Rep. Jason Murphey
Special to The Sun
Readers of these columns likely are familiar with my optimism about Oklahoma’s future. Much of Oklahoma government contains a new wave of policy makers dedicated to reversing old anti-freedom policies that punished the entrepreneurs who dared to create jobs and economic prosperity for Oklahomans.
These policy makers have advanced three primary reforms designed to accomplish this goal.
Tax reduction allows business owners to retain more of their income by keeping it out of the hands of state government. For many years, I have seen state government throw away taxpayer money because of bad policy. We have succeeded in ending some of these practices, but many more still exist. By shrinking the amount of money available to waste, tax reduction provides the greatest ally in the effort to end these practices. When the business owner keeps more of his own money, he will spend it much more wisely than the government ever could.
Tort reform provides Oklahoma business owners with protection from frivolous lawsuits that have plagued and destroyed businesses. It is no secret that Oklahoma’s legal professionals have been over represented in Oklahoma government for a long time, and moving our legal structure away from a frivolous-friendly scheme has been in the making for many years. Defeating the big legal special interests has been a Herculean task that continues to this day.
Workers’ Compensation reform addresses high workers’ compensation insurance rates. Oklahoma’s rates are some of the highest in the nation and this fact presents a huge disincentive to those who would start a business here.
Since 2005, reform-minded elected officials have aggressively pursued these three reforms. Unfortunately these efforts have encountered repeated opposition from those who have failed to recognize Oklahomans’ demand for change. This opposition comes primarily from the minority party in the Legislature who have yet to figure out why they are in the minority. They don’t seem to mind continually giving the majority party the moral high ground on these issues. Opposition also comes from the activist members of the judiciary who aggressively over-interpret the law in order to create a barrier to legal system reforms (thus forcing us to re-approve the same reforms over and over again) and from those attorneys who benefit monetarily from the old way of doing things.
After much hard work and in spite of this opposition, we are now experiencing success. Perhaps no fact better demonstrates this progress than last week’s announcement from the National Council on Compensation Insurance declaring that Oklahoma businesses should see a 14.6 percent decrease in their workers’ compensation cost, starting this January. This is due to the workers’ compensation reform approved earlier this year.
This announcement came as the Legislature was meeting in special session to once again approve the tort reform proposal. On the first day of this session, a disgruntled anti-reform lawyer legislator threw his 625-page House rule book into the air with apparent disregard for the safety of those around him. It crashed to the ground with a loud thud and ironically this potential negligence provided the only credible argument against tort reform during the entirety of the special session.
This legislator’s outburst demonstrates the veracity of the opposition to these common-sense reforms. Despite this type of intense and continuing opposition, the Legislature reaffirmed its commitment to tort reform and once again sent a strong message of support to Oklahoma entrepreneurs. Oklahoma business owners can expect to see an immediate, significant and tangible impact from these ongoing reforms.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.