Oklahoma Category

I had occasion Saturday afternoon to travel to Joplin with my dad (a seasonal celebrity), who was making an appearance at the Sam's Club there. There was freezing rain in the forecast, so I spent some time before leaving town looking for current weather and road condition information.

Getting current information about Missouri road conditions was easy. That link leads to an interactive map showing you whether a segment of road is clear, mostly clear, partly covered with ice/snow, covered, or closed. Icons show construction closures and major wrecks, which can be clicked to show more information. For example, within a few minutes of a semi-trailer wreck at mile 49 of I-44, east of Mount Vernon, Mo., the map showed an icon indicating that the wreck occurred at 5:30 pm, that the right lane was blocked, and that it would be about 2 hours before both lanes were reopened to traffic.

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The Oklahoma road conditions map, by contrast, assigned three conditions to the roads -- moderate, severe, closed -- and the same condition was applied to all the roads in a county (with the exception of turnpikes). While Missouri drew a distinction between roads which were known to be clear and roads for which the condition was unknown, Oklahoma's map showed both as unhighlighted. Clicking on the Oklahoma map produced the same boilerplate text for the condition shown -- no location-specific information.

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Another thing I did to prepare for the trip was to be sure I was subscribed to Twitter feeds for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Missouri Department of Transportation - Southwest, and National Weather Service offices in Tulsa and Springfield, and to turn on mobile notifications -- sending any new tweets to my phone. I had hoped that these agencies would use social media to provide up-to-the-minute news on road conditions and closures. Not so much.

As we drove northeast on the Will Rogers Turnpike, we started to encounter freezing drizzle around the Foyil exit. We had to stop at midway to clear the ice around the edges of the windshield and on the wipers. As we got closer to Big Cabin, we drove past a couple of jack-knifed trucks off the side of the road-- they evidently hit patches of ice on the bridges. (Thanks to the warm temperatures a day earlier, the ice was melting when it hit the road surface -- except on the bridges.) Past the Afton exit, traffic came to a stop.

Ten minutes later, it began moving again, but we soon learned that the Highway Patrol was directing all traffic off of the turnpike. A patrol car blocked the eastbound lanes, and Miami police cruisers were keeping traffic from entering the turnpike in either direction. We rerouted via OK-10 and MO-43, which added about 30 minutes to the trip but had very little traffic.

When did the OTA take to Twitter to notify motorists that the turnpike was closed? Over an hour later, at 4:39 pm. The OTA telephone hotline (1-877-403-7623), supposed to have to have the latest information about turnpike conditions, had not been updated since Friday morning, according to a tweet at 3:28 pm Saturday. It was updated at 5:30 to report that eastbound Will Rogers Turnpike was closed but one lane was open westbound.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, OTA reported at 5:09: "WILL ROGERS TURNPIKE HAS ONE LANE WESTBOUND OPEN AT THIS TIME. EASTBOUND STILL CLOSED."

At 6:00 pm: "WILL ROGERS TURNPIKE EB REMAINS CLOSED DUE TO ICE AND ACCIDENTS. TURNER TURNPIKE IS OPEN IN ALL DIRECTIONS." My question in reply at 6:03 pm -- "What is the plan for salting and sanding Will Rogers Turnpike?" -- went unanswered.

There were no further updates from OTA until they replied to my 8:38 pm tweet noting the lack of hotline updates. Even then, it took another question from me to elicit the information that the closure was only from the Miami exit eastward.

It's a big deal for an interstate highway on a major cross-continent route to be shut down for hours. Twitter, the web, even telephone hotlines offer a quick and inexpensive way to communicate information and keep it current, but only if officials make it their job to provide precise and frequent updates and to respond promptly to questions.

A closing question: How is it that it was safer to drive on the taxpayer-funded side roads than the user-funded toll roads? Shouldn't some of those big toll dollars have gone into salting the turnpike, preventing accidents, and keeping the road open?

ONE MORE THING: OKDOT's 8 p.m. Saturday news release neglects to mention that the Will Rogers Turnpike is closed east of Miami. Did they not know, or did OKDOT not mention it since the turnpike is OTA's responsibility and not OKDOT's? Do they expect travelers to know that there are two different agencies overseeing road conditions?

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Happy election day! Enjoy your freedom to vote now, before Hillary ships you to a concentration camp or Donald abolishes elections and renames himself Caligula II.

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Polls in Oklahoma are open until 7:00 p.m. If you need help finding your polling place, if you'd like to study a sample ballot before you go, the Oklahoma State Election Board has a one-stop-shop online voter tool. Put in your name and date of birth, and they'll look you up in the database, find your polling place and show you a photo of it and a map, will let you see a printable sample ballot, and, if you're voting absentee, it will show you when your ballot arrived at your county election board.

OSEB will have live results available after 7 p.m. Keep in mind that absentee ballots are counted first at the county election board, and then individual precincts bring their scanning ballot boxes to the county election board for processing. Candidates and news outlets who send runners to the precincts to read results posted on the door will have results more quickly than OSEB.

OSEB also has this very handy list of every candidate and every proposition on the 2016 Oklahoma ballot, arranged by county.

Here's my printable cheat sheet for the election.

BatesLine_ballot_card-2016_general.pdf

My thoughts on specific races and questions:

Here's an archive of all of my articles about Election 2016.

Many thanks to the sponsors and supporters of BatesLine who made this year's election coverage possible.

All right, Bob, how 'bout a little music to keep the people happy! Take it away, Leon!

"There'll be cheerin' and hootin' and some friendly shootin' just to keep the spirit of this big occasion."

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Election Day" by Cindy Walker in the movie Wyoming Hurricane, starring Russell Hayden. Leon McAuliffe on vocals; Cotton Thompson, Bob Wills, and Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Junior Barnard on guitar, Luke Wills on bass. And from the same movie, here's Cotton Thompson to deliver Cindy Walker's message for many of our candidates:

I hear you talkin', yes, I do,
But your talk-talk-talkin' don't ring true,
I'm listenin' politely, too,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

I hear you talkin', tellin' lies,
I can see it in those great big eyes.
I hear you talkin' wise,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

You say that I'm your honey-love,
That I'm all you're thinkin' of,
I hear you talkin', dove,
But you ain't been foolin' me.

I almost left the top line of my ballot blank.

When I was filling out my absentee ballot, I left the presidential race until the last. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton nor Gary Johnson -- our only three choices in Oklahoma -- are fit to serve as president of the United States. Trump says some things that are pleasing to conservative ears, but his livelihood was built on saying one thing to close a deal and then doing another, leaving him sitting pretty and his business partners in the lurch. Clinton is utterly venal and corrupt, selling American foreign policy to the highest bidder, with the money laundered through the family's "foundation," and setting up a private email server, putting American secrets at risk, in order to hide her corruption from the reach of open-records laws. Johnson is a buffoon, a fake libertarian who sees no problem with the State punishing small-business owners who wish to run their businesses in accordance with the understanding of marriage that was near-universal just a decade ago. I'm frightened by how triumphant Trump or victorious Clinton might use their new power to punish their adversaries; both are vengeful and egotistical. I'm disturbed by the willingness of many conservatives to shift their positions and lower their standards in order to justify their support for Trump -- not merely holding their noses and voting for him, which is understandable, but enthusiastically embracing him.

I had pondered voting for Johnson anyway, as a protest vote, but Josh Lewis, writing at SavingElephantsBlog.com, talked me out of it, pointing out that giving the Libertarian Party, particularly in its current state, a permanent foothold in Oklahoma will only cause more problems for electing conservatives:

Suffice it to say for now, I am a conservative and recognize libertarianism as a competing ideology. A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote that will ultimately strengthen the libertarian brand. If you're an ideological libertarian this makes sense. But if you're only casting a "protest vote" it may have dangerous unintended consequences.

So I was going to leave the ballot bank, but as I stared at the space on the ballot, I looked at the three lists of seven names under the names of the presidential and vice presidential nominees:

  • Republican: David Oldham, Teresa Turner, Mark Thomas, Bobby Cleveland, Lauree Elizabeth Marshall, Charles W. Potts, George W. Wiland, Jr.
  • Libertarian: Erin Adams, Mikel Dillon, Joel Britt Dixon, Rex L Lawhorn, Ephriam Zachary Knight, Craig A. Dawkins, Mark C. DeShazo.
  • Democrat: Marq Lewis, Bill John Baker, Mark Hammons, Betty McElderry, W. A. Drew Edmondson, Jeannie McDaniel, Rhonda Walters.

These are the people we're voting for today: One set of seven who will meet in Oklahoma City in December and cast the only votes any Oklahoman will cast for President and Vice President of the United States.

I'm under no illusions: Each of these people were selected by district and state conventions because of their loyalty to their party. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, they will be voting for the names above theirs on the ballot, which will lead either to a Trump-flavored catastrophe or a Clinton-flavored catastrophe.

ayatollah_edmondson_small.jpgBut what if no candidate appears to have won a majority of electoral votes? What if Utah goes for Evan McMillan, enough to hold Clinton and Trump short of 270? What if there finally emerges a scandal serious enough to chase Donald or Hillary into exile in Irian Jaya? What if (heaven forbid) one or both of the aged main-party candidates suffers a debilitating accident or health emergency? Would it still make no difference which set of seven electors are chosen by Oklahoma voters?

Under those unlikely circumstances, it would make a great deal of difference. I know many of the people running for elector, and I would trust David Oldham, Bobby Cleveland, and George Wiland to make a decision in the best interest of the nation. I would not trust Craig Dawkins, or Jeannie McDaniel, or Drew Edmondson, the former Ayatollah General.

It's taken me more time to describe my thought process than it took me to come to that conclusion. I had to decide to leave the race blank or mark it, seal up the ballot, get the affidavit notarized, mail it, and get on with trip preparations. I voted for George, David, Bobby, Mark, Teresa, Lauree, and Charles.

There are three contested county offices on the Tulsa County ballot. Republican Josh Turley seeks to defeat incumbent Democrat Commissioner Karen Keith in County Commission District 2. Republican Don Newberry and Democrat John R. Andrew are vying for the Court Clerk position, left open by the retirement of Sally Howe Smith. Republican Sheriff Vic Regalado and Democrat Rex Berry are in a rematch of the April special election to replace Stanley Glanz.

A recent, seemingly unrelated news item raised an issue that should be considered by Tulsa County voters tomorrow. State bond adviser Jim Joseph and State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones spoke out against the widespread practice of school districts waiving competitive bids for bond issues.

Oklahoma school districts are spending millions of taxpayers' dollars every year by paying high fees for financial advisers, bond counsel and underwriters, says Jim Joseph, the state's bond adviser.

Many school districts continue to do the same thing year after year, while stubbornly refusing to use cost-saving competitive selection measures, he said.

"It's like picking a roofer right after a storm because he's the first guy who came to your door," Joseph said. "You're not going to get a deal, that's for sure."

State Auditor Gary Jones agreed school boards could save Oklahoma taxpayers money by obtaining competitive quotes.

"There could be tens of millions of dollars saved over a short period of time," Jones said.

Joseph went on to compare the massive fees paid by school districts to bond counsel and financial advisers, often a percentage of the bond issue, with the smaller amounts state agencies paid for much larger bond issue. Several were listed; here's one example:

For example, Midwest City-Del City Public Schools did a $72.62 million bond issue in 2012 without competitive bids. It paid the Floyd Law Firm of Norman $363,100 for serving as bond counsel and allowed Stephen H. McDonald & Associates and BOSC Inc., a subsidiary of BOK Financial Corporation, to equally split $508,340 for serving as co-financial advisers, records show.

Compare that with a $310.48 million bond issue by the Grand River Dam Authority that was done in 2014 through a competitive process. The state paid a $114,000 bond counsel fee and a $133,448 financial adviser fee.

Although the Grand River Dam Authority bond issue was more than four times as large as the Midwest City-Del City school bond issue, the school district paid more than triple the amount in bond counsel and financial adviser fees, records show.

Joseph pointed out that bond counsel, underwriter, and financial advisers often each take 1% of the bond issue as their fee, which Joseph says "makes no sense at all. It doesn't take any more work to do a $20 million issue than a $10 million issue for the bond counsel and financial adviser, but the fee is twice as high, if payment is on a percentage basis."

What does this have to do with Tulsa County? Joseph noted that the firm of Hilborne & Weidman was frequently listed as bond counsel for these competition-waived bond issues. Hilborne & Weidman was also one of two bond counsel firms selected in 2003 by the Tulsa County commissioners (acting as the Tulsa County Industrial Authority) for the Vision 2025 revenue bonds, a massive bond issue against up to all 13 years of the new sales tax. I urged at the time that Tulsa County put all Vision 2025 bond-related contracts up for competitive bid, as commissioners haggled publicly over which firms would get a piece of the action, but they waived competitive bidding and split the baby, giving each favored firm half of the business.

Over the last 13 years, there's been a complete turnover on the County Commission, but the tradition of waiving competitive bidding has persisted. Here's one example from May 26, 2009, in Karen Keith's first year as a commissioner ($110 million in bonds), another from February 1, 2010.

On May 23, 2016, the commissioners, including Karen Keith, voted unanimously to waive competitive bidding on indebtedness, but neither the minutes nor the agenda explain the amount or nature of the indebtedness. Given the proximity to the April 2016 Vision Tulsa vote, my guess is that the vote was on the revenue bonds pledged against that new 15-year sales tax stream.

How many more projects might have been built if Vision 2025 bonds had been competitively bid? Could we have had a new juvenile justice facility without being asked for more tax dollars in two separate elections? (And it still hasn't been built! Karen Keith has been in office eight years, and we're still waiting.)

Given the size of these bond issues, even a 1% fee would be a huge amount for a small firm. The temptation to corruption would be immense. Think of the money the former Skiatook superintendent got in kickbacks from the janitorial supply company. That would be chump change compared to even a small cut of 1% of a $500 million bond issue.

Oklahoma taxpayers need legislation to require competitive bidding on bonds and to require counties, school districts, and cities -- and their associated Title 60 trusts -- to use the state bond adviser rather than hiring their own favored exclusive firms. Until we get that legislation, we need county officials who will support transparency and fiscal prudence. Josh Turley and Don Newberry, both good men with long years' experience as county employees, will provide that kind of leadership, and I hope Tulsa County voters elect them both.

As for the sheriff's race, I've voiced my concern with the pattern of funding Regalado received in the special election primary and even more concern with the way he responded to the charges. He seems to have settled down and done a reasonable job of setting TCSO on a better course, away from last year's scandals. Rex Berry is way out in left field; we don't need someone like him as sheriff. I'm voting for Regalado.

Three Tulsa City Council seats made it to the general election. As the current City Council has been a complete disaster, backing a massive increase in the permanent sales tax, shutting down Riverside Drive for two years, and imposing their radical left-wing theories of gender and sexuality on the property owners of our city, I don't want any of them to be re-elected.

I was sad to see Jack Henderson work against the interests of District 1 by backing the regressive sales tax for dams in the Arkansas River. Burdening Tulsa's poorest neighborhoods with higher taxes so residents of our wealthier neighborhoods can look at water in the river is unjust, and the Jack Henderson I thought I knew used to understand that. Vanessa Hall-Harper does understand that. She stood against the dam sales tax. While I would never expect a conservative to win District 1, we can at least hope for a city councilor who wants to help her constituents to conserve their own hard-earned funds.

Jeannie Cue, the incumbent in District 2, has been a big disappointment for the aforementioned reasons. But the only thing I've been able to find out about her opponent, Aaron Bisogno, is that he really loves Star Wars. No endorsement in District.

In District 9, Ben Kimbro has the endorsement of the Tulsa Regional Chamber and a bunch of current city councilors. Clearly, we need someone different.

Eric McCray owns a small heat and air company, and he wants to see the reopening of Riverside Drive fast-tracked. He also has some sensible thoughts on the blighted sections of District 9:

Shutting down Riverside for 2 years with no end in sight is unacceptable.

We can make opening Riverside for commuters a priority and fast track the reopening date.

Tulsa commuters should not have to endure multiple, simultaneous road projects which shut down traffic all over the city. We should not see roads shut down with nobody present working on the projects. Crews should focus on a project 24/7 until it is completed and then move to the next. There is a management issue with the roads in Tulsa, and I aim to fix it.

Government assistance programs tend to fund the crime problem in our District. If you don't have to work for your food or housing, you likely have the time and entitlement mentality to commit crime. We have had one of the highest crime spots in all of Tulsa at 61st and Peoria. It is no coincidence that it is located near the swath of government assistance housing. It is not merely a poverty problem--I will work with law enforcement officials, community leaders, and business owners to determine the best way to deter crime from our District while promoting and bringing business to District 9. Let's change the reputation on this side of town.

Two State Supreme Court justices, two judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals, and three judges on the Court of Civil Appeals are before the voters for retention. If any of the judges get more no votes than yes votes, he or she will be out of office, and a replacement will be appointed by the usual process.

Ordinarily, a third Supreme Court seat would be on the ballot, but Justice Steven Taylor announced his retirement at the end of the year. There's no need to vote on retaining someone who is stepping down.

In going back through some controversial decisions over the last few years, I find a mixed record. Justice Douglas Combs was alone in rightly parsing law and precedent regarding the Ten Commandments monument, understanding that something can be religious without being sectarian, and noting that his colleagues rejected precedent in Meyer v. Oklahoma City (a 50-foot cross on the State Fairgrounds, lit by city-funded lights) without explicitly overturning it.

Justices James Winchester and Taylor were the only ones to see the problem with the State Supreme Court crossing a constitutional boundary to get involved in a criminal matter in the Clayton Lockett botched-execution case. (In Oklahoma's split appellate system, criminal appeals go to the Court of Criminal Appeals, but no further; civil appeals go to a panel of the Court of Civil Appeals, from which a decision may be appealed to the State Supreme Court.) Winchester also joined Taylor in correctly labelling SQ 779 as logrolling in violation of Article XXIV, Section 1, of the Constitution of Oklahoma and in approving the clear ballot titles written by the Attorney General for SQ 780 and 781. Justice Combs was on the wrong side of these decisions. In my browsing through recent decisions, I found that often Winchester stood with Taylor on the right, but minority, side of an issue.

But Justice Winchester was the lone dissenter (without explanation) from a decision that affirmed that a county assessor could hire legal representation of his choosing in the pursuit of his duties.

Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life notes the Supreme Court justices' hostility to pro-life laws, interpreting the "right" to an abortion much more expansively than the federal courts:

Regarding the Retention Ballot for Oklahoma Supreme Court justices, please note that the members of the Oklahoma Supreme Court - including those on the Retention Ballot - have repeatedly, arbitrarily, relentlessly handed down pro-abortion rulings. They even killed a pro-life law which would have promoted ultrasounds, even though a federal appeals court upheld a very similar law from Texas. A mother who sees an ultrasound of her baby is much less likely to have an abortion. Babies are dying every day in Oklahoma because the state Supreme Court struck down this law.

Our state Supreme Court is so notoriously pro-abortion that when the abortion industry challenges a pro-life law, they file suit in state court rather than federal court, because our Oklahoma Supreme Court is more pro-abortion than the federal courts.

The unanimous 9-0 decision by the court to block SQ 782, a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution banning abortion, created a chicken-and-egg problem. The state supremes cited Planned Parenthood v. Casey, saying that the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling is definitive until they overturn it. But SCOTUS won't overturn a ruling until a case reaches it, and that can't happen until a state passes a law in contradiction to it, the state enforces it, someone sues, and the case percolates up the Federal court hierarchy. Burns v. Cline, 2016 OK 99, is another example of the problem. Treating SCOTUS, and not the Constitution itself, sovereign is reason enough to boot out every single state justice.

Among the appellate judges up for retention, Judge Tom Thornbrugh was "called up" on the SQ 779 logrolling case to fill the shoes of a Supreme Court justice who had to recuse. Thornbrugh took the wrong position, voting with the majority that turned a blind eye to the proposition's obvious violation of the single-subject rule.

Of the judges on the retention ballot, Winchester was appointed by Rep. Gov. Frank Keating; Combs, Smith, and Fischer were appointed by Dem. Gov. Brad Henry; Joplin was appointed by Dem. Gov. David Walters; and Thornbrugh and Hudson were appointed by Rep. Gov. Mary Fallin. (See the Oklahoma Supreme Court handbook for 2015 for further biographical information.

Recently on Talk Radio 1170 KFAQ, Pat Campbell hosted a discussion on Oklahoma State Questions 780 and 781 with former State House Speaker Kris Steele, a proponent of the propositions, and Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who opposes them.

The more I listened to Steele's arguments in favor, the more confirmed I became in my opposition to Oklahoma State Question 780. To hear Steele talk, you'd think that drug addiction is something you get because the barista at Charbux forgot to wash his hands after sneezing. But common sense says that there's a volitional aspect to drug use and addiction, and penalties for possession may deter people from seeking to self-medicate in ways that are hard to cure.

Kunzweiler pointed out that sometimes drug possession is the only charge for which enough direct evidence exists to convict a suspected drug dealer. Prosecutors are happy to send addicts through drug court to help them deal with their problem instead of going to jail, but they need the statutory tools to go after the pushers. Making every instance of possession of every kind of controlled substance a misdemeanor takes a very effective tool away from prosecutors.

In a November 1, 2016, speech to pastors in Tulsa, U. S. Senator James Lankford likened Article II, Section 5, of the Oklahoma Constitution to a latent computer virus. Lankford warned that unless Oklahomans repeal that section by passing SQ 790, anti-religion litigants will be able to use the provision to block any partnership between state and local government and faith-based organizations in areas like foster care, adoption services, hospitals, and care for the homeless.

While I could take issue with the details of his recounting of the history of the Blaine Amendment and similar provisions in state constitutions, it is true that many of the enabling acts for new states required such provisions to be included in state constitutions, and it's also true that anti-Catholic-immigrant fear motivated the effort.

More importantly, Lankford's warning about the future in Oklahoma is spot on. The language in Article II, Section 5, prohibits even an indirect benefit to a sectarian institution from use of state funds or assets. While there are now a couple of precedents, one very recent -- Murrow Indian Orphans Home v. Childers (1946 OK 187) and Oliver v. Hofmeister (2016 OK 15) -- that seem to allow state payments to a religious institution if the state is being relieved of some financial obligation in return, there were grounds in the plain meaning of the words of Article II, Section 5, to rule the other way.

Oklahoma citizens benefit when organizations, driven by faith in the God who created us for good works, care for the needy. It reduces the burden on taxpayers when staff and clergy funded by church members join with volunteers to meet these needs. But the only way to ensure that this beneficial relationship can survive a future court challenge is to pass SQ 790 to eliminate an overly broad and inconsistently interpreted provision in our State Constitution.

Sen. Lankford is up for re-election, and if you appreciate the foresight and eloquence he applied to this issue, you'll want to join me in voting to send him back to Washington for a full six-year term.

Just a quick note to call your attention to a post at Sooner Politics. David Van Risseghem has gotten hold of an email that was purportedly sent by Oklahoma Democratic Party chairman Mark Hammons to party leaders and staffers, based on meetings with Democratic legislative leaders, about the party's media strategy during this election year. In a nutshell, the party is hoping Oklahoma voters forget how far-out in left field they are:

DO NOT ISSUE RELEASES ON THE FOLLOWING AND REMOVE FACEBOOK POSTS ON THE FOLLOWING:

A. Tax credits or tax solutions to the revenue shortfalls or methods to solve educational funding. Our leadership is letting this position evolve. No more comments on sale tax increases at present.

B. Sexual orientation bills, abortion, Planned Parenthood. Similarly, no gun control, 2d Amendment issues. No statements on farm/agricultural bills without House/Senate prior okay. There are a lot of bills on those issues. The Republican strategy is to try to nationalize the local races and our priority must be to focus only on the local issues outlined as 1-8 above. We may (and should) offer private support to opponents of these reactionary bills and access to what resources we can. However we can't fall into the Republic[an*] trap of making this Republican/Democrat issues. These have to be open for the candidates to make their own decisions so No ODP public statements or posts without House/Senate Caucus approval.

C. No Party statements of position on death penalty, marijuana issues. I know Connie supports these and that they are likely part of her campaign. We will not oppose or criticize - just can['t*] make them ODP issues at present.

Read David's story for the full text of the letter, including the eight issues that they think are winners.

Sometimes when a public figure's deviant behavior crosses over into criminal activity, the process of investigation turns up emails that point to a completely unrelated crime.

chad-alexander-477px.jpgLast week we heard about Anthony Weiner's selfie problem leading to a search of his computer, leading to more of Hillary Clinton's emails, including many that weren't among those she turned over to the FBI. It was enough to prompt the FBI to reopen its investigation into Clinton Foundation corruption.

In May 2014, political consultant and lobbyist Chad Alexander was pulled over for driving erratically. His car was search, and he was busted for possession of 3.35 grams of cocaine and possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone) without a prescription.

Alexander is aligned with what I call the wheeler-dealer faction in Oklahoma politics (as opposed to the fair-dealers), the bunch that believes that government is about favor trading and politics is about which rival gang will get access to money and power.

Alexander is a consultant for Coalition for Oklahoma's Future, which raised large sums from corporations and individuals in 2012 to help Republican incumbents in the Oklahoma Legislature beat back tea party challengers.

Alexander was also working for Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE), a 501(c)(4) independent-expenditure group opposing Janet Barresi's reelection as State Superintendent and supporting her opponent, Joy Hofmeister. While there were communications hinting at illegal collusion between the Hofmeister campaign and OPSE, enough for the Oklahoma County DA's office to open an investigation, the affidavit by Chief Investigator Gary Eastridge says that forensic examination of Alexander's cell phones and computer in connection with his drug arrest turned up text messages and emails pertinent to the relationship between the Hofmeister campaign and OPSE.

joy_hofmeister.jpgState Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister has been charged by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater with two felony counts -- accepting personal campaign contributions in excess of the law's limits and accepting corporate contributions. Additionally, Hofmeister and four people connected with her campaign -- campaign consultant Fount Holland, campaign consultant Stephanie Milligan, Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) Executive Director Steven Crawford, and Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) Executive Director Lela Odom -- have been charged with conspiracy to commit the two felonies, which charges are also felonies.

The affidavit includes a timeline of about 20 pages of selected text messages and emails, supplemented with information gathered from interviews with key participants, emphasizing that "these are but a small sampling of the documented communications."

When we set legal limits on how much an individual can give to a campaign and block corporate contributions, and when the outcome of elections often can lead to financial windfalls for connected businesses, money will look for other outlets to influence the election. Under the First Amendment, you have a right to spend your money to voice your opinion, but courts have ruled that government can limit how much of your money you can use in direct support of a candidate.

For those campaign finance limits to be meaningful, there can't be any coordination between a campaign supporting a candidate and independent groups seeking to influence the outcome. The two groups are like bridge partners. You can combine your knowledge of your partner's personality and strategy with the cards he actually plays to guess what else he might have in his hand and what he might play, but if he tells you what he has or you ask him to play a particular card, you've broken the rules.

(The interests of transparency would be better served by unlimited, but fully disclosed contributions.)

The legal process will determine whether all this rises to the level of illegal coordination, but even if no wrongdoing is found, the trail of communications reveals that influential political consultants, who have been involved in the campaigns of many of Oklahoma's top Republican executive and legislative officials, were in cahoots with groups that oppose reform of education in Oklahoma, groups that want lower-income kids to remain trapped in poor-performing schools with no way out. The OEA, state affiliate of the far-left National Education Association, and CCOSA want no change to education in Oklahoma other than more money for our existing system. These emails and texts appear to show that Joy Hofmeister was a Manchurian Candidate, recruited and backed by the teachers' union and the school administrators' lobby, to ensure that nothing threatens their gravy train.

Speaking of gravy train, it was interesting to see American Fidelity Assurance Company mentioned as the source of corporate contributions mentioned in the indictment:

BETWEEN APRIL, 2013 AND NOVEMBER, 2014 THE CRIME OF KNOWINGLY ACCEPTING CORPORATE CONTRIBUTIONS WAS COMMITTED IN OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA BY JOY LYNN HOFMEISTER, A CANDIDATE FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, WHO THROUGH COORDINATION WITH OKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE, KNOWINGLY ACCEPTED CORPORATE MONETARY OR IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS, SPECIFICALLY MONETARY OR IN KIND CONTRIBUTIONS FROM AMERICAN FIDELITY ASSURANCE COMPANY, IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 21 § 187.2 OF THE OKLAHOMA STATUTES....

Lela Odom advised in her interview that OEA and American Fidelity have had a 50 year relationship. OEA has helped AF build their business by endorsing their "salary income protection policy".

Here's how it looks to me: An insurance company has a favorable deal with the teacher's union, and it's in the company's financial interest if the teacher's union continues to be in a favorable situation for maintaining and growing its membership, so the company gives to help elect the teacher's union's preferred candidate. A state that offered meaningful school choice including private schools and charter schools will have fewer unionized teachers, and the favored insurance company will have to find another way to build its customer base. That's my speculative impression of the situation, based on what I read in this file.

I encourage you to read through the 32-page indictment of Joy Hofmeister, Fount Holland, Lela Odom, Stephanie Milligan, and Steven Crawford for yourself. I've taken the scan that KJRH posted with their story and put it through optical character recognition to make it easier to search.

When the state had a revenue failure earlier this year, there was a lot of blame-casting -- "see what happens when you let the conservatives run the state!" Those of us who are conservatives will tell you that we're not in charge here; the state is run by the wheeler-dealers, backed by the Chamber Pots, with campaigns run by the likes of Fount Holland and Chad Alexander. Ask Jason Murphey and Gary Jones about the roadblocks that have been put in the way of their efforts to improve government transparency. Ask the OCPA how much cooperation they got from "conservative" officials for their plan to prioritize spending so that teachers could get a raise without a tax increase. Oklahoma has replaced one set of legal looters with another.

MORE:

David Van Risseghem comments at Sooner Politics:

This narrative has replayed itself over and over. The big money often wins the GOP primary and becomes the nominee. If the liberal lobby groups can buy the GOP nomination, they really don't care if the Democrat loses, because they already own the elective office. ​ The Hofmeister election is exactly what that looks like.

After the jump, excerpts from the indictment.

2016-oklahoma-state_questions.png

For your convenience, here is a summary of my recommendations for the seven state questions on the 2016 Oklahoma general election ballot. The descriptions are not meant to make my entire argument in three words; they simply serve as a reminder of the topic of the question. The right-hand column contains a couple of words to describe the type of question: Whether the question affects the Constitution or state statutes, and whether it was initiated by the legislature or by initiative petition. Links lead to the article in which I discuss the question at length:

SQ 776 YES Death penalty protection Constitutional, legislative
SQ 777 NO "Right to Farm" amendment Constitutional, legislative
SQ 779 NO Permanent sales tax for schools, colleges, career tech Constitutional, initiative
SQ 780 NO Drug possession always a misdemeanor Statutory, initiative
SQ 781 NO SQ 780 "savings" fund Statutory, initiative
SQ 790 YES Repeal anti-1st Amendment language in Oklahoma constitution Constitutional, legislative
SQ 792 NO Replace bad alcohol laws with worse alcohol laws Constitutional, legislative

Oklahoma State Question 792 is a legislative referendum to amend the State Constitution. It would repeal almost all of Article XXVIII (all but the section that repealed article XXVII) and replace it with a new and much longer Article XXVIII A. Click the link to read the complete text of the new amendment. See for yourself how ridiculously complicated it is. It goes into great detail about the permitted relationships between wholesalers and retailers. It writes into the state constitution provisions that properly belong, in statute if anywhere. Some who have analyzed the bill say that it unduly favors out-of-state supermarket chains at the expense of locally-owned businesses and large breweries at the expense of small.

I would love to see our state's liquor laws simplified and made rational. It has never made sense to me that you can buy shots of tequila at a bar at 1:30 a.m. (to be followed by a shaky drive home), but you cannot, at that same hour, buy a bottle of wine to drink safely at home. It doesn't make sense that there has to be a middleman -- a wholesale distributor -- in between the makers of beer, wine, and spirits and the retailer or consumer. I like Fat Tire beer and would love to be able to buy it in Oklahoma. If liquor stores can import beer from Belgium and Japan in Oklahoma, why can't retailers import Yuengling from Pennsylvania?

If you take nothing else from this article, realize that the changes won't go into effect until October 1, 2018. You will have to wait almost two years to buy strong beer and wine at QT.

You may as well wait a few weeks more to get the right kind of change -- a change that would clear away the existing constitutional amendment and replace it with the minimum necessary language to set the extent to which the state, counties, and municipalities can regulate the sale of alcohol. Leave the rest to statute. (Even things like drinking age and hours of operation.) If SQ 792 fails, we can vote on a cleaner question in November of 2018 and have it go into immediate effect. In the meantime, the legislature can cue up any statutory language that we'd want to have in place when the old amendment is cleared away.

I urge you to vote NO -- AGAINST SQ 792.

Oklahoma SQ 781 is a companion to SQ 780, proposed by the same people. It will not go into effect unless SQ 780 is passed. Like SQ 780, SQ 781 is statutory.

The proposal creates new law in Title 57. It establishes a revolving fund called the County Community Safety Investment Fund, directs the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to calculate the money saved by implementation of SQ 780, requires that that amount of money be added to the fund each year, and allows that money to be spent "for the sole purpose of providing funds to counties to provide community rehabilitative programming, including but not limited to mental health and substance abuse services. Funds shall be disbursed in proportion to county population, as reported in the most recent census."

Even if you decide to vote for SQ 780, I urge you to vote NO, AGAINST SQ 781. We already have too many earmarked funds and revenue streams, which means that certain state and local institutions are on the gravy train while others live on bread and water. If SQ 780 passes and manages to save money, the legislature should have the discretion to distribute it as needed. SQ 781 looks suspiciously like a lobbyist-inspired effort to put money in pockets of companies ready to provide the services on which the fund created by SQ 781 must be exclusively expended.

UPDATED 2016/11/02: Having completed my analysis of all 23 sections of the SQ 780 legislation, I have revised the introductory text below to provide a better summary of the affect of passing the state question.

Oklahoma State Question 780 began life as an initiative petition.

Unlike most state questions, its passage will not modify the Constitution. If it passes, SQ 780 will be like the legislature passing a bill. The constitutional power of initiative gives citizens of Oklahoma or any of its political subdivisions the power to legislate in the same way as the corresponding legislative body. City of Tulsa voters could modify the zoning code by putting an initiative petition on the ballot and voting to approve it. State voters can pass state statutes by approving an initiative petition at the polls. I don't know if this has ever happened, but I suppose residents of a school board district could use the initiative power to fire a superintendent or take any other action the school board is empowered to make. The power of initiative exists in recognition that good legislation can at times get clogged up in the politics of the legislature, that legislators can sometimes see themselves (and their lobbyist pals) as an "us" and their constituents as "them." An initiative petition provides a bypass to the obstruction.

In this case, the initiative petition provided a spur to action to the legislature. As you'll see in the section-by-section analysis after the jump, twelve of the 19 sections of statute affected by SQ 780 were modified this year by HB 2751, which passed both houses by wide margins and was signed into law while the SQ 780 petition was being circulated. The bill, like SQ 790, modified the value threshold at which a crime involving theft, fraud, embezzlement, and the like is considered a felony. You can read HB 2751 and see what was added and deleted.

Signature thresholds for statutory initiatives are much lower than for proposed constitutional amendments. Eight percent (8%) of the vote total in the last governor's election (65,987) is enough to put a statutory initiative on the ballot. (15% is required for constitutional initiatives.)

SQ 780 amends 19 different sections in three separate titles of Oklahoma law, affecting penalties and definitions for crimes involving controlled substances, larceny, embezzlement, forgery, and counterfeiting, and affecting penalties for second and subsequent offences. The link, which leads to the Secretary of State's file on SQ 780, shows the text of those sections of the Oklahoma statutes as they would be if SQ 780 passes, and also contains the record of the dispute over the wording of the ballot title for this complex piece of legislation.

When you eliminate the minor differences between HB 2751, which is now in effect, and SQ 780, what's left is one very big, very contentious issue, which hasn't received the attention it deserves -- how should we should deal with drug possession. SQ 780 should have been challenged for violating the single-subject rule -- logrolling popular common-sense ideas like raising the threshold for considering a property crime as a felony with more controversial and divisive issues. When the legislature approved HB 2751, they cleared away the fog and effectively reduced SQ 780 to this question: Should all drug possession crimes be classified as misdemeanors, regardless of the type of drug involve and regardless of the proximity to schools and children?

While there may be a case for lightening penalties, particularly for first offenses, I believe this proposal goes too far. I recommend voting NO -- AGAINST SQ 780.

Now for the details.

Sections 1 and 2 of the proposition sets out the rationale and gives the proposal a name, but it wouldn't be codified into law:

SECTION 1: The people of the state of Oklahoma find the fact that Oklahoma has the second-highest overall incarceration rate in the country, and the highest incarceration rate for women, is inconsistent with Oklahoma values, and drains resources away from investments that can do more to promote public safety. Therefore, the people intend, in enacting this initiative measure, to implement criminal justice reforms that: (l) stop wasting taxpayer money keeping people who commit low-level offenses behind bars for years; and (2) saddle fewer people who commit low-level offenses with felony convictions that will follow them through life and prevent them from getting an education or a job.

SECTION 2. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Oklahoma Smart Justice
Reform Act."

The next 18 sections are amendatory. If you've looked at Oklahoma legislation online, you know that amended law is always shown as a markup -- deleted text stricken through, added text underlined. It makes it easy to see exactly what is changing. It would have been nice for the voters if that had been done by the proponents, but since it wasn't, I will do that here, but after the jump to keep clutter off of the home page. (If you'd like to show your appreciation for my diligent effort, which took me about eight hours to complete, there are a variety of ways you can do so.)

Section 21 repeals 21 O. S. 51.3, which reads:

Every person who, having been convicted of petit larceny, or of an attempt to commit an offense which if perpetrated, would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary, commits any crime after such conviction, is punishable as follows:

1. If such subsequent offense is such that upon a first conviction the offender would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for life, such person is punishable by imprisonment in such prison for life.

2. If such subsequent offense is such that upon first conviction the offender would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for any term less than for life, such person is punishable by imprisonment in such prison for the longest term prescribed upon a conviction for such first offense.

3. If such subsequent conviction is for petit larceny, or for any attempt to commit an offense, which, if perpetrated, would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary, then such person is punishable by imprisonment in such prison for a term not exceeding five (5) years.

Section 22 is a severability clause, allowing the remainder of the legislation to go into effect even if part of it is overturned in court. Section 23 sets an effective date of July 1, 2017.

Details after the jump.

Oklahoma State Question 790 is a legislative referendum which would remove a discriminatory and inconsistently applied provision in the Constitution of Oklahoma that deals with the relationship of religion and government. Its passage would allow the People of Oklahoma through our elected representatives to weigh and balance a variety of public concerns in the development and administration of our laws. Passing SQ 790 would place these questions solely in the context of the well-developed body of Federal jurisprudence concerning the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment, and would eliminate the added burden of a state provision, the meaning and interpretation of which has shifted over the 109 years since statehood, and which the State Supreme Court has inconsistently applied even within the last two years. Passing SQ 790 would eliminate a provision which discriminates against religious organizations by denying the possibility of even an indirect benefit from an action taken in pursuit of secular state aims.

SQ 790 would delete Article II, Section 5, which reads:

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

The proposed amendment was placed on the ballot by Senate Joint Resolution 72, which was approved by a 39-5 vote in the State Senate and a 65-7 vote in the State House. (All five no votes in the Senate and all seven nay votes in the House were from Democrats, as were 2 of the 4 Senate abstentions and 17 of the 24 House abstentions.) The House Rules Committee passed it with a unanimous 9-0 vote. The Senate Rules Committee voted 13-2 in favor.

At the time of its passage, the Oklahoma Constitution was the longest governing document in the world, regulating the price of railroad tickets, regulating who could receive free railroad tickets (and including a special exemption for ministers of religion and YMCA traveling secretaries), decreeing the flash point of kerosene, and defining the term "colored" (although the legal impediments connected with the word were left to legislation -- the "Jim Crow" law passed as the Legislature's first act).

Over its 109-year history, Article II, Section 5, has been cited in about a dozen Oklahoma State Supreme Court cases, involving everything from discounted streetcar fares for parochial school students (OK), to letting private school students ride the public school bus (not OK), to chapel services at a state orphanage (OK), to a cross on the State Fairgrounds (OK), to, most recently, school vouchers for special-needs students (OK) and the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol (not OK). The rulings have been woefully inconsistent.

The most recent two rulings illustrate the problem:

In Prescott v. Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission (2015 OK 54), the State Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Ten Commandments monument "operates for the use, benefit or support of a sect or system of religion." Stretching the definition of words to the breaking point, the majority opinion claimed that Judeo-Christianity was a system of religion and that the text of the Ten Commandments was sectarian because it followed the translation that was common to all English-speaking Protestant denominations for over three centuries. (The monument also includes the text of the Ten Commandments in ancient, pre-exilic Hebrew script.) Justice Combs, on this year's retention ballot, wrote a dissent in this case. Justice Winchester, also on the ballot went along with the majority's decision.

Oklahoma Ten Commandments Monument, highlighting the section with the Ten Commandments in ancient Hebrew script

A year later, in Oliver v. Hofmeister (26 OK 15), the Court ruled unanimously that it did not violate Article II, Section 5, for the state to provide funding that parents of special-needs children could use to pay for private school education. The majority argued that the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarship is constitutional, because the program is voluntary, because the parents choose the school and may select from religious or non-religious schools, and because the State benefits in that acceptance of the scholarship "relieves the school district of its obligation to the student to provide special education services mandated by the state and federal governments."

It is easy to see how the two decisions might have been reversed: The Ten Commandments are not unique to one Christian denomination or even to Christianity. They are held in respect and reverence by the three great monotheistic religions, so they can hardly be called "sectarian" as understood by the framers of our state's constitution. There is no such thing as a "Judeo-Christian system of religion." It would be more accurate to say that Judeo-Christian is a broad classification that embraces a group of different religions with some common features. The church-affiliated schools that receive state funding in the form of tuition vouchers are benefitting indirectly from state expenditure. The constitutional provision makes no allowance for offsetting state benefit.

The problem comes down to two words, one of which -- "indirectly" -- is overly broad, and the other -- "sectarian" -- has changed meanings since 1907.

Of all the private organizations in Oklahoma, only organizations which are religious in nature must be screened off from even an indirect benefit from government expenditure. Interpreted literally, the provision is absurd. Churches, religious schools, convents, and monasteries benefit indirectly from government spending on law enforcement, street resurfacing, sidewalks, and water and sewer service. A government that is banned from doing anything that might indirectly benefit a sectarian institution will be doing nothing at all.

But what does "sectarian" mean? Is anything religious necessarily sectarian, or did the framers of the Oklahoma Constitution understand a distinction between those two terms?

The same Constitutional Convention that adopted Article II, Section 5, saw no conflict with opening its proceedings with prayer or giving religious ministers a special exemption for free railroad tickets. The Constitution of the proposed State of Sequoyah, which was drafted by many of the same leaders who created the Oklahoma Constitution, had a provision similar to Article II, Section 5, but it also designated Sunday as a "perpetual day of rest" and banned atheists from holding public office.

The Oklahoma public schools that my parents and grandparents attended included prayers and Bible reading. At Catoosa Elementary School in 1970, Mrs. Paul's 2nd grade class opened each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer.

For the first six decades or so of our state's history, the idea that the Ten Commandments were sectarian would have seemed ridiculous. What could be less sectarian than a document held in esteem by all the denominations of Judaism -- orthodox, conservative, and Reform alike -- dozens of Protestant denominations, Roman Catholicism, Greek and Russian and Syrian Orthodoxy, and even modern religions like Mormonism and Christian Science?

What was considered sectarian? Whether infants should be baptized, whether communion was a symbolic memorial or involved the transubstantiation of bread and wine into flesh and blood, whether the church should be governed by bishops, elders, or the membership of the congregation. Promotion by public schools or city governments of a civic religion of generic Protestantism was not seen as a violation of this constitutional provision by the men who put it there.

To the framers of the Oklahoma Constitution, "sectarian" was a code word for Catholic. While Article II, Section 5, is not identical to the unsuccessful Blaine Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, it is in the same vein and shares the same motivation. In the late 19th century, America experienced an influx of immigrants from Ireland and southern Europe. These immigrants were happy to become Americans, but they did not want their children to become Protestants, and they reacted to the public schools' generic Protestantism by setting up their own parochial schools. In reaction to this, politicians who wanted immigrants to assimilate passed provisions like the Blaine Amendment and Article II, Section 5, to ensure that choosing to avoid the prescribed path of religious assimilation would always carry an extra financial burden.

In one case dealing with this constitutional provision, the State Supreme Court noted that a chapel on the grounds of the State's Whitaker Orphanage near Pryor would be used for "non-sectarian, non-denominational religious worship" -- a juxtaposition that would have made perfect sense to the framers of Oklahoma's Constitution but apparently baffles seven of the nine members of our current State Supreme Court.

A few weeks ago I debated in support of SQ 790 against Jim Huff, one of the plaintiffs in the Ten Commandments monument case. Mr. Huff repeatedly made the claim that approval of SQ 790 and repeal of Article II, Section 5, would leave a hole in the law regarding the relationship of religion and government. He claims that its passage will lead to more lawsuits.

On the contrary. The "hole" would be filled by a well-defined body of jurisprudence regarding the First Amendment's "establishment" and "free exercise" clauses. If SQ 790 passes, state, local, and school officials in Oklahoma will have the guidance of dozens of First Amendment cases across the entire country. The two lawsuits mentioned above could have been avoided if Article II, Section 5, were repealed, because precedents in other states already established the constitutionality of the legislature's actions.

If SQ 790 fails, Oklahoma officials will only be able to guess, based on a dozen inconsistent rulings, whether their actions will be regarded as constitutional when the inevitable lawsuit is brought to the State Supreme Court.

Because of the clarity that repeal of Article II, Section 5, will bring to the interaction of government and religion in Oklahoma, I am voting YES, to APPROVE SQ 790.

MORE comments -- a couple of further thoughts I've posted elsewhere that may help summarize the case:

Regarding their Ten Commandments monument, Texas officials could make decisions based on dozens of 1st Amendment establishment and free-exercise precedents from cases across the US. Oklahoma officials are burdened with an overly broad ("indirectly") provision with few precedents (about a dozen) and shifting definitions ("sectarian"). But the existence of Article II, Section 5 is no excuse for our State Supreme Court. The seven justices who ruled against the monument should be blamed for wrongly claiming that there is a "Judeo-Christian system of religion" (Judeo-Christian is a label for a broad grouping of religions with some common elements; if it's a system, where's its hierarchy, where are its rituals set down?) and that the monument is "sectarian" (its text is revered by all denominations or sects of Judaism and Christianity, and is even regarded as holy scripture by Islam).

When Article II, Section 5, was placed in the Oklahoma Constitution, and similar "Blaine Amendment"-type provisions were added to other state constitutions, the framers wanted to encourage children to be indoctrinated in the state religion of the day (generic protestantism) and make it harder for families who wanted to educate their children in their own religion. The motivation for those who want to keep it today hasn't changed, but the state religion has been changed (by the U. S. Supreme Court in the 1960s) to atheism and materialism.

MORE: After the jump, a summary of the Oklahoma State Supreme court cases citing Article II, Section 5.

A bit of good news to break up the election stuff:

Wayne McCombs, local baseball historian and executive director of the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum in Claremore, is the subject of a profile in GTR Newspapers.

The profile by Terrel Lester begins with the story of McCombs's first encounter with the Davis collection, when he was a nine-year-old boy and the collection was still housed in the lobby of the Mason Hotel in downtown Claremore:

On a summer afternoon, air-conditioning and guns would be an inviting and double-barreled treat for rambunctious boys still shy of their teenage years.

They entered the lobby, cautiously, stealthily, if not so quietly. Looked around for the boss man.

Considering themselves alone, the boys encircled one of the most enticing pieces of Davis' collection of guns: The Gatling gun, rapid-fire linchpin of 19th-century army brigades and star of so many western movies.

As ringleader of the youngsters, Wayne McCombs remembered that he and his pals began imitating cavalry troops, rattling off sounds they thought mimicked the actions of the Gatling gun, whooping, jumping. One of his confederates even fell to the floor as if shot and wounded.

That was enough to rouse the heretofore silent and unseen James Monroe Davis.
"He stood up from behind his desk," McCombs said. "He saw us come in. He let us play for a little bit, but then it was time to get out.

The profile goes on to describe McCombs's career in radio at KWPR and KVOO, his work as University of Tulsa athletics promotion director during the exciting early '80s, his books on baseball history, his efforts as a Claremore civic leader, and his work, for the last seven years, to promote the J. M. Davis Museum.

McCombs routinely calls upon his marketing background for events to put, and keep, the museum in the public eye.

Along with the monthly appearance of western re-enactors, McCombs has installed such short-term exhibits as a collection of John Wayne movie posters and a tribute to the radio career of Billy Parker. In October, McCombs hosted a book-signing for former New York Yankees pitcher and Chelsea native Ralph Terry. Once or twice a year, McCombs plays host to a BB-gun shooting contest for youngsters.

"I was tired of hearing people say, 'I've been to the museum, but it's been a while. I haven't been back in years.'

"Well, I am trying to get people to come back to the museum," McCombs said.
When they do return, or even make their first trip, to the museum, patrons will find what McCombs and others often refer to as "an Oklahoma gem."

I've known Wayne going back to his time at TU, through Hal O'Halloran's Sports Night show on KXXO. It's always heartening to see someone find a role that is such a good fit for his skills and passions.

BatesLine is proud to welcome a new advertiser: Durant-based artist G. N. Taylor, whose website offers paintings of scenes from Oklahoma history and the American West.

neal_taylor.jpgNeal Taylor is an accomplished sculptor and painter. A bronze sculpture by Taylor, "The Spirit of '89," was presented to President Ronald Reagan and is on display at the Reagan Presidential Library, with a casting on display at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. The Franklin Mint selected his design for the Oklahoma Bicentennial Medallion, and recently, he was associated with the U. S. Mint as one of nine master designers. His paintings have won numerous blue ribbons at juried shows and are on display in museums, galleries, banks, and institutions around Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.

Taylor's work is rooted in his love of Oklahoma and its history and reflects his own first-hand-experience working with horses and cattle. Paintings depict land runs, cattle drives, buffalo hunts, oil discovery, and the hardships and joys of frontier life. Taylor has done a series of portraits of the principal chiefs of the Choctaw Nation, of which he is a member.

Faithful readers may recall an earlier BatesLine article which featured Taylor's depiction of the only naval battle to take place within Oklahoma's boundaries, when Confederate troops under Stand Watie's command attacked a Union supply steamboat on the Arkansas River at Pheasant Bluff. Taylor's eye for detail brings this uniquely-Oklahoma historic event to life.

Stand_Watie-Pheasant_Bluff-18640615.PNG

Painting of the Confederate attack on the J. R. Williams by Durant artist Neal Taylor, on display in the Oklahoma History Center.

Christmas is not that far off, and it's not too early to think about unique gifts for a loved one. Instead of buying something that will wind up in the bottom of a drawer, why not choose a gift that will be on display, providing daily enjoyment and a reminder of Oklahoma's rich history?

Through Taylor's website, you can purchase the oil-on-canvas originals or giclée prints on canvas or archival paper of Taylor's paintings. Print prices are quite affordable. Please take a few minutes to click through the ad and browse through the wide selection of paintings. You may find the perfect painting for your den, lobby, or classroom or the perfect gift for someone who loves the American West.

Oklahoma State Question 779, an initiative petition promoted by University of Oklahoma President (and former Oklahoma governor and senator) David Boren, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution, establishing a permanent 1 cent on the dollar sales tax (a permanent increase in the state sales tax rate from 4.5 cents per dollar to 5.5 -- a 22% increase) to be used for funding K-12 schools, Career Tech, and higher education. Complex language is intended to ensure that this permanent sales tax is in addition to and not in place of existing state funding.

Here is the text of the proposed new Article XIII-C, which would be added to the Oklahoma Constitution if SQ 779 is approved:

CONSTITUTION OF OKLAHOMA, ARTICLE XIII-C - OKLAHOMA EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT FUND

§ 1. CREATION OF OKLAHOMA EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT FUND

There is hereby created in the State Treasury a limited purpose fund to be known as the "Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund." The fund shall consist of the proceeds of the sales tax levy and the use tax levy provided in Section 2 of this Article XIII-C, and any monies or assets contributed to the fund from any other source, public or private.

§ 2. LEVY OF ONE CENT SALES TAX AND USE TAX FOR OKLAHOMA EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT FUND

There is hereby levied upon all sales, not otherwise exempted in the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code, an additional excise tax of one percent (1.0%) of the gross receipts or gross proceeds of each sale of tangible personal property, or of other goods and services subject to the sales tax as provided in the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code. Except as otherwise provided herein, this tax shall be collected, reported, and remitted or paid in accordance with the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code. There is hereby levied and there shall be paid by every person storing, using, or otherwise consuming within this state, tangible personal property purchased or brought into this state, an additional excise tax on the storage, use, or other consumption in this state of such property at the rate of one percent (1.0%) of the purchase price of such property. Said tax shall be levied on the storage, use or consumption of personal property as provided in the Oklahoma Use Tax Code. Except as otherwise provided herein, this tax shall be collected, reported, and remitted or paid in accordance with the Oklahoma Use Tax Code. This sales tax levy shall be in addition to, and shall not supplant, the general sales tax levied in the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code or any other sales tax authorized by Oklahoma law and this use tax levy shall be in addition to, and shall not supplant, the general use tax levied in the Oklahoma Use Tax Code or any other use tax authorized by Oklahoma law. All revenue from the sales tax and the use tax levied pursuant to this Article XIII-C, and penalties and interest thereon, collected by the Oklahoma Tax Commission shall be paid to the State Treasurer and deposited into the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund.

§ 3. ALLOCATION OF MONIES IN OKLAHOMA EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT FUND - PURPOSES - USES - ETC.

A. Monies in the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund shall be apportioned by the State Treasurer, appropriated by the Legislature, and distributed monthly for the educational purposes established herein, as follows:

1. Common Education: Sixty-nine and one-half percent (69.5%) of said monies shall be apportioned among and between all the several common school districts of the State in proportion to the school population of the several districts, on the basis of the state aid formula for common education then in effect.

(a) Monies from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund shall be specifically identified and segregated from other monies appropriated and apportioned among the several common school districts of the State on the basis of said state aid formula.

(b) The common school districts shall use eighty-six and one-third percent (86.33%) of the additional funds provided to them under this Article XIII-C to increase teacher salaries as required by Section 4 of this Article, and to otherwise address and prevent teacher and certified instructional staff shortages in the manner most suited to local district circumstances and needs, including but not limited to differentiated compensation methods or performance pay.

(c) The common school districts shall use thirteen and two-thirds percent (13.67%) of the additional funds provided to them under this Article XIII-C to adopt or to expand programs, opportunities, or reforms to improve reading in the early grades, to improve high school graduation rates, and to increase college and career readiness. The common school districts may use the amount apportioned to them under this Section 3(A)(1)(c) only to adopt or to expand said programs, opportunities or reforms, and may not use the amount apportioned to them under this Section 3(A)(I)(c) to maintain programs, opportunities or reforms established prior to the effective date of this Article XIII-C.

(d) The State Auditor and Inspector shall approve auditors who shall annually audit the use made of the monies distributed to the school districts under this Article XIII-C to ensure that it is used only for the purposes specified in this Article XIII-C..

2. Higher Education: Nineteen and one-quarter percent (19.25%) of said monies shall be paid to the education and general operating budgets of the institutions under the authority of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, for use in improving college affordability, or otherwise in the improvement of higher education.

3. Career and Technology Education: Three and one-quarter percent (3.25%) of said monies shall be paid to the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, for use in the improvement of career and technology education.

4. Early Childhood Education: Eight percent (8%) of said monies shall be paid to the State Department of Education, for use in increasing access to and enhancing the quality of voluntary early learning opportunities for low-income and at-risk children prior to entry into the common education system.

B. Monies expended or distributed from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund as provided herein shall be used only for the purposes specified in this Article XIII-C, Section 3.c. None of these monies distributed from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund to common school districts may be used to add superintendent .positions or increase superintendents' salaries.

§ 4. INCREASE IN TEACHER SALARIES

Each common school district of the State of Oklahoma shall pay each teacher employed by such district a salary at a rate that is at least $5,000 greater than the salary schedule transmitted by such district in the most recent year prior to the adoption of this Article XIII-C.

§ 5. FUNDS NOT TO SUPPLANT OTHER EDUCATION FUNDING

A. Monies expended or distributed from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund shall supplement, and shall not be used to supplant or replace, other state funds supporting common education, early childhood education, higher education, or career and technology education, including but not limited to the Permanent School Fund, the Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund, the Education Reform Revolving Fund, the Common Education Technology Revolving Fund, the Higher Education Capital Revolving Fund, the Oklahoma Tuition Scholarship Revolving Fund, the Common School Fund, appropriations from the Legislature as provided in Article XIII, Section 1a of the Constitution, and any other appropriations from the Legislature used for educational purposes.

B. The Legislature shall appropriate the monies from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund solely to supplement other funds supporting common education, early childhood education, higher education, or career and technology education. The Legislature shall not appropriate such monies to supplant or replace any other state funds supporting common education, early childhood education, higher educ.ation, or career and technology education.

C. In order to ensure that the monies from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund are used to enhance and not supplant funding for education, the State Board of Equalization shall examine and investigate appropriations from the Fund each year. At the meeting of the State Board of Equalization held within five (5) days after the monthly apportionment in February of each year, the State Board of Equalization shall issue a finding and report that shall state whether appropriations from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund were .used to enhance or supplant education funding. If the State Board of Equalization finds that education funding was supplanted by monies from the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund, the State Board of Equalization shall specify the amount by which education funding was supplanted. In this event, the Legislature shall not make any appropriations for the ensuing fiscal year until an appropriation in that amount is made to replenish the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund.

§ 6. EFFECTIVE DATE, CONSTRUCTION

A. This Article XIII-C shall become effective on July 1 immediately following its passage.

B. Nothing in this Article XIII-C shall be construed as conflicting with Article X, Section 23 of the Constitution.

§ 7. SEVERABILITY

The provisions hereof are severable, and if any part or provision hereof shall be void, invalid, or unconstitutional, the decision of the court so holding shall not affect or impair any of the remaining parts or provisions hereof, and the remaining provisions hereof shall continue in full force and effect.

Article X, Section 23, is the balanced-budget requirement in the Constitution of Oklahoma.

Before you even get to the question of whether common schools should get more state funding or teachers should get raises, there are numerous reasons to defeat this proposition:

1. This is a logrolled proposition, in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution's single-subject rule. The essence of logrolling is to link unpopular provisions, which could not pass on their own, with provisions that enjoy public support. Boren has framed this issue so that you have to give him more money for OU if you want to give more money to K-12 schools. That's selfish and greedy on his part. The lavishly funded Tulsa Technology Center will get more money too, even though they can barely figure out how to spend the money they take in through their dedicated property tax levy. The high priests of the Oklahoma Supreme Court pretended not to see the obvious logrolling, so it's left to the voters to punish logrolling by defeating it at the polls, along with the unjust judges who approved it (including Supreme Court justice Combs and Civil Appeals Court judge Thornbrugh, on the ballot for retention in November).

2. There's no mechanism for reducing the tax rate if the tax generates more revenue than is needed. We will have the same problem we already have with dedicated property tax levies for TCC, Tulsa Technology Center, the library, and the health department. Taxpayers lose, money gets wasted, other needs go unfunded.

3. Our cities and towns will have some of the highest combined sales tax rates in the nation. This will hurt border communities, as shoppers cross the state line to avoid the higher tax rate. This will hurt Oklahoma's poorest citizens, as the regressive tax on food, clothing, and other necessities hits even harder.

4. Sales tax is a highly volatile revenue source. Just ask your city's finance director.

5. The degree of detail, the specificity of the earmarks, and the severability clause all indicate that this is really statutory language, not constitutional language.

Any additional funding for post-secondary education should be tied to a College Realignment and Closure Commission, modeled after the military's successful efforts to cut costs by reducing duplication, consolidating commands, and closing inefficient bases. There is considerable overlap between our comprehensive universities, regional universities, community colleges, and career tech schools. (For example, if you want to learn computer programming, any one of those four types of taxpayer-funded, post-secondary institutions will offer what you need.) Colleges are often located based on political considerations of the turn of the 20th century, rather than the population distribution of the early 21st century. And Oklahoma colleges don't need any more taxpayer money for subsidizing culturally corrosive garbage or persecuting dissenters from the official left-wing ideology.

Funding for common schools needs to go back to a local model -- local funding, raised locally, spent locally, under local control. In FY2016, local and county funds accounted for 28% of school funding, while state sources (including earmarked funds and appropriations) amounted to 61%. That ratio needs to be reversed. Property-rich districts like Union and Tulsa shouldn't be receiving state aid at all, beyond targeted assistance for special needs. District taxpayers should have the option of voting in a higher permanent support levy. Rural county assessors should suffer a penalty for failing to assign true market value to local property, as their sloth results in lower property taxes and lower levels of local support. Under the current system, the state steps in and subsidizes that behavior by supplementing lower property tax collection with state funds. The system hurts well-managed counties that are paying their fare share of taxes in favor of poorly-managed counties that aren't. Making local districts more responsible for their own funding would have the natural consequence of encouraging various types of consolidation and efficiency, including administrative consolidation, campus consolidation, and distance learning. If kids on a Queensland cattle station can learn math over the radio from a teacher 200 miles away, surely rural Oklahoma children can learn math over the internet.

SQ 779 is a rotten apple. I plan to throw it out on November 8 by voting no, against SQ 779.

MORE: Here are the opening paragraphs and a few other key passages from Justice Taylor's dissent, which was joined by Kauger and Winchester:

¶1 I respectfully dissent to the Court's decision finding no constitutional infirmity with Initiative Petition No. 403. The Court is presented with a clear example of logrolling--what Article XXIV, Section 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution intends to prevent. An extremely popular one-time pay raise for a group of state employees paired with other less popular tangentially related questions is repulsive to this constitutional provision. The plain language of Article XXIV, Section 1 requires each proposition in an initiative petition to be of one general subject. This proposed constitutional article to provide a pay raise for a small group of state employees, paired with an increase in funding for common education and higher education, a 1% sales tax, and the enhancement of the Board of Equalization's power is a perfect example of what Article XXIV, Section 1 was written to prevent. Even if logrolling were not the determinative issue, the proposed initiative petition impacts several other constitutional provisions in which allocations for salaries are delegated to the Legislature, and only the Legislature.1

¶2 The Respondents admitted during oral argument that amending our founding document to give a pay raise to one group of state employees is unprecedented. Unprecedented may undersell this point. Stop and think about this proposal for a moment--our Constitution will be amended to grant a onetime pay raise to a group of state employees. Is constitutional amendment to become the new vehicle for pay raises for state employees going into the future? It is evident that this unprecedented constitutional pay raise is being proposed because it is the popular subject in this collection of independent and unrelated provisions. Without the pay raise provision, Initiative Petition No. 403 would likely stand no chance with the voters.

¶3 It is the duty of this Court to follow the rule of law and the Oklahoma Constitution. This case is not simply an approval or disapproval of increasing pay for common education teachers of this state. If that were the case, it would sail through these challenges and be adopted by the people. I would send Initiative Petition No. 403 back to the Respondents and require the questions of a public-school-teacher pay raise, an increase in the state sales tax, the marriage of common education and higher education, and an increase in the Board of Equalization's powers to be presented to the voters as separate conditional propositions....

¶18 In a future budget year, where failure of revenue will require the Legislature to make cuts across the board to all agencies, the Legislature will cut common education and higher education at its own peril due to the powers now given to the Board of Equalization. If the Board of Equalization does not approve of the Legislature's decisions on education appropriations, then the Board of Equalization can shut down the entire legislative branch of government until it follows the command of an executive branch entity. We may very well see the Legislature grind to a halt as the Board of Equalization test-drives its new power.

¶19 There is a reason that a state employee pay raise through constitutional amendment has never been utilized before. The Oklahoma Constitution sets forth precise appropriations procedures for the Legislature to utilize, and the Legislature only. This proposed provision thwarts a core function of the Legislature and clashes with other constitutional provisions which control the appropriations process. See Okla. Const. art. 5, §§ 55-56;4 Okla. Const. art. 13A, § 3; 5 Okla. Const. art. 13, § 1A.6 In essence, Initiative Petition No. 403 contains internal logrolling and causes external logrolling of other relevant constitutional provisions...

¶24 Public support for a public-school-teacher pay raise is very high in this state. I could not agree more that it is a noble goal and purpose. Yet this Court has an obligation to follow the rule of law and the Constitution. And when such a well-supported measure is used as a Trojan horse to add provisions into the Constitution which are only tangentially related to public-school-teacher pay raises, the Constitution and the Court become the gatekeepers. The voters should decide these issues, but they should not be forced to support public-school-teacher raises along with an increase in the sales tax, the marriage of common education and higher education, and an increase in the power of the Board of Equalization all in one vote. I respectfully dissent.

Oklahoma State Question 777 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Oklahoma. It would add a new Section 38 to Article 2, which would read:

Section 38. To protect agriculture as a vital sector of Oklahoma's economy, which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security and is the foundation and stabilizing force of Oklahoma's economy, the rights of farmers and ranchers citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. The Legislature shall pass no law which abridges the right of citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.

Nothing in this section shall be construed to modify any provision of common law or statutes relating to trespass, eminent domain, dominance of mineral interests, easements, rights of way or any other property rights. Nothing in this section shall be construed to modify or affect any statute or ordinance enacted by the Legislature or any political subdivision prior to December 31, 2014.

shallwegather-webimage2.jpgThis proposed amendment began life as HJR 1012 during the 2015 legislative session. The House approved it 90-6; the Senate approved a different version 39-6; then the House adopted the Senate version by an 85-7 vote.

The markup above shows the changes from the original House version to the version finally approved by both Senate and House. The original House version said "farmers and ranchers" instead of "citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma"; the change was made on the House floor. The Senate version added "dominance of mineral interests, easements, rights of way" before "or any other property rights." The Senate version also added the final sentence grandfathering any laws enacted in 2014 (the session prior to passage of this resolution) or earlier.

There are active, evidently well-funded campaigns on each side of the issue. The "yes" website is http://www.oklahomarighttofarm.com/, the "no" website is http://www.votenoon777.com/.

There seems to be a good deal of propaganda on each side of the issue, aiming to provoke an emotional response rather than argue the pros and cons.

While SQ 776 aims to disarm judicial activists, SQ 777 hands them a loaded howitzer. On the Oklahoma Right to Farm FAQ page, the vote yes folks say, "Oklahoma's courts will ultimately determine the scope of Right to Farm." How about we determine the scope before we approve it?

Two other states have approved a similar constitutional provision. North Dakota passed such a bill by a 2-to-1 margin in 2012; Missouri by a very slim margin in 2014. On the other hand, this year, North Dakota voters reaffirmed the state's ban on corporate farming.

This is a bit of a tangent, but I've seen some people claim that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is behind SQ 777. Today I even saw the claim that "ALEC runs Oklahoma." That's like saying Ree Drummond runs my kitchen because we use some of her recipes. ALEC is an organization where limited-government, free-market legislators can exchange ideas and share solutions. (It's analogous to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which serves legislators who are looking for solutions involving bigger government. The main difference is that ALEC is privately funded, and NCSL receives tax dollars.) Some of those solutions involve model legislation, providing a starting point which legislators can adapt to their specific goals and the unique circumstances of each state.

In the case of "Right to Farm," SQ 777 shares a name with ALEC's model right-to-farm legislation, but little else. The ALEC model bill is statutory, not constitutional, and it includes specific definitions that SQ 777 lacks. The ALEC model bill provides a process for handling complaints against farmers; SQ 777 has nothing of the sort.

While I appreciate the concerns of groups like the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, I don't believe that a constitutional amendment like that proposed in SQ 777 is the right solution. I will be voting NO -- AGAINST SQ 777.

Thanks to the support of generous donors (see the Spotlight sidebar on the home page for a list), here is the first in the BatesLine series on the state questions on the Oklahoma 2016 ballot. We will seek to get behind the ballot titles to the legal substance of the question and try to uncover the history, rationale, and people behind each proposal.

State Question 776 is a legislative referendum that would add a new Section 9A to the Constitution of Oklahoma. This new section would say:

All statutes of this state requiring, authorizing, imposing or relating to the death penalty are in full force and effect, subject to legislative amendment or repeal by statute, initiative or referendum. Any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution. Methods of execution may be designated by the Legislature. A sentence of death shall not be reduced on the basis that a method of execution is invalid. In any case in which an execution method is declared invalid, the death sentence shall remain in force until the sentence can be lawfully executed by any valid method. The death penalty provided for under such statutes shall not be deemed to be, or to constitute, the infliction of cruel or unusual punishments, nor shall such punishment be deemed to contravene any other provision of this Constitution.

As Section 9A, it would fall immediately after Section 9, which is identical to the 8th Amendment to the Federal Constitution.

SQ 776 began as Senate Joint Resolution 31, which was was unanimously recommended by Senate and House committees, passed unanimously by the State Senate, and passed by an 80-10 vote in the State House. I have heard people ignorantly claim that the legislature is punting the issue to the voters, but under Article 24, amendments to the Oklahoma Constitution must be ratified by a vote of the people, whether they originate as an initiative petition or as legislation.

Audio of the Senate SJR31 floor presentation and debate is available online. On that page, click the SJR31 link in the left sidebar. This will advance the audio to that point in the session and also bring up the bill summary and history for further exploration. You can also watch video of the House SJR31 floor debate; click the "Agenda" tab and then the SJR31 link. The House Rules Committee discussion is here, which you'll find a more detailed discussion of the rationale behind this proposal.

If you put this amendment in a spray can, the label would read "Judicial Activism Repellent." This is an attempt to defend Oklahoma's use of capital punishment against a number of back-door strategies being employed by death-penalty opponents who know they can't win a direct attempt to delete the death penalty from Oklahoma law.

Activists have been pressuring drug companies to stop making the drugs used for lethal injections. As supplies of drugs needed for reliable and tested combinations have dried up, states have been forced to find new sources and new combinations of drugs in order to carry out the law. Application of these new combinations isn't straightforward, leading to errors as in the case of Clayton Lockett. That in turn leads to public outcry, a positive outcome from the perspective of death-penalty opponents.

During the House Rules committee discussion of the proposal, State Rep. Mike Christian mentioned a concern that the U. S. Supreme Court would ban lethal injection as "cruel and unusual punishment," making it urgent to find an alternative method (nitrogen hypoxia was mentioned as a new possibility in addition to electrocution and firing squad) and clearing a constitutional path to move existing cases to any new method.

old_sparky.jpgOf course, the only reason we are using lethal injection is because these same death-penalty opponents protested electrocution, hanging, and firing squad as inhumane.

The proposed amendment attempts to address problems raised by this situation. While methods of execution would continue to be limited by the "cruel and unusual" clause of the 8th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, state judges would be barred from going beyond federal precedent to find additional methods of execution cruel and unusual under the Oklahoma Constitution.

Under the proposed amendment, a person is sentenced to death and not to a specific method of execution, so that a death-row convict will not be spared just because the expected method is unavailable.

"Shall not be deemed" in the final sentence is a restraint on activism by the State Supreme Court: They aren't allowed to comb the State Constitution for some other pretext for halting executions. If SQ 776 passes, the judges can't disingenuously imagine ambiguity or silence on the issue.

It's sad that this sort of amendment is necessary, but our theocratic method of selecting judges and justices means we wind up with a legal priesthood that selects a Sanhedrin of judges whose values are out of sync with the people they rule. Under the principle of self-government, judges should be of the people -- sharing the views and values of the people, but wiser, more consistent, and capable of reconciling conflicting circumstances. (The evolution of modern America makes more sense when seen as a decades-long process of colonization and proselytizing by a worldview alien to that which framed our Constitution, built the nation, and carried us through the Great Depression and World War II.)

I will vote YES, FOR SQ 776.

The fake REAL ID panic

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UPDATE 2016/10/14: Oklahoma, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maine, and South Carolina have been reclassified as non-compliant and have been granted a grace period only until January 15, 2017. Alaska, California, Oregon, and Virginia have a limited extension until June 6, 2017, and American Samoa, Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Northern Marianas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, and Texas have an extension until October 10, 2017. Guam, Montana, and Virgin Islands are under review.

Once again, local media outlets are not reporting that this problem affects anyone besides Oklahoma. My guess is that they're relying on DHS or Oklahoma DPS press releases and that DHS would like to pressure each state by making the citizens of each think they're isolated and alone on this issue. Jim Harper of Cato Institute wrote late last month that "Oklahoma is a current battleground."

A 2014 Cato Institute report notes:

Although REAL ID is moribund, a state-by-state review reveals that some states' legislatures have backtracked on their opposition to the national ID law, and in some states motor vehicle bureaus are quietly moving forward with REAL ID compliance--contrary to state policy. Surprisingly, in some states, motor vehicle bureaucrats are working to undercut state policy opposing REAL ID and the national ID system.

Keep in mind that Oklahoma legislators voted unanimously to reject REAL ID in 2007, with sponsors on both sides of the isle. Then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, signed the bill into law. Officials were concerned about the cost of fulfilling this unfunded federal mandate, the security of personally identifying information and vulnerability to identity theft, and privacy.

How many states are in full compliance with the REAL ID act? How many states have an exemption that expires on October 10, 2016? How many states are already out of compliance?

If you were just learning about the issue from local news and social media, I can see how you might have come to the conclusion that 49 states and all the territories were already in full compliance and the only holdout was backward, ignorant Oklahoma, led by our Bible-besotted legislators and that awful Mary Fallin who stupidly believe that REAL ID is practically the Mark of the Beast. If you're only reluctantly an Oklahoman, if you already hate our state's religiously-influenced cultural conservatism, the apparent practical consequences of REAL ID non-compliance serve as a hefty cudgel with which to beat your favorite straw man.

For example, this News 9 story received a lot of social media play early this week:

OK Licenses Will No Longer Be Accepted For Access Onto Military Bases By Dana Hertneky, News 9

MIDWEST CITY, Oklahoma -

Your Oklahoma driver's license many not get you on military bases after October 10. Oklahoma legislators failed last session to make our Oklahoma Driver's licenses REAL ID compliant, and the current extension expires October 10. Without another extension, visitors to the bases will no longer be able to use their Oklahoma driver's license for identification.

HGL Construction does work on all three military bases in Oklahoma. During a recent site visit they were told that after October 10, an Oklahoma driver's license would no longer be an acceptable identification to get them on base.

"It will require not only HGL, but our subcontractors to secure passports, which most of our subcontractors wouldn't necessarily have," said Patrick Renshaw, the VP and Director of Preconstruction for HGL Construction.

Public Affairs officers at the bases say the new rules will also affect delivery drivers and even family members visiting the base for graduations or ceremonies. At Ft. Sill, they are warning loved ones now about the change, so they have time to get the necessary documentation.

There's some important context that the story doesn't give you. The limits on access to military installations is nothing new. It's been decades since a driver's license was sufficient for unescorted access to a military base. On some bases, a federal Common Access Card (available to some contractors on a strictly controlled basis) is sufficient, but on others, you also need to present a background check to the base pass office to get a separate, base-specific pass, and on still others, you'll need a vehicle pass as well.

The most important context missing from the story is that Oklahoma is not alone in its REAL ID non-compliance. Here is the Department of Homeland Security's list (retrieved today) of the status of driver's licenses from each state and territory:

(A) 23 states and the District of Columbia are considered fully compliant.

(B) 24 states, Guam, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands "have an extension, allowing Federal agencies to accept driver's licenses from these states until October 10, 2016."

(C) American Samoa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Washington are non-compliant and do not have an extension. Federal agencies may accept Enhanced Driver's Licenses (equipped with an RFID chip and valid for land and sea border crossings) that are available to Minnesota and Washington residents.

Oklahoma is in category B, along with California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, and Massachusetts -- some very big company indeed.

New York State is telling its citizens that, despite the impending expiration of their extension, there's no need to worry for another four years:

Can I board a plane with the driver license I have now?

Yes. DMV expects that all licenses and ID cards issued by New York State will remain acceptable for domestic flights and for access to federal buildings until October 1, 2020.

What happens after 2020?

Starting in October 2020,New Yorkers will need a REAL ID compliant license to board a domestic flight or enter a federal building without secondary forms of identification, as per the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

New York State has been granted an extension to the REAL ID Act only through October 10, 2016. What does that mean?

The extension's 2016 expiration is no cause for concern, as DHS grants extensions only on an annual basis and New York State anticipates having a REAL ID extension until becoming fully compliant with the Act. That means New Yorkers can continue to use their current state-issued driver license or ID card to enter federal buildings or board a domestic flight until October 1, 2020.

...

Do I need to worry about this now?

No. All New York licenses and ID cards are currently acceptable for REAL ID purposes and DMV expects them to be until October 1, 2020.

I have come across a couple of reports (here and here) that a 90-day extension to January 9, 2017, was announced on Thursday but can't find anything reflecting that change on the DHS website.

Since Congress passed REAL ID in 2005 as a rider on a must-pass appropriations bill, there's been a kind of gamesmanship happening. DHS doesn't want to acknowledge widespread rebellion against this Federal overreach. They prefer to pretend that most non-compliant states are moving toward compliance, and as long as a state plays along -- periodically requests an extension, presents some plausible excuses (e.g. fiscal constraints), and professes progress toward compliance -- DHS is happy to grant an extension. The only states tarred with the scarlet non-compliance label are those who are making no pretense to compliance.

Those forces that want Americans to have to obtain what amounts to an internal passport, linked to a central database, use media to activate the herd mentality. They want to convey the impression that each non-compliant state is alone, and it's time to get with the program. But as long as non-compliant states (especially the larger ones) stick together, Federal agencies will have to continue to grant extensions. Enforcement would create enough inconvenience for federal agencies and citizens that have to interact with them to generate calls for repeal.

Why should you care? Civil liberties organizations have raised objections to the REAL ID plan since its inception, citing threats to liberty, privacy, and the security of your identity. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), CATO Institute, Electronic Freedom Foundation, the left-leaning ACLU, and the right-leaning ACLJ have all come out in opposition to REAL ID. Here is an excerpt from EPIC's REAL ID page:

EPIC and 24 experts in privacy and technology submitted detailed comments (pdf) in May 2007 on the draft regulations explaining the many privacy and security threats raised by the REAL ID Act. The fundamentally flawed national identification system is unworkable and the REAL ID Act must be repealed. In particular, the group admonishes DHS for its failure to include adequate privacy and security safeguards for this massive national identification database. DHS's own Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee has refused (pdf) to endorse the agency's plan. "The Committee feels it is important that the following comments do not constitute an endorsement of REAL ID or the regulations as workable or appropriate."

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff released the agency's final regulations for REAL ID on January 11, 2008. The Secretary scaled back some of the requirements, reduced the cost, and extended the deadline for state compliance. However, Secretary Chertoff also indicated that the REAL ID card would be used for a wide variety of purposes, unrelated to the law that authorized the system, including employment verification and immigration determination. He also indicated that the agency would not prevent the use of the card by private parties for non-government purposes. As part of the cost-saving effort, Homeland Security has decided not to encrypt the data that will be stored on the card.

In an opinion column written by Secretary Chertoff after the publication of the final rule, he said, "embracing REAL ID" would mean it would be used to "cash a check, hire a baby sitter, board a plane or engage in countless other activities." This is a description of a national identification system, which is illegal in the United States. When it created the Department of Homeland Security, Congress made clear in the enabling legislation that the agency could not create a national ID system. In September 2004, then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge reiterated, "[t]he legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security was very specific on the question of a national ID card. They said there will be no national ID card."

In a detailed analysis (pdf) of the final rule, EPIC explained that the Department of Homeland Security's REAL ID system includes few protections for individual privacy and security in its massive national identification database. It harms national security by creating yet another "trusted" credential for criminals to exploit. The Department of Homeland Security has faced so many obstacles with the REAL ID system that the agency now plans an implementation deadline of 2017 -- nine years later than the 2008 statutory deadline. It is an unfunded mandate that would cost billions, with the burden ultimately being placed on the individual taxpayer.

Technical experts familiar with the challenges of privacy protection and identification presented the Department of Homeland Security with a variety of recommendations that would have minimized the risks of the REAL ID system. The DHS made some modifications, but left the essential system in place. As REAL ID currently stands, the costs are many and the benefits are few. EPIC also detailed the State rebellion against REAL ID.

EPIC urged the alternative model of a system of decentralized identification. This reduces the risks associated with security breaches and the misuse of personal information. Technological innovation can enable the development of context-dependent identifiers. A decentralized approach to identification is consistent with our commonsense understanding of identification. If you are banking, you should have a bank account number. If go to the library, you should have a library card number. If you rent videos from a store, you should have a video rental store card number. Utility bills, telephone bills, insurance, the list goes on. These context-dependent usernames and passwords enable authentication without the risk of a universal identification system. That way, if one number is compromised, all of the numbers are not spoiled and identity thieves cannot access all of your accounts. All of your accounts can become compartmentalized, enhancing their security. View the full report: Marc Rotenberg & Melissa Ngo, EPIC, REAL ID Implementation Review: Few Benefits, Staggering Costs (pdf) (May 2008).

I suspect that some REAL ID proponents support it mainly because of the perceived benefits for immigration enforcement. Other proponents may have a commercial interest -- providing the enhanced cards and the machines that produce them or the IT systems to manage the data gathered. Law enforcement might find it easier to do their jobs if your life was less compartmentalized. Commercial entities see financial opportunity in linking data among various aspects of your life; you may have noticed, in the move from computers to smart phones, that you have to use a single ID from Apple or Google to access various apps, and you have to give those apps permission to crawl around all the data that other apps have generated. Even if the Federal Government fails to establish a universal ID, Apple and Google may succeed.

Here's what EFF has to say about REAL ID:

Once the IDs and database are in place their uses will inevitably expand to facilitate a wide range of surveillance activities. Remember the Social Security number started innocuously enough but it has become a prerequisite for a host of government services and been coopted by private companies to create massive databases of personal information. A national ID poses similar dangers; for example because "common machine-readable technology" will be required on every ID the government and businesses will be able to easily read your private information off the cards in myriad contexts.

Real ID won't just cost you your privacy. The federal government didn't give the states funds to implement the law and overcome its many administrative burdens so the billions of dollars in costs will be passed down to you in the form of increased DMV fees or taxes.

And what will you get in return? Not improved national security because IDs do nothing to stop those who haven't already been identified as threats and wrongdoers will still be able to create fake documents. In fact the IDs and database will simply create an irresistible target for identity thieves.

Kaye Beach is a Norman-based activist fighting against REAL ID and government collection of biometric information. Her Constitutional Alliance website has a helpful FAQ about biometrics. Her chilling summary:

We are being enrolled into a single global biometric identification system that links a person's body using biometrics to their ability to buy, sell, travel and work....

It is most important to note that ALL states meet Real ID benchmark #1 "Mandatory facial image capture and retention of such image." No matter whether your state is Real ID compliant or not, if you possess a state driver's license or photo ID card, you have been enrolled. The same is true for other government photo ID's such as a military ID or a US passport. These high resolution digital images are a biometric suitable for use with facial recognition technology and we know that at least 37 states are currently utilizing the facial biometric with facial recognition technology.

It is the capture of the biometric combined with the application of international standards that is at the heart of enrollment into a single global system of identification and control.

Beach writes that mandatory biometric identification shifts the balance of power from people to government, transforms rights into privileges, and destroys the presumption of innocence.

Her Constitutional Alliance co-founder, Mark Lerner, explains how this technology can have a chilling effect on the free exercise of our First Amendment rights:

The good news is now that the Snowden revelations have revealed to a large degree the domestic surveillance taking place, the public knows more about what OUR government is doing. The bad news is the chilling effect creating a surveillance state has on a representative form of government.

The chilling effect can be simply defined as the way in which people alter or modify their behavior to conform to political and social norms as a result of knowing or believing they are being observed. The observation can be from physical surveillance, telephone meta data being collected, emails being intercepted and read, search engine requests being maintained, text messages being read and stored, financial transactions being monitored and much more.

UPDATE: I will be on 1170 KFAQ at 7:05 am on Thursday morning, September 8, 2016, to discuss the forum with Pat Campbell. My partial notes are below:

Quite a wake-up we had Saturday morning! Not just a brief rumble, but sustained vibration. It was strange to open my eyes and see the room swimming from the shaking of the bed. While it's not the strongest earthquake I've personally felt -- I was in a fourth-floor hotel room 14 miles from the epicenter of the magnitude 6 Napa earthquake and felt the building sway for a minute after the shaking stopped -- it's the strongest I've felt here. I thought the 2011 quake was a garbage truck driving down the street. My wife said this one felt more like there was a freight train next door.

Oklahoma's long-inactive faults seem to have awakened in late 2009-2010. Where a half-dozen significant quakes had been typical in any given year, suddenly Oklahoma began experiencing hundreds of quakes greater than 2.5 magnitude every year. There is reason to believe that this sudden increase in seismicity is induced, with deep injection of waste-water from oil and gas exploration the suspected culprit.

To discuss the possible causes and cures, Tulsa Local Section of the American Chemical Society is hosting a public forum on Oklahoma's earthquakes at the University of Tulsa, in the Alan Chapman Activities Center, Wednesday, September 7, 2016, at 7 p.m.

American Chemical Society: Earthquakes and Waste Water Disposal Wednesday, September 7 at 7:00pm to 8:30pm Student Union, Alcove 3135 East 5th Place, Tulsa, OK 74104

The Tulsa Section of the American Chemical Society is sponsoring a public forum on earthquakes and waste water disposal. This Chemistry Café is free and open to the public. Parking is available for free just north of 4th place and Harvard.

A panel of experts will make short presentations followed by a one hour audience question and answer session. The objective is to present to the public facts about the relationship between drilling waste water disposal and the large number of major earthquakes recently experience by the state of Oklahoma.

The panel of experts include Matt Skinner of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission which regulates waste water disposal, Johnson Bridgwater who is head of the Oklahoma Sierra Club and Jeremy Boak of the Oklahoma Geological Survey who are studying the effects of waste water disposal on the probability of induced earthquakes.

This promises to be an enlightening evening discussing a topic which is of high importance to many Oklahomans.

MORE:

Search the USGS earthquake database. Oklahoma's boundaries run roughly from 33.5°N to 37°N, and from 94.5°W to 100°W, not including the panhandle. (The Oklahoma panhandle is 36.5-37°N, 100-103°W.)

This morning on his newly expanded program (5 am - 9 am), 1170 KFAQ's Pat Campbell interviewed Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates oil and gas production in the state; Dr. Michael Hank of the local chapter of the American Chemical Society, sponsor of Wednesday's forum; and Dan McNamara of the U. S. Geological Survey Geologic Hazards Science Center. Campbell had his own comments about the quake and how it was covered at the time in the media and on Twitter.

Back in May, Oklahoma State Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) wrote about HB 3518, which passed the legislature unanimously and had just been signed by Gov. Fallin. Murphey, whose district has been hard-hit by the quakes, has been pushing for several years for legislation to empower stricter controls on waste-water injection.

REPORT 2016/09/07: More details to come. The consensus is that the earthquakes are specifically connected to a massively increased volume of highly saline production wastewater being injected into disposal wells in the Arbuckle formation, a sedimentary rock formation some 7,000 feet below the surface. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has identified a 15,000 square mile area of interest in north-central and northwestern Oklahoma and is working to close or reduce the volume of disposal wells in this region. The moving average of earthquakes above 2.5 magnitude has declined over the first half of this year, evidently in response to disposal volume reductions. As a result of Saturday's Pawnee quake, which has been upgraded to magnitude 5.8, the largest in modern Oklahoma history, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is shutting down 37 disposal wells in the area, and another 17 are being shut down in Osage County, which is under the EPA's jurisdiction, not OCC.

I will add a summary of the discussion after the jump, but here are some links to online resources that present much of the information presented at the forum.

earthquakes.ok.gov is state government's one-stop-shop for information about Oklahoma earthquakes:

The Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake site:

Report feeling an earthquake to the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the US Geological Survey. Reporting on both sites helps both agencies understand and respond more rapidly.

Jeremy Boak, head of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, mentioned a study by Mark Zoback and Rall Walsh of Stanford University, "Oklahoma's Recent Earthquakes and Saltwater Disposal," published in Science Advances. I encourage you to read the summary at least, as it will fill you in on the terminology and explains the basis of the policies currently being pursued by the state in response to seismic activity.

NGI provides a handy guide to Oklahoma's oil and gas "plays".

An April 2015 presentation from OCC Oil and Gas Conservation Division director Tim Baker has some helpful illustrations and maps, discusses the different types of injection wells, and outlines the then-new requirements imposed on operators of the 969 wells authorized for waste water disposal into the Arbuckle formation.

Joe Wertz of Stateimpact Oklahoma has a basic overview of the Arbuckle formation, gleaned from stories in the Oklahoman.

My meeting notes after the jump.

David Beaudoin of the Local and Special Elections blog has added last Tuesday's Oklahoma Republican runoff results to his database and has noticed some interesting patterns and a few exceptions to patterns.

The percentage of primary first-place finishers who won the runoff was 78%, a bit higher than the five-cycle average of 73%, while margins of victory, were a bit closer than normal, but only three races were closer than 5%.

The big surprise was the range of variability of the ratio between runoff vote and primary vote. A drop-off is normal, with fewer races on the ballot and less media attention; on average about 70% of primary voters will show up for the runoff.

This year we had the rare event of a runoff with a higher turnout than the primary. 6,864 votes were cast in the three-way Senate District 41 Republican primary between Adam Pugh and Paul Blair; 7,969 votes were cast in the runoff, an increase of 16%. Runoff votes have only exceeded primary votes in one other race in the last decade -- the 2014 Democratic runoff for House District 89 between Mary Sosa and Shane Stone.

The Pugh-Blair SD41 runoff had all the adversarial energy of a general election campaign, and it illustrated the shift of ideological warfare in Oklahoma into the Republican primary. According to the most recent snapshot of campaign funding, Blair raised $61,810.00, received another $1,000.00 in in-kind contributions, and had $5,000.00 in loans, while Pugh raised $92,625.00, had $881.69 in in-kind donations, and $80,000.00 in loans. This is a massive amount of money to spend on 8,000 voters. Blair's funds came mainly from individuals and overwhelmingly from constituents; his only PAC contributions were $2,250 from the Oklahoma Conservative PAC, a grassroots group that holds an endorsement convention and funds candidates who receive a supermajority of support from the membership, and $250 from the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

Blair's involvement in national social conservative circles brought him endorsements and donations from David Barton of Wallbuilders, Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, and Kelly Shackleford of First Liberty Institute, but it also put a great big target on his back. Pugh's victory may reflect a growing symbiosis between business groups who shun social conservatism because they perceive it as bad for the bottom line and social revolutionaries who rally protests, boycotts, and negative news stories to ensure that standing up for conservative social policy is bad for the bottom line.

I am told that Pugh made a virtue of his lack of outside endorsements, but surely massive contributions and independent expenditures from a variety of PACs ($50,000 in PAC money, by my count) and lobbyists should count as outside support. Pugh was funded to the tune of by PACs connected with the State Chamber, the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Chesapeake, Cox Communications, Farmers Insurance, Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology, Oklahoma Association of Insurance Agents, Oklahoma City Business Council, Oklahoma Land Title Association, Oklahoma Medical PAC, Oklahoma Pharmacists Association, Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists; Behavioral Health Association; Beer Distributors of Oklahoma; Oklahoma Bankers PAC; GOPAC Oklahoma, Renew Oklahoma PAC; Oil Patch PAC; among others. The State Chamber of Oklahoma spent $15,556 on independent expenditures supporting Pugh.

At the other end of the turnout spectrum, the Senate District 39 Republican runoff between Amanda Teegarden and Dave Rader only drew 44.5% of the voters who turned out for the June primary. Teegarden managed to retain 81% of her primary vote total, but that still left her 400 votes short. Rader was the beneficiary of Tulsa Regional Chamber PAC funding and independent expenditures from the Oklahoma State Chamber to add to his high-name recognition, but despite all those advantages, he managed to get only 60% of his primary vote to the polls for the runoff. Supporters of the other two candidates seemed to disappear.

An even worse turnout ratio wasn't on Beaudoin's chart, because it was a county race. The Tulsa County Court Clerk's runoff between Don Newberry and Ron Phillips to replace retiring clerk Sally Howe Smith, was the only county-wide runoff, and it drew only 33% of the voters who had turned out in June. Newberry polled 55% of his primary support; Phillips polled only 41% of his. Neither candidate went negative, and both could point to experience in the Court Clerk's office and endorsements by county-wide elected officials.

Compare that to Oklahoma County, where the runoff in David Hooten's successful effort to unseat five-term County Clerk Carolyn Caudill drew 75% of the vote total of the June primary. Caudill had finished first in June's four-way primary, but with only 32% of the vote. Hooten beat Caudill 65%-35% in the runoff. While Caudill retained 81% of her primary support, the anti-Caudill vote coalesced behind Hooten.

Rick Warren Jr., who became the incumbent Oklahoma County Court Clerk in an April 2016 special election, won renomination to a full term in a rematch of his March special primary, beating longtime Court Clerk employee Linda Amick Dodson. That race also brought 75% of the June primary vote total back for the August runoff.

MORE: Direct links to results and contribution reports:

Polling_Place_Vote_Here.jpg

Originally published on 2016/08/20. Post-dated to remain at the top of the blog through the primary.

These are all open seats in Tulsa County that drew large candidate fields in the primary, and no one candidate received a majority of the vote. Click the links for more detailed information.

Please note that there are NO state questions on today's runoff ballot. All of them will be on the November 8 general election ballot.

State Senate District 39: Amanda Teegarden: On her own dime and her own time, Amanda has been an effective citizen activist, researching issues, understanding the legislative process, informing her fellow citizens and rallying them to get involved, and applying the right amount of pressure at the right time to help good legislation and to block bad legislation. With her children grown and out of the house, she's now available to apply these skills full-time as a citizen legislator. Oklahomans need her intellect and discernment working for us at the State Capitol.

State Senate District 25: Joe Newhouse: I've had the opportunity to work with Joe on several projects, and I've seen his energy and enthusiasm, his diligence and organizational skills at work firsthand. He's personable and builds good working relationships. From our conversations over the years, I know that Joe Newhouse is strongly committed to his Christian faith, to his family, and to conservative, constitutional principles of government. Joe is a local, going to Broken Arrow Public Schools all the way through. Newhouse flew EA-6B Prowlers in the Iraq War, taught fighter tactics as an instructor at NAS Pensacola, earned a master's degree and certification as a Program Management Professional (PMP), served three years as a field representative for Congressman Jim Bridenstine, and is a Commander in the Navy Reserve, working as a military adviser to NATO.

State House District 67: Scott McEachin: I've known Scott McEachin for a few years now and have always known him to be on the knowledgeable about public policy, principled, friendly, easy to work with, and I believe that District 67 and Oklahoma would be blessed to have him as a member of the legislature. Scott has been endorsed by retired U. S. Sen. Tom Coburn (now a resident of the district) and a number of conservative groups. Coburn writes, "Scott McEachin's experience in oil and gas has given him a critical understanding of the industry that is at the heart of our Oklahoma economy. Scott is uniquely qualified because he has a deep understanding of the issues and will prioritize our government operations to make Oklahoma a state that can lead the nation."

Please note that the opponents of these candidates have been endorsed by a union-backed special interest group that opposes parental choice in education, wants to make quality education less accessible to the poor, and wants more taxpayer money with less accountability for results. Rob Miller, who has become something of a celebrity in the teacher-union blogosphere, recently wrote that Joe "Newhouse will be a willing accomplice" to the "pro parent choice agenda." These people think your children are their property, and it's their right to alienate your children from your values and indoctrinate them in theirs. They want to cut off every avenue of escape from families of modest means. If you want the next generation of Oklahomans to be well-educated, discerning, capable citizens, vote for Teegarden, Newhouse, and McEachin, who will indeed be pro-parent-choice.

Tulsa County Court Clerk: Don Newberry: Newberry currently manages the Title Research department in the County Assessor's office and worked previously in the County Court Clerk's office. Newberry has been endorsed by his boss, County Assessor Ken Yazel, and I am hopeful that, in addition to seeing to the Court Clerk's core responsibilities, Newberry will also be an ally of Yazel's on the Budget Board, fighting for budget transparency in county government.

Other endorsements and questionnaires:

Tulsa 9/12 Project leader Ronda Vuillemont-Smith endorsements
Charlie Biggs at the Tulsa Beacon endorsements
Charlie Meadows, former head of Oklahoma Conservative PAC
Oklahoma Constitution Conservative Index
Oklahomans for Life questionnaire

Official information:

Tulsa County Election Board
Oklahoma State Election Board
Oklahoma Ethics Commission (campaign contribution and expenditure reports)

David Beaudoin of the Local and Special Elections blog has analyzed Oklahoma runoff election results beginning with the 2008 election cycle and has made some interesting findings that set Oklahoma apart.

Among other findings, Beaudoin notes that, unlike other states, Oklahoma incumbents rarely find themselves in runoffs -- none this year, and only one since 2008. Conventional wisdom says that if the first place finisher had 40% or better in the primary, he's a shoo-in for the runoff, but Beaudoin finds that this isn't the case in Oklahoma.

Beaudoin, a CPA and financial analyst, backs up his psephological analysis with a chart (linked from his analysis) showing all runoffs in Oklahoma State Election Board records since 2008 (statewide, federal, and legislative races) alongside the primary results for the same races.

Oklahoma's relative turnout rate -- comparing runoff turnout to primary turnout is comparable to that of other runoff states.

You'll find more analysis and detailed data about Oklahoma runoff elections on the Local and Special Elections blog.

Early voting for Tuesday's runoff continues through 6 pm today at the Tulsa County Election Board headquarters and at the Hardesty Regional Library and will be available again on Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm.

State Senate District 25 candidate Lisa Kramer has declined to participate in a head-to-head debate with conservative Joe Newhouse on KFAQ's Pat Campbell show in advance of the Tuesday, August 23, 2016, Republican runoff election. From KFAQ's website:

Lisa Kramer is running for Oklahoma Senate and is facing a runoff Tuesday August 23rd with the Jim Bridenstine endorsed Joe Newhouse in District 25.

Kramer was offered a chance to come on The Pat Campbell Show and participate in an on-air debate with Newhouse, but refused saying her schedule was "booked solid."

We have invited Mr. Newhouse to come into the studio anyway and tell District voters why they should choose him on Tuesday, and he has agreed to do so.

Campbell has hosted numerous debates over more than eight years as host of KFAQ's morning drive and has a reputation for even-handedness and giving each candidate a fair chance to convey his or her platform to the listening audience.

Newhouse posted the following comment in response to Kramer's decision:

I believe that Government Transparency begins with candidates being candid and forthright about their positions. This includes maintaining websites that contain plans & positions and not just platitudes. It also means making yourself available to the public, not just hiding behind mailers. I was disappointed to receive an accusational mailer from my opponent, who refused participation in the KFAQ debate despite advanced invitation. I realize that campaigns can be stressful, but overreaction and name-calling only serve to turn people off from the political process and destroy unity. As an officer & a gentleman, I am proud of the clean campaign that I have run, which includes not publishing embarrassing episodes from the other debate. As my opponent offers little content on her website (e.g. how she actually intends to pay for things), I am left only with her public statements and survey results with which to draw my distinctions.

The two SD25 candidates debated at the Tulsa Republican Club meeting last month. You can watch the debate online. The "embarrassing episodes" may refer to Kramer's inability to name any positive achievements of the legislature in response to a debate question; Newhouse mentioned a criminal justice reform bill and eliminating End of Instruction tests among a few other items; Kramer concurred with Newhouse but had nothing to add on her own.

Here is the podcast of the SD 25 KFAQ debate that Joe Newhouse attended and Lisa Kramer declined to attend.

According to official election records, Kramer was a registered Democrat until changing her registration to Republican less than three years ago, on September 5th, 2013. Given the recent dominance of the GOP in Oklahoma politics, there would be an incentive to switch parties to have more of an influence over the ultimate result of the election, or even to have a chance at winning election to office in heavily Republican districts like SD 25.

On the Oklahomans for Life survey, Kramer answered "no" and Newhouse answered "yes" to the question, "Upon reversal of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, will you vote for a law that would protect the lives of unborn children and prohibit abortion except to prevent the death of the mother?" (Kramer and Newhouse both said they would support a law that includes exceptions for legally-reported rape and incest.)

Kramer signed the petition to put the Boren sales tax increase on the November ballot and has defended that decision publicly, although she says she will vote against the tax. Newhouse opposes the tax and opposed putting the tax on the ballot.

Kramer has been enthusiastically endorsed by left-wing bloggers and organizations that support the proposed state sales tax increase for schools and oppose measures that expand parental choice in education. Kramer has received funding from PACs affiliated with the Tulsa Regional Chamber and Oklahoma State Chamber and left-wing public-employee labor unions like the Oklahoma Educational Association and Oklahoma Public Employees Association. (Click the link if you need a refresher on why a Chamber endorsement should scare off conservative voters.)

A shadowy group called Oklahomans for a Prosperous Future has spent $15,838.40 on direct mail in support of Kramer, paying that money to Majority Designs Invoicing. Oddly, a mailer received by SD 25 voters yesterday says it was paid for by "Oklahomans for a Responsible Government" -- a group that doesn't show up in the Oklahoma Ethics Commission database for the current or previous campaign cycles. Is this a typo on the part of the direct mail firm, or a deliberate attempt at confusing voters with a name that sounds like that of a now-defunct conservative watchdog group? A group called Oklahomans for Responsible Government (without the indefinite article) was active from 2008-2010, leading the opposition to the ill-conceived, teachers-union-backed SQ 744, which would have constitutionally tied Oklahoma's spending on education to that of other states.

The disclosure report for Oklahomans for a Prosperous Future, Inc., was filed by Clayton Woodrum, 321 S. Boston Ave, Ste 200, Tulsa OK 74103. The organization's IRS Form 990 for 2014 (the only one available on Guidestar.org) misspells its own name ("Oklahoman's for a Prosperous Future, Inc.") and states its mission as "TO PROMOTE SOCIAL WELFARE CONCERNING PUBLIC POLICY RELATED TO HEALTH, EDUCATION, FISCAL AND BUDGET ISSUES." It received $470,000 in contributions and grants in 2014. In that year it spent $361,085 to "ADVOCATE FOR PUBLIC POLICY", another $43,824 on "VOTER REGISTRATION EXPENSES," and $43,693 on "SUPPORT OR OPPOSE CANDIDATES' CAMPAIGN." Devin L. Hughes is listed as President, Karl Semtner as Secretary, and Clayton Woodrum as Treasurer. In 2014, OPF spent $250,000 with Hulsen Media Services LLC on TV ads. Hughes is co-author of the anti-gun-rights blog ArmedWithReason. Semtner contributed to the 2012 and 2014 campaigns of Democrat District 92 State Rep. Richard Morrissette, Woodrum contributed to Heather Nash, Democrat candidate for SD 11. The group's TV ad attacking tax incentives for horizontal drilling drew the ire of State Sen. Cliff Branan, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, who said the group was "incorporated by an individual who has given tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Barack Obama." It seems fair to say that the activities of Oklahomans for a Prosperous Future and its identified supporters points in a strongly leftward direction, which makes its intervention on behalf of Lisa Kramer in a Republican primary revealing, particularly if Kramer chooses not to denounce their involvement on her behalf.

1170 KFAQ's Pat Campbell hosted a SD 39 debate between Amanda Teegarden and Dave Rader. Click to listen to the podcast.

The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund has endorsed Amanda Teegarden in the Republican runoff for Senate District 39. The race will be resolved in a runoff next Tuesday, August 23, 2016. (Early in-person voting began today and continues Friday from 8 am to 6 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm at the Tulsa County Election Board and Hardesty Regional Library.

The NRA awarded Teegarden an AQ -- an A rating based on her questionnaire, the highest rating available to a candidate who has not yet served in office. Her runoff opponent, Dave Rader, received a B rating.

Meanwhile, this past Monday, August 15, 2016, according to Oklahoma Ethics Committee filings for Friends of Dave Rader 2016, Rader received a $2,000 last-minute contribution from "We Mean Business PAC," an arm of the State Chamber of Oklahoma.

As I wrote back in June, if you're a conservative voting in the Republican primary, a good rule of thumb is to see whom the Chambers are supporting then give your vote to some other candidate.

Let me stipulate that Dave Rader is a good man who ran the University of Tulsa football program with integrity and genuine concern for his players as students. In 2003, he served honorably as Tulsa County GOP vice chairman during a difficult time of transition for the county party. I don't think the State Chamber is backing him as their first choice in the SD 39 race -- Oklahoma BizPAC and BOK Financial PAC backed Alan Staab in the primary, while New Direction Fund PAC backed Rick Poplin, both of whom failed to advance to the runoff. Perhaps it boils down to this: The State Chamber pots know they can't influence Amanda Teegarden, who knows how the legislative process works and has settled principles on the proper role of government, but they hope they might be able to sway Dave Rader, who hasn't been actively involved in public matters for over a decade.

I think it's worth repeating some of the specific reasons why a candidate's funding or endorsement by the State Chamber should be of interest and concern to conservative voters to support a different candidate.

As for the State Chamber of Commerce, they joined with the Tulsa, Oklahoma City chambers and the U. S. Chamber in a lawsuit to block implementation of employment-related provisions of HB 1804, provisions that would have required Oklahoma employers to verify the employment eligibility of the people they hired. In other words, the Chambers at all levels worked to take the teeth out of the law, to disarm the provisions that made it an effective deterrent to illegal immigration.

The State Chamber also pushed hard for Obamacare Medicaid expansion (euphemistically called "rebalancing" this year) and Common Core. The State Chamber targeted a strongly pro-business conservative Republican, State Sen. Josh Brecheen, for defeat because he supported Common Core repeal and opposed a special tax cut for energy producers, preferring instead to give general tax relief to the state's taxpayers.

Back in 2007, economist Stephen Moore wrote:

In Oklahoma the state chamber filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to block eminent domain reform, and vowed to fight a taxpayer-led movement to enact a Colorado-style [taxpayer bill of rights].

This transcript of a July 2012 State Chamber meeting in Tahlequah quotes the chamber's lobbyist, Chad Warmington, saying, "the legislature spends a lot of time talking about things that just don't matter - I mean, they want to talk about tax cuts and all that stuff."

Also in 2012, then-State Rep. David Dank bemoaned the role "pro-business" lobbyists played in preserving special interest tax credits at the expense of tax relief for all Oklahomans (hat tip to OCPA's Brandon Dutcher):

Sadly, those same lobbyists who secured sweetheart deals for the beneficiaries of tax credits managed to kill most efforts to reform or repeal them during the 2012 session. We did manage to phase out two of the most abused and wasteful tax credits, but dozens of others are being reinstated in July.

In short, the special interests won and the people lost. A primary reason Oklahoma taxpayers will see no income tax relief next year is that a few favored industries will continue to cash in on the public treasury through a still-broken tax credit system.


I would advise any conservative candidate who receives a contribution from a PAC affiliated with the Oklahoma State Chamber, the Oklahoma City Chamber, or the Tulsa Regional Chamber to return the money immediately. You don't want to be tainted.

Oklahomans vote on August 23, 2016, a runoff in a small number of races where no candidate received a majority of the vote in the June primary.

U. S. Representative Jim Bridenstine has made endorsements in two of those Republican runoff primaries for open State Senate seats in Tulsa County.

In Senate District 39, Bridenstine has endorsed Amanda Teegarden, citing her solid base of principle, consistent record of involvement, and her deep understanding of the legislative process:

jim_bridenstine_endorses_amanda_teegarden.jpgI am happy to support and endorse Amanda Teegarden in her run to serve the people of State Senate District 39. Amanda Teegarden is a staunch conservative who has worked for Republican causes for many years. Amanda's knowledge of the State Legislature puts her in a unique position that affords Republicans in District 39 the opportunity to elect a member that will have no need for on the job training.

With Amanda Teegarden, we will be electing a conservative that we can trust to get the job done in Oklahoma City. Please join me on August 23rd in supporting Amanda Teegarden for State Senate!

In Senate District 25, Bridenstine has endorsed Joe Newhouse:

jim_bridenstine_endorses_joe_newhouse.jpgIt is with great pride that I am announcing my endorsement of fellow Navy pilot and true conservative, Commander Joe Newhouse for State Senate in District 25.

As a combat veteran and successful business owner, he is uniquely qualified to lead in the Oklahoma State Senate.

I know him to be a principled conservative, and I believe he will serve our state with the same honor and courage he has displayed while serving our country as a Navy pilot.

I am proud to endorse Commander Joe Newhouse for State Senate and am asking you to join me in voting for him in the runoff election on August 23rd.

Having known both of these candidates personally for many years, I concur with the congressman's endorsements and rationale. If you're a Republican in either SD 25 or SD 39, I urge you to mark your calendar and go vote on Tuesday, August 23, 2016.

(The Oklahoma state senate gerrymander of Tulsa County districts defies description, so here's a map. And no, the Republicans didn't invent gerrymanders -- Democrats did plenty of it when they controlled the legislature.)

Senate_Districts_2011-South_Tulsa.png

Originally published on 2016/05/25. Post-dated to remain at the top of the blog through the primary.

Most of the time I write a series of individual endorsements and then a summary the night before the election. Often I run short of time to cover every race in as much detail as I'd like. Early voters looking for some guidance have expressed their frustration with this situation.

So this time I'm starting with a list and will fill in with details as I'm able. These endorsements come in two categories: Candidates I am supporting because I know them personally (in the case of challengers or candidates for open seats) or because I've seen their record in office (in the case of incumbents) are highlighted in italics. There are other candidates for whom I would vote, but I don't know them well, and they don't have a track record. These are in normal text.

U. S. House, District 1: Jim Bridenstine
U. S. House, District 2: Jarrin Jackson
U. S. House, District 4: James Taylor

State Senate District 23: Kevin Crow
State Senate District 25: Joe Newhouse
State Senate District 29: Julie Daniels
State Senate District 33: Nathan Dahm
State Senate District 37: Dan Newberry
State Senate District 39: Amanda Teegarden
State Senate District 45: Kyle Loveless

State House District 67: Scott McEachin
State House District 70: Ken Walker
State House District 82: Kevin Calvey

State House District 72: Whitney Cole, the lone GOP candidate, was ordered stricken from the ballot by the State Election Board as ineligible for the seat. The open seat in this north and central Tulsa district, previously held by Darrell Gilbert and Seneca Scott, will be decided in today's Democrat primary. Although I disagree with my friend and former City Councilor Maria Barnes on nearly every state and federal issue, I know from experience that she cares about the concerns of ordinary Tulsans in this district and would recommend her over her rival in the Democrat primary, simply because she's someone I've known and worked with on neighborhood issues for many years. I can't think of a conservative-focused reason to support one Democrat over the other.

Tulsa County Clerk: Michael Willis
Tulsa County Sheriff: Luke Sherman
Tulsa County Court Clerk: Don Newberry
Tulsa County Commissioner, District 2: Josh Turley

Wagoner County Clerk: Lori Hendricks

City of Tulsa races are non-partisan, but I'll add them here for simplicity's sake.

Mayor of Tulsa: A vote for Tom McCay is the only way a conservative can avoid throwing away his vote. A vote for Bartlett Jr or Bynum IV is a vote to reward politicians who have betrayed conservatives on fiscal and social issues.

I'd like to see the entire Tulsa City Council replaced because of their unanimous support for higher taxes and the imposition of leftist views of sexuality on Tulsa's landlords, but conservatives weren't ready with challengers. Still, several races offer a chance to vote for someone new to city government. Several candidates who filed have ceased active campaigning for one reason or another. There are three primaries on Tuesday's ballot: Allen Branch, running in District 6 against the current and previous incumbents, is active in grassroots Republican organizations. In my District 4, Josh Starks is running a vigorous campaign against incumbent Blake Ewing, but I can't support either of them. Two inactive candidates are on the ballot, Michael Haskins and Sam Walker. I like what I've gleaned about Sam Walker, the owner of Over the Top Aerial Productions, from his Facebook page, so I'm going to vote for him as a protest. In District 3, Jim Rice withdrew from the race against incumbent David Patrick, but Araceli Tiger is running an active campaign.

Other endorsements and questionnaires:

Tulsa 9/12 Project leader Ronda Vuillemont-Smith endorsements
Charlie Biggs at the Tulsa Beacon endorsements
Charlie Meadows, former head of Oklahoma Conservative PAC
Oklahoma Constitution Conservative Index
Oklahomans for Life questionnaire

Official information:

Tulsa County Election Board
Oklahoma State Election Board

Rue de Pot du Chambre,

Sign in Chinon, France. Photo by Peter Curb. Used under Creative Commons license.

If you're a conservative, the Chamber of Commerce is not your friend. Not the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, not the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, not the Tulsa Regional Chamber. If you're a conservative voting in the Republican primary, look to see whom the Chambers are supporting then give your vote some other candidate. If the Chambers are attacking a Republican candidate, she's probably worthy of your enthusiastic backing.

This may seem counter-intuitive. Conservative Republicans know that the free market is the engine of prosperity, and we honor and seek to encourage the entrepreneur who starts and builds a business, creating jobs and providing the products and services we need and want. We oppose taxes and regulations that burden businesses and discourage the creation of jobs. Since Chambers of Commerce claim to be the voice of business, shouldn't conservative Republicans heed their advice?

As with many organizations, the claim to speak for a valued segment of the community doesn't reflect the reality of the situation. Chambers of Commerce came into existence to boost business through business cooperation. But Chambers of Commerce are among the many once-noble American institutions that have been co-opted by self-serving special interests and Leftists who are pursuing social transformation and ever-bigger government. There are plenty of other examples: The American Association of Retired Persons, the National Education Association, the YWCA are just a few that come to mind.

It works like this: An organization offers some valuable service to attract members. The AARP offers discounts and insurance, the NEA's state affiliates offer legal coverage (and require membership in the NEA in order to belong to the state association), the YWCA offers access to swimming pools and exercise classes, the local Chamber offers group insurance coverage for small businesses that might not have enough employees to set up something on their own.

These benefits attract members who will be content as long as the services that induced them to join are provided and who aren't likely to get involved in the governance of the organization. These members get a ballot for board members in the mail, and, after a moment's glance, they toss the ballot in the recycle bin.

The broad-based but uninvolved membership gives the organization a credible claim to be the voice of retirees, of teachers, of women, or of business. The leadership, elected by the much smaller body of involved members, can then use that credibility to push an agenda of which the membership may be completely unaware and which they might reject, were they paying attention.

That agenda may reflect the economic benefit of the most influential members, companies that prefer to profit by means of rent-seeking rather than risk-taking. It may reflect the social agenda of the leftists who pursue careers in the not-for-profit sector. The direct approach to social transformation through elections has had mixed results, but the Left has found considerable success in pushing radical ideas by means of organizations with a history and reputation of being non-ideological, evading the defenses citizens put up against political influence.

The two types of influence can work hand in hand. The non-profit employees at Anycity Metro Chamber, as faithful yacht guests, are happy to push for expensive and useless infrastructure projects that benefit the big construction companies who control Anycity Metro Chamber. The big companies are happy to advance leftist social causes as long as they get their way on economic issues. Sometimes interests coincide: For example, Leftists like illegal immigration because it dilutes the votes of those who support the traditional American approach to society and economics; Big Business likes illegal immigration because it dilutes the cost of labor.

Enough theory. Let's get into some examples of how chambers of commerce from the local to the national level are actively working against the interests of conservatives:

On June 3, 2016, Jeff Dunn, chairman of the board of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, described conservative legislators pursuing legislation on issues like abortion and religious liberty as "nut jobs":

The chairman of the Tulsa Regional Chamber complained Friday that "nut jobs on the periphery" wield too much influence in the Oklahoma Legislature.

"We value our relationship with legislators," Chairman Jeff Dunn said during the chamber's annual recap of the legislative session. "(But) I would submit we need some counseling."

The "nut jobs," Dunn said, are preventing the rest of the lawmakers from being as productive as they might be.

Dunn, president and CEO of Mill Creek Lumber, was upset by what he called a "disappointing" legislative session, particularly in regard to education and long-term reform of the state's finances.

Earlier, in opening remarks, Dunn said legislators are too prone to "go off on tangents" instead of concentrating on state government's core missions.

"When we go off on tangents, we look like North Carolina," Dunn said. "And when we look like North Carolina, it's bad for business."

"North Carolina" is an allusion to the swift action taken by that state's legislature to protect the rights of citizens and business owners after the City of Charlotte passed a draconian ordinance that would have, among other effects, required gyms to allow men claiming to be women to use the same changing rooms as actual women. To Dunn, legislation that defends individual liberty and personal conscience, because it runs against the leftist norms enforced by the news media and the entertainment industry, makes a state look backwards and hurts its business prospects.

chamber_of_horrors-1940.jpgEvidently, the leadership and membership of the Tulsa Regional Chamber are just fine with Dunn's insulting and intemperate remarks. He's still listed as Chamber chairman. I find no reports of calls for his resignation or removal, no indication of mass resignations over his remarks. While most Chamber members are likely too busy running their own businesses to pay attention to Chamber politics, Chamber board members share Dunn's culpability if they decline to denounce or distance themselves from his remarks.

Longtime BatesLine readers will recall articles about Tulsa Regional Chamber involvement in wasteful, corporate-welfare-laden sales tax hikes and their attacks on City Councilors (especially conservatives) who sought to subject the Chamber to healthy competition for city contracts, who sought to put the interests of city residents ahead of suburban developers, who sought to ensure that federal community development funds actually went to help Tulsa's neediest neighborhoods. What's new is the Chamber's apparent hostility to conservative concerns about the use of government to impose leftist social views.

In an earlier entry, I mentioned the Tulsa Regional Chamber's diversity initiative, with its surveys that convey the message that sexual orientation and gender identity are inborn, immutable characteristics on par with race and ethnicity, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. These surveys measure a company's commitment to diversity by whether they give domestic partner benefits, sponsor or participate in gay pride parades, and prioritize giving contracts to LGBT-owned businesses. Why would any conservative remain on the board of an organization that funds this kind of propaganda?

Earlier this year, OCPA President Jonathan Small summed up the Tulsa Regional Chamber as a left-wing echo chamber:

Remember the Tulsa Regional Chamber? Its leadership in 2014 participated in a failed attempt to support U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who was trying to prevent Republicans from gaining the majority in the U.S. Senate. Imagine if some of the leadership of the Tulsa Regional Chamber had succeeded. Sen. Harry Reid would still be the Senate majority leader. Majority Leader Reid likely would be using the "nuclear option" to ramrod through an extremely left-of-center Supreme Court justice nomination to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.

Once again the Tulsa Regional Chamber is in lock-step with the Obama administration. Obama's administration tried to stifle a very popular school choice program in Louisiana and Washington, D.C. The Tulsa Regional Chamber lobbied against efforts to implement ESAs and is now an accomplice in the death of two bills that would have helped the most vulnerable in Oklahoma.

In fairness, the Tulsa Regional Chamber is consistent. The chamber parrots the funding requests of state agencies, proffers the Medicaid expansion as one of the best economic deals ever offered the state and tries to kill tax relief for all while working for special interest tax breaks. The chamber even tried to cripple the oil and gas industry with exorbitantly high taxes just before the downturn.

Some who have left the Tulsa Regional Chamber or refuse to join will tell you that's because it has become an echo chamber for policies that benefit the growth of big government, with more and more special interests of government involved in the chamber's processes.

Sadly, thousands of Oklahoma's most vulnerable children will lose in part because of the lack of intellectual diversity in the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

In another article, OCPA looked at the presence on the Tulsa and Oklahoma City chamber membership rolls -- and detected a pattern that could explain their support for higher taxes:

In recent years chambers of commerce in this state have done yeoman's work in fighting for important policies such as Right to Work, workers' compensation reform, and lawsuit reform. However, many of these same chambers also lobby strenuously for bigger government, including increased funding for medical welfare programs and for the state's bottomless-pit education monopoly. These chambers lobby against prudent fiscal measures, such as one (not exactly draconian) proposal which would limit the annual growth of state government spending to 9.5 percent. Why is this?

Part of the answer can be found by examining the chambers' membership rosters. In addition to scads of nonprofit organizations (which may or may not receive taxpayer money), one discovers more than a few blatant "'tax eater' entities," to borrow Stephen Moore's phrase.

gardyloo.pngAs for the State Chamber of Commerce, they joined with the Tulsa, Oklahoma City chambers and the U. S. Chamber in a lawsuit to block implementation of employment-related provisions of HB 1804, provisions that would have required Oklahoma employers to verify the employment eligibility of the people they hired. In other words, the Chambers at all levels worked to take the teeth out of the law, to disarm the provisions that made it an effective deterrent to illegal immigration.

The State Chamber also pushed hard for Obamacare Medicaid expansion (euphemistically called "rebalancing" this year) and Common Core. The State Chamber targeted a strongly pro-business conservative Republican, State Sen. Josh Brecheen, for defeat because he supported Common Core repeal and opposed a special tax cut for energy producers, preferring instead to give general tax relief to the state's taxpayers.

Back in 2007, economist Stephen Moore wrote:

In Oklahoma the state chamber filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to block eminent domain reform, and vowed to fight a taxpayer-led movement to enact a Colorado-style [taxpayer bill of rights].

This transcript of a July 2012 State Chamber meeting in Tahlequah quotes the chamber's lobbyist, Chad Warmington, saying, "the legislature spends a lot of time talking about things that just don't matter - I mean, they want to talk about tax cuts and all that stuff."

Also in 2012, then-State Rep. David Dank bemoaned the role "pro-business" lobbyists played in preserving special interest tax credits at the expense of tax relief for all Oklahomans (hat tip to OCPA's Brandon Dutcher):

Sadly, those same lobbyists who secured sweetheart deals for the beneficiaries of tax credits managed to kill most efforts to reform or repeal them during the 2012 session. We did manage to phase out two of the most abused and wasteful tax credits, but dozens of others are being reinstated in July.

In short, the special interests won and the people lost. A primary reason Oklahoma taxpayers will see no income tax relief next year is that a few favored industries will continue to cash in on the public treasury through a still-broken tax credit system.

My rule of thumb is to look for the Chamber label -- who has endorsements and money from Chamber-connected PACs and dark-money groups -- and to vote for someone else. Like many other institutions that started out with nobler purposes, Chambers of Commerce have become a partnership of Leftists who have co-opted the organizations in support of their agenda of bigger, more intrusive government and social transformation and businesses who use the Chambers to put the "pro-business, pro-growth" stamp on measures that transfer taxpayer dollars to their pockets.

MORE:

The problem is not limited to Oklahoma. Chambers of Commerce in other states have lobbied against stricter immigration enforcement, for corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse, and against protections for citizens who believe that there are important distinctions to be drawn between a natural, normal marriage and a "same-sex marriage" and between a real woman and a "transwoman." Here's a sampling of news stories and conservative commentary documenting the hostility of Chambers of Commerce to conservative causes:

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel has, in his personal capacity, endorsed Donald Newberry for Tulsa County Court Clerk and Josh Turley for Tulsa County Commissioner District 2.

The Court Clerk manages court records and processes marriage licenses. Sally Howe Smith, the longtime incumbent, is not seeking re-election. Yazel is recommending Donald Newberry to replace her:

Don is the most qualified candidate for Tulsa County Court Clerk. He has worked in the Tulsa Assessor's office for the past six years, serving Tulsa County citizens with loyalty and professionalism. During this time Don successfully completed his MBA then and a Masters in Indian Law at Tulsa University.

Don currently manages our Title Research Department and his professionalism has been nothing but exemplary. His ingenuity and business mind combined with his management skills and education is exactly what this County needs in an elected official. While I am sad to lose such a valuable employee, I applaud Don's desire to see local government continue to move towards a system of honesty, transparency and customer service.

The incumbent District 2 County Commissioner is Democrat Karen Keith, who was first elected in 2008 and was re-elected without opposition in 2012. Two candidates are competing for the Republican nomination and the opportunity to run against Keith in November. Yazel has endorsed Josh Turley:

Tulsa County is on the brink of change. As Tulsa County Assessor I am endorsing Josh Turley for Tulsa County Commissioner District 2.

We need real change at the county commissioner level. We need a leader who will stand up for what is right. A leader who will address the needs of our citizens. A leader that will open the Tulsa County budget and financials for all citizens to see. A leader who will answer your phone call. It is time for change, it is time for real leadership. It is time to back Josh Turley for Tulsa County Commissioner.

Turley is a 24-year veteran of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, serving as a crime scene investigator and then creating the first risk management program for TCSO, which succeeded in reducing car accidents involving deputies and tort claim payouts.

Yazel's mention of the budget is important, and it's why I'm inclined to trust Yazel's guidance in filling these positions. All eight elected county officials (three commissioners, assessor, clerk, court clerk, sheriff, treasurer) serve on the budget board. Yazel has been pushing for years to account for all sources of funding in the county budget process -- not just the revenues generated by the general fund property tax millage, but revenues generated by services, earmarked revenues, and carryover funds. Recognizing that there are different "colors" of money (legal restrictions on how various funds can be spent), if officials and the public have the whole revenue picture, the budget can be more efficiently allocated. If an office or taxing entity already has a significant amount of money from restricted funds and unrestricted carryover to fund its activities, it won't need as much from the general fund, leaving more money to fund projects and programs without asking taxpayers for higher sales taxes or property taxes.

On his website, Turley writes:

I am running for commissioner because I have seen the waste. I have experienced the failures of privatization of the jail. I have seen the dilapidated county buildings. I have watched our overflowing juvenile facility get worse. I have seen our outdated county vehicles. I have watched government fail to address our old levee. I have watched as year after year we struggle to open our pools. I believe we are not spending your money appropriately.

Turley also notes that, despite funding for the juvenile justice center in two separate sales tax packages, the county has yet to break ground on this much-needed facility.

On the strength of Ken Yazel's recommendation, I plan to join him in voting for Donald Newberry and Josh Turley in Tuesday's primary.

MORE:

Conservative activist leader Ronda Vuillemont Smith plans to vote for Newberry but is undecided in the County Commission race:

I am undecided on this race and may just flip a coin to determine who to vote for. I believe either one will serve us well bringing new ideas and vision for Tulsa county. One the one hand, Turley has worked in county government and is familiar with procedure and protocol while having an understanding of the needs of Tulsa County. On the other hand I have known Grable for a number of years and have spent time listening to his thoughts and ideas and I believe he has a future in politics. His experience in having worked at the state capitol would be beneficial to the office of County Commissioner. Full disclosure: I have donated to Grable's campaign.

Americans for Prosperity is encouraging Oklahomans to express their appreciation to legislators that they've named "Champions of Prosperity," including State Rep. Ken Walker (HD 70) and State Sen. Nathan Dahm (SD 33). Here are the accomplishments AfP cites:

  • Fought to protect Oklahomans from President Obama's harmful Clean Power Plan.
  • Fought to provide greater spending transparency for taxpayers.
  • Fought for the rights of Oklahoma students to get the highest quality education to fit their needs.
  • Voted to defeat measures that would have funded the expansion of Medicaid through Obamacare in Oklahoma.
  • Voted to reduce the income tax burden on hardworking Oklahoma citizens.
  • Voted to reform Oklahoma's public employee pension system to make it more competitive and sustainable.

UPDATE 2016/06/24: Bob Jack contacted me this morning, and we spoke a short time ago, taking exception to some of the things I wrote below. I have made some additions based on our conversation which are highlighted below. FURTHER UPDATE 2016/06/25: At my invitation, Bob Jack has sent a reply, which I have appended to the end of this entry.

Oklahoma State Senator Mike Mazzei has reached his term limit. Four Republicans and a Democrat have filed for the open Senate District 25 seat.

Senate District 25 is mainly Bixby and adjacent parts of SE Jenks, western Broken Arrow, and south Tulsa, but there's a periscope that extends north between Sheridan and Memorial to near 31st Street, then veers east and north as far as 21st and US 169. It is part of a blatant gerrymander, divvying up Democrat-trending areas among several districts and transplanting Senate 33 from midtown Tulsa to Broken Arrow. Democrats have no room to complain because they did the exact same thing, if not worse, when they ran the legislature.

Joe Newhouse is my recommendation for Senate 25. I've had the opportunity to work with Joe on several projects, and I've seen his energy and enthusiasm, his diligence and organizational skills at work firsthand. He's personable and builds good working relationships. From our conversations over the years, I know that Joe Newhouse is strongly committed to his Christian faith (he and his family are part of River Oaks Presbyterian Church, part of the conservative Presbyterian Church in America), to his family, and to conservative, constitutional principles of government. Joe is a local, going to Broken Arrow Public Schools all the way through.

Joe_Newhouse-Senate_25-2016.jpg

Newhouse flew EA-6B Prowlers in the Iraq War, taught fighter tactics as an instructor at NAS Pensacola, earned a master's degree and certification as a Program Management Professional (PMP), served three years as a field representative for Congressman Jim Bridenstine, and is a Commander in the Navy Reserve, working as a military adviser to NATO.

Newhouse served in the private sector as a program manager, working with engineers and customers to bring multi-million dollar contracts to successful and timely completion. If elected, Newhouse would join State Rep. Chuck Strohm as a legislator with experience in flight simulation, an underappreciated but significant and growing industry in Oklahoma with potential to diversify our economy beyond oil and gas.

On his issues page, you can see Newhouse's thoughts on education funding and reform, defending against federal encroachment on our 2nd Amendment rights, rebuilding our roads and bridges, and supporting Oklahomans in the military -- active duty, reserve, and veteran.

The other candidates in the race have their fans. Craig Murray can boast of a maximum contribution from actor/comedian Rodney Carrington.

Lisa Kramer's list of donors include a couple of people who led the elitist effort to replace geographically elected councilors with citywide elected councilors: OSU-Tulsa president Howard Barnett and Ben Latham. The left-leaning "Blue Cereal" blog has written enthusiastically about Kramer; in her answers, she appears to oppose school choice.

Bob Jack, former senior VP and now adviser to Manhattan Construction Company, has the backing of individuals and PACs connected with the Tulsa Regional Chamber (which he served as a board member) and State Chamber of Commerce (where he served on the executive board), and he is a client of AH Strategies and Majority Designs.

UPDATE: Bob Jack has informed me that the information on his website about his service as an adviser to Manhattan is out of date. He cut all ties with the company some time ago.

Friends who know him tell me that Jack is a good man, a solid Christian gentleman. Some of the names on his contributor list are people I know through local church circles, and their willingness to support him financially speaks highly of him.

My concern is that because of his connection with Manhattan and the Chambers, Bob Jack will be inclined to see government-funded heavy construction projects (like the BOK Center) as the path to economic development and to look to the Chambers for guidance on taxation and state priorities. In a later entry, I will explain in some detail why the Chamber label on a candidate should be viewed by conservatives as a warning label.

To name one specific issue: Recall that Chambers of Commerce in many states and cities have lobbied to kill protections for citizens who believe that there are important distinctions to be drawn between a natural, normal marriage and a "same-sex marriage" and between a real woman and a "transwoman." While Bob Jack is likely on the right side of such issues personally, his Chamber allies are demanding that everyone jump on the "diversity" bandwagon, issuing surveys that equate sexual orientation and gender identity with race and ethnicity and measure a company's commitment to diversity by whether they give domestic partner benefits, sponsor or participate in gay pride parades, and prioritize giving contracts to LGBT-owned businesses. When Jack was a board member of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, did he support these "diversity" initiatives? Did he raise any objections? UPDATE: Bob Jack assures me that he is on the right side of those issues, informs me that he did indeed raise objections to these sorts of Chamber programs, and says that his service on the board of the Tulsa Regional Chamber was one of the duties of his job with Manhattan and not a matter of personal choice.

Better that we should have a state senator with experience in both the military and small business and without associations that might pull him away from his conservative principles. In that light, I can confidently commend Joe Newhouse to the Republican voters of Senate District 25 in next Tuesday's election.

This has been out for a few weeks, but I thought it deserved to be noted here. Retired U. S. Sen. Tom Coburn, renowned for his adherence to principle and his often-lonely fight for fiscal sanity in Washington, has endorsed Jarrin Jackson, who is challenging incumbent Markwayne Mullin in Coburn's old 2nd Congressional District, and Jim Bridenstine, who is seeking re-election in the 1st Congressional District.

Here is the press release about Coburn's endorsement of Jarrin Jackson:

May 31, 2016 (Oologah, OK) - Today, former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn announced his endorsement of combat veteran Jarrin Jackson who is challenging Congressman Markwayne Mullin in Oklahoma's second district.

Dr. Coburn, who had endorsed Mullin in 2012, said, "I am proud to endorse Jarrin Jackson, a combat veteran who understands and has fought for our Constitution. He will stand up for us in Washington and not go along to get along. He also will honor a six year self imposed term limit."

Coburn's endorsement comes on the heel of recent comments Rep. Mullin made about a similar term limit pledge he made in 2012. Then, when running as a first-time candidate, Mullin pledged to serve no more than three two year terms in Congress. However, when asked recently if this would be the last time he ran for the office, Mullin said he is seeking the Lord's guidance and will instead do what he thinks is best for his family and District.

"Dr. Coburn's endorsement is important," Jackson said, "because it reinforces his reputation for integrity and courage. He not only served us with honor when he held office, but he continues to serve by insisting that other public officials do the same. It takes courage to speak truth to power, no matter the truth, no matter the power. I welcome his support, his example, and the opportunity to build upon his work."

Here is Coburn's endorsement of Bridenstine:

Jim Bridenstine is a man of his word. He faces unrelenting pressure from the political elite in Washington, yet he has never wavered in his commitment to the First District or our country. His courageous voting record is proof that he cares more about the long term health of our nation than his own political career. That kind of moral courage is rare in Washington today. I am proud of the work he does on our behalf and thankful for the sacrifices that he and his family make to serve. I wholeheartedly endorse Jim Bridenstine.

I agree with Tom Coburn. While I was very skeptical of Jim Bridenstine and his motives when he ran in 2012, he has proven to be as principled as he said he would be, working to remove unprincipled and cowardly leadership, fighting to defund Obamacare, Obama's executive amnesty, and Planned Parenthood, and at the same time building a relationship with his colleagues that has allowed him to advance our interests in the 1st District.

Mullin, elected the same year, has followed the opposite path, refusing to buck leadership, refusing to oppose funding for unconstitutional purposes, and now laying the groundwork to revoke his term-limits promise.

Amanda_Teegarden-Senate_39.jpg

District 39 State Sen. Brian Crain has hit his term limit; four Republicans and a Democrat have filed to replace him. I will be voting for Amanda Teegarden, a conservative who has demonstrated her commitment to her principles through her activism. Teegarden has shown herself to be a careful student of legislation and the legislative process and an effective advocate. It's hard for me to think of someone currently out of the legislature who is better prepared to serve in the legislature than Amanda Teegarden.

(Senate District 39 is sword-shaped, extending from I-244 to 81st Street between Harvard and Sheridan, going all the way to 101st Street between Yale and Sheridan, with a hilt between Peoria and Mingo, 21st and 31st, and a grip between Harvard and 89th East Ave., I-244 to 21st, roughly.)

In 2007, Teegarden founded Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise (OK-SAFE) to raise awareness and fight the extension of the NAFTA SuperCorridor (also known as the Trans-Texas Corridor or NAFTA Superhighway) through Oklahoma, a massive exercise in corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse with the added threat to Oklahoma's sovereignty over its own territory. While many legislators appear not to have read the enabling legislation, Teegarden went to the meetings and presentations by the proponents of the supercorridor, read the bills, dug into the implications, and worked tirelessly to present her findings to citizens and legislators. Her persistence paid off. Since that time, she has continued to research, educate, and advocate on behalf of Oklahoma citizens.

The other Republican candidates seem like decent folks. Back in 2003, Dave Rader, the former University of Tulsa football coach, stepped in to serve as county Republican party vice chairman (serving along side Chairman Pam Peterson) at a critical moment. Alan Staab, owner of an oil and gas company, started his campaign early last year, has the support of many of his colleagues in the energy industry, and has put quite a bit of his own money into the race. He was a client of AH Strategies and Majority Designs, but his last two campaign filings seem to show that he is no longer their client (a fact that speaks well of Staab); they appear now to be working for Rick Poplin, an airline pilot who is also running for the seat. Staab has the financial support of Obama bundler George Kaiser and the BOK Financial Corp. PAC.

Notwithstanding the positive qualities of her opponents, Oklahoma needs Amanda Teegarden in the legislature -- someone who will read the legislation put before her, someone who will demand answers, someone who will reject insider deals and corporate welfare. It will be a pleasure to cast my vote for her next Tuesday.

MORE: Dr. Everett Piper, the courageous chief of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, has endorsed Amanda Teegarden:

Amanda Teegarden is an honest and trustworthy conservative. She understands our state's constitution about as well as anyone I know and she has already proven to be a tireless defender of it and the freedoms it promises. My endorsement is unequivocal and without hesitation. Amanda will be an outstanding senator!

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, and House Speaker Jeff Hickman have announced a budget agreement. Under the plan, total appropriations for the 2016-2017 fiscal year (FY17) will be $6,778,186,009, down about 1% from the revised FY16 appropriation of $6,845,994,842, and down about 5% from the original FY16 appropriation of $7,138,920,573.

The State Department of Education, which supplements local funding for K-12 education, saw a slight increase of 0.62% over last year's revised appropriation. The proposed FY17 appropriation is $2.426 billion.

Many agencies took a 7% cut for FY16, a response to the revenue failure declared mid-year, and many of those took a further 5% cut, for a compounded reduction of 11.65% from the original FY16 appropriation to the proposed FY17 appropriation.

Keep in mind that these numbers represent appropriations out of the general fund and do not include earmarked funds. For example, the Insurance Commissioner's office will have a $0 appropriation for FY17, but it will be funded by earmarked revenues relating to its regulatory responsibilities.

John Tidwell, director of Americans for Prosperity Oklahoma, said that the outcome, though not ideal, met AFP's two principal aims for this session -- no Obamacare Medicaid expansion, no tax rate increases:

OKLAHOMA CITY -- AFP Oklahoma applauded the announcement by state officials today that a budget agreement had been reached to fill the state's $1.3 billion budget hole, with no plans for expansion of Medicaid through investment in Obamacare or through tax rate increases."

"We are extremely pleased that the House, Senate, and the Governor were able to come together and reach an agreement to resolve our budget shortfall without raising tax rates and without expanding Medicaid through Obamacare," said AFP State Director John Tidwell. "AFP conducted an outreach initiative to hundreds of thousands of citizens across the state to oppose the OHCA's "Rebalancing" plan to expand Medicaid, through volunteer grassroots efforts, as well radio, digital, and print media. As a result, thousands of Oklahomans reached out to their elected officials through letters, emails, and phone calls, to let them know that they opposed Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and the tax increases proposed to pay for it."

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority proposed a plan earlier this year, the Medicaid Rebalancing Act, to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. A House bill containing the plan was assigned to a conference committee earlier this month to be weighed by legislators, but was not heard. A cigarette tax increase was proposed to fund the "Rebalancing" plan, but failed on the floor of the state House of Representatives.

"While in a tough budgeting year like this one, it is certain that no one got everything they wanted. But our organization is very satisfied that the agreement achieved our two biggest objectives: no tax rate increases and no Medicaid expansion." said Tidwell. "AFP has led the fight against Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma and in states across the country, since the passage of Obamacare. We are pleased to have stood with a strong coalition of organizations in opposition to Medicaid expansion here in the state and to ultimately get this important policy victory from state legislators."

After the jump, you'll find the press release from the Governor's Office.

RESOURCES:

Oklahoma FY17 budget agreement summary (PDF)
Excel spreadsheet showing the FY17 budget agreement by agency.

This press release from a group of 24 conservative Republican members of the Oklahoma House seems like a common sense solution, so it's hard to understand why all Republicans haven't signed on to it. This group is to be commended for putting taxpayers and teachers ahead of special interests.

Group of lawmakers steps out for a teacher pay raise, while protecting constituents from tax increases

OKLAHOMA CITY - Over 20 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, representing all four quadrants of the state, stood together today in support of providing a $5,000 pay raise for all classroom public school teachers statewide and protecting hardworking Oklahomans - including teachers - from tax increases.

The estimated cost to give the 42,027 classroom teachers in Oklahoma a $5,000 raise would be $245 million. The House members want the $5,000 pay raise to take effect this August.

Furthermore, the group of House members are vehemently opposed to the statewide ballot measure proposed by University of Oklahoma President David Boren that raises the sales tax on all Oklahomans. The ballot measure, if passed, wouldn't take effect until school year 2017-18, which is 18 months away.

Additionally, estimates suggest the Boren tax plan would increase tax collections over $600 million, with 20% going into the guarded coffers of Higher Education.

State government is facing a major budget shortfall, in large part because of falling oil prices, but Oklahoma families are facing budget shortfalls in their own homes. Over 20,000 Oklahomans have lost their jobs directly because of forced reductions in the state's energy sector.

"The people in every area of state government, us included, have to make hard decisions and prioritize the dollars available just as thousands of Oklahoma families are being forced to tighten their belts," the group said.

The group did, however, emphasize that core services--including Medicaid and common education--can be fully funded while also providing a $5,000 pay raise for all classroom teachers while also avoiding tax increases on hardworking families. "This requires extraordinary fiscal discipline, but we can do it," the group said.

The group of 24 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives were:

Rep. Scott Biggs - R, Chickasha
Rep. David Brumbaugh - R, Broken Arrow
Rep. Kevin Calvey - R, Oklahoma City
Rep. Bobby Cleveland - R, Slaughterville
Rep. Josh Cockroft - R, Wanette
Rep. Jeff Coody - R, Grandfield
Rep. David Derby - R, Owasso
Rep. Dan Fisher - R, El Reno
Rep. Randy Grau - R, Edmond
Rep. Elise Hall - R, Oklahoma City
Rep. George Faught - R, Muskogee
Rep. John Paul Jordan - R, Yukon
Rep. James Leewright - R, Bristow
Rep. Sally Kern - R, Oklahoma City
Rep. Lewis Moore - R, Arcadia
Rep. Tom Newell - R, Seminole
Rep. Terry O'Donnell - R, Catoosa
Rep. Scooter Park - R, Devol
Rep. John Pfeiffer - R, Orlando
Rep. Michael Rogers - R, Broken Arrow
Rep. Mike Ritze - R, Broken Arrow
Rep. Mike Sanders - R, Kingfisher
Rep. Chuck Strohm - R, Jenks
Rep. Ken Walker - R, Tulsa

From what I gather, legislative leaders and Gov. Fallin are seeking support for an assortment of fee increases and new taxes to close the budget deficit and give teachers a raise, rather than implement the billions in specific budget saving ideas that OCPA and other groups have recommended for years. It's public choice theory in action: Legislators see it as politically safer to increase the tax burden on everyone (diffuse costs) than to eliminate a vocal group's favorite tax credit or program (concentrated benefits). Conservative Republicans won't cooperate with tax hikes on principle; the tiny Democrat minority won't support the tax hikes because it eliminates a campaign issue for the fall.

State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie (may his tribe increase!), writing about one revenue enhancement under consideration, a tax on services, says implementing a new tax is immoral, because it forces Oklahoma families to work longer hours to support the government.

It's an extremely short sighted move. Everyone loses when government creates new taxes and increases the tax burden on the public.

It's not hyperbolic to suggest that the federal, state and local governments, and their many related entries are now taking half of your income through ever increasing direct taxation, overpriced services, fees and regulation, and the many hidden costs which are passed on to you in some form.

This cost is wreaking havoc upon society.

The cost of government has become major facet in the decline of families. It places tremendous financial stressors upon families, forces both parents to work full time jobs and takes their focus away from their children.

Society is paying a terrible price; and, so is the government. The cost of the education system, human services, public safety and corrections will only continue to skyrocket as family values continue to come under pressure and government does even more harm to the ability of Oklahomans to focus on their families.

Though the tax increases might provide more money to government in the short term; the long term cost will haunt society.

When politicians approve new taxation they contribute to this great immorality.

As I have thought through these matters, I have determined to never be a party to this immorality.

Instead of supporting tax increases I have been convicted of the importance of eliminating the practices within government that continue to waste million of dollars every year.

The enactment of the tax increases will only serve to protect this waste and inefficiency.

It would do us all good to look back at tax rates and budget levels of the past and ponder why government is taking an increasing share of our income for lower levels of public service. When I was a kid, the state sales tax rate was 2%, same as it had been since 1936. Gas tax was 6.58 cents / gallon, unchanged since 1949.1

In 1983, the Democrats then running state government wanted to fix a massive shortfall (due to a downturn in the oil industry) by doubling the state sales tax rate and increasing the gas tax rate by 67%. 2 Early the following year, they succeeded in passing a temporary hike in the state sales tax rate, increasing it from 2 to 3 cents on the dollar. 3 That hike was made permanent, and in June 1987, the rate increased again, from 3.25% to 4%. 4 In May 1990, the state sales tax rate reached its current level of 4.5%. 5 That last hike was part of House Bill 1017, which also included increases in personal and corporate income taxes, and it was supposed to cure our school funding problem for good.

More than nine months after he called a special legislative session to deal with what he called a crisis in Oklahoma education, [Republican Gov. Henry] Bellmon signed into law a sweeping reform bill and $230 million tax package....

"Never again will Oklahoma need to take a back seat in education," Bellmon said to about 300 teachers, lawmakers, parents and students. He called signing the bill "the most pleasurable moment of my political career."

Congratulations and back-slapping preceded and followed the signing, as supporters of the bill celebrated the end of nearly 11 months of battling for reform measures and praised their battle heroes....

Bellmon called the new law a "quantum leap" for Oklahoma education, but said the law itself would not solve the schools' problems without help from educators.

"I challenge our state's educational leaders to use this tool to develop an excellent educational system that will be the envy of our country," he said.6

The "incentives for consolidation" were never effective. Prior to passage of HB 1017, Oklahoma had 609 school districts. 7 This school year, 26 years later, Oklahoma still has 516 districts, including dependent districts like White Oak in Craig County, Gypsy in Creek County, Greasy in Cherokee County, Fanshawe in Le Flore County, Spavinaw in Mayes County, and Straight in Texas County that serve fewer than 10 students per grade.

No legislator should support a tax increase on ordinary Oklahomans as long as the billionaire owners of a basketball team get tax credits for paying millionaire basketball players.

1 Young, Jim. "State's sales tax is lowest among those with levies," The Daily Oklahoman, November 24, 1983, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0ED06FAD8CAD0A22?p=NewsBank.
2 "AN EDITORIAL Enough Is Enough," The Daily Oklahoman, November 28, 1983, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0ED06FAE5280DA3A?p=NewsBank.
3 Young, Jim. "New Figures Certified By Equalization Board," The Daily Oklahoman, February 16, 1984, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0ED06FCE110D964E?p=NewsBank.
4 Legislative Review," The Daily Oklahoman, May 31, 1987, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0EB42326298DC5FB?p=NewsBank.
5 Greiner, John. "Oil Prices Show Up in State Tax Collections," The Daily Oklahoman, October 10, 1990: 17, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0EB424E01CDBCB1F?p=NewsBank.
6 Johnson, Kay. "Bellmon Signs $230 Million Education Bill," Tulsa World, April 26, 1990: A1, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0EB54647A0D717B7?p=NewsBank.
7 STEINERT, GARY. "A major leap for school reform," Tulsa World, November 13, 1990: 7A, accessed May 19, 2016, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0EB5469190277837?p=NewsBank.

MORE:

In an earlier entry, Rep. Murphey explained how to go about getting an accurate picture of state finances.

Here is a fact realized by only a few: most state spending never goes through the Legislature's appropriation process. In reality, the Legislature appropriates just forty percent of the $17.5 billion of state spend.

With that in mind, I refer the questioner to the follow resource: Oklahoma Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, or CAFRs. They provide the most comprehensive resource for understanding all state spending (revenue and debt), because they include the many billions of "non appropriated" state government spend.

Here is a link to the Oklahoma Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports from 1994-2015.

A subdued mood prevailed Saturday as 857 delegates convened at FirstMoore Baptist Church for the 2016 Oklahoma Republican Convention. (The 2012 convention drew approximately 1,400 delegates.)

The state convention in a presidential year has a national focus, electing two members of the Republican National Committee, electing 25 at-large delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention, nominating two electors (and alternates), considering amendments to permanent state party rules, and voting on a state platform, which will be forwarded to the national convention platform committee for their consideration. Once the state convention adjourns, the newly elected national convention delegates caucus to select a delegation chairman and two members each for the national convention platform, rules, credentials, and permanent organization committees.

The presumptive (and presumptuous) Republican presidential nominee scarcely rated a mention. Donald Trump might as well be called Lord Voldemort -- he who must not be named. In her farewell at the conclusion of the convention, State Chairman Pam Pollard urged the delegates to get involved to help defeat Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders, but wisely omitted any mention of the candidate who presumably will be the victor if they are defeated.

Trump signs and stickers were not much in evidence. Those displaying support for the egotistical oompa-loompa were few and far between.

My report will necessarily be incomplete. I was part of the check-in team, which processed about 600 delegates in a two-hour period, and then stayed to help with wrap-up as a handful of credentials problems were cleaned up. Tulsa-area software developer David Byte put together a solid, almost fool-proof, credentialing front-end and back-end system. Delegates were never kept waiting for more than 5-10 minutes during rare rush periods. A handful of counties had delegates who were issued badges but hadn't been recorded as checked-in, evidently a user error that could easily be guarded against next time. Because I was working at check-in, I missed all of the political speeches, so I couldn't tell you who spoke or what was said. To be honest, when the check-in system was packed up and loaded, I was tempted to call it a day, hop in my car, and head home. But there was important business to be done. Here's a summary of what happened.

Republican National Committee:

Incumbent Carolyn McLarty was re-elected to a third term as National Committeewoman, defeating Linda Huggard by a 75%-25% vote. McLarty is a leader among conservatives on the RNC, a founding member of the Republican National Conservative Caucus, and serves as chairman of the RNC's Permanent Committee on Resolutions. She was an early and enthusiastic endorser of Ted Cruz.

Steve Curry was elected to succeed retiring National Committeeman Steve Fair, defeating Richard Engle by a 60%-40% vote. Curry is chairman of the Oklahoma State Election Board and a former chairman of the Oklahoma County Republican Party. While Curry could be regarded as more of an establishment type, at least in temperament, than his opponent, many grassroots delegates (including myself) regarded Curry as a more trustworthy guardian of party values during a possible Trumpist dark age. Curry was willing to oppose a Trump nomination for RNC chairman; Engle dismissed the idea. Engle's credibility with party regulars was damaged by his eager participation in the 2012 "parking lot convention" -- an attempt by Ron Paul supporters to delegitimize the state convention that had just adjourned, at which the Paulestinians were defeated by a 60-40 supermajority.

Delegates and alternates:

The slate of 25 at-large delegates and at-large alternates was approved by an overwhelming roll call vote. (Attempts to suspend the rules to approve the slate by acclamation were rebuffed by convention chairman Greg Treat. A roll call vote was not taken in 2012, which Ron Paul supporters used as a pretext to challenge the convention's validity.) For the first time since 2004, no alternative slate was put forward. At the 2008 and 2012 conventions, Ron Paul supporters attempted to defeat the executive committee slate in hopes of electing fellow Paulestinians to the National Convention.

The rules have changed to make alternative slates more difficult to accomplish. The slate must be complete, filled out with people who had submitted paperwork to the state party, and with people who gave their consent to be included. By contrast, North Dakota voted on individual delegates, and the Cruz campaign was able to circulate a slate that included some who were on the executive committee slate and some who were not.

Had the Indiana primary turned out differently, we likely would have seen a concerted effort by the Cruz campaign to nominate a slate of loyalists and to turn out their supporters to defeat the executive committee slate and elect their own. With an open convention no longer seen as a realistic possibility and with the Cruz campaign in shutdown mode, that didn't happen.

The executive committee slate was an assortment of party activists and donors, typical of years past, going to Cleveland to be the studio audience for a week-long infomercial -- except that there did seem to be the sense that the delegates need to be prepared to defend against attempts by the Trump insurgency to water down the platform and the grassroots role in the party. The slate included a few vocal Trump supporters and a few committed Cruz supporters, but many in the delegation had endorsed other candidates in the March 1 primary or were silent.

Party rules:

A number of substantial amendments to the permanent state party rules were considered and were defeated. (A few housekeeping amendments were approved.) Party rule amendments must be proposed by a county convention and then approved by the state committee before going to the state convention for approval. The general sense was that the problems the rules intended to solve were better handled by the judgment of party leaders than additional rules and regulations. (Here are the current Oklahoma Republican Party Rules.)

A couple of the proposed amendments addressed the problems created by Republican popularity. Contested primaries are becoming more frequent, with challengers seeking to unseat incumbent Republicans over policy differences. Should party resources, such as voter databases, be equally available to all candidates seeking the GOP nomination or to none at all until the primary is settled? Former Democrats are changing parties to run for office -- how to distinguish between genuine conversions and conversions for political convenience? Should party officials vet candidates based on their views on the issues, such as commitment to pro-life principles? Here are each of the proposals. Only the housekeeping amendments were approved.

From Cleveland County: Clarifying that state committee meetings may be called for a location other than Oklahoma City.
From Cleveland County: Cleaning up sex-specific language about filling vacancies in party offices. Sex-specific quotas in state party offices were removed several years ago.
From Cleveland County: More cleanup of moot sex-specific language.
From Cleveland County: Removal of sex-specific language regarding executive committee appointments.
From Cleveland County: Clarifying budget committee appointments.
From Cleveland County: Clarifying that the highest-ranking Republican in each house is a member of the executive committee, aligning the rule with actual practice. (The rule previously specified the "floor leader" in each house, which is not the highest-ranking member when the party is in the majority.)
From Muskogee County: Cleaning up sex-specific language in several rules, largely duplicating several of the Cleveland County proposals.
From Tulsa County: Cleaning up sex-specific language in several rules, largely duplicating several of the Cleveland County proposals.
From Wagoner County: Adding several causes for removal specific to the state chairman and vice chairman, relating to involvement in a Republican primary. (Defeated.)
From Cimarron and Kay Counties: Forbidding Oklahoma GOP conventions and meetings from being held in a gun-free zone. (Defeated.)
From Cimarron and Kay Counties: Creating a pro-life committee, made up of one member from each county, to vet candidates for pro-life views prior to providing them with funding or support from the party. (Defeated.)
From Cimarron County: Prohibiting political lobbyists from participating in the Oklahoma Republican Party State Convention Process. (Defeated. It was pointed out that Tony Lauinger, head of Oklahomans for Life and a tireless lobbyist on his own dime for pro-life legislation, would be banned from the convention under the rule.)

Platform:

This year's platform committee was dominated by delegates from Oklahoma County, and it proposed a one-page statement of principles, followed by a handful of specific resolutions. The platform approved in 2015 was 25 pages long, and while many delegates agreed that the platform needs to be cleaned up and pared down, the two-page proposal was a Procrustean solution. A clear statement of principles is a good thing, but grassroots Republicans want to speak as a body on specific issues, as evidenced by the many individual platform planks proposed by precinct caucuses. The 2016 state platform committee seemed to discard all of that passion and hard work. A majority of delegates voted viva voce to postpone the 2016 platform indefinitely, killing the proposal and leaving the 2015 platform in place. The 2015 platform will be forwarded for consideration by the national platform committee.

Delegation meeting:

The at-large and district delegates elected Cruz supporters to both slots on the national platform committee (a job that requires an additional week's stay in Cleveland before the convention), to both slots on the permanent organization committee (which selects the convention chairman, parliamentarian, and secretary and sets the order of business -- normally non-controversial but possibly contentious this year), and to one of the two slots on the rules committee.

Oklahoma's Clear Creek Abbey and the lay community growing around it are featured in a recent story about the "Benedict Option" -- an approach to living faithfully in Christian community as the broader culture transitions from being supportive of and accommodating to Christianity to being hostile and aggressive. The term "Benedict Option" was coined by columnist Rod Dreher, who was inspired by the role Benedictine communities played in preserving civilization through the Middle Ages.


Writer John Burger sets the scene in his essay on Aleteia.org:

For the most part, Christians have had a happy -- some would even say "privileged" -- time of it in America, where Christianity and Christian churches were essentially left alone as they freely exercised their religion within society both privately and, up until recently, in partnership with the government.

Well, that was then, and this is now. The very effective cooperative partnership that existed between the U. S. government and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to serve victims of human trafficking was ended due to the Obama administration's insistence that contraception and abortion be included in any assistance provided to victims. Some cities have seen Catholic adoption services come to an end because they cannot conform to anti-discrimination laws that, in legal suit after suit, are adjudicated against religious freedom.

In general, Christians are firmly being told that if they wish to remain in the public square and involved in social services, parades, or business enterprises of any kind, they will have to sacrifice their values and teachings to the shifting morals of the times and resultant regulations, or be ready to give up their business and abandon their missions.

The time of "privilege" appears to be over. Christians face challenges unimaginable even a decade ago, and must discern new ways of being in a nation that has become hostile to expressions of faith lived outside the sanctuaries and beyond the pews.

A comment on that first paragraph: Christians have had a happy time of it in America because it was founded by our Christian forebears, who came here from Europe in order to have the freedom to live out their Christian faith, not merely to worship behind closed doors, but to order their communities in accordance with the truth of God's Word. Court rulings, starting in the 1960s, turned the prohibition of a Federal establishment of religion into a pretext to chase religious belief out of community institutions at every level of government. Where the stick of court rulings could not reach, the carrot of Federal funds entangled local schools in Federal mandates. Public schools that were once the means of transmitting a community's values to the rising generation were converted to mission stations for secularism, dedicated to alienating children from the ideals that built Western Civilization.

So what to do? The Benedict Option calls for Christians to establish "new forms of community that have as their ends a life of virtue." Dreher quotes Robert Louis Wilken:

At this moment in the Church's history in this country (and in the West more generally) it is less urgent to convince the alternative culture in which we live of the truth of Christ than it is for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life, the culture of the city of God, the Christian republic. This is not going to happen without a rebirth of moral and spiritual discipline and a resolute effort on the part of Christians to comprehend and to defend the remnants of Christian culture

The Aleteia story describes the evolution of a community around Clear Creek Abbey:

"Formally speaking, there are no 'primary organizers' of the community that is forming, little by little, around our abbey," Father Anderson said in an interview. "From the beginning, we monks wanted to avoid planning a lay community, allowing, rather, that to happen naturally, organically, if it would."

Father Anderson said that there are 37 households living near the abbey now. [Institute for Excellence in Writing director Andrew] Pudewa and his wife and family have been there since 2009. They always sought out places that fostered a sense of community and had lived in several places around the country and abroad, including some experimental communities.

"When we came to visit it looked like this could meet all of our requisites--a Christian community, rural, a relatively safer part of the country, conservative, and a place where it's easy to grow a business and thrive," he said. "What I would kind of see as our village idea, in a way, isn't to just escape the ugliness of worldliness--because you can't really ever escape that, no matter how far out you go--but it is to cultivate a life of peace and faith and community that can nurture people who may then go out into the world and do things."

What brings everyone together? For Pudewa, it's the abbey, which is clearly the focal point and source of spiritual strength.

"Without the monastery, there would be no reason to be here because this is the land of ticks and chiggers and cottonmouths and copperheads and brutally hot summers and storms and tornadoes," he said. "One thing every family seems to go through is trials and tribulations. You move out here and you will be tested."

Pudewa, founder and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, said that a lot of prospective residents are drawn by the abbey's orthodoxy and rigorous adherence to liturgical norms. "There's never going to be anything goofy at the monastery," he said. "The abbot, the hierarchy, the total dedication of the monks to the monastic life and holiness and the Benedictine rule and work and prayer--that's the example that in a lay person's way we wish we could emulate."

The article goes on to describe two other forms that the Benedict Option has taken -- the Anselm Society, an arts-focused community connected with an Anglican parish, and a Washington-based group of Catholics who gather for dinner, prayer, and discussion.

This coming weekend, the monastery and the nearby Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) will host a conference called "The Idea of a Village." Speakers include Rod Dreher, Baylor theology and literature professor Ralph C. Wood, Thomas Aquinas College tutor John F. Nieto, Abbot Philip Anderson, the Father Abbot of Clear Creek, and IEW director Andrew Pudewa. The main thread of the conference is on Saturday, May 21, 2016, at IEW, but there are related activities Friday night and Sunday morning at the Abbey.

From the conference website:

In the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire, Christians gathered around the communities of religious in monasteries of the Benedictine tradition for spiritual succor and stability. Likewise, many of today's Christians, discouraged by the corruption of our own declining empire, desire a similar spiritual support. Some of these families have informally settled around Clear Creek Abbey, a thriving monastery of Benedictine monks, and are, in the words of Abbot Philip Anderson, O.S.B., seeking "to recommence the business of building a just and healthy form of social life, from the ground up." While some have heard of this idea as "the Benedict Option," it might more simply be thought of as the pursuit of sanity in a world gone crazy.

MORE:

A medievalist blogger from San Antonio details a four-day visit to Clear Creek Abbey.

Last year, D. C. Innes wrote a three-part series on the Benedict Option for World magazine.

The Benedict Option has three elements: re-centered Christian identity, attractive community witness, and defensive political engagement. Dreher calls it "a new and concentrated inwardness so that we can strengthen our communal lives and our outward witness and service to the broader culture." His call is to rediscover what should have been our focus all along: the Christ-headed community that sustains us in our precious faith, matures our understanding of it, and enables our consistent practice of it. In this way, Dreher's Benedict Option is both preservative and proclamatory.

Politically, it entails "a strong recalibration on the part of Christians of what is possible through politics in a liberal order." This recalibrated effort nonetheless calls for aggressive defense of religious liberty, e.g., through organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom. In the almost half-century of culture-warring, we left our rear flank exposed. Dreher is calling us to fortify that flank while maintaining a defensive stance on the political front, all while flinging wide open the doors of the city to receive refugees from the Dark Lord's territory.

In his Tuesday blogpost, Trent England of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs answers seven questions about "Medicaid Rebalancing", a proposal currently before the Oklahoma legislature. It is an attempt at passing the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, previously rejected by Oklahoma under a different guise, for a short-term benefit (extra federal money in the short term), while ignoring the long-term costs (increased state spending in the long term as the federal subsidy dries up and more people sign up than expected). Lawmakers pushing this plan say that provider rates will need to be cut unless we swallow the Obamacare Medicaid poison pill.

England points out that we're still waiting for a state budget. If the state follows OCPA's recommendations and adopts the numerous cost-cutting reforms and eliminates lower priority spending, that could be enough to allow the state to maintain provider rates. Even if provider rates need to be cut, the real impact might not be that bad, as Oklahoma's reimbursement rates are well above the national average, 10th overall. Medical companies might lose some revenue, but everyone needs to tighten their belts.

The legislative sleight-of-hand that turns this Medicaid expansion into a rebalancing is moving 175,000 pregnant women and children off of Medicaid and into the Obamacare-subsidized exchange, and this number is the same as the number of newly-eligible Oklahomans expected to sign up for Medicaid. But the change would make over 600,000 Oklahomans eligible, a number that includes able-bodied, childless adults and even some who are on employer-sponsored health insurance. Other states that voted for Medicaid expansion have seen far greater enrollments than expected, leading to budget problems. England's article includes links to reforms that would refocus Medicaid dollars to better meet needs and save money.

England asks and answers a pointed question of our not-for-profit hospitals, who have been lobbying for Medicaid expansion:

3. Hospitals complain about charity care, but isn't that their mission?

Many of Oklahoma's largest hospitals describe themselves as religious non-profit corporations. They collect money from the state, from private patients, and from donors, and enjoy preferential treatment by government. Many have wonderfully expensive buildings and large staffs of well-paid managers and middle managers. When these major corporations pay lobbyists to demand more money from the public, it is fair for legislators and taxpayers to ask whether they are really focused on their original mission of service.

Finally, England reminds legislators that many of them "won office campaigning against the overreaching and unconstitutional power of the Obama Administration--speaking out in particular against the hastily passed Obamacare scheme. Those legislators, considering the Medicaid Rebalancing Act, face a simple, personal question: How important is honesty, integrity, and their reputation?"

OCPA has a detailed and footnoted analysis of the Oklahoma Medicaid rebalancing proposal.

Yesterday, I saw a Politico story with this headline:

GOP rivals humble themselves before the party's elite

Cruz, Kasich and Trump team makes pitches as delegates dangle their support.

Knowing the three people who represent Oklahoma on the RNC, I can't accept the term "party elite." Oklahoma GOP chairman Pam Pollard, national committeeman Steve Fair, and national committeewoman Carolyn McLarty are long-time conservative grassroots volunteers who won the trust of a lot of other grassroots volunteers in order to be elected to their positions. They aren't wealthy, they aren't funded by special interest groups.

By profession, they're an accountant, a marketing director at a company that makes jellies and jams, and a retired small-town veterinarian, respectively.

Pam Pollard held a variety of low-level positions in the Oklahoma County Republican Party and the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women, rising to higher levels of leadership on the strength of her faithful service. She was a unifying consensus choice to step in when Randy Brogdon resigned the chairmanship last year. She is known as a stickler for fairness and following the rules. She's also a dynamite networker. Here she is at the 2004 Republican National Convention, with a blazer full of pins that she traded with delegates from other states.

Pam Pollard at the 2004 Republican National Convention

Steve Fair served many years as a lonely advocate for conservatism and the Republican Party in southwestern Oklahoma, a rural region that stubborn in clinging to their long-time Democrat voting patterns. Fair slowly built up a strong Republican infrastructure, nurturing qualified candidates who could run for office, first as a leader in the Stephens County party, then as chairman of the 4th Congressional District organization. For years, Fair has written a weekly newspaper column called "Fair and Biased," making the case for conservative ideas to southwestern Oklahoma voters. Fair is not running for reelection as national committeeman, which disappoints me greatly. (I have qualms about the two candidates seeking to replace him.)

Carolyn McLarty is a long-time leader in our state's Eagle Forum chapter. She is a founding member of the Republican National Conservative Caucus, is Chairman of the RNC Resolutions Committee, and has served as the Chairman of the Conservative Steering Committee -- working to organize conservatives on the RNC to resist moves toward the mushy middle.

These three Oklahomans aren't elite in any way except for the hard work they've exerted on behalf of conservative principles in the Republican Party.

UPDATE 2016/04/30: This blog entry received an approving mention and an extended quote in today's editorial roundup in the Oklahoman:

This election cycle has been dominated by claims that the Republican "elite" are at war with the "grass roots" of the party. In a recent post, conservative Tulsa blogger Michael Bates highlights how ludicrous that characterization is....

Indeed, the "elite" label has been applied so broadly one wonders who isn't among that group's alleged members.

Also, I've added links to Steve Fair's blog, and to the profiles of Fair and McLarty on gop.com.

CORRECTION: BatesLine incorrectly identified Robert Ford as Creek County Republican Chairman. He is in fact Creek County 1st District Committeeman.

Supporters of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz swept today's Oklahoma 1st Congressional District Republican Convention, winning all three delegate seats and all three alternate slots by wide margins.

Tulsa 9/12 Project leader Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, State Rep. David Brumbaugh, and Wagoner County Assessor Sandy Hodges were elected as delegates, and State Sen. Nathan Dahm, Creek County District Committeeman Robert Ford, and Oklahomans for Life president Tony Lauinger were elected as alternates.

While there was a visible Trump contingent present, led by Paul Nosak, the vote totals indicate it amounted to only about a quarter of the convention. Cruz campaign staffer Hudson Talley had come up from Houston for the convention and was handing out delegate slates to Cruz supporters. There wasn't really a whip operation at work -- no signals or signs -- which shows in the fact that only one of the six positions was filled without a runoff, and that one was only by a slim margin. Cruz (or at least no-Trump) supporters scattered their votes on each initial ballot, but coalesced in each runoff. Nosak, wearing a large Trump button on his lapel, was the distant runner-up in five of the six elections, but lost handily in each runoff. His best result was 31% in the final vote for the 3rd alternate position, after about a third of the delegates had gone home.

Oklahoma Republican State Chairman Pam Pollard spoke at length about the upcoming state convention, the process of electing the 25 at-large delegates, and the matter of binding delegates at the national convention. Pollard emphasized that OK GOP party rules and state law are in alignment and that delegates are bound until their assigned candidate is no longer an officially nominated candidate, alluding to often-discussed rule 40(B), which requires that a candidate have support of a majority of delegates from at least eight states to have his name entered into nomination at the National Convention. Pollard said that if all three candidates who won delegates in the March 1 primary -- Cruz, Trump, and Rubio -- were officially nominated for the 1st ballot, she would simply announce the result from the primary, without polling the delegates. Only if one or more of those three candidates ceased to have the support for nomination would she poll the delegation.

During the morning session, while the credentials committee was tallying registrations, U. S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and U. S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine addressed the convention. Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr led the convention in the Pledge of Allegiance but did not deliver a speech.

All Republican candidates who were present were given an opportunity to speak. While votes were being counted, delegates heard from incumbent Republican National Commiteewoman Carolyn McLarty and her challenger, National Committeeman candidates Steve Curry and Richard Engle (incumbent Steve Fair is not seeking re-election), Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, recently elected to fill the remaining months of Stanley Glanz's unexpired term, and Luke Sherman, who is competing for the nomination for the next full four-year-term, Amanda Teegarden (Senate 39), Scott McEachin (House 67), Richard Grabel (Tulsa County Commission District 2), Michael Willis (Tulsa County Clerk), Allen Branch (City Council District 6).

Term-limited State Sen. Brian Crain and parliamentarian John Wright (former state representative) did a fine job of running the meeting efficiently and without controversy. The convention convened a little after 9 a.m. and adjourned shortly after 3 p.m.

By the numbers:

235 delegates registered at Tulsa's Renaissance Hotel for today's convention out of 419 allocated votes. Allocations are based on number of votes cast for the top-of-ticket Republican nominee in the last general election. Tulsa County had 181 delegates out of 320 votes allocated, Wagoner County had 34 delegates out of 46 votes allocated, Washington County had 18 delegates out of 38 votes allocated, and the portion of Creek County in CD 1 had 2 delegates out of 4 votes allocated. No one was present to represent the portion of Rogers County in CD 1, which had 11 allocated votes.

Fourteen candidates filed for the three delegate slots, which were filled in separate votes. Ballots were counted by county, reported in a roll call, then weighted based on the ratio of allocated votes to delegates voting for each county and summed. (Weighting is in accordance with long-standing state party rules. For example, each Tulsa County delegate's vote was worth 320 allocated / 181 actual or approximately 1.77 votes. Each Creek County delegate's vote was worth 4 allocated / 2 actual or 2 votes.) If no candidate had a majority of the vote, a runoff was held between the top two candidates, based on the weighted vote.

David Oldham was nominated to the Oklahoma Republican presidential elector slate, winning 48% on the first ballot over George Wiland and Peggy Dau. Wiland withdrew from the runoff because of the margin on the first ballot and in the interest of time. Dau was named Elector Alternate, who would replace Oldham on the ballot in the event of his death or ineligibility.

Delegate results:

1st Delegate: Cruz supporter Ronda Vuillemont-Smith finished first with 44% to 11% for Paul Nosak, who supports Donald Trump for president, with remaining votes scattered among the candidates. In the runoff, Vuillemont-Smith won with 76% to 24% of the weighted vote, 162-47 in the raw total.

2nd Delegate: Brumbaugh, state chairman for the Cruz campaign, received 43% on the first ballot to 17% for Nosak. In the runoff, Brumbaugh prevailed by 73% to 27% weighted, with a raw vote of 147-54.

3rd Delegate: Hodges finished first on the initial ballot with 42% to 20% for Nosak. In the runoff, Hodges won by 74% to 26% or a raw total of 153-50.

Alternate results:

1st Alternate: 1st ballot, Dahm 50.35%, Nosak 15.10%, Lauinger 14.99%. No runoff required. Dahm received 98 raw votes to 28 for Nosak and 28 for Lauinger with 36 scattered among other candidates.

2nd Alternate: 1st ballot, Lauinger 32.5%, Ford 26%, Nosak 22%. Raw vote was Lauinger 62, Ford 49, Nosak 41, other candidates 22. Runoff, Ford 50.22%, Lauinger 49.78%, 89-88 raw vote.

3rd Alternate: 1st ballot, Lauinger 48.3%, Nosak 18.8%, Debra Cook, state committeewoman for Washington County, 17.7%. Runoff, Lauinger 68.61%, Nosak 31.39%, 110-50 raw vote.

On Friday, September 6, 1935, Al Stricklin arrived in Tulsa with his wife to take a job as piano player for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. After joining Bob and the band for the noon broadcast at the Barrel Food Palace and then rehearsing that afternoon at the home of Bob's parents, Al went along on his first dance gig at a little place called Glenoak, Oklahoma. This account of that dance is excerpted from Chapter 4 of Stricklin's memoir, My Years with Bob Wills, Austin: Eakin Press, 1980. It's a highly entertaining book, with lots of vivid detail. You really get a sense of the times, the people, and most of all, the larger-than-life, magnetic personality of Bob Wills.

Al_Stricklin-My_Years_with_Bob_Wills.jpgIt didn't take long for me to learn about the musical magic of Bob Wills. I learned that first night after that first rehearsal. It was at a place called Glen Oak, a frame building dance hall about fifteen miles east of Bartlesville, Oklahoma....

It was Bob Wills who was leading us in the bus that day as I made my first trip with the band to Glen Oak. It was the beginning of seven years of experiences that many men with money would have given a powerful part of their personal coffers to share....

The guys told me that the women in Oklahoma were wild over the band. So wild that they would gang up on you and take you out and attack you.

They weren't that bad. But I will say that there did seem to be plenty of them who were most agreeable to being most friendly if a man was interested.

"something else you have to watch for, Al. The men in these dance halls like the one we are going to do some powerful drinking. They get crazy drunk, and their eyes get red and watery like an old dog that's been chasing his tail in the sun all day long. And they get to wanting to beat up on us musicians because their women will smile at us and those crazy drunks don't take to that very nice at all," said one of the men.

"So what do I do?" I asked.

"Just keep yourself in the bus if you are afraid to fight. Just sit in here and listen to us," said one of them.

That brought another wild round of laughter.

Our old bus finally clanged into Glen Oak. When I said Glen Oak was out in the coutry, I mean it was out in the country. There were maybe two families living there. One of them owned the dance hall.

The sun was just dipping down into a hall of black when we arrived. There wasn't a car in sight. I thought: "How in the world is this guy Bob Wills going to pay guys like me $30 a week without any customers?"

Then I began worrying that maybe I wasn't going to get paid, just like it used to always happen. I remembered a time when a bunch of us in Waco rented a hall about ten miles out in the sticks. We paid $10 for it. We started playing about 9:00 p.m. There wasn't anybody there. By 10:00, still nobody had shown up. Then we saw the lights of a car turn in and the sax man said, "Let's hit 'Dinah,' men. A car just drove up."

That's how I was feeling. Until about 9:00 p.m. That's when they began coming to the dance at Glen Oak. Cars were pilling up outside. Some people were coming on foot. Some were riding horses. By 9:00, they were having to turn them away.

We started playing. Bob hadn't arrived yet. And nobody paid us much mind. About thirty minutes later, while we were playing, I heard the wildest racket I had ever heard. There was applause, yelling, and whistling. People were just going wild. Bob Wills had finally arrived.

He got up there wil us and drug his fiddle out of its case. The crowd had gotten as close as they could to the bandstand. They were packed like three dozen eggs put into a one-dozen egg container. When Bob started, the applause drowned out the music.

Bob was grinning and playing, and every so often he would point that fiddle bow of his at one of the boys and tell him to get with it. We would. And again would come that wave of applause. Maddening. Deafening. I had never heard or seen anything like it. It wasn't a dance. It was a show. A "happening."

The boys had impressed on me during the trip up there that one of the most important things was to watch Bob at all times. You never knew when he would call on you to take it. And if he called on you and you weren't looking at him, that was the unpardonable sin.

They had also told me to smile like crazy when Bob gave me the cue and then to smile again when I had finished my break. And there wasn't any taking a break. By that, I mean you didn't shut down the music any time. That began to hurt me. We had drunk a bunch of coffee right before the dance had started and about 11:00 p.m. I was crossing my legs so many times that if somebody out in the audience was watching me, the probably would have thought that I was doing the Charleston.

Finally, I leaned over to Sleepy and asked, "Sleepy, when are we going to have an intermission?"

"We don't take intermissions. If you've got to go to the bathroom, just forget it," he said.

He was right in a way. We didn't take intermissions. But, every once in awhile, one of us could get down and go back and get some relief. When that time finally came for me, I know I overstayed my allotted time in front of the trough. But man, it sure did feel good. As I was leaving, the first man in the long line behind stopped me and said, "Fellow, I want to shake your hand. You skin them keys on that piano like you were peeling a stalkful of bananas." He laughed and then added, "What I am trying to say is that you are a piano player. One of the best I've ever heard!"

I don't know how I got through that night. But I did. After it was all over, the people crowded around and kept yelling for more, and when they realized there wasn't going to be any more, they started asking for autographs. It was a long ways for a country boy from Grandview to come. I thought later as we were sopping up some chicken fried steak and cream gravy in a cafe before we headed back for Tulsa, "Man, I came awfully close to not coming up here. If every night is like this one, then I think I'll go kick myself for ever even thinking slightly that way."

I went to sleep happy that night. That old moon was outside our bedroom window, still pretty high in the sky considering how late it was. It looked like it was winking happiness at me.

Old county maps pinpoint Glenoak on US 60, just east of the Washington-Nowata County line, with a cluster of homes and a commercial building (probably the dance hall) on the southside of the road.

MORE: Jerry Stevens writes with a story of Glenoak, where his grandfather had been a bouncer for Bob Wills.

My Grandpa used to say that there would be model "T"'s parked all the way around the east curve along the highway. There was also chicken wire across the front of the stage to protect the band from thrown bottles. It was a wild place alright. My Grandma told of a time that she drove down to the dance (my dad and Uncle were with her) to pick up my Grandpa after the dance and when he came out the front 5 men jumped him and beat him up for kicking them out of the dance. They knocked him out and went over and were standing there talking in the parking lot. He woke up and went over to them and knocked out the one that hit him last and they beat him up again. Grand Dad had a permanent knot on his head from a whiskey bottle he was hit with in the fight. Dad said he (Grand Pa) later caught up with each one of them and paid them back. I guess a lot of people from all around used to go there.

The east curve is over two miles east of where Glenoak is marked on the map. Imagine having to walk for over half-an-hour to get to the dance and half-an-hour back to your car when it was all over.

Tulsa County Republicans will meet in precinct caucuses tonight, Thursday, February 4, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. the first step in the quadrennial process to elect delegates to the Republican National Convention and members of the Republican National Committee, and to determine the party platform.

Groups of Tulsa County precincts will meet at 19 central locations spread around the county. The gathered precincts will go through the preliminaries as a group, then break up into individual precinct caucuses to elect delegates to the March 5, 2016, County Convention (who will in turn choose delegates to Congressional District Convention in April and the May 14, 2016, State Convention) and to vote on resolutions to be forwarded to the county and state conventions for inclusion in the platform. A presidential preference straw poll will be taken -- exactly like the Iowa caucus, non-binding, but a chance to gauge the sentiments of Republican activists less than a month before we make our binding choice in the March 1 primary. The tulsagop.org website has the list of caucus locations and answers to frequently-asked questions about the process.

These central meeting locations were developed as a convenience for precinct officials and delegates. Some precinct chairmen may prefer not to host strangers in their home, and some delegates may feel more at ease in meeting people they don't know in a public place rather than someone's home. Some precincts have no officials currently, and a central meeting place gives interested newcomers a place to go and get things restarted. The central locations also provide an opportunity to meet fellow activists from nearby neighborhoods in a less crowded environment than the county convention.

Over the last couple of years central locations were organized by State House district, but this year, they were grouped more geographically and precinct chairmen were given a choice of locations. At least one precinct has opted out of the central-meeting approach and will meet within the boundaries of their precinct. Whatever the case, your precinct location should be posted on the door of your regular voting location by Thursday evening.

The precinct meeting is the launch pad of the platform process, and the timing couldn't be better for speaking out on some big current local issues. While many platform resolutions passed by the precincts deal with national issues and may percolate to the Republican National Platform, our Tulsa County platform also covers city and county resolutions. I'm hoping that every precinct passes a resolution expressing opposition to the new river sales tax proposal, which will be on the ballot in April.

With a school board election next week and a special primary for sheriff on March 1, I expect candidates will be making the rounds of the meetings. (Please be aware that, in the only contested school board seat in the county, Stan Minor is a Republican and appointed incumbent Cindy Decker is a Democrat.)

I especially want to encourage my skeptical young millennial friends to come to a precinct meeting -- preferably as a delegate, but at least as an observer. It's an often overlooked aspect of our election process, and I think that seeing it may alleviate some of your cynicism.

I've been watching politics for a very long time, going back to my childhood, so it's funny to observe the media's new-found concern about gerrymandering -- the practice of manipulating election district boundaries to benefit one party over another. The media's concern seems to have emerged with the growing dominance of the Republican Party in state legislatures and governor's mansions. (If that chart went further back, into the '70s and '80s, Democrat-dominated state governments would show up in greater numbers.) Suddenly, there are calls to take redistricting away from the politicians and put it in the hands of judges or computers or appointed commissions, or some combination of the three.

But a recently released, comprehensive archive of historical congressional district boundaries reveals that Democrats had no scruples against partisan gerrymanders when they had control of the process. Scholars at the University of California at Los Angeles have developed digital shapefiles of congressional districts going all the way back to 1789 and the 1st Congress. A Github site has the files organized by state and Congress; click on a link and you'll see an interactive map overlaying OpenStreetMap. You can zoom in and see how the old boundaries overlay towns and streets. More readily accessible, but without the interactive capabilities, is a Wikipedia page showing Oklahoma congressional district maps going back to 1972.

I had unsuccessfully been looking for old district maps for ages. I can't tell you how excited I was to find these.

As I said, I've been watching this process for a very long time. I remember 1982, when the Democrats in the Legislature, with Governor Nigh's approval, cut heavily Republican south Tulsa out of the 1st Congressional District, in order to improve incumbent Democrat Congressman Jim Jones's chances of survival, and shifted those voters into the heavily Democrat 2nd District, where their votes would be a tiny GOP drop in a big Democrat ocean. In that same redistricting, the Democrats at the State Capitol had the African-American neighborhoods of northeastern Oklahoma City share a congressman with the Panhandle and the wheat fields and cotton fields of western Oklahoma -- all to protect the Democrat incumbent in that district.

Tulsa_County_Congressional_Districts-1982.png

Detailed map showing division of Tulsa County between 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts following the 1980 census

District 5, once compactly encompassing part of Oklahoma County, was stretched for hundreds of miles to take in Republican concentrations around Guthrie and Bartlesville. The Wall Street Journal mocked the District's twisted boundaries as "Mickey's Enchanted Kingdom" in honor of incumbent Republican Mickey Edwards. The new boundaries gave Edwards a very safe seat, while making it harder for Republicans to get elected in other districts.

United_States_Congressional_Districts_in_Oklahoma,_1983_-_1992.png

Map showing Oklahoma Congressional Districts following the 1980 census

The resulting map contained the impact of growing Republican sentiment in the state, inspired by Ronald Reagan and the leftward shift of the national Democrat party, limiting the GOP to a single seat out of six.

I also remember walking blocks in 1988 for Jerry Riley, who was running for the open Senate 37 seat. That district consisted mainly of the rural and blue collar areas of western Tulsa County, but the boundaries crossed the river to take in a sliver of land between 21st and 56th Streets west of Peoria, including the luxury apartment building at 2300 Riverside. The story I heard was that the Democrat incumbent at the time of redistricting wanted to continue to represent the common people but preferred not to live among them.

These events inspired me to submit an op-ed to the Tulsa Tribune, published on May 31, 1991, opposing the practice of protecting incumbents in redistricting and urging an approach that focused on communities of interest and natural boundaries. I suggested an independent redistricting commission that would include unsuccessful candidates, the use of nested districts to make it harder to draw boundaries favoring an incumbent, and ratification by statewide referendum.

Although Republicans swept control of Oklahoma's congressional delegation in the 1990s, legislative redistricting protected rural Democrat incumbents by adding to each district just enough population from the growing suburbs to keep them viable. That tactic delayed the GOP takeover of the State House until 2004 and the State Senate until 2008. Term limits and the continued shift of the national Democrat Party to the Left ultimately overcame the Democrat advantage built into the maps.

Here's a map showing the State House districts drawn after the 2000 census, but colored to show party status after the 2010 election. Here's the State Senate district map following the 2000 census.

When they had control of the process, Democrats dismissed calls for redistricting reform as so much partisan whining by the GOP. They only seem to have warmed to the idea now that the shoe is on the other foot.

MORE:

Here are direct links to interactive versions of each Oklahoma congressional map since statehood. The dates refer to the election years affected; add 1 year to get the start of the corresponding congressional term. I've added notes after some of the links:

STILL MORE:

thirty-thousand.org makes the case for a larger Congress, closer to the constitutional ideal of 30,000 people per seat. The site recounts the 1929 law that froze the number of House members at 435 and the negative effects of that decision.

UPDATE 2015/11/10: Congratulations to David McLain, who has won the SD 34 GOP primary, with 42% of the vote to John Feary's 39%, a margin of 70 votes out of 2,137 cast. Because there is no runoff, McLain advances to face the Democrat nominee, J. J. Dossett, in the January 12, 2016, special general election. McLain won by holding Feary under 50% on his home field, dominating in his own home base in Skiatook, and sweeping Tulsa precincts, which Feary seems to have ignored. Feary only managed 46% and a 132-vote margin in Owasso. Feary also edged McLain in Collinsville precincts, 40%-36%, 11-vote margin. McLain won Skiatook 82% to 13%, 85-vote margin, and won 60% of the vote in the Tulsa precincts over Feary's 25%, by a 120-vote margin. A bare majority of the 30 Rogers County voters went for Mark Williams. McLain won absentees and early voters by 5 and won Sperry precincts by a single vote.

Congratulations also go to taxpayers in the Northeast Tech Center district, who voted by a 3 to 1 margin against an increase in the property tax rate for funding buildings and against making the levy permanent. What we used to call vo-tech schools have been on a building spree of late. While these schools perform a valuable function, they typically have a permanent levy which produces far more revenue than they need to accomplish their mission, and so they put the money into big, shiny new buildings. If anything, vo-tech schools ought to cut millage so voters can choose to allocated it to other taxing entities more in need of revenue. Or better yet, let's have a College Re-Alignment and Closure commission (CRAC) to reduce duplication among Oklahoma's taxpayer-funded post-secondary institutions.

Tomorrow (November 10, 2015) is a special primary election to fill the Oklahoma State Senate District 34 seat in the wake of Rick Brinkley's resignation. Senate District 34 (click for PDF map) includes all of Tulsa County north of 66th Street North (including the Tulsa County portions of Skiatook, Sperry, Owasso, Collinsville), the City of Tulsa northeast of Pine and Yale, northeast of the Admiral Twin, and northeast of 89th East Ave and 21st Street, and a small, mostly uninhabited section of Rogers County north of the Port Road.

There is a Democrat in the race, but because District 34 is heavily Republican (a Republican has held the seat since the 1994 election), and because in this special election there is no runoff, the winner of tomorrow's GOP primary will almost certainly become a state senator. Although I don't live in District 34, I grew up there, and I join conservative activists and elected officials like State Rep. Chuck Strohm, State Sen. Nathan Dahm, and County Assessor Ken Yazel in urging District 34 Republicans to vote for David McLain.

david_mclain_state_senate.jpg

David McLain is a Skiatook resident, a veteran of the U. S. Navy, and owns a small business in the construction industry. David and Aleen, his wife of 26 years, have three grown children and two grandchildren. McLain has been endorsed by the Oklahoma Conservative PAC, the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, and the leaders of ROPE, the grassroots group that defeated Common Core. McLain supports the right to life, the sanctity of marriage, parental choice in education, lower taxes, and less-intrusive government.

Here's what public officials have written in endorsing McLain (legislative ratings are from the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper):

State Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Tulsa, conservative rating 100): "David McLain is a man of good character and faith. He has shown throughout his life to be a servant of the people and I know we can count on that same heart of servitude from David if elected. David's understanding of the principles of liberty is a trait that I believe will serve the people of SD34 well. Currently, I call David my friend, but I hope to also call him my colleague."

Rep. Chuck Strohm (R-Jenks, conservative rating 100): "It is an honor to endorse David McLain for the Oklahoma Senate. David has integrity, and he understands the fact that the principles which gave us the US Constitution are based in the Judeo-Christian belief system. He will join me in standing against Federal and Judicial overreach as we fight to preserve the values that we are seeing deteriorate before our eyes. Please vote for David McLain on November 10th and help elect a true Conservative as your next state Senator."

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel (R): "I believe David McLain is the right man to represent the people of SD 34. As a fellow veteran, I know David has a deep understanding of the Constitution and will take his oath of office seriously. As a fellow conservative, I know that we will be able to trust that David will represent our Republican values well. David McLain is the right man for the job!"

We are at an interesting point in Oklahoma politics. The state is so overwhelmingly Republican that the special interests who had traditionally given to Democrats have discovered that the only avenue to influence legislation is to invest in Republican primary candidates. These special interests want to defeat fair-deal, grassroots Republicans, who want to make government smaller, but they find that they can work with wheeler-dealer Republicans, who are happy to have bigger government and higher taxes, as long as their allies can be the beneficiaries of those higher taxes.

With Republicans in solid control of every executive office, the State House, and the State Senate -- 40 seats out of 48 -- the real battle in Oklahoma politics is over what kind of Republicans will run state government.

I should stipulate at this point that both wheeler-dealer and fair-dealer Republicans are generally united in support of pro-life issues and Second Amendment rights. But wheeler-dealers have put the brakes on reform of taxation, schools, and the judiciary. They tend to like special tax credits for targeted beneficiaries. When the State Chamber says jump, the wheeler-dealers ask "How high?"

A look at endorsements and funding indicates that McLain's chief opponent in the race, John Feary, is aligned with the wheeler-dealers. Feary has the financial backing of leading Obama fundraiser George Kaiser and some of Kaiser's close associates, as well as many statewide political action committees and lobbyists.

Feary has been endorsed by the State Chamber of Commerce. Conservatives have learned that "chambers of commerce" at every level -- federal, state, and metro -- often support cronyism and oppose reforms that empower individuals, families, and entrepreneurs. The State Chamber has targeted solid conservative legislators for defeat, supporting primary opponents and sometimes even Democrats, as they try to reassert control over the legislature. Chambers often block conservatives on social and cultural issues, preferring profits to principle.

Last year, Feary ran a very negative campaign against Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel. Yazel has been the taxpayers' best friend at the County Courthouse, and because Yazel has opposed foolish sales tax increases and has called the public's attention to the wasteful allocation of our taxes, he was targeted for defeat by the local wheeler-dealers, who backed Feary. Feary lost in a landslide.

Feary, a City of Owasso employee, was also a vocal defender of City Manager Rodney Ray, who left Owasso under an ethical cloud. Rodney Ray was charged with and ultimately pled "no contest" to passing a bad check and making a false police report (he claimed the bad check had been stolen). Other OSCN entries for Rodney Ray suggest a pattern of financial irresponsibility over several years.

At that time, Feary wrote me defending Ray's performance as City Manager: "I would ask that you keep JB [sic] mind that Mr. Ray is not an elected official and his personal finances and family situations are not the business nor should they be if concern to J.B. Alexander and his group of cronies. The Owasso City Council makes the decisions and sets policy so Mr. Ray's private matters are not indicative or reflective of his job performance."

This election is to replace a state senator who pled guilty to crimes connected with embezzlement from his employer. Does it make sense to replace him with someone who regards the financial misdeeds of the CEO of Oklahoma's fastest growing city as merely private matters, and who regards concerned citizens as a "group of cronies"?

David McLain's financial support has come mainly from small donations; I recognize many of his donors as solid conservative activists. The only PAC to give money to McLain is the Oklahoma Conservative PAC.

There are two other candidates on the Republican primary ballot, Mark Williams and Chuck Daugherty, who do not appear to be running an active campaign. Because there is no runoff election, conservatives need to unite behind one candidate. If the conservative majority splits its votes, the candidate backed by Obama fundraiser George Kaiser will win.

We don't need another state senator who will owe his election to special interest groups, lobbyists, and big Democrat donors. We need a solid conservative who will carry out the conservative reform agenda in Oklahoma City. I urge District 34 Republicans to get to the polls tomorrow and support David McLain for State Senate.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) will hold a hearing today on Public Service Company of Oklahoma's request to impose additional fees on customers who opt-out of PSO's "Smart Meter" program.

The hearing is at 10:30 a.m., August 27, 2015, in Courtroom B at the OCC's offices at 2010 N. Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City. The docket number is 201500109: "Application of Public Service Company of Oklahoma for Commission Review and Potential Approval for Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Alternatives and for Cost Recovery of Any Approved Alternatives."

I have been unsuccessful so far in finding the detailed application online, but you can read the current PSO tariff, which includes the Smart Meter provisions approved by the OCC that went into effect on April 30, 2015.

Acting on an alert from the Tulsa 9/12 project, I submitted the following comment on the PSO website and the OCC public utility complaints page.

Our family has opted out of the PSO Smart Meter program. I understand that PSO is asking to install a transmitting, data-recording meter everywhere, even on opt-out homes. Please uphold the spirit the opt-out by rejecting this request from PSO, so that opt-out homes can continue to use non-transmitting analog meters.

We also object to the penalty PSO wants to impose on smart meter opt-out customers. Our opt-out does nothing to increase the cost of delivering electricity to our home over the current cost. If smart meters are truly a cost-saving measure, ratepayers should get a rate cut for opting in.

Here is the alert from the Tulsa 9/12 Project:

SMART METER UPDATE ACTION NEEDED!!

PSO has filed testimony before the OCC (Oklahoma Corporation Commission), claiming only 150 people have refused the Smart Meter "Offer". They also filed testimony asking the OCC to remove all analog meters on the bypass list and replace them with an AMR (a one way wireless transmitting meter instead of the AMI two-way transmitter currently being installed) claiming they will turn the transmitter off and charge the customer to have it read manually.

What they are not saying is, they can turn the meter on remotely at anytime without the customers knowledge or consent. The AMR meter also requires an FCC license and contains a 900 mhz transmitter which pulses every 15 to 20 seconds at or over 220,000 micro-watts, making it very harmful for those who are electro-sensitive (many AMR's have two transmitters). In other words they have applied for the installation of a Smart Meter on every home with no exception to retain an analog meter. This is not the case in other states where they retain their analog, if the OCC accepts their conditions, and if the Attorney General doesn't intervene, it is NO OPT OUT at all.

The scheme continues to unfold:

Utility costs will continue to skyrocket by design, because "the more the customer conserves the more they pay".

Smart Meters do not conserve energy, people do. You do not need a smart meter to program a thermostat.

If you're not fired up yet - this should do it...

The OCC has amended their rules for what they call the "Demand Program" (Title 165 Chapter 35, Subchapter 41 effective Jan. 1, 2016).

The OCC has set up an incentive program (customer provided funds) for the Utilities to re-educate and convince the customers to reduce their consumption (or the Utility can do it remotely through the meter) to the point that the Utility doesn't build another power plant (EPA and DOE requests 4% reduction). The rules also state that the Utility can apply for a "True-Up Recovery Tariff" for the revenue loss caused by the customer reduced consumption, "the more you conserve (save) the more you pay".

This is a win win for the Utility, they were approved to charge the customer base to remove the reliable analog meter (a 30 to 40 year life) and replace it with an unproven digital meter (3 to 10 year life). The capital investment for IT and the infrastructure to switch over to the digital surveillance is to be borne by the customers while the Utility creates a new revenue stream collecting and selling the customers personal data collected by the meter, a revenue projected to exceed the electricity revenue.

It makes one wonder, is in fact the OCC representing the Utilities and regulating the people when they should be regulating the Utilities and representing the people?

Please attend the Oklahoma Corporation Commission "Hearing On The Merits" (to impose a penalty or tax upon those refusing the "Smart Meter Offer"). Numbers count whether you give "public comment" or fill the court with your presence.

Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, 59, was stabbed to death Sunday night.

The fatal attack took place at a Braum's Ice Cream store in northwest Oklahoma City, according to news reports. Christian Costello, the commissioner's son, was arrested.

I join my fellow Oklahomans in mourning the loss of Commissioner Costello. He was an outstanding public servant, admired for improving workplace safety while working with Oklahoma employers as a collaborator, not an adversary. Under his leadership, it became easier for Oklahomans to deal with the Labor Department, as he improved online access to department functions, which made it possible to cut department costs without sacrificing service.

Costello set himself apart by refusing to take campaign contributions from lobbyists, and in 2012, he called attention to the lobbyist effort to curry favor with new Republican officials at the State Capitol, noting the massive shift in contributions by the Oklahoma Public Employees Association -- from 97% to Democrat candidates in 2004 to 64% to Republican candidates in 2010. He reminded his fellow Republican officials that they had taken the legislature despite a tsunami of lobbyist cash supporting their opponents.

Beyond his public service, we remember Mark Costello's sense of whimsy -- campaign ads that spoofed Donovan's psychedelic 1960s tune "Mellow Yellow" ("Vote for Mark Costello"), inviting New York City mayoral candidate Jimmy McMillan (of "The Rent Is Too Damn High" party) to sign autographs at Costello's booth at the 2012 Oklahoma Republican Convention.

May God comfort his family and friends, and may he rest in peace.

MORE:

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs pays tribute:

It is with great sorrow that we learned of the death of Labor Commissioner Mark Costello. Mark was a longtime friend to the staff, board and members of OCPA. While our prayers and deepest sympathy are concentrated on his family during this unthinkable time, we remember the life of not just a great public servant but also a great man.

Mark was everywhere. If someone was trying to make their community better, get involved in the political process, or host a group committed to freedom, Mark was there, fully engaged in mind, body, and spirit. This loss will be felt by all Oklahomans in the days, weeks, and years to come.

We are grateful to have known and been led by Mark Costello and remember him most for his keen sense of and commitment to True North.

A statement from the Costello family:

There are no words to express the shock and sadness that our family has experienced the last number of hours. The outpouring of emotion and support our family feels is tremendous.

Our son, Christian Costello, has experienced many difficulties over the past several years. Christian, like thousands of Oklahomans, struggles with a mental health disease and like many families we did our best to support him. Mark was committed to being there for his son and provided whatever help he could as a father.

We ask for your prayers and support as our family tries to cope with and understand this life-changing tragedy.

Mark loved to brag about his kids and their successes, but like many in the public eye, he also viewed his family life as personal.

We ask that you respect our family's privacy as we work through this very difficult time and please understand that our family will struggle with this for years to come as we try and find answers.

Here's one of Costello's 2010 radio ads:

During the 2010 campaign, Costello spoke briefly at a voter education rally in Muskogee, talking about his early working life and how Barack Obama "inspired" him to get into politics. He also deals graciously with a correction from the audience:


In February 2013, Mark Costello spoke to the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee about reforms at the Labor Department:

"Men, you know me. You remember me when I led you out to war. I went first, and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East, and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader. He goes first, and all he tells me is true. I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road, a war that makes all for peace and where we never have only victory..."

(From Okuhhatuh's first sermon to the Cheyenne people, June 19, 1881. As posted by Wade Burleson, A Captivating Story of God's Saving Grace: From Cheyenne Warrior to Christian Missionary.)

The diaries of the Rev. David Pendleton Oakerhater, a warrior of the Cheyenne Nation who became an Episcopalian missionary to his own people, have been donated by his family to the Oklahoma History Center. Oakerhater is the first American Indian added to the Episcopal Church's calendar of saints; September 1 is the Feast of St. Oakerhater.

In his journals, which date to 1895, Oakerhater wrote of his everyday life and ministry as an Oklahoma Episcopal missionary, with several notable exceptions, including his mention of meeting the ill-fated George Armstrong Custer at one time and his participation as a warrior who fought against the U.S. cavalry at the Battle of Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle.

Oakerhater, known as O-kuh-ha-tu or Making Medicine before he adopted Christianity, was a Cheyenne warrior who fought European encroachment on his homeland until he was imprisoned by the U.S. Army at Fort Marion in Florida in 1875, along with many other American Indian warriors.

He eventually converted to Christianity in 1878 in New York and returned to the Cheyenne and Arapaho people in Oklahoma working to influence many American Indians to receive Christ, make peace and learn the value of education.

Oakerhater, known as "God's warrior" among the Cheyenne people, was ordained an Episcopal deacon in 1881 at age 34....

[Michelin Butler] Lopez, 39, said she prayed for months before deciding to donate the diaries belonging to "Old Grandpa," as her family members fondly call their ancestor.

In the end, it was not so much his journal entries about who he met or what he did, but rather the person who changed his life forever -- Jesus -- that finally convinced her that the journals deserved to be preserved at the history center.

They would, she said, help promote his powerful spiritual legacy.

"Through my grandfather's faith, he didn't turn his back on his people," Lopez said. "He fell in love with Jesus, and he stayed true to his faith so that we would all come to know Christ."

Be sure to read Wade Burleson's article on the life and faith of David Pendleton Oakerhater.

MORE: Oakerhater made it to the "Saintly 16" round of "Lent Madness" this year, losing to King Kamehameha of Hawaii.

Some interesting observations about the people of Oklahoma City and the memorial they created and maintain, from NYU media, culture, and communication professor Marita Sturken in her 2007 Duke University Press book Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero.

One of the primary ways that individuals are encouraged to interact at the memorial is through the fence that is now placed on an outside wall at its entrance. This was the same fence where people initially left objects. The designers had envisioned three small sections of fence in the children's area that would encourage a similar activity, arguing that the fence itself was not as important as "what the fence allows to happen." Yet several family members were concerned that this fence, which had been so important to them in those first years, would be lost, even though a few felt it was an "immature" form of memorial. When the memorial was completed, the fence was transported by volunteers to an outside wall, where it is both separate from and part of an entry into the memorial. The material on the fence is only a fraction of the massive inventory of objects that the memorial has acquired and which are part of its archive.

In its incorporation into the memorial design, the fence remains a primary site where people come to leave objects and messages. There are much-considered rules concerning this activity and these objects, which reflect the overall thoughtfulness and intensity of the memorial's intended rituals. Objects that are left on the fence are allowed to stay for a maximum of thirty days. The memorial staff then removes them if they are not related to a particular victim or agency and according to issues of space and durability. The memorial staff will not place something at the fence if someone sends it in; it must be placed there in person. Rules are different for the chairs, where items are left for seventy-two hours after an anniversary ceremony and otherwise removed and discarded after twenty-four hours (though the staff will, on request, move an object then to the fence). This policy was the result of an extended debate among families, survivors, and rescue workers because many survivors and rescuers thought that it would look tacky to have objects left on the chairs.

The Memorial Center, which opened In February 2001, now houses a massive and growing collection of materials in its archive. According to the archivist Jane Thomas, once people realized that their collection was "more than 3,000 teddy bears," they began to send in other materials: photographs, documents, artwork, and personal material from families; trial materials; and documents, such as surveys, from the process of writing the mission statement of the memorial. The archive has six areas of collection: the history of the site; the incident itself, including rescue and recovery; responses to the event, including media coverage; the investigation and trial; spinoffs, such as new regulations and laws that resulted; and memorialization. It now houses over eight hundred thousand pieces, including documents related to the McVeigh and Nichols trials, seventy thousand photographs, newspaper articles, and over one hundred thousand objects, such as cards, letters, quilts, art objects, uniforms, memorial designs, the personal effects of some victims, reporters' notes, shattered glass from the building, and items from the building such as the playhouse from the day care center's play yard....

The memorial design thus encourages many different kinds of responses, encompassing as it does a broad range of spaces, each with particular intent. Visitors are encouraged to be active in responding to the memorial, by leaving objects on the fence or drawing things in the children's area. People often depart from the proscribed codes in interacting with the memorial, for instance, dipping their hands into the water in order to leave handprints on the bronze gates. The memorial is open all the time and is a place that people often wander through at night. It is staffed constantly by volunteers, many of whom are survivors. Many family members and survivors work as docents for the Memorial Center and are frequent visitors to it. It has what is often referred to as a fervent volunteer culture, with seventy-five volunteers working every week.

The memorial is thus integrated into the community of Oklahoma City in complex ways that are about integrating a difficult past into the everyday. This intense community involvement is a factor in the relationship of the memorial to the National Park Service, which is in charge of the rangers and brochures at the site. According to the memorial's executive director, Kari Watkins, the Memorial Foundation restructured its relationship to the NPS in 2005. The NPS, says Watkins. expected the local community to recede as it has at other, similar sites, but the community in Oklahoma City is too invested to fully hand over the site. Thus, as in the design of the memorial, the local community has consistently made clear, both emotionally and financially, its ownership of this memorial site. This incorporation of the memorial into the city has been facilitated by the sense of community and local pride that is a part of the memorial, and its pedagogical mission, one that is fervently expressed and dedicatedly carried out, and that centers in many ways on an embrace of citizenship and civic life.

UPDATE: Jamison Faught reports on Twitter that on the first ballot Brogdon finished first but short of a majority, and incumbent chairman Weston was eliminated -- Brogdon 47.45, Pollard 29.11, Weston 23.43. Brogdon won the second ballot over Pollard, 53.35% to 46.65%. Estela Hernandez was elected vice chairman with 58.12% of the vote.

As with the Tulsa County Republican Convention last month, a very busy period in my personal and professional life makes it impossible for me to attend the 2015 Oklahoma State Republican Convention tomorrow. If I were there, I'd vote for former State Sen. Randy Brogdon for party chairman.

This probably won't surprise anyone. I endorsed and knocked doors for Brogdon for Governor in 2010 and to fill Tom Coburn's Senate seat in 2014. Randy Brogdon is a man of principle who served and led faithfully on the Owasso City Council and the Oklahoma State Senate. As I wrote in 2014:

Brogdon, a small-business owner in the heat and air industry, was elected in 1998 to the Owasso City Council and was elected as Mayor by his fellow city councilors. In 2002 he was elected to the State Senate, serving two terms and earning the highest ratings possible from conservative groups.

Brogdon was the leading advocate for the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) initiative, a popular measure that was scuttled by special interest litigation. He led the effort to pull Oklahoma out of the effort to build the eminent domain nightmare known as the NAFTA Superhighway through the state. A champion for privacy rights, he led Oklahoma to opt out of the Real ID Act. In 2010, he authored SQ 756, the Oklahoma Healthcare Freedom Amendment. He was one of the few Republican elected officials with the courage to stand consistently with grassroots Tulsa County Republicans against ill-considered boondoggles funded by sales tax increases.

Two other candidates are actively campaigning for the job: David Weston, the incumbent, and Pam Pollard, head of the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women.

Pollard is an energetic leader, a hard worker, a networker, and an organizer. I've enjoyed working with her over the years, and there's no question she would be up to the nuts-and-bolts aspects of the chairman's job. But there's another aspect to the job, which I'll address a bit later, where I think Brogdon has the edge in the current climate.

I appreciated Weston's lobbying efforts against the disastrous National Popular Vote bill, although in the aftermath, I wish he'd sought to obtain commitments from Republican candidates to block the proposal in the future.

I was not pleased to hear of Weston's efforts to lobby for a delay in Oklahoma's presidential primary. In 2012, our early primary date brought all the candidates to Oklahoma. My kids got to hear Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum speak in person at ORU. Although the early date meant that Oklahoma's delegates were allocated proportionately -- and so Santorum's win here didn't translate into an overwhelming number of delegates -- the win gave a boost to a candidate in tune with the values and priorities of Oklahoma Republicans. That helped him stay in the race and keep his issues in the spotlight -- including the need for a strong American presence in the world and the need to .

A later primary date would make Oklahoma winner-take-all, making our state a slightly bigger prize in delegate count (although still awfully small), but it mean that you and I would get to pick from whichever establishment types were left after open primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina filtered out all the grassroots conservatives.

Weston's case for a later primary date is arguable, but his advocacy riled activists because he spoke on behalf of the state party without consulting the State Committee. The committee, which serves as the party's governing body between conventions, consists of the Chairman and Vice Chairmen and two State Committee members from each county, plus statewide, congressional, and legislative elected officials ex officio. The group is supposed to meet at least once a quarter.

On the National Popular Vote issue, Weston had a strong mandate to speak out on behalf of the party -- clear party platform planks and a unanimous RNC vote to condemn the idea. That mandate was missing from the primary date debate. Although several State Committee meetings had been held recently, Weston never sought the committee's authorization to endorse the later primary date on the party's behalf.

Both Pam Pollard and Randy Brogdon spoke out against the early primary date, with Brogdon addressing the House Elections Committee considering the bill. Brogdon pledges, if elected, to to seek the State Committee's endorsement before speaking out on such issues.

When Brogdon called me a few months ago to talk about the race, I was a bit underwhelmed. His focus was on party building and organization and the need to reach out to groups that aren't typically considered Republican, which is all well and good. I didn't hear any talk from him (or the other two candidates) about my priority for our party leaders: To hold elected officials accountable for carrying out the party's principles and policies and to protect the Republican brand. In Oklahoma, the biggest obstacle to the implementation of Republican policies comes from Republicans who wear the name but don't understand or adhere to the principles the party professes. A party chairman can serve as the grassroots' lobbyist to counteract the presence of special-interest spokesmen at the State Capitol. Although it wasn't a role he identified as a priority, I think Brogdon's experience and temperament would make him the most likely of the three candidates to speak out when elected Republicans betray the principles and policies they ran on.

Because of his years of service in elected office, Randy Brogdon will be sympathetic to the pressures weighing on elected officials. At the same time, he has a record of accomplishment as an elected official that shows you don't have to compromise your principles to get things done. He's in a position to refute the lame excuses of officials who always want to put off courageous decisions until after the next election.

At the County Convention, the race was so close that my unavoidable absence cost my preferred candidate the election. I hope that won't be the case on Saturday.

MORE: Muskogee Politico Jamison Faught has detailed surveys from each of the announced candidates for chairman (Randy Brogdon, Pam Pollard, David Weston) and vice chairman (Estela Hernandez, John T. Lewis, ). And he asked some follow-up questions of the candidates for chairman.

STILL MORE: Dewey Bartlett Jr, who endorsed liberal Democrat Kathy Taylor for re-election as Tulsa's mayor, thinks Dave Weston should be re-elected as OKGOP chairman.

University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, writing in USA Today, about OU president David Boren's decision to expel two students and a fraternity for a video containing racist speech:

As a state institution, the University of Oklahoma is constrained by the Constitution. Among other things, that means that it must respect the free speech guarantees contained in the First Amendment, even if that speech is repugnant. Just because the university doesn't like what students say, thinks it's hateful, or worries that it will produce an unpleasant atmosphere on campus, doesn't grant it the authority to punish people for speaking. One would think that Boren -- a former U.S. senator who took an oath to uphold the Constitution when he was sworn into office -- would know better. Apparently not....

Boren's behavior was not only illegal -- and clearly so -- it was also a betrayal of the duty of fairness that he, as a university president, owes to every student enrolled in his university. To have acted so hastily, in violation of OU's own student conduct code, bespeaks a dishonorable willingness to throw students to the wolves in order to avoid bad publicity -- accompanied, perhaps, by the sort of generalized hostility to fraternities that seems all too common among university administrations these days. (That hostility, based on a general dislike of fraternities as bastions of "white male privilege," is itself racist and sexist, of course.)

As Reason's Robby Soave notes, OU administered lighter punishment to a football player who punched a girl so hard it broke four bones in her face than it meted out to the SAE fraternity for singing a song. After this assault, caught on camera, Joe Mixon was suspended from playing, but allowed to remain on campus, attending classes with other students as usual. No expulsion there.

In theory, universities are supposed to be the bastions of reasoned thought and fairness. In practice, you will seldom find a place where mob justice is more likely to prevail with the willing participation of the authorities....

The Daily Caller summarizes more incidents where student athletes received light punishment for violent behavior.

Owing to work and family commitments, I haven't had much time or energy lately for blogging. And although I won't be able to attend today's Republican County Convention, I do want to take a moment to endorse Ronda Vuillemont-Smith for County Chairman.

In a state where Republicans are overwhelmingly dominant, Democrats are not the chief threat to the implementation of Republican policies. The biggest threat comes from Republicans who wear the name but don't understand or adhere to the principles the party professes. They may simply be corrupt or self-dealing, or they may be liberals who have realized that registering Republican is their only hope of winning.

From Capitol Hill to City Hall, the actions and inactions of elected Republican officials have made the activists who helped them get elected wonder what, exactly, was the point of their exertions.

In such an environment, the role of party leadership must shift. When a party is a minority or just beginning to dream of majority status, you will gladly take any elected official who will bear the (R) after their name. But in our current environment, we need party leaders who will protect the Republican brand, who will be a voice for the grassroots party activists to counterbalance well-heeled lobbyists,

Ronda Vuillemont-Smith has shown herself willing to confront Republican elected officials when they need it. She's also shown herself to be a skilled and experienced organizer. That's why, if I were at this morning's Tulsa County GOP Convention, Ronda would have my vote.

rino-768px.pngThe attempt to enlist Oklahoma in the National Popular Vote agreement, a left-wing attempt to subvert the constitutional method for electing the president, is back. In 2014, NPV legislation was rushed through the State Senate. Legislators were invited to junkets in tropical locations and other favorite vacation spots to discuss National Popular Vote. Lobbyists found emotionally resonant arguments and were able to get senators to make binding promises . Thus they won the vote on the floor of the State Senate. Within days, several senators had recanted their support, following an outpouring of anger from conservative grassroots activists, Republican party leaders, and conservative think tanks. The State House never took up the bill, which expired with the sine die adjournment of the legislature.

In previous entries, I've explained why NPV is a bad idea -- it undermines our Constitution, allows voter fraud in one state to affect the presidential result everywhere, and disconnects Oklahoma's popular vote result from the allocation of Oklahoma's electors. The Republican National Committee unanimously condemned the proposal. The libertarian Cato Institute and conservative Heritage Foundation and Eagle Forum oppose National Popular Vote, as does the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs. The Oklahoma Republican Party's platform has opposed the idea for years.

Despite the defeat, the leftists behind NPV continued their campaign. Local GOP consultants and sometime candidates Darren Gantz and David Tackett set up meetings between out-of-state NPV lobbyists and conservative grassroots activists. Legislators were invited on at least one more NPV junket -- Christmas season in New York City.

Lame-duck State Rep. Lee Denney, who also serves as speaker pro tempore, is the sponsor of this session's NPV bill. But what is going to happen on Wednesday is sneaky and underhanded.

HB 1686, the bill Denney filed to have Oklahoma join the NPV agreement, was sent to the Rules Committee. Another bill, HB 1813, was assigned to the Elections and Ethics Committee. Authored by Democrat Rep. Eric Proctor, HB 1813 originally dealt with ballot access for political parties, but the entire text of his bill has now been replaced by text from Denney's HB 1686 committing Oklahoma to the National Popular Vote. On Wednesday morning, February 25, 2015, the Elections and Ethics Committee will consider the bill.

This rush to committee is reminiscent of the speed with which the bill was rushed through the State Senate. NPV supporters seem to be hoping to sneak this through once again, before grassroots activists hear about it.

Here is a list of committee members. I encourage you to contact the members directly to urge their swift defeat of this measure:

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, chair - paulwesselhoft@okhouse.gov
Rep. Donnie Condit, vice chair - donnie.condit@okhouse.gov
Rep. Gary Banz - garybanz@okhouse.gov
Rep. David Dank - david.dank@okhouse.gov
Rep. Charlie Joyner - charlie.joyner@okhouse.gov
Rep. David Perryman - david.perryman@okhouse.gov
Rep. Michael Rogers - michael.rogers@okhouse.gov

I also urge you to ask your Republican member of the State House to remove Lee Denney from her leadership position as Speaker Pro Tempore. There ought to be consequences for anyone who supports this betrayal of constitutional principles.

UPDATE: At the committee meeting, Rep. Denney laid over her bill, HB 1813. Chairman Wesselhoft expressed sympathy for her tough decision and said that the committee would remain the custodian of the bill, which could be heard next year if she wanted to bring it forward. According to State Rep. Glen Mulready, the committee chairman could not have forced a vote on the bill after the author laid it over. Because this was the last opportunity for a bill originating in the House to move out of committee, this particular bill is dead for this session.

Here is a direct link to the audio for the Elections and Ethics Committee meeting February 25, 2015. The chairman doesn't speak until 7:24 -- it's all background chatter before that.

NPV opponents cannot relax, however. This particular bill could get a committee hearing and a vote on short notice next session, still in time to affect Oklahoma's 2016 electoral votes. The NPV lobbyists are relentless, and I expect that they will continue to look for ways to woo legislators and activists.

There is also the possibility that the language could be inserted into a bill this year through the remainder of the legislative process -- possibly as a committee substitute for a bill that originated in the other house, possibly in a conference committee.

NPV opponents should continue to press legislators to declare their intentions on this proposal, regardless of the bill number to which it gets attached. Because it is an interstate compact (as they called it last year) or (as they're now calling it) an agreement among the states, the states all must adopt the same language. It is what it is. There's no possibility that the bill could be "improved" in the legislative process. So there's no good reason for a legislator to be agnostic about how he or she would vote. The NPV proposal is well-defined and unamendable, and conservative voices in Oklahoma and nationwide are unanimously in opposition. When the State Senate passed the NPV compact bill in 2014, lefty blogs cheered and conservative websites mourned. If a self-described conservative legislator is hesitant to take a stand on this issue, I'd hesitate to trust them on any other issue or for any elective office.

Tulsa County Republicans will meet in precinct caucuses this Saturday, January 31, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. the first step in the biennial process to elect state, county, and precinct party officials and to determine the party platform.

Most Tulsa County precincts will meet at central locations within their State House districts. The gathered precincts will go through certain preliminaries as a group, then break up into individual precinct caucuses to elect leaders and vote on resolutions to be forwarded to the county and state conventions for inclusion in the platform. The tulsagop.org website has the list of caucus locations and answers to frequently-asked questions about the process.

These House district locations were developed as a convenience for precinct officials and delegates. Some precinct chairmen may prefer not to host strangers in their home, and some delegates may feel more at ease in meeting people they don't know in a public place rather than someone's home. Some precincts have no officials currently, and a central meeting place gives interested newcomers a place to go and get things restarted. The central locations also provide an opportunity to meet fellow activists from nearby neighborhoods in a less crowded environment than the county convention.

At least one precinct has opted out of the central-meeting approach, and a few precincts have shifted their meeting place to a central meeting location closer than the designated place for their House district. Whatever the case, your precinct location should be posted on the door of your regular voting location by Saturday morning.

Tonight, Thursday, January 22, 2015, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) will present the second in a series of programs on the fundamental principles undergirding liberty and the rule of law: "Why States Matter." The program will be held at the Herman and Kate Kaiser branch of the Tulsa Library. The library is in the northeast part of LaFortune Park, on Hudson just south of 51st Street.

The American Founders invented "federalism." Learn what federalism is, how it became part of the Constitution, and what has happened to it over the last century. Also, find out how we can use what is left of federalism to revive this key constitutional structure.

This is the second in OCPA's four-part series, The Rule of Law and Liberty. (View our first program online: The Rule of Law and Liberty: Why the Constitution matters.) Our programs in January and February will also feature a briefing on the upcoming Oklahoma legislative session.

For more information or to register by phone, call 405-602-1667.

Trent England, who designed and presents The Rule of Law and Liberty, is OCPA's David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow for the Advancement of Liberty. Formerly with the Freedom Foundation in Washington state and The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Trent has written and spoken across the country on constitutional law and history.

Trent also contributed to the We The People curriculum and is the founder and director of Save Our States, which focuses on defending the Electoral College.

Oklahoma's U. S. Senator Tom Coburn did not suffer from senioritis. He made the most of every minute of the final weeks of his ten years in the Senate.

On December 9, Coburn issued the latest and last in his long-running series of reports on government waste. Tax DecoderTom_Coburn-Tax_Decoder-2014.pdf, an encyclopedic 320-page report covering "more than 165 tax expenditures worth over $900 billion this year and more than $5 trillion over the next five years."

The Tax Decoder report looks at tax breaks both well-known and obscure which complicate the tax code and boost the deficit, often enabling lavish living at taxpayer expense. In true Coburn style, there are no sacred cows -- the report notes the special status of Oklahoma's former tribal territory on p. 213, calls for an end to the parsonage allowance on p. 192, and devotes an entire chapter to non-taxable military compensation -- but the information is provided in a thorough and dispassionate manner. Your mind will boggle at the subsections of 501(c) that you never knew existed, and yes, it's very possible for people to get very wealthy off of a non-profit organization. Here's Coburn's press conference announcing the Tax Decoder report. There's even a 60-second trailer for the report:

Coburn's final foray against fiscal futility was to object to a well-intentioned but wasteful and duplicative bill:

While well-intentioned, H.R. 5059 would do little to change or improve the deplorable situation at the VA, which is providing substandard medical care for the country's military heroes. The bill creates several new programs at the VA and authorizes $22 million in new federal spending. In almost every case, however, the VA already has the tools and authorities it needs to address these serious problems. Further concerns with the legislation can be viewed here.

"Congress should hold VA bureaucrats accountable for their failing programs and substandard medical care instead of passing legislation that will do little to solve the tragic challenge of veteran suicides." said Senator Coburn. "Our military heroes deserve more than false promises. It is dishonest for Congress to pretend that passing yet another bill will finally solve the challenges plaguing the VA."

As always, Coburn's colleagues found it easier to vote more money at a problem than to do the hard work of oversight of the money they'd already spent. As always, the drive-by media found it easier to snipe at Coburn for "hating veterans" than to pressure Coburn's colleagues to exercise the kind of oversight and reform that would actually help veterans.

Earlier in the year, Coburn produced an exposé of the shameful treatment of veterans at the hands of the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

On his very last day as a senator, Coburn introduced legislation to "improve the integrity of the [Social Security] disability insurance program, support working Americans with disabilities, and protect benefits for current and future generations." The current system makes it too easy for some to game the system while others wait far too long to receive benefits, and it discourages disabled persons who want to work from doing so. From the beginning to the end of his congressional career, Coburn addressed the disconnect between good intentions and the actual effect of government programs.

Coburn's careful documentation of government waste proved to anyone who cared that we could solve the deficit problem. The lack of action in response proved that his colleagues -- and the voters who elected them -- aren't serious about fixing the problem.

Andrew Ferguson, writing in the Weekly Standard, salutes Coburn as "a model senator":

"In any election," Tom Coburn often says, "you should vote for the candidate who will give up the most if they win." All things being equal, we should prefer politicians who have accomplished something in their lives beyond government work--and who are willing to sacrifice it, at least temporarily, to serve the country at a cost to their convenience and comfort. During his 6 years in the House of Representatives and 10 more in the Senate, Coburn has embodied his own principle....

...Coburn calls himself a "citizen legislator," and the archaic title fits. Single-handed, he restored the phrase "public service" to good repute in Washington, at least for his admirers.

He's done so by being a pest. This is the kindest word we can come up with, though enemies both in and of out of his party prefer surlier tags like crank and headcase. Coburn commandeered every parliamentary maneuver available to a lone senator and used his mastery to slow the Senate down and draw attention to the untoward details of business-as-usual: absurd expenditures, cheap favors for the well-to-do, presidential appointments for dolts and clowns, and every imaginable accounting trick in service of parochial rather than national interests, all of it undertaken on borrowed money. His endless amendments and points of order became a kind of shaming, directed at people who long ago abandoned shame. Coburn trained an outsider's eye on the work of insiders and delivered the news, usually bad. "If we applied the same standards to Congress that we apply to Enron," he once said of congressional book-juggling, "everybody here would go to jail."

In his farewell speech to the Senate, Coburn paid tribute to congressional staff and the staff of oversight offices in the executive branch who gathered data for his reports and helped him craft reform legislation. He affirmed his faith in our country and our ability to solve our problems if we choose to do so, and he saluted his Democratic committee counterpart, Tom Carper of Delaware, for his willingness to work together to solve problems. He recalled the brilliance of the Founders, their insight into human nature and the causes of failure of the republics that preceded ours, and their understanding of the blessings of limited government.

Coburn called his colleagues' attention to their oath of office and noted that it makes no mention of the Senator's state:

Your State isn't mentioned one time in that oath. Your whole goal is to protect the United States of America, its Constitution and its liberties. It is not to provide benefits for your State. That is where we differ. That is where my conflict with my colleagues has come. It is nice to be able to do things for your State, but that isn't our charge. Our charge is to protect the future of our country by upholding the Constitution and ensuring the liberty that is guaranteed there is protected and preserved.

Coburn pointed out the power of one Senator to advance, change, or stop legislation. The rules involved are not "arcane," as they are often described, but rarely used, even though they exist to protect liberty and to force compromise. He called his colleagues to exercise knowledgeable oversight:

Each Member of the Senate has a unique role to participate and practice oversight, to hold the government accountable, and that is part of our duties, except most often that is the part of our duties that is most ignored.

To know how to reach a destination, you must first know where you are, and without oversight -- effective, vigorous oversight -- you will never solve anything. You cannot write a bill to fix an agency unless you have an understanding of the problem, and you can only know this by conducting oversight, asking the tough questions, holding the bureaucrats accountable, find out what works and what doesn't, and know what has already been done.

Effective oversight is an effective tool to expose government overreach and wasteful spending, but it also markedly exposes where we lose our liberty and our essential freedoms....

...quite frankly, we don't make great decisions because we don't have the knowledge. Then what knowledge we do have we transfer to a bureaucracy to make decisions about it when we should have been guiding those things.

You can see video of Tom Coburn's farewell address and read the official transcript after the jump.

The Oklahoma Democratic Party is trying to invalidate the re-election of Republican 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin because the Democratic nominee died two days before the election.

Earl Everett, 81, died Sunday from injuries suffered in a Friday auto collision. Our condolences go to his friends and family. It's an honorable thing to run for public office, perhaps all the more when there is little expectation of success. Everett won the primary against an opponent barely one-third his age. In the general election, Mullin won with 70% to Everett's 25% and 5% for an independent candidate.

In August 1998, Jacquelyn Morrow Lewis Ledgerwood finished second in the Democratic primary to select a challenger to then-three term U. S. Senator Don Nickles. Ledgerwood had died almost six weeks before the primary, but it was too late under Oklahoma law to take her name off of the ballot. In the primary, Ledgerwood had 2197 votes more than third-place candidate Jerry Kobyluk, and so she advanced to the runoff election, notwithstanding her death. The Deceased-American vote isn't as strong in Oklahoma as it is in, say, Chicago, and Ledgerwood lost the runoff to Don Carroll by a 75%-25% vote. According to news reports at the time, had Ledgerwood won the runoff, the Oklahoma Democratic Party organization could have chosen a replacement nominee.

In 1990, District Judge Frank Ogden III, serving Judicial District 1 in the Panhandle, was three months deceased when he won re-election with over 90% of the vote. His opponent demanded to be named the victor, even though 9 out of 10 voters preferred a dead man to him. (This may be the greatest "none of the above" victory in Oklahoma history.) The Oklahoma Supreme Court declared the election valid, resulting in an immediate vacancy to be filled by the incoming governor when the term of the new judge was to begin.

26 O. S. 1-105, which governs this situation, has been changed twice since 1990. Here is the 1990-2009 version, the 2009-2014 version (currently in effect), and the version that takes effect on January 1, 2015.

Section 3 of the current version appears to dictate that a special election must be held:

If said death [of a party's nominee] should occur five (5) days or more following the Runoff Primary Election date, a special General Election shall be called by the Governor and shall be conducted according to the laws governing such elections, Section 12-101 et seq. of this title, except that there shall be no filing period or special Primary Election and the candidates in the special General Election shall be the substitute candidate named by the central committee and the nominee of other political parties elected in the Primary or Runoff Primary, and any previously filed independent candidates.

In the new version of the law, a special election would be held only if the deceased candidate won the election. The party could still (as now) substitute a nominee up until the Friday after the runoff election -- about 60 days before the general. If the nominee snuffs it after that point, his name remains on the ballot.

(For decades, Oklahoma's election season began with filing the second week in July. In recent years, filing was moved back to June and now April, in order to ensure that servicemen serving overseas could fully participate. The current schedule allows at each stage of the process sufficient time between when the candidate list is determined and when the election will be held to print ballots, send them out, and get them back from overseas voters.)

The current, soon-to-be-superseded version of the law is problematic. It actually creates a perverse incentive for a political party to assassinate its own ineffective nominee in order to get a do-over with a better, handpicked nominee. (Please note: I am NOT saying that this has ever happened.) The party could select the best possible replacement nominee from a pool of candidates that might have been unavailable during the normal election process because they were running for re-election or for higher offices. The other party is stuck with its nominee, and no other independents can get into the race.

In a normal election, a potential candidate has to weigh likelihood of success against the cost of not running for re-election or for election to a more winnable seat. In a special election, anyone can run without risking their current position or foregoing a more favorable race. In a special election right after a general election, a candidate could run without risking his current office. Some candidates will have recent experience, a campaign organization, and name recognition to bring to a special election.

Over the last 20 years, the Democrats have only managed to win only one of Oklahoma's congressional seats: Rural eastern Oklahoma's 2nd District. Brad Carson and Dan Boren held the seat for 12 years. They'd like it back, and Earl Everett's untimely demise gives them an opportunity.

Jamison Faught has a list of possible replacement nominees, and he rates them on likelihood of being selected and competitiveness in a special election. I'm surprised that Faught has overlooked what may be the Democrats' best option, an option that seems obvious given the county-by-county election maps Faught has posted.

The Democrats' State Superintendent nominee, John Cox, won 20 of the 26 counties in the 2nd Congressional District, and won the district with 84,726 votes (53.4%) to Joy Hofmeister's 73,803 (46.6%). By comparison, Joe Dorman only won 43.1% of the 2nd District vote. (Dorman barely outperformed Labor Commissioner nominee Mike Workman in the district, 68,835 to 67,276). In fact, Cox is the only statewide Democratic candidate to win in a congressional district, and the 2nd is the only district he won.

A congressional election has an added dynamic -- the partisan balance of power -- that is missing from a statewide race. In this case, however, the balance of power is known. The Republicans will have the majority in the House regardless of the result of this special election. Would it make a difference to 2nd District conservative Democrats to know that they could have a Democrat congressman once again without handing control of the House to wacky liberals from San Francisco or New York City?

A victory in a special election after last Tuesdays shellacking would be a morale boost to state and national Democratic organizations. It's like winning the Bedlam game -- if OU manages to beat OSU, the whipping they took from Baylor on Saturday won't sting as badly. If Democrats were to convince someone like Cox to run, expect Democrat donors to throw everything they can into this race.

It was a good day, a better day that anyone expected, a real wave election.

The reaction of my local liberal friends on Facebook reveal their contempt for the state where they live, their bigoted opinions of conservatives, and their disconnect from political reality. One wrote a very apt "chin-up" post -- the sort of things I've seen conservatives write to console each other after a loss -- but she ended it with this weird attempt at a barb: "And to those of you gleeful over the election results, I just want to remind you that our President is STILL BLACK." I imagine she imagined people like me shaking our fists and gritting our teeth at those words. (Never mind that the first African-American was just elected to the Senate from a Southern state since reconstruction -- and he's a Republican. Never mind that her party never elected an African-American to statewide office or congress during almost a century of dominance in Oklahoma -- but the GOP has.) Now if she'd said "STILL A SOCIALIST" or "STILL A MISERABLE FAILURE AT HOME AND ABROAD" -- that would have spoiled my gloating a bit. But if she thinks the president's ethnic background is the source of conservative dislike, she and her pals are going to continue to lose elections. So much for the soi-disant "reality-based" community.

I spent part of my Tuesday in a library in Hialeah, Florida. I was in the area on business, free during the day but working during the night. The library was in a large city park where I'd hoped to attend a rally with Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush that I'd read about online, but I had misread the date. (I think it had been two days before.)

When I arrived and pulled into the parking lot, I found two teams of electioneers, one Democrat and one Republican, handling out pamphlets and ballot cards. An older couple with the Democrat group stopped the car in front of me to chat with the driver and give her some literature. Another Democrat electioneer waved me around the blockade.

Once parked, I walked toward the library and heard an older man calling out to me. He was with a group of a half-dozen volunteers -- both young and old -- holding signs for Republican candidates. He handed me a card for Gov. Scott, a card for the GOP county assessor candidate, and a card listing all the GOP candidates in Miami-Dade County. All three cards were in English on on side and Spanish on the other. The man said to me, "Please vote for Gov. Scott. It's important!" I gave him a thumbs-up and walked on.

This must have been a key precinct, because near the entrance was a reporter in a suit holding a microphone and talking to a camera, occasionally interviewing voters.

Inside the library, I had a view through interior picture windows to the polling station set up in the library's meeting room. I pondered the possibility of pulling a reverse Kathy Taylor -- voting in-person in Florida and absentee in Oklahoma -- but I could see that I'd be thwarted by Florida's racist voter suppression laws. Florida does not have election day registration, and with photo ID required, I couldn't very well pretend to be someone else.

I was pleased to see that Florida, like Oklahoma, uses scanned paper ballots. Voters are given a big green folder to carry their ballots privately from the voting carrels to the ballot box scanners. I watched as several waves of voters came and went. Election workers walked the floor, directing incoming voters to the sign-in desk and helping voters with finished ballots feed them into the machines.

That evening I spent an hour after the polls closed at the Miami-Dade Republican watch party at a Cuban restaurant on the western edge of the city. We ate fried plantain chips, carnitas, empanadas, and tequeños while cheering the results. The crowd of about 60 -- but this only one of many GOP watch parties around Miami, I learned -- were especially pleased that the local Democrat congressman, Joe Garcia, had conceded defeat to Republican school baord member Carlos Curbelos. We all held our breath as Gov. Scott maintained his narrow lead over the oompa-loompa-colored flip-flopping former governor, Charlie Crist.

More analysis will have to wait, but here are a few post-mortems worth your time:

The New York Post's Michael Goodwin called for a repudiation of Obamaism ("a quasi-socialist commitment to a more powerful government at home and an abdication of American leadership around the world") and the voters delivered.

Via Ace, a good Washington Post story on how the GOP national apparatus upped their game to win the Senate this year.

The finger-pointing begins: Chris "Tingle Up My Leg" Matthews says Obama lost the midterms because he's surrounded by yes-men.

Pro-immigration-law-enforcement Democrat Mickey Kaus notes that Democrat supporters of amnesty lost their seats.

Philip Klein notes that almost half of the Democrat Senators who voted for Obamacare are gone -- four more lost on Tuesday and one more is likely to lose in December.

MORE:

Some Republicans are saying that, since this was Pres. Obama's attitude toward Republicans in 2009, this should be our newly elected Republicans' attitude toward the Democrats:

(For the record, I liked the Depp version better than the Wilder version and this scene is one of the reasons why, but it works for the current purpose.)


BatesLine_ballot_card_2014_thumbnail.pngHere are the candidates I'm recommending and voting for (when I can) in the Oklahoma general election on November 4, 2014. Links lead to more detailed information or earlier blog entries. (This entry may change as I decide to add more detail or discuss additional races between now and election day. The entry is post-dated to keep it at the top.)

For your convenience, here's a printable one-page "cheat sheet" version to take along to the polls and pass along to friends, but please read the detail and click the links below.

U. S. Senate: James Lankford (R) (unexpired term) and Jim Inhofe (R) (full term). Both are good men and solid conservatives. If you want a Republican majority in the Senate, we have to do our part in Oklahoma and elect Republicans to the two seats on our ballot.

U. S. House: Vote Republican (R). Jim Bridenstine won re-election without opposition. We need to keep all five of Oklahoma's districts in the GOP column. Steve Russell, running for Lankford's 5th District seat, will be a principled, courageous conservative addition to Congress.

Governor: Mary Fallin (R). While Fallin has failed to lead vigorously during this conservative Republican moment in Oklahoma politics, she has signed the good bills that the legislature sent her (even if reluctantly). Her Democratic opponent is conservative on a couple of important issues but is likely to fill his cabinet, state boards and commissions, and the state bench with Democratic allies who aren't as conservative.

Lt. Governor: Todd Lamb (R). Charlie Meadows of OCPAC calls him "the best Lt. Governor we have ever had." Lamb is focused on making Oklahoma a better state to start and build businesses.

State Superintendent: Joy Hofmeister. Although I have my reservations about Hofmeister, her Democrat opponent wants to take education in the wrong direction -- more administrators (fewer would be better), more state funding (more local funding and parental choice would be better), and social promotion. State Sen. Rick Brinkley writes:

I believe her experience on the State School Board and as a classroom teacher prepares her for this position. I am most impressed that she served on the State Board, didn't like the way she saw education headed in Oklahoma, resigned, took on the incumbent and won. She risked a lot for what she believes in and that I greatly respect. I've met John Cox. He seems very nice. I just can't see a person who manages 16 teachers having the experience to run the [State Department of Education.

Labor Commissioner: Mark Costello (R). The incumbent has been working closely with business owners and workers to make the Oklahoma workplace a safer place. Restore Oklahoma Public Education leader Jenni White writes of Costello, "Mark is one of a very few conservatives I have ever met that just intuitively understands the ideals of conservatism."

State legislature: In general (with one important exception -- House 12) I encourage you to vote for the Republican. Here are some races that deserve special mention.

Senate District 6: Josh Brecheen (R). Representing southeast Oklahoma, Brecheen was a champion in the battle to repeal Common Core. The State Chamber wants him gone because he's not a corporate-welfare fan. He voted the wrong way on National Popular Vote, but publicly recanted his vote and called on the House to block it.

Senate District 18: Kim David (R). One of the sensible senators who opposed National Popular Vote.

House District 12: One of the few exceptions to the general rule to vote for Republicans. The GOP nominee in this race supports National Popular Vote and, if elected, could do more harm to the conservative cause nationally than the term-limited Democrat he wants to replace. I encourage my Republican friends to leave the ballot blank in this race.

House District 14: George Faught (R). Faught left the House two years ago to run for Congress, but, sadly, he didn't win the nomination. It will be good to have this principled, intelligent conservative back in the State House.

House District 76: David Brumbaugh (R). Incumbent Rep. Brumbaugh has been a consistent conservative voice for Broken Arrow. He deserves particular praise for putting forward a bill to to require counties to include all funds in their annual budgets. Brumbaugh was one of eight legislators to receive a 100% on the Oklahoma Constitution's annual conservative index.

House District 87: Jason Nelson (R). The leader in the State House in the fight to repeal Common Core.

District Judge:

Here are some general thoughts on district judge races and how the process works. Here's a podcast of my KFAQ conversation on judicial races with Pat Campbell, Eddie Huff, and Charlie Biggs.

District 10 District Judge, Office 1 (Osage County): John Kane. A good man and a well-respected judge, facing an opponent with a problematic personal history.

District 14 District Judge, Office 1 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties): Incumbent William Kellough is praised for his temperament and damned for his habit of reducing sentences in heinous crimes. His opponent, Caroline Wall, was ousted in 2006 over similar charges of excessive leniency and concerns about temperament and work ethic. Kellough has a massive financial advantage in the race.

District 14 District Judge, Office 2 (Tulsa County judicial election district 3): Sharon Holmes. Incumbent Jesse Harris did not seek re-election. Holmes is described as a hardworking attorney, effective in the courtroom, and a woman of integrity.

District 14 District Judge, Office 8 (Tulsa County judicial election district 5): Doug Drummond. Drummond, a prosecutor, has amassed broad and substantial support, particularly from conservatives in the legal community, in his race to unseat incumbent Mark Barcus, although the local establishment is still backing Barcus.

District 14 District Judge, Office 10 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties): Eric Quandt. Quandt, a well-regarded workers compensation judge, has also developed strong support against incumbent Mary Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has been criticized for frequent reversals. Fitzgerald is described as being "part of the problem at the county courthouse" and a source of frustrations for those dealing with family and domestic cases. Quandt is praised for even-handedness; even attorneys with whom Quandt has had personal differences say that he treated them fairly in his courtroom. The local establishment is backing Fitzgerald. (On a personal note, when I questioned Quandt's candidacy based on a campaign consultant's support for National Popular Vote, Quandt contacted me in a very gracious way, and we had a good conversation. Quandt thinks National Popular Vote is a ridiculous idea, a bad solution for a non-existent problem.)

District 14 District Judge, Office 14 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties): Kurt Glassco. Despite his background as a Democratic candidate for Congress many years ago, Judge Glassco is well-regarded by conservative Republican attorneys as a fair and skillful arbiter. John Eagleton writes: "Judge Glassco has my respect. I have appeared in his court and observed him handling hundreds of cases. He is a great judge. He follows the law without injecting personalities into the outcome. We need more judges like him." His challenger evidently feels comfortable with the redefinition of terms in the law and the overriding of popular will, not a desirable attribute in a judge.

Supreme Court and Appellate Courts:

These judges don't run against each other, but on an up-or-down retention ballot every six years. The three supremes all deserve to be voted out, as does Civil Appeals Court judge Jane Wiseman. Conservatives are supporting retention of Brian Goree on the Court of Civil Appeals and Gary Lumpkin on the Court of Criminal Appeals. So vote YES on Goree and Lumpkin, NO on everyone else.

State Questions:

On the back of your ballot, all three questions will support those currently serving in the military or those who have served, and all three deserve your YES vote.

Tulsa City Council:

All Tulsa City Council seats and the City Auditor position were up for election this year, but some were unopposed, and other races were settled in the primary. Only Districts 3, 6, 7, and 9 have general elections, and they'll be on a separate ballot from the rest of the races.

As predicted, city issues have been completely overshadowed by other races on the ballot and national and state issues. We were better off when city elections were held in the fall of odd-numbered years. My general rule is to find out which candidate is funded by the Money Belt and to vote the other way.

Tulsa City Council District 3: Virgil Wallace. Having graduated to the choir invisible, Roscoe Turner won't be on the ballot this year, but some of Turner's stalwart supporters have told me they're backing Wallace. The incumbent, David Patrick, is backed by the usual big money crowd, including developers who want to drive all other voices out of the zoning and land use planning process.

Tulsa City Council District 6: I'm not a fan of Skip Steele, who was the establishment-backed candidate used to get rid of reformer Jim Mautino. Connie Dodson, Steele's opponent, has run as a Democrat for State House. Her campaign appears to be funded primarily with her own funds, but she has a $5,000 contribution from Santiago Barraza, the president of ISTI Plant Services, a Tulsa Port of Catoosa-based manufacturer with offices in District 6 on 21st Street west of Lynn Lane Rd. Apparently, Barraza either really likes Dodson, or Steele did something that really hacked him off. Other donors include Democratic super-donor George Krumme, Sharon King Davis, Patty Eaton, and Mariscos El Centenario. (What an unusual first name!)

Tulsa City Council District 7: Arianna Moore. Republican incumbent Moore's leading challenger is liberal Democrat Anna America, Kathy Taylor's campaign manager. America had been a school board member but then resigned when she moved out of the district. Kathy Taylor, Taylor's husband Bill Lobeck, other members of the Lobeck/Taylor family, and other members of their political orbit are major donors to America's campaign.

I've been accused of being motivated by mere partisanship in picking Mrs. Moore over Ms. America, and there's some irony in that accusation. When I ran for City Council in 2002, I was endorsed by just about every neighborhood association leader in District 4, most of whom were Democrats. Anna America, then head of the White City neighborhood association, was one of the few exceptions. She supported Democrat Tom Baker, who was backed by the Chamber and the developer groups and who had demonstrated hostility to neighborhood concerns. (When Renaissance Neighborhood successfully fought the location of a new fire station in the middle of their neighborhood, Baker referred to them on the Fire Department's public-access TV show as CAVE people -- Citizens Against Virtually Everything.)

I always assumed America endorsed Baker because he was the Democratic nominee, and she was being a good party soldier, but maybe it was because she didn't want someone on Council who would work for neighborhood empowerment in zoning and historic preservation.

Tulsa City Council District 9: G. T. Bynum is no conservative, and he seems to be laying the groundwork for another tax increase proposal for river projects. His opponent, Paul Tay, has some interesting ideas on urban planning and transportation, but his personal conduct distracts from those ideas and makes him impossible to endorse.

MORE: The ladies who led the fight to repeal Common Core in Oklahoma have posted their personal endorsements. And they reposted this guide to the judicial retention ballot by Sharon Annesley of the Oklahoma Liberty Tea Party.

The Oklahomans for Life 2014 primary candidate questionnaire is online. There are separate sets of questions for state and federal candidates, and you can read the full text of the questions to which the candidates are responding.

OCPAC head Charlie Meadows has posted his personal picks.

Muskogee Politico Jamison Faught has posted his picks.

Here are the Tulsa Beacon's endorsements.

Earlier this year, I heard a Republican activist talking excitedly about the possibility that the Democrats might have only an also-ran as nominee for governor or perhaps no nominee at all. If the Democratic nominee failed to reach 20% of the vote, the party would be decertified and lose its automatic place on the ballot. It was never a likely scenario, but it illustrates the overconfidence Republicans had at the beginning of 2014.

During the 2014 legislative session, many conservative Republican voters became disenchanted with Gov. Mary Fallin. As I wrote before the June primary: "While Gov. Mary Fallin eventually did the right thing on Obamacare exchanges and Common Core, her dithering on these clear-cut issues makes me worry about her decision-making in a lame-duck term. Fallin failed to establish a good working relationship with her own party's legislative leadership, culminating in her veto snit-fit, in which she killed several good bills, including some she'd requested, to make some sort of point." Her inability to advance the conservative agenda assertively in an ideal political environment speaks poorly of her leadership abilities.

Back in June, many conservatives voted for Dax Ewbank to express their disappointment with Fallin's leadership.

Now Ewbank himself and many of his supporters have come out in support of the Democratic nominee, State Rep. Joe Dorman. Because Dorman has a pro-life and pro-gun-rights voting record, some of the usual obstacles to conservatives voting for the Democratic nominee aren't there.

Republican Sen. Patrick Anderson from Enid is backing Dorman, but that seems to be grounded in a local issue, Fallin's decision to close the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid, a state institution for the developmentally disabled. Anderson says Fallin froze him out of discussions over the future of that facility:

"Joe and I don't agree on all issues, but I think he'd make a fine governor and he's definitely someone who has always, and who will always be willing to talk about whatever the issues are that are important to our community in northwest Oklahoma," Anderson said. "Unfortunately, Gov. Fallin hasn't been willing to do that."

But is Dorman as conservative as some of his supporters claim? Oklahoma Constitution editor Steve Byas reports that Dorman's votes in the legislature have earned him only a 39% lifetime rating in the Constitution's conservative index, and only a 31% rating in the most recent session. That may be an impressive rating for a Democrat, but it still means far more bad votes than good votes.

Byas also calls attention to the governor's power to appoint judges and board and commission members and to fill Senate vacancies:

As a Democrat, Governor Joe Dorman will fill state government with a whole lot of Democrats. Expecting these Democrats to be conservatives is laughable. I guess you can find a four-leaf clover every now and then, too. Regardless of what many people argue to the contrary, there are many Republicans who are worth appointing to state offices. No, I do not expect Governor Mary Fallin to appoint multitudes of conservatives, but I can guarantee you that she will appoint a whole lot more than Dorman, simply because she will appoint more Republicans than Dorman will appoint.

Then, we have the state judicial appointments. If Dorman were to pull the big upset, expect liberal Democrats to take the place of retiring state judges at the appellate court level. While these judges face the voters in retention votes every six years, no appellate judges have ever been denied the additional six years by the voters. Dorman's judges, drawn from the ranks of an increasingly left-wing Democrat Party, will issue liberal decisions for years past the time Dorman is back home in Rush Springs, eating watermelon at the annual festival.

Let's say there is an unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate. Do you think Governor Dorman will appoint anyone better than Jim Inhofe to fill that vacancy until the election? Get real. And, guess who will be the candidate of the [Democrat] Party for the U.S. Senate should the great Jim Inhofe have to step down from the Senate? I suspect it will be Joe Dorman. If you cause the election of Dorman for governor, you just might be picking Inhofe's replacement as well.

In September, Oklahoma GOP chairman Dave Weston pointed to Dorman's ambiguous answers in an interview in The Gayly -- a paper that describes itself as "keeping the FABULOUS south-central United States informed on current news and events affecting Lesbians, Homosexuals, Bi-sexuals & Transgenders":

Dorman criticized Gov. Mary Fallin for her moral stance on traditional marriage stating, "When you have a standard set in place, especially like that handed down from the federal government, you have to apply that [marriage rights] equally."

He appeared to apologize to The Gayly staff for his vote in support of a House resolution to reaffirm Oklahoma's support of traditional marriage. When asked how he could "support equality" while also voting to uphold traditional marriage Dorman said:

"Different situations. I serve House District 65 and I try to serve my constituents to the best of my ability... They have, I think, a different point of view when it comes to policies like that."

The Gayly adds: "Dorman said he voted the way he felt his district wanted him to vote."

Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Dave Weston pressed Dorman to tell the people of Oklahoma whether he supports redefining marriage and why.

"It sounds like Joe Dorman meets with voters in Rush Springs and tells them he's a conservative Democrat who opposes reclassifying marriage," said Weston. "Then he tells The Gayly staff in Oklahoma City that's not really what he thinks and proceeds to criticize Governor Fallin for holding the same position that he previously told his constituents he believes."

Weston pointed out other examples where, seemingly under the mere pressure of an interview, Dorman appeared to apologize for and back away from his conservative votes on social issues.

Joe Dorman also has a problem on fiscal issues. Dorman wants to lead Oklahoma into the financial trap known as Medicaid expansion. The state gets a short-term burst of Federal funds, but the price is making more Oklahomans dependent on government-funded healthcare (many of them young and able-bodied), and massive state budget obligations in the out-years, after federal subsidies dry up, obligations that will squeeze out funding for roads and education, among other state priorities. Medicaid expansion increases eligibility, but doesn't improve access, hurting the very people that the program was originally intended to help.

The best a conservative can say about Joe Dorman is that he may be as conservative as Mary Fallin on a couple of issues, but he is well to her left on other important issues, and his party affiliation and ambitions for higher office will pull him further to the left should he be elected. (There is a long list of Democrats who once claimed to be pro-but who abandoned that stance when they began to hanker for the presidency -- Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson to name just a few.)

Byas says he does not "expect Governor Fallin to lead us to the conservative promised land, but she will probably sign good bills, if the Republican-dominated Legislature passes them. Sure, she waited to the last minute to sign the repeal of Common Core, but she did sign it." Byas says Fallin has the highest conservative rating of any of the six governors who have served since his paper's founding in 1979. While that rating is only 63%, that's far better than Dorman's lifetime 39% rating.

Finally, regarding National Popular Vote: On Thursday, I asked Gov. Fallin's spokesman, Alex Weintz, "Would she be willing to say that she would veto any form of a National Popular Vote proposal that reaches her desk?" He stated by return email, "The position we have previously taken is, 'Governor Fallin is opposed to the National Popular Vote.'" (I would have preferred a more strongly worded stance that fully closes the door on the idea.) Still, the Dorman campaign has not stated a position, but I would expect him to support it, given the unanimous support last session's bill had from Senate Democrats. Pressure from the national GOP against NPV (the RNC voted unanimously to condemn the idea) ought to keep Fallin on the right side of that issue, even if it does reach her desk. While the presidency or vice presidency is out of reach, she may reasonably have hopes of a federal appointment under a Republican president as her time as governor ends. Pressure from national Democrats would pull Dorman toward signing the bill.

While Republicans can safely sacrifice one house seat out of 101 to keep the backer of a dangerous scheme out of the House GOP caucus, we cannot safely sacrifice a position with the power of appointment and the ability to sign or veto legislation.

The other two candidates are not even a blip on the pollsters' radar. Either Mary Fallin or Joe Dorman will be elected governor on Tuesday. Mary Fallin is clearly the more conservative of the two, and I hope you'll join me in voting for her re-election.

House District 12 consists of most of Wagoner County, the part that is not in the Tulsa/Broken Arrow conurbation. The district lies mainly east of 257th East Ave (Midway Road) and south of 51st Street. The incumbent is Wade Rousselot, a Democrat finishing his fifth term, currently serving as the assistant floor leader of that party's dwindling minority in the State House.

The lone Republican to file against him is David Tackett, a Republican political operative with a mixed reputation among the conservatives who have dealt with him.

Multiple reliable sources have informed me that Tackett has been working with National Popular Vote lobbyists to give them opportunities to hoodwink grassroots Republicans into supporting legislation that would pledge Oklahoma's electoral votes to a far-left candidate who won the national popular vote, even if Oklahomans voted overwhelmingly for the conservative candidate.

rino-768px.pngI sent Tackett a message via Facebook on Tuesday: "David, I have been told that you have been assisting representatives and supporters of National Popular Vote to connect with grassroots conservatives here in Oklahoma. I'd like to know if there's any element of truth to that. What involvement have you had with NPV-related organizations? As a state representative, will you work to advance or to obstruct Oklahoma's entry into the National Popular Vote Compact? Thank you."

Facebook says that Tackett has seen my question, but Tackett has not replied. His non-response tells me that an honest answer is one that I wouldn't like.

(UPDATE: Charlie Meadows confirms Tackett's support for NPV and says that Tackett almost lost the OCPAC endorsement because of it.)

I won't repeat the full critique of NPV here (my first entry on NPV links to several critical articles), but here in a nutshell is why the Left wants it so badly. With NPV, the battle for the presidency will be fought in the populous media markets on the coasts, and Middle America will be ignored. Under the current system, state boundaries form a firewall against voter fraud, so that the Chicago cemetery vote only runs up the score in Illinois, but doesn't affect the result in any other state, but under NPV, fraudulent votes in Illinois would effectively cancel legitimate votes in Oklahoma.

The campaign for NPV is funded by the Left, but they have found a few individuals on the right to carry water for them. They seem to find former legislators who were genuinely conservative while in office, but who made some bad decisions in their personal lives that may also have hurt them financially and politically. Google the person's name and you learn that he or she was once a conservative warrior, and that's enough to persuade a grassroots conservative in Oklahoma to give the person a hearing. But search on the name plus the word "scandal" or "affair" and you understand why he or she didn't rise to higher office and are alerted that his or her political integrity might be as compromised as his or her personal life. NPV can offer these people a paycheck and a taste of the relevance they once enjoyed in exchange for the rental of their conservative credibility.

NPV lobbyists have been offering legislators electoral college "educational seminars" in desirable locations, like Las Vegas, Miami, St. Croix, and Scottsdale, Arizona. I have been told that certain legislators recently sent emails to colleagues, inviting them to an "educational seminar" in New York City, December 15-17, 2014, with "scholarships" to cover air fare and hotel paid by FairVote, a pro-NPV organization.

After the Oklahoma State Senate passed the NPV Compact bill (SB 906) with the support of 12 Republicans, grassroots conservatives mobilized to stop it, and some of the senators who voted for it recanted their support. Now NPV lobbyists, aided and abetted by consultants like David Tackett and Darren Gantz, are trying to bamboozle conservative activists to reduce resistance when the bill is run again.

I say bamboozle because my conversations with recovered NPV supporters remind me of conversations I've had with people who have escaped cults. NPV seems to have hit upon arguments that resonate emotionally with conservatives, so that the listener not only shuts off his own B. S. detector, but he shuts out perspectives from trusted voices before deciding to convert. Solidly conservative state senators like Josh Brecheen and Gary Stanislawski fell into NPV's trap. It took a massive outcry from grassroots conservatives to wake them up from their lobbyist-induced trance.

Look, I'm all for free and open debate, and I believe the truth will prevail, but I'm still not going to encourage my friends to meet with missionaries from the Church of Sighnutology "just to give their ideas a fair hearing."

Conservatives differ on many issues, but this is a matter of strategic importance, not a minor issue on which reasonable conservatives might differ. Oklahoma is the key battleground in a battle to control our nation into the distant future. Oklahoma would be the first conservative state to adopt the NPV compact. If Oklahoma says yes, it will set a precedent that will lower the resistance to the idea in other conservative states, and NPV supporters will be well on their way to victory.

I don't know whether Tackett's support of NPV is borne of venality or naïveté. Either way, he doesn't belong anywhere near the levers of power. His defeat will send the signal that supporting NPV is a career-ending move, and it will keep an NPV supporter out of a position of power.

Rep. Rousselot, the incumbent Democrat, will be term-limited in 2016. If Rousselot wins a final term, the 2016 election will be an open seat, and I would expect a robust contest for the Republican nomination. (Wagoner County Clerk Lori Hendricks, who has been a Paul Revere on the NPV issue, would make a great state rep.) If Tackett wins, an open NPV supporter will have a seat in the majority caucus and the incumbent's advantage for re-election in 2016. I don't know much about Rousselot's politics, but as a member of a tiny legislative minority, he can't do much damage, certainly not as much as Tackett can as a supporter of NPV in the majority caucus.

The current partisan balance in the State House is 72 Republicans to 29 Democrats. By my count of uncontested seats in the 2014 list of candidates, Republicans are guaranteed 46 seats in the new legislature to the Democrats' guaranteed 19. Only a handful of the contested seats are truly competitive, and the partisan composition of the new state house won't be much different from the old.

Conservatives don't need to pad the massive Republican majority with someone who is working, wittingly or unwittingly, for the strategic defeat of conservatism at the national level. I encourage my Republican friends in House District 12 to leave that ballot item blank.

Three justices of the State Supreme Court (Reif, Colbert, Watt), one justice of the Court of Criminal Appeals (Lumpkin), and five justices of the Court of Civil Appeals (Goodman, Wiseman, Barnes, Rapp, Goree) will be on Tuesday's ballot.

Oklahoma has a two-path appellate system: Criminal cases are appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which has the final word. Civil cases are appealed to the State Supreme Court, which may and usually does assign cases to the Court of Civil Appeals. Since 1967, judges in the appellate system have been appointed by the governor from choices presented by a panel dominated by a private club, the Oklahoma Bar Association. A newly appointed justice or appellate judge faces a retention ballot at the next general election and, if retained, every six years thereafter. Voters do not choose between candidates for these offices; each judge or justice faces a YES or NO vote. If the NO votes outnumber the YES votes, that judge is removed from office, creating a vacancy which is filled by the usual process.

I plan to vote YES on only one judicial retention: Court of Civil Appeals Judge Brian Goree, appointed by Gov. Fallin. Conservative blogger and attorney Don Danz wrote a tribute to Judge Goree at his swearing-in:

A former coworker, shooting buddy and good friend was sworn in as a judge today at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In August, Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Brian Goree to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. Everyone who knows Brian would attest to the fact that he is the most honest, ethical, moral and hard working person we know. He will be an outstanding and absolutely unbiased addition to the Oklahoma judiciary.

I urge every Oklahoman to vote NO on Court of Civil Appeals Judge Jane Wiseman. As a district judge in 2003, Wiseman demonstrated partiality toward the rich and powerful by approving the unconstitutional logrolling in the Vision 2025 ballot. Her 2003 decision ignored her own reasoning eight years earlier when she rightly discarded a sales tax proposal for the new county jail because it included funds for early intervention programs on the same ballot item as funds for the jail's construction and operation.

Earlier this month, we saw Judge Wiseman officiate over the first "legal" "same-sex wedding" in Oklahoma, showing her solidarity not with the people who voted overwhelmingly to uphold the only definition of marriage that makes sense, but instead with the leftist fascists who seek to impose their morality on every state. Wiseman demonstrated her support for judges legislating from the bench, for seeing the voters of Oklahoma as subjects to be subdued, not a sovereign, self-governing people.

There have been too many examples of judicial overreach and incoherence from Oklahoma's appellate courts.

In July, a majority of the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld State Rep. Sydney Fred Jordan's eligibility to be elected District Attorney. Their one-paragraph decision failed to address the legal questions raised by the briefs filed on behalf of Jordan and his opponent Steve Kunzweiler. The heart of the matter was when a state representative's term ends and when a district attorney is considered elected. The majority decision didn't speak to the language of the constitutional provision, Article V, Section 23, at question, or address the claim that Gragg v. Dudley applied to the District Attorney's office. Only Justice Taylor, in his dissent, wrestled with the substantive matters of interpretation raised by the case. The five justices who concurred in the seemingly tossed-off decision -- Kauger, Watt (up for retention), Winchester, Edmondson, and Gurich -- should be deeply embarrassed. Reif, who is on this year's retention ballot, recused himself. Colbert and Combs did not participate. On the strength of this decision alone, I will vote NO on Watt.

State Rep. David Derby reports that the Supreme Court's chief justice, Tom Colbert, came to the state capital to lobby against Derby's proposed reforms to the state's DUI laws. Derby was trying to move DUI charges into District Court so that they would be handled in a court of record, rather than municipal court. He cited one example where a driver had around two dozen DUIs, but because they were handled in municipal court, they failed to trigger a driver's license suspension. According to Derby, Colbert personally lobbied against the bill, which failed to advance.

A series of decisions earlier this year clinch the case against the three justices on the ballot. A split Supreme Court voted 5-4 to issue a stay of execution for brutal murderers Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner over disclosure of the drugs to be used in their lethal injection executions, despite our state constitution giving final jurisdiction over such issues to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The three justices up for retention this year -- Colbert, Reif, Watt -- were in the narrow majority along with Kauger and Combs. Taylor, Edmondson, Winchester, and Gurich dissented. In each of six decisions in the case, Taylor chided his colleagues, describing the majority as "crossing the Rubicon" and putting the Supreme Court in a matter where it has no constitutional authority, and thereby producing a "quagmire."

Of the substance of the murderers' appeal, Taylor wrote:

It is my view that from the very beginning this so called "civil" litigation has been frivolous and a complete waste of time and resources of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs have no more right to the information they requested than if they were being executed in the electric chair, they would have no right to know whether OG&E or PSO were providing the electricity; if they were being hanged, they would have no right to know whether it be by cotton or nylon rope; or if they were being executed by firing squad, they would have no right to know whether it be by Winchester or Remington ammunition. I hope that this case ends any thought of future journeys down this path that has led this Court to this day. It is also my hope that this Court never again crosses the Rubicon.

If voters get rid of the three justices on the wrong side of this issue, perhaps we can get a few more justices like Steven Taylor. (Taylor is next up for retention in 2016. It should be noted, however, that Taylor was on the wrong side of the TABOR petition, voting to toss it out without a hearing.)

Oklahomans for Life has called for reform of the judicial selection process because our own courts have thwarted legislative and initiative efforts to pass pro-life legislation. Effectively, these judges have blocked Oklahomans from advancing a law that might provide the occasion for the Federal Courts to reconsider and possibly reverse Roe v. Wade.

When in doubt, vote them out. A Fallin appointment is likelier to be committed to judicial restraint than holdover appointees of Democratic governors Brad Henry and David Walters. The removal of an appellate judge by the voters would also send a message to other justices that voters are paying attention to their decisions.

A few hundred years ago, Voltaire commented on the execution of a British admiral, executed on the deck of his own ship for a failure to do his utmost. "Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres." ("In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time so to encourage the others.")

In Oklahoma, it is wise to fire an appellate judge from time to time so as to "encourage the others" to do justice and respect the will of the people they are sworn to serve.

Three questions will be on every ballot in Oklahoma next Tuesday. Two have to do with property taxes; one has to do with whether state officials may also serve in the National Guard and Reserves. None of these questions are controversial, but because they involve amendments to the State Constitution, they must be put to the voters for approval. The Oklahoma Secretary of State is the official keeper of information state questions; links below will take you to the Secretary of State's site.

This year's state questions are all legislative referenda. Initiative petitions relating to school storm shelters, marijuana, and fees for connection to the electric utility grid were filed, but petition signatures were filed only for SQ 768, the medical marijuana petition. 155,216 signatures were required (15% of the highest number of votes cast for any office in the previous Oklahoma general election, in 2010), but only 75,384 were submitted and certified.

State Rep. Jason Murphey says that this is the "easiest year to write about these questions because there are only three on the ballot, and they are not controversial." He supported all three proposals.

SQ 769 went through the legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 33, passing the House 82-5 and the Senate 44-0. If SQ 769 is approved, the underlined text will be added to Article II, Section 12 of the Oklahoma Constitution:

Section 12. No member of Congress from this State, or person holding any office of trust or profit under the laws of any other State, or of the United States, shall hold any office of trust or profit under the laws of this State; provided, neither the provisions of this section nor any other provision of this Constitution or state law shall be construed to prohibit the following officeholders from holding at the same time any other office of trust or profit:

1. Officers and enlisted members of the National Guard;

2. Officers and enlisted members of the National Guard Reserve;

3. Officers of the Officers Reserve Corps of the United States;

4. Enlisted members of the Organized Reserves of the United States; and

5. Officers and enlisted members of the Oklahoma State Guard and any other active militia or military force organized under state law.

The Legislature shall have the power to enact laws to further implement the provisions of this section.

The intent is to eliminate any question as to whether guard and reserve troops may also serve in public office in Oklahoma.

SQ 770 went through the legislature as HB2621, passing both houses unanimously. If SQ 770 is approved, a new paragraph will be added to Article X, Section 8E, which provides a full homestead exemption for service-disabled veterans and their surviving spouses:

C. If a homestead otherwise eligible for the exemption authorized by this section is transferred on or after January 1 of a calendar year, another homestead property acquired by the qualifying head of household or by the surviving spouse of such qualifying head of household shall be exempt to the same extent as the homestead property previously owned by such person or persons for the year during which the new homestead is acquired and, subject to the requirements of this section, for each year thereafter.

Rep. Murphey writes:

Oklahoma's Constitution currently allows disabled veterans to receive an exemption from most property taxes. State Question 770 allows disabled veterans to sell their home and transfer the exemption to their new home during the same calendar year with no drop off in the exemption.

SQ 771 went through the legislature in the same bill, HB2621. It adds Section 8F to Article X, providing the same sort of homestead exemption to the surviving spouses of troops killed in the line of duty:

Section 8F. A. Despite any provision to the contrary, and except as otherwise provided by subsection D of this section, beginning January 1, 2015, the surviving spouse of the head of household who is determined by the United States Department of Defense or any branch of the United States military to have died while in the line of duty shall be entitled to claim an exemption for the full amount of the fair cash value of the homestead until such surviving spouse remarries.

B. In order to be eligible for the exemption authorized by this section, the surviving spouse shall be required to prove residency within the State of Oklahoma and must have previously qualified for the homestead exemption authorized by law or be eligible for the homestead exemption pursuant to law.

C. If a homestead otherwise eligible for the exemption authorized by this section is transferred on or after January 1 of a calendar year, another homestead property acquired by the surviving spouse shall be exempt to the same extent as the homestead property previously owned by such person for the year during which the new homestead is acquired and, subject to the requirements of this section, for each year thereafter.

D. The provisions of this section shall be applicable for the 2014 calendar year with respect to an existing homestead property owned by the surviving spouse of a person previously determined to have died while in the line of duty by the United States Department of Defense or applicable branch of the United States military.

I will vote FOR all three state questions.

Judges are supposed to apply the laws passed by our elected representatives in the legislature. Applying the law faithfully requires faithfully interpreting the words of the law as they are commonly understood. A judicial candidate who uses words in accordance with her own idiosyncratic decisions in an obvious attempt to mislead should be blocked from the bench by voters at the ballot box.

District Judge Kurt Glassco faces a challenge in his bid for re-election to District 14, Office 14, from Jill Webb.

In her campaign materials, Webb described herself as "happily married to a minister." That invokes a certain image based on a common understanding of the meaning of words. The vast majority of Oklahomans stand with civilized societies around the world and throughout history in understanding that marriage, rooted as it is in the realities of human begetting and the best interests of those begotten, necessarily involves one man and one woman, united for a lifetime.

Jill Webb means something different by those words. The minister to whom Webb claims to be married is Tamara Lebak, associate minister of All Souls Unitarian Church. Oklahoma law and civilized tradition doesn't recognize that as a valid marriage, notwithstanding the Leftist Fascist effort to impose its destructive redefinition of marriage through the courts. Someone who redefines words and uses them deceptively cannot be trusted to handle justly the words of the Constitution and statutes of Oklahoma. Additionally, a candidate who supports redefining marriage and is "married" to a Unitarian minister can be presumed to stand with Leftist Fascism and in opposition to civilization in the great ideological struggle over American institutions.

Kurt Glassco, the incumbent, has a reputation as a solid, reliable jurist. Although he was a Democratic candidate for Congress many years ago, the conservative attorneys I know unanimously describe him as trustworthy and fair. Certainly Glassco's re-election would be better than the election of a candidate evidently at ease with verbal deception.

SX009198-John_Kane-Mock_Court-20140426.jpg

We'll start our review of judicial races with an easy one, albeit one that is just outside Tulsa County, although it covers portions of the cities of Tulsa, Skiatook, and Sand Springs.

Judicial District 10 consists of Osage County, and it has exactly one district judge. Like all 77 counties, Osage County also has its own associate district judge. (District Attorney District 10 includes both Osage and Pawnee Counties. Why Pawnee County was attached to Tulsa County for judicial purposes is a mystery.)

The incumbent is John Kane. An Osage County native and graduate of Pawhuska High School, Kane was appointed to the post in 2005. Kane drew no opposition for re-election in 2006 or 2010, but this year, he is opposed by Skiatook attorney Philip Best.

Judge Kane is well-regarded by his judicial peers, by local law enforcement, and the legal community. In 2013-2014, Kane was president of the Oklahoma Judicial Conference, the statewide association of judges. He is presiding judge-elect of the Northeastern Judicial Administrative District, again elected by his peers in the region. Kane also serves as the Trial Court Chairman of the Oklahoma Supreme Court's e-court subcommittee. Kane has been endorsed by the Osage County Bar Association, the police chiefs of Pawhuska, Fairfax, Barnsdall, Hominy, Wynona, and Skiatook, the sheriff of Osage County, the principal chief of the Osage Nation, and the current and former district attorneys for the county. During his nine-plus years on the bench, he has presided as a judge in over 9,000 cases.

Our family has known the Kane family for seven years through our homeschooling community. Judge Kane's wife, Cyndi Kane, launched a Classical Conversations community in Tulsa in 2007. The Classical Conversations approach to homeschooling seeks "to know God and to make Him known," and to support homeschooling parents "by cultivating the love of learning through a Christian worldview in fellowship with other families."

More recently, we watched Judge Kane in action, presiding over mock trials involving eighth-grade students from several CC communities. For several years, he has opened the Osage County courthouse to student mock trials, as a way to introduce young people to the law and give them an understanding and respect for the process. Judge Kane's good humor, fairness, and insight were on display throughout the process.

The challenger, Philip Best, has a problematic past readily visible through a search of online court cases. Here's how the Bigheart Times, based in Barnsdall, summarized Best's past, in an October 16, 2014, story (links added):

According to court documents, Best was arrested at his Skiatook home for misdemeanor domestic abuse in December 1999. The case was eventually dismissed at the victim's request after he completed anger management courses.

Additionally, in 2004, his now ex-wife, Lori Duncan, took out a protective order in Tulsa County on behalf of the couple's underage daughter.

When asked about his record, Best chalked it up to his health and his marriages at the time and emphasized his ability to remain fair and impartial on the bench if elected.

There are long gaps in the list of cases in which Best shows up as attorney of record.

The contrast is clear. John Kane, an accomplished judge with a solid personal life and grounded in a classical Christian worldview, would deserve re-election whoever his opponent might have been, but even more so given the spotty record of his opponent. I urge my Osage County friends to re-elect Judge Kane.

Tomorrow morning, Monday, October 27, 2014, at 8 a.m., I'll be on 1170 KFAQ discussing judicial races on the Pat Campbell Show. (UPDATE: Here is the podcast of my conversation about judicial races with Pat Campbell, Eddie Huff, and Tulsa Beacon publisher Charlie Biggs. Here is a direct link to the MP3 file.)

Judicial races are the trickiest part of the ballot. In Oklahoma, only district court races are contested, and all judicial elections are non-partisan. The Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct, set by the State Supreme Court, tightly controls what judicial candidates can say and how they can campaign. This code grants a private club, the Oklahoma Bar Association, an official role in policing judicial candidates. Attorneys, who have first-hand experience with the capabilities and character of judicial candidates, are wary of speaking out against a judge before whom they may one day have to stand. If you're lucky, you may get some off-the-record scoop from friends at the courthouse. All this adds up to confusion and frustration for the voter.

In 2004, the Oklahoma Family Policy Council put together a questionnaire for Supreme Court and appellate judges focusing on judicial philosophy. They had their attorneys look at the questionnaire to ensure that judges would not violate Oklahoma's Code of Judicial Conduct by answering the questions. In the end, six of the eight judges sent a letter saying they couldn't respond to the questionnaire, the other two didn't respond at all.

Worldview matters. We are in the midst of a culture war. Like all movements grounded in unreality, the leftist fascist movement seeks totalitarian control of institutions and the destruction of any institution it can't control. Never has it been more important to know whether the men and women who seek to be our judges are in accord with the founding principles of American jurisprudence and Western Civilization or are in sympathy with the destructive forces arrayed against civilization.

While I know many fair-minded and good-hearted liberals, fair-minded enough to rule against their own ideological interests if the law points that way, many on the left have been influenced by the ideas of critical legal theory, which boils everything down to power and the use of any means to the end of establishing left-wing dogma as the state religion.

We need to see the hearts of these candidates. Sometimes we have rulings and written opinions that tell us whether a judge is with civilization or against it. At times we may only have indirect indications of a judge's character and worldview.

In the blog entries that follow, and in my radio comments tomorrow, I'll do my best to set out my judgment of the judges and the basis for that judgment.

MORE: This is an update of an entry from 2006 about the judicial offices in Judicial District 14. The structure and offices are the same, but some of the names are different for 2014.

It took me a while to puzzle all this out, and I thought others might be interested as well.

Oklahoma has 26 District Courts. Tulsa County and Pawnee County constitute Judicial District No. 14. State law says that District 14 has 14 district judge offices. (Why are Tulsa County and Pawnee County coupled together? Why not Pawnee with, say, Osage, and Tulsa on its own, as Oklahoma County is?)

One judge must reside in and be nominated from Pawnee County, eight must reside in and be nominated from Tulsa County. If there are more than two candidates for any of those nine offices, there is a non-partisan nominating primary in the appropriate county, and the top two vote-getters are on the general election ballot. (Even if one gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two still advance.)

In the general election, all voters in Pawnee and Tulsa Counties vote on those nine seats.

The remaining five district judges are selected by electoral division in Tulsa County. In order to comply with the Voting Rights Act, Tulsa County is divided into five electoral divisions, one of which (Electoral Division 3) has a "minority-majority" population. (The minority-majority district is much smaller than the other four, as it must be in order to guarantee that the electorate is majority African-American.) For each of these five offices, if there are three or more candidates, there is a non-partisan nominating primary. If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, he is elected; otherwise, the top two advance to the general election. For each of these five offices, the candidates must reside in the corresponding electoral division, and only voters in that electoral division will vote for that office in the primary and general election. (Oklahoma County, Judicial District No. 7, is the only other county with judges elected by division.)

Despite the three different paths one can take to be elected, a Judge in Judicial District No. 14 can be assigned to try any case within the two counties.

Each county in the state also elects an Associate District Judge, nominated and elected countywide. After two elections in a row in which the incumbent Tulsa County Associate District Judge was ousted, for the second time Dana Kuehn has been reelected without opposition. There is a two-man contest for Pawnee County Associate District Judge, Patrick Pickerell of Cleveland v. Ken Privett of Pawnee.

In addition to the elected judges, the District has a certain number of Special Judges, who are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the District Judges. There is no correspondence between being a district judge, associate district judge, or special judge and the docket you may be assigned to handle.

All this I was able to puzzle out from prior knowledge and browsing through the relevant sections of the Oklahoma Statutes. What I still couldn't quite figure out is which of the 14 offices corresponded with the five electoral divisions, and which one was nominated from Pawnee County. Although electoral division 4 votes for office 4, I was pretty sure the pattern did not apply to the other offices. After a few phone calls, someone from the Tulsa County Election Board found the relevant info in the League of Women Voters handbook. So here it is, for your reference and mine.

Office Incumbent Nominated by Primary 2014 Elected by General 2014
1 Kellough Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
2 Harris1 Tulsa Co. ED 3 Yes Tulsa Co. ED 3 Yes
3 Caputo Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
4 Cantrell Tulsa Co. ED 4 Tulsa Co. ED 4
5 Sellers Pawnee Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
6 Chappelle Tulsa Co. ED 2   Tulsa Co. ED 2  
7 Gillert1 Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
8 Barcus Tulsa Co. ED 5   Tulsa Co. ED 5 Yes
9 Morrissey Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
10 Fitzgerald Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
11 Nightingale Tulsa Co. ED 1   Tulsa Co. ED 1  
12 Fransein Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
13 Musseman Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
14 Glassco Tulsa Co. Yes Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes

Offices elected by Tulsa County Electoral Divisions in red.
Offices nominated by Pawnee County in blue.

1 Not seeking re-election.

Eight of the incumbent district judges were re-elected without opposition.

Two incumbents did not seek re-election. Former Tulsa Mayor and Tulsa County District Attorney Bill LaFortune was the sole candidate for the open seat (Office 7) being vacated by Tom Gillert. Retiring judge Jesse Harris left the other vacancy in Office 2, which drew four candidates; Sharon Holmes and Tanya N. Wilson survived the primary and will face the general election voters in their north Tulsa judicial election district.

The other four incumbents face challengers in the general election:

Office 1: William Kellough v. Caroline Wall
Office 8: Mark Barcus v. Doug Drummond
Office 10: Mary Fitzgerald v. Eric Quandt
Office 14: Kurt Glassco v. Jill Webb

The contested races will be decided by all voters in Tulsa and Pawnee counties, with the exception of Office 2 (decided by voters in Election District 3, mainly the north part of the City of Tulsa) and Office 8 (decided by voters in Election District 5, which covers Tulsa County west of the Arkansas River and north of 141st Street S, plus north of the river and west of downtown Tulsa, plus the east side of the river south of downtown and west of Lewis). The Tulsa County Election Board hosts a map of the Tulsa County judicial election districts. So everyone in Tulsa County will have three district judge races on the ballot, and about half the county will vote on a fourth race. Everyone in Pawnee County will vote on Offices 1, 10, and 14, plus their county's Associate District Judge race.

Judges on the Court of Civil Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals, and Oklahoma Supreme Court face retention every six years after their initial retention vote at the general election after their appointment. If there are more votes against retention than for retention, the judge is removed from office and the governor appoints a replacement.

A Chamber of Commerce working against the interests of taxpayers and conservative values isn't just a phenomenon local to Tulsa.

Oklahoma State Sen. Josh Brecheen, running for re-election to a second term, is celebrating the State Chamber of Commerce's decision to endorse his Democratic opponent.

"The Chamber is just another special interest group opposing me because I refuse to play ball with them. I'll never be a puppet for any special interests," says Brecheen.

"The National Federation of Independent Business, Oklahoma's leading small-business association, has endorsed Brecheen based on his 100 percent voting record for small businesses. Brecheen also earned a cumulative score of 90 from the Research Institute for Economic Development which was founded in part by the State Chamber. The average cumulative Senate Democrat RIED score is 57.

"It's ironic that the State Chamber, a group that claims to support small business owners, would oppose me and my four-year, pro-growth record in the Senate," says Brecheen. "Less than two years ago, the State Chamber sent out a mailer thanking me for my role in advancing workers comp reform. Apparently, that historic pro-business accomplishment is not nearly as important to the State Chamber as advancing the Obama vision for educational reform through Common Core. My Senate authorship of the Common Core repeal got rid of third-rate national education standards and will replace them with first-rate Oklahoma led standards."

Earlier this year, Brecheen voted in favor of SB 906, the National Popular Vote Compact, but wisely recanted his support for the leftist bill aimed at undermining America's presidential election system..

This coming weekend, September 6 and 7, 2014, is the opening weekend of the Helmerich Center for American Research, a unit of the City of Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum. The new facility is adjacent to the museum on Gilcrease Museum Road.

A weekend full of free events is planned, including Native American and Latin American dancers, the Cherokee National Youth Choir, red dirt/Americana band The 66. There will be lectures on art and history, art-making, kite-flying, and map-reading activities for children. Food trucks will be on hand and the museum restaurant will be open. It would be easy to spend the entire weekend out there.

Legendary guitarist, singer, picker and grinner Roy Clark, fiddler Jana Jae, and the Tulsa Playboys will perform together on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on the main stage. The event is free and unticketed; seating is first come, first served.

The Red Dirt Rangers will close out the weekend Sunday evening at 4 p.m.

Because of limited parking at Gilcrease, visitors are encouraged to park in designated lots downtown and take a five-minute shuttle ride to the museum.

MORE: Here's an earlier -- much earlier -- performance of Orange Blossom Special with Roy Clark and Tulsa Playboys bandleader Shelby Eicher. Eicher shows up about 7:40 into the video.

AFTER-ACTION REVIEW:

Our family was among those huddled under a tent as the cold drizzle continued into mid-afternoon. We were delighted to listen to the Cherokee National Choir sing songs like "Take the Name of Jesus with You," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and "I'll Fly Away" in the language of Sequoyah. Around 2:05, a few minutes after the choir left the stage, the Tulsa Playboys began to set up. They were in place, but there was some inexplicable delay. A sound check began after the show was scheduled to start, and it was quickly apparent that the sound man had no earthly idea what he was doing.

Scott_Pruitt_AFP_Dream14.JPGFriday, at Americans for Prosperity's Defending the American Dream Summit in Dallas, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sat down with the BatesLine team for a wide-ranging conversation about the issues that his office is pursuing on behalf of Oklahomans. Pruitt discussed the EPA's proposed expansion of the definition of "waters of the United States" which would put vast new territories under EPA regulation, the role and responsibilities of a state attorney general, and recent events affecting school choice and curriculum in Oklahoma. Pruitt also spoke at a panel discussion on the legal status of Obamacare and addressed a dinner for Oklahoma's 200 conferees, in which he also discussed the IRS's settlement of a lawsuit with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, affecting church tax exemptions and freedom of religion.

This entry is the first in a series. Many thanks to Americans for Prosperity Oklahoma and AFPOK Executive Director John Tidwell for the opportunity to attend and for arranging the interview with Attorney General Pruitt.

Earlier in the day, Pruitt addressed a well-attended panel session on Obamacare, its effects, and its legal status. His fellow panel members included Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute, Christina Herrera of the Foundation for Government Accountability, and Simon Conway, British refugee and talk show host at WHO in Des Moines, who told us how the UK's National Health Service killed his father.

Pruitt spoke about Oklahoma's lawsuit, Oklahoma v. Burwell and Lew, which George Will has called the most consequential Obamacare case still pending. Oklahoma contends that the Affordable Care Act does not authorize IRS and HHS to grant subsidies or impose mandates in states that have not set up an exchange. Pruitt reviewed the timeline of Obamacare's passage and the importance of the "four little words" in Section 1311 -- "established by the state" -- to corralling the votes necessary to get Obamacare through the U. S. Senate. The four words were intended to give states the incentive to set up exchanges, but 34 states have refused.

Pruitt noted that, because Oklahoma's challenge was still at the District Court level when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in NFIB v. Sibelius, Oklahoma was able to amend its suit. The focus of Oklahoma's case is not constitutional, but rather that the Federal Government's implementation of the law is in violation of the law passed by Congress and signed by the President.

At the moment, the case sits in the Eastern District of Oklahoma before Judge Ronald A. White. Asked by OCPAC's Charlie Meadows about the delay, Pruitt said it may be because the judge was waiting to see what the District of Columbia Circuit Court would do with Halbig v. Burwell. A panel of three judges in the DC Circuit Court ruled 2-1 that the plain language of the law authorized the subsidies and mandates only in states that established exchanges, in accord with Oklahoma's arguments. The ruling is stayed pending further appeals.

If Oklahoma's case is successful, Pruitt said that the very fines that Hobby Lobby had been facing had it lost its case ($1.2 million a day) would be overturned. The employer mandate is invalid in Oklahoma because Oklahoma has not set up an exchange.

MORE from my notes: During his morning presentation, Pruitt harked back to his service as a policymaker in the State Senate and pointed out that "health insurance does not equate to health care." Politicians like to brag about expanding coverage and eligibility, but "at the end of the day, you have to have a physician... willing to be paid for the service to deliver the care that's needed for that patient." Politicians can expand eligibility, but if reimbursement rates are too low, you have the kind of access problems we see in the UK. "We as conservatives need to remind the left that just by expanding health insurance doesn't mean that you've actually solved health outcomes." Pruitt said we also need to keep in mind that when the payor primarily becomes the government, medical inflation skyrockets.

During our interview, Pruitt elaborated on that point: The more government has become involved as payor, the system has become more bureaucratic, more costly, with a lower quality of care. He recalled Oklahoma's expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the Federal SCHIP program for families up to 200% of the poverty level, but at that time, as he remembers it, only two pediatricians in Tulsa were providing care under that program's reimbursement rates. More kids were eligible, but they couldn't get into see the doctor.

Pruitt asked why, if we had a system covering 85% of the public, we had to remake the system for 100%, rather than find a way that met the needs of the remaining 15%. The Obamacare system is moving us toward a two-tier system like that of the UK where your mandatory taxes and premiums pay for an insufficient service that limits access, but those who can afford to pay more can access higher-quality health care in a timely fashion. I pointed out that that's not unlike our two-tier education system, where parents who want better for their children pay twice -- tuition on top of the taxes they're forced to pay. That led into a discussion of Arne Duncan's revocation of Oklahoma's No Child Left Behind waiver and the court ruling against provisions of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act -- more about that in a future installment.

Polling_Place_Vote_Here.jpgHappy Election Day! Polls open across Oklahoma at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Results should start rolling in soon after 7 p.m. The Oklahoma State Election Board website will update results as they are received from the county election boards. Although results are posted on each precinct door shortly after the polls close, a precinct's results have to be taken to the county election board to be read into the state election computer system. Be aware that the county election boards will not process and transmit the tallies from individual precincts to the State Election Board computers until all absentee ballots (both in-person and by mail) are counted and posted. This was the cause for a significant delay in November 2012. Some media outlets may employ runners to go to the precincts directly in order to post initial results before Election Board numbers are ready.

A few resources as you go to vote:

Here are my endorsements in GOP runoffs. You will notice that they are consistent with those of other conservative groups and diametrically opposed to the wheeler-dealer chambercrats and the Tulsa Whirled's still lamentably liberal editorial board.

U. S. House, 5th District: Steve Russell
Tulsa County District Attorney: Steve Kunzweiler
State House District 69: Chuck Strohm
State Senate District 40: Steve Kern

Also, the City of Broken Arrow has eight bond issues on the ballot. That's pretty sneaky, given the usual low turnout of a primary runoff election.

Republicans don't have any statewide runoffs, but Democrats have two. Freda Deskin and John Cox are the finalists to be the Democrat nominee for State Superintendent, and either State Sen. Connie Johnson and perennial candidate Jim Rogers will face Congressman James Lankford in November for the remaining two years of Sen. Tom Coburn's unexpired term.

Both parties have runoffs for the 5th Congressional District. Conservative groups across the state are backing State Sen. Steve Russell, a retired U. S. Army Lt. Col. who served in Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq, leading a unit that was involved in the pursuit and capture of Saddam Hussein. As a legislator, Russell has earned Freshman of the Year and Legislator of the Year awards from the Oklahoma Conservative PAC (OCPAC). Russell's opponent, Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, is regarded as aligned with wheeler-dealer chambercrats. Douglas has come under fire for a mail piece that gives the false impression that she has been endorsed by incumbent Congressman James Lankford.

Tulsa County Republicans will pick our new District Attorney today. I'm joining conservatives across the county to support Steve Kunzweiler, the only highly experienced and constitutionally and professionally qualified candidate in the race. As head of the criminal division, Kunzweiler has 24 years of experience as a prosecutor, oversees a team of 35 prosecutors and thousands of criminal cases every year. Kunzweiler works closely with law enforcement and legislators to improve the justice system by reforming laws and procedures. Kunzweiler has the endorsement of most of the Fraternal Order of Police lodges in Tulsa County.

His opponent, Sydney Fred Jordan, Jr., appears to be a legislator close to his term limit and looking for his next gig. Jordan has no experience as a prosecutor or supervisor of prosecutors in Oklahoma's criminal justice system. As an assistant majority leader, Jordan failed to reign in state spending and failed to reprioritize spending to relieve the overburdened budgets of the state's 27 DA offices. Some of us are still puzzled by Fred Jordan's 2006 answer to questions about the legal status of workers on one of his company's job sites.

More recently, in this current session, Fred Jordan was an outspoken leader of the effort to kill a key pro-life bill, a bill that would have reigned in the role currently played in the appointment of judges and justices by the Oklahoma affiliate of a very liberal private organization. The pro-life community believes the Oklahoma Bar Association's involvement skews the bench to toward leftist judicial activists; Jordan is evidently OK with that situation.

Two significant runoffs for legislature:

Here in Tulsa County's House District 69, conservative small businessman Chuck Strohm faces Melissa Abdo. Chuck Strohm opposes Common Core and has been endorsed by all the members of the board of Restore Oklahoma Public Education, the grassroots group that led the effort to repeal Common Core. Strohm has also been endorsed by the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association and County Assessor Ken Yazel. Strohm

Abdo has been endorsed by a pro-Common Core organization. Abdo also has the support of the county courthouse RINO brigade, including County Clerk Pat Key. If you want to evaluate Key's ability to discern character and qualifications of public officials, remember that Pat Key appointed Nancy Rothman as her chief deputy and put her in charge of most aspects of the office's operations. Abdo is also endorsed by former Commissioner Fred Perry, who voted to put the River Tax and Vision2 corporate welfare tax on the ballot and supported their passage.

In Oklahoma County, in Senate District 40, pastor Steve Kern is the conservative pick to replace term-limited Cliff Branan. His opponent, Ervin Yen, contributed $1,250 to liberal Democrat Andrew Rice's 2008 campaign to unseat Sen. Jim Inhofe.

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If you run into any difficulty voting or spot any irregularity, contact your county election board. The phone number for the Tulsa County Election Board is 918-596-5780.

Take it away, Leon!

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Election Day" by Cindy Walker in the movie Wyoming Hurricane, starring Russell Hayden. Leon McAuliffe on vocals; Cotton Thompson, Bob Wills, and Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Junior Barnard on guitar, Luke Wills on bass. And from the same movie, here's Cotton Thompson to deliver Cindy Walker's message for many of our candidates:

I hear you talkin', yes, I do,
But your talk-talk-talkin' don't ring true,
I'm listenin' politely, too,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

I hear you talkin', tellin' lies,
I can see it in those great big eyes.
I hear you talkin' wise,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

You say that I'm your honey-love,
That I'm all you're thinkin' of,
I hear you talkin', dove,
But you ain't been foolin' me.

Posted in the wee hours of Tuesday, August 26, 2010. Postdated to remain at the top of the blog through poll closing time.

MORE: Paul Blair explains why he will never support any candidate that chooses to partner with AH Strategies or Majority Designs. The AH stands for founding partners Karl Ahlgren and Fount Holland; Ahlgren now serves as chief of staff to Congressman Markwayne Mullin. For similar reasons to Blair's, I pulled my endorsement of Preston Doerflinger for Tulsa auditor although I later relented. While I won't absolutely rule out support for a candidate who affiliates with those firms, it's two strikes against a candidate. Fred Jordan, Patrice Douglas, and Melissa Abdo are all clients of these firms in the current cycle.

UPDATE 2015/11/04: Larry Latham's recovery was all too brief. He succumbed to cancer on November 2, 2014, at the age of 61. Before his passing, Latham wrote that he had plotted out the remainder of the story and was working with other artists to . Upon announcing his death, his widow wrote, "He was so appreciative of his readers and did not want to leave the story unfinished. I ask for your patience as I attempt to carry out his wishes and resume posting new issues in the near future with the help of many talented friends." So far, nothing has happened to that end. The lovecraftismissing.com domain has expired, so I have updated links to point to the Internet Archive, which seems to have captured the entire site.

Lovecraft is Missing, a page-a-week webcomic by Oklahoma artist and writer Larry Latham, is back in production after a hiatus due to Latham's treatment for cancer. (Latham reports that signs are encouraging, pending further tests.)

Born and raised in Oklahoma City and educated at OU, Latham spent the last quarter of the 20th century in Hollywood, producing, directing, and storyboarding Saturday morning cartoons for Hanna Barbera and Disney. His credits include Talespin, Duck Tales, Smurfs, and Super Friends. He returned to Oklahoma in 2001.

Lovecraft Is Missing tells the story of Win Battler, an aspiring young writer from a small town in 1920s Oklahoma, who goes to Providence to meet his pen pal and fellow writer of strange tales only to find that, yes, H. P. Lovecraft is missing. The search takes Battler and his companions -- tough-as-nails, resourceful Father Munsford Jackey and skeptical, cynical archivist Nan Mercy -- into a demi-monde populated by the noxious characters and eldritch horrors of Lovecraft's stories. The pages are beautifully drawn, and the plot is intriguing, as it takes the protagonists through a world where Lovecraft's writing is closer to journalism than fiction.

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The story is in the middle of the fifth book of a planned six. Unanswered questions are starting to head to a resolution. This is an excellent time to start at the beginning of the story and catch up.

The accompanying blog -- Noxious Fragments from the Pnakotic Manuscripts -- features links about Lovecraft's stories, other works of the same vintage and genre, and the cultural milieu from which they arose.

Latham, a longtime Lovecraft fan, was involved in fundraising efforts for a memorial plaque and grave marker for the author. Latham had been kicking the idea for Lovecraft Is Missing around for a long-time, first pursuing it as a CD-ROM game mystery, then optioning it for a development deal, and finally launching it as a webcomic in 2008, after he realized there was no other way to get it made in line with his creative vision.

Earlier this year, Latham wrote a series of articles on How to Create a Webcomic?. His thoughts on plot and character development would be useful to any aspiring author who wants to create a fictional world; other advice is more specific to the challenge of telling a story with pictures as well as words and the work of building an audience for a website and bringing them back on a regular basis.

MORE:

In 2009, Matthew Price of the Oklahoman interviewed Latham about his career in animation and the origins of Lovecraft Is Missing.

In 2011, Latham was interviewed by All Pulp. Would that more people in entertainment agreed with his definition of "adult":

I originally conceived it as an animated project, and it was in development for a year or so at Film Roman in L.A. My first notion was that I wanted to try and make a truly 'adult' animated series, meaning complex story and characterization rather than T and A and profanity. I wanted to do a horror show, and I am a big Lovecraft fan, but I've never much cared for Lovecraft adaptations, be they film or comic book. I wanted to express what I got out of those stories, but I really didn't want to adapt any of Lovecraft's actual stories, so I came up with my own. There were a few clichés I really wanted to stomp on, like everybody in the universe having a copy of the Necronomicon. In my story, no one, at least of the good guys, have ever even heard of it. Same with Cthulhu. The magic and mystery of these things is that they are very, very obscure.

In a state as strongly pro-life as Oklahoma, legislation to protect the unborn and pregnant women normally sails through to passage. But sometimes that legislation is stymied by judges. Although appeals court judges and supreme court justices are subject to a periodic retention vote of the people, I can't recall the last time that a judge has been removed by the voters. (District Judges, where candidates can challenge a sitting judge, are sometimes replaced by the voters.) A bill aimed at reducing pro-abortion influence on judicial selection was defeated in this year's session, and one of the candidates for Tulsa County District Attorney led the effort to defeat the pro-life bill.

Here's a press release from Oklahomans for Life:

Tulsa Rep. Fred Jordan Major Opponent of
Crucial Measure Strongly SUPPORTED by
Oklahomans For Life

The most damaging legislative defeat for the pro-life cause this spring occurred when the Oklahoma House of Representatives killed a resolution, SJR 21, which was strongly supported by Oklahomans For Life. Rep. Fred Jordan of Tulsa was a leading opponent of this measure which we strongly supported.

SJR 21 would have diminished the influence of the Oklahoma Bar Association in the selection of judges for Oklahoma's highest courts. The background:

1) The American Bar Association has an official position in support of legal abortion on demand, paid for at taxpayer expense;

2) The Oklahoma Bar Association is a member of the American Bar Association;

3) The Oklahoma Bar Association exercises a heavy influence over who sits on Oklahoma's highest courts;

4) Oklahoma courts have repeatedly struck down pro-life laws, overturning even the most modest, reasonable legislative attempts to regulate abortion;

5) SJR 21 would have diminished the influence of the Oklahoma Bar Association over the selection of nominees for vacancies on Oklahoma's highest courts.

Pro-life laws enacted by the Oklahoma legislature have been consistent with the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitutions, and with U.S. Supreme Court precedents - nonetheless, Oklahoma judges selected for nomination to the bench through the influence of the Bar Association have repeatedly nullified these pro-life laws.

Our efforts to improve this situation by enacting SJR 21 were thwarted, in part, by Rep. Fred Jordan on the floor of the Oklahoma House. Fred Jordan placed himself at the center of the opposition to this much-needed legislation by assuming the role of chief debater against this critically important measure, giving the closing arguments in opposition to SJR 21, and thereby advocating the continuation of the system which has brought such harm to the unborn child.

While the Senate, the Governor, and the House Republican Leadership all supported the effort to establish a better system for filling judicial vacancies with fair-minded, unbiased judges, Rep. Fred Jordan actively engaged in the killing of this vitally essential measure on the House floor. The defeat of SJR 21 was the most damaging pro-life loss of the year.

Tony Lauinger, State Chairman

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It seems that ousted Rogers County District 3 Commissioner Kirt Thacker is just gonna take his ball and go home. On Tuesday, Thacker lost the Republican primary to Ron Burrows in an election with higher than normal turnout. Burrows goes on to face a Democrat opponent in November.

A member of the Conversation Catoosa Facebook group reported that, on the day after the election, she went to the free dump that Thacker had established and found that it was closed.

Thacker's reply to the report and to comments on the report:

The majority of the voters apparently didn't like the job I've done. I see no reason to force something on the people that they don't want. Sore loser? On the contrary I am relieved and glad it's over....

I explained the reason for the closing and you are welcome to believe what you want. As far as responsibility goes, the trash program isn't a requirement of the job, that was an extra.

I hadn't followed Rogers County politics closely until a friend of ours (Treasurer-elect Jason Carini) filed for office. I listened to audio of the May 29, 2014, Catoosa candidate forum (courtesy Oklahoma Constitution reporter Theodore King), including the part of the forum devoted to the Rogers County Commission candidates. Thacker was asked if there were any plans to close the free dump. "I have no plans whatsoever to close it." He said that prior to establishing the dump, he would get a call about a large abandoned item, and he'd have to pull his crews off of their assignments to go pick it up. With the dump, those calls have decreased from three or four times per week to two calls per month. The dump is funded through grants from the Association of County Commissioners, with no local funding required.

20140529-RogersCountyForum-03-Commissioner-Dump.mp3

In his response to the same question, Burrows praised the dump and the reduction in roadside trash. He wants to expand the program by having jail trusties pick up roadside trash in the district.

If Thacker has a grant to operate the dump, doesn't he have an obligation to keep it open or else return the money?

UPDATE 1: Thacker answers the question on Facebook: "The fiscal year ends on June 30. The grant has ran it's course."

OK, but wouldn't he have already applied for a grant for the upcoming fiscal year?

UPDATE 2: On Facebook, Thacker answered that question: "Nope."

I asked, "But at the May 29 forum, you said that you had no plans whatsoever to close it. Most grants take some time to prepare, submit, and process. You hadn't started the grant application process at all?"

Thacker's reply:

Plans change. This grant is easy and fast to prepare thru the Association of County Commissioners. I am a "Lame Duck" so for the remainder of the term we will concentrate on road work. The required part of the job.

What an interesting night!

I had been at the watch party for Randy Brogdon, Ken Yazel, David Brumbaugh, and Chuck Strohm. The mood there was generally upbeat: Yazel had survived another establishment attempt to knock him off, winning re-election to another four-year term as County Assessor and Courthouse Gadfly with 64.8% of the vote. Brumbaugh won renomination to represent House District 76 with almost 75% of the vote. Strohm, running for the open House District 69 seat to replace Sydney Fred Jordan Jr, finished second but made the runoff.

Brogdon delivered an upbeat speech before the results began to come in and was as upbeat even after it was clear that no miracle was in the offing. He mentioned that he would be a grandfather for the first time later this year and urged the audience to continue to fight for liberty and for fiscal sanity for the sake of generations to come. He was, as always, a gracious gentleman. I've never seen him otherwise.

It was a pretty good night for the BatesLine ballot card.

Ken Yazel's re-election and sizeable margin was especially heartening.

My friend Jason Carini will be the new Rogers County Treasurer. He got into the race because no one else would run, and he wound up defeating a six-term incumbent. The incumbent DA and District 1 County Commissioner were both tossed out as well.

Republican DA Brian Kuester (Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair Counties) won re-election by a wide margin. (No Democrat filed in an area that was once part of solid-Democrat Little Dixie.)

In the Tulsa County DA race, Steve Kunzweiler finished first with 46.8% and received a majority of the votes that were cast for the two actively-campaigning candidates, but State Sen. Brian Crain, who dropped out, got 13%. Jordan could gracefully drop out at this point, as Cathy Keating did in the 2001 special Congressional primary, but if he doesn't, it looks like there will have to be a runoff with the question of Jordan's eligibility still looming. (Could the State Election Board revisit eligibility at this point, as they certify the result of this election? Or must the court intervene? Will the court enjoin the State Election Board from certifying Jordan as a candidate for the runoff?)

For the first time in many years, a statewide incumbent official finished last in the primary. State Superintenden Janet Barresi not only finished behind Joy Hofmeister, who won the GOP nomination without a runoff, but she was beat by Brian Kelly, an also-ran four years ago. Some say that the last time something like this happened was 40 years ago, when scandal-tarred Gov. David Hall finished third to David Boren and Clem McSpadden in the 1974 Democrat primary. With 22% of the vote, Barresi wasn't beat quite as badly as Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller in 2008, but it was close.

Congratulations to City Councilors Jack Henderson, Jeannie Cue, and Blake Ewing, all of whom won re-election without a runoff. Ewing's principal opponent, Dewey Bartlett Jr's 2013 campaign manager Dan Patten, who raised $15,000 before the deadline, won 15% of the vote, not do much better than political novice Elissa Kay Harvill, who raised so little she didn't have to file paperwork, but won 6%.

In District 7, Republican incumbent Arianna Moore finished second to Democrat Anna America in the non-partisan primary, but there will be a runoff. Jonathan Turley finished a close third. Moore and America will face off in November, when partisan fervor is likely to energize Republicans and demoralize Democrats, at least here in the Sooner State.

It was not a good night for national Tea Party organizations. Mark McDaniel lost narrowly to decrepit incumbent Thad Cochran in the Mississippi Republican runoff for U. S. Senate. An important political difference between Oklahoma and Mississippi is that Oklahoma has party registration while Mississippi doesn't. In Oklahoma, if you're a Democrat or Independent on April 1, you can't become a Republican until September 1. In Mississippi, you may have voted in every Democrat primary for decades, but as long as you didn't take a Democrat ballot in the primary, you can take a Republican ballot in the runoff. Oklahoma's system is more consistent with the idea of a political organization choosing its own standard-bearer.

I've got a lot to say about the Oklahoma Senate race and why the national Tea Party groups failed to get their choice elected, but I'm too tired tonight.

And now, your moment of zen:

After many enjoyable conversations at the Brogdon/Yazel watch party, I drove into town to a coffeehouse to write this report and get a bite to eat. As I sat down, Paul Tay, candidate for Tulsa City Council District 9, who had been outside, walked in and made a determined beeline for my table. Not far behind him was Mike Workman, local Democrat activist and Labor Commissioner nominee. They had been at the Constance Johnson Tulsa watch party.

Tay, resplendent in a cowboy hat with an NRA sticker on the front, explained to me that his November opponent, Councilor G. T. Bynum, was overqualified for the Council, and what Bynum needs to do is leave the City Council, make a hard-right ideological turn, and prepare to run to replace Jim Inhofe in the U. S. Senate in six years. Why? Because Bynum in the Senate is the only way we'll get a federal earmark to pay for new low-water dams in the Arkansas River. The taxpayers won't pay for it, George Kaiser won't pay for it, so that leaves Uncle Sam.

The idea displays some insight, although Oklahoma conservatives wouldn't be likely to approve a candidate who supports earmarks, and Bynum has already burned several bridges with local conservatives. Local government is more often than not the graveyard of political careers. (Inhofe is a rare exception, but he lost re-election to a fourth two-year term as mayor in 1984 before a successful run for an open seat in Congress in 1986.) After a few minutes, Workman thoughtfully pointed out to Tay that I was probably writing on deadline and the two left.

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Results should start rolling in soon after 7 p.m. The Oklahoma State Election Board website will update results as they are received from the county election boards. Although results are posted on each precinct door shortly after the polls close, a precinct's results have to be taken to the county election board to be read into the state election computer system. Be aware that the county election boards will not process and transmit the tallies from individual precincts to the State Election Board computers until all absentee ballots (both in-person and by mail) are counted and posted. This was the cause for a significant delay in November 2012. Some media outlets may employ runners to go to the precincts directly in order to post initial results before Election Board numbers are ready.

A few resources as you go to vote:

Thumbnail image for IVoted.jpgHappy Election Day! Polls open across Oklahoma at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

If you run into any difficulty voting or spot any irregularity, contact your county election board. The phone number for the Tulsa County Election Board is 918-596-5780.

Take it away, Leon!

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Election Day" by Cindy Walker in the movie Wyoming Hurricane, starring Russell Hayden. Leon McAuliffe on vocals; Cotton Thompson, Bob Wills, and Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Junior Barnard on guitar, Luke Wills on bass. And from the same movie, here's Cotton Thompson to deliver Cindy Walker's message for many of our candidates:

I hear you talkin', yes, I do,
But your talk-talk-talkin' don't ring true,
I'm listenin' politely, too,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

I hear you talkin', tellin' lies,
I can see it in those great big eyes.
I hear you talkin' wise,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

You say that I'm your honey-love,
That I'm all you're thinkin' of,
I hear you talkin', dove,
But you ain't been foolin' me.

Posted in the wee hours of Tuesday, June 26, 2010. Postdated to remain at the top of the blog through poll closing time.

MORE: For your amusement, the story of when Mary Fallin's first husband proposed to her -- at the Playboy Mansion.


BatesLine Oklahoma primary election 2014 printable ballot cardHere are the candidates I'm recommending and voting for (when I can) in the Oklahoma primary elections on June 24, 2014. (This entry will change as I decide to add more detail or discuss additional races between now and election day. The entry is post-dated to keep it at the top.)

For your convenience, here's a printable one-page "cheat sheet" version to take along to the polls and pass along to friends, but please read the detail and click the links below.

U. S. Senate (unexpired term): Randy Brogdon. He's running a low-key campaign, but he has a consistent record of a conservative approach to government as city councilor, mayor, and state senator. There's a runoff, so there's no need to cast a tactical vote for one of the two front-runners. Vote your conscience. Vote for someone we know we can trust to do the right thing.

U. S. Senate (full term): Jim Inhofe. He annoys the left, particularly with his refusal to kneel to climate deniers (i.e., the anthropogenic global warming cultists who deny the Medieval Warm Period and deny the current stability of global temperatures). Good enough for me.

Governor: Dax Ewbank. While Gov. Mary Fallin eventually did the right thing on Obamacare exchanges and Common Core, her dithering on these clear-cut issues makes me worry about her decision-making in a lame-duck term. Fallin failed to establish a good working relationship with her own party's legislative leadership, culminating in her veto snit-fit, in which she killed several good bills, including some she'd requested, to make some sort of point. Fallin never took a stand against the National Popular Vote compact, a left-wing dream that had been slipped through the Oklahoma Senate early in the session. (More about NPV here.)

I don't believe Fallin deserves another term, but I'm not sure the other candidates have the resources to defeat the lone Democrat candidate, Joe Dorman, in November. I will likely cast a protest vote for Dax Ewbank, an IT professional and former pastor who calls for abolishing the state income tax. UPDATE: I'm not even sure Fallin is strong enough to win in November. At the very least she needs a wake-up call, and a guy whose name sounds like a Star Trek character seems to be the person to deliver it.

State Superintendent: Joy Hofmeister. Janet Barresi has made enemies across the political spectrum. Conservatives don't like her support for Common Core. Liberal public school administrators don't want to be held accountable by her school grading system. Those same administrators have heavily funded Joy Hofmeister's campaign, and Hofmeister's emails to some of those administrators at their official school email accounts display considerable hostility to school choice programs, including the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarship program that allows children with special needs to receive the education they need. I will likely cast a protest vote for Brian Kelly, the third candidate in the Republican primary. UPDATE: Conservatives I trust, including the ladies who led the fight to kill Common Core in Oklahoma, have convinced me that Barresi is not a friend of conservative, locally-controlled reform of public education and that Hofmeister, thoughtful and principled enough to oppose Common Core despite the alienation of some of her early supporters, is trustworthy. That remains to be seen, but at the moment Hofmeister seems to be the only hope we have.

Insurance Commissioner: John Doak. The incumbent has done a fine job representing Oklahoma's ratepayers in their dealings with insurers.

Corporation Commissioner: Former Speaker Todd Hiett. A good rule of thumb is to vote for the Corporation Commission candidate with the smallest bankroll. As one of my friends put it -- Hiett is a square-dealer, Branan is a wheeler-dealer. Hiett was an honorable and honest Speaker of the House. Hiett has been endorsed by State Auditor Gary Jones, who has worked closely with both candidates over the years. Hiett opposes mandatory smart meters.

The other candidate, State Sen. Cliff Branan, is backed by bajillionaires who might have an interest in regulating certain energy sources out of existence. Branan is one of the doofuses who voted in favor of the National Popular Vote Compact, SB 906 and has never apologized, as far as I am aware. Branan has also been endorsed by Ed Apple, who wanted to replace Bob Anthony, a beacon of courage and integrity at the Corporation Commission, with a Democrat utility company lobbyist. While there are a few good people backing Branan, many more people I trust are endorsing Hiett.

Senate District 12: John Knecht. The incumbent, President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, voted for the National Popular Vote compact and allowed it to slide through the Senate before the public knew what was happening.

House District 31: Jason Murphey. An IT professional, Murphey has received national recognition for his efforts to modernize and streamline state government's use of computer technology and to make public information more readily available to the public online. He is a principled conservative who doesn't take any gifts from lobbyists.

House District 69: Chuck Strohm This is an open seat that will be decided in the GOP primary. Strohm is a software engineer, a member of the Jenks Planning Commission and school bond oversight committee, and is the grassroots conservative candidate in the race. Strohm authored the county GOP's precinct organization manual. His chief opponent has names on her reports that link her to the Chambercrat wing of the party.

House District 76: David Brumbaugh. Incumbent Rep. Brumbaugh has been a consistent conservative voice for Broken Arrow. He deserves particular praise for putting forward a bill to to require counties to include all funds in their annual budgets. Brumbaugh was one of eight legislators to receive a 100% on the Oklahoma Constitution's annual conservative index.

House District 98: Terri Cleveland. This is an open seat in Wagoner County that includes Broken Arrow and Coweta and will be decided in the GOP primary. I've known Terri through Republican Party politics for over a decade, working together on many campaigns and committees. After working as a campaign and organizational consultant, she went to work for the City of Broken Arrow, representing the concerns of this growing city at the state capitol. Her opponent, Michael Rogers, is heavily funded by special interest PACs, but he has the endorsement of outgoing incumbent John Trebilcock and the Oklahoma Conservative PAC.

Tulsa County District Attorney: Steve Kunzweiler. With 24 years of experience as a prosecutor, Steve Kunzweiler is the Chief of the Criminal Division in the DA's office, mentoring 35 assistant DAs and overseeing the prosecution of thousands of criminal cases every year, over 12,000 in 2013 alone. His opponent is a legislator in search of his next gig and doesn't appear to be eligible to serve.

Tulsa County Assessor: Ken Yazel. In the State Auditor's annual review, Yazel's team has the highest rating of any county assessor office in the state. The only stalwart ally for fiscal conservatives at the county courthouse, Yazel has pushed for full financial transparency, including all county funds in the annual budget (like Oklahoma County does), not just new general fund money. The county officials who back his opponent have resisted that idea, even lobbying against it at the State Capitol.

Tulsa County Commissioner District 1: Brian Pounds. Northern and eastern Tulsa County needs a change in this office. Pounds has county courthouse experience from his work in the assessor's office. The incumbent wasted taxpayer time and money by putting two ill-advised tax packages on the ballot, taxes that were ultimately shot down by the voters. Rather than taking the challenge to fund criminal justice needs without raising taxes, he voted to put a county sales tax hike on the ballot instead. The incumbent is said to have been a ringleader of the resistance to total county budget transparency.

Rogers County Treasurer: Jason Carini. Carini, a successful small-business owner and lifelong conservative Republican, is challenging an incompetent incumbent who hasn't issued tax warrants at any time during her 23 years in office.

District Attorney, Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah, and Wagoner Counties: Brian Kuester. Kuester is finishing his first term as DA of this district that sprawls from the suburbs of Tulsa to the suburbs of Fort Smith and has achieved a 200% increase in the number of cases tried.

Tulsa City Council District 2: Jeannie Cue. Cue is a voice at City Hall for the neighborhoods of her district, particularly the oft-forgotten west side of the river.

Tulsa City Council District 4: Blake Ewing. Ewing has been a leader on the City Council. He is unafraid to ask the questions that need to be asked of the mayor and department heads. As we approach the adoption of a new zoning code, Tulsa's historic neighborhoods need Blake Ewing at the table. Ewing understands land use and planning issues as a homeowner, as a businessman invested in reviving District 4 neighborhoods, and as a student of what makes a city grow and prosper.

Ewing's chief rival, Dan Patten, was Dewey Bartlett Jr's campaign manager. When the mayor's campaign manager decides to run against the mayor's leading critic, the campaign manager has the burden of proof to show that he's not just running at the behest of his client. At a recent forum, Patten seemed not to have any understanding of the purpose or history of land-use planning.

Ewing's endorsement of Kathy Taylor was disappointing, but the alternative was Bartlett Jr, who had also endorsed Taylor for re-election on the strength of her first-term performance. When Bartlett Jr alienates one set of city councilors, manages to defeat nearly all of them at the polls, and then alienates the new set of city councilors who replaced them, it's apparent where the problem lies. Ewing also points out that it was Bartlett, not Taylor, that pushed for the Vision2 corporate welfare slush fund.

Elissa Harvill, a newcomer to Tulsa politics, displayed admirable enthusiasm and a strong foundation of principle during the TulsaNow forum. What's missing, at this early point in her time in Tulsa, is knowledge of the particulars of Tulsa history and governance. As she gets involved and learns her way around, I expect she'll make many positive contributions to our civic dialogue.

Tulsa City Council District 7: Arianna Moore. Republican incumbent Moore's leading challenger is liberal Democrat Anna America, Kathy Taylor's campaign manager.

District 14 District Judge, Office 14: Kurt Glassco. Despite his background as a Democratic candidate for Congress many years ago, Judge Glassco is well-regarded by conservative Republican attorneys as a fair and skillful arbiter. John Eagleton writes: "Judge Glassco has my respect. I have appeared in his court and observed him handling hundreds of cases. He is a great judge. He follows the law without injecting personalities into the outcome. We need more judges like him."

One of his opponents, Jill Webb, is the "partner" of Unitarian clergyperson Tamara Lebak. Question for the reader: If someone would twist the words of Scripture and disregard the consensus of all civilized societies in order to justify sexual perversion, is it reasonable to expect them to show due regard for our state's laws, constitution, and judicial precedent?

MORE: The ladies who led the fight to repeal Common Core in Oklahoma have posted their personal endorsements. All four like Dax Ewbank for Governor; three of the four support Brogdon for Senate (the fourth supports USAO Professor Kevin Crow); three of the four back Steve Russell in the 5th Congressional District (the fourth supports Harvey Sparks); and all four want Robert Hubbard to unseat incumbent Frank Lucas in the 3rd Congressional District.

The Oklahomans for Life 2014 primary candidate questionnaire is online. There are separate sets of questions for state and federal candidates, and you can read the full text of the questions to which the candidates are responding.

OCPAC head Charlie Meadows has posted his personal picks. He wants to see all three incumbent GOP congressmen who drew challengers -- Mullin, Lucas, and Cole -- replaced by their challengers.

Muskogee Politico Jamison Faught has posted his picks.

NOTE: Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel was on 1170 KFAQ with Pat Campbell and Eddie Huff at 7:35 a.m. Tuesday.

UPDATE 2014/06/25: In an 8-1 decision today (Winchester dissenting), the Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned the Court of Civil Appealsand remanded the property tax appeals to be considered on their merits. The Supreme Court affirmed that the Legislature has given County Assessors the authority to use their general counsel for appeals, rather than being shackled to counsel supplied by the District Attorney's office or the Oklahoma Tax Commission. For Yazel, who won re-election with 65% of the vote, this is icing on the cake.

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel's challenger has made an issue of Yazel's 2012 decision against Montereau's application for a total exemption from ad valorem taxes. The fair market value of the upscale senior residential complex was estimated at $178,990,029. Yazel validated that 40% of the facility was legally qualified for tax exemption as a state-licensed continuum of care facility, based on the proportion of the facility devoted to those 154 licensed beds, but the remainder -- independent living apartments and cottage homes that require an entrance fee ranging from $198,000 to $1.2 million just to get in the door, plus a monthly fee in the thousands -- was taxable under state law, with a tax bill of over $1.5 million.

Montereau protested Yazel's decision, won in district court, and Yazel, as authorized by state law, appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals (COCA).

Yazel's opponent has described Yazel's pursuit of the appeal a "waste of resources." The simple version of his argument as I understand it, is that, because state law specifically grants an exemption for state-licensed continuum of care facilities, the entire property should be exempted from ad valorem taxes. The counterargument is that taxable property shouldn't be exempt because it sits on the same parcel as property that is exempt.

While Montereau and the William K. Warren Medical Research Center (WKWMRC, which owns the land and leases it to Montereau) are both 501(c)(3) non-profits, not every activity of a non-profit is exempt from all taxes under Oklahoma law. Article X, Section 6 of the Oklahoma Constitution exempts "property used exclusively for religious and religious purposes" as well as government-owned property, free museums, and several other specifically enumerated exemptions. State statutes grant other exemptions. As far as I can tell, none of the constitutional or statutory exemptions cover market-rate housing. However much he might want to, the County Assessor can't grant an exemption that isn't authorized by law.

(Yazel's opponent, John Feary, has received a significant amount of his reported campaign funds -- $10,150 out of $36,311 by my count -- from Warren family members, Warren Foundation and Montereau board members, a Montereau executive, and (judging by the addresses) a couple of Montereau residents. Montereau and WKWMRC were created by the William K. Warren Foundation.)

Tulsa County taxpayers have a great deal at stake. If Montereau is right, property owners will have a strong incentive to take otherwise taxable uses off the tax rolls by lumping them in with a relatively minuscule tax-exempt use. That means the burden of paying for property-tax-funded government (schools, libraries, county operations, city and school bond issues, etc.) will fall more heavily on the rest of us.

This is particularly true for the sinking funds that pay back the general obligation bond issues that fund projects like streets and school improvements. The millage rate for sinking funds is calculated by dividing the debt service requirements for the year by the assessed value of property in the jurisdiction. It's basic fractions: If the denominator goes down (by removing property from the tax rolls) while the numerator stays the same, the millage rate goes up on the property still on the tax rolls. This means a tax increase even for seniors who have a valuation freeze. If Montereau gets its exemption, seniors who can afford expensive Montereau accommodations will benefit at the expense of seniors living in their own modest homes and younger property owners decades from retirement.

By fighting this battle, Ken Yazel is fighting to keep our tax rates from going up. With all due appreciation for the Warren Foundation and the institutions spawned by it and affirming their right to pursue their legal remedies vigorously, Oklahoma property taxpayers had better hope that Yazel prevails in this case.

At this point, however, Yazel is blocked from pursuing this fight by COCA's bizarre theory that he can't appeal without using an attorney from the District Attorney's office. Yazel filed his appeal using the general counsel that he is authorized to hire under 19 O.S. 527. The law was passed in 2005, recognizing that certain county offices needed legal expertise in technical areas to carry out their duties, and that such expertise may not reside in the DA's office.

COCA has taken a statute that requires the DA's office to assist the assessor in pursuing an appeal and turned it into an effective veto over the assessor's judgment. Yazel has appealed COCA's ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which has granted certiorari. (Yazel's petition has a copy of COCA's ruling attached.) In an amicus curiae brief in support of Yazel's position, attorneys for the County Assessors Association of Oklahoma and County Officers and Deputies Association of Oklahoma write:

In effect the COCA's decision would allow the district attorney or the Oklahoma Tax Commission to determine the issues of ad valorem tax law to the exclusion of the judicial branch of government. COCA's decision would eviscerate the power invested in the judicial branch to say what the law is, while closing the courthouse doors and leaving no effective remedy for an assessor to fulfill his or responsibilities absent district attorney approval.

The brief goes on to show that COCA's ruling contradicts numerous precedents.

In its published decision, the COCA effectively held that the failure, unwillingness or inability of a district attorney to fulfill its duty to represent an assessor under § 2880.1(D) somehow extinguishes an assessor's right to appeal under § 2880.1(A), thereby preventing the assessor from fulfilling his or her duties in connection with the assessment and collection of ad valorem tax. There simply is not, nor has there ever been, any language in what is now § 2880.1 suggesting that an assessor's right to appeal is conditioned upon the district attorney's review of a tax case and that district attorney's willingness to appear in such appeals on the assessor's behalf. The COCA's decision is plainly contrary to the decisions of this Court holding that courts are "not free to rewrite the statute" and must "vigorously resist reading words or elements into a statute that do not appear on its face.

In footnotes to the above paragraph, the brief lists "four occasions [in which] this Court has decided appeals under § 2880.1 or its predecessor statutes where no district attorney had entered an appearance." The amicus brief also quotes the court's ruling in a "situation strikingly similar to that in this case" (1980 OK 96, 614 P.2d 45, 06/17/1980, State ex rel. Howard v. Oklahoma Corp. Commission):

The foregoing language of Article IX s 20 does not bar Commission's attorneys from appearing for it. It clearly is implicit from the language of 74 O.S.1971 s 18c that the ... Commission may appoint its own in-house counsel.

Likewise, the right to be represented by counsel ordinarily should include the right to make a choice, if timely exercised, of attorneys whose views are consonant with one's own or who at least will present the client's interests....

If then, the Commission may be brought into court . . . , Sections 6 and 7 of Article 2 of our State Constitution, . . . under any concept of affording it any semblance of even-handed justice, must require that it be represented if it so desires, by counsel who can and will ably and conscientiously express its views to the tribunal. . .. Commission may properly be represented in this case by its own in-house counsel (employee-attorneys).

The right to counsel undergirds all our other rights. If someone can force an attorney on me who may work to thwart my aims, I really don't have legal counsel at all. If an elected official is forced to rely on counsel at odds with him, it ultimately thwarts the will of the voters who elected that official.

To me, COCA's ruling looks like the latest example of an attempt to control an elected official's performance of his duties by denying him legal counsel to support the actions he believes he needs to take. This entry is long enough already without delving into the efforts by the Cockroach Caucus to prevent the Tulsa City Council from hiring its own attorney, forcing the Council to rely on the Mayor-appointed City Attorney, even when the Mayor's aims and the Council's aims are at odds.

A candidate runs on a platform and once elected, if he has integrity, he implements that platform. Sometimes he will need legal advice to know how to proceed or to deal with legal challenges from opponents to his policies. This is especially important when the official is a reformer, sent by the voters to change the way government operates; he will encounter resistance from those whose interests are aligned with the status quo.

Just as a besieged army uses trenches, mines, and razor wire as multiple lines of defense against an attacking force, so the defenders of the political status quo have multiple ways to block reform. The first layer is to use campaign money to persuade voters to keep the reformer out of office. If a reformer manages to win an election, they can attempt to co-opt him. If that fails, they can launch a PR campaign attacking the reformer as a petty bickerer or worse. They can attempt to entice and entrap him in wrongdoing. They can exert pressure via friends and family. They can sue him and then deny him access to counsel.

Voters need to realize that the forces denying legal counsel to the elected official are not merely thwarting the elected official but the voters who put him in office.

The precedent set by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, quoted above, is crystal clear. If the Supreme Court is consistent, Yazel will be allowed to pursue his appeal and the original issue -- does a tax exemption rub off on the taxable uses attached to the exempt use? -- will be considered and resolved. If voters are wise today, we'll still have Ken Yazel as Tulsa County Assessor to pursue this fight on behalf of taxpayers and his fellow county officials all across Oklahoma.

MORE: A few more notes regarding the discussion on Monday's Pat Campbell show:

I've looked at all the Budget Board minutes available online, going back to July 2011. Most Budget Board meetings appear to be routine and brief, with votes to approve retroactively a long list of appropriations that have already been made. Ken Yazel has personally attended all Budget Board meetings at which the budget for the upcoming fiscal year's budget was discussed or significant adjustments to the budget were discussed. Like every other Budget Board member has done, Yazel sends his chief deputy to attend when he is unable to be present. Only twice in the last three years, at routine meetings, has no one been present to represent the assessor's office.

According to Yazel, the Tulsa County Assessor's Office headcount is ten below the number recommended for a jurisdiction the size of Tulsa County. While Oklahoma County has more parcels, it has, as the capital city, a much larger number of tax-exempt government-owned parcels, which are not assessed at all. Large swaths of northern and eastern Oklahoma County consist of undeveloped property; bare land requires less effort to assess than real estate with improvements.

Regarding the Vision 2025 surplus funds: The projected grand total revenues, as of September 2013, totaled $730.5 million. That's about $195 million more than the $535 million in projects approved in 2003. This accounting of remaining Vision 2025 obligations, cash on hand, and projected revenue from December 31, 2013, shows a projected surplus of $35.7 million. If you add back in the $45.5 million that was "promised" to the suburbs in exchange for the extra $45.5 million for the BOK Center (a promise whose existence was denied during the 2007 River Tax debate), that's $81.2 million, plenty to have handled our criminal justice needs without a tax hike.

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed Tulsa County's lack of budget transparency -- not illegal, but not in the taxpayers' best interest, and not as good as Oklahoma County. In my endorsement of Yazel, I discussed the different colors of money and how millages and budgets could be adjusted to meet county needs without raising taxes, if the County Commissioners had the political will to do so.

Dear James Lankford, your scaremongering about a runoff to raise money is shameful. Unless the nominee is caught in a Minneapolis airport restroom with a wide stance, there is no way the GOP will lose Tom Coburn's seat. Your November opponent will either be a very liberal pro-abortion state senator who proposed frivolous amendments to a pro-life bill, the perennial candidate who ran against Coburn in 2010 and got only 26% of the vote, or the perennial candidate who listed his occupation as "plasma donor" when he filed for State Senate in 2004. If any of those three potential opponents worries you, you either don't have the guts to represent us in Washington, or you have plans for a Minneapolis restroom rendezvous.

Three of the seven candidates in this race have experience in elective office -- a member of the U. S. House, a former mayor and leader in the State Senate who has run a statewide campaign, and a former Speaker of the State House. It's normal for a primary with three credible candidates to go to a runoff.

P. S. Tom Coburn has not endorsed you to succeed him, although you are trying very hard to give voters that impression. Coburn expressed dismay about the bad things independent groups are saying about you, and Coburn expressed dismay about the bad things your independent-expenditure pals are saying about one of your six opponents.


Dear judicial candidate Jill Webb: A quote from Mary Fallin and a reference to the Constitution on a postcard is not going to fool conservative Tulsa County voters into voting for the female "partner" of a female Unitarian minister, endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, to be a District Judge. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have all sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, but their actions show that they redefine the meaning of that commitment in a way that would be unrecognizable to the Framers of the Constitution. Your Clintonesque account of your personal life ("happily married to a minister") seems plainly intended to create a false impression, and it suggests that you have a rather flexible relationship with "telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."


If you want my vote for Tulsa City Council, one of the worst things you can do is tell me that former Mayor Susan Savage wants you to win. Savage was one of the worst mayors we've had when it comes to neighborhood empowerment and sensible zoning. Yes, she encouraged the registering of neighborhood associations, but she and her team worked against neighborhoods trying to build effective influence at City Hall over zoning issues that affected their property value and quality of life. Ask residents of Maple Ridge Central about how the Savage administration thwarted their efforts to protect their historic neighborhood. Her 1997 "Tulsa Project" plan would have sacrificed the area we now call the East End or Hodge's Bend to become a parking lot of a soccer stadium. That proposed tax increase failed, as did her tax hike proposal in 2000. While she brought speakers to Tulsa to talk about urban design, she didn't expend the political capital to move any ideas forward, not if it risked alienating her Chambercrat and developer backers. Ultimately, it took the neighborhood-friendly Gang of Five City Councilors to fund a new comprehensive plan. The most Savage would do was to fund three pilot small-area plans; fifteen years later we're still fighting resistance to implementing the recommendations of those plans.


Another thing you can do to make me regret my endorsement is to send a letter that refers to the "constant petty bickering" of the 2009-2011 City Council. The reality is that the nine councilors got along very well with one another and worked together across partisan lines. The problem, from Dewey Jr's point of view, is that they were united in their distress with Dewey Jr's actions and his refusal to build a cooperative working relationship. So Dewey Jr and his Chamber and developer buddies promoted the "petty bickering" meme and redrew the district lines to separate these councilors from the citizens who knew and appreciated them. The same people who wanted them gone want you gone, too, and for the same reasons.

There is a repeating pattern: A new reformer comes to the Council and arrogantly thinks, "The reason my bozo predecessors got tossed is they refused to be intelligent and polite in their approach. I'm going to be intelligent and polite and everyone will love me and accept my ideas." Guess what? Your "bozo" predecessors thought the same thing about their predecessors. No, the problem is that their ideas and your ideas are threatening to certain special interests, and they will paint you as a troublemaker and a petty bickerer so that low-information voters can't wait to toss you out of office.

To repeat what I wrote five years ago:

Lakin's critique of some current councilors reminds me of what I've heard from other councilors in the past about their predecessors. The gist of it: "If they'd just be nicer, people would pay more attention to the substance of what they're saying." Many of the councilors who have said that in the past have later learned the hard way that as soon as you challenge the power or the budget of some entrenched interest, everyone will think you aren't nice, no matter how nicely you make your case. The newspaper will run pictures that make you look angry. The mayor will accuse you of bickering. And then some council candidate will come along and tell you that if you'd just be nicer, people would pay more attention to the substance of what you're saying.

Have some respect for the councilors who blazed this trail before you. Because of their willingness to take risks and endure ridicule and defamation, the Overton Window is open a little wider for you.


And finally: If your bulk-mail house doesn't know how to remove duplicates from your address list, you need to get a better bulk-mail house, one who won't waste your mailing and printing budget.

common core with flowers.jpgNational Review has a wonderful history of the effort to pull Oklahoma out of the Common Core curriculum and the four women who spearheaded it.

[Jenni] White has spent the past four years telling Parent Teacher Organizations and anyone else who would listen that Oklahoma should not implement Common Core, the education standards that most of the country adopted in 2010.

She hasn't been working alone. "Our organization is made up of a board that just consists of four of us moms basically," White says, referring to her cohorts Julia Seay, Lynn Habluetzel, and Joy Collins. "We have bankrolled the whole thing out of our poor husbands' bank accounts."

Ask anyone in Oklahoma politics who they think led the successful fight to repeal Common Core -- Governor Mary Fallin signed the repeal into law on June 5 -- and they'll tell you that the story starts with this foursome. White served as the writer and spokeswoman for the group, which operates under the auspices of their LLC, Restore Oklahoma's Public Education (ROPE). Together, the women have spent the past four years talking to Republican-party leaders, attending conservative conferences, and lobbying state legislators. Most of all, though, they cultivated a grassroots political movement against Common Core that overcame a bipartisan coalition ranging from the Department of Education to the Chamber of Commerce. By May 2014, a poll conducted on behalf of a Republican candidate showed that 57 percent of likely primary voters held an unfavorable view of the standards while only 9 percent had a favorable view.

In short, the four moms fought the proverbial city hall and won. "Look at Eric Cantor, seriously," White suggested. "Some guy who had $300,000 beat him. You don't think that kind of thing is possible when people have had enough?"

To explain how states became willing to surrender control over their own curriculum, State Sen. Josh Brecheen drew an unusual analogy:

A rancher by trade, he compared the states that scrambled for federal funding to the feral hogs he has to bait and trap. "You get them dependent on a free handout long enough, and you can get them in that live trap," Brecheen told NRO. "What's happened to states is the same thing as what you would see in that scenario. We've been baited, and we've surrendered our freedom because of a free handout. And I think Oklahomans became aware of that, and that's why we've had success this session."

The article points out that Common Core wasn't just a danger to local control of public schools, but to private schools and homeschoolers as well:

They met with county Republican groups and tea-party organizations but found especially willing supporters among homeschoolers in the state. That might seem unusual, since homeschooled kids don't attend the public schools that would be governed by Common Core, but their involvement points to one result of combining model national standards with model national tests: The companies that write curricula modify their products to comply with Common Core.

"The options for homeschoolers have been greatly reduced," Brecheen says. "Ultimately, Common Core is a national market for services in education. It's a national marketplace. . . . When 45 states do one thing, then you no longer have experimentation with anything else."

Other interesting points in the story:

  • How massive parental opposition to the Reading Sufficiency Act spilled over into Common Core opposition.
  • How the initiative of these Oklahoma moms led to a Republican National Committee resolution against Common Core, through the work of Oklahoma RNC member Carolyn McLarty, and how that helped the lobbying effort at the State Capitol.
  • Speaker T. W. Shannon's role: Was his refusal to advance an anti-Common Core bill in 2013 tactical brilliance -- keeping a bill from getting killed before the support was strong enough to pass it -- or craven cowardice? (MORE: Here's Jenni White's account of Shannon's role and Shannon's reaction.)
  • Gov. Mary Fallin's refusal to meet with Common Core opponents and her superficial gesture.
  • How ROPE mobilized to ensure state senators heard their protests.
  • The legislative maneuvers required to get around roadblocks in the State Senate.

MORE:

Jenni White responds to U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's fulminations against Oklahoma's rejection of Common Core.

It's interesting how quickly the anti-Common Core forces, once vilified as "conspiracy theorists", "fearmongers" and "liars" have become vindicated since -- and by Duncan's own hand no less. Duncan's latest temper tantrum can't help but make it readily apparent to even the passing skeptic that there must be something to the legions of arguments connecting Common Core and federal overreach into public education....

Oklahoma -- and the other 49 states -- got along for hundreds of years without education via national standards offered as carrots for federal programming dollars. In fact, it wasn't until 1970 -- after the first real federal intervention into local public education (President Johnson's Elementary and Secondary Education Act) -- that America saw the beginning of the tremendous decline in public education we fight today.

In a personal blog post, Jenni White talks about State Superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister and contrasts Hofmeister's response to ROPE's efforts against Common Core to that of incumbent Superintendent Janet Barresi:

No, Joy did not come out whaling away against Common Core when she began her campaign for superintendent. This frustrated many of our ROPE friends. I understand their perspective, but it's important to remember what perspective is and that there are frequently multiple views of the same issue. As I talked to Joy about Common Core, it became very clear she was not going to move the way a group wanted, she was going to continue researching until she could make the decision on her own. The implied hypocrisy in the statement "She was for it before she was against it" is completely ridiculous. I was an atheist at one point in my life. Now I am a follower of Jesus Christ. So, I can't grow into a relationship with the Lord? This argument is sound for anyone who considers themselves to be an educable individual on any issue at any level.

Our current superintendent has shown she is not educable. She knows what's right and by Hell or high water, she's going to do that/those thing/s.

That is not Joy. Joy will study, deliberate, debate and discuss before she comes to a conclusion. In my experience she's not going to be led around by the nose, or decide she has the only solution, she's going to work to find her true north and move in that direction.

And finally, Jenni White's perspective on State Superintendent Janet Barresi. White worked with her at the charter school Barresi founded, volunteered for the 2010 Barresi campaign, then ran into a brick wall trying to get a hearing from Barresi on Common Core. She explains why ROPE is calling for Barresi's defeat and why Barresi doesn't deserve conservative support.

Here is a playlist of videos from TulsaNow's June 4, 2014, Tulsa City Council District 4 candidate forum. Incumbent Blake Ewing and challengers Danny Patten and Elissa Kay Harvill participated in the forum.

Former Tulsa County Republican Party Chairman J. B. Alexander has announced his endorsement of Brian Pounds, Republican candidate for Tulsa County Commissioner District 1. Pounds is challenging two-term incumbent John Smaligo. The district covers northern and eastern Tulsa County, including Owasso, Skiatook, Sperry, Collinsville, north and east Tulsa.

In his endorsement, Alexander points out that Brian Pounds has been endorsed by the Tulsa County Deputy Sheriff FOP and the Owasso FOP. Alexander reviews Smaligo's record and explains why Smaligo needs replacing and why Pounds should be the one to take his place. I agree.

The state of Oklahoma has the lowest taxes of any of the surrounding states. Yet Tulsa County has the second highest taxes of any county in the surrounding states. That's just not right.

Over the past 7 years John Smaligo has a proven track record of wanting to keep our taxes high. In 2012 he led the county commissioner's support of the failed Vision 2 tax increase.

If you will remember Vision 2 was a thirteen year, $748 million tax package (the amount was based on a zero percent growth. Using the past ten year growth rate the amount would have been close to $1 billion).

This tax package included borrowing money FOUR years before the revenues would be coming in. Since we would have been borrowing the money yearly payments would be required. So this package also included borrowing the yearly payments for those four years until the revenues started coming in. That's like charging something on your credit card knowing you couldn't make the monthly payments until next year so you take out a loan to make the monthly payments...paying interest on all of this. Sounds like Washington, DC, tactics.

John Smaligo also is claiming credit for getting 1,000 new jobs with the Macy's warehouse development west of Owasso. What he is not telling you are most of those jobs are part-time, no benefit positions. And taxpayers are paying Macy's to move here at the upfront cost of $2 million.

If Tulsa County is going to work to attract new businesses who are looking for lower taxes we need someone who is not a career politician and understands working class folks.

Brian Pounds is just that person. Brian has worked in the Tulsa County Assessor's office for the past thirteen years and is a reserve deputy for the Tulsa County Sheriff's office. He is married to Judy Pounds who is an 18 year veteran of the Tulsa County Sheriff's office. Brian and Judy live in Owasso and have two daughters, Tabitha Wood and Ashley Pounds. Tabitha is a five year veteran of the Tulsa County Sheriff's office and a Senior Airman with the 138th Fighter Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard. Brian is also a veteran of the US Army.

Brian has received the endorsements of the Tulsa County Deputy Sheriffs Fraternal Order of Police and the Owasso Fraternal Order of Police.

Brian is a person who has spent his life serving those in need and will continue that dedication once elected as a Tulsa County Commissioner. He believes that tax dollars should be spent on Public Safety and Infrastructure needs first and would work hard to lower our high tax rate.

If we are going to get Tulsa County recognized as a low tax county that will attract small and large businesses then we need Brian Pounds as our District 1 county commissioner.

Next Tuesday vote for Brian Pounds for County Commissioner.

cathy_pinkerton_baker-delinquent_taxes.jpgI don't often comment on other jurisdictions, but this is a race worthy of note, and the best candidate is someone I've known personally for many years, someone I can endorse with unqualified enthusiasm. I urge my Rogers County readers to vote for Jason Carini as County Treasurer on June 24, 2014. The race will be settled in the Republican primary.

The Carini family has been a part of our church family for many years, and we've seen firsthand the deep roots of Jason Carini's conservative principles, Christian faith, and interest in public policy. Jason has a degree in public policy from Patrick Henry College and played a key role in Tom Coburn's first race for U. S. Senate in 2004. Jason and I have had many after-church chats about politics and government -- not just the latest developments, but also about the bigger picture and the long run.

But Jason Carini also knows there's more to life than politics. About five years ago he established a small business, Green Country Mowing and Landscaping. He and his wife Jessica own a home in Catoosa, where Jason grew up, and they have a two-year-old daughter and a newborn son.

Carini has grown his business to six employees, debt-free and with a high customer retention rate. Carini understands that diligent and courteous service are what bring customers back and keep them from leaving for a competitor. You have to pay attention to detail, and you have to follow through on your commitments. That understanding is often absent from government offices, where the "customer" has nowhere else to go. Rogers County residents need Carini's service-oriented attitude, honed in the private sector, in the County Treasurer's office.

Jason Carini would have been happy to stay in the private sector, but when an incompetent incumbent failed to draw a challenger, Carini answered the call.

At a May 29, 2014, candidate forum, incumbent Rogers County Treasurer Cathy Pinkerton-Baker admitted that, in her 23 years in office, she has never issued warrants to collect delinquent taxes. I'm no fan of high taxes, but the county treasurer's job isn't to decide whether a tax is appropriate or at the right level. The treasurer's job is to collect taxes owed and to take certain legally required steps if taxes are not paid in a timely manner. It hurts law-abiding taxpayers if other taxpayers face no penalties for failure to pay.

A county treasurer also has an obligation to maintain diligent control over funds and data. The State Auditor's annual reports and county audits have called out Pinkerton-Baker for failing to ensure that every financial transaction has proper oversight, for failing to plan for data recovery after a disaster, and for failing to enforce sound data security procedures, and for making personal use of county property.

In her response to deficiencies identified in the just-released audit covering Fiscal Year 2012-2013, Pinkerton-Baker claims that she is addressing each issue, but there's no way to know for sure until the next audit is released next year.

Rogers County is one of Oklahoma's fastest growing counties. Since incumbent Rogers County Treasurer Cathy Pinkerton-Baker was first elected in 1990, the population has grown from 55,170 to an estimated 89,044 last year, from 10th place to 6th place. The population will likely pass 100,000 in this decade. Once mainly populated by residents of small towns and acreages, the county has sprouted suburban subdivisions filled with Tulsa commuters. Citizens have a rightful expectation that government officials will be professional. The sloppy, good-ol'-boy approach to government is no longer acceptable (not that it ever was).

As Rogers County has grown, its voter profile has changed as well. When incumbent Treasurer Cathy Pinkerton-Baker was first elected in 1990, Republicans were a tiny minority. As of January 2014, 51.6% of Rogers County voters are registered Republican. Apparently responding to the shift in the political winds, Pinkerton-Baker, daughter of a former Democratic Wagoner County Commissioner, switched parties from Democrat to Republican about a year ago. (Even liberal newspaper editor John Wylie has switched his registration, so he can have a vote in county races. Unsurprisingly, the recently Democratic editor has endorsed the recently Democratic treasurer for re-election.)

Rogers County has a choice between a principled conservative and a convenient convert, between a small businessman who will diligently follow the law and a career bureaucrat who has carelessly ignored the law for decades. Jason Carini is the right choice for Rogers County Treasurer.

MORE:

Courtesy Oklahoma Constitution reporter Theodore King, here are audio clips of the Rogers County Treasurer candidates at the May 29, 2014, candidate forum. (He did not have audio of the opening statements, but all other answers and statements by the treasurer candidates are linked below.)

"When did you become a Republican?" Pinkerton-Baker said she became a Republican only a year ago. Carini registered Republican when he turned 18.

"What experience outside of your current role will help you fulfill your role as County Treasurer?" Pinkerton-Baker mentioned service on legislative committees and involvement in the Round-Up Club. Carini discussed his five years of experience serving customers as a small-business owner. Carini also pointed out that prior to her 23 years as County Treasurer, Pinkerton-Baker worked in government for an additional 13 years.

"What are your plans for addressing the State Auditor's findings concerning internal controls and segregation of duties?" Carini noted that this is not a one-time finding, but it has been repeated year after year. Rogers County has the size to assign sufficient personnel to properly segregate duties. Pinkerton-Baker excused her county because 74 other counties don't comply.

"What can the treasurer's office do to help increase county funding sources?" Pinkerton-Baker acknowledged that she had not issued tax warrants during her 23 years in office. Carini pointed out that, in previous last seven years alone, uncollected taxes totaled roughly $1.5 million.

Closing statements from Carini and Pinkerton-Baker.

MORE:

State Auditor reports for Fiscal Years 2010 through 2013:

2010 State Auditor's Report on Rogers County Treasurer's Office
2011 State Auditor's Report on Rogers County Treasurer's Office
2012 State Auditor's Report on Rogers County Treasurer's Office
2013 State Auditor's Report on Rogers County Treasurer's Office
FY 2010 Audit of Rogers County
FY 2011 Audit of Rogers County
FY 2012 Audit of Rogers County
FY 2013 Audit of Rogers County

Terry Simonson pushes through Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's office doorTerry Simonson was on 1170 KFAQ with Pat Campbell this morning, arguing the case for State Rep. Fred Jordan's eligibility to be elected District Attorney. Simonson's LinkedIn profile indicates that he is the Director of Governmental Affairs for the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office and the President/Owner of Pathways Consulting & Government Relations, LLC.

(MORE: Assistant DA Steve Kunzweiler, who filed the petition to resolve the eligibility issue, called into KFAQ later Tuesday morning. Listen online at the link.)

Simonson assumed, incorrectly, that I looked only at statutory and constitutional language and not at case law in researching my article on the ineligibility of Fred Jordan to be District Attorney. In fact, every page of statute and constitution and court opinion on OSCN has links at the bottom of the page to cases and Attorney General opinions in which the provision is cited, so it's easy to see how courts have interpreted the law over the years. I've also had conversations with attorneys who have brought relevant cases and AG opinions to my attention.

There's no dispute about when Jordan's term expires. It's clearly set out in 14 O.S. 137 as November 19, 2014. The question is when the new DA would be considered elected.

Addressing Simonson's specific points:

1. Had Simonson read Steve Kunzweiler's petition before calling in, he would have seen that it was being brought to the District Court for Oklahoma County. The first paragraph states that venue is proper in Oklahoma County under 12 O.S. 133 and 12 O. S. 1653, as the case involves an official action of the Oklahoma State Election Board, which is situated in Oklahoma County. The State Supreme Court is not involved at this point.

2. This issue couldn't have been settled four weeks ago, because it only became an issue two weeks ago, on June 3, when Gov. Fallin signed HJR 1096, causing the emoluments of the District Attorney to increase. It was only at that point that Jordan and Crain officially became ineligible under Article V, Section 23. (When the measure passed the Senate on May 23, having already passed the House, Crain saw the handwriting on the wall and stepped aside.)

3. This issue doesn't affect State Rep. Joe Dorman, a candidate for Governor, because the bill in question did not increase the Governor's salary. In fact, HJR 1096 Section 3 amends 74 O. S. 250.4 subparagraph 1 to exclude the Governor's salary from increasing as a result of the increase in judicial salaries (the underlined language was added to the law by HJR 1096):

1. The Governor shall receive a salary equal to the salary received by the Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court; provided however, the Governor shall not receive any increase in salary as a result of the provisions of Section 1 of this resolution;

The same section of the measure also explicitly excludes all other statewide elected officials from receiving a pay raise. The same sort of language could have been added to exclude District Attorneys from the pay raise, but it was not.

4. Simonson claims that the DA is not elected until the canvassing of votes by the Legislature after the organization of the House in January, after Jordan's term as a State Representative expires. He cited Gragg v. Dudley (1930 OK 280), which cites Article VI, Section 5. Article VI covers the state's executive officers, which are enumerated in
Section 1(A):

A. The Executive authority of the state shall be vested in a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor and Inspector, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Commissioner of Labor, Commissioner of Insurance and other officers provided by law and this Constitution, each of whom shall keep his office and public records, books and papers at the seat of government, and shall perform such duties as may be designated in this Constitution or prescribed by law.

Nothing in Article VI deals with District Attorneys. Gragg v. Dudley involved a legislator seeking the office of Lieutenant Governor, which is listed by name in the above section as one of the state's executive officers.

Note that each of these officers, both explicitly listed and named by implication, is required by the State Constitution to "keep his office and public records, books and papers at the seat of government." The seat of government is specified in Article V, Section 26, as the place the Legislature is required to meet in regular session. In fact, the Gragg v. Dudley ruling cites that very provision. 73 O.S. 1 declares that "The seat of government and capitol of the State of Oklahoma shall be and is hereby established at Oklahoma City, in the county of Oklahoma, in the said state...."

Clearly, the District Attorney for District 14 (Tulsa County) does not keep his office, public records, books, or papers in Oklahoma City. At the time Gragg v. Dudley was decided, the office of District Attorney did not exist. There were County Attorneys in Oklahoma until 1967, when the district system came into effect, under which most DAs serve multiple counties. Despite that change, District Attorneys still have a significant connection to county government, as the office is created under Title 19 (Counties and County Officers), and the DA must provide legal advice and defense to county officers and employees in the conduct of their duties, while the counties provide the DA's office space, including utilities and maintenance.

The DA's offices are, therefore, in the county courthouses for the counties in his district. In District 14, there is one county, Tulsa, and one DA's office, in the Tulsa County Courthouse, not in Oklahoma City. District Attorney is, therefore, not an office covered by Article VI, and the requirements of Article VI, Section 5, cited in Gragg v. Dudley would not apply.

Note also that on our ballots, the District Attorney's race appears under "Legislative, District, and County Officers," along with the race for County Assessor and County Commissioner, and not under "State Officers."

Also, 26 O.S. 5-102 lists those offices for which candidates are required to file with the State Election Board, and district attorney is listed separately from state officers:

Candidates for United States Senator, United States Representative, state officer, State Senator, State Representative, district judge, associate district judge and district attorney shall file Declarations of Candidacy with the Secretary of the State Election Board.

While "state officer" is sometimes defined differently for the purposes of a specific section of the law, here, in the context of election, it must mean only the statewide elective offices, as legislators, judges, and district attorneys are listed separately.

5. 19 O.S. 215.20 says that the term of the District Attorney's office begins "on the first Monday of January following his election." Article V, Section 26, of the Constitution says (emphasis added)

The Legislature shall also meet in regular session at the seat of government on the First Tuesday after the First Monday in January of each odd numbered year, beginning at twelve o'clock noon for the purposes only of performing the duties as required by Section 5 of Article VI of the Constitution and organizing pursuant to the provisions of this Article and shall recess not later than five o'clock p.m. of that same day until the following first Monday in February of the same year, beginning at twelve o'clock noon.

If a District Attorney is not elected until January 6, 2015, as Simonson claims, his term of office could not begin until January 4, 2016.

6. So when is a District Attorney elected? For every office other than those listed in Article VI, a candidate is given a certificate of election by the appropriate election board -- state election board for legislative and district officers, county election board for county and municipal officers.

26 O.S. 8-103 says:

The county election board shall certify a list of successful candidates for county offices and shall provide Certificates of Election to the same following the General Election, except that Certificates of Election may be issued to unopposed candidates after 5 p.m. on the second day following the close of the filing period. The State Election Board shall certify a list of successful candidates for offices for which the Board accepts filings of Declarations of Candidacy and shall provide Certificates of Election to the same following the General Election, except that Certificates of Election may be issued to unopposed candidates after 5 p.m. on the second day following the close of the filing period.

According to 26 O.S. 8-108, those certificates would be issued at 5 p.m. Friday after the general election, barring any contest that would affect the DA's race. Since the last possible vote in the DA's race will happen on August 26, any recounts and contests will have been resolved long before November 7 at 5:00 pm, when the State Election Board will issue a certificate of election, 12 days before the end of Jordan's term as a member of the State House.

Randy_Brogdon-Senate_2014.jpgSeven candidates have filed to complete the final two years of U. S. Senator Tom Coburn's term, but if you were to follow the news coverage you might think there were only two candidates in the race.

Three of the seven have been elected officials: Former State Sen. Randy Brogdon, U. S. Rep. James Lankford, and State Rep. T. W. Shannon, the former Speaker of the Oklahoma House. The other four candidates are each interesting in their own way, and I may write about them in a later entry.

Six of the seven candidates profess to be in line with the conservative views and values of Oklahoma Republicans on all the key issues of the day. Our decision on June 24th comes down to which one we can trust to maintain consistency with those views in the face of heavy pressure, which one will not be coopted by the Inside the Beltway culture of favor-trading and corporate welfare.

One candidate of the seven has a long record of consistency standing for the rights of Oklahoma taxpayers. Whatever the merits of the other candidates, Randy Brogdon has earned our trust.

Brogdon, a small-business owner in the heat and air industry, was elected in 1998 to the Owasso City Council and was elected as Mayor by his fellow city councilors. In 2002 he was elected to the State Senate, serving two terms and earning the highest ratings possible from conservative groups.

Brogdon was the leading advocate for the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) initiative, a popular measure that was scuttled by special interest litigation. He led the effort to pull Oklahoma out of the effort to build the eminent domain nightmare known as the NAFTA Superhighway through the state. A champion for privacy rights, he led Oklahoma to opt out of the Real ID Act. In 2010, he authored SQ 756, the Oklahoma Healthcare Freedom Amendment. He was one of the few Republican elected officials with the courage to stand consistently with grassroots Tulsa County Republicans against ill-considered boondoggles funded by sales tax increases.

In his 2010 run for governor, Brogdon finished strongly in his home base, winning Tulsa County and surrounding counties in his primary race against Mary Fallin, but he failed to break through in the rest of the state.

Some readers will point out that Brogdon is polling in the single digits. He has been outflanked by T. W. Shannon, who has actively pursued endorsements from conservative national groups and politicians. Local Tea Party leaders and conservative activists have objected loudly to the anointing of Shannon as the grassroots candidate, as the outside groups and politicians didn't bother to talk to locals who know these candidates best.

Brogdon seems to have an aversion to asking for endorsements and support. As an example, even though I knocked doors for Brogdon in 2010, I've not received any contact from the campaign asking for my help this year. This is Campaigning 101: Keep a list of supporters from past runs and reach out to them to help again. People are busy, potential volunteers and donors are swamped with requests from candidates, and if a candidate doesn't ask for help, he isn't going to get it.

Nevertheless, Randy Brogdon is the one candidate I know I can trust to do the right thing consistently in Washington, and thanks to our runoff system, I don't have to vote for a lower-ranked choice in this primary. Unlike some elections, this one doesn't require a tactical vote. I don't notice a bandwagon effect for either Lankford or Shannon. The leading candidates are close enough in the polls that it's unlikely that either will win outright, which means that I might have to choose between Lankford and Shannon in the August runoff. But if enough people realize that they don't have to cast a tactical vote, if they take a closer look at the candidates' records, if they are put off by the back and forth of negative ads between Shannon and Lankford and their respective "dark money" allies, Brogdon might make it into the runoff.

No matter who wins the nomination, there is no realistic danger of a Democrat winning this seat, given how out of sync the Democratic field is with Oklahoma's political values. (Liberal Oklahoma City State Sen. Connie Johnson is the leading Democrat in the race.)

Even if Shannon or Lankford won the primary outright, it would hardly be a tragedy for conservatives. Charlie Meadows of the Oklahoma Conservative PAC had kind words for both after his group gave their endorsement to Randy Brogdon. But here's how Meadows summed up OCPAC's support for Brogdon:

When it comes to Randy Brogdon, the bio is conservative, consistent and reliable. He finished 8 years in the legislature with a lifetime Conservative Index Score of 93, a remarkable feat. He was the first Republican SENATOR to score a perfect 100 on the Index in modern times and he did that in his second year in the legislature and in a few more years following.

On more than one occasion Brogdon used his reasoning skills to persuade his fellow Republican Senators to at least consider the moral arguments on issues. He was an effective lawmaker and earned the trust of the grassroots activists across the state. In the 3 years he served Insurance Commissioner Doak, he worked hard to make the agency lean and efficient. It is in his bones, Brogdon has always been about reducing the size of government and liberty.

In closing, the down side for Brogdon is that he got started late in this effort, especially after switching from the Governor's race to this Senate race. Though he has raised more money and faster than he has anticipated, his funds come from the grass roots and they can never produce the kind of money the "folks in tall buildings" provide. Often times the wealthy contribute because they want something from government and expect elected officials to ask how high when they tell them to jump. On the other hand, the grass roots contribute because they believe in a cause.

Bottom line, I believe Brogdon got the OCPAC nod because the people TRUST him, his whole time in government has been about limiting government and expanding liberty. The grassroots people know he will not be beholden to what I lovingly call the "Oklahoma Mafia", the rich and powerful who happen to be more into fascist capitalism and central planning rather than free market capitalism.

Next Tuesday I'm voting for a candidate with a long record of consistent conservative governance. I'm voting for someone we can trust to represent Oklahoma values faithfully in Washington. I hope you'll join me in voting for Randy Brogdon to be Oklahoma's next U. S. Senator.

MORE:

Brian Ervin's 2007 profile of Randy Brogdon.

Paul Jacob praises Randy Brogdon during his 2010 run for Governor.

Fivethirtyeight has an analysis of the Oklahoma race that captures the subtleties and appropriately notes Brogdon as a local Tea Party favorite and a factor in the race. They also note SoonerPoll's problems in past Oklahoma Republican primary elections. (Right after the 2010 primary, Oklahoma native and pollster Chris Wilson wrote about polling failures in that election.)

The Tulsa World had an item about what may be the only naval battle fought within the borders of Oklahoma, 150 years ago Sunday, on June 15, 1864. Confederate troops led by Col. Stand Watie (later promoted to Brigadier General) attacked a Union supply steamboat on the Arkansas River.

Stand_Watie-Pheasant_Bluff-18640615.PNG

Painting of the Confederate attack on the J. R. Williams by Durant artist Neal Taylor, on display in the Oklahoma History Center.

After the war the U. S. Congress authorized the publication of the official war records of both armies in the "War of the Rebellion." Official dispatches from Col. Watie and his commanding officer regarding the Battle of the J. R. Williams were published in 1891 (Series I, Volume XXXIV, Part I (Reports), Chapter 46, Operations in Louisiana and the Trans-Mississippi States and Territories, Part 1, January 1 - June 30, 1864, pp. 1011-1013).

After one of Watie's lieutenants arrived with news, Gen. D. H. Cooper sent the following dispatch to Fort Towson:


Steve Kunzweiler, the Assistant DA seeking the open Tulsa County District Attorney's seat, has filed a petition in Oklahoma County District Court seeking a ruling on the eligibility of his two opponents in the June 24, 2014, GOP primary. A legislative action taken after the April filing period made the two legislators in the race constitutionally ineligible to be elected or appointed to the job, under Article V, Section 23, of the Oklahoma Constitution. One of the two, State Sen. Brian Crain, has withdrawn from the race, but the other, State Rep. Fred Jordan, refuses to withdraw.

The heart of the question is when the legislative term ends and when the DA is considered elected. Jordan's term does not end until November 19, 2014, but the new DA will be elected prior to that date.

Kunzweiler is asking the court to rule that Crain and Jordan are both ineligible and that neither can be certified as elected. Kunzweiler notes, "The office of District Attorney is too important to public safety to risk a period of disruption and confusion. The election of a constitutionally prohibited candidate to the office could call into question and subject to legal challenge every official act taken by the newly-elected Tulsa County District Attorney."

Here is a press release from the Kunzweiler campaign:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DA candidate Steve Kunzweiler asks court to declare opponents Fred Jordan and Brian Crain ineligible to be elected DA

TULSA, Okla., June 16, 2014 - Republican Candidate for District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler today filed a petition in Oklahoma County District Court asking the court to declare candidates Fred Jordan and Brian Crain ineligible to be elected Tulsa County District Attorney.

The action claims Kunzweiler is entitled to a declaratory judgment finding:

a. That Crain and Jordan are constitutionally prohibited from being elected to the Office of Tulsa County District Attorney pursuant to Article V, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution; and

b. That the state Board of Election is constitutionally prohibited from certifying either Crain or Jordan as elected to the Office of District Attorney.

Kunzweiler's petition cites the Oklahoma State Constitution's prohibition against Legislators increasing pay of an elected official and then seeking election to that office while they are legislators.

State Representative Fred Jordan and State Sen. Brian Crain are candidates for DA along with Kunzweiler. On May 23, 2014, the Legislature voted to increase the pay of state judges and district attorneys. Sen. Crain then publicly acknowledged that the action prohibits him from seeking the DA office and suspended his campaign, although his name remains on the ballot. Jordan claims that the prohibition does not apply to him and has continued campaigning for the office.

On June 3, 2014 Governor Mary Fallin signed HJR 1096 into law, rendering both Jordan and Crain ineligible for election. The Oklahoma Constitution Article V, Section 23 provides:

No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any office or commission in the State, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during his term of office . . .

According to Kunzweiler's petition, the election of a constitutionally prohibited candidate would call into question every official act of the Office of Tulsa County District Attorney.
Kunzweiler, an Assistant District Attorney in Tulsa County and a 24-year prosecutor, said, "I did not ask to be put in this position. Since the governor signed this into law, I have asked many different attorneys to research the law to determine whether Jordan could be considered eligible for election. After consultation with them, it is clear to me that Jordan's candidacy violates both the spirit and the letter of the law. The Oklahoma Constitution clearly states this," Kunzweiler said.

"The actions of the Oklahoma Legislature - of which Jordan is a Majority leader - put me in this position. I took an oath of office to uphold the Oklahoma and US Constitutions. It is my duty and my obligation under the Constitution of Oklahoma to raise this issue and to resolve it," Kunzweiler said.

"The office of District Attorney is too important to public safety to risk a period of disruption and confusion. The election of a constitutionally prohibited candidate to the office could call into question and subject to legal challenge every official act taken by the newly-elected Tulsa County District Attorney beginning January 1, 2015. Our citizens need to be protected without interruption. Based upon Oklahoma's Constitution, it is apparent that neither Jordan nor Crain can be elected or appointed to the Office of Tulsa County District Attorney come January 1, 2015.

"I honor and respect State Senator Brian Crain, who recognized that he could no longer run for this office based upon the pay increase. He announced that he was withdrawing from the election. That was the correct thing to do because it was required by Oklahoma's Constitution," Kunzweiler said. "Jordan is also subject to the same Constitutional prohibition that Senator Crain faced."

"As I said at the outset - I am a prosecutor - not a politician. As a prosecutor I am obligated to follow the rule of law. I am sworn to uphold our Constitution. I am doing what the law requires me to do."

MORE: Steve Kunzweiler's petition to the Oklahoma County District Court regarding eligibility of candidates for Tulsa County District Attorney.

Steve_Kunzweiler-Tulsa_County_DA.jpgAfter 16 years in office, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris is stepping down. Three Republican candidates filed to replace him, but one candidate quit the race because of a constitutional impediment to his election, and a second candidate should stand down for the same reason, but he refuses to do so, risking a protracted legal battle should he win. Our next district attorney will be chosen by voters in the June 24, 2014, Republican primary.

Happily for Tulsa County citizens, the one candidate in the race who is unquestionably eligible to serve is Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who is the most qualified, by experience and temperament, to serve as District Attorney.

There are three aspects to the District Attorney's job: Prosecuting criminals, mentoring and managing a team of prosecutors, and partnering with public officials and community leaders to advance the cause of justice. Steve Kunzweiler is the only candidate with extensive and current experience in every aspect of the DA's job.

With 24 years of experience as a prosecutor, Steve Kunzweiler is the Chief of the Criminal Division in the DA's office, mentoring 35 assistant DAs and overseeing the prosecution of thousands of criminal cases every year, over 12,000 in 2013 alone. Beyond the courtroom, Kunzweiler works with legislators, police departments, victims, and community leaders to provide training and improve the process so that bad guys receive their just punishment and Tulsa County residents are safer.

One example of Kunzweiler's innovative approach to his job is his advocacy for the use of therapy dogs to accompany child abuse victims when they testify in court. A courtroom can be a frightening place to a child, particularly when arguments get heated and voices are raised. In the past, an adult counselor has sometimes been allowed to sit with a child witness, but that raises concerns that the adult might prompt the child's testimony. That could open the door to exclusion of the child's testimony and the acquittal of an abuser or to the conviction of a wrongly accused defendant.

Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler with a therapy dogSteve Kunzweiler's solution is to have a therapy dog accompany the child in the witness box. The dog can't offer any prompts. These dogs are selected for a calm temperament and trained to remain calm in the midst of commotion. They reassure the child that all is well, even in this strange environment. Kunzweiler writes on his website:

When a child witness is accompanied to court by a dog that he or she has bonded with in pretrial preparations, the effects are immediate and profound. The trust, acceptance, and tactile comfort of a friendly dog changes the physiology of the nervous child. Human heart rate decreases and blood pressure falls in the presence of therapy dogs. The child may simply feel safer to recall past events, even with an audience of strange adults in the courtroom.

During the just-ended legislative session, Steve Kunzweiler worked with State Rep. Pam Peterson to pass a law authorizing the use of therapy dogs statewide. Kunzweiler has also successfully worked with legislators to add many other reforms to criminal law: expanding the statute of limitations for the reporting of child abuse, increasing the range of punishment for drunk driving offenders who seriously injure their victims, allowing the introduction of hearsay evidence for developmentally delayed children, allowing repeat child abusers to be impeached with their prior crimes.

While Kunzweiler works effectively with the legislative process, he is new to electoral politics. He is a Republican and a conservative, but his focus has been his calling as a prosecutor and a leader of prosecutors, rather than partisan politics. Some politicians have sought the DA's office as a platform for running for governor or congress, but Kunzweiler has no ambitions beyond being able to continue to pursue his vocation as a prosecutor. Steve Kunzweiler sees himself as the next DA in a long line of non-politician DAs, like Buddy Fallis, David L. Moss, and Tim Harris.

Steve Kunzweiler's family life underscores his conservative temperament. He has been married for 25 years to Dr. Christine Kunzweiler, a veterinarian. Steve, Christine, and their three daughters are active members of Christ the King Catholic Parish. Steve earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri then came to Tulsa to earn his law degree at the University of Tulsa Law School in 1988. He's been here ever since.

A recent article about Kunzweiler gives you a sense of his heart for his vocation:

He has an old, ragged file in a desk drawer, labeled "This is Why I Do It!" The folder is bursting with pictures of people he's fought for in court - a 10-year-old girl in her cheerleader uniform. An 18-year-old in a baseball uniform with a bat on his shoulder. A proud tuxedo-clad papa walking his daughter down the aisle in a wedding gown.

The photos depict happy, smiling people enjoying life, often on some of the most important days of their lives - graduation, weddings, family celebrations. The photos
are reminders to Kunzweiler that the victims had dreams and goals and active lives that were stolen from them and from their families.

"Too many times, the criminal justice system is all about the defendant. We don't hear much about the victim. I am the victim's voice in court, and I want to know as much as I can about who they were and what was happening in their life," Kunzweiler said.

Steve Kunzweiler has been endorsed by outgoing DA Tim Harris, the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly, and FOP chapters in Owasso and Glenpool.

It's necessary to say a few words about Kunzweiler's opponent. The same constitutional prohibition that caused State Sen. Brian Crain to withdraw applies equally to State Rep. Fred Jordan, but Jordan has invented a rationale to dodge the clear language of the Oklahoma Constitution. It is worrisome that the man who wants to be our county's chief legal officer isn't willing to abide by the plain meaning and spirit of a constitutional provision that has been in place since statehood. Setting that issue aside, there is still the matter of Jordan's lack of preparation for the job he seeks. Jordan's brief experience as a prosecutor is over a decade old, in a very different legal context than Tulsa County.

But I'd rather focus on Steve Kunzweiler, the highly-qualified man of character who has served the people of Oklahoma as a prosecutor for nearly a quarter-century and has the servant's heart and preparation to step up one level from his current job to serve as our District Attorney. I urge you to elect Steve Kunzweiler for Tulsa County District Attorney on June 24 and to encourage your friends to do the same.

ken_yazel.jpgSeveral important elections will be settled in the June 24, 2014, Republican primary. Between now and then, I will be posting endorsements, starting with an enthusiastic recommendation that I can make without hesitation.

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel is one of those rare elected officials who has remained true to the principles on which he was elected and to the voters who elected him, despite heavy pressure from special interests and their media mouthpieces. At the same time, Yazel has fulfilled his assigned duties diligently, leading the top-rated assessor's office in Oklahoma. Tulsa County taxpayers are blessed to have Ken Yazel in office. Republicans need to vote on June 24 to keep Ken Yazel as our assessor for another four years.

Detractors call Yazel a contrarian, but to Tulsa County taxpayers, Yazel is a trusted ally, friendly, accessible and ready to help. We need more elected officials like him.

When there's a bandwagon pushing toward higher taxes and more difficult access to public information, when the other elected officials take an "us vs. them" attitude, in which their fellow officials are "us" and the taxpayers are "them," we need at least one contrarian at the county courthouse who is pushing in the opposite direction, toward fiscal sense and government transparency. Ken Yazel has been there for Tulsa County taxpayers, standing firm and taking flak on our behalf.

Yazel has done an outstanding job with public access to information and keeping properties fairly and consistently valued, and he's often been the lone voice at the Tulsa County Courthouse speaking on behalf of the taxpayers.

In Oklahoma, a county assessor's primary job is to ensure that properties are fairly valued and that every property is reviewed at least once every four years. The State Auditor's office has given Ken Yazel's office the highest rating of any county assessor's office in Oklahoma -- 265 points out of a maximum score of 275. That means that under Yazel's leadership, the office carefully and consistently follows the rules to ensure a fair valuation for every property -- even if means stepping on the toes of some powerful people.

As one of the eight members of the County Budget Board, Yazel has been pushing to have Tulsa County follow Oklahoma County's good example and account for every penny under county control in the annual budget. Tulsa County's practice has been to budget only new funds that have to be appropriated, but to exclude earmarked money or carryover funds. Sadly, the other county elected officials have opposed him on this point and have even lobbied against legislation that would require full county budget transparency.

Notwithstanding a dubious "transparency" award, most Tulsa County departments make it hard to find the info you want online. I spent some time looking for the 2014-2015 budget that was approved this week. I don't give up easily, and I tried several different approaches, but ultimately did not find what I was looking for. I found plenty of notices, agendas, and minutes, but not even a draft of the new budget book.

Another example of Tulsa County's typical approach to web access: If you want to look at filed deeds, plats, and other land-related records, you have to go to the County Clerk's office during their office hours and go through a metal detector. Just to look at metadata for those records requires you to go to a library during the library's regular hours.

Under Ken Yazel's leadership, Tulsa County assessor records are easily accessible from home any time day or night. You can search by name, by legal description, or by clicking on Google Maps. From your own property's record, a click of a button lets you see recent sales in your subdivision and comparable properties that influence the assessed value of your home. Beyond property information, Yazel's county assessor website has a wealth of detail on ad valorem taxes and how they are calculated and all the information you need to file for exemptions and valuation freezes to which you may be entitled.

Yazel's outreach to the public isn't limited to the web. He speaks to neighborhood associations, civic groups, and other gatherings all over the county to help people understand ad valorem taxes, and he brings his team along to help property owners get their specific questions answered. During the period for filing homestead exemptions and valuation freezes, Yazel sets up "sub-offices," taking the process to where people live all across the county, rather than make taxpayers come down to the courthouse and go through the metal detector. Yazel sets up the assessor's office booth at the Tulsa State Fair, home shows, and local festivals where taxpayers can ask questions and get information on exemptions.

Yazel is a voice, too often the only voice, for the taxpayers at the Tulsa County Courthouse. When other county officials pushed the poorly conceived river tax and Vision2 tax plans, Yazel was the only county official with the courage to speak out in opposition. By doing so, he gave a big boost to the underfunded but ultimately successful campaigns to defeat those corporate welfare and pork barrel boondoggles. Those who benefit from county tax programs and revenue bonds no doubt would like to see Yazel gone, because they want all county elected officials singing the praises of the Vision 2025 replacement tax when it comes to the voters in 2016.

When other county officials proposed increasing taxes to fund criminal justice facilities, Yazel proposed alternatives to pay for the facilities without raising taxes.

You may have noticed, as I have, that certain property taxing entities which receive a fixed millage always have an abundance of funds, some to the point of being able to build a new building without blinking an eye. While it would not be a simple matter, if the political will existed at the county courthouse, a vote could be scheduled to reduce millages for overfunded entities to make room, say, for a bond issue for more critical capital improvements, at no net increase in property taxes or sales taxes. That is the sort of process that Yazel has been advocating and that his detractors have mischaracterized. No one is saying that you could simply take funds from one entity and give it to another.

Other county offices derive a considerable amount of revenue from statutory fees, but these fees are not included in the county budget, although Yazel believes that they should be. Even the carryover funds from the previous year are not included in the county budget, even though they are available for the elected official to spend. In his plan to fund criminal justice needs without raising taxes, Yazel suggested that, because of their considerable cash reserves, the County Clerk and Treasurer's offices could receive less money from the general fund and that the money saved could be used to fund competitive salaries and technology upgrades for the Sheriff's office.

Likewise, if county commissioners were willing to pledge Vision2 funds four years before they would be collected, it was surely possible to allocate funds from the remaining Vision 2025 collections to have paid for the juvenile justice facility and jail expansion. It would not have been a simple matter, and it would have required some combination of public votes to authorize the change in use, but it could have been done if the political will had existed.

Given the choice between (1) a rearrangement of public funding that required some effort and coordination but kept tax levels the same and (2) proposing a tax increase, county commissioners opted for the tax increase, while turning Yazel's plan for public improvements without a tax increase into a straw man and mischaracterizing it as impossible. Even if there had been minor flaws in his proposal, his fellow elected officials could have proposed adjustments and alternatives in keeping with the spirit of the idea. Instead, the other Tulsa County officials refused to cooperate with Yazel's taxpayer-friendly proposal.

Yazel is committed to ensuring that no one pays more property tax than is legally required, but he is also committed to ensuring that everyone is assessed in accordance with state law. State law makes the assessor the gatekeeper for property owners claiming that their property is tax exempt. That includes the responsibility to ensure that a previously granted exemption is still valid under the law. Like many assessors across the US (here's one example), Ken Yazel is finding some properties with exemptions don't meet the strict requirements of the Oklahoma Constitution and statutes. On occasion, a property owner disagrees with the assessor's interpretation of the law, and the matter goes to court.

When a property is undervalued or receives an exemption to which it is not entitled, every other taxpayer has to pay higher property taxes to make up the difference. Much of your property tax burden is used to repay general obligation bonds or court settlements. Each year, the excise board determines how much money each taxing authority (cities, schools, the library system, etc.) needs to cover its obligations. That amount is divided by the assessed value of all properties in the jurisdiction, and the result is the millage rate applied to every property. Your property tax rate is a fraction, and when a large, expensive property is undervalued or unjustly exempted, the denominator shrinks significantly and the millage goes up, raising everyone else's taxes.

It would be easy to give in to the erroneous tax exemption claims of the rich and powerful, just because they have the money to make trouble for you in the next election, but to do so means raising taxes on everyone who can't raise as big a stink. Ken Yazel is doing his duty on behalf of the taxpayers by strictly applying the law and, when necessary, pursuing questions of interpretation through the state court system. (UPDATE: More about a specific case here.)

As they have in previous elections, interests that don't appreciate Ken Yazel's advocacy for the taxpayer are backing an opponent. The race will be decided in the Republican primary.

The daily paper's editorial board endorsed Yazel's opponent, as it has done over the last several elections. The Whirled editorial writers' biggest beef with Yazel seems to be that he wanted to fund new facilities without raising taxes. A commenter on the Whirled editorial noted: "Also notice that the TW makes no mention whatsoever of actual professional qualifications, certifications, etc. [of Yazel's opponent]. The main selling point of [Yazel's opponent] seems to be that he will shut up and do what he is told. Not good qualifications for my vote."

I appreciate Ken Yazel, because he will speak out when taxpayers need a friend at the County Courthouse. I appreciate the high professional standards to which Yazel holds himself and his staff at the assessor's office. I appreciate an elected official who sets the standard for transparency and public access to public records.

I urge you to join me in voting to re-elect Ken Yazel as Tulsa County Assessor on June 24, 2014.

MORE: Former State Rep. John Wright gives ten reasons why Ken Yazel should be re-elected. Prominent in his reasons is that Yazel has built a well-educated professional staff, with very little turnover. Every member of Yazel's staff, even those not engaged in assessment, have gone through certain professional classes on assessment to ensure that anyone speaking to the public has a proper understanding of the property tax system and the role of the assessor's office.

UPDATE: Detailed analysis of some of the criticisms leveled against Ken Yazel

Tulsa County Clerk Pat Key says she is tired of Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel's annual push for budget transparency.

Yazel has repeatedly voted against the county's budget, saying it does not provide a complete accounting of all county revenues and expenditures. He made the same argument Monday, and again, other Budget Board members were not buying it.

"I, for one, am tired of revisiting this same issue over and over again," County Clerk Pat Key said. "I don't know how many more opinions or court cases that we have to give before we don't discuss this same thing over and over again."

While state law only requires the county budget to cover money that must be appropriated (principally property tax revenues that go into the county's general fund), Assessor Ken Yazel believes that taxpayers deserve a full accounting of every penny under the control of county officials, and he points to Oklahoma County as the example to follow.

Oklahoma County's total budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 covers $180.7 million: $132,019,665 in revenues, $48,712,216 in beginning fund balance, $149,331,246 in expenditures, and $31,400,635. Tulsa County's budget for the same year was $83.6 million. Why is Oklahoma County's budget twice as big as Tulsa County's budget? Because Oklahoma County budgets all funds, all sources of revenue, and all expenditures, even if they involve earmarked revenue sources.

Tulsa County's budget includes only the bare minimum required by law. Previous year surpluses in non-appropriated funds, some of them under the sole control of an elected official, can be kept off-budget and out of the budget book. (I would link to the newly adopted budget, but I can't find it online.)

State Rep. David Brumbaugh (R-Broken Arrow) filed a bill (HB1986) in the first session of this Legislature to raise the budget transparency standards for county governments. It's my understanding that Tulsa County elected officials (other than Yazel) successfully lobbied the legislature to keep the bill from coming to a vote.

One of the lovely features of Oklahoma County's budget book is that you can see when an elected official spends an unusually big pile of money from a designated fund under her control. Maybe it was for an important upgrade that will benefit taxpayers and other citizens. Or maybe the big expenditure was the result of poor judgment. If taxpayers can easily see all of the county's financial information where they expect to find it -- in the budget -- they can ask questions about these sorts of expenditures. Maybe that's why the non-Yazel elected officials at the Tulsa County Courthouse are fighting this idea.

Maybe it's because they've shown such poor judgment in other respects -- like appointing to the juvenile justice authority a woman who plotted to frame her ex-husband as a child porn collector and molester and then hiring that same person as the County Clerk's chief deputy -- there's some poor financial judgment that they'd like to make as inaccessible to the public as they are legally able.

Counties are required by law (19 O.S. 444) to publish an annual payroll report. Oklahoma County posts its report, as well as a monthly payroll report, on the county clerk's website, and the files are in Excel format -- easy to search and process.

I'm sure Tulsa County complies with the letter of the law, but I have been unable to find the required annual payroll report on any county website. In fact, when I used a search engine to look for it, I find Oklahoma County's report instead. Perhaps I need to go downtown to the courthouse and go through the metal detector to be able to look at the report.

Tulsa County Clerk Pat Key has done an impressive job of hindering public access to public records. If you want to look at a plat of your subdivision -- a drawing that shows the streets and lot lines and easements and sometimes also lists applicable covenants -- you have to drive downtown to the County Courthouse during office hours, pay for parking, and go through a metal detector. If you want to look at a title deed or a lien or some other legal document that has been filed with the County Clerk, it's the same routine -- office hours only, pay for parking, get magnetometered and have your wallet x-rayed. Just to see the metadata for deeds and other documents -- buyer, seller, date, parcel, document number, etc. -- you have to go to a public library during library hours and use a special computer. That's just so you can plan your trip to pay for parking and go through a metal detector to see a digital image of the actual document.

The Oklahoma County Clerk's office makes land records and UCC filings -- including images -- available online, any time day or night, from anywhere on the internet. It's my understanding that the Tulsa County Clerk's system is capable of that, from which I infer that Pat Key chooses not to make these public records available for convenient public review.

So no one should be surprised that Tulsa County Clerk Pat Key would oppose Assessor Ken Yazel's efforts to make complete county revenue and expenditure information readily available to the public in the budget.

By contrast to Pat Key's limited public website, Assessor Ken Yazel's website is well-organized and provides easy access to information on every parcel in Tulsa County, any time day or night, from anywhere on the Internet. You can search by name and address, and if you don't know the address you can click on a Google map.

Ms. Key, if you want to stop revisiting the issue of full budget transparency over and over again, do the right thing. Go above and beyond the letter of the law to provide the public with the information it ought to have. Instead of fighting with the one county elected official who has demonstrated a commitment to governmental transparency and fiscal conservatism, work with him. Follow Ken Yazel's excellent example instead of sniping at him.

MORE:

There is a way to get internet access, of a sort, to County Clerk records. It costs $30 a month, and the Board of County Commissioners has to vote in one of its regular meetings to approve your application for access. So to review: Oklahoma County offers free, anonymous access from anywhere to public land records. Tulsa County, under Pat Key's leadership, offers $30 a month, subscriber-only access and only to those subscribers approved by the County Commissioners.

One more thing: It seems like there was a time when you could access Tulsa County land records metadata at home and could see the images if you went to the library. Anyone else remember when that changed?

MORE on HB1986:

Here is the language that Rep. Brumbaugh's bill would have added to the County Budget Act, 19 O.S. 1408, 1411, 1412, 1414. This is the level of disclosure that Oklahoma County provides and that Assessor Yazel had hoped his fellow Tulsa County elected officials would support, even if the law doesn't require it. Strikethrough is deleted text, underline is added text:

Section 1408. The county budget board shall prepare for each budget year a budget for each fund whose activities require funding through appropriation from the budget board for which there is a reasonably anticipated fund balance or revenues. The county budget shall include each fund for which any department head or elected official has spending authority, irrespective of the fund type or whether or not the fund is, either by law or accredited budgeting standards, subject to appropriation.

Section 1411. A. On or before a date set by the county budget board, the county excise board shall provide a tentative estimate of anticipated revenues from all sources, classified by funds, for the succeeding fiscal year. For the purposes of this section, "all sources" means any reasonably anticipated revenue for any fund of any department or elected office within the county. For the purposes of the County Budget Act, fund balances shall be treated as revenue. The county excise board shall arrive at the tentative estimates independently. In furtherance of this requirement and the other requirements of the county excise board, the county excise board is authorized to hire appropriate staffing on either a permanent, full-time, part-time, temporary, or contract basis. The county budget board shall include in its annual budget sufficient funds for these purposes.

Section 1412. The county budget board shall hold a public hearing on the proposed budget no later than fifteen (15) days prior to the beginning of the budget year. Notice of the date, time and place of the hearing, together with the proposed budget summaries, shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county not less than five (5) days before the date of the hearing.... Budget summaries shall be grouped by department or elected office and shall include beginning fund balances for each department or elected office and for the county as a whole.

Section 1414. A. In addition to any other powers and duties granted to the county excise board in this act, the board shall act in an oversight capacity with respect to the county budget. The county excise board shall examine the county budgets.

Good news from the State Capitol this afternoon:

Governor Mary Fallin Signs HB 3399 to Repeal and Replace Common Core Standards

New Standards will be developed in Oklahoma and Increase Academic Rigor

OKLAHOMA CITY--Governor Mary Fallin today signed HB 3399, a bill that replaces the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English and math with academic standards to be designed by the state of Oklahoma.

HB 3399 repeals the adoption of CCSS and directs the State Board of Education to create new, more rigorous standards by August 2016. For the first time in state history, the State Regents for Higher Education, the State Board of Career and Technology Education, and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce will be asked to formally evaluate those standards to determine they are "college and career ready." While those new standards are being written, the state standards for English and math will revert to the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) standards used from 2003 to 2010.

HB 3399 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers, 71-18 in the House and 31-10 in the Senate.

Fallin signed the bill, stating:

"We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core. Now is the time for Oklahomans - parents, citizens, educators, employers and elected officials - to unite behind the common goal of improving our schools. That begins with doing the hard work of building new, more rigorous Oklahoma standards.

"All Oklahomans want our children to get a quality education and to live the American Dream. To ensure our children have that opportunity, Oklahoma - and every state--must raise the bar for education standards so that our children can compete worldwide.

"Common Core was created with that well-intentioned goal in mind. It was intended to develop a set of high standards in classrooms across the nation that would ensure children graduated from high school prepared for college and a career in an increasingly competitive workforce. It was originally designed as a state-lead - not federal - initiative that each state could choose to voluntarily adopt.

"Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core. President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards. The results are predictable. What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president's plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.

"We cannot ignore the widespread concern of citizens, parents, educators and legislators who have expressed fear that adopting Common Core gives up local control of Oklahoma's public schools. The words 'Common Core' in Oklahoma are now so divisive that they have become a distraction that interferes with our mission of providing the best education possible for our children. If we are going to improve our standards in the classroom, now is the time to get to work.

"For that reason I am signing HB 3399 to repeal and replace Common Core with Oklahoma designed and implemented education standards. I am committed, now more than ever, to ensuring these standards are rigorous. They must raise the bar - beyond what Common Core offers - on what we expect of our students. Above all, they must be developed with the goal of teaching children to think critically and creatively and to complete high school with the knowledge they need to succeed in college and in the workforce. I also 'get it' that Oklahoma standards must be exceptional, so when businesses and military families move to Oklahoma they can rest assured knowing their children will get a great education.

"The process of developing new, higher standards will not take place overnight, nor will it be easy. It will require hard work and collaboration between parents, educators, employers and lawmakers. Developing these standards is worth the effort; because our children's education is that important to our state. Their futures, as well as Oklahoma's future prosperity, depend on our ability to write and implement education standards that will prepare our children for success. I know Oklahoma is up to that challenge.

"My thanks go out to the educators and schools that have already worked hard to raise expectations and standards for our children. I know they will continue to build on those efforts as we move forward together as a state."

Article 5, Section 23, of the Oklahoma Constitution:

No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any office or commission in the State, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during his term of office, nor shall any member receive any appointment from the Governor, the Governor and Senate, or from the Legislature, during the term for which he shall have been elected, nor shall any member, during the term for which he shall have been elected, or within two years thereafter, be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the State, or any county or other subdivision thereof, authorized by law passed during the term for which he shall have been elected.

State Sen. Brian Crain stepped out of the race for District Attorney in Tulsa County this weekend, citing the above constitutional provision. HJR1096, which was approved by the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Friday, increases salaries for judges by 6% and indirectly increases salaries for district attorneys, which are set as 98% of a district judge's salary.

State Rep. Sydney Fred Jordan Jr., another candidate for DA, claims that he isn't affected by this provision because, as a House member, his term expires this year, while Sen. Crain isn't up for replacement until 2016.

But the term of office doesn't expire until after the November elections. New legislators are sworn in in late November, after their election has been certified. If the Governor were to call a special session between now and that time, Sydney Fred Jordan Jr. would still be the representative for House District 69. Jordan is as ineligible as Crain is.

Jordan appears to have been aware of a potential problem -- he claimed "Constitutional Privilege" when the issue came before the House. Perhaps he thought it would exempt him from the constitutional provision, but Article 5, Section 23, doesn't care whether you voted yes or no, or abstained, just whether the raise was enacted during the legislator's term of office, when the legislator may have had opportunity to exercise influence in support of the raise, whether or not he voted for it.

Joe Dorman, leading Democratic candidate for governor, also claimed Constitutional Privilege, even though the bill expressly excludes the Governor and other statewide elected officials from receiving an indirect raise as a result of the judicial raise, which means Article 5, Section 23, won't affect Dorman's candidacy.

Crain had the decency to recognize the problem and back out of the race, rather than force the public to endure lengthy litigation in the event he had been elected. Jordan should do the same. Steve Kunzweiler, the remaining candidate, is currently the head of the criminal division in the DA's office and is well prepared to move up a step to the top job. Tulsa County residents will be in good hands for the next four years. If, in 2018, Crain or Jordan feels that Kunzweiler needs to be replaced, he can run at that time without any constitutional impediment.

MORE:

The Oklahoma Legislative Manual, available online, explains rules, procedures, terminology, and tradition.

David Van Risseghem at Sooner Politics wonders if Steve Kunzweiler will be declared the winner without an election, and he wonders whether other violations of Article 5, Section 23, are just waiting to be found.

Then there's the issue of former legislators doing business with the state. It happens in some very subtle ways and often the state agency's procurement systems don't always know who owns the company they are awarding contracts to. Will there be a new effort to hunt down violators? It will be very interesting to see how this provision is enforced.

Did Brian Crain already violate the last half of Article 5, Section 23? In 2005, Crain co-sponsored (with Rep. Ron Peters) SB 478, which authorized county treasurers and county assessors to employ their own general counsel. This was a sensible bill -- these officials deal with specialized law involving real estate and finance, matters beyond the usual ambit of the District Attorney's office. In 2007 (within the same term of office in which the bill was approved), according to news reports, Crain was paid, via his law firm, to represent the Tulsa County Treasurer's office in bankruptcy proceedings, and in 2008 (still within the same term of office), the County Treasurer directly contracted with Crain for the same role.

John Hart, Sen. Tom Coburn's communications director, attempts to help the mainstream media understand what's happening with the Tea Party movement, and in the process encourages Tea Partiers to be of good cheer, notwithstanding the renomination of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

For those keeping score, it is now roughly the GOP establishment 5 (Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia) and the Tea Party 1 (Nebraska).

But this win-loss story line doesn't reflect reality. The real struggle in 2014 is not between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party but within the Tea Party itself. And, more importantly, in spite of this struggle, the Tea Party continues to ascend.

Primary campaigns in states like Kentucky are merely bringing to the surface long-simmering tensions within the conservative movement. On one side is the grassroots -- the Tea Party. Alongside it is crabgrass -- the Tea Party establishment's sometimes invasive tactics, bad judgment (i.e. the government shutdown) and even worse candidate vetting that draw nutrients away from the grassroots.

(A little slap there at Ted Cruz?)

And what is the Tea Party establishment exactly? Like with the Republican Revolution of 1994, it's the part of the reform movement that went native after acquiring real political power. Today, it's the gilded conservative neighborhood of "This Town," Mark Leibovich's book about D.C.'s culture of self-love. It's the catered lunch that never adjourns; the cabal, the mutual-admiration society of master strategists who have never successfully limited government but know how.

In primary campaigns, it's the part of the Tea Party that has the hubris to suggest candidates like Bevin are representative of an organic uprising because it says so, regardless of what the real grassroots may think.

In that light, I wonder what Hart and his boss think about the campaign to replace Coburn. Former State House Speaker T. W. Shannon has rounded up endorsements from out-of-state Tea Party-related individuals and groups: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Citizens United Political Victory Fund, FreedomWorks for America, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and Mark Levin. Club for Growth PAC, which played an important role in Coburn's come-from-behind primary win in 2004, has yet to make an endorsement.

(Most recently, Shannon has been endorsed by Sen. Rob Johnson, the driving force behind the Oklahoma Senate's passage of the National Popular Vote compact. That's an endorsement I wouldn't trumpet too loudly. The same could be said of his endorsement by recent chairmen of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce.)

But leaders of local Tea Party organizations like the Tulsa 9/12 Project and OKforTea have expressed their displeasure with groups from outside Oklahoma issuing endorsements before talking to local grassroots activists or investigating voting records. They aren't pleased with U. S. Rep. James Lankford's record either.

Many local conservative activists are lining up behind former State Sen. Randy Brogdon. The Oklahoma Conservative PAC endorsed Brogdon, and OCPAC chairman Charlie Meadows explained why, in a post that also praised Lankford and Shannon.

They are all good communicators, with Lankford being an exceptional talent. His experience in Washington gives him an edge in knowing the process. His intelligence and hard work there allows him to speak with a certain degree of expertise and gravitas....

In my opinion, T.W. Shannon has been the most conservative and finest Speaker of the House in state history. In many cases when Republicans get into leadership, they govern a little more liberal. However, that was not the case with T.W. as he even became a little more conservative than before he became Speaker....

When it comes to Randy Brogdon, the bio is conservative, consistent and reliable. He finished 8 years in the legislature with a lifetime Conservative Index Score of 93, a remarkable feat. He was the first Republican SENATOR to score a perfect 100 on the Index in modern times and he did that in his second year in the legislature and in a few more years following....

Bottom line, I believe Brogdon got the OCPAC nod because the people TRUST him, his whole time in government has been about limiting government and expanding liberty. The grassroots people know he will not be beholden to what I lovingly call the "Oklahoma Mafia", the rich and powerful who happen to be more into fascist capitalism and central planning rather than free market capitalism.

But the candidate embraced by the local Tea Party grassroots is reportedly running third in the polls. Should Tea Partiers be discouraged? That brings us back to John Hart's column. He says we shouldn't focus on who is winning but what has changed about what the winners are saying and doing. The Tea Party is transforming the mainstream:

Second, the transformation of McConnell's campaign from 2008 to 2014 shows the overwhelming persuasive and redemptive power of the Tea Party. In 2008, the Senate minority leader ran a series of ads touting his success at bringing home the bacon. In 2014, his campaign had lost that aroma. McConnell himself helped end earmarks in 2010 and recently said no to Majority Leader Harry Reid's call to restore the disgraced practice. McConnell's evolving message shows how the real Tea Party can co-opt and win over the GOP establishment when it sticks to its principles.

In fact, thanks to the Tea Party, the old-style "bring home the bacon" campaigns have largely been wiped off the electoral map. Even Democrats have joined the Tea Party's anti-pork campaign. Mark Udall, Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren have all vocally opposed earmarks, a rare challenge to Reid's rigid party discipline.

The Tea Party's influence, of course, extends well beyond earmarks. In race after race, candidates are embracing its message of less government, less spending, less regulation and more freedom, particularly on Obamacare....

The status quo apologists are so eager to belittle the Tea Party because they know its appeal is mainstream. Ronald Reagan (echoing Richard Nixon) called it the silent majority. Tom Coburn called it the rumble. But our founders called it America. The real Tea Party is just another name for our national aversion to centralized power, a core conviction that inspired our founders and is rooted in a deep understanding of history and human nature.

The good news for Oklahoma Tea Partiers is that the leading candidates for U. S. Senate are all talking about their principles. The question is whether the man who replaces Tom Coburn will conduct himself accordance with those principles.

MORE:

James Lankford was elected in the 2010 "Tea Party wave," but that doesn't make him a "Tea Party" congressman.

Evidently even beating an incumbent with Tea Party support doesn't make you a "Tea Party congressman."

Francis Wilkinson praises the Tea Party for channeling anger into political activism:

To see what radical activism and rage-fueled politics look like without such constraints, just look back at the New Left. Black Panther shootouts. Symbionese Liberation Army shootouts. Kathy Boudin & Friends shootouts. The occasional ROTC building explosion. Reckless politics was a cause of death in those ugly years. To the extent that gun laws encourage suicide, homicide and manslaughter, it still is. But the word "laws" makes all the difference.

Unlike the New Left, the Tea Party has worked within the system. It has organized public demonstrations, supported candidates and lobbied legislatures. What it has not done is murder police officers or blow up buildings.

BFC-A0613-McAlester_Electric_Chair.jpg

Larry Harnisch, a local history blogger in Los Angeles, has reposted a 1948 Daily Oklahoman profile of Rich Owens, who built Oklahoma's first electric chair and ran it for 33 years at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Reporter Ray Parr had gone to visit Owens at his home in McAlester a few weeks before his death of liver cancer.

Owens talked about getting the job and about learning the science of electrocution, so as to get the job done quickly. He described his rehearsal procedure, in which the Death Row guards would walk him down to the chamber and strap him into the chair, to be sure the guards knew how to secure the prisoner. Owens was proud that each of his executions went without a hitch.

Owens, already a prison guard, got the job when the hired executioner was too drunk to pull the switch. He electrocuted 58 men in Oklahoma, three in New Mexico, and two each in Arkansas and Texas, and he carried out a hanging under the Federal law passed following the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby.

"Nobody I ever electrocuted ever held it against me, at least not before hands. And I've executed some close friends of mine."

One of the men he executed, Choc Emery, had saved Owens's life during an earlier term in prison when six prisoners jumped him, but, once out, Emery raped a woman and killed her and her boyfriend.

"Well, on the night he was to go he sent for me and I stayed with him from 7:30 until he went. We talked about religion. He prayed some and then we got a preacher and all of us prayed. I'm kind of funny like that. I think when a man wants to pray you ought to let him pray.

"I says, Choc, if you want, I'll hire somebody else for this job. He says, no, I want you -- we're friends.

"I didn't have any sympathy for Choc. I said, Choc, I tried to learn you better and I know your mother did. You oughta go.

"He didn't seem to think anything wrong about being electrocuted either."

Incidental to his job as a prison guard, Owens killed a few escapees, including a pair of inmates who tried to "ride him out" -- use him as a hostage in their escape, steering him by the blade of a knife stuck in his back. With the help of sniper fire from a tower guard, Owens killed one with that very knife and the other with a long-handled shovel.

It's a fascinating story, and it reflects a different time, when even murderers knew that they deserved to die.

(Link via Ace of Spades HQ overnight thread. Picture of the electric chair at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester from the Beryl Ford Collection, Accession A6013.)

There's one more reason for Oklahomans to celebrate April 22.

schoolhouse_rock-bill-as-law.pngLast Tuesday, on the 125th anniversary of the Oklahoma 1889 Land Run, Gov. Mary Fallin signed HB 2366, the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act, giving Oklahomans valuable protection in the exercise of their First Amendment rights. From the bill:

The purpose of the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act is to encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons to petition, speak freely, associate freely and otherwise participate in government to the maximum extent permitted by law and, at the same time, protect the rights of a person to file meritorious lawsuits for demonstrable injury.

HB2366 was authored by State Rep. John Trebilcock (R-Broken Arrow) and is a fitting capstone to his twelve years in the Legislature. State Sen. Rick Brinkley (R-Owasso) shepherded the bill through the Senate. Reps. Mike Turner (R-Edmond), Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City), and Jadine Nollan (R-Sand Springs) joined as co-authors. The bill was approved unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee (14-0), the whole House (94-0, with 7 excused), the Senate Judiciary Committee (6-0), and the whole Senate (42-0, with 6 excused).

When the bill goes into effect on November 1, Oklahoma will have one of the strongest anti-SLAPP laws in the nation.

Ken White, a California 1st Amendment attorney, ably sums up the case for anti-SLAPP bills like HB2366:

The bottom line -- without an anti-SLAPP statute, a malicious litigant can often inflict substantial expense and hardship upon someone in retaliation for their speech, even if their claim lacks merit, and do so with relative impunity.

Some key points:

1. In a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, a plaintiff seeks to punish the defendant for expressing his opinion or stating a fact he doesn't like aired publicly by subjecting him to a costly legal process. The SLAPP plaintiff can achieve his objective -- silencing criticism -- even if he ultimately loses his case in court. The cost in time, money, and anxiety of defending the lawsuit will deter the defendant from future criticism and may also deter others from speaking out.

2. SLAPPs not only threaten political bloggers and newspaper reporters, but consumer watchdog groups and reviewers on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have been hit with SLAPPs as well.

3. The U. S. Supreme Court has issued many decisions protecting 1st Amendment rights by restricting lawsuits against written and spoken expression. For example, proving libel against a public figure requires that you prove the defendant knew he was lying or had a reckless disregard for the truth. But in practical application these protections come into play only at the end of the process, when the judge makes his ruling, or perhaps not until the case is heard by an appellate court. Even if the defendant prevails in the end, the damage has been done.

4. SLAPPs hit hardest when the SLAPPer has ample resources to sustain the prosecution of a lawsuit but the SLAPPee has to choose between (A) possible bankruptcy to defend the suit all the way to the end or (B) an undesirable settlement, which may include a promise to silence his criticism.

In response to this situation, Oklahoma has now become one of a number of states that have passed strong anti-SLAPP legislation to shift consideration of First Amendment protections to the beginning of the process and to deter malicious lawsuits by imposing costs on the plaintiff if the suit is dismissed. An effective anti-SLAPP law acts as an equalizer to ensure that you don't need a vast financial reserve in order to exercise your First Amendment rights, but it still provides for redress of valid defamation claims.

What the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act does:

The Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act authorizes a special motion to dismiss to be filed and heard early in the process. The motion must be filed within 60 days after the suit is filed, and discovery is suspended until the court rules on the motion. The hearing on the motion must be held within 60 days of its filing, (The time may be extended to 90 or 120 days under special circumstances, but 120 days is the limit.) After the hearing, the court has 30 days to rule.

The defendant must first establish that the suit is based on, relates to, or is in response to his exercise of his freedom of speech, freedom to petition government, or freedom of association.

In response, the plaintiff must establish "by clear and specific evidence a prima facie case for each essential element of the claim in question." The defendant can obtain dismissal of the case if he can establish "by a preponderance of the evidence each essential element of a valid defense" to the plaintiff's claim.

What makes this different from an ordinary motion to dismiss is that the judge can go beyond "the four corners" of the complaint. The court doesn't have to take the plaintiff's charges at face value.

If the court dismisses the case, the court is required to award court costs, reasonable attorney fees, and legal expenses as well as sanctions "sufficient to deter the party who brought the legal action from bringing similar actions."

If the motion to dismiss is "frivolous or solely intended to delay," the court may award costs to the plaintiff.

Either side can appeal the court's ruling, and the appeal must be expedited; otherwise the benefit of an early motion would be neutralized.

Who is helped by the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act?

  • Newspapers, radio and TV stations, and news bloggers, particularly smaller news outlets which may not have the resources to fight lawsuits.
  • Participants in online forums who express their opinions about public issues.
  • Consumer protection organizations that rate businesses. The Texas law has been used successfully several times to block SLAPPs brought against such organizations by businesses angry about negative ratings.
  • Consumers who register their opinions about experiences with local businesses on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, and Angie's List.
  • The general public, who enjoy a greater flow of information about matters of public interest because the groups listed above are not intimidated by the threat of SLAPPs.

Some history:

Previously, Oklahoma had a very limited anti-SLAPP provision, covering only libel, but not other causes of action used in SLAPPs (like "tortious interference" or "conspiracy"), and covering only speech related to government proceedings. Oklahoma's law lacked any form of early review that could spare an unjustly charged defendant from a lengthy and costly process. It also lacked any mandatory provision to require the plaintiff in an unwarranted lawsuit to make the defendant whole for the costs of his legal defense. (Laura Long detailed the deficiencies of Oklahoma's statute in the Summer 2007 issue of the Oklahoma Law Review.)

In 1995, two trial lawyers filed suit in Creek County against members of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a group attempting to launch a tort reform initiative petition. The suit alleged defamation, tortious interference with business relations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy because CALA criticized trial lawyers as a profession in their letter soliciting steering committee members. The lawsuit dragged on for three years and went all the way to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. You can read a summary of the case here and the State Supreme Court decision here

The issue caught my attention way back in 2005 as one of a number of potential legal hazards for political bloggers. In 2006 and 2007, there were news stories about certain Islamic groups using libel suits to silence criticism or investigation of ties to hate groups and terrorist-supporting organizations, and KFAQ had to deal with a defamation suit from a city councilor.

In 2008, neighborhood activists opposed to the 10 N. Yale project faced legal threats from the Mental Health Association of Tulsa and Councilor Jason Eric Gomez. SLAPPs have even been used to target historic preservationists, simply for participating in the public process for approving or denying demolition permits or zoning changes.

In 2009, State Sen. Tom Adelson filed a bill (SB742) to add anti-SLAPP protections modeled after California's law, but the bill died without a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.

In 2012, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity launched the "Protect Your Voice" initiative to push for legislation giving citizen journalists the same protections as traditional journalists in mainstream media.

TrebilcockPortrait_Lrg.jpgLast fall, during the legislature's pre-filing period, Rep. Trebilcock put out a request for suggestions for legislation he should author during his final session in the legislature. I suggested anti-SLAPP legislation, and that was one of the bills he decided to pursue. I passed the research I had done on to Rep. Trebilcock, and he took it from there. Not wanting any animus toward me (particularly over my National Popular Vote coverage earlier in the session) to get in the way of a good idea, I kept a low profile on the bill, although I was happy to have the opportunity to answer questions from a few legislators.

The Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act is not the only landmark legislation Rep. Trebilcock has authored in his final session. HB2372, which protects the privacy of an employee's social media accounts from inspection by an employer, has passed the House and Senate unanimously, but in different versions. The Senate amendments are now pending in the House.

The Internet has created unprecedented opportunities for ordinary Oklahomans to make their voices heard. Thanks to Rep. Trebilcock, Sen. Brinkley, legislators of both houses and parties, the chairmen and members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and Gov. Fallin, they can now make responsible use of those opportunities for the betterment of our cities, counties, school districts, and state, secure in their protection from malicious lawsuits.

Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) calls shenanigans on dumping more money in the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM) money pit:

Several days ago the State Senate approved Senate Bill 1651 in another attempt to use taxpayer funds to complete the construction of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City. The bill, if approved by the House and Governor, would spend another 40 million taxpayer dollars on the project.

The cultural center has already been provided with three allocations of $33M, $25M and $5M. The appropriations were funded with debt part of which still haunts the state budget and will continue to do so for many years....

Murphey went on to summarize a performance audit of the Native American Cultural and Education Authority by State Auditor Gary Jones that found "a number of inconsistencies and deficiencies that can be attributed to improper planning," a failure to implement best budgeting practices, and exploration of alternative plans and less expensive options. He writes, "It's hard to believe that Oklahoma lawmakers are so gullible as to suggest that the fourth time's the charm and this money will not also be wasted, contrary to all previous evidence." He reports that he has received more unprompted email from his constituents on this topic than any other, almost all opposed to putting more money into this failed project.

Oklahoma's tribal heritage is certainly worthy of celebration and promotion, and we have many museums, cultural centers, and historical sites, some run by the tribes, some under our state parks department or the state historical society, some under independent non-profits. Tulsa, in particular, ought to pursue tourists with an interest in American Indian history and culture, selling our city as the logical home base for day trips to Tahlequah, Muskogee, Okmulgee, Pawhuska, and elsewhere, not to mention our own sites of significance, like the Gilcrease Museum, Creek Council Oak, and Perryman Cemetery.

IPIndianTax.gif

Oklahoma City, on the other hand, is in the Unassigned Lands, opened for settlement by land run 125 years ago next month. It's located in one of the few parts of the state (along with the Cherokee Outlet, No Man's Land, and Old Greer County) that isn't considered Indian Country under Federal Law.

It seems to me that placing a catch-all Indian museum in Oklahoma City is all about Oklahoma City cashing in on tribal tourism at the expense of the rest of the state, drawing tourists away from historic sites and tribal cultural museums in other parts of the state. If anyone should pay for the AICCM, it should be Oklahoma City taxpayers and philanthropists.

Rather than dump another $40 million into a new facility, Oklahoma's focus ought to be on better promotion of the sites that already exist. We should want to entice visitors to venture off of the interstates to our smaller cities and towns, rather than provide them an easy-on, easy-off, fast-food drive-thru version of our state's rich Indian history. The state could fund longer hours at our welcome centers and add small exhibits and brochures to help people find Indian heritage sites. The tourism department could provide an online guide and a mobile app for planning a visit to Indian sites and events.

State funding is for building up the whole state, not for fattening an imperial capital at the expense of the provinces.

MORE:

Don't miss Murphey's insight into the preeminent force behind this kind of spending:

It is never good when a government entity is suddenly empowered with a rapid cash infusion and the spending of millions of dollars of other peoples' money. The officials who oversee that entity all too often give in to the temptation to build an empire and spend the money of future generations at the suggestion of the massive army of vendors who benefit from the excessive spend.

From the NACEA audit:

The Board self-imposed certain challenges; the Legislature requested neither a world-class facility nor one that would draw hundreds of thousands of both international and domestic tourists to the southern side of Bricktown in Oklahoma City. The Board chose "the Vision Plan," the most elaborate and expensive of the options provided by the project architects in 2004. Projects on such a grand scale require substantial funding, however, and at no time has the Board's available funding closely approached its projected expenditures. It is reasonable to expect that funding shortfalls might lead to a reevaluation of the plans by the Board; if an everyday citizen loses his or her job, he or she might eliminate cable service, a gym membership, or weekly pizza night. The Board has taken the opposite approach, and rather than evaluating less costly options that would still allow construction of a world-class facility, has maintained their vision, with an expectation that taxpayers will foot the bill.

The audit's recommendations and six options for moving forward are worth reading.

On Monday, March 24, 2014, the Oklahoma State Senate's Education Committee unanimously passed a committee substitute for HB 3399, a bill initiated in the State House to repeal Oklahoma's adoption of Common Core national standards. (Click the link for the text of the bill, which shows deletions from current law as strikethrough text and additions as underlined text.)

The Senate committee substitute:


  • requires Oklahoma to develop its own state subject matter standards and assessments;

  • removes explicit references to the Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) Curriculum, replacing them with references to state-adopted subject-matter standards;

  • removes requirements to adhere to K-12 Common Core State Standards, referring instead to "college- and career-ready" standards to be developed in consultation with the State Regents for Higher Education and the State Board of Career and Technology Education;

  • gives the Legislature the final say on any standards adopted by the State Board of Education (the Legislature may, by concurrent resolution, amend or return with instructions);

  • forbids the State Board of Education from "enter[ing] into any agreement, memorandum of understanding or contract with any federal agency or private entity which in any way cedes or limits state discretion or control over the process of development, adoption or

  • revision of subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments in the public school system, including, but not limited to, agreements, memoranda of understanding and contracts in exchange for funding for public schools and programs";

  • gives school districts the exclusive right to determine "the instructional materials, curriculum, reading lists and textbooks to be used in meeting the subject matter standards" and the discretion to "adopt additional supplementary student assessments";

  • bans standards and assessment questions that are "emotive in nature";
  • requires instructional material to be available for inspection by the parents or guardians of students.

"Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) Curriculum" is the name for Oklahoma's implementation of Common Core standards, as shown by this Oklahoma Common Core adoption timeline on the State Department of Education website.

Restore Oklahoma Public Education ROPE), the bipartisan grassroots group working to repeal Common Core, supports the Senate substitute as a step in the right direction. There were initial indications that the Senate leadership would not allow an anti-Common Core bill to proceed, despite the overwhelming and bipartisan support in the House. Some Common Core opponents are therefore skeptical of any bill that could win the support of the Senate and Governor, but Jenni White, ROPE president, says that it's the first step in a long process which will require Common Core opponents to stay vigilant in this year's elections and in the State Board of Education's development of Oklahoma state subject matter standards.

MORE:

ROPE website
ROPE blog
Stop Common Core in Oklahoma on Facebook

Also, today Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill to repeal Common Core standards.

A Cato analysis of Oklahoma educational spending and achievement shows that per-pupil spending has nearly doubled in inflation-adjusted terms since 1972, but SAT scores have grown by only 2% in that same period, in raw terms, and have actually dropped by about 2.5% when adjusted for participation and demographics. (The adjustment rationale and methodology are described here.)

And here is Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's rather underwhelming statement on Common Core Legislation from last Friday.

"Since then, I have listened to growing concerns from parents across the state concerning Common Core, the standards currently in the process of being implemented. In light of these concerns, I have worked directly with our legislators to accomplish the goals of increasing classroom rigor and accountability while guaranteeing that Oklahoma public education is protected from federal interference. My hope is that House Bill 3399, which is soon to be heard by the Senate Education Committee, will accomplish these goals. If it does so, without creating unintended consequences that would hamstring educators or invite more federal influence in education, it will have my support."

The Oklahoma Historical Society has been scanning and posting documents from their archives, and there is a page full of links to architectural and historical surveys of Oklahoma cities and towns. The surveys were mainly conducted over the past 20 years, often by teams of students led by an architectural historian. The intent of a survey is to identify buildings and districts that may be worthy of placement on the National Register of Historic Places, a status that can convey tax benefits and grant eligibility for restoration. A survey usually includes extensive descriptions of the historical context -- when a town developed, what caused it to grow -- and descriptions of individual buildings of interest, with their historical and architectural significance. Maps and photographs are often included.

Tulsa surveys include a 1991 "Reconnaissance Level Survey" of a dozen near-north Tulsa neighborhoods, and intensive-level surveys of downtown, Reservoir Hill, Owen Park, Riverside, Swan Lake, Yorktown, and White City neighborhoods. Bartlesville, Bristow, Broken Arrow, Sand Springs, Nowata, Claremore, Cushing, Okmulgee, Muskogee, and Tahlequah are among the northeast Oklahoma cities that were surveyed.

A tip of the hat to Sean Murphy of the Associated Press for his story about Oklahoma legislators taking junkets to Miami and Las Vegas, sponsored by FairVote, the non-profit that says it "has nurtured and supported the National Popular Vote plan" and "regularly works with advocacy leaders at the National Popular Vote organization to assist in getting to important legislation passed."

Several Oklahoma legislators accepted expenses-paid trips to Miami and Las Vegas from a group that wants to change the way the U.S. elects a president, but because the travel was sponsored by a nonprofit group, rather than traditional lobbyists, there's no requirement for the lawmakers to disclose the trips to the public.

FairVote, which wants states to allocate electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes nationally, extended invitations to legislators to attend seminars to learn more about the national popular vote proposal. Another one is set for next month in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to the story, State Sen. Rob Johnson ($-Yukon) went on a FairVote trip to Las Vegas last fall. Johnson was the Senate author and leading advocate of SB 906. Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman) a co-author of SB 906, and the original author of an earlier attempt to add Oklahoma to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, SB 841, filed in 2011, acknowledges going on a FairVote trip to Miami.

Both Johnson and Sparks say that the trips did not influence their position on the bill -- not surprising, since both were already on board with the idea, both having supported SB 841 in the previous legislature and Johnson having filed SB 906 in early 2013.

When asked whether he took any FairVote trips, State Rep. Don Armes ($-Faxon), the House author of SB 906 and the earlier NPV bill, told the AP, "I'm not ready to talk about all of that."

[We'll take that as a "yes."]

Johnson rejects the term "junket":

"To me it's a good way to actually sit down and discuss issues uninterrupted away from the Capitol building," said state Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, the Senate author of the bill. "I understand some people's concerns, but they're not junkets. We're there to work. We sat there the entire time and discussed the issue."

[BatesLine readers are invited to recommend places to Sen. Johnson in his district or elsewhere in the State of Oklahoma where issues can be discussed uninterrupted away from the Capitol building. BatesLine would humbly suggest that committee hearings are the appropriate place for substantive policy discussions, so that the public can hear the same information being presented to their elected representatives.]

State Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole), an opponent of NPV, also acknowledges going on a FairVote trip to Miami.

Oklahoma Ethics Commission director Lee Slater confirmed for the AP what we suspected here on BatesLine, that these trips don't come under Oklahoma's ethics reporting laws:

Because the trips were not funded by lobbyists or the companies that employ them, there is no requirement that the lawmakers disclose the travel and lodging, said Lee Slater, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

State Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie), who does not accept any gifts from lobbyists, called for the loophole to be closed and for legislators to be required to disclose travel expenses paid on a legislator's behalf or reimbursed.

MORE: OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos says it's time to kill the National Popular Vote idea for good:

You would think that requiring Oklahoma to cast all of its electoral votes for a candidate who lost every county twice would be enough to kill the proposal. Why would anyone propose such an absurd thing?...

One of the supporters of this scheme commented that even a 12-year-old understands the idea of democracy behind this proposal. I agree. Only someone with an immature and historically uninformed understanding of democracy would support this idea. The rest of us, however, know that our Founding Fathers understood we are not a monolithic nation of atomized individuals, but a union of diverse communities. To be both an effective and legitimate leader, a president must be elected, not by a simple majority (or, worse yet, plurality) of individuals, but by a majority of the nation's communities, encompassed by the states.

Spiropoulos concludes: "You would think that the first principle of any conservative legislator would be to actually conserve our institutions."

And if you're wondering what the Left thinks of SB 906, ThinkProgress headlined their story on the Senate's vote: "Oklahoma Senate Endorses Plan To Effectively Abolish The Electoral College."

SoonerPolitics.org

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David Van Risseghem, a long-time Republican activist in Tulsa, has set up a newspaper-style webpage, SoonerPolitics.org, which aggregates the headlines from many of Oklahoma's political blogs and news websites. I'm honored to be included. It's a great way to see all the latest blog entries at a glance.

Philippine sunset, 1983, by Michael Bates. All rights reserved.

Several Republican Oklahoma legislators have confirmed to BatesLine that they or their colleagues have been invited to all-expenses-paid "seminars" sponsored by National Popular Vote advocates and held in exotic, warm-weather locations. The legislators have mentioned locations including Scottsdale, Arizona, south Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, and St. Croix in the U. S. Virgin Islands. State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, has confirmed the latter destination in his latest blog entry, "Spiking the Electoral College with a Free Trip to St. Croix."

One legislator told me about receiving verbal information about the Scottsdale event from Michelle Sutton, a lobbyist at the state capitol who is registered as a representative of National Popular Vote. (Sutton's firm is CRG LLC, and her lobbyist number is L140338.) According to the legislator, the verbal info was followed by an invitation attached to an email from Saul Anuzis, a consultant to the National Popular Vote campaign.

The written invitation comes from FairVote, aka The Center for Voting and Democracy, a 501(c)(3). According to their website (fairvote.org/reforms/national-popular-vote/), FairVote "has nurtured and supported the National Popular Vote plan... Fairvote regularly works with advocacy leaders at the National Popular Vote organization to assist in getting to important legislation passed."

The invitation from FairVote's executive director is to an "all-expenses-paid, invitation-only panel discussion and educational seminar on presidential elections and the Electoral College" at an expensive resort hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona.

February 7, 2014

Greetings:

This is Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote. FairVote is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that researches elections and election law. We are based in Maryland.

I am writing to invite you to participate in an all-expenses-paid, invitation-only panel discussion and educational seminar on presidential elections and the Electoral College, to take place near Phoenix (AZ) on March 1st. We will address three major reform proposals: allocation of electoral votes proportionally and by congressional district and, as the major focus given its enactment in 10 states, the National Popular Vote interstate compact. More and more Americans are concerned about the impact of Electoral College rules, and more states are taking action or considering action to reform their current system. Although the 2016 presidential election may seem distant, it in fact is an ideal time to analyze prospective changes now, rather than closer to the election.

We have sponsored and participated in a number of these roundtables over the years, and have found them an excellent way to delve deeply into this topic. All of us have experienced presidential elections and formed opinions about proposals for reform, but we have found it useful to reexamine assumptions and look at different ideas afresh Doing so has been all the easier and more productive when legislators and civic leaders from a mix of states can convene and have the time to go over these issues. We have developed a six-hour format for such discussions that has worked particularly well with groups of 10 to 15 participants.

We are planning our next roundtable for up to 15 people in Scottsdale, Arizona on February 28th-March 2nd. To allow people to attend from a mix of states, we can cover your costs associated with travel and accommodation at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn® Scottsdale Resort, located outside Phoenix at 5402 East Lincoln Drive in Scottsdale. We can cover guests' accommodations covered for up to three nights, February 28th - March 2nd. (Family members can join attendees, but their travel costs will not be reimbursed.) We also reimburse meals for participants on the evening of February 28th, lunch on March 1st, and breakfast vouchers for each night of your stay. We request that all participants commit to reviewing a collection of reading materials that will be provided by email before the meeting so that all participants can ready to share their insights and questions in panel sessions on March 1st and have the same background information going into the discussion.

If you have any questions about this invitation, please let me know by email (rr@fairvote.org) or phone (cell is 240-393-2420). Because we plan to finalize our list of participants by February 14, I would appreciate hearing from you by February 11th as to whether you can attend our seminar.

Sincerely yours,
Rob Richie
Executive Director

As of this writing, the least expensive room at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Scottsdale Resort for those dates was $509 / night, not including the daily $25 resort fee, and any state and local sales and lodging taxes. Add in three vouchers for breakfast at the resort plus reimbursement for a dinner and a lunch, and the cost of air transportation, and you have a nice little weekend getaway for over $2,000, interrupted by the political equivalent of a timeshare presentation, which, I suspect, is filled with the same sort of emotional manipulation and selective disclosure for which timeshare presentations are notorious.

Note that the attendees are to include "legislators and civic leaders from a mix of states." That indicates that Oklahoma isn't the only target of this left-wing push to overthrow our presidential election system. It's reasonable to imagine that an Oklahoma Republican attending this event would be grouped with Republican legislators from other states. The "civic leaders" in the group would be already on board with NPV and able to could guide the discussion in a way that would be persuasive to the GOP lawmakers.

As State Rep. Jason Murphey notes, while several states have approved NPV, the NPV campaign can't reach the target of 270 without some Republican-controlled states jumping on the bandwagon:

Here's the problem for these groups: the Washington Post recently opined that if this effort were to be successful, "they'll likely have to branch out into red states, because there are only so many blue states (and so many electoral votes in them) on the map."

How could the national popular vote people convince the more sparsely populated red staters to give away their advantage in the Electoral College?

What better way than to put Oklahoma on the list with the liberal states? If the reddest state in the nation signs on, then why wouldn't other red states?

To this end, the national popular vote group invaded Oklahoma with a high powered team of very sophisticated lobbyists. They wisely kept the issue under the radar and away from the eyes of the public while aggressively trying to convince legislators by using a series of convoluted logic for why this proposal would benefit conservatives.

They financed a series of out-of-state junkets to various vacation sites where they explained this logic against an exotic backdrop of recreational events.

Having succeeded in the Senate, they are preparing to go on the offensive in the House. On March 20, they will finance an all-expenses-paid junket to St. Croix. In this exotic venue, far away from the eyes of the public, they will attempt to convince Oklahoma House members to vote for the bill. Just a few days after they return to the mainland, House members will vote on the proposal.

You may wonder, as I do: How is it possible for a legislator to accept a trip worth thousands of dollars, paid for by an organization with an interest in legislation, and not violate our ethics laws? I suspect that the loophole is that the organization is a 501(c)(3) and the "seminar" is framed in the invitation as a neutral exploration of the issue rather than advocacy. There ought to be a law requiring prompt disclosure of these trips.

And if there's not a law already, Oklahoma legislators should take the initiative to disclose out-of-state trips where public policy is discussed, particularly if their expenses are paid or reimbursed. Oklahoma voters deserve to know what influences are shaping their legislators' decisions. Any legislator unwilling to make such a disclosure before the end of March ought to have a primary challenger.

Two more Republican state senators who voted for SB 906, the bill that would have Oklahoma award its seven electoral votes to the winner of the National Popular Vote, have announced their regret and the withdrawal of their support for the idea, joining an earlier announcement from Sen. Gary Stanislawski.

Grace McMillan, executive assistant to Sen. Mark Allen, contacted me via email in response to my questions:

Senator Allen wanted me to respond to you and let you know that he is changing his position on SB 906. He is now better informed -- formerly he had relied on someone else's information.

He no longer supports the measure, and will so inform members of the
House of Representatives before the bill comes to a vote there.

Sen. Josh Brecheen has supplied a lengthy statement to Jamison Faught's Muskogee Politico blog, calling the SB 906 decision, "a vote I regret." In the statement, he explains that, while he had several interactions with friends who supported the bill, and on that basis pledged to support the measure, he never sought out the views of those opposed.

A day later, I listened on the floor to some opposing concerns I had not heard before and I was greatly alarmed that I had agreed to vote for it when certain responses were provided. I was not misled by those who were supportive, but given this issue's complexities, it had just never come up. I cast a vote for the bill as I had agreed to do so and given my belief in the biblical concept "a man keeps his word even when it hurts."

Brecheen's reference is to Psalm 15:4, which says that a man "who swears to his own hurt and does not change" is among those who will "dwell upon God's holy hill."

(It could be argued that a state senator's oath before God to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Oklahoma constitutes a promise to his constituents that should take precedence over any promise to a colleague.)

Oklahoma State Senator Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa) has issued a statement recanting his support for SB 906, and expressing regret for his vote for the bill that would add Oklahoma to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

Gary StanislawskiThe last several years I have always been against the National Popular Vote. This year though two people from the National Popular Vote group visited me and provided me with some information that I had not previously considered. Primarily that because we are a "fly over" state that we do not have a voice in setting national policy. It seems that a lot of national policies are being set by swing states. For instance, we have Ethanol because the farmers in Iowa wanted it. We have Part D Medicare because of the seniors in Florida. There are steel tariffs because of the steel mills in Pennsylvania. In addition, when I arrived at my desk on the Senate floor before the vote the attached letter from Newt Gingrich was there which just confirmed our situation. Out of frustration and anger that our nation is being controlled by only a handful of states I decided to vote for the NPV.

The next day I had a phone call from a friend who questioned my vote, and as we discussed it I realized that voting for the NPV is really giving up our state sovereignty to a group of states and could very well mean that the majority of Oklahoman's recorded vote could go for the opposite candidate. While I knew that the previous day I was just too frustrated in the way Washington really works and just desperately wanted to see a change. The other thing my friend brought up that I had not considered before was the risk of voter fraud in other states. That unregistered or even deceased people could be cancelling out votes from within Oklahoma. That is when I knew I had made a serious error in judgment.

I sincerely apologize for my mistake and can only hope that the bill is defeated in the House. I will try to not be influenced by my emotions in the future, but I will admit that I am still human.

It's tough to admit you made a mistake, and I commend Sen. Stanislawski for making this statement. The other 15 Republicans who voted for SB 906 would be wise to follow suit.

But there's another step that needs to be taken. This bill passed because it was rushed to a vote. It was the only bill to come before the Senate that day for passage. (Here is the Senate Journal for February 12, 2014.) Sen. Rob Johnson's unanimous consent request to suspend Rule 12-4 was granted, allowing a floor amendment to restore the title to the bill. If the rules had not been suspended, if just one senator had objected to the unanimous consent request, the vote would have been delayed to the following day, and there would have been time for the grassroots to know the vote was happening and to remind senators why this is a bad idea.

A conservative's instinct ought to be to conserve America's constitutional arrangements. When presented with a bill to turn change some fundamental aspect of our system of government -- how we elect a president -- a conservative ought either to dismiss it out of hand or at least slow the process down long enough to consult constituents and seek out the other side of the argument. Chesterton's rule of fences and gates ought to apply. And the fact that someone was willing to hire lobbyists to push this ought to have set off alarm bells loud enough to wake the dead. You can understand a regulated company thinking it worth the cost of lobbying for or against legislation that affects their bottom line. But who stands to gain financially if this bill passes? George Soros, maybe?

When I told my two older children, separately, about the National Popular Vote concept, I got about two sentences into the explanation before each exploded with incredulity. We had never discussed the idea before, but they instantly recognized that it would violate the principle of federalism and would be to Oklahoma's disadvantage.

A mistake is forgivable, but when the consequences are this grave, the cause of the mistake needs to be analyzed and corrective action taken to keep it from happening again.

MORE: Lori L. Hendricks has a different view of Sen. Stanislawski's change of heart:

Hendricks, a Republican, serves as Wagoner County Clerk. She spoke to KFAQ the morning after SB 906 passed the Senate.

And Chris Medlock, a Stanislawski constituent who supported his election, isn't soothed by Stansilawski's mea culpa:

Let's see. He admitted that he made a decision based on emotions, rather than reason. He admitted that he held no principle, one way or the other, on the issue, because he was so easily influenced by lobbyists. Either way, I'm still deeply concerned.

As a constituent of Gary's who helped get him elected, I can not promise that when and if a primary occurs in this district, I can give him my support.

I have NEVER had one of my elected representatives cast a vote that so angered me. I was actually screaming, "What was he thinking?"

I thought my wife was going to get a hose out.

MORE conservative voices against NPV:

Morton Blackwell, founder of the Leadership Institute and long-time Republican National Committeeman from Virginia, writing in June 2011. Based on the 2008 results, Blackwell calculated that Oklahoma's influence on the national result would have been cut by over 14% under NPV:

State legislators should consider carefully the disruption NPV would bring to the electoral college system, which was a part of the grand compromise enacted at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to protect states' rights and balance the power of the small states against the larger states.

In many ways, the constitutional separation of powers between the states and the federal government is being eroded. The Founders never intended that the states should become merely administrative appendages of the federal government, much less that the United States become a unitary, centralized, plebiscitary democracy. NPV would push America along that dangerous and originally unintended path.

Beyond preserving federalism, there are other powerful reasons to oppose the NPV plan...

For example, NPV would greatly incentivize vote-stealing because big-city political machines would realize that massive numbers of fraudulent votes they could engender could swing the electoral votes beyond their states and be counted toward a national popular vote plurality victory for their presidential candidate.

Phyllis Schlafly, founder of Eagle Forum, writing in December 2011:

The plan to change this system is called the National Popular Vote. It obviously has a lot of money behind it because it is sending highly paid lobbyists around the country to persuade state legislatures to adopt the NPV plan.

NPV is an attempt to achieve the longtime liberal goal of getting rid of the Electoral College. Instead of proposing an amendment that would first need to be passed by Congress and then ratified by three-fourths of the states (38), NPV is a scheme to deviously bypass the grand design of our U.S. Constitution....

The NPV campaign lets people believe that NPV will elect presidents who win the majority of popular votes, but that is false. Because of third parties, we've had many elections (including three of the last five) when no presidential candidate received a popular-vote majority. Abraham Lincoln won with less than 40 percent of the popular vote, and only by our Electoral College system was he elected president....

It's a mystery how any Republican could support NPV, and it's no surprise that the Republican National Committee voted unanimously to oppose NPV because members saw it as unconstitutional and unworkable.

Remember our national trauma as we suffered through recounts in Florida where the margin between Bush and Gore was only about 500 votes? If the election is based on the national popular vote and it's close, NPV would induce recounts in many or most of the 50 states.

Mexico uses a national popular vote system, and it's a good illustration of why we don't want it here. In Mexico's last presidential election, the candidate with the "most votes" received 35.89 percent, while his closest rival got 35.31 percent -- a margin of just one-half of one percent. In the months that followed, Mexico was on the verge of civil war as the runner-up held mass rallies attracting millions of his angry supporters.

People who pretend that the Electoral College system is undemocratic are not only ignorant of the history and purposes of the U.S. Constitution, but they probably don't even understand baseball. Basing the election on a plurality of the popular vote while ignoring the states would be like the New York Yankees claiming they won the 1960 World Series because they outscored the Pirates in runs 55-27 and in hits 91-60. Yet, the Pirates fairly won that World Series, 4 games to 3, and no one challenges their victory.

John Ryder, Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee, writing about National Popular Vote in June 2011:

On a practical level, the Constitution requires a successful candidate to assemble a winning coalition across a broad geographic spectrum, embracing both large and small states, rather than a narrow concentration of votes.

A popular vote, in contrast, does not require the candidate to have broad appeal. It would make it possible for a candidate to win without any majority but merely a plurality of the popular vote. The compact would require the states to determine the candidate with the "largest national popular vote" - not a majority. Thus, in a multicandidate race, the "largest national popular vote" could be obtained by a regional candidate with just 35 percent or 40 percent of the popular vote.

Under such an arrangement, presidential candidates would have no incentive to campaign anywhere except the major media markets in a few states. The country would, in essence, cede our presidential elections to the largest metropolitan areas, whose concerns are different from those of other areas of the country.

NPV would maximize the rewards of vote fraud in those large metropolitan areas. Under the Electoral College, an illegal vote only affects the outcome in one state; under the popular vote compact, an illegal vote would affect the national outcome.

On the other side of the aisle, leftist blogger Kevin Drum thinks NPV is an excellent idea, referring to it as "a system even less favorable to [Republicans] than the current Electoral College."

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

If you thought you could relax because the Republicans are in charge at the State Capitol and Oklahoma Republicans have a conservative party platform, remember that there are lobbyists giving our friends at the Capitol one side of the story. We in the grassroots have to watch every bill and every vote. We have to be in our legislators' faces as much as the lobbyists are.

On Wednesday, the National Popular Vote bill (SB 906) passed the State Senate by a vote of 28-18. All 18 nay votes were Republicans, but another 16 voted with all 12 Democrats in favor of the bill.

The NPV bill, if it is passed by the House and signed by Gov. Fallin, would add Oklahoma to the list of states promising to award all of our electoral votes to the winner of the largest share of the national popular vote, rather than the winner of the popular vote in Oklahoma. Under the terms of the compact, once states with an aggregate of 270 electoral votes approve the compact, it will go into effect and the winner of the national popular vote will be guaranteed enough electoral votes to win the presidency.

rino-768px.pngI'm told that Saul Anuzis, a consultant for the NPV movement and the former Republican State Chairman in Michigan, was working the corridors for the bill. According to news reports, Anuzis got flack for using the official RNC logo on a letter backing NPV because it hinted that the RNC supported his efforts. Anuzis lost re-election as Michigan's Republican National Committeeman in 2012, and his support for NPV is credited as a major factor in his defeat. Saul Anuzis and his colleagues persuaded some of our friends in the Senate that NPV could improve the Republican Party's chances. Never mind that the NPV movement is funded and run by leftists who are hardly likely to back an idea that would help conservatives win the White House.

Grassroots conservatives know, but our friends in the Senate forgot, that a National Popular Vote would allow the votes of Chicago cemetery inhabitants to cancel the votes of conservative Oklahomans. A presidential election under our current system is essentially 51 separate elections*, and that acts as a firewall against the impact of voter fraud. Under the current system, voter fraud in Chicago, for example, could only run up the score in Illinois; it couldn't undermine results in other states.

Kathy_Taylor-That.Is.Crazy.pngOur friends in the Senate forgot that the National Popular Vote creates an incentive for voting in multiple states in the same election.

Our friends in the Senate forgot that the National Popular Vote undermines the fundamental constitutional principle that the United States is a Union of States. They forgot that NPV and eliminating the electoral college has been a dream of the Left for decades. Getting Oklahoma on board -- the reddest state in the nation, the state where all 77 counties voted for the Republican nominee in 2004, 2008, and 2012 -- will make it easier for the NPV lobbyists to convince other Republican-dominated states to go along. Oklahoma would be the first "red state" to approve NPV.

Our friends in the Senate forgot the conservative Oklahoma voices -- people they know and trust! -- who have been warning them for years about this plan, its constitutional and practical flaws, the danger it poses to the integrity of our election system. Steve Fair, Oklahoma's respected Republican National Committeeman, has been writing against NPV since at least 2011. The Oklahoma Republican Party platform, written by party grassroots activists from across the state and approved by the state convention, has been on record against NPV since at least 2011, renewing their opposition in the most recent platform in 2013. Fellows of the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs (OCPA) have been writing against NPV for years. I wrote a fairly scathing article about the NPV bill filed in 2013.

Our friends in the Senate forgot the conservative voices beyond Oklahoma warning of the dangers of NPV. In 2004 the Heritage Foundation laid out the advantages of the Electoral College for stable government:

Presidential candidates must build a national base among the states before they can be elected. They cannot target any one interest group or regional minority. Instead, they must achieve a consensus among enough groups, spread out over many states, to create a broad-based following among the voters. Any other course of action will prevent a candidate from gaining the strong base needed to win the election.

In 2006, Pete du Pont, former Republican governor of Delaware and a brilliant public policy analyst, made the case in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the National Popular Vote would focus presidential campaigns on the major urban agglomerations on the coasts, to the detriment of Oklahoma and the rest of Flyover Country. He pointed out the likelihood of multi-candidate races, "winners" with tiny minorities of the vote, and no provision for a runoff. He reminded that a race as close as a half-million votes (barely three per precinct) could trigger a nationwide recount 50 times as chaotic as Florida in 2000.

Second, in any direct national election there would be significant election-fraud concerns. In the 2000 Bush-Gore race, Mr. Gore's 540,000-vote margin amounted to 3.1 votes in each of the country's 175,000 precincts. "Finding" three votes per precinct in urban areas is not a difficult thing, or as former presidential scholar and Kennedy advisor Theodore White testified before the Congress in 1970, "There is an almost unprecedented chaos that comes in the system where the change of one or two votes per precinct can switch the national election of the United States."

Washington state's 2004 governor's race was decided by just 129 votes. A judge found 1,678 illegal votes were cast, and it turned out that 1,200 more votes were counted in Seattle's King County than the number of people recorded as voting. This affected just Washington state, but in a direct national election where everything hangs on a small number of urban districts, such manipulations could easily decide presidencies.

The Cato Institute published a policy analysis of NPV in 2008:

The proposal eliminates states as electoral districts in presidential elections by creating a national electoral district for the presidential election, thereby advancing a national political identity for the United States. States with small populations and states that are competitive may benefit from the electoral college. Few states clearly benefit from direct election of the president. NPV brings about this change without amending the Constitution, thereby undermining the legitimacy of presidential elections. It also weakens federalism by eliminating the role of the states in presidential contests. NPV nationalizes disputed outcomes and cannot offer any certainty that states will not withdraw from the compact when the results of an election become known. NPV will encourage presidential campaigns to focus their efforts in dense media markets where costs per vote are lowest; many states now ignored by candidates will continue to be ignored under NPV. For these reasons, states should not join the National Popular Vote compact.

Our friends in the Oklahoma Senate forgot all that. They need to be reminded, and we need to remind our friends in the Oklahoma House, too.

And one more thing: Isn't there something fundamentally wrong about having an institution enshrined in our constitution, but then using legislation to bypass it and render it as a dead letter?

If you're unhappy with the state senators who supported SB 906, please contact them politely, ask why they voted the way they did, explain the problems with National Popular Vote, and ask them to issue a statement retracting their vote. The Senate vote is a done deal, but statements of regret could influence the House in the right direction. Click the link to see how your senator voted.

Next Friday, February 21, 2014, State Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman will speak at the Tulsa Republican Club's monthly luncheon at the Summit Club on the 30th floor of the Bank of America Building, 15 W. 6th Street in downtown Tulsa. (Buffet lunch is $20; validated parking available in the building's garage.) Bingman voted for the National Popular Vote bill; as head of the Senate, he had the power to stop it. This might be a good opportunity to talk (politely!) with him about his vote.

Virgin_Islands-Honeymoon_Beach.jpgI'm puzzled and distressed. What kind of political force would induce this decision on the part of so many Republican state senators? How could they forget what their political allies have been saying in opposition to NPV and instead listen to an out-of-state lobbyist? There aren't any grassroots conservatives agitating for this measure. Why are our legislators treating this as a priority?

Some are suggesting that we need a recall provision in our State Constitution. Term-limited legislators may see potential future employers as the constituency they need to please, rather than the voters who elected them. Or perhaps we could have stronger laws against the revolving door: If you become a lobbyist, you (and anyone married to you) would forfeit your state pension.

MORE: In August 2011, Steve Fair asked and answered Who are the people behind the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC)?:

The Chairman is Dr. John R. Koza, the inventor of the scratch off lottery ticket, and twice a Democrat elector in California. Dr. Kova is a good friend of Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the electoral vote count to George W. Bush.

Barry Faden, a Democrat, is the President of NPVIC. He is a San Francisco attorney who supported John Kerry in 2004. He contributed $2,000 to Kerry according to campaignmoney.com.

Board members for NPVIC are Tom Golisano, the owner of Paychex, an HR company for small business and the owner of the NHL's Buffalo Sabers. In 2008, Golisano, a registered Independent in New York state, gave one million dollars to the Democrats for their national convention. Chris Pearson is State Representative in Vermont. He is a member of the Progressive Party, one of only 6 in the 150 member body. Stephen Siberstein is a California Democrat who contributed $250,000 to the Center for American Progress, a left wing think tank.


NOTES:

*Actually 56 separate elections, taking into account the allocation of electoral votes by congressional district in Nebraska and Maine.

Honeymoon Beach, U. S. Virgin Islands, photo by Navan Rajagopalan on Flickr (Creative Commons attribution license).

Jamison Faught has posted maps of Oklahoma showing dominant party of voter registration by county and registration change per county, based on Oklahoma State Election Board statistics as of January 15, 2014. Only two small counties -- Harmon County in far southwestern Oklahoma and Coal County in Little Dixie -- showed percentage gains for the Democrats.

I took the state election board's spreadsheet for 1960 to 1995 and added the years since then to create this Oklahoma Voter Registration by Party spreadsheet.
There has been a steady trend for both major parties, with accelerations in the GOP's favor for each presidential election year, and a slight downward bend for both major parties when the Motor Voter act went into effect in the mid-1990s. (Independent is the default affiliation if none is marked on the registration application.) Republicans should be the plurality party in Oklahoma by the next presidential election. The one notable exception to the long term trend is the post-Watergate years -- 1974 to 1979.

Oklahoma_Voter_Registration_since_1960.png

Art Rubin, RIP

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art_rubin.jpgArthur E. Rubin, grand old man of the Tulsa County GOP, died Sunday, February 2, 2014, at the age of 93. Visitation is tonight, Friday, February 7, 2014, from 5 - 7 p.m. at Moore Funeral Home Rosewood Chapel at 2570 S. Harvard. Funeral is Saturday, February 8, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. at Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church, 2550 E. 71st St (south side of the street, east of Lewis Ave.) in Tulsa. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Art's memory to St. Simeon's Episcopal Home, where he spent his final years.

Art was a Republican stalwart when being a Republican in Oklahoma seemed like a lost cause. It's hard to imagine, but there was a time when an overwhelming percentage of Oklahomans were "yellow dog" Democrats, and elections were won or lost in the Democratic primary. In 1960, the earliest year for which statistics are available, only 17.6% of Oklahoma voters were registered Republican, and 82% were registered Democrat. That was about the time Art became active in Republican politics, right after a disastrous 1958 election in which Democratic nominee J. Howard Edmondson won 74% of the vote to Phil Ferguson's 20%.

It took a great deal of courage and perseverance to be a Republican in those days. Art worked to rebuild the party nearly from scratch, recruiting candidates and marshaling volunteers and donors. Art saw his efforts rewarded as Oklahoma elected its first Republican governor in 1962 and began an unbroken streak of voting for Republican presidential candidates in 1968, and as Republicans swept every U. S. Senate and House seat in 1994, gained a majority in the State House in 2000 for the first time since 1920 and took the State Senate in 2008, and had begun to make inroads in once-rock-solid Democratic county courthouses. At his passing, Republicans were nearing a plurality of registered voters (always a lagging indicator), with 43.2% to the Democrats 44.8%

In 1988, Art Rubin served as one of Oklahoma's presidential electors, casting his vote for George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle. He was a delegate to the 1992 Republican National Convention. He was an early and fervent supporter of John Sullivan's special-election run for Congress in 2001/2002. He was a beloved presence at party conventions and club luncheons, and his advice was often sought out by office holders and party officials. While his wavy hair turned white over time, the determined gaze you see in the photo above never dimmed.

One of the earliest entries on BatesLine was about a May 2003 banquet honoring Art Rubin for his decades of service to the Republican Party.

Art did not mince words. In this story about the 1991 Tulsa County Republican convention, Art said of Vince Orza, a Republican gubernatorial candidate who endorsed Democrat David Walters for governor in 1990, "The guy is a two-faced s.o.b.; you can't trust him. He invited Walters to his house." Of the job of party County Chairman, Rubin remarked, "Nobody else wants that damned job. It's a lousy job. All you do is get criticized and thrown out."

Art was a Ronald Reagan conservative, staunchly pro-life. He preached the importance of party unity, urging that, as Republicans, our differences with the Democrats are more profound than our differences with one another.

Art and his wife Doris lived for many years on Gary Lake, at 2854 S. Gary Avenue, north of 31st Street. He raised endangered trumpeter swans and other waterfowl on the lake, starting in 1969. In 1989, he donated a pair of swans, later given the names Fred and Ginger, to the new pond on the University Center at Tulsa (now OSU-Tulsa) campus. The lake was notable for its flamboyant Christmas displays, and the Rubin home was no exception.

Professionally, Art Rubin was an attorney specializing in family law, a 1950 graduate of OU Law School, an associate of the Gable Gotwals firm.

One of his legal anecdotes was quoted in a 2006 Tulsa World story about divorce court:

Longtime attorney Art Rubin could have died in divorce court when it was revealed that his client, who swore she was a devoted Christian wife, was sleeping with another man.

Rubin asked the woman during testimony whether this was true.

"Yes," she said, "but the good Lord has already forgiven me."

An online professional profile lists his credits as follows:

Phi Delta Phi. Associate Editor, Oklahoma Bar Journal, 1978-1984. Author: Property Division in Divorce, 54 Oklahoma Bar Journal 531, February 26, 1983. Assistant Professor of Law, University of Tulsa, 1951-1952. Member, Oklahoma Industrial Finance Authority, 1965-1973; Tulsa River Parks Authority, 1980-1986. Member, Board of Trustees, Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, 1989-1991. Member, Federal Judge Selection Committee, Northern District of Oklahoma.

MORE: The Oklahoma Republican Party issued this tribute to Art Rubin:

The Oklahoma Republican Party wishes to express their condolences for the Arthur Rubin family of Tulsa upon the passing of their father, grandfather, and friend. Arthur Rubin's leadership within the Oklahoma Republican Party earned him a reputation as the "grandfather" of the Tulsa County Republican Party, and his advice, energy, dedication, and understanding gained him state and national recognition. Chairman Dave Weston said, "Oklahomans will miss Mr. Rubin and all that he contributed to the Republican Party, but also who he was as an individual."

If you'd like to share your memories of Art Rubin, I'd be honored to add them here. Post a comment or email me at blog@batesline.com

MORE:

At Art Rubin's funeral, he was eulogized by U. S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, law firm colleague Jim Gotwals, and a family friend.

Inhofe told the oft-repeated story of how Art Rubin got him to run for office for the first time. The scene is lunch at the Beacon Grill at 4th and Boston, 1966, shortly after the election of State Sen. Dewey Bartlett (father of Tulsa's current mayor) as Oklahoma's second Republican governor, leaving his legislative seat vacant.

Art never asked you to do anything. He told you. So we sat down on these little round stools that they had at the Beacon Grill, and he says, "I want you to run for the vacancy that's been created because Dewey Bartlett's now the governor." And I said, "Art, I'm not going to do it.... First of all, I've got all these kids at home," and Art said, "It's a part-time job." And he's right, it was. And I said, "I don't have any organization," and he said, "You need an organizer." And he looked up, and there was a lady walking across the Beacon Grill, her name was Millie Thompson.... he said, "Millie, come over here. I want you to head up the 'Volunteers for Inhofe' -- he's going to run for the state legislature."

Now I know that there are people -- 'cause I'm kind of extreme and you know that -- there are people in here who don't like me. You won't raise your hand, you won't acknowledge it now, but I know you don't. So -- but if you don't like me, don't blame me, blame Art.

Art Rubin's funeral program was a traditional Lutheran liturgy, including readings from Scripture (Isaiah 61:1-3, Psalm 23, Revelation 21:2-7, John 6:35-40), congregational hymns ("O Day of Rest and Gladness," "In the Garden," and "How Great Thou Art") and a sermon from the Rev. Scott Burmeister, pastor of Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church.

MORE MEMORIES:

Norman James writes:

Art and I were cousins. We finished school at about the same time, and had rooms in adjacent houses on South Carson. One evening we were walking to dinner (neither of us owned a car), talking about jobs and money. He was earning $150 a month as a law clerk, I was making $225 as a "Laborer". Art said, "I would be SO happy if I knew I could make $500 a month the rest of my life."

FreedomWorks is calling on Oklahomans to attend Sen. Tom Coburn's August townhall meetings to ask him to join conservative Senate Republicans in their fight to defund implementation of the Unaffordable Care Act. Here is a list of Coburn's August 2013 townhalls, which are mainly in rural eastern Oklahoma. Coburn won't be coming to Tulsa or Oklahoma City, so Tulsans and Oklahoma Citians will have to go to him to express their disappointment in his refusal to fight against Obamacare funding.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 2:00 pm, Miami, Miami Civic Center
Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 5:00 pm, Muskogee, Muskogee Civic Center, Room D (NOTE VENUE CHANGE)
Thursday, August 22, 2013, 8:00 am, Stigler, The Eaton Hole, 504 E. Main
Thursday, August 22, 2013, 12:00 pm, Hugo, Kiamichi Technology Center North Seminar Room
Thursday, August 22, 2013, 2:30 pm, Atoka, Kiamichi Technology Center Business Center
Monday, August 26, 2013, 5:30 pm, Shawnee, Gordon Cooper Tech Center, John Bruton Seminar Center


coburn_freedomworks_obamacare.jpg

Here's the letter from Matt Kibbe, head of FreedomWorks.

Tom Coburn says ObamaCare is not the solution to health care reform. But he hasn't joined with Mike Lee to Defund ObamaCare.

Sen. Coburn is having townhall meetings so you can ask him why he isn't doing everything he can to protect Oklahoma from ObamaCare.

Harry Reid called ObamaCare the stepping stone to European-style health care. Now is the time for Tom Coburn to listen to concerned citizens like you and stand with Mike Lee to Defund ObamaCare.

Tom Coburn has been a principled fighter for economic liberty in the Senate. We need him to join with Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio and not give one dime of your tax dollars to pay for ObamaCare.

Sen. Coburn needs to know that patriots like you don't want ObamaCare and that he should do everything he can to stop it.

In Liberty,

Matt Kibbe
President and CEO, FreedomWorks

MORE:

At Townhall, Kate Andrews provides three real-life examples of how Obamacare has driven up costs for the sick, disabled, and poor.

The Heritage Foundation says that Coburn is wrong to claim that Congress can't defund mandatory spending. They do it all the time.

Heritage explains defunding:

Defunding Obamacare means attaching a legislative rider to a "must-pass" spending bill, like the continuing resolution or the debt limit, that:
  • Prohibits any funds from being spent on any activities to implement or enforce Obamacare;
  • Cancels any unspent balances that have already been appropriated for implementation; and
  • Turns off the exchange subsidies and new Medicaid spending that are currently on auto-pilot.

Defunding stops the flow of money to Obamacare, including implementing the law and all of its related activities.

A recent successful example of defunding that comes to mind is the incandescent light bulb ban. In December 2011, the same Republican majority in the House, Democrat majority in the Senate, and Democrat in the White House approved omnibus spending legislation that banned spending any money on enforcement of the ban. As with Obamacare, the ban was unpopular and costly federal overreach, but with Obamacare, businesses, labor unions, state and local governments, and individuals are even more concerned about the costs of compliance.

RELATED:

Mickey Kaus notes that Republican congressmen aren't holding as many townhalls; he believes it's because they're afraid to face their conservative constituents over issues like amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Jazz_Giving_Moore.jpgTonight, Thursday, June 6, 2013, at 7 p.m., trumpeter and vocalist Jeff Shadley and the Disaster Relief Orchestra will take the stage at Tulsa's Jazz Depot to benefit Oklahoma tornado relief.

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged and will go directly to support the Tulsa Chapter of the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. From the press release:

"I'll have a lot of the usual guys who work with me, including Victor Anderson on saxophone and Dave Johnson on trumpet," says Shadley. "Mike Bennett is also coming in to play trumpet, Steve Ham to play trombone, Mike Cameron on tenor sax, and I'll have a couple of [NSU Jazz Studies director] Tommy Poole's students in there, too, who're both really good.

"I've got two great pianists, Chuck Gardner and Scott McQuade, who'll be trading off throughout the show. And there's a tremendous lead trombone player named Zac Lee who's coming in from Oklahoma City to play with us. I offered to at least give him gas money, and he wouldn't even take that."

All of the musicians are donating their services, as are Tulsa media figures Julie Chin and Michele Lowry, the emcees for the evening, and vocalists Cindy Cain, Pam Van Dyke Crosby, Sarah Maud, Rebecca Ungerman, Ruby Shadley, and Shadley himself, the featured singers at Thursday's event.

Also on the bill: The Tulsa Rock Quartet, a string quartet "bridging the gap between the classical and rock performance worlds."

doug_cox-planned_parenthood-322px.jpgState Rep. Doug Cox (RINO-Grove) is using the aftermath of a disaster to gain a national platform from which he can heap scorn on his fellow lawmakers and his fellow Oklahomans in order to support Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, from whom he received a national award this year (pictured right) as a "pro-choice" Republican.

Under the guise of mourning the loss of 24 lives in this week's storm, he's promoting an organization responsible for the deaths of 3,316,822 by abortion procedures over a 12-year-period. Over the same period, Planned Parenthood made 25,846 adoption referrals, a ratio of 128 babies killed for every baby saved.

Cox is the member of the Republican caucus most likely to oppose a pro-life bill, and he's been an unreliable vote for the conservative cause on other issues as well. His 2012 conservative rating by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper was 29%, lower than that of many Democrats. Cox and State Sen. Brian Crain have teamed up in support of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma. This article ought to be the final straw to prompt the Republican caucus to give him the heave-ho and to take away his chairmanships. If the Oklahoma Republican Party stands for anything, they ought to be recruiting and preparing a primary opponent right now.

Cox attacks "multiple bills [moving through the legislature] with the sole purpose of blocking women's access to preventive health care." Here's the beginning of his Huffington Post op-ed:

The eyes of the entire country have turned to Oklahoma this week in the wake of Monday's devastating tornado. The tornado tore through seventeen miles of ground, destroying homes, schools, and hospitals in its path. Twenty-four lives have been lost, including 10 children.

It is these kinds of tragic disasters that bring people together. As a physician, as a parent, as a state legislator who takes my oath to put my constituents interests first, I can't be silent when -- at a time of need for care, empathy, and community -- my colleagues in the Oklahoma state legislature are using the last days of session to further restrict Oklahoma women's access to health care. In these final days of session, my colleagues in the state legislature will consider multiple bills with the sole purpose of blocking women's access to preventive health care.

Cox refers obliquely to two bills but omits the bill number, perhaps so we can't see if he's accurately depicting their content. SB 900, which has emerged from a conference committee, sets priorities for family planning and counseling funding, putting public agencies at the top of the list followed by hospitals and rural clinics, with private clinics at the end of the line, and HB 2226, which requires a prescription for the Plan B abortifacient drug for girls 16 and under, but allows it to be sold over-the-counter for ages 17 and up.

Both bills are common-sense measures. SB 900 has been reported out of conference committee and has passed the Senate. The conference committee report on HB 2226 has passed both houses and is on the governor's desk.

The overwhelming majority of Oklahomans, regardless of political affiliation, oppose abortion. Oklahomans have elected overwhelming majorities of pro-life legislators, pro-life statewide officials, and a 100% pro-life congressional delegation. We don't want our tax dollars going to organizations that perform abortions or lobby for abortion rights. Oklahomans, in overwhelming majorities, believe that sex is for marriage, and we don't want our tax dollars going to organizations that publish websites for children as young as six that encourage teens to experiment sexually. We believe that children should be protected from sexual predators, and we don't want our tax dollars going to organizations that shield statutory rapists from the legal penalties they deserve.

If Planned Parenthood wants Oklahoma taxpayer dollars for their medical clinics, they should stop performing or referring for abortions, stop lobbying for abortion rights, and stop promoting sexual irresponsibility among teenagers in the name of sex education. Money is fungible, and anything PP receives from state government for non-controversial activities frees up funds for controversial activities.

Cox represents an unfortunate phase in the development of a Republican majority in the Oklahoma legislature. Well-known local civic leaders who seemed conservative but who hadn't been active in Republican politics were recruited to run for open seats in Democratic-dominated districts. Unfortunately, we later learned that some of these legislators hadn't been involved in Republican politics because they don't hold Republican views. With massive majorities in both houses, the GOP legislative caucuses should consider taking chairmanships away from those members who consistently work against core Republican principles.

UPDATE 2013/05/24: SB 900 passed today and is on its way to the governor.

UPDATE 2013/05/29: Cox has an op-ed in today's Oklahoman, in which he deliberately blurs the distinction between contraceptives (means of preventing conception) and the Plan B "morning after" chemical abortifacient. From his rhetoric in this piece, it appears he believes that the best protection society can offer 12 - 14 year old girls is condoms and Plan B. If only people like Cox were as serious about protecting the innocence of children as they are about protecting them from smoking and bad nutrition.

For most Oklahomans, the scary stuff has moved on to the east without any damage. One of our trees dropped a limb in Sunday's storms. Today's storms passed through Tulsa with little fanfare. We're now under a flash flood watch until 3 a.m. -- conditions are ripe for heavy rains that can cause dangerous localized flooding. Southeastern Oklahoma is under a tornado watch until 3 a.m.

But Oklahomans in Moore and Bethel Acres will be living with the aftermath for a long time to come. There will be mourning for those who died in the elementary school. There's an immediate need for food, shelter, and clothing. Downed and damaged trees must be cleared away and power lines restored.

Full-time emergency personnel can only do so much; effective disaster relief requires skilled volunteers along with funds for food, fuel, supplies.

bgco_disaster_relief.pngThe Oklahoman has a list of ways you can help Oklahoma tornado victims.

One organization that is already here and helping is the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's Disaster Relief Team. There are already over 80 volunteers at work and more on their way -- feeding units, chainsaw teams clearing trees and debris, and a few chaplains to comfort the victims. These are Oklahomans helping Oklahomans. You can help them help Oklahoma tornado victims by making a tax-deductible donation -- all money goes to disaster relief and helping victims with food, laundry, and tree removal.

Right now, Oklahoma has an adequate supply of blood, but it will need to be replenished. According to the Oklahoman, "every drop of blood needed by patients in all metro-Oklahoma City hospitals and 140 others across the state" comes from the Oklahoma Blood Institute. OBI's Tulsa donor center is west of Yale on 81st Street.

At some time in the near future, the Oklahoma State Senate may vote on HB1412, a bill that purports to prohibit governmental entities in Oklahoma from implementing any aspect of Agenda 21 or belonging to any United Nations-related organization. After the jump, you can read the full text of the engrossed bill approved on March 13, 2013, by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The bill was assigned to the Senate Energy Committee, where it currently sits.

HB1412 is a feel-good bill, a security blanket that does nothing to protect against real threats to private property rights. Meanwhile, the legislature is ignoring practical, effective steps that they could take to protect against those threats, regardless of the inspiration or motivation behind them.

security_blanket_cat_dog.jpg
Photomeme from I Can Has Cheezburger

Here are the main problems with HB1421:

  • Legislation that is specific to Agenda 21 won't protect against the same threats to private property that are traceable to other influences.
  • There are no procedures for identifying and prosecuting violations of the law.
  • There are no penalties for violating the law.
  • No provision is made to maintain a list of "nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations" with which Oklahoma and its political subdivisions may not interact.
  • The misuse of "all" when "any" is meant, and "and" when "or" is meant may allow a court to construe the law as a dead letter.

If a governmental action is abusive, it doesn't matter if that action was inspired by Agenda 21, Heinz 57, or Route 66. Wrong is wrong.

In fact, the bad guys are likely to change the terminology if a label begins to attract negative attention. Activists who track fads in public education are familiar with the cycle: A program comes under negative scrutiny, and there are calls to defund it and forbid its implementation. Supporters of the goals of the program create a new program with the same goals, but with a different name, and different terminology. Opponents have to fight the same battle all over again, trying to convince elected officials that this is the same old garbage in new packaging.

Rather than focus on the label, legislators and activists concerned about Agenda 21 should focus on the effects. What are the dangers against which we're trying to protect Oklahomans? What gaps in the law put Oklahomans at a disadvantage in defending themselves against these impositions? How can the laws be changed to give ordinary Oklahomans a firmer place to stand and more powerful tools to fight against these abuses?

Here are two real-world situations where the legislature could take practical steps to protect Oklahomans against the feared outcomes of Agenda 21 globaloney: Eminent domain and trash policy.

Eminent domain abuses and other impositions on private property rights predate Agenda 21 and occur independently of any connection to Agenda 21 or sustainability. Public trusts and authorities have been known to "lend" their power of eminent domain to benefit politically connected businesses and institutions. (For example, the use of the City of Tulsa's power of eminent domain to facilitate the expansion of the University of Tulsa, a private, sectarian institution.) The Institute for Justice's Castle Coalition tracks this issue nationwide; here's their summary of state constitutional provisions dealing with eminent domain.

Even though our State Constitution requires that eminent domain may only be used to acquire property for public use, not merely public benefit, a property owner confronted with a condemnation threat may not know where to turn for help and may not have the financial means to fight an unconstitutional use of eminent domain.

The legislature could provide that every condemnation would be subject to an early motion to dismiss, with the burden of proof placed on the condemning authority to establish that the proposed use for the condemned property is a public use in accordance with the Oklahoma Constitution and the Muskogee County v. Lowery ruling. If the burden is not met, the condemning authority would have to pay the property owner's legal cost. It's a variation on the highly effective anti-SLAPP statutes in place in California and elsewhere. Here, too, the idea is to shift the financial burden away from the citizen exercising and defending his rights and onto the party seeking to limit or impose upon those rights.

At the same time, the legislature could and should act to tighten up the ridiculouly broad definition of "blight" in the state statutes. Click that link and read what it says. Just about any one's property could be declared blighted. If you're concerned that PLANiTULSA -- the City of Tulsa's recently adopted comprehensive plan -- could be used as a pretext for condemning private property, then remove anything in the law that defines incompatibility with a comprehensive plan as blight.

Many Tulsans are upset about the changes to our trash service. Under the Dewey Bartlett Jr administration, the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy (TARE) lumbered Tulsans with more expensive, less frequent, and less convenient trash service, all for the sake of financing "green" CNG-powered trash trucks that can track our trash and recycling habits. (Why else do you need RFID-identified trash carts?) The TARE board seemed uninterested in the public's wishes, seemed to be imposing this new policy For Our Own Good whether we liked it or not.

Bartlett Jr refused to replace TARE board members with new members who would be more sympathetic and responsive to public wishes. The City Council explored disbanding TARE and bringing the trash service back under city government, but TARE's status as a Title 60 trust made it impossible to disband TARE without TARE's consent.

So let's see the legislature reform Title 60 so that a city's elected officials can reign in and if necessary disband a rogue trust or authority. Provide a way to deal with an authority's outstanding debts, so they can't be used to prevent the sunsetting of an authority that has outlived its purpose, as TARE has done. (TARE was created to finance the construction of the city's trash-to-energy plant, paying back construction bonds with the trash service revenue. The facility is now privately owned.)

Add a provision to allow a city's governing board to appoint new authority members if the mayor refuses to make an appointment when a member's term expires. (Tulsa has a charter amendment that gives the City Council the authority to make appointments when the mayor refuses, but the City Attorney's office has opined that the TARE board is exempt from the requirement because of the way in which the authority was created. The law I'm suggesting could close this loophole.)

It's simple to author a resolution expressing the sense of the Legislature, an opinion on a subject, which is about all that HB1412 is. Writing effective legislation is not simple, and I would urge the legislators and the activists who support HB1412 to dig deeper and to write laws that protect Oklahomans whether or not Agenda 21 and the United Nations are involved. Pass HB1412 if you like, but it won't have any meaningful effect, and indeed it may lull you into a false sense of security.

okgop2013.pngConservative political pundit Fred Barnes will be the keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Republican Party's pre-convention gala dinner, Friday, April 19, 2013. Gov. Mary Fallin and former Gov. Frank Keating will also speak, and Keating will serve as emcee.

Tickets start at $50 per person, with proceeds going to support the ongoing work of the Oklahoma Republican Party. For $125 per person ($225 per couple), you can attend the reception and have a photo-op with Fred Barnes.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard, co-founding the magazine in 1995. He has been a Fox News contributor since 1996. You may have first encountered him along with Mort Kondracke as regular panelists on "The McLaughlin Group" in the 1990s; the two then co-hosted Fox News's "The Beltway Boys."

I predict that Mr. Barnes will be warmly welcomed by Oklahoma Republicans, and not merely as a fellow conservative, but also (for perhaps the majority of us) as a fellow follower of Christ. He lives out his faith in often-hostile territory -- both in the DC metro area and in the realm of mass media. He understands first-hand, in a way that many of his right-of-center media colleagues do not, the aspects of the Christian faith that have motivated so many Oklahoma Christians to be involved politically, but also that one's Christian faith is much, much more than one's political involvement.

Barnes is an evangelical Anglican, a long-time member of The Falls Church, which withdrew from the Episcopal Church USA for the mainline denomination's radical departures from God's Word and which was recently evicted by the mainline denomination and the courts from its historic home. In 2007, Barnes and his wife Barbara left The Falls Church to help launch a new evangelical Anglican church being planted in Alexandria by The Falls Church. Barnes wrote about the experience of being involved in church planting in the Wall Street Journal.

Many thanks to the Oklahoma Republican Party for sponsoring BatesLine.

MORE:

Fred Barnes archive at The Weekly Standard: His latest column asks why the Republican Party gave up our best issue and stopped talking about growth.

And here's Barnes, along with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and others, speaking in support of Birthmothers, a ministry that connects women in unplanned pregnancies with a supportive friend and the emotional and physical resources they need to bring their children into the world.

In 2008, I encountered Fred Barnes in a St. Paul elevator on the way to hear a talk by Fred Thompson.

Mary_Fallin_somber.jpgHere we are, the reddest state in the nation: Republican governor, overwhelmingly Republican legislature. (36-12 in the Senate, 72-29 in the House.)

But instead of tightening the state's belt, as their constituents have had to do, instead of cutting tax rates significantly so that Oklahomans will be able to keep more of our own money and compensate for Federal tax hikes, and so that Oklahoma can compete with our no-income-tax neighbor to the south and our lower-tax neighbor to the north, our elected officials at the State Capitol are hesitating over a minuscule cut in the top income tax rate. We couldn't get a tax cut last year, and it's looking like we might not get one this year.

OCPA's bold budget plan

There is a bold plan on the table, if our leaders are willing to take it up. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs has proposed a state budget for Oklahoma that reduces appropriations for FY 2014 by $132 million as compared to this year's appropriations. That's an actual cut, not a mere reduction in the growth of government.

The OCPA proposal accomplishes these savings with more efficient health care coverage for state employees, gets government out of businesses that ought to be handled by the private sector, reforms agencies, boards, and commissions, and scrutinizes federal grants that often obligate state and local spending. It cuts our top tax rate by 1/2 percentage point, from 5.25% to 4.75% and still brings in $277 million in surplus funds that can be carried over to FY 2015.

The legislature's timidity; Fallin blames lobbyists

But our legislative leaders aren't boldly moving forward with OCPA's thoroughly researched proposal. On Monday the House revenue and taxation subcommittee turned down a Senate proposal to cut tax rates by 0.5%, but not until calendar year 2015, and offset by eliminating or reducing a number of tax credits. Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman has said he would oppose a tax increase that wasn't "revenue neutral," which would rule out the House's proposed 0.25% tax cut. Even if it passed, the House's proposal would leave us with a higher top tax rate than neighboring Kansas, which cut its top rate to 4.9% last year.

Gov. Fallin blamed last year's failure to agree on a tax cut on lobbyists. But shouldn't an effective governor have more pull with legislators than lobbyists? And if not, why not?

Franklin Center boosts bloggers to hold officials accountable

rocbloggroupwithlogo.jpgSometimes you have to go far from home to learn something about where you're from. A few weeks ago I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the ROCblog retreat for bloggers sponsored by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. ("ROC" stands for raising online community.) The weekend was packed with informative talks and panels, focused on giving bloggers the tools and techniques to hold government officials accountable for their actions. There were bloggers and speakers there from all over the US, but one of the most memorable moments for me involved a mention of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin by Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore.

The Franklin Center came into being to address the decline in the traditional news media's coverage of state and local government. The Franklin Center employs investigative reporters and full-time state capitol reporters -- including Pat McGuigan, who covers the Oklahoma capitol for Watchdog Oklahoma. They also seek to support and encourage the citizen journalists who cover government in their spare time. (Read the Franklin Center's vision here.)

In his words of welcome at the beginning of the retreat, Franklin Center President Jason Stverak told us that he ran the North Dakota Republican Party for seven years and that bloggers (like Rob Port, who covers ND politics on his Say Anything blog) made his life hell. He found that bloggers weren't satisfied with press releases and pat answers. The mainstream capital press corps, on the other hand, often knew of information that might hurt their friends in government, but they wouldn't ask the question that would elicit damaging news. Stverak learned that electing Republicans wasn't enough to have the kind of government he wanted; he said that North Dakota's state government, dominated by the GOP, has cronyism and corruption as bad as anything you'd find in a Democrat-dominated state.

Stverak said there wan't enough money in America to put a reporter in front of every public official, but America came into being with ordinary citizens who took on the most powerful professional army in the world.

So it's our job as citizens and grassroots activists to hold our elected officials accountable for keeping their promises and serving the public interest. That's even true -- especially true -- for those officials who are of the same party and who profess to adhere to the same political philosophy. And that brings us back to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and what Stephen Moore had to say about her.

Red States vs. Blue States: A natural experiment in policy and prosperity

Moore spoke about the growing Red State / Blue State divide, as states pursue vastly different policies on taxation and regulation. Moore has observed in his travels that the United States is divided culturally and politically along regional lines in a way that hasn't been true since the Civil War. While the GOP lost nationally in 2012, it continued to make gains in the South, with Arkansas the latest conquest at the legislative level, a Republican majority for the first time since Reconstruction. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Democrats have 37 out of 40 seats in the State Senate.

Red States pursue low taxes and more economic freedom, while Blue States pursue higher taxes and more regulation, setting up a "natural experiment." We can see which policies are successful by watching where the growth occurs. "If [the Blue State] model works so well, why is California in complete collapse, and why is Texas booming like it's never boomed before?" California has lost 850,000 jobs over the last five years; Texas has gained over 500,000 jobs in the same period. "Did that happen by accident? No, policy matters." California has a 13.3% top state income tax rate and has passed cap-and-trade; Texas has no state income tax and no industry-punishing carbon taxes.

The coming income-tax-free region: Will Oklahoma be included?

Moore told us there are several states that have a good chance of eliminating the state income tax in the near future, including Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, and the possibility of an entire region of the country being income-tax-free. The South will rise again -- economically -- while Blue States raise their taxes and drive economic productivity out of their states for friendlier climes.

Prosperity is like the wind, moving from high pressure to low pressure, and carrying jobs along with it. The problem with an income tax is that it's a tax on productivity, and when you tax something, you get less of it.

Just last week Moore and his fellow economist Arthur Laffer expanded on this theme in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, "The Red-State Path to Prosperity"

Among the 10 fastest-growing metro areas last year were Raleigh, Austin, Las Vegas, Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. All of these are in low-tax, business-friendly red states. Blue-state areas such as Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Providence and Rochester were among the biggest population losers.

This migration isn't accidental. Workers and business owners are responding to clear economic incentives. Red states in the Southeast and Sunbelt are following the Reagan model by reducing tax rates and easing regulations. They also offer right-to-work laws as an enticement for businesses to come and set up shop. Meanwhile, the blue states of the Northeast, joined by California, Minnesota and Illinois, are implementing the Obama model of raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy to fund government "investments" and union power.

The contrast sets up a wonderful natural laboratory to test rival economic ideas.

Oklahoma and Gov. Fallin get a mention in the column. It's one thing to say we could eliminate the state income tax, but should we? Kansas may put us in a position where Oklahoma must move toward income tax elimination in order to attract and retain businesses.

Meanwhile, in the South, watch for a zero-income-tax domino effect. Georgia can hardly sustain a 6% income tax if businesses can skip across the border into neighboring states like Florida, Tennessee or South Carolina. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has told her legislature that the Sooner State will face high economic hurdles in the future if it is an income-tax sandwich between Texas and Kansas.

Fallin lack of fortitude; Chamber-made betrayal

I raised my hand to ask a question, and as soon as I mentioned that I was from Oklahoma, Moore took off with an observation about eliminating the income tax here: "I don't understand why Oklahoma can't get this done. I've been there six times in the last two years, and I like your governor a lot. I just don't know if she has the fortitude.... Oklahoma's a perfect example of a state that could eliminate its state income tax."

That was in fact what I was going to ask about, and in response, I mentioned that the pressure against income-tax elimination was not coming from the Left, but from the chambers of commerce. "Don't even get me started on State Chambers of Commerce! In most states they're a disaster." The problem, Moore said, with chambers of commerce is that they "represent the incumbent business powers.... What's great about capitalism is that capitalism leads to challenges against the incumbent business powers.... They want to protect their own industries."

Moore told of the recent betrayal perpetrated in Virginia: In 2011, Republicans finally gained control of the legislature and the governor's office. The day before his talk to us, the Republican governor and legislature of Virginia passed a billion-dollar tax increase, which Moore called "a total abomination... a total Benedict Arnold," a slap in the face of those who worked so hard over 30 years to elect Republicans. And it was done, Moore said, at the urging of the chambers of commerce, the construction industry, and other industries that stand to benefit from bigger government.

Brownback's charge; Fallin's retreat

Gov. Fallin announced a bold target in her 2012 State of the State address: a proposed top rate of 3.5%, with a 2.25% bracket for most middle income families, and no income tax at all for those making less than $30,000. She didn't make any progress at all toward that goal last year. This year, she meekly requested a top rate of 5%, which applies (like the current top rate) to anyone making more than $8,700.

I didn't expect bold leadership from Mary Fallin. That's why I endorsed and knocked doors for Randy Brogdon in 2010; you can see my concerns in the links below, concerns that seem to have been borne out.

Like Oklahoma, Kansas has Republican supermajorities in both houses of the legislature. Last year, when Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback faced opposition to his tax cut plan from moderate/Chambercrat Republican legislators, Brownback supported their challengers in the primary, defeating nine incumbent state senators.

Time to hire someone new to do the job?

Gov. Fallin could have done the same thing last year. She could have joined forces with grassroots conservatives to punish legislators who were susceptible to the persuasive lobbyists that Fallin blamed for the defeat of her tax cut initiative. The defeat of a few Chambercrats might have put some fear into those that survived.

Conservatives did manage to exert enough pressure to change Fallin's mind on Obamacare implementation. She's under a lot of pressure from the left and the Chambers to cave on that issue, and we need to encourage her to stand firm. At the same time, we need to let her know we expect the same kind of firm resolve to cut tax rates and the size and scope of government here in Oklahoma.

If a Republican governor can't cut taxes and control spending with super-majorities in both houses, it's time to look for a replacement who can.

FROM THE BatesLine ARCHIVES:

July 6, 2010: Fallin plans lobbyist meet, skips grassroots event and forums
July 20, 2010: Mary Fallin disparages following the Constitution as "the easy way out!"
July 24, 2010: "Fallin-esque" vs. Brogdon's specific plan

Photo of Gov. Fallin from her official website.

MORE elsewhere:

Rob Port reports that North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple's leadership is missing in the midst of a crisis in that state's higher education system.

IVoted.jpgMunicipalities across Oklahoma are holding city council elections today. Today is also runoff day for school board seats that weren't settled in February. Below are some of the local races. It's encouraging to see that so many of the elections are contested. In Skiatook, every single seat is on the ballot, giving the voters the chance to clean house if they so choose.

As always, polls are open until 7 p.m.

I've heard of some upset in Jenks over whether incumbent councilors should be held accountable for their decision to put a tax on the ballot that was defeated. Defenders of the incumbents say they didn't raise taxes, they just gave the voters a chance to vote. (Sort of like Aaron in Exodus, "I just put the gold in the fire, and out came this calf!") Putting a tax on the ballot is not a neutral act. Elected officials have a responsibility to listen to their constituents before putting something on the ballot. Officials should only propose projects that will have the support of an overwhelming majority of voters. Too often councilors and commissioners listen only to those with a special, vested interest in the outcome (both inside and outside of government), and develop a proposal that pleases those special interests but will require massive campaign funding to persuade a narrow majority of voters.

Ward maps for Tulsa County municipalities

TULSA COUNTY:

Berryhill school board, Office 3: Sandra Pirtle, Doc Geiger

Glenpool, Ward 1: Timothy Lee Fox (i), David Freeland, Keith Jones

Jenks, Ward 2*: Lonnie Sims(i), Darlene Williams
Jenks, Ward 3: Kevin Rowland(i), Philip Morgans
Jenks, Ward 4: Brian O'Hara, Joshua M. Wedman
Jenks, Ward 6: Greg Bowman(i), Steve Murtha
Jenks, at-large: Paul E. Harris, Kelly Dunkerley(i)

Skiatook, Ward 1: Debbie Cook(I), Connie Clement, Herb Forbes
Skiatook, Ward 2: David Sutherland, Nate Myers, Damon Pace,
Skiatook, Ward 3*: Moe Shoeleh, Joyce Jech (i)
Skiatook, Ward 4*: Skylar Miller, Patrick W. Young
Skiatook, Ward 5: Susan Reed-Hardesty, Richard Barnes, Patty Pippin Ceska, Randy J. Sien (i)
Skiatook, Ward 6*: Steve Kendrick, Shawn Martin, Kevin D. Paslay
Skiatook, at-large*: Leon O'Neal, Eugene Jones, O. L. Bud Ricketts

Sperry, at-large (vote for 2): Marvin Baker, William F. Butler, Robert Morton, Kelly Wensman

An asterisk, *, marks elections to fill an unexpired term.

Oklahoma State Sen. Rick Brinkley is also a pastor as well as the head of the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau. His pastor's heart shines forth in frequent thought-provoking posts on his Facebook account. He was kind enough to allow me to share a post from March 14, 2013, pondering the legislature's deadlines -- and life's deadlines. With the recent passing of my accomplished mother-in-law, I found it particularly resonant.

I'm exhausted. Today was the final deadline for Senate Bills to be passed off the floor & sent to the House.

rick_brinkley.jpgUnlike the Federal Government, the Oklahoma Legislature is required to work on a strict schedule. Every three weeks is a deadline week. Any Bill not making the deadline is dead. This ensures that things get done. No one can sit idly by while the deadlines pass. It also forces individual legislators to make tough decisions regarding their own Bills. Sometimes you have to let bills which aren't that important to you go in order to get other bills through the process by the deadline. The entire session must be over by the last Friday of May....that day is called "Sine Die"....which means "Without assigning a day for future meeting"....anything not completed by that day is dead. There's also the rule that each "legislature" is actually two years. The rules state that if a bill is killed in committee or on the floor, it cannot be brought up again until the next legislature, which this year means it could not be brought up again until 2015. If a legislator feels his/her Bill may fail when voted upon, he/she will hold the bill until the next year in order to work on it to get the votes to pass it. It causes you to look at the bigger picture of taking risks on a bill that is important to you. I, personally, think these deadlines are great.

Without deadlines, there is rarely a sense of urgency to get things done. I hope I lead my life the same way.

If you do not realize that there is a deadline on your life, you may sit idly by and watch your life unfold before you without even participating in it.

Just like Oklahoma's legislative rules:

*Sometimes you have to prioritize what is important & let things go that keep the really important things from being accomplished.

*Other times you have to place a hold on really important things to make sure you get them right. You never want the important things to fail because you didn't take the time to execute them properly.

*At some point your "Sine Die" will arrive. There will not be another day assigned to you. Everything you have not accomplished will die with you, unless you plant those dreams in the next generation to accomplish in your stead.

Every day you are living, you are one day closer to dying. Let me say that again, at the end of today you will be one day closer to dying. Have you met your deadlines & made the important things the important things?

Your life is also run by a deadline. Make sure you get everything accomplished that you can. But, realize the important things aren't things, they're the people in your life. Your deadline is 24 hours closer to arriving. Get stuff done, but celebrate life with those you love along the way.

RELATED: In March 2011, I wrote about life's intermediate deadlines and the value of having a bucket list for each distinct season of life, with a particular focus on a bucket list for traveling as a family.

(NOTE: As a student of Latin, I was surprised to hear "sine die" pronounced for the first time by a legislator. In school it would be pronounced "SIH-neh DEE-eh," but in the legislature they pronounce it "SIGH-knee DIE.")

Happy Pi Day! This evening at 6:28 Eastern time, applicants to MIT will learn whether or not they've been admitted. For those hopefuls and anyone else in need of worthwhiling away a little time, some links of interest:

Tyson Wynn, who runs local news site WelchOK.com, has been bombarded with complaints from Canadian animal rights activists and their allies about a nearby event that he knew nothing about and has nothing to do with. Among other things, these people have threatened never to vacation in Welch (pop. 619). Tyson offers some advice on how not to advocate for your cause.

Aerogramme Writers' Studio: Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: From some of the most compelling storytellers of our time. Rule 9 begins, "When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next."

Somewhat related: Ace ponders the Mystification/Revelation Model of Teaching. First you puzzle and frustrate your student, then you relieve his frustration with a solution. You're going to be much more interested in information if it answers a question that's bothering or intriguing you. Ace sees this technique used in good movie storytelling. Seems to me that Jesus' parables fit the same pattern.

My Tulsa friend Erin Patrick gets a mention in a Wall Street Journal article about grown kids who stay on their parents' family plans for phone and digital entertainment. Erin's daughter is on the family phone plan; her 16-year-old son is paying for some of his own subscriptions out of the money he earns.

TiffanyTranscriptions.com: "Ole Buttermilk Sky": A song-by-song description of a British CD collection of mid-1940s recordings by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, mainly songs from the Tiffany Transcriptions that were not included in Kaleidoscope's LPs. The article by Tom Diamant includes some interesting info on the Crosley Transcriptions (aka Presto Transcriptions) and how to tell a sloppy re-issue from a careful dubbing.

Did you know that Southern Hills Country Club is in a low-income "food desert"? The U. S. Department of Agriculture has an interactive food desert map. That SHCC is in a low-income food desert is an example of the hazards of aggregation. I guess the number of households in the apartments on the east side of Lewis north of 71st outnumber the households in the massive homes backing up to the golf course, but they're all in the same census tract.

StateImpact has a Google Map of municipal water rates in Oklahoma. It's not close to complete, but interesting nevertheless.

Rex Brown says in-home filters may be the cause of your slow DSL internet and offers a solution -- an outdoor splitter where your phone service comes into the house.

Warren Buffett praises John Maynard Keynes, but his father Howard Buffett was a friend of libertarian economist Murray Rothbard, who sent a copy of his Panic of 1819 to Howard for Warren. Thinking that Warren must have lost that copy, economist Mark Thornton sent him another.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal documents the rising popularity of home-brewing among Christians. One of the churches mentioned appears to be part of the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (although they take pains to hide their affiliation on their website; I deduced it from where their pastoral staff went to college and seminary); there's an elder at our local PCA congregation who makes some very nice beers. (An unanswered question: Why do home brewers and craft brewers feel obligated to go overboard with hops?)

One of my favorite Oklahoma state representatives is Jason Murphey, a Republican from Guthrie. If Rep. Murphey is happy about something at the State Capitol, Oklahoma citizens are likely to be pleased as well. So it was encouraging to see two posts earlier this week on his blog praising the actions of new House Speaker T. W. Shannon and his leadership team.

Murphey is one of the most consistent social and fiscal conservatives in the legislature, but he has also won fans on both sides of the aisle for his commitment to transparency and integrity in government. Prominently displayed on his website is this message:

NOTICE

Representative Murphey
does not accept
items of value
from lobbyist-represented entities.

Thank you for understanding.

(Read Jason Murphey's essay on lobbyist influence at the State Capitol.)

Murphey is the sponsor of legislation to subject the legislature to the same Open Records and Open Meetings laws that apply to the rest of state and local government, and he was recently appointed to serve on the board of Freedom of Information Oklahoma.

Murphey is one of the most tech-savvy members of the House, with a background in web development. He has been a driving force behind the effort to modernize and consolidate Oklahoma state government's information technology systems, a tangle of incompatibility that had evolved over decades of procurement of proprietary systems by each agency. Murphey has pushed for the adoption of robust but inexpensive open source software, supported by a skilled team of IT professionals working for all state agencies. (See his blog entry on the progress of IT consolidation at the State Capitol and the scary security holes that have been discovered, putting Oklahomans' personal data at risk.)

All that to explain why I found these two upbeat posts from Murphey so cheering:

In a Sunday, February 10, 2013, blog entry, Murphey hailed new rules eliminating the House Speaker's absolute, unilateral power to kill legislation and establishing a bipartisan "House calendar committee" which holds open meetings with recorded votes to determine which bills will advance for a floor vote and which will not.

The previous week, Murphey applauded a series of bills introduced by one legislator: requiring work or training for work as a condition of eligibility for food stamps, funding maintenance of state-owned real property with the proceeds of the sale of unneeded land and buildings, putting a moratorium on state fee increases, repealing the state franchise tax, limiting state government debt issuance, requiring state agencies to plan for reducing their dependence on federal funding (anticipating federal budget cuts), and limiting frivolous unemployment claims. And now, here's the rest of the story:

Upon reviewing this list, based on their years of experience, most capitol insiders would likely rightly conclude that the bills are the work of a naive newcomer to the Legislature who hasn't had time to become cynical. The author appears to function under the delusion that he can make a difference and does not realize that the special interests and House leadership will likely not even allow these aggressive bills to receive a committee hearing.

In making this observation, the insiders would normally be absolutely correct.

There is however one very important mitigating factor. These bills are sponsored by House leadership. Each of these bills has been sponsored by the new Speaker of the House, TW Shannon. Shannon's legislation should send the strong message that times have changed and house members are now prepared to advance an aggressive portfolio of bills designed to fulfill our promise of truly working for limited government.

In my time participating in and observing the Legislature, I have never before observed this type of conservative governance by House leadership and I am very much looking forward to reporting to you on the progress that will be made in this session of the Legislature.

Good news indeed. Stay tuned to Jason Murphey's blog to follow the progress of these and other proposals for making Oklahoma government more efficient, transparent, and responsive to its citizens.

MORE: Oklahoma Watchdog reports on HB 1911, the bill that requires "unemployment benefit applicants to affirm, in an affidavit, that they do not meet criteria that would disqualify them from receiving the benefit." State Rep. Richard Morrissette, an Oklahoma City Democrat, said to Capitol Beat OK, "I will do everything in my power to assure [that HB 1911] dies a slow and unpleasant death."

A new website launched this week that aims "to be your one stop shop for Oklahoma political news." The Okie is a nicely designed website that will provide a home for transcripts, press releases, and video and audio of political speeches, and promises original content like profiles of Oklahoma's movers and shakers.

Who's behind the site? According to an email:

This site is the brainchild of people who love politics -- some you know and some you don't. But don't worry; we're all on the same side, playing for the same teams.

John Tidwell will serve as Editor of The Okie. He's responsible for the daily content and overall direction of the site. Matt Pinnell is serving as a consultant on The Okie. We both know what we want this site to become because we've wanted something like this for a long time.

Tidwell served as Congressman John Sullivan's communications director, and Pinnell currently serves as the Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

Notably, they don't want The Okie to be a gossip website, and they aren't treating the website "as a journalistic endeavor."

The Okie is also on Twitter and Facebook.

Among the first stories on the site: Video of Sen. Tom Coburn's recent speech to the Tulsa Republican Club and the prepared version of Gov. Mary Fallin's State of the State address.

Good luck to John and Matt on their new venture.

RELATED: The AP's Oklahoma bureau has a "just-the-facts" synopsis of the newly convened 54th Oklahoma Legislature.

Earlier tonight (January 10, 2013), a friend posted a photo of a boy on Facebook, surrounded by a yellow and black striped border made to look like police crime scene tape, and overlaid with the following text (phone numbers redacted):

Have you seen me? My name is Micheal Kanada I am from Okmulgee. I was wearing a Black polo shirt, khaki pants & black backpack yesterday & was last seen around OSU-IT Campus about 6PM. If you saw him or might know where he is Please, Please call 918-xxx-xxxx, 918-xxx-xxxx, or 918-xxx-xxxx... Share this to spread the word!

Michael_Kanada_Okmulgee_Found.jpg

The first phone number appears to be for the Okmulgee Police Department; the other two may be private numbers.

What set off alarm bells for me was the word "yesterday" with no mention of a specific date. It's the stuff of urban legends. A real crisis situation exists, an email is sent with vague or missing information about dates and places and no place to find up to date info, and people, moved by the crisis, forward it on without verifying whether the situation is true and whether it has been resolved.

(For example, a nine-year-old cancer patient named Craig Shergold wanted to set the Guinness record for greeting cards received. He did -- 16 million. That was back in 1989, but the appeal kept circulating and the cards kept coming, climbing to 350 million. Shergold was successfully treated with surgery in the US in 1991 and is now 33 years old. Read this article on Snopes to see how the ongoing circulation of this appeal and similar ones can cause real problems for the people we hope to help.)

The correct response to an appeal for help lacking key details is to do a web search for more information. Is it a hoax? Is it outdated? Or is it a current crisis? But that strategy only works if there is reliable, updated information that is tagged to be easily found by a search engine's web crawlers. That's an area where law enforcement and others involved in a crisis could do a far better job with some smart use of their existing web capability.

My attempt to find out when "Micheal Kanada" went missing was thwarted by the misspelling on the photo. Only copies of the same appeal turned up. But the fact that Google auto-suggested Okmulgee as I typed his name indicates that I wasn't the only one looking for information.

I thought to try the standard spelling for Michael and found an undated story by the Henryettan about the boys' recovery:

Missing boys found in Henryetta

Two Okmulgee teenagers reported missing earlier this week were found Wednesday morning in Henryetta, cold and tired.

The pair, Michael Austin Kanada, 13, and Dayleimion Bryan Sorrell, 14, were found near Frisco and Bollinger around 8 a.m.

A phone call alerted Henryetta police that two youths wrapped up in sheets and blankets matching their description were seen along the roadway. When police arrived, they detained the youngsters until Okmulgee County sheriff department personnel could arrive.

Both boys were said to be health despite going missing for over a day. They told authorities they walked from Okmulgee to Henryetta.

Saying "Wednesday morning" isn't even sufficient for print, much less the web. Yes, on the printed page there's a date at the top, but an article could be cut from the paper, scanned, and circulated. There's no date on the web version of the story, either. So who can tell when all this occurred.

This is why I always include the full date when I post about upcoming events, even though it must often seem superfluous to readers. Otherwise someone is going to reach that archived page via a search engine and think that "tonight" (which was really back in June 2007) is tonight in January 2013. There's also a date stamp on each blog entry.

I also found a tweet on October 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm from the Okmulgee County Sheriff's Office about the search for two boys who had gone missing:

The Okmulgee County Sheriff's Office is attempting to locate Michael Austin Kanada and Dayleimion Bryan Sorrell...

The tweet included a link to a Facebook post which has since been deleted.

I went directly to the Okmulgee County Sheriff Office's Twitter account (@OkmulgeeSO), scrolled back a ways to October, and found this tweet from October 10 at 8:08 a.m.:

The two Runaway boys have been located and are in custody at this time. Let everyone know they are okay. Thank...

That tweet led to a slightly more complete Facebook post:

The two Runaway boys have been located and are in custody at this time. Let everyone know they are okay. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. God Bless

Do you see the problem? The tweet and Facebook post that announces the boys' disappearance included their names, but the tweet and Facebook post announcing their recovery did not mention the boys' names. Anyone searching for information will read an official source telling them about the disappearance, but they won't find the info that says they were found and are safe.

I wonder how many phone calls the three phone numbers have had since Michael was found. I imagine he is seen at school, around his neighborhood, and around town all the time, and at least once in the while, I expect he is spotted by someone who just saw this photo posted by a friend on Facebook.

What could have been done better? What should be done next time?

Here are a few recommendations for law enforcement agencies and other interested parties to get the most out of the web:

1. If local law enforcement is looking for someone, whether a missing child, a nursing home resident gone astray, or a fugitive criminal, they should post an entry on the blog on their official website. This is going to be the official location for complete information on the subject of the search and its status, including any clues or details being released to the public. Let's call this the authoritative blog entry. It's crucial that there should be a permanent, unique web address that points to the official info in the case.

2. The title of the authoritative blog entry should include the names of the persons being sought.

3. The tags of the authoritative blog entry should include the full name of each subject, nicknames, and any misspellings that may be circulating. The entry should also be tagged with the name of the city and state and similar specific information.

4. The authoritative blog entry body should include the complete date (month, day, and year) of key events and full address information (block, street, city and state) of key places. An alert like the photo of "Micheal Kanada" may circulate for years and may circle the globe as it's passed around via email and social media.

In this case at least, a person could deduce location from the phone number and the relative uniqueness of the name Okmulgee. Imagine an appeal for a missing person from Miami or Springfield (no state) with seven digit phone numbers (no area code).

5. Any updates about the search should go in that authoritative blog entry, with the most recent status and the date and time of that status at the top of the entry, highlighted to catch the reader's attention. For example: "UPDATE October 10, 2012, 8:18 a.m.: Michael Austin Kanada and Dayleimion Bryan Sorrell have been found in Henryetta. They are fine and are in care of the Okmulgee County Sheriff's Department. Original post follows."

6. When there's a major development in the case, post a new blog entry to catch the attention of someone visiting the department's blog, following the above rules about titles, tags, specific dates, and places, but be sure to include a link back to the authoritative blog entry. At the same time, edit the authoritative blog entry to include a summary of the new development. (See 5 above.)

7. Add an easy-to-hear, easy-to-remember, and easy-to-type URL that will redirect to the authoritative blog entry. (It's called a "301 redirect," and any webmaster worth his salt will know how to set one up.) You want something that could be repeated over the phone, over the radio, on TV, and then easily typed by someone into a smartphone. Add additional redirect URLs with likely misspellings and point them to the same page.

8. When you send a press release to the media about the case, urge them to link to the authoritative blog entry and print or read on-air the easy-to-type URL.

9. Any Facebook statuses or Twitter tweets about the topic should link back to the authoritative blog entry. Encourage your fans and followers to do the same.

You can follow the same steps even if you aren't a law enforcement official. While the information will carry more weight if it's on an official website, you can create your own authoritative blog entry if the local LEOs won't or don't know how to do it. If you don't already have a blog, you can create one for free in a few minutes at www.blogger.com or www.wordpress.com.

And if you're making a heart-tugging photo to circulate on social media, include specific dates, specific places, and that easy-to-type URL to connect to the authoritative blog entry, so the curious can confirm that the case is still open before forwarding it to their friends.

When a child goes missing, search engine optimization and web server configuration are not going to be at the top of your mind. But a few simple steps can help the World Wide Web help you accomplish your search, can keep everyone informed as the search reaches the hoped-for happy conclusion, and can reduce unnecessary anxiety and concerned queries long after happily every after.

Color me surprised and impressed.

Newly sworn-in Oklahoma 1st District Congressman Jim Bridenstine was one of 12 Republicans who did not vote to re-elect incumbent Speaker of the House John Boehner. (I exclude Boehner from that number, as the sitting speaker customarily does not vote.) Bridenstine and two other congressmen, Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Ted Yoho of Florida voted for Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Paul Broun of Georgia and Louie Gohmert of Texas voted for former Congressman Allen West. (The Speaker does not have to be a member of the House.) Tim Huelskamp of Kansas voted for Jim Jordan of Ohio. Justin Amash of Michigan voted for Raul Labrador of Idaho. Thomas Massie of Kentucky voted for Amash. Walter Jones of North Carolina voted for David Walker. Steve Stockman of Texas answered "present." Boehner, Labrador, and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina did not vote.

Bridenstine was the only dissenter from the Oklahoma delegation. Markwayne Mullin, Frank Lucas, Tom Cole, and James Lankford all voted for Boehner.

Boehner had a very slim majority of 220. Had four more Republicans abstained or not voted for Boehner, he would not have had the majority required for election. (I'm assuming Boehner would have cast the winning vote for himself had it been necessary.)

On the Democratic side of the aisle, 192 members voted for former speaker Nancy Pelosi, 5 voted for other candidates (Jim Cooper, John Lewis, John Dingell, Colin Powell), and 3 did not vote.

The consensus among conservative commentators and activists was that Boehner was in over his head in negotiating with President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and needed to be replaced. There were reports that sufficient numbers of Republican House members were prepared to vote to deprive him of another term as speaker. Nevertheless, Boehner successfully whipped the vote, twisting arms according to dissenter Tim Huelskamp:

However, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) told Human Events after the vote that "arm twisting" on Boehner's behalf was "very intense" with threats that Republicans would lose plum committee assignments or campaign donations from the National Republican Congressional Committee if they opposed the speaker's reelection.

Huelskamp is one of four Republican lawmakers who lost key committee assignments recently for reportedly voting against issues that were important to Boehner.

"The intimidation and pressure was intense, there are a lot of people that wanted to vote no and today, the last call, the last twisting of arms, convinced them not to do that," Huelskamp said.

"And certainly my vote was one of no confidence. I want conservative leadership, and that has not been provided by the speaker," Huelskamp said.

Asked specifically who was intimidated to cast their votes for Boehner, Huelskamp declined to name names.

Huelskamp did add that one freshman lawmaker was called prior to the vote and told their committee seat was "probably gone if you vote your conscience."

Bridenstine's vote suggests that his campaign rhetoric was not mere posturing. While it may be costly in the short run -- watch to see if he loses his seat on the House Armed Services Committee -- it may also establish him as a rallying point for dissenters when Boehner stumbles again in negotiations over the debt ceiling and sequestration. The stand of 12 dissenters now may encourage more to join them.

Patti Page, RIP

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Born Clara Ann Fowler in Claremore, Oklahoma, a graduate of Tulsa's Daniel Webster High School, she took her stage name from the Page Dairy in Tulsa, the sponsor of the radio show on which she was featured. In a 2010 interview with the Claremore Daily Progress, Patti Page explained how she came by the singing job and the name:

"We were living in west Tulsa," she recalled, "and about the time I completed the ninth grade, Mother called us girls together and told us we each needed to find jobs. The family needed the money. I decided I would go to Page Milk Company to get an application for what any job was available. They had a daily 15-minute program on Radio Station KTUL, but I wasn't even thinking about that.

"While I was waiting in the office the radio show's program director saw me. He had heard me sing at a school program and thought I was there for a tryout. After explaining I was only getting an application, he said to go ahead and fill out the application and wait until he returned. He was going to round up a couple of musicians and arrange a quick taping.

"The song I sang was 'Frankie and Johnnie'. A few days later the director called my mother and asked her if I could come to work as the singer on the radio show.

"You realize I wasn't the first 'Patti Page'. In fact, there were two before I arrived. The Page Company used the name for their program. The girl on the show at the time was getting ready to leave. That allowed me to step in. I did it the next three years while I attended high school at Daniel Webster and then one more year.

"When I left my sister Peggy replaced me and the name was changed to Peggy Page. The company officials said it was all right with them if I continued as Patti Page. Later in New York I went to court and made it my legal name."

Page's active singing career spanned seven decades. In April 2010, she performed a concert at the Robson Performing Arts Center in Claremore. A September 2012 message to fans mentioned the medical challenges that forced her to take a break from performing.

Throughout my life I never really gave much thought to my senior years. I was always able to hop on a plane, go out on stage and make music with the band. At this point I am no longer able to do that. My travels now are quite limited to North San Diego County, CA where I have called home for the past four decades. Although I feel I still have the voice God gave me, physical impairments are preventing me from using that voice as I had for so many years. It is only He who knows what the future holds.

Page died New Year's Day at the age of 85.

Here she is in 1950, singing one of her biggest hits, "The Tennessee Waltz."

Here's my favorite Patti Page tune, "Old Cape Cod." It brings back memories of a vacation in Yarmouth and leisurely drives along the gentle turns and hills of Old Highway 6. It was one of her favorites too:

"I believe 'Old Cape Cod' may be my most favorite," she replied, "The words are so beautiful and they describe the location perfectly. Of course 'Tennessee Waltz' is also at the top of the list. My father loved it and cried each time he heard me sing the song. Because of him it is my sentimental favorite. Then, I also like all the old standards."

LINKS: Patti Page's official website.

This Land Press has a picturesque story by Sheilah Bright about Oklahoma's westernmost town, Kenton, in Oklahoma's westernmost county, Cimarron. Kenton is the only Oklahoma town that keeps Mountain Time and is closer to three other states than it is to its own county seat. There's no school, no store, no gas station, and the post office may be closed. Bright introduces us to long-time residents like 99-year-old Ina K. Labrier and former postmaster Bonnie Heppard, takes us to branding day on the ranch, and recalls tragedies ancient and modern. Be sure to read the comments, too, most of them from current and former residents.

On Monday in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Oklahoma's free-market policy think-tank, hosted a forum on health care, highlighting the value of transparency and direct payment in medical pricing, and the accomplishments of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City in providing high-quality health care for reasonable prices.

The Surgery Center, founded in 1997, began posting its prices online a few years ago. The prices only apply to those paying up front (either on their own behalf, or covered by a self-insuring employer), but not to those who have the Surgery Center file an insurance claim for payment. The flat fee covers fees for the surgeon, anaesthesiologist, and facility, initial consultation, and uncomplicated follow-up care. Any hardware and implants needed are quoted in advance and priced at cost -- no markups. The center's website sets out the rationale behind their approach:

It is no secret to anyone that the pricing of surgical services is at the top of the list of problems in our dysfunctional healthcare system. Bureaucracy at the insurance and hospital levels, cost shifting and the absence of free market principles are among the culprits for what has caused surgical care in the United States to be cost prohibitive. As more and more patients find themselves paying more and more out of pocket, it is clear that something must change. We believe that a very different approach is necessary, one involving transparent and direct pricing.

Transparent, direct, package pricing means the patient knows exactly what the cost of the service will be upfront. Fees for the surgeon, anesthesiologist and facility are all included in one low price. There are no hidden costs, charges or surprises.

The pricing outlined on this website is not a teaser, nor is it a bait-and-switch ploy. It is the actual price you will pay. We can offer these prices because we are completely physician-owned and managed. We control every aspect of the facility from real estate costs, to the most efficient use of staff, to the elimination of wasteful operating room practices that non-profit hospitals have no incentive to curb. We are truly committed to providing the best quality care at the lowest possible price.

The forum began with a screening of a short Reason.TV story about the Surgery Center.

It's remarkable that the chairman of the ear, nose, and throat department at Integris Baptist Medical Center, but "prefers to do his procedures at the Surgery Center of Oklahoma."

Some companies have found they can provide better employee surgical care more cost effectively by paying places like Surgery Center directly (and in some cases also paying for travel costs and lodging) rather than paying for conventional insurance.

The forum was broadcast on Ustream and is archived for watching at your leisure. The session starts at 4:40 into the video, introduced by OCPA vice president for policy Brandon Dutcher. You can find it embedded on the OCPA blog or directly on the Surgery Center of Oklahoma's Ustream channel.

(Note to the cameraman: Next time don't be so shy -- get up close!)

Pat McGuigan's story on Oklahoma Watchdog about the forum includes a note on how the center deals with people who can't afford the published price (even though it's typically far more affordable than the same procedure at a non-profit hospital).

In dialogue with CapitolBeatOK, [Surgery Center founder] Dr. [Keith] Smith said the center's approach is helping to restore an old-fashioned medical ethic for provision of charity care. Many referrals to the hospital come from churches and other groups helping the poor. Patients are encouraged in those cases to pay what they can, while physicians and anesthesiologists can (and often do) waive their fees for individuals in need.

Surgery Center does work with insurance companies, but that triggers a separate pricing structure. Dr. Smith explained, "We take on a lot of risks when we file with insurance companies, so we have to charge for that risk."

MORE: Dr. Smith has a frequently updated Tumblr blog commenting on health costs and policy.

One of the most active social media accounts during the Vision2 campaign was @SayNotoVision2 on Twitter. I don't know who ran the account, but he or she was active on a daily basis, rebutting vague and misleading statements from proponents, and making the argument against Tulsa County's Vision2 sales tax scheme in clear, pithy comments.

@SayNotoVision2 announced on election night that there would be comments about the victory on Twitter at 10 am Wednesday morning. Here they are, in sequence from top to bottom:

@SayNotoVision2's victory speech

Anonymous Twitter account opposing Vision2 delivers a victory speech via Twitter.

Storified by Michael Bates · Thu, Nov 08 2012 11:26:28

First off, we want to thank those that worked longer hours to defeat #Vision2. Many taking time away from their families and jobs.Say No to Vision 2
You worked long hours and spent your own time and money to defeat #Vision2. Tulsa owes you their thanks.Say No to Vision 2
140 character limits don't make it easy to thank everyone individually. But, really, thank you for your efforts.Say No to Vision 2
#Vision2 was a horribly, let us repeat, horribly designed plan. Tulsans rejected it by wide margins.Say No to Vision 2
#Vision2 failed by a wider margin than the River Tax from 5 years ago.Say No to Vision 2
We respect @TulsaChamber as an organization that represents the interest of Tulsa businesses.Say No to Vision 2
We respect @TulsaChamber as a group working to create a better Tulsa.Say No to Vision 2
However, we will NEVER standby and watch our city & county governments be hijacked by special interests. #Vision2 was the epitome of that.Say No to Vision 2
We will NEVER standby and let @TulsaChamber use emotional blackmail as a scare tactic to intimidate voters.Say No to Vision 2
An honest and open approach works wonders with voters. Try it.Say No to Vision 2
We have Google, email, contacts, we know what goes on in the world and do not need you or any other group spreading falsehoods.Say No to Vision 2
It is high time @Tulsachamber & its leadership takes a long look in the mirror.Say No to Vision 2
If #Vision2 is your approach to dealing with Tulsa, you do not know this city, county, or its people. We will reject that approach.Say No to Vision 2
This wasn't about ballot language, or a PR firm, this was about a corrupt approach to solving Tulsa's problems. Voters said no.Say No to Vision 2
We know the importance of the airport to our regional economy. We value the jobs at American, Spirit, and IC Bus.Say No to Vision 2
At the end of the day, those are private businesses. Who must determine their own futures.Say No to Vision 2
Those facilities do belong to the people & a sensible plan to upgrade them must be developed.Say No to Vision 2
Tulsa County residents have 4 years to create an extension of #Vision2025 if they so choose.Say No to Vision 2
That extension is for the citizens of Tulsa County to decide. Not @TulsaChamber or any other special interest group.Say No to Vision 2
Bullying, threats, protection rackets, etc.. will not fly with us. Whether it's the Chamber or local leaders engaging in the practice.Say No to Vision 2
4 people: John Smaligo, Fred Perry, Karen Keith, and M