Monday, June 29, 2009

Secretive Tax Credit Program to Come Under Legislative Review

If you have read my articles in the past, you know that I am a strong opponent of special perks and that I oppose efforts to build special loopholes into the tax code for a privileged few. I am happy to be able to report that one of the most secretive of these programs is about to receive some legislative review.

This type welfare takes place when the Legislature passes laws which financially benefit certain interests by creating a complicated scheme that enriches the proponents of the plan. Usually, advocates of these efforts carefully craft their arguments, claiming that if the Legislature provides them with special incentives, a massive amount of economic development will occur. This argument puts pressure on other legislators to support the incentive, since they do not want to be seen as voting against economic development.

Their legislation is created in a manner much like this:

a) Those who want to benefit from big government hire a powerful lobbying firm which has built strong relations with legislators by spending time with them, investing in their campaigns and providing them with personal gifts like free meals or entertainment;

b) Those lobbyists help draft the plan into law and utilize their relationships with powerful legislators to sponsor the legislation;

c) This legislation may be introduced late in the legislative session when few legislators understand what is being proposed and have very little time to understand the legislation's impact.

The people who are hurt the most by these schemes are Oklahoma small businesses owners who cannot afford to hire powerful lobbyists to build a special loophole in the law. These business still have to pay a high tax rate without benefitting from the special perks. Instead of paying for the creation of special loopholes, the state government should focus on reducing taxes across the board for Oklahoma individuals and businesses. It is this policy that will result in true economic development and will make it harder to the powerful to use the tax code as a way to achieve personal enrichment.

One of the most dangerous of the special perks is that of the state's transferable tax credit program. The reason this program is so dangerous is because it is very difficult to see who is claiming the millions of dollars to these credits which can then be sold to and claimed by a third party. These credits can be claimed and filtered through a number of LLC's which make it rather difficult to know who is benefiting and if these credits are really creating jobs, as their proponents would claim.

This year, Rep. David Dank and Senator Randy Brogdon, both outspoken critic of transferable tax credits, have won approval for a task force to conduct a study of the credits. The study should occur over the next few months and hopefully will be a starting point to allow people the opportunity to know who is using this program to benefit at the cost of the rest of the taxpayers. I think it is a great credit to Oklahoma's legislative leaders for allowing this important study to go forward.

I continue to believe that a strong majority of Oklahomans prefer small government and low taxation for all, as opposed to heavy taxation with loopholes for the privileged.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for June 26-July 2, 2009

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everyone! During my legislative career, I have maintained an unswerving belief that we should honor and respect those who served in the Armed Forces.

As America prepares to celebrate Independence Day, we must remember our independence as a nation – and the freedom we enjoy as a birthright – has been bought and paid for with the sacrifice of angels in uniform. Oklahomans owe our military veterans a debt that can never be repaid.

During my service as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, the Legislature provided important tax benefits for many of our veterans. Among those was a sales tax exemption for veterans with a 100 percent, service-connected disability, as well as vehicle and property tax breaks. I was proud to sponsor these benefits for veterans.

Few states in this nation do as much for veterans as we do here in Oklahoma. I believe, however, there is more we must do. One of the areas in which I believe we have not done enough is on an issue particularly sensitive to our newest veterans and their families.

For years now, a fringe group out of Kansas has made it their mission to protest at the funerals of soldiers who gave their last full measure of devotion on the fields of battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. The heartless, uncaring and selfish actions by this fringe group makes the worst day imaginable even more difficult for the families of these heroes.

The state took an initially aggressive response to the foolish actions of this misguided group. The Legislature passed a law banning protests at funerals from one hour before the service until one hour after the service. Further, the protests must be at least 500 feet away from the location of the service.

After the fringe group protested the funeral of a soldier from my district, I introduced legislation extending that protest ban to three hours before and after the service and the distance to 1,500 feet. After passing the Senate with ease, the measure – like so many others – was stalled in the House of Representatives.

I requested an interim study to examine the advantages of adopting my legislation. My hope is to gather enough objective evidence to hopefully spur the leadership of the House of Representatives to do what most Oklahomans believe is the simply right thing to do.

A good measure of my commitment to veterans comes from values instilled in me by my mother, Harlene Taylor Gumm. Mom’s job, for most of my life, was as a veterans’ service office for the American Legion in Durant.

Even today, more than a dozen years after her passing, veterans come up to me and tell me how she helped them. My commitment to veterans is one of the gifts Mom gave to me; it is a commitment that will never change.

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

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gumm Wins Approval for Key Senate Studies

OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Jay Paul Gumm has won approval for several interim studies on high profile legislative issues, many of which would improve access to medical care for thousands of citizens in his district.

“Interim studies help us do critical research and analysis on issues that may be considered in the coming legislative session, as well as allowing an opportunity for input by experts in specific fields as well as public hearings,” Gumm said. “These studies allow us to hit the ground running when the session begins in February with concrete evidence to support the benefit of legislation action.”

Gumm, a Democrat from Durant, won approval for seven interim studies—more than any other member of the Senate. Two of the studies deal with autism; the first will examine using the Oklahoma High Risk Health Insurance Pool to cover autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and treatment. The second is a study on the economic impact of autism insurance mandates.

“I have vowed to continue the fight for greater access to autism diagnosis and treatment for Oklahoma families struggling with this disorder,” Gumm said. “The key to passage – as we have seen other states do – is to get to the facts.

“I am confident if we can peel away partisan politics and look at the true costs and benefits, we will know for certain that autism insurance coverage is consistent with Oklahoma’s values.”
Gumm’s other studies include:

· An examination of the cost and benefit of providing assisted living benefits;
· The cost and benefits of funding the Umbilical Cord Blood Bank, established by a bill he wrote and passed two years ago;
· Examining of increasing the time before and after a funeral when protests are prohibited, as well as increasing the distance;
· The cost and benefit of creating a Children’s Cabinet; and,
· The cost and benefit of allowing a Medicaid Income Pension Trust to ensure elderly Oklahomans do not lose nursing home benefits.

“These are issues that clearly deserve in-depth study,” he said. “I have great faith that each of these policy initiatives will directly benefit not only people right here in my district, but throughout Oklahoma. In the long run, these initiatives will help Oklahoma’s economy by insuring a better quality of life for citizens and those yet unborn.”

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reducing Some of the Waste in Government Spending

During the last two weeks, I have written about two unfortunate aspects of this year's session. First, property tax reform was not allowed to take place and second, stimulus dollars thwarted an excellent opportunity to significantly shrink the size of state government.

That does not change the fact that there is a lot of good news resulting from this year's legislative work.

Early in the year, legislative leadership in the House and Senate committed to reforming and streamlining government functions in order to eliminate obvious inefficiencies and save taxpayer dollars through the application of new technologies.

Because of their commitment, many of the streamlining concepts were successfully presented and signed into law in the form of House Bill 1032 (Omnibus Modernization) and House Bill 1170 (IT Streamlining).

There were a number of very good concepts in these bills, namely: enhancing transparency (which I plan to write about very soon), attempting to stop agencies from passing on unfair fee increases, and reorganizing purchasing and IT infrastructure in order to save money.

These bills have the potential to save millions of taxpayer dollars that would have otherwise been unnecessarily wasted. The only reason they were successful was because legislative leadership, working in partnership with the Governor, stuck to their guns and ensured passage despite some legislative and agency level opposition.

In doing so, legislative leaders were able to trim off some of the obvious waste of taxpayer dollars.

In my view, this was the logical starting place for shrinking the size of government. If we had not been successful in reducing the obvious inefficiencies, it would have been impossible to take on those reforms which will be more comprehensive and difficult to achieve.

Many of the ideas originated from a study on government modernization commissioned by former Speaker Lance Cargill and current House Appropriations Chairman Ken Miller in 2007. It has taken two legislative years to win approval of the reform observed during that study.

During the legislative interim, I will be asking the Speaker of the House to allow the House committee which I chair to hold several interim studies so that we can study the suggestions to be incorporated in a new round of money-saving legislation.

In the meantime, I would very much appreciate your suggestions and observations on saving taxpayer dollars and reducing some of the waste in government. Your observations are vital to having the necessary information to confront and eliminate that waste.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Open Door Policy - June 2 & 9, 2009

June 9, 2009
It is a sad time around the State Capitol as we lost one of our coworkers this past weekend. Ashley Pena, the legislative assistant to Rep. Don Armes, passed away from injuries sustained from an accident. She was in the hospital for over a week and went through various surgeries, but the accident was too severe. Ashley was a vibrant young woman who greeted everyone with a smile. I had the chance to visit with her many times at work and outside the Capitol and enjoyed being around her. She will be missed by all her family and friends at the State Capitol and please keep her family in your prayers.

It was a busy weekend in District 65 as I saw many friends at local fundraisers and events over the past few days. The Fort Sill Fire Department held a successful fundraiser on Friday, the Chickasha Cheerleaders also were raising money on Saturday and Lavender Valley Acres held their annual festival just outside of Apache. Saturday evening, I spoke to the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) program in Stillwater about networking and I will speak to the new campers this upcoming weekend also.

I scratched my eye and had to spend Saturday afternoon at an eye doctor, but it seems to be getting better. I appreciate my fellow Rotarian, Chad Linville of Chickasha, for driving both of us to Stillwater that night as I was not allowed to drive by my doctor. It was a fantastic group of young people and I would highly recommend it for students to check with their local Rotary clubs about future camps.

This upcoming weekend, I will be speaking to various youth groups other than RYLA. Youth Leadership Oklahoma is at the Capitol and I will discuss the legislative process with them. I will also visit with the Future Business Leaders of America officers about Parliamentary procedure. I truly enjoy the opportunity to visit with these students from around our sate and look forward to them moving into leadership roles for Oklahoma in the very near future.

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.

June 2, 2009

The session has finally concluded and the legislators are back in their districts waiting to see which bills Governor Henry will sign and which will be vetoed. Oklahoma has a system similar to the federal government, but with some modification. Any bill passed by the legislature prior to the final five days must be acted upon by the governor, or it will automatically become law through pocket passage. Bills passed in the final five days switch to a system of pocket veto, which allows the governor fifteen days to act upon them or they will automatically be vetoed at the end of that period.

Legislators can return in the second session of the legislature and attempt an override of those bills which were vetoed. The same cannot occur during the second session as we will be in the election cycle at that point and a new legislature will be sworn in and bills must be filed in a new term for another attempt.

Another job duty for legislators is to study issues over the summer and fall for ideas which could become potential bills. When these occur by an official request, as approved by the Speaker and a call by a committee chair, the issue will be researched by our staff and presented at a meeting. These requests are called interim studies and each representative is allowed ten requests. The submissions I will make this summer are:

1. Emergency management funding for disasters and how this occurs in other states;
2. Traffic light activation by sensors on side roads off highways to allow for changes and potential federal funding;
3. Prison reintegration systems in other states and how Oklahoma compares;
4. Assessment of youth programs in Oklahoma, duplication of services by state agencies and similarities in other states, along with drop-out prevention policies for local schools;
5. Business incubator systems, effectiveness and similar programs in other states;
6. Efficiency, effectiveness and cost of rural firefighter training;
7. Updates on Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts in Oklahoma;
8. Potential program for cost share and maintenance of adjoining fence lines on property in Oklahoma;
9. Provisions for rural water use for emergencies in municipalities; and
10. Review of laws regarding contracting of services by board members and potential bidding procedures.

Should you want to attend any of these studies, if they are approved, please contact my office and I will make sure you know of the date in which they are scheduled. All interim studies which are approved will be listed on the Oklahoma House of Representatives website ( once the Speaker of the House decides which will be selected. The committee chairs over the specific studies will also need to decide if a hearing will be granted, so I will be in contact with them once the Speaker gives approval.

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.

Open Door Policy - June 15, 2009

I had a fun day on Saturday as that I had the chance to watch the filming of a major motion picture that is shooting in Oklahoma City and Guthrie. This is a great business opportunity for our state and brings in a boost to our economy. This was assisted by tax credits the legislature has passed in recent years and which we elevated this past year in our omnibus tax bill. I wanted to take the opportunity this week to discuss a little more about that bill.
Senate Bill 318, which I coauthored and debated for this past session, restructured many tax policies for the state. I will run through a few of the key sections of the bill:
Section 1 establishes for county decals on vehicle tags to allow for easier identification of where a vehicle is registered. This goes back to the way the tags used to be issued and has been requested by many citizens for years to switch back to that system;
Sections 2 and 3 authorize the disclosure of names of persons via an Internet website who owe delinquent taxes, including interest, penalties and fees of more than $25,000. People will be notified by mail 90 days before being placed on the website. This has been a successful program in other states for collecting overdue taxes from individuals;
Section 4 amends the OTC mailing procedures for updating of addresses;
Section 5 allows for the contracting with a debt collection agency for delinquent taxes;
Section 6 allows for funds to be placed into a computer enhancement fund;
Section 7 exempts rural irrigation districts, conservancy districts and master conservancy districts from motor fuel taxes;
Section 8 extends existing sales tax exemption for conservancy districts to subcontractors of such districts for construction projects;
Section 9 allows investment tax credits to be used even if there is a change in the corporate structure to help avoid refiling of paperwork;
Section 10 provides Oklahoma will decouple from the federal stimulus package as it relates to:
*Expansion of net operating losses;
*Increase of small business expensing;
*Income tax deduction for motor vehicle excise tax paid in 2009; and
*Exemption for unemployed benefits.
Section 10 also includes language which will exempt the requirement of payment on income taxes for premium checks earned by 4-H and FFA students up to $600 by classifying those as scholarships;
Section 11 decouples the state from the stimulus package for bonus depreciation;
Section 12 provides that beginning on March 1, 2010; certain employers will remit payments to the state consistent with their federal requirement under the Federal Semiweekly Deposit Schedule;
Section 13 provides a waiver of the payroll requirement for certain entities relating to an ad valorem exemption;
Section 14 modifies the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program, including expansion of rebates of certain expenses from 17% to 35% made to production companies to attract more films to our state and lowers the minimum budget requrirement;
Section 15, 16 and 17 relate to the wine and grape industry in Oklahoma by creating the Oklahoma Viticulture and Enology Center Development Revolving Fund and dedicating funding from the apportionment of certain excise tax of alcoholic beverages, not to exceed $350,000. These sections also establish a Viticulture and Enology Center at an Oklahoma college, develop education programs, develop technologies to aid grape and wine production and increase the positive economic impact on the Oklahoma wine industry;
Section 18 authorizes a study relating to state and local communications taxes;
Sections 19 and 20 exempt irrigation districts and conservancy districts from motor fuel excise taxes; and
Section 21 provides a market equalization assessment payable by Compsource to the General Revenue Fund.
I'm sorry I did not have more room to give greater detail in regards to this legislation. Should you desire a copy of the bill, or any other bill, you can get them at the House website ( ) or you can contact my office and we can get one to you. While I do not agree with every section, I think the overall impact of this will be good for our state.
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.

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everyone! One of the most important functions of state government is to do everything possible to protect Oklahomans from those who would harm us.
In the past 15 years, the technology available to investigate and prosecute crimes has improved dramatically. As anyone knows who watches crime dramas on television, DNA identification is as important today as fingerprints were a generation ago.

As we have seen advances in investigative technology, it is important that state law keep up with the science. An important step in the right direction was creation in the 1990s of the state’s DNA database of offenders.

My good friend, Bryan County’s former state Rep. James Dunegan, was the House author of that original bill. Within months of passage of that original bill, a heinous multiple murder in Oklahoma City was solved when DNA evidence matched evidence from that gruesome crime scene with a criminal behind bars in California.

A more recent example of how that technology is helping solve crimes was the tragic case of OU ballet student Julie Buskin. She was murdered in 1996 and the case had gone cold. A few years ago, the original DNA database was expanded to include more criminals, a match occurred with the Buskin crime scene and her killer was identified and convicted.

This year, I helped Sen. Jonathan Nichols, a Republican from Norman, to pass a bill named in Ms. Buskin’s memory. Julie’s Law adds new misdemeanor crimes to those that can result in the harvesting of DNA. The DNA would only be collected upon conviction of those crimes.

Crimes being added to those that can result in DNA collection include outraging public decency, peeping tom and resisting arrest. The bill also has been amended to require the collection of DNA from illegal aliens who are arrested in Oklahoma and then are to be deported.

The more criminals whose DNA profiles are included in the database, the more crimes will be solved. That is not just my belief; it a strong belief shared by many in law enforcement.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) is charged with collecting DNA profiles and entering them into the Combined DNA Index System – the “CODIS” mentioned almost every week on the “CSI” television shows.

As we were working to gather the votes to pass the bill, OSBI weighed on how important the new law would be. “The expansion of the DNA database means more crimes will be solved and will also prevent crime in the future,” said Jessica Brown, OSBI Public Information Officer.

The bill was passed and signed into law by the governor last month. Just as fingerprints revolutionized criminal investigations in the early 20th century, so has DNA evidence today. The more criminals in the database, the more crimes will be solved – and prevented – making Oklahoma an even safer state for our families.

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

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Stimulus Nightmare

Earlier this year, I wrote about this year's state budget shortfall and explained how I thought the shortfall would provide an excellent opportunity for state government to get smaller. I felt that the shortfall would force state government to cut the most wasteful and inappropriate functions.

Many of the residents of my house district can articulate their belief that government is wasteful with our tax dollars. I agree with them and see a budget shortfall as the perfect tool to make politicians and bureaucrats cut some of this waste.

For example, during one budget committee meeting hearing this year, a state agency testified that by rearranging some office space and giving up a conference room, they were able to realize $40,000 savings per year in rent fees. The way I see it, budget shortfalls which rid state government of $40,000 conference rooms are a huge blessing.

During the next economic upturn when state revenues will once again increase, it was my hope that conservative legislative leaders would return the increased revenue back to the people in the form of tax reduction instead of using the money to once again grow government. The result of the downturn which forced spending reductions, coupled with tax relief during the upturn, would be a smaller, more efficient state government. I am convinced that over the next few years, this simple strategy would be effective in returning government to a much more limited role.

Earlier in the legislative year, it appeared that this was about to occur. As the economic shortfall worsened and state government revenues dropped, state leaders were under the gun and facing tremendous pressure to take the necessary steps to start reducing state government spending.

Then everything changed as the federal stimulus money started becoming available. Because of this funding, not only did state government not get smaller this year, it will actually spend slightly more money.

It is hard to tell how many strings are going to be attached to the stimulus funding. For instance, in order for Oklahoma to accept stimulus money for one state agency, the state had to loosen its unemployment funding eligibility criteria, even though Oklahoma's eligibility guidelines are already extremely liberal. Once a program like this is expanded, it will be very difficult to shrink it back down to the appropriate size.

This is why I maintained a policy this year of voting against budget bills where it was apparent that stimulus money was being received. Not only has the stimulus greatly harmed the future of our nation, it has also made it much more difficult to eliminate waste in state governments all across our country.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for June 12-18, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY – Hello again, everybody! The 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature will be remembered for both successes and failures.

Completing a budget that avoided serious cuts in the most important of state services has to be considered a success of this session. That success would not have been possible without federal stimulus dollars.

Federal stimulus dollars saved education –the largest function of state government – from serious cuts in a year of declining state revenues. While the budget for education was protected, the budget overall – like last year’s budget – was crafted without much creativity.

A failure in the budget discussion was the House of Representatives’ refusal to consider a proposal to protect nursing home benefits for hundreds of elderly Oklahomans. A situation exists that could force hundreds of senior citizens out of nursing homes through no fault of their own.

Because of automatic cost-of-living adjustments some seniors get in teachers’ retirement benefits and Social Security, hundreds of Oklahomans could lose Medicaid nursing home benefits. Eligibility limits generally are not being adjusted because of budget concerns.

Keep in mind, these “cost-of-living” adjustments are just that: designed to cover the increased cost of simply living. The financial situation of these seniors is not being improved by these modest increases.

This is a classic government “Catch-22” situation. The cost-of-living increases are supposed to help those getting them; in fact, the increases have the potential to seriously harm those seniors getting them.

I proposed a bill allowing seniors in that situation to use Medicaid Income Pension Trusts. This would allow seniors receiving nursing home benefits to remain eligible for those benefits. The plan had a slight cost to the state – $4 million – but would have attracted an additional $8 million in federal assistance for seniors who need it.

Despite passing the Senate on an overwhelming bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives leadership – as they do on so many critical issues to help Oklahomans – simply ignored it. In effect, they turned their back on seniors, ignoring a critical problem that – if left unaddressed – could devastate senior Oklahomans and their families.

I refuse to give up on these senior citizens. During the summer and fall, I will continue working with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to address this problem. If there is a way to correct this situation without an act of the Legislature, I will do everything possible to find it.

Further, I have requested the president pro tempore of the Senate authorize an interim study on the issue to look at both the costs and benefits of enacting a solution. My intent is to shine a very bright light on this problem – one bright enough that even myopic House leaders can see it.

To do anything less would be to fail one of the great moral tests of government: how we treat those in the twilight of life, our senior citizens.

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

Sunday, June 7, 2009

No Property Tax Reform This Year

One of the bills that was lost late in the session this year was property tax reform in the form of SJR-5. This was probably the single most disappointing occurrence of the session.

Last April, chances are that you received your property tax assessment. I would also guess that regardless of whether or not your property appreciated in value, your bill reflects a 5% increase in your payable assessment over last year. This is the time of year when my office receives calls or e-mails from citizens experiencing the challenge of coming up with a larger-than-ever property tax payment. Second only to road improvements, the issue of higher property taxes is of major concern to my constituents.

SJR-5 would have allowed the people to vote on decreasing the 5% assessment increase cap to 3%.

I believe property tax to be the most unfair form of taxation. This tax actually punishes a person for land ownership and taxes them year after year for the same property.

As property taxes continue to rise, more citizens are priced into lower housing brackets than what they could afford if they didn't have to pay the high taxes. Others are faced with the dilemma of whether to sell their properties or pay the high tax rates. The challenge faced by individuals with fixed incomes is forcing the legislature to make exceptions to the number of people who have to pay increased rates. These exceptions place the burden of paying property tax onto a shrinking base of property owners.

The passage of this legislation would have been a good start to slowing the increase of property taxes. But it should only be viewed as a temporary solution.

In order to have true reform and property tax reduction, we must address the problem at its source. Approximately 85% of local property taxes go to Oklahoma’s education system. This money is in addition to approximately 3.5 billion dollars that we appropriate for common and higher ed and does not include the amounts from all other sources such as some federal grants. A report by the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs demonstrates that Oklahoma taxpayers probably spend more than $10,000 per year for each student.

Oklahoma should offer a $4,000 tax credit to those parents who choose to educate their children in the private sector where they can receive a more cost-effective education. This would empower parents with the ability to determine where their children receive an education (one of the most important choices a parent will make), and would save taxpayers thousands of dollars per student. This very practical move could allow dramatic reduction in property taxation and would take a tremendous amount of pressure off the public education system because the schools' case loads would be reduced.

Perhaps this reduction in property tax burden could allow for a restructuring of the property tax so that instead of being paid every year, the tax could be paid when a house was bought or sold.

The reform would also significantly shrink the size of state government in that government would not have nearly the same control of people's lives through the education system. Smaller government is an important value that I believe most Oklahomans share. This is one of the reforms I am committed to supporting in the future as your State Representative and consider the failure of property tax reform to be one of the biggest failures of this legislative session.

If the Legislature does not take action on this reform during the spring session then I believe it is time for the people to seek the reform through an initiative petition effort.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for June 5-11, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY – Hello again, everybody! As the dust continues to settle after the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, political observers are looking at how this year was different.

A new majority party took control and the big question was how members would respond to their new roles. What should never change are the fundamental principles that guide individual senators.

Throughout the session, I was far less concerned with partisan issues than I was with getting things done for my district and our state. That approach, and the fierceness with which I tackle specific issues, will never change so long as I have the opportunity to serve as your senator.

While there still are a few bills awaiting the governor’s signature, nine of the bills I sponsored in the Senate have become law. While that is a relatively large number to make it through the process, a number of bills I sponsored fell by the wayside – most often in the House of Representatives – due to partisan politics.

As many of you who have followed my legislative career know, I look for ways around roadblocks placed before me – especially when it comes to issues affecting the safety of our children. My proposal to prevent sex offenders from operating ice cream trucks is an example.

When a House committee chair refused to allow the bill a hearing, I amended one of his bills to include it. When that committee chair stripped the language out of his bill, I worked with other senators and representatives to attach the language to a bill he could not control.

The result is a bill is now on the governor’s desk that includes language prohibiting sex offenders from operating ice cream trucks. I simply refuse to accept “no” for an answer when it comes to bills I believe will improve the quality of life for Oklahomans or make our children safer.

While nine of the bills I sponsored became law, another 12 bills passed the Legislature that included provisions I had originally introduced as stand-alone bills. There are many ways to kill a bill; the key to enacting good proposals often is to find a way around the many traps that can ensnare even a good idea.

An example of that is the passage of a bill that originally was my proposal to create an “In God We Trust” license plate. The House of Representatives first killed that proposal in 2008.

This year, my bill became the specialty license plate bill; it includes a number of special plates, including the “In God We Trust” tag. Late last month, the governor signed it into law.

In the legislative process, persistence can pay very big dividends for the people we serve. That is why the only way to truly fail is to give up – and that is something I will never do.

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

Monday, June 1, 2009

Asking for Constituent Input for Next Year's Agenda

I receive a number of suggestions for bills each year and I carefully sort through these ideas to establish a legislative agenda for the next year. I try to balance my portfolio with aggressive bills that call for reform and easier-to-achieve bills with necessary, smaller changes in law that are requested from my district.

Last week I wrote about the success of House Bill 1294 which would allow rural Logan County road districts to pave roads without issuing long term debt. I introduced the bill in 2008 and 2009 after receiving a request from a Logan County constituent and although the bill was defeated in 2008, it was approved this year. I believe this bill could serve as a starting point for allowing local government entities to conduct capital projects without issuing debt. I am also pleased to report that two other bills requested from Logan County were also recently signed by Governor Henry.

This year, I served as the House author for Senate Bill 794 which was authored by Senator Clark Jolly. SB 794 establishes a Human Services accountability tool and was requested by the Peppers Ranch organization. Located west of Guthrie, Peppers Ranch provides foster care services and they requested the law because they witnessed children being returned to the foster system after going through an unsuccessful adoption process. They wanted to put in place a system to publicly document how many failed adoptions were occurring. They suggested that the Department of Human Services report the number of unsuccessful adoptions each year because it is very difficult to analyze the current efficiency level of the placement process without a basic accountability tool.

Being able to understand why adoptions are unsuccessful may make it possible to analyze what is working and what is not working in the state's foster care system.

Late last year, as I was going door to door as part of the 2008 campaign cycle, I visited a constituent who works for one of the state commissions in charge of professional licensing. She described to me how professional license holders had discovered a loophole in the law that allowed them to ignore the requirement to correct any outstanding state tax liabilities prior to renewing their license.

My biggest resource to provide valuable insight into what is occurring regarding government bureaucracy is the feedback from the state employees in my constituent base. State employees have a firsthand point of view of changes that need to occur, and I enjoy the opportunity to benefit from their experience.

In this case, the state employee asked if I could sponsor legislation to close the tax loophole. With Sen. Jolly's help as the Senate author of House Bill 1295, we were able to receive legislative approval for the reform.

Over the next few months, I will put in place my 2010 legislative agenda. I need your help in developing the bills for which I will advocate. Should you have suggestions or ideas that you would like to see advocated in the legislature next year, please let me know.