Oklahoma State Senate
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: March
Senator Jay Paul Gumm
Senate Passes Constitutional Amendment to
Suspend Pay of Locked-up Lawmakers
A measure that would close a loophole that allowed
a former Republican lawmaker to receive his legislative salary while
locked up in jail is one step closer to becoming a law.
Senate Joint Resolution 5, by Senator Jay
Paul Gumm, easily cleared the Senate Tuesday on a unanimous
45-0 vote. The measure was forwarded to the House of Representatives.
The resolution would give Oklahoma voters a chance to put in the
state constitution language that prevents any state legislator from
being paid while locked up on a misdemeanor conviction.
A constitutional amendment is needed because legislators cannot
change legislative pay. Only the Legislative Compensation Board,
a constitutional body, can change lawmakers’ pay and only
the people can change the constitutional law that directs the board.
“If an elected official is sitting in a jail cell, he or she
is not doing the job for which taxpayers are paying them,”
said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant. “The case of Representative
O’Neal has shown a glaring loophole in our state law on elected
According to court records, then-Rep. Mike O’Neal pled guilty
last year to the misdemeanor crime of outraging public decency.
The veteran Republican lawmaker was originally charged with felony
sexual battery over the incident in an Oklahoma City hotel.
Because the plea agreement was for a misdemeanor crime, O’Neal
remained a member of the House of Representatives despite the jail
term and a five-year deferred sentence. State law already removes
convicted felons from office; because most misdemeanor crimes are
minor – like traffic tickets – there is no automatic
removal or reduction in pay. SJR 5 would change that.
The measure has been the subject of numerous editorials in newspapers
from across Oklahoma. One editorial called Gumm’s bill, “common
sense legislation,” and said “if this legislation doesn’t
sail through both houses . . . then there is something terribly
wrong under the dome.”
The proposed constitutional amendment also prevents locked-up elected
officials from participating in retirement programs and other compensations.
If an elected official was acquitted or charges dismissed, the compensation
would be restored. If, like O’Neal, the official were found
or pled guilty, the compensation would be forfeited.
If approved by lawmakers, Oklahoma voters would pass judgment on
the new constitutional provision in the 2006 general election.
“Those serving in public office should be held to a higher
standard,” Gumm concluded. “This common sense proposal
closes a loophole and protects the trust all of us who serve in
public office should strive to maintain.”
Senate Communications Office - (405) 521-5774