State Question 801 - Boon or Boondoggle

State Question 801 – Boon or Boondoggle - October 14, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Every so often an idea comes along that has just enough plausibility to garner support. Between 2009 and 2015, amid great fanfare, Bill and Melinda Gates pumped $215 Million of their foundation’s money into a program that pulled $360 Million from public school budgets in Florida, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. The goal was to create a reliable teacher evaluation system.

Four charter school management organizations spearheaded the project and after six years and more than $575 Million spent, it was discovered that standardized high stakes testing of students did not produce a reliable means of teacher evaluation.

The study was the classic definition of the word, “boondoggle” and Oklahoma is not immune from these expensive “sounds too good to be true” rhetorical goose chases. Consequently, millions of dollars of our state’s budget is diverted to private companies that promised to root out waste or discover fraud and after making campaign contributions, receive contracts that produce no return on the investment.

On November 6, Oklahomans will consider State Question 801 to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to “allow” schools to use its adValorem derived building fund for general operational costs, including teacher salaries. Proponents say the technical change is necessary so that a school board could use the school’s 5 Mill “building fund” for purposes other than maintenance of property.

Historically, the 5 Mill Building Fund could only be used for maintenance and repair operations, upkeep and construction of district facilities and grounds, contractual services and salaries and benefits of custodial and maintenance people.

According to publications of the Oklahoma State Department of Education and current research, the Oklahoma Attorney General has previously opined that it is legal to use the building fund money to pay casualty and property insurance premiums on school buildings and to construct a school parking lot.

Oklahoma State School Board Association Executive Director Shawn Hime has expressed concern that schools’ building funds are not adequate for day to day janitorial and other facility needs. Under current practice, schools have to save year to year to take care of renovation and repairs and that the proposal will not change any districts per pupil funding. He concluded that he had “not hear from one single district that says they need to have more freedom with their building fund.”

Administrators from across the state echoed Hime’s fear that the SQ801 may be an attempt by the legislature and Governor Fallin to avoid proper funding of education and an attempt to shift the responsibility to local school districts.

Morrison Superintendent Jay Vernon, said “We do not, nor have ever had enough building fund monies to support all our utilities, maintenance and janitorial staff salaries for a year.”

Republican Senator Ron Sharp from Shawnee in opposing SQ 801, expressed concern that adValorem revenue is not equal among school districts and that the inequity would inevitably cause a federal lawsuit.

Oklahoma’s public schools do not need a boondoggle. They do not need to be told to rob an empty building fund account to pay teacher salaries. Shifting the responsibility of funding education is not the answer.

School districts across the state where the property tax base is small or is largely based on agricultural real estate do not have the ability to meet the financial needs without adequate state funding. Allowing the legislature to abdicate its responsibility to fund K-12 education will result in one of two things, increases in local adValorem taxes or closure. Neither is acceptable.

Questions or comments, contact David Perryman at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

State Question 800 - Is It a Vision or a Mirage

State Question 800 – Is it a Vision or a Mirage - October 7, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

State Question 800 is one of those ballot measures that at first glance appears to be a wise and frugal approach to the state’s budget problems. Conventional logic is that sooner or later oil and gas prices are going to crater, thus proponents of this “new” concept seek to stabilize Oklahoma’s budget by segregating revenue while oil prices are high for use when they are low.

If this idea of saving money for a “Rainy Day” or for “Revenue Stabilization” sounds familiar, look no further than in our own current law. Remember, the current budget crisis is not Oklahoma’s first trip around the block.

In 1985, following that decade’s oil bust and dramatic drop in state revenue, the Oklahoma Constitution was amended to create a Constitutional Reserve Fund. Commonly called the “Rainy Day Fund” to hold excess revenues so that when the ever-cyclical oil bust comes around, money will be available to meet critical needs.

Unfortunately, the Rainy Day Fund only receives money when revenues exceed predictions and even then only an amount equal to 15% of the anticipated revenue may be deposited each year. Troubling also is the manner in which Governor Fallin and her staff “borrowed” from the fund despite the Constitution’s clear language limiting the purpose and restricting the manner in which this “locked box” fund is to be accessed.

Then, in 2016, the state legislature created a fund named the Revenue Stabilization Fund curiously (and confusingly) based on 7% Gross Production Taxes, Corporate Income Taxes and a Five Year Rolling Average that does not appear structurally able to net even one penny of revenue to stabilize anything.

So fast forward to 2018, State Question 800 is a legislatively proposed  Constitutional amendment creating a “Vision Fund” to serve basically the same purpose as the existing Rainy Day and the Revenue Stabilization funds were designed to do.

The “Vision Fund” if adopted will purportedly hold a portion of the GPT and other “excess revenues” to meet critical needs when the ever cyclical oil bust comes around. Some believe that “third time’s the charm” but a more reliable maxim is, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result.”

This attempt to figuratively sew a third pocket on Oklahoma’s tattered coat does little to fill that pocket with reliable, available revenue. During this era when cuts to education and health care and infrastructure has nullified Oklahoma’s ability to provide services to its citizens and when hundreds of millions of dollars are needed for things like incarceration costs and mental health care, available funds should be used to make programs viable now so that citizens needs may be met.

The diversion of 5% of the oil and gas gross production taxes (plus automatic increases in future years) from the general revenue fund into the Vision Fund whose investments will be as volatile as the stock market seems out of step with Oklahoma’s reality.

Perhaps a better plan would be to increase the GPT to at least the regional average, using it to properly fund our current needs and tweaking what we already have by removing the deposit limitation on the Rainy Day fund.

Questions or comments, call or write at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

State Question 798 Proposed Running Mates

State Question 798 Proposed Running Mates - September 30, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

State Question 798 is likely the most straight-forward of the five state questions that will appear on the November 2018 ballot. It simply provides that if it passes, beginning in 2026 our Governor and Lieutenant Governor will be elected as running mates.

Many Oklahomans don’t realize that it is possible for these two offices to be held by members of different parties however that has occurred in four of the 11 elections held between 1962 and 2006. The state question does not resolve all issues however. The legislature will work out the specifics if State Question 798 passes, but the most likely scenarios would be:

A. The winner of the primary in each party’s gubernatorial race will be paired on the general election ballot with the winner of that party’s lieutenant gubernatorial race; OR

B. The winner of the primary in each party’s gubernatorial race would choose a running mate; OR

C. The candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor would file for office as a team.

One issue that could arise and would need to be legislatively resolved prior to the initial election (in the event the winners of the Governor and Lt. Governor primaries were paired) would be the scenario when a party does not field candidates in both the governor’s and the lieutenant governor’s races. Another scenario that would need to be addressed is how independent candidates would be paired up.

What the proponents of the state question hope to avoid are circumstances similar to what has occurred in the state of California. According to Louis Jacobson in a April 12, 2013 online article, in the late 1970’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown was running for president and Republican Lt. Governor Mike Curb used Brown’s frequent absences to appoint judges. A few years later, Republican Governor Pete Wilson tried to throw Democratic Lt. Governor Gray Davis’ office out of the Capitol and even more recently, GOP Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cut Democratic Lt. Governor John Garamendi’s office budget by two-thirds as a punishment for criticizing the governor’s cuts to state universities.

Of course all stress between Governors and Lt. Governors is not partisan. Online editor Patrick J. Kiger wrties that In the 1940’s when Republican future U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren was governor of California, he reportedly disliked Republican Lt. Governor Goodwin Knight so intensely that when Warren went on trips, he locked up legislation in his desk so that Knight couldn’t sign it.

Oklahomans have had direct elections of its Governor independent of its Lt. Governor for 111 years and has not yet experienced a constitutional crisis. Perhaps part of that is because no one in Oklahoma really knows what the Lt. Governor is supposed to do, including the Lt. Governor.

In fact, Oklahoma might be better served to instead vote on a state question to totally eliminate the $114,713 annual salaried (plus benefits) position. Five other states, Oregon, Arizona, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Maine have gotten along longer than 111 years without a Lt. Governor. We would also save hundreds of thousands by eliminating the need of the 24 hour OHP Security detail and the shiny black suburban.

If State Question 798 passes on November 6, 2022 may be the last time that Oklahomans select a Lt. Governor as a stand-alone office. Good or bad? You be the judge. Questions or comments, please call or write: 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

State Question 794 Marsy's Law

State Question 794 Marsy’s Law - September 23, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

On November 6, voters will see State Question 794 which deals with the Constitutional rights of crime victims and made its way onto the ballot through the adoption of Senate Joint Resolution 46 passed in 2017, by the 56th Legislature of Oklahoma. Also known as Marsy’s Law, this State Question says that it expands the rights of crime victims, requires crime victims to be informed of their rights and requires courts to enforce the rights of crime victims.

However, it may be a case of déjà vu all over again. In 1996, 22 years ago, the 45th Oklahoma Legislature adopted Senate Joint Resolution 24. That SJR culminated in State Question 674 which was adopted on November 5 of that year by a margin of 91.18% to 8.82% and was the first state question election in Oklahoma in which more than One Million votes were cast for or against the ballot question.

The passage of State Question 674 was highly emotional because of its background. On October 15, 1979, Stephen Keith Hatch and Glen Burton Ake had entered the Okarche, Oklahoma home of a Baptist preacher and his family and had killed the Reverend Richard Douglass and his wife and shot their two children.

Over the intervening seventeen years, the Douglass name, as well as the infamous Hatch and Ake names had become household words known across Oklahoma.  Then, as if the stars had aligned, One of those two children, Brooks Douglass had run for and been elected as a State Senator and sponsored SJR 24 which had passed the legislature in April 1996; the United States Supreme Court had denied Hatch’s final appeal in early June; and then Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson had asked for the earliest execution date.

Senator Brooks Douglas and his sister were permitted to attend the Hatch execution inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester in August of that year and then in November, the people of Oklahoma amended the Oklahoma Constitution embodying the most sweeping victim’s rights that the nation had ever seen.

The 1996 provisions preserved and protected the rights of victims to justice and due process and ensured that they be treated with fairness, respect and dignity and were free from intimidation, harassment and abuse through the criminal justice process. It provided that victims and their families had the right to know the status of the investigation and prosecution, including proceedings wherein a disposition of the case is likely to occur and where plea negotiations may occur. They are entitled to know the location of the defendant at all times and when a release may be contemplated or if an escape has occurred. The victim also has a right to be present at any stage of the proceedings, including probation or parole and to be awarded restitution and damages.

There wasn’t much that the 1996 victims rights law did not do. Which brings us to the 2018 version. Instead of another emotional push with Oklahoma ties, victim rights have found a sponsor in Dr. Henry T. Nicholas whose sister, Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in California in 1983. Only a week after Marsy was murdered, Dr. Nicholas and Marsy’s mother walked into a grocery store and were confronted by the accused murderer who had, unbeknownst to the family, been released on bail.

That incident and spurred Dr. Nicholas to undertake a mission to have Marsy’s law enacted in every jurisdiction in the country.

While Oklahoma continues to have a comprehensive constitutional provision, this state question will replace much of it and according to the Oklahoma State Election Board’s webpage, “victims will no longer be entitled to know the defendants’s location after arrest, during prosecution and while sentenced or incarcerated, but will be entitled to know of the defendants release or excape from custody.

Questions or comments, call or write David Perryman at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

State Question 793 - Eye Care in Oklahoma

State Question 793 – Eye Care in Oklahoma - September 16, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

How and where Oklahomans receive optometric care and services could soon change if State Question 793 passes amending the state’s Constitution on November 6, 2018. This state question deals with whether Optometrists and Opticians can operate businesses in retail establishments;

On July 23, 2018, Governor Mary Fallin certified State Question 793 to appear on the ballot after an Initiative Petition was submitted showing 249,451 valid signatures, more than double the required 123,725

Current Oklahoma law prohibits optometrists from opening practices in commercial settings. It also bars retailers from offering prescription eyewear unless it represents a majority of their sales. This issue is not a new one. Lobbyists of large retailers have for years attempted to convince legislators to change the law.

The Proponents of the Constitutional change who are urging Oklahomans to vote YES say that the Amendment will give patients more locations to purchase eye care, glasses and contacts and that 47 other states allow some form of marketing of eye care and prescription lenses that is not currently allowed in Oklahoma.

The YES group also claims that thousands of Oklahoma residents currently go out of state to purchase eye care and eyewear and that changing this law will allow them to purchase these goods and services in Oklahoma creating and saving jobs here in Oklahoma.

The Opponents of the Constitutional change who are urging Oklahomans to vote NO adamantly claim that State Question 793 is bad for the health of Oklahomans. They say that because Optometry is a medical profession and that Optometric physicians are health care professionals that perform surgeries, diagnose and manage chronic eye diseases, and are tasked with detecting potentially life threatening diseases, Oklahoma has correctly chosen not to place medical professions like optometry in retail settings like Walmart.

The NO group also claims that big box store marketing places volume above the personal care and attention that Oklahoma Optometrists give their patients and that quality eye care and the diagnosis of disease is too important to turn eye care over to “Walmart’s Business Model.”

One side says that the additional competition will give Oklahomans access to cheaper glasses and the other side says inexpensive glasses are already advertised daily in the state and that it is simply not in the public interest to allow a corporation to own a doctor’s practice because then, the corporation will tell the doctor how to practice, which contact lenses to prescribe and which frames to market.

As of August 1, 2018, Oklahoma Ethics records showed that the three largest donors to the proponent group were Walmart, Costco and Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom who had together made just over $100,000 in cash contributions toward passage of the measure. As of that date, the Ethics Commissions showed no committee organized in opposition to the measure.

The main web site of the proponents is yeson793.com and the main web site of the measure’s opponents is no793.com. Visit those sites to learn more about the pros and cons of how this constitutional change might affect you or your family. Questions or comments, call or write David Perryman at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

If You Don't Like the Constitution in Oklahoma

If You Don’t Like the Constitution in Oklahoma - September 9, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Oklahomans like to attribute the saying, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it will change,” to favorite son, Will Rogers. We could use a similar phrase about the state’s Constitution.

When the Oklahoma Constitution was approved by territorial voters on September 17, 1907, it was the lengthiest governing document of any government in the United States. During the intervening 111 years, Oklahoma voters have chosen to amend it more than 150 times.

To put that in context, the 229 year lifespan of the United States Constitution has only produced 27 amendments and 10 of those were adopted concurrently with the original Constitution.

There are a couple of reasons for this disparity. Amendments to the U.S. Constitution normally address weighty social issues such as the abolition of slavery or voting rights and to become effective require the ratification of three-fourths of the state legislatures.

On the other hand, amendments to Oklahoma’s Constitution normally address issues that are pursued for the economic benefit of the proponent. For instance, in 2012, a group of corporate interests convinced citizens of Oklahoma that a constitutional amendment was needed to prevent the state from taxing our grandmothers’ cooking recipes and educator’s teaching certificates. So convincing were the television advertisements that were financed with hundreds of thousands of dollars donated by multimillion dollar corporations, that voters gave billion dollar tax breaks exempting the “intangible property’ property of those corporations from taxation.

On November 6, voters will see five more state questions designed to change the Oklahoma Constitution. Those are:

State Question 793 deals with whether Optometrists and Opticians can operate businesses in retail establishments;

State Question 794 deals with the Constitutional rights of crime victims;

State Question 798 provides for the election of Governor and Lt. Governor on the same ticket starting in 2026;

State Question 800 creates a new reserve fund, the “Oklahoma Vision Fund” designed to receive a portion of gross production tax revenues; and

State Question 801 allows local building fund revenues to be used for school operations.

We’ll explore the pros and cons of each of these Ballot Questions over the next few weeks but what is disappointing is that there are two much needed issues that did not make the November ballot.

Oklahoma needs a non-partisan redistricting commission to prevent the party in power (regardless of whether they are Democratic or Republican) from preserving their power by gerrymandering legislative districts after each census. We also need to be able to elect our county courthouse officials on a non-partisan ballot. It is ludicrous to think that a County Tax Assessor, Treasurer, Sheriff or Clerk needs to be elected in a partisan election.

Finally, in the interest of accuracy, it was Mark Twain and not Will Rogers who first expressed the witticism about the changing weather. Questions or comments, call or write David Perryman at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Where Do the Trains Meet?

Where Do The Trains Meet? - September 2, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

We all remember those pesky Algebra I questions from school: Locomotive A and Locomotive B began traveling towards each other from opposite ends of a 500 mile long track at 1:00 p.m. If Locomotive A traveled at 35 miles per hour and Locomotive B traveled at 25 miles per hour, at what point did the engines meet?

Ranking Oklahoma’s public school educational funding and educational policy involves a similar exercise. According to a report published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, aptly named “A Punishing Decade for School Funding,” Oklahoma was one of 29 states that was providing less funding for public education in 2018 than it was in 2008. Of those 29, eight had cut public education funding by double digits. Only one, Oklahoma, had cut education so deeply that its cuts had exceeded THE NEXT HIGHEST STATE’S CUTS by double digits.

As a result, Oklahoma is a leading state in all the bad education categories: 92.2% of our teachers spend personal funds for school supplies; Top 18 in the amount of money spent by teachers for those supplies; Number one in school districts on four day school weeks…the list goes on and on.

It is true that after a hard fought battle, we were able to win an increase in the teachers salary scale, but that raise did little to replace dog-eared text books, reduce the teacher-student ratio in overcrowded classrooms or stop another 9% increase this fall over last year’s record shattering number of emergency certified teachers in Oklahoma’s classrooms.

It has indeed been a “punishing decade for school funding” in Oklahoma. Frustratingly, the cuts to Oklahoma’s public schools and the outcomes of Oklahoma’s public school students tell only half the story. Over that same decade, while Oklahoma’s legislature left Oklahoma teachers and students to “fend for themselves,” they were busy feathering the nests of corporations and other private and charter school proponents.

According to the National Alliance for Charter Schools, Oklahoma legislators were enacting legislation that made Oklahoma a leader in the charter school industry. In fact, in 2015 alone, Oklahoma’s charter school favorability ranking jumped from 36th  to 19th in the country because of an overhaul of state law in such areas as statewide expansion of charter schools even over the objection of locally elected school boards.

Other legislation aiding charter schools included providing generous exemptions from state law on educational standards such as teacher qualifications. The legislation that was most damaging to public schools and state services was the structured tax exemptions and credits that pull literally a Billion dollars a year out of the budget, much of which would otherwise go to the funding of public education.

For instance, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has reviewed what it calls Oklahoma’s supercharged incentives that amount to neo-voucher laws which “fleece the public till.” By offering generous tax subsidies in exchange for donations to private school scholarship programs, Oklahoma uses corporations and wealthy individuals as middlemen. Instead of appropriating funds to charter schools or outright funding voucher programs, Legislators allow potential tax revenue to be diverted into the coffers of charters and private schools in return for a generous tax give-away.

By combining Oklahoma’s lucrative tax credits, incentives and deductions, and also claiming a federal charitable tax deduction, some corporations and wealthy tax payers receive as much as $1.35 for each dollar donated.

Best in worst categories, worst in best categories and all the tax credits diverted to charter schools. Is there any doubt that the train wreck that the state legislature has dealt public education could have been avoided if we had only had five day school weeks, adequate textbooks and an teacher that was certified to teach Algebra I.

Questions or comments, call or write David Perryman at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Building Things to Come

Building Things to Come - August 26, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Last year the National Film Preservation Board added 25 films to the National Film Registry. To be selected a film must be at least ten years old and must be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Of the tens of thousands of movies that have been produced, as of this time, only 725 films have made the Registry.

One of the films selected in 2017 was the 1989 fantasy-drama sports film, Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster, in his final role. The movie leads viewers through troubled relationships, financial struggles and unattained goals all tied together with a nostalgic dose of Baseball, America’s Favorite Pastime.

Ray Kinsella, Costner’s character, his wife Annie and their daughter Karin, follow their hearts, persevering through ridicule and near financial ruin, ultimately converting a part of their corn field into a baseball diamond, complete with stands. Along the way, each time that discouragement had threatened to stall the project, an encouraging sign or mystical motivation spurs them forward.

The theme of the movie, its byline and Ray’s motivation was based on the phrase uttered by Shoeless Joe Jackson, "If you build it, he will come." The “he” that Jackson referred to was Ray’s father. Ray succeeded in attaining a goal that fulfilled a lost opportunity.

In 2018, across Oklahoma, the economic condition of most communities outside the two largest urban centers ranges from struggling to dire. Many face the loss of medical providers, medical facilities and ambulance services. Others simply have no sales tax base to sustain the services that directly equate to quality of life.

While the allure of Oklahoma City and Tulsa is to many every bit as tempting as a mythological siren song, given a choice, most Oklahomans would prefer to raise their families in a less urban setting.

It is difficult to drive through a non-urban community anywhere in Oklahoma where men and women are not working hard to find ways to slow or stop the loss of population. Invariably, they face a dauntless task. Communities and community minded organizations are discovering that it is not the job of the grey-haired group to identify needed services and infrastructure. It is their job to FUND the services and infrastructure that is identified by those who are much younger than they.

Enrolling youth is not always easy, but it is essential. Most of us over the age of 40 have no idea what will keep young people in our communities over the next 50 years and most of the population under the age of 40 have no financial means to pay for the services and infrastructure that the next generation will utilize.

The synergy of each group finding their places, one as planners and the other as funders, will bode well for Oklahoma for generations to come.

For instance, the Oklahoma Municipal League is launching a new program to engage citizens. The Young Elected Officials Network will connect Oklahoma’s municipal elected officials under the age of 40 through networking events, specialized training, and policy development and thus empower its members to implement a shared vision into reality.

Each and every group, community, civic club and other organization should follow suit. What better way to engage youth than following their leads and ideas toward tomorrow. “Let them plan it, and they will stay.”  

Questions or comments, call or write David Perryman at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Don't Mess With Texas

Don’t Mess With Texas - August 19, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

This is the time of year that we hear about how Oklahoma needs to be more like Texas. Normally, the discussion begins with someone remarking how groceries aren’t taxed in Texas or if it is true that Texas has no income tax. Usually someone in the room who has just returned from a trip to Texas mentions how much better their roads are than ours.

Inevitably, Oklahoma comes out on the short end of the stick and some legislator files a Bill to eliminate Oklahoma’s income tax or the tax on groceries and to audit some state agency to root out the “horrendous” waste of taxpayer money.

It is not my intent to vilify Texas or any other state that may have better roads or higher paid teachers or state services that appear to function more effectively. But it is important to note some basic facts. In 2018, Oklahomans will pay less in state and local taxes than any state except Alaska and Louisiana.

So how is it possible for Oklahomans to pay so little in taxes and for so many Oklahomans to believe that they are comparatively overtaxed? The answer is not too complicated, but does require a little digging.

First is the fact that the effective Gross Production Tax and Ad Valorem taxes paid by the Oil and Gas Industry in Texas remains more than 65% higher than Oklahoma’s new GPT rate of 5% adopted earlier this year.

Likewise, Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Taxes in Texas remains more than 5% higher than Oklahoma’s new Gasoline and Diesel Tax Rate of 19 cents per gallon.

While many people believe that Texans pay no sales tax, the truth is that the average Texan pays $1,495 per year in Local and State Sales Taxes which is nearly 23% more than the Local and State Sales Tax paid by the average Oklahoman.

Oklahoma does assess an income tax of up to 5% on taxable income over $7,200 as compared to a Texas income tax of zero. However, the Texas tax code contains a hidden transaction tax that generates billions of dollars of revenue for the Lone Star State. It is called a Margin Tax and actually taxes, in pyramid fashion, revenue on goods and services at multiple points as those goods and services wind through the manufacturing, production, wholesale and retail marketplaces.

Perhaps the greatest inequity between Oklahoma and Texas is in the form of state and local property taxes. The per capita amount of property tax paid in Oklahoman is $678 and is $1,731 in Texas.  Put another way, the average Texan’s property tax bill is more than 155% higher than the average Oklahoman.

Another measure of tax burden is the debt load placed on citizens by state and local government. According to the 2018 Tax Foundation report, where all of these numbers may be located, the debt load placed on each and every Texan for state and local debt is $10,108, while the state and local tax burden in Oklahoma is less than half that at $4,836 per capita.

That same publication shows pretty clearly why our roads and our schools are substandard and why state and local agencies are not able to deliver adequate services to our citizens, why prisons are overcrowded, why hospitals and nursing homes are closing, why there are 7,657 developmentally disabled citizens on the waiver request waiting list for services. In a nutshell, Per Capita State and Local Tax Collections in Texas in 2015 were $4,120, which was over 11% higher than the Per Capita State and Local Tax Collections in Oklahoma that same year.

We don’t want to be Texas, but most Oklahomans need to know why our tire repair bills are so high and why we are incarcerating such a high number of emotionally disturbed citizens rather than properly funding services in the Sooner State.

Questions or comments, call or write David Perryman at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Not Our First Rodeo

Not Our First Rodeo - August 12, 20

State Representative David Perryman

My great grandparents were looking for better conditions…All of them. Each one’s story was a little different. They had come from places like New York City and Chicago; Indiana and Missouri; Arkansas and Iowa. While those were their birthplaces, few of their parents had been there long. All but a few of my ancestors were moving, looking for new land, new places and new opportunities.

My great grandparents and their parents before them were like most of yours and were migrating away from poor living conditions and hardships, looking for a place to give their children a better future. People don’t move from places where they are comfortable. People don’t “pull up stakes” and say goodbye to parents and grandparents if their “stakes” are fancy.

But the hardships of that era and the decades afterwards did not dissipate just because they had moved to a new location. According to James C. Milligan’s “History of the Oklahoma Farmers Union” an Oklahoma farmer’s income at the turn of the last century was around $250 and Milligan reported that government officials estimated that a bare subsistence level of living was around $600 for a family of four. The massive economic power of great railroads and large financial entities made it impossible for farmers to better themselves.

Merchants charged substantially higher prices for goods bought on credit and heavy interest rates resulting in credit that often added as much as 50% to the purchase price of the goods. Poverty was epidemic. A significant segment of the state’s population was destitute. They organized the Grange, engaged in economic planning to survive and in 1890 formed the People’s party (commonly known as “Populists” and eventually succeeded by the Socialist Party), garnering nearly one in five state voters. In some rural areas, the membership was upwards of 50% of the population.

Organizing produced positive results and many Oklahomans found themselves able to remain in Oklahoma to pursue agriculture as a way of life. While there was a recurrence of interest in a socialist organization in 1928 and into the Great Depression, it seemed that in good times, there was little interest in that political party.

Last week, according to Rich Lowery, a national opinion writer, “It’s begun. We are having a debate over socialism.”

What Lowery did not recognize is that today, young people are striving for stability in their futures and finding less opportunity than a generation ago. Frustratingly, those of us who are less affected by current economic conditions have a tough time understanding the situation.

A case in point was another national editorial last week. This one by Cal Thomas ridiculed “Millennials” as seduced by socialism and unaware that freedom didn’t just “drop from the sky.”  Thomas threw around terms like “shared wealth” and “free stuff” and “pampered” and “spoiled rotten.” He went so far as to say they “have likely not had to sacrifice much for their country.”

I am not a socialist and am not promoting socialism, but to stick our heads in the ground, call names, breed hatred and contempt, and outright ignore conditions that are weighing heavily on the minds of more than one-third of the country’s population is pure foolishness. It is with great confidence that I would venture to assert that in the 1890’s, there weren’t many Oklahoma farmers who set out to be socialists, but instead reached the conclusions they did because of an overwhelming economic and social struggle for survival.

Likewise, I cannot imagine Oklahomans who were faced with the credit crisis and poverty conditions and droughts of the Great Depression had any real adoration for the teachings of Karl Marx.

Instead, it seems much more logical that a large segment of our society is facing dire straits to make sense of life and the job market.

Just like miners carried a canary into the coal mine as an early warning system to detect carbon monoxide, there are gauges to indicate the availability of economic and social opportunities in our nation. Early symptoms are poverty and mental health problems, high incarceration rates, mountainous college debt and a lack of access to health care. When those issues affect an ever growing number of Americans, it is past time to take notice and do something about it.

Our country has been at this crossroads before. This is not our first rodeo. Most of us would like for the opportunities that were available to us to be available for Americans of all races, young and old. It seems that making that happen would be the logical way to suppress socialism and preserve our country.

Questions or comments call or write David Perryman 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Where's Waldo

Where’s Waldo - August 5, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Martin Handford is a British illustrator whose trademark is hiding a character in very busy, large drawings depicting dozens and dozens of people doing interesting things at specific locations. In England, the character, Wally, is a spectacled young man with a shock of brown hair under his red striped toboggan hat that matches his famous red striped shirt.

In the U.S. and Canada, the hidden figure is named Waldo, Thus “Where’s Waldo.” The novelty of finding Waldo is nearly irresistible and when found, Waldo is normally doing the most mundane thing like walking across a pasture or a road when everyone else around him is engaged in pursuits of varying vocations and pastimes. Waldo appears mostly to be a man of leisure in a very busy world.

Perhaps Waldo is not much different than the persons who, from time to time, hold the office of Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor. The similarities are striking. Very seldom does anyone know where the Lieutenant Governor is and even fewer know what he or she does.

The current Lieutenant Governor was nowhere to be found after he withdrew himself from Governor Mary Fallin’s cabinet in an attempt to distance himself from her policies as he polished himself for his own run for the governor’s office.

On August 28, Oklahoma Republicans will choose between two candidates who are running for the GOP nomination for Lieutenant Governor. Apparently because the Lieutenant Governor has no policy responsibilities, the hottest campaign issue in this primary runoff, according to a recent article in the Tulsa World, is whether the next Lt. Governor should be a salesman for the state or a troubleshooter.

Either way, at an annual salary of $114,713, plus benefits, including a sleek black suburban, 24 hour driver and security detachment of OHP officers, it is pretty well regarded that the office of Lt. Governor is really just a stepping stone for ambitious politicians to reach the Governor’s Mansion.

There is not a single position in state government that has such lucrative compensation with so little accountability. Corn field wisdom might equate the importance of an Oklahoma Lt. Governor to mammary glands on a boar hog or a screen door on a submarine.

Governor Fallin announced last week that she was putting State Question 798 on the November ballot to require gubernatorial candidates to choose a Lieutenant Governor candidate as a running mate to run together on the same ticket. Oklahoma celebrated its centennial over a decade ago and in the past 111 years, the fact that the Governor and the Lt. Governor run separately has not contributed to the condition our state is in.

In fact on the national level, until the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1804, the Vice-President was simply the “runner-up” for the presidency.

Perhaps a better question to pose to the people of Oklahoma would be to eliminate the position of Lieutenant Governor altogether. Five states, Oregon, Arizona, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Maine get along without a Lt. Governor just fine. For those who are concerned about what happens in the event of a vacancy in the office of governor, the Secretary of State succeeds in some and the President of the Senate in others.

In Tennessee and West Virginia, voters avoid an election and a salary by just naming the person who is the President of the Senate as the Lt. Governor.

Speaking of salaries, Oklahoma’s “Governor Light” ranks approximately 14th, right up there with states like California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, Illinois and New Jersey.

If State Question 798 passes in November, 2018 may be the last time that Oklahomans select a Lt. Governor as a stand-alone office. Good or bad? You be the judge. Hopefully the result will make it easier to find the Lt. Governor than to find Waldo.

Questions or comments please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Roads and Temporary Pipelines

Roads and Temporary Pipelines - July 29, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Most people in Oklahoma don’t give a second thought as to the width of section line roads. Those who do, find the subject bewildering because the general rule is that there is no general rule and that confounds the job of County Commissioners, City Managers and anyone else who is tasked with the responsibility of building and maintaining roads across the state.

While the most essential (and original) reason for section line road easements was to prevent property owners from being landlocked, the concept took many forms. For instance, depending on the applicable tribal treaty or organic act, in the old Oklahoma Territory, section line road widths were defined as being 4 rods (66 feet) wide but in the old Indian Territory, they were 2 rods (33 feet) in width, except for the Creek Nation where roads were 3 rods (49.5 feet) wide and in the Quapaw Agency in extreme Northeast Oklahoma where there are no road rights of way between sections of land.

The impact on these narrow rights of way has been compounded through the years by legislation greatly expanding the purposes for which the road right of way may be used. Rights of way and the things that are packed into them are important to all of us. The owners of the land who pay taxes on the land to the center of the roadway are affected. Cities, towns and water districts that use the rights of way for water and/or sewer lines are affected and electric companies and telephone companies all have a stake in the right of way being safe and available for uses to which it may legally be put.

When there are four or five utilities in, for instance, a 33 foot road easement, the road surface width is greatly constrained and road safety becomes a real concern, particularly when the roadway use involves scores of semi-trucks and oversized loads engaged in commercial pursuits. A newcomer to the right of way occupancy scene is the oil and gas industry which has chosen in many oil producing counties across the state to lay “temporary” pipelines in the rights of way to transport fresh water and produced saltwater to and from drilling operations.

With operators employing longer laterals, completing a single well in Oklahoma, now requires as much as 12 million barrels of water per frack and wells in Oklahoma cumulatively producing over 3 billion gallons of brackish wastewater per year (according to Julie Parker writing for OklahomaMinerals, a biweekly newsletter for mineral owners, investors and professionals in the oil and gas industry) transportation of those waters definitely pose a problem.

That problem however is not solved by endangering citizens and property by placing “temporary” pipe lines in the road rights of way. The risk to safety is underscored by the person on a narrow Grady County roadway was killed in 2015 when his vehicle struck a water pump that had been “temporarily” parked in the right of way.

Likewise, hoses and conduits that are laid through culverts and ditches displaces the engineered capacity of those drainage structures to carry floodwaters. Another frequent hazard is the incing of road surfaces when joints on the temporary lines leak or burst in freezing weather.

In an attempt to protect people and property, the Kingfisher County Commissioners recently imposed a ban on the placement of temporary water lines in rights of way. As with most controversies, there are two sides to the story. It was unfortunate that the editorial page of a large OKC paper only put forth the one that supported the oil and gas industry. The paper (which last year campaigned for lowered gross production taxes) threatened that increased truck traffic would further damage roadways if the waters were not allowed to be piped. What was not presented was that oil and gas companies could very easily place the hose across private property away from the roadways, compensate the landowner, and avert both the risks as well as the wear and tear on roadways.

Finally, no one can fault the commissioners from trying to protect their roads and make them safer. No one that is except the oil and gas industry whose attorneys have, according to the editorial, asserted that municipalities and counties cannot regulate or restrict the location of temporary lines in rights of way because of a 2015 law that assigns that jurisdiction solely to the oil and gas industry’s favorite lap dog, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Questions or comments please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

Seeing Through the Whitewash

Seeing Through the Whitewash - July 22, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Tom Sawyer was something of a scamp. But he was a creative scamp. For instance, the Saturday morning that his maternal aunt “sentenced” him to applying a fresh coat of whitewash to the front fence, renewing the fence with a cheap, chalky lime solution was just a side benefit of the chore. Aunt Polly’s higher purpose was keeping her dead sister’s son on the straight and narrow toward eternal salvation and off the road to ruin and clear of the temptations of “Old Scratch.”

In the end, while the fence wound up with three coats of whitewash, Tom had engaged his wit, his guile and a healthy dose of reverse psychology to manipulate a veritable army of contemporaries into trading treasures and trinkets for a turn with the brush. Mark Twain allows that if Tom hadn’t run out of whitewash, his entrepreneurial efforts, “would have bankrupted every boy in the village.”

The reality of the situation was that if Aunt Polly had known just how her nephew had made the fence splendid, the shine of the pickets would most certainly have not justified Tom’s trickery. Aunt Polly’s estimate would have been that the end did not justify the means.

Moral and ethical principles exist in every area of life. They are the concepts at the core of human interaction and illuminate the substance of our souls. Living in a goal oriented society such as ours often makes mere survival a daily moral encounter in which we are tempted with abandoning our character.

The ethical dilemma of allowing “the ends to justify the means” is that it allows immoralities to occur in order to achieve moralities. Consequently subjective human elements are present to determine how large the morality must be to justify the extent of the immorality.  Left to men, according to Elektra, Sophocles’ Greek tragedy, humans have the capacity to allow “the end to justify any evil.”

Our political system and the government that it has produced, is a prime example of moral justification. Corporations, Political Action Committees and wealthy campaign contributors want results. Lobbyists armed with hundreds of thousands of dollars are not effective unless they influence legislation and the legislators whose votes are needed to advance it. Excuses are seldom allowed. The End Goal is the only non-variable and all other aspects of the equation are fluid. The pressure to “get the job done” eclipses all sense of moral obligation to “do it the right way.”

If any morality is great enough to justify any immorality, then under the right circumstance, every immorality may be justified.

Justice Louis Brandeis who served as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court for 23 years beginning in 1916, said, “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means - to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal - would bring terrible retributions.

Mark Twain told the story about Aunt Polly’s Fence to give us insight into the soul of Tom Sawyer. In today’s vernacular “whitewashing” glosses over and conceals the faults and fractures of state whose people have demonstrated an aptitude for apathy and complacency. Our nation shall not long survive in the absence of an engaged and involved citizenry that stands ready to speak and hold all levels of government fully accountable.

Questions or comments please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

2018 Primary Voter Turnout

2018 Primary Voter Turnout - July 15, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Tom Hanks doesn’t normally play the bad guy. However, in the 2017 technology thriller named “The Circle” he is definitely the face and brain behind a sinister Silicon Valley company that has the ability to learn and the computer storage to retain way too much information about virtually everyone.

The concept is not far-fetched. For instance, a few months ago I was looking at an iPhone app that would allow users to create digital caricature of themselves to use on line and in text messages, etc. During the process, a button popped up that informed the user that to create the final product, they would be required to accept the terms and conditions of a “user agreement.”

Alarmingly, the lengthy “user agreement” contained in fine print, language that the user was “consenting” to have their keystrokes logged and tracked. While keystroke tracking is of absolutely no benefit to the user, the creator of the app is benefited greatly, even if they had no malicious intent.

In truth and fact, most of us have already been identified, profiled and categorized by a multitude of companies due to the “cookies” that attach to our browsing habits. Case in point, two or three years ago, I checked the online airfare for a round trip to Boston and now a week doesn’t go by that I am notified of “great deals” on a Boston vacation.

So while the theme of “The Circle” was disturbing, one of the “services” that the fictional company offered was that signing up for a Circle account would automatically register the account holder to vote.

As the company’s sinister nature became evident, I was blissfully thankful that here in the good old USA, voter registration is handled by government agencies such as Oklahoma’s State Election Board.

My bliss ended this week; the Republican Governor of Maryland, and its Senate President and Speaker of the House, both Democrats, conducted a hastily called news conference on Friday to announce that a billionaire Russian investor named Vladimir Potanin, had purchased the software vendor, ByteGrid, LLC,  that maintains that state’s voter registration system, candidacy and election management system, as well as its online ballot delivery system and election night return website.

The elected officials issued a bipartisan request for the Maryland Attorney General to investigate and sought assistance from federal officials. Oklahoma and 48 other states should heed this action and at least verify that their election systems are not utilizing this vendor’s software.

In any event, Oklahoma is coming off of a June 26, 2018, primary election that has the pundits baffled. Turnout in the primary was 891,654 which was more than twice the 432,757 voters that cast ballots in Oklahoma’s last gubernatorial primary. The 2018 primary even eclipsed the 2014 general election for governor ballot total of 824,831, by more than 8%.

There is little doubt that the medical marijuana question drove numbers up. One indicator of that is that more than 45,000 voters went to the polls last month and voted on that question only and either left the rest of the ballot blank or didn’t even request a full ballot.

Most analysts also cite the number of candidates who filed and the number of voters who are very frustrated with a decade of educational underfunding as pushing turnout up. Whatever the reason, the greater the number of citizens who vote, the better it is for Oklahoma.

Questions or comments please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

We Hereby Pledge

We Hereby Pledge - July 8, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

The 242nd Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence came and went earlier this month. We all celebrate what we refer to as the “birth of our country” in a variety of ways. What none of us do is take that Declaration as seriously as did the 56 signers who literally risked their lives and their livelihood by placing their signatures on the bottom of the document.

Once again, I beseech you to take the time to read and meditate on what these men said and who they were saying it to.

Contrary to popular belief, the Declaration of Independence was not addressed to King George III, who was the ruling monarch of Great Britain at the time. Neither was it addressed to Lord Frederick North, the 2nd Earl of Guilford, who served as Prime Minister and led Great Britain through most of the American War of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence was not even addressed to Parliament. The colonists had passed that milepost long before July 4, 1776. These patriots boldly declared the new nation’s independence, and the basis upon which that independence was necessary, to what they referred to as “a candid world.” In 21st Century English, the recipients would have likely been termed as “an unbiased world” as the purpose of the document was to convey to the world justifications for their action.

We cannot overemphasize how dangerous the act of signing was. After all, these men were not impoverished. Many of them had become wealthy under the current system and were prosperous. They were lawyers and merchants, physicians and farmers, and at least one printer/scientist by the name of Benjamin Franklin.

Why would 56 men put themselves and their possessions and their families at risk when they were so comfortable in their homes and possessions?

I believe that the answer to that question can be found in the closing words of the document itself. These men believed so strongly in the future of a better life for their neighbors and their children’s neighbors that they took quill in hand and executed a document that we today proudly proclaim as OUR Declaration of Independence.

These men placed their trust in each other and placed the hopes and dreams of their neighbors above their own self-interest. In closing, they wrote, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Today, our country and our state is divided to the core. Too many of us claim to adhere to the same aspirations as these 56 men. How honest is that claim? How long has it been since we as citizens were willing to “pledge to each other” our Lives? Our Fortunes? Our Sacred Honor?

Instead, we allow 24 hour news stations, on both the right and the left, to feed us full of fear and hate and division. In a land of opportunity, we burden young men and women with unsustainable college debt. In a land of equality, our economic system promotes wage inequality. In a land of scientific advancement, the quality of health care (or even its availability) depends on an individual’s financial status.

One can only wonder if those men who signed the Declaration of Independence would have done so if they had been able to foresee the division and disconnect that has become the norm in Oklahoma and our Country. A good starting point would be to renew our “pledge to each other.”

Questions or comments please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

The New Colossus

The New Colossus - July 2, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Hamburgers, hotdogs, homemade ice cream, and lots of time with cousins and the nighttime sky filled with fireworks marked my family’s annual celebration of the Declaration of Independence. The celebration was of not just any declaration. The document that was signed at great peril by 56 men from 13 colonies is formally titled, “In Congress, July 4, 1776, the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.”

Most of us can readily recite the opening lines, “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“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.”

Unfortunately, by the time we finish the first paragraph or two of that document that we claim means so much to us, we lay it aside and become distracted by some lesser obviation. I urge you this year to read further. You will find that it is not calling for freedom from government. In fact, it sought the institution of a government that would reflect the needs of the colonists and pointed out that the British Crown had ignored earlier pleas to address those needs and had hindered and prevented the colonists from enacting their own laws that were “wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

Unanimously, the thirteen states complained that the Crown was “obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither” and “cutting off our trade with all parts of the world.” These and many other abuses compelled these 56 men to have the courage to sign, at great peril, OUR Declaration of Independence.

Therefore, when the people of France, presented a gift, a statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World” to be placed in New York Harbor it was fitting that on the tablet that Lady Liberty held was inscribed the date, July 4, 1776 and it became even more fitting that the memorial to the date of the Declaration of Independence and the beacon torch were located in the harbor only a few hundred yards from Ellis Island where twelve million immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families entered the country between 1892 and 1924.

It was during that era, that a young American poet named Emma Lazarus wrote “The New Colossus.” Emma had been born in New York City into a Jewish family who had lived in New York since long before the American Revolution. As comfortable as her family was, she became aware of struggles of others around the world who were oppressed because of their religion and thus unable to pursue Life, Liberty and Happiness in the countries where they lived.

Some would say that the promises of this country and the new statute and the beacon of hope that they represented gave Emma inspiration as she penned these words, “Here at our sea-washed sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles” and “From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command…Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Some would say that Emma Lazarus communicated America’s Finest Hour, the reason for our Declaration of Independence. 

Questions or comments please call 405-557-7401 or write David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Cats and Dogs

Cats and Dogs - June 24, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

A few weeks ago I ran across a 2002 essay written by Laura Miller called Cat People vs. Dog People. Ms. Miller’s humorous yet pointed message was that dog aficionados have little patience for cat lovers and vice versa.

This concept is based on the premise that dog people are bewildered by anyone who would have affection for an animal that provides little, if any, active entertainment and seem aloof or indifferent to humans. In the dog owners mind, there is a reason that a canine will star in a show like “Lassie” where the main “character” dives into a raging, flood swollen river to “rescue a small child.”

Similarly, contempt is heaped on dog people by cat people who theorize that instinctively and indiscriminately dogs lavish love and obedience on people who are undeserving and it is the dopey eagerness of a canine to please, and not its intelligence, that makes it willing to learn tricks.

The analysis of the antithetical relationship between lovers of cats and lovers of dogs seemed to me to be more of a lack of mutual understanding than an engrained animosity. In fact, it reminded me of the 1992 book by Dr. John Gray, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” Dr. Gray’s book which spent 121 weeks on the bestseller list and was based on the premise that most relational problems between men and women stem from fundamental psychological differences between the sexes.

For instance, men and women are each “engendered” to their own understanding of societal and customary norms. The author’s explanation that each sex is from their own distinct planet would explain the generalized assumption that men want to reach a quick solution to problems while women yearn for a complete discussion of the underlying problem. Similarly, women believe that the most expeditious means to reach a destination is to stop and ask questions while men may prefer to simply drive “aimlessly” with the apparent goal of “finding it.”

One of my most cherished possessions is a 1906 edition of “Washington’s Farewell Address” contained in a volume from Maynard’s English Classic Series. The book belonged to my grandmother and has been passed down to me. The Address was delivered at Congress Hall in Philadelphia and was first printed on September 21, 1796 in the American Daily Advertiser. Often the Address is said to be a condemnation and discouragement of political parties. However, that interpretation does not really capture the gist of George Washington’s message.

The theme of Washington’s letter as he moved from public life to final retirement was “Unity” and while he did address the dangers of what he called “the spirit of party” he acknowledged that it was “inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind” and the manner in which he used “party” was not only political but also geographic, economic and many other potentially divisive elements that were dangerous to the “Unity” that was so essential to the preservation of the Union.

While Washington focused on a number of issues, his message was this: Defend the Union; Capitalize on the Nation’s regional diversity for the benefit of the Nation as a whole; Respect the Constitution and the Power of the People to Alter it; Maintain the Separation of Constitutional Powers; Protect the Public Credit; Beware the Wiles of Foreign Influence; Do Not Compromise American Independence.

Until the 1970’s Congress annually read the Address aloud. If you haven’t, you should. If you have, you might consider a refresher. Perhaps doing so would allow us to see beyond party or gender, or, most importantly, as Americans prevent us from fighting like “cats and dogs.”  

Questions or comments please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

One Dip or Two

One Dip or Two - June 17, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

A venture into Haskell Head’s Pharmacy in the early 1960’s was an amazing experience. Not only did the small storefront have that feeling that it had been there since statehood collecting and retaining all sorts of unique merchandise, it was a dimly lit cavern of curiosity. Items hung from the walls and ceiling and spilled off of tables and shelves into narrow aisles that at one time may have been organized.

Each item had a use, everything was for sale and Mr. Head was one of the kindest and most essential men that I had ever met. Doctors whose offices were often on the second floor of a bank building as well as their patients trusted him to serve up, “just what the doctor ordered” whether it be elixirs, syrups, compounded creams or some other concoction.

Aside from the area where pharmaceuticals were dispensed, the brightest area in the building was the soda fountain where cherry phosphates, crème sodas and strawberry shake were on tap. The most frequent delicacy was a simple hand dipped ice cream cone served up after the obligatory question, “one dip or two?” was followed by “one, please.”

Today, in the arena of private school financing, no one stops at one dip.

For years, wealthy Oklahomans have sought to direct public education tax dollars toward their children’s private school tuition. For years, Oklahoma protected public education tax dollars for public schools. Over the past decade however private school patrons have funded campaigns and legislators who are willing to provide a path toward using tax dollars for private school tuition have been elected.

Thanks to a 2011 law called “Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships” launched in 2013, millions of tax dollars are being redirected to fund the private education of children of parents earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. In its inaugural year, 38 students participated. This past school year that number rose to 2,209 and the income cap has literally been removed.

The double dipping comes in when an individual or corporation donates money to a non-profit Scholarship Granting Organization or SGO. Not only does the donation allow the donor to claim a charitable contribution, they also receive a tax credit of 50% of the amount of the donation. So while the charitable contribution reduces taxable income, the tax credit reduces the amount of income tax due dollar for dollar.

Oklahoma’s anti-public school legislature has made additional tweaks to the law that further exacerbates the misdirection of education funding. The amount of tax credits that could be claimed increased in 2015. Assuming a taxpayer made a $200,000 donation to an SGO, they would receive a tax credit of $100,000 unless they promised to make the same donation for three consecutive years in which case they would receive a $150,000 tax credit for year one and $100,000 in each of years two and three.

Originally, parents could not earn more than $136,530 per year but legislators carved out an exception that disregarded the income eligibility requirements for students living in a public school district designated as “in need of improvement.” Consequently, private school families could financially benefit even when education funding cuts are the cause of a public school’s problems and private school scholarships undermine public education funding.

Perhaps the most egregious component of the plan harming public education is the provision that, “Once a student has received a scholarship, that student and his or her siblings remain eligible until high school graduation.” So regardless of the future performance of the public school or whether private school parents earn millions of dollars per year, public tax dollar financed scholarships will continue to be channeled into the pockets of private school families.

Mr. Head had no elixir for this problem. It can only be solved with an informed and engaged electorate.

Questions or comments, please call or write 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.org.

Home Grown Oligarchy

Home Grown Oligarchy - April 10, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Oligarchy is one of those words that Mr. Michaels taught us in our junior high government class. He told us that is was a government system where power is controlled by a small, often wealthy, percentage of a country’s population. I assumed from his explanation that oligarchies exist in those countries where citizens are not allowed to vote in their best interest.

Kimberly Amadeo, a respected writer, economist and money manager who also frequently appears on the Fox network made a number of poignant remarks about oligarchies earlier this year in an article that appeared in the online magazine, “The Balance.”

Ms. Amadeo pointed out that an oligarchy can occur in any political system. In a democracy, oligarchs are not elected by the people. Instead, they use their relationships and money to influence elected officials. As a result, the advantages gained by oligarchs/elites gives them more influence. Left unchecked the competitive advantages gained foster an organized minority as opposed to an unorganized majority and any system of government will eventually become an oligarchy.

The article says that the benefit of an oligarchy is that the majority of people are allowed to focus on their careers and their hobbies and their family and not be bothered with the issues that concern society as a whole.

However, according to the author, oligarchies increase income inequality because while the majority of people are working to support their families, oligarchs siphon a nation’s wealth into their pockets leaving less for everyone else. As oligarchs gain power, they seek to keep it.

Oligarchies can form when the elite class takes action to exert greater influence over things like tax policy. That action is normally in the form of financial influence to further the goal of the elite without regard to the harm that it may do to society. Slashing tax rates on high income earners or on a specific industry would be an example of this or another example is to lower labor costs by suppressing wages or weakening organized labor.

 They also form when elected leaders are weak or are weakened by policies that benefit the elite. For instance, legislation such as term limits would arguably weaken the legislature and shift power to the elite and their lobbyists.

Finally, oligarchies also arise in democracies where the people are uninformed or misinformed. Elites that control wealth, media and information have the power to manipulate perception. For instance, in Oklahoma, a group called RIED claims to promote economic growth. However, RIED’s Board of Directors is primarily comprised of the same group of business executives who promoted the Step Up Oklahoma Plan (HB1033xx) last fall.

Many, including myself saw the Step Up Plan as regressive and a way to cap oil and gas gross production tax at the nation’s lowest rate and further shift the tax burden from high wage earners to working Oklahomans. It made sense because many of the Step Up Plan promoters had spent the better part of the last quarter century undermining public education in Oklahoma.

So, it came as no surprise when RIED’s annual legislative grade card placed undue weight on the Step Up Plan vote and totally disregarded the passage of HB1010xx, which was the bill that included a greater increase on oil and gas production taxes and a 50% smaller increase in regressive gasoline taxes and a 1/3 smaller tax on cigarettes.

The goal and effect of RIED was to negatively impact legislators who voted NO on the Step Up Plan and YES on the plan that actually put more money into teacher pay, increased funding for textbooks, support personnel and other educational expenses.

It is no surprise that most Americans feel disenfranchised and helpless in influencing their society. Gallup reports that 76% feel dissatisfied with the way things are going right now. Sixty-seven percent are dissatisfied with income distribution and 43% fee that there is not much opportunity to get ahead.

We shouldn’t be surprised that populist protest groups such as the Tea Party have formed. We all share much of the same frustration. The sooner we unite our efforts toward attaining goals that benefit all Americans the sooner we will overcome the division and discord of the oligarchical society that we have become.

Questions or comments, please call or write 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.org.

Feeling Pain in Too Many Places

Feeling Pain in Too Many Places - June 3, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

For those of us who didn’t end up pursuing a career in healthcare or any science related occupation for that matter, our high school physics and biology classes serves to provide us with our basic understanding of how the nature works. Words and phrases like “the coefficient of friction,” “photosynthesis,” “catalyst,” and “stimuli” were all given meaning in science class decades ago.

One of the postulates discussed in a class was that human beings can sense pain from only one body part at a time. We did simple experiments like biting our lips or pinching our legs and the theory did appear to have some merit.

Apparently an episode of House M.D. also explored that idea. The concept has been called “Ukhtomsky’s Doctrine of the Dominant” named after a Russian physiologist in the early 1900’s. Strangely, aside from a pre-Bolshevik era Russian and the fictional Dr. Gregory House, there is very little research about the subject.

It could be that the only practical value of the concept is to explain why some patients do not feel the sensation of say, a bone that was broken during an accident, until the pain of say, a laceration received in the same accident is treated and that pain begins to subside.

Feeling pain in more than one place could also be applied to Oklahoma and its current state of affairs. For instance, during the past legislative session it seemed that all eyes were on the education budget. After all, a decade of cuts to Oklahoma public education had totaled 26.9% and the future of our state’s children was being threatened. Parents, students and concerned citizens from across the state stood firmly with teachers who raised awareness about ten years of legislative neglect and as a result, steps were initiated to at least stop the bleeding.

Frustratingly, without a plan, there is no legislative leadership. Putting out fires is no way to plan for the future. As steps are taken to address K-12 educational needs, other areas of neglect rise to the top. Oklahomans must be pro-active in determining what they want the future of the state to look like.

We say that we want businesses to bring good jobs to our state, but without exception those businesses say they want an educated and healthy work force.

While we have historically funded our Career Tech system, we have fallen woefully short in funding our colleges and universities. Our future is not bright when students are dissuaded from higher education by the bleak outlook of a mountain of college debt.

We say that we want all Oklahomans to have access to quality healthcare, but we suppress health outcomes by refusing to address high uninsured rates and uncompensated care. Consequently, hospitals and ambulance services that must provide care without regard to ability to pay are closing or cutting back on services.

Our tax dollars go to Washington but we refuse to consider allowing working Oklahomans whose employers do not provide health insurance to have a path toward wellness. More than 65% of the other states accept federal funds and are experiencing better outcomes and a stronger medical community.

We shake our heads at the violence in our state and don’t even consider that with Medicaid expansion comes health care that provides, among other things, treatment for mental illnesses that are especially critical in uninsured populations.

Our state’s priorities are reflected in how state funds are spent. I want my children and grandchildren to prosper in Oklahoma. That will only happen if we thoughtfully examine our state’s shortcomings and systematically address its needs. The pain of failing to fund education and health care is readily apparent. A good first step is to treat the problem and eliminate the pain for generations to come.  

Questions or comments please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.