Careful What You Ask For

Careful What You Ask For

State Representative David Perryman

          The Christmas Season is upon us and for many, this time of year jogs family memories from decades ago. The holidays at my grandparent’s house were particularly full of life. In the late 1950’s they began using an aluminum Christmas tree that was marketed by a company in Wisconsin. For a little guy, it and the accompanying color wheel that splashed the tree with alternating shades of red, blue, green and amber, was a sight to behold.

Of course, the best memories are connected to cousins and aunts and uncles who came and went. There was Uncle Clarence who shared pockets full of lemon drops that he carried to keep his dentures from clacking.

Then there were the presents. Like the time that my grandfather who had four main goals in life: Maximize the yield on the wheat he grew; catch as many fish as possible as often as possible; make certain that neither the wheat nor the fish got in the way of dominos; and pull fast ones on as many family members as possible.

It was only fitting that the year he had asked for a shirt, that he opened a gift containing one that was “just like one I already have…smell and all.” Soon, after he realized that he was the butt of the joke, the unwashed shirt was replaced with his real gift, a brand new flannel to his liking.

In another case of “careful what you ask for,” Aunt Vivian and Uncle Edwin realized after they opened their third package containing a corn popper, that Vivian had probably mentioned that their old one had given up the ghost to a few too many people. Thank goodness for gift exchanges.

Unfortunately, some “gifts” are much more difficult to return. Currently the state’s health care infrastructure is in freefall and that fact is devastating to thousands of our fellow Oklahomans.

What Governor Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature have asked for is “savings” by not allowing more Oklahomans to enroll in Medicaid. The “gift” that Oklahomans are receiving from refusing to allow working Oklahomans whose employers neither provide health insurance nor pay wages adequate to allow the employees to purchase health insurance privately, is health outcomes among the worst in the country, an uninsured population that is among the worst in the country and rural hospitals and ambulance services that are being shuttered at rates among the highest in the country.

Uninsured Oklahomans hammer our state in two respects. The leading cause of personal bankruptcies are medical expenses and the leading cause of hospital closure is uncompensated care, defined as providing services for which payment will not be received. According to an October 2018 report issued by Wallethub, Oklahoma’s uninsured rate of 16.35% is second only to Texas.

Two reports released in the past week bear out the consequences. A Journal Record article reported that the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings show that Oklahoma’s overall health ranking dropped from 43rd to 47th, the largest drop of any state. Simultaneously, according to an Oklahoman article, March of Dimes report showed that more than half of all counties in Oklahoma are “maternity deserts,” defined as not having a hospital performing deliveries or an obstetrics provider.

With hospital closures and bankruptcies across the state, conditions are not likely to improve. Cities like Frederick, Sayre, Pauls Valley and Eufaula are learning first-hand how partisan choices destroy a community’s health care infrastructure and impact everything from health outcomes, to life expectancy, to economic development.

While Medicaid expansion may or may not be the solution, Oklahomans can no longer endure the consequences of leaders who “just say no” and do not provide leadership toward an alternative solution. It is now evident that we are getting just what they asked for.

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

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget - December 9, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

          Oklahoma State Fire Marshal John Connolly was a man ahead of his time. Marshall Connolly served in the early years of Oklahoma’s statehood and brought progressive ideas regarding fire protection and safety to the table. Unfortunately, even a man with the national respect and standing of Mr. Connolly was unable to budge the staunchly conservative attitude of the Oklahoma legislature in time to prevent one of the single most deadly fires in Oklahoma history.

          Ninety-four years ago this Christmas Eve, a horrific fire at the Babb’s Switch School brought Connolly’s warnings to center stage as the Oklahoma, the nation and indeed, the world, mourned the senseless death of nearly forty children and adults who had gathered for a school program and Christmas party about six miles southeast of Hobart, Oklahoma in Kiowa County.

          Much has been written about the fire over the past 94 years, but many documents of that era illustrate that much of the horror and ensuing heartbreak could have been prevented.

          On the front page of the report issued on January 26, 1925 by C.T. Ingalls, Manager of the Oklahoma Inspection Bureau were the simple words, “LEST WE FORGET.” That report concluded that even without any aggravating circumstances, a simple structure with very limited defective and poor means of egress is a dangerous place for public assemblage. Compounding that situation was a light frame structure made of pine wood and painted with oil based paint and a tinder-dry Christmas tree decorated with cotton and red and green lit candles. One door had been replaced with a coal chute that prevented egress and the other doorway had inward swinging doors that scraped along the floor. All windows were covered with heavy iron screens that had been bolted into place. Only twelve minutes after the candles ignited the tree and spread to the ceiling and one of the glass kerosene lamps had exploded, the structure was an inferno where it was a miracle that as many of the estimated 150 to 200 in attendance escaped from the 720 square foot building.

Since at least 1919, Fire Marshall Connolly had been promoting legislation to enact a state-wide building code and a sufficient budget to enforce it. In Connolly’s Ninth Annual Report published that year, he illustrated that the high cost of annual insurance premiums across the state was a hidden tax that was greater than the cost of State Government and would “build 500 miles of the very best hard-surfaced roads annually.”

Connolly reasoned that “building construction is at the basis of all fire prevention work” and “we need a State building code, a moderate law, which will empower the State Fire Marshall with concurrent jurisdiction in cities and towns having building codes” and which “would govern where local codes do not exist.”

His report further stated, “It would be impossible to estimate the benefits that flow from regulatory ordinances” and in the absence of regulations, “it subjects the community to the dangers of unsafe construction.” Of course, Connolly was a realist. He was aware that, “Sensible men appreciate these facts, and it is only once in a while that you find a man who is so ignorant and unreasonable that he will oppose any attempt to restrict him, even when the public interest demands it. Such a man must be taught the lesson that his fancied rights must yield to the stern necessity of public safety.”

In January 1925 the National Fire Protection Association issued a report in its Quarter publication. In that report, Fire Marshall Connolly is quoted as saying, “The tragedy of the schoolhouse could have been prevented if Oklahoma had enacted a state building code.” But he reported, time after time, the Oklahoma legislature had killed such a code in its committees.

          Connolly’s earlier attempts to obtain information and inspect all one-exit wooden schoolhouses in the state ballooned to 400 inspection requests by February 1925, but the legislature did not act until 2009, eighty-five years after the Babbs Switch School fire, to adopt the Oklahoma Uniform Building Code Commission mandating a state-wide minimum building code for all construction within the state.

          One fire and safety issue that remains a problem is fire official access to vacant structures. State and local laws do not provide fire officials with a procedure to gain timely entrance into vacant structures that may pose grave fire hazards or contain substances that could endanger the lives and health of firefighters who might later be called to fight a fire there. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that more than twenty civilians and 6000 firefighters are injured while fighting fires in these properties every year. Lest We Forget that fact, I plan to introduce a bill this session addressing those issues.

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

A Day of Infamy

A Day of Infamy - December 2, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

          If you have ever visited my office in the Oklahoma State Capitol, you know that it is on the 5th Floor near the north entrance into the public gallery above the chamber of the House of Representatives. Historically, the fifth floor has been used as the location to which the minority party is relegated after all of the desirable offices on the third and fourth floors have been assigned to members of the majority party.

However, even without the rich walnut furnishings of those lower, larger offices, there are two primary reasons that I believe that I have the best office in the Capitol building. Not only is my office immediately adjacent to the “People’s Entrance” into the “People’s Chamber,” a portrait that hangs by that entrance provides a daily reminder of the sacrifices made by men and women who have served our nation over the past two and a half centuries.

That portrait, by artist R. T. Foster, depicts the “Attack on the Battleship Oklahoma” in Pearl Harbor, an event that occurred 77 years ago this week, on December 7, 1941. The painting was a gift to the people of Oklahoma by Admiral and Mrs. William J. Crowe in 2001. Admiral Crowe served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and as Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President William Jefferson Clinton. The fact that Admiral Crowe and his wife cared enough to go to the time and expense to donate this work of art is a testament to their character and compassion.

I am honored to have the opportunity to see that painting each time I enter and exit my capitol office and that honor grew deeper when I was able to place on my desk in direct view of the painting, a case displaying the flag that covered the casket of my father, who was a member of the PV-1 Naval Air Corp Squadron VPB-152, formed at Burns Flat (NAS-Clinton) and after training stateside passed through Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on its way to its duty station on Peleliu Island.

Originally, VPB-152 formed the core of a secret Navy project to develop a remote-controlled drone bomb. That and other experiments followed. On August 2, 1945, it was one of the planes from that Burns Flat squadron that spotted the oil slick and the survivors of the USS Indianapolis. The cruiser had been sunk by a Japanese torpedo on the night of July 29, only three days after it had delivered the parts and the enriched uranium (about half of the world’s supply of Uranium-235 at the time) for “Little Boy,” the first operational atomic bomb, which would later be dropped on Hiroshima.

So, in a way, in the North Hallway of the West Wing of the 5th Floor of the Oklahoma State Capitol, there are reminders of both the beginning and the end of World War II in the Pacific Theatre.

That makes me pause and continually assess dangers, sacrifices, loss of life and heroics shown by men and women on behalf of our country. It gives me gratitude that there have been millions of selfless individuals who have answered our nation’s call.

It makes me cognizant that they intended to protect rights and liberties for themselves, their neighbors and their children and to continue that to make that difference for the generations of descendants that they would never know.

Oklahoma’s veterans did not fight for a state where hundreds of thousands of its citizens do not have access to health care or suffer from income inequality. They did not put themselves in harm’s way for a state that is not willing to properly educate its children or allow them to go to bed hungry. They did not sacrifice for a state that neglects the needs of the disabled and the mentally ill.

Oklahoma is at a crossroads. Seventy-seven years ago this week, our nation rose to the challenge. Do today’s leaders possess the quality of character to put the people of our state before greed and selfishness, or will 2019 become OUR year of infamy and OUR date with destiny?

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

Jake and His Other Brother Jake

Jake and His Other Brother Jake - November 25, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

          As Thanksgiving Day comes around and families devour the turkey breasts, turkey legs and giblet gravy from an estimated 46 million turkeys, I often recall my personal encounter a few years ago with testosterone infused juvenile Meleagris gallopavo and my vivid realization that they are a menace to society and that in gangs they can be downright dangerous.

It all started off innocently enough. It wasn’t my birthday, but my wife had just presented me with a new digital camera, complete with a zoom lens. Anxious to try it out, one fall Saturday morning, luck sent the perfect opportunity in the form of what appeared to be a wild turkey strolling across the pasture about 60 yards below the house.

Not wanting to scare the bird, I took the camera and quietly slipped out the back door and around the side of the house just as it passed behind an outbuilding. I readied the settings on the camera so that I could begin snapping pictures as soon as the gobbler emerged into view.

Jo was busy inside the house and from her vantage point had also seen the bird but could not see where I had stationed myself. Slowly, as I began taking photos, not one, not two, but three “jakes,” juvenile male wild turkeys, stepped into view. As I clicked frame after frame, the birds spotted me and allowed me to capture pictures from the front, in all their glory.

I realized that the birds had taken a few steps toward me and I adjusted the zoom lens to compensate for the shorter distance. Turkey step by turkey step the need for the zoom lens decreased and just as I realized that the birds’ stroll had suddenly become a “turkey trot,” the zoom adjustment hit zero. It was then that I looked over the camera to realize that the turkey trio had congregated less than ten feet in front of me and were eying me and my camera.

          Knowing the propensity of male turkeys to use their spurs to inflict serious damage on their opponents, I wanted to make certain that they understood that I was not their opponent or if I was, that they understood that even in my unarmed state, they were no match for me.

          I roared and raised my hands in an attempt to look larger but the enjoyable photo shoot quickly escalated into a war of wills. The bird in the middle was closest to me and for an instant seemed startled, but turkey testosterone is an interesting chemical and every time the lead bird would hesitate, Jake and his other brother Jake (both of which lacked accountability) would crowd the closest one toward me.

Realizing that the birds were not leaving the yard, I started swinging the camera around by its strap, simultaneously yelling AT the turkeys and FOR some relief from inside the house. Unfortunately, even though Jo had seen the three birds come out from behind the shed, she had gone back to her task thinking that I was getting some great pictures.

My vocal chords were reaching a point of raw inefficiency when Jo happened to look out another window and realized my predicament. Wanting to rescue the camera, she grabbed a rake, and by simply coming around the corner, caused the assemblage of tyrannical turkeys to turn and trot across the field out of sight. Both the camera and my person were undamaged, and I had a series of photos, one of which has appeared on my personal Facebook profile page since I opened the account.  And my family has had another topic for “Dad” jokes around our table.

We hope that you and your family had a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

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

Will the 57th Oklahoma Legislature Effect Change

Will the 57th Oklahoma Legislature Effect Change - November 18, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

          Oklahoma convenes a new legislature every two years. 2019 will mark the opening of the 57th legislature. When the dust settled after the November 6, 2018, elections, not much changed.

Of the 101 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, 76 will be Republicans and 25 will be Democrats. Currently, there are no Independents or third party members in the House.

At the end of last session, there were 73 Republicans and 28 Democrats in the House. The percentages that are most interesting relate to emergency enactments and rules suspensions. Both of those procedures require 68 votes. What that means is that in the last legislature there were enough Republicans to pass any law that they want and to adopt an emergency effective date that they want and to suspend any legislative rule that they want.

This session, with the addition of three more Republican legislators, their power is expanded.

Because of State Question 640, adopted in 1992, no revenue bill could become law without the votes of at least 75% of the members of both the House and the Senate. Therefore, the only thing that the Republicans could not do last session was increase taxes without at least three Democrats joining in the effort.

State Question 640 became a real issue last session when the oil and gas industry and its cohorts tried to ram the StepUp Plan down the throats of the legislature. StepUp was an attempt to cap the Gross Production Tax at only 4% and throw a bone at enough teachers to take the pressure off the industry and ignore the fact that public education had received 28% in cuts over the past decade. When the Democratic caucus refused to let the oil and gas industry continue to name its own tax rate, and held out until the GPT was raised to 5% so that public education, including textbooks, teachers and support personnel would take a step toward adequate funding, the effect of State Question 640 made the Republicans work across the aisle.

With a 76 member supermajority in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, that will no longer be the case.

The situation in the State Senate is very similar. At the close of the last session, there were 8 Democrats in that 48 member body. This year, 9 Democrats will be seated in the Senate. The fact that the number of Republicans in the State Senate went from 40 to 39 will have little effect since that chamber’s 75% Republican supermajority is not in jeopardy.

Legislators will begin pre-filing legislation over the next few weeks. When the final language of the bills is filed in mid-January, the Speaker of the House will sort the Bills out among Committees. Each Committee will have a Republican Chairman and a Republican Vice-Chairman who will determine which Bills will be heard and which will not receive a hearing.

What is clear is that the people of the State of Oklahoma have spoken. Our state has a Republican governor and every statewide office holder is a Republican and both houses in the legislature are held by a Republican supermajority. The most urgent questions surround whether the legislative agenda of the 57th Legislature will be a repeat of the four prior legislatures under Governor Fallin and whether Oklahomans will notice.

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

A Path Toward Better Health Care?

A Path Toward Better Health Care? - November 11, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Oklahoma’s health outcomes rank near the bottom of all states. According to an August 6, 2018, KFOR news story, WalletHub recently ranked the Best and Worst States for Health Care and the results were not favorable for Oklahoma.

Researchers analyzed data and weighed several factors like health care cost, access and outcomes to rank the states with the best and worst health care across the country. Overall, Oklahoma ranked 45th on the list. Oklahoma was one of the states with  the highest average monthly insurance premium, the lowest percentage of insured adults between 18 and 64-years-old, and one of the states with the highest percentage of adults with no dental visits in the past year.

Health care experts often look at the infant mortality rate as a key indicator to measure the health and well-being of a population. Unfortunately, Oklahoma does not fare well there either. Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate across all races has been growing since 2015 in Oklahoma and in 2017 was more than 30 percent higher than the national average. To make that worse, according to a January 2018 report, the mortality rate for black infants in Oklahoma is twice that of white and Hispanic infants.

Not only do more children die in Oklahoma, adults die earlier. For instance, there are counties in Oklahoma where the life expectancy is less than 57 year, or 22.5 years less than the national average. That means that residents of some communities in Oklahoma face a shorter life expectancy than in the Congo and only months longer than Uganda.

The list continues and Oklahoma fails. From dental care to optometric care to mental health care, an analysis of Oklahoma’s health care delivery shows no bright spots. Plain and simple, people in Oklahoma aren’t healthy and show no signs of becoming healthy.

These and scores of other low ranking categories fall into the category of health care. All indicators point toward a health care delivery system comprised of hospitals, clinics, ambulance services, nursing homes, immunization rates, and many other components that are not adequately delivering services to hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans who are underserved.

The fact that so many of our friends and neighbors are not receiving health care is not due to the state’s hospitals. Oklahoma has quality hospitals that deliver cutting edge medical treatment to their patients. Likewise, Oklahoma’s ambulance services and nursing homes employee staff, including professionals, who are well trained and able to provide quality care.  We have dedicated doctors and nurses.

What is the problem and what is the path toward a healthier state? One idea that has been presented is the expansion of Medicaid for those working Oklahomans who have no health insurance and no current health care coverage. That approach has been soundly rebuffed by Governor Fallin for the past 8 years.

The people of Oklahoma are now looking to a new governor and a new, larger legislative supermajority to have a plan and to put that plan into action. We need to give them that chance. But they must understand that time is a factor. It is a matter of life or death to many Oklahomans.

 

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

Exes in Texas

Exes in Texas - November 4, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

          George Strait was probably not thinking about the lure of higher wages and the ensuing migration of Oklahoma teachers to Texas when he released the 1987 hit named “All My Exes Live in Texas.” However, that statement could be made by an alarming number of Oklahoma schoolchildren regarding former teachers whose economic reality of low pay pushed them to make the move for the benefit of their families and their personal futures.

The temptation could not have been greater. Huge billboards in Tulsa, OKC, Stillwater and Norman beckoned teachers to find their future in a Fort Worth, Texas classroom. The message promised starting salaries of $52,000 at a time when the AVERAGE teacher pay in Oklahoma was in the low $40,000’s and the hope of a salary in excess of $50,000 was not on the radar, even after a decade or two in the classroom.

The reality of a teacher’s life was that in the decade prior to 2018, Oklahoma’s K-12 Education had been cut by 28%, the deepest of any state in the nation. Low wages, continuing cuts and a lack of professional respect plagued those who had chosen to educate our state’s children.

Thus, it was no surprise that, first border district educators and then those from across the state, took neighboring states up on their offer. It takes a lot to make a person with the heart of an educator, leave their family, their community and their state, but Oklahoma legislators had neglected and cut and isolated our state’s teachers to the point that many educators took the only path to protection that they could find and that involved leaving Oklahoma’s classrooms.

In 2018, pro-public education legislators faced an uphill battle. “Everyone” agreed with them that teachers needed a raise, but few were willing to stand with them to identify and act on a source of revenue to pay for those raises. Repeatedly, teachers were told that the state could not afford to give them a raise, despite the fact that annually hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and credits were being given to the oil and gas industry.

The public pressure intensified and the oil and gas industry saw an organized attempt to increase the Gross Production Tax to 7 to 9 % so that it would be in line with most other energy producing states. In response, the industry gathered a mostly anti-public education group to formulate what they called the StepUp Plan to “resolve Oklahoma’s education crisis.” In reality, it was just a strong arm attempt to set their own tax rate, cap the GPT at an embarrassingly low 4%, throw teachers a bone and relieve public pressure.

Despite that attempt, pro-education legislators were able to push through a 5% GPT bill that for the first time in ten years, not only gave teachers a legitimate raise, but also provided raises to support staff and put an additional $50 Million into textbooks and the classroom.

Teacher morale is improving, but it will take years to reverse the damage. Because a Veto Referendum lawsuit that tried to void the 5% GPT Bill was not dismissed before teachers had to make final plans for this school year, 57% of the state’s superintendents say that the teacher shortage is worse this year than last, and in fact, the state had issued a record 2,153 emergency certifications by the end of September, according to a survey conducted by the Oklahoma State School Board Association.

Because Oklahoma teachers’ salaries have been so low, for so long, I also predict that because of the impact of a belated salary increase, there could be an even greater exodus in three or four years due to retirement benefit computations based on their increased salary. Who can blame them?

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

Economic Development and a Walk in the Park

Economic Development and a Walk in the Park - October 28, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

            President Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children.”

            While Roosevelt is often assumed to have founded U.S. Park Service, Yellowstone, out first national park, was designated by President Ulysses S. Grant, in 1872, when Teddy Roosevelt was just fourteen years old and nearly 30 years before he would become President.

            Frequently, there are philosophical and rhetorical discussions about the wisdom (and expense) of the park system that documentary filmmaker Ken Burns called, “America’s Best Idea.” Oklahoma’s Park system has not been free from similar scrutiny.

            While this article focuses primarily on Red Rock Canyon State Park, near Hinton, Oklahoma, the same issues could apply to any of dozen and a half Oklahoma State Parks.

            Red Rock Canyon provided Cheyenne Indians with a sheltered wintering ground for decades and then in the 1840’s, it became a landmark and campsite on the old California Trail as gold seekers headed west for fame and fortune. The canyon’s rich history and unique qualities make it a special place for Oklahomans and visitors to our state.

            This weekend, a concerned constituent had heard that Red Rock Canyon State Park had been sold to a private entity. While I was not aware of a transfer of ownership, I knew that in early 2017 the director of the Department of Tourism and Recreation had recommended that Red Rock Canyon and 15 other state parks and a state owned golf course be closed and that publication of tourism’s magazine, “Oklahoma Today” be terminated.

            The director’s reason for the recommendation was because the targeted properties were not generating sufficient revenue to pay for their own operating costs. Tourism officials said earlier this year that in Fiscal Year 2017, Red Rock Canyon park revenues were about $140,000 and the annual costs to operate the park was just under $300,000.

            When the priority of the governor is to “run the state of Oklahoma like a business” decisions like closing parks are based solely on the economics of revenue, cash flow and costs of operation. Decisions of a corporation are supposed to be made purely in the best interest of its stockholders. Making money is the sole purpose of a corporation.

            One would hope that the future of a historical site or a recreational area would be based on more than the revenue that the site itself can generate. Perhaps the real culprit is the fact that between 2009 and 2018, the legislature cut Tourism’s budget by 38%, forcing parks to finance their own operations and crippling the state’s ability to properly fund tourism which is Oklahoma’s third largest industry.

Since the inquiry, my research has found that beginning on November 1, 2018, the City of Hinton and a private concessionaire will assume the responsibility of running the park which will henceforth be known as the “Red Rock Adventure Park.”

The move by the City of Hinton to operate the park rather than allow the state to close it was based largely on local economics with consideration given to its historical and cultural attributes. It is doubtful whether the City will be able to make it cash flow but closure as the state’s alternative was not acceptable.

Core function of government; or not? I would like to know your thoughts on this and other issues. Questions or comments, contact David Perryman at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Economic Development and Health Outcomes

Economic Development and Health Outcomes - October 21, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

According to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, since 2010, 89 rural hospitals across the country have closed leaving communities without healthcare. The study shows that five of those facilities are in Oklahoma communities like Frederick, Pawnee and Eufaula and mean that in rural Oklahoma there are 204 fewer hospital beds to treat patients who may not have the means to travel to the state’s urban centers for medical care.

That list is only the tip of the iceberg. Most every rural hospital in our state is operating on a shoestring budget. Many are teetering on bankruptcy and several like those in Sayre, Atoka, Antlers, Drumright, Ceiling, Fairfax, Prague and Stigler have either been declared insolvent, been placed in receivership or are currently operating under the supervision of a bankruptcy trustee.

The most recent closure occurred last week in Pauls Valley where 64 more beds were lost and area residents have to be transported to Purcell to the north, Sulphur to the south, Ada to the east or Chickasha to the west, assuming there is a functioning ambulance service available to make the trip.

There are a number of reasons for the current hospital and ambulance financial crisis. Insurance companies intercede with greater frequency and classify many more medical procedures to be outpatient procedures or otherwise substantially shorten hospital stays.

Decreases in the rates paid to hospitals by Medicaid and Medicare also impacts the facility’s bottom line.

Perhaps the most damaging issue faced by hospitals (and ambulance providers) arise out of what is called “Uncompensated Care.” In short, uncompensated care represents those services that are provided to a patient and for which the provider is not paid.

The primary reason that hospitals face the expense of uncompensated care is because a Reagan-era federal law requires that persons who are in need of treatment must be cared for without regard to whether they have insurance and without regard to their ability to pay.

Since the law applies equally across the entire country, one would think that hospital closures would be located consistently from coast to coast. The fact is that according to a study published in the January 2018 edition of the journal, Health Affairs, hospitals located in states that accepted federal dollars to pay Medicaid expenses for low income workers were six times LESS likely to close than in states like Oklahoma where federal funds were refused. Put another way, 90% of the nation’s hospitals that have closed since 2010 were located in states that had refused to expand Medicaid at the time that hospital closed.

The fact is that Mary Fallin is one of only 18 governors who have refused to allow Oklahoma to accept those federal funds. The other 17, like Oklahoma, are primarily in the southern U.S. The 32 states that did accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion have seen the uninsured rate drop by as much as 50%. Cutting the number of patients who cannot afford to pay for medical services by half is big in any state.

Other benefits include financially healthy ambulance services and medical related businesses that can only operate in the presence of a functioning hospital. Likewise, when more citizens are insured, the community enjoys healthier outcomes. But the most exciting part of Medicaid expansion occurs when a community’s economic development director can showcase the community to a potential business prospect and point with pride to a vibrant medical facility that can provide quality health care services to the CEO, his employees and to their families.

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

State Question 801 - Boon or Boondoggle

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

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Question 800 - Is It a Vision or a Mirage

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

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Question 798 Proposed Running Mates

State Question 798 Proposed Running Mates - September 30, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Question 794 Marsy's Law

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

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Question 793 - Eye Care in Oklahoma

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

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You Don't Like the Constitution in Oklahoma

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

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Do the Trains Meet?

Where Do The Trains Meet? - September 2, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Things to Come

Building Things to Come - August 26, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't Mess With Texas

Don’t Mess With Texas - August 19, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Our First Rodeo

Not Our First Rodeo - August 12, 20

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where's Waldo

Where’s Waldo - August 5, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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