... from the State House

Representative Tad Jones writes:

When I was first elected in 1998, I was amazed at the amount of paper that flowed over our desks on the House floor. I began keeping every bill that we passed on the House floor for the 1999 session. The stack grew to around 4 feet high by the end of session. It was an incredible amount of paper.

The cost of printing all the paper for the House was around $200,000 per year, and a lot of trees. This cost will now be virtually eliminated by technology.

The 2007 session of the House of Representative will be much different. This year a Representative can almost be entirely paperless.

A new bill tracking program and a very secure system were created this year to implement the paperless system. Every legislator that wants one will be given a laptop computer after they complete a short training course.

From their computer, a member will be able to access the House calendar, bills, amendments and statutes. Members will also be able to take notes on bills, submit amendments and track every piece of legislation online.

Recently I had the opportunity to tour the new Oklahoma Historical Society Building near the Capitol. One of the fascinating items in the museum was a giant rolodex that was used by the House until 1991 to track bills. Now, everything is done electronically. Welcome to the 21st Century.

If you have any questions or comments please contact me by e-mail at tadjones@okhouse.gov, by calling my Oklahoma City office at 800-522-8502 or locally at 342-5890.

Representative Ben Sherrer writes:

I spent half the day Friday viewing ice storm damage throughout the district and am shocked at the widespread destruction. Trees snapped in half or ripped right out of the ground are a common sight.

Although power/water outages continue to be tough on so many families in our area, its been a pleasure to once again see the Oklahoma spirit shine. Volunteers at shelters and emergency operations have done a tremendous job responding. Crews from surrounding areas and states have been hard at work to restore utility services. A special thanks to everyone who has been working hard and to everyone who is remaining patient.

The damage to existing power transmission infrastructure has been so great that many of our citizens will be forced to continue without power for an uncertain amount of time. This ice storm has revealed how reliant our society has become on electrical power – and we’re only a disaster away from stepping back 100 years in the way we live. Not just for everyday comfort, but for things like healthcare needs and agriculture production.

The personnel at the Emergency Operations Center of Mayes County Emergency Management (who run an amazing operation) reminded me of some things I want to pass along. Please take note that there has been no declaration by FEMA that individuals will receive financial assistance or reimbursement. Such a determination, if at all, cannot take place unless/until FEMA makes a Major Disaster Declaration for affected areas. Virtually all local and state officials are leaning on FEMA for such a declaration but none of us know whether individual assistance will be available. It appears that local governments will be able to obtain some reimbursement for cleanup.

Everyone should use extra precaution removing fallen timber. The added weight and tension of ice on tree limbs makes chain saw usage increasingly hazardous. From a public health standpoint, caution should be taken once water service is restored. EMS advises boiling all water used for drinking within 3 days of service being restored. In addition, food stored at 41 degrees or above for more than 4 hours is at risk for bacteria.

Finally, because of fraudulent perpetrators be sure not to give your social security number or credit card number over the phone to anyone purporting to be from FEMA or other governmental agency.

It has been a very busy week. I personally appreciate everyone’s patience and willingness to work together.

I can be reached at 825-8989 or in Oklahoma City at 1-800-522-8502. Until next week, God bless you.

... from the State Senate

Senator Sean Burrage writes:

To say the last week has been memorable for those of us in Northeastern Oklahoma would be an understatement. The ice storm that blew in last Friday brought more than just bone chilling temperatures; it brought power outages, broken trees, ice packed roads and makeshift emergency shelters.

Carole, our boys, and I were fortunate to make it through the storm with nothing more than a severe case of cabin fever. Other families in the region – thousands actually – weren’t so lucky.

Friday night, my legal assistant, Teri Hodges, lost power at her home in Pryor. Trying to stay warm, Teri, her husband Shawn, and their daughter Kaitlynn packed up a few belongings and headed across town to the home of Shawn’s Aunt Walda. All went well until Walda’s power went out on Sunday morning. But that was OK – some dear friends down the street offered the Hodges warmth and comfort at their home until ... you guessed it, their friends’ house lost power Sunday night. So the Hodges and Aunt Walda toughed it out until Monday morning and then headed to Jenks where they were happily greeted by Shawn’s sister Mindy. Mindy and Shawn’s parents (residents of Delaware County) were already there because their power had gone out, too. Total number of people hunkered down at Mindy’s makeshift motel: 10. Life imitated art as the Hodges and their extended family found themselves living like the Waltons of the 1970’s T.V. series. “Good night Shawn Boy,” “Good night Teri Ellen” -- I can just hear it now.

The Hodges’ story is not unique. All across Oklahoma, family members and perfect strangers crowded around tables at stopgap shelters in schools, churches and private homes and told of how they survived “Ice Storm 2007”. I suspect they also shared stories about neighbor helping neighbor, which is always the case when disaster strikes in Oklahoma. As we are well aware, Oklahomans have seen more than our fair share of devastation during our first 100 years—from the dust bowl of the twenties to the Murrah bombing and tornados of the nineties. In times of need, the core values of Oklahomans – generosity, compassion, and resilience – shine through. Some people call it the Oklahoma Standard; others call it the Oklahoma Spirit. I call it the Oklahoma Way.

If you have any questions on a legislative matter, don’t hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or by writing me at: Senator Sean Burrage, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 529-B State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105; Email: burrage@oksenate.gov.

I always enjoy hearing from my constituents and consider it an honor to be your voice in the Oklahoma State Senate. May God bless each of you.