Dear Citizens of Okmulgee,
Spring is in the air. Our weather has been so nice in Okmulgee. I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. We had a nice family dinner and of course Easter Egg hunt for our grandchildren. The great weather has helped keep our building projects moving. You’ve seen the new Love’s General Store and I-hop Express going up quickly. First Family has moved into their new location, the former location has already sold and will be a new business. I know the customers and employees are excited about its Grand Opening coming up soon. Cricket is open on Wood Drive and 15th Street. Sharpe’s is open for business at Hwy 75/Wood Drive and 13th Street with a bigger location and much more inventory.
Recently I went to Okmulgee Lake and Dripping Spring Park. Both of our lakes are totally full of water. The Fishing has been excellent so please come out. Also April 1st the City of Okmulgee officially started to Operate both Parks. The lakes are such a big part of our history, we are blessed to have them. The park and lake were beautiful to see as the burned grass has been replaced with bright green spring grass. It was great to visit with relatives from Oklahoma City that came out to camp at Dripping Springs. Last week I visited the new Harlan Ford Dealership on the corner of Hwy 75 and Tank Farm Road just north of Okmulgee. I was so impressed with the new facility, the marble tile floors, and big new showroom. I want to thank Fred and Kelly Harlan for their constant investment in Okmulgee.
Mark your Calendars for upcoming events in our area. E-day is coming up on April 8th and 9th. It’s an opportunity to properly dispose of your electronic waste. Also April 8th is Orangefest at OSU-IT campus. Twister Days is April 25th in Morris. Okmulgee Service League has several fun-filled fundraising events in April. Okmulgee Pecan Festival is returning June 9th and 10th. The Creek Festival and Rodeo is June 23-25. We celebrated the opening of 102 Restaurante and Morty’s, formerly Ike’s and Red White and Brews, will be opening soon. Be sure to try out M2 Squared with their new menu, one feature being Angus Burgers and fries.
I had the opportunity to visit with Police Chief Joe Prentice and tour the newly remodeled Police station. Much detail has been given to space planning, organization and room for other law enforcement agencies to collaborate such as the recently formed violent crimes task force.
In March we had an 18-inch water pipe main that broke from the water treatment plant to the City Water Distribution system. Many of our homes and businesses lost water for about half of the day. Our City Crews worked diligently to locate and repair this break in our system. I went out to the plant to check on the status and was happy to find our Staff had it totally under control and back online, filling up all of our water towers to restore service. I want to thank all of our City Employees for a job well done. They are very proficient at repairing lines under pressure without contaminating our water system. The Council has been reviewing a plan to add several new water towers to ensure less stress on our water system and more water reserves for incidents such as this. It is a major investment for Okmulgee and critical for our growth to have more capacity in our storage system. As we roll into spring and summer our road crews will be very busy preparing our streets for new pavement. We have many projects that are in the works. Please remember that a little inconvenience now will result in long term gain.
A big thank you to all city and county firefighters and emergency services for their efforts in the recent grass and structure fires. We appreciate your service. I look forward to another great month in the city and county of Okmulgee. Be safe and God bless.
Mayor, City of Okmulgee
By: Dr. Mark Kestner - Columnist
If you have not been asked by your primary care doctor about whether you keep guns in your home, you soon will be.
The question is usually asked as "Do you keep loaded firearms in your home?" The answer will be recorded in your health record at your doctor's office. As part of the Electronic Health Records (EHR) initiative led by the federal government your response may also be collected by the federal government.
The federal law that launched Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, includes the question as part of its provisions. However, you are not compelled by law to respond to the question.
There are many that will debate whether it is your doctor's business whether or not you own, use, or have access to guns. Still more will debate whether this information should be readily available to the federal government through your health records.
Other questions that are new include subjects such as domestic abuse. You will likely be asked a question like "Do you have reason to be afraid that your spouse may physically harm you?"
While it may appear that your doctor has suddenly taken a special interest in many more aspects of your life than they did previously, the truth is that the federal government is mandating that your doctor retrieve the information from their patients.
Doctors have been required to shift to electronic health records that are formatted in a certain way to make the information universally accessible. In addition, they are being required to ask personal questions such as those above. Your response is formatted in a way that makes it available to government entities.
The federal Medicare program is structured in such a way that physicians had little choice but to comply with the program. On the one hand, if physicians complied with the program fully by last year they were rewarded with a financial incentive of several thousand dollars. However, if they delayed or failed to agree to provide the data they will be penalized by a certain percentage of Medicare payments going forward.
For example, physicians that have not complied yet not only were not given a reward but also received notice recently that their reimbursement from Medicare will be cut 1 ½ percent. If they don't comply this year their reimbursement will be cut again. Medicare reimbursement is already quite restricted and often doesn't cover the actual costs for the services covered.
In essence, the feds are using their control of Medicare reimbursement to manipulate how your physician handles your personal health information.
As part of that process, the doctors are required to seek the answers to a certain number of personal questions from all their patients, including asking about gun ownership.
Some people see this as a responsible effort on the part of the federal government to reduce the number of accidental and intentional tragedies that involve guns.
Others see it as an overreach into the privacy of patients in an attempt to find a way to work around rights afforded by the 2nd amendment.
Either way, having physicians become involved with the topic of gun ownership and use is a touchy subject.
In some states such as neighboring North Carolina, persons seeking a concealed carry permit must obtain certification from a physician that they are sufficiently healthy mentally and physically to safely keep, carry and operate a handgun.
In spite of this, a recent national survey of physicians found that two thirds of doctors agreed that they are not adequately equipped by their training to determine how well a person is qualified to obtain a permit allowing concealed carry.
Other physicians point out that complying with that type of assessment violates the patients' right to privacy. States that require such medical background reports appear to be requiring the applicant to waive their rights to privacy of their medical records to secure their right to bear arms.
Recently in Florida a new law was enacted that forbids a doctor from talking to their patients about guns. This new state law appears to be in response to the questions that are the topic of this article.
The question remains of whether this is good public health policy or federal intrusion into your personal privacy under the guise of public health.
A column By Governor Mary Fallin
At the beginning of the 2014 Legislative Session, I asked our lawmakers to work with me to build on the considerable momentum we have helped to create in Oklahoma. That momentum includes:
· Over 90,000 new jobs created since 2011 and a reduction of the unemployment rate from over 7 percent in 2010 to just 4.6 percent today
· Per capita income growth of 6.3 percent from 2011 to 2013, the second-highest growth rate in the nation during that time period and
· The restoration of the Rainy Day fund, which went from broke ($2.03 in 2011, to be exact) to a high over $570 million
We have achieved these results through hard work and a commitment to fiscally conservative, pro-growth policies as well as the elimination of government waste. When Washington tried to push irresponsible, costly policies down our throats – like Obamacare's unaffordable Medicaid expansion – we stood with the people of Oklahoma and loudly told President Obama, "No."
I am proud to say that 2014 was a productive legislative session that continues to build on that previous good work. Some of the highlights include:
Lower taxes for families and businesses:
This year I signed into law a responsible, measured income tax cut that will save families an average of $158 per year once fully implemented and return over $200 million annually to the private sector. Reducing the income tax rate in Oklahoma makes our state more competitive and able to attract good jobs, something that is especially important as neighboring states continue to reduce taxes.
I also signed a continuation of a key tax incentive program that reduces costs for oil and gas companies drilling new wells in Oklahoma. That incentive will continue to make our state the best place in the country for the energy industry, which supports one in four Oklahoma jobs, to operate and invest in.
A conservative budget that cuts bureaucracy while increasing resources for education:
The budget passed this year is a responsible, balanced budget that closes a $188 million budget shortfall by making necessary cuts while still adequately funding state government.
While many agencies will receive cuts, the budget delivers a much needed $80 million funding increase for K-12 education, getting more money into the classroom and funding reforms that will improve accountability and boost student performance. With that increase in resources, K-12 public schools have now received more than $154 million in the past two years, more than any other area of government during my administration.
Better compensation for public employees
It is no secret that many state employees are underpaid, making it hard to recruit and retain qualified workers, and ultimately eroding the quality of service for taxpayers. To begin addressing that problem, this year's budget includes $36.8 million in pay raises for over 12,300 state employees, including corrections workers, state Highway Patrol troopers, and child welfare workers. It also includes raises for the state's most underpaid employees, as identified by the state's recent comprehensive employee compensation study.
Addressing pay disparities is only half the solution when it comes to state employees; we also need to address the state's fiscally unstable pension system. With $11 billion in unfunded liabilities and a stagnant, mid-20th century model in place, today's pension system was threatening to collapse under its own weight, jeopardizing the promises the state has made to our current employees and retirees. To fix that, I signed a bill to move future hires to the 401K-style pension model commonly used in the private sector. The new system will offer employees more portable and flexible retirement benefits while getting the state back on sound fiscal footing.
I'm excited about the direction our state is headed in, and I'm proud that the 2014 legislative session continued to push us in the right direction. Oklahoma has always been a strong, caring community; and we are providing our families and businesses with more and better opportunities to flourish each and every day.