Saturday, February 27, 2010

Committees Pass Dorman Bills to Improve and Assist Emergency Response

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media Division
February 25, 2010

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

Committees Pass Dorman Bills to Improve and Assist Emergency Response

OKLAHOMA C IT Y – State Rep. Joe Dorman announced today the passage of three emergency management bills by House committees this week.

House Joint Resolution 1018 would create an income tax check-off to fund the 12.5 percent match required by FEMA to help pay the state portion of disasters and phone lines for reporting needs during disaster relief and recovery. The legislation was passed unanimously by the House Rules Committee.

“This is an issue I have been working on for several years and hope it is the first of many ways we can use to provide funding for emergency management,” said Dorman. “The subject of providing monetary assistance for the phone lines came from a conference I co-hosted to look into this area. We have received much valuable input from those affected by the recent ice storms which hit Oklahoma and those who delivered assistance.”

House Bill 3123 would create two new levels of tax credits for volunteer firefighters. Under current Oklahoma law, firefighters can earn one of two tax credits for training they receive. This legislation would expand the credit to four levels.

“In an interim study conducted over the fall, officials suggested the additional two levels of tax credits to avoid a potential conflict with interpretation of the current law,” Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said. “A strict interpretation of the statutes covering this credit could prevent firefighters from receiving the higher level when they file their tax returns. This legislation will ensure we encourage firefighters to take the classes to achieve the necessary skills to do their job in the best, safest manner and receive the knowledge to better protect rural Oklahomans by providing the proper incentives to take these classes.”

“Our volunteer firefighters sacrifice valuable time away from family and friends, along with potential overtime from work just so they can assist their local areas,” said Dorman. “We want to make sure the training is the best available and actually fits their needs if they are going to go to this extra effort. This bill also helps in that area by bringing the local fire chiefs together to recommend programs which will best benefit their region of the state.”

House Bill 3123 also passed out of the House Rules Committee, where representatives from fire service organizations were on hand to answer questions.

House Bill 1658 would place health care service providers volunteering their services at secondary school activities under the Good Samaritan Act. The legislation was in response to the death of Justin Barney, a freshman football player from Rush Springs who died from an injury at a game two years ago. Family members were on hand Wednesday to testify for the bill to the Rules Committee.

“No ambulance or doctor was on hand to treat the injury and it took about 20 minutes for an ambulance to reach the scene,” Dorman said. “Anytime we can provide immediate medical assistance in the time of an injury, this lessens the likelihood of more severe complications developing as a result of the injury.”

The House Appropriations and Budget Committee passed the legislation unanimously, where it will now proceed to the House Floor Leader’s office to be scheduled for a hearing by the full House of Representatives.

None of the three bills will have a negative impact on the state budget, according to a fiscal analysis prepared by House staff, stated Dorman.

“Each of these bills will create the support for an individual to step up and protect their community and enhance public service,” said Dorman. “Whether by incentivizing additional firefighter training, encouraging doctors to volunteer their serves at school sports function or assisting with expedient disaster relief and recovery, we are showing how our citizens go above and beyond to help their neighbors.”

All House bills must be considered by Thursday, March 11 to move further through the legislative process. Bills not considered by the house of origin at this point will not be considered during the remainder of the legislative session.

“All three of these pieces of legislation were request bills that arose from constituents or experts in the field,” said Dorman. “I’m happy we are able to assist each of the groups of workers in these areas to help improve our state through these legislative changes”


Committee Clears Bill Requiring Generators for Assisted Living Facilities

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media Division
February 24, 2010

Committee Clears Bill Requiring Generators for Assisted Living Facilities

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

OKLAHOMA C IT Y – Legislation requiring assisted living facilities to have an alternate source of power in case of a power outage has passed out of a House committee.
House Bill 3224, by state Rep. Joe Dorman , would authorize the Department of Health to promulgate rules to require assisted living facilities to have an alternate power source and new facilities to have a backup generator.
“The ice storm knocked the power out of rural communities throughout the state,” Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said. “I am trying to find ways to help improve our response to natural disasters. One way is to require assisted living facilities to have alternate power sources so vulnerable residents continue to have access to important medical equipment requiring electricity and warmth.”
The House Public Health Committee passed the legislation 11-7 and amended its effective date to a later time.
“Obviously, pushing back the date makes the legislation ineffective for those currently in an assisted living facility,” Dorman said. “I don’t fully understand the opposition to this simple measure, but I plan on changing back the date and hope lawmakers will support the legislation on the House floor to allow the Department of Health to implement this at a reasonable date.”
Dorman stated this was a request from an individual in southwest Oklahoma who had a relative in a facility which experienced a power outage in the most recent ice storms to hit Oklahoma .
“Honestly, I do not understand why any respectable facility would not already have some plan in place to protect those they serve,” said Dorman. “I am certain many do have a response plan, but I feel this is a critical need to have in place and I would hope this would be one of the questions asked by potential residents to any long-term provider on what efforts are in place to plan for a disaster.”
Dorman said he has also been working with emergency management officials and plans to have further meetings to suggest ideas on how best to prepare Oklahomans for disasters. A group of emergency management officials ranging from local levels to the federal government were gathered to brainstorm on funding mechanisms for disasters and assist with ideas for preparation
“Our recent meeting to discuss ideas on how best to plan for disasters was a huge success,” Dorman said. “In our state with the wide variety of weather patterns, it is not a matter of “if” a weather-related disaster will happen, but when will something strike and how well we are prepared.”
Much confusion arose following storms in Oklahoma in regards to types of response from the state and federal government.
“FEMA does not currently reimburse individuals for the cost of purchasing a generator, but I hope we will see some assistance program in the future to aid the purchase of such items like we have had in the past,” Dorman said. “I think it is important we do all we can to make sure the best course of action is taken when these disasters strike and that includes ensuring businesses who serve our most fragile citizens meet critical needs.”


Friday, February 26, 2010

Legislation Making State Expenditures More Transparent Passes House Committee

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 22, 2010) — Legislation expanding Oklahoma’s taxpayer transparency website,, to include additional details regarding state expenditures unanimously passed House committee today.

House Bill 3422, by Rep. Ken Miller, would make state expenditures more transparent and available online, allowing the public to see exactly where their tax dollars are being spent.

"We have an obligation to the Oklahoma taxpayers to be as open as we can be when it comes to the expenditure of state funds," said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. "As more of our financial processes are moved online, our state will become more efficient and reporting expenditures will get easier."

The bill:

  • requires that all purchases made with state funds be disclosed on the online database, regardless of the amount of the expenditure
  • requires that each individual expenditure be listed separately instead of being lumped together as one purchase (for example, instead of listing several purchases under ‘office expenses’, detail would be required for each item purchased)
  • requires that the information provided on the website be searchable, either by using the name of the recipient, the entity making the purchase, or the date of the expenditure
  • requires that the data provided on the website be in a format in which users can easily export it into a separate document
  • requires that the Office of State Finance create an online archive database where users can access data older than 18 months

"Over the past few years we’ve put in place tools that make our state government more accountable to the taxpayers who fund its operation," said Miller, R-Edmond. "Open Books 2.0 will continue our progress by revealing unprecedented detail about how and where taxpayer funds are spent."

The legislation is part of ongoing House Republican efforts to modernize state government in order to improve efficiency, all while further opening the process up to the public.

"By providing direct access to the spending data the state will allow the citizens to analyze spending data without it being filtered through the prism of government controls," said Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie and chairman of the House Government Modernization Committee. "This is a big step forward towards true transparency and accountability."

The bill passed the House Government Modernization Committee with a unanimous vote.

House Bill 2310, which requires the Office of State Finance to develop a plan to eventually consolidate the financial services of all state agencies, also passed committee today.

Currently, most state agencies have their own department and/or employees to handle services related to payroll, purchasing, and accounts payable and receivable. However, the Office of State Finance already provides these services, and the office typically has a higher level of expertise and staff knowledge as the agency’s specific function is to administer the state’s financial processes.

The changes were suggested during a 2009 interim study, which examined the feasibility of moving to a shared services plan. During that study, OSF explained that there are 100 individual steps to make sure payroll is processed correctly. At the time, OSF projected more than $2 million in potential savings if all state agencies used centralized payroll.

The bill passed committee unanimously.

Both bills will next be considered by the full House.

To view video of Rep. Murphey discussing his government modernization legislation, go to:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Important Principles for Citizen Statesmen

Last weekend I was privileged to give a presentation to a group of individuals who have become engaged in following political activities due to the recent occurrences in national politics.

It is my belief that these developments will give rise to a large number of citizens who become involved in the political scene, stay engaged and work to make a difference for years to come. There is no doubt that a number will run for office and I believe they will effect progress in returning government to a more limited role such as that envisioned by our founding fathers.

I wanted to share with them some of my observations and talk about principles which differentiate between true citizen statesmen who provide a service to their fellow citizens and professional politicians who have wreaked so much havoc. I feel it is important for people to take a stand on these issues before seeking office. They need to know what they believe and use a checklist to ensure they are not deviating and becoming a part of the status quo - and thus they can continue to be a part of the solution and not the problem.

Citizen statesmen must engage in universal opposition to tax and fee increases. Money is the fuel which creates big government. In today's world there are already hundreds of different fees and taxes which are forced on the citizens. We must draw the line here. There is a calling for citizen leaders at all levels of government to oppose any efforts to increase the size of government by opposing fee and tax increases and to work for tax reduction.

Forward thinking leaders will oppose attempts to issue debt. Issuing debt is a way for politicians to provide temporary solutions to current problems and in so doing make it very difficult for future generations to reduce the size of government. This is one of the most abusive practices and is practiced by politicians of both parties.

Ethical legislators will insist on a separation of form and function in the budget making process. Legislatures who earmark money are bypassing a system of checks and balances and are greatly enhancing the opportunity for corruption.

Elected officials must energetically assist the effort to increase transparency. Technology is already in place to allow citizens to hold government accountable as never before. Policy leaders must have the courage to allow this to happen and the energy to enforce its application as soon as possible.

Perhaps the hardest but one of the most necessary roles policy makers must be successful at is cutting government spending. Unlike a private business, the government will never go away and thus does not have an instinctive need to streamline and reduce waste. It is their responsibility to follow the rapidly developing high-tech industry and aggressively apply technology advancements to streamline spending as soon as possible.

Finally, a citizen statesman should seek office not because of personal ambition or to become a career politician, but from dedication to making a difference and being a part of solution. If a policy leader finds that their desire for political advancement influences the way they govern, then they have likely become part of the problem.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feb. 19 Emergency Management Conference to Relocate

Feb. 19 Emergency Management Conference to Relocate


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

Contact: State Rep. Gus Blackwell
Capitol: (405) 557-7384

OKLAHOMA CITY – An emergency management conference scheduled for Feb. 19 to help federal, state, county and community-level emergency management officials and personnel better respond to disasters is going to be relocated to the Oklahoma City Fire Training Center , state Reps. Joe Dorman and Gus Blackwell said today.

“To get the federal government involved, local emergency management officials need to know the proper procedure to document damage during and the recovery following a disaster,” Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said. “But that will only be one aspect of the conference. We will also be talking about how we could have responded better to the ice storm that was very hard on many rural communities, including the entire area covering my district. Representative Blackwell and I will also be discussing legislation that we hope will help in funding future relief.”

“Participants will be taken through the entire process of emergency response, recovery and mitigation,” Blackwell, R-Guymon, said. “They will learn about FEMA procedures but will also contribute to a discussion on how to improve a coordinated response. I think this workshop will be an opportunity to narrow the response time and quicken the recovery after a disaster has occurred.”

The conference will now take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Oklahoma City Fire Training Center , 800 N. Portland , in Class Room A. The following is a schedule of events:

· Opening statements by Jon Hansen, Executive Director for the Council on Firefighter Training

· Carl Hickman, Fire Chief, City of Mustang

· David Barnes, Oklahoma County Emergency Manager and President of the Oklahoma Emergency Management Association

· Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management

· Karri Dubois, Public Assistance Officer with FEMA Region VI

· Jim Corbett, Director of Finance for the City of Moore (has been involved in the response to several emergencies)

· David Barnes, Oklahoma County Emergency Manager and President of the Oklahoma Emergency Management Association

· Break

· State Reps. Joe Dorman and Gus Blackwell discuss legislation

· Panel of four levels of emergency response:

o Carl Hickman, Fire Chief, City of Mustang

o David Barnes, Oklahoma County Emergency Manager and President of the Oklahoma Emergency Management Association

o Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management

o Karri Dubois, Public Assistance Officer with FEMA Region VI

“As you can see it’s going to be a full schedule; there will be little left uncovered,” Dorman said. “I think that with the ice storm fresh on their minds, participants will take a lot away from this meeting and contribute quite a bit to this workshop.”

The event is free and open to all city, county and state departments and officials involved in responding to natural disasters. To attend, RSVP to Pam King at or (405) 557-7305.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Update on State's Rights Legislation

During the past two weeks of the legislative session, Oklahoma State Representatives have mostly focused on committee work. Most legislation is subject to approval by a committee before being considered by the entire House of Representatives.

I have previously written about some state's rights initiatives which will be considered by the Oklahoma Legislature in an attempt to counter some recent expansive actions of the federal government.

Proponents of this legislation point to the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution which states that power not specifically given to the federal government by the Constitution shall be maintained within the states. This is an especially important component of our governance structure as we have a much greater opportunity to have our voices heard when the power of government is placed at the most localized level possible.

One of these state's rights initiatives is House Joint Resolution 1054 authored by Representative Mike Ritze and Senator Randy Brogdon -- and co-authored by several Legislators, including myself. The concept behind HJR 1054 was successfully introduced into the Arizona Legislature last year in response to the federal government's attempt to expand its role in the health care industry. HJR 1054 would allow Oklahomans to vote on placing a new section into the Oklahoma Constitution. If approved by Oklahoma voters, the new provision would state that laws "shall not compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system."

This proposal is designed to make the purchase of health care services voluntary. It is intended to establish that no law or rule can require a person to purchase health care insurance and no penalties or fines can be imposed upon a person who chooses not to purchase health care insurance.

Representative Ritze presented HJR 1054 to the House Rules Committee last Wednesday night. The committee approved the measure by a vote of 8-1. HJR 1054 will now be considered by the entire House of Representatives.

As a member of the Public Safety Committee, I was honored to support another important state's rights measure which would protect the right of Oklahomans to gun ownership. House Bill 3157 is authored by Representative Leslie Osborn and Senator Anthony Sykes. HB 3157 declares that the citizens of Oklahoma shall not be required to participate in any international, state or federal firearms registration program, nor shall any firearm lawfully owned and possessed by a citizen of this state be subject to confiscation unless such firearm has been used for unlawful purposes in violation of Oklahoma statute. HB 3157 was approved by the Public Safety Committee by a vote of 8-4.

In the upcoming weeks I intend to provide continued updates concerning the progress of this and other state's rights legislation.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Making the State Government Purchasing Process More Transparent

In last week's legislative update, I talked about how social media can be used as a feedback mechanism by businesses. I posited that state government should be allowed to take advantage of these same techniques, and I have heard from state officials how they need a clear set of policies to govern their actions in using social media projects.

In that article I wrote about how social media has the potential to keep government honest because everyone is able to see the public postings by citizens and government officials. This removes the "he said/she said" scenario and allows everyone to view the posts and make their own judgment calls.

I am of the firm belief that these types of technologies can also provide transparency to state government processes which are currently clouded by any number of antiquated regulations.

Here is an example. One of the legally complicated areas of state government activity is that of purchasing. As I work on legislation involving state purchasing practices, I frequently encounter stories from vendors who feel they are not treated fairly in the bidding process.

In the past, state government purchasing officers have been hesitant to engage in private communication with prospective vendors. Purchasing officers do not want to be accused of providing preferential treatment, nor do they wish to be accused of allowing an "inside track," or creating a successful bid over another competitor. This communication barrier may be responsible for costing the taxpayers, because the best vendors may not want compete for state business if they are not clear on what will be required of them or if they simply don't want to incur liabilities which could keep them from making a profit.

The key to solving this problem is to facilitate the use of a public forum where potential vendors can ask questions about outstanding bids and receive answers from state officials. The entire dialog would be viewable to everyone, eliminating any unfair advantage. Social networks and collaborative online resources such as Wikis allow for public communication to take place at little to no cost.

I believe that all requests for proposals (RFPs) for contracts could be posted through a series of collaborative documents, with all specifications being available to everyone having a bidding interest. This information could be linked to the collaborative forum or social network environment where the potential vendor could ask questions which everyone could review.

This year it is my intent to clearly define the ability of state government to use these tools. That effort will be codified if House Bill 2318 is approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.