Blog

02 Mar
0

RELEASE: Representative David Perryman – Take a Shot for the Common Good

Take a Shot for the Common Good

By State Rep. David Perryman

San Francisco is famous for its cable car lines. Since cable cars have controls only in their front end, they must be turned around at each end of the line. Turntables have been used for centuries when trains are “headed in the wrong direction.” On a number of levels, Oklahoma is in serious need of a massive turntable.

One area that needs such a 180-degree reversal relates to childhood immunization and the declining rate of vaccination.

In Oklahoma, the problem is twofold. Even though scientists have produced vaccines that have all but wiped out polio, measles, mumps, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), meningitis and other serious infections, parents have become lax about their children’s shots. Secondly, despite a number of outbreaks around the country over the past 24 months, a group of Oklahoma parents are pushing back against mandatory vaccination.

Two years ago, 17 states were experiencing outbreaks of measles. Nearly every other state heard the wake-up call and began tightening their childhood immunization laws to counter the epidemic, but Oklahoma headed the other direction with efforts to expand the vaccination requirement exceptions.

Nowhere in society is “the common good” more applicable than the area of immunization. Because of a concept called “herd immunity” the refusal to immunize is an open invitation for a number of preventable diseases to “go viral” in the traditional sense of the phrase.

So in a pre-vaccination world – where the U.S. had 16,000 cases of polio per year and now has zero and had 530,000 cases of measles per year and now has around 100 – there can be little debate over the value of a vaccinated population.

For U.S. children born in 2009, routine childhood immunizations are projected to prevent 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease, according to Vaccinate Oklahoma.

Herd immunity exists when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population provides protection to those who have not yet developed immunities or who have not been vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, so long as 94% of the population has received the measles vaccine, herd immunity exists. According to Vaccinate Oklahoma, only 73% of Oklahoma’s children have received all recommended vaccines.

During the 2014-15 school year, 571 Oklahoma children who were not fully vaccinated were allowed to use loopholes and enroll in school, thereby placing other children at risk.

Unimmunized children are susceptible to preventable diseases, can transmit infections to individuals who have compromised immune systems, and can contribute to outbreaks of disease such as the measles epidemic that started at Disneyland in late 2014.

The proverbial “bottom line” is that you and I have children and grandchildren with immature immunity systems, and elderly parents with compromised immunity systems, who are being placed at risk because of non-immunized persons who have been misinformed about vaccines.

Claims that vaccines are unsafe have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature, including a thorough review by the National Academy of Medicine. Despite claims to the contrary, thousands of studies with hundreds of thousands of subjects from all over the world have failed to show a link between autism or any other neurodevelopmental illness for that matter, according to reports of Vaccinate Oklahoma and Dr. Thomas Kuhls, its president.

“The anti-vaccine movement has forced scientists and public health officials to rigorously scrutinize the safety of vaccines, over and over again,” Dr. Kuhls says.

Now is the time to find Oklahoma’s turntable and reverse course on attempts to discredit vaccinations. Let’s get the train headed in the right direction by strengthening Oklahoma’s immunization requirements. Take a shot for the common good.

For questions or comments, call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

(Representative Perryman is a Democrat from Chickasha.)

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile

02 Mar
0

RELEASE: The Republicans in Charge Do Not Have a Plan

For Immediate Release
March 2, 2017
 
Media Contact:
Angela Allmond, Communications Director
405-536-2417
Oklahoma Democratic Party

The Republicans in Charge Do Not Have a Plan

OKLAHOMA CITY Leader Inman addressed Republican inactivity after week four of the session. As this week’s committee deadline comes to an end, legislation filed my members of the House of Representatives had to come out of committee this week for the legislation to stay alive. Any legislation that did not come out of committee is dead for the year, to possibly be heard next year.

Leader Inman is a member of the appropriations and budget committee and will have a front row seat to all of the revenue raising issues offered close a $900 billion budget hole created by an inactive administration and the Republicans in charge. These issues will directly impact our public schools, senior citizens, hospitals and correctional facilities.

Inman stated, “They [the Governor and House Republicans] have no plan…four weeks have come and gone. We are a quarter of the way through the legislative session, and the Republicans in charge [still] have no plan.”

Republicans have not come to any consensus on any significant revenue raising measures. This should be a concern to all Oklahomans when priorities are placed on issues that they can act on quickly, like passing and signing the Real ID legislation, but not working together on a clear plan to fix the budget and bring in new revenue for the State.

Another concern is the Republican inaction and fiscal mismanagement that caused this week’s bond rating downgrade. Oklahoma now faces higher interest payment for schools, counties, and state making it more expensive to take out debt to fund core government services because Republicans in charge cannot find a way to work together and balance the budget.

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The mission of the Oklahoma Democratic Party is to represent working people in Oklahoma and the best way to accomplish that is to elect Democrats to all areas of government. Oklahoma Democrats are progressive and sensible. We are optimistic about the future, and we are determined to see Oklahoma’s traditional values upheld. More information about the Oklahoma Democratic Party can be found at www.okdemocrats.org or by calling (405) 427-3366.

01 Mar
0

RELEASE: House Caucus – Welfare Applicant Eligibility Authentication

House Bill Would Require State Agencies to Verify Eligibility And Authenticate Identity of Every Welfare Applicant

OKLAHOMA CITY (1 March 2017) – Legislation that would require state agencies to verify the eligibility of all applicants for welfare benefits, and require every applicant to complete an identity authentication process, squeaked through a House panel Tuesday on a party-line vote.

House Bill 1270 by Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, received a do-pass recommendation from the Rules Committee on a 4-3 vote. All four “ayes” were cast by Republicans, and the “nays” were cast by the three Democrats on the panel.

HB 1270 would direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) to verify the eligibility of every applicant for Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps)

Hall said her measure is “a work in progress” intended to ensure that “people who truly need” state welfare benefits “are receiving them.” The State of Oklahoma has “limited resources.”

“Has there been evidence of inappropriate receipt of benefits?” asked Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa.

Not in Oklahoma, but in other states, Hall said. Unofficial records indicate several lottery winners in Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York improperly received public welfare benefits.

For example, a New York resident who began receiving $1,000 each week in 1998 after winning a scratch-off lottery game was charged with fraud in 2012 after collecting more than $4,000 in welfare benefits. And a Michigan woman received $5,475 in food and medical benefits after winning $1 million in the lottery.

Hall said she just wants to “make sure there’s no fraud and abuse in our benefit programs.” Her legislation would demonstrate that “we’re wisely using tax dollars,” she said.

HB 1270 would instruct the OHCA and the DHS to review, on a quarterly basis, information about program recipients that might affect their continued eligibility for public benefits. “Often times the state is checking these only once a year,” Hall claimed.

However, the DHS reports that it requires SNAP households to be recertified every six months. And the Oklahoma Lottery Commission says it routinely checks the names of lottery winners against DHS child support enforcement records; against Oklahoma Tax Commission rolls, to determine whether a winner has any tax payments in arrears; and with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, to determine whether a lottery winner is collecting unemployment benefits.

Hall said her measure is modeled on legislation from other states. Rep. David Perryman said HB 1270 is “cookie-cutter legislation” patterned after a proposal developed by the Foundation for Government Accountability, where former state Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, is now a senior fellow.

Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, asked what were the results in other states that implemented the provisions proposed in HB 1270, but Hall said she did not have that information at her fingertips.

Perryman asked whether a cost-benefit analysis has been performed on HB 1270. No, Hall said, but vowed that the bill’s title will be stricken by the time it reaches the House floor for consideration by the entire House of Representatives.

Perryman, D-Chickasha, debated against the bill, describing it as “a solution looking for a problem.”

The legislation would mandate redundant administrative burdens for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (which administers SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program) and the Department of Human Services (administrator of the SNAP program), Perryman said. There is no evidence of widespread abuse or fraud in SNAP or SoonerCare, he said. SNAP error rates have fallen steadily for more than a decade, and Oklahoma’s rate of improper payments for Medicaid is low, he said after the meeting.

The DHS estimates that implementing HB 1270 would require the agency to hire 400 to 500 additional workers at an estimated cost of $9 million to $11 million, “and there’s no evidence” that the legislation would provide a return on investment of that magnitude, Perryman told the committee members.

The DHS, Perryman noted, shed 1,200 positions outside of child welfare over the past couple of years (approximately 100 jobs were eliminated just last August) because of budget cutbacks. Already the agency needs $40 million in additional appropriations just to finish out Fiscal Year 2017, which ends June 30.

HB 1270 would be “a new, expensive mandate” that would simply duplicate existing practices, Perryman asserted.

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile

28 Feb
0

RELEASE: House Passes Legislation that Promotes Elective Courses in Construction Education

House Passes Legislation that Promotes Elective Courses in Construction Education

OKLAHOMA CITY (28 February 2017) – High-school “shop” and industrial arts classes have been “phased out” of most public schools in Oklahoma over the years, but elective courses in the construction trades would be encouraged under legislation that the House of Representatives passed Tuesday.

House Bill 1407 by Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, was approved, 92-4, and was transmitted to the Senate, where it is sponsored by Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton. It was the first bill by Dollens, a “freshman” legislator, to pass the House.

The intent behind House Bill 1407 is “to let kids get a head start on good-paying jobs in the construction industries,” Dollens told his colleagues. “We need career-based courses” in high school, he said recently, because not everyone wants or needs a college degree.

Research indicates that the average age of a construction worker in the United States today is 55. “We are bordering on a severe shortage of people trained in the construction trades,” he said.

The introductory classes proposed in HB 1407 would be offered in grades 9-12 and would be entirely voluntary, not an unfunded mandate on school districts, Dollens emphasized. He said supporters of his idea are developing partnerships with Habitat for Humanity and with some unions in the state, and are considering a federal grant as a potential source of funding.

“This is a great idea!” Jeremy Hendricks, a Seminole native who is assistant business manager for the Laborers Union Southwest District, wrote on Facebook recently.

As someone who works to place construction workers on the job every day, “I can attest that there is a huge shortage of workers in the construction industry,” Hendricks said. “We have unfortunately taken these sort of introductory classes out of the high schools and kids no longer know this is a viable family-supporting career… [W]e should be encouraging these sorts of programs… I know for one, my labor union would be happy to partner with high schools to provide curriculum and access to instructors to start a pilot program to get this off the ground. I’m sure there are other funding sources out there,” as well, he wrote, thanking Dollens for “getting the process started.”

When at least one House member indicated that HB 1407 would duplicate offerings of Oklahoma’s Career and Technology Education centers, Dollens said that “not every school is near a CareerTech,” and some students do not have the minimum 2.0 grade point average required to “get into” a CareerTech industrial trades program.

“I first got the idea while teaching English at U.S. Grant High School” in south Oklahoma City, Dollens related.

“One of my students was having a hard time focusing on a book report that I assigned. He told me he wasn’t interested in the book because it wouldn’t benefit him in the career he wanted to pursue. I asked which career he aspired toward, and he said he was going to be a foreman for a construction company. I suggested he research the career path on becoming a foreman and write his book report on that. That’s all he needed to hear. The student submitted a great book report a few days later, and it was evident this was his passion.”

Students need some proof that “what they are doing in school will relate to their lives afterward,” Dollens said.

The construction industry entails more than just manual labor, he noted. For example, it involves geometry (angles of cuts and rooflines), basic math (lengths of boards and height of walls), English (reading plans and specs), and even science (how various compounds interact).

Further, he said, “Once students enroll in a construction class and see a direct correlation between what they’re doing and where they want to go, they tend to do better in their other classes, too.”

The training proposed in HB 1407 also could reduce dropout rates “and would be a tool to break the school-to-prison pipeline,” he predicted.

Dollens’ legislation would dovetail with an apprenticeship program sponsored by the Oklahoma Building & Construction Trades Council.

An apprentice is a worker who “learns a skilled trade through planned, supervised, on-the-job training and related classroom instruction,” said Jimmy Curry, president of the Oklahoma AFL-CIO. An apprentice earns wages while acquiring skills during a program that ranges from three to five years. After completing a program, an apprentice becomes “a journey-person, fully qualified to perform the work of the trade and earning full pay for their skill,” Curry said.

The Oklahoma Building & Construction Trades Council sponsors apprenticeships in trades such as boilermaker, bricklayer, plumber and pipefitter, sheet metal worker, sprinkler fitter, electrician, elevator mechanic, roofer, heat and frost insulator, ironworker, painter/decorator, pipeliner, and glazier (cutting, installing, replacing and removing residential, commercial, and artistic glass).

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile

27 Feb
0

RELEASE: DNC Chair Tom Perez Statement on Trump’s Budget

WASHINGTON – DNC Chair Tom Perez issued the following statement on President Trump’s budget proposal:

“Donald Trump’s budget will no doubt be terrific for people who can afford to spend their weekends golfing at luxury resorts like Mar-a-Lago, and it would be a disaster for hardworking Americans struggling to get ahead.

“In Trump’s vision of America, corporate polluters are allowed to reap profits without repercussion for poisoning the air we breathe and the water we drink, and Wall Street billionaires get a gift-wrapped tax break while ordinary families are left in the lurch. Worse still, this administration is refusing to stand by Trump’s campaign pledge that he won’t dismantle Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – one of his central promises to America’s middle class.

“Budgets are so much more than a compilation of dollar figures – they are an expression of our values. Today, it’s clearer than ever that Donald Trump’s values leaves out working families, their security, prosperity, health or wellbeing. Don’t be surprised if he holds the signing ceremony somewhere on the back nine next to his special-interest golf buddies.”

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