Transparency

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.

Fiddling with the People's Money

Fiddling with the People’s Money - May 24, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

Abraham Lincoln was only 25 years old when he was elected on the Whig ticket to the Illinois state legislature in 1834. According to another Whig, Horace Mann, the philosophy of the Whig Party of that era saw public education as the best way to “turn the nation’s unruly children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens.” The Whigs also supported the “American System,” a belief that economic and industrial growth would be the direct result of vigorous programs expanding “internal improvements,” especially road and canal systems.

It was against this backdrop on January 11, 1837, that Abraham Lincoln expressed his strong opinion regarding the use of public funds for the direct benefit of private interests:

“It is an old maxim and a very sound one, that he that dances should always pay the fiddler. Now, sir, in the present case, if any gentlemen, whose money is a burden to them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed to the ‘people’s money’ being used to pay the fiddler… all this to settle a question in which the people have no interest, and about which they care nothing. These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people, and now, that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the ‘people’s money’ to settle the quarrel.”

Clearly, Lincoln, and those of his Whig Party saw the difference between investing in education and infrastructure on the one hand and “paying the fiddler” for private interests on the other.  It takes very little imagination to see what Lincoln’s response would be to corporate tax credits, rebates, exemptions and other forms of today’s corporate welfare.

It is no surprise then that the Oklahoma state budget would not pass muster with Abraham Lincoln and the fiscally astute Whigs. Oklahoma’s budget proposal that had been shamefully kept secret until this past Wednesday afternoon and immediately, the supermajority in the house voted to suspend the rules to allow it to go to a vote on the house floor. As a result, the supermajority tossed government transparency to the wind so that the public would not have time to react to the draconian cuts and crippling effect to core services.

This procedure kept many constituents in the dark and prevented citizens across the state from contacting their legislators. After all, the leaders of the supermajority would not want to compete with constituents for the attention of the legislators who would be voting on the bill.

Consequently, most voters were unaware that the legislature was in the process of forcing more college debt on students by cutting $24 Million from the Higher Education Budget or that career doors were being closed on students of all ages because nearly $7 Million was taken without warning from the Career Tech budget.

Likewise, County Commissioners were busy trying make roads and bridges passable after millions of dollars of storm damage and had no time to react to the $72 Million swept from their County Road and Bridge Fund or the caps placed on future funds. ODOT and cities and towns were unaware of the $30 Million more taken from the road funding appropriation or the $17.5 Million that was swept from the account that pays for the operation of Weigh Stations across the state.

Veterans were left in the dark about the $2.7 Million that was taken from programs that benefit them and Medicare and Medicaid recipients did not know about the $111 Million dollars was taken from the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, including the entire $25 Million fund for Insure Oklahoma that helps provide health insurance for low income working Oklahomans.

These are only about half of the cuts and funds taken from state agencies to bridge the $611 Million budget gap. Most others also relate to services that are essential to Oklahomans and $271 Million was taken from the Rainy Day fund and Cash-Flow Reserves.

The national economy is flourishing so what has Oklahoma done wrong?

Over the past ten years, Oklahoma’s corporate and personal income tax rates have been cut multiple times, by a total of more than 20% with another cut scheduled to go into effect next year. Tax Revenue must be used to fund government and not for credits, subsidies, tax breaks and other corporate welfare. 

Until those issues are addressed, Lincoln’s fear of using ‘the people’s money’ to pay someone else’s fiddler will continue, there will continue to be budget gaps and you can rest assured that the budget will continue to be voted upon just before midnight with all the shades drawn.

Your comments or questions are invited at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.