Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A "Poison" in the Body Politic

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! A few weeks ago, I wrote of a “poison” being injected into the body politic.

This poison is spreading, and, if left unchecked, this venom could threaten the ability of elected officials to find real solutions to the challenges we face. Threats, fear and intimidation are beginning to take the place of reasoned discussion, honest debate and good-faith efforts to find common ground on important issues.

My positions on a pair of important though divisive issues have attracted anger from both extremes of the political spectrum. The two issues are the difficult and complex issues of tort reform and abortion.

Anyone I represent – or anyone in Oklahoma, for that matter – certainly has the right to disagree with me on any issue. That responsibility goes with serving in elective office; and, it is fair to say I could have avoided the anger directed at me had I taken the easy way out on both the issues.

That is not what you sent me to the Capitol to do. Votes on both those issues were borne of conscience and my deeply held desire to fight for the people I represent.

The tort reform vote was the subject of a statewide news story after one of the doctors in my district sent a letter expressing his strong disagreement with me to news outlets across the state. In addition to suggesting my vote was motivated by partisan politics, this doctor also stated in the press he would “never again accept anyone as a patient who has voted against lawsuit reform.”

What was missing from his letter was the reasoned discussion of the specific bill in question. A couple of weeks ago in this column I wrote about just one of the problems with that bill; there are many others.

Having voted a number of times in favor of strong tort reform measures – and even introduced a few myself – this measure was so skewed against people who may have been hurt that I could not in good conscience support it. I believe my vote was correct and I am proud to stand by it. Having said that, I look forward to a tort bill that truly will do what supporters say it will and I will vote for a fair and balanced bill.

Abortion was the other issue on which my position of conscience caused great anger, and to some degree disproves any suggestion that I make votes based partisan politics. I supported, and then helped resurrect, a bill that would prevent abortions from being performed with taxpayer resources.

That position caused activists in the Democratic Party to become very angry at me, even attempting to reprimand me at the state Democratic Convention. That effort failed because cooler heads prevailed. Again, however, what was missing was a reasoned discussion of the issue.

Certainly, while reasonable people can have honest disagreements on both these contentious issues, we should be able to discuss the real issues without resorting to threats, fear and intimidation. Sadly, however, the desire to punish individuals or members of their family based on what they believe has replaced the discussions we should have on these issues.

I will keep fighting against the venom being injected into the process. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with me, please rest assured my stands on issues are borne from the dictates of my conscience and the concerns of my constituents. I owe each of you nothing less.


Jack Boyte said...

Senator Gumm, I was part of the group that voted for the censure resolution at the state convention. It was NOT about womens reproductive rights. It was about the WAY you and Rep. Hamilton went about reviving SB 139 with language from SB 714.

Forty out of forty-four members of the House Democratic caucus asked her not to 'revive the bill'...and she did anyway. Many feel you encouraged and supported this tactic even though the overwhelming majority of House Democrats opposed the procedure.

I certainly respect your opinion on all issues and commend you for your service. But I feel this specific political maneuvering deserves the condemnation it received.

Wanda Jo Stapleton said...

Jack Boyte is correct.
Here is the resolution
which came within 50
votes of passing at
the State Democratic


Gary Klein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary Klein said...

Senator Gumm,

I was also one of the people who signed the petition and voted aye on the resolution to censure you and Rep. Hamilton. Like most democrats I know, I was willing to swallow my displeasure at your vote the first time in recognition that you were voting your conscience.

What I could not and cannot do is swallow the underhanded backstabbing method you used to revive this onerous piece of legislation.

I suggest that you need to rethink your understanding that the resolution to censure simply failed to carry. The vote was anything but simple when you understand that while the resolution failed by approximately 50 votes, the fact that was not recorded was the contingent of over 100 abstentions.

Senator Gumm, I made it a point to talk to several of the people who abstained and you need to know that they were universally angry at you for exactly the same reasons that I and most of the people who voted for adoption of the resolution are angry.

You had the benefit of supporters who were able to effectively articulate the argument that the resolution was dangerously devisive and thus reframe the issue. I think I can safely say that while this argument persuaded a vast majority of the abstentions to refuse to vote for the resolution, they were almost universally angry enough about your actions that they could not actively vote against the resolution either.

You really need to understand that condoning your actions was not what ruled the debate. The fear of damage to our party was the only thing that saved your bacon from this embarrassing action.

Gary Klein
Okmulgee County Delegate

Senator Jay Paul Gumm said...

I am certain had this legitimate tactic allowed by the rules been used to promote an issue you support, you would be hailing its use. In fact, this tactic has been used numerous times by both parties over the years on a variety of issues.

Just for the record, the issue of abortion is a matter of conscience for me. My stand is consistent with most principles of the Democratic Party: those that say we stand up for the most vulnerable and most voiceless.

While our party's platform on that issue is different, I have been consistent, both during my campaign and during my service, on the issue of life. In fact, I often say both parties have it wrong, being pro-life should not end at birth.

Over the years, I have supported our party with my work and my resources, and that will continue. As I said in the column, I am responsible to my God, my conscience and my constituents - not the Democratic Party.

And, just like I will continue to support our party, I will always use every means allowed me under the rules of the Oklahoma Legislature to advance the causes my constituents sent me here to advocate. To do anything less is simply not why my district elected me.

With respect,

Jay Paul Gumm
Senator, District 6

ktibbits said...

Senator Gumm, you can thank my county for about 5 to 7 votes against your censure. We voted together, because we felt this problem could best be remedied in your primary.

Demetrius Bereolos said...

State Senator Gumm, I wrote the resolution about you and State Representative Hamilton that was discussed at the state Democratic Party Convention. Your blog response missed the point.

First, the need to reprimand you and Hamilton was not because of the position that the two of you have on abortion. It was introduced because you both acted in poisonous and reprehensible ways that put good Democrats in a position to needlessly have to revisit an issue that you yourself recognize is a divisive issue. The issues in SB 714/SB 139 were subject to about as much “reasoned discussion” as anyone can expect from a legislative body (especially one that has so little knowledge and experience in women’s public health care issues) in an open use of the legislative process--the matter was voted upon by both houses, vetoed by the Governor, and his veto was upheld. You had your debate, you cast your vote, and you did not prevail. If anybody is guilty of injecting poison into the body politic, it is you--by giving over your legislation to the same uncaring Republicans who used poisonous hearsay and innuendo to drive the debate of SB 714 and modified SB 139. I can understand that Democrats can disagree on the abortion issue and vote according to the disagreement--unlike the Republicans that you aided Democrats have three distinct elements in the party that are prone to disagreement. What I find reprehensible is when Democrats author the legislation that advances the Republican agenda, legislation that is in direct conflict with the Democratic platform, and, (most importantly) in the case of SB 714 and modified SB 139 legislation that that creates harmful health care policy for Oklahoma women. Do you really believe that the constituents from your district sent you to scurrilously advance the agenda of the Republican Party? When you examine your conscience, ask what the impact of your actions to resurrect the failed language of SB 714 was on your fellow Democrats and (more importantly) on the reproductive health care options available to Oklahoma women?

Second, the resolution did not fail because “cooler heads prevailed.” The resolution failed because the debate was sidetracked--focusing on the divisive issue of abortion instead of focusing on the actions of you and Hamilton. I think it would it would be a tragic mistake on your part to characterize the author of the resolution, the more than 200 signatories who wanted the resolution heard, and the large of number of delegates who voted for the resolution as hot heads.

Third, the resolution was not meant to punish you for what you believe nor did it resort to the use of fear and intimidation. It’s disingenuous for you to suggest that and shame on you for even mentioning that!

Fourth, I hope that one day you can truly have a “reasoned discussion” with people who take a different approach than you on abortion. It’s clear, judging by the bills on this matter passed by the Oklahoma Legislature (bills that harm Oklahoma women and their health care options), that our legislators simply have paid too much attention to hearsay that comes from the likes of Senator Williamson and the mostly unfounded assertions made by the likes of Tony Lauinger.

Wanda Jo Stapleton said...

Jay Paul,

Remember the $62 million tax refund the lege gave Chesapeake (HB-1588) in 2005? Deadline for that tax giveaway is December, 2007.

You, as Senate author of HB-1718,are extending Chesapeake's tax break for another three years--through 2010. Your bill passed the House Wednesday and The Senate Senate Thursday.

You know, that slimy last-minute
give away of OUR tax dollars to
Big Oil. Do you think that we
don't pay enough at the pump
and in our homes?

Is this payback for the $8,000 in campaign contributions which Cheaspeake has given you?

I hope that Chesapeake will not
use our tax dollars that you are
giving them to buy more "Swift
Boat" type ads against Democrats.

You say that " Over the years, I have supported our party with my work and my resources, and that will continue." Looks as if you're
supporting Republicans (with record profits) at OUR expense to me.

elsie said...

State Senator Gumm,

You stayed in your reply, "In fact, I often say both parties have it wrong, being pro-life should not end at birth."

1. Does this mean that you oppose the death penalty?

2. Do you believe that life begins at conception, and if that is true, do you believe that child support should begin from the date of conception?

However, I digress.

This resolution was NOT only about abortion. The issue could have been tort deform; it could have been right-to-work; it could have been about the chicken shit in our waters.

This resolution was about a Democratic State Senator who GAVE his bill to a Republican State Senator who then gave it to a Democratic House member on a Friday evening. Telephone calls were made all weekend long in an attempt to stop Rebecca Hamilton's callous & self-serving determination to resurrect the otherwise vetoed Republican-authored anti-choice language and place it into State Senator Gumm's bill. DESPITE pleading from the Democratic caucus to stop this action from Representative Hamilton on Monday morning, she moved forward with it, and it passed in the Republican-controlled House.

Hamilton & Gumm's complete disregard of their party caucus' wishes led to this legislation's reintroduction, which put their fellow party members and party leader in jeopardy.

THIS RESOLUTION was about betrayal of party unity and disloyalty to the party caucus. There were many who did not understand that – had THAT been properly explained, I believe the Resolution would have passed.

Okiecrat said...

Senator Gumm,

Are you willing to admit that you were at least remiss in allowing this legislation to go forward without protection for women who have non life threatening yet serious medical conditions that will be negatively impacted by continuing a pregnancy or who are found to be carrying a non-viable or already dead fetus?

If so, will you work to correct these deficiencies in the next session as you have been requested to do by the governor?

When you fail to accomplish a correction for just these problems, will you accept your share of the financial responsibility for women who are denied secondary payer coverage when these conditions are present?

Senator Gumm, you could go a long way in rehabilitating your image in the minds of a great many Oklahomans by taking ownership of these problems and working to correct them.

Either way, the good citizens of this great state deserve to hear your answers to these questions including an explanation of your reasoning.

Gary Klein
Okmulgee, OK