Weekly Column

How to Build a Better Mousetrap

How to Build a Better Mousetrap - May 19, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

Ralph Waldo Emerson, America’s quintessential philosopher, famously said, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.” While Emerson’s philosophical and literary contributions to American society were much broader than this simple quote, the truth found at the core of this mid-19th century Emerson statement embodies at once the American spirit, the American experience and the finite frailty of American exceptionalism.

Nearly a century before Emerson’s observation, according to Rick Atkinson’s new book, “The British Are Coming,” June 1773 saw King George III celebrating his reign over the greatest, richest empire since ancient Rome. Less than two years later, after a series of provocations, the king’s soldiers took up arms against his rebellious colonies in America. Atkinson’s book details that the war would last eight years and though at least one in ten of the Americans who fought for independence would die for that cause, the prize was valuable beyond measure: freedom from oppression and the creation of a new republic.

The concept of a better book, a better sermon and a better mousetrap had been achieved by the new republic. The new government was a shining beacon on a hill and was a celebrated form of government not so much for the individual rights retained as for the manner in which the collective rights of the electorate were served by the balanced powers of three branches of government, each individually existing of, by and for the people.

The transformation from what existed to what exists today was both foreseeable and preventable. Our founding fathers knew that there would be a struggle between the branches of government. The unanticipated factor was the abdication of civic responsibility by the citizenry. Because citizens have shirked their duty to protect their own interests and fail to diligently exercise the power of the people, nefarious influences have energized groups that have no regard for the common good of our nation and the families that inhabit it.

In Oklahoma where tens of thousands lack access to health care, life expectancy rivals third world countries, student college debt is at all-time highs, mental health goes untreated and public education is perpetually underfunded, rural infrastructure and fire protection is virtually ignored, there is a fundamental failure of our government to protect citizens from powerful interests that profit from the perpetuation of these conditions.

Oklahoma’s founding fathers recognized that government could become self-serving and gave us the Initiative Petition. Exercising the right to vote in all elections and the power of Petitioning for Ballot Initiatives is the only way to curb the organized power of corporate interests, the partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts, the suppression of the right to vote, and the dangers of excessive financial influence in campaigns.

Addressing these four issues directly is a step toward restoring a model of a “better mouse trap” that will benefit all of our citizens.

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

Rendering the Lard

Rendering the Lard - May 12, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

One branch in my family tree connects directly to the Ozarks and while most regions of the country have unique sayings that have been passed down through generations, none are more numerous or colorful than those repeated over the decades by residents of the Appalachian and Ozark hill country.

For instance, one could not get much luckier than a farmer who had “cut a fat hog” on butchering day. While today we may believe that swine are killed for ham, bacon, sausage and pork chops, a product that was possibly more essential was the layer of fat that could be rendered into lard and used in cooking for the coming year.

Today, the term “cutting a fat hog” may be used to refer to an unearned windfall that occurs without excess effort and often produces an excessive amount of monetary gain.

Currently, a Bill is laying on the Governor’s desk that may provide such a windfall to lawyers that could be hand-picked by the Oklahoma Department of Insurance. Seldom are windfalls accidental and those that involve government contracts are always suspect. Senate Bill 251 is definitely suspect.

By way of background, Oklahoma and Federal law require that any person who receives Medicare or Medicaid benefits to treat an illness or injury that was caused by an accident or by the wrongful acts of a company or some other person, must repay Medicaid and/or Medicare before they can benefit from a recovery through a lawsuit. For instance, if a person runs a stop sign and injures someone who is on Medicare, the injured person must repay Medicare for the cost of treatment before they are allowed to keep compensation.

In Oklahoma, three or four employees at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority take care of those collections with a part of the recovery reimbursing the federal government and a part reimbursing the state. Those three or four employees have historically been very efficient. Their total salary is around $150,000 per year and last year they collected $8.7 Million. The year before they collected $7.1 Million and just over $8 Million the year before that.

So the cost of the recovery is just a fraction of a percent of the total amount recovered. In what appears to be a “brother-in-law” attempt to channel attorney fees to someone’s campaign contributor, Senate Bill 251 which passed the Senate 32-13 and the House 74-26 in near party line votes will change all that.

Senate Bill 251, now sitting on the Governor’s desk will REQUIRE that 100% of all claims be turned over to outside private legal counsel who will collect the money due the state and federal government on a contingency fee basis. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that lawyers don’t handle contingency fee cases for less than 1% of the amount collected, or even 10 or 15 or 25% of the amount collected.

Oklahoma stands to “give away” millions of dollars annually in the form of attorney fees to one or more law firms chosen by the Oklahoma Department of Insurance. The beneficiaries of those lucrative contingency fee contracts, just like the owners of those fat hogs will be living in “high cotton” where the crops are good and the prices are too.

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

If You Build It They Will Come

If You Build It They Will Come - May 6, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

Kevin Costner was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the 2019 Western Heritage Awards last month in Oklahoma City. Mr. Costner has written, directed, produced or starred in a number of great movies that bring our nation’s history into perspective. Some are favorable portrayals and some, like the subjugation of native peoples in “Dances with Wolves,” portray periods of American history that are not so glorious.

Costner’s accepted the honor by opening his heart and speaking directly to Oklahomans about how genetically he was on track to be an Oklahoman and how that commonality has affected his life. His speech was touching and impacted my life. All Oklahomans should allow it to impact theirs. The speech can be accessed online through a number of sources, including YouTube.

Mr. Costner explained that his father was from the panhandle of Oklahoma. Guymon to be exact. His grandfather, Walter, was one of eleven children. He was a farmer/rancher and was 19 when he married his lifelong sweetheart, Tig, who was only 14. Tig told the story about how Walter worked hard. He sold cattle in a banner year and had in storage 50,000 bushels of wheat. At 11 o’clock one morning Walter went to the bank and took every penny with him. His plan was that even if there was not a good crop of wheat or cattle for the next four years, the family would still be taken care of.

Walter knew the banker. Walter knew the teller. There was no wink, no nod, no whisper: “Don’t do it, Walter.” In perhaps the biggest betrayal that his family has ever been subjected to, an hour later, at 12 noon, that bank closed, never to open its doors again. It was the Great Depression. The 50,000 bushels of wheat spoiled waiting for the price to go up. It never did. The Dust Bowl rolled over a generation.

Costner’s family, along with thousands of others, left with whatever they could carry, to carve out a new life. Costner said that “California wasn’t always very welcoming back then and making a go of it wasn’t easy if you were an Okie.”

Unfortunately, a recent article in the Journal Record reported that, “More people have moved out of Oklahoma in recent years than have moved in from other states, an indication of better job prospects in other parts of the country.” The first half of that sentence is a fact and the last half of the sentence only paints half the picture. Low paying jobs ARE a key factor in the outflow of population but other factors include an underfunded educational system; a lack of access to health care, particularly in rural Oklahoma; public policy that is based on trickle-down economics and an attitude among the state legislature that hinders anyone from success through hard work.

As Oklahoma approaches the 2020 Census, we would normally say that the worst thing that could happen to Oklahoma would be for it to lose another congressional district. Unfortunately, that fear has been displaced by a fear that Oklahoma will continue to block federal health care funds, continue to underfund education and continue to favor wealthy campaign contributors while stepping on the backs of Oklahomans who struggle every day to feed, clothe and educate their families.

Kevin Costner doesn’t just do westerns. He also starred in another one of my favorite films, “Field of Dreams”. It is about love, and family connections, risks and rewards, and includes a little bit about baseball. One of the immortal lines from that movie was, “If You Build It, They Will Come.” When will our state realize that if we allow it to be torn down, they will go.

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

Pig in a Poke

Pig in a Poke - April 28, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

The English colloquialisms “turn out to be a pig in a poke” or “buy a pig in a poke” mean that something is sold or bought without the buyer knowing its true nature or value. The phrase can also be applied to accepting an idea or plan without a full understanding of its basis.

In the middle ages, con artists would often put a dog or a cat in a bag, commonly called a “poke” and sell it as a suckling pig to an unsuspecting customer. This past week, legislators were placed in a similar situation regarding Senate Bill 441.

As you will recall, SB441 originated in the Senate when legislators who had imposed the nations deepest cuts on Oklahoma’s public schools became embarrassed after the national news carried stories about Oklahoma’s four day school weeks and the lack of emphasis that Oklahoma places on public education.

The Bill added no funding to public schools but was a dictatorially arrogant legislative directive that the nearly 100 financially strapped state school districts that had resourcefully found a way to educate students despite draconian cuts, return to a five day per week calendar.

Then things got messy. Apparently fearing that legislators on the Common Education Committee would not vote in favor of a stand-alone directive for five day school weeks, the Speaker of the House sent the Bill to the Rules Committee, twice. The Rules Committee, fearing that the full house would not vote in favor of the mandate, sweetened the pot by adding a section granting every teacher in the state a $1200 per year raise.

What the Speaker and the Rules Committee forgot was that the drafters of Oklahoma’s Constitution foresaw the danger of passing a bad bill by attaching a good bill to it. In Oklahoma that is referred to as violating the constitutional single subject rule and reminds me of the family whose baby was so ugly that they had to tie a piece of bacon around his neck to get the dog to play with him.

Thus, during an evening session last week Senate Bill 441 came to the house floor. Representatives who didn’t want to vote for the unfunded mandate were enticed to hold their noses and vote for a teacher pay raise. Likewise, legislators who did not want to take away from local school boards the ability to tailor class hours, days and school calendars to the best benefit of the local school district were assured by their leadership that rural communities would be forgiving if teacher pay in Oklahoma was increased.

Proponents of Senate Bill 441 also claimed that certain schools might be able to avoid the five day week mandate if they could meet the guidelines of the Oklahoma Department of Education. Frustratingly, the rules and guidelines of the Oklahoma Department of Education have not yet been written. Rural schools across the state were skeptical about the unwritten standards. After all, the future, unknown rules would be written by the same State Department of Education that has been trying to close and consolidate successful and economical rural school districts for years.

As the Bill was debated and examined on the floor, the tension rose. Many legislators expressed concern about their conflicted positions. Finally as the vote was about to be taken, a Motion was made to Divide the Question and to allow the five day school week mandate to be voted on separately from the teacher pay raise. So much for the legislators who had claimed to be conflicted. Scores of legislators voted in the best interest of the Speaker of the House and against the best interest of their local school districts.

When the dust cleared, the Senate Bill passed the house with both subjects intact. The House Amendments have now been returned to the Senate.

Although the President Pro Tem of the Senate has indicated that the House Amendments may violate the Oklahoma Constitution, Oklahoma’s rural school districts are hanging their hats on a hope and a prayer that, if the Governor ultimately signs the SB441, the “pig in a poke” rules drafted on some future date by a hostile State Department of Education will legitimately allow them to justify that until the legislature properly funds public education, four day school weeks are a resourceful, frugal and effective way to educate students in financially strapped districts.

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

Lipstick on a Pig

Lipstick on a Pig - April 21, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

There are a number of phrases and rhetorical statements that may be used to describe the vanity that exists when one wants to exude an image for which there is simply no underlying basis. A British sitcom of the mid 1990’s named “Keeping Up Appearances” captured that idea. In that show, Hyacinth Bucket (which she insisted be pronounced ‘Bouquet’) was a snobbish lower middle class social climber who was forever attempting to prove her social superiority and gain favor with those whom she considered upper class.

A similar concept is captured by the phrase "Keeping up with the Joneses" and the often unsustainable situation where an individual strives at great length to appear to be as affluent as the proverbial well-to-do neighbor.

As a state, Oklahoma is in the midst of a similar personal crisis.

Over the past nine or ten years, the Oklahoma legislature with full cooperation of the state's governors, hundreds of millions of dollars have been cut from the state's K-12 budget. In fact, prior to last year's teacher pay raise, Oklahoma's K-12 education funding had been cut by more than 28%, representing the deepest cuts of any state in the union.

Coupled with those cuts were a number of policy bills that diverted additional dollars from traditional public schools. Those policy bills set up state wide charter schools, education savings accounts, private and charter school scholarships and other voucher like bills that harmed schools across the state by diluting the scarce amount of funds that were not cut.

The natural consequence was that a number of school boards and administrators across the state took immediate steps to make certain that their students remained well educated even in the wake of drastic budget cuts. One of the more common cost saving responses was to change the format of the school week from five days per week to four days per week. Those schools adapted well and recognized fiscal saving while also taking care that academics were not compromised.

Then came the blowback. National media outlets widely publicized Oklahoma's budget cuts and used the four day school week format as clear evidence that Governor Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature did not value education and were satisfied with relegating our state (and its population) to a less than promising future.

So how would Oklahoma's leaders respond?

The answer became abundantly clear when this year's legislation was filed. Instead of properly funding education so that schools could afford to return to five day school weeks or otherwise improve the quality of education available to our youth, legislation filed this year included additional voucher type legislation and tax credits for private school scholarships.

Those bills and others like them further diluted funding that would otherwise be available for public education. Adding insult to injury, in response to bruised pride related to their neglect of education Senate Bill 441 was filed that mandated that all schools return to five day school week.

Some would say that they were just trying to "Keep Up Appearances" but the situation goes much deeper than that. By mandating that schools return to a five day week without properly funding public education and by continuing to dilute the funds available to public education, the legislature that is overly concerned about appearances could be described as putting Lipstick on a Pig to salve their own feelings of inferiority.

Many schools across Oklahoma are seeing the academic, economic, disciplinary and teacher retention benefits of four day school weeks. This is an area where local control and the wisdom of local administrators, parents and school boards should prevail.

This week, SB441 may be heard and possibly sent to the Governor. Proper public school funding and not a thick layer of lipstick should be the legislature's response.

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

Ring Around the Rosie

Ring Around the Rosie - April 14, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

Ring around the rosie, Pockets full of posies; Atischoo, atischoo, We all fall down. For generations, this simple rhyme has been heard on playgrounds across the country. In reality, it is a grim reminder of disease and death of the great European plagues that resulted from poor hygiene, widespread unsanitary conditions and concentrated populations of people that were overrun with disease carrying rodents and vermin.

Over the past hundred years, great strides have been made in the reduction of these causal factors. Concurrently, medical research has generated thousands of vaccines that have allowed millions of people, young and old, to avoid the often deadly and debilitating effects of disease.

Many of those diseases have been effectively eliminated particularly in the United States where childhood vaccination is the choice of most parents. From a global perspective, the results are promising has not yet been achieved. For instance, according to the World Health Organization, the 1988 adoption of a Resolution by the 41st World Health Assembly called for the worldwide eradication of polio. Groups like Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recognized that the 350,000 cases reported in 125 countries in 1988 was unacceptable. The focus and resources provided by those groups and others have reduced the worldwide incidence of new polio cases to only 33 in 2018.

The miracle of vaccination does not end with polio. However, eradication of polio and many other diseases requires attention, focus and most importantly vaccination. When experts speak in terms of eradication, they understand that as long as a single child remains infected, anywhere in the world, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease. This is particularly true in an increasingly mobile society.

Currently, the United States is facing a nationwide measles epidemic. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus may remain airborne for up to 2 hours in a room after the person with measles has left an indoor area. While measles is generally viewed as a childhood disease, according to the Oklahoma Department of Health it can lead to pneumonia and other complications, especially in young children and adults over 20. The disease can also cause serious problems in pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. According to the Center for Disease Control, measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.

In today’s edition of the Oklahoman, readers were informed that there had been 465 confirmed cases of measles in 19 states. As of today, that number had increased to 555 cases in 20 states. Those 90 additional confirmed cases represent an increase of nearly 20% during the time required for news to be printed. That is the classic definition of an “epidemic.”

Measles vaccines are readily available. Each year in other parts of the world, measles kills 90,000 people and is the leading cause of death of children under age 5. It can happen here if we let our guard down. Those who refuse to immunize place not only their children at risk but also the children of their friends and neighbors and women who are infected during their first trimester of pregnancy have up to a 90% chance of delivering an infant with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).

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

A Well Rounded Education

A Well Rounded Education - April 7, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

                There are three principles regarding the role of government in American society that overwhelmingly occupy the majority of our time and resources. Those, in no particular order, are defense, poverty and public education.

                Of course defense is addressed by the men and women who serve our state and country and the military contracts that our federal government let for our national safety.

                Since the 1930’s, Social Security has been in place to prevent an elderly or disabled population from retiring into abject impoverishment. Later, in the 1960’s Medicare was added as a part of the social safety net to improve the quality of life of America’s retirees.

Public Education on the other hand has seen a much longer and more beleaguered existence. As early as 1647, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts mandated that every Township provide a trained teacher and grammar school at taxpayer expense. The concept grew quickly in the northeastern United States and more slowly in the South.

Public education had become the American norm by the time that Oklahoma was admitted to statehood but that had not eliminated opposition based on objections that have existed for centuries.

Those objections revolve around two main factors: 1) use of public funds; and 2) control of curriculum and continue to resurface.

House Bill 1017 was a landmark education funding and reform bill that was championed by Governor Henry Bellmon and passed with broad bipartisan support in 1990. The legislation reduced class size, increased minimum teacher salaries, established alternative teacher certification, funding equity, early childhood programs, statewide curriculum and testing standards.

 Immediately, opponents of public education reform initiated a petition and were able to get State Question 639 on the ballot. Fortunately, by a 46-54 percent vote, the effort to repeal HB1017 was defeated.

Last year, after 12 years of funding neglect, education in Oklahoma had reached a point that it could no longer meet the needs of Oklahoma children. As a result, Oklahoma was suffering socially and economically. Teachers, parents and interested citizens came to the State Capitol to demand that proper resources were devoted to education in Oklahoma.

Citizens, including teachers, exercised a fundamental constitutional right enumerated in both the Article 2, Section 3 of the Oklahoma Constitution and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Oklahoma’s version says, “The people have the right peaceably to assemble for their own good, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances by petition, address, or remonstrance.” Likewise, the national version says, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,…or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

A number of lawmakers did not like being held accountable to their constituents and others who demanded proper education funding. As a result, bills were filed to prevent teachers from coming to the capitol during session. Some political groups are even now threatening to penalize educators and supporters of education by fining the school districts where they are employed or associated.

Many students from across the state saw concerned citizens peaceably assemble at the state capitol in support of education and will ultimately benefit from additional appropriations. It was not enough and more is needed, but those teachers and those parents provided an excellent example of democracy in action. It would seem that by exercising constitutional principles and constitutional rights, both students and legislators learned a lesson. Perhaps a lesson that will need to be repeated. That is a “Well Rounded Education.”

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

Pharmaceutical Phairness

Pharmaceutical Phairness - March 31, 2019

State Representative David Perryman 

In 2017 there were approximately 464 independent community pharmacies in Oklahoma. Today there are fewer. I know that because one community in the rural house district that I represent lost its pharmacy last year. There were six and there are now five. That represents a decrease of over 16% in one house district alone.

Some would say that businesses closing in rural Oklahoma are simply a way of life and a sign of the times. However, when a country drug store that has existed for generations as one of the primary businesses in a community closes, the severity of the impact on the town begs answers as to why.

Whether a drug store sells gifts, dry-goods, or any of a miscellany of non-pharmaceuticals or even if it houses a fountain or snack bar, the driving force behind its existence and the primary generator of foot traffic is the filling of prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals.

Of course, this is America and our economic system is based on concepts of supply and demand and theoretically based on the premise that well managed businesses that compete in the marketplace will succeed while others will fall by the wayside.

However, underlying those concepts are assumptions of fairness and equality. That is, an assumption that retailers have access to wholesale markets, pricing structures and incentives that are non-discriminatory and do not undermine a retailers ability to compete.

For years, Oklahoma’s community pharmacists have sought more transparency in the wholesale price that they pay and the reimbursements that they receive. While this is a problem that is limited to Oklahoma retailers, Oklahoma’s elected officials, including the legislature, the governor and the state’s Insurance Commissioners have failed to level the playing field, to the detriment of locally owned pharmacies.

As a result, the cost of medications for both small town Oklahoma pharmacies and the citizens they serve continues to skyrocket as out-of-state Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) corporations make multibillion dollar profits. PBM corporations continue to squeeze local pharmacies by inequitable drug pricing and a reimbursement process that favors certain large pharmacy chains often owned by the same parent corporation as the PBM itself.

Each time an attempt is made to require the mega-corporations to allow local pharmacies to purchase products at the same price as the favored corporate drug retailers, the PBM’s and their lobbyists threaten that the action will make drug prices skyrocket. Newsflash….inaction has not resulted in any price decreases.

PBMs’ continue to alter pharmacy contract terms, suppress reimbursement rates to community pharmacies and continuously redefine what pricing benchmarks are utilized to reimburse pharmacies for their services. This session Oklahoma community pharmacists are back at the state Capitol respectfully requesting support for HB2632 and SB841. These bills takes needed steps to ensure a transparent and sustainable medication delivery system that is not tilted in favor of mega-corporations and against our local pharmacies.

Time and again these out-of-state PBMs oppose small business-friendly legislation in Oklahoma, with their claims that any transparency will result in cost increases to the system. When these baseless scare tactics prove to be successful the only result is that Oklahoma small businesses make less, the cost of medication for patients increases, yet the PBMs continue to record multi-billion dollar profits.

The result is invariably the closing of community pharmacies that are essential to Oklahoma’s economy. When the playing field is level, community pharmacies and their excellent customer service with a personal touch results in Pharmaceutical Phairness, stores stay open and Oklahomans win. 

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

The Ethic of Reciprocity

The Ethic of Reciprocity - March 24, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

                The Ethic of Reciprocity is found in nearly every world religion and philosophical tradition or dispensation. Bahá'í Faith: Choose for your neighbor what you would choose for yourself. Jewish Faith: (The Talmud) – What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. Buddhist Faith: Hurt no others with that which pains yourself.  Muslim Faith: You are not a believer until you desire for your brother what you desire for yourself.

The list goes on. Hindu Faith: One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire. Analects of Confucius: Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire. Isocrates: Do not do unto others what angers you if done to you by others.

Christianity’s version is: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Of course you recognize this Ethic of Reciprocity as The Golden Rule.

Unfortunately, those in charge at the Oklahoma Capitol have ascribed a different meaning to “The Golden Rule.” The state government version is more similar to that espoused in a May 1965 “Wizard of Id” comic strip where the king declares: “REMEMBER THE GOLDEN RULE!” and a peasant responds: “WHAT THE HECK IS THE GOLDEN RULE?” and a musician replies: “WHOEVER HAS THE GOLD MAKES THE RULES.”

Most all Oklahomans are aware that several decades ago Oil and Gas Exploration companies were able to convince Oklahoma Courts that the mineral estate was the dominant estate and the surface estate was the subservient estate. This “profit a prendre” determination gave mineral owners the absolute right to use so much of the surface as is necessary to produce the minerals.

While there were basically no regulatory limitations on oil and gas exploration in rural areas, municipalities for more than 8 decades were able to protect people and property from encroachment by establishing setbacks, requiring surety bonds to cover damages to homes, businesses, water sources and roads, and regulating other nuisances caused by oil and gas operations.

In 2015, in the face of increases in the number and severity of earthquakes and the introduction of hundreds of millions of gallons of Oklahoma’s valuable fresh water into the drilling process, “he that had the gold” undertook to convince the legislature that the 80 year old rule was too burdensome. As a result, a new “golden rule” was established in the form of 52 O.S. Section 137.1 requiring that any municipal rule, except for an undefined “reasonable setback and fencing” requirement had to be “consistent” with the rules of the Corporation Commission and moved all such regulations away from cities, towns, counties to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Not only did this move undermine the ability of municipalities to protect its citizens and their property, it firmly solidified the jurisdiction of the Corporation Commission, historically the favorite lapdog of the oil and gas industry, and pre-empted local control on most issues.

Now, it seems that the oil and gas industry wants to totally extinguish the ability of local government to have any say in protecting houses, businesses and other property values. The current legislation, HB2150, would require municipalities and counties to compensate oil and gas business interests for any regulation or restriction that may limit oil and gas operations, even if the restrictions are intended to benefit the health and safety of the community.

The bill will punish cities, towns and communities for trying to protect citizens from pollution and is an attempt to scare municipalities away from passing any ordinance that might impact oil and gas. HB2150 is an overreach of state authority over local city and county governments and is further evidence that “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”

Thanks for allowing me to serve. If you have any questions or comments, please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

Knowing When No Means No

Knowing When No Means No - March 17, 2019

State Representative David Perryman 

                What do low self-esteem, depression, mental health and a high teen pregnancy rate have in common? If your answer was Oklahoma, you are eons ahead of 56 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

                That is the number of men and women who last week voted against House Bill 1007, which would have given Oklahoma public schools the option to teach age-appropriate consent and healthy relationship education. Who would not want their children and grandchildren, and more importantly, the FRIENDS and potential acquaintances of their children and grandchildren, to understand what is and what is not consent, and what is and what is not a healthy relationship.

                As the author, Jacob Rosecrants, a Norman Democrat explained the legislation, there were attempts to derail passage by the eight or so legislators who were vocal in their opposition to the Bill and who refused to see that the Bill was not a liberal, backdoor attempt to introduce “sex education” into the classroom.

                At one point, another legislator who favored the Bill attempted to explain that teaching young people to have the self-esteem to “say no” and teaching them to respect that lack of consent would likely reduce the incidence of unhealthy relationships and teen sexual activity. He went on to say that he believed that consent and healthy relationship education in the past might have reduced the high number of legislators who may have engaged in a sexual relationship before or outside of marriage. In response, one of the legislators who opposed the Bill complained to the Speaker of the House that he had been “disparaged.”

Nancy Schimelpfenning, a free-lance author writing in September 2018 in the online publication, A Very Well Mind, stated that more often than not, teens do not have the needed maturity to deal with the risks and responsibilities associated with sex. And when they turn to risky sexual behavior to cope with their feelings of depression and inadequacy, it can create many life-altering situations for them, such as pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, and parenthood.

Even though the Bill as voted on allowed a parent to opt their child out of the curriculum, there was opposition from vocal legislators who want their children to learn about self-esteem, healthy relationships, boundaries and interpreting consent from their family or from their church. They were not convinced however, that passage of the proposal could make a positive impact on the lives of students who do not receive that message from their family or a church.

According to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention webpage of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the reality is that the Oklahoma Teen Pregnancy Rate (29.7 per 1000 females) is 36.7% higher than the national average of 18.8 per 1000 teen females and is closely linked to critical social issues such as poverty, educational attainment, and increased health care costs. More than 40% of teen moms live in poverty within the first year of giving birth; by the time the child is three, the figure increases to 50%.

 Nearly 64% of Oklahoma teens that gave birth in 2012-2013 said that their pregnancy was unintended, while another 21% were not sure if they wanted a baby later, sooner, then, or at all.

More than once, the word “abstention” was mentioned by those who opposed the Bill. What better way for a young person to protect their right to abstain by instilling in him or her the self-esteem to take that stand and by instilling in his or her friends the knowledge of when he or she is or is not consenting.

Thanks for allowing me to serve. If you have any questions or comments, please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

The Best Government Contains Checks and Balances

The Best Government Contains Checks and Balances - March 10, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

In 1907 the People of the State of Oklahoma chose to establish a form of state government in which directors of agencies were chosen to run those agencies based on qualifications. To accomplish this task, agency board members were likewise appointed based on knowledge, experience and qualifications.

Like most early 20th Century Americans, Oklahomans did not trust partisan, oligarchical attitudes prevalent in the spoils systems of the era that favored rich and privileged patrons who flourished under those conditions. Consequently, most states moved toward longer ballots and states such as Oklahoma that came into being in that period had both long ballots and weak governors.

In the heavily Democratic Sooner State, Republican Territorial Governors who had been appointed by Republican Presidents were suspect, in large part because of interparty GOP strife brought on by scandals, most notably in 1901 during the controversy over the mental sanitarium at Norman under a contract with the territorial government. According to an article by Kenny Brown in the Oklahoma Historical Society Encyclopedia, several party members had shares in the company.

Mr. Brown reported that President Theodore Roosevelt dismissed Republican Governor William Jenkins for his suspected role, but then appointed a couple of other Republican Territorial Governors in quick succession, including one of whom was Frank Frantz, a long-time friend of the President who had also served as a Rough Rider under Roosevelt.

Fast forward 112 years and now a movement is underway to shift power to Oklahoma’s Governor. Proponents say that agency directors are not responsive to the Governor and consequently the Governor needs the statutory authority to appoint and remove board members without regard to their qualifications or expertise. Coupled with that power will be the power to appoint and remove agency directors transforming those positions into purely patronage at-will jobs serving at the pleasure of the Governor.

Last week HB2479 (Juvenile Affairs); HB2480 (Corrections); and HB2483 (Mental Health and Substance Abuse) were heard on the floor of the House of Representatives and passed by large margins along party lines. Last week also saw the passage of HB1201 amending the procedure for Agency Rules to be adopted.

Coming down the pike on the House calendar are bills having a similar impact on the Fire Marshall Commission (HB1108); Health Care Authority (HB2481); and Department of Transportation (HB2482). The Senate Calendar also contains measures of like intent.

Shifting the power to and from a chief executive is nothing new and is frequently attempted for partisan purposes. Partisan power shifts are directly contrary to the “Rule of Law” that both parties like to espouse. But alarmingly, that is exactly what is happening in a number of states. In December in Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker signed several bills that were passed by Wisconsin’s GOP-controlled legislature designed to cure the power of incoming Democratic governor Tony Evers. Likewise, in Michigan, in the wake of the election of Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer, Republicans took steps to shift power away from the new chief executive.

Last June, the Charlotte Observer reported that the Republican legislature in North Carolina was actively trying to remove statutory power and authority from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Fortunately, in North Carolina former governors, both Republican and Democratic are speaking out about the dangers of the blatant power grab. Who will speak out in Oklahoma?

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

117 Years of Daily Influence

117 Years of Daily Influence - March 3, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

Old traditions die hard. Four of my great-grandparents brought their children to western Oklahoma before statehood but for the rest of their lives they remained faithful readers of the newspapers of their youth. In fact, for three generations after Ed and Ethel Horton left Kansas, that state’s “Capper’s Weekly” was a regular family read. Likewise, Judson and Florence Hull continued to receive the “Churubusco Truth” for decades after they moved from Indiana.

Eventually, local news came through the “Carnegie Herald” but they relied on the “Daily Oklahoman” for state and national information. The Daily was delivered by rural mail carrier on Monday through Saturday and for a period dropped by plane into the yard of their farmhouse on Sunday mornings. For more than seven decades after 1902, Edward King Gaylord used the editorial page of the Daily Oklahoman to preach an ultra-conservative agenda, often spilling those opinions over onto the front page of the publication and Gaylord’s opinions were not limited to Oklahoma issues.

In the wake of the Great Depression, as President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Bill to address the abject poverty of millions of elderly Americans, conservative Republican E. K. Gaylord relentlessly fought the proposal. In an August 16, 1935 editorial titled, “Nothing Bad Omitted” Gaylord called FDR’s Social Security an “adventure into Utopia” and said, “The most undesirable citizen Oklahoma ever knew will be made a pensioner along with the most worth citizen Oklahoma ever new. It opens the door to all people who may attain to a certain age and makes to all of them a downright donation from the state treasury without any regard to their past habits or deserts.”

A quarter of a century later, the day after day effects of those editorials, led Robert S. Kerr, Oklahoma’s most powerful United States Senator, confided in Frosty Troy who was then the Washington bureau chief for the “Tulsa Tribune” and later the founding editor of the “Oklahoma Observer,” that the Daily Oklahoman was a primary factor in his prediction that Oklahoma would one day be a Republican state.

Just a few years after that prediction, President Lyndon Johnson was seeking a way for millions of elderly Americans to gain access to health care. In response to LBJ’s Medicare Bill for Americans over age 65, Gaylord used the August 1, 1965 edition of the Daily Oklahoman to issue an editorial named “After 20 Years of Creeping” decrying what he referred to as Fabian Socialism. The opinion piece argued that 9% of the  country’s population was over the age of 65 and allowing those 19 Million Americans access to health care would result in a 10 to 40% increase in that population seeking care for previously untreated health issues.

The editor prognosticated that the health care sought by these previously uninsured seniors would place such a burden on medical and hospital facilities that there would not be enough to go around. In short, the editorialist's fear was that since America’s elderly were already occupying about 27% of the nation’s hospital beds, expanding access to medical care for impoverished elderly “have nots” would jeopardize health care for the privileged “haves.”

The irony of it all was that the Daily Oklahoman editors rarely discussed solutions addressing the impoverishment of the elderly or their lack of access to health care and through the years seldom did more than naysay on issues  relating to public education, employee rights, college debt, the environment or any of hundreds of other issues facing middle and lower class working Oklahomans.

Not many were alarmed in 2008, when the Oklahoman downsized from a statewide newspaper or in 2018, when it announced that only a few communities in central Oklahoma would be eligible for home delivery of that newspaper, but this week in a surprising announcement tucked away on Page A17 of the Sunday, March 3, 2019 edition of the Oklahoman, readers were informed that beginning March 4, the paper would publish Opinion pieces only four days per week and op-ed pages on only two of those days.

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

Training? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Training

Training? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Training - February 24, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

The classic 1948 John Huston film, Treasure of the Sierra Madre stands at No. 30 on the American Film Institute’s all-time best movie list. It is an iconic adaption of the B. Travens novel of the same name. True to Travens’ form, the plot examines “oppressed and exploited” characters whose life experiences have left them with few options.

Perhaps the most enduring line from the film came when Fred Dobbs (played by Humphrey Bogart) had been confronted by Gold Hat (played by Alfonso Bedoya) and his Mexican outlaw gang who were pretending to be Federales. When Dobbs questioned the gang’s authority and demanded to see their badges, Gold Hat’s famous response was, “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!” Despite misquotes and paraphrases over the past 71 years, the message remains identifiable, constant and clear.

A couple of Bills currently pending in the Oklahoma legislature bring the quote home. House Bill 2597 and Senate Bill 12 have been drafted to repeal the law that requires permits, and more importantly, training for handgun possession.

When questioned, proponents of the Bills claim that the right of all citizens of the United States is a Constitutional Right embodied in the Bill of Rights as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. They claim that any conditions imposed on citizens are an infringement of that right. Despite that position, most Oklahomans believe that permits and training are necessary. In fact, a poll of Oklahomans taken in March 2018 finds that Oklahomans overwhelmingly support the state’s current training and permitting laws.

The poll conducted by Survey USA shows that 89% of Oklahomans want our current firearm training and permitting and background check laws to continue in effect while only 8% want to remove those requirements. When asked whether the law should be changed to allow persons without permits to carry weapons in public, 81% said “No,” while only 15% said “Yes.”

The survey also asked if the respondent would be more likely or less likely to vote for a legislative candidate who supported removing the state’s gun permit requirement. In response, 68% said that they would be less likely to vote for that candidate while only 12% said that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate that supported eliminating the requirement of a permit for carrying a gun in public places.

Despite these numbers, when HB 2597 was presented on the House Floor on February 13, 2019, 70 of the 76 Republican members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to allow guns to be carried in public by individuals who have had no background check, no training and no permits.

The dichotomy becomes even more remarkable when a review of the website of the National Rifle Association clearly promotes firearm training, to “Take charge of your family’s safety and get the basic knowledge and skills to safely handle or store firearms and ammunition in the home” and to instill the “techniques needed to develop a defensive mindset” with a goal of developing “the knowledge, skills and attitude necessary to carry and use a concealed pistol ethically, responsibly and with confidence.”

So why would a legislator totally disregard the wishes of an overwhelming super majority of Oklahoma citizens? The answer is simple, the 8% who want to remove training and permitting requirements and the 12% who would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported eliminating those requirements represent the base of those 70 members. Even though the base is relatively small, they are reliable and with a re-election in the balance, more often than not, they are the difference between winning and losing.

Until voters truly become concerned about firearm safety and proper training, the echo through the Capitol Rotunda will be, “Training? We don’t need no stinkin’ training.”

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

King Oil

King Oil - February 17, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

Prior to Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1792, processing cotton had been a low-profit, labor-intensive drag on the agriculture industry of the American South. In fact, most early Americans believed (and many hoped) that rock bottom cotton prices would never sustain the long term viability of the “peculiar institution” of slavery and that the immorality would eventually be swept away.

Instead, the efficiency of the cotton gin spurred an immediate and unimaginable demand for raw cotton. Skyrocketing prices made Cotton King and for generations, slavery and the southern economy were inextricably intertwined. King Cotton became the foundation of the southern economy, southern culture and southern pride.

The world had never seen an industry that was so wealthy, so pervasive and so overwhelmingly controlling as King Cotton. No other industry of like power appeared until the rise of King Oil a hundred years later. Wielding massive amounts of financial, cultural and political influence, King Oil was allowed to dictate the terms of its own existence. Nowhere has a government been more capitulating than Oklahoma where legislators have drank deeply from the well of oil and gas campaign contributions.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission had no general authority over the industry until 1915 when the commission began hearing cases that dealt with the protection of mineral owners, production companies and affected citizens. That protection within municipalities was largely left to the police power of the local governments themselves. In 1935 the Oklahoma legislature adopted Section 137 to the Oil and Gas Code making it abundantly clear that cities and towns possessed the authority to protect its waters, its residents, its roads and bridges and the property of its citizens from the effects of oil and gas production.

For eight decades the oil and gas industry complied with zoning regulations and setbacks. Through the years, municipalities were allowed to protect their resources from pollution; their citizens from harm and their roads from ruination.

As the industry experienced huge profits and made big campaign contributions, political influence ballooned. In 2015, nearly 80 years to the day after the 1935 Oklahoma legislature had affirmed the power of municipalities to protect citizens, lawmakers abruptly reversed course. The oil and gas industry called its chit. Legislators whose campaign accounts burgeoned with oil and gas cash dutifully obliged with the passage of SB 809, repealing Section 137 and adopting in its place a diametrically opposed Section 137.1 that basically stripped municipalities of their regulatory authority and placed most oil and gas activities under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Corporation Commission.

Cities and counties striving to protect residents by imposing setbacks of wells from homes or fracking noise ordinances or regulate the round the clock flaring of natural gas in close proximity to houses, businesses and other structures, were either sued or threatened with suit. One county that attempted to protect drainage in its ditches, culverts and bridges was sued in the Supreme Court and forced to repeal its regulations.

This session, those same legislators, who four years ago put the interests of oil companies ahead of the people of our state, have been joined by several new faces and are in the process of working HB 2150 through the legislature. This Bill will adopt a Section 137.2 aimed at blocking municipalities from enacting  Ordinances or Resolutions to protect citizens or property rights if the effect of the regulation would “make it more difficult” for the oil and gas to be produced. No matter that the intent of the municipality is to protect things like roads and bridges.

While this will be advertised as a “mineral owners rights bill,” the true benefit will inure to the “King Oil” corporations who own a growing percentage of Oklahoma’s minerals. Unfortunately, campaign contributions from oil companies will once again influence more votes than will what is right or what is best for the citizens of Oklahoma.

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

With Friends Like These

With Friends Like These - February 10, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Warren G. Harding, America’s 29th President once famously said, “I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends…they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights.”

President Harding himself an Ohio Republican, kept less than scrupulous friends. A tight circle of his “friends” were called the “Ohio Gang.” Among the group was Harding’s Attorney General, Harry Daugherty. Daugherty ended up as a joint owner of a bank account after he helped free up some frozen assets that had belonged to a German company at the end of World War I. The kickback was approximately one-tenth of the more than $500,000 that members of the Ohio Gang received in payoffs.

Charles Forbes, another Harding friend, became the first director of the Veterans Bureau. Forbes had helped Harding attain the White House by use of the motto, “Return to Normalcy.” In the less than two years that Forbes held the position, he embezzled approximately $2 million, mainly in connection with the building of veterans' hospitals, from selling hospital supplies intended for the bureau, and from kickbacks from contractors.

A residence at 1625 K Street in Washington D.C. was the unofficial headquarters of the Ohio Gang. So sinister and pervasive were the activities of the men who routinely met there, the moniker, “Little Green House on K Street” entered the American lexicon symbolizing political corruption. The group meeting at the green house devised the “Teapot Dome Scandal.” Teapot Dome involved the transfer and no-bid leasing of military oil reserves and resulted in Harding’s Secretary of the Interior receiving no interest loans in addition to gifts that today would be valued at between $5 and 6 Million Dollars.

Although no collusion was ever proven between Harding and his friends, Warren Gamaliel Harding passed at age 57 after having served only 2 years, 4 months and 29 days. Perhaps President Harding’s demise was due in part to walking the floor at night contemplating the activity of his “friends.”

This past November, Oklahomans elected a number of legislators who claim to support public education. The bills they are filing are betraying their claim of affection. On its face, SB360 purports to help children whose parents are incarcerated. What it really does is attempt to channel money away from public education instead of properly funding strong public schools, social supports and criminal justice reform. Likewise, SB570 purports to protect children who have experienced bullying. It too takes money out of public schools and puts it in private schools where, I guess, no bullying ever exists.

These “Friends of Public Education” have put forth SB14, disguised as a bill protecting teachers but instead, disregards Oklahoma’s science curriculum and allows “scientific information” that isn’t scientific fact to be taught. It is not the teachers who seek to depart from teaching science and teachers around the country consistently oppose legislation of this type. Also, SB592 hampers the ability of any group to peaceably assemble at the Capitol by requiring a $50,000 bond.

Not to be outdone, one member of the House filed HB2214 to make it illegal for teachers to repeat the walkout of 2018 and just last week House leadership had hallway barriers installed on the fourth floor to keep pesky citizens like teachers, parents and students from getting too close to their offices.

Just like President Harding, Oklahoma public school teachers are realizing, “With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?”

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

Angels in the Outfield

Angels in the Out Fields - February 3, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

The 1994 film, Angels in the Outfield featured Danny Glover, Tony Danza and Chistopher Lloyd in a family sports fantasy that provided the answer to a young boy’s prayer and along the way engaged the services of a group of angels who helped the California Angels win a pennant and gave him the family that he had so desperately longed for.

I was reminded of that storyline this weekend during a Super Bowl commercial. The ad was for a wireless phone company but it was centered around Major League Football coach Anthony Lynn who had been asked to give a motivational talk to a group of First Responders. As he spoke to the Police Officers, Paramedics and Firefighters who had been gathered, he confessed to them that fourteen years earlier he had nearly died when he was hit by a speeding car as he walked across a street.

Unknown to Coach Lynn, several of the men and women who had responded to his 2005 accident had been assembled in the group to which he was speaking. For the first time since he was injured, he and those who had rendered aid to him were reunited. The emotional coach told the First Responders that he had been told that angels had helped him survive. He surmised through tears that these men and women were indeed those angels.

Across Oklahoma’s 77 counties there are a lot of “out fields.” We call them rural communities and long stretches of highways that at a moment’s notice may need first responders, paramedics and other emergency personnel. The people who need those “angels” are not just the citizens of rural Oklahoma. Visitors to rural Oklahoma hail from all corners of the state and nation as they engage in recreational activities, enjoy nature and attend hundreds of festivals, fairs and other events that represent the true history and heritage of our great state.

While there has been much news coverage about hospitals and emergency rooms closing across the state, the rate of insolvency and closure of Oklahoma’s ambulance services exceeds that of Oklahoma hospitals. More than 50 rural Oklahoma ambulance services shut down between 2003 and 2015 and the rate of closure has not slowed. When an ambulance service closes, that simply means that the territory becomes absorbed in the next closest service. Consequently, distances between ambulance services increase. When Oklahoma ambulance services suffer, so do the people who need them. It is no wonder that life expectancies in some rural communities are as much as 20 years shorter than life expectancies in more urban areas.

A May 11, 2018 Policy Brief by the National Rural Health Association provided the most concise illustration on the challenges facing EMS Services in rural America. 1) The cost per transport is higher in rural areas because the base costs of “maintaining readiness” are sunk costs. 2) With lower volumes there is less of a funding stream to offset costs. 3) Reimbursement rates by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance are often based on call volume and therefore, in a vicious cycle, studies have shown that over 60% of rural EMS providers rely on volunteers for EMT-Intermediate or EMT-Paramedic staffing and over 70% report having difficulty in recruiting volunteers.

The statistic that is most injurious to rural emergency medical services is the demographic of rural Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s rural population is older, poorer and less healthy than urban Oklahoma. Therefore, when an ambulance call is made in rural Oklahoma, it is less likely that the patient is privately insured or can afford to pay for the services rendered. That “uncompensated care” is often the straw that breaks the back of a rural ambulance service.

There is a solution. If Governor Stitt, in some form or fashion, would accept federal Medicaid funds, $2.3 Million PER DAY would go to Oklahoma hospitals and ambulance services, thus preventing hundreds of Oklahoma EMTs, nurses and medical personnel from losing their jobs. It would not only sustain medical care in rural areas but also roll those dollars many times over through Oklahoma’s economy.

Rural Oklahoma is important to our state and residents and visitors there need “angels” just as urgently as do urban areas.

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

The Value of an Employee

The Value of an Employee - January 27, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

Retail entrepreneurs have coined enduring mottos designed to invigorate the people who work for them. For instance, Marshall Field was famous for directing his employees to “Give the lady what she wants” and reminding them that “The Customer is Always Right.” What Mr. Fields and thousands of other successful CEO’s knew was that while the “Customer was King,” the men and women that he employed were the most important asset that he had.

Richard Branson, British entrepreneur, who founded the more than 400 companies comprising the Virgin Group and whose net worth exceeds $5 Billion, best captured the concept when he said, “Clients do not come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” This theme was not just British. For generations, the “partnership” between American business and its employees was strong and vibrant. The successful business model created “company men” and “company women” who in return for the security of employment and its benefits would contribute a lifetime of loyalty to their jobs.

Change came gradual. Whatever the reason, this era of massive pay gaps between executive salaries and other company employees is indicative of corporate America’s devaluation of its employees.

            According to a January 2018 report from the Economic Policy Institute, the average CEO pay is 271 times the average pay of the typical American worker. The Institute compares that with 1978, when CEO earnings were roughly 30 times the typical worker’s salary.

            Forbes Magazine in May 2018 reported that if we have any doubts about the disappearance of the American middle class, we need look no further than this pay-gap. That report stated that, “In the 1950’s, a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of his or her average worker and in 2017 CEO pay soared to an average of 361 times more than the average rank-and-file worker pay.”

            According to Al Lewis of Market Watch, frustration is heightened through our realization that when a business goes bankrupt, receives taxpayer bailouts or pay millions in fines for fraud, the average golden parachute for “forced out CEO’s” in 2013 was valued at $48 Million, while average employees are left in the cold.

The economic damage does not stop there. In increasing quantities, corporate assets are allocated to lobbying and legislative influencing through an embedded process that undermines pensions, workers compensation and other special benefits that have historically provided retirees and disabled workers with a safety net to prevent them from retiring into poverty or having to rely on welfare after their bodies become worn out or injured in the service to their employers.

            For instance, even though cases of black lung disease among miners was on the rise last year, a report in Roll Call published last week shows that coal companies and coal industry groups actively lobbied federal lawmakers against extending a program that has historically provided benefits for sufferers and their families. According to mandatory financial disclosures, the coal lobby spends between $1.5 and $2 Million annually to influence legislation. A portion of that last year was spent seeking a 55% decrease in the tax that funds the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. Legislators followed the industries direction and allowed the decrease to take effect despite the fact that since 1979, the fund has had to be supplemented nearly every year.

            Consequently, coal companies receive another big tax break while afflicted employees and their families are left to seek other sources of revenue to meet health and medical expenses they face solely because of the occupation that they engaged in.

            The situation is not foreign to Oklahoma where employees are suffering from similar treatment. Employers of tens of thousands of Oklahomans do not provide health insurance coverage and do not compensate their employers sufficiently to allow the employee to purchase health insurance. Without access to insurance, affected employees involuntarily become recipients of uncompensated care; hospitals and ambulance services are required to provide services for which they will never be paid; and the rest of us are subsidizing those employers who are not paying wages to cover the cost of housing, food, education and medical care.

            For the sake of protecting shareholder dividends and CEO salaries, uninsured employees are placing such a burden on Oklahoma’s health care providers that we may all lose health care access.

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

Button, Button

Button, Button - January 20, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

What do Louisa Mae Alcott’s “Little Men,” “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” David Bowie in “Labrynth,” and Walt Disney’s version of “Alice in Wonderland” all have in common? They all contain a reference to the age old children’s game, “Button, Button, who’s got the Button? Over the past 150 years, very few of us made it past elementary school without confronting the task of attempting to locate that evasive, hidden button.

Over the past decade, Oklahoma’s education budget has given Button, Button a whole new perspective. With daily attendance being a primary factor in the “game” of school funding, the concept of whether a student is “present” or “absent” can literally shift millions of education dollars from some schools to others. With that much money in the balance, it is inevitable that rules are stretched, twisted and sometimes broken.

For brick and mortar schools, the concept of being present or absent at school has remained constant for a hundred years or more. At the beginning of a school day and at every class period throughout the day, a student is either present or absent or tardy. With the advent of “virtual” schools facts get a little fuzzy.

According to  a 2016 Oklahoma Watch article by Jennifer Palmer, “With no seats to fill and no roll to call, ‘attendance’ in virtual education takes on a different meaning.” In fact Palmer reported that in the previous year, every single one of the state’s virtual charter schools reported near perfect attendance with two, including the state’s largest, reporting 100 percent attendance for the entire school…FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR!!!!

Now we’re not talking a drop in the bucket. Last year, virtual charter schools reported a statewide combined K-12 enrollment of nearly 12,000 students.

The natural question is, why should Oklahomans care? Fact is, so long as funding of our public schools is based at least in part on daily attendance and so long as virtual charter schools are allowed to establish their own method of counting attendance, schools that are able to use it for their benefit will, all to the financial detriment of those public brick and mortar schools who will consequently receive a smaller piece of the same funding pie.

While proponents, like the Epic Virtual Charter School Superintendent have been quoted as saying, “When they’re enrolled in an online course, they are considered in attendance; we just follow the law,” holding virtual charter schools accountable by changing the law may be more difficult than it would seem. In November 2018, Palmer, in another Oklahoma Watch article, reported that supporters of the state’s largest virtual charter school had “ramped up” political contributions to elected officials to the tune of at least $145,000, arguably to keep in place status quo policies that harm “brick and mortar schools” across the state.

For instance, the founders of Epic made donations that included “a combined $23,800 for State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and more than $11,000 to State Attorney General Mike Hunter.” Other recipients included Governor Kevin Stitt and more than 50 legislative candidates.

This session, Sen. Ron Sharp, a former teacher from Shawnee has filed Senate Bill 56 in a push for more transparency in the truth behind attendance numbers. The Bill would require virtual charters to submit attendance records of enrolled students to the student’s resident district. Sen. Sharp hopes to eliminate the current situation where hundreds of kids are falling through the system and no one knows where they are.

How far his bill will go remains to be seen. Much depends on whether virtual charter schools will be made accountable regarding attendance numbers or if their generous and well placed political contributions will allow them to perpetuate a costly and wasteful version of Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

Questions or Comments should be directed to David.Perryman@OkHouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

An Apple a Day

An Apple a Day - January 13, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

We have all heard the common saying, “An apple a day will keep the doctor away.” What most of us don’t know is that it devolved from the 19th century Welsh proverb, “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

Both the original proverb and its more modern transliteration, touted the benefits of a healthy diet including fresh fruits and vegetables. But a more literal interpretation of the original version would indicate that physicians, pharmacists and other health care providers could be negatively impacted when trying to earn a living in a healthy society.

In Oklahoma, we need not worry about that. There is plenty of work to do. Our urgent consideration should be to address the root causes of our dire circumstances. Whether we first consider the rates by which Oklahomans are covered by some form of insurance or rates which Oklahoma citizens partake of healthy diets and exercise or rates of immunization, or availability of health care, we find that Oklahoma ranks near the bottom both in virtually all categories.

For instance, the “Physician Access Index (PAI)” published by Merrit Hawkins, nationally recognized experts in the placement of health care workers, examined, on a state-by-state basis, 33 benchmarks and metrics, including demographic, economic, health insurance coverage, physician, nurse practitioner and physician assistant workforce factors, that influence and determine patient access to medical services. The latest edition of that Index shows that Oklahoma’s overall score ranks dead last among all states.

However, do all these bad numbers, low rankings and unhealthy outcomes really matter? For instance, it is difficult to tell by the voting pattern of most Oklahomans that over the past 26 years the life expectancy of Oklahomans has dropped to the point that our state’s life expectancy is shorter than any other state in the country except Kentucky, according to an American Medical Association Report issued in April 2018.

It is appalling that Oklahoma’s elected officials continue to ignore reality and avoid addressing problems such as high uninsured rates; low reimbursement rates; discriminatory pharmaceutical prices and scores of other factors that need their attention.

For instance, Governor Fallin constant refusal to allow the Medicaid program to be made available to working Oklahomans whose employers do not provide health insurance and whose income is not sufficient to cover the cost of health insurance costs. This refusal has negatively affected Oklahoma hospitals, clinics, ambulance services and health care providers across the board.

            In similar fashion, Oklahoma’s elected State Insurance Commissioner has undermined the benefits of the Affordable Care Act by failing to properly regulate the rates and coverages of health insurance carriers. Oklahoma voters allow elected officials to take campaign contributions, defer control of their department to their donors and abdicate their duty to protect citizens.

Oklahoma cannot expect healthy citizens if insurance and pharmaceutical companies continue to run the show with a focus solely on net profit and not on health outcomes. Our state’s frail system of health care providers will never be strong enough to improve health outcomes so long as the delivery of quality of health care is undermined.

Last fall and spring when Oklahoma needed three sessions to address ten years of educational neglect, Arkansas used three days to adopt legislation preventing predatory and discriminatory pharmaceutical pricing. Arkansas was looking out for its citizens and communities by allowing small pharmacies to receive fair reimbursement rates. Oklahoma needs to do the same. I have filed a bill patterned after the Arkansas legislation to prevent drug stores from being harmed by corporate prescription benefit managers. It is a step that needs to be taken. Insurance Companies and PBM’s should not favor corporate pharmacies and thereby prevent rural physicians and druggists from “earning their bread.”

Questions or Comments should be directed to David.Perryman@OkHouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Times, They Are a Changin'

Times, they are a Changin’ - January 6, 2019

State Representative David Perryman 

            When Bob Dylan released his 1964 hit song, “Times, They are a Changin’” he had no idea how prophetic the lyrics were. We understand the truth that he sang, “Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone. If your time is worth saving then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone.”

            Our changing world is both exciting and frightening. One of the greatest minds of our times, Buckminster Fuller was a renowned 20th century inventor and visionary who dedicated his life to making the world work for all of humanity and pursued a more sustainable planet.

            In 2013, David Russell Schilling, a freelance technology writer stated in an online publication that, “Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve,” noting that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years.” In 2013, Shilling observed that human knowledge was doubling every 13 months.

If that is not fast enough for us, IBM technicians, predict that the build out of the “internet of things” will eventually lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. The growth of technology to deliver knowledge is not limited to the internet. Today, social media such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Facebook live play a vital function in the dissemination of that knowledge and despite the use of the term “social” they affect nearly all functions of life.

One area that is not immune is government. Of course, if there is any transparency in any area of our lives, it should be in our government. Ours cannot be a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” without transparency. Good or bad, citizens should have access to the means to know what the government and their elected officials are up to. That is the very basis of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Over the past few years, many elected officials have incorporated the use of social media to let constituents know what is going on in real time. Oklahoma is no exception. Last session a majority Representative from the Tulsa area broadcast a video made on the House floor to comment negatively about educators who were at the capitol seeking increased funding for education. While that video went viral, most Legislators who use video capability do so for positive communications with constituents in real time.

On Friday afternoon the majority caucus released proposed House Rules for the 57th Legislature that will convene next month. The rules are to be voted on this week so there was naturally as scramble to compare the proposed rules with the expiring House Rules for the 56th Legislature. One change will prohibit video recording or broadcasts by Members while on the House Floor while the House is in session.

It is not clear whether the majority’s intent is to protect legislators from repeating the fiasco of the viral video or to limit real time access to constituents. Nonetheless, such a rule change will negatively impact transparency and will surely be the subject of debate when the new rules are considered.

Times, they are a changin’ and Dylan hit it on the head when he sang, “Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call. Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall. For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled. The battle outside ragin’ will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, for the times they are a-changin’.

Questions or Comments should be directed to David.Perryman@OkHouse.gov or 405-557-7401.