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Proposed bill will replace blind food vendors at Capitol

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- An idea at the Oklahoma Capitol has vision-impaired and blind people upset.

Right now, just like in other government buildings in Oklahoma, the snack rooms at the Capitol are contracted out to blind vendors.

This all happens through a program run by the Department of Rehabilitation Services.

A proposed bill would take the contracts from Rehabilitation Services and offer them up to a private company.

The idea scares other vendors in the program who say if it happens at the Capitol, it could happen anywhere.

David Altstatt, Sr. is one of those vendors.

He said, "If this bill passes I'm afraid it will snowball. Essentially if it does have an effect on us, it will put blind people out of work. If we are put out of business we will become dependents of the state. We want to be productive citizens as well as anyone else in the state of Oklahoma."

The author of HB 2119 said it has nothing to do with the servers and everything to do with the service.

Rep. Jeff Hickman (R) Speaker Pro Tempore said, "We've really had a struggle with our food service operations in the Capitol for several years."

He said there are problems with slow delivery and skimpy selections at the Capitol snack rooms.

He also said the program just hasn't met the needs of the legislators, staff and visitors in the building.

Rep. Hickman said, "That's why we decided we had no choice to go ahead and move the legislation to make sure we have food service available in the Capitol."

Matthew Jones manages the snack room on the fourth floor of the Capitol.

He said, "If you take away the Capitol, for instance where I'm working right now, that means I'll be jobless again. I'll be home again collecting social security, not being productive, not paying taxes."

The bill already passed through the house and is now waiting for a vote in the senate.

If it's passed and approved by the Governor, the state will start looking for Oklahoma-based companies to fill the spot such as Sonic or Taco Mayo.