N E W S L E T T E R
March 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.
PAYDAY LENDING

HB1913 , the so-called "Oklahoma Small Loan Act," if it becomes law would enable payday lending institutions to charge an APR (Annual Percentage Rate) of up to 204% on a $1,500 loan.  The OCC Communion Leaders have taken a strong stand against this bill [click here], which has passed the House but can still be defeated in the Senate. 

CLIMATE CHANGE

The Oklahoma Conference of Churches has also issued a Statement on Climate Change [click here] to reinforce its 
position reg arding our need to be good stewards of the earth. In June of 2 015, the OCC Council
of Communion Leaders adopted the Clergy Climate Letter. Several bills introduced in the legislature this year target reducing tax incentives provided for the development of zero-emissions energy in an attempt to address the state's continuing funding problems. The tax on oil and gas at the wellhead was reduced markedly in recent years. The Legislature is considering various measures to increase the tax on oil and gas perhaps using a sliding s cale based on the price of oil. Careful consideration of the consequences of our decisions is needed in these times of crisis for today and for the generations to come.

DON'T JUDGE A BILL BY ITS TITLE

During the legislative process, legislators create shell bills with the substance filled in later. Legislators amend bills sometimes which radically changes their purpose. We encourage you as you track legislation to read the amendments and check out carefully new language place in shell bills. Here are examples of two such bills:

HB1270:  Act to Restore Hope, Opportunity, and Prosperity for Everyone increases the investigative side of the SNAP (food stamps) and other welfare programs. Both have strenuous review criteria currently. Increasing oversight would require more administrative costs for agencies that are already understaffed.

HB1123:  The Oklahoma Crimes and Punishments Act of 2017 requires that an individual trespassing on a property with a critical infrastructure facility be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail. The bill requires an individual who willfully damages, destroys, vandalizes or tampers with critical infrastructure be guilty of a felony. The fine for an organization found to be a conspirator with those committing such crimes is ten times the amount of an individual's fine. Critical infrastructure facilities encompass oil and gas related facilities including pipelines, trains, water-related facilities, and other manufacturing related structures. The bill is mostly likely trying to prevent a Standing Rock situation in Oklahoma while it establishes as law stern punishments that could remain on the books for years and result in unintended consequences.

BILLS BEING TRACKED ARE LISTED ON OCC WEBSITE

Please remember that a listing of the bills tracked by the
IMPACT Committee are now 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. If a specific bill is important to you, you can sign up for updates from the Legislature's website by clicking this link:  LENS . 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.

ADVOCACY TRAINING WORKSHOP

OCC will be conducting an Advocacy Training Workshop from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at St. Paul's Cathedral (127 N.W. 7th St., OKC). The workshop will give practical advice regarding how you can personally participate in the legislative process (or do so on behalf of your faith community). The cost of the workshop is $10.00.  You may register and pay online via our website by clicking here.  

Please note that this workshop was originally scheduled for March 21, 2017 but will now be held on April 20, 2017. Our apologies for any inconvenience this rescheduling may cause.  

Credit for zero emissions picture: Anton Novik, Can Stock Photo.com
Credit for 3 branches of government picture: JPL Designs, Can Stock Photo.com
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