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Saturday, May 26th, 2018Last Update: Wednesday, May 9th, 2018 06:18:06 AM

RIED Report Rates Legislators

By: Constitution Staff

In June, the Research Institute for Economic Development (RIED), a non-partisan organization and producer of the annual RIED Report grading Oklahoma legislators' votes on key economic development and business issues, announced that seven members of the state Senate and 12 members of the House of Representatives scored a perfect 100 on the 2015 RIED Report. The scores were awarded to lawmakers who served during the first session of the 55th Oklahoma Legislature that began February 2nd and adjourned May 22nd.

Senate members receiving perfect scores are President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa), Eddie Fields (R-Wynona), John Ford (R-Bartlesville), Ron Justice (R-Chickasha), Frank Simpson (R-Springer), Rob Standridge (R-Norman), and Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa).

House members receiving perfect scores are House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview), Kevin Calvey (R-Oklahoma City), Jeff Coody (R-Grandfield), James Leewright (R-Bristow), Mark Lepak (R-Claremore), Scott Martin (R-Norman), Mark McCullough (R-Sapulpa), Glen Mulready (R-Tulsa), Tom Newell (R-Seminole), Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa), Steve Vaughan (R-Ponca City), and Harold Wright (R-Weatherford).

"Economic development, business and job creation continue to be a focal point of the majority of the Oklahoma legislature," said Susan Winchester, RIED president. "No matter what area of the state they represent or their political affiliation, legislators proved this session that Oklahoma's business environment is a top priority." Winchester is President of The Winchester Group.

During the 2015 session, 120 of the149 legislative members received passing scores of 70 or higher including 42 Senate members (90%) and 78House members (77%). Overall, 82% of the total legislative membership scored 70 or higher.

"The legislative scores this session represent by far the best overall support for business during my tenure with RIED, and it is imperative that this positive attitude toward business continue next session and in sessions beyond," said Greg Love, RIED board chairman. "Oklahoma is on the move, yet we still have so much untapped potential with regards to economic development opportunities for our citizens. I am excited for our future." Love is President of Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores.

The RIED Report says it "creates a profile of each legislator's individual voting record for bills dealing with business, industry, job creation and economic growth issues deemed important by the private sector." The RIED Report has a notorious track record for failing to make information available as to how they score the legislators. In previous years, legislators have told the Oklahoma Constitution that they were refused when they asked to see how their score was calculated.

This year RIED provides a list of 21 bill numbers for legislation supposedly "utilized for final 2015 RIED evaluations." There is no description of the bills, no explanation or justification for the use of each vote, no indication how a legislator should have voted on the bills, nor how individual legislators voted. There is no indication if all the bills were weighted equally, or if some were worth more points. Under the RIED evaluation system, legislators earn positive points when they support job creation and economic development issues. Points are deducted when they introduce or vote for legislation that negatively impacts Oklahoma's business climate.

In stark contrast to the RIED Report, the Oklahoma Constitution publishes the exact votes used on the Conservative Index, and gives an explanation of the reasoning used in placing the vote on the Index. Anyone, including legislators of either party, are welcome to suggest bills and votes for the Conservative Index. The issues are debated publicly at two meetings of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC), which then holds a vote of its membership to recommend the ten bills to be used.

In previous years, many of the legislative votes used for the RIED Report appeared to be what many refer to as "corporate welfare," or the favoring of big business interests with tax credits or other such subsidies. It is very difficult for the average citizen to make an informed judgment as to what the scores actually mean.

Interestingly, one of the ten bills included on the Oklahoma Conservative Index was among the 21 bills that RIED says it utilized to compile its ratings. That bill placed a ban on the payroll deduction of union dues by public entities, with both the Conservative Index and RIED apparently supporting the issue.

In previous years, the RIED report rated many of the most conservative legislators as having a failing grade. They have apparently reformed their process this year, reducing the emphasis on support of corporate welfare. For example, Rep. Jason Murphey has scored 100% on the Conservative Index for all nine years he has been in the legislature. But, his average score on the RIED Report is only 55%. But, this year they gave him a score of 94%. It is a similar story for most of those who score near the top of the Conservative Index. It will be interesting to see if this year was an exception, or the beginning of a permanent change.

RIED was founded in 1997 by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, the Tulsa Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce. In addition to Love and Winchester, other board officers of note include Larry Nichols of Devon Energy which built the tallest building in Oklahoma City for its headquarters, and Clayton Bennett of Dorchester Capital and is also chairman of the ownership group for the Oklahoma City Thunder, an NBA franchise. Other officers are Harrison Levy Jr., President of Gruff Ellis/Levy Beffort, Jim Daniel, Vice Chairman of BancFirst, Dr. Gib Gibson, Director of IBC. Bank The complete 2015 RIED Report is available at

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