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Perry, Oklahoma

Rep. Frank Lucas
Arriving at the Meeting

We kicked off NASE’s new Town Hall program today with our first stop in Perry, Oklahoma to attend an event hosted by Congressman Frank Lucas, representing the 3rd congressional district. NASE Member Carol Moody of Sapulpa, OK was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to join me in attending the town hall. Carol is a long-time entrepreneur and an NASE Member since 2004. Currently, Carol has utilized her skills as a baker and runs a business selling her home-made creations.

According to the Small Business Administration, Oklahoma has an estimated 332,000 small businesses. The self-employed make up one-third of these businesses and NASE is pleased to have over 5,000 members in the state. Thus, Carol and I were interested to hear what Rep. Lucas had to say on issues of importance to micro-business owners.

We were not surprised to hear the impending farm bill in Congress as the first topic mentioned by the Congressman. Perry, as well as the state, is a large farming community. In addition, he discussed energy issues, particularly his support of wind energy as an alternative energy source. Rep. Lucas has introduced the Rural America Energy Act (H.R. 2261). Lucas’ legislation seeks to expand the use of energy sources that can be utilized in rural areas, such as wind energy and cellulosic ethanol.

Those in attendance at the town hall expressed concerns about our lagging economy. Rep. Lucas indicated that despite the national economic state, Oklahoma was holding its own. Though he did express concerns with the present course of our financial system and potential backlash we may face from the use of interest rate adjustments to help spur the economy.

The Question of Health Care
On our minds was the issue of health care, thus Carol asked the Congressman what policy he supports to make health coverage more affordable and accessible to micro-business owners and if he thought Congress would give the self-employed some relief this year from growing health costs. Rep. Lucas responded candidly and said that we should not expect anything of consequence to be done this year in Congress on health care reform or relief from high health costs. He indicated that he was a proponent of the German system of health care which is a combination of both a state run system and private insurance to ensure coverage for all. While the Congressman does not support an employer mandate which would require all businesses to provide health insurance for employees, he did indicate his preference for an individual mandate. This would require that all citizens obtain health insurance.

Carol had the opportunity to briefly talk one-on-one with Rep. Lucas with the conclusion of the town hall. As we departed the Perry City Hall, I asked Carol if she thought attending this town hall was a good experience. Carol remarked: “Yes, I do feel it is a worthwhile experience. I listened to people ask our legislator about concerns that will effect them as farmers. Although where we attended the Town Hall meeting most were farmers and growing up on a farm I could relate to many of their issues as well because they too are self-employed. As one man stated "No wonder there aren't any changes in Washington, no one ever attends these meetings." I felt this was a great point. Our voices aren't heard because real change only happens in groups.”

Final Thoughts
Carol and her family recently experience the tragic loss of their house and work space in a fire, leaving her and her family to pick up the pieces and start again. In follow up discussion with Carol, she expressed the following sentiments which I think many of you can relate to:

 “Do I believe it is important for self-employed and micro-business owners to participate in advocacy activities such as this one? More now than ever. There are more and more people becoming self-employed because of necessity. Whether it be losing your job because of the economy or of dreaming big and just being tired of working their life away just to pay bills and not spending quality time with their family. Quality time also means quality health care. Being a single self-employed business owner I have not been able to afford quality health care. I have always made sure that my kids have health care but even that health care isn't good.

Self-employed and micro-business owners need to raise their voices and be heard. We are the back bone of this country. The back-bone needs to stay healthy. I would say not only do we need more Town Hall meetings. We need more self-employed business owners at these meetings. We need to be contacting our representatives and making our voices heard. In groups progress is made.

Thanks NASE and Kristie, for offering me this opportunity. I would love to do it again. Where I used to be happy in the crowd letting someone else do the talking, I am ready to stand tall on the soap box and let my voice be heard.”

Thanks again to Carol Moody for her participation and insightful comments. We wish her the best of luck as she works to rebuild her home and her business. Also, we would like to thank Rep. Frank Lucas for candidness at the town hall in Perry, Oklahoma.

For more information on small business health policy, please visit NASE’s advocacy website. Stay tuned for our next stop on the trail!

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