#CallEmBack -Tell lawmakers to do the right thing in Special Session

by | August 10th, 2017

By throwing out a cigarette fee as unconstitutional, the courts confirmed what we suspected to be true since the day the Legislature passed a gimmick-filled budget. But unless lawmakers go into special session and find a way to replace that revenue, we will see massive cuts to SoonerCare, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and protections for the most vulnerable seniors, children, and people with disabilities in our state.

You know the drill!  Call, email, and tweet your two legislatorsHouse Speaker Charles McCallSenate President Mike Schulz, and Governor Mary Fallin to let them know that they get a second chance to get the budget right! Use hashtag #CallEmBack on social media but make sure you call the offices too!  

(Also, #SaveOurStateOK and #okleg are good social media tags if you want to get fancy.)

After you reach out to ask legislators and the governor to finish the job in special session, let us know! Check in with Together Oklahoma in our Together OK Facebook group and in TOK Slack.  Some people really need to know they are not alone before they take action. Every single one of us has a role to play in boosting this message and spreading the word!

Here’s the statement on this ruling from the Save Our State Coalition, which includes Together Oklahoma and about 20 other organizations:

Let’s help them make sure they get it right this time!  #CallEmBack

Is the cigarette fee a legal way to balance the state budget?

by | August 7th, 2017

On Tuesday, August 8th, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments regarding recent challenges to revenue measures enacted in the 2017 legislative session. If anyone tells you they know exactly how this will turn out, they are blowing smoke, because they could definitely decide any number of ways.

Since Together Oklahoma focuses most of our attention on budget and tax issues, this is a big deal for our team.  Our state’s failure to fund core public services like schools, prisons, and this bridge that just collapsed make this a big deal for all of Oklahoma. If the Supreme Court throws out key revenues in the budget, we could go to a special legislative session or see even more damaging cuts to state agencies.

The three oral arguments will take place in the Supreme Court Courtroom at the State Capitol Tuesday at 9:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., and 11:00 a.m. Due to an anticipated overflow crowd, the House of Representatives has made available Conference Room 206, where a live stream will be provided to those who cannot find seating in the courtroom.

The link to the live video can be found Tuesday on the OSCN website here and will also be posted here and ON Together Oklahoma Facebook page, IN Together OK Facebook group, and VIA @TogetherOK on Twitter. 

ALSO, feel free to join our discussion about the public hearings in the capitol_updates channel in TOK Slack

In other news:

These events, as well as upcoming elections, legislator town halls, and events with our friends at Let’s Fix This, Women Lead, VOICE, ACTION, and other non-partisan organizations can be found on our events calendar and on Together OK Slack.

Have a great week!


Upcoming Events with Together Oklahoma and Other Orgs

by | July 25th, 2017

There is a lot going on in the coming weeks! Here are some things you may want to add to your calendar and one opportunity to sign up for a Together Oklahoma field trip:

July 25, 6:30pm – 8:00pm

Connection through Diversity · Hosted by Women Lead Oklahoma at the Norman Fire Department Training Center, 3813 Castlerock Rd.

A panel discussion on the role women can play in fostering connection by embracing diversity, with Bailey Perkins of OK Policy, Sarah Adams-Cornell of Matriarch and Live Indigenous OK, Merleyn Bell of Race Matters and World Literature Today, and Representative Leslie Osborn, House District 47. Find the event on Facebook here.

July 26th, all day

Constitutional Podcast Discussion Group:  Beginning Wednesday, July 26th, TOK members will be starting a discussion, just for fun, on The Constitutional podcast from Lillian Cunningham of the Washington Post. New episodes come out each Monday, so we’ll start our discussion on Wednesdays to give everyone time to give it a listen. Here is this week’s episode.  You can join the conversation on the #self-care_and_social channel on TOK Slack.

July 26th, 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM

The Northwest OKC Chamber of Commerce will host Senators and Representatives from the area to discuss the Oklahoma Legislature’s 2017 session and answer questions from chamber members. Details on Facebook here.

July 27th, 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM

Community Engagement Talk | Conversación de Enlace Comunitario with Representative Monroe Nichols, House District 72. More details can be found here.

August 3rd, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Public Budget Hearing by House Democrats. In light of recent court filings that could threaten key revenues in the state budget, Oklahoma House Democrats are holding a public meeting on Thursday, Aug. 3, in the House Chamber at the State Capitol, beginning at 5 p.m. All sitting members of the State House of Representatives and the State Senate are invited to attend, along with the general public.

For those wishing to address the Representatives, please call (405) 557-7401 to provide first and last name in addition to topic area of concern by no later than 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1. Time allotted will be limited based on number of requests received. Details here.

August 8th, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM 

Town Hall meeting with Rep. Marcus McEntire & Rep. Leslie Osborn at the Duncan Regional Hospital Pavillion. Details here.

We are going to Altus!

We need Together Oklahoma members to help host our Oklahoma Jeopardy booth at the Jackson County Fair. If you’d be interested in joining our field team on August 24th, 25th, or 26th, please sign up here. 

All these events and more are posted each week in the Together Oklahoma statewide Slack channel and on our community calendar.  If you have other events we should consider for our calendar, please post them in Together Oklahoma Slack and thanks!

How to stop feeling guilty

by | July 18th, 2017

Have you ever felt like you should be doing more to make Oklahoma better, but you just can’t seem to find the time?  Most days I get one or two messages from people in Oklahoma who feel that they need to apologize for not doing more.  If you feel that way, you are not alone.  One of the big challenges in shifting this state is getting over some of our emotional hang ups, so today I’d like to share some thoughts about how we are getting stuck in guilt and what you can do about it.

Feeling guilty is a normal response in this society, and I certainly feel it too. Those of us reading this post, as well as those who read In The Know daily Oklahoma news round-ups from the Oklahoma Policy Institute, often do so because we are concerned about the well-being of our communities and our families. That concern sometimes triggers guilt, and that is okay. Guilt can even be a helpful emotion — for more on that check out this article in Psychology Today — but just how much does it help us with our Together Oklahoma mission to get our state on track to prosperity?  

It doesn’t help if we get stuck in a place of guilt.  The Unstuck blog helpfully shares these five telltale signs that guilt may be eating up the quality of your life:

  1. You avoid certain people or situations because they trigger shame memories. (Have you ever avoided engaging with state politics for this reason?)
  2. You say no to opportunities because you believe you don’t deserve them. 
  3. You clam up or get defensive.
  4. You rationalize or make excuses, even when no one’s challenging you.
  5. You play (and replay) the guilty act in your head so that it kills your energy levels and takes you a good long while to reset.

Number one and number five, avoiding situations and replaying the events, are the signs I see most often in our group. We need to figure out how move past these blocks that have us stuck. In that same blog by Unstuck they point out that “…Research shows that guilt is a pretty ineffective way to control behavior. In a 2013 study published in Appetite, psychologists found that people who linked chocolate cake with guilt rather than with celebration had more trouble losing and maintaining weight. Instead of acting as a positive motivating force, guilt actually leads to feelings of helplessness and lack of control.”

I’m convinced that our guilt over the problems in our state and our perceived inability to fix them is one of our biggest obstacles to actually making things better, so here is what I want us to do.

Let’s start checking in with each other as our top TOK priority. When you catch yourself feeling guilty about not doing enough, consider the option to check in on TOK Slack. Let’s swap that paralyzing guilt for nurturing community. Any time, day or night, you can log into Slack, express some gratitude to your fellow advocates, and see what productive things are going on.

We are setting up another round of face to face meetings with our legislators in the coming months. If you do nothing else, the one thing that you really can do is check in to let your fellow constituents know that you are with them.

Trust me, we are not here to guilt you for not doing more. You taking care of you and your loved ones has to come first, and by checking in you will be giving yourself the opportunity to just be glad in the knowledge that you are really and truly not alone.

Who are the key legislative leaders you should know?

by | July 11th, 2017

photo from Javier Morales

Advocates in Together Oklahoma hear a lot about how to have an impact on their own two legislators.  We have a whole bunch of resources about how to connect with your two state legislators that right here. Some of you will be going to the polls to vote for a new legislator today if you live in SD 44, HD 46, or HD 75.

But which OTHER state elected leaders should you know?

If you were with us in our battle for a better budget this past Spring, you saw time and again that many of the big decisions came down to just four people:

THAT is why Together Oklahoma members went to The Tuttle Ice Cream Festival, and I had a great time there talking one on one with Representative Leslie Osborn.  AND that is why many of us will be going to The Porter Peach Festival  in Senator David’s district this coming Thursday, July 13th; Friday, July 14th; and Saturday, July 15th.

If you are serious about making a difference, sign up for a shift to join us at the peach festival. We are organizing carpools, providing food and drinks, and training our volunteers to make the essential connections to do a better job of creating an Oklahoma where people can thrive!  

If you’ve already signed up for the Peach Fest or the Norman Art Walk, great! Please take a moment to invite a friend or two to join you.  This is how we turn the tide and make Oklahoma the great place that we know it can be.  Will you join us?

Celebrate independence by getting out of your bubble

by | July 3rd, 2017

It’s not the Divided States of America, is it?  Sometimes the partisanship and tension make it feel that way.  That is why Together Oklahoma offers a place to step outside those bubbles.

Are you trying to get out of your Urban or Rural bubble? How about your liberal or conservative bubble?  Do you know which bubbles you are in? Chances are, we are all separated from our fellow Oklahomans more than we should be.  It is essential that we make friends with others all over the state! We are in this together, right?

I’m inviting Together Oklahoma members (that’s you) to join Normanites on the 2nd Friday Art Walk on July 14th and to come with me to the Porter Peach Festival on July 15th! These are only a couple of the many opportunities we have coming up. Thanks to Brian Pelts, I fixed the link I sent last week, so please sign up for a shift or two.

Just to be clear, we aren’t going out to debate anybody on either of these adventures. This is a time to make friends and fully hear and see each other. If we can get to know each other in the good times, we’ll be in much better shape to slog through the tough times together.  Are you available to join me for one, the other, or both? (If you want to offer to help set us up at another event, let me know at events@togetherok.org or in the Together OK Facebook group.)

We found the Budget Bash video!

Guess what!  It turns out we didn’t actually lose the video of the Better Budget Bash. Hooray!!! Our TOK Norman tech guru, Emilie Giustozzi, just saved it in a very logical place that didn’t occur to me.  We’ve now posted it on YouTube, so check it out if you weren’t able to be there on the day.

Have a safe and inspirational 4th of July and remember-

” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  

Our consent is necessary to institute proper government.  In the coming year, let’s get even more informed so we can help shape what we are consenting to! To secure Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness we must fully participate.  Let’s encourage each other as we Americans continue to learn and relearn how to act like citizens and not subjects!


The Good News, The Bad News, and the Beautiful

by | June 29th, 2017

Good news!  We had a great turnout for our Better Budget Bash last week! Nearly 100 Oklahomans participated across Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, and Lawton. For an event geared toward thanking our advocates from the past year, that is fantastic! And with our new livestreaming tool, the advocates in all four locations were able to join together in celebration. We honored four of TOK’s “All-Star Advocates” for their great work in this past legislative session — Emma Thadani was our Events All-Star; Debbie Hill was our Capitol All-Star; Nik Majdan was our Research All-Star; Merleyn Bell was our Communications All-Star; and Shay White was our All-Around All-Star.

The Bad News is that the recording of our video didn’t work. We hope we can do that again soon, and next time we’ll have a back up in case our recording doesn’t download. I know there are more of you who wanted to attend but were away; you can find out what you missed at this link.

(Correction! The Bad News is now canceled because we found the Better Budget Bash video! Feel free to check it out here.  If you have any feedback for us send it to events@togetherok.org)

OKC Good News!  Tonight, Together Oklahoma members will be joining Let’s Fix This for a West Wing watch party at the Wheeler Ferris Wheel at 1701 S. Western Avenue, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73109 from 8pm-10pm. The episode will be followed by a panel discussion with four former White House staff members, including former TOK intern Cody Minyard.  Find out more details about that event here!

Tulsa Good News! An ACTION accountability session for everyone who lives in House District 75 will take place next Sunday, July 9, 4 – 5:15 p.m., at St. Matthew United Methodist Church. It’s the first accountability session that ACTION is doing. Since TOK is a member institution in ACTION, we’d love for everyone who lives in House District 75 to come, as well as anyone else who wants to see what an accountability session is all about to inspire them to think about their own districts. If you aren’t sure which districts you are in, you can double check them here

Lawton both Good and Sad News — Our hearts our heavy with the news that advocate Kelly High is one among the many Oklahomans who have had to seek work outside our state.  She was instrumental in hosting the Better Budget Bash in Lawton and she will be missed. The good news is that there are many Lawtonians who are ready to join the TOK Lawton chapter, and we will be having a meeting there in August.  If you are in Lawton, or anywhere else in the state, make sure you have filled our our membership form so we know how to get in touch with you.
Finally the beautiful!  Summer in Oklahoma is a time of Festivals and a great time to make new friends with good folks across the state.  If you’d like to help make sure everyone knows their own two legislators and knows how to get our useful information at either the Norman 2nd Friday Art Walk or the Porter Peach Festival, let me know on this little outreach form.  If you’d like to help sign us up for another event near you, email me at events@togetherok.org.
Thanks so much and have a beautiful holiday weekend!

Let’s party with a purpose!

by | June 22nd, 2017

Since we left the Capitol, our team of advocates have been taking this show on the road! Everywhere we go, from the Turkey Mountain Outdoor Expo in Tulsa to the Ice Cream Festival in Tuttle, we find people who seriously want to get our state on the right track. But we also found that most of the folks we meet don’t know who their own two state legislators are.

How can we expect our legislators to know what we want if we don’t even know who they are?

We need your help to change that. NOW is the time to be building those relationships in our communities without the pressure of controversial bills coming to a vote at the Capitol.

That is why we’re taking the time to gather you together. This coming Sunday, June 25th, 2pm – 4pm, Together Oklahoma is hosting the Better Budget Bash at FOUR different locations across the state, and each of the locations will be connected by an online livestream:

  • Lawton –Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm, RSVP to BBB Lawton HERE
    Ted’s Café Escondido (Lawton, OK) 3807 NW Cache Rd, Lawton, Oklahoma 73505
  • Tulsa- Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm, RSVP to  BBB Tulsa HERE
    Asbury United Methodist Church, 6767 S Mingo Rd, Room 2818, Tulsa, OK 74133
  • Norman- Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm RSVP to  BBB Norman HERE 
    Norman Public Library, Lowry Room, 225 North Webster, Norman, OK 73069
  • OKC- Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm RSVP to  BBB OKC HERE
    Paseo Plunge, 3010 SW 28th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73103

Here’s the Budget Bash Party Plan:

  • 2PM Sign-in, Eat, Connect, and Enjoy; Take a picture and post it with the #TogetherOK hashtag
  • 2:20 A toast to TOK all over Oklahoma
  • 2:30 Year in Review
  • 2:45 A Toast to our Efforts
  • 2:50 All-Star Advocate Awards
  • 3:00 A Toast to our All-Stars
  • 3:10 Our Vision for the Future
  • 3:25 A Toast to the Future
  • 3:30 End Webinar
  • 3:30-4:00 Socializing & Next Steps in your Local Area

What’s next?

Next we’ll be headed to the Porter Peach Festival on July 13th, 14th, and 15th.  We’re going out there to enjoy some peaches, make friends, and be sure everyone is registered to vote, that they KNOW who their two legislators are, and that they get the invitation to join Together Oklahoma and learn how to become an advocate for fair and adequate funding of Oklahoma services.  They are already with us, but they don’t know we are here!

Sign up for a shift with the Together Oklahoma table at the Porter Peach Festival HERE.

I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday for the Better Budget Bash!  If you need more reasons to join us on Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm, I have 18 good ones for you right here!

See you there!

On June 25, are you meeting me in Lawton, OKC, Tulsa, Norman, or elsewhere?

by | June 15th, 2017

Are you wondering how we can be in Lawton, OKC, Tulsa, and Norman all at once?

Here is the deal: part of our upcoming Together Oklahoma Better Budget Bash will be streaming live, and you should join us to see how it goes.  Our venues are set and the cakes are ordered!  Some of our Better Budget Bash locations are even offering free professional child care. All 4 locations will include an inside look at what is going on behind-the-scenes to make sure that next year we get on the path back to fully funded schools, nursing homes, state parks, safe communities, good roads and bridges, and more! 

Everyone is welcome, but please RSVP at one of the events below so we make enough punch.

Here are the details:

Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm
Ted’s Café Escondido (Lawton, OK)
3807 NW Cache Rd, Lawton, Oklahoma 73505
Childcare: Available
RSVP to  BBB Lawton HERE

Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm
Asbury United Methodist Church
6767 S Mingo Rd, Room 2818, Tulsa, OK 74133
Childcare: Not confirmed yet but watch event for updates

Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm
Norman Public Library
Lowry Room, 225 North Webster, Norman, OK 73069
Childcare: Available 
RSVP to  BBB Norman HERE

Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm
Paseo Plunge
3010 SW 28th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73103
Childcare: Not confirmed yet but watch event for updates

If you need more reasons to join us on Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm, I have 18 good ones for you right here

Not interested in traveling to one of these 4 locations?  You are still welcome to host your own TOK Better Budget Bash.  If you are interested in that option, fill out this little form and I’ll get you what you need. 

If we are serious about wanting to make this state better, coming together is the first step!

We’re looking forward to seeing you there and then.

Is it possible for Oklahoma to climb out of this hole we are in?

by | June 12th, 2017

I know many of you feel stressed out about the state of politics in Oklahoma and nationally. That makes sense, a lot of things are a mess! But please, bear with me as I explain why Together Oklahoma is having a party. As you’ll see below, we have some really good reasons to celebrate.

Our next event will instead be a statewide celebration of our efforts called the Better Budget Bash, to be held on June 25th from 2-4 pm in multiple locations across the state.  We will take the time to recognize each other for our dramatically increased efforts this year and the impact we had on this past legislative session. You can find out more about how to join the fun HERE.

If you are not sure what we are celebrating, here are 9 things to consider:

  1. We had many more constituents visit the Capitol than ever before!
  2. We finally managed to cancel the next auto-triggered income tax cut.
  3. We finally got gross production tax and combined corporate reporting on the table for discussion.
  4. Lawmakers on the left and right and all the way up to the governor were saying “structural budget deficit” and “need for new recurring revenues.” Those are our words!
  5. We helped build a very strong coalition with the dozens of other member organizations in Save Our State at saveourstateok.org.
  6. Very few terrible bills passed this year! (We can’t usually say that.)
  7. We are actually winning the argument on key issues around the budget and taxes. This is the first year in a VERY long time when none of our legislators were arguing for more tax cuts or more budget cuts. Almost all of the legislators finally realize that we need to invest more in public education, health, and public safety.
  8. Some of the newer legislators seem much less interested in passing wacky bills that are horrible or unconstitutional. (Much of the worst didn’t even get out of committee.)
  9. We have large and growing groups of citizens and organizations mobilizing for a better budget. You and so many others like you are now actively engaged on the issues!

That is a lot to celebrate!  If that isn’t enough for you then consider these other 9 things:

  1. The Better Budget Bash will be a great way to find out more about what you can do.
  2. There are tough times ahead, and it is important to take time to bond with your teammates.
  3. Celebrating helps keep us on track and motivated toward our goals.
  4. Seeing who else is with you in this can help you feel less alone in your frustrations than you did this time last year.
  5. We need to take time to honor those who have worked so hard to make things better!
  6. You probably did something new this year, maybe it made you nervous, but you did it and that is worth celebrating!
  7. Celebrations can be incredibly fun and you like fun, right?
  8. It is important to cultivate a sense of community with other people who care.
  9. We all need to hear the year in review to remind ourselves and each other why there actually is hope.

Those are the reasons why we decided to have a celebration to kick off our summer efforts. There will be plenty of time for work days later.  I hope you agree, I hope you fill out this little form if you want to help out with the fun on the 25th, and I really do want you to know that, from where I stand, in the thick of public policy in Oklahoma, there are a lot of strong signs that times, they are a changin’.