Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Open Door Policy - May 26, 2009

The legislature ended in a roar this year as we saw members required to vote past the deadline agreed to early on for adjournment. The Senate held a vote open for almost four hours on a bill to create a Chief Information Officer’s position and agency for the State of Oklahoma . Republican members were insistent this position be created, yet one of their Senate members was away at a speech out of state on Friday and they could not get the necessary 25 votes. This forced them to extend session until Tuesday to consider House bills. The House leadership at this point placed this language in a bill and ran it on Friday to the disapproval of the Democratic members. I visited with a friend who has experience in this field and was told there are no true cost savings by creating a central agency for technology for all the state agencies, simply this allows a new agency to be created and an expansion of government with total control over state agencies and their technology programs with little accountability and oversight. The House also argued about the time of adjournment and its extension and the vote occurred at the deadline on Friday (some of us argued it was actually past the deadline when it was finally passed, but the presiding officer stated the time limit was not yet reached). The House and Senate had previously set a time of adjournment and it had to be revised through a resolution (which has not been adhered to over the past two years and had to be extended each of the deadline weeks).
The House proceeded to vote until around 9:30 pm on Friday and passed several bills which dealt with the budget. The House of Representatives then recessed to the call of the presiding officer should there be a need to reconvene to deal with business from the Senate. The Senate reconvened on Tuesday morning and took up the final bills of the session. There is little chance of a special session this summer, but there is always the chance should Governor Henry feel an issue is important enough for us to address. Otherwise, I will soon be back home for a while and looking forward to seeing everyone and getting back to the normal routine at the coffee shops. This week I am a delegate to my church’s annual conference and next week I am a participant in the State Firefighter’s Convention.
It was an interesting session this year as the Republicans controlled both bodies of the legislature for the first time in state history. It was also a tough year in that we had to cut several hundred million dollars out of the state budget. The stimulus funds provided by the federal government helped meet shortfalls in education, transportation, public safety and health care, along with assistance in areas of commerce. The Governor designated State Auditor and Inspector Steve Burrage to oversee the use of the funds in order to provide accountability. I have worked with Auditor Burrage on several issues this year and he is an excellent elected official in this capacity and I have confidence he will monitor all uses of these funds and provide accurate oversight. The Republican and Democratic members worked well together on the process to cut many agencies, yet hold harmless some which provide vital services.
I had two excellent students work for me at the Capitol over this past week. Nicole Barton of Lawton served as a page for the entire week and Steven Doyle of Elgin worked for two days as an office aide. Both students were a great help and I want to wish them the best over the summer and into the next school year. I will be opening up opportunities for pages and office aides for next session, so if you are a high school student and are interested, please contact my office.
Interim study requests are due this week, so I will be working on issues over the summer. Two which I have turned in are to look at a permanent funding source for emergency management costs related to disasters and to provide municipalities the opportunity to upgrade stoplights within their jurisdiction on highways to allow for pressure plates to activate stoplights and to find ways for this to qualify for federal transportation assistance. Should you have an idea for bills for the legislature, please contact my office or drop me an email with the suggestion. We will begin reviewing these studies sometime in August and each representative has the opportunity to submit ten ideas to approval or rejection by Speaker Chris Benge.
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 joedorman@okhouse.gov at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559 , Rush Springs , OK 73082 and my website is http://www.joedorman.com/ on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

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