N E W S L E T T E R
February 2017
Churches and society are confronted by many issues such as poverty, the environment, immigration, education, health, and criminal justice. By working together, individuals, churches, and communities can share information, organize efforts, and share resources. The OCC Social Justice Ministry Network gives us a vitally important tool enabling us to do this.


How does it work? Each representative is kept informed by OCC of important issues, including the work of the OCC  
IMPACT 
Committee as it tracks Oklahoma legislation. Where appropriate, we will produce relevant statements and recommend responsible action. Network representatives will then determine how best to disseminate this information to members of their own congregation and other interested persons. To join the Social Justice Ministry Network, send an e-mail to SJMN@okchurches.org.
 
Click on the embedded links in the paragraphs below for more in-depth information on each topic.

Legislative Session Opened February 6, 2017

The OCC IMPACT Committee is tracking bills proposed for the 2017 Oklahoma Legislative Session. The Theological Statements on the OCC website provide guidance for the Committee's work. Legislation related to the six issues outlined in the Theological Statements is monitored throughout the session. Almost half of the 2,171 bills filed relate to Criminal Justice, Education, Environment, Health, Immigration, or Poverty. The IMPACT Committee reviews these bills and selects the ones deemed of primary importance to attaining the vision set forth in the Theological Statements. 

New Feature:  Bills being tracked will be listed on OCC website

This year a listing of the bills tracked by the IMPACT Committee will be maintained on the OCC website, with updates as they become available. This will make the information available for you to access in your time frame. Action alerts will continue to be e-mailed but not routine changes. If a specific bill is of utmost importance to you, you can sign up for updates from the Legislature's website by clicking this link LENS. A caution:  this is good and accurate information but there is a lot of it. Be judicious about how many bills you include. A lead person from the IMPACT Committee is assigned for each of the six focus areas tracked. If you have input about legislation for the IMPACT Committee, please share it at sjmn@okchurches.org. Your e-mail will be forwarded to the appropriate lead person. He or she will contact you if further information is needed.

The Start of a Bill Becoming Law

At the beginning of the session many bills, called shell bills, are introduced with a title but no real content. Many other bills are duplica tive  or relate to the same subject. The first work of the legislature is sorting through these 
bills, condensing, combining, and culling them. This work is done by committees assigned by subject matter in both the House and the Senate. Each member of the legislature serves on several committees. Want to know the Committees on which your representatives serve? Look it up on the Oklahoma State Legislature website. Click on Legislators and find yours. Your representatives help decide which bills move to the next step or die in committee. You, of course, can contact your legislators about any bill--but contacting your legislator about a bill assigned to one of his or her committees would have an even greater impact. The Legislature works within a Deadline Schedule  with prescribed timelines for processing bills. Getting a bill out of Committee is the first hurdle toward getting a bill you favor passed. Killing a bill in Committee short-circuits its success.

Legislation Basic Bill Search

The listing of bills posted on the OCC website ( www.okchurches.org) includes links to oklegislature.gov. Clicking on the number of the bill will open the actual bill to learn its History, Amendments, Bill Summaries, Versions, Votes, and Co- Authors under tabs listed by these titles. The Version tab leads you to the bill. New bills are noted as such and the total document is under consideration. Many bills amend current law. When those bills are opene d, the current law appears and proposed amendments are indicated by crossing out words being removed and underlining words being added. Scanning through the bill searching out these markings ma y facilitate your inquiry as they indicate the only proposed changes.

If you want more information about the legislative process, see the Oklahoma Policy Institute's Legislative Primer. The Institute also has valuable information about many of the same areas the IMPACT Committee tracks. One area it tracks that the IMPACT Committee tracks only as it relates to our six issue areas is the state budget. Its online budget guide is most helpful. 

Legislators Need Your Support

Every election has consequences. This year there is an unusually large group of newly-elected legislators, perhaps inexperienced but with new, fresh ideas. They represent you and they need to h e ar from you regarding legislation you want and legislation you do not w an t. If they get  even five negative letters or e-mails and no supportin g correspon-
dence, what are they to think? The opposite is also true. When writing or cal ling your legislators, first and foremost always be polite. State up front who you are  and where you live by city and zip code. Legislators pay more attention to people living in their districts. State specifically what you are contacting them about, "I strongly support House Bill 1xxx related to classroom instruction." Tell them why you support it. If you have a personal story include it but keep it short. "I have been a classroom teacher for 20 years and received the extra training this bill provides on my own. It really helped me handle hard to control children." If they support your recommendation, even if it fails, send them a quick, short thank you note or e-mail recognizing their effort and responsiveness to your concerns.

Sign up now for the 2017 
Day at the Legislature

Please join us on  Monday, March 6, 2017 for the 34th annual  Day at the Legislature ! This important event is a rare opportunity to network and learn from the brightest speakers today on a variety of topics related to two of OCC's focus areas: Poverty and Environment. Individuals, schools, civic organizations, and church groups are all encouraged to participate.  The entire event will be held at St. Paul's Cathedral, 127 N.W. 7th St., OKC, due to ongoing renovations at the State Capitol.  Details and registration at  www.okchurches.org.      

OKLAHOMA CONFERENCE OF CHURCHES
301 N.W. 36th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73118
www.okchurches.org    |  405-525-2928 
The Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, Executive Director