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.

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