I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend! I had a great time with my family on Thanksgiving. I was certainly thankful for Samantha, my niece, as she hosted our family dinner with almost twenty-five people present. It was nice to be able to spend time with the family and catch up with each other as it does not happen enough.
The weekend also included shopping for great deals on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Between those two events, along with Cyber Monday and the online shopping promotions, this was expected to pick up our sluggish economy somewhat in Oklahoma. Our state’s economy has been lagging in recent months and the anticipation for a revenue shortfall in the upcoming session has many concerned. It is imperative that the legislature and governor properly fund core services, such as education, transportation, healthcare concerns and correctional/public safety issue, so this discussion must begin soon.
Thursday will be an especially busy day with two very important meetings. First, I will meet with an expert on pension issues to discuss the proposed plans by some elected officials to consolidate pension systems and change defined benefits for employees to more of a style based on what the federal officials tried to do to Social Security a decade ago. I am not in favor of changing these programs, especially since recent bipartisan reforms have been working well to improve the systems.
I will also be attending an interim study that afternoon on using technology to meet the needs of healthcare access in Oklahoma. This study, requested by one of my colleagues, will follow up on many of the issues we discussed last year on telemedicine issues in the study which I held. Oklahoma has some of the brightest stars in their respective fields in the medical arena providing health care through non-traditional means. This will allow a person to be scanned by devices in rural Oklahoma and the experts will be able to diagnose the patient using technology from their hospitals in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and even outside the state. These advancements need investments for their infrastructure and I certainly hope Governor Fallin will not continue to block federal dollars for our rural hospitals in this time of need.