The 2018 Oklahoma Conservative Index
This issue of the Oklahoma Constitution presents the 40th 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 fiscal responsibility, individual liberty, free enterprise, and constitutional government.
After taking suggestions from conservative leaders, the staff of the Oklahoma Constitution submitted bills to a vote of the membership of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) to determine the ten key votes. The legislators were rated based on their votes on bills involving taxes, interference in free markets, protecting liberty, and the right to keep and bear arms.
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. 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 any previous years of service to obtain the Cumulative Average score for all the years that legislator has been rated. With term limits, we have moved into a period when no legislator will have a cumulative score based on a period longer than twelve years. However, a few former legislators with service prior to the term limits law were later elected to their current positions. The scores of legislators with previous service are included in their cumulative average.
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 you 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 this year was 43%, compared to 32% last year. The Senate averaged 48% conservative this year, compared to 33% last year. There were 21 legislators who scored 70%, or better this year, compared to only 12 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%.
There were a few vacancies during the legislative session due to the resignation of a legislator. Since those legislators were not present for all of the votes, they were not rated. Newly elected Rep. Brad Boles (Marlow), and Sen. David Holt (OKC) who resigned after being elected Oklahoma City mayor, were vacant for part of the session. They were not rated, although there votes on the bills for which they were present are included. The votes on bills that occurred when there seats were vacant are recorded with a V.
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 making less than 20%.
THE TOP CONSERVATIVES
Three legislators, two in the House and one in the Senate, scored a perfect 100% conservative rating this year. House members scoring 100% were Tom Gann (Inola) and Jason Murphy (Guthrie). Senator Nathan Dahm of Broken Arrow also scored 100%.
The next highest score was 93%, made by Representative Chuck Stohm (Jenks) and Anthony Sykes of the Senate. Scoring 90% were Jeff Coody (Grandfield) and Sean Roberts (Hominy) of the House, and Josh Brecheen (Coalgate) of the Senate. Kevin Calvey (OKC), George Faught (Muskogee) and Rick West (Heavener) of the House all scored 83%.
Representative Travis Dunlap (Bartlesville), Mike Ritze (Broken Arrow), and Kevin West (Moore) of the House scored 80%, along with Rob Standridge of the Senate, completing the list of Top Conservatives.
THE TOP LIBERALS
While no legislators scored zero conservative this year, two legislators, both in the Senate only scored a dismal 3 percent conservative: Kay Floyd (OKC) and John Sparks (Norman). Kevin Matthews of Tulsa scored a mere 6 percent conservative. Other low scores were compiled by Representatives Mickey Dollens (OKC), and Jason Dunnington (OKC), both making only 9%. Other legislators who scored less than 20% conservative on this year’s Index included Forrest Bennett (OKC), William Fourkiller (Stilwell), Claudi Griffith (Norman), Katie Henke (Tulsa), Ben Loring (Miami), Jason Lowe (OKC), Mark McBride (Moore), Monroe Nichols (Tulsa), Brian Renegar (McAlester), Emily Virgin (Norman), Collin Walke (OKC), and George Young (OKC), of the House and Michael Brooks (OKC), Anastasia Pittman (OKC), and Ervin Yen (OKC) of the Senate.
BILLS FOR THE 2018 CONSERVATIVE INDEX
(1) Tax Increase Package
HB 1010XX, by Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) and Sen. Kim David (R-Porter)
This multifaceted tax increase package is estimated to take an additional $447 million from taxpayers each year. This was the first time that a major tax increase bill has been able to surpass the three-quarters supermajority vote required since State Question 640 was approved by voters in 1992. The bill increases the tax on diesel 6 cents per gallon and on gasoline 3 cents per gallon. It increases the cigarette tax $1 per pack. The bill changes the method of taxing little cigars to the same as cigarettes. The bill increases the Gross Production Tax rate from 2 percent to 5 percent on all wells. It passed the House 79-19 on March 26 and the Senate 36-10 on March 28. It was approved by Gov. Fallin on March 29. A No Vote is Conservative.
(2) Cap Itemized Income Deductions
HB 1011XX, by Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) and Sen. Kim David (R-Porter)
This bill is expected to take an additional $84.3 million from taxpayers by making changes to the state income tax code. It imposes a $17,000 cap on itemized deductions on state tax returns beginning with tax year 2018. It passed the House 59-40 on March 26 and the Senate 28-18 on March 28. It was approved by Gov. Fallin on March 29. A No Vote is Conservative.
(3) Protecting Faith-based Organizations
SB 1140 by Sen. Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) and Rep. Travis Dunlap (R-Bartlesville)
This bill protects the religious liberty of faith-based organizations engaged in adoptions and foster care. To the extent allowed by federal law, no private child-placing agency shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies. The bill also allows faith-based agencies that contract with the state of Oklahoma to continue to operate in accordance with their beliefs. It mirrors similar legislation in Virginia which has been on the books since 2012. Since then, five additional states have passed similar legislation. The need for the legislation was prompted by actions in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, where faith-based agencies closed their doors after new regulations mandated changes to their adoption criteria that violated their religious principles. The bill passed the House 56-21 on May 3 and the Senate 33-7 on May 3. Gov. Fallin approved the bill on May 11. A Yes Vote is Conservative.
(4) Constitutional Carry of Firearms
SB 1212 by Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) and Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy)
This measure would allow any person at least 21 years of age, or a person who is at least 18 years of age and in the military, to carry a firearm concealed or unconcealed if the person is not otherwise disqualified from the possession or purchase of a firearm. It excludes persons convicted of certain crimes from carrying a firearm. Firearms would remain prohibited in places where weapons are not allowed. Currently training and a permit are required to carry a firearm. No other Constitutional right requires people to get training and be licensed in order to exercise that right. Oklahoma would have been the 14th state to enact Constitutional Carry legislation. It passed the House 59-28 on April 25 and the Senate 33-9 on May 2. Gov. Fallin vetoed the bill on May 11. A Yes Vote is Conservative.
(5) Move Native American Day
HB 2661 by Rep. Chuck Hoskin (D-Vinita) and Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman)
This legislation would moves Native American Day from the third Monday in November to the second Monday in October, which is the same date as Columbus Day. Since 1937 Columbus Day has been celebrated in recognition of Christopher Columbus discovering America, but Rep. Hoskin said that the purpose of the bill was to diminish the recognition of the accomplishments of Columbus. The bill passed the House 71-10 on March 8 and the Senate 35-5 on April 26. Gov. Fallin vetoed the bill on May 3. A No vote is Conservative.
(6) Vehicle Manufacturing Tax Credits
SB 1585 by Sen. Kim David (R-Porter) and Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston)
This bill creates several income tax credits designed to subsidize employers and employees in the vehicle manufacturing industry. It applies to vehicle manufacturing companies placed in operation in Oklahoma after the effective date of the bill. The tax credits would be in effect for tax years 2019 through 2025. It caps the credits at $3 million per year for tuition reimbursement and payroll tax credits and $2 million per year for the employee engineer tax credit. It passed the Senate 32-10 on May 1 and the House 61-20 on May 3. Approved by Gov. Fallin on May 10. A No Vote is Conservative.
(7) Medicaid Work Requirements
HB 2932 by Rep. Glen Mulready (R-Tulsa) and Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Edmond)
This legislation directs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to apply to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a waiver that institutes work requirements for Medicaid recipients. It aligns Medicaid work and job training requirements with that of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which was formerly known as food stamps. That program involves working, participation in a work program, or a combination of both of 20 hours per week. The new eligibility criteria is expected to affect up to 8,000 able-bodied adults without dependents between the ages of 18 and 50. CMS has approved similar waivers for Kentucky, Indiana, New Hampshire and Arkansas. Maine, Kansas, Mississippi, and others have submitted waivers, and await approval from CMS. The bill passed the House 53-23 on May 2 and the Senate 35-8 on May 3. Gov. Fallin approved the bill on May 3. A Yes Vote is Conservative.
(8) Aeronautics Economic Services
HB 2578 by Rep. Tess Teague (R-Choctaw) and Sen. Paul Rosino (R-Oklahoma City)
The Aeronautics Commerce Economic Services (ACES) Act establishes an Aerospace and Defense Industry Integrator. The integrator shall be used to engage key players from the government, academia and other key stakeholders to create an industry-wide vision and strategic map that details a plan to enhance the industry. “ACES shall acquire aerospace executive expertise and provide consulting services to the aviation, aerospace and defense industries, government agencies and organizations across the State of Oklahoma in order to strengthen the policy framework, economic development initiatives and activities of the state.” While no initial funding is provided for this new program, the bill says that it may accept funding from various sources including “state appropriated dollars.” It passed the Senate 37-4 on April 26, and the House 53-33 May 3. It was approved by Gov. Fallin on May 10. A No Vote is Conservative.
(9) Display Ten Commandments
HB 2177 by Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) and Sen. Joe Silk (R-Broken Bow)
This bill allows the display of the Ten Commandments alongside other historically significant founding documents on public property. The bill doesn’t mandate the display of the commandments, it only allows them to be shown alongside documents such as the U.S. or Oklahoma Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta or others in state buildings, public schools, or on other public property. The Ten Commandments have been displayed in U.S. institutions since the founding of our nation. They are now displayed in the National Archives and the U.S. Supreme Court as well as in many state capitols, courthouses and legislative buildings across the country. Rep. Bennett said he’s not sure why opponents consider this so dangerous, pointing out that both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, in 1776, proposed featuring Moses prominently on the seal of the newly formed United States of America. “Should we not teach our children in school that they should not kill, steal or lie? Should it be against the law to teach them to obey their father and mother?” Bennett asked. “The fact that some may not agree with all of the commandments does not mean they shouldn't be displayed, any more than the fact that not everyone agrees with all of the protections granted by the Bill of Rights, yet that does not prohibit its display.” It passed the Senate 39-3 on April 26 and the House 60-14 on May 3. Gov. Fallin approved the bill on May 11. A Yes Vote is Conservative.
(10) Parental Rights
HB 3369 by Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) and Sen. Jason Smalley (R-Stroud)
This measure proposed to make it unlawful for any parent or guardian to permit his or her child to possess a crossbow except while hunting or at hunter safety classes. The bill would restrict the rights of parents to make this decision. It passed the House 51-37 on March 7, but failed in the Senate 15-26 on April 26. A No Vote is Conservative.
A description of the bills used for this year’s ratings, a list of all the legislators with their vote on each of the ten bills, their total score for this year, and their Cumulative Average including scores from previous years, are found in the PDF files below. The Conservative Index scores for prior years are also available below.
In The News
Voters Reject Four of Five State Questions
Six statewide ballot measures were certified for the 2018 elections in Oklahoma. One measure, the...
All Judges Survive Retention Ballot
On November 6, Oklahoma voters retained four Supreme Court justices, three Court of Criminal Appeals...
Democrats Flip Oklahoma Congressional Seat
The big news coming out of the Oklahoma congressional elections was the flipping of the Fifth...
Republicans Sweep Statewide Secondary Offices
In addition to the governors office, a host of secondary statewide offices, and one seat for the...
A Tale of Two Professors
In the Fall 2018 issue of the Oklahoma Constitution, I related the persecution of OU law professor...
Stopping the Revolving Door
It was quite the surreal moment in the Oklahoma House of Representatives! As the 2018 legislative...