Friday, January 30, 2009

Hello again, everyone! The 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature has arrived.

With the beginning of each legislative session comes the renewed struggle to make Oklahoma an even better place to live, work and raise a family. During the session, there will be epic disagreements; each idea placed before the Legislature must endure intense questioning and careful scrutiny.

Health care will be one of the most important issues discussed during the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature. That debate began last year with measures to require health insurance coverage of autism and clinical trials.

Neither proposal became law because some of my colleagues focused more on what they thought the price of the coverage would be rather than what its value truly is. Now, some of those same lawmakers who opposed ending insurance discrimination against children with autism will take a different tack this year.

They have proposed a stripped-down health insurance product that would segregate those with high health risks from those with low risk factors. This is, I believe, a foolhardy attempt to reduce the number of Oklahomans who uninsured.

Under that plan, we statistically might be able to say fewer Oklahomans are uninsured. The real question for those who would buy the product is: What conditions really would be covered?

Because only the young and healthy could qualify for this stripped-down plan, the next important question is: Would this proposal drive up insurance costs for those who are neither young nor healthy? I believe it would – further harming those least able to endure harm from the government.

Neither of those questions have, as of yet, been answered by those proposing the plan. The answers to those questions would determine whether these ideas truly are in the best interest of the people. Without the debates at the Capitol, these questions would never be honestly answered in the light of day.

While some dislike dissention, it is the means by which tough questions get honest answers. Mindless agreement with every position – the idea to “go along to get along” – leads to grievous mistakes of policy that can harm us all. Honest and legitimate debate – no matter how challenging, no matter the venue – gives us better answers and ultimately a better state.

Those debates are what lie ahead over the next four months, and I am honored to be your voice in the Senate - asking tough questions, and answering them. For, in the final analysis, that is how we achieve a brighter future for us all.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any comment, question or concern. My Capitol office can be reached directly at (405) 521-5586 or by an in-district number at (580) 924-2221. You also can send letters to me at State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dorman Calls for Disaster Funding Reform

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media Division
January 28, 2009

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

Dorman Calls for Disaster Funding Reform

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Joe Dorman today urged legislators to allow the people of Oklahoma the opportunity to vote to reform state law to ensure disaster funding is readily available following future ice storms and other disasters.
House Joint Resolution 1018, by Dorman, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to require that money from the state’s Constitutional Reserve Fund (also known as the Rainy Day Fund) be used to provide matching funds for federal disaster relief appropriations. The proposed amendment, which would be sent to the voters for approval at the next general election, requires that the emergency funding be provided before Rainy Day Fund money is used for any other purpose.
“For too long, disaster funding has been at the bottom of the priority list at the Legislature when it should be at the top,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “This legislation will ensure that families, communities and counties are not left waiting months or even years for the state to act after a natural disaster.”
Currently, in most cases, the federal government will fund 75 percent of the disaster relief leaving the local entity with 12.5 percent and the state with 12.5 percent.
However, the state has often been slow to provide its 12.5 percent share, preventing the disbursement of emergency funding. Dorman noted the state did not pay its share of disaster funding for the 2000 ice storms until 2006.
“That delay left the cities, counties, electric co-ops, and many other businesses and entities unpaid and in need of reimbursement,” said Dorman. “This measure will make sure that this will never happen again.”
He said the resolution will also ensure that lawmakers do not have to divert money from other programs – such as school or road funding – during an economic downturn to pay for disaster reimbursement.
“The Rainy Day Fund was designed to handle unexpected emergencies and ‘act of God’ disasters clearly meet that definition,” Dorman said. “This is a prudent use of the state’s savings account that will not harm other important government functions.”
Dorman also noted there will be provisions in place to allow legislative leaders and the governor the opportunity to block this process should the Rainy Day Fund be depleted or the Legislature in session and the funds appropriated through the normal legislative process. Dorman has met with municipal officials, county officers and emergency management leaders from around Oklahoma, all who support this change to the Oklahoma Constitution.
The Legislature will convene on Feb. 2.


Monday, January 26, 2009

More Opportunities Created By The Budget Shortfall

Last week I wrote about how the projected government shortfall is an opportunity to reduce the size of government and to apply technological advances to state government. This action will have the effect of providing improved customer service. A budget shortfall will force legislative leaders and agency officials to do what they would have not taken the time to do when state government largess was increasing. It is actually in a downturn when money is less plentiful that taxpayer accountability and customer service may improve.

I consider it the primary responsibilities of the government modernization effort not only to introduce ideas for reform, but also to clear away the statutory roadblocks that prevent the application of money saving processes.
But there are other vital roles for the modernization effort.

It is very important for those who are committed to the modernization of state government to undertake the effort of documenting savings enabled by technological upgrades. Over the years, state agencies have realized a considerable savings because of these upgrades. There have been millions of dollars worth of savings realized by government agencies such as streamlined procurement process savings and lower technology costs such as falling telecom rates.

One of the items I found interesting when I was new to the appropriations process was the fact that agencies hardly ever came before the Legislature to notify us of the savings and to ask that it be returned to the taxpayers. Instead, agencies mostly focused on explaining the need for, and the fantastic benefits that would result from new programs if only the Legislature would expand their budgets.

By documenting the millions of dollars saved in the past few years through the application of new technological processes, the government modernization effort can assist with fair and strategically targeted agency spending reductions that target and eliminate wasteful spending habits.

This documentation process is not an easy task. In fact, as you might imagine, agency officials may be reluctant to divulge the savings and are more than happy to make legislators earn their pay by figuring out where your tax dollars are being spent.

Another great opportunity afforded by the government modernization effort is that of transparency. One big challenge is to ensure that state government purchasing officials are able to review and analyze all government spending and then use that data to allow state purchasing officers to leverage better contracts.

Having this data accessible will not only save money, but it may very well become possible to allow the people to review this data online. Hopefully this tool will allow the review of each and every purchase made, the date and time of the purchase (so you can see which agencies are desperate to use up their budget at the end of the fiscal year in an effort to justify their funding), and the reason for purchase.

These are a few of the projects that I am looking forward to being an advocate for during the upcoming legislative session.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Jan. 23-29, 2009

Hello again, everyone! This is the final week before the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature begins and I begin spending most of my time in Oklahoma City.

It is clear this will be a challenging session – perhaps as challenging as any in my more than 20 years working in and around the Legislature. The national economic slowdown is creeping into Oklahoma.

We are seeing it in revenue estimates, which are beginning to drop. That will make “Job One” – writing the annual state budget – even more difficult. It is becoming clear that we in the Legislature will have to look at ways to further strengthen Oklahoma’s economy.

Our efforts over the past several years to encourage energy exploration and drilling in Oklahoma have clearly helped us weather the national economic downturn better than most of our sister states. We must continue to enact policies to preserve them. Energy jobs must not, however, be our only focus.

One of the lessons of the economic slowdown of the 1980s was that Oklahoma must have a diversified economy. Over-dependence on any one segment of the economy – putting all our “eggs in one basket” so to speak – puts the entire state economy at risk.

That is why among the bills I have introduced for 2009 are measures to provide added strength to the energy industry and to tweak Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Act. The idea is to ensure industrial employers beyond the energy industry also get the full benefit of locating jobs in our state.

Job creation and preservation are the best ways we can protect our state budget and – more importantly – family budgets across the state. As we struggle to keep our state afloat in perilous times, we dare not turn our attention away from preserving and protecting the economic strength with which we have been blessed.

I believe job creation and a strong economy go hand-in-hand. That is why many of the bills on which I have worked the hardest have been proposals to strengthen our economy. Those efforts have helped us in this difficult time, and I am confident renewed job-creation and preservation efforts will help bring Oklahoma through the economic challenges we face.

One final note this week: For those of you who check out my website – – it has not been updated in about a month. That is because a major redesign of the site is about to begin. This current site is loaded with information; the new site will be even more advanced and user friendly.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any comment, question or concern. You can email me at My Capitol office can be reached directly at (405) 521-5586 or by an in-district number at (580) 924-2221. You also can send letters to me at State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

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

Monday, January 19, 2009

Open Door Policy - January 19, 2009

I had the opportunity to file my bills last week as the deadline fell to turn in ideas for legislation for the 2009 Legislative Session. There were 1,269 bills, 46 joint resolutions and six concurrent resolutions filed in the House of Representatives. I expect things will go along normal lines and most bills will be killed early in the committee process. The issue of having less money from the previous session of more than $300 million will also prevent many of the ideas from being considered due to cost restraints. Most of my bills have limited fiscal impact, so I hope I will be able to work with the various chairs to get hearings and passage on them.

Two ideas I've worked with Lieutenant Governor Askins on this interim will be in legislation this session. One creates an incentive for investors to look at local grocery stores and pharmacies to help build and develop businesses in our state and also to work with a "children's cabinet" as an issue-sharing board to review ideas provide accountability in the agencies that work with our younger Oklahomans. I appreciate her efforts in both these areas and hope I will be able to bring about some advances through policy.

The committee process has unofficially begun as members meet to go through ideas where a committee chair might not be sure of an idea and decide to give it consideration before the session begins. Also, many ideas, such as government modernization, have begun to be heard. I compliment my colleague, Rep. Jason Murphey from Guthrie, for undertaking this challenge and I look forward to working with him to upgrade our systems for modern technology as a cost-savings effort for tax dollars. I have authored performance audit legislation in the past and hope we will see more accountability come about with many state agency budgets through this effort.

I am looking forward to the Anadarko and Elgin Chambers of Commerce Banquets this week. The Apache Chamber Banquet was a huge success last week and Senator Tom Ivester gave a great speech on politics and how spiritual faith can influence ones decisions. I also was able to spend Saturday evening with Roy and Charlotte Young of Apache at my Rotary Club's banquet and honor some great Oklahoma students and coaches for their athletic successes, along with Bob Carpenter (Bill Teegins Award Winner) and C.C. Sabathia (Warren Spahn Award Winner). I will be the luncheon speaker at the Lawton Rotary Club on Thursday, so I look forward to visiting with them about our great state and District 65.

I will also be hosting Keri Dennis from Congressman Tom Cole's office at Lions Club in Rush Springs on Tuesday. Congratulations are extended to him on his appointment to the Appropriations Committee, which will be a huge benefit to Oklahoma, as well as Congresswoman Fallin for joining Congressman Boren on the Armed Services Committee. Also, Congressman Lucas becomes the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee this session, so this will also help with many policies which could benefit Oklahoma.

On a final note, please try to attend the chili cookoff that I will be hosting on Friday, January 30th at Fletcher prior to their basketball games. The proceeds will go to all our local fire departments for upgrades in equipment for disaster preparedness. I will also be filing a request with FEMA this year to create a program to regionally locate generators to prepare for emergency power outages and I am requesting help from the State Fire Marshall's office and ASCOG on grant applications to get additional equipment for each community in my district.

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, January 18, 2009

Changing the Way Government does Business

If you listen to or read the various news stories regarding Oklahoma's budget situation, you might have received the false impression that a budget shortfall is a negative circumstance poised to cause all sorts of harm and confusion.

By some estimates, state government spending will be $300 to $500 million less this year than last year. Those who have an appreciation for big government see this as a very unfortunate event because they know that government will most likely be required to shrink in size this year.

I believe the shortfall presents the Legislature with a most exciting opportunity not only to cut through bureaucratic waste and make government more cost effective, but also to streamline and modernize government services so as to provide much improved customer service to the people.

For me, the past few weeks have been some of the busiest since I have been in the Legislature. Since receiving the appointment to head the House Standing Committee on Modernization, I have enjoyed the opportunity to encourage the progress of the House Modernization agenda. Last week, the House held an interim study which demonstrated the many opportunities to save taxpayers dollars and provide better service to the people of Oklahoma through better practices and the implementation of new technologies. At the same time, House Republicans have announced that government modernization will be a part of the 2009 House Republican agenda.

Based on the state's revenue shortfall, there is an obvious opportunity for spending reductions. This provides the occasion to modernize government. Those who have argued for less government spending in the years ofsurpluses have usually been swimming upstream. However this year, most will agree that it is absolutely necessary for the state to use technology to reduce the workload and free up state government positions.

One important opportunity that must be taken advantage of is the combination of all of the state's licensing and permitting entities into a user friendly, web based portal. Currently, very few of the state agencies provide this option. However, during the recently concluded study, we heard testimony regarding the success of one agency who has implemented this reform.

The State Board of Medical Licensure is saving $20,964 per year because of an online professional license renewal system. Due to the implementation of the online system, this common sense reform freed up about two full time employees because staff time was cut by fifty percent. It also appears that 99% of the license renewals now occur online.

Can you imagine how the improvement in customer service in this system can be implemented with all of the other licensing systems to form one easily accessed entity? How about the millions of dollars of savings that will be realized if this was accompanied with the reform of centralizing the licensing system into one location, instead of having it spread across a large number of state agencies?

The shortfall is not a bad thing. Rather, it can be a great opportunity and challenge that should motive state government to do what should have been done many years ago. State government should be using technology to provide a more friendly service at a reduced cost to taxpayers. As Chairman of the House Modernization Committee, I am very much looking forward to meeting this challenge.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Open Door Policy - Jan. 19, 2009

The committee process has begun within the legislature and members are now at the capitol going through the bills that have been filed to this point. The deadline for filing legislation is Thursday, so all the ideas should be available to read soon on the House of Representatives website ( if you would like to review them.

On Tuesday, I served on the Appropriations and Budget review of Government Modernization. This committee hopes to review current government agency practices and hopefully implement standards that will cut costs, such as switching most work to paperless, or electronic, transmission. I think there is much potential that can come from this committee and I look forward to working with them.

On Wednesday, I will be watching the special "Crystal Darkness" with students from Elgin. This show was produced and aired on all local channels to try to combat the meth problem facing many families across our state. On Thursday, I will be attending the Apache Chamber of Commerce banquet. This annual banquet recognizes the "town treasures" by highlighting three residents who have contributed to the success of the community. This Friday, my Rotary club will be hosting the Warren Spahn event which honors the top left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball, who happens to be C.C. Sabathia this year. If you are interested in tickets for this, please call (580) 476-3745.

This past week had several events which I attended. I had the chance to be the keynote speaker to ABATE, the association of motorcyclists who lobby for laws regarding their passion of riding. I also was a presenter at Leadership Oklahoma on the legislative process and was able to attend the OSU vs. Texas A&M basketball game with Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins. I toured the prison at Lexington and visited with the warden and other officials about recidivism rates and the need for additional programs such as prison ministries to assist the inmates. I also had the chance to sit in on the Oklahoma Rural Fire Coordinators meeting and discuss potential new laws regarding fire protection.

On that final note, I want to extend an invitation to you to come to Fletcher on Friday, January 30th prior to the Fletcher/Apache game. I will be hosting a chili cook-off in their school cafeteria as a thank-you for re-electing me to serve you as your State Representative. This will be free of charge, but we are asking you to make donations which will go to a fund to purchase a generator for each community to use in case of disaster striking. I've been working on this project since last year when Cement lost power in the entire community due to the ice storms. The idea is to have a generator in each community to use to set up a shelter for citizens to go to in case something like this happens again. I'm working on grants and donations to make this effort possible. Cookers will be able to set up at 4:30 and it will run until 6:00 when senior night begins. The chili winners will be announced during the intermission of the games.

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.

The 2009 Session Approaches - Senator Jay Paul Gumm

Hello again, everyone! Members of the Legislature – and our staff – passed an important milestone on the road to the 2009 legislative session.

Thursday was the deadline by which all bills had to be introduced for consideration in this year’s legislative session. Outside of the final weeks of session, this is one of the most labor intensive times of the year.

Hundreds of phone calls and emails have been exchanged with Senate staff as we worked to ready the bills I introduced. Most of the bills I wrote came from ideas brought to me by you, the people I represent.

My bill to end the grocery sales tax has been the topic of many coffee shop conversations we have shared. Almost everyone believes the grocery tax is unfair and hurtful because the tax puts a heavier burden on those least able to afford it. If we cut any tax this year, it should be the grocery tax.

As our nation continues to fight the war on terror, many of you have told me we should do more to honor those Oklahomans who make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. A few months ago a young man who was once a Senate Page I sponsored sent me an email.

He now is a soldier on active duty in Iraq, and his idea is to honor those Oklahomans lost in the line of duty. The result is Senate Bill 712, which directs the governor to order flags fly at half-staff on the day an Oklahoma soldier is laid to rest.

Another of my bills would fix an unintended consequence of the immigration reform bill passed a few years ago. That law made it harder to renew expired driver’s licenses – even for native born Oklahomans. Senate Bill 251 would remove many of the bureaucratic barriers for citizens to renew licenses which have expired.

Other ideas shared with me by constituents have found their way into legislation. Among those are:

· A bill giving doctors new guidelines for treating patients with intractable chronic pain;
· A proposal to change income limits for senior Oklahomans getting nursing home benefits to ensure none face a future without the care they need;
· Bills to expand the sales tax exemption our 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans receive to include their surviving spouses and to ensure that exemption, earned by veterans on fields of battle, is honored by retailers.

In all, I have written 40 bills for the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature. In most cases, my bills are your bills, ideas or concerns you have shared with me. Certainly, not all of them will become law; but each of them has at its core our shared desire to make Oklahoma an even better place in which to live, work and raise a family.

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

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Billion Dollars of Unnoticed Taxation

Over the past two years, I have been taking note of the state government's hidden spending.

Each year, the state government appropriates about 7 billion of your taxpayer dollars. The agencies that depend on this funding are more subject to legislative oversight because they know their appropriations must be approved on an ongoing basis. In theory, these agencies should be on their best behavior because they are supposed to be held accountable by the people's Representatives.

However, the majority of Oklahoma's agencies, boards and commissions (more than 500 in total, which appears to be more than double the size of comparable states) are not required to come before the Oklahoma Legislature each year for appropriations. These are the hidden government entities that thrive off fee-generated revenues or other ongoing funding sources that are not subject to the appropriations process.

As a result, they are operating with little legislative oversight while taking close to a billion dollars from the private sector each year.

What do you think the economic impact of 1 billion dollars would be on the state's economy if it was kept in the hands of the people instead of being gulped up by state government?

The fact that these boards can exist without public scrutiny while guaranteed a revenue stream largely unaffected by legislation makes the organizations an easy target for political patronage jobs, and the opportunity for the boards to be co-opted by the groups they are supposed to regulate is also highly prevalent.

The term "Rogue Agency" is used to describe an agency that has a board that has been co-opted in this manner. By raising fees and paperwork requirements, a rogue agency can be a tool to keep any new competition away from the industry members who have taken over the board. This potential monopoly on the market and lack of free market competition could have the effect of driving up the prices for consumers, to say nothing of the nearly billion dollars of fees that are passed on.

The board members on the rogue agency board can also exert tremendous influence on the agency's executive director to overlook or go light on the transgressions of their own business interests and that of their favored associates.

If you would like to see the monstrosity that you are paying for with your tax dollars, visit the Oklahoma Department of Libraries web site ( and download the list of agencies, boards and commissions. You will find it an enlightening experience.

Can you imagine the impact on our economy if, instead of taking a billion dollars from its citizens, the government simply let you keep your own money?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another Chapter in the Struggle - Senator Jay Paul Gumm

Hello again, everyone! The Senate met this week for our one-day organizational meeting.

I began with much hope about relations between the political parties. My hope was grounded in my belief in the integrity of the Senate’s new Republican majority.

President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee and I have known each other many years – predating our elections to the Senate. While we disagree on a number of issues, we have never been disagreeable.

I have always considered Senator Coffee one of Oklahoma’s most gifted leaders. You don’t have to agree with someone to acknowledge their talent and integrity; so it has always been between Senator Coffee and me.

Much of my initial hope about the session was left in tatters on the floor of the Senate. Behavior of the new majority during organizational day should trouble every Oklahoman.

One of most important duties we have that day is the adoption of Senate Rules. Rule changes – inelegantly written and poorly drafted – have shaken the ability of senators to stand for the values of their constituents. The principal rule change was directed toward my struggle to end insurance discrimination against children with autism.

The rule change is a ham-handed attempt to protect Republican senators from having to vote on “Nick’s Law.” That bill has strong popular support, but is opposed by big insurance companies which financially support many of their political campaigns.

Under the new rule, senators cannot consider any bill that would change insurance coverage until the board which governs state employees’ insurance provides a financial impact statement. On its face, this sounds like a good rule: get all the information possible before making a decision.

Getting this information helps senators in making an informed decision. The problem is, nothing in state law requires the insurance board to provide this information, and the board is certainly not subject to Senate Rules.

The board is free to “slow play” data until legislative deadlines pass or the session ends. The cowardly rule gives unelected bureaucrats the ability a kill a bill without a vote, protecting weak senators from making a tough decision.

It is a bad start to a session begun with high hopes. Senator Coffee, in his speech after he was elected President Pro Tempore, talked about ideas that are seeds, proposals that “take on a life of their own.”

Few proposals have taken on a life of its own more than “Nick’s Law.” Based on countless emails and phone calls I have received, Oklahomans support it, and no pitiful attempt to shield members from voting will stop it. As for me, the disdain displayed on the Senate floor has only strengthened my resolve to end insurance discrimination against children with autism.

This is not the end of the battle. It is merely another chapter in a struggle that will not end until “Nick’s Law” becomes Oklahoma’s law.

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

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Legislative Process

The final deadline for legislators to file their bills is almost here. This will represent the culmination of a year-long process as a list of possible legislation is refined down to the eight bills that each Representative is allowed to file.

I have found that it is probably wise to introduce a balanced portfolio of legislation that advances the effort to institute sweeping reforms and also legislation that has an increased chance of passage.

Passing a piece of legislation is a challenging process that is long and complex. Only a small percentage of introduced bills (with the exception of appropriations bills) is successfully signed into law.

Last year in the House, this is the course a bill had to take in order to be signed into law:

* The House author must have successfully convinced a Senator to sponsor his bill in the Senate. It is important to choose a Senator based on his/her abilities and commitment to the principle of the bill.

* The bill then would have likely been assigned to a House subcommittee where the Chairman of the subcommittee agreed to give the bill a hearing. The full subcommittee voted on the idea.

* If the bill was approved in subcommittee, it was assigned to a full committee where once again the Chairman had to give the bill a hearing and the full committee was required to vote on passage.

* A bill passed by a committee must have received permission from the majority floor leader in order to be considered by the full House. If he/she consented to a hearing on the floor of the House, the full House had to vote on passage.

* Once the bill was approved by the House, it was sent to the Senate where the process was repeated, including a committee hearing (unless either of the Senate Committee Co-Chairs disagreed), a vote in committee and a vote on the floor of the Senate.

* Most likely the bill was then assigned to a conference committee. If either the Senate or the House failed to assign conference committee members to the bill prior to the deadline for assignments, the bill died. If those individuals were assigned, then the bill had to receive the support of a majority.

* If the conference committee approved the bill, it needed approval once again from the House and Senate. If the bill was not scheduled by the deadline in either House, it did not pass. If both Houses (House of Representatives and Senate) approved the bill, it was sent to the governor for approval. If the governor vetoed the bill, it had to go back to the House and the Senate for a possible override vote. In order to override the governor's veto, at least two thirds of both House and Senate must vote for the override. In the past 15 years, only one bill has become law despite a veto.

This is the task that faced by Representatives in the upcoming months as they advocate for their legislation.

In the past I have enjoyed the opportunity to seek passage for a number of pieces of legislation that have been suggested by House District 31 constituents, and look forward to doing it again this year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

There Will Always Be More Requests Than Dollars

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everyone! This week, my “base of operations” begins to move back north to the State Capitol as the Oklahoma Legislature begins with a one-day organizational meeting.

The meeting is limited to only five hours on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January to organize for the session, which begins in earnest on Feb. 2. Our charge on this first meeting is to elect the president pro tempore of the Senate, confirm committee assignments, adopt rules of procedure, and receive results of the November General Election.

Although the Legislature will not be in session during the month of January, there will be dozens of meetings held to prepare for session. That will mean more time at my Capitol office visiting with staff, agency officials, and concerned citizens as we get bills ready. We must have them complete by Jan. 15 if they are to be introduced for consideration in 2009.

The first revenue snapshot for next year’s budget indicates there will be about $300 million less than last year with which to meet the needs of Oklahoma’s citizens. While that sounds bleak, it pales in comparison to the budget woes of other states.

For example, California is dealing with a $42 billion budget shortfall. On $42 billion, you could run the entire state of Oklahoma for six years at current budget levels; California has to cut that much for just this upcoming year.

There will be resources available for many of Oklahoma’s needs. However, another of the realities of state budgets is that there always will be more requests than there are dollars. Having $300 million less will make the budget – already the most important and difficult job legislators face – even more challenging.

It will be a job in which I will be deeply involved. I will serve on both the full Appropriations Committee, which writes the state budget, and the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which focuses on funding our state’s schools.

Education is the largest expenditure we make every year, and this is how it should be. Nothing we do is more important than preparing the next generation for the challenges it will face. America is the only superpower because we educate every child; and public education gives every child a chance to become everything God intends for them to be.

This year’s budget will be a delicate balance. As bad as it may appear, we in Oklahoma are blessed. It falls to the Legislature to ensure every Oklahoma family shares in those blessings with a budget that reflects our values and lays a foundation for a brighter future.

As always, feel free to contact me with your comments, questions or concerns about Oklahoma. You can reach my Capitol office at (580) 924-2221 or (405) 521-5586. You also can reach me through my website at or by email at

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