2013 Oklahoma Conservative Index
The Oklahoma Constitution presents the 35th annual Oklahoma Conservative Index, rating our state legislators. Members of each house of the Oklahoma Legislature were rated on ten key votes. A favorable vote on these issues represents a belief in limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise, constitutional government, and traditional standards.
After taking suggestions from many conservatives leaders, the staff of the Oklahoma Constitution submitted bills to a vote of the membership of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) for recommendations of the ten key votes.
To determine this year’s rating, 10 points were earned for each conservative vote (designated by a C), and no points are awarded for a liberal vote (indicated by an L). Each failure to vote (recorded as a Z) provides only three points. When the rating system was created in 1979, it was decided that there should be a difference between voting liberal, and missing a vote. But, a legislator absent for all the votes could only score 30%, which is our recommended score for seeking a replacement.
Thus, a legislator voting conservative on eight votes, liberal on one, and failing to vote on another, would receive eighty plus three, or an 83% conservative rating.
This year’s conservative rating was averaged with the legislator’s scores from previous years to obtain the Cumulative Average score for all the years that a legislator has been rated. With term limits, we have moved into a period where no legislator will have a cumulative score based on a period longer than twelve years. However, a few former legislators with service previous to the term limits law were later elected to their current positions and the scores from their previous service are included.
By examining this year’s score in relation to the Cumulative Average, the voting pattern of a particular legislator can be determined. While most score nearly the same, year after year, others trend upward or downward from their average. If your legislator is trending toward conservatism, please offer your encouragement and support. If your legislator is exhibiting a leftward trend, it is time to express your disappointment and suggest the need for a replacement if the trend is not reversed.
The average score in the House was 68%, compared to 63% last year. The Senate averaged 62% conservative this year, compared to 56% last year. Eighty-two legislators scored 70, or better, compared to 62 who scored 70%, or better, last year. We suggest you commend all of these lawmakers.
Readers should consider replacing those who scored 30%, or less, while giving close scrutiny to those who scored between 30 and 70.
The Top Conservative and Top Liberal legislators were selected by their scores on the Index. Making the Top Conservatives list were those lawmakers who scored 80%, or better. On the Top Liberals list were those who made 20%, or less.
THE TOP CONSERVATIVES
Eight legislators, all in the House, scored a perfect 100% conservative rating this year. House members scoring 100% included David Brumbaugh (Broken Arrow), Dennis Casey (Morrison), Bobby Cleveland (Slaughterville), Josh Cockroft (Tecumseh), Sally Kern (Oklahoma City), Lewis Moore (Arcadia), Jason Murphey (Guthrie) and Marty Quinn of Claremore.
The next highest score was a 93% by Senator Anthony Sykes of Moore. Also scoring 93% , in the House, were Dan Fisher (El Reno), Paul Wesselhoft (Moore), and Justin Wood of Shawnee.
Earning a score of 90% were House members Jon Echols (Oklahoma City), Randy Grau (Edmond), Elise Hall (Oklahoma City), Mark McCullough (Sapulpa), Glen Mulready (Tulsa), Pat Ownbey (Ardmore), and Jason Smalley of Stroud. In the Senate, those who scored 90% were Cliff Aldridge (Choctaw), Nathan Dahm (Broken Arrow), and Kyle Loveless of Oklahoma City. Registering scores of 86% were two House members, Gary Banz (Midwest City) and John Bennett of Sallisaw.
Five House members made 83%. They were David Dank (Oklahoma City), Arthur Hulbert (Ft. Gibson), Charlie Joyner (Midwest City), Jason Nelson (Oklahoma City), Terry O’Donnell of Catoosa. Senator Greg Treat of Edmond also made 83%.
Nine House members, and four Senators registerd scores of 80% to round out the Top Conservatives list. In the House, they were David Derby (Owasso), Tommy Hardin (Madill), Randy McDaniel (Edmond), Tom Newell (Seminole), Jadine Nollan (Sand Springs), Sean Roberts (Hominy), Earl Sears (Bartlesville), Ken Walker (Tulsa), and Harold Wright of Weatherford. In the Senate, Josh Brecheen (Coalgate), David Holt (Oklahoma City), Ron Sharp (Shawnee), and Rob Standridge of Norman, also scored 80%.
No legislators scored zero conservative this year, but the legislator with the lowest Conservative score was Emily Virgin of Norman, who scored a dismal 16%. Another House member, Kay Floyd of Oklahoma City, scored only 20%, as did Senate member Constance Johnson of Forest Park. These three legislators are the Top Liberal list for this session.
A description of the bills used for this year’s ratings, a list of the all legislators with their vote on each of the ten bills, their total score for this year, and their Cumulative Average including scores from any previous years, is found in the center of this issue. It is also available by clicking the box labeled “How conservative is your legislator?” in the upper right corner of our home page at: www.oklahomaconstitution.com
Bills used for 2013 Conservative Index:
(1) Prohibit Foreign Laws
HB 1060 by Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa)
This legislation prohibits the application of foreign laws when the application violates either the Oklahoma Constitution or the U.S. Constitution. Rep. Kern said the legislation follows on the heels of past efforts that were successfully challenged because of their specificity. “The courts ruled against State Question 755 because it singled out Sharia law,” said Kern. “Our intent with this bill is to use language similar to that of legislation in Tennessee, Kansas, Arizona and Louisiana, all of which passed without any court challenges.” Oklahoma voters approved the State Question by a margin of 70 percent. The bill initially passed the House and the Senate amended and approved the measure 40-3 on April 8. It returned to the House which adopted the senate amendments and gave final approval by a 85-7 vote on April 11. It was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin on April 18. A YES vote is Conservative.
(2) Guns in Private Schools
HB 1622 by Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. Greg Treat (R-Edmond)
This legislation allows private elementary or secondary schools to set school firearms policy. It also provides that the governing entity of a private school which has adopted a firearms policy is immune from liability except for acts of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. “The state has no business telling private entities who can and cannot carry a firearm on their property,” said Rep. Kern, the House author. The House gave final approval to the bill 69-21 on May 22 and the Senate 40-0 on May 23. Gov. Fallin signed the bill on May 29. A YES Vote is Conservative.
(3) Driver’s License Fee Increase
SB 652 by Sen. Don Barrington (R-Lawton) and Rep. Don Armes (R-Faxon)
This bill raises the cost of the standard Class D driver’s license from $21.50 to $33.50 and commercial licenses by $10. Identification cards that were $10 will be $20, and so will replacement driver’s licenses. The fee hikes will generate about $8.7 million annually for the Department of Public Safety (DPS). The excuse for the fee increase was to reduce long lines encountered by those trying to take a driving test. The additional money will buy new equipment for issuing licenses and allow the DPS to increase the number of license examiners by 22. But, that would be a cost of nearly $400,000 per added examiner. Critics charge that most of the increased revenue will instead be used for other operations of the agency. In fact, much of the money will go for upgrades to the DPS communications system for state troopers, and increased costs for the digital driver’s license contract. Since a fee is supposed to cover the cost of a service, such as issuing a driver’s licence, the increase is largely a tax rather than a fee. The agency, which had 138 driver’s license examiners in 2006, now has fewer than 100. State appropriations to the agency were modestly cut during the period and the agency disproportionately reduced examiners and closed examiner stations. The House approved the bill 53-42 on April 24 and the Senate approved 30-15 on May 6. The governor signed the bill on May 13.The new rates will be effective November 1. A NO vote is Conservative.
(4) Film Enhancement Rebates
SB 1126 by Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) and Rep. Scott Martin (R-Norman)
This bill would have extended the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program under the Compete with Canada Film Act to June 30, 2024. The program is currently scheduled to expire June 30, 2014. Under the program, rebates of a portion of production costs are available to qualifying companies that produce films, television productions, or television commercials in the state of Oklahoma. Currently, the state pays 35 percent of their costs. The bill would have changed the rebates to 25 percent and raised the amount of rebates that may be granted from $5 million to $8 million per year. The Senate passed the bill 36-4 on May 16. The House approved 45-44 on May 23, but the bill failed to receive the 51 vote majority required for approval. A NO vote is Conservative.
(5) Workers’ Comp Reform
SB 1062 by Sen. Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa) and Rep. T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton)
This bill converts the state’s current judicial workers compensation system to an administrative system. Oklahoma is one of only two states that still use an adversarial judiciary system. Currently, workers who are injured on the job can wait years for a benefits judgment due to the slow and drawn out legal process under the judicial system. The costly legal proceedings, and the large share of judgements claimed by Workers’ Comp attorneys, increases workers’ compensation insurance rates for Oklahoma businesses. Under the administrative system, workers compensation cases will be heard by an administrative judge. Sen. Bingman noted, “Our adversarial system has been one of the most expensive in the country, and it hasn’t done a very good job of helping injured workers get quality medical care in a timely fashion. The result has been disastrous for business, for Oklahoma, and most importantly, for injured workers.” After initially passing the Senate, the bill was amended and approved by the House 74-24 on April 24. It returned to the Senate which accepted the House amendments and approved the final bill 35-12 on April 30. Gov. Fallin signed on May 6. The new system will go into effect on February 1, 2014. A YES vote is Conservative.
(6) Work for Food Stamps
HB 1909 by T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) and Sen. David Holt (R-Oklahoma City)
This bill requires able-bodied recipients, ages 18 to 50 who are not disabled or raising a child, to perform at least 20 hours of work activities as a condition of receiving food stamps. Unemployed individuals are able to receive food stamps for up to 90 days, after which time those able-bodied persons must fulfill the 20 hour work requirement to continue to receive food stamp benefits. Those work requirements come from the federal 1996 Welfare Reform Law. Currently, able-bodied individuals do not have to fulfill work requirements due to waivers requested by the states and approved by the federal government. This bill orders the Department of Human Services (DHS) to no longer seek a waiver. The bill passed the House 86-11on March 11. It was approved by the Senate 33-8 on April 23. It was signed by the governor on April 29 and will go into effect November 1 of this year. A YES vote is Conservative.
(7) Income Tax Cut
HB 2032 by T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) and Sen. Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa)
This bill reduces the top rate of the state personal income tax, and adjusts the schedules for other income levels, reducing taxes for most taxpayers. The current top tax rate is 5.25 percent and this plan lowers the top bracket to 5.00% beginning in the 2015 tax year and further lowers the rate to 4.85% in the 2016 tax year (contingent on revenue growth). Rep. Shannon said reducing the state income tax would make Oklahoma more competitive with other states in the region and help attract a skilled and educated workforce. Over the past 15 years Oklahoma has reduced the income tax rate from 7.0 percent to current 5.25 percent, a reduction of roughly 25 percent. Since the legislature began cutting the tax rate, Oklahoma has seen a 47 percent increase in revenues from $1.9 billion to $2.8 billion. The bill also contains a provision to fund state capitol building repairs without borrowing money with bonds. The bill was approved in the House and then amended and approved by the Senate 32-14 on April 24. The amended bill was approved by the House 65-35 on May 1. Gov. Fallin signed the bill on May 13. A YES Vote is Conservative.
(8) Nondiscrimination in Treatment
HB1403, by Rep. Dennis Johnson (R-Duncan) and Sen. Anthony Sykes (R-Moore)
This bill creates the Nondiscrimination in Treatment Act. The measure requires health care providers to administer life-preserving health care services to every patient regardless if they are elderly, disabled, or terminally ill. A health care provider cannot deny to a patient a life-preserving health care service that it provides to other patients, on the basis of a view that extending the life of an elderly, disabled, or terminally ill individual is of lower value than extending the life of an individual who is younger, non-disabled, or not terminally ill. The service must be requested by the patient or a person legally authorized to make health care decisions for the patient. The bill initially passed the House and the Senate amended and approved the measure 41-2 on April 11. The House gave final approval 85-11 on April 18. It was signed by the governor on April 26. A YES vote is conservative.
(9) Morning After Pill
HB 2226 by Rep. Colby Schwartz (R-Yukon) and Sen. A.J. Griffin (R-Guthrie)
This bill provides that Plan B, One-Step, or its generic equivalent, also known as the “morning-after” emergency contraceptive, shall not be available to women under the age of seventeen (17) without a prescription. Such emergency contraceptives can be dispensed by pharmacists to women seventeen (17) years of age and older without a prescription. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently dropped requirements for the drug to be dispensed by prescription. The bill initially passed the House and the Senate amended and approved the measure. The House rejected the Senate amendments and a Conference Committee was named. The Conference Committee Report was approved by the House 69-9 on May 16 and the Senate 31-10 on May 23. Gov. Fallin signed the bill on May 29. A YES vote is Conservative.
(10) Health Insurance Mandate
SB 765 by Sen. Greg Treat (R-Edmond) and Rep. David Derby (R-Owasso)
This legislation adds new requirements for what must me covered in health insurance plans sold in the state. It provides that any health benefit plan that offers coverage and benefits for cancer treatment must cover orally administered anti-cancer medications. Coverage will not be subject to prior authorization, dollar limit, copayment, deductible, or an out-of-pocket expense that does not apply to intravenously administered or injected cancer medications. As with other insurance mandates, this legislation increases the cost of insurance and reduces choices for consumers. It passed the Senate 37-5 on March 7 and the House 72-22 on April 16. The governor signed the bill on April 22. A NO vote is Conservative.
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