Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Open Door Policy

This is my first attempt at a blog, so forgive me if I mess this up somehow. I hope this column and future press releases will keep you educated about the happenings at the State Capitol.

I want to start out this week by congratulating our newest Miss America, Lauren Nelson. Lauren is from Lawton and did a fantastic job of representing our state, not only at the pageant, but as Miss Oklahoma leading up to her victory. Lauren is a great example of young people working towards their dreams and achieving them. What is even better for Oklahoma is that Lauren is following Jennifer Berry of as Miss America, which means Oklahoma has back-to-back Miss America's in our Centennial year.

Committee meetings are currently being held at the Capitol. The purpose of these committees is to review ideas that were filed as bills to see how much merit they present. Many of these bills will be brought back before the committees once session starts next Monday should they prove the idea has potential.

One idea that I'm working on this year is remodeling the states Incident Management system for fire departments that respond when it is a group situation. I've been working with various groups involving fire protection and this bill will be a team effort from all areas to reach some type of solution.

We will also look at reducing the cost of training to the volunteer firefighters and hopefully restructuring the trainings where they will occur at local career techs, rather than mainly in Stillwater.

A final portion of this bill will create an award to recognize the "Firefighter of the Year" and this will be presented by the Governor on the first day of the legislative session each year.

Another idea that I have been asked to work on with Senator Kathleen Wilcoxson, a Republican from Oklahoma City, is to find some type of solution to reduce the number of uninsured motorists here in our state. We are looking at requirements that could possibly show the transfer of a title from one individual to another, then recording this transfer with the Department of Public Safety and the State Insurance Department for verification of insurance.

This issue is a very complex one and many have tried to find a realistic solution. While people pay month-to-month payments on their insurance, individuals can cancel their policy anytime after the first month and this prevents issuance of any type of sticker over a period of time.

If anyone has any suggestions on this bill or others, please feel free to mail them to me and I will go over them. I'm smart enough to know that I don't have all the answers on these questions and that's where we need each of you helping with ideas for better solutions. I hope I will be able to take your ideas and craft policy that will best represent our state.

It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me and discuss one of these or another issue, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502, or directly at 1-405-557-7305. I can be reached locally at (580) 476-2626, my e-mail address is joedorman@okhouse.gov at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Public Cord Blood Bank Can Save Lives

We’ve all heard about the potential of stem cells to cure a wide range of life threatening illnesses. We also know the controversy surrounding this research and the moral questions it raises.

There is a means to collect stem cells that is free from controversy: the collection of stem cells from umbilical cords of newborn babies. Cord blood donated following the birth of a healthy baby is rich in blood-making cells. These cells can be used to treat children and adults with certain cancers and otherwise fatal blood disorders.

Sadly, this potentially life-saving option is not available to most of us due to the high cost of testing, processing and storing cord blood cells. We’ve all seen commercials for private cord blood banks that never mention the cost. It’s almost like the old saying, “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.”

Also, private cord blood banks cater to family members genetically related to the infant whose cord blood is collected. The benefit is narrowly directed, and private banks never tell you there are a few public cord blood banks across the nation.

Senate Bill 139 would create the first publicly funded cord blood bank here in Oklahoma, allowing every family to donate their infant’s cord blood without regard to their personal wealth. A family’s socioeconomic status should never stand between life and death.

By making this service available to more people, chances are increased that more Oklahomans could benefit from cord blood cells. Immune types are specific to ethnic groups. Because of that, cord blood from a diverse array of individuals increases the chances to save lives.

How important is this? Almost three-quarters of children and adults requiring a bone marrow transplant do not have an immune matched sibling who could be a donor.

In those desperate cases, the only option is to find an unrelated donor through the national bone marrow and cord blood registries. The more people who donate cord blood, the better chance there is to save a life.

Texas is ahead of us in this effort. The Texas Legislature approved between $2-$3 million in grants that began their cord blood bank in 2005. That state money is being combined with private donations, a model that could serve as a good template here in Oklahoma.

We owe it to ourselves to catch up. There are cases of children whose lives flickered before transplants of stem cells made possible by cord blood donations. Many of those once-flickering souls now shine brightly in the form of healthy children.

Think of it: $3.5 million – about one dollar for every man, woman and child in our state – could save countless lives today and those yet unborn. It is a small price to pay, and we dare not let this chance to save and improve lives pass us by.