For The Children Weekly Column

Advocacy Works as OICA Bills Move Forward

PHOTO CUTLINE – January Hoskin, First Lady for the Cherokee Nation, addresses competitors and child advocates on hand for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy’s Chili Cook-off and Advocacy Day on Tuesday, March 12. Looking on are Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., (right) and OICA CEO Joe Dorman. Chief Hoskin and his wife were honorary co-chairs of the event and kicked off the competition.
(OICA Photo)

OKLAHOMA CITY – The second deadline for the Oklahoma Legislature was reached on Thursday, March 14 and many bills have fallen by the wayside. For the bills being tracked by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA), our total has dwindled from 650 at the beginning of the session to a total of 216 remaining “alive” in the process.

Now, for a House bill to be alive, it must have passed the House of Representatives and been sent to the Senate; for Senate bills to remain alive, they must have been passed by senators and sent to the House of Representatives. OICA now focuses our attention on the remaining positive bills moving through the system, and we will shed light on more of those in the coming weeks. This includes the programs supported through legislative appropriations, the allocation of state dollars to agencies which deliver services.

Amid that deadline week, OICA held our first Advocacy Day of the session in conjunction with our Chili Cook-off in the State Capitol parking lot. Entrants in the Cook-off included lawmakers, child advocates, and organizations who spent the morning cooking, serving, and networking with fellow advocates, lawmakers, and staff.

We had our largest number of competitors enter this year with 18 chili chefs sharing their talents, and we had many Capitol employees and agency staff join us to promote the good things going on for children in Oklahoma and the issues we are facing.

All the bills we promoted to lawmakers during our Advocacy Day, which were mentioned in this column last week, passed through to the next step; our thanks to lawmakers who supported these initiatives. You can see those at

Congratulations go to Sean Cummings for his winning chili entry, both through the judges and with the people’s choice vote. Tulsa Union School Board Member Joey Reyes and his wife Lyndsey won second place, and my entry finished third. The best lawmaker entry went to Rep. Danny Sterling, and the best theme went to the law firm of Maples, Nix and Diesselhorst. Special thank you to our judges, Justice Noma Gurich, Judges Thad Balkman and James Siderias, and OETA reporter Susan Cadot!

Sean’s wife, Cathy, passed away recently and the fund established in memoriam to pay school lunch debts was a recipient of half of the funds raised by people’s choice donations, with the other half going to the Donna Nigh Foundation.

Much appreciation goes to the sponsors, including the Cherokee Nation as our top-level sponsor and to Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., and Cherokee First Lady January Hoskin for serving as our honorary co-chairs for the event.

Lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and Senate have elected their leaders-designate who will assume their leadership roles in November following the General Election. Congratulations go to Republican Speaker of the House-designate Kyle Hilbert and Republican President Pro Tempore-designate Greg McCortney. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with both gentlemen through the years and look forward to their continued support for positive children’s policies.

Finally, this week, thanks to the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth and Birthright Living Legacy for hosting a Fatherhood Summit in Tulsa. The presenters and conversations certainly motivated the attendees, and I expect positive legislative goals will come from this.

Getting fathers more involved in the lives of their children in most cases is something which provides greater opportunities for future success for the child. I will share more on this as suggestions and policy recommendations arise.