The Edmond Sun

Opinion

December 16, 2013

The most unscrupulous lobbying technique

GUTHRIE — Last week I described the abuse by which various area government entities have been designing construction specifications so as to limit competition and award a specific vendor. This drives up the cost to you the taxpayer. You may read that article at http://tinyurl.com/paaqa2y.

Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and I sponsored Senate Bill 630 in an attempt to slow or end this abuse. You will be happy to know that the bill rapidly advanced through the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin on May 7. Jolley and I had to win at least three votes in committee, two votes on the floor of the Senate and one vote on the floor of the House to pass the bill. Remarkably, I can only recall one vote against the bill throughout this entire process.

This should have been the end of the story. After all, the bill was signed by the governor and only one person in the entire Legislature voted against the bill.

But something was wrong. Passing this bill was much too easy. The ease with which the bill passed almost made me second guess the need for the bill. Surely all of those who are making money off this terrible practice should have desperately fought us at every turn. Why was it so easy?

I would soon find out.

Apparently the lobbyists and the special interests who were making money off this practice and their lobbyists had fallen asleep at the switch and had completely missed the bill. This is a testament to the fact that Jolley and I had not issued any showy press release or launched a PR campaign to pass the bill. We had done nothing to unnecessarily bring attention to our effort.

Not long after the governor signed the bill the special interests realized what had happened. They immediately responded by asking their high-powered lobbyists to pass another bill to undo our bill and restore their ability to write the tight specifications that eliminate competition and drive up prices.

Fortunately, there were only a few days left in the legislative session. And, since new bills must be filed at the start of the session they couldn’t simply file a new bill. They had to find a way to take over/co-opt an already existing bill. Worse still, they couldn’t take over just any bill. They had to find a bill that shared the same subject matter as their proposal. Also problematic, by that late in the year the number of bills that are still alive and viable has greatly dwindled. Even worse, it was going to be extremely hard for them to explain and justify what they were trying to do. What type of legislator would want to allow this type of corrupt, parasitic proposal into his bill?

At first the lobbyists experienced no success. Legislators simply weren’t willing to give up a bill to them. Watching legislators hold strong against this onslaught reminded me of why I have a generally optimistic outlook about the integrity of many of Oklahoma’s currently elected state officials.

Then, with just five days left in the session, things changed. The Moore tornado struck. Unbelievably, as the disaster workers were still combing through the ruins, they floated the story that their proposal was necessary to help with the Moore tornado recovery. This has, of course, turned out to not be true and has to be the single most unscrupulous and disgusting technique I have ever witnessed in an attempt to pass legislation. It wouldn’t be their last unscrupulous strategy however and next week I will tell you the final chapter of 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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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.

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