The Edmond Sun

Opinion

December 23, 2013

The dark strategies of the most powerful lobbyists

EDMOND — This year Gov. Mary Fallin signed SB 630 to close down the wasteful practice of sole specing. Those who make money from sole specing didn’t appear to be paying attention to the bill as it passed without opposition.

After Gov. Fallin signed the bill, they realized what had happened and charged their lobbyists with the unenviable task of undoing our reform. Since the legislative session was nearing an end, they couldn’t just file a new bill. They had to find a pre-existing bill, take over that bill, and keep legislators from discovering the heinous nature of their proposal.

Their actions serve as a tutorial 101 about the secretive and dark form of art used by Oklahoma’s very best and, in this case, most desperate lobbyists.

First, they found a bill which was supposed to give a pay raise to state troopers. Their parasitic proposal wiped out the state trooper pay language and replaced it with their reversal of our reform. They did this in spite of the fact that the trooper pay raise language had little in common with their re-creation of sole spec bidding and could hardly be thought germaine.

So apparently petrified of legislators discovering the intent of their proposal, they didn’t have the courage to reference our law in the reversal. Normally, when a pre-existing law is being amended, the original law is referenced so the reader can understand the proposal both while it is being voted on and after it has passed.

Their proposal didn’t reference or amend ours at all. It simply created a second law which actually looked like a good law on the surface but in reality created a conflict with and reversal of our previously passed reform.

If it had been approved, they clearly counted on their attorneys interpreting the law as the preeminent law of the two because their proposal would go into law after our reform. Traditionally, when two laws conflict, the law which is approved last governs. In this way, I believe they attempted to hide the unconscionable outcome of their proposal from all but the most observant lawmakers as the casual reader would have no clue as to the real intent of their bill.

While these actions may be considered politically savvy in that legislators would not have realized what they were voting on, this terrible “art” of lawmaking has filled state statutes with conflicting provisions. A tyranny of laws results, which benefits those who can afford to hire smart attorneys to navigate through the maze of conflicting statutes, but punishes the average member of the public who has no such luxury.

A majority of the members of a conference committee had to sign the now co-opted bill before it could be forwarded for a vote of the House. Unfortunately, the lobbyists were able to bypass the requirement of a public hearing which applies to most bills before it can be signed. Legislators were asked to sign the proposal without first attending a public hearing, at which time I could have publicly exposed what they were doing.

The lobbyists then told those legislators that their proposal was necessary to assist with the Moore tornado recovery. The tornado had occurred just hours earlier, and this cynical and immediate exploitation of the tornado appears to have proven very effective.

As the session drew to a close, by deploying these and other nuanced tactics which I simply don’t have enough room to describe, they successfully convinced the requisite number of legislators to sign the bill.

In explaining why he signed the bill, one of the Legislature’s most reform-minded members apologetically explained: “Jason, they said it was for Moore and I would have done anything for Moore at that moment.”

With this collection of legislative signatures in their custody, it appeared as if their proposal was on the fast track to approval, and all our efforts to stop sole specing would be in vain.

I must ask the reader’s forgiveness but due to the space limitations of the local newspapers, I will once again need to ask for another article in which to conclude this story.

REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at jason.murphey@okhouse.gov.

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