Friday, April 10, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for April 10-16, 2009

Hello again, everyone! Once again this last week, Oklahoma was plagued by wildfires that destroyed property and threatened lives.
The primary defense against many of these fires scattered across rural Oklahoma were volunteer firefighters. Every firefighter is a hero; they risk their own lives to protect our businesses, our homes, our families.

Volunteer firefighters are something special. Geographically, volunteer firefighters are the first line of defense across most of Oklahoma. For no pay, and with precious little resources, volunteer firefighters save countless dollars in property and untold lives every year.

The state provides some resources to our state’s volunteer fire departments. During tragic times like last week’s wildfires, we see just how good that investment is. The relatively small investment we make in rural fire protection saves money – in the form of reduced insurance premiums – property, and lives.

Even though this will be a difficult budget year because of declining revenues, we in the Legislature should – at the very least – maintain rural fire department funding at its current level. There is an old joke at the Capitol that urban legislators will support rural fire protection when they smell smoke in Oklahoma City.

They smelled smoke in Oklahoma City last week, so this may very well be the time to suggest increasing funding for rural fire protection. Every dollar we put into our volunteer fire departments is used efficiently and goes directly to protect our families. When you look at the entire state budget, there are few investments that are as sound as our volunteer fire departments.

This last week, the governor signed a bill I like to call “the perfect civics lesson.” Senate Bill 712 requires the governor to order flags on state property to be flown at half-staff on the day of the memorial service for any Oklahoman killed in combat.

This bill’s story began last September with an email to me from Sgt. Todd Anderson of the Oklahoma National Guard who was on active duty in Iraq. Todd, from Tishomingo, was a Senate Page for me during my first year as your senator.

In the email, he suggested an appropriate way to honor Oklahomans who give the “last full measure of devotion” in the struggle against terrorism is to fly flags at half-staff the day of their memorial service. Based on that idea, I wrote and introduced SB 712. It passed the Legislature without a single “no” vote.

Beginning as an idea from a young man serving our nation on the other side of the world, Oklahoma will make an eloquent statement whenever we lose one of our own in the defense of freedom. The path of this bill from idea to law is as perfect a civics lesson as we may ever see.

No matter how cynical we might become about government and politics – this is the way the system is supposed to work.

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

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