With a score of 100 out of 100 points, Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow; Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow; Rep. Chuck Strohm, R-Tulsa; and Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, gained the top ratings in the 37th annual Oklahoma Conservative Index by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper.
Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, were rated the most the most liberal lawmakers in Oklahoma.
Rep. Travis Dunlap, R-Bartlesville, and Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, also scored a perfect 100 points on the Conservative Index.
Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, confirmed her liberal credentials with a score of 16 – the lowest of either party in the Tulsa area. Fellow Democrat Kevin Matthews, also of Tulsa, had the lowest score (33) in the Senate for the Tulsa area.
Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, had the lowest score (56) for a Republican in the Tulsa area but Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, was only three points higher at 59 and Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, was rated at 60 points.
Matthews has the lowest career average (31) overall and Crain has the lowest career average (58) for Tulsa Republican senators.
Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, had the lowest GOP scored (60) for Tulsa House Republicans. Rep. Katie Henke, R-Tulsa, has the lowest average career score (56) for Tulsa area Republicans.
The Oklahoma Constitution, one of the most conservative papers in the state, said the index is based on “a belief in limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise, constitutional government and traditional standards.” The quarterly newspaper takes suggestions for 10 bills from conservative leaders and then its staff submits the bills to a vote of the membership of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) for recommendations of the ten key votes.
To determine the rating, 10 points were earned for each conservative vote and no points are awarded for a liberal vote. Each failure to vote provides only three points.
Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, is one of the most conservative legislators in the state. He got a score of 79 even though he voted conservatively on seven of the 10 questions but he missed three votes, costing him 21 points. His average career score is 85.
“While most score nearly the same, year after year, others trend upward or downward from their average,” according to the paper. “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 64 percent, compared to 52 percent last year. The Senate also averaged 64 percent conservative this year, compared to 52 percent last year, like the House. Seventy-one legislators scored 70, or better, compared to only 38 who scored 70 percent or better last year.
“Readers should consider replacing those who scored 30 percent or less, while giving close scrutiny to those who scored between 30 and 70,” the paper suggests.
Two seats in the House were not scored in this year’s ratings due to vacancies. Rep. David Dank of Oklahoma City died during the session and the empty seat was not filled before end of the session. Rep. Kevin Matthews of Tulsa was elected to fill a vacant seat due to a resignation in the Senate.
Here are summaries for the bills for 2015 Oklahoma Conservative Index plus a “yes” for conservative bills and a “no” for bills that are contrary to conservative values
Bonds for OKPOP Museum – No
Senate Bill 839 by Rep. Jeff Hickman and Sen. Brian Bingman
This bill borrows $25 million in bonds for the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa, commonly known as OKPOP. It is estimated that it will cost taxpayers about $42 million to pay off the bonds. The Oklahoma Historical Society has secured collections from figures such as Garth Brooks, Will Rogers and Bob Wills, among numerous others to place in the museum.
“After the experience with the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum fiasco, it is surprising that legislators and the governor would travel down this path again,” according to the Oklahoma Constitution. “Beyond the question of if it is the proper role of government to build museums, there is the fiscal issue of the state going into debt to finance the project with bonds.”
The proposal passed the Senate 28-18 on May 19 and the House 51-40 on May 22. Governor Mary Fallin signed on May 29.
Payroll Deduction for Unions – Yes
House Bill 1749 by Rep. Tom Newell and Sen. Nathan Dahm
This bill prohibits a state agency, including public school districts, from making payroll deductions on behalf of an employee for membership dues in any public employee association or professional organization that collectively bargains on behalf of its membership. As a result of this legislation, members of these organizations would have to pay the unions directly instead of the taxpayers incurring the cost for collecting the money for the unions.
The bill passed the House 59-39 on February 18 and the Senate 27-16 on March 26. It was signed by Gov. Fallin on April 2.
Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program Expansion – No
Senate Bill 71 by Sen. Mark Allen and Rep. John Bennett
The bill expanded the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program Act. It modifies the definition of basic industry, as it relates to the program to include agricultural activities for establishments primarily engaged in chicken egg production. Under the program the state pays up to 5 percent of the payroll for new jobs.
“This scheme, in the name of economic development, subsidizes large commercial entities which compete with the small and family-owned businesses which are unable to obtain the subsidies,” according to the Oklahoma Constitution.
The bill passed the House 51-43 on April 7 and the Senate gave final approval on 31-14 on April 14. It was signed by Gov. Fallin on April 21.
School Security – Yes
House Bill 2014 by Rep. Jeff Coody and Sen. Don Barrington
Most of the mass shooting incidents have occurred in gun-free zones where the perpetrator does not expect to be confronted with armed resistance. This bill allows the board of education of a school district to authorize the carrying of a handgun onto school property by school personnel specifically designated by the board of education, provided such personnel either possess a valid armed security guard license, or holds a valid reserve peace officer certification.
It passed the House 85-12 on May 6 and the Senate 40-5 on April 22. Gov. Fallin signed on May 12.
Push Back on EPA Mandate – Yes
Senate Bill 676 by Sen. Greg Treat and Rep. Jon Echols
This was part of an effort in at least a dozen states to push back against the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule which mandates a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in each state by 2030.
The EPA is requiring each state to develop a State Implementation Plan (SIP). Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt requested this bill, which assumes the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will develop a SIP to comply with EPA rules. The bill gives the Attorney General an opportunity to reject that SIP if he finds it to be unconstitutional, which Pruitt has publicly indicated he is likely to do.
The bill passed the House 68-21 on April 23 and the Senate 38-7 on April 28. Gov. Fallin vetoed the bill on May 1.
Dismemberment Abortion Ban – Yes
House Bill 1721 by Rep. Pam Peterson and Sen. Josh Brecheen
This bill makes it unlawful to perform or attempt a dismemberment abortion unless necessary to prevent serious health risk to the mother. A “dismemberment abortion” dismembers a living unborn child and extracts him or her one piece at a time from the uterus.
“The recent publicity concerning Planned Parenthood selling body parts from dismemberment abortions adds to the importance of this legislation,” the Oklahoma Constitution reported. “The bill states that only a physician or someone acting as a physician may be liable for performing a dismemberment abortion.”
It states violators will be fined $10,000 and/or imprisoned for not more than two years. The bill passed the House 84-2 on February 26 and the Senate 37-4 on April 8. It was signed by Gov. Fallin on April 13.
Builder Registration Act – No
House Bill 1828 by Rep. Scott Martin and Sen. Kyle Loveless
This bill creates the Oklahoma Professional Residential and Commercial Builders Registration Act which says: “No person shall engage in or practice building or construction” unless he or she meets the requirements and “register” with the Construction Industries Board. It would give authority to the board to set up and require continuing education for builders, revoke “registrations,” fine and penalize those who practice without being registered.
“This legislation is part of a continuing effort by members of professions and businesses to limit competition and increase costs to consumers,” the Constitution reported.
It passed the House 51-34 on March 10, but failed in the Senate 8-37 on April 22.
Child Passenger Restraint Law Expansion – No
House Bill 1847 by Rep. Scott Inman and Sen. Randy Bass
This bill modifies the child passenger restraint system requirements. It requires a child at least four years of age, but younger than eight years of age, if not taller than 4 feet 9 inches in height, to be properly secured in either a child passenger restraint system or child booster seat. A person could also be fined for not having the child secured according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
“This ‘nanny state’ legislation continues the effort to regulate every aspect of a person’s life,” according to the Oklahoma Constitution.
It passed the House 52-44 on May 21 and the Senate 35-6 on May 22. Gov. Fallin gave her approval on June 5.
Protecting Religious Liberty – Yes
House Bill 1007 by Rep. David Brumbaugh and Sen. Dan Newberry
This bill provides that no regularly licensed, ordained or authorized official of any religious organization will be required to solemnize or recognize any marriage that violates the official’s conscience or religious beliefs. It also provides that a regularly licensed, ordained or authorized official of any religious organization will be immune from any civil claim or cause of action based on a refusal to solemnize or recognize such marriages.
“With the recent United States Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal across the entire nation, there is concern that the religious liberties recognized in the U.S. Constitution will come under attack,” according to the report.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt noted following the court decision, “The Obama Administration’s lawyer warned that tax-exempt organizations like churches may soon see that status revoked by the Administration if those organizations don’t recognize same-sex marriage.”
The measure passed the House 88-7 on February 12 and the Senate 38-5 on April 22. Gov. Fallin signed the bill on May 1.
Federal Funds Registry – Yes
House Bll 1748 by Rep. Tom Newell and Sen. Greg Treat
This legislation would have required state agencies to report the amount of federal funds received, to rank the funds according to the agency’s reliance on them, and to report the cost incurred to comply with federal requirements associated with the funds.
The information would have to be available through a website maintained by or on behalf of the entity.
“The federal government too often utilizes these monies to hijack the sovereignty of states and drive federal priorities with little or no public scrutiny,” stated the Oklahoma Constitution. “The public, and even most legislators, are not aware of many of the federal programs being committed to by state agencies.”
The bill passed the Senate 39-1 on April 22 and the House 69-19 on April 29. It was vetoed by Gov. Fallin on May 11.