Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lawmakers Study Prisoner Reintegration to Society

Lawmakers Study Prisoner Reintegration to Society
Oklahoma House of Representatives Media Division
Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Office: (405) 557-7305

Lawmakers Study Prisoner Reintegration to Society

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 22, 2009) – An interim study today focused on successfully reintegrating Oklahoma prisoners into society upon their release from the corrections system, according to state Rep. Joe Dorman .
“I think that creating reintegration programs for offenders better attempts to prevent broken families and helps keeps the parolee from returning to crime and aids anti-drug efforts,” Dorman, D-Rush Springs said. “I hope some potent ideas for improvement will come out of the study.”
Dionne Frankum, executive director for Valliant House, spoke during the study. Valliant House offers substance abuse treatment and prisoner reintegration through the state in McCurtain and Seminole counties. Their primary facilities can treat 40 people inpatient and 100 outpatients. They also run a halfway house that can serve 10 people.
“We’ve been able to find jobs for many of the people who come through our facilities through connections we’ve developed with several communities in Southeast Oklahoma ,” owner Keith Butler said. “Through this interim study, we’re hoping to give lawmakers some ideas on how to develop private-public partnerships that can help with the reintegration process.”
Dorman said he plans to file legislation on this issue in the coming session.
“After considering the information we receive in the study, I believe we can improve the system,” Dorman said. “We need to make sure our programs are efficient, and that programs such as the ones established through our churches have a chance to work with their non-denominational volunteers who give their time and effort to help these individuals turn their lives around.”
Don Duncan, prison chaplain and founder of Destination Character, spoke about the need to change prisoners value systems in order to reintegrate them into society. Records show that incarceration levels rose drastically in the 70s, 80s and up until today after remaining steady for years. He also said it came about as a shift away from America ’s historical Judeo-Christian value system or moral code.
“I just wish that we could get something done to help those who truly want the help,” Duncan said.
Other speakers included Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones, Department of Human Services Director Howard Hendricks, Creek Reintegration Program Manager Tony Fish, Chickasha Nation Reintegration Program Manager David Eagle, DOC Deputy Director of Female Offender Operations Dr. Laura Pittman, DOC Administrator of Probation and Parole Kenny Holloway, the Rev. Stan Bassler, Amy Santee with the George Kaiser Foundation and a representative from the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.
Dorman has filed resolutions in the past to address this subject through a task force, but the legislation has failed to be brought to a vote.
“I have great hope this time that my fellow lawmakers and I will find workable language in this area,” Dorman said. “Many lawmakers are afraid to address the subject of prisoner reintegration for fear it might be portrayed as being ‘soft on crime’ with their voters. That is far from the case in this issue. We are trying to find ways for those who are released to have a greater chance for success and avoid committing a future crime. I would like nothing better than to give greater chances to parolees where they will be a contributing citizen, rather than a repeat offender who drains our state resources by returning to prison.” Dorman said that at some point he would like reintegration programs in Oklahoma to be used extensively, both inside and outside of the Department of Corrections system.
“I would eventually like to see one of our current prisons converted to a reintegration facility where inmates would go for programs to prepare them for life ‘outside the walls’ and reduce our recidivism rate,” Dorman said. “Many inmates have never used the basic life skills most of us take for granted, such as balancing a monthly budget or even doing a load of laundry. We need such programs in place which will help these parolees have a better chance of success once released.”
According to statistics presented at the interim study, well over 90 percent of inmates will be released from prison. Programs are currently in place to assist prisoners, but many feel these programs are not adequate.
“I’ve been approached by countless citizens asking for help for loved ones,” said Dorman. “We have to remember, not all these inmates are hardened criminals and want to make a better life. Wiley Post, one of our state’s greatest citizens, was a convicted felon who turned his life around and made huge contributions to the world. There are others like him out there and we need to find ways to help them while keeping the prisoners with no chance of rehabilitation locked away.”

Dorman Invited to Germany in Transatlantic Dialogue

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media Division

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

Dorman Invited to Germany in Transatlantic Dialogue

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 16, 2009) – State Rep. Joe Dorman said today that he will join two other American state lawmakers and one Canadian federal lawmaker on the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s Transatlantic Dialogue Program Study and Information Tour of Germany.
“I am honored to serve on the tour, representing Oklahoma in a visit to Germany , where they’ve just underwent federal elections,” Dorman, D-Rush Springs said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to interact with German officials and get ideas as well as share ideas with them about our government.”
The Transatlantic Dialogue Program (TAD) is part of the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The TAD promotes the exchange among decision makers to exchange their ideas, opinions, and experiences in order to formulate new approaches and solutions for future-orientated politics. Part of this dialogue is a program for German and U.S. State Legislators as well as Canadian Federal Legislators.
Dorman was selected to participate in this year’s State Legislators Program in order to honor his leadership qualities and dedication to his work as a U.S. state legislator. The program will give the participants an opportunity to experience on a first-hand basis how policy problems are resolved in Germany . He will also speak at two public events: one in Dresden and one in Berlin , where he will talk about the current political situation in the United States .
“These exchange programs are a very valuable platform for decision makers on both sides of the Atlantic to talk to each other and learn more about their work”, says Claus Gramckow, Representative for USA and Canada , Transatlantic Dialogue Program, Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
Dorman said that no taxpayer dollars would fund the trip.
“The Friedrich Naumann Foundation will cover all transportation costs and accommodations and I will cover any further expenses,” Dorman said.
Dorman will visit Hannover, Madgeburg, Halle , Leipzig and Berlin as part of the trip. He will meet with local, state and federal officials while there. The trip will run from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1.
“I’m looking forward to the trip and to participating in this dialogue with German officials,” Dorman said. "This is a rare opportunity and I am greatly honored to be a part in hopefully improving our trade and diplomatic relations, as well as increasing the understanding of all the systems of government represented on this trip.”


Open Door Policy - Oct. 25, 2009

I am writing my column this week after a day of meetings in Dresden , Germany . We are six hours ahead due to their daylight savings time, so I have been trying to adjust to the different time zone for my meetings. I will be in this community with meetings, and then will have the opportunity to visit with some of the newly-elected German leadership in their centrist party over the next few days in Berlin . I will also have the chance to discuss policies in the United States as a nation and specifically some of the tax policy we have seen in the State of Oklahoma . I’m looking forward to these meetings and hope to represent our state the best way I can. I will return home on Sunday, Nov. 1, but I’m still addressing issues by email while overseas and Pam has been taking care of existing issues in the office up at the State Capitol while I am away for this trip. I appreciate you allowing me the chance to represent the United States for this week. All the costs of this trip are being covered by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, except a few incidentals for which I am paying the cost.
Before I left for the trip, I had a busy week. On Friday, I had the opportunity to sit in on the Fort Sill & Southwest Oklahoma Community Partnership Council. This group, established several months ago, is preparing for the growth we will see due to BRAC issues in our area. They are attempting to bring together the best and brightest minds in our region of the state to work together in a regional setting, rather than what we have seen in years past of simply focusing on local and community issues. I have great hope this will succeed and feel good about the process after participating in several of the meetings. The new commanding general of Fort Sill , Major General David Halverson, has taken a strong role in this, along with Garrison Commander Col. Raymond Lacey, Mayor Becky Skinner of Apache and MG David Ralston, Ret., who is serving as the group chair. If you have any interest in these meetings, please contact Marilyn Feaver with the Southwest Oklahoma Impact Coalition at (405) 574-1368. We have representation from almost every community and organization from House District 65 and I would very much like for us to have a say in the future policies of this group.
On Thursday, I participated in an interim study looking at ways to reduce the amount of released inmates who return to a life of crime. Rep. Kris Steele, R – Shawnee, and I held a joint study on ways to create reintegration programs which will help keep these ex-convicts out of prison and hopefully leading a productive life upon their parole or release. We looked at current policies, private/public partnerships and ways to include faith-based programs, along with other aids which will provide these persons with a chance to make it. There are many problems, but we have to find a way to truly “correct” behavior of the inmates as they are released from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
I also had a chance to attend Cyril’s homecoming and watched an exciting win by the team that evening. Congratulations go out to the team and coaches, and best of luck to all the teams as they finish up their season. I’m in the process of collecting team info to get my local basketball schedules printed prior to the season. I hope to have those out in a few weeks. I also visited with Oklahoma Horizon about an upcoming show they will dedicate to immunizations.
On another note, I visited with News Channel 9 about a problem many of our service men and women are facing with the GI Bill. There have been delays on processing the checks and many of our veterans have been paying for their tuition, books and other costs by credit card or by taking out loans. If you know someone who is experiencing a problem, have them visit with the Veterans Coordinator at the local campus and they will assist them with this where they will not have to pay up front. As long as there is a guarantee on the paperwork on the GI Bill, the schools will delay payment and work with our veterans. If there are further problems, have them contact their local Congressional office for assistance.
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 - Oct. 18, 2009

I had the great pleasure of being selected to represent the United States in a Transatlantic Dialogue to be held in Germany this next week. I was notified a few weeks ago to ask of my acceptance and found out last week it would be legal for me to work with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Washington, D.C. in this area. I will be gone for seven days and deliver two speeches in Germany in regards to North American policy and how state legislators feel in regards to our national agenda. It will be an interesting debate with other colleagues from the US and Canada and our German colleagues. I will give a full update when I return in a future column.
I have my interim study with Rep. Kris Steele this Thursday at the State Capitol. We will be analyzing current reintegration policies in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and possible changes to reduce our recidivism rates. Kris was selected to be the Republican nominee for Speaker of the House and I look forward to working with him on many key issues as a senior member of the Democratic Caucus in the House, especially on these areas where we agree.
Congratulations goes to Mayor Dwight Cope of Medicine Park on winning the George Nigh Award for the Governor's Arts Awards. This is a huge honor and Dwight has done a fantastic job on improving the arts in Southwest Oklahoma. Congratulations also goes out to Fort Cobb-Broxton and Fletcher for playing each other in the State Softball Tournament. Fort Cobb-Broxton won 1 - 0 in a fantastic game and I was glad to be on hand to watch two of the teams in my district play so well. Congratulations to all the other teams who qualified for state.
I had the chance to visit the Government, Current Events and History classes at Elgin High School on Monday. The questions posed by the students were very good and I hope I was able to educate them on the legislative process and the importance of registering to vote. I always enjoy these visits to the local schools and will try to visit the rest of the district before the semester is over.
I also attended the Rush Springs Health Fair and it was a huge success in it's third year. Many vendors were on hand and several agencies presented good information to individuals in attendance. I had the chance to meet several new contacts to help in regards to issues, so this was a very good event and I'm glad Grady Memorial Hospital has continued this effort with the local clinic.
On a final note, I recorded a blog with on issues facing the area this past week.. Should you like to listen in on this, simply go to their website. 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, October 25, 2009

Town Hall Meeting Update

This week I will be hosting the third of four Town Hall meetings which are scheduled in House District 31 during this year's legislative interim. At each of these Town Hall meetings, it has been my goal to bring together state and local officials to provide updates to area residents. At almost every meeting, I have invited at least one area State Senator and one local County Commissioner to provide a broad base of access to both state and local issues.

I very much appreciate the officials who have attended these events and am also grateful to the citizens who have participated. What I especially appreciate about this turn out is that it provides the opportunity for elected officials to hear first hand from citizens how they feel about issues. Especially in light of recent events, citizens have not been at all shy about making their voices heard.

Our first meeting took place in August, was held in south Logan County/Edmond, and was attended by about 140 individuals. Speaking at the meeting were State Senator Clark Jolly, State Senator Randy Brogden and County Commissioner Mark Sharpton. Aparticular focus of the meeting was the states' rights issue and many participants were especially anxious about what they see as the destructive, excessive spending habits and bad policies developed by the federal government. They want state government to stand up and assert its rights under the 10th amendment to shelter the public from these federal polices.

The second meeting occurred in Guthrie and was attended by about 40 participants. Michael Carnuccio from Oklahomans for Government Reform (OFRG) was present to talk about OFRG's recent effort to study transparency issues in Oklahoma school districts. State Senator Halligan sent his regrets as he had a schedule conflict on that evening. The Senator looks forward to meeting with Logan County residents at future Town Hall meetings. A special "thank you" to County Commissioner Mark Sharpton who agreed to fill in and speak at a Town Hall meeting for a second time this year.

This third meeting will take place this week (Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. at Woodcrest Fire Station) and is being attended by newly elected County Commissioner Mike Pearson and Stuart Jolly, Director of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans for Prosperity. This will be Pearson's first appearance at a town hall meeting since taking office. Jolly will update the attendees on the ongoing federal health policy debate.

The final Town Hall meeting is set to take place at the Crescent Community Center December 7 at 7:00 p.m. Speakers will include state Senator Patrick Anderson and new Logan County Sheriff Jim Bauman. County Commissioner Monty Piercy may also be in attendance in order to answer road-related questions.

If you are available to attend one of the remaining meetings, I would certainly appreciate and look forward to your presence.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Oct. 23-29, 2009 - The Struggle for Children with Autism

Hello again, everybody! Some battles at the State Capitol are over quickly; others continue, waiting on political leadership to catch up with public opinion.

The struggle to provide health insurance coverage to children with autism is one of those battles that will continue. Finding a way to help these children and their families is one of the issues to which I have devoted much effort.

For me, this struggle is a moral issue. My continued work on this is borne from my commitment to strengthen families and help ensure that every Oklahoma child has a chance to reach their God-given potential.

We are still waiting on the political leadership to catch up with public opinion. On the second night of last year’s legislative session, leaders in the House of Representatives killed the bill known as “Nick’s Law.” After that family-unfriendly vote, the leader of that committee proudly stood before the television cameras and said “Nick’s Law” was dead for two years.

Their hope was that the bill, and those families who support it, would simply go away. There have been few political miscalculations as off-base as was that one.

Those of us committed to families continued the struggle throughout the session. We won a few battles in the Senate, but House leaders continued to turn their back on these families and their precious children.

Now, almost five months after the legislative session ended, those of us carrying this banner got another boost. Despite the reluctance of some legislators to acknowledge the importance of this issue, the nonpartisan Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) has once again put autism insurance on its list of legislative priorities.

This group, which always has been a strong voice for Oklahoma’s children, made the decision during its fall legislative forum. At that two-day event, child advocates gathered from across the state to determine what OICA’s focus should be in 2010.

Republican and Democratic legislators addressed different panels on a host of issues. The child advocates were from every corner of the state and members of both political parties. This was as nonpartisan as you could get.

When the only question was “What is best for the children?” the answer was clear. Finding a way to help families pay for the expensive therapies necessary to give children with autism a chance at a full and happy life is – and should be – a top legislative priority for our state, regardless of partisan political considerations.

This is an issue both political parties have embraced in other states; in some states, the charge was led by Republicans. Oklahomachildren deserve that same bipartisan support, and I will continue working to that end.

As always, if you have comments, questions or concerns about state government, send me a message through my website at You can also follow me on Facebook at and on Twitter at

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Developing the Oklahoma Innovation, Efficiency and Accountability Act of 2010

In today's quickly changing world, private businesses are taking advantage of innovative programs such as allowing for employee telecommuting. Because of the ever growing reach of broadband Internet access, many job functions can be performed through the Internet.

One example of this new functionality is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) that allows for state of the art telephone functions to be performed online. Another important reason for the rise of telecommuting is the recent expansion of cloud computing (shared computing via the Internet). Because of high speed Internet access, individual workers are not limited to the capabilities of his/her own computer, but can work in a collaborative manner with other employees who are located miles away through the use of shared capabilities afforded by cloud computing. An example of this functionality is the ability of employees to co-edit documents in real time.

As the state government real property infrastructure deteriorates, the state government cannot continue indebting the taxpayers by issuing bonds and debt to build new office structures. It is also cost prohibitive to keep paying rent and utility bills when those expenditures could be avoided with an effective telework program. A recent study by one state agency demonstrated the possible savings of thousands of dollars if just 23 employees participated in a telework pilot program.

This type of program would both necessitate and provide for the opportunity to enact a series of quality control benchmarks to ensure that the quality of work performed via telecommuting does not deteriorate. These benchmarks could include the incorporation of a series of performance auditing indicators which could be used to develop a illustrative cost focused financial reporting system similar to the one envisioned in a recent Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) report.

The OCPA report detailed the benefits to the taxpayers that would be afforded by the production of illustrative financial accounting documents. These documents could be used to compare a service offered by the government to those being offered in the private sector. This could create an important process that forces the government to justify its engagement in any number of activities that could possibly be better performed by the private sector. The performance data set could be posted on the web site allowing Oklahomans to review the work load processed by the government including the ability to drill down to view the work load processed by each individual employee.

The telecommuting program will also serve as a tool for stopping the migration from rural communities into the city. No long will rural residents need to commute to the city in order to provide a service through state government. A similar program in Arizona, where the state recently reached 19.74 percent telework participation rate in Maricopa County, found that not only was the program helpful in travel demand management, it also increased participating state employees’ productivity and improved job attitude because there was a better work environment.

Because cloud computing based technologies are quickly developing and emerging, it is vital for legislative leaders to try to allow for a statutory scheme that encourages state employees to take advantage of these new technologies as soon as possible. All too often, government entities are slow to respond to technological changes and private market best practices. This slow adaptation is expensive in that it unnecessarily wastes millions of taxpayer dollars. I believe it is our job as legislators to be informed of these best practices and it is a moral imperative that we guard taxpayer dollars by applying these innovations as soon as possible.

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Oct. 16-22, 2009 - Senior Nutrition Cuts Should Be Reversed

DURANT, Okla.Hello again, everybody! This past week state government got another round of bad budget news.

Tax collections are still running far below what is necessary to meet the budget we approved during the 2009 legislative session. For the third straight month, allocations to state agencies were cut by 5 percent below what they should have received under our budget.

Our Constitution requires the budget to be balanced. Whenever we have revenue shortfalls, then cuts are automatic to ensure state government does not spend more than it collects.

Despite our budget trouble, Oklahoma continues to be in far better shape than many of our sister states. Illinois has almost $3 billion in unpaid bills. Maryland plans to close a mental health center serving five rural counties. Massachusetts increased sales taxes – the most regressive of all taxes – by 25 percent to balance its budget. Those are just a few examples.

Making the situation worse for other states is that many of them have already tapped their rainy day funds and their federal stimulus money. Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund is intact at a full $600 million, and we have reserved half the federal stimulus money we received for next fiscal year.

We still face serious challenges, though. An example is the cut made by the Department of Human Services to Oklahoma senior nutrition programs. Few programs give us the positive return on our tax dollars as senior nutrition.

The $7 million cut is threatening to close several nutrition sites; that is simply unacceptable to me. The sites allow for seniors to get a hot meal and have the fellowship that is so important to seniors living alone. The sites also provide hot meals for homebound seniors through programs like “Meals on Wheels.”

We have enough money to plug this budget hole – and I am on record as strongly supporting that. There certainly will be budget cuts that will have a serious affect on Oklahomans; there is no avoiding that until the economy recovers.

However, this is one budget cut we should not ask our senior citizens to endure. Everything we have as a state is a gift from those generations that have gone before us. If we owe them nothing else, we owe them the opportunity to get food and fellowship. Senior nutrition programs greatly improve the quality of life for thousands of senior citizens across Oklahoma.

It is time for the Legislature to return to the Capitol for a special session on this issue. If we do nothing else before the regular session begins, we should do right by our senior citizens and restore the budget for senior nutrition programs.

As always, if you have any comments, questions or concerns about state government, you can send me a message through my website at You can also follow me on Twitter at or on Facebook at

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

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Oct. 9-15, 2009

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everybody! Discussions continue at the State Capitol and around Oklahoma on issues the Legislature will consider next session, which is now less than four months away.

Over the past several years, many proposals were introduced that would have restricted use of mobile phones by individuals driving cars. None of those proposed restrictions ever got much traction in the Legislature.

Last week, a legislative committee looked at the issue. There was compelling testimony before the committee on the harm done by those districted by mobile phone use while driving.

One of the witnesses testified how a driver talking on a mobile phone caused an accident that took the life of her mother. That witness called on the Legislature to pass a law banning the use of any mobile phone while driving.

Such a far-reaching law is unlikely to pass. Mobile phone use has become part of our everyday lives. The ability to make phone calls while traveling has been an enormous time-saver for everyone from business owners to parents keeping up with family members.

Testimony from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office reported no evidence that talking on mobile phones is more of a driving distraction that having a conversation with someone in your vehicle. However, as mobile phones have become more sophisticated, more features on them could district drivers.

Sending text messages or emails while driving appears to most trouble highway safety advocates. In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety launched a national campaign to pass a law in all 50 states to ban text messaging while driving.

Recently, such a ban has gone into effect in our neighboring state of Arkansas. AAA Oklahoma has announced it will seek passage of the same ban in our state.

We have seen some cities ban use of mobile phones in school zones. The idea is to ensure that drivers focus on their environment – which could include small children – rather than their conversations.

The other side of the argument is that laws against inattentive driving are already on the books. Those laws, some say, are enough to punish those not giving proper attention to driving – whether they are changing radio stations or using mobile phones.

Clearly, this subject will be before lawmakers when we return to the Capitol in February. There will be a range of proposals before us: banning the use of cell phones while driving; requiring the use of a “hands-free” device for drivers using mobile phones; banning the practice of sending text messages or emails while driving.

This issue will get more attention next year than ever before, and I would like to hear comments and concerns from those I serve. You can send me a message through my website at You can also follow me on Twitter at or on Facebook at

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

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Getting Your Input About Government Modernization 2.0

During the past few months it has been my responsibility to help develop the next series of Government Modernization legislation. As part of this process, I have met with a number of agency leaders to receive their input and have worked to ascertain best practices from the private industry and other government entities. The goal of these efforts has been to develop the proposals that will result in the quick elimination of waste and provide savings to Oklahoma taxpayers.

Over the next few weeks, I would like to use the forum provided by this column to role out these ideas and to receive your feedback. Some of the proposals may be rather aggressive and somewhat unorthodox in their approach to seeking savings. Your input will assist in continuing to develop the proposals to maturation.

As an example, one ideas I will write about and one of the key ingredients of the next round of Modernization legislation should be to promote efficiencies and savings through the promotion of shared services between state agencies. This will lead to the breaking down of bureaucratic barriers which unnecessarily waste so many taxpayer dollars each year.

Last year, House Bill 1032 made accessing services more convenient for those using state services either as individuals or as vendors and could lead to millions in savings. Now, this same focus should be provided to allow this same type of convenience to state agencies. By viewing state agencies as customers and allowing them to take advantage of shared services it will make it easier for agencies to deal with budget reductions by offering them more convenience and freeing them up to focus on their core mission.

Another idea I will write about and what I hope will be a key component of the Modernization legislation should be a very aggressive effort to allow state officials to incorporate best practices in utilizing new technological advancements. You have no doubt noticed how that over the past few years many of the items and services which previously cost a significant amount of money are now much more affordable. From long distance phone service to the cost of consumer electronics, the cost for using technology is much lower than it was just a few years ago. The same market forces which have made it much less expensive to use technology also enable government entities to provide a better, more efficient, less costly service to the taxpayers.

It is our moral imperative as Legislators to make sure government takes advantage of these more efficient processes and savings by educating ourselves on the new capabilities afforded by technology and by building a statutory system which allows for the use of these technologies as quickly as possible.

Over the next few weeks, I look forward to sharing some specific ideas with you and would appreciate your feedback.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

One of the Worst Examples of Wasteful Spending

Once in a while, I run across a law that makes my head hurt. A perfect example of one of these laws is Senate Bill 1347 which was signed into law in 2004. To see the effect of this law, I would suggest a drive down Memorial Road at the site of the new Broadway overpass. You will notice a series of elaborately designed artwork to aesthetically improve the new overpass.

Because I represent a growth area where local officials are desperate to fund the construction of roads, I cannot help but think that had the Transportation Department just been allowed to build a normal underpass without all of the associated artwork, the thousands of dollars wasted could be used to pave miles of desperately needy roads. Does anyone seriously think that the state of Oklahoma roads and bridges is so good that we can waste thousands of dollars with artwork on the new bridges?

Senate Bill 1347 requires that 1.5 percent of a construction budget for new buildings or renovations be spent for artwork. A significant number of the state's new construction projects are funded through millions of dollars of debt. This means that generations of Oklahomans could be trying to pay off the bill that comes with these art projects.

Earlier this year, the Director of the State Department of Agriculture testified before an Appropriation Sub-committee upon which I serve. He can point to the fact that a 5 percent reduction in his agency budget is actually a more significant discretionary spending reduction in percentage terms because he cannot lower the bond payments for his building. He stated that the bond/rent payments for his building were going to be very challenging for his department to deal with.

The department's building was recently constructed according to the requirements set forth in Senate Bill 1347. These requirements necessitated the construction of an outdoor plaza with monoliths carved in granite and an accompanying sculpture. The design reflects the work of the department, from livestock to crops to a larger-than-life plow.

In this day, when government taxation is so high and debt at all levels of government is skyrocketing, in my view it is insane to engage in this type of waste. This unfortunate legislative mandate is forcing state agencies to participate in a wasteful spending spree that will haunt Oklahoma policy makers for years to come. The Legislature should right this wrong and repeal the mandate as soon as possible.

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Oct. 2-8, 2009

DURANT, Okla.Hello again, everybody! More meetings are underway at the State Capitol to prepare for the 2010 legislative session, now only four months away.

A meeting last week focused on methamphetamine. Five years ago, Oklahoma was one of the first states to restrict the availability of pseudoephedrine, the critical component in the illegal manufacturing of meth.

Despite some legitimate concerns and harsh criticism leveled at the proposal, it was passed and signed into law. My decision to support the bill was made when an agent of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control (OBNDDC) brought a common duffel bag into a Capitol committee room.

He had come through Capitol security with no problem. The agent put the bag on the table and began pulling out – one-by-one – common household items he had bought that morning in a retail store. When he emptied the bag, sitting on the table before us were the ingredients necessary to illegally manufacture meth.

We passed a law putting pseudoephedrine products – except for liquids and liquid-filled gel caps – behind pharmacy counters, requiring customers to sign a log to purchase it. The idea, which worked, was to prevent people from purchasing the large quantities of pseudoephedrine necessary to cook methamphetamine.

Several other states, and the federal government, to some degree copied Oklahoma’s law. For some time, the number of meth labs plummeted.

Now, a new recipe to manufacture meth called the “shake-and-bake” method requires far fewer pseudoephedrine pills to make the killer drug. The OBNDDC returned to the State Capitol last week with a new proposal to fight this poison that is destroying dreams and stealing life from so many Oklahomans.

The solution proposed to lawmakers by OBNDDC is to make pseudoephedrine available only with a prescription. The proposal would further restrict the availability of a drug on which many Oklahomans depend for seasonal allergies.

The Oklahoma Pharmacists Association expressed concern about the new proposal. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association prefers a stronger multi-state tracking system of purchases. That might make more sense.

The Tulsa County sheriff said his county has become a hotbed of meth production because people can go to neighboring states to get pseudoephedrine. Being a border area, that is another challenge we face if we further restrict pseudoephedrine.

Methamphetamine is a terrible scourge, one that is truly destroying families and ending lives. Every time we make some progress against it, those who are intent on producing this poison find a way around the law.

This will be an important discussion next year, and I would like to know your concerns and suggestions for making Oklahomans safer. You can send me a message through my website at You can also follow me on Twitter at or on Facebook at

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

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2009

DURANT, Okla.Hello again, everybody! This week’s column contains my re-election announcement speech:

“Eight years ago, many of us gathered to begin a campaign to create a brighter future by building on the progress of the past. Together, we built the brighter future we envisioned.

“The world, our nation, and our state are different now than when we began this journey together. Still, the keys to a renewed vision of a brighter future are what they have always been: better jobs, improved education, and real tax relief.

“In the past eight years, we have come far. As our nation and state are in the grips of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, our state in general and our area in particular have remained strong.

“While neighbors in other states have seen dreams stolen and hope destroyed by the economic challenges of these times, the policies we have championed – economic development, lower taxes, improved schools – have ensured we will be the first out of this recession.

“We dare not waver in our work or our commitment to a brighter future. We dare not slow in the drive to create our own destiny. We must continue to turn every challenge into opportunity.

“I stand before you today, ready to renew my commitment to the people of Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston and Marshall counties – to fight for a future that is limited only by our dreams.

“That kind of future does not happen by accident. It takes hard work, it takes courage, and it takes leadership. It takes someone willing to give everything they have for the people they wish to serve.

“That is the record on which I stand as I declare that I will be a candidate for re-election to the Oklahoma Senate.

“We must tell the world – time and again – that there is no better place to live, work and raise a family. We must support families, we must defend freedom and we must create opportunity.

“We have much to be thankful for. Still, we must never become satisfied with the way things are. No longer must we allow ‘good enough’ to be good enough. Our lives are too short and our challenges are too great to settle for anything less than the best the future has to offer.

“We must dream of a future that is limited only by the strength of our souls and the dedication of our hearts. My friends, I pledge to continue putting every bit of my ability and my energy to making rural Oklahoma even better – for today and in the future.

“As we begin this journey again, I once again ask you for your vote, your support and – most importantly – your prayers. Together, our struggle begins anew, our dreams rise to the challenge, and our work to create a brighter future will never end.”

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