Monday, April 27, 2009

Senator Gumm Comments on Passage of SB 135

The State of Oklahoma
Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston & Marshall Counties

April 27, 2009

Contact: Senator Jay Paul Gumm
State Capitol: (405) 521-5586
Durant: (580) 924-2221
Mobile: (580) 920-6990

Note to Editors: Senator Jay Paul Gumm, author of the original Nick’s Law that would have required insurance companies to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of Autism, issued the following statement on the passage of Senate Bill 135 today.

“Unfortunately today’s passing of Senate Bill 135 will do nothing to ease the pressure on the families who so desperately seek coverage for the therapy necessary to bring their child out of the shadows of Autism. There is nothing in this bill to reduce the costs of these therapies. The pressure that is being eased by this bill is political pressure on a group of politicians who have stood up time and time again and said, 'Absolutely not' to Nick’s Law. They will now be able to stand up and say, 'We did something.' Sadly, that 'something' falls woefully short for these families who deserve better than this.”


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Official English Approved - The Final Month of Session

Last week marked yet another deadline by which the House of Representatives and Senate had to take action on legislation or risk having the legislation not be heard this year.

Much debate centered around whether or not the Senate would approve a bill that would allow the people to vote on making English Oklahoma's official language. Due to the insistence of the leadership of the House of Representatives, House author Representative Randy Terrill and Senate author Senator Anthony Sykes, House Resolution 1042 was approved shortly before the Senate's deadline.

It appears there was a significant amount of negotiating between the advocates of a "common English" proposal and those who wanted an "official English" distinction. In the end, the compromise proposal states that all official actions of the state shall be conducted in English, except as required by federal law. The proposal would not limit the use, study or encouragement of American Indian languages and also says that an agency cannot be sued if it cannot provide materials in a language other than English.

The Senate approved the proposal by a vote of 44-2 and it now returns to the House where the House will have the option of accepting the Senate amendments sending the proposal to a vote of the people. I would have preferred a stronger version of the bill.

The Senate also approved five House bills of which I am the author, one of which has been signed into law by the Governor, and four other bills that I will request to be assigned to a conference committee. The House approved four Senate bills that I am authoring, with one going a vote of the people and three going into the conference committee process. In the next four weeks I will be very busy working to refine and advance the seven remaining pieces of legislation.

One of the seven remaining proposals, House bill 1294, would allow Logan County road districts to fund their capital projects without using bonded indebtedness. This is a fantastic concept. I believe that all levels of government entities incur debt too often and pay millions of dollars in unnecessary interest. The savings from implementing House Bill 1294 would stay in the people’s pockets where it belongs.

Another interesting aspect about this bill is that it exposes the fact that state statutes tend to encourage public boards to issue bonded indebtedness. If the no-debt concept can be proven to work in a road district, it might be able to be expanded to cities, counties, public trusts and school boards that wish to fund capital improvements. I am excited that both the House and the Senate have approved this idea and hope to be successfull in achieving final passage.

Also, since we are entering the final phase of session, I will be closing my 2009 constituent survey. The survey is available on at I would very much appreciate your input and if you have suggestions on topics you would like to see discussed during my 2009 Town Hall meetings, please submit those suggestions with your survey responses.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for April 24-30, 2009‏

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everyone! We have reached the point in the 2009 session where every bill still alive has passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives, albeit in different forms.

Before any bill can go to the governor, it must pass both the Senate and House in identical form. The remaining four weeks of session will be devoted to hammering out those final versions.

The most important job of the Legislature each year – writing the state budget – is largely undone. This, to me, is very strange as we face a significant budget shortfall.

Cuts will be unavoidable; the challenge is to ensure the cuts do not unduly impact state services on which Oklahomans depend. I certainly hope during the final four weeks of session, more attention must be given to what should have been “job number one.”

Dozens of bills were considered by the Senate each day this past week. There simply are too many to mention, but I do want to share with you one measure that could mean big benefits for Oklahoma families.

Last year I passed a bill that created the Oklahoma umbilical cord blood bank. That would allow new parents to bank the umbilical cord blood from the birth of a child.

Umbilical cord blood, which is currently discarded as medical waste after the birth of a healthy baby, is rich in adult stem cells which can be used to treat a variety of diseases. More than 70 maladies that can be treated through therapies developed with adult stem cells.

It is beyond the financial means of most Oklahoma families to privately bank umbilical cord blood. A fully-funded public cord blood bank would allow every family who chooses to do so to bank cord blood, ensuring a wider genetic diversity of available adult stem cells.

Because of the budget shortfall, we have been struggling to find a funding mechanism for the cord blood bank. This week, a possible solution appeared as we considered a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Oklahoma voters to direct up to 10 percent of the Tobacco Trust Fund to pay for adult stem cell research.

I proposed an amendment that would allow the money to be used to fund the start-up of the cord blood bank as well. Given the fact the proposed amendment would allow Tobacco Trust money to be spent on adult stem cell research, it just makes sense to allow the money to be spent on the most efficient means of gathering adult stem cells.

The amended bill was approved and sent to a conference committee where a final version will be worked out. It is my hope the funding for the cord blood bank survives the conference committee; it would be a great first step in helping families fight more than 70 disorders today, and countless more in the years ahead.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Open Door Policy - April 21, 2009

We have been arguing over contentious legislation over the past two weeks on the House floor as the committee process has concluded. The Representatives are presenting Senate bills for consideration. Each Senate bill must have a Senate author, along with a Representative that will present it while it is on other side of the building. The same happens for House bills as they must have both a House author and a Senate author. I have been busy working with Senators to attach language from my bills to House bills they are considering in hopes of reviving some of the policies I filed which were not heard by House committee chairs.
I am currently working on an amendment to a bill presented by the Speaker of the House. This will establish more performance audits to review agencies and attempt to avoid waste. The Speaker’s bill establishes a commission within the legislature to contract audits. I feel this is duplication since we actually have an elected official, the State Auditor and Inspector, who is charged with this task. I am attempting to change this where the commission must use the State Auditor to conduct the audits, and should there be too much required of this, allow the Auditor to contract out. This also maintains the checks and balances between the branches of government, but still provides transparency and accountability.
I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend. I had the opportunity to visit with the folks over in Apache on Friday at the Rattlesnake Festival. I had the opportunity to film a portion of the activities for Wild Oklahoma, a local wildlife show that is broadcast on Sunday mornings. If you get the chance, check it out on their website for the day it will air. Ron Orf put me in the snake pit once again this year and I was able to help him with one of the shows he put on for the public. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun this experience in and I appreciate the Rattlesnake Association for allowing me to participate each year. I also had the chance to promote the festival on George Plummer’s Saturday morning show on KOOL 105.5, along with a discussion about other issues at the State Capitol.
Over the weekend, I also had the chance to take my annual trip to a Jimmy Buffett concert with several folks from Chickasha , Lawton , Elgin and Apache. I appreciate them including me in on their fun and I look forward to this getaway each year to listen to some music and relax for a day. After the tense meetings we have held over the past few weeks, I needed the chance to let off some steam and enjoy some good music. I hope everyone remembers to take a little time for themselves, even if just for a few hours, to slow down and refocus. I have found it allows me the chance to clear my head, get rid of the pent-up stress and do my job better.
On Monday, I was honored to have the Southwest Oklahoma Partnership for Mental Health visit the Capitol. Each of these advocates provided valuable information on services for Oklahomans who need this type of assistance. I enjoyed taking questions from the group and spent the lunch discussing potential new laws. This is a group which needs assistance with more training to recognize symptoms, especially when law enforcement is brought into the situation. We also have an obligation to provide help for our servicemen and women, along with police officers and firefighters, as they return from active duty and display symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In my opinion, it is the government’s obligation to provide this assistance as they have been performing a duty on behalf of the government for our citizens.
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.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gumm Continues Effort to Establish Children’s Cabinet


Sen. Jay Paul Gumm on Monday successfully amended House Bill 1032 to include language that would create Oklahoma’s first-ever Children’s Cabinet. Gumm’s proposal would streamline services for organizations and agencies serving Oklahoma’s children.

Gumm, a Durant Democrat, previously authored Senate Bill 697 to establish the Children’s Cabinet, but the legislation stalled in the House of Representatives after being unanimously approved by the Senate. Gumm said he was surprised the House failed to act on legislation that would allow for more efficient service with no fiscal impact to the state.

“This proposal would allow us to maximize the resources we dedicate to children’s issues at no additional expense to the state,” said Gumm. “I can’t imagine why the House didn’t appreciate the importance of this effort, given our state’s challenges with issues relating to child health and safety. This proposal is a win-win for the state of Oklahoma, and I’ll keep fighting to see that it is approved by the Legislature.”

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, a leader on the initiative, said she would continue her efforts to move the plan forward.

“I’m pleased that Sen. Gumm was able to breathe new life into such an important proposal,” she said. “By bringing experts together, we can maximize our resources to address our most pressing needs.”


For more information contact:Sen. Gumm’s Office: 405-521-5586

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Tea Party And Term Limits

The Tea Party and Term Limits

Those who work at the Capitol on a regular basis become rather accustomed to the large number of groups that hold presentations or demonstrations in support of various issues. However, last week, I think a lot of people were caught off guard by the size of the group that showed up to demonstrate against big government spending. Somewhere in the area of 5,000 people took time out of their busy days to attend the event and I believe their message made a difference.

The very next day, state Representative Mike Reynolds pointed to the group's attendance as a reason the Representatives should support an anti-tax proposal the he was introducing. Reynold's anti-tax measure was subsequently approved by an overwhelming bipartisan vote.

Hopefully this is just a small first step as the people attempt to reassert a sense of fiscal discipline over government. I am very excited to see the people's involvement and certainly hope it will continue.

Another exciting event last week was the final passage of Senate Joint Resolution 12, a resolution for term limits for all statewide elected officials. The passage of the resolution will allow the people to vote on the proposed policy at the next general election.

More than 15 years ago, the people decided overwhelmingly to limit the number of years a state legislator can serve because they believe elected officials should be servants. Voters want their leaders to make sacrifices to serve the people and then go and live under the laws they helped enact. Prior to legislative term limits, many career politicians were part of an elite class who made their life in politics. I believe that the people of Oklahoma want their leaders to be citizen legislators who stay in touch with the real world and who are not just building personal political empires.

Now, with the affirmative vote of the people, we will be able to bring this concept full circle. By placing limits on the terms of statewide officials, we will be declaring that there are no positions in state government where a politician can build his own political empire that will last for years.

I enjoyed to opportunity to serve as the House author of this resolution but I recognize that passage only came about with the support of the leadership of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Senate and the hard work of other proponents of this idea, including the two citizen groups, Oklahomans for Responsible Growth and Americans for Prosperity.

The two other legislative members who were also responsible for the passage of the resolution were State Senator Randy Brogdon and former State Representative Trebor Worthen. It was Rep. Worthen who conceived the idea and first introduced it in 2005. Worthen invested a tremendous effort in paving the way for the approval of the resolution and did the groundwork necessary to eventually get it passed. Brogdon supported Worthen as the champion of the bill in the Senate.

Last year, Worthen decided not to seek reelection. Following his departure, I was privileged to step in as the House author of the effort and look forward to seeing the results of the vote on election day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everyone! The Senate continued to wade through dozens of House bills every day this last week. Some were good, some were bad, and some were very bad.

One bill approved this week will be touted as “the solution” to a serious problem we face in Oklahoma: the number of our citizens who do not have health insurance. The reality is that the bill is no solution at all.

House Bill 2026, which likely will go to the governor, would create a “mandate light” health insurance policy for healthy Oklahomans age 40. The policy would not cover any treatments or diseases required by state law. The foundation for this woefully misguided bill is the myth that coverage mandated by law is what is driving up the cost of health insurance.

That increased cost, the myth asserts, is what makes health insurance too expensive for families, increasing the number of Oklahomans who are uninsured. That has been the grounds some legislators and big insurance companies have used to oppose requiring health insurance to cover children with autism.

The problem is the myth is just that: a myth. We have 36 health insurance mandates in Oklahoma; 20 states have less and 29 states have more. For the myth to be accurate, every state with more health insurance mandates should have both higher premium costs and more uninsured. Here is where their myth unravels.

Four of the states that have more mandates and lower average premiums are Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington. Also, they are among the states with a lower percentage of uninsured residents than Oklahoma has.

Oklahoma has almost 19 percent of our residents without health insurance. In Missouri, the rate of uninsured is12.3 percent; in Washington, 12.5 percent; in Virginia, 13.2 percent of its residents are uninsured; and, in Tennessee, the number is 13.4 percent.

The number of uninsured in individual states has more to do with per capita personal income and the cost of living than legislative requirements that health insurance cover specific illnesses. There are exceptions even to that.

California, one of the most expensive states in which to live, has an average health insurance premium that is cheaper than in Oklahoma. On top of that, California has 14 more legislative health insurance mandates than Oklahoma.

The real purpose of the “mandate light” policy, I believe, is political. It simply gives more fodder to those who perpetuate the insidious myth that legislative mandates are the reason health insurance is so expensive.

A practical problem with the “mandate light” insurance policy is that in many other states that allowed such policies, not a single state resident has signed up for the policy. People are smart, and they know such a policy provides virtually no coverage. Unfortunately, it really does nothing for Oklahomans, which is why I voted “no.”

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

Open Door Policy - April 13, 2009

I'll start off the column this week thanking Lauren Brown for paging for me this past week. Lauren is currently a student at Tuttle and I went to high school with her mother, Jennifer (Scott) Gilchrist. Lauren was very active in the mock legislature and I’m sure she will be active in her community as a public servant.

I also hope I will see several friends at the Apache Rattlesnake Hunt this upcoming weekend. I printed the wrong date last week, so I hope that didn’t mess up people’s schedules. This is a great event which I look forward to every year (even if Ron Orf makes me get in the snake pit each year).

For those of you who have kept up with my eye surgery, it went very well. I purchased the LASIK surgery at the Comanche County Memorial Hospital charity auction about a month ago and am very happy with the procedure. ClearSight Vision in Oklahoma City did the operation and I appreciate their donation to the hospital for the children’s wing and Dr. Gary Wilson and Dr. Stacey Rockett for making the process go so well.

There have been several fires over the past week and I certainly want to extend my thanks to the firefighters and emergency service personnel who worked hard to keep wildfires from being much worse. We lost several homes around House District 65 and I have been in contact with officials to seek quick assistance for those affected. We are also working to get the declaration prepared for the federal government to receive FEMA assistance to offset some of the costs. Naples Fire Department lost a fire truck and Acme lost some other equipment while fighting fires, so please keep these departments in mind if you are able to give a donation, along with all the others who responded around the state. I will also be working to ensure fire grants are full-funded once again this year as this is an investment for protection for all our citizens.

I had the opportunity to also visit with Leadership Lawton while they visited the capitol last Thursday. I normally work with the group to do a mock legislature similar to what the pages see each week, but this visit occurred while we had a marathon Appropriations and Budget meeting with over 50 bills. I appreciate Wes Glinsmann, a former co-worker at the House and the current Director of State Legislative and Political Affairs for the Oklahoma State Medical Association, for stepping in to lead their forum. I have said this before, but if you have the chance, please try to visit the State Capitol to see the legislature in process. We adjourn the session on May 22, and I hope if you have the chance, you will stop by and see the process in action.

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.

Representatives Request Funding be Included for Disasters in Current Budget

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media DivisionApril 15, 2009
State Rep. Joe DormanCapitol: (405) 557-7305

Representatives Request Funding be Included for Disasters in Current Budget

OKLAHOMA CITY – Although state Rep. Joe Dorman’s resolution to ensure that Oklahoma meets all its obligations when natural disasters hit failed to receive a hearing in the House this year, he is continuing his fight for those funds.
In light of the recent winter storm – which some experts say was the second-worst blizzard in Oklahoma history – and recent wildfires, state Reps. Dorman and Gus Blackwell pointed out the importance of maintaining a full reserve fund to draw on following large-scale emergencies or a direct revenue stream.
Dorman’s original measure, House Joint Resolution 1018, would have directed that either spillover funds or interest accrued from the Constitutional Reserve Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, be deposited in the State Emergency Fund within 30 days of FEMA certification of a request from the state for assistance. Money deposited in the State Emergency Fund is used to match federal disaster relief funds disbursed by FEMA. FEMA pays 75 percent of disaster repairs; the affected entity pays 12.5 percent, and the state is required to pay a 12.5 percent cost share.
"If the state does not provide matching funds in a timely manner, the affected communities essentially foot the bill while waiting for the state to make good on its obligations," said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. "If this does not come until years later, the state is not meeting its duty to assist its citizens."
HJR1018 did not receive a committee hearing this year due to concerns over Rainy Day Fund depletion. A similar bill by Dorman was killed last year in the Senate. Blackwell, who chairs the Rules Committee, held HJR 1018 to review further and work with Dorman to find an alternate funding system.
“I agree that we need to find some suitable direct funding system, but there is a concern by many leaders at the Capitol about tapping into any monies tied to the Rainy Day Fund,” said Blackwell, R-Goodwell. “I will be working with Representative Dorman to look at other alternatives over the summer and hopefully find a solution to include in this measure next session.”
“If we had passed this resolution, we could have laid the groundwork to save some money for a rainy – and snowy – day by putting spillover or interest monies into the emergency fund,” Dorman said. “I realized the battle would be uphill to get this specific policy passed, but I’m glad that Representative Blackwell and I are going to look at alternatives for a direct revenue stream for this funding for next year.”
Dorman said that the state has not met its prior obligations to match FEMA monies from previous emergency situations. Going back as far as 2007, the state has roughly 8,000 outstanding projects in 500 communities, with approximately $21 million in reimbursements still pending from that year alone. When the state does not have enough matching funds on hand, communities have to pay more than their share up front for rebuilding. This figure does not count the three disasters which have affected Oklahoma in 2009.
“Already Gov. Henry declared 50 counties in a state of emergency from this past snowstorm, and they will certainly qualify for FEMA funding with this most recent storm and certain fire damage. If the legislature does not fully appropriate damages for this year or the year before, in my opinion we have not balanced our budget and the legislature is violating the Oklahoma constitution,” Blackwell said.
According to Article X of the state constitution, lawmakers are required to pass a balanced budget each year. Reps. Dorman and Blackwell believe that since the state has not met its obligations to these communities, this is a violation of the balanced-budget requirement. “We lost six homes in my district this past week with the fires in two different communities,” said Dorman. “I’m still waiting on final estimates on acreage, damages and what will qualify for assistance and how we might help from the State Capitol.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with all the families and communities who suffered damage and blackouts from the recent snowstorm and fires,” Blackwell added. "Many of these folks are my neighbors and I witnessed how nature affected my home area of the state and the need for immediate help."
“I also have seen many natural disasters in and around my district over the years and know the need for urgency with assistance,” Dorman concluded. “We are obligated to allocate the 12.5 percent match of funds to reimburse them for repairs, and we’re letting disaster strike twice for these Oklahomans as costs continue to grow and existing local budgets are depleted by these repairs.”
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Gumm Continues Effort to Close Sex Offender Loophole

Oklahoma State Senate
Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant
State Capitol Room 535A
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
(405) 521-5586


Sen. Jay Paul Gumm on Thursday successfully amended House Bill 1025 to include language closing a loophole that would allow sex offenders to use ice cream trucks to come into contact with children. Gumm previously authored Senate Bill 1147 to criminalize the operation of an ice cream truck by a sex offender, but the legislation has stalled in the House of Representatives.

The proposal would require vendors to obtain and display an operating permit through the State Department of Health. Gumm said he would use every legislative tool at his disposal to ensure the Legislature takes action on the issue.

“The fact that convicted sex offenders can use ice cream trucks to come into close contact with children represents a significant flaw in our sex offender laws,” said Gumm, D-Durant. “I’m disappointed that the House has yet to act on this issue, particularly after we’ve seen this same loophole become a major problem in other states. We should not wait until a tragedy occurs.”

Gumm said the measure was drafted in response to a number of high profile cases throughout the country. Similar legislation has been approved by state legislatures in Tennessee and California.

The bill would establish a penalty of up to two and a half years in prison for sex offenders who engage in ice cream truck vending. Additionally, the measure would establish a $500 fine for operating an ice cream truck without displaying the appropriate vending permit.

“We need to consider every potential safeguard to protect our children from sexual predators,” Gumm said. “With vendors having such easy access to children, we can’t be too careful. I’ll continue fighting to ensure that precautions are in place.”

The measure will now return to the House for final consideration.

For more information contact: Sen. Gumm's Office: 405-521-5586

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Senate Breathes Life into Autism Insurance Coverage Proposal

The State of Oklahoma
Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston & Marshall Counties

April 14, 2009

Contact: Senator Jay Paul Gumm
State Capitol: (405) 521-5586
Durant Office: (580) 924-2221
Mobile: (580) 920-6990

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate breathed life into a proposal to provide insurance coverage for children with autism.

An amendment was attached to House Bill 2027, House leadership’s bill to train more therapists. The amendment, enacted without debate, would require the Oklahoma Health Insurance High Risk Pool (OHRP) to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism consistent with what has become known as “Nick’s Law.”

“Just like there is nothing wrong with a pack of shingles at a construction site, there is nothing wrong with the original bill,” said Senator Jay Paul Gumm, a Democrat from Durant who originally sponsored autism insurance legislation. “But you cannot put on the shingles before you pour the foundation.

“The Senate, today, poured the foundation and created comprehensive bill that offers a glimmer of hope to families struggling to care for their children with autism.”

The Oklahoma Health Insurance High Risk Pool was created by the Oklahoma Legislature in 1995 to provide access to health insurance coverage to all residents of the state who are unable to obtain individual health insurance.

The pool charges premiums for its insurance, just as traditional health insurers do, according to information from the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Premiums could seem high because they are not partially paid by an employer. However, the premiums will be no more than 50 percent above standard health insurance rates.

Because the Pool covers high-risk people, it incurs a higher level of claims than premiums can cover. The insurance industry pays into the pool to make up the difference and help it remain viable.

“The High Risk Pool was designed to be the insurer of last resort,” said Gumm. “It seems to be a perfect compromise between those who oppose a mandate on all insurance companies and those of us who support ending insurance discrimination against children with autism.

“We who have fought for ‘Nick’s Law’ have always been willing to compromise, to find common ground. I believe there is a strong desire to help these families – we simply have to find a comprehensive way that really helps these families rather than simply ease political pressure. The amended bill does just that.”

The bill, with Gumm’s amendment, was approved by the Senate on a unanimous 48-0 vote. The measure is destined for a conference committee where a final version will be developed.

People to Decide Statewide Office Term Limits

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 14, 2009) – Oklahomans will have the option to stop politicians from becoming entrenched in office following House passage of statewide term limits legislation today.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 12 would let the people decide whether to limit terms of office for most statewide elected officials. The change, which would amend the state Constitution, requires a vote of the people. Following passage in the House today, and the Senate previously, the legislation now proceeds to the Secretary of State for ballot assignment.

“The people decided overwhelmingly more than 15 years ago to limit the number of years a state legislator can serve because they believe an elected official should be a servant of the people. The voters want their leaders to make a sacrifice to serve the people, and then go and live under the laws they helped enact,” said Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie and House author of the bill with Senator Randy Brogden, R-Owasso. “Prior to legislative term limits, many career politicians were an elite class who made their life in politics. The people of Oklahoma want their leaders to be citizen legislators who stay in touch with the real world.”

Currently, state lawmakers are limited to 12 years in office, and the governor is restricted to serving two consecutive, four year terms. SJR 12 would instead limit the governor to serve no more than eight cumulative years in office.

That same eight total years rule would also apply to the Lt. Gov, State Auditor and Inspector, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Commissioner of Labor, Superintendent of Public Instruction and Insurance Commissioner, all of whom serve 4-year terms.

The resolution also would limit anyone from serving as Corporation Commissioner for more than a total of 12 years.

“Since term limits were approved by the people for the state Legislature, there is increasingly a wide mix of backgrounds and careers found at the state Capitol,” said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. “This change will ensure fresh faces and new ideas are continuously entering the political process.”

The resolution passed the House today with a bipartisan vote of 69-29.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Open Door Policy - April 6, 2009

I want to start off this week by reminding everyone of the Apache Rattlesnake Hunt April 16 -19th. I hope you will have the chance to attend. I will be there and look forward to having some fun as this is a great annual festival that is very family-friendly. I am also having Lasik surgery on my eyes on Friday, so keep me in your thoughts and prayers that it is successful.

I have been busy with reading bills over the past few weeks and have also had the chance to visit with many folks from back home while they have been at the Capitol. We had over 50 bills considered in the Appropriations and Budget committee on Monday and the schedule will be the same for the next committee meeting on Thursday. We also considered Senate Bill 834, which was voted out of the Common Education committee on a straight party vote (Republicans for the bill, Democrats against it). I had the chance to speak to a group of teachers in Chickasha on Thursday along with Sen. Ron Justice about this bill. I feel this bill goes too far with deregulation of schools and will provide too many problems at the local level, and also has the chance to reduce the amount the state appropriates to common education in the future.

Dr. John Feaver from USAO and Dr. Cindy Ross from Cameron University were present at a reception honoring the Nigh Scholars, which has one student selected from each college in the state to serve in a leadership program throughout the year. Colin Lowe, a graduate of Ninnekah High School, is in this current class.

On another note involving Ninnekah, I was pleased to have Annesha Kirk serve as a page for me at the Capitol. She had the opportunity to participate in the mock legislature for the pages and worked very hard Sunday through Thursday for the House of Representatives.

We also celebrated the Centennial of Oklahoma 4-H at the Capitol and I had the pleasure of having lunch with Jenna Murray from Fletcher and Nicole Ashton of Elgin . Another event that occurred on Monday was a dinner reception with local representatives from the various rural electric cooperatives on Monday night and I was able to visit with each of them while they were in Oklahoma City.

There were also several groups associated with career technology programs at the Capitol last week. I had the chance to visit with the Skills USA program from Canadian Valley Career Tech and the Leadership class with Great Plains Technology Center . These students are outstanding leaders and will each have a bright future once they finish up school.

This past weekend was also pretty busy as I attended both the Grady County and Comanche County Democratic Party meetings. I will be serving as the chair of Grady County until a permanent chair is selected, so I look forward to helping organize the group and getting more young people involved in the process. I also attended the National Wild Turkey Federation banquet in Chickasha and the Armed Services YMCA fund raising breakfast in Lawton.

On a final note, I had a chance to attend the Oklahoma City Thunder game on Sunday with my niece, Sarah Wheeler, and her two children, Bekah and Tristan. It was Tristan's birthday on Saturday and he is now a teenager, so Happy Birthday!

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, April 12, 2009

Adding Even More Debt

Last week, the House approved the issuance of new long-term debt to finance a dam project on the Arkansas River in the Tulsa area. This means that each year, more of your money will be added to the millions of tax payer dollars that are tied down to paying debt and debt interest.

You may remember that last year the Legislature approved a major debt package in the last few days of the legislative session. The Tulsa dam project was one of the issues in this bill. Since that time, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has held that the debt bill was unconstitutional because it "log-rolled" more than one issue into the bill.

I feel that the Court should have also held the bill unconstitutional because it did not allow the people to vote on the bond issuance, which I believe is probably required by our state Constitution in this instance.

In the case of the Tulsa dam project, it is especially egregious because this local project should not involve state dollars. I don't think taxpayers in Logan and Oklahoma Counties should be forced to pay for years on a project that is specific to the Tulsa area. If Tulsa taxpayers want a project in their area, they should pay local taxes for that project.

In fact, the voters in Tulsa were asked to vote on a similar project and they turned it down. So now, unlike some of the recent MAPS improvement projects in the Oklahoma City area which were been paid for with local tax dollars, this key Tulsa area improvement project will be paid for by all Oklahomans.

Adding more debt is especially unwise in a fiscal down year. This debt problem has hit especially close to home this year when the state government will be cutting agency budgets because of the downturn. Recently, agencies’ officials testified to legislative committees about where they would make cuts if the economic downturn forces them to cut their budgets by 5%. Those agencies burdened with long-term debt simply point to the fact that they cannot legally cut their bond payments. In fact, a 5% cut might be more like a 10% to 15% cut in discretionary revenue. In other words, as we have gone through time and more debt has been added to the state government, the ability to shrink government becomes inhibited.

I suppose voters might be able to find comfort in the fact that compared to the federal level counterparts, the long term debt incurrence at the state level is minuscule by comparison.

One of my favorite quotes is from ancient Roman times. "The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." In today's world, a great majority of the people have bought into the philosophy that the incurrence of unnecessary debt is no longer something that should be avoided at all costs. I very much disagree with this, and believe that as a society we will pay a heavy price due to the lack of fiscal discipline of our elected officials.

I remain committed to voting against all proposals that incur new debt.

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.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Governor Signs Bill to Honor Soliders Lost in War on Terror

The State of Oklahoma
Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston & Marshall Counties

April 6, 2009

Contact: Senator Jay Paul Gumm
State Capitol: (405) 521-5586
Durant Office: (580) 924-2221
Mobile: (580) 920-6990
For digital audio, go to and select “News”

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Brad Henry has signed Senate Bill 712 into law. Senator Jay Paul Gumm is the principal author the legislation which would require the governor to order flags on state property to be flown at half-staff on the day of the memorial service for Oklahomans who are killed in combat.

In addition, all state agencies, interested organizations, groups and individuals would be authorized and requested to fly the flag at half staff. The director of the Department of Central Services is charged with implementing the new law.

The bill was a request from a young man who served as a Senate Page during Gumm’s first year in the Senate. Army National Guard Sgt. Todd Anderson of Tishomingo emailed Senator Gumm last fall from Iraq and suggested the legislation.

“Oklahomans have always led the nation win it comes to serving the armed services,” Gumm said. “Sgt. Anderson represents the courage and commitment of these young men and women to their country and to one another, and it is been my privilege to be able to help his vision become a reality.”

The new law becomes effective on July 1, 2009. The House author of SB 712 is Representative Paul Roan, D-Tishomingo.

“Our entire community of Tishomingo is proud of Todd, his service to our country, and his desire to honor those Oklahomans who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Roan said. “I hope that every time we see one of our flags at half-staff, we’ll remember the life, service, dedication and patriotism this gesture represents.”

Mary Anderson, of Tishomingo, said she was extremely proud of her son, Todd, who has completed his tour of duty and resumed his studies in science education at the University of Oklahoma. Todd Anderson said he had no idea when he emailed Senator Gumm that his idea was going to wind up in a bill, much less become a law.

“I think it’s absolutely phenomenal that he ran with the idea, submitted it as a bill. I had no clue that this was going on until I heard it had passed the Senate,” Anderson said, who said he thought of the idea while he was in Bagdad and had heard news of the deaths of Oklahoma soldiers. “I was sitting there thinking...what could be done to honor these soldiers in a way that goes beyond the standard memorial service ...the one thing that kept popping into my mind was for flags to be flown at half-staff.”

Senator Gumm said he would invite Sgt. Anderson to attend a ceremonial bill signing for SB 712 later this year. Anderson said he would be happy to attend, and says his experience as a page with Senator Gumm had inspired him, and hoped at some point to become involved in government in some way.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Moral Imperative

One of the more misunderstood issues in Oklahoma is that of charter schools. This is probably the first year since I have been in the House of Representatives that no debate has centered around the creation of charter schools, although it appears there will be much debate around a bill that would allow public schools to operate under the same lack of state auspices as charter schools.

Currently there are approximately 13 of these schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and I have come to the conclusion that very few people actually realize the exciting details surrounding these success stories.

Consider one example of a successful charter school. Six years ago, the F.D. Moon Academy in Oklahoma City was the lowest performing school in the state. Five years later, in the very same building, students of KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Charter School produced some of the highest tests scores in Oklahoma, despite tremendous social and economic challenges.

KIPP eighth-grade students dominated the 2006 Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT), with 100 percent passing both the state math and writing tests and 97 percent of KIPP students passing the state reading test. This compares to the statewide average of 72 percent of eighth graders passing the math test and 59 percent of Oklahoma City students passing it. That year, the average Academic Performance Index (API) score for all Oklahoma students was 1180. The average score for Oklahoma City students was 1006. Students attending KIPP averaged 1393 out of 1500, which surpassed even Oklahoma City’s Classen School of Advanced Studies, the 17th best high school in the country, according to Newsweek magazine. Records indicate that 73 percent of those who enter KIPP at the fifth grade level read at third grade level or lower, but by the time students reach eighth grade, 97 percent are passing the state reading test.

KIPP students attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and twice monthly on Saturdays. As a college preparatory school, KIPP focuses on producing students who will graduate not only from 12th grade, but college as well.

In an Oklahoman story, a KIPP student was quoted as saying, “Before, my dream was basketball or something like that. Now I want to be a businessman and KIPP helped me set my goal.”

Fifty KIPP academies have been established nationwide. Charter schools such as these represent an exciting trend toward reversing the failures of inner city common education.

Considering the phenomenal track record of this, who would oppose such schooling?

A few years ago, in an obvious attempt to end such success, the Tulsa School Board took action to declare a moratorium on the establishment of any new charter schools. In response, Democrat State Representative Jabar Shumate, who represents an impoverished part of Tulsa, courageously submitted legislation that would have permitted higher education institutions and city councils in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties to allow charter schools in those counties. Shumate claimed that residents of his district want more of these innovative schools and believe they have a positive impact on students and families.

I admired Shumate's effort and believe it is immoral for the state government to keep kids trapped in dangerous and failing inner city public schools when it is now clear that they can succeed in the charter school environment. I feel it is important for Oklahomans to realize the exciting opportunities afforded to Oklahoma children by these organizations.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for April 3-9, 2009

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everyone! Every session of the Legislature, we see bills that may sound like good ideas on the surface. The deeper you study, however, the worse these bills become.

This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee – on a straight party-line vote with Republicans voting “yes” and Democrats voting “no” – gave its approval to what may be the worst bill I have ever seen in all my years at the Capitol. The bill is a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that, on the surface, sounds fairly reasonable.

The proposal says that the Legislature shall not be required to use a “predetermined formula of any kind” when writing budgets. On its face, that is not a bad idea. We learn in government class that the top job of the legislative branch of government is writing budgets.

Where this idea goes horribly wrong is in the first words of this proposed amendment to our Constitution. The proposal begins with the words, “Notwithstanding any other provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution to the contrary…”

That would set this one amendment up to be superior to the every other section of the Oklahoma Constitution. Oklahoma’s balanced budget amendment is a “predetermined formula”; the restrictions voters have put on us to raise taxes is a “predetermined formula.”

In a single stroke, this unprecedented power grab would wipe out our balanced budget amendment and restrictions on the Legislature’s ability to raise taxes. It might even prohibit this section from ever be amended or repealed by voters in the future.

In all of state history, we have never seen legislative leaders attempt to consolidate so much power into its own hands. It is shocking, it is frightening, and it is a slap in the face to every voter in this state.

Everyone knows the target of this proposal. An education organization has gathered enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to put more money into public schools. That would put in our constitution a “predetermined formula” that this legislative power grab would trump.

Clearly, legislative leaders behind this power grab think voters might support the education funding proposal. Instead of trusting the people to make the right decision, legislative leaders decided to use sleight-of-hand in a pitiful attempt to overrule what may or may not be the people’s will.

It is not too late to stop this power grab in the Legislature. Even if it passes there, thankfully, Oklahomans would have the final say on it. Only the people have the power to amend the Constitution. However, the fact this bill has already passed the House and made it through a Senate committee should concern every Oklahoman.

That is why we must dig deeper into every bill. Only by learning their true intentions can we stop measures to empower legislative leaders at the expense of Oklahomans.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The week has been picking up with the consideration of more bills on the House floor and more of the controversial bills being heard in the committees. I expect we will be spending some longer hours considering bills during the full House of Representatives sessions each day as we approach our second six-week deadline.
With my legislation coming over from the Senate, I have yet to have a hearing on a bill. I have bills dealing with the creation of a children's cabinet, a restriction to prevent sex offenders from working on ice cream trucks and a bill to modify restrictions on selecting programs within teachers retirement should marital status change. The one piece of legislation heard so far is the resolution that selects the state rock song. This helps promote the exhibit established through the Oklahoma History Center to honor that genre and performers here in our state.
There was a rally regarding Senate Bill 834 at the capitol where I was asked to speak in opposition to this bill. This would deregulate the local schools as far as allowing districts to set class size and hire teachers without certification. I have received more emails on this bill than any other this session and feel it will set a bad policy, especially in these severe budget times. I support local control, but not at the expense of quality education. This bill will be considered in committee this week.
Another issue which I am trying to assist with is Health Choice, the state insurance group, not processing claims in a timely manner for their medical providers. Apparently, EDS, the group which is the claims processor for Health Choice, is drastically behind on reimbursements to medical and dental providers, therefore causing many to take out loans to keep their businesses running. Several legislators are requesting action through legislative or legal means to bring these accounts current and hold EDS accountable for these actions. I will continue to work with Reps. Doug Cox and Cory Williams on this issue.
I had many visitors stop by the capitol this past week. I was honored to see Jag Sodhi of Lavender Valley Acres and Pete McDaniel and Paul Jackson of American Farmers and Ranchers visit on Conservation Day. I also had the Elgin 4-H stop by the House and I was able to visit with them for about an hour and answer questions about the legislative process. Canadian Valley Career Tech's leadership class also took a tour of the capitol and I was able to visit with them while on their visit.
Finally, I wish to extend a "thank you" to Carolyn Doyle and Chad Hagermann for serving as office aides for me at the Capitol. They did a fantastic job and helped me a great deal. Chad was also participating in a program established by State School Superintendent Sandy Garrett to reduce drop-out rates on students. Both of these Elgin High School students are fantastic leaders and are heavily involved in school activities. I was honored to have them work at the House of Representatives.
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.

Photo Cutline: Carrie Doyle and Chad Hagermann at the State Capitol with Rep. Joe Dorman