From Tulsa County By COMMISSIONER RON PETERS
Last month, all eight Tulsa County elected officials hosted a legislative luncheon for the State Representatives and Senators who represent some portion of Tulsa County.
This meeting was an opportunity for our elected officials holding state or county office’s to discuss how they can work together to provide a more efficient and effective government to all Tulsa County residents.
During the meeting, County officials presented some of the issues and challenges they face that could be addressed with the passage of legislation in 2018. Here are some of the ideas that were presented.
Court Clerk Don Newberry believes it’s time to add members of our law enforcement to the list of those professions which are exempt from jury duty. As a practical matter, when a law enforcement officer is called for jury duty they are never selected to serve on a jury because of the perception they have a professional bias or personal knowledge of the facts of the case. This would be a savings for taxpayers, as these law enforcement officers are currently paid by the county to sit in the jury assembly room, paid by the city which employs them and often the city that employs the officer has to pay overtime to another officer to cover the shift of the officer who is summoned to jury duty.
County Clerk Michael Willis supports a measure that would address how for-profit businesses receive land information, which they use in their business dealings. Currently, while these businesses do not have to pay for the right to access this information, they do sell this information to their clients. In a sense, these businesses are acting like “records brokers” where they expect to collect it for free and then sell it for a profit. The County Clerk believes there should be a reasonable and fair cost assessed for access to these records.
County Purchasing Director Matney Ellis believes that the way current construction-at-risk contracts are awarded could cost the county millions of dollars and should be changed. Currently, when the County is preparing a major capital improvement project, a “Request for Qualifications” is issued. After several contracting companies reply to the request, the selection is based upon which contractor appears to be the most qualified to do the work. Consequently, the selection of the contractor is not based on competitive bidding, the best and lowest bid, which ensures the least cost to the taxpayers, but instead solely on their qualifications to do the work. When there are several well qualifying businesses it is common that they bid differing amounts to do the work. But the county never gets to compare their bids…only their qualifications. The legislative request is to allow the final selection to be based upon competitive bidding and not exclusively based on qualifications.
Sheriff Vic Regalado believes it’s time for Oklahoma to make the possession of a stolen firearm a felony, not a misdemeanor as it currently is. People in possession of a stolen firearm are predictably up to no good and involved in patterns of criminal behavior. Between 2012 and 2016 in Oklahoma, over 35,000 firearms were reported stolen from private owners and over 500 from firearms dealers. Because most of these guns are valued at less than $1,000, this is considered petty larceny, a misdemeanor that generally results in little or no jail time. The Sheriff wants to get tough on stolen firearms with stiffer penalties and consequences.
Our Director of Social Services, Linda Johnson, believes it time to crack down on fake and forged prescriptions for controlled substances. Currently, these prescriptions are prepared by a physician on medical security paper, which is easily accessible to anyone through local office supply stores. With this paper, and the ability to use technology, individuals can prepare fake prescriptions for certain controlled drugs, which are a leading cause in the opioid crisis facing Oklahoma and the country. Legislators are being asked to consider mandatory E-prescribing for controlled substances where the physician no longer uses the medical security paper but rather electronically transmits the prescription to the pharmacy.
These ideas, and others, seemed to be well received by the legislators in attendance. Armed with firsthand information from county officials dealing with these issues on a daily basis, the legislators are now better informed on these issues and can consider how they can propose and/or support legislation to addresses these concerns.
With the 2018 Legislative session just 3 ½ months away, this was a great beginning of a public servant partnership that can help every citizen in Tulsa County.