The Pryor Times

Opinion

March 16, 2013

Really? What’s the deal?

Congressional action, or inaction, is making it problematic for us to craft the state budget. Due to sequestration (across the board cuts to decrease the federal deficit) it is difficult to know how many of our federal dollars will be returning to Oklahoma. A very significant portion of our education and health budgets are federal dollars. As state legislators, we have no control over federal issues, but if there is a decrease in federal dollars in what we consider core services (education, health, roads and bridges and public safety), we have to shift state funds around to fill in the gaps. For instance, we may have to take money away from our senior centers or veteran homes and move them to common education.

Hey, what’s the deal? Let’s look at the sequestration fiasco. We are cutting back on federal money to educate American children while spending millions building schools in Afghanistan. We are shutting down airport control towers in Oklahoma while giving Egypt millions to buy fighter jets. Many Americans have poor access to health care while we give millions to fight AIDS in Africa. Our country’s infrastructure is aging and crumbling while we give millions to Pakistan in foreign aid. As my wife is fond of saying, “Really?” Like you, I find this behavior on the part of elected officials – Congress and the President, republicans and democrats alike – unacceptable.

What’s happening at the Capitol in OKC? I voted in favor of a bill to allow home food establishments, also known as home bakeries, that earn less than $20,000 annually to operate without having to buy a license from the Oklahoma Health Department. I feel that there are no problems with home bakers that sell at farmers markets or to the public that would require regulation by the Health Department and the onerous, expensive rules and inspections they would bring. The bill does require home bakers to place a label on their product that says something to the effect of “Baked in a home kitchen not inspected by the Health Department.”

Some of you may have been frustrated by trying to renew your expired driver’s license if you couldn’t find your birth certificate. I voted for a law that will allow you to use your expired driver’s license for up to a year to prove eligibility to obtain a new license.

A lot of health bills were voted on this week. I voted in favor of a bill requiring hospitals to do pulse oximetry screening on every newborn prior to discharge. This quick and inexpensive test helps detect congenital heart disease, which is the number one killer in infants with birth defects. I also voted for a bill to allow school nurses to administer an epinephrine shot to students having a severe allergic reaction. I voted in favor of a bill to strengthen the law in regard to bath salts and synthetic drugs (synthetic marijuana). In recent years, issues related to the use of synthetic drugs have skyrocketed, as evidenced by the recent law enforcement raid on the “Gitter Done” convenience store north of Grove on Highway 10, where thousands of synthetic marijuana doses were confiscated.  Shame on that store.

I also supported legislation that would give individuals more time to renew a protective order, from 20 days to 60 days. We hope this will help cut down on domestic violence.

Speaking of domestic violence, it was good to see Deedee Cox (no relation) at the Capitol. Deedee is a tireless advocate against domestic violence and is the director of the Community Crisis Center in Miami. It was also fun to have Rusty and Tommy Henson from Spavinaw visit.

It’s that time of year when local educational foundations are holding their fundraisers. I encourage each of you to support these events, which contribute funds to the schools in your area.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your state representative. I may be contacted at dougcox@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7415.

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