Sunday, December 27, 2009

Update Number 150

When I asked to serve as your State Representative, I stated that I wanted to incorporate a platform of representing Logan and Oklahoma county residents as opposed to capitol lobbyists and the groups that hire them. I have sought to implement this goal by setting in place a policy of refusing personal gifts and political contributions from lobbyists and the groups that hire them while aggressively building an open line of communication with the citizens I serve.

In order to accomplish this goal, I resolved to write an original update every week during my time in office. This article represents the 150th consecutive weekly update which I have written since I started serving as State Representative. I originally developed the idea of writing the column based on my observation of state Representative Frank Davis' policy of updating citizens about what was occurring in the Legislature with his weekly column entitled "Frankly Speaking".

I feel that by writing about issues on a regular basis, elected officials demonstrate that they are not afraid to take a stand and let citizens know how they will be voting on those issues. One of the tricks used by career politicians to stay in office for many years is to tell one group of people one thing while telling another group another thing entirely. Putting your position down on paper each and every week pretty much takes that deceptive method of telling the audience what they want to hear off the table.

The weekly process of writing a column and participating in the ensuing dialog allows me to feel that I am truly representing my constituency. The instant communication functionality provided by the Internet has made it possible for an immediate two-way communication process to take place following the publication of each update. Each week I spend a significant amount of time communicating with constituents who respond to the latest update. This communication has enabled me to understand how issues are having an effect on the lives of local constituents and I believed it has greatly enhanced my ability to represent them.

This process has also been very beneficial for me because I have enjoyed making so many new acquaintances which I would not otherwise have had to opportunity to make.

I am very grateful to the hundreds of people who have taken the time to communicate with me over the past 150 weeks and I especially appreciate Mark Radford and The Crescent Courier, Belinda Ramsey and The Guthrie News Leader, and Lisa Shearer and The Edmond Sun for printing the updates on a regular basis. I look forward to continuing this dialog during the upcoming legislative session.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Real Property Tax and Education Reform

I believe I have received more feedback to last week's update about the need for property tax reform than I have ever received for any other update.

I wrote that high property taxes discourage home owners to keep smaller houses and not buy or build new houses. However, I received feedback which was quick to point out that this tax also serves to disincentivize homeowners from improving their current homes.

Reducing the property tax assessment cap from 5% to 3% or 1% would be a common sense reform which should occur sooner than later. However, in order to realize true property tax reform and provide Oklahoma students with better education opportunities, Oklahoma policy makers must take aggressive action to reform a system that has not worked well for many years.

Each year, approximately 85% of property tax revenue goes to common and career tech educational entities. This is in addition to the billions of dollars that are either appropriated by the state or supplied by federal or dedicated revenue funds each year. In fact, the Oklahoma Council of Public affairs has indicated that Oklahomans spend over 10 thousand dollars each year per student. However, despite the billions of dollars spent each year, the test scores of Oklahoma public education students have failed to improve in any significant manner.

One of the respondents to last week's update told me that she lives in a house which she built with her dad. The house took them several years to build but they built it without going into debt. She is now paying hundreds of dollars each year in property taxes, so that she does not want to make improvements to the site for fear of increased property tax premiums. But she does not want to move out of the house for sentimental reasons.

This person is a homeschooler and because she wants to focus on her children's education, she chooses not to work outside the home. She states that the property tax is a killer on their one-income budget. For each child that is being homeschooled, taxpayers are probably being saved about $10K per year.

Her story demonstrates the need for true reform. Here is how it would work. The public education system could realize massive cost savings if state government would encourage people to participate in private and homeschool education through the provision of a property tax refund which is often proposed at $4,000 per year. As more and more people participated in these educational alternatives, the thousands of dollars of net cost savings to the government could be applied to property tax reform for everyone and may even be significant enough to allow for true reforms, such as restructuring the property tax so that it would apply only when a property is sold.

The impact on the public education system would be tremendous because a good deal of the work load and pressure would be taken off the public school system. And this new system would encourage market forces to provide educational solutions because any number of private entities would be forced to compete for education dollars. This would be possible because the citizens would now be empowered to control their own money instead of turning it over to the government each year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Property Tax Reform - Again

Constituents continue to contact me about the issue of property tax reform.

The other day a constituent explained to me that he had built a new house. He could have built this house anywhere but he chose to build it in Logan County. Upon moving into his new house he was told that his property tax payment would be thousands of dollars each year to the point that the property tax payment will represent a significant percentage of his overall payments.

This story makes the point that property tax provides a huge disincentive for citizens to invest in real estate. Why should someone buy a nice new house when the property tax payment on their new house might be as large as the mortgage payment on their old house? Building new houses is a great economic activity generator. How many jobs have been lost because punitive property taxes have discouraged this type of investment?

A senior citizen constituent visited my office one day. He produced a detailed spreadsheet calculating the implications of a continued 5% increase on his home assessment price over the upcoming years. He could demonstrate how with compounded interest the amount of his property tax would double over a certain time period. In fact, his home property taxes were nearly equal to 25% of his social security income.

And even though property values are currently in a state of decline, because assessors have had to increase the price of properties in excess of the 5% cap in the past, many homeowners will likely continue to see their assessments rise by 5% even in a down economy when their personal budgets may be shrinking.

A very simple, common sense property tax reform proposal has been circulating through the Legislature for the past few years. The reform would allow people to vote on lowering the cap of the ability of the county assessor to increase yearly assessments from 5% down to 3%. The bill is usually approved in the House or the Senate or both, but somehow always manages to get jammed up in the legislative process.

This is not a dramatic reform. This is not even a tax cut. It is a simple reduction of the amount by which this punitive tax increases each year. It is absolutely unconscionable that the Legislature refuses to give people an opportunity to vote on this bill. If the Legislature refuses once again to take action on this proposal during the upcoming session, I believe it will be vital for the people to place this issue on the ballot by circulating a initiative petition.

It is always possible that an initiative petition effort will seek a more aggressive reform such as a 1% cap each year. I would suggest that the special interests who have opposed the very reasonable 3% percent cap should consider that their short-term unreasonableness may have long term consequences, because citizens cannot continue to just stand by and be punished in this unfair manner.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dorman, Fourth District Democrats Collecting Cards for Soldiers; Try to Stop Email Hoax


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

Dorman, Fourth District Democrats Collecting Cards for Soldiers

OKLAHOMA C IT Y (November 25, 2009) – State Rep. Joe Dorman and Fourth District Democratic Party Chair Betty Simmons are heading up a project to collect and deliver holiday and get-well cards for soldiers recovering at Fort Sill, after learning of a hoax that has caused many cards to be returned to their senders.
“Many people I've talked with have seen an email asking people to send cards addressed not to a specific individual, but to ‘A Recovering American Soldier’ at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington , DC . The problem is that cards sent to the hospital are not delivered to soldiers without a specific recipient on the envelope,” Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said.
“Betty Simmons and I will be collecting cards from those wishing to express support to soldiers and ensure that they reach their intended recipients, bringing joy to soldiers hospitalized in Oklahoma this holiday season who are not able to make it home for the holidays.”
Dorman noted his own nephew had been in Reynolds Army Hospital at Fort Sill , and he knows what some words of support can mean to soldiers who must stay there through the holidays.”
“All of these men and women sacrifice so much for the rest of us, and now because of their bravery, many have to face spending a holiday hospitalized away from their families,” Dorman said. “I think this is a great chance for us to say 'Thank you!' for all that they have done to keep us safe.”
As reported by, a widespread email has made the false claim that Walter Reed Hospital in will accept Christmas cards addressed to “A Recovering Soldier.” However, these cards are not opened because of security concerns. The Web site notes that the sentiment behind the idea being passed along e-mail lists is a good one, but unfortunately the information is false.
“I became aware of this hoax last year when middle school students at Rush Springs sent cards to Walter Reed at the address on the email and those cards were returned. The class teacher, Valetta Bentley, and the local newspaper editor, Karen Goodwin, contacted my office and asked me to find a way to get these cards delivered. I arranged for them to be given to recovering soldiers at Fort Sill ,” Dorman said. “The soldiers thoroughly enjoyed receiving the cards. They are a nice gesture, a thank you for the service our military servicemen and women provide, and I do not want that sentiment to be soured by someone pulling a hoax.”
Dorman noted he has seen postings similar to the e-mail begin to appear on social networking sites such as Facebook.
“I have noticed that email starting to make it around again and do not want people to be disappointed when their cards are returned,” said Dorman. “Many folks are sharing this email with their lists in order to spread good will and I want to make sure we get cards delivered to soldiers who will appreciate them.”
The Snopes website does verify that Christmas cards are being successfully collected through the Red Cross-sponsored “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.
Simmons said she hopes to get every Democratic county chair in her district to collect cards, as well as encourage citizens not involved with the Democratic Party to express their support.
“I have asked the party chair of each county to collect cards in their area or appoint someone to do so,” Simmons said. “Then we’ll get with Representative Dorman and have him deliver them to the Fort Sill hospital.”
Anyone wishing to take part in this endeavor can send cards addressed to Cards for Soldiers, c/o State Rep. Joe Dorman, Oklahoma House of Representatives, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 325, Oklahoma City , OK 73105 . Cards will be delivered the week before Christmas.
To send cards through the Red Cross “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program, mail must be addressed to Holiday Mail for Heroes, P.O. Box 5456 , Capitol Heights , MD 20791-5456 and must be postmarked by Monday, Dec. 7.


Open Door Policy - Dec. 8, 2009

The surgery on my deviated septum went very well and I appreciate all the get-well cards and notes, and especially the Filippo's for making me take it easy during my recovery. I'm still trying to take it easy, but it is tough this time of year. I overdid it on Friday and Saturday finishing some small projects and had to stay in bed all day on Sunday to recover. I'm taking it pretty easy this week by only going to a couple of events and will be in the office for short periods of time this week.
The deadline for bill submissions is this upcoming Friday. Some of the bills I am filing this session deal with looking at the creation of incentives for insurance information cards where people can maintain their records on a card in their wallet to cut down on red tape and time spent on the phone looking for records; giving the local schools more flexibility to allow student absences when the students participate in approved activities and keep their grades up; provisions to restrict a person losing their insurance due to an illness; a restructuring of funeral accounts to allow for easier use during the time when a family is grieving; and looking at restrictions on state agencies and their advertising budgets.
I will also be heavily involved with the budget as I serve on the Appropriations & Budget Committee. We will have to do thorough reviews on the spending practices and make cuts in many areas due to less tax revenue coming in to the state. There is about $600 million in stimulus dollars available for Oklahoma and about the same amount in the Rainy Day fund. We will meet to determine how much will be spent, especially in light of the collections being down well over $1 billion from previous budgets.
Some events I attended recently were the OHCE awards for Grady County, the OKC Retired Firefighters Banquet, the Friends of the Library Spaghetti dinner in Rush Springs, and I spoke to two school groups last week. I also attended the wedding reception for Tom and Holly Foster this weekend and delivered a toast to the new couple. Tom is one of my best friends from high school and I'm very happy for the new couple. A special thanks also goes out the Chickasha High School Young Democrats for volunteering a Saturday night to help out with the Festival of Lights in Chickasha. If you have not been to this in a while, please drive through and check out the great display!
It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me and discuss one of these or another issue, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502 , or directly at 1-405-557-7305 . My e-mail address is at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559 , Rush Springs , OK 73082 and my website is on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Joe with the Chickasha High School Young Democrats

Open Door Policy - Dec. 1, 2009

As we approach 2010, we see several deadlines for the legislature beginning to unfold. The date for requesting ideas for potential legislation falls this month and I am working on several different ideas, but will only file eight as that is our limit. I will also be pursuing consideration of the eight bills I filed last session as they are still "alive" in the legislative process. Some of these bills creating a Children's Cabinet to look at children's issues in the state, fire hydrant servicing and creating incentives for doctors to volunteer at school sporting events and for veterans organizations.
On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending a ceremony at Cox's Corner Fire Department to honor Al Dreves, the fire chief for the department. This honor was bestowed upon him by the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments to recognize Al as the Firefighter of the Year for ASCOG. Al has made sure his firefighters continue their training and has every person in the department at Firefighter 1 level. Al also was the chief for both my nephews when they graduated high school and joined that department. Both of them are in the Army and one wants to become a paramedic, while the other wants to continue being a firefighter. I appreciate Al for being a good influence on them and all the others who have come through that department. This award was very well deserved!
This Tuesday, we hosted an interim study at the State Capitol reviewing Tax Increment Financing districts throughout Oklahoma. The study focused on how many TIF districts are currently in existence and the ramifications on each area, both positive and negative, to see if there is a better way to implement these districts. I will look at legislation to outline better reporting on these districts this upcoming session. TIF districts provide a great economic boost to many areas of the state, but they must be implemented responsibly.
We were notified this week the House Appropriations & Budget Committee will begin reviewing state agency budgets. The Senate began this process a few weeks ago, so I am comparing notes with several Senators to look for ways to deal with our inevitable budget cuts. This committee will have much work to do and I am happy Speaker Benge felt confident in my abilities and allowed me to serve on this committee.
In January, I will be co-hosting a meeting in Norman at the National Weather Center with Rep. Gus Blackwell to look into another one of my bills. We are pulling together some of the best minds in Oklahoma to discuss emergency management funding and this will be free to all participants. We hope to come up with a better system to fund the 12.5 percent match required of the state to pay for disasters declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). We are still putting together the definite schedule, but we hope to include national emergency response officials; local state, county and municipal officials; non-profit entities affected by disaster funding and also other elected officials. If you would like more information, please contact my office for details.
I will be out of touch for a few days this weekend, so please contact Pam in my office should you need assistance with an issue. I'm having surgery on a deviated septum and the doctor thinks I will be down for about three days. I broke my nose in college and have gone almost twenty years with 70 percent blockage without realizing the problems. The doctor thinks my health will improve greatly after this surgery, so keep your fingers crossed. This is also another good reason why it is best to have regular check-ups with the doctor and to tell them about any problems.
It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me and discuss one of these or another issue, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502 , or directly at 1-405-557-7305 . My e-mail address is at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559 , Rush Springs , OK 73082 and my website is on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The First 2010 Legislative Deadline

This week provides the first deadline by which legislators must pre-file their request for bill language for the 2010 legislative session. During the past few weeks I have written about a number of the legislative ideas I will be sponsoring. I have not yet had an opportunity to write about all of these proposals and look forward to continuing to write about them as the 2010 legislative schedule continues to develop.
I very much appreciate your feedback to some of the ideas I have already written about. I have received a large amount of constituent input based on the articles of the past few weeks and this pro and con input has been very helpful.
Representatives are limited to advocating for 8 legislative initiatives, so we much carefully pick and choose the ideas which we want to advance. I have historically maintained a policy of introducing a balanced portfolio of legislation that advances the effort to institute sweeping reforms and legislation that has an increased chance of passage.
Passing legislation is a challenging process. Only a small percentage of introduced bills (with the exception of appropriations bills) is successfully signed into law. What follows is a description of the process a bill must follow in order to be approved.

The House author must convince a Senator to sponsor his bill in the Senate. It is important to choose a Senator based on his/her abilities and commitment to the principle of the bill.

The bill will be assigned to a House committee where the Chairman has to give the bill a hearing and the full committee is required to vote on passage.

A bill passed by a committee must receive permission from the Majority Floor Leader in order to be considered by the full House. If he/she consents to providing a hearing on the floor of the House, the full House has to vote on passage.

Once the bill is approved by the House, it is sent to the Senate where the process is repeated, including a committee assignment, a vote in committee and a vote on the floor of the Senate. At any time the bill is subject to being killed because of no hearing.

The bill returns to the House where any Senate amendments must be considered.

The bill may be assigned to a conference committee. If either the Senate or the House fails to assign conference committee members (Conferees) to the bill prior to the deadline for assignments, the bill dies. If the Conferees are assigned, then the bill has to receive the support of a majority.

If the conference committee approves the bill, it needs approval once again through a vote of the entire House and Senate. If the bill was not scheduled by the deadline in either House, it did not pass. If both Houses (House of Representatives and Senate) approve the bill, it is sent to the Governor for approval. If the Governor vetoes the bill, it has to go back to the House and the Senate for a possible override vote. In order to override the Governor’s veto, at least two thirds of both House and Senate must vote for the override. In the past 15 years, only one bill has become law despite a veto.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Dec. 4, 2009 - Umbilical Cord Blood Bank an Investment in Life

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everybody! Almost two years ago, I wrote, and the Legislature passed, a bill that authorized creation of the Oklahoma Umbilical Cord Blood Bank.

Such a bank would eventually giving every Oklahoma family the ability to donate umbilical cord blood resulting from the live birth of a healthy child – in short, a miracle on top of a miracle. Umbilical cord blood – now most often discarded as medical waste – is rich in adult stem cells, which can be used to treat a variety of illnesses.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services conducted a study I requested on the costs and benefits of funding the cord blood bank. While the budget crisis we are currently enduring makes funding the cord blood bank a long shot in 2010, we must continue to push for funding.

The economy will improve, and when it does I believe we must have a plan in place for the cord blood bank so that we can make the relatively modest investment necessary to fund it. Testimony we heard at the study meeting last week indicates approximately $5 million per year would be needed to start and operate the Oklahoma Cord Blood Bank.

What would we get for our money? Among the maladies currently being treated with cord blood therapy are many cancers, leukemia, and several immune disorders – and researchers say that list will grow.

In fact, as we considered the bill, many network morning shows reported the story of a two-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. After an infusion of his own stem cells, he began showing fewer signs of the disorder; his parents had banked his umbilical cord blood. Last month, in Colorado – which has a public cord blood bank – a similar story was reported about a little girl.

By funding the cord blood bank, Oklahoma families would have the same opportunity. Currently, the only option Oklahoma families have to store cord blood is to contract with private umbilical cord blood banks. That cost is several thousands of dollars upfront, and hundreds in annual storage costs, far more than most young families starting out with a new baby can afford.

Funding the cord blood bank would represent an unparalleled investment in life. Few investments we could make have the long-term benefits this one could.

It will be tough to accomplish – starting a new program – even in a good budget year. Still, I believe funding the cord blood bank would show a commitment to life, and leave a legacy of better health in Oklahoma for the current generation and those countless generations yet unborn. Clearly, this is a cause I will continue to support.

If you have any comments, questions or concerns, send me a message through my website at You can also follow me on Twitter at or on Facebook at

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

Monday, November 30, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" - Nov. 27, 2009 - Think More About How Decisions Affect People than Politics

DURANT, Okla. Hello again, everybody! As most Oklahoma families’ thoughts turn to preparing for Christmas and winding down the year, the machinery of the Legislature begins winding up preparing for next year’s session.

That does not take into account the recent talk about a possible special session. The governor recently suggested he would be open to a January special session – beginning only a few weeks before the regular session – to deal with revenue shortfalls caused by the national recession.

Many of us in the Legislature have suggested for some time that we should return to the Capitol for a special session to respond to the budget crisis. The Oklahoma Constitution allows two ways for a special session to convene.

The first way, and the one employed most often, is for the governor to order a special session and determine the subjects lawmakers can consider. The second way to order a special session is for legislators to call themselves in to session.

Several legislators – myself included – have signed a petition to order a special session. It takes two-thirds of the members of the Legislature signing the petition to order the session; that means 32 senators and 68 representatives would have to sign.

It seems unlikely enough legislators will sign the petition because neither political party has two-thirds of either the Senate or House of Representatives. Regrettably, these kinds of things seem to key off partisan politics instead of simply doing what is right.

Sometimes, however, circumstances can trump even partisan politics. Despite the fact not a single Republican senator has signed the petition to order a special session, last week the Senate Republican Caucus, echoing what many of us have been saying for months, called for a December special session.

While it appears their focus is on budget cuts, my goal in a special session would be to use Rainy Day funds or stimulus dollars to restore the $7.4 million cut in funding for senior nutrition programs that closed many senior centers. We have seen great stories as some these centers have moved on, reopening as independent or community-funded sites.

Still, senior citizens who depend on centers that require state funding to reopen deserve the help the Legislature has the ability to provide. While we will have to look at significant cuts to many state programs, we always must do the right thing and think more about how these decisions affect people more than how they affect politics.

Some say it will be an interesting political chess game that will be played out over the next several months. No matter what those months may bring, my focus as always will be on doing right by the people I was elected to serve and reminding those in both political parties who see it as a game that what we do and say will affect people’s lives.

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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Giving the Governor the Power to Reform Government

Over the legislative interim, I have enjoyed observing the manner in which state agencies are reacting to the series of government modernization reforms approved by the Legislature and the Governor during the last legislative session.

Some agencies react to the challenge of saving taxpayer money in an energetic and positive manner. They are supportive of modernization efforts and seem to take to heart the importance of using technology and best practice to offer better service at a lower cost. Other agencies instinctively resist change and appear desperate to maintain the status quo of antiquated practices. These agencies can resist change by intentionally misinterpreting state statute or simply refusing to meet the requirements of the law.

This naturally presents a dilemma to Oklahoma policy makers. How should policy makers address the fact that agencies can hide behind a team of attorneys and refuse to implement needed changes? And what should occur if an agency refuses to put in place the necessary internal processes to control issues such as corruption and poor service?

Last week I wrote an article about county government's failure to have the appropriate check and balance mechanism necessary to make it difficult for corruption to occur at the county level. I believe that this same deficiency of control mechanisms exists in state government. In too many cases, when an agency refuses to put proper internal controls in place to follow the law, provide quality service and low prices, or prevent corruption, there is little that can be done to check their actions.

In last week's article, I pointed to the city model of governance as an example where professional administration is overseen by the check and balance of citizen oversight. Using that same example, can you imagine an instance where a city manager could not fire a police chief who was responsible for allowing corruption in his department?

In too many cases, this is the problem faced by Oklahoma state government policy makers, because it is very difficult for agency leaders to be removed by a responsible person, such as the Governor. If the Governor were given the power to remove agency directors for acting inappropriately, it would allow the buck to stop at the Governor's desk. If the Governor refused to take action, the people could hold him or her responsible at the next election.

With the exception of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation officials (agencies responsible for investigating political corruption), I believe the Governor should be charged with the task of removing agency directors who have failed to meet their responsibilities to the citizens.

I look forward to supporting this plan for reform during the next legislative session.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reforming Oklahoma County Governance

One piece of legislation I have considered sponsoring for years is an omnibus reform of Oklahoma's county governance structure.

In the past, I have expressed that I feel it is important for a governing board which approves a budget to not have the ability to specifically direct where that money goes. The chances for politicians to engage in corruption and self-serving political pork appropriations are greatly enhanced when the board's ability to set policy and to specifically direct that spending are combined. In past updates, I have written about how Oklahoma legislators are becoming experts at getting around the Constitutional prohibition of this type of conduct.

Over the course of my years as a public official, I have observed that county government is a significant area in Oklahoma governance where these two responsibilities are not sufficiently separated. This blurring of the policy and expenditure power results in county governments which are extremely susceptible to "good old boy" politics where county officials can exert strong political influence over employees and vendors in order to create a small political empire funded by taxpayer dollars.

We can imagine the difficult situation this places those employees in. Should they provide political support for their employer by campaigning and donating? If they refuse to support their boss, will they lose their jobs? What happens if they support the incumbent, and the challenger wins the election?
This same pressure will be felt by county vendors. They may be vested in the outcome of an election, based not on the merits of the candidates, but on their ability to continue making money, depending on who wins or loses the election. It is difficult for people to know if a vendor is chosen because of his/her performance, or because he/she is a friend of the official. Public servants and vendors should be allowed to focus on their jobs and provide quality services to taxpayers, instead of being forced to play political games.

County government should operate much like the governance model used in city government. A largely uncompensated board of elected citizen county commissioners should have oversight over a professional county manager who has the same education and qualifications as a city manager. This person would be responsible for hiring the county department heads, thus providing for employees a level of protection from political pressure. Much like a city council, the Board of Commissioners would set policy and budget, but have no ability to direct specific expenditure of funds outside of a competitive bid process.

It is important to note that if I decide to pursue this legislation this year, it will not be part of any type of House modernization agenda. This idea is something that I have thought about sponsoring for several years, and I have yet to find the opportunity to advocate for it. Prior to making the decision whether or not sponsor this legislation this year, I would very much appreciate your feedback on this proposal.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Senator Gumm's Senate Minute for Nov. 20, 2009 - A Thanksgiving Message

DURANT, Okla. Hello again, everybody! This has been a tumultuous year in our state and across the nation. In Oklahoma, we face budget shortfalls that are having a real impact on people’s lives.

Still, we are a blessed people. This week, we pause to thank Almighty God for the blessings He has bestowed on us.

At Thanksgiving, my thoughts turn to my late mother, Harlene Taylor Gumm. It was the most special holiday for her because she had a prayer answered Thanksgiving Weekend 1963.

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.

This happened when medical science was not nearly as advanced as today. My parents had been married for three years, and Mom taught home economics at Calera High School.

Doctors told Mom she could not bear children. Despite every possible effort, Mom was given the same prognosis Deena and I once heard: “You cannot have children.”

That summer, my mother started feeling ill. Countless trips to doctors several series of tests followed. Specialists in Dallas and Oklahoma City were stumped.

Mom thought she might be expecting, but every test available came back “negative.” Mom was put on a strict diet and she lost weight. Those of you who knew Mom 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 dinner at my grandparents’ house, Mom and Dad went home and Mom got worse. She toughed it out overnight but she finally went to 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 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 with Jacob. My parents’ story 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: As difficult as times may be, 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.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Implementing a Shared Services Policy

A few weeks ago, the House of Representatives Government Modernization Committee conducted an interim study to explore the possibility of realizing taxpayer savings through the implementation of shared services among agencies.
Several state agencies testified at the interim study about their ongoing efforts to streamline and consolidate services, efforts which they state have not only saved the state money, but have also improved service. The goal of the study was to analyze the best practices at agencies currently sharing similar services and see how those concepts could be exported to other agencies.
The opportunity for savings is significant because routine services can be centralized to a single entity that can be more efficient and effective, all at a lower cost. This frees up the agencies to focus on their core missions.
One of the areas in which these shared services could be implemented is that of payroll processing. The committee heard testimony that there are currently about 114 state employees trained to process payrolls, with about 68 full-time employees dedicated to payroll functions across state agencies. According to an official with the Office of State Finance, centralization of payroll services could save as much as $2.6 million in salary and benefits alone—even more, if higher education is included.

The State Department of Tourism testified that they have already begun participating in the shared services model for payroll. A Tourism Department official said the agency has saved an estimated $40,000 per year by working with the Office of State Finance on centralizing the agency’s payroll. In addition to saving money, this reform has also made it easier for the individual employee to be able to ensure his/her payroll is properly reported in a timely manner.
The shared services model should not be limited to items such as payroll. It could also be expanded to areas such as financial services.
It is important to note that the driver of these reforms is the evolution of technology during the past few years. Without the flexibility offered by recent technological advances, the centralization of service would be difficult, if not impossible. It is vital for legislators to realize the savings that can be realized because of technological advances, and we should take advantage of them as soon as possible. This year, I expect to propose legislation which will create a road map to a more aggressive implementation of the shared services model so taxpayer savings will be realized sooner than later.
I believe that private sector businesses have been engaging in efficient practices along these lines for years and it is time for our state government to catch up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Nov. 13-19, 2009 - The Battle Continues to Protect Our Water

DURANT, Okla. Hello again, everybody! Six years ago, the battle began to preserve the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, the source of springs and streams on which many of us depend.

Several large cities wanted to drill into the aquifer and pump away billions of gallons of water, seriously risking the aquifer’s ability to support cities like Tishomingo, Durant, Ada, Ardmore and many others in our area. After much hard work on the part of area citizens, Rep. Paul Roan and I were able to win that battle with passage of Senate Bill 288.

That law acknowledged the scientific connection between groundwater and surface water. It prevented the large-scale transfers of aquifer water out of our area, required a comprehensive hydrological study of the aquifer, and put in place rules for the sustainable management of it.

It was a tremendous victory, but the effort to protect the aquifer continues. In the aftermath of SB 288, the mining industry became the greatest threat to the long-term health of aquifer.

Deepening concerns are the persistent efforts of the mining industry to evade regulation of its impact on the aquifer. Untold amounts of Arbuckle-Simpson water ends up in these pit mines, and the industry has done everything imaginable to prevent the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) from regulating that water.

It began with legislative efforts by the industry to move regulation of “pit water” from the OWRB to the Oklahoma Mining Commission. When I was chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee, I killed that bill, denying it a hearing despite the fact it was sponsored by both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate.

After failing in the Legislature, the industry went to the courts, winning a ruling that moved regulation of pit water to the Mining Commission. That unfortunate ruling – still under appeal – gave the industry what it failed to achieve in the Legislature.

The Mining Commission is ill-equipped to effectively manage a water resource. In fact, there is no state law in place for the Mining Commission to regulate water produced by a hard rock mine like those in northwest Johnston County; the only mining law on water is about surface coal mining – none of which occurs over the Arbuckle-Simpson.

The composition of the Mining Commission is – rightly – weighted toward those whose livelihoods depend on the industry. Those whose futures are dependent on the Arbuckle-Simpson are – rightly – concerned about the lack of effective regulation.

In short, what we who support sustainable management of the Arbuckle-Simpson must do is restore balance. That balance, and fairness, and trust were shaken by the mining industry’s efforts to evade effective and objective regulation.

I am preparing legislation that would restore that balance, preserving the mining industry in my district while ensuring that it does not destroy our future by destroying our aquifer. The people who depend on the aquifer and its streams and springs deserve no less.

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

Monday, November 9, 2009

Implementation of Shared Services

Last year, an omnibus modernization bill (HB 1032), made accessing state services more convenient for vendors and individuals, and could lead to the saving of millions of dollars in taxpayer expenditures.

The bill seeks to recognize that savings have been incurred by those state agencies who have modernized licensing and permitting processes by offering them online. In this way, not only are countless hours and dollars saved by the agencies who have modernized their operations, but hours are saved by the applicants who are no longer compelled to visit the local bureaucracy in order to receive service.

The economic downturn presented Oklahoma policy developers leaders with the necessity of cutting costs and becoming more efficient by adopting better practices for the incorporation of technology. Instead of reducing the level of service, this type of modernization will make accessing government services more convenient than ever before. As legislators, we should view the reduction of government revenue as being an opportunity for the government not only to become leaner but also more user friendly.

These types of technology upgrades should have occurred years ago. However, the lack of a need for cutting costs allowed inefficiency and inconveniences to remain a part of the system for several years.

For instance, applicants for motor vehicle tag renewals were not able to renew their licenses online for many years. Because of House Bill 1032, the Oklahoma Tax Commission is now preparing to offer online renewals of drivers licenses. Not to be outdone and very much concerned about a loss of revenue, Oklahoma tag agents are asking that legislation be placed into law mandating that tag agent operations also be made available online. This is just one example of where a technological improvement that should have happened years ago is now happening not only in state government but with the vendors who provide the service through state government.

The principle of making government more responsive and accessible to citizens should also be used in order to allow this same type of convenience to state agencies. By viewing state agencies as customers and allowing them to take advantage of shared services, it will be easier for agencies to deal with budget reductions by offering them more convenience and freeing them up to focus on their core missions.

The next round of modernization legislation should promote efficiency and savings through the shared use of services between state agencies. This will lead to the breaking down of bureaucratic barriers which unnecessarily wastes so many taxpayer dollars each year. Next week, I intend to write in more detail about some of the plans for enabling these services.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Senator Gumm’s “Senate Minute” for Nov. 6-12, 2009 - Clear the Smoke, Cut the Deal and Restore the Funding

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everybody! As I write this, a proposal is on the table that would restore funding toOklahoma’s senior nutrition sites.

The senior nutrition program is one of the programs hardest hit by the budget cuts every agency is enduring because of declining tax collections. Affects of the national economic slowdown have finally reached Oklahoma. Because of declining tax collections, state agencies have already taken a 5 percent cut from the budget the Legislature passed in May.

As part of the Department of Human Services’ response to their cut, the Human Services Commission slashed $7.4 million from the senior nutrition program. In our area, that meant four senior nutrition sites lost funding. Those locations are Caddo, Calera,
Kingston and Wapanucka.

When we first learned of the cuts, I was among the first to call for a solution, up to and including special session if necessary, to restore funding to these sites.

There is money to it. Our state’s “Rainy Day” fund is full; also, we in the Legislature put aside about $600 million in the federal stimulus dollars allocated to
Oklahoma for use in writing next year’s budget. Dollars from either of those sources could be used. While we still face continued difficult economic news, the cuts to the senior nutrition program could be restored.

Earlier this week, we learned the governor and the director of the Department of Human Services have agreed to shift dollars within that agency to restore the senior nutrition cuts. That should allow all the nutrition sites to reopen. There is, however, a catch.

The money that would be moved to plug the senior nutrition budget hole is money committed for programs later in the year. The only way this deal is done is if the House Speaker and Senate president pro tempore agree to push a bill to restore that money to the Department of Human Services when the Legislature returns for the 2010 session in February.

I strongly support the proposal; it is a solid, good compromise, and the Speaker and president pro tempore ought to agree immediately. The deal would allow the senior nutrition sites to reopen without a costly special session of the Legislature.

Further, it shows the respect for “the greatest generation” they have more than earned. More importantly, the proposal would ensure that while
Oklahoma is going to endure difficult budget cuts, we will not balance the state budget on the backs of our senior citizens.

This issue has been the source of partisan bickering, finger-pointing, grandstanding and a smokescreen of press releases from both parties. Oklahomans do not care in the least about backroom political games; they care about senior citizens.

My message to both sides in this dispute has been simple and clear: Clear the smoke, cut the deal and restore the funding.
Oklahoma’s senior citizens deserve no less.

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

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" Column for Oct. 30-Nov. 5 - Firefighters Are Heroes; Volunteer Fire Departments Vital

DURANT, Okla.Hello again, everybody! We all learn as children that October is Fire Prevention Month; as October gives way to November, fire safety is no less important.

Throughout October, school children were given tours of fire stations and learn lessons on how to prevent fires and what to do during a fire. During the tours, children – and often their parents – get to see a small glimpse of what it takes to be a firefighter, the commitment these men and women make to all of us.

November has its own importance in the battle against fire. Volunteer fire departments across rural Oklahoma will get the operational checks funded by the Legislature. In my entire Senate district, only Durant has a full-time fire department; all the others are all-volunteer or combination fire departments.

In fact, most of the area of this state is served by volunteer fire departments. They largely depend on benefit suppers, craft fairs, membership dues and donations. During the great Winter Fires of 2005, volunteer fire fighters across Oklahoma were on the front lines fighting those fires, protecting lives and property.

Those fires were a wake-up call to our state, reminding even those who live in metropolitan areas of the importance of rural volunteer fire departments. The fires also gave those of us who support volunteer fire departments an opportunity to increase funding for this critical program.

When I was first elected to the Senate seven years ago, every rural fire department received a $2,300 check to help cover operational costs. It was not nearly enough.

In the past seven years, we have been able to more than double that amount to an annual operational check of $5,100 for every volunteer fire department in the state. This operational money helps with the costs of simply being ready to protect our families, homes and businesses.

While still not enough to cover all the costs of these fire departments, it is a huge help. Other programs initiated by those of us in the Legislature who believe in rural fire protection have helped purchase new trucks for dozens of rural fire departments, including many across Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston and Marshall counties.

Volunteer fire departments get just about the biggest “bang for the buck” of anything funded with our tax dollars. Every dollar we spend on rural fire department helps keep our families safe, keeps fire insurance rates as low as possible. In short, these dollars save us money and save lives – and it is a program I will always support.

As we end the month when we are reminded about fire safety, it is a great time for all of us to tell firefighters – volunteer and full-time – that we appreciate what they do for us. Every firefighter is a hero, and we should always stand behind them – because they are always there for us.

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

Monday, November 2, 2009

Realizing Savings Through the Implementation of a Technology Strategy

Last year as part of the House Modernization agenda, House Bill 1170 introduced the important step of requiring the state Chief Information Officer to consider the incorporation of innovative and low cost technology components in Oklahoma's IT strategy. The bill seeks to recognize the fact that the days of state government being forced to expend millions on expensive licensing agreements are in fact limited.

It is important for us to build on this momentum and advance additional legislation that encourages taxpayer cost-savings through the implementation of low cost technology options. Needless to say, some technology special interest groups may be very opposed to innovative low cost solutions. However across other government entities and inside of private corporations, low cost technology solutions are becoming more and more prevalent as these groups seek to save money.

These types of technology innovations can not only provide cost savings capabilities to state agencies, but also add convenience to those who need to interact with state government. For example, Oklahoma purchasing officers have in the past sometimes been hesitant to engage in private communications with prospective vendors once those vendors were committed to bidding on providing services to state government. Understandably, the purchasing officers did not want to be seen as providing a preference to a specific vendor and did not want to be accused of providing the vendor with information that allowed them to have an inside track on developing a successful bid. This unfortunate communication block may have been responsible for costing the taxpayers money, as other qualified bidders did not compete for state business because they were not sure about the bid details and did not want to risk incurring obligations they could not make a profit on.

Now, however, shared documentation could provide the solution to this type of problem at almost no cost to the state by allowing purchasing officials to respond to vendor inquiries in a public manner through a collaborative application that allows everyone to see the questions and the responses and eases the favoritism concern.

For example, all requests for proposals (RFPs) for contracts could be posted in a series of public collaborative documents with all bid specs having available attachments. Supplementary data such as attendee lists from any relevant public hearings could be posted, along with videos of hearings and RFP presentations. Most importantly, communications with the potential vendors on the RFPs would also be posted.

This type of openness would make it very hard for secret deals to ever be made behind closed doors.

In addition, I believe next year's modernization legislation should enable Oklahoma's Chief Information Officer to encourage a concept known as crowdsourcing. This effort begins when state agencies make sets of data easily available to the public. The use of these data will enable third-party application developers to analyze the data and produce informative applications that will allow the citizens to hold government responsible like never before.

These are some of the concepts I hope we are able to advance with next year's modernization legislation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lawmakers Study Prisoner Reintegration to Society

Lawmakers Study Prisoner Reintegration to Society
Oklahoma House of Representatives Media Division
Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Office: (405) 557-7305

Lawmakers Study Prisoner Reintegration to Society

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 22, 2009) – An interim study today focused on successfully reintegrating Oklahoma prisoners into society upon their release from the corrections system, according to state Rep. Joe Dorman .
“I think that creating reintegration programs for offenders better attempts to prevent broken families and helps keeps the parolee from returning to crime and aids anti-drug efforts,” Dorman, D-Rush Springs said. “I hope some potent ideas for improvement will come out of the study.”
Dionne Frankum, executive director for Valliant House, spoke during the study. Valliant House offers substance abuse treatment and prisoner reintegration through the state in McCurtain and Seminole counties. Their primary facilities can treat 40 people inpatient and 100 outpatients. They also run a halfway house that can serve 10 people.
“We’ve been able to find jobs for many of the people who come through our facilities through connections we’ve developed with several communities in Southeast Oklahoma ,” owner Keith Butler said. “Through this interim study, we’re hoping to give lawmakers some ideas on how to develop private-public partnerships that can help with the reintegration process.”
Dorman said he plans to file legislation on this issue in the coming session.
“After considering the information we receive in the study, I believe we can improve the system,” Dorman said. “We need to make sure our programs are efficient, and that programs such as the ones established through our churches have a chance to work with their non-denominational volunteers who give their time and effort to help these individuals turn their lives around.”
Don Duncan, prison chaplain and founder of Destination Character, spoke about the need to change prisoners value systems in order to reintegrate them into society. Records show that incarceration levels rose drastically in the 70s, 80s and up until today after remaining steady for years. He also said it came about as a shift away from America ’s historical Judeo-Christian value system or moral code.
“I just wish that we could get something done to help those who truly want the help,” Duncan said.
Other speakers included Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones, Department of Human Services Director Howard Hendricks, Creek Reintegration Program Manager Tony Fish, Chickasha Nation Reintegration Program Manager David Eagle, DOC Deputy Director of Female Offender Operations Dr. Laura Pittman, DOC Administrator of Probation and Parole Kenny Holloway, the Rev. Stan Bassler, Amy Santee with the George Kaiser Foundation and a representative from the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.
Dorman has filed resolutions in the past to address this subject through a task force, but the legislation has failed to be brought to a vote.
“I have great hope this time that my fellow lawmakers and I will find workable language in this area,” Dorman said. “Many lawmakers are afraid to address the subject of prisoner reintegration for fear it might be portrayed as being ‘soft on crime’ with their voters. That is far from the case in this issue. We are trying to find ways for those who are released to have a greater chance for success and avoid committing a future crime. I would like nothing better than to give greater chances to parolees where they will be a contributing citizen, rather than a repeat offender who drains our state resources by returning to prison.” Dorman said that at some point he would like reintegration programs in Oklahoma to be used extensively, both inside and outside of the Department of Corrections system.
“I would eventually like to see one of our current prisons converted to a reintegration facility where inmates would go for programs to prepare them for life ‘outside the walls’ and reduce our recidivism rate,” Dorman said. “Many inmates have never used the basic life skills most of us take for granted, such as balancing a monthly budget or even doing a load of laundry. We need such programs in place which will help these parolees have a better chance of success once released.”
According to statistics presented at the interim study, well over 90 percent of inmates will be released from prison. Programs are currently in place to assist prisoners, but many feel these programs are not adequate.
“I’ve been approached by countless citizens asking for help for loved ones,” said Dorman. “We have to remember, not all these inmates are hardened criminals and want to make a better life. Wiley Post, one of our state’s greatest citizens, was a convicted felon who turned his life around and made huge contributions to the world. There are others like him out there and we need to find ways to help them while keeping the prisoners with no chance of rehabilitation locked away.”

Dorman Invited to Germany in Transatlantic Dialogue

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media Division

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

Dorman Invited to Germany in Transatlantic Dialogue

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 16, 2009) – State Rep. Joe Dorman said today that he will join two other American state lawmakers and one Canadian federal lawmaker on the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s Transatlantic Dialogue Program Study and Information Tour of Germany.
“I am honored to serve on the tour, representing Oklahoma in a visit to Germany , where they’ve just underwent federal elections,” Dorman, D-Rush Springs said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to interact with German officials and get ideas as well as share ideas with them about our government.”
The Transatlantic Dialogue Program (TAD) is part of the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The TAD promotes the exchange among decision makers to exchange their ideas, opinions, and experiences in order to formulate new approaches and solutions for future-orientated politics. Part of this dialogue is a program for German and U.S. State Legislators as well as Canadian Federal Legislators.
Dorman was selected to participate in this year’s State Legislators Program in order to honor his leadership qualities and dedication to his work as a U.S. state legislator. The program will give the participants an opportunity to experience on a first-hand basis how policy problems are resolved in Germany . He will also speak at two public events: one in Dresden and one in Berlin , where he will talk about the current political situation in the United States .
“These exchange programs are a very valuable platform for decision makers on both sides of the Atlantic to talk to each other and learn more about their work”, says Claus Gramckow, Representative for USA and Canada , Transatlantic Dialogue Program, Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
Dorman said that no taxpayer dollars would fund the trip.
“The Friedrich Naumann Foundation will cover all transportation costs and accommodations and I will cover any further expenses,” Dorman said.
Dorman will visit Hannover, Madgeburg, Halle , Leipzig and Berlin as part of the trip. He will meet with local, state and federal officials while there. The trip will run from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1.
“I’m looking forward to the trip and to participating in this dialogue with German officials,” Dorman said. "This is a rare opportunity and I am greatly honored to be a part in hopefully improving our trade and diplomatic relations, as well as increasing the understanding of all the systems of government represented on this trip.”


Open Door Policy - Oct. 25, 2009

I am writing my column this week after a day of meetings in Dresden , Germany . We are six hours ahead due to their daylight savings time, so I have been trying to adjust to the different time zone for my meetings. I will be in this community with meetings, and then will have the opportunity to visit with some of the newly-elected German leadership in their centrist party over the next few days in Berlin . I will also have the chance to discuss policies in the United States as a nation and specifically some of the tax policy we have seen in the State of Oklahoma . I’m looking forward to these meetings and hope to represent our state the best way I can. I will return home on Sunday, Nov. 1, but I’m still addressing issues by email while overseas and Pam has been taking care of existing issues in the office up at the State Capitol while I am away for this trip. I appreciate you allowing me the chance to represent the United States for this week. All the costs of this trip are being covered by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, except a few incidentals for which I am paying the cost.
Before I left for the trip, I had a busy week. On Friday, I had the opportunity to sit in on the Fort Sill & Southwest Oklahoma Community Partnership Council. This group, established several months ago, is preparing for the growth we will see due to BRAC issues in our area. They are attempting to bring together the best and brightest minds in our region of the state to work together in a regional setting, rather than what we have seen in years past of simply focusing on local and community issues. I have great hope this will succeed and feel good about the process after participating in several of the meetings. The new commanding general of Fort Sill , Major General David Halverson, has taken a strong role in this, along with Garrison Commander Col. Raymond Lacey, Mayor Becky Skinner of Apache and MG David Ralston, Ret., who is serving as the group chair. If you have any interest in these meetings, please contact Marilyn Feaver with the Southwest Oklahoma Impact Coalition at (405) 574-1368. We have representation from almost every community and organization from House District 65 and I would very much like for us to have a say in the future policies of this group.
On Thursday, I participated in an interim study looking at ways to reduce the amount of released inmates who return to a life of crime. Rep. Kris Steele, R – Shawnee, and I held a joint study on ways to create reintegration programs which will help keep these ex-convicts out of prison and hopefully leading a productive life upon their parole or release. We looked at current policies, private/public partnerships and ways to include faith-based programs, along with other aids which will provide these persons with a chance to make it. There are many problems, but we have to find a way to truly “correct” behavior of the inmates as they are released from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
I also had a chance to attend Cyril’s homecoming and watched an exciting win by the team that evening. Congratulations go out to the team and coaches, and best of luck to all the teams as they finish up their season. I’m in the process of collecting team info to get my local basketball schedules printed prior to the season. I hope to have those out in a few weeks. I also visited with Oklahoma Horizon about an upcoming show they will dedicate to immunizations.
On another note, I visited with News Channel 9 about a problem many of our service men and women are facing with the GI Bill. There have been delays on processing the checks and many of our veterans have been paying for their tuition, books and other costs by credit card or by taking out loans. If you know someone who is experiencing a problem, have them visit with the Veterans Coordinator at the local campus and they will assist them with this where they will not have to pay up front. As long as there is a guarantee on the paperwork on the GI Bill, the schools will delay payment and work with our veterans. If there are further problems, have them contact their local Congressional office for assistance.
It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me and discuss one of these or another issue, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502, or directly at 1-405-557-7305. My e-mail address is at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559 , Rush Springs , OK 73082 and my website is on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Open Door Policy - Oct. 18, 2009

I had the great pleasure of being selected to represent the United States in a Transatlantic Dialogue to be held in Germany this next week. I was notified a few weeks ago to ask of my acceptance and found out last week it would be legal for me to work with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Washington, D.C. in this area. I will be gone for seven days and deliver two speeches in Germany in regards to North American policy and how state legislators feel in regards to our national agenda. It will be an interesting debate with other colleagues from the US and Canada and our German colleagues. I will give a full update when I return in a future column.
I have my interim study with Rep. Kris Steele this Thursday at the State Capitol. We will be analyzing current reintegration policies in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and possible changes to reduce our recidivism rates. Kris was selected to be the Republican nominee for Speaker of the House and I look forward to working with him on many key issues as a senior member of the Democratic Caucus in the House, especially on these areas where we agree.
Congratulations goes to Mayor Dwight Cope of Medicine Park on winning the George Nigh Award for the Governor's Arts Awards. This is a huge honor and Dwight has done a fantastic job on improving the arts in Southwest Oklahoma. Congratulations also goes out to Fort Cobb-Broxton and Fletcher for playing each other in the State Softball Tournament. Fort Cobb-Broxton won 1 - 0 in a fantastic game and I was glad to be on hand to watch two of the teams in my district play so well. Congratulations to all the other teams who qualified for state.
I had the chance to visit the Government, Current Events and History classes at Elgin High School on Monday. The questions posed by the students were very good and I hope I was able to educate them on the legislative process and the importance of registering to vote. I always enjoy these visits to the local schools and will try to visit the rest of the district before the semester is over.
I also attended the Rush Springs Health Fair and it was a huge success in it's third year. Many vendors were on hand and several agencies presented good information to individuals in attendance. I had the chance to meet several new contacts to help in regards to issues, so this was a very good event and I'm glad Grady Memorial Hospital has continued this effort with the local clinic.
On a final note, I recorded a blog with on issues facing the area this past week.. Should you like to listen in on this, simply go to their website. It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me and discuss one of these or another issue, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502, or directly at 1-405-557-7305. My e-mail address is at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559 , Rush Springs, OK 73082 and my website is on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Town Hall Meeting Update

This week I will be hosting the third of four Town Hall meetings which are scheduled in House District 31 during this year's legislative interim. At each of these Town Hall meetings, it has been my goal to bring together state and local officials to provide updates to area residents. At almost every meeting, I have invited at least one area State Senator and one local County Commissioner to provide a broad base of access to both state and local issues.

I very much appreciate the officials who have attended these events and am also grateful to the citizens who have participated. What I especially appreciate about this turn out is that it provides the opportunity for elected officials to hear first hand from citizens how they feel about issues. Especially in light of recent events, citizens have not been at all shy about making their voices heard.

Our first meeting took place in August, was held in south Logan County/Edmond, and was attended by about 140 individuals. Speaking at the meeting were State Senator Clark Jolly, State Senator Randy Brogden and County Commissioner Mark Sharpton. Aparticular focus of the meeting was the states' rights issue and many participants were especially anxious about what they see as the destructive, excessive spending habits and bad policies developed by the federal government. They want state government to stand up and assert its rights under the 10th amendment to shelter the public from these federal polices.

The second meeting occurred in Guthrie and was attended by about 40 participants. Michael Carnuccio from Oklahomans for Government Reform (OFRG) was present to talk about OFRG's recent effort to study transparency issues in Oklahoma school districts. State Senator Halligan sent his regrets as he had a schedule conflict on that evening. The Senator looks forward to meeting with Logan County residents at future Town Hall meetings. A special "thank you" to County Commissioner Mark Sharpton who agreed to fill in and speak at a Town Hall meeting for a second time this year.

This third meeting will take place this week (Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. at Woodcrest Fire Station) and is being attended by newly elected County Commissioner Mike Pearson and Stuart Jolly, Director of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans for Prosperity. This will be Pearson's first appearance at a town hall meeting since taking office. Jolly will update the attendees on the ongoing federal health policy debate.

The final Town Hall meeting is set to take place at the Crescent Community Center December 7 at 7:00 p.m. Speakers will include state Senator Patrick Anderson and new Logan County Sheriff Jim Bauman. County Commissioner Monty Piercy may also be in attendance in order to answer road-related questions.

If you are available to attend one of the remaining meetings, I would certainly appreciate and look forward to your presence.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Oct. 23-29, 2009 - The Struggle for Children with Autism

Hello again, everybody! Some battles at the State Capitol are over quickly; others continue, waiting on political leadership to catch up with public opinion.

The struggle to provide health insurance coverage to children with autism is one of those battles that will continue. Finding a way to help these children and their families is one of the issues to which I have devoted much effort.

For me, this struggle is a moral issue. My continued work on this is borne from my commitment to strengthen families and help ensure that every Oklahoma child has a chance to reach their God-given potential.

We are still waiting on the political leadership to catch up with public opinion. On the second night of last year’s legislative session, leaders in the House of Representatives killed the bill known as “Nick’s Law.” After that family-unfriendly vote, the leader of that committee proudly stood before the television cameras and said “Nick’s Law” was dead for two years.

Their hope was that the bill, and those families who support it, would simply go away. There have been few political miscalculations as off-base as was that one.

Those of us committed to families continued the struggle throughout the session. We won a few battles in the Senate, but House leaders continued to turn their back on these families and their precious children.

Now, almost five months after the legislative session ended, those of us carrying this banner got another boost. Despite the reluctance of some legislators to acknowledge the importance of this issue, the nonpartisan Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) has once again put autism insurance on its list of legislative priorities.

This group, which always has been a strong voice for Oklahoma’s children, made the decision during its fall legislative forum. At that two-day event, child advocates gathered from across the state to determine what OICA’s focus should be in 2010.

Republican and Democratic legislators addressed different panels on a host of issues. The child advocates were from every corner of the state and members of both political parties. This was as nonpartisan as you could get.

When the only question was “What is best for the children?” the answer was clear. Finding a way to help families pay for the expensive therapies necessary to give children with autism a chance at a full and happy life is – and should be – a top legislative priority for our state, regardless of partisan political considerations.

This is an issue both political parties have embraced in other states; in some states, the charge was led by Republicans. Oklahomachildren deserve that same bipartisan support, and I will continue working to that end.

As always, if you have comments, questions or concerns about state government, send me a message through my website at You can also follow me on Facebook at and on Twitter at

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