members in Slack about your recruitment efforts and collaborate to do what works!

Remember, two people plus a plan equals power.  Two by two we are powerfully changing our state for the better!

Calling a Legislator

by | September 12th, 2017

Calling a legislator can be a strong way to get their attention.  Oklahoma legislators tell us that as few as 7 calls from their own constituents can prompt them to carefully a bill.

Here is how to make your call effective:

  1. Find the phone numbers of your own two legislators and go ahead and put those numbers in your address book. This won’t be the last time you call them, right?  You can find all other legislators and the committees they are on HERE.
  2. Be polite to the person who answers the phone even if you’ve disagreed with them in the past.  They’ll be more likely to be persuaded if they feel that you are being respectful of them as a fellow human being. Also, legislative assistants have a lot of power so cultivate that relationship!
  3. Let them know you ARE their constituent.  This matters because most legislators will be much more responsive to folks from their own districts. (If you aren’t their constituent you can skip this step.)
  4. Thank them for their time and for something more specific if you can but keep it brief as you transition to asking for what you need. We’re here to win flies with honey instead of vinegar, right?  (Chances are, if you look on their legislator web page, you can find at least one thing they’ve done that you like.) Starting with thanks makes it easier to hear concern.
    1. Example: “Good afternoon,  I am a constituent of Senator Swallowtail and I am calling both to thank him for publicly proclaiming his distress about watermelon being our official state vegetable AND to ask that he please do all he can to encourage his fellow legislators to join him in voting for new recurring revenues during this upcoming Special Session…”
  5. Briefly tell them what is important to you and why.  Practice being specific, emotionally compelling, and brief.
    • Example: “Our state has a revenue problem! My son lost his favorite teacher because she had to move out of state to get even a decent paying job. Before she left she was working night shifts at Sonic and selling plasma to make ends meet.  This is horrible and unnecessary when we can do so many things like restoring the GPT, end the capital gains exemption, or Adopt combined corporate reporting.”  
  6. Make a specific request and take note of the answer.  Following the example above, you could ask: “Can I count on Senator Swallowtail advocate for new recurring revenues”
    or
    “Can I count on Senator Swallowtail reject a bad budget that doesn’t include new revenues?”
    or

    “What recurring revenues is Senator Swallowtail encouraging his fellow legislators to consider?”
    or
    “If I email you a list of some of my favorite revenue options, could you ask Senator Swallowtail to comment on them and respond to my email?”
  7. Make note of what they say so you can follow up with them!
  8. Thank your legislator or their assistant for their time and remind them of the answer they gave you and the specific request you made.
  9. Follow up with your legislator after your call.  IMPORTANT! While most people don’t call their legislators on most issues, legislative assistants may be getting a lot of calls the day you call.  Don’t let them forget you!  You may have to do some extra work to convince them that you are paying attention and that you plan to hold them accountable. Follow up with a hand-written note, or an email, thanking them again and reminding them of your specific request and the answer they gave you. 

Again:  Find their numbers, be polite, let them know you’re a constituent, thank them as you ask for what you need, briefly tell them why, make a specific request, take notes, thank them again, and follow up.  If you take these steps you’ll be glad you did!  

(Tell us about how it goes in our Together Oklahoma community conversations in Slack and in the Together OK Facebook group.)

Picture the most powerful and yet disempowered Oklahomans

by | August 31st, 2017

Last week, we brought the Together Oklahoma ​info table and Oklahoma Jeopardy​ to the Jackson County Fair in Altus​. ​It was a big hit with the kids and their parents in this key legislative district represented by Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz.

We had such a great time in Altus that I found myself wishing that we could have taken each and every one of you with us.  You can see photos as well as some videos from TOK at the Jackson County Fair, Norman Art Walk, Porter Peach Festival, Tuttle Ice Cream Festival, Turkey Mountain, and the Tulsa Art Crawl at this link. 

Just as expected, we found extremely friendly and concerned Oklahomans at every single stop on our summer tour. Folks knew that our budget crisis is ​damaging our public schools, slashing our physical and mental health care, risking our state employees with long hours on an in sometimes dangerous conditions, and scaring off would be employers from coming to our state. At the same time many of us still don’t know the power we have to make these things change.  The big take away is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

We all are seeing the ways drastic budget cuts are causing more and more problems.

Here are just a few examples:

  • We talked to a teacher in rural Oklahoma who developed multiple sclerosis,  She never dreamed that she would end up depending on the state.  Now she is in a nursing home in her 40’s and she is worried about the continued threats to those facilities. 
  • We talked to so many parents who are stressed about large and growing class sizes, cuts to advanced placement classes, emergency certified teachers, 4 day school weeks and much more.
  • Most who have been stopping at our table in both rural and urban Oklahoma haven’t known who their legislators are. Even many of those who d​id​ know their legislators​ feel that they are​ not​ getting an adequate response as an individual​,​ and they really need a team approach, like working with you!

Our Together Oklahoma Outreach Team will continue traveling all over Oklahoma in the months to come.  If you haven’t filled our our full membership form to let us know how you would most like to help, please do so now at this link. 

Next week I’ll be sending around another sign up sheet for our ongoing tour.  Don’t hesitate to join us!  We are making sure that the in the next legislative session, Oklahomans from districts ALL over the state will be taking responsibility for the two legislators who represent them.  We have MUCH more power than we are using!  

I hope to see you soon and​ that you​ know you are not alone!