Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bridenstine to NASA? Rumors heat up

NASA Watch, a news site focused on the space agency, and Arstechnica, a tech/science news site, are both reporting that Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine will likely be announced in the coming weeks as the Trump administration's pick for NASA Administrator.

From NASA Watch:
The exact date and venue for the formal announcement of these NASA leadership nominations has not been set. NASA HQ has liked to do events with a lot of pomp and flair so we'll see what they do for this announcement. Sources have told me that a post-Labor Day announcement was being planned but it may be moved up now. Or maybe it won't.

Looking at where NASA is - and where the Trump folks seem to want it to go - a pairing of Jim Bridenstine with John Schumacher make a lot of sense. Bridenstine's views seem to resonate well with a lot of what seems to be buzzing around inside the heads of TrumpSpace people. Schumacher has a long resume in senior positions at both NASA - so he'll give Bridenstine a lot of managerial support. Bridenstine has a lot of interest in emerging space commerce opportunities while Schumacher has a solid aerospace background - another way that their skillsets complement one another.

From Arstechnia:
John Logsdon, a noted space historian and author of several books, including After Apollo? Richard Nixon and the American Space Program, said he has been hearing the same names. "Appointing [US Representative] Jim Bridenstine and [Aerojet Rocketdyne Vice President] John Schumacher as the top two NASA officials is an intriguing and potentially very productive move," Logsdon told Ars, via e-mail. "Bridenstine, for several years, has been conceptualizing what is needed for, as he suggests, an 'American Space Renaissance' and has been testing his ideas with multiple audiences. Schumacher is a Washington space community veteran, with years of both senior NASA and space industry executive experience. Together, they can bring both fresh ideas and a sense of political and policy realism to the space agency."
The Arstechnia article goes into more interesting details about both men as it relates to potential space policy, as well as implications of the picks. Read more here.

A Bridenstine appointment would mean a special election in the 1st District, which already has at least five candidates vying for the seat, which Bridenstine was vacating to his self-imposed term limit (you know, actually keeping his word, unlike another Oklahoma congressman). A special election would likely take place at the end of this year or beginning of next year, leaving the eventual victor a mere three or four months before turning around to run for the full term.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fallin will call special session to adjust appropriations

Governor Mary Fallin Says Special Legislative Session Necessary to Adjust State Appropriations 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today said the Legislature must return in special session to deal with the $215 million shortfall caused by a proposed smoking cessation fee being struck down.

“No money can be spent from any state fund unless the Legislature specifically appropriates it,” said Fallin. "Let's be clear. The director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) does not have the authority to transfer monies to the affected agencies from different sources without legislation directing him to do so.”

Article 5, Section 55 of the Oklahoma Constitution states that no money shall be paid out of the state treasury, except through an appropriation by law.

Fallin said state law (Title 62, Section 34.55) allows the director of OMES to borrow money from treasury funds to satisfy monthly allocations of appropriations made from the General Revenue Fund, but the appropriation has to be made by the Legislature.

The three agencies that received the bulk of the money from the proposed cessation fee are the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (DMHSAS), and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA).

DMHSAS would have received $75 million (about 23 percent of its total appropriation), OHCA would have received $70 million (about 7 percent of its total appropriation), and DHS would have received $69 million (about 10 percent of its total appropriation).

Without legislative intervention, DMHSAS said it would run out of state appropriations in November. OHCA said it would run out of state funds in January and DHS said it would out of state funds in May.

The funding shortfall is the result of the Oklahoma Supreme Court last week striking down a smoking cessation fee approved this past legislative session.

Fallin said she and her staff have been discussing options with legislative leaders of both parties.

“A special session is the best option,” the governor said. “Failure to meet in special session would mean $215 million would be cut mostly from these three state agencies. These agencies and the people they serve cannot sustain the kind of cuts that will occur if we do not find a solution.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

REID names Mark Williams as new president


OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, August 15, 2017 – The Research Institute for Economic Development (RIED) has named Mark Williams as president succeeding Susan Winchester who resigned recently to become chief-of-staff to Lt. Governor Todd Lamb. Williams joins RIED after a 36-year career with AT&T Oklahoma, serving since 2010 as Director-Legislative Affairs where he led the AT&T Oklahoma external affairs team on legislative matters at the state Capitol. Williams joined Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, now AT&T, in 1981.

“I am excited to join RIED and to work with our outstanding officers and directors as we continue to produce Oklahoma’s pre-eminent analysis of legislative voting patterns on business, job creation and economic development issues,” Williams said.  “For the past 20 years, RIED has established a respected reputation at the state Capitol, with the annual ‘RIED Report’ commonly anticipated following the end of the legislative session.  RIED’s positive impact since its inception is illustrated by the fact that legislative advocacy for business, job creation and economic growth has improved from 32% in 1998 to over 60% in 2017.”

Greg Love, RIED board chairman said, “I want to express how pleased we are to have another accomplished individual fill the position of RIED president. Mark has been involved with the state legislature for many years, and we are very confident he will do great work in his new position. Lastly, the RIED board thanks Susan Winchester, and wishes her success in her new position with Lt. Governor Lamb.”

Williams presently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits and Chair-Elect of the Oklahoma City All Sports Association.  He is the past board chairman of the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma, the Northwest Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma Baptist University Alumni Association.  He has, or is currently serving on the boards of the First Tee, Leadership Oklahoma, Youth Leadership Exchange, Sooner State Games and the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City, where he is also a Life Member.

Williams is a native Oklahoman, receiving a B.A. in Economics from Oklahoma Baptist University and a J.D. from Oklahoma City University. He is married to Carol Cathey Williams and they have two daughters and five grandchildren.

Research Institute for Economic Development was founded in 1997 and is a non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting economic growth through the evaluation of business, job and economic growth issues considered annually by the Oklahoma Legislature. RIED does not lobby issues or endorse candidates.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lamb names 'Oklahoma Economic Diversification' advisory committee

Oklahoma Business Leaders to Support Efforts to Grow Oklahoma Exports

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – August 14, 2017 – Republican gubernatorial candidate Todd Lamb announced today the formation of his Oklahoma Economic Diversification Committee. The group of Oklahoma business leaders will advise on issues to help diversify Oklahoma’s economy through greater worldwide trade.

“Growing and strengthening Oklahoma’s economy, both within our borders and beyond, is a central component of my Renew Oklahoma plan,” Lamb said. “To that end, I am pleased to announce that prominent Oklahoma business leader Chuck Mills will serve as chairman of my Oklahoma Economic Diversification Committee. Chuck is chairman of the OK District Export Council and president of Mills Machine Company, a third-generation manufacturer located in Shawnee. I am honored to have his business expertise, experience and counsel, as well as that of the other committee members as I pursue the governor’s office.”

Mills commented, “I am excited to help Todd Lamb formulate an advisory committee that will assist him in creating economic development opportunities throughout Oklahoma and beyond. The goal of the committee is to explore all avenues to create broader awareness and opportunities for Oklahoma companies to showcase, and ultimately export, their products. Todd Lamb has the vision and real-life business experience to be a tremendous advocate for Oklahoma businesses, large and small, as Oklahoma’s chief executive officer.”

Committee members include:

  • Keith Briem – Choctaw Global, McAlester
  • Dr. Don Drew – Oklahoma Christian University, Edmond
  • C.R. Freeman – Premium Beef and Grain, Lone Wolf
  • Johnny “Bump” Grant - Consolidated Turbine Specialists, LLC., Bristow
  • Alfred Hernandez – Lopez Foods, Inc., Oklahoma City
  • Heidi Hughes – GEFCO, Inc., Enid
  • Eric Kunkel – CCK Strategies, PLLC., Tulsa
  • George Lee – Red Devil, Inc., Pryor
  • Chuck Mills – Mills Machine Company, Shawnee
  • Dick Morris – Advantage Controls, Muskogee
  • Alfonso Nieves – BuildBlock Building Systems, LLC., Oklahoma City
  • Joe Smith, Jr. – Ditch Witch, Perry

Lamb said additional Oklahoma leaders will be announced in the coming weeks to lead other
advisory committees.

2017 Republican District Ratings for Oklahoma Legislature

Here's the 2017 update to my Republican District Ratings, the 2016 version of which can be viewed here.

This rating system is to determine how "Republican" each state house and state senate district is. The formula is comprised of three elements: federal-level (most recent Republican presidential nominee's in-district vote percentage), state-level (most recent Republican gubernatorial nominee's in-district vote percentage), and local-level (in-district voter registration).

If a district might be rated 50.0, that does not mean the Democrat rating would also be 50.0, as I didn't split the remaining portion up between Democrat, Libertarian and Independent. This system simply rates on "Republican-ness". Perhaps another way of putting it is this: a generic Republican candidate should be able to get no less than the RDR in his district.

Have a look at each full list. Given the massive turnover last year, I marked which members are freshmen (i.e. elected in 2016). I'll post the 2017 Conservative Performance Index soon, where we'll examine each legislator's conservative score (an average of two different conservative rating systems) and compare it to their district's Republican rating.

Up first, State House:

Northwest Oklahoma has the top three Republican district; HD61 maintained top-status with 71.0%, while HD59 (69.8%) and HD58 (69.1%) leapfrogged from 6th and 7th place last year. Broken Arrow's HD80 comes in fourth with 68.2%, and #5 goes to HD41 (a gerrymandered district running from Enid to the edge of OKC) with 67.3% .

The five least Republican districts are HD73 in north Tulsa (10.3%), HD99 (16.6%) and HD97 (22.9%) in Oklahoma City, OKC's HD88 (27.9%), and HD72 (29.7%) in north Tulsa.

The average rating for all House seats is up 0.3 points to 52.2%. For Republican-held seats, it actually fell overall by 0.4 points to 56.7%, while Democrat-held seats also fell 0.5 points to an average of 40.4%.

The five most Republican seats held by Democrats are HD6 (56.0%) in the northeast, recent special-election snag HD75 (54.3%) in Tulsa, HD7 (51.1%) in the far northeast corner, OKC's HD85 (49.4%; a 2015 special-election steal), and HD86 (48.5%) in Adair County.

The six least Republican seats held by Republicans are HD13 (39.5%) in Muskogee and McIntosh counties, HD62 (41.8%) and HD64 (42.3%) in Lawton, HD71 (43.7%) in Tulsa, and HD19 (44.5%) in the southeast.

Now, let's look at the State Senate:

The most Republican district is again in far northwest Oklahoma and the Panhandle - SD27 at 69.5%. Next are SD25 (65.8%) in south Tulsa, SD19 (63.8%) in the Enid area, SD22 (63.6%) in northwest OKC, SD29 (62.7%) around Bartlesville.

The five least Republican districts are SD11 in  north Tulsa (26.5%), SD48 (27.2%) and SD46 (37.5%) in Oklahoma City, SD9 (41.1%) in Muskogee and Cherokee counties, and SD16 (42.3%) in Cleveland County.

The average rating for all Senate seats is up 1.4 points to 53.5%. For Republican-held seats, it's up 0.2 points to 55.5%, while for Democrat-held seats it's up 3.5 points to 41.8%.

The three most Republican seats held by Democrats are SD34 (an early 2016 special-election stunner) at 59.1%, SD44 (51.8%; the most recent special-election grab), and SD32 (47.9%).

The five least Republican seats held by Republicans are all in southeast or east-central Oklahoma -SD9 (41.1%), SD7 (43.9%), SD8 (44.7%), SD5 (44.9%), and SD6 (47.3%).

Of note, the least-Republican Republican-held House and Senate districts both cover the city of Muskogee and most of Muskogee County, and both were won in 2016.

If you'd like to see maps to show where all the different districts are, go here for State House maps and here for State Senate maps.

Below the break, I've added two more sheets: one showing all House and Senate districts together for comparison, and the other showing the percentage changes each district had since the 2016 rating.

Music Monday: Beethoven's 5th Symphony

This week's Music Monday is the first movement to Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, by the great 19th-century German composer Ludwig van Beethoven.


Click to go below the page break to see all previous Music Monday posts. Do you have a song you'd like to suggest for a future Music Monday? Email me at

Friday, August 11, 2017

Small: Misleading statements by Osborn, Boren are harmful

Free Market Friday: Misleading statements harmful

Former House Appropriations and Budget Chair Leslie Osborn recently stated Oklahoma is “50th in the nation in tax collections.” Calling for more tuition and fee increases on working Oklahoma families, University of Oklahoma President David Boren made a similar dead-last claim regarding state support for higher education.

Despite Boren’s claims, the actual data show that Oklahoma ranks 31st in total state support for higher education. When adjusted for cost of living, on a per capita basis Oklahoma actually ranks 26th in state support for higher education.

Just as the actual data contradict President Boren’s claim, the undisputed data from the United States Census Bureau contradict Rep. Osborn’s statements, proving that we are far from being the lowest-taxed state.

Regarding Osborn’s assertion, the actual data show Oklahoma is not 50th in the nation. According to the latest available data from the Census Bureau, Oklahoma collects more in state taxes than Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Thus, Oklahoma ranks 31st, not 50th. Per capita, Oklahoma ranks 38th in tax collections. When adjusted for cost of living, Oklahoma ranks 36th in per capita tax collections.

What’s really astonishing is that the state managed to collect this level of revenue despite being in a recession while most states were not. Oklahoma lost 21,800 energy and manufacturing jobs, resulting in a loss of more than $13 billion in taxable income. Oklahomans reduced purchases subject to sales tax and use tax to the tune of $4.1 billion just to survive, according to available Oklahoma Tax Commission data. Given this, state government should not complain, and Oklahomans should be thanked for their sacrifice.

Throughout the 2017 legislative session, tax consumers tried to get lawmakers and the public to support more than $2 billion in tax increases. Despite these attempts, no tax increases were constitutionally passed by the Legislature.

It’s understandable why tax consumers are working so hard to get taxpayers to believe the 50th and dead-last mantra: They want Oklahomans to be in the psychological condition to support and accept massive tax increases.

While I believe Rep. Osborn cares about Oklahoma, misleading statements from public officials such as Osborn and Boren are harmful to efforts to find viable, long-term solutions.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs ( This column originally ran in the Journal Record.