Friday, February 29, 2008

Parents Rally for "Nick's Law"

On Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008, Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, conducted a State Capitol news conference on "Nick's Law." The proposal would mandate that health insurance cover early diagnosis and treatment of autism. This package is coverage of the news conference aired that day on the Oklahoma News Report - the only statewide news broadcast.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

First Deadline Met

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! The first major deadline of the 2008 session is passed, and now our focus is on bills and resolutions on the Senate floor.

Senate committees completed their work on Senate bills last week. Now, all those bills approved by the committees are awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

Already, we have seen history in the Senate as we consider those bills and resolutions. The first tie vote in recent memory occurred in the Senate, meaning the lieutenant governor finally got to exercise her constitutional duty to make a “casting” vote.

The measure was Senate Bill 1550. The bill is designed to close a loophole in our child support laws by requiring the reporting of income earned by independent contractors.

Oddly, this was not a straight party-line vote. Many folks thought the lieutenant governor would be casting many tie-breaking votes because of the Senate’s even split of 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans.

On this bill, however, as many Republicans voted for the bill as Democrats voted against it. Lt. Gov. Jari Askins voted “yes,” giving the measure the necessary 25 votes for passage.

I supported the measure, which is in preliminary form, because I believe parents have a responsibility to support their children, regardless of whether a divorce has occurred. That is certainly the case when the court has ordered support be paid. There should be no loopholes when it comes to taking care of children.

While the bill was held in the Senate on a parliamentary move, its next stop – barring something unusual happening – will be a committee in the House of Representatives.

An issue many of you have asked me about is the move in the House of Representatives to investigate State Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan. The auditor and his wife were indicted by a federal grand jury on a host of charges.

We in the Senate have a unique role in the impeachment process. Right now, the activity is in the House of Representatives. The Speaker of the House appointed an investigative committee charged with determining whether there is sufficient evidence to impeach the auditor.

If the committee believes there is enough evidence, they will recommend the House approve articles of impeachment. If approved by the House of Representatives, the articles become an indictment.

Then, the Senate becomes a Court of Impeachment. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would preside, and a select group of House members would prosecute the auditor, who will be able to defend himself.

As a member of the Court of Impeachment, my colleagues and I would be judges and jurors, so I really cannot discuss the case. We in the Senate would take an oath to try the case impartially. If the House impeaches the auditor, we in the Senate owe both the people of Oklahoma and the auditor nothing less.

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

Open Door Policy - Feb. 26th, 2008

I hope you received my survey and legislative update in the mail this week. The House of Representatives allows us to send out two of these mailings each year to our constituents and I wanted to take the chance to update you on my bills that will be considered and also give you a bit more information about happenings at the State Capitol than room will provide in this column. If you did not receive a copy, the State Election Board has your address incorrect and you will need to re-register at the post office, tag agent or local school and they will get it fixed. The mailing addresses have experienced problems due to changes to the E-911 system.

I had the chance to visit with the Chickasha High School Young Democrats last week and feed them lunch. It's great to see our younger citizens taking part in the political process and learning about our government. We need to do what we can to encourage people to vote and be aware of the issues so they can help change the government to reflect the idealism that many feel has been lost due to scandal and corruption.

On Tuesday, we took up House Bill 3122, which increases the school year hours of instruction by roughly three days. I voted against this legislation but it still passed the House. I do not feel it is right to add on extra hours or days and create an unfunded mandate on our schools. I also do not feel we are maximizing the current time required by students to be in the classroom. There are many other ways to improve student learning rather than simply requiring more time in the classroom.

We have also had many visitors up to the Capitol. I had the great pleasure of seeing FFA groups from Elgin, Fletcher and Cement visit the Capitol. I also was able to see friends from Farm Bureau and the Conservation Districts at their annual dinners this past week. Higher Education Day is this week, so I know I will have friends from Cameron and USAO, as well as students from the district attending other schools drop by my office. It's great to see people from back home stop by and visit.

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 home number for work is 1-580-476-2626. 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.

Good article about superdelegates - Ed is an old friend of mine
Superdelegates use power for good, not evil
By: Edward Espinoza
February 25, 2008 04:19 PM EST

There is a lot of talk about us Democratic “superdelegates” and the notion that we will secretly convene to decide the party’s nominee, and in fact, the fate of the world. We’ve been branded as backroom deal makers, “Washington insiders” and moneyed elites. Stephen Colbert questioned whether we have “supermutant powers,” such as the ability to fly.
This heightened attention on Democratic National Committee members — driven by the closeness of the nomination fight between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama — illustrates a perception that fails to approximate reality. Our roles are more akin to that of caretakers, addressing the more mundane needs of conducting party business, rather than that of all-powerful determinants of the Democratic nominee for president.
For the record: I will participate in the nomination process and will fully support the eventual nominee. But it is not my desire to be the sole decider in this process, nor do I think that I will be. Let’s start with a few facts to dispel some popular misconceptions:No presidential candidate currently holds a majority of the 796 superdelegates.
Fewer than 10 percent of the superdelegates are appointed. There are elected officials in the group, but the majority of supers are Democratic activists elected by state Democratic parties.
Most superdelegates are average people with everyday jobs, such as teachers, salespeople, IT professionals and retirees.
We attend DNC meetings twice a year, paying our own hotel and airfare costs (further demonstrating that we do not posses the superhuman ability of flight).
My life is the antithesis of a Washington insider: I earn less than six figures, I went to a state university, I rent. I was elected by the California Democratic Party to represent the voters of my state. I started as a political activist, later serving as president of the California Young Democrats and eventually moving on to work in political campaigns.
But we are now a popular topic on cable TV, in coffee shops and on blogs. Even we DNC members regularly talk about our role and how we should be involved.
Admittedly, life is more interesting these days: We have personal phone calls from former President Bill Clinton, former senators calling on behalf of Barack Obama and sit-downs with the candidates. It is flattering and quite a contrast to the normal routine work of writing campaign plans and party resolutions, conducting constituency outreach and working on the Democratic presidential nominating calendar (I was an active advocate in a two-year effort to move Nevada up in the process).
But while these phone calls and meetings are nice, they are not what ultimately will sway us. We are keenly aware of the responsibility we carry, and we take this role seriously. We listen to voters and are mindful that both majority and dissenting views deserve a voice in the Democratic Party.
We are not unified behind any campaign, and it is highly unlikely that we will fall in lock step behind any one candidate to make a difference in the race.
It is more likely that, if the race remains close, we could cast our votes for a candidate who may otherwise have a narrow delegate lead, in order to create a more decisive nomination. Such a move won’t change the outcome of the race, but it can serve to unify the party and change the momentum and perception of the nominee coming out of the convention.
Or we could be the players on the floor of a brokered convention, helping the states steer through convention rules while avoiding the kind of intramural fights that can rip a party apart, similar to those at the 1968 convention.
No one can say exactly how our roles will play out, but I am firmly convinced that our role will not, and should not, be one that ultimately picks our nominee.
Only a candidate with the support of a unified party can carry Democrats to victory in the fall. And as a superdelegate, I prefer that our role remains part of a cumulative process in which the eventual nominee garners strength from all aspects of the party.
That is to say, in the larger scheme of things, our place is to build unity, discourage any major bloodletting and help the nomination process in a role that is fair, inclusive and, above all, transparent.
Wait — is transparency considered a super mutant power?
Edward Espinoza, a public relations and political strategist from Los Angeles, most recently served as a field director for presidential candidate Bill Richardson. He is currently an uncommitted superdelegate serving in his fourth year on the DNC.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Saying "NO" To Lobbyist Gift Giving

Recently, a bill I authored, HB 2444, was approved by the House Rules Subcommittee on Elections and Redistricting. HB 2444 would ask the state Ethics Commission to create and maintain a voluntary "No Gifts List." Under the bill, lobbyists would be prevented from giving gifts to lawmakers who voluntarily place themselves on the list.

When I asked for your vote to be your State Representative, I did so because I wanted to spend time in the Legislature working for the people, not taking lobbyists gifts and certainly not going through the hassle of returning unsolicted items.

Refusing gifts has proven harder than I expected, as lobbyists kept delivering unrequested items to my office. This became a logistical challenge, since some were left with office staff or even sent in the mail. Other lawmakers have told me of similar frustrations, as they did not want to receive gifts either, and yet items are left at their offices.

Thus, the need for House Bill 2444. By creating this "No Gifts List," not only will the time and money involved in returning gifts be saved, but I believe the list will
put pressure on legislators who do not want to refuse gifts. I believe constituents will demand their lawmakers place themselves on the list. This could be a fantastic tool for minimizing the influence of special interest without having to create a complicated new law.

Several other officials have gone out of their way to make it possible for this bill to have a chance at winning approval. Representative Trebor Worthen, who chairs the committee that approved the bill, courageously agreed to hear and support the bill. Without Worthen's support, the bill would have had little chance of success. In addition, Senator Anthony Sykes is one of the leading advocates of minimizing the influence of special interests over legislative policy. Sykes has agreed to sponsor the bill in the Senate.

And, at the request of Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, I plan to amend House Bill 2444 to allow statewide officeholders to be placed on the "No Gifts List."

"Even a small token of appreciation can be misconstrued, so this legislation gives us the opportunity to avoid misunderstandings." Holland said. "We need to continually affirm to our public that the work of the Insurance Department is impartial and that our regulatory duties are carried out in a manner that is above reproach. The 'No Gifts List' is simply one more way to demonstrate that commitment." Holland implemented a department-wide "Things of Value" policy upon assuming office, prohibiting the receipt of gifts or meals from anyone regulated by the Insurance Department. She said the "No Gifts List" would complement the agency's internal efforts.

Holland's predecessor in office, Carroll Fisher, was impeached by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, due in part to soliciting and accepting gifts of art work, furniture and kitchen equipment.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dorman and Corn Want Priority on Disaster Funding

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

Dorman and Corn Want Priority on Disaster Funding

Oklahoma City – State Rep. Joe Dorman and State Sen. Kenneth Corn have filed legislation to secure state matching dollars for Oklahoma’s emergency disasters through a self-executing funding system that will avoid the legislative appropriations process.

House Bill 3087, by Dorman and Corn, requires that money from the state’s Constitutional Reserve Fund (also known as the Rainy Day Fund) be used to provide matching funds for federal disaster relief reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The bill establishes that the emergency funding be provided before Rainy Day Fund money is used for any other purpose and be automatically appropriated when the state receives the certification of disaster costs from the federal government.

"This will secure the funding needed to assist Oklahoma families when disaster strikes," said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. "These individuals should not have to wait to rebuild their lives. This should be our number one priority when it comes to tapping our state’s emergency fund."

"The swift reaction from state government can help our communities to rebuild and move forward. I believe that the purpose of the Rainy Day fund is to meet emergency needs," said Corn, D-Poteau. "There is no greater need than coming to the aid of our communities and our people."

Currently, in most cases, the federal government will fund 75 percent of the disaster relief leaving the local with 12.5 percent and the state 12.5 percent.

"The state still owed money from the ice storms of 2000 up until just a couple of years ago when the Legislature finally appropriated the required state portion of the money. That delay left the counties, communities, electric co-ops and many other entities with unpaid bills due to legislative negligence by not providing the 12.5 percent match," said Dorman. "This measure will make sure this never happens again. Communities will not have to wait until we return to session or, as we have seen recently, for years after to finally get their funds."

House Bill 3087 establishes a constitutional amendment that would be voted on by the people of Oklahoma in November. The bill currently sits in the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives. Dorman and Corn have requested a hearing for this legislation from Speaker Chris Benge before the deadline for bills to be discussed in committee.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

FFA/4-H Tax Exemption Gets Committee Approval

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

FFA/4-H Tax Exemption Gets Committee Approval

OKLAHOMA CITY (February 19, 2008) – Legislation declaring FFA and 4-H livestock awards to be tax-free cleared a House subcommittee on Tuesday.

House Bill 3081, by state Rep. Joe Dorman, provides that "any payment received by a person as an award for participation in a competitive livestock show event" will not be considered taxable income under Oklahoma law. Under the legislation, those payments will instead be treated as scholarship awards.

"Students don’t make money on the animals they show," said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. "This is truly an educational opportunity given to these kids and it’s ridiculous to require some 16-year-old 4-Her or FFA student to file taxes on a prize."

The checks received by students involved in competitive livestock shows can range from a few hundred dollars at local events to tens of thousands at national events.

However, Dorman noted that the cost of breeding, caring and showing the animals "usually far exceeds the amount of prize money the kids may win, if they do win."

Carolyn Doyle, FFA Sentinel for the Elgin FFA, told state lawmakers the bill would allow students to make their dollars stretch further.

"Most of the kids in our FFA chapter pay for their animals and feed, and any money we make at a show is usually the only income generated to pay for our projects," Doyle said. "If we have to pay income tax on those awards, we won’t be able to do as much. FFA students are not getting rich off our projects and we want to be able to do more with our limited resources."

By declaring the prize money will be treated as a scholarship and therefore tax exempt under state law, legislators will indirectly exempt the prizes from federal taxation as well because of an existing federal tax exemption for scholarships and awards (Code Sec 117 Reg. 1.117-1).

"The federal tax code clearly exempts scholarships and awards," Dorman said. "House Bill 3081 will dictate that these livestock show prizes will be classified as Scholarships and Awards and, therefore, nontaxable at both the state and federal level. That doubles the benefit for Oklahoma’s FFA and 4-H students."

Dorman filed House Bill 3081 at the request of Elgin FFA instructor Jerry Renshaw and Mike Doyle, a CPA and father of two students who show animals in Elgin.

House Bill 3081 passed out of the House Revenue and Taxation Subcommittee on a unanimous vote. It now advances to the full House Appropriations & Budget Committee.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is This Why College Tuition Costs Keep Going Up?

Can you imagine a situation in the private business world where one part of the business was allowed to issue millions of dollars of debt without approval from the board of directors? Certainly it would not be long before that business would simply cease to exist. No doubt it would be driven into bankruptcy by out-of-control employees who spend without check or balance.

Yet that is exactly what is occurring in state government. The Regents for Higher Education are issuing millions of dollars of bond projects without the approval of the legislature. The projects not only indebt state government to paying off the principal of the debt, but the unnecessary interest as well.

In fact, it appears that in the last 8 years, more than 250 million dollars have been issued by the Regents in debt. Currently, around 180 million of this is still waiting to be paid back. The money has been requested for use on projects as varied as athletic score boards to golf course maintenance equipment.

Recently, a courageous member of the Council of Bond Oversight asked his board to seek an Attorney General’s opinion on the constitutionality of the Regents to issue this kind of debt. Unfortunately, not enough members of his board voted to support his effort, and it failed.

I believe this is yet another step by a run-away big government bureaucracy to continue to indebt the people, while placing the tab for these expenditures on the backs of future generations. Those who spend our money will immediately benefit without having to give thought to the consequences of dealing with the interest that will accumulate over time on the debt they issued.

When dealing with their personal budgets, many people realize the important concept of going in debt only for emergency circumstances. This common sense principle should be applied to the government as well.

The government should certainly not be placing us in debt for score boards and golf course maintenance equipment. And most definitely, those who should be making the decision of whether or not to incur this indebtedness should be the elected representatives of the people; not unelected bureaucrats.

Perhaps this “spend-happy” attitude explains why Oklahoma’s college tuition has been increasing so rapidly over the past few years.

I will be the House of Representatives author of a Senate Bill by Senator Patrick Anderson to greatly limit the ability of the Regents to issue this type of debt. Anderson has worked hard to expose this inappropriate spending and I certainly appreciate being able to sponsor his bill in the House.

Should Anderson’s bill not meet with success this year, I am sure that either Anderson or myself will file the request with the Attorney General to provide an opinion on the constitutionality of the Regents’ ability to issue this debt without the approval of the legislature.

Raise Taxes to Cut Taxes?

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! Legislative committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives continue consideration of the hundreds of bills filed for 2008.

As committees approve bills, and refer them to the full Senate or House, we get a better idea of the nature of this session, and it is a mixed bag. Not every bill filed is good for Oklahoma; in fact, some are quite bad for our state, and a big part of my job as your senator is to help kill those bills that would be bad for our state and its people.

One of the worst proposals on the table this year is a measure that would begin to “sunset,” or systematically end, many of our state’s tax exemptions. The result would be a systematic tax increase for a broad spectrum of Oklahoma business activities. In fact, if enacted as presented, it would by far be the largest tax increase in Oklahoma’s history.

Proponents of ending those exemptions have been clear: they want to raise taxes so they can cut taxes – primarily for the wealthiest among us. I know; it does not make sense to me, either. This proposal would be a “tax shift” that is potentially devastating for many Oklahoma businesses and jobs. It could drive up food prices for you and me, but more on that in a moment.

This notion of “tax shifting” – from an economic development standpoint – troubles me greatly. In essence, ending these exemptions would be breaking a promise we made to businesses that have invested in our state and our people.

Businesses relocate or expand into a state based on a set of promises. New and existing businesses that make new investments and create new jobs do not deserve to have the rug pulled out from under them by eliminating exemptions on which they depend.

For those of us in rural Oklahoma, the idea to sunset these exemptions should be especially troubling. Agriculture is one component of our economy that benefits from these tax exemptions. I believe it would be very poor policy for Oklahoma to turn its back on this pillar of our state’s economy, a segment of the economy on which we all depend for life itself.

I like the bumper sticker that says, “If you eat, you are involved in agriculture.” Removing the tax exemptions enjoyed by the agriculture industry would make it harder for our farmers and ranchers to make a living; it also could raise food prices we all pay at the grocery store. Some would do all that just to cut taxes for the very wealthy.

Oklahoma should keep its promises. Because of that, I will oppose this measure at every turn. It is a bad idea that ultimately would cost all of us much more than it potentially might save.

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

Monday, February 18, 2008

Open Door Policy - February 18, 2008

I hope everyone had a warm weekend with the weather that blew in. I know several of the sporting events and meetings in the area had to be cancelled due to road conditions. I got to see some great basketball this weekend and I got to see several friends at the Lawton Public School Elementary Principal meeting and the REAP check presentations for Caddo and Grady Counties . We also had a very nice fundraiser to benefit Michelle Watson on Saturday night. Should you wish to make a donation to assist her, there is an account is set up at First National Bank & Trust at the Chickasha and Cyril branches.

Another meeting that occurred this past weekend was between me, Democratic Leader Danny Morgan and members of the State Career Tech staff. We discussed opportunities that could benefit businesses in our area with additional training for students that would place them in immediate employment. This is a fantastic program that is available and I hope we will see some educational opportunities awaiting welders in Southwest Oklahoma .

On Monday, the House passed HR 1051 which establishes a committee to study and investigate the actions of Jeff McMahan, the State Auditor and Inspector. This was unanimous except for the absence of one member from the floor at the time of the vote. The committee will now meet to review evidence and see if there is further action that should be taken towards an impeachment. This will likely take some time to review all the facts before a vote will occur.

Last Friday, another piece of legislation that was of importance to the state was heard on the House floor. HB 3111 by Ron Peterson, R-Tulsa, would provide that any future insurance mandate passed by the legislature would require it to sit over for a minimum of two years, have an actuarial study paid for by an outside source to see how much insurance costs would rise and if passed within one year, require a 75% vote of the legislature rather than the simple majority. This bill, an attempt to reduce required coverage of such things as autism, colorectal screenings and assistance for Phenylketonuria (PKU), was passed 53 to 46. Two Republicans crossed over to join all 44 Democrats in voting against this bill.

I debated against this bill on several points. This legislation takes away the authority of legislators to determine in a year if one of these mandates is necessary. It is also under the assumption that we cannot make a decision that is not emotional on the subject of mandates. Another point is that an actuarial study done by an outside source (usually the insurance company) will not be unbiased as would something prepared by our House Staff.

Another argument we heard that I disagree with is generally businesses would be opposed to these mandates. I think most businesses would want these screenings to make sure an employee is healthy and on the job, and if something is detected, it will be caught early and less time would be required for missing work. The final point I stand by is that I personally feel some of these health screenings should be covered by insurance to catch and prevent life-threatening illnesses.

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 home number for work is 1-580-476-2626. 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, February 12, 2008

A Battle for These Children, Their Families, Our Future

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! Now that the ceremony surrounding the first week of the annual legislative session is behind us, the nuts-and-bolts work of the people’s business has taken center stage.

In both the Senate and House of Representatives, committees are wading through all the bills that were introduced for 2008, as well as hundreds of “holdover” bills from 2007. As I have written before, the committee process is one of the ways in which large numbers of bills are killed – many of them before they even have a chance for life.

That is the nature of the political process, and that reality has been made even more severe because of the divided nature of the Legislature. Neither political party has an iron grip on the legislative process, meaning that for any bill to become law it must gain bipartisan support.

In an election year, in which both parties are vying for political power, gathering up bipartisan support often becomes a more difficult proposition.

A bill that did win committee approval is one that begins what will be a comprehensive assault on autism. The Senate Education Committee passed legislation encouraging school districts to include a special emphasis on autism as part of professional development program for special education teachers in the district.

As I have shared with you before, currently one in every 150 children is diagnosed with autism. If this were some traditional malady – like small pox or polio – parents would be storming the Capitol demanding action. Despite that, some still oppose efforts to ensure state law reflects the reality of autism.

Parents of children with autism ringed the room as the committee considered the bill, which passed on a bipartisan 11-1 vote. The amazing thing to me was that one senator could oppose this common-sense measure. The bill is a first step in what many of us in the Senate hope to do to assist families struggling with autism.

I have strong hopes that when the dust settles from this session, we will have enacted policies that help the children and families of autism. The challenges they face are more difficult than most of us can imagine – but this is an epidemic we must address as soon as possible in a proactive manner.

To do anything less is, in my judgment, simply irresponsible. So, the battle is on – a battle for these children, their families and our future. It is a battle that reminds me why I first wanted to serve in public office, and why I am honored to be your voice in the Oklahoma Senate.

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

Oklahoma Hunters May Soon be Hunting Bears

Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Capitol: (405) 557-7305
Oklahoma Hunters May Soon be Hunting Bears
OKLAHOMA CITY –To keep the bear population from increasing to dangerous amounts in Oklahoma, state Rep. Joe Dorman filed legislation to establish permitting guidelines for the state black bear hunting season.
House Bill 3077, by Dorman, allows the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife (ODW) to sell a special black bear hunting license to be used during a specific time period or when the number of killed bears reaches a certain quota.
"There have been many complaints of these bears tearing into cabins to raid the food," said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. "These bears are large and can easily harm people and destroy property. We need to do what we can to control their population so they are not endangering people either camping or by causing increased wrecks by wandering on to the roads."
Currently, students at Oklahoma State University are researching black bear population numbers to see how many can be taken during the hunting season without causing harm to the species.
"The bear population grew to dangerously low levels in surrounding states, but conservation efforts have led to their repopulation," said Dorman. "Now that the levels have increased to safe amounts, we can allow hunters to assist in the population control."
Dorman serves as the House vice-chair of the Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, a group affiliated with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. This group seeks to educate elected officials on hunting and outdoors activities enjoyed by many wildlife enthusiasts.
A spokesman from the ODW predicted 15 to 20 bears per year will be the average number covered by the new seasonal guidelines. He also said there would be a 1-800 number set up for hunters to call and report their kill so as to not go above that limit.
HB 3077 passed out of the House Sub-Committee on Wildlife on Monday with a unanimous vote.

Lawmakers Work to Solve Rural Mail Problems


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

Lawmakers Work to Solve Rural Mail Problems

OKLAHOMA CITY (February 8, 2008) – State Rep. Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs) and U.S. Rep. Dan Boren (D-Muskogee) are working with federal postal authorities to solve problems with rural delivery service.
"Unfortunately, I have constituents who aren’t receiving their mail due to glitches in implementing the E911 system," Dorman said. "It’s creating real hardship."
E911 (also known as enhanced 911) is a North American telephone network feature of the 911 emergency-calling system that automatically associates a physical address with the calling party's telephone number as required by the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999.
As part of the new process, old rural route addresses were eliminated and specific location addresses were implemented.
But the Post Office cannot deliver mail to the new addresses until they receive a notice of change of address. However, some county governments administering E911 have not been updating addresses as quickly as necessary, creating delivery problems.
Joining forces with Dorman, U.S. Congressman Dan Boren also raised concern with U.S. Postal Service officials in Oklahoma and Washington, D.C. about the E911 delivery issues affecting Oklahomans.
"If the citizens of Oklahoma are not receiving their mail in an orderly fashion due to mail delivery inefficiencies stemming from the E911 system, then I believe we've got some work to do," Boren said. "In recent days, I've discussed possible solutions with postal officials, some of which include improving coordination between the local levels of government and the U.S. Postal Service. I'm confident we can work with the U.S. Postal Service in Oklahoma to find a solution to this problem."
Dorman became aware of the problem after a constituent missed a doctor appointment because her x-rays didn’t get mailed to her prior to a cancer treatment.
Dorman has also seen problems stemming from constraints on local post offices requiring mail be sent to a post office box instead of a physical address due to the size of a community.
"When a person sends mail to your home address, common sense should dictate you will receive that letter," said Dorman. "The postal service needs to find a way to let local postmasters deliver this mail to towns with population of less than 1,500.
"I appreciate Congressman Boren assisting me and the citizens of our state by contacting postal officials to work through these issues," said Dorman.
Boren and Dorman were both elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2002 and have since worked together on issues.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Violating the Constitution

One of the rites of passage for legislators is a vote that occurs near the end of each legislative year on what is known as the "spill-over" bill. This is a massive spending bill that is used as a way to dole out extra taxpayer dollars in order to placate those who did not get everything they wanted in the yearly budget. Last year's spill-over bill featured a massive one-time spending of $135 million of your money on everything from an unnamed private foundation to an aerospace industries training program in Oklahoma City.

The first problem with this bill is that it is an unconstitutional practice known as "logrolling." Logrolling is the process in which a spending bill contains a number of appropriations all rolled into one. This bill is presented to the legislature in a form that cannot be amended from the floor, thus forcing legislators to vote up or down on the bill without giving them the chance to vote for or against how the money is specifically spent.

This massive one-time spending also provides cover to future legislatures to increase recurring spending while telling the people that they are cutting the amount of spending in government. For instance, if your personal spending budget was $800 per month and you received a $200 bonus from your job, and you spent all $1000 in one month, would it be fiscally prudent to spend $990 the next month and then assert you had cut your personal budget by $10?

Twice prior to the legislature's consideration of this bill, the Oklahoma Supreme Court had ruled this type of logrolling as being unconstitutional. Just a few days ago, the Supreme Court has again said that the legislature violated the Oklahoma Constitution by once again approving a spill-over spending bill.

I must admit to being shocked by this refusal to follow the law. The Constitution could not be more clear. But it looks like the legislature has continued to be engaged in it for years even though the Court has now said three times that this type of spending is unconstitutional.

I believe this proves the folly of big government. Because the legislators control billions of dollars, they are under tremendous pressure to give that money to certain special interests. Those who have the courage to vote "No," risk being seen as uncaring and opposing progress.

I feel it is important to downsize the size of government. By taking away the politicians' ability to spend billions of our taxpayer dollars, we will take an important first step in stopping these types of abuses.

Jason Murphey
District 31

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

With Your Help, and God's

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! The 2008 session of the Oklahoma Legislature has begun.

My colleagues and I made our way to the Capitol – as required by the Constitution – to begin doing the people’s business for the year. This, of course, is the first session of the Legislature in Oklahoma’s second century. As such, the responsibility falls to us to begin shaping Oklahoma’s next 100 years.

The first order of business was Governor Henry’s “State of the State” address. This is the governor’s sixth “State of the State,” and it was a very positive speech. One of the things I have always admired about this governor is that he believes in our state and is always positive about the possibilities the future will bring; that has not always been the case with governors.

I have never understood those who seek public office only to use their position as a platform to run down our state, and by extension its people. Oklahoma is not perfect; no institution created by mere mortals is. The reason, however, we have annual sessions is to create a “more perfect” society – to constantly improve.

Much of our nation’s symbolism comes from the fact that this great experiment in democracy will never be complete. The opening of this session of the Legislature marks another new beginning in our quest to become a more perfect state.

The governor hit on many important issues that will improve Oklahomans’ lives. Health care, education, public safety, and keeping our economy strong were all issues mentioned by the governor. Those are priorities I share.

The legislation I have announced over the past few months fit in each of the governor’s subject matters. We must dream big as Oklahomans to create the future our children deserve.

In health care, I will continue to push for creation of a public umbilical cord blood bank to fight diseases that steal life and destroy hope. I will work to ensure that those families living in the shadow of autism can depend on their health insurance for the help they expect and deserve.

In education, I will continue our struggle to empower parents and pay teachers better. To boost our economy, I will continue my fight to remove the sales tax on groceries and resist those tax cuts that do not help families who need it most.

In public safety, I will work to ensure that our prisons have the resources they need to keep behind bars those who would prey on our families.

Those are our biggest challenges this year, and others may present themselves as the four-month session wears on. We can create a better state, a more perfect state. With your help, and God’s, I have great confidence in our future and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Open Door Policy - Feb. 4, 2008

On Monday, we saw the beginning of the second session of the 51st Oklahoma Legislature convene. It was a time of hope and optimism as Governor Brad Henry delivered the State of the State and called for his agenda to be implemented over the coming months by the House and Senate. Many of his programs were greeted with enthusiasm, while others were not as well received. I can already tell it is going to be a busy session with quite a bit of debate.
Of more importance to the internal workings of the House of Representatives, we elected our new Speaker to finish out this term. Rep. Chris Benge of Tulsa was voted in on a unanimous vote of the membership of the House. I've worked with Chris for many years and feel he will do a good job of cleaning up the problems we've seen with ethics over the past few months. Chris has been fair to the members as the Appropriations and Budget Chair and I feel he will be willing to work with all members despite their party affiliation. I wish him well and look forward to working with Speaker Chris Benge.
This first week of session will begin the four month period where I will be working with the potential new laws for our state. While I will be kept in session Monday through Thursday, please let me know about any events that you would like me to attend. I will do my best to make it to those during the week and will certainly make every attempt while I am home on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The past two weeks were very busy around the district with many events going on in which I was included. We had the Apache Chamber Banquet with Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins, the Southwest District 4-H Conference (where I was able to teach parliamentary procedure), Grand Citizens Day in Elgin, county basketball tournaments (congratulations to my teams that won), the Chickasha fire department bean supper and several pre-session committees. I also had the chance to meet with members of the Cyril Town Council in regards to an economic development project, Chickasha City officials and ODOT to discuss future road programs and also citizens from Elgin in regards to industrial access programs which are in the works. I expect many other great things to happen as we have projects close to being revealed by some of the communities.
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 home number for work is 1-580-476-2626. 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.

Changing Leadership

This week the House of Representatives took action to elect a new Speaker of the House. While I look forward to working with new House Speaker Chris Benge, I think it is important to acknowledge the accomplishments of former House Speaker Lance Cargill.

When I sought your vote for State Representative, I did so for very specific reasons: I wanted to shrink the size of state government and the high level of taxes we are forced to pay to support it. As I visited with the people, they told me of their belief that there is much waste in government. They also helped me realize how important it is for strong leaders to attack that waste. In advocating for change, I wanted to reduce the salaries of Oklahoma legislators (the third-highest paid part-time legislators in the nation), adhere to a policy of refusing all personal gifts and political contributions from lobbyists, oppose pork earmarks, and advocate for legislation that turns up the heat on legislators who accept lobbyists' gifts.

Some have said that taking such controversial stands would make it difficult to work with the leadership of the House. Cargill saw to it that this was not the case. He honored my desire to work for change and asked me to join his study to modernize state government. This study has demonstrated that Oklahoma has 515 agencies, boards and commissions (ABCs), which is almost 2½ times the size of comparable states. The study also documented that up to 70 million of your taxpayer dollars could be saved in just one state agency! Imagine how much waste actually exists in state government when modernizing just one agency could result in such savings? Following Cargill's efforts, there are now a number of legislative efforts to incorporate the ideas of government modernization.

Cargill also expressed support for two other upcoming legislative initiatives that are important to restoring control of the government to the people. These include letting the people see what is going on in state government by allowing government proceedings to be televised, and shining the light of day on taxpayer-funded lobbyists (those who take our taxpayer dollars and use them to lobby for more taxpayer dollars).

Cargill also demonstrated that as part of reforming government, it is important to include the people. As part of this effort, he took the time to visit Guthrie to accept suggestions from Logan County residents as part of his 100 Ideas campaign. Last week he released the 100 Ideas book. Some of these courageous ideas include eliminating the abstract cost of real estate (a very important reform), expanding term limits to include all statewide officials, and modernizing county government to make it more efficient by making it more like city government. The 100 Ideas book provides a fantastic starting point for those fighting for reform.

There is no doubt in my mind that Cargill will continue to be an energetic force for the reform of government, despite his resignation as Speaker of the House.

It is my hope and belief that Speaker Benge will continue Cargill's work to reform Oklahoma government.