Archive for the ‘OK Legislator’s Blog’ Category

House Votes to Protect Elderly in Nursing Homes from Criminals

May 23, 2008

We first brought you this story last week. The Oklahoma Legislature voted today to establish separate nursing home facilities for convicted sex offenders in need of long term care.

House Bill 2704, by state Rep. Kris Steele and state Sen. Tom Adelson (D-Tulsa), directs the Department of Health to request bids for the operation of a stand-alone, long-term care facility that will house only elderly, registered sex offenders.

“This legislation will allow for the operation of a home that includes additional security measures for offenders,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “This is a common-sense, fiscally responsible way to reduce the risk for abuse and protect our aging population from predators.”

There are approximately 30 known sex offenders currently residing in Oklahoma nursing homes. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections estimates 2,250 inmates convicted of sex crimes will be released from prison in the next 10 years. Twenty-six percent of these convicts will be age 51 or older and potentially in need of long-term care. In addition, recent data indicates the number of registered sexual offenders in Oklahoma is increasing.

House Bill 2704 passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate.

Sen. Gumm: Editorial Support Building for "Nick’s Law"

May 20, 2008

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Yogi Berra’s words – “It ain’t over until it’s over” – still has a slim chance of ringing true for families fighting for autism insurance, according to the bill’s sponsor.

Monday (May 19), two newspapers – both in predominantly Republican communities – published editorials in support of “Nick’s Law,” a measure by Senator Jay Paul Gumm that would require health insurance policies cover diagnosis and treatment for autistic children.

The Edmond Sun and The Enid News & Eagle both published editorials supportive of the proposal. The plan passed the Oklahoma Senate on four separate occasions only to be buried in the House of Representatives each time.

“Republicans, Democrats and independent voters across the state overwhelmingly support “Nick’s Law’,” said Gumm, D-Durant. “Supportive editorials in newspapers serving ‘rock-ribbed Republican’ communities further illustrate how amazingly out of step those are who will not even allow a vote on the bill.”

The Enid newspaper acknowledged the effort by families with autistic children, relating the families “have not been deterred in trying to make lawmakers see the light.” Further, the newspaper wrote it believes “this situation deserves more consideration and that families of autistic children need consideration by insurance companies.”

In the Edmond paper, which serves the hometown of 10-year-old Nicholas Rohde, the Nick of “Nick’s Law,” editorial writers noted, “Bearing the cost of autism alone is hurting these Oklahoma families.” Read more…

Senator Gumm: Peterson Shows "Lack of Understanding" About Autism Crisis

May 16, 2008

OKLAHOMA CITY – An analysis by Rep. Ron Peterson of an actuarial study on “Nick’s Law” shows the representative’s “serious lack of understanding” about the autism crisis, according to Senator Jay Paul Gumm.

“Rep. Peterson may know his former profession – insurance – but his analysis of the actuarial study we provided to him shows he simply does not understand the autism crisis,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant who has fought for passage of autism insurance.

“Every autistic child is different with different needs. To suggest that every autistic child presents the same exposure to the insurance industry is flat wrong and not borne out by the experience in other states – or the experience of parents of autistic children.”

The key premise of Peterson’s news release was that the study, provided by Gumm to House leaders earlier this week, did not reflect that every autistic child would take the maximum benefit allowed under “Nick’s Law.”

Peterson’s estimate of a 5.22 percent increase in rates has not happened in any state with an autism insurance law. Further, the fiscal impact statement on state employees’ insurance – touted by Peterson as justification for killing “Nick’s Law” – did not reflect anything more than a 1 percent impact on claim payouts. Read more…

"Bumper Sticker Politics" Create Bad Voter ID Bill

May 14, 2008

By Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! Previously, I have written about “bumper sticker politics,” where extremely complex issues are made to fit on a bumper sticker.

A measure I helped defeat last week is a perfect example of bumper sticker politics at its worst. The issue was euphemistically called “Voter ID.” The perception of a “Voter ID” bill is positive; it simply requires anyone to show identification before voting. That sounds reasonable.

The devil, as they say, is in the details Read more…

Video: Murphey Update (Week of May 9)

May 12, 2008


OK Legislator’s Blog: Rep. Murphey – Three Important Legislative Reforms Killed in State Senate

Senator Gumm Asks Speaker for Solution on Autism

May 6, 2008

Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, has sent House Speaker Chris Benge a letter asking for a proposal from the Speaker to help families struggling to provide services to children with autism.

Gumm is the primary author of “Nick’s Law,” a measure that would require health insurance policies to cover autism diagnosis and treatment. Last week, Speaker Benge announced he would not allow the bill to be considered by the House of Representatives.

Text of Senator Gumm’s letter, hand delivered to Benge’s Capitol office Tuesday, follows:

May 6, 2008

The Honorable Chris Benge
Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives
State Capitol, Room 401
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Mr. Speaker:

I was deeply disappointed to learn of the decision by you and your leadership team to deny even a hearing to “Nick’s Law,” the proposal to require health insurance coverage of autism diagnosis and treatment. Despite passing the Senate on bipartisan votes on four different occasions, the consistent answer from the House of Representatives has been “No.”

From the beginning of this struggle, those of us who support “Nick’s Law” have never believed our solution was the only answer. We have been – and continue to be – open to other potential solutions. You have given your answer to “Nick’s Law”; and it is “No.” My question, Mr. Speaker, is: What is your solution? We have placed ours on the table time and again only to be denied even a chance to present it in what is supposed to be “The People’s House.” Read more…


House Speaker Responds to Nick’s Law Letter

Failing To Provide New Hope

April 28, 2008

By Rep. Jason Murphey

One of the most heartbreaking votes took place last week as the House rejected an important reform that had already received approval of the Senate. The proposal, named the “New Hope Scholarship Program,” would have provided tax incentives to those willing to donate to a scholarship fund so students who were trapped in failing inner city schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa could attend private schools.

The Senate author of this bill, Senator James Williamson, described it as “a two-for-one deal. Two dollars of education for low-income students for every one dollar of effect on the sate budget.”

As I have mentioned in my previous updates, as a member of the Human Services Committee, I see firsthand that there are now 19,000 children in state custody. As a member of the Corrections Committee, I know that Oklahoma prisons are filled to capacity. There are no easy solutions to these problems because the massive cost falls upon the taxpayers; but these challenges, if left unchecked, will eventually be too large for the government to handle and will continue to usurp more and more of your taxpayer dollars. Read more…

Expanding the Scope of Term Limits

April 22, 2008

By Rep. Jason Murphey

A key figure in the ongoing federal trial for former State Senator Gene Stipe pled guilty this week to crimes related to the abuse of your taxpayer dollars. Because of the ongoing criminal case, past abuses of Oklahoma’s old guard politicians are becoming less and less of a secret.

I believe one of the key reasons for the exposure of these past abuses has been the dramatic shift in power in Oklahoma politics brought on by term limits. Those of us who are fighting to put an end to the abuses of the past face an increased likelihood of success, due in part to the fact that there are many new elected officials who have taken office in the past few years. Many of these individuals have not been corrupted by the political process. Unlike some of their predecessors, they are not career politicians. Oklahoma’s term limit law allows all representatives and senators to serve only twelve years in the Legislature. After that, they are under a lifetime ban from holding office in the Legislature again. I believe this new generation of representatives and senators is fulfilling one of the important visions of our nation’s founding fathers – the vision in which an average citizen dedicates a few years of his or her life to representing the people as a citizen-statesman. At the end of the term of office, the legislator returns to the normal world to live under the very laws he or she helped to create. This helps to ensure that legislators will be more representative of the people instead of becoming a class of the political elite.

As a result of the term limits law, the Legislature is very different from just a few years ago. Gone are many of the old guard power bosses who tightly maintained the status quo. These politicians could have stayed in office almost indefinitely and they held powerful committee chairmanships where they would bottle up reform-minded legislation. They have been replaced by a group of energetic professionals, many of whom wish to enact pro-growth policies (i.e. cutting taxes) to change Oklahoma for the better. And, should some succumb to the temptation to become part of the status quo, they will inevitably be replaced because of term limits. Read more…

The Nobler Mission

March 26, 2008

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! The word “bipartisan” often is tossed around in politics to suggest if something has bipartisan support, then it is a good thing.

That is not necessarily the case. A perfect example of a bill with bipartisan support that I believe is bad policy was one relating to education that passed the Senate and was sent to the House of Representatives a couple of weeks ago.

The argument used by supporters of this voucher scheme is that these public schools are so irreparably broken that we have to provide an escape route for a lucky few. For us, however, to abandon the rest of the kids in such a school is social Darwinism at its most perverse. Only the strong – or lucky – will survive under this scheme.

This is the easy answer; this bill encourages the “cherry picking” of a few kids, lifting them out of a poor school, and leaving behind hundreds of others. The harder mission – and the far nobler one – is to improve the school for every kid. It is not beyond our ability to do so; it just will be more difficult.

Nevertheless, the mission of public education is a difficult one. Unlike private schools, public schools have a responsibility to educate every child. Every Oklahoman – even those families who put their children in private schools or philanthropists who give to a voucher scheme like this one – benefits because we offer a free public education to every child. Read more…

Dorman Sponsors "Reintegration Facility" Legislation for Ex Prisoners

March 12, 2008

By Rep. Joe Dorman

I want to start the column this week by thanking Pastor Leon Shade and the congregation at First Baptist Church in Apache. I was invited to speak to the church on Sunday about prison ministry work and the problems we are facing with the corrections system here in Oklahoma. We have some great volunteers here in Oklahoma, such as Billie Ruth McDonald from Lawton who spend time inside the prison walls ministering to the inmates to help them find faith.

I’m carrying legislation (HCR 1008) to create a task force to look at establishing a “reintegration facility” here in Oklahoma. This would turn an existing facility into a place where inmates would go one year from release to learn how to survive outside the walls by taking life skills classes. This will cut down on recidivism and save money down the road by teaching them how to live a normal existence and not return to a life of crime.

This is a heavily debated issue where some people say we are being “soft on crime” by trying to prepare these convicts to learn how to live outside prison again and others saying that religious groups should not be involved in prison ministry work due to the separation of church and state. Both these arguments are silly in my opinion. Read more…