Monday, March 30, 2009

Legislation Honoring Soliders Lost in War on Terror Awaits Governor's Signature

The State of Oklahoma
Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston & Marshall Counties

March 30, 2009

Contact: Senator Jay Paul Gumm
State Capitol: (405) 521-5586
Durant Office: (580) 924-2221
Mobile: (580) 920-6990
For digital audio, go to and select “News”

Legislation Honoring Soldiers Lost in War on Terror Awaits Governor’s Signature

OKLAHOMA CITY – The House of Representatives joined the Oklahoma Senate in giving unanimous approval to legislation designed to honor Oklahomans who pay the ultimate price in the War on Terror.

The measure, Senate Bill 712, was approved by representatives Monday 99-0. The measure had previously been approved by the Senate on a 47-0 vote. The next stop for the bill is Governor Henry’s desk.

Senator Jay Paul Gumm is the principal author of SB 712. If signed into law, the bill would require the governor to order flags on state property to be flown at half-staff on the day of the memorial service for Oklahomans who are killed in combat.

Further, on such days of remembrance, all state agencies, interested organizations, groups, and individuals would be authorized and requested to fly the flag at half-staff. The director of the Department of Central Services would ensure the law is implemented by all appropriate state agencies.

The bill was a request from a young man who served as a Senate Page during Gumm’s first year in the Senate. Sgt. Todd Anderson of Tishomingo now serves in the U.S. Army and suggested the bill in an email to the senator sent early last fall from Iraq.

“Oklahomans have always supported our troops and embraced efforts to honor them,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant.

“Sgt. Anderson thought lowering flags on state property to half-staff would be an excellent way to honor those who gave their very lives fighting for their country. I was proud to introduce his idea – and now, we are only a signature away from it becoming law.”

Rep. Paul Roan, D-Tishomingo, carried the bill in the House of Representatives. “We are a free nation because there are those who are willing to sacrifice everything to protect our freedoms,” he said.

“This is an excellent way to remember and honor those who were willing to risk everything for the love of their country. We in Tishomingo are very proud of Todd, and all those who wear the uniform of our nation.”

If signed into law, the bill would become effective July 1, 2009.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tryi ng To Provide Real Oversight

Did you know that unelected political appointees in Oklahoma have the ability to make new laws which may affect the lives of many people? You can only imagine how frustrating it is for those affected by these rules and who have little recourse since they cannot vote the unelected lawmakers out of office.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about rogue agencies. I defined rogue agencies as those agencies that have been co-opted by a group of industry insiders who can use the power of the government to protect their special interests. One way they can protect their special interests is to make rules and regulations that discourage their competitors.

This is the first year that I am serving on the Agency Review and Administrative Rule committee. The committee fulfills the role of providing legislative oversight of state agencies and is supposed to review any new rules.

The committee Chair, Rep. John Wright of Broken Arrow, is constantly encouraging committee members to perform due diligence in performing this review and he assigns each committee member different rules to study. I have observed that this work has created a sense of teamwork among members and breaks down partisan barriers.

The work has not been without results. Last week, Vice-Chairman Rep. George Faught of Muskogee filed a resolution to disapprove rules by one state agency that would greatly increase fees on schools and nonprofit organizations. It is shocking to me that a state agency can increase fees without a vote of the Legislature and I am grateful that Rep. Faught discovered these increases and is taking action to stop them.

That brings me to a very important point. I do not think any group should be able to make a law unless that law is first voted on by the Legislature. If the people do not like a law, they should have the ability to vote the person out of office who supported it. By delegating its lawmaking ability to unelected political appointees, the Legislature is sidestepping its elected responsibility of taking tough stands for or against new laws.

Rep. David Derby of Owasso presented a bill to the House that would have forced the Legislature to approve or disapprove all new laws that agencies are making, instead of the current system where committee members simply review the laws and determine if we should attempt to reject them.

Right, now, a bad law could easily be missed by our committee. If a committee member does not have time to review the new law or if the committee member supports a bad law, the odds of that law being stopped are infinitesimal. If Rep. Derby's idea were to be approved, it would mean that the whole Legislature would have to vote on the law instead of just one legislator.

Derby's proposal would return power to the people to hold those accountable who vote for bad laws.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for March 27-April 2, 2009

Hello again, everyone! The session is half over and it appears some in the Legislature want to discuss anything except what should be our number one priority.

The budget is the top job every year for my colleagues and me; this year it is even more critical than at anytime this decade. With $900 million less to spend this year than in last year’s budget, the challenges are great.

This week, a critical budget deadline will pass having been unmet. The Legislature is required, by law, to complete the budget for Oklahoma’s public schools by April 1. The House of Representatives budget chair said this about the statutory deadline: “It’s a good goal.”

It is considerably more than a “goal,” and – in fairness – that deadline rarely has been met. If it is unrealistic – and I do not believe it is – then we should change it. If the Legislature will not change the deadline, then the Legislature should meet the goal – period.

School districts wait on state funding to determine their budgets, including how many teachers will be in classrooms come August. Teachers wait on the budget to see if they have jobs next year. The Legislature should not act like it is above the law, especially when doing so negatively impacts the lives of teachers, their families and their students.

That deadline – and shrinking budget numbers – should sharpen the focus on budget issues, but it has not. This week, House leadership blamed “uncertainty” over the federal stimulus package for the delay in getting Oklahoma’s budget work underway. At least they have finally said we should begin working on Oklahoma’s budget independent of the stimulus.

The stimulus also has created openings for opportunistic politicians. A state senator planning a run for governor said we should give back to Washington all the stimulus money coming to Oklahoma.

Whatever your position on the federal stimulus package, it is ludicrous to suggest we send our tax money back to the federal government. Here is the reality: if we return stimulus money, some other state will take it and spend it on critical needs for their citizens.

It would be terribly irresponsible to allow Oklahoma money to improve roads and bridges in some other state. It would be wrong to leave out in the cold Oklahomans who depend on Medicaid while money to help them goes to some other state.

If there ever was a time to “keep our eyes on the ball,” it is now. Our state is enduring a budget shortfall, a national recession, and families facing challenges unlike anytime in recent memory.

Despite those historic challenges, some are more focused on excuses and opportunistic statements than finding solutions to real problems. If the next eight weeks are anything like the last eight, then the accomplishments of the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature will not even fill up a postcard.

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

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Legislative Session 09: Round Two

This week marks the first week in which the House will be considering bills that have already been approved by the Senate. It is my responsibility to be the House Author for four Senate bills.

Senate Bill 794 is authored by Senator Clark Jolly and is a request bill from the Peppers Ranch located just west of Guthrie. Peppers Ranch serves as a foster care provider for DHS and requested the bill in order to provide transparency and openness to the analysis of the state adoption process. It would require that DHS report the number of unsuccessful adoptions that take place each year. This could be used as a tool to analyze and correct issues related to the adoption process. I will be presenting SB 794 before the House Human Services committee this week.

Senate Bill 980 is authored by Senator Glenn Coffee. It calls for the creation of a CIO to oversee the state's IT functions. Each year, state government has been spending $340,577,938 of your tax dollars on IT and telecommunications. This does not count the salaries of the hundreds of state employees who are assigned to IT departments. These IT functions are spread out on an agency-by-agency basis, with each agency capable of creating their own IT empire. Millions of taxpayer dollars could be saved each year if duplicated processes were eliminated and new technology was used to maximize speed and space. SB 980 seeks to put an end to this type of inefficiency. SB 980 has been assigned to the Government Modernization committee where it is set to receive a hearing next Monday.

Senate Bill 800 is authored by Senator Anthony Sykes and is an excellent strategy for preserving the integrity of the initiative and referendum process in Oklahoma. As you may be aware, the Oklahoma Constitution allows for the people to pass a petition in order to allow them to vote on issues that the Legislature refuses to take action on. This is how such important laws have been written as Oklahoma's term limit law and the Constitutional provision that makes it very hard for the Legislature to raise taxes without a vote of the people.

Unfortunately, the petition process can be thwarted by minor legal mistakes in the petition language that can sometimes cause it to be thrown out even after the petition organizers have gone to enormous effort to get the thousands of necessary signatures. As you might imagine, this serves as a disincentive for citizens to start a petition for fear that all their hard work would be wasted because of a minor mistake. SB 800 would require that a petition that does not have the necessary legal language can be thrown out before the petition is passed around for signatures. This way, everyone would be on the same page prior to the petition being considered.

Senate Joint Resolution 12 is authored by Senator Randy Brogden. It would allow the people to vote on placing term limits on statewide officials, limiting them to two terms in office. It is mirror legislation to my House version of statewide term limits which passed the House two weeks ago.

Both SB 800 and SJR 12 will be considered by the House Rules Committee where I have requested a hearing.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for March 20-26, 2009

Hello again, everyone! Spring Break is always a special week at the Oklahoma Senate.

The laughter of children fills the Capitol as many legislators bring their families to the week’s session. My wife, Deena, and son, Jacob, joined me this week making for a special time.

Jacob has been a part of the Senate since his birth. At only seven weeks of age, he was in my arms as I gaveled the 2006 session to order. Today, he is a precocious three-year-old who charms just about everyone he meets, and who reached for the microphone as I introduced him again on the Senate floor.

It was also a special week for me as I was given the honor of hosting the Senate Chaplain. Each week, the Senate hosts a minister to open each day’s session with a prayer and give us a short devotional as the Thursday session begins.

Pastor James Robinson of the First Baptist Church in Durant accepted my invitation to serve as Senate Chaplain. Each of his prayers was a blessing to my colleagues and me, and his devotional on Thursday was both inspirational and thoughtful. I know he had a positive impact on the Senate and helped prepare us for the remainder of the session.

Our area of Oklahoma also got some very good news from the U.S. Census Bureau this week. The bureau released a study that showed the five counties I represent have all grown since 2000. In rural Oklahoma, there are two kinds of communities – those that are growing and those that are dying. The growth we have enjoyed has not occurred by accident.

This study clearly shows policies enacted over the past seven years have given new hope and opportunity to the Oklahomans I am honored to represent. We have protected our water resources, encouraged historic tourism expansions, and created state policies that encourage job creation in rural Oklahoma. All were necessary to keep rural Oklahoma moving forward.

Job creation is a lot like rowing a boat upstream, to stop rowing is to go backward. As the rest of the nation endures the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression, our area is faring extraordinarily well. Creating new jobs and making the most of the resources we have been given is even more important in difficult economic times.

Our nation will emerge from this economic crisis. Until it does, we must protect the economic strength southern Oklahoma has built over the past seven years. When the nation does emerge from the economic downturn, we must be prepared to make the most of the new opportunities for prosperity a strengthening economy will bring.

That is our challenge right now. As we continue the 2009 session of the Legislature, I will continue to fight for policies that encourage rural economic growth and lay the foundation for even greater prosperity in the years ahead.

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

Monday, March 16, 2009

Paving Roads without Issuing Debt

Last week was the deadline week for bills originating in the House of Representatives to be heard on the House floor. House bills not considered by the House by the end of last week are probably not going to pass into law this year. Because of this deadline, Representatives worked late several times, sometimes staying as late as 11:00 p.m.

I was fortunate to have seven of my bills survive the deadline this year. One of these bills was House Bill 1294, a constituent request bill from Logan County.

Anyone in Logan County can tell you about the unimproved condition of many county roads. And, as you are aware if you have read my columns, I feel that government entities at all levels are incurring too much debt.

House bill 1294 would allow Logan County road districts to fund their capital projects without using bonded indebtedness. This is a fantastic concept. I believe that government entities at all levels incur debt too often and pay millions of dollars in unnecessary debt interest. The savings from implementing House Bill 1294 would stay in the people's pockets -- where it belongs.

Another neat aspect about this bill is that it also exposes the fact that state statutes tend to encourage public boards to issue bonded indebtedness. If the no-debt concept can be proven to work in a road district, it might be able to be expanded to cities, counties, public trusts and school boards that wish to fund capital improvements without forcing people to stay in debt for many years.

After serving in government and seeing how easy it is for politicians to rush into incurring indebtedness with our money, it has been very refreshing to work with individuals who share the conviction that incurring debt is unwise and should be avoided whenever possible.

House Bill 1294 was approved by a vote of 96-0 in the House and now goes to the Senate.

Another very important issue to area drivers is the condition of the Waterloo Road I-35 ramp. This crowded exit ramp has become a serious headache for Logan and Oklahoma county drivers on their way to and from work. The good news is that ODOT has been very receptive to requests for a solution and has awarded a $229,000 contract to Shell Construction to expand the northbound off ramp and the southbound on ramp. The contractor must start construction before June 1st and will have 60 days to complete the project.

As construction begins, please continue to provide me with your feedback on this and other road-related concerns in House District 31. It is your input that allows me to know where the most pressing needs are located.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hello again, everyone! Regular readers of my column know I am fighting to help children with autism.

The effort has taken the form of “Nick’s Law,” which would require health insurance in Oklahoma to cover autism spectrum disorders. Last year, we enjoyed bipartisan support in the Senate on this issue.

Not everyone supported it, and I understand that, but senators from both parties joined hands to pass “Nick’s Law” in the Senate numerous times. In the House of Representatives, it quickly became partisan, with the majority Republicans denying the bill even a hearing.

This year, House Republicans shot down “Nick’s Law” very quickly – in hopes of washing their hands of a sticky political issue early in the session. Now, it appears Senate Republicans have decided to be as partisan as their House brethren as two separate votes – right down party lines – suggest they fear even discussing the issue.

The first vote was on a bill about the Oklahoma High Risk Insurance Pool. The pool is the “insurer of last resort,” a creation of the Legislature to provide coverage for those Oklahomans who cannot get health insurance elsewhere. It seems a perfect way to provide autism coverage.

I proposed requiring the pool to cover autism consistent with “Nick’s Law.” The one change I made was to lower the annual cap to $36,000, the same as the Republican-sponsored Louisiana law that requires health insurers in that state to cover autism.

Instead of allowing the amendment to be considered, the author of the bill moved to “advance” the bill beyond the ability to amend. The motion to advance was approved on a staight party-line vote with Republicans voting “yes” and Democrats voting “no.”

The second vote – again, down party lines – was on a bill to create a Health Insurance Mandate Review Task Force. This task force would be horribly tilted in favor of big insurance and against consumers.

Republican legislative leaders would have eight of 10 appointments to the task force. The governor would have two appointments; the state Insurance Commissioner would be the 11th member.

I proposed an amendment to give the governor two more appointments and require they come from the consumer side of the equation. Legislative leaders and big insurance still would have enjoyed a two-to-one advantage on the task force under my amendment.

That wasn’t good enough; the author of that bill moved to advance the measure beyond amendment, which was approved on a partisan vote. Given the composition of the task force, the results it would propose are a foregone conclusion.

There will be other chances to vote on variations of “Nick’s Law” as I refuse to give up on Oklahoma’s children with autism. The question is: Will Republican members – many of whom have voted for “Nick’s Law” in the past – have the courage to vote their conscience or will they cower under pressure from their leadership?

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

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Open Door Policy - March 9, 2009

This week has been a deadline week for the Oklahoma legislature as all House bills must pass out of the House of Representatives to the Senate and Senate bills must pass over to the House. I have been diligently working on helping restructure the bond package from last year which the Supreme Court struck down as having too many different programs in one bill. I think the new bond package on the conservation programs will fit under the scope expected by the judicial branch. These bonds are needed to provide the necessary repairs to many of our flood control dams around the state.
The legislature considered an amendment I presented which would have allowed night hunting of feral hogs on private property outside of deer season. This amendment was defeated for fear of poaching, but I argued we are punishing the honest people by preventing this and poachers will still break the law. This idea was presented to by Ron Black of Wild Oklahoma, an Oklahoma outdoors show which airs locally. They held a feral hog hunt on Saturday which collected game for their Paralyzed Veterans of America fundraiser which I attend each year.
I co-authored House Bill 1422 by Rep. Eric Proctor, which would guarantee tuition to post-secondary institutions for the children and spouses of soldiers who are killed in combat. This is important as we have seen many of our soldiers give the ultimate sacrifice. I also co-authored House Bill 1072 by Rep. Charles Key, which allows easier access for political parties to allow third party candidates access to the ballots in Oklahoma elections. I also want to encourage the registered Democrats to please attend their local precinct meetings on Thursday night. The more people who attend, the better representation for how people feel their party should handle issues.
On Tuesday, I had the chance to visit with the Leadership Class from Caddo Kiowa Career Technology Center. I also had the opportunity to visit with the Leadership Class from Canadian Valley Career Tech last Thursday in Chickasha and attend the Elks Lodge pancake breakfast fundraiser on Saturday. Other events I attended were the REC appreciation dinner for a our local volunteer firefighters and the Comanche County Livestock show.
I appreciate all the surveys which have been returned, both by mail and by email. This is giving me a good insight to your views and how policies should be implemented. We have had many bills heard which I do not feel are good for the people of our state and the rural way of life, so I look forward to sharing more on those as this deadline week ends.
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.

Fire Hydrant Inspections Advance

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media Division
March 12, 2009

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

Fire Hydrant Inspections Advance

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Joe Dorman helped advance legislation today that will increase public safety by requiring routine inspections of fire hydrants.
House Bill 1656, by Dorman and state Sen. Tom Ivester, would require that all fire hydrants receive a maintenance check at least once every three years.
“A fire hydrant is one of those things that you never think about until you need it,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “Unfortunately, that means officials don’t know a hydrant is unusable until a building is burning and they need the water immediately. By requiring routine inspections, we can prevent an avoidable tragedy.”
Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor asked for the change to reflect recommended national standards. The inspections would include lubrication and likely replacement of o-rings. Standards would be set by each city and rural water district.
The bill also requires the local fire chief to estimate the amount of water necessary to fight a fire to allow the city or water district to recover the cost of the water used.
House Bill 1656 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives 99-0. It now proceeds to the state Senate.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

House Bill 1032 - The Modernization Bill

In previous weeks I have made the case that state government's massive budget shortfall presents an exciting opportunity to spend less money. To accomplish this, the government will be forced to make long needed changes. Instead of the downturn being a detriment to the people, I believe many of these changes will actually improve the quality of service provided to the people. The downturn is in fact a blessing, as it forces the government to do what it should have done a long time ago.

Some of these proposed changes are reflected in a bill I am authoring. House Bill 1032 has already been approved by the House Modernization Committee and is awaiting action on the House floor.

The primary focus of the bill is to make all license and permit operations accessible online. The Oklahoma web portal would be able to offer the same services as web site. From that web site, you can participate in such tasks as renewing your occupational license or license plate.

The obvious benefit to this reform is cutting through cumbersome state bureaucracy and allowing direct access to these services without having to use government resources. This should put an end to the old practice of waiting in long lines to get a license or permit.

This benefit recently became very obvious in the California when part of the state government was forced on a furlough because of a massive money shortfall. Normally this would be a huge problem because people were unable to go to the tag office to renew their licenses. But since they could renew online, online registrations increased by about 20% during that time.

The Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure is already saving $20,964 per year because of an online professional license renewal system. Staff time was cut by fifty percent. It also appears that 99% of license renewals now occur online.

Another important reform contained in HB 1032 is transparency. The bill requires more state spending be made available for public review through the state's online portal. As the state institutes more reforms geared towards public accountability, there will be more and more opportunities for greater transparency. It is this transparency that will discourage abusive spending practices.

HB 1032 would also convert state payroll to a bi-weekly system. State government appears to be one of the few organizations that still issue monthly payroll. This leads to any number of problems: from hindering the recruitment of employees to what appears to be the unnecessary need for a supplemental payroll system. The conversion to the bi-weekly system could save the state millions, as man hours are freed up from recalculating and issuing supplemental payroll.

HB 1032 joins HB 1410, HB 1704 and SB 980 as part of the effort to modernize government this legislative session.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for March 6-12, 2009

Hello again, everyone! The best way to describe the Oklahoma Senate this week is that is was a “mixed bag”: not all bad, but certainly not all good.

You probably read this week the Senate passed a bill to do away with the grocery tax – one of the issues about which I am most passionate. As the late Paul Harvey used to say, “Here’s the rest of the story.”

The bill approved by the Senate only does away with the state’s 4.5 cents-on-the-dollar grocery sales tax; it leaves intact city and county sales taxes on groceries. Further, the bill phases out the state grocery tax over several years. Most families will hardly notice the reductions and every family will still pay a grocery sales tax if this bill becomes law.

A fair question is: Why would this be the approach to end the grocery tax? The answer is simple: The Senate’s new majority would much rather focus on reducing the income tax – a proposal, as I have written before, grossly skewed to benefit Oklahoma’s wealthiest citizens.

The only reason we see any movement on the grocery tax is because of the enormous political pressure being generated to end this most hurtful and regressive of taxes.

Any doubt of that was erased during debate on a bill this week to reduce the income tax in Oklahoma. I asked a simple question: Wouldn’t it be better to not reduce the income tax and use that revenue to be bolder in attacking the grocery tax?

The answer was talk about “macro economics” and how reducing the income tax is better to promote economic development than ending the grocery tax. Even though the facts do not bear that out, at least we get a consistent answer from those who prefer to put more dollars in the hands of the wealthy.

During my debate on the income tax bill, I spoke of “kitchen table” economics. The best way to improve family budgets is to do away with a tax that eats away at income every time we feed our families. Doing away with the sales tax on groceries is more direct and more meaningful to the people who deserve tax relief the most.

Outside of the “back-to-school” sales tax holiday, we have done nothing to reduce sales taxes – the levy that hits hardest those among us least able to afford it. If we are truly interested in helping those families who need it most, we should focus on reducing the sales tax – and the grocery tax should be target number one.

The reason this timid plan to whittle away the grocery tax was approved by the Senate this week is because it was the only grocery tax bill still alive. Despite the timidity with which some approach the grocery tax, I will continue my fight to get rid of this most insidious of taxes.

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

Open Door Policy - March 3, 2009

My legislative schedule has been lightened quite a bit over the last week as House Republican committee chairmen have refused to grant hearings to most of my bills. These bills will be carried over until next year and I will try again. The status of my bills currently is as follows:

*HB 1654 - Grocery Store/Pharmacy incentive bill - refused a hearing in committee;

*HB 1655 - Children's Cabinet - refused a hearing in committee, but a similar Senate bill passed unanimously by the Senate and could be heard by the House;

*HB 1656 - Fire hydrant maintenance - passed out of committee, awaiting a floor hearing;

*HB 1657 - Deceased employees insurance benefits - I pulled this bill due to the need for more information;

*HB 1658 - Doctor's incentive for volunteering at school functions - refused a hearing in committee;

*HB 1659 - Utility Terrain Vehicles use on county roads - refused a hearing in committee;

*HB 1660 - Alternative energy tax credits - refused a hearing in committee; and

*HJR 1018 - Emergency management funding constitutional amendment - was placed on a committee agenda, then removed by the House leadership; and

*HB 1918 - 4-H/FFA tax exemption on premium checks - refused a hearing in committee. Obviously, I am very frustrated, but I will continue to work with the House leadership to try to get hearings on these bills for next year. I also have other issues in the works and will continue work on those, along with amending other bills in attempt to make them better. HB 1661 creates a tax check-off on tax returns to allow donations to YMCA Youth & Government programs and it is up for a floor hearing, along with HB 1662 which would allow police officers to issue tickets to individuals who are playing pornographic movies in their vehicles. Both of these bills were authored by colleagues and I will assist them with moving through the process.

I was honored this past week by the Oklahoma Rural Fire Coordinators for my efforts to assist them and the state with fire protection issues. I was a great privilege to be recognized by this group and I can't thank them enough for their service to assist our local fire fighters.

Congratulations to all the teams who have been progressing through the basketball tournaments and good luck to those still playing! I was able to watch one game this weekend back home. I also attended the Children's Starlight fundraiser, which raises money annually for the children's wing at Comanche Memorial Hospital. I also enjoyed attending the Chickasha Chamber banquet and the Lawton Chamber luncheon, along with recording a blog for while I was at home.

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, March 1, 2009

Stopping your Vital Information from being at Risk

Knowing what you know about the ineffectiveness of the government, do you really trust the government to protect your most vital information?

This year, state government must cut state spending by about 600 million dollars (closer to 900 million, if you count spend that will be offset by previously mandated increases). This forces state leaders to enact needed reforms that should have occurred many years ago.

One of these reforms is the centralization of the state's massive and (up until now) rather chaotically managed information technology (IT) functions.

Each year, state government has been spending $340,577,938 of your hard-earned tax dollars on IT and telecommunications. This does not count the salaries of the hundreds of state employees who are assigned to IT departments. These IT functions are spread out on an agency-by-agency basis, with each agency capable of creating their own IT empire.

Can you imagine what would happen to a private business that did not efficiently coordinate the actions of a department that spent in excess of 340 million dollars?

This year I am working with Senate Pro Tem Glenn Coffee as the House author of his Senate Bill 980, and State Representative David Derby as the co-author of House Bill 1704 to craft a plan that will break down these barriers and allow for the direct coordination of state government IT functions.

The obvious reason for this reform is savings. Let's consider how much the state spends on energy costs associated with duplicative server capacity. While private businesses are taking advantage of cloud computing and blade servers with shared power sources, too many antiquated government servers are using too much energy. How much sense does it make for Agency A to use a different server system than Agency B when they easily use the same storage device? Millions of taxpayers dollars could probably be saved each year if duplicated servers were eliminated and new technology was used to maximize speed and space.

A second very important reason for reform is that of security. Today, government computers contain everything from your tax returns to your biometric description. State computer systems are constantly under attack from those who would like to steal this information. State officials must constantly guard against these attacks. One of the most frequent originators of these attacks is from Communist China, where there is no way for our law enforcement officials to bring those responsible to justice. The fact that the Chinese are working so hard to steal our information is very concerning. One of the more disturbing incidents includes the successful compromise about two years ago of a local law enforcement database known as OLETS, which Oklahoma law enforcement agencies use to access information pertinent to the security of our communities.

Under current state law, as is all too often the case in government, potential security issues must be mitigated through a long, complicated, multi-step bureaucratic process. In today's rapidly changing technology, we no longer have the luxury of letting a bureaucratic, slow-moving government put our vital information at risk.

Senate Bill 980 and House Bill 1704 are part of the agenda of both the House and Senate leadership and I have been honored to work with Senator Coffee and Representative Derby in advancing this important reform.