Monday, September 27, 2010

The 2010 State Questions

On November 2, there will be 11 state questions put before the voters for their consideration.

As a Legislator, I supported all of the questions, with the exception of the first and last ones on the ballot (SQ 744 and SQ 757).

State Question 744 dictates that the Oklahoma Legislature appropriate funding for state education entities by a formula which is tied to the amounts appropriated by other states. I believe it is very bad policy to place legislatures in other states in charge of setting policy which will be used by Oklahoma. Legislative hearings have determined that the passage of this legislation would have a dramatic impact on the funding of a number of other non-education state government agencies and the passage of this proposal would make it extremely difficult to realize tax relief in the future.

State Question 757 enables the legislature to expand the size of the state’s Rainy Day Fund. I believe this is also bad policy as it would allow legislatures to avoid returning money to citizens in the form of tax relief in the good revenue years, and also avoid necessary reductions in wasteful government spending in the down revenue years. The up and down government revenue cycle is a huge tool for restraining the size of government and a large rainy day fund allows legislators to avoid making some tough choices.

I support the remainder of the state questions. This includes SQ 746 which would establish a voter ID law. The legislature was forced to send this issue to a vote of the people in order to bypass a gubernatorial veto.

I was the House author for SQ 747. If approved, this proposal would establish term limits on all statewide elected officials. I have witnessed the dramatic effects term limits have had in cleaning out the corruption of the previous legislatures, and I believe this important policy will have a positive impact if applied to the rest of state government.

SQ 748 will modernize the legislative apportionment process by allowing for a more broad based representation on the apportionment commission which would draw state redistricting lines should the legislature fail to do so.

SQ 750 would institute a reform to the process by which Oklahoma citizens can petition to change the Constitution. It proposes to index the initiative petition signature requirement to a percentage of the total vote of each gubernatorial election only. Currently the requirement is tied to the general election which means it is much hard to complete an initiative petition following a presidential election when many more people voted.

SQ 751 declares English to be Oklahoma’s official language and does not allow law suits to be filed against the state for not offering services in other languages.

SQ 752 updates the membership of the State Judicial Nominating Commission to include two new non-lawyer members.

SQ 754 is a counter to SQ 744. It states that legislative appropriations cannot be made based on the amount spent by other states. If both SQ 744 and SQ 754 are approved, the law will likely be determined based on which state question garners the most votes.

SQ 755 is designed to prevent state courts from using international law as a guideline for determining the outcomes of Oklahoma cases. It is also designed to prevent the application of Sharia law.

SQ 756 is Oklahoma’s federal health care opt-out proposal. It is designed to prohibit forced participation in a health care system. It also prohibits making an employer join a health care system.

Please let me know if you have questions about any of the specifics of any of these proposals. You may reach me by email at

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Long Term Implications of Gov 2.0 Legislation

One the projects I worked on this last legislative year was the Oklahoma State Government 2.0 legislation (SB 1759) which I authored with Oklahoma State Senator Anthony Sykes and which went into law a few weeks ago.

The legalization took several dramatic first steps in establishing the framework by which silos of state government data will be opened up to the purview of the public. I believe this may be the first ever comprehensive codification of state-level government 2.0 law.

Senate Bill 1759 not only put in place the procedures by which this data will be released, but also set the standards by which the public can interact with the data. Using these standards, software developers will be able to create applications which can be used to analyze the data and present it to the public in any number of ways. The far-reaching impact of these applications is hard to imagine at this time but will result in state government being accountable like never before possible.

It was our intent to use this legislation as a way of holding government accountable by pushing out the data to taxpayers and incentivizing the free market to develop tools which will allow the taxpayers and government officials to know where taxpayer money is being spent.

However, the data and the tools which will be developed for analyzing the data will have an application which will far exceed that of basic public transparency. I believe these tools will eventually allow state officials to have a set of performance metrics by which they can begin holding various bureaucracies responsible for meeting certain expectations.

Currently, Legislators are limited when attempting to gauge the performance of state agencies. Over time, Oklahoma state government has gotten so large that it now encompasses thousands of employees working through hundreds of agencies, boards and commissions. This government behemoth eats up billions of taxpayer dollars each year. It has become nearly impossible for state leaders to know which of these government groups are acting efficiently and which ones are wasting taxpayer dollars.

Currently, legislators mostly appear to govern through a policy of reviewing a few basic line items of budget data and some high level performance expectations, but are limited in being able to observe how effective or non-effective the actual activities of each state agency are being conducted.

Raw data feeds and the tools that are used to analyze those feeds can be used to report on all agency activities and can be aggregated to give state officials and taxpayers a true measure of the effectiveness of state government activities.

This aggregated information can be used to establish performance metrics for each individual activity engaged in by the state agencies.

Once these metrics have been established, state officials will be able to make a wide range of policy decisions to cut the cost of delivering these services while improving their quality. Some of these decisions would include state employee performance compensation, implementation of state employee telework policies and the related divestment of state capital assets (and related debt), privatization of services, and many more strategic allocations of resources.

The ground work we are establishing in the in the effort to increase transparency will not only give taxpayers insight into how their taxpayer dollars are being spent; it can also give policy makers the information they need to hold government accountable, implement new best practices to reduce the level of government spending and increase the quality of services provided.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dorman Urges Schools to Recruit Medical Volunteers

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media Division

September 13, 2010

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

Dorman Urges Schools to Recruit Medical Volunteers

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Joe Dorman urged schools today to start recruiting medical volunteers for school sporting events.
House Bill 1658, authored by Dorman, will take effect on Jan. 1 and will allow health care professionals to volunteer at secondary school sporting events without fear of being sued.
“The new law will give medical volunteers protection under the Good Samaritan Act,” Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said. “For this reason, I urge parents to ensure that a volunteer is on hand at their school sporting events to address any serious injury that might occur.”
Dorman cited the case of a Portland , Ore. , football player who suffered a heart attack and was brought back to life by a cardiac nurse who happened to be in the stands.
“When someone suffers a serious head or heart injury, the response time plays a critical role in whether or not that individual survives it,” Dorman said. “A young football player in Rush Springs , Justin Barney, died from a head injury. No medical professional was on hand, and it could have made the difference. One thing that people aren’t aware of is that there are not enough ambulances in the state to cover all of the high school sporting events that regularly occur. Even though the law has not yet taken effect, it is very important to have a volunteer with medical training on hand.”
The Oklahoma Athletic Trainers’ Association estimates that 25 percent of student athletes statewide will miss either practice or competition due to a head injury. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3.9 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur nationally each year.
Dorman also encouraged parents to contact their school and athletic program administrators to encourage coaches to take advantage of a free online program called ACTive, provided by the Oregon Center for Applied Science. The program trains them in protecting student athletes from concussions. To enroll, coaches can go to
“With so many concussions occurring annually, I think it is imperative that our local coaches participate in a program to better protect their athletes,” Dorman said. “Please help me get out the word on this issue.”


Monday, September 13, 2010

New Costs to Taxpayers

Last week, the Joint Liaison Committee on State and Education Employees Group Insurance Benefits held a hearing to review next year’s rate schedule for the health insurance the state provides to various Oklahoma government employees.

This is always an interesting topic because these rate increases affect the government agencies (state, county and schools) which must pay much of the insurance premiums, the state employees who have the insurance, and ultimately the taxpayers who foot the bill.

It became clear during the hearing that unless reversed, the recent federal health care proposals will have a dramatic affect on state insurance offerings. This cost will eventually either be paid for by state employees in the form of a reduced benefit allowance surpluses, or by taxpayers in the form of higher insurance costs.

Earlier this summer I wrote a series of articles concerning the Legislature’s actions during the past session where we attempted to learn from the free market and apply some of its best practices to drive down health insurance rates and save taxpayer money.

While approved by the Legislature, this legislation was subsequently vetoed by the Governor.

Now, with the advent of new federal legislation, it appears that our ability to incorporate some of these ideas will be greatly hampered. The federal legislation includes various mandates and limitations on insurance plans which make it much more difficult for the plans to act independently in incorporating best practices without incurring substantial costs.

At our hearing, we heard testimony that the preferred provider organization (PPO) plan offered to government employees was able to meet some of the initial federal mandates with a small cost increase by utilizing reserves which had built up as a result of investments gains by the state insurance fund reserve fund. These funds may keep the state insurance plan PPO costs under control for one more year, but I believe this to be a very temporary solution. If there is a downturn in the market and these reserve funds are not available in the future, the plan could then be hit with multiple years of health care cost inflation. This inflation could be substantial in size because of the federal mandates.

We were also told that some of the state’s health maintenance (HMO) insurance plans could be experiencing significant increases in the area of 10 to 13 percent. This will come at a time when the state employees’ benefit allowance will actually be decreasing. In other words, state employees may have less money available to spend on significantly more expensive HMO plans.

Some of the federal requirements which are driving up the cost of insurance are because of wellness and prevention mandates. While the policies are well meaning, they are taking away the freedom of health insurers from being able to independently design their own plans which will work for the participants of the plan while keeping costs under control.

In other words, those free market best practices which we were trying to apply and drive down the cost to the taxpayer, will now be much more difficult to implement as we struggle to fit within the federal government’s one-size-fits-all approach.

Oklahoma taxpayers, state agencies, school boards, rural water districts and county governments will eventually be forced to pay the increased cost in meeting the new federal mandates on health insurance polices for the thousands of covered Oklahoma government employees.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Open Door Policy - Sept. 7, 2010

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend! I was happy because I got to spend it at baseball with both my sisters' families and celebrate the grand nephews and nieces belated birthdays. It was also great to see the Oklahoma Redhawks clinch a spot in the playoffs also. Good luck to them and also to all the secondary school athletes as they start their sports programs this semester. I was going to make schedules again this year, but funds are limited right now so I will not be able to get them printed.

With the November elections right around the corner, I hope each of you will take the time to research not only the candidates on the ballot, but also the ballot questions. We have a mix of eleven initiates and referendums which the people of Oklahoma will decide on if those should become a part of our State Constitution. The questions, with a brief description, are as follows:

*SQ 744 - Repeals the minimum cap on average spending for common schools and establishes a new cap of a regional average based upon the average spent on states surrounding Oklahoma . The measure does not raise taxes, but it also does not provide new funding for the spending requirements.

*SQ 746 - Requires a person who votes to show government-issued identification and increases penalties to a felony for swearing to a false voter statement.

*SQ 747 - Establishes term limits for statewide elected officials for a maximum of two terms for each office.

*SQ 748 - Establishes the creation of a new Legislative Apportionment Commission consisting of one democrat and one Republican each appointed by the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Governor and the seventh member shall be the Lieutenant Governor. Currently, the Commission consists of the Attorney General, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Treasurer.

*SQ 750 - This measure would affect the required amount of signatures necessary for initiative and referendum petitions. This would set the required signatures on the percentage based upon the most votes cast for a statewide ballot with the Governor on the ballot, rather than using the immediate past General Election, which could have the Presidential election. Presidential elections generally increase the percentage of voter turnout substantially, so this would likely lower the required amount of signatures.

*SQ 751 - Would establish English as the language used in official state actions. It also provides Native American languages may be used and other languages as required by federal law.

*SQ 752 - Adds two new at-large members to the Judicial Nominating Commission, appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. This Commission selects a pool of nominees to fill vacant judicial positions, and the Governor chooses one from this pool to serve.

*SQ 754 - Would not require the Legislature to base appropriations on a predetermined Constitutional formula, how much other states spend or how much an entity spends on a function.

*SQ 755 - Forbids courts in the State of Oklahoma from considering or using international law or Sharia Law when deciding cases.

*SQ 756- Prohibits the requirement a person or employer participate in a government-mandated health care system passed after January 1, 2010. This measure also includes restrictions on government control over health insurance.

*SQ 757 - Would increase the amount of surplus revenue going to the Constitutional Reserve Fund, or "Rainy Day" Fund from 10% to 15% for the preceding fiscal year.

These are very brief descriptions due to limited space for my column. Please do more research on each. You can read the full ballot title at and by clicking the State Questions link. As with elections, there are many special interests spending quite a bit of money to either support or defeat each of these questions. Please take the time to learn about each of these questions and vote the way you feel will best help 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.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Transportation Plan Released

Last month the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) took action to approve the latest version of its eight year plan for improving state highways and bridges.

This is program has been very conscientiously funded by the Legislature over the past few years. Although I don’t always agree with the funding mechanisms used (I always oppose funding which involves the issuance of debt), I certainly agree that replacing dangerous bridges should be a foremost goal of state government.

This year’s plan includes the addition of several new area bridge replacement projects.

Major area projects on the current plan include the following.

In 2013 the effort to replace the Guthrie viaduct should be complete. The project is estimated to cost 6.3 million dollars.

Also, in 2013, ODOT plans to complete the replacement of the Seward road bridge over Interstate 35 at a cost of $3.7 million dollars.

The replacement of the Skeleton Creek bridge on State Highway 74 is scheduled for replacement in 2014 and will cost just shy of 2 million dollars.

The 2014 replacement of the Crow Creek bridge on State Highway 74 is estimated to cost nearly 2.4 million dollars.

Also, in 2014, ODOT is planning to replace a bridge on Highway 77 just south of Highway 74C at a cost of nearly 2.4 million dollars.

In 2016, ODOT plans to resurface Highway 33 from the Kingfisher/Logan County line 3.5 miles to the east. The project will include shoulder improvements. It is estimated to cost 7 million dollars.

This year’s plan includes the addition of the 2017 replacement of the Highway 77 bridge over the Cimarron River. Current estimates indicate this project will cost in the area of 7.3 million dollars.

The plan also calls for the replacement of the three Highway 51 bridges over Beaver Creek. This includes the 2017 replacement of the West and Middle Beaver Creek bridges for 6.6 million dollars and the 2018 replacement of the East Beaver Creek bridge for 13.8 million dollars.

The expansion of Highway 74 from 2 lanes to 4 lanes is another project which has captured the interest of many area residents. In 2012, ODOT is planning to complete the project from north of Memorial Road to the north by one mile and one-half miles at a cost of 27 million dollars. In 2015, the plan calls for the completion of the remainder of the section from Waterloo to Memorial for an additional 18 million dollars.

If you would like more information about these projects, their cost and the scope of the work please do not hesitate to contact me.