Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Open Door Policy - Dec. 30, 2008

I hope everyone had the chance to enjoy the holiday with family and friends. It was a pretty quiet Christmas for the Dorman family in Rush Springs. I spent Christmas day with mom and later at a movie with the Meyers family. She and I also drove to her hometown this past weekend to see relatives for an after-Christmas visit.

Good luck to the Cowboys versus Oregon! I'll be watching that game on Tuesday and I will be spending New Years with friends from college and watching the bowl games and the ball drop for 2009. Next week, I get to spend the National Championship game at the Leadership Oklahoma conference where I'll be presenting on how the legislative process works in Oklahoma. We are beginning the time when things get busy at the Capitol and I'll be spending most of January visiting local schools and civic organizations speaking about the upcoming session, along with pre-session committee work. I will also be touring a prison in the near future to visit with prison ministers in regards to policies they face with the state.

The committee assignments were given out last Wednesday and I was very pleased with the positions I received. Speaker Benge placed me on four committees and I look forward to serving on them for the next two years. I was one of three Democrats that received four committee positions, so I was very honored with his trust in me to handle the job. I have also scaled back on some of my positions at the Capitol in caucuses where I felt work was not getting done as it should. I plan on dedicating more time to the committee work and to working on issues tied in with legislation by trying to find bipartisan solutions.

The committees I will be serving on this next term will be:

1) Appropriations and Budget - dealing with the state budget and the anticipated cuts in services and agencies;

2) Rules - the committee that deals with much of the controversial legislation, such as constitutional amendments and policy changes;

3) Administrative Rules and Agency Oversight - approves or rejects rules changes that govern state agencies and review performance of the agencies; and

4) Common Education - deals with all issues involving schools grade kindergarten through twelfth grade.

I'm looking forward to my service and I feel the membership was well thought out for the upcoming hard times we will see here in the state over the next couple of years. We have not seen as much of the economic hardship here as have the other states, but we must still plan on doing all within our power to provide for our citizens, but maintain a balanced budget and be responsible with our state fiscal policies. Now more than ever, we need bipartisan support for many issues and I appreciate the Speaker for placing that faith in me with these committees appointments.

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 joedorman@okhouse.gov at work.My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vd3d3LmpvZWRvcm1hbi5jb20= on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Starting A New Session

Starting a New Session
The past few weeks have been busy as I have been focused on the 2009 legislative agenda. I look forward to working as the house author of a reform-heavy agenda of House and Senate bills including issues such as: a new round of government modernization, term limits for statewide officials, prohibition of using taxpayer funds to hire contract lobbyists, and legislation prohibiting Oklahoma from entering into agreements with Canadian provinces and Mexican states to share your driver's license information.
In addition, I will be carrying several bills requested by constituents concerning issues of local concern.
I will be serving on four committees this year. They are: Agency Oversight and Administrative Rules, Public Safety and Homeland Security, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services, and I will be the Chairman of the Government Modernization Committee.
I am very excited to serve as the Chair of the Modernization Committee and since receiving this appointment, I have been working hard to keep up with all of the ideas and suggestions for government modernization. I appreciate this input and greatly value the feedback. Please do not hesitate to send me your ideas (jwmurphey@gmail.com or 315-5064).
One area that will receive the most immediate focus in regards to modernization is the state's purchasing system. The current system is somewhat antiquated and a 2007 house study found that millions of taxpayer dollars could be saved with the implementation of better purchasing practices. One of the most important reforms will be to get a handle on tracking the money that is spent by the state. Currently, the state does not have a very user friendly centralized database of spending data that can be used by purchasing officials to leverage savings. Can you imagine what would happen to a private business in the business world if the owners of the business could not clearly see where their money was being spent?
If the state can continue developing a system that implements easier documentation of spending, we will not only save money through leveraged purchasing power, but spending can be more transparent.
A few months ago I wrote about the passage of Senate Bill 1 which placed government spending online for people to review. The people are already using this service as a way to monitor government spending. Just last week I received an e-mail from an individual who wanted to know why a state agency was allowing millions of dollars of inappropriate grants. He had been able to review the spending because of Senate Bill 1.
However, this data only includes purchases in excess of 25,000. The spending data is difficult to search and there are no explanations for what was purchased. It is my hope that as we continue to modernize the state's purchasing system, it will be soon be possible to place ALL state spending in a searchable database complete with explanations of what was purchased. This would be a much more effective tool for the people to hold government accountable.
I look forward to working for you this year to endeavor to make government more efficient and accountable.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy New Year, everybody! As 2008 winds down and 2009 arrives, we will see one of democracy’s miracles repeated in capitols across America: the peaceful transfer of elective office.

In America, elective office is not a position of power; it is one of service. The power belongs to the people. Here, hope is more powerful that hate; faith in the future carries more value than the consolidation of raw power.

In Washington, we will watch the peaceful transition of the highest office in the nation from one political party to the other. Clearly, that is a miracle that is a mystery beyond comprehension to much of the world.

In Oklahoma, the changes will not be as dramatic. The governor is mid-term and still has two years before he is term limited and must leave office. The partisan split in the House of Representatives remains the same, now with 40 Democrats in the House of Representatives to 61 Republicans.

The Senate, after two years tied with 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans, now will have a slim Republican majority of 26 Republicans and 22 Democrats. While we have yet to see the new Senate rules, it has been the tradition of the Senate that members of both the majority and minority parties have extraordinary abilities to make their voices heard.

Regardless of the partisan make-up, each senator represents about the same number of people. As such, each senator has the same responsibility and right to make the voices of their constituents heard. That will not change regardless of partisan changes occurring after elections.

The fact that both parties worked together during the two-year tie shows that both sides, despite deep and honest differences, can and will find some areas of common ground. On those areas of honest disagreement, expect vigorous debates – and that is not a bad thing.

The 48 senators represent more than 3.5 million Oklahomans. Our constituents are urban and rural, young and old, and from just about every ethnic background you can imagine. The differences in viewpoint are a given; there will never be agreement on every issue. The challenge we have is to be honest in our debate and fight hard for the issues about which we care.

For those of us fortunate enough to serve in public office, nothing should be more important than to fight for the best interest of those we serve; anything else is simply unacceptable. As we enter this new year of change, that will be an unchanging goal of mine as I stand for you on the floor of the Senate.

As always, feel free to contact me with your comments, questions or concerns about our future. You can reach my Capitol office at (580) 924-2221 or (405) 521-5586. You also can reach me through my website at www.gumm.us or by email at gumm@oksenate.gov.

Thanks again for reading this week’s “Senate Minute.” Have a very Happy New Year’s Holiday, and may God bless you all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Changes expected as Republicans control legislature

Changes expected as Republicans control legislature

Karen BradyThe Express-Star

December 17, 2008 04:37 pm— For the first time since statehood, Republicans hold the majority in the Oklahoma State Senate as well as in the House of Representatives.

"There will be plenty of changes, we can expect that," said Senator Ron Justice, R-Chickasha. "I think it's interesting that for the first time in the history of the state, Republicans have held the majority in the senate. We have in the house for a few years, but this is the first time in the senate. Basically, it puts more Republicans in leadership positions on committees, but Senator Coffee, (President Pro Tempore), has appointed Democrats as vice chairs and I think he has been very open, evaluating people's backgrounds and expertise as far as committee assignments."

Justice credits the state's conservative values for Oklahoma's change from a "blue" state to a "red" state.

"We talk a lot about parties and issues that affect rural and urban areas; it's not just party-line voting," he said. "The important thing is that with the Republicans in the majority, a lot of goals have been set, and it's important to stand by our commitments and continue to do the things we promised to the people and to stay focused on the things we've talked about."

While State Representative Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, admits it is harder to get bills heard when you are in the minority, he feels his conservative beliefs are an asset to him.

"I'm fortunate to be able to work better with Republicans than other Democrats because of my background and beliefs as a moderate conservative," said Dorman. "We knew things would change when the Republicans took over, but it really stayed the same - it just flipped. I've worked with a lot of Republican members so they know they can work with me."

As far as committee assignments, Dorman said the system stayed "basically the same."

"People still get to serve on three committees, but maybe not the ones they want," he said.

Freshman representative Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle, who was recently named a deputy whip under the leadership of Majority Whip Mike Jackson, R-Enid, hopes to be assigned to the Ag Committee because of her personal involvement in agriculture.

"I prefer ag and natural resources because I'm involved in agriculture and they have to do with the new state water plan," said Osborn. "Statewide water resource board meetings make huge decisions about what happens to Oklahoma's water.Texas is wanting to buy our water from the Red River, but you don't sell precious natural resources just for money; the state has to chip in with new infrastructure."Osborn said as a deputy whip, her duties would be to keep an eye on upcoming bills, how people may vote and keep up momentum."I'll act as an open ear as to how people are thinking about voting and whether they need more information," said Osborn. "It's all new to me, but I think it sounds interesting and I'm looking forward to it; there are some real exciting programs."
Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

Open Door Policy - Dec. 22, 2008

I want to start off by wishing everyone out there a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I had a busy week as I was able to catch up with many people at their end of year gatherings and parties. I was able to enjoy time with the Grady and Caddo County Superintendents, the Cyril school teachers, the Elgin school teachers, the Rush Springs Lions Club and several other groups and individuals. I also had the chance to visit with a group of students from Cement Public Schools as they took a tour of the Capitol and I prepared chili for the staff at the Capitol earlier this week as a thanks for the great job they did this past year for us.
The bill deadline for writing language will be on hand next week, so I've been working some long hours getting the wording correct in the bills. Among the ideas I requested, here are a few of them:
1) a bill to deal with alternative fuel conversion for vehicles and a credit for stations to install fueling ports, along with training of equipment at the career tech centers;
2) legislation establishing a debit from the Rainy Day fund to cover the cost of federally declared disasters for the 12.5% match the state has to pay;
3) language to set up a revenue stream to fund the solvency of teachers retirement from oil and gas lands currently directed at to the school lands permanent trust;
4) legalization of Utility Terrain Vehicles on county roads;
5) exemption of 4-H and FFA premium checks at livestock auctions by declaring them scholarships and exempting the sales tax on auction items for non-profit charities;
6) establishing a tax credit for medical personnel who volunteer time at secondary school athletic events; and
7) providing for water needs for emergency management in rural areas through rural water district assistance.
I will also have a few other ideas to file and I will be carrying several bills from Senate authors. If you have any suggestions on bills, please contact my office and I will look into them.
I hope you have a safe, warm couple of weeks over the holidays and be careful out on the roads, whether it be icy weather or watching out for the other people on the roads.
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 joedorman@okhouse.gov at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is http://www.joedorman.com/ on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Giving our Money to the Corrupt

Two weeks ago I wrote about a future discussion in the Legislature between those who believe Oklahoma can improve economically by reducing the size of government and lowering taxes, and those who feel that Oklahoma should continue to develop a wide array of giveaways in the name of economic development.

As State Representative, I have observed that whenever a new problem crops up, it takes very little time for people to look to government to provide a solution. All too often they fail to account for the fact that if government expands to provide the solution, it will make politicians more powerful, and better enable those who wish to use this power for inappropriate or counterproductive purposes.

In the case of economic development, those who advocate for giveaways to incentivize business will point to the problem of economic blight and ask for the government to take away our taxpayers dollars, give that money to politicians or bureaucrats to control, and then give them the power to determine who receives the benefit.

A prominent example of this type of abuse has been alleged in the state of Illinois. Illinois Governor Rod
Blagojevich is accused of trying to strong-arm the Chicago Tribune into firing critical editorial writers by leveraging his power to help give the Tribune millions of dollars.

Formed in 2003 by Governor Blagojevich, the Illinois Finance Authority is probably similar to any number of Oklahoma boards and commissions. Basically, the Illinois Finance Authority can act on behalf of the government, but it functions much like a private enterprise. Their goal appears to have been to issue taxable and tax-exempt bonds, make loans and invest capital to help local government, businesses, education, health care, not-for-profit organizations, agri-industry, etc. via market-specific financial services.

The Chicago Tribune owned an asset that it needed to sell: Wrigley Field in Chicago. The governor is accused of advocating for the Illinois Finance Authority to take control of the stadium's title so the Tribune would not have to pay capital gains tax on the sale. This would potentially save the company about $100 million. Because of these savings, there would be more incentive for the Tribune to sell the stadium to the government instead of a private enterprise.

On the surface, the Finance Authority appeared to be able to meet any number of needs that its supporters felt should be met by the government acting in this capacity. In reality, however, it appears the Finance Authority was the governor's tool to wield an enormous amount of inappropriate influence over the people.

I feel the people are much better served by a smaller government which enacts low taxes that are fair to everyone. Keeping taxes high allows the politicians to create these complicated entities that can do much more harm than good. In this case, it appears that the Finance Authority may not only have enabled an allegedly corrupt politician, but may also have warped the free market process. It appears to have promoted an environment in which corruption could flourish. How many other examples of this type of abuse are occurring across the nation but are simply not being exposed?

This reaffirms my opposition to efforts in Oklahoma to extend power and money to these types of organizations in the name of economic development.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Proctor Seeks Repeal of Taxes on Second Amendment

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media Division
December 16, 2008

Contact: State Rep. Eric Proctor
Capitol: (405) 557-7410

Proctor Seeks Repeal of Taxes on Second Amendment

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Eric Proctor today said he will file legislation to repeal the sales tax on the purchase of guns or ammunition in Oklahoma .
“As Americans, we should not have to pay a tax to exercise our constitutional rights – especially our Second Amendment rights,” said Proctor, D-Tulsa.
The measure, by Proctor and state Sen. Kenneth Corn (D-Howe), will not affect any dedicated revenue stream for wildlife or other programs and the measure would have minimal impact on the state treasury.
“In Oklahoma , we have a long tradition of sportsmanship and hunting that precedes statehood and we should protect that heritage,” Proctor said.
He said the tax should also be repealed because it could be a barrier for those needing protection.
“People shouldn’t have to pay a tax to the government if they need a gun in the home for self-protection,” Proctor said. “No matter what, the responsibility to protect your family is greater than the state’s need to generate taxes.”


Monday, December 15, 2008

Cause and Effect of Fiscal Irresponsibility

If you have been able to catch the national news recently, you have been exposed to the debate on whether or not the federal government should continue to give taxpayer dollars to any number of entities, from private businesses to state governments. I suspect that even the occasional reader of my updates is well acquainted with my sentiments regarding the misuse of taxpayer dollars in this manner.

At least one estimate places the potential costs of these bail outs/economic stimulus plans as high as 7 trillion dollars. That amount is 10 times the cost of the war in Iraq. It is more than the cost of the Vietnam, and Korean wars, the New Deal, the moon landing and the Louisiana purchase combined.

This situation reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from President Reagan. He said, "Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

Many will agree that the federal government has acted irresponsibly and all of the massive indebtedness spending is taking us down a road that we should not be traveling. However, often lost in this debate is the irresponsibility of state government leaders who have contributed to the economic problems in their own irresponsible fashion.

For instance, prior to receiving a private sector loan, the state of California appeared ready to ask for their own bail out. California is facing a budget deficit that may hit $41.8 billion over the next 18 months, potentially forcing the state to issue IOUs for everything from its electricity bills to food providers.

I don't know about you, but the last thing I want is for the federal government to tax me and then use my tax dollars to bail out irresponsible politicians in another state. California should focus on cutting spending in their own state without becoming a burden on the national debt we all share.

In all the debate about whether or not some of the Michigan-based auto industry should be bailed out, there is rarely a reference to the horrible economic conditions and punitive tax policies recently imposed by Michigan politicians. Just last year, Michigan politicians took the unfortunate step of increasing income tax by $760 million and instituted a very damaging business-to-business excise tax projected to cost another $750 million. The state's unemployment rate rose from 6.9 percent in 2006 to 7.2 percent in 2007; the highest in the nation and the highest average annual rate.

I believe that those who serve at the state level have the responsibility of creating a business-friendly economic climate and should never incur unnecessary long-term debt. To create punitive conditions that play a part in forcing businesses to see the need for government incentives is very unwise. And it is wrong for state governments to incur unnecessary long-term spending (bonded indebtedness) which makes it harder for them to reduce spending in tough economic times.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Dec. 12-18, 2008

Hello again, everybody! Preparations continue for the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature.

Last week was the deadline by which we could request a bill to be drafted. From this point forward, the only bills that will be introduced are those that have already been requested.

This week, we will get our first budget estimates for the fiscal year that begins next July 1. The budget for that fiscal year is what we will write during the 2009 session of the Legislature. Those first budget numbers will give us a glimpse of the national economic slowdown’s affect on Oklahoma’s economy.

As always, the budget will be job number one for the Legislature. Still, dozens of other issues will be on the table and we are starting to see what the some of the big issues will be.

Health care continues to be a concern for almost every Oklahoma family. Making health care more affordable for more Oklahomans is a top priority. The will be a variety of bills on this subject. If you believe some of the editorial pages in the state, our efforts to end insurance discrimination against autistic children will be one of the hot-button issues.

Also, what to do to keep Oklahoma’s energy industry strong will be near the top of everyone’s agenda. Much of Oklahoma’s budget strength comes from revenues generated by energy production. With declining energy prices, our challenge will be to encourage continued domestic production in Oklahoma. If we do not, then our budget is at even greater risk.

The issue of water will no doubt be a critical one for the entire state. Oklahoma is under the gun, so to speak, due to a federal lawsuit filed by a Texas group saying our moratorium against selling water out-of-state is unconstitutional. Our challenge is to ensure we protect Oklahoma’s future by balancing resources with our state’s needs over the next century.

I was taught in college by my political science professor Bruce Johnson that politics is the “authoritative allocation of value,” which is a fancy way of saying “who gets what, when and where.” What will guide me during this upcoming historic session is to ensure that every Oklahoma family has an opportunity to make a future that is better than our past.

There will be side issues to be sure. Some will be unable to resist the age-old political game of tossing so-called “wedge” issues out there to misdirect attention away from what is really important.

Even so, the focus must be on strengthening our state, its families and our economy. That is how we build a brighter future. It is that goal that has guided me during my six years as your senator. Nothing will ever change that for as long as I have the honor of serving you and all of Oklahoma in the state Senate.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

End the Grocery Tax - Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Dec. 5, 2008

Hello again, everybody! Some ideas, however good they may be, simply take time to find a foothold in the Oklahoma Legislature.

This week, a news story originating in the metropolitan newspapers related the number of bills that have been “recycled” for the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature. There was even an editorial in one of the papers about the re-introduced bills.

Several of these re-introduced bills were ones that I have written. The truth is that recycled bills are nothing new, and they represent a key strategy for getting something enacted.

Sometimes, it takes years to overcome all the obstacles every bill faces, even very good proposals. Re-introducing bills is a way to wear away the opposition and enact some very good laws.

For example, the back-to-school sales tax holiday was introduced several years in a row before we were finally able to break down the wall of opposition and make it a reality two years ago. It is one of the most taxpayer-friendly proposals ever enacted by the Legislature.

Another tax cut bill for which I will continue to fight, even in years like 2009 when it looks impossible, is repeal of the sales tax on groceries. This is one of the most burdensome of taxes on middle class families because it is a regressive tax.

“Regressive taxes” put the greatest tax burden on those who can least afford to pay it. Regressive taxes take a greater percentage of middle class families’ income than they take from higher income people. The sales tax is a textbook example of a regressive tax.

The state’s dependence on the sales tax – along with cities and counties – puts a heavier tax burden on those among us least able bear it. As a result, middle- and low-income families have a higher effective tax rate than the wealthy, and that is not fair.

During my time as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, we made the tax system much fairer for middle class families by passing the two largest tax cuts in Oklahoma’s history. Those efforts, however, are incomplete so long as Oklahoma charges sales tax on groceries.

We need to move Oklahoma’s tax code farther in a direction that will be good for families of every economic level. The best way to do that is to continue hammering away at our dependence on the sales tax and the harm it causes to middle class families.

Ending the state grocery tax, like the back-to-school sales tax holiday, puts money back into the pockets of those who need it most. If we are going to cut taxes, we should cut one that hits families hardest.

It has been said that persistence is all-powerful. I agree. Until the bill becomes law, I will persistently fight to end the grocery tax. I owe you, and all the people of Oklahoma, nothing less.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Open Door Policy - Dec. 10, 2008

This past week, I was able to attend the Oklahoma State Fire Marshall Commission meeting in Chickasha and see friends from the fire service. At this meeting, Preston Burchett received the Commission's Award of Valor for risking his life to save a person trapped in a vehicle that was on fire. The world needs more heroes like this young man.

I was also able to spend this past week with the Professional Improvement instructors from my three counties in District 65. The P.I. Instructors, most commonly called FFA teachers, gather each year to discuss the activities they have participated in with their kids and enjoy fellowship with the upcoming Christmas season. I informed them of one of the bills I'll be filing regarding the tax exemption of the premium checks the students receive at stock shows. These checks go to cover the costs relating to the animals they show and I consider this an educational component of their program. We will classify the checks as a scholarship rather than income and this should exempt both their state and federal portion of taxes due on their projects.

Another topic of discussion at each of the three meetings centered on new policies relating to absences by the students. There is an updated directive issued by the State Department of Education stating that students may only miss up to ten days for activities, but with special permission by the local school board, can miss an additional five days for recognized events. There is also a waiver for attendance beyond those 15 days for state and federal competitions where the students will be participating, as well as as paging for the legislature. There is also consideration given to managers for sports teams and cheerleaders as long as the school counts them towards the team component.

I visited with State Superintendent Garrett on Monday about this process and we both agree this will allow students to gain more of an educational experience through their activities as long as they are responsible with their school work. She, along with Dr. Phil Berkenbile, the State Director of Career Techs and Danny Rennels, the Executive Secretary for the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association worked very hard to update this policy to allow a more sensible balance between the classroom and educational opportunities through various school sponsored extracurricular activities. Students flourish when they can broaden their horizons and contribute to their school and community through activities outside the classroom. All three of these leaders are to be commended for their work to help Oklahoma students grow as citizens.

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 joedorman@okhouse.gov at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is http://www.joedorman.com/ on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Cut line: Reps. Joe Dorman and Leslie Osborn, Sen. Ron Justice and members of the Oklahoma State Fire Marshall Commission honor Preston Burchett

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Two Approaches to Growth

Recent comments by former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating and the transition of leadership in the Oklahoma Senate have once again brought focus to an important change that needs to occur sooner rather than later.

In a radio interview conducted last month, Keating stated he'd like to see the new Legislature repeal the state income tax. Keating explained that while he was governor, he heard constantly from business people and others that the repeal of the income tax would stimulate business growth in Oklahoma.

In 2004 and 2005 during an economic upturn, legislative changes in the House of Representatives made it possible for some tax reforms to occur and as a result, the first steps were taken towards eliminating this punitive tax.

Other states also appear to be enacting tax reforms, as a recently released report from the Tax Foundation shows that Oklahoma's tax burden has moved up to being the 19th highest in the nation.

I believe there will be two distinctly different trains of thoughts to emerge in the Legislature on the subject of tax reform.

The first approach is represented by those who know that Oklahoma must eliminate taxes in order to be competitive for new business. This is fair for all parties involved because the tax code would keep taxes low for everyone, thereby keeping the incentive for growth.

The other viewpoint is represented by those who believe that in order for Oklahoma to grow, it must keep taxes at current levels and create a number of incentives and tax loopholes to compete in an ever-growing war between the states over who can offer the best giveaways to prospective new employers.

The second approach is rife with potential for corruption and abuse. The people who have the power to hire lobbyists and finance politicians' campaigns will use this system to make sure they receive incentives at the taxpayers' expense, while small businessmen and average people will not be able to afford to make this same "investment." Worse yet, this approach will be subject to the same abuse that has been exposed in the past, when several Oklahoma's legislators were prosecuted for using similar programs to funnel money for personal benefit.

This approach also keeps an elite class of legislators, bureaucrative central planners and their friends in a very powerful position since they have the power to determine who succeeds and who fails, instead of success being dependant upon the hard work of individuals. If taxes are simply reduced across the board, the power of the elite is much more limited.

During the next two years, I am committed to working hard to expose the inefficiencies in state government so that spending cuts and comprehensive tax reform can occur sooner rather than later.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Putting A Stop To Inappropriate Lobbyist Giving

One of the issues about which I have felt the most strongly has been the inappropriate nature of special interest influence over policy makers. One of the foremost manifestations of the inappropriate influence has been the ability of these special interests to give personal gifts to legislators.

I do not believe it is any more appropriate for a lobbyist to give a gift to a legislator than it would be for an attorney to give a gift to a judge who was ruling on a case in which the attorney was a party. In both cases the gift giver receives a direct benefit from the decision of the recipient.

As such when I sought election to the legislature I did so on a platform of not taking personal gifts or contributions from lobbyists or the groups that hire lobbyists.

When I first entered the legislature just two years ago this inappropriate giving was nearing an all time high point. In 2007, over $150,000 of personal gift giving was reported by lobbyists. This number was probably just a percent of the total gift giving as a significant amount of gift giving probably did not meet reporting requirements.

Following the 2007 session, I proposed that if gift giving is going to continue to be allowed at the very least there should be a "No Gift List" on which legislators could opt in in order to demonstrate to the people that they did not want to be a part of the status-quo. I also figured this proposal would allow the people to hold their legislators responsible when it is time for re-election.

I believe there are a significant number of legislators who do not support the gift giving policy who will opt in to the "No Gift List" if they are given the opportunity.

Also, following the 2007 session the Ethics Commission took the fantastic step of proposing to place a cap of $100 dollars on the amount of a gift that a lobbyist can give to a legislator. This proposal could have been disapproved by the legislature. However, in a move that is a credit to the leadership and membership of both the House and Senate there was no effort in the legislature to stop this proposal.

As a result this new limit is now taking effect and I believe it will substantially cut down the amount of gift giving that will occur in the upcoming session. Progress has already been made, as in 2008, lobbyists' gift giving dropped to just over $80,000.

Now the Ethics Commission is meeting again to hopefully take another step forward in stopping this inappropriate practice. I believe the Commission will vote for a proposal that will either ban gift giving or possibly create the "No Gift List" that will allow the people to better hold their legislators accountable.

All of this progress would not have been possible without the work of some people who are taking the idea of accountability in government very seriously. One of them is Ethics Commissioner John Raley. Raley has been the driving force in asking his commission to consider these reforms.

Another is Guthrie resident and Rose State political science professor John Wood. Professor Wood has diligently worked to bring innovative reform proposals before the Commission which has certainly helped to frame the debate on this issue. It is a real honor to have a local Guthrie resident making such a big difference for government reform.

However, this progress will not come without opposition. The state Chamber of Commerce appears to be launching a campaign to prevent the ban and it seems that legislation will be introduced to roll back the new limit.

I will be sure to keep you updated about the progression of this important reform.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hello again, everybody! One of my favorite quotes from President Kennedy perfectly sums up some of our challenges as we work to create a brighter future for Oklahoma.

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic,” he said. “Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

One myth that has held back rural Oklahoma is the misguided belief by some that our area cannot compete in a global economy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We see time and again that rural Oklahoma can compete in a global economy, bringing prosperity and opportunities to our communities.

It takes two things to dispel that myth: confidence and capital. Confidence is simply a belief that nothing is beyond our reach. It is the foundation on which all our efforts should be based.

Capital is another critical component. Investments in infrastructure are critical for rural Oklahoma to compete and win in the global economy. Over the past several years, we in the Legislature have made historic investments in our transportation infrastructure.

As far as we have come in putting more money into our highways, we must continue that momentum. Still, we dare not limit these investments solely to highways. We have other transportation opportunities that thus far we have missed.

Last year, I proposed the Regional Business Airport Modernization Act to provide an infusion of $10 million for airport improvements in mid-size communities. These are not big passenger airports located in metro areas; rather, these airports are in primarily rural areas where business opportunities create air traffic.

These airports are critical gateways to mid-size communities. They are where CEOs land to look for business relocation or expansion sites. The airports are business centers for entrepreneurs who provide services to the aviation industry.

The proposed $10 million expenditure would be a critical investment that will repay the state in increased economic activity and improved transportation infrastructure. For anyone who doubts the potential for airport modernization, simply look at a recent announcement from northern Oklahoma.

A small airplane manufacturer has relocated its production and office operations from San Diego, Calif., to the Blackwell-Tonkawa Regional Airport. This one relocation will generate 40 jobs and millions of dollars of economic impact.

There are other opportunities out there, but our airports must be ready to attract them. That is why I have again introduced the Regional Business Airport Modernization Act.

From new terminals to extended runways, my proposal – contained in Senate Bill 13 – will strengthen our economy and create new opportunity, making the most of Oklahoma’s already outstanding reputation as an aviation leader.

Rural Oklahoma has the confidence. Now, the challenge for the Legislature is to pass SB 13 and provide the capital – for our communities and our future.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Open Door Policy - Nov. 25, 2008

I want to start off by wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone gets to spend the holiday with friends and family. I know we are going to have a pretty quiet Thursday since we lost dad, but it will get a little louder on Saturday as my family is very divided in support between OU and OSU. Thanksgiving will also be another day of mixed emotions as Monday would have been my father's 82nd birthday and he would have been proud to see our newest family addition born on that same day. My nephew Chris and his wife, Melissa, welcomed their first child to the world at about 2:30 in the afternoon and she is a 7 lb, 5 oz healthy baby girl.
I'm getting back into the swing of business at the Capitol as I will be working on the eight bills that I will carry this next session. We have the staff preparing the language on the legislation right now and I hope to write more about them in the coming weeks and would appreciate your input on the subjects. Most of the subjects were requests from folks in the district.
On Monday, I had the privilege of touring Oklahoma's newest addition to homeland security and one of the few instances where we see a proactive approach to handling situations. There has been a nationwide push to create centers to collect and relay information regarding potential terrorist activity and ours is called the Oklahoma Information Fusion Center (OIFC). This is a collaborative effort between local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies, public safety agencies and the private industry all working together as a central hub of intelligence information.
This center requests that if you see any of the seven signs regarding terrorism or suspicious activities, please contact the local law enforcement, Crime Stoppers or the OIFC. The signs are:
1. Surveillance - recording or monitoring of activities;
2. Elicitation - gathering of information about infrastructure, people or military operations;
3. Tests of Security - attempts to measure reaction time or penetrate barriers;
4. Acquisition of Supplies - purchase or theft of dangerous equipment or uniforms;
5. Suspicious Persons Out of Place - people who do not belong in a secured area;
6. Dry Runs/Trial Runs - putting people in place without committing the act; and
7. Deployment of Assets - getting into position to commit an act of terrorism.
While we do not want persons to overreact in situations, we certainly also want suspicious activities reported to avoid any potential threats to our safety. This proactive approach allows for "connecting the dots" with information gathered through law enforcement, media, private industry and citizens to search for clues or indicators of potential terrorist activity.
OIFC is an "all crimes, all hazards" center that will attempt to evaluate data and discern if there is a threat to Oklahomans, even on activities in other parts of the world. OIFC is partly funded through a grant from the federal government where Intelligence Analysts from various areas located throughout the state develop relationships with private sector businesses to build partnerships for issue sharing and distribution of alerts in cases of potential threats. I can see a great deal of good coming from this center to protect us from harmful acts. Should you have further questions or wish to report some suspicious activity, you can contact the OIFC at (405) 842-8547 or at fusion@osbi.state.ok.us on the Internet.
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 joedorman@okhouse.gov at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is http://www.joedorman.com/ on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Moving Ahead with Property Tax Reform

I am happy to report some fantastic news about one of the most needed reforms. Last week the window of time opened when Representatives can file new legislation to be heard during the upcoming session. Those who wish to make a point and provide their legislation with one of the initial House bill numbers are using this as an opportunity to make a strong statement by quickly placing their bills on file.

One of the first bills to be filed was House Joint Resolution 1001. HJR 1001 will be a proposal by Oklahoma City State Representative David Dank. Dank has been one of the leading proponents of one of the most important issues to my constituents. The issue is that of property tax reform. Each year I receive a number of constituent calls protesting the punitive and unfair nature of the ever-increasing property tax assessments that seem to always go up by about 5% with each new issuance.

In 2007, I had to report that while the property tax reform bill had passed the House, it had been killed in the Senate. In 2008, the property tax reform bill was approved in the Senate, but died in the House.

Now, Dank is upping the ante. The proposals of previous years purported to cut the ability of the county assessors to increase property taxes from 5% to 3%. This year, HJR 1001 will attempt to lower the assessment cap to 2%.

With new leadership in place in the State Senate and more reform-minded Representatives in the State House, I believe this is the year that Dank's proposal will be successful. Because the reform will require a change in the State Constitution, it will not be sent to the Governor but will instead require the approval of a vote of the people. Dank has indicated that he will contribute a significant amount to fund the campaign to make sure the word gets out to the people prior to the election.

I suspect the measure will have very little trouble passing a test at the polls. During the last legislative session, I included this issue on my constituent survey and the idea had the support of an overwhelming margin of voters.

This year, I will once again look for the opportunity to propose a plan requested by Logan County Commissioner Mark Sharpton. The proposal was approved by the House of Representatives as an amendment to SB 1956 during last year's session, but was later removed in the conference committee process. Had it been successful, it would have indexed each homeowner's homestead exemption to the rate of inflation. Inflation and the rate of property tax assessments have gone up for years, but the homestead exemption has stayed the same. Sharpton's plan would provide additional property tax relief because it would allow the exemption to grow as well.

As your Representative, I have heard your calls for immediate property tax reform. I take that desire very seriously and am happy to support these proposals.

A Thanksgiving Story - Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute"

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everybody! Thursday is Thanksgiving, a day we set aside to express our gratitude to Almighty God for the blessings He has bestowed on our nation.

Thanksgiving is a time my thoughts turn to my late mother, Harlene Taylor Gumm. It was the most special of the holidays for her because she had a prayer answered over Thanksgiving Weekend 1963.

Just like Deena and me, my parents were told they could never have children. That changed Thanksgiving Weekend 1963, and this true story gave Deena and me hope during our struggle to become parents.

Bear in mind that this happened when medical science was not nearly as advanced as it is today. My parents had been married for three years, and mom taught home economics at Calera High School.

Doctors told my mother she could not bear children. Despite every effort known to medical science at the time, Mom was given the same prognosis Deena and I once heard: “You cannot have children.”

In early 1963, my mother started feeling ill. Countless trips to doctors followed and several series of tests were inflicted upon her. Specialists in Dallas and Oklahoma City were stumped.

Mom thought she might be expecting, but every test available at the time came back “negative.” Mom was put on a strict diet and she lost weight. Those of you who knew my mother know she was as tough as they came; it didn’t matter whether she felt bad, she would be at work. So, she kept working and kept feeling worse.

After Thanksgiving Day dinner at my grandparents’ house, Mom and Dad went home and Mom began to feel extremely bad. As she always did, she toughed it out overnight but went to the old Durant Hospital the next morning fearing the worst.

To the nurses and doctors, she was in serious distress; some feared she might be dying. Mom’s local doctor thought she might be trying to pass a kidney stone and ordered an x-ray of her abdomen.

That x-ray was the first picture ever taken of me. To his dying day, that doctor called me “Rocky” after the stone he thought I was.

Once everyone knew what was going on, I was born shortly thereafter. No one, except the Lord above, had any idea I was coming. Expected or not, a child was the answer to a prayer. Four decades later, that same prayer was answered for Deena and me. The story of my birth gave us hope, and we share that hope with every couple trying to become parents.

When I was old enough to understand the story of how I arrived, it made me think of this: We all have much to be thankful for, and there may be more blessings right around the corner. May you and your families find new blessings in this special season and throughout the year.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” happy Thanksgiving, and may God bless you all.

Thoughtful Approach to Oklahoma's Challenges

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everybody! Throughout the remainder of November and all of December, the pace will continue to quicken as we get ready for the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature.

This week, newly elected members of the Senate and House will be sworn into office and the first bills will be filed for consideration when the Legislature convenes in February.

Clearly, this is a time in which there are great challenges ahead for our nation and our state. For Oklahoma, the top challenge will be to keep our economy as strong as possible in light of a likely national economic slowdown.

The worst thing we can do is employ what I call the “spaghetti against the wall” strategy, where we throw everything we have against the wall in hopes something will stick. I believe a thoughtful approach is more effective.

We in the Legislature owe it to the people of this state to carefully consider the policy initiatives and enact those that will truly strengthen Oklahoma’s economy. While we should carefully consider proposals, we must be bold in our efforts to strengthen our state.

That is the process that has served our state well. It is how we pulled ourselves out of the economic downturn that gripped Oklahoma in 2002 and 2003. It worked then, and it will work in this current difficult time.

In fact, many of the policies we have enacted over the past several years helped Oklahoma’s economy to remain stronger than the national economy. From revamping our tax structure to encouraging natural gas exploration and production, the result has been a stronger economy and greater opportunity for all Oklahomans.

Nothing at the Capitol can be accomplished without bipartisan support. The question everyone has about the 2009 session is this: Will the session be about advancing the interests of political parties or will it be about advancing the interests of Oklahomans?

There are fierce partisans on both sides of the political aisle, and they have their place. However, neither political party is always right on every issue. Because of that, there are those of us – Republicans and Democrats alike – who always have been willing to reach across the aisle to move our state forward.

At the end of the day, there is more that unites us than there is to divide us. We will have fierce discussions and we will struggle with contentious issues. Still, Oklahoma families struggling to make ends meet are more interested in results than they are in which political party scores the most points in some debate.

We must strengthen Oklahoma, ensuring every family has a chance to enjoy the blessings of liberty. That principle always will guide me as I stand for the values we share and the future of which we dream.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Nick's Law" to be "Senate Bill 1" for 2009 Session

OKLAHOMA CITY – The first Senate bill filed for the upcoming legislative session is “Nick’s Law.” Senator Jay Paul Gumm is the principal author of Senate Bill 1, which would require insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism in children.

Gumm, a Democrat from Durant, first filed the bill in 2008. The measure won bipartisan support in the Senate, but it was stopped by a small group of Republican leaders in the House of Representatives. Gumm said then he would renew his fight for the bill, which he says is critical for children all over Oklahoma.

“Children with autism who do not receive therapy can be virtually cut off from the world for the rest of their lives,” he said. “The real tragedy is we know for a fact therapy can save them from that fate – unfortunately, thousands of Oklahoma children are denied treatment by insurance companies. This is a health issue and it is a moral issue.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every 150 American children will be diagnosed with autism, a bio-neurological condition that appears in early childhood and impacts the ability to communicate and interact with others. While medical science has yet to determine the exact cause or cure, treatment has been proven to significantly improve outcomes.

Republicans and Democrats across the country have joined hands to enact autism insurance legislation like “Nick’s Law.” In July, Louisiana’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal – one of the GOP’s “rising stars” – signed autism legislation that was sponsored by a Republican state representative from Baton Rouge.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, another high-profile Republican governor, signed that state’s autism bill in June – a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature.

Also, in Pennsylvania, Republican House Speaker Dennis O’Brien championed a measure – which passed the House unanimously and a Republican-controlled state Senate 49-1 – that will allow parents of autistic children to pay for behavioral therapy and related services with private health insurance.

“In state-after-state, bills requiring insurance to cover autism diagnosis and treatment are crossing the partisan divide,” Gumm said. “Several Republicans state representatives are already on record saying they will support the bill. Now, it is time for their leadership to join GOP lawmakers and governors across the nation and do the right thing for these families.”

Gumm’s legislation is named for 11-year-old Nick Rohde of Edmond, who suffers from autism. His father, Wayne Rohde, and other parents of autistic children spent, countless hours at the Capitol last year winning support for the bill. Earlier this fall, “Nick’s Law” was named the top 2009 legislative priority for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.

“House Republican leaders have an amazing opportunity to become heroes by passing this bill, and no one will sing their praises louder than I will,” Gumm said. “All they have to do is live up to their ‘family values’ rhetoric and put the lives of these children ahead of insurance company profits.

“For just about every other Oklahoman, this is an easy choice.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Giving Special Interests The Power To Take Your Property

In the past, I have written about the possibility of the expansion of the Trans-Texas Corridor into Oklahoma and described why it is important that we not allow foreign-owned companies to control Oklahoma roads.

I have always felt that as the size of government gets bigger and more expansive, opportunities open up for those who have the ability to manipulate the government to use that power to empower their own special interest(s). Nowhere is this marriage of big business and big government more frightening than when a business is able to acquire power normally reserved to the government, such as the right of eminent domain. I believe an important part of our job as lawmakers is to prevent these types of abuses from occurring.

The example of the foreign-owned Texas toll road is one example of this type of abuse. However, this is not the only example of Texas allowing privately owned interests to operate much like the government in order to make a profit.

Over the past few years, a wealthy Texas businessman decided to incur the risk of investing in a product that he believes will be in great demand in the future. That product is water. The businessman formed a corporation known as Mesa Water and acquired water rights in a large aquifer in the Texas panhandle and tried to market this water to the nearby city of Amarillo.

However, Amarillo chose not to buy the water and Mesa apparently had a hard time finding a market for the water in the area close to where they owned the water rights. Not wanting to lose the investment, Mesa had to find a way to transport the millions of gallons of water from the Texas panhandle to the water-hungry Dallas metroplex. How would a privately-owned company acquire the power to deliver this much water over hundreds of miles?

Mesa hired one of Texas' most powerful lobbyists and went to work on Texas lawmakers. An amendment was sneaked through the Texas Legislature that allowed a water-supply district to transport water in a single corridor, or right-of-way. And then a second bill was passed which loosened the requirements for creating a water district, a governmental entity much like Oklahoma's rural water districts, with the power of eminent domain.

The bill loosened the requirements so much that it allowed just two people (both of whom were employees of the Texas businessman who started Mesa) to hold an election to form a new water district with governmental powers. With that two-person vote, Mesa was able to use the newly formed water district to afford them not just the ability to issue tax-free bonds for the construction of a massive pipeline, but the right and power of eminent domain to take control of the land along the 250 miles needed to build the pipeline.

This is one example of how a powerful special interest manipulated the legislative process to allow them to co-opt and use the power of the government to their advantage.

As your State Representative, I am dedicated to preventing similar abuses from occurring in Oklahoma.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Open Door Policy - Nov. 12, 2008

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Veterans Day. I had the chance to attend two ceremonies that were very moving. The first was on Monday at Elgin with their high school program put on by Mrs. Kellie Thomas. This event honored those who are veterans and also those in active duty. Two young men were honored for their enlistment from the school and they were present in uniform. Jonathan Ricks and Nick Scouten are both to be commended and I appreciate them very much for their upcoming service to our country. General Dave Ralston, the former commander from Fort Sill addressed the crowd and gave a very moving speech. We are fortunate to have him still living in our area following his retirement from the Army.
I also had the opportunity to attend the Veterans Day ceremony at Fort Sill, which is in my legislative district. The ceremony was held in the cemetery on post and you could not help but look around at the stones that marked those men and women who dedicated their lives in service to our country. Thank you to all those veterans out there who have helped secure our freedom!
My interim study last week provided a great deal of information regarding our elections process in Oklahoma. There were very few problems at the polls and the provisional ballots are currently being reviewed for authenticity and will be included in the totals, even though none can possibly change outcomes on the elections. Thank you to those of you that voted and helped make this election turnout just short of a state record.
On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame selections were presented and Bill Burgess, a Lawton resident who also serves as chairman of the Oklahoma Board of Regents, was honored for his work for Oklahoma. Donna Nigh, our former First Lady for Oklahoma, also was recognized, along with Ron Norick, former Oklahoma City Mayor and Chief Judge Robert Henry of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and a former state attorney general and state representative. Congratulations and thanks are to be extended to each for their service to our state.
Next Tuesday will be the swearing in ceremony for the legislators at the State Capitol. I will begin my fourth term as your state representative, so thank you again for allowing me this opportunity to serve you.
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 joedorman@okhouse.gov at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is http://www.joedorman.com/ on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Preparing For The Expansion Of Government

Last Friday, I attended a meeting of House Republicans in order to elect new officers for the next session of the legislature.

There were more representatives in the room than ever before as the people voted to elect sixty-one Republicans up from fifty-seven and chose not to remove a single GOP incumbent.

The group unanimously re-elected Tulsa Representative Chris Benge as speaker. I believe Benge had earned the confidence of the Representatives with his friendly down to earth demeanor that makes it easy for them to express their opinions and engage in honest dialog about the issues they feel strongly about.

I also believe that Benge and many in the legislature are committed to using the stronger than ever conservative leadership in Oklahoma's legislature to do what we can in order to keep the obvious upcoming expansion of the federal government in as much check as possible.

You are probably aware of the recent massive expansion of the federal government which will now be firmly in control of liberal politicians who will no doubt use that power to aggressively advance an agenda that is in direct opposition to the values of many Oklahomans.

It is important to note that in creating the Constitution our nation's founding fathers designed the federal government to be small and limited in comparison to state governments. They knew that the people have a much stronger voice at the local level whereas the ability of the people to affect change is greatly limited at the federal level of government.

However, over time under both Republican and Democrat administrations both parties have used the federal government as a tool to accomplish their various agendas.

As a result the federal government has become very powerful. Now, a group of aggressive liberals can use that power not only to move America to the left but to build upon itself and increase in size, making the federal government more expansive and powerful than ever before.

As a result a bigger federal government will likely be the most responsive to those only with enough money and influence to use that power to benefit themselves. This will leave the responsibility for paying for the big government to the average taxpayer who cannot afford to invest in the high-powered lobbyists' and politician's campaigns in order to manipulate the system for their benefit.

This means that in the upcoming years we can expect the federal government to reflect both the desires of the powerful special interests and the liberal politicians who seek to forever change our nation.

During the last session of the Oklahoma Legislature the House of Representatives voted to support House Joint Resolution 1089 by a 92-3 margin. HJR 1089 sought to reassert Oklahoma's sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and, according to the resolution's language, is "serving notice to the federal government to cease and desist certain mandates."

The Tenth Amendment states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

The author of the legislation stated, "The more we stand by and watch the federal government get involved in areas where it has no legal authority, we kill the Constitution a little at a time. The last few decades, the Constitution has been hanging by a thread."

While this resolution passed with the strong bi-partisan support of the Oklahoma House it appears to have failed to receive a hearing in the Oklahoma Senate. This year, with a new more conservative leadership in the Oklahoma Senate I am hopeful that legislation such as HJR 1089 will receive a fair hearing.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Allowing Our Public Safety Departments To Talk To Each Other

Attending a recent forum at the Woodcrest fire department reminded me that one of the experiences I have most enjoyed as State Representative during the past two years has been the role of Vice-Chairman and ranking Republican on the House of Representative’s Homeland Security Committee.

When designing the new house committee system, house leadership structured the system so that members of the committees could really focus on specialized areas of committee work. They did this by giving the committees both appropriation and policy oversight in their respective areas. It has been exciting to serve as Vice-Chairman of a committee where I could specialize in an area in which there is a core purpose for government involvement.

In this role, a little over a year ago I joined Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Robert Doke and a delegation of state government and firefighting officials in visiting the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). There we met with FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison. Administrator Paulson was complimentary of the manner in which Oklahoma officials have handled past emergencies and is supportive of the efforts made in developing additional emergency readiness.

One of the reasons for meeting with Paulison related to developing a truly interoperable statewide emergency communications system to allow officials in different agencies to communicate with one another. This issue has without doubt been the most comprehensive and the most controversial issue that our committee has considered in my term as Vice-Chair.

The development of this system took on added importance after the 2006 Oklahoma wildfires. During this emergency, responders had enormous difficulty communicating and organizing an effective response because there is no statewide system through which responders from one county or region can communicate with another. Law enforcement would also greatly benefit from a system that would allow the highway patrol to communicate with local officers when responding to incidents.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has provided nearly $30 million to Oklahoma in federal funds to set up the framework for a statewide 800mhz system along the Interstate 44 corridor which would cover the state’s most populous areas. However, the state would need $130 million more in order to cover the entire state. While millions have been spent on the current system, it appears as if the control of that system is limited to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. This risks the defeat the obvious purpose of a statewide system, which should be to allow all police and fire entities to talk to each other. It is difficult to justify why so many millions of dollars have been spent on a project that does not directly accomplish the main purpose for which it should be intended.

I believe that new options should be considered for a more cost-effective, internet-based communications system similar to OneNet, the system the State Regents for Higher Education use to provide high-speed communications to Oklahoma entities such as public schools, colleges, universities and local, tribal, state and federal governments. OneNet utilizes fiber optics and wireless technologies to transmit video, voice and data throughout Oklahoma.

This type of system would allow rural Logan County volunteer fire departments such as Woodcrest who can not afford the expensive 800mhz systems to communicate with each other and others with much less expensive off the shelf products thus saving local departments a lot of much needed funding.

I was pleased to co-sponsored a bill authored by Representative Charles Key that would have begun the process of developing this a more modern streamlined system that takes advantage of new technologies. While the Key bill is was unsuccessful, it is clear that more state officials are beginning to get on board with the plan to develop a less expensive, but truly interoperable system. This important reform can’t happen soon enough, as I believe millions of taxpayer dollars would be saved.

As your State Representative I remain committed to working for the enactment of these types of common sense reforms.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Open Door Policy - Oct. 27, 2008

Photo: Rep. Joe Dorman (left) with Harold Jackson, owner of the Chickasha McDonald's and Coach Barry Switzer
I'll start off the column this week by reminding you that next Tuesday is Election Day and please vote if you are registered. You can go to your polling place that day or vote at the county courthouse on Friday, Saturday or Monday. I'm as frustrated as many of you are about some of the choices we have, but it's important to make your voice heard, even if you have to skip over one election and vote for the others on the ballot. Also, do not forget about the state questions on the back of the ballot.
It has been a busy few weeks around the area with several different events occurring. The Chickasha Fire Department had their annual car show and chili cook off this past weekend, which was a huge success. There was also a benefit held in Elgin that raised funds for Bob Welch who was injured in a crash. Further donations can be taken to Brad Meyers at Liberty National Bank in Elgin if you would like to assist him.
Last week, the Ronald McDonald House in Oklahoma City had the Red Shoe Gala, their annual fundraiser. They raised an estimated amount of over $180,000 for the home in Oklahoma City. The money will go to support services for the children and families that stay there during the children's illness while in Oklahoma City. The home has been there since 1984. The families that use the center are often times cannot afford a hotel room for the extended stay of the treatment and and over 97% of the families are from Oklahoma. This is also a program that 4-H students raise money for each year and I first became acquainted with their program when we donated to them while I was a student. If you would like more information, you can reach them at (405) 424.6874. Most of the interim studies have been heard, but I have one coming up on November 6th regarding the possibility of updates for voter rolls and notification to state agencies upon the death of an Oklahoman. The Department of Health does not currently share this information automatically and it would help a great deal for other agencies to know this information. I remember seeing my grandmother's name on the voter rolls after she had passed and thought this would be good to have the names removed so the family does not have to go through current channels. Should a name be mistakenly removed, provisional ballot would still be allowed so a vote will not be prohibited. I authored the bill that allowed provisional ballots here in Oklahoma.
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 joedorman@okhouse.gov at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is http://www.joedorman.com/ on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Should Private Companies Be Allowed To Own Our Roads?

As a member of the House of Representative's Transportation Committee I have been able to observe one of the most controversial but rarely talked about and mostly under the radar issues regarding the long term development of our highway system.

One year ago I wrote in my update about an the issue at the heart of which has been Oklahoma's membership in a group known as the North America SuperCorridor Coalition (NASCO), the desire of big corporations to enhance the movement of Chinese-manufactured goods throughout North America, the possible privatization of new state and federal highways and NASCO's desire to deploy sophisticated tracking devices along I-35.

In the past I written about what I believe to be the inappropriate and frightening alliance of big business monopolies backed up by the power of big government. Nowhere is this abuse more evident than when big companies buy long term leases of public roads. You can only imagine how your power as a citizen is minimized when a big (and likely foreign owned) corporation has complete control over a public road on which you depend in order to get where you need to go.

The issue of private ownership of public roads is in its infancy in Oklahoma but appeared to be growing after Texas planned out the construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) network. The TTC was to be owned and financed over the next 50 years by a foreign investment group based in Spain known as Cintra.

The TTC initiative begun in 2002 focused on building a superhighway parallel to Interstate 35. It seems obvious that proponents of this privately owned super transit corridor may have intended on linking Mexican ports through Oklahoma to an inland port to be located in Kansas City and from there to various distribution points throughout North America.

A communist Chinese owned company known as Hutchison Ports Holdings is paying billions to deepen the Mexican ports of Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas in anticipation of the arrival of container mega-ships capable of holding up to 12,500 containers currently being built for Chinese shipping lines. These ports would likely serve as a starting point for Chinese goods that would be distributed into the United States along the super highway corridor.

NASCO, advocates for the I-35 trade corridor but has also been pushing for the creation of a tracking system known as NAFTRACS to be put in place along I-35. This technology would be developed in part by a joint venture owned by Hutchison Ports Holdings. NAFTRACS has been described by NASCO as a program that provides management tools for mitigating or minimizing traffic congestion and collecting the status of certain items in transit. The data generated by these sensors would be shared with the joint venture although it is not clear if the data would be shared with the Chinese government owners of the joint interest. In May of 2007, NASCO requested that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation sign a letter stating that ODOT was looking forward to participating in the tracking program.

During the 2007 legislative session it was discovered that Oklahoma is a dues paying member of NASCO. In other words your taxpayer dollars were helping finance this organization.

In my update in 2007, I wrote that Senator Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso) would be filing a bill to remove Oklahoma from the NASCO coalition. Shortly after that time the Oklahoma Department of Transportation announced they would be withdrawing from NASCO membership. At this time it appears that the effort to introduce foreign owned public roads in Oklahoma has met with too much resistance. However, as your Representative I am committed to opposing any new attempts to allow this type of long term private ownership of public roads.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trying to Prevent Voter Fraud

Perhaps you have seen recent stories in the news about a group known as ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). Some of ACORN'S employees have been accused of submitting false voter registration forms; some were signed "Mickey Mouse" and some listed Dallas Cowboys players’ names, even though none of the players lived in that particular state. Agents acting on behalf of ACORN employees were also caught filling out voter registration forms using names and addresses copied from the telephone book. In a number of states, fraud investigations are underway.

While these events are mostly occurring in presidential battleground states, I believe that Oklahoma's election system is also susceptible to fraud.

The voter identification cards used by the election board could be easily forged. Especially during low turnout elections, there is absolutely nothing to stop people from voting under different names in different precincts. If a group with the wherewithal and the power of ACORN decided to manipulate our elections by registering out-of-state voters or by registering the same person multiple times in different precincts under different names and addresses, there would probably be very little to stand in their way.

Right here in Logan County, according to election board records, in just one precinct preceding the 2004 elections, there were four hundred and fourteen people who registered to vote in September and October and who are still listed on the rolls of eligible voters. Of those four hundred and fourteen people, only eighteen of them showed up to vote at the next major election in 2006. One can only imagine how susceptible that precinct is to corruption when of all of the people who registered in September and October, only four percent of them turned out to be voters who would be still be voting at that precinct two years later. It would be next to impossible for a precinct official to recognize that person when he/she basically only registered to vote for one election.

In an e-mail update in May, I wrote about
Senate Bill 1150 which would have provided for a required list of identification options prior to voting. The constitutionality of the bill was reinforced by a recent Supreme Court decision which ruled in favor of an Indiana voter ID law that requires photo identification at the polls, citing the need to reduce voter fraud.

I also included this bill on my constituent surveys and over 80% of my constituents responded by supporting the idea of required voter identification.

Unfortunately, I also wrote about the fact that some in the Senate leadership were able to kill the bill.

While the Senate's decision to kill the bill was discouraging, I believe that a strong voter photo ID law can be passed in the future. The Speaker of the House recently announced that this will be a major agenda item for next year. Hopefully with more conservative leadership in the Senate, and with all of the national attention being given to voter fraud, the efforts of those who appear to keep our voter system susceptible to fraud will be defeated.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Politicians Giving Away More Of Your Money

One of the types of bills I am most disappointed to see appear on the floor of the House is a bill that makes a seemingly small but expansive change in the way an incentive program or tax credit give away is allotted to some special interest somewhere. I believe that most legislators have no clue about the identity of the special interest or group that is set to benefit from the change but are simply asked to support the bill in the name of economic development.

Over the past few years any number of programs have popped up that give away your money to any number of entities that will benefit from the special consideration of one of these incentive programs. The programs are usually created in the name of economic development which means it is very hard for most legislators to vote against them and run the risk of being seen as anti-growth.

Now, these programs appear to be slowly expanding to include more and more special interests. These groups are no doubt willing to invest in the lobbyists and build relationships with legislators in order to be successful in expanding these programs to include themselves.

I feel that Oklahoma's elected officials are putting us on a dangerous road down a path where anyone who can afford a high price lobbyist can create a special program that provides their specific interest with financial gain at the expense of the average taxpayers who are unknowingly forced to carry the burden of paying for these pay outs.

These programs essentially bypass the people's right as customers in the free market to determine who the winners and losers of the business world are and risks placing government bureaucrats and centralized planners in the position of determining who will benefit from the special programs.

And, with a lack of public transparency it seems there are a multitude of possible abuses that can occur as millions of dollars of tax credits appear to be distributed with little to no public awareness of who is receiving these credits and how they are being used.

I have always felt that in order for Oklahoma to compete with neighboring states such as Texas for economic growth it is important that many of Oklahoma's growth punitive taxes such as the personal income tax or the tax on capital gains should be greatly reduced or eliminated.

Unfortunately, as special interests are allowed to build holes into the tax code to provided targeted benefits in the name of economic development the harder it will become for Oklahoma to enact comprehensive tax reform. This is because a large and powerful constituency will be developed in order to maintain the big government status-quo and keep the targeted incentives in place.

A recently released report from the Tax Foundation demonstrates what is at stake. In their annual rankings the Foundation declared Oklahoma to have moved up to having the 19th highest tax burden in the United States. Oklahoma's tax burden ranking has steadily increased over the past 30 years. In 1977 Oklahoma ranked 42nd in terms of the level of state and local taxation. Now we rank 19th.

This high level of taxation does not provide incentive for growth. This is no doubt partly why Oklahoma's per capita income is one of the lowest in the nation. Despite all of good intentions of those who wish to grow our state by offering massive incentive programs I believe that Oklahoma will grow much more successfully if we reverse course and follow a path of less taxation.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Child Advocacy Group Names Autism Insurance Top Priority for 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY – The effort to require health insurance to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism in children received another grassroots boost this week from one of Oklahoma’s most respected child advocacy organizations.

At its legislative fall forum, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) placed the issue at the top of its priorities for the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature. The forum, held on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, brought together child advocates and lawmakers to discuss a variety of issues important to Oklahoma’s children.

Senator Jay Paul Gumm is the author of “Nick’s Law,” the bill that would have required health insurance to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism. A Democrat from Durant, Gumm participated in a panel discussion on special needs children during the two-day event. OICA, he said, has an unmatched reputation in standing up for children.

“The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is a strong and effective voice speaking for children who often have no voice,” he said. “They have been on board with ‘Nick’s Law’ since we started this effort. I am honored to stand alongside them and the parents of children with autism as we continue this battle next year.”

“Nick’s Law” – named for Nick Rohde, a 10-year-old Edmond boy with autism – passed the Oklahoma Senate on bipartisan votes on four separate occasions in 2008. Each time, House Republican leaders would not allow the proposal even to be considered by representatives.

“There is a grassroots groundswell of support for this legislation,” Gumm said. “We see it in Oklahoma and we have seen it in other states. Republican legislators and governors in other states have championed bills like ‘Nick’s Law,’ and we had strong support from many Republicans in the Oklahoma Senate.

“In the entire nation, it was only the Republican leadership in the Oklahoma House of Representatives that made the issue partisan.”

Gumm said there is significant support for the bill among rank-and-file members of the House Republican caucus. “We knew there were enough votes to pass the bill if Republican leaders had just given it a fair hearing and allowed their members to vote their conscience,” he said.

Four Republican representatives – Reps. Doug Cox of Grove, David Dank of Oklahoma City, Charlie Joyner of Midwest City, and Scott Martin of Norman – even signed a petition to force a vote on “Nick’s Law” during the 2008 session. Then, after a House Republican meeting, no other GOP lawmakers would sign despite many having expressed support for the bill.

House leaders recently conducted a legislative study on autism and the state services provided to families struggling with the bio-neurological condition. Parents of autistic children who attended the study meetings expressed frustration that the private insurance component was hardly discussed.

“House leaders chose to ignore the ‘elephant in the room,’ and that is the role insurance must play in the battle against the epidemic of autism,” Gumm said. “They have desperately tried to make a case against ‘Nick’s Law,’ and despite all their efforts, the bill still came out as the top priority of the most respected child advocacy organization in the state.

“Oklahomans are very good at seeing through smoke screens.”

Gumm said a new version of “Nick’s Law” is already written and will be introduced “at the first possible moment” for consideration during the 2009 session. He said he is becoming more hopeful every day the bill will pass next year.

“Parents of children with autism know what it takes to overcome challenges,” he said. “The legislative obstacles put in their path by a handful of powerful legislators is nothing compared to what they have already overcome in caring for their children.

“When you get to know these parents, you understand far more about ‘family values’ than you can ever learn from the empty rhetoric of politicians who either cannot or will not stand for those who have no voice.”