2012 Conservative Index
The 2012 Oklahoma Conservative Index
The Oklahoma Constitution presents the 34thd 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 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 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 was 63%, compared to 58% last year. The Senate averaged 56% conservative this year, compared to 55% last year. Sixty-two legislators scored 70, or better, compared to 61 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
Six legislators scored a perfect 100% conservative rating this year. House members scoring 100% included Elise Hall, Charles Key, and Sally Kern of Oklahoma City, Jason Murphey (Guthrie) and Tom Newell (Seminole). Anthony Sykes of Moore was the lone senator with a perfect 100% score.
The next highest score was a 93% by Sen. Mike Mazzei of Bixby. Scoring 90% were House members Marian Cooksey (Edmond), David Derby (Owasso), George Faught (Muskogee), Dennis Johnson (Duncan), Pam Peterson (Tulsa), Sean Roberts (Hominy), Colby Schwartz (Yukon), T. W. Shannon (Lawton), and Paul Wesselhoft of Moore. In the Senate, Greg Treat of Edmond also scored 90%.
Scoring 83% were House members Gary Banz (Midwest City), Randy Grau (Edmond), Tommy Hardin (Madill), Dan Kirby (Tulsa), Mark McCullough (Sapulpa), Randy McDaniel (Edmond), and Randy Terrill of Moore.
Rounding out the list of Top Conservatives, with scores of 80%, were Lee Denney (Cushing), and Louis Moore (Arcadia) in the House, and senators Rick Brinkley (Owasso), Ralph Shortey (Oklahoma City), and Gary Stanislawski (Tulsa).
One legislator scored zero conservative this year, Constance Johnson (Oklahoma City) of the Senate. Those who could only score a dismal 10% included Mike Shelton (Oklahoma City), of the House and senators Richard Lerblance (Hartshorne), Al McAffrey (Oklahoma City), and Jim Wilson of Tahlequah. Scoring only 16% was House member Emily Virgin of Norman.
Tom Adelson (Tulsa) of the Senate rated 19% conservative, and scoring 20% to round out the Top Liberals list were Jabar Shumate of Tulsa in the House, and senators Roger Ballenger of Okmulgee and Judy Eason McIntyre of Tulsa.
Bills used for the 2012 Oklahoma Conservative Index:
(1) HB 2204 - Unemployment Benefits Fraud
Authors: Rep. Randy McDaniel (R-Edmond) and Sen. Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa)
House Bill 2204 cracks down on people taking unfair advantage of unemployment benefits. Abuse occurs when people continue to receive unemployment benefits after they have taken a new job. Also, some individuals do not search for employment when receiving the benefits as required. The legislation requires people to pay back all the money they illegally received, plus a 25 percent penalty of that amount. Unemployment taxes for business would be lessened because less unemployment tax would not be drained from the trust fund by people who do not qualify for benefits. The bill also excuses employers from having to get permission from a terminated employee to use a positive drug test as evidence during a dispute of unemployment benefits. The bill passed the Senate 40 to 5 on April 25 and the House 83-7 on May 2. The bill was approved by the Governor on May 8. A YES vote is Conservative.
(2) SB 1707 - December Municipal Elections
Authors: Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. Greg Treat (R-Edmond)
Senate Bill 1707 allows municipalities with a population in excess of 250,000 to hold a special election on the second Tuesday of December in odd-numbered years. Legislation passed last year bars municipalities from holding special elections during such odd times. Historically, cities often schedule bond proposals or sales tax increase elections at times which large voter turnout is not expected. This usually gives promoters of such initiatives an advantage. In the middle of December, people are concentrating on the approaching Christmas holiday and the weather is more likely to discourage turnout. The legislation was approved by the Senate 37-8 on the 5th of March and the House 56-27 on the 18th of April. The bill was approved by the Governor on April 25. A No vote is Conservative vote.
(3) HB 2469 - State Infrastructure Bank
Authors: Rep. Richard Morrisette (D-Oklahoma City) and Crain (R-Tulsa)
House Bill 2469 authorizes a new revenue stream for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and adds "rail" as an eligible project for the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB). The SIB is empowered to barrow money for the projects through the federal Department of Transportation and does not require approval of the Legislature. The legislation was specifically intended to aid in the development of passenger rail service between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The bill was approved by the House 68-24 and the Senate 38-5 on the 25th of May. The bill was approved by the Governor on June 8. A NO vote is Conservative vote.
One major Bond funding bill (HB 3156) was rejected by the House and not considered in the Senate, while SB 1990 failed in the Senate and was not voted on in the House. These two bills were paired for the Bond vote in the respective chambers.
(4) HB 3156 - Bonds - State Capital Repairs (House Vote)
Authors: Rep. Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville) and Sen. Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa)
A plan to issue $200 million in bonds for repairs to buildings at the State Capitol was overwhelmingly defeated in the Oklahoma House. House members voted 77-15 on May 23 against the plan with many charging that it was fiscally irresponsible to borrow such a huge sum of money. The measure authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority (OCIA) to issue obligations for repairs, refurbishment and improvements at the State Capitol Park in an amount necessary to generate net proceeds of $200,000,000. Funds would first be applied to renovations of the State Capitol Building and any funds remaining would be applied to renovation, repair and remodeling of the Jim Thorpe Office Building, the Governor's Mansion and other State Capitol Park projects. OCIA could issue obligations in one or more series with a final maturity occurring no longer than thirty (30) years. The amount necessary to retire the bonds could result in annual payments ranging from $10.9 million to $11.75 million per year. A NO vote is Conservative vote.
(4) SB 1990 - Bonds - Indian Cultural Center (Senate Vote)
Authors: Sen. Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa) and Rep. Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville)
The Senate defeated a plan to issue $40 million in bonds to complete the unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM) in Oklahoma City. The state has already provided more than $66 million for the venture, but another $80 million may be needed to open its doors ($50 million to finish the facility, and a further $30 million to secure exhibits). Advocates for the development pledged to raise half the amount privately if the state would kick in the rest. The venture has also received $14.5 million in federal money and $4.9 million and 250 acres of land from Oklahoma City.
Legislative opponents of the AICCM say the state passed three previous bond issues, and each time it was promised that no more state money would be needed for the project. A 2008 press release after the last $25 million bond issue was approved declared: "The remaining $75 million will come from private sources including American Indian tribes." The state currently spends $1.5 million per year for operation of the agency overseeing the development of the facility. Once construction is complete, the agency has expressed its intention to expand to as many as 60 employees. Meanwhile, individual tribes have built and operate their own cultural centers or museums. While the Senate voted 24-22 in favor of the bond proposal, 25 votes (a majority of the 48 member Senate) is required to approve bond obligations. A NO vote is Conservative vote.
(5) SB 1733 - Open Carry Handgun Permit
Authors: Sen. Anthony Sykes (R-Moore) and Rep. Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview)
Senate Bill 1733, the licensed Open Carry law, allows persons with a Concealed Carry permit to also Open Carry their firearm. It was approved by the House 85-3 on the 26th of April and the Senate 33-10 on the 10th of May. The bill was approved by the Governor on May 15. A YES vote is Conservative vote.
(6) HB 2236 - OETA Extension
Authors: Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee) and Sen. Cliff Aldridge (R-Choctaw)
This bill re-creates the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) for two more years. OETA has seen its state funding reduced in recent years due to the state budget crisis. At its peak, they received $4.2 million per year. Donations for the balance of OETA's budget is provided through the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority Foundation, which pays much of the dues, broadcast fees and programming charges from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The foundation has millions of dollars in reserve. Had this bill not been approved, the agency would have had one year to figure out how to become a self-sustaining entity. The time extension was approved by the Senate 38-7 on the 25th of April and the House 53-28 on the 3rd of May. The bill was approved by the Governor on May 10. A NO vote is Conservative vote.
(7) SJR 52 - Intangible Property Tax
Authors: Rep. David Dank (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. Mike Mazzei (R-Bixby)
Senate Joint Resolution 52 submits for a vote of the people an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution to make intangible personal property exempt from ad valorem taxes. Intangible property is something of value that is not a physical object such as a building or piece of equipment. This might include a trademark or customer list. It is defined as a non-monetary asset that cannot be seen, touched or physically measured. This bill became necessary after a court decision stated that certain intangible property should be taxed. It could have an impact on total revenues of over $50 million per year according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The proposal was approved in the Senate 31-14 on the 22nd of May and the House 65-29 on the 24th of May. Proposals for Constitutional Amendments do not require approval of the Governor. The measure will appear as a State Question on the November General Election ballot. A YES vote is Conservative.
(8) SB 1274 Heartbeat Informed Consent Act
Authors: Sen. Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa) and Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa)
Senate Bill 1274 creates the Heartbeat Informed Consent Act giving women the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat prior to an abortion. The legislation applies to situations where the unborn baby is eight weeks or older. The bill is in keeping with U.S. Supreme Court rulings. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court's majority declared, "In attempting to ensure that a woman apprehend the full consequences of her decision, the State furthers the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed…" The bill does not require the patient to hear the heartbeat, but requires the physician to inform the patient of their right to have the fetal heartbeat made audible. The Senate passed the legislation 34-8 on March 6 and the House 75-12 on April 19. The bill was approved by the Governor on April 27. A YES vote is Conservative vote.
(9) HB2155 - Employee Injury Benefit Act
Authors: Rep. Kris Steele (R-Shawnee) and Sen. Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa)
House Bill 2155 would create the Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act. The proposal aimed to provide Oklahoma employers an alternative to the increasing costs and complexities of the state's workers compensation system which is consistently rated in national reports as one of the most expensive and inefficient in the country. The measure would have allowed qualifying small and large employers to manage their own injury benefit plan in lieu of participating in the state's workers' compensation system. It would require employers to provide benefits that are comparable or greater than those offered under current Oklahoma workers' compensation law. The proposal is similar to the Texas "nonsubscriber" alternative but includes employer requirements that are much stricter and provide more employee protections. The Insurance Commissioner would collect and maintain the qualified employer's information. The bill was approved by the Senate 28-17 on the 18th of April, but it failed in the House 42-50 on the 25th of April. A YES vote is Conservative vote.
(10) HB 2388 - Drug Test Welfare Recipients
Authors: Rep. Guy Liebmann (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. David Holt (R-Oklahoma City)
House Bill 2388 requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to screen adults who apply for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for drug use. TANF serves more than 20,000 Oklahomans. The measure authorizes DHS to conduct drug tests on applicants if they have a reasonable suspicion the person is using drugs. If the applicant refuses to participate or is determined to be using an illegal drug, they would be denied benefits. DHS would be responsible for the cost of drug testing. The bill encourages addicts to undergo substance abuse treatment in order to qualify for TANF assistance. Currently, if someone tests positive for drugs they continue receiving benefits, even while in rehab. Under the new law, the benefits would stop and they would have to wait at least six months and complete a recovery program to reapply. The legislation also provides that an alternative payee can be named when a parent has been found ineligible for benefits. The bill passed the Senate 46-2 on April 25 and the House 86-6 on May 10. The bill was approved by the Governor on May 16. A YES vote is Conservative vote.
A complete listing of all legislators, their vote on each of the ten key legislative issues, their total score for this year, and their Cumulative Average which includes scores from any previous years is found below.
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