Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New Texas GOP Chair puts party platform to use


The Republican Party of Texas elected James Dickey as their new chairman on June 3rd, and he has apparently hit the ground running. One of his big ideas? Asking Texas legislative Republicans to follow the state GOP Platform.

Dickey, elected to fill out the remainder of the chairman's term after the previous chair resigned, lobbied Gov. Greg Abbott to include several proposals from the RPT Platform in his call for a special session next month, and it appears that ten of those planks made it onto the agenda.

Here is what Chairman Dickey sent to House Speaker Joe Strauss (nearly identical letters were sent to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, as well as all Republican members of the Legislature):
It is my honor to reach out to you on behalf of Texas Republicans as we prepare for next month’s special session. I realize this will be a challenging time for you and your staff, and it is my desire to help in any way I can and work together to further the Principles and Platform of the Republican Party of Texas.

Many of the items included in Governor Abbott's call directly reflect planks of the Republican Party of Texas Platform which was approved by more than 5,700 delegates at the 2016 State Republican Convention. The following is a list of those call items and their corresponding planks:

- Municipal annexation reform- Plank 37
- Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud- Plank 59
- Privacy- Plank 87
- Prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion providers- Plank 91
- School choice for special needs students- Plank 147
- Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders- Plank 100
- Property tax reform- Plank 175
- Prohibition of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues- Plank 197
- School finance reform commission- Plank 120
- Caps on state and local spending- Plank 167

With these in mind, I ask for your help in identifying which House Members would be willing to take point on these items, to author or champion specific bills matching our Party platform. Of course if you prefer, the Members you so designate are welcome to contact me directly about the bills they expect to carry during the special session. I have included my contact information below. The Republican base and the grassroots are ready to encourage them and support their efforts in any way they need.

We would also welcome your assistance and input in working with the Governor’s office to include our remaining Legislative Priorities in the special session call. These Priorities are: constitutional carry, abolition of abortion, replacing property tax, comprehensive school choice in a manner consistent with the platform, and defense of Constitutional religious liberty and freedom of speech (specifically the First Amendment Defense Act).

I look forward to hearing from you soon about how we can work together to further our shared values found in the Texas Republican Platform and make this session a great success for our Party and our State.

This is a welcome departure from the typical operation of most party leaders, who seem to generally view the party platform as an interesting-but-mostly-useless document (and yet ask their convention delegates to put in hard work drafting and adopting said platform).

Here in Oklahoma, there have been numerous attempts at previous state GOP conventions to put our party platform to similar use. They tended to be very poorly worded (i.e. "candidates have to 'mark up' the platform", etc), and failed by large margins. However, the sentiment among party activists has been changing, in large part due to the party platform lip-service paid by elected Republicans at all levels without actual follow-through and results.

What Chairman Dickey is doing is nothing revolutionary or disruptive. He's not threatening elected Republicans, nor is he withholding campaign help. From what I can see, up here north of the Red River, he's respectfully requesting that Republican legislators follow the platform of their chosen political party.

With how Oklahoma's legislative leadership and governor acted this past session, this type of communication is needed from the Oklahoma Republican Party.

Third lawsuit filed over last-minute tax hikes


House Bill 2433 passed in the final hours of the legislative session, putting $123M more in taxes on Oklahomans through adding a 1.25% sales tax on vehicle sales, in addition to other taxes already charged on sales. That measure is now being challenged in court by the Oklahoma Automobile Dealers Association, Battison Honda and Caitlin Cannon of Ponca City.

This becomes the third lawsuit filed that challenges the constitutionality of several last-minute tax hikes passed by the Legislature last month.

The first lawsuit was on the $257M cigarette tax Smoking Cessation Fee (SB 845). The second suit was filed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson, challenging HB 1449 (~$1.4M electric/CNG fuel tax), HB 2348 ($4.4M-$11M standard deduction freeze), and HB 2433 ($123M auto sales tax).

Monday, June 26, 2017

AG says Doerflinger's Rainy Day Fund raid was legal

The official with the longest title in state government, Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology and Office of Management and Enterprise Services Director Preston Doerflinger surprised many officials at the Capitol and observers around the state when news broke in March that he had completely emptied the state's Rainy Day Fund to pay the state's bills. This occurred without anyone in the Legislature being made aware, causing questions to arise from many regarding the legality of the raid.

In the wake of the controversy, Doerflinger requested an opinion from Attorney General Mike Hunter on the matter. Hunter issued his opinion today; here's the "meat" of his statement:
It is, therefore, the Official Opinion of the Attorney General that transfers pursuant to 62 O.S.Supp.2016, § 34.55(A) from the Constitutional Reserve Fund to the General Revenue Cash-flow Reserve Fund as needed to satisfy monthly allocation of appropriations do not violate OKLA. Const. Art. X, § 23, so long as:

1. Such transfers are temporary transfers to other State funds that will be returned to the Constitutional Reserve Fund, and are not permanent expenditures out of the Treasury;
2. Such temporary transfers do not alter the annual budget for the current fiscal year or alter the amounts available for appropriation from the Constitutional Reserve Fund for the next fiscal year, but instead will be returned to the Constitutional Reserve Fund before any funds are expended or transferred from the General Revenue Fund for the next fiscal year;
3. Such temporary transfers are not made to avoid declaring a revenue fai]ure and reducing appropriations as a result of a revenue failure, but instead such transfers are made based on a reasonable estimate that increased revenues later in the fiscal year will be available to both satisfy monthly allocations without reductions and repay the Constitutional Reserve Fund; and
4. Such temporary transfers do not have the practical effect of interfering with the Legislature’s ability to appropriate monies from the Constitutional Reserve Fund.

Doerflinger issued the below statement in response:


Statement by Secretary Doerflinger regarding Attorney General opinion on Constitutional Reserve Fund borrowing

OKLAHOMA CITY — On April 5, Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston L. Doerflinger asked the Attorney General for an opinion on borrowing from the Constitutional Reserve Fund for monthly agency allocations.

Upon today’s issuing of that opinion, Secretary Doerflinger offers the following statement:

“I asked for the opinion to seek clarity for the current administration, future administrations, legislators and the public. We are grateful to Attorney General Mike Hunter for providing that clarity. We were always confident we worked within statutory and constitutional guidelines.

“Hopefully this opinion helps settle the issue and will help leaders focus on the state’s revenue problem that forced us to borrow from the Rainy Day Fund to make allocations to state agencies. An over-reliance on one-time funding sources and the absence of significant structural budget reform promise to make the upcoming fiscal year another challenge.”

BACKGROUND AND UPDATE ON THE RAINY DAY FUND

The balance in the Constitutional Reserve Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, is currently zero. The balance at the beginning of fiscal year 2017 was $240.7 million. The entire amount was borrowed to make monthly agency allocations and keep government running without deepening cuts to agency budgets.

In May, after General Revenue Fund collections were reconciled, $4.2 million was repaid to the Rainy Day Fund and then disbursed to the Department of Human Services per House Bill 2342. The next month, upon receiving and verifying May collections, $60.185 million was returned to the Rainy Day Fund and then distributed to the State Department of Education for ad valorem reimbursement by June 15 as called for by SB 842.

These actions left a balance owed to the Rainy Day Fund of $176,352,678, which will be returned when FY 2017 general revenue is reconciled after the close of the fiscal year.

That amount will be available to satisfy the remaining $83 million of Rainy Day Fund appropriations made by the Legislature and signed by the Governor for FY 2018: $32 million for the Health Care Authority per SB 844, $33 million to the State Department of Education per SB 852 and $18 million to the State Department of Education per HB 2360. That will leave the FY 2018 beginning balance of the Rainy Day Fund at $93.3 million.

Music Monday: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

This week's Music Monday is the hymn Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, played by Rob Charles, a church organist in Wales.

Enjoy!



Lyrics:
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, Now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who o'er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen How thy desires e'er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness, and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew What the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen Sound from His people again,
Glady for aye we adore Him.
gladly forever adore him.

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 JamisonFaught@MuskogeePolitico.com.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mullin compares US debt to... Cavemen and Vikings?

2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin recently made a post on Facebook and Twitter drawing attention to the America's sky-high national debt. It's a topic that far too often gets ignored by those in Washington, who keep spending like there's no tomorrow. Our national debt poses a greater threat to America's future than most other, commonly-identified dangers.

However, the way in which Congressman Mullin brought up the topic is rather.... strange. His post read as follows:
The U.S. government currently owes more money than ANY other government in human history! We can't keep going down this path.
The post was accompanied by this image:


Rather than comparing our debt to, say, Greece, France, the United Kingdom, or even past U.S. governments, he decided to go with the "governments" of Colonial, Romans, Vikings, and Cavemen. Beside the Roman Empire, none of those are historical governments, and the graph comparison would indicate that each of those groups owed debts in the trillions.

There's a better way to do this. Next time, use actual figures, not made up numbers with non-historical non-governments.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Richardson to Challenge Tax Hikes in Supreme Court


Richardson to Challenge Tax Hikes in Supreme Court

Tulsa, OK, June 22, 2017–  Gary Richardson held  a press conference at the Tulsa Press Club today at 3 p.m. to announce his plan to file a lawsuit in the Oklahoma Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of House Bills 1449, 2348, and 2433.

House Bill 1449 creates the “Motor Fuel Tax Fee” which charges a fee to owners of electric and compressed natural gas vehicles in order to make up for the fact that they don’t pay the motor fuel tax; House Bill 2348 effectively raises taxes on the millions of Oklahomans who take the standard deduction when filing their tax returns by uncoupling the state deduction rate from the federal rate; and House Bill 2433 adds a new 1.25% sales tax on motor vehicle sales on top on the existing excise tax already charged on car sales.  All three of these laws were enacted in violation of Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution which was enacted by State Question 640 in 1992.
Transcript of press conference

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.  I’m here today to talk about the recent “tax increases” that were passed by our legislators.

Our state constitution reads in Article 5, that “the people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws and amendments to the Constitution and to enact or reject the laws and amendments at the polls, independent of the legislature.”

In 1907, when writing our State Constitution, our state founding fathers held that the will of the people is “sacred”. They made clear that the legislature only has the legislative powers expressly delegated to it and that all other legislative power is vested in the people exercised by the initiative and referendum processes. It was this holding and right to the use of an “initiative petition” that Norman, Oklahoma attorney Stan Ward headed a citizen’s group to gather enough signatures to put State Question 640, in 1992, to the vote of the people that amended Article 5 of our State Constitution requiring all “revenue increases” to have at least 3/4ths majority of the legislators to pass a tax or to be voted on by the people, that the bill was to originate in the State House, and not to be voted on in the last 5 days of the session.

This past legislative session, our leaders violated Article 5, Section 33 of our State Constitution when they passed House Bills 1449, 2348 and 2433.

In order to attempt to make up for the fact that owners of electric vehicles and compressed natural gas vehicles don’t pay the motor fuel tax, our state legislators passed House Bill 1449, attempting to create a “motor fuel tax fee”.  The authors of the bill knew this wasn’t a fee because they put “tax” in the name of their fee! House bill 1449 failed to get the 3/4ths majority needed to pass legislation that raises revenue in both the state house and senate and it was voted on in the last five days of session, both of which violate Article 5, Section 33 of the Constitution.

House Bill 2348 enacted by our state leaders raised taxes on the 70% of Oklahomans who take the standard deduction when filing their tax returns by freezing the state deduction rate, which normally is increased every year to match the federal rate.  Again, this bill didn’t get the 3/4th votes needed in the State House which violates Article 5, Section 33.

HB 2433 is an effort by our legislators to add a new sales tax of 1.25% tax on motor vehicle purchase.  This, on top of the existing excise tax already charged on car purchases.  This bill, if left unchallenged, would take close to $125 million from Oklahomans purchasing vehicles.  Again, the bill didn’t receive three fourths majority in either the State House or Senate, it was voted on in the last five days of session, and they added an emergency clause to the bill, all in violation of Article 5, Section 33 of our Oklahoma Constitution.

Folks, when our Legislators and Governor willfully disregard our State Constitution, it’s up to the people of our state to take a stand, which is why I am standing here today, for the citizens of our state.

Since 1981, I have been standing as a warrior for the citizens of our state.  First as a United States Attorney, appointed by President Reagan and then in the private practice of law.  I can think of no better way, at this time, to continue the fight than by challenging the constitutionality of these new taxes that are clearly in violation of Article 5, Section 33 of our State Constitution.

This is why I will be filing a law suit in the next few days, on behalf of the citizens of Oklahoma, asking the courts of Oklahoma to invalidate House Bills 1449, 2348 and 2433.  I have hired Norman, OK lawyer Stan Ward, again, the author of Article 5 Section 33, to be my attorney of record in this constitutional challenge.

We are a nation of laws and when our lawmakers refuse to follow our Constitution, then we the people must rise up and ask the courts to defend our Constitution.  It’s not "We the Legislators," it’s "We the People!"

Click here for audio of the press conference.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rep. Strohm withdraws from SD37 race



TULSA, OK- Representative Chuck Strohm has withdrawn his candidacy for State Senate District 37. The seat is being vacated by Senator Dan Newberry who is resigning. Strohm has represented Jenks, Bixby and areas of South Tulsa in House District 69 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives since 2014.

“I have been humbled by the outpouring of support as people have asked me to step forward and represent District 37 in the Oklahoma Senate.

Part of leadership is the wisdom to recognize when you have made a decision that is not in the best interests of our State.  As Angela and I have prayed and considered the impact to the newly formed GOP Platform Caucus if elected to the Senate, the peace that must accompany every major decision in life has not been there.  Therefore, I am withdrawing my candidacy for Senate District 37.

The GOP Platform Caucus was formed in early April and has 4 key goals including:

  1. Honor God as we Serve the People of Oklahoma.
  2. Judge policy and legislation against a standard that reflects the will of the people; The Republican State Platform
  3. Provide an educational tool by grading legislation per the state platform.
  4. Provide a UNIFIED Conservative voice.

Because we are in the very early stages of implementing these goals and growing the Platform Caucus, I don’t have peace leaving the Oklahoma House at this time.

It is a joy to represent the communities of Jenks, Bixby and the South Tulsa at the state capital and I look forward to serving my House district in this upcoming session. Please join me in prayer as we ask for Gods favor as we elect a new Senator to represent us in District 37.”

Strohm has a strong record of supporting conservative Oklahoma values through positions of leadership in the State House. Strohm currently holds a 97% lifetime conservative rating from The Oklahoma Constitution.