Thursday, May 31, 2007

Open Door Policy - May 29, 2007

The legislative session ended this past Friday and now it's time to sort through the piles that have stacked up. I had two bills go to the Governor and I'm still waiting for his signature on the bill dealing with firefighter training and funding, along with the creation of a controlled burn indemnity fund established through the Conservation Districts. I do not expect any problems from this bill since I never heard of any efforts to work against it. Every organized fire association, the conservation districts and the agricultural associations were all in support of this bill.

The session was smooth for most as the power-sharing agreement worked in the Senate and the House members were able to work together on issues such as the budget, immigration, education reform and health care. Despite some of the partisan wrangling on a few issues, most everyone got something of what they wanted to see this year from the session.

The deadline for interim studies has passed and I want to thank each of you that submitted ideas. I turned in 26 requests for study and hopefully the Speaker will approve them. I, along with my interns and the House Staff, have all started work on some of these and I expect some good ideas will come forth from these meetings. I will do a detailed explanation of some of these in the coming weeks, along with others requested by different legislators.

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day! The services at Fort Sill and Elgin were very moving and the weather was very cooperative. It's was good to get back home and see friends at these events. I also enjoyed Cement's 105th birthday celebration with the parade and the main street roped off for people to have a fun day of fellowship. I got several comments about shaving off my beard there. If you hadn't heard, I told a group they could shave my hair and beard if they raised $1,000 for a Relay for Life and they got over $1,800. It's a good summer haircut for a great cause!

The week ahead has me speaking to the Grady County Democratic Women's Club about the legislative session, the Sovereignty Symposium regarding tobacco legislation and tribal compacts, the Association of General Contractors will discuss road funding and Ninnekah has their 115th birthday celebration this Saturday. I will be getting around to see people around the district over the next few weeks and catch up with the time off from the Capitol until the studies begin. I enjoyed the trivia lessons on Tuesday in Elgin while getting coffee, so it's good to see some things don't change while we are in session.

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. My e-mail address is at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559 , Rush Springs , OK 73082 and my website is on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Internet Request Yields Huge Response for State Lawmaker

Contact: Ray Carter, House Media
Capitol: (405) 557-7421
Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Capitol: (405) 557-7305

Internet Request Yields Huge Response for State Lawmaker

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 31, 2007) – To encourage Oklahomans to become more involved in state government, state Rep. Joe Dorman used the World Wide Web to solicit their input this year.
In online postings on Dorman’s personal Web site ( and his pages on and, the Rush Springs Democrat encouraged members of the public to send in their suggestions for legislative studies.
The response was overwhelming.
"I asked people to turn in ideas for issues they thought the Legislature should address during the interim," Dorman said, "and I had a huge response from people all across the state."
After the Oklahoma Legislature adjourns each May, state lawmakers conduct interim studies on issues that could be addressed during the next session, which begins the following February.
Dorman submitted more than 20 study requests this year with the majority coming from the online response of Oklahomans.
The study proposals submitted as a result of Dorman’s online request include a review of animal cruelty laws affecting laboratories, gasoline prices, the legal definition of mental illness, protection of the state’s water supply, driver’s education classes, global warming, state-funded medical research opportunities, the state contracting process, a proposal to install ATMs on toll roads, creation of a NASCAR race track in Oklahoma, encouraging the production of biofuels from switch grass, and more.
"It’s a wide variety of issues," Dorman said. "But all of them are issues that are important to Oklahomans now engaged in our political process and I’m very excited by the response."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ethics Reform

Murphey Legislative Update
28 May 2007

The House of Representatives recently passed major legislation amending the ethics rules that govern the fundraising conduct of the campaigns of Oklahoma politicians. These reforms include a new limitation on lobbyists' influence over elected officials. These ethics reforms were contained in House Bill 2210, sponsored by Lance Cargill, Speaker of the House.

Ethics reform is an issue about which I feel strongly. As an observer and participant in the political process, I have seen first hand how some ethics abuses are perpetrated. As a State Representative, I have also noticed how much influence lobbyists have over the legislative process. When I sought election to this office, I campaigned on a platform of ethics reform.

I am a strong defender of the rights of citizens to contribute to the candidate who reflects their point of view. I feel this is the way the average person can counter the tremendous influence lobbyists and special interests exert over elected officials. I am opposed to any attempt to lower the limit on the amount of money that a person can give a candidate for office. However, with the right to contribute to candidates must come the requirement of full disclosure. It is only fair that those who try and influence elections be held accountable if their message is dishonest. In order for people to be held accountable, it is necessary that their identity is disclosed.

An important reform in House Bill 2210 took a step towards requiring more disclosure by requiring certain third party groups to be subject to reporting standards similar to the groups that are in direct support of candidates.

Another reform in House Bill 2210 is the placement of a ban on political contributions inside the capitol building. It is at the capitol where the special interests work to swing the support of officials to their point of view. The average person does not have anywhere near this kind of access to their legislators. At the very least, this prohibition helps place citizens on a more even footing with professional special interests groups. I think this is just a common sense step to ethics reform.

The ethics reform bill also includes a ban on honorarium for lawmakers. I remember how shocked I was to learn that money is sent to lawmakers in the form of honorarium from those benefiting from state appropriations. I believe this is a practice that few in the general public are aware of. I am pleased to say that in addition to returning all political contributions from lobbyists and the pacs that employ lobbyists, I have also maintained a policy of returning all honorarium to the senders.

Not included in House Bill 2210 were earlier proposals by Speaker Cargill that would require monthly reports from candidates for office and greater application of the ethics rules to those who hold office at county level. It is my belief that these reforms did not occur due to the significant costs that would be imposed on the ethics commission, which is the board responsible for enforcement of ethics rules.

I do think there are additional reforms that should occur with our ethics rules. One of the foremost concerns I have is the lack of ability of the ethics commission to provide proper enforcement of the rules. If we are to be serious about enforcing ethics rules, we must take an important step by codifying these rules into law. Until we are willing to do this, the ethics enforcement process is rather ineffective.

It is my personal belief that the in the past the legislature has traditionally underfunded the ethics commission and kept the rules out of law as a way of insuring there would be few teeth in the enforcement process.

I also have some concerns with the way the bill was presented to the legislature. We were unable to get a copy of this bill until approximately 30 minutes before the vote was to occur. In those 30 minutes, I was able to verify that the ethics reforms listed above were in fact in the bill. However, this is far from the preferable process by which important legislation should be considered. Reforming the legislative process to control the last minute consideration of major legislation initiatives should be a priority of the legislature.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Dorman Praises OHLAP Reforms

Dorman Praises OHLAP Reforms
Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Capitol: (405) 557-7305
Dorman Praises OHLAP Reforms
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that ensures continued funding of a state scholarship program approved today will benefit Oklahoma for years, state Rep. Joe Dorman said today.
"Education is a right that every American should enjoy and the Oklahoma Legislature took a huge step forward today by guaranteeing access to even the poorest of our state," said Dorman, a Rush Springs Democrat who co-authored the bill.
Senate Bill 820 provides a permanent funding source for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (also known as "Oklahoma's Promise") and implements new accountability and performance standards for the scholarship program. The bill passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 98-0 vote. It now goes to the governor for his signature.
OHLAP pays the college tuition of students from families earning less than $50,000 per year who take a rigorous college curriculum, maintain a 2.5 grade point average and exhibit good behavior during their high school years.
However, the program has been underfinanced in recent years. Senate Bill 820 corrects that situation by taking the money needed for scholarships "off the top" of general revenue collections each year.
The bill also contains several major reforms. One of the most contentious reforms is the implementation of a grade-point-average requirement for recipients. Currently, scholarship recipients continue receiving state aid even if they are failing most classes.
The new law will require OHLAP students to maintain the minimum GPA required by the State Regents for Higher Education during their freshman year, with a 2.0 minimum imposed during the sophomore year and at least a 2.5 GPA required for classes taken during the junior and senior years.
"Students should not lose their only chance at a college education because of one bad semester," Dorman said. "The compromise plan included in Senate Bill 820 provides a safety net. OHLAP was established to help low-income students whose high school grades aren't high enough to secure an academic scholarship. Those students will continue to have that opportunity under Senate Bill 820 even if they have an 'off' semester."
Dorman noted that he had experienced "one bad semester" in his junior year of college when he become too active in student groups and associations and let his grades slip.
"I was on OTAG and if there had been a grade requirement, I would have lost my access to funding," Dorman said. "I lost my priorities for one year and placed student government and other events above my classes. I fixed that after the sharp realization of seeing my grades, but this happens too often when students get away from home for the first time. They need to chance to succeed if they mess up once and this bill allows that now."
The legislation contains other reforms, including limiting scholarship eligibility to U.S. citizens or other individuals who are legally present in the country. Children who are home schooled would be eligible for the program for the first time under the bill if they meet all other requirements and score a 22 or higher on the ACT test. Senate Bill 820 also extends the "good conduct" requirements throughout a student's college years and includes an "anti-windfall" provision barring scholarships to students with family income greater than $100,000 at the time they start college.
"This is program allows students to live their dream to go to college without facing enormous debt upon graduation," Dorman said. "Senate Bill 820 will help create a higher-educated workforce in Oklahoma and allow the state attract more employers.
"This bill will do more good than any of the previous laws passed over the last decade to increase economic development. This was a true bipartisan effort to advance Oklahoma's promise to the next generation for a well-educated citizenry."

Contact: Ray Carter, House Media
Capitol: (405) 557-7421
Contact: State Rep. Randy Terrill
Contact: State Rep. Tad Jones
Capitol: (405) 557-7346
Capitol: (405) 557-7380
House Approves OHLAP Reforms
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 25, 2007) – Lawmakers voted today to provide a permanent funding source for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (also known as "Oklahoma's Promise") and implements new accountability and performance standards for the scholarship program.
Senate Bill 820 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 98-0 vote. It now goes to the governor for his signature.
"OHLAP students work hard and play by the rules to qualify for these scholarships. This legislation ensures that the state keeps its promise to those students by paying for their education," said state Rep. Tad Jones, a Claremore Republican who carried the bill in the House. "This legislation guarantees no qualified student is ever denied an education because of financial problems."
"Senate Bill 820 keeps 'Oklahoma's Promise,'" said state Rep. Randy Terrill, a Moore Republican who chairs the House Revenue and Taxation Subcommittee. "We're telling Oklahoma students that we will pay their tuition if they stay out of trouble and maintain their grades."
OHLAP pays the college tuition of students from families earning less than $50,000 per year who take a rigorous college curriculum, maintain a 2.5 grade point average and exhibit good behavior during their high school years.
However, the program has been underfinanced in recent years. Senate Bill 820 corrects that situation by taking the money needed for scholarships "off the top" of general revenue collections each year.
The bill also contains several major reforms. First, the legislation limits scholarship eligibility to U.S. citizens or other individuals who are legally present in the country.
Children who are home schooled would be eligible for the program for the first time under the bill if they meet all other requirements and score a 22 or higher on the ACT test.
"In Oklahoma, home-schooling is a constitutionally protected right," Terrill said. "It has always been the position of the House Republican caucus that government should not be in the business of discriminating against families who choose to educate their children by other means."
Senate Bill 820 extends the "good conduct" requirements throughout a student's college years. Current law applies that requirement only to the high school years.
Under the bill, any student who is expelled from college or suspended for more than one semester would lose his or her scholarship.
"When kids sign up for OHLAP in high school, they promise not to commit any criminal or delinquent acts or have substance abuse problems. We should expect the same from those students when they attend college," Terrill said. "Your conduct should live up to a certain standard if you want to go to school on the taxpayers' dime."
The bill also includes an "anti-windfall" provision barring scholarships to students with family income greater than $100,000 at the time they start college. Currently, the $50,000 income threshold applies only to the time of application.
The means test will not be applied to foster children.
"The bill allows for reasonable income growth between the time you apply for a scholarship and the time you begin receiving aid," Terrill said. "At the same time, it prevents people from gaming the system by manipulating their income tax returns."
Perhaps the most significant reform is a grade-point-average requirement. Currently, scholarship recipients continue receiving state aid even if they are failing most classes.
The new law will require OHLAP students to maintain the minimum GPA required by the State Regents for Higher Education during their freshman year, with a 2.0 minimum imposed during the sophomore year and at least a 2.5 GPA required for classes taken during the junior and senior years.
Terrill noted that other state scholarship programs, such as those offered in Georgia and Tennessee, impose higher GPA requirements.
"The purpose of the OHLAP program isn't simply to produce more college graduates; it's also to produce a better-quality college graduate," Terrill said. "Students will perform to expectations. We hope to incentivize better academic performance from OHLAP students."

Kiesel Continues Fight For Higher Education

Contact: Ray Carter, House Media
Capitol: (405) 557-7421
Contact: State Rep. Ryan Kiesel
Capitol: (405) 557-7372

Kiesel Continues Fight For Higher Education

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 25, 2007) – An effort by state Rep. Ryan Kiesel to increase funding for Oklahoma’s two-year and regional colleges was defeated this week, but he vowed to continue the fight.
"I am in complete support of our two comprehensive universities in Norman and Stillwater, but the fact remains that the vast majority of college students in Oklahoma attend regional and two year institutions. We need to ensure that in our efforts to help the two big universities, we don’t overlook the need to invest in the students and communities who depend on the 23 regional and two year schools," said Kiesel, D-Seminole.
House Bill 1105, which passed out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives late Thursday, contained funding for capital improvement projects at Oklahoma colleges. However, the lion’s share of that funding went to just the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University – the other 23 colleges and universities in the state were left "to fight over crumbs," Kiesel noted.
Kiesel, whose district includes Seminole State College, filed instructions to return the bill to conference committee where language could be added providing a more equitable distribution of state funding. Under Kiesel’s plan, one-fourth of the capital project money would have gone to OU, another quarter would have gone to OSU, another fourth would go to Oklahoma’s regional colleges, and the remaining 25 percent would go to the state’s two-year colleges.
That change would have increased the amount given two-year and regional institutions for construction needs by $2.75 million dollars.
"This is not about increasing appropriations; it is about dividing the agreed-upon funding in an equitable manner," Kiesel said.
However, the majority of the House voted to reject Kiesel’s proposal.
Under the plan approved by the House, the 23 two year and regional colleges and universities will share $5.5 million, which is about $239,000 per institution. The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University will receive $5.5 million each.
The Seminole Democrat said lawmakers are making a mistake by shortchanging the state two-year and regional colleges, noting that the state’s two-year colleges alone enroll 54 percent of students in Oklahoma and vowed to continue his effort to ensure adequate and equitable investments that give every Oklahoman the ability to realize the benefits of Higher Education.

Cox Hails Passage of "All Kids" Program

Contact: Ray Carter, House Media
Capitol: (405) 557-7421
Contact: State Rep. Doug Cox
Capitol: (405) 557-7415

Cox Hails Passage of "All Kids" Program

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 25, 2007) - A new program that could increase health care coverage for Oklahoma children is headed to the governor's desk. "This is a great day for the children of Oklahoma," said state Rep. Doug Cox, a Grove physician who carried the legislation in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. "We are opening up access to healthcare for more hardworking families that struggle with the expense of health insurance premiums. "
This program is just one piece of a large puzzle to transform the health care system of our state and country." Senate Bill 424, by state Sen. Tom Adelson (D-Tulsa) and Cox (R-Grove), creates the "All Kids Act."
The bill would increase Medicaid eligibility for children from 185 percent of the poverty level to 300 percent (covering children in families with $38,200 to $62,000 annual income for a family of four). As many as 42,000 additional children could be provided insurance as a result. The program involves a public-private partnership where the state provides matching funds to families seeking health insurance. The state subsidies are provided on a sliding scale with the greatest state benefit weighted toward the lowest-income families.
Under the program, participating families would receive vouchers to purchase private health insurance. The state cost will be an estimated $8 million per year,allowing the state to draw down nearly $30 million in federal matching funds. The state's share will come from revenue generated by the state's tobacco tax, which was increased by voters in 2004.
Cox predicted the bill will have a positive ripple effectthroughout Oklahoma's health care system. "In addition to helping Oklahoma families, this legislation will improve the financial stability of state hospitals - especially those in rural areas - that serve a high percentage of uninsured patients," Cox said. "By reducing uncompensated care, we will also reduce the pass-along costs driving up everyone else's hospital bills."
Senate Bill 424 passed the state Senate 41-7 and cleared the Oklahoma House of Representatives 68-27. The bill now awaits the signature of Gov. Brad Henry.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Southwest Ok Leaders Praise Passage of Military Base Protection Bill

Note: For audio of state Rep. Joe Dorman discussing the BRAC bill, go to and select "Dorman--BRAC"

Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Capitol: (405) 557-7305

Southwest Oklahoma Leaders Praise Passage of Military Base Protection Bill

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 24, 2007) – Fort Sill and other military installations in Oklahoma will be less likely to face closure in the future thanks to legislation approved today, southwest lawmakers said today.
Senate Bill 751 would create the Military Base Protection and Expansion Act, which would provide funds to military communities for infrastructure improvements needed as the result of an increased military presence. The latest round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decisions resulted in expansions at several Oklahoma bases.
"Senate Bill 751 has been a team effort since day one," said Dorman, a Rush Springs Democrat whose district includes Fort Sill. "I want to thank Don Davis from the Governor's staff for spearheading the meetings that got us past the minor difference holding up passage. Politics should not play any part in this process that benefits so many Oklahomans."
"I cannot emphasize enough how important this bill is to our military communities. Getting this passed this session was critical," said state Sen. Randy Bass, a Lawton Democrat who also represents Fort Sill. "I again want to commend the entire delegation from the Lawton area, as well as legislators representing other military communities for their hard work on this bill."
"This has been a purely nonpartisan issue for all of us who represent military installations," said state Rep. David Braddock, a Democrat whose district includes Altus Air Force Base. "Everyone has put in a lot of hard work and should be commended for their efforts to protect our bases."
"I am very proud of the entire southwest delegation. Their bipartisan efforts should prevent the closure of Oklahoma's military bases during the next round of BRAC," said Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, a former state lawmaker from Duncan.
Last year, the Legislature committed $1 million to the "Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission Incentive Fund," which allowed communities that are home to military bases to apply for matching grants to use for infrastructure and road improvements. The appropriation allows the planning commission to leverage federal matching funds.
The fund was created in 2005 following the federal government's latest round of the "base realignment and closure" process, also known as BRAC. Under that system, the Pentagon draws up a list of bases its experts believe are no longer needed.
Oklahoma is home to Altus Air Force Base, Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Fort Sill Army Post in Lawton, the Army Ammunition Depot in McAlester, Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Air National Guard Units in Oklahoma City and Tulsa and the Army National Guard Unit at Camp Gruber.
The Pentagon's list of base closures did not include a single major Oklahoma installation and actually endorsed shifting as many as 10,000 jobs from other parts of the country to Oklahoma.
The combined economic impact of Oklahoma's military installations on the state economy is an estimated $6 billion per year.
"This bill shows the BRAC Commission we are serous about taking care of our soldiers, their families and the communities in which they live," Dorman said. "Though Representative Armes and Senator Bass were the primary authors, each area legislator representing a military installation was included in all phases of discussion. This shows we put our soldiers above petty partisan politics."
Senate Bill 751 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 95-2 vote on Thursday and now awaits Gov. Brad Henry's signature.


Shoemake Calls For Investigation into Lower Gas Prices

Representative Calls on Fellow Legislators to Petition for Investigation into Lower Gasoline Prices

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 24th, 2007) On one of the last day of the Legislative Session, Representative Jerry Shoemake, D - Morris, called on his fellow Legislators to sign a petition calling on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and Oklahoma Attorney General to conduct an investigation into the soaring price of gasoline.

“High gas prices hurt hard working Oklahomans the most,” said Shoemake. “We have to do something about the soaring price of gasoline before it gets out of control.”

Currently, every House Democrat present and all but two State Senate Democrats have signed the petition to encourage the Attorney General and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to conduct an investigation on the spike in local gas prices.

“To have sixty-five of the sixty-eight Democratic Legislators sign this petition should send a message to our Republican colleagues that Oklahoma has a problem with high gas prices,” said Shoemake.

Shoemake has also attempted to have a resolution heard on the House Floor that would have called on the federal government to conduct its own investigation of rising gasoline prices across the nation. The resolution was not heard on the State House Floor by the Republican Leadership at any time the past three years.

“I have constituents in my district that can no longer afford to buy groceries, prescription drugs or any other necessities because they have to pay for gasoline to drive to and from work ever day. This is ridiculous and it is about time that we do something about these outrageous prices.”
Congressional House Democrats have recently passed measures that would prevent price-gouging at the gasoline pump.

“I would like to commend Congressman Dan Boren and the U.S. House Democrats for taking actions to protect working Americans,” said Shoemake. “We are just requesting similar action at the state level. House Democrats have tried to run resolutions in the past to encourage Congress to take action when the Republicans were in charge of the U.S. House. However, the State House Republican leadership refused to give the resolution a hearing. The same stall tactics happened this year when the resolution was filed, so it couldn’t have been simply to protect the federal Republican legislators.”

Boren, D – Muskogee, was the only member of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation to support the price-gouging legislation.

Since Friday, May 25th is the last day of the Legislative Session, if no action is taken on the resolution, it will effectively die. By doing a petition, no official action is required by the legislature, but it shows an overwhelming support by the legislative Democrats on this subject.

“I really hope that the House Leadership comes to its senses,” said Shoemake. “This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. This is an issue of helping out all Oklahomans and giving them a fair break at the gas pump.”


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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Murphey Legislative Update

Murphey Legislative Update

This week I was provided with a copy of the latest version of the proposed state budget also known as Senate Bill 334. This bill will contain the majority of the budget agreement recently reached between legislative leaders and the Governor.

The 45 page bill proposes to spend over 6.9 billion of our tax dollars as part of the fiscal year 2008 state budget. This budget will expand the size of state government base appropriations by $377 million dollars, or about 5.7% more than last year's bas appropriation of 6.5 billion dollars. If you have read budget related news stories or caught the sound bytes on television, you may find this statement confusing.

State leaders have said that one of the key successes of the 2008 budget proposal is that it actually shrinks the size of government a small amount. While government base appropriations are higher in the 2008 budget, the amount of excess money from the previous year (referred to as spill over money) is less, and the government does not have as much extra money to spend in addition to base appropriations. When base appropriations and spill over money are accounted for, the government will spend 7.188 billion dollars this year compared to 7.196 billion last year. Thus the government will in fact spend 8 million dollars less this year than last year.

While I am certainly happy about the reduction in spending, I still believe there is a tremendous amount of inappropriate spending in the proposed budget. One of my greatest concerns is a section requested by Governor Henry which would allow for additional bonded indebtedness of the Oklahoma Higher Education system by about 50 million dollars. The good news about this proposal is that it is only a fraction of the 663 million dollars of debt requested in Henry's initial budget. However, I have stated my opposition to incurring any new indebtedness. If we are serious about rolling back big government and enacting important pro-growth reforms such as eliminating state income tax, the issue of big government debt is not one we can ignore. Reducing the size of government is difficult enough because of past inappropriate spending by state politicians and new debt simply adds to this problem.

Henry's demand appears to have been at the core of his negotiations. It appears that legislative leadership gave in to the demand in return for the Governor's support of legislative tax cuts and such issues as the audit of the Department of Corrections.

In upcoming days, the House will not only consider Senate Bill 334 but will also vote on a number of individual agency appropriations bills. These votes will give us an opportunity to reflect the desires of our constituents who are for smaller government. I intend to vote no on a number of agency bills that are either too large or altogether inappropriate functions of government, and will certainly vote against attempts to incur new debt.

I have been encouraged by the stance on streamlining government taken by house leadership. House Speaker Lance Cargill recently released the following statement.
"The bottom line is that many state agencies are duplicating what other parts of state government do. I'm sure the defenders of the status quo will fight our efforts, but Oklahoma's state government has simply grown too large. There are nearly 100 state agencies, and the average citizen must confront an alphabet's soup of acronyms and confusing red tape. That's not serving the taxpayers well. Oklahoma can do better."

The Speaker authored House Bill 2110 to create a BRAC-style commission that will provide recommendations on consolidating state agencies and ending outdated functions. This bill passed the House by a large margin but was killed in Senate committee.

It is my hope that in future budget years, the legislature will not maintain the present size of government, but shrink it significantly.

House Votes to Secure Fire Funding

Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Capitol: (405) 557-7305
House Votes to Secure Fire Funding
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that prevents the diversion of state money intended for firefighting service training is one vote away from the governor's desk.
House Bill 1520, by state Rep. Joe Dorman, creates the "Firefighter Training Revolving Fund." The bill directs funding for firefighting programs through Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training, funneling the cash primarily through the State Fire Marshal Commission. The commission would be required to ensure the money is used for training programs as lawmakers intend.
"In the past there have been problems with money not being spent as intended for fire-service training in times of financial cuts to the state budget," said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. "Having faced severe drought conditions and loss of lives, land and property in wildfires over the last few years, it's time the Legislature guaranteed that fire funding is used for its intended purpose.
"Oklahoma's firefighters – both volunteers and paid professionals – did a great job protecting our land and families, but it remains crucial for them to receive up-to-date training in the latest techniques and equipment each year."
The bill would also create the "Incident Management Site Task Force," charged with studying and making recommendations for effective emergency command site management consistent with the federal National Incident Management System (NIMS) guidelines.
The bill will also include other reforms that reduce the cost of training for Oklahoma firefighters and make training more widely available, including developing, in conjunction with the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, a program to educate firefighters on a unified command protocol for fire incidents.
While the training would be provided through Oklahoma State University's nationally recognized Fire Service Training School, it would be conducted at CareerTech and college campuses across Oklahoma and other facilities with qualified classrooms that have the proper equipment in place or even at local fire departments. Currently, most training is done at the OSU campus in Stillwater, though training in recent years has been increased in other areas.
"Providing training at accessible locations will reduce traveling expenses on fire departments with already tight budgets," Dorman said.
Dorman noted many of the proposals contained in House Bill 1520 have been developed by the Council on Fire Training (COFT) and other individuals from various sectors of fire service around the state.
The legislation has been praised by other state officials.
"The passing of HB 1520 develops partnerships between Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training, Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, Oklahoma State Fire Marshal's Office, institutions of higher education, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, local fire department and other qualified entities," said Robert Doke, Oklahoma State Fire Marshal. "These agencies may utilize live classroom session, live exercises and drills, interactive television, independent study and web-based methods. No fire department or firefighter will be too remote to receive firefighter training. With the passage of HB 1520 I believe that Oklahoma will be setting the high standard for firefighter training."
House bill 1520 also creates the "Oklahoma Controlled Burn Indemnity Fund" within the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
The fund would be used to compensate landowners who utilize controlled burning land-management practices for losses incurred if a fire spreads "beyond the control of the burner." The fund would only cover losses not covered by insurance.
Participating landowners would have to work with a local conservation district office and the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture to develop a controlled burn plan. Landowners would also pay a $100 fee when they file their plan, which would be placed into the indemnity fund.
The Conservation Commission would be allowed to invest assessments and up to $50,000 in annual earnings would be used to compensate landowners for losses incurred as the result of out-of-control fires.
Clay Pope, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts said that the Burn Indemnity Fund would greatly enhance the ability of landowners to use fire as a management tool.
"Fire is underutilized as a management tool for controlling invasive species like cedar trees and for ensuring that brush is controlled because of fear of liability from fires that get away," Pope said. "This bill not only provides some additional financial protection for folks using fire reasonably for management, it also encourages other landowners that are using fire or want to use fire to use it right by filing a prescribed burn plan through the Natural Resources Conservation Service and their local Conservation District. If landowners follow their prescribed burn plan it is highly unlikely that a fire would ever get away from them. This would give us the ability to encourage more landowners to use fire correctly and then give them some assurance that in the unlikely case of a prescribed fire getting out of control, they have some financial protection if they take part in this program."
House Bill 1520 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 92-7 vote on Monday. The bill now goes to the state Senate for a final vote before reaching the governor's desk.

Open Door Policy - May 22, 2007

The final week of the legislative session has arrived and members are working diligently to get their bills completed before the deadline at 5 PM on Friday. I'm still working on two bills as I write this and feel good that they will be heard. My house bill dealing with fire protection services passed the House overwhelmingly and the bill I'm authoring from the Senate passed in their chamber and is scheduled to be heard in the House. We are also working on passing several resolutions regarding issues important to the Representatives. I still have two remaining dealing with thanking the Hornets organization for the past two years and also regarding increased funding and support for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder cases in the military and public service employees, such as police and firefighters.
The politics has been fairly restrained since the budget agreement. The Democratic House members were successful in securing additional funds for teacher retirement, fire protection services, gang violence prevention and conservation district programs. We also managed to fully fund the Centennial Commission projects for the year, so each of the programs occurring in the district should not see cuts. I've been working with the director to make sure we do not see anything diverted at the last minute.
The House and Senate Democrats made a push this week to get some type of hearing on why gas prices have skyrocketed recently. We signed a petition to the Attorney General and the members of the Corporation Commission to request some type of investigation on potential gouging. It's insane to think the gas prices in Oklahoma are the same as on the coastal states where the cost of living is so much greater. Over the past two years, Rep. Jerry Shoemake has filed a resolution to request the federal government do something about this issue, yet it has failed to receive a hearing by the House leadership.
Interim study requests deadlines are also on Friday. Should you have an issue that you feel the legislature should examine, please contact my office by Friday at 5 PM. I will be happy to look over each request and see if there is potential to get some of these issues filed and a formal hearing be taken up. I have several requests in the works at this point and will be happy to take up more if the Speaker will allow.
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. My e-mail address is at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Open Door Policy - May 15, 2007

I want to start off by wishing congratulations to all those graduating seniors, both in high school and college. I know it has been a long struggle, but it will be worth it to have that diploma. Good luck with your summer plans and with whatever lies before you. I want to give a special congratulations to Wyatt Mindemann for making it through Southwestern, Kelsey Walters for finally getting out of OSU and my cousin, Shawn McKay, for graduating from Rush Springs High School. I'm proud of each of you for your successes.

This past weekend was quite busy around the area. On Friday, I attended the wedding of Dale and Ann Williams, two friends from state government work. Congratulations to both of them also! I regret that I had to miss the Elgin Relay for Life that night, but I did make it over for a great day with the Crawds 'n Rods event benefiting the local fire department. Sunday was dedicated to Mom, so happy belated Mother's Day to all of you out there.

The session is winding down to the conclusion as the Constitutional deadline of the last Friday in May approaches. I still have two pieces of legislation that I've been working through the system and they both look like they will make it through the process to the Governor. One bill deals with fire protections. This creates a controlled burn fund to allow for an insurance policy if a controlled burn on private property gets out of control and allows for assistance in creating a burn plan. This bill also incorporates the language from my previous legislation to assist our rural fire departments.

The other is a bill I assisted Senator Barrington with that will allow for right turns to be made from the shoulders on highways. This will allow those in the rural areas to essentially use the shoulder as a turn lane as a person approaches a turn they need to make to not back up traffic.

Though I've seen these successes, I have also seen some disappointments. We were working on language with several of the Ag groups to amend a previously-passed bill that would allow persons to retrieve their pet off private property should it get away. This was a highly-controversial bill that passed and we thought there was a good compromise with some new language, but the Senate author on this bill refused to hear the language. This effectively killed this idea for the rest of the year. If a pet should get away, you now have to contact the landowner before retrieving the pet or suffer the chance of prosecution for trespassing. This sounds like common sense, but so does running down a dog or cat that ran off by getting spooked. It's a shame that these things can't get resolved where everyone is in agreement.

One happy note is the fact the Governor and the Legislature finally agreed upon a state budget, so it looks like we will finish on schedule this year. The new budget accommodates much of what the Governor and House Democrats sought, so this was truly an agreement that all parties can live with. There will be much work to be done this summer though, as I have requested additional reviews of state agencies over the interim.

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. My e-mail address is at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Working To End Taxpayer Funded Abortions

This week the Oklahoma House of Representatives took action to again send to the Senate and the Governor an important pro-life measure. Senate Bill 139 (SB 139), authored by Oklahoma City Democrat Rebecca Hamilton, would stop the use of taxpayer money from funding almost all abortions. SB 139 is very similar to Senate Bill 714, which passed both the House and the Senate earlier in the session but was later vetoed by the Governor.

The Senate has twice attempted to override the Governor's veto of Senate Bill 714, but both attempts fell just one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed. Because the Senate could not override the veto, the bill was bottled up in the Senate and the House did not get to vote on the override attempt.

SB 139 offered an opportunity for those of us in the House to again press the issue that taxpayer resources should not be used for abortions. It is important for us to take action, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because of the groundswell of public support for this policy. I have received more calls in support of Senate Bill 714 than any other bill this year. It is clear that people do not want their tax dollars used to destroy life and they are demanding the government take action.

In order to entice the Governor to sign this measure, authors of the bill have used almost identical language as that in Senate Bill 714, with slight changes in wording. This new language may be instrumental in chipping away support from Senators who until now have been willing to back the Governor's veto.

In order for SB 139 to pass the House, it faced the difficult hurdle of two procedural votes requiring approval from two-thirds of the members of the House. Tony Lauinger, State Chairman of Oklahomans For Life, stated that these were the most important pro-life votes of the year. Each vote passed by a margin of one vote and I was pleased to cast my vote to help insure passage.

During the upcoming two weeks, your continued support of ending the policy of taxpayer funded abortions will be vital to the success of SB 139. Thank you for calling my office with your concerns. Please continue to contact the Governor and your Senator as well.

As always I may be contacted on the web at or on the phone at 557-7350.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"Back to School" Sales Tax Holiday Should Be Signed

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm - D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! As most of you know, for as long as I have served as senator, one of my top legislative priorities has been to enact Oklahoma’s version of the “Back to School” sales tax holiday.

Why is this issue so important? For years, Texas shoppers – and those Oklahomans who cross the border – enjoy tax-free shopping during the first weekend in August on clothing and shoes costing less than $100 per item.

Millions of dollars in economic activity and sales tax revenue are lost from Oklahoma every year as thousands of our residents cross the border for the sales tax exemption. In addition to the revenue loss our cities, counties and the state endure, Oklahoma’s retailers are at a huge competitive disadvantage that weekend.

Even more heartbreaking, those Oklahoma families who cannot afford to make a trip to Texas are stuck paying the full sales tax on back to school clothes. That is incredibly unfair.

The greatest roadblock to passage of a “Back to School” sales tax holiday has been city governments. Many of them opposed the measure because they fear city revenues would be decreased by having to honor the tax exemption.

Cities have stubbornly maintained that position despite the fact that in every state that has enacted a “Back to School” sales tax holiday, tax revenues increased rather than decreased. Even the facts could not bring around the Oklahoma Municipal League, the cities’ lobby group.

This year, however, we added a component to the sales tax holiday we hoped would get the Oklahoma Municipal League to support the measure. Cities would be reimbursed by the state for money they would lose by honoring the tax cut. While we never got their support, we were able to quell their opposition enough to get this measure in the tax cut package agreed to by legislative leaders.

That package is now on Governor Henry’s desk awaiting his signature. You would think getting the governor’s signature would be a “slam dunk,” because he included the “Back to School” sales tax holiday in his legislative agenda in 2006. However, there is an ongoing battle over the state budget, and tax policy is part of that discussion.

It is possible the governor will veto the overall tax package, including the sales tax holiday, in order to help force a budget agreement. I certainly hope that is not the case.

Oklahoma families need and deserve this tax cut; Oklahoma retailers deserve a level playing field for back to school shopping. We have come so far, and – reaching across party lines – we have gotten this important issue on the governor’s desk for the first time.

Regardless of what happens with this measure, I will continue to fight as hard as I can to see that a “Back to School” sales tax holiday becomes law. Oklahomans deserve nothing less.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Politicians Benefiting Off Of The Taxpayers

Murphey Legislative Update

In the upcoming three weeks, the House will begin hearing conference committee reports. In this process, legislation goes up for a final vote. Historically, the process has been subject to much abuse as last minute legislation and appropriations quickly pass with little opportunity for scrutiny.

I have spent time analyzing this process and specifically how legislators have personally benefited from directing money through last minute appropriation bills.

An example of this abuse recently hit close to home. A company in which long time State Senator Gene Stipe held a partnership appears to have benefited from funds passed through two state agencies and then used to purchase a train from Stipe's company on behalf of a Guthrie organization.

In order to recognize future attempts at similar abuses, I have studied how one can follow the money trail from the state's general fund to the legislator's pockets.

The process works much like this. Late in the legislative year, powerful legislators make use of a shell appropriations bill (a piece of legislation appropriating money that had no numbers in it) by inserting an amount of money to be used for "special projects." One of the vehicles used by the legislators for this purpose in the past has been an appropriations bill for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Certain Department of Commerce appropriations would be earmarked to pass through the Department of Commerce to a second government entity, such as one of the regional government councils. The director of the regional government council would than receive a call from the House of Representatives or the Senate. The caller would instruct the director on how he should spend that money. Sometimes the instructions might be for the money to pass to another government entity or even to a non-government entity. This money would be passed on without a vote of the board of the regional government council.

In this way, the money took a variety of twists and turns that made it almost impossible for the public to track. Even many legislators had little opportunity to know the purpose for which money was spent. This allowed powerful committee chairs and high ranking legislators to have a tremendous amount of control over dispensing government largess. In some years, the amount of special projects money in the Department of Commerce alone amounted to million of dollars.

Fortunately, it appears as if term limits has significantly reduced the ability of some legislators from being able to direct special projects money. However, I am convinced that the prospect for this type of corruption remains high as long as government remains large. When government is small and limited, the public has a greater ability to monitor it and keep it honest. When government grows tremendously, it makes it easy for corrupt politicians to take money off the top for their own benefit.

During the upcoming weeks, I am committed to close scrutiny of the appropriations process as final action is taken on how millions of our tax dollars are spent.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Open Door Policy - May 1, 2007

The legislative session is at the time where the Representatives and Senators are working on the final versions of the bills. In this stage of the process, legislators can either accept them amendments that the other body placed in their bill or they can reject the amendments and send the bill to a conference committee to work out the details. Most times, the legislators will reject the amendments and request further study. When this happens, the legislator and the author of the bill in the other body will prepare a list of conferees to work on this bill. Most times, the two authors work up the details of what they want in the bill and simply get permission from the conferees to okay these details. Once this is completed, the bill will then come back to both bodies and be considered. No amendments can be accepted on the floor at this point, so it is simply approve the bill or send it back to committee for further changes.
One exception to this was seen on Tuesday. Rep. Randy Terrill brought forth his legislation regarding illegal immigration. The Senate amended this bill significantly and took out many of the provisions that were problematic. My language regarding a division of law enforcement to conduct stings on the sale of illegal documentation modeled after Arizona law was left in the bill and will be a huge effort towards cracking down on fake identification sales. I voted for this bill though there are a few things that need to be changed next year. Often times we have to weigh how much good is in a bill compared to how much that is not agreeable and determine the best choice. In this case, something needs to happen and efforts can be made next year to improve on this should it become law.
This was a busy weekend at home as I was able to attend several events including the Grady County Mineral Owners Association banquet, Earth Day at Southwest Elementary in Chickasha, the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber luncheon and the retirement party for Trooper Stewart Meyer. Trooper Meyer has had a fantastic career with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and I wish him the very best with the extra time on his hands, most of which I think is going to be dedicated to his grand baby.
With all this, I still had the chance to get away for a few hours on Saturday to go see Jimmy Buffett in concert. He is my favorite performer and his fan clubs around the country do tremendous efforts with community service projects. In 2005, Parrot Head Clubs collectively raised for and/or donated to charitable organizations over $2.7 million. Additionally, chapters worldwide donated approximately 663,543 man-hours to philanthropic activities. A new club is starting in our area and if anyone is interested, contact Stephen Mitchell in Fletcher at or call me for further details. There is also a group in Oklahoma City called the Central Oklahoma Parrothead Assocation. Their website is if you want more info on this chapter. I hope everyone has a chance to do something like this with family and friends at least once a year and has the chance to help with some philanthropic project. The time you take to do things like this is returned tenfold with the good feelings associated with time with friends working towards a good cause.
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. My e-mail address is at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Paying Our Debts

As your Representative, I am committed to reversing the disturbing trend of state government going deeper into debt. By one estimate, the state owes approximately $25,000,000,000 in long term debt and unfunded liabilities.

I feel strongly that state government should avoid long-term debt. It is irresponsible for politicians to saddle citizens with millions of dollars of indebtedness and then allow the bill to come due when they are no longer in office. This places debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren and makes reducing the size of government difficult because government will be forced to keep taxes high in order to pay debt and interest.

As a representative, I have a policy of voting against the issuance of new debt and have called for the passage of legislation which makes incurring it more difficult.

One of the most egregious examples related to this issue has been inappropriate spending by past politicians who have raided the teachers' retirement system, leaving us with $7,000,000 of unfunded retirement system liabilities. This problem is similar to the difficulties now faced by the federal government due to previous raids on the social security fund.

One of the first steps we must take to end this abuse is to make it more difficult to occur. The house recently took a positive step by enacting the Oklahoma Pension Legislation Actuarial Analysis Act. This legislation would inhibit attempts by politicians who wish to raid the fund.

Now that an effort has been made in this direction, the house took action to rectify past abuse by again funding the retirement system.
In a recent vote, the House approved Senate Bill 357 to place 200 million dollars into the teachers' retirement system over the next five years. This will be done through increased contribution rates from education employers to be reimbursed by the state. Currently the rate is 8 percent for such employers, but within two years it would increase to over 9 percent. This plan would put the state on track to fund the teachers' retirement system at 80 percent in less than 25 years. Currently the system is a little under 50 percent funded.

If we can begin to repay this debt, it could improve Oklahoma's bond ratings, provide better rates on existing debt and save on interest payments. Hopefully, lower interest rates will not encourage Oklahoma's politicians to borrow even more.

If we are serious about rolling back big government and enacting important pro-growth reforms such as eliminating state income tax, the issue of big government debt is not one we can ignore. As it stands now, reducing the size of government is difficult enough because of past inappropriate spending by state politicians. The legislature must understand that while we must fund the debt we owe, it is our responsibility in representing the people to draw a clear line in the sand and defeat new attempts to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren.