As the legislative session came to a close last week, it was my job to filter incoming bills. Lobbyists are notorious for putting dramatic last-minute proposals into bills in the final days of session. They hope their changes will go unnoticed and may write the new law so that it is difficult to understand. They are counting on the anxious-to-adjourn legislators giving the bill a pass and hoping the legislation will be camouflaged among the other last-minute proposals. I don't want to find out weeks from now that I voted for one of these bad bills by mistake.
As part of the filtering process, I attempt to find last-minute fee increases, new regulations or carefully targeted tax giveaways. Some bills are harder to filter than others. For example, I can almost predict the content of a bill simply based on the identity of the legislative author.
There are certain legislators whose work product I instantly feel comfortable supporting. Based on past experience, I know these legislators sponsor good policy and are not likely to let a lobbyist insert bad proposals into their bills. I call this factor my credibility index.
Consider this observation: I have noticed that certain new legislators quickly earn a high credibility index. They have fresh ideas directly from their constituencies. With pure motives, they eagerly seek to make a difference.
And, then the assimilation starts to occur.
Lobbyists and bureaucrats move in such a way that would make the Borg proud. You may remember the Borg as the collective entity from Star Trek who seek to assimilate entire civilizations into their collective. To the Borg's credit, they give their intended victims advance warning of the assimilation with their famous, “you will be assimilated” catch phrase.
The special interests do not provide the same courtesy. Instead, they befriend the naive new lawmakers and take them to the nicest restaurants and bars. Legislators from out of town do not have much to do during the evening when the Legislature is finished for the day. Lonely and far away from home, they enjoy the opportunity to make new friends, not realizing they have just started down the road to assimilation.
Over the next few years, these relationships become stronger until the legislator is a mindless extension of the special interest. The assimilation has been completed and the legislator is now a small cog in the industry of big government.
I can tell when a legislator has been officially assimilated because he/she starts sponsoring very bad legislation as requested by government agencies and lobbyists.
When I see this happen, I have to provide extra scrutiny to that legislator's bills, even though the same author sponsored excellent bills in previous sessions. The very author who may have voted against bad proposals, like fee increases or bigger spending, now attempts to place that same bad language in his/her bills.
Fortunately, I have also made a positive observation. Thanks to the people of Oklahoma, there are now term limits on legislators. In my time in the Legislature I have observed the conveyor belt of term limits take away a growing pile of assimilated politicians. They have been replaced with enthusiastic new elected officials who have good ideas and want to do the right thing.
And, then the assimilation process starts all over again.
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, on Facebook at
facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.