[NFBOK-Talk] HB 2230 Blind Push Back

Jeannie Massay jmassay1 at cox.net
Sat Mar 11 23:20:10 UTC 2017

The message below was sent to Representative Mulredy regarding HB 2230 today
with a copy to the entire House of Representatives. As with HB 1861, please
e-mail, leve messages, post and share to social media. Push, push, push back
my blind brothers and sisters! 








March 10, 2017


Dear Representative Mulready:


The National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma, the leading voice of blind
Oklahomans, of which I serve as president, opposes HB 2230. This proposed
legislation will harm blind Oklahomans, as well as take business away from
local entrepreneurs and direct it to others including the possibility of
out-of-state vendors. 


Your proposed legislation would exempt county jail commissaries from the
priority afforded to blind entrepreneurs to manage and operate vending
facilities on state and county properties. If enacted, the blind
entrepreneur who currently operates the inmate commissary at the Tulsa
County Jail will be displaced and lose his ability to earn a living and
support his family. Further, HB 2230 will set precedent   in cutting other
facilities leading to blind men and women losing their jobs and lending
towards dependence on social security disability.  The state of Oklahoma
will lose tens of thousands of dollars in revenue paid by this blind
entrepreneur through a percentage of his profits and the state taxes that he
currently pays. 


In good faith, as citizens of Oklahoma, more than forty blind persons, their
friends and families attended the Municipal and County Committee meeting on
March 1, 2017 to show our legislators that the blind community opposes HB
2230. Additionally, we have called, e-mailed, brought information to and
have met with the majority of our representatives, including you. It is
clear that our voices have not been heard. HB 2230 does not make sense for
the people of Oklahoma. Legislation attacking one person with the potential
of limiting the employment of many others does not make sense. 


Instead of attacking the businesses and livelihoods of Oklahoma's blind
vendors, the Oklahoma legislature and county sheriffs should seek ways to
improve prison commissaries through partnership with these entrepreneurs, as
was done in Tennessee. The Tennessee Business Enterprises Program developed
a high tech state-of-the-art system to deliver commissary services, and
designed a program that allowed the sheriffs to continue to benefit from
revenue from the operation. Today, almost half of the jail commissaries in
the state are managed by blind entrepreneurs. Small business opportunities
were created for blind persons. Jobs were created for Tennesseans. The jails
enjoy outstanding service and still earn money from the operations that can
be used to support the operation of the jail. Everyone wins. 


The National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma urges partnerships between
blind vendors and county sheriffs along these lines. We further seek a
collaborative relationship with you and other legislators to improve
opportunities for the blind and other Oklahomans, rather than an adversarial
relationships in which legislation about us is introduced without our input,
forcing us to take steps to oppose it. We are prepared to discuss solutions
that work for both blind entrepreneurs and the state and county facilities
in which they operate their businesses.


Blind people can be successful and live the lives we want if afforded the
opportunity. When blind people successfully operate prison commissaries and
similar businesses, there are spinoff benefits and opportunities are created
for other blind individuals. With the unemployment rate of blind people at
approximately 70%, Oklahoma needs to focus on creating more opportunities
for the blind rather than fewer. This in turn will make more blind people
productive citizens rather than individuals who must rely on state resources
to survive and provide for their families. The blind will have business
opportunities; county facilities will receive the commissary services they
need; and the state of Oklahoma as a whole will benefit.


We, the blind of Oklahoma, ask that you drop this legislation.  If you are
interested in protecting the rights of blind Oklahomans and in helping to
create opportunity resulting in better education and vocation for the blind
in Oklahoma, we have a wealth of experience, ideas and passion to lead the
way.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I
look forward to working with you to develop policies that work for all
Oklahoma's citizens, including those of us who are blind. 



Jeannie Massay, President 

National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma


cc: Oklahoma House of Representatives



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