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.

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