Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas on Wednesday addressed the Rotary Club of Edmond after a membership luncheon at Henderson Hills Baptist Church.
“You’re my bosses,” Douglas told her audience. “And I take that very seriously. Service should be exactly that. You should be serving the people.”
Andy Lester introduced Douglas as a public servant who has spent her professional life as a smart businesswoman, attorney, banker, a successful Edmond mayor and corporation commissioner.
“…This is the type of person who should be serving the public,” Lester said. “She does it well. She does it in the right way. She does it not for partisan gain or for personal gain, but because she believes this is the right thing to do.”
Douglas is also a candidate who wants to serve the state’s Congressional 5th District.
The Corporation Commission serves two-thirds of the state’s economy with trucking, oil and gas, utilities and telecommunications, said Douglas who helped the commission create its first strategic plan last year.
“I brought business practices in and the first thing I started talking about was how are we going to move forward?” Douglas said. “How are we going to get there? How are we going to manage this increased case load?”
The plan has resulted in encouraging commission employees to move from a merit system to a non-merit system, she said. Good work is rewarded to deserving employees instead of automatic raises taking place.
Auditors were brought in to the agency. One fund alone contained $302 million. Douglas said the auditor said, “With this one fund right here, you guys are doing really good with your Big Chief tab and a crayon. The state legislature hasn’t given you the resources you need to do the job.”
The Environmental Protection Agency and “Obama phones” (the Lifeline Program) have been her two biggest headaches as a commissioner. And she wants to change that by sharing her business savvy in Congress.
The Lifeline program was created by her hero, President Ronald Reagan, Douglas said. It’s original purpose was for senior citizens to have a way to dial 911 for emergency medical help at home, Douglas said.
In 1995, the program was expanded to cover cell phones as well. So today, the program has expanded beyond senior citizens to individuals meeting certain criteria. More people have become entitled to a phone paid for by the government, Douglas said.
“Since it’s blossomed, it’s harder now to determine where those cell phones are,” Douglas said. Several cell phones may be linked to one residence.
“In all their wisdom, the FCC has determined that Oklahoma is completely tribal,” Douglas said of the entire state.
This matters because being designated as tribal allows persons to get $35 per month of federal reimbursements for each phone, she said.
“If you’re not tribal, you get $10 per month for a phone,” Douglas said.
Oklahoma now has more “Obamaphones” than states with bigger populations. At one point there were 250,000 of these phones in the greater Oklahoma City area.
“We had no idea how many of them were fraudulent,” Douglas said. “The FCC told me at the Corporation Commission that I could check on that.”
The commission enacted rules to slow down the distribution of these cell phones. Regulations include recording the location and names of the phone’s recipients.
“They have to turn the names in of the phones that have been disconnected,” Douglas said. “We had one company in Oklahoma that had 50,000 fraudulent phones issued.”
That company no longer does business in Oklahoma, Douglas said. The FCC is now working on recouping $28 million from the company because the Corporation Commission was proactive in saving taxpayers money.
As far as the EPA, Douglas said she has never seen an agency with such needless overreach in government.
“They are overreaching on industries that mean so much to Oklahoma like oil and gas,” Douglas said. “They are over-reaching in ways the Clean Water Act has never been used before.”
Douglas said she wants high clean air and water standards maintained for Oklahoma, but the state is better equipped to make regulatory decisions for itself than the EPA, she said.
“The EPA is trying to regulate an industry that it doesn’t know and it doesn’t understand,” Douglas said.
GOP candidates include Douglas, state Rep. Shane Jett, former state Sen. Steve Russell, former congressional aide Harvey Sparks, state Rep. Mike Turner and state Sen. Clark Jolley, who is scheduled to speak to the Rotary Club of Edmond next Wednesday.
Democrats running for the 5th District include former University of Central Oklahoma professor Tom Guild of Edmond; state Sen. Al McAffrey of Oklahoma City; and Leona Leonard, chair of the Seminole County Democratic Party.
The three Independent candidates running for the 5th District include Tom Boggs, who currently lives in Thailand, Buddy Ray of Edmond and Robert Murphy of Norman.
VOTERS will nominate their party’s candidates on June 24 for the statewide primary election. A run-off primary election is set for Aug. 26. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 4.