The interim studies at the state capitol are still moving forward, unlike work by our federal government in Washington, D.C. I am hoping the congressmen will reach an agreement soon. If not, the consequences for our nation and the looming likelihood of defaulting on federal obligations could significantly impact not only federal employees, but the entire world economy.
The state house Government Modernization Committee met on a variety of subjects recently. The first topic was the consolidation of technology into one state entity rather than having tech staff in each agency. While this has allowed better oversight on what is going on in the agencies, it has slowed down some response times and increased costs, according to some agency officials. As a member of the committee, I requested information showing how this has saved funds equal to the amount of savings the agency has promoted. I was told that would be included in information for the next budget request in the upcoming fiscal year. The committee is also looking at ways to reduce “red tape” in government and providing assistance to small businesses. I look forward to that discussion to see if the changes in the recent laws have truly accomplished that goal.
Another two studies I have upcoming will look at storm shelters and state employee pay. The discussion on storm shelters will be held at the State Capitol on Thursday, October 31 at 9:00 a.m. in room 432-A. This is a study that was requested in two parts. The first portion deals with school safety and student protection, as requested by Reps. Ann Coody and Todd Thomsen. The second portion will look specifically at storm shelters in schools and was requested by myself, along with 16 other legislators. I know the following officials will testify that morning:
Rep. Joe Dorman – The Status of Storm Shelters in Oklahoma Schools;
Dr. Kevin Kloesel, Director at Oklahoma Climatological Survey – Weather Patterns in Oklahoma;
Superintendent Cindy Swearingen, Beggs Public Schools – Emergency Plans for Public Schools;
Brian Orr, Structural Engineer with Safe Design Group – What is a Storm Shelter/Safe Room & How the FEMA Process Works; and
Albert Ashwood, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
I look forward to a healthy discussion on the topic of overall school safety, not just storm shelters or protection against terrorist activities, such as shooters. I know this issue weighs heavy on the minds of many parents, so I hope this bipartisan effort to come up with solutions will result in something that will get us to the end result.
My other study is contingent on the release of the governor’s work on reviewing state employee pay and benefits. State employees have not seen an overall pay raise in seven years for the 33,000 workers on the payroll. Kenning Consulting, a private firm, was awarded a $77,000 contract to provide technical assistance and develop recommendations by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the main financial agency serving the governor. The House of Representatives appropriations chairman is holding the date for my study, along with a counterpart request by Rep. Leslie Osborn, until the governor’s findings are released.
One example of why this is important is law enforcement. The Department of Public Safety currently ranks 25th in the state on law enforcement department starting pay. This means, municipalities such as Edmond, Moore, Norman, Durant, Lawton and McAlester all pay more to first year officers than what Oklahoma State Troopers receive. There is no incentive for these officers to work for the state when their pay and hours are better working for a municipality, especially with the discussions currently being held to lessen benefits for future state employee retirement. I will keep you posted on this topic in future columns.
I also had a great time at the Elgin Public Library this past weekend as Mayor Larry Thoma and I read to local youngsters. This was a Bedlam event set up by the library and it was great to see so many kids, young and old, dressed up in crimson and cream or orange and black!
It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me to discuss one of these or another issue, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502, or directly at 1-405-557-7305. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is www.joedorman.com on the Internet. Thank you for taking the time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.