The 2016 Oklahoma Conservative Index
By: Constitution Staff
The Oklahoma Constitution presents the 38th annual Oklahoma Conservative Index, rating our state legislators. Members of each house of the Oklahoma Legislature were rated on ten key votes. A favorable vote on these issues represents a belief in limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise, constitutional government, and traditional standards.
After taking suggestions from conservatives leaders, the staff of the Oklahoma Constitution submitted bills to a vote of the membership of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) for recommendations of the ten key votes.
To determine this year's rating, 10 points were earned for each conservative vote (designated by a C), and no points are awarded for a liberal vote (indicated by an L). Each failure to vote (recorded as a Z) provides only three points. When the rating system was created in 1979, it was decided that there should be a difference between voting liberal, and missing a vote. A legislator absent for all the votes could only score 30%, which is our recommended score for seeking a replacement.
Thus, a legislator voting conservative on eight votes, liberal on one, and failing to vote on another, would receive eighty plus three, or an 83% conservative rating.
This year's conservative rating was averaged with the legislator's scores from previous years to obtain the Cumulative Average score for all the years that a legislator has been rated. With term limits, we have moved into a period where no legislator will have a cumulative score based on a period longer than twelve years. However, a few former legislators with service prior to the term limits law were later elected to their current positions. The scores of legislators with previous service are included in their cumulative average.
By examining this year's score in relation to the Cumulative Average, the voting pattern of a particular legislator can be determined. While most score nearly the same, year after year, others trend upward or downward from their average. If your legislator is trending toward conservatism, please offer your encouragement and support. If your legislator is exhibiting a leftward trend, it is time to express your disappointment and suggest the need for a replacement if the trend is not reversed.
Readers should consider replacing those who scored 30%, or less, while giving close scrutiny to those who scored between 30 and 70.
The Top Conservative and Top Liberal legislators were selected by their scores on the Index. Making the Top Conservatives list were those lawmakers who scored 80%, or better. On the Top Liberals list were those who made 20%, or less.
Bills for 2016 Oklahoma Conservative Index:
(1) Physician Performed Abortions
SB 1552 by Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) and Rep. David Brumbaugh (R-Broken Arrow)
This is the most direct measure to stop abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated laws against abortion. Current Oklahoma law says "No person shall perform or induce an abortion upon a pregnant woman unless that person is a physician licensed to practice medicine in the State of Oklahoma. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than one (1) year nor more than three (3) years in the State Penitentiary." The bill would have removed the exemption for physicians and also stipulates that the performance of an abortion by a physician constitutes unprofessional conduct and prohibits the physician from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine. The bill also modifies the definition of abortion to include an exception to allow an abortion to preserve the life the mother so that a physician could perform an abortion in that circumstance. The legislation was approved by the House 59-9 on April 21with a large number of representatives not voting. On May 19 the Senate adopted the House Amendments and approved the measure 33-12.Gov. Fallin vetoed the measure on May 20, and legislative leaders blocked efforts to hold a vote to override the governor's veto. The Yes votes in support of the bill earn the conservative vote.
(2) Parental Rights Immunization Act
HB 3016 by Rep. Randy Grau (R-Edmond) and Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow)
This bill would have required health care providers to provide information on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and copies of the Vaccine Information Statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the Vaccine Excipient and Media Summary showing the ingredients in each vaccine. The bill also would require the health care provider to obtain informed consent from the parent or other legal representative of the child before administering the vaccine. The bill was supported by a vaccine choice group which believes parents should be aware of the ingredients and potential dangers of some vaccines. Opponents of the legislation expressed concern that if consumers were fully informed it could discourage parents from having their children vaccinated. "This isn't meant to scare anyone. It's meant to educate," said Rep. Randy Grau the House author. The bill passed the House 89-6 on March 9, and the Senate 39-6 on April 21. The measure was sent to Gov. Mary Fallin who vetoed the bill on April 29. She contended the legislation would have confused and intimidated consumers. An attempted override of the governor's veto was made in the House on May 21, but that effort failed by a vote of 55-38, with 68 favorable votes required for an override. The Yes votes in the Senate, and the Yes votes in the House to override the governor's veto earn the conservative vote.
(3) State Constitutional Amendment on Firearms
HJR 1009 by Rep. Dan Fisher (R-El Reno) and Sen. Anthony Sykes (R-Moore)
This proposal would clarify the wording of Article 2, Section 26 of the state Constitution to address damaging case law that has undermined the right to keep and bear arms in Oklahoma. The bill would ask voters to amend the state Constitution to make it harder to regulate guns. Some organizations are concerned that the proposal could put wide-ranging gun regulations in jeopardy, including provisions banning guns at private businesses, universities, and public events. It was passed by the House 66-7 on March 10 and the Senate 39-7 on April 21. It returned to the House for consideration of Senate amendments. The House rejected the Senate amendments and the bill died in conference. The Yes votes in support of the bill earn the conservative vote.
(4) School Financial Reporting
SB 945 by Sen. Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa) and Rep. Chuck Strohm (R-Jenks)
This bill would require the superintendent of each school board to present a monthly financial report of revenues and expenditures for each district fund at each regularly scheduled board meeting. The report would then be required to be posted online within 7 days after its presentation to the board. The measure passed the Senate 40-2 on February 24, but failed in a tie vote in the House 40-40 on April 18. The Yes votes in support of the bill earn the conservative vote.
(5) Article V Convention of the States
SJR 4 by Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman) and Rep. Gary Banz (R-Midwest City)
Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, amendments to the Constitution can be proposed for ratification by the states in two ways. All 27 amendments so far have come through the first method, which requires a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress. The second method requires two-thirds of the states (34 of the 50 current states) to request a national constitutional convention to consider proposing amendments. While conservatives have been split on using this method which has never been tried, there is a growing awareness of the dangers of this approach. Many conservatives argue that such a convention could not be limited and could result in a runaway convention which proposes to replace our constitution with a new document. This happened in the 1787 Constitution Convention which was assembled to consider amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Many conservatives are also skeptical that any amendment that emerged from such a convention would accomplish conservative goals because it would be watered down in order to gain approval of the convention. The real problem is not a lack of constitutional amendments, but the failure of the president and Congress to follow the current Constitution. The Oklahoma House approved a call for a Constitutional Convention by a vote of 57-33 on April 18 and the Senate concurred by a vote of 30-16 on April 26. The resolution does not require approval of the governor. It was filed with the Secretary of State on April 26. The resolution can be withdrawn by a future legislature if it is done before 34 states have requested a convention. The No votes against the resolution earn the conservative vote.
(6) State Capitol Building Bonds
HB 3168 by Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview) and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman
The measure authorizes the state to issue up to $125 million in additional bonds to complete the Capitol Restoration Project, which began in 2015 and is scheduled to be finished by 2022. The bill brings the total price tag for renovating the State Capitol Building to $245 million. State officials said the initial bond issue was passed based on a visual inspection in 2009 that did not incorporate the time-consuming and intrusive investigations necessary to gain a full understanding of the Capitol's problems and the cost to fix them. According to the state constitution, the issuing of bond debt must be approved by a vote of the people. The additional bond funding was approved by the House 51-43 on March 9 and in the Senate 30-16 on May 26. It was signed into law by Gov. Fallin on June 6. The No votes against the bill earn the conservative vote.
(7) Automated License Plate Readers
SB 359 by Sen. Corey Brooks (R-Washington) and state Rep. Ken Walker (R-Tulsa)
This bill would authorize law enforcement to use automatic license plate readers to find uninsured motorists. It is believed that one in four vehicles in Oklahoma does not have insurance. The plate readers would compare the license plate number with an Oklahoma Insurance Department list of insured vehicles to determine if the owner of the plate has insurance. The legislation requires the data collected to be destroyed if it is determined that the vehicle is insured. However, privacy advocates have concerns that once the system is operational the law will be changed to allow the data to be retained and used for other purposes. The bill gained final passage in the Senate 34-10 on May 26 and the House 52-39 on May 27. Governor Fallin signed the bill into law on June 6. The No votes against the bill earn the conservative vote.
(8) DNA Samples Upon Arrest
HB 2275 by Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing) and Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond)
This bill amends current law to allow DNA samples to be collected upon arrest for a felony crime. The DNA would be collected through a sample of saliva. "Right now Oklahoma collects DNA upon conviction for felonies and certain misdemeanors. We're in the minority of states that don't do this upon arrest," said Sen. Jolley. The bill requires a person's DNA information to be expunged from the database if charges are dropped or if the defendant is not bound over for trial. But, privacy advocates are concerned that a simple change in the law will allow the DNA information to be retained. The bill passed the House 52-36 on March 9 and the Senate 32-15 on April 19. It signed into law by Gov. Fallin on April 26. The No votes against the bill earn the conservative vote.
(9) Licensing of Music Therapists
HB 2820 by Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing) and Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City)
The Music Therapy Practice Act will license "Music Therapists" who have completed the education and clinical training requirements established by the American Music Therapy Association. As defined in the bill, "Music therapy" means the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals for people of all ages and ability levels within a therapeutic relationship between a patient and a practitioner who is licensed. The legislation prescribes that no person shall practice or hold himself or herself out as being able to practice music therapy or provide music therapy services in this state unless the person is licensed. Licensed Professional Music Therapists may use the letters "LPMT" in connection with his or her name. It passed the House 54-42 on March 2 and the Senate 38-7 on April 19. It was signed into law by Gov. Fallin on April 26. The No votes against the bill earn the conservative vote.
(10) Gender Pay Regulation
HB 2929 by Rep.Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City) and Sen.Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City)
This legislation was aimed at pay discrimination, particularly against women. State law already bans wage discrimination against women, but no employer has ever been fined under the existing statute. The bill prohibits retaliation by the employer against employees for sharing compensation information which would make it easier to learn of possible pay inequities. This would be an intrusion into the rights of business owners to run their businesses. The bill passed the Senate 39-8 on April 20 and the House rejected the Senate amendments. A conference committee was granted and the Conference Committee Report was adopted and the bill was approved by the House 58-26 on May 26. But, the Legislature adjourned before the Senate could vote on the bill. The No votes against the bill earn the conservative vote.
CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW TO SEE THE VOTES AND SCORES FOR THE MEMBERS OF EACH RESPECTIVE CHAMBER OF THE LEGISLATURE.
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