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.

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.

What's On Your Agenda?

What’s on Your Agenda? - November 29, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

Although the 2016, Oklahoma State Legislative Session does not officially begin until next February, like many legislators I am listening to constituent concerns and reviewing potential legislation that may be filed for consideration next year. December 11 is the last day to request legislation and I welcome your comments.

While all eyes and ears have been on getting past a predicted $1 Billion budget gap, recent cuts to mental health funding, road and bridges, higher education and career tech underscore that there is no relief in sight for Oklahoma’s woefully underpaid public school teachers. One would think that everyone would be pulling together to protect threatened state services from cuts that will also force county and municipal governments to increase sales taxes and property taxes to maintain local services.

Then a couple of things happened. I ran across an article in the Perspective, the publication of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA). It exclaimed, “Why the Long Faces?” and trumpeted the consensus of its “brain trust” that Oklahoma’s budget shortfall presented a “valuable opportunity” to “right-size (i.e. “cut”) government (and the services that it provides).

OCPA’s suggestions ranged from turning government services over to private corporations to downsizing and “phasing out the income tax” and replacing it with…nothing.

Kansas was held up as an example of good governance since it had recently made draconian cuts to its income tax rate. However, the 2015 edition of the Tax Foundation’s “Facts and Figures” showed that Oklahoma’s state and local tax burden was nearly 10% lower than Kansas’ and Kansans paid 24.4% more in state and local taxes, 41% more in gasoline taxes and 126% more in property taxes than Oklahomans.

Since the date of the OCPA article, Kansas, feeling the negative impact of its income tax cuts, increased its state sales tax to a rate that is 44.4% higher than Oklahoma’s.

Then, this week, the American Federation for Children (AFC) issued a press release claiming that 7 out of every 10 Oklahomans want to take public tax dollars and transfer them to private or religious schools.

Suddenly it became apparent that even in these dire financial straits, we are not all paddling in the same direction.

Amid the budget struggle, the OCPA and the AFC and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are laying the groundwork for a concerted effort to grab tax dollars for private school vouchers and “educational savings accounts” funded by tax dollars.

Oklahoma already has school vouchers for children with disabilities. Oklahoma already has direct and tax credit scholarship programs that take money from the general fund to subsidize private school educations. Now, through a series of leading and ambiguous questions, this poll attempts to justify and legitimize the redirection of public tax dollars from public schools to private and religious schools.

These groups were responsible for the new law allowing the state department of education to approve charter schools anywhere in the state, even when the local school board objects. Allowing vouchers will be just as easy. The choice is yours.

Comments or questions? David may be reached at 1-800-522-8502 or at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov


Breaking the Camel's Back

Breaking the Camel’s Back - September 13, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

                When I hear the oriental proverb about the straw that broke the camel’s back, I have a tendency to focus on the straw rather than the camel. A strong camel is an asset but so is the straw. Otherwise, the camel would not have been used for its transport.

                The proverb applies to the impetus for change and sometimes positive change is delayed because of the strength of the camel’s back. One change that faced stiff opposition was the passage of Oklahoma’s texting bill. As is evidenced by the name of the bill, the Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act of 2015, the proverbial straw that broke the opposition was a horrible accident.

In its final form, the new anti-texting bill that I co-authored and which will go into effect on November 1, 2015, is a “primary offense” bill, meaning that a citation may be issued even in the absence of any other illegal activity by the driver.

                The text of the bill makes it a $100 dollar (non-point) offense for any person to operate a motor vehicle on ANY street or highway within the state while using a hand-held electronic communication device to manually compose, send or read an electronic text message while the motor vehicle is in motion.

A Text message is broadly defined as "a text-based message, instant message, electronic message, photo, video or electronic mail.”

The driver will not commit an offense if they are using the cell phone or electronic communication device for the sole purpose of notifying a 911 operator or dispatcher or a medical provider or a fire department or law enforcement agency of an imminent emergency situation.

The new law defines a "Cellular telephone" as an analog or digital wireless telephone authorized by the FCC to operate within the frequency bandwidth reserved for cellular phones. This definition was intentionally crafted so that the use of ham and citizen band radios would not be affected.

Composing, sending or reading a text messages is defined as “the manual entry, sending or retrieval of a text message to communicate with any person or device.”

An Electronic Communication Device means “an electronic device that permits the user to manually transmit a communication of written text by means other than oral transfer or wire communication" and does not include a device that is physically or electronically integrated into a motor vehicle or a voice-operated global positioning or navigation system that is affixed to a motor vehicle, or a hands-free device that allows the user to write, send or read a text message without the use of either hand except to activate, deactivate or initiate a feature or function.

Cities and towns are authorized to adopt and enact Ordinances to be enforced by local law enforcement agencies so long as the Ordinance reflects the language of the Statute and the fines and penalties are not more stringent than provided for in state law.

David may be reached at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

2014 Session Preview

2014 Session Preview - January 19,2014

State Representative David Perryman

February 3 marks the beginning of the second regular session of the current Oklahoma legislature.  Throughout the year, Representatives are often contacted by constituents who have experienced recent personal or business issues as a result of state statutes.  We take those questions and suggestions and review current law to determine if the problem is widespread among citizens and whether a change in a statute could alleviate the problem without causing more problems.  I have received a number of these calls and have prepared legislation for the upcoming session accordingly.  Today, I would like to provide information about those bills so that you may track them through the upcoming session.

One issue that was brought to my attention dealt with the taxability of purchases made by civic clubs for distribution or donation to our youth or needy families.  Specifically, the Anadarko Kiwanis Club, a qualified 501(c)(3) entity purchased a substantial amount of food for distribution during the holiday season.  Of course the funds used by the club come from money raised by the volunteer efforts of the organization or by donations to the club.  Despite there being literally scores of exemption from the imposition of sales tax, there was no exception that would allow a civic club to purchase a turkey tax free to give to a family that would not otherwise have a Thanksgiving dinner.  I have filed HB 2430 so that groups like this hardworking club and Lions, Optimists, Rotarians across the State will be able to let the funds serve more needy persons.

Another area of concern that has been brought to my attention by tenants who were displaced by the 2013 tornados and relates to statutes that impose a criminal penalty on landlords for relatively minor infractions that harm the rights of tenants.  These statutes provide that the violator is subject to prosecution by the district attorney; however, most district attorneys in our state are literally overwhelmed protecting the public from criminals who commit major crimes.  One example is a statute requiring landlords to place rental damage deposits into a trust account that is segregated from the landlord’s personal funds.  The comingling of the rental damage deposits with the landlord’s personal funds is a crime and subjects the landlord to criminal prosecution.  While it is very important that those damage deposits be kept separate, it is counterproductive to burden the district attorneys with the prosecution of such minor cases unless the landlord habitually commits that crime or unless that crime is one of many committed by the landlord.

Another example of this problem is the statute that requires an employer to be prosecuted if he does not pay an employee according to Oklahoma law. Once again, the statute that requires compensation to be paid according to the level required by law, states that in the event the employer fails to do so, the employer will be prosecuted by the district attorney.  While prosecution may be appropriate under some circumstances where the employer has intentionally and systematically harmed employees in this manner, there is normally no need to clog the docket of the district attorney with that type of case.

Consequently, I have filed HB 2432 and 2431 to address these issues and provide a civil remedy for the person who has suffered loss.  The civil remedy does not eliminate the criminal action and the wrongdoer is still subject to that prosecution if the damaged tenant or employee has not received compensation according to the new bill.

I also have filed HB2992, a bill to remove some obsolete language from the statutes that allows district courts to empower municipalities to have jurisdiction over minor, first offense juvenile violations.  This change will eliminate troublesome language that has allowed some defense attorneys to question the validity of existing municipal juvenile courts.  I will discuss that bill and other bills next later, including a bill that has been requested by the law enforcement community to prevent a new scheme that has been occurring involving fraudulent liens being placed on automobiles for work that was never performed or performed at an unreasonably high cost.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as State Representative.  If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other matter, please contact me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.