The 2014 Oklahoma Conservative Index
The Oklahoma Constitution presents the 36th 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 conservative legislators, 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 52%, compared to 68% last year. The Senate also averaged 52% conservative this year, compared to 62% last year. We suggest you commend lawmakers who scored 70% or better. Readers should consider replacing those who scored 30%, or less, while giving close scrutiny to those who scored between 30 and 70.
Eight legislators (six in the House and two in the Senate) received perfect 100% ratings: Rep. David Brumbaugh (R-Broken Arrow), Rep. Dan Fisher (R-El Reno), Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City), Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie), Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow), Rep. Mike Turner (R-Oklahoma City), Sen. Bill Brown (R-Broken Arrow), and Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow).
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 score for this year, and their Cumulative Average including scores from previous years, is found below.
BILLS USED FOR 2014 CONSERVATIVE INDEX:
(1) Regional Transportation and Economic Development Districts
HB 2480 by Rep. Charlie Joyner (R-Midwest City) and Sen. Don Barrington (R-Lawton)
This legislation provides for the creation of Regional Transportation and Economic Development Districts funded by a sales tax not to exceed 2%. Because these “Regional” districts are not restricted to town or county boundaries, they could be “gerrymandered” in such a way that areas will be required to pay a sales tax to benefit another area of the district. It was approved by the House 61-25 on May 20 and the Senate 32-11 on May 21. Gov. Fallin signed the bill on May 22. A No vote is Conservative.
(2) Repeal of Common Core
HB 3399 by Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview) and Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-Coalgate)
House Bill 3399 repeals the national Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma and establishes a process to develop new, standards for English and math in 2016. Supporters say the State Board will maintain independence from any national or state compact standards such as Common Core and school districts will control the learning materials and curriculum adopted to meet the new set of standards. Those new standards will have to be approved by the Legislature thus bringing representative government into the process to ensure they won’t be a “copy and paste” version of common core under a new name. The national Common Core academic standards became increasingly controversial since they were adopted in Oklahoma in 2010. Originally a supporter of Common Core, Gov. Fallin now says, “Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core. President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards.” HB 3399 made national news because Oklahoma is one of three states to reject Common Core of the 45 states that adopted it, and this measure is the most comprehensive of the repeals. South Carolina and Indiana have also dropped Common Core. HB 3399 passed the House 71-18 and the Senate 31-10, both on May 23. Gov. Fallin signed the bill on June 5. The Yes votes are Conservative.
(3) Abortion Facility Standards
SB 1848 by Sen. Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City), and Rep. Randy Grau (R-Edmond)
This legislation requires the State Board of Health to establish requirements for abortion facility equipment and supplies. Also, an abortion facility would be required to have a physician on the premises during an abortion procedure who has admitting privileges at an accredited hospital within 30 miles of the facility. Two of Oklahoma’s three abortion providers could be forced to close if the law is implemented, according to the pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood. Reproductive Services in Tulsa is the only abortion provider in the state that currently meets the physician requirement. The law becomes effective November 1 but could be challenged in court, as many of the state’s other abortion laws have. Similar laws have been passed in Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin and Mississippi. Some of them have been stalled by court challenges, but some Texas providers have had to shut down. The bill was approved by the Senate 34-9 on May 22 and the House 60-8 on May 23. Gov. Fallin signed the bill on May 28. A Yes vote is Conservative.
(4) State Government TV Extension (OETA)
HB 3198 by Rep. Gus Blackwell (R-) and Sen. Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City)
This bill extends the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) until July 1, 2020. Without the time extension, authorization for the government entity would have expired in 2014. OETA receives nearly $4 million per year in state appropriations. Donations for the balance of OETA’s budget is provided through the OETA 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 to become a self-sustaining entity. Conservatives argue that with so many other television outlets available there is no need for the government to compete with private broadcasters, especially with much of the programing being entertainment oriented. Even the educational type of programing is a duplication of what may be found on various science, history, home improvement, and children’s television networks. The time extension was approved by the Senate 29-8 on the April 10 and the House 63-22 on May 7. The bill was approved by the Gov. Fallin on May 7. A No vote is Conservative.
(5) State Employee Pension Reform
HB 2630 by Rep. Randy McDaniel (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. Rick Brinkley (R-Owasso)
The Retirement Freedom Act establishes a new state retirement system that promotes individual responsibility, freedom and less government debt. Currently, Oklahoma faces a state pension crisis and carries more than $11 billion in unfunded pension debt. House Bill 2630 creates a 401(k)-style defined contribution system for new state employees who are part of the Oklahoma Public Employee Retirement System (OPERS) based off models used in the private sector. The system would phase out the state’s current broken system over the next several decades, reduce the state’s unfunded pension debt, and allow employees the same retirement mobility offered in the private sector. The defined-contribution system will take effect November 1, 2015, and would only impact newly hired employees. Current employees and retirees would not be affected. The bill passed the House 58-33 on May 20 and the Senate 35-11 on May 21. It was signed by Gov. Fallin on May 30. The Yes votes are Conservative.
(6) Bonds for State Capitol Renovation
HJR 1033, by House Speaker Jeff Hickman and Sen. Bryce Marlett (R-Woodward)
House Joint Resolution 1033 authorizes a $120 million bond issue to fund the renovation, repair and remodeling of the State Capitol building. The bond issue would be retired with yearly appropriations from the Legislature. The debt would extend over a 10-year period and cost millions of dollars in interest payments in addition to the $120 million borrowed. The entire project is expected to take five years to complete. While few oppose repair of the Capitol, disagreement centers on the method of financing the massive project. Conservatives favor of a pay-as-you-go plan financed at least in part from the state’s “rainy day” fund, which contains more than $500 million. But, Speaker Hickman said the rainy day fund is a savings account intended for emergencies, such as tornado recovery efforts instead. The bond proposal was approved by House 55-34 on May 22 and the Senate 34-8 on May 23. Gov. Fallin signed the bill on May 29. A No vote is Conservative.
(7) Film Enhancement Rebates
HB 2580 by Rep. Todd Thomsen (R-Ada) and Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond)
House Bill 2580 extended the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program under the Compete with Canada Film Act to June 30, 2024. The program was scheduled to expire June 30, 2014. Under the $5 million per year subsidy program the state pays 35 percent of the production costs for qualifying companies to produce films, television productions, or television commercials in Oklahoma. The highest amount awarded for a single production was last year’s August, Osage County for which the movie company was paid $4.6 million. With the ten year extension, Oklahoma taxpayers are committed to pay Hollywood $50 million for movie productions in the state. The bill was approved by the House 65-28 on March 4 and the Senate 31-11 on March 27. Gov. Fallin signed the bill on April 2. A No vote is Conservative.
(8) Income Tax Cut
SB 1246 by Sen. Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa) and Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang)
Senate Bill 1246 will reduce the state’s income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent beginning with tax year 2016, if certified revenues at least equal the certification level for FY 2014. The legislation would further reduce the state’s top income tax rate no sooner than two years later to 4.85 percent if there is sufficient revenue growth to fund the reduction. In addition to letting people keep more of the money they earn, reducing the state income tax would make Oklahoma more competitive with other states in the region and help attract business and a skilled workforce. Previous tax cuts actually resulted in an increase of revenue. It passed the Senate 32-10 on February 27. The House approved 54-40 on April 23. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law on April 28. A Yes vote is Conservative.
(9) Gold and Silver Legal Tender
SB 862 by Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) and Rep. Gary Banz (R-Midwest City)
With Senate Bill 862, Oklahoma joined Utah, Texas, and Louisiana in affirming that gold and silver coins are legal tender in the payment of debts in the state. A bill also passed in Arizona this year, but was vetoed. Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution says: “No State shall make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.” The bills are mostly symbolic, expressing distrust of the Federal Reserve and concern that U.S. dollars may become worthless. The U.S. used the gold standard from 1873 until 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlawed the private ownership of gold amid the Great Depression. President Richard Nixon abandoned the gold standard altogether when he announced in 1971 that the U.S. would no longer convert dollars to gold at a fixed value. SB 862 reads, in part: “Gold and silver coins issued by the United States government are legal tender in the State of Oklahoma. No person may compel another person to tender or accept gold or silver coins that are issued by the United States government, except as agreed upon by contract.” Currently all debts and taxes in Oklahoma and the rest of the United States are either paid with Federal Reserve Notes (dollars) which were authorized as legal tender by Congress, or with coins issued by the U.S. Treasury – very few of which have gold or silver content. The bill also provides a state-level tax exemption to Oklahoma residents exchanging their precious metals for another medium of change. The measure removes the requirement that gold, silver, platinum, palladium or other precious metal items be stored within a recognized depository facility in order to be exempt from state sales tax. SB 862 passed the Senate 39-3 on May 22 and the House 57-11 on May 23. Gov. Fallin signed the bill on June 4. A Yes vote is Conservative.
(10) THE FOLLOWING TWO BILLS ARE PAIRED. SB 906 WAS ONLY VOTED ON IN THE SENATE, WHILE HB 2807 WAS ONLY VOTED ON IN THE HOUSE.
National Popular Vote (Senate only)
SB 906 by Sen. Rob Johnson (R-Kingfisher) and Rep. Don Armes (R-Faxon)
With Senate Bill 906, Oklahoma would have joined with other states to establish the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote. Under the scheme, all of Oklahoma’s electoral votes would be delivered to the “national popular vote winner” even if that candidate does not win a majority of the popular vote in Oklahoma. Had the measure been in effect in 2012, President Obama would have received all of Oklahoma’s electoral votes even though Romney won every county in the state. The proposal passed the Oklahoma Senate on February 12 by a vote of 28-18. It was assigned to the House Rules Committee, but failed to get a hearing by the April 10 deadline. A No vote is Conservative.
Oklahoma Community Protection Act (House only)
HB 2807 by Rep. Lewis Moore (R-Arcadia) and Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow)
This bill would have created the Oklahoma Community Protection Act prohibiting the adoption of policies that restrict private-property rights without due process. The measure provides specific steps for fulfilling due process and declares that any changes made due to international or federal actions would not be considered permanent and would be subject to change. The bill passed the House 66-26 on March 4 and was amended and approved by the Senate Judiciary committee, but failed to get a vote in the full Senate. A Yes vote is Conservative.
CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW TO SEE THE VOTES AND SCORES FOR THE MEMBERS OF EACH RESPECTIVE CHAMBER OF THE LEGISLATURE.
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