The Pryor Times

February 28, 2013

Politics at breakfast: Eggs and issues

Cydney Baron
Staff Reporter

PRYOR, OK — Members of the community met to discuss important issues over breakfast at the Chamber of Commerce- sponsored “Eggs and Issues Legislative Breakfast” Feb. 22.

The event took place at Saint Martin of Tour’s Episcopal Church, Pryor, and was attended by local political figures and representatives of the city council, chamber of commerce, Google, Northeast Technology Center and others.

Sen. Sean Burrage addressed the group first. He spoke on the smoking ban, saying Gov. Mary Fallin pushed for the ban, but it was voted down 6-2. He explained this would allow for more local control, in that cities will be able to ban smoking. Burrage said the people in opposition to this ban are restaurant owners who fear it will hurt their business.

Burrage discussed Medicaid expansion.

“Fallin is not going to do the expansion. We’re already taking $3 million, however,” said Burrage. He explained that hospitals will no longer receive money to cover the uninsured population.

“We have the sixth highest worker’s compensation rate,” said Burrage. “A bill was introduced in the Senate, that was 270 pages long, to reform the worker’s comp system.

“This bill only reduces the payments to the injured workers, not the medical professionals. As of 10 days ago, it was going to limit doctors to 150 percent of what they would get on a Medicare claim.”

Burrage said that portion of the bill was removed, but left him suspicious of how the bill was drafted.

“It’s sure nice to be home,” began Rep. Ben Sherrer.

“A lot of us have thought about Lucy Belle Schultz over the last few weeks,” said Sherrer. “When I  look at this room of community workers and volunteers, I think about her.”

Sherrer said his generation and younger are not involved in community and government. He said something needs to be done to get them to ‘kick it up.’

Sherrer said he was welcomed back to the House with a 72-29 Republican Democrat split. He said he is serving as the minority floor leader this year.

“Something that has come up that people are passionate about, is the horse slaughterhouse,” said Sherrer. “Oklahoma exports 21,000 heads of horses to Mexico every year. If you’ve ever seen a starving horse, or seen horse dumping you know it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with.

“I know it’s not a pleasant issue to discuss over breakfast, but the bill also bans human consumption of horse meat,” said Sherrer.

He said there were 70 bills filed that relate to firearms, a number of which are stewing at the committee level.

“In regard to the issue of guns in school, arming teachers, I’m very concerned about the reactionary House of Representatives. Teachers having firearms might not be a good response to the big scheme of things,” said Sherrer. “I hope we hold off and don’t just pass something for the sake of passing something. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen though.”

Sherrer told the group any anti-federal issue is politically popular right now.

“The elephant in the room today is definitely the budget,” he said. “Instead of starting three months in advance, we worked on it for three days. There is really no meaningful conversation happening in regard to budget.

“The numbers just aren’t adding up. Hopefully we see some progress in this area,” said Sherrer.

The Mayes County Commissioners were asked to speak next.

From District 1, Alva Martin reported the geothermal system at the Mayes County Courthouse is working properly.

“We lost as many as nine compressors before, which meant losing a lot of money. But it’s working exactly as it should now,” said Martin. “We’ve also got a bridge on 370 Road that is being replaced with $1 million from Cherokee Nation.”

“Speaking of Cherokee Nation, I’ve got one in my district as well; $5.5 million from Cherokee Nation is going to Spring Creek bridge, on 630 Road,” said Darrell Yoder, District 2 Commissioner. “Also, Elliott Street should be done April 1, we’re real close to laying the asphalt. It’s been a tough project but it’s coming along.”

County Clerk Brittany True reported things are “ as good as can be expected,” and County Assessor Lisa Melchior reminded everyone that it’s time to file for homestead exemption.

Mayor Jimmy Tramel was up next to discuss city issues.

“Thanks to Lisa and Travis for the Main Street program. I lost a bet, I didn’t think they would be able to get it done in 12 months, and they did.” said Tramel.

“City Hall is under budget and ahead of schedule, so we can start the street project,” he said. “Look outside. Pryor is a great place to live. We’re just working to keep improving the quality of life.”

City Council Member Travis Noland talked about the Main Street Program.

“There are many people that helped with the Main Street Program, I thank them all,” said Noland. “The work starts now. We’re forming a planning board. Hopefully it will kick some projects off.”

He said the program will help streamline the process of opening a new business in Pryor.

As chairman of the zoning board, he reported that discussion continues over the special residential treatment facility ordinance.

Randy Chitwood, City Council Member, spoke about city revenue.

“Revenue is always a concern. We would love to keep offering the same level of benefits to employees, but it’s getting rough to maintain. We are always open for ideas. If anyone has creative ideas on sources of revenue for the city we would love to hear it,” said Chitwood.