The Edmond Sun

Opinion

December 30, 2013

The defeat of the special interests

OKLA. CITY — Throughout the past few weeks I have described the successful passage of Senate Bill 630 to stop governments such as cities and school districts from awarding contracts according to tight specifications designed to eliminate competition.

I also detailed the incredibly crafty effort used by the special interests to win conference committee approval for House Bill 1794 which would have reversed the reform and restored the wasteful — and I believe corrupt — status-quo. They successfully convinced six Representatives and four Senators to sign their conference committee report.

They filed the report with just over two days left in the session. In years past, this would have been enough time for them to send the bill to the House and Senate floors for a final vote.

However, this year would be much different.

You may recall my past article in which I described Speaker T.W. Shannon’s plan to reform House rules through the creation of a Calendar Committee. This was the first year for the new committee which serves as the guardian of the House floor agenda. Before a bill can go before the House for a vote it must first come before the Calendar Committee.

As a member of the committee, I prepared to enter a motion removing HB 1794 from the proposed agenda. But, I never needed to do so as during the last meeting of the committee, Majority Floor Leader Pam Peterson and Majority Leader Dennis Johnson refused to even place HB 1794 on the slate of eligible bills and no other member of our committee was willing to bring it up for consideration.

This episode highlighted the importance of Shannon’s proposal. In the last days of session, the Calendar Committee played an extremely important last line of defense against the late-session trickery and represents one of the most, if not the most, important process reforms that I have seen.

In the past, the decision to place the bill on the agenda would have been made behind closed doors where the public would have no purview. Not so anymore.

For days, Oklahoma’s most powerful lobbyists had gone to war to reverse the reform. Now, with just hours left before the deadline, the pesky Calendar Committee stood in their way. All of their lobbying efforts were ultimately useless: the bill would never get out of Calendar Committee.

Our reform stayed in law and is already having an impact. Do you recall my description of the local school district which issued millions in bonds and was attempting to sole spec certain items? They reversed course and allowed competitive bidding.

It’s likely impossible to quantify the cumulative amount of savings to the taxpayer as a result of the reform but I believe it to be substantial.

These examples of savings are important as first indications show that the special interests have already started preparing a new assault for the quickly approaching legislative session. This battle will likely re-occur throughout the spring as they again try to reverse the reform.

We are ready for it.

I believe in the integrity of Oklahoma’s lawmakers to once again do the right thing and take a stand against what I feel to be legalized corruption.

I am thankful for all of the encouraging feedback from those who have read these articles. I have especially appreciated the first-hand observations and validation from those in the construction industry who have witnessed the abuse and want it stopped. I think these individuals are heros for reporting what was occurring and they are without a doubt the reason for why the reform was successful.

We are dependent on their continual input as we continue to aggressively defend the reform and ensure the new law prevents the abuse of sole specing.

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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Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
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