"Just Before a Big Storm…"

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody. The 2008 session of the Oklahoma Legislature ended at 10:30 p.m., Friday, May 23 – a week before the date by which we must complete our session.
It was a strange session. The atmosphere at the Capitol was very much like that just before a big storm. Throughout the session, you could feel the storm coming but it had not arrived.
That “storm” will be the elections that will occur this year, determining the composition of the Legislature in 2009. Term limits, as much as Oklahomans’ votes, continue shaping the Legislature. In the Senate, there will be at least five new members replacing five who reached their service limit of 12 years.
Because this is an election year during which partisan control of the Legislature will be determined, neither side took many risks. Neither Republicans nor Democrats wanted to make any mistakes that would come back to haunt them come election time.
There were few major battles. Even the budget was resolved with little creativity or squabbling.
My fight to end insurance discrimination against autistic children probably was the most watched battle. Despite the public attention to the fight, it came to an end in the proverbial “smoke-filled room” when House leaders refused to even allow a vote.
On that issue, you may rest assured that the families who fought alongside me and I will both be back to pick up the battle in 2009. Every child is precious, including those afflicted with autism, and they and their families deserve our help.

One measure I believe will have the greatest long-term impact was my bill to create an Oklahoma public umbilical cord blood bank. In time, this measure – which had to overcome many obstacles – will give every Oklahoma family the ability to bank umbilical cord blood resulting from the birth of a healthy baby.

Researchers tell us that many diseases can currently be treated with the adult stem cells in cord blood. This law will give us the means to treat more Oklahomans with these life-saving therapies, and open the door to every Oklahoma family rather than just those families who can afford the thousands of dollars it costs to privately bank cord blood.
Over the next several editions of “The Senate Minute,” I will review some of the accomplishments and disappointments of the 2008 session of the Oklahoma Legislature. There is much to discuss.
Despite the session being adjourned, the work of state government goes on. As always, if you have any comments, questions or concerns about any issue, feel free to contact me. You can reach my Capitol office at either (580) 924-2221 or (405) 521-5586. You can also reach me by email at gumm@oksenate.gov. You also can follow news on my website at http://www.gumm.us/.

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