Friday, May 29, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for May 29-June 4, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY – Hello again, everybody! As I wrote last week’s column, everything looked like we would complete our work by 5 p.m., Friday, May 22 – a full week earlier than the Constitution requires.

However, about an hour after I finished the column, the Senate hit a wall. The issue was a bill to create a chief information officer: a “computer czar,” if you will, for all of state government.

One individual, appointed by the governor, would have virtually complete control over every computer and software purchase by state government. Other states have tried this with mixed results. Our closest neighbor – Texas – tried it. The result was failure and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

I opposed the bill. Simply put, it grants too much almost unchecked power in a bureaucrat responsible only to the governor.

During my research on this bill, I did a quick search of state spending on computer equipment and software. A very conservative estimate is that state government spends $143 million every year on computer equipment and software.

The bill would give one individual incredible power over hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts. Oklahoma has never been a state that vested so much power with any one person – even one elected by the people. We certainly have never given that much power to an appointed bureaucrat.

How did this bill throw the proverbial monkey wrench into the session? Supporters initially couldn’t get enough votes to pass it. Joining me in opposing the bill were the other 21 Democratic senators and one Republican senator.

The other 24 Republican senators present voted “yes” on the bill – but it takes 25 votes to pass a bill in the Senate. One GOP senator who could have put the measure over the top was away on a speaking engagement.

That should have been the end of it; the bill fails and we move on to other budget bills awaiting consideration. Unfortunately, the roll call on the CIO bill was left open four hours in hopes someone would change their vote and pass it. No one did.

When it became obvious there was not going to be a 25th vote Friday, the Republican leadership closed the roll, adjourned Friday’s session and brought us back for an additional day when all their members would be present. The curious part is budget bills were left undone – inducement, I suppose, for us to return after the weekend.

On Tuesday, the 25th vote to pass this bad bill was present, and it was sent to the governor. All the remaining budget bills passed; the final bill to receive legislative approval was the bill funding the Rural Economic Action Plan.

It was unnecessary drama to end the session, but the 2009 Oklahoma Legislature is finally complete. Over the next several weeks, we have much to discuss as the dust settles from this historic session.

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

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