Libraries, Fire Departments, etc.

PERRYMAN PROPOSES “COMMON GOOD” LEGISLATION - December 28, 2012

FOR LIBRARIES, FIRE, AND AMBULANCE PROTECTION

State Representative David Perryman

Last Thursday, December 27, was the deadline for submitting substantive language on the bills that are to be introduced in January for the First Regular Session of the 54th Oklahoma Legislature.  Last week I discussed two education bills that I have been working on and this week I would like to discuss four bills that will provide enabling legislation to allow rural communities, municipalities, school districts and counties to address needs in their particular jurisdictions.

One enabling bill that I am working on will allow a city or a town and the local school district to cooperate to form a library district to serve their entire community.  Currently, libraries may be municipal libraries or county-wide libraries or multi-county libraries.  Very few cities and towns in Oklahoma are financially able to fund their own full-service library and those rural communities located in counties that are not interested in a county-wide library have no statutory means to provide a library service to its citizens.  With this legislation, a school district and a municipality would be able to cooperate and provide their citizens with the option, after a vote of the people, to form a library district.

Another enabling bill that I have submitted will allow small towns to form fire districts.  Unfortunately, many fire departments are underfunded and each passing year, we see a greater need for fire protection.  In the absence of quality fire protection and water infrastructure that will support quality fire protection, we see property and casualty insurance rates skyrocket.

High property insurance rates cost individuals and businesses millions of dollars annually.  This is a hidden tax that can be addressed.  Every home and business in Oklahoma is located within an area that has been rated by the Insurance Service Organization (ISO).  The ISO is a Public Protection Classification based upon a fire department’s equipment, training, personnel, ability to deliver water, distance between fire hydrants and the evaluation of about every other aspect of a fire department.  The “ISO Rating” ranges from 10 to 1 with 1, theoretically, being the best fire protection and 10, theoretically, being the least desirable.

For years, insurance companies used this ISO rating to help establish insurance rates.  Many still do.  Unfortunately, underfunded fire departments and decaying infrastructure negatively impact our ISO ratings.  By allowing these rural communities to form fire districts and providing their citizens the option, after a vote of the people, fire protection will be improved across our state and many will see a decrease in their insurance premiums.

A third enabling bill that I am proposing deals with rural ambulance protection and will ultimately require a vote of the people of the state of Oklahoma to change a constitutional provision.  Currently, rural ambulance districts may be formed by towns or by counties, but are limited in the millage that citizens can vote to fund the ambulances.  Unfortunately, the authorized millage is not sufficient without subsidies from other tax dollars to fund the ambulance service.  As a result, some rural ambulance departments are run by volunteers or by first responders.

My proposal would enable citizens to vote to increase the funding.  To accomplish this, there would be a statewide vote to change the constitution, and if successful, the voters in each individual community would have the option of determining the level to which they would like to fund their ambulance service.

Finally, my fourth enabling bill would give municipalities a greater ability to regulate tobacco use.  Currently, Oklahoma law provides that a municipality can enact ordinances regulating tobacco use, but the regulations must be identical to and not stricter than state law.  This bill will allow local control that is much less influenced by tobacco lobbyists.

I hope that you and your family have enjoyed the holiday season.  Jo and I sure have and would like to announce that we were blessed with our fifth grandchild (four boys and one girl) between Christmas and the New Year.  David Henry Perryman was born on December 26.  He and his mom are doing great.   The one downside is that the 8500 Christmas cards that we mailed this year now have an outdated family photograph!

Thanks for reading this installment of the COMMON GOOD and thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative.  Please email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or call at 405-557-7401 or 405-222-3600 or toll free at 1-800-522-8502.  We would like to wish you a Happy and Safe New Year.