MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 8, 2011

Ed Cannaday legislative journal

Sixth journal entry of the first Legislative Session of the 53rd Legislature:

Ed Cannaday
State Representative, District 15

— In my few years in politics I have come to be cautious of statements made that are projected to create a sense of having an absolute position on an issue.

The following is a case in point: Governor Fallin’s inaugural address took a very bold and encouraging position on the state’s $600 million budget shortfall. She stated that “Plenty has been spoken and written about incentives. (an estimated $4.5 billion). Here is the bottom line: tax incentives that produce jobs ... stay; incentives that do not produce jobs ... go.”

My concern rests in the hearings that House and Senate Appropriations and Budget Subcommittees have been conducting. They have been analyzing the budget proposals for the budgets of the major state agencies for fiscal year 2011-12. Out of these hearings the word has been sent forth that the $600 million state budget deficit will impact these agencies with cuts in the neighborhood of 10 percent.

Time out!

If the Governor meant what she said, why do we not start with a serious analysis of the tax incentives and identify the estimated $2 billion in non-productive tax cuts before we conclude that we must cut critical medical, educational, infrastructure, and public safety services. Maybe she was merely teasing when she took that bold position. If that is the case, why did Senate President Pro-Tempore Bingman suggest that we consider the sale of water from our lakes located in eastern Oklahoma as a way of reducing the budget deficit or the House Speaker, Steele, calling for re-evaluating our state’s tough on crime and “lock them up” approach? Those discussions will surely cause us to be distracted from the Governor’s bold proclamation to re-assess those $4.5 billion in tax incentives.  

There has been a bill proposed by Rep. Jason Murphey of Guthrie, HB1208, which may be used as a vehicle to allow the Governor to remove existing members of all the state’s Governor-appointed boards. A recent press release by Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, stated that he and Rep. Murphey have worked together to include language that “this important reform will allow the Governor to make all appointments to each board or commission during his or her time in office regardless of the life of any specific board or commission member’s term.” He further justified this by stating: “The people of Oklahoma spoke last November. To adequately express the will of the people we need to equip our Governor with the tools she needs to advocate and implement her plan for the future of our state. I hope my colleagues will join Rep. Murphey and me in championing this cause and sending HB1208 to the Governor as quickly as possible so she can begin to fix the dysfunction on the Board of Education.”  

There are numerous state boards and commissions that have been appointed by the governor in office to ensure that there is a sense of continuity between administrations and thereby prevent political chaos every 4 to 8 years. If this were to be removed by HB1208, it would have the potential to dissolve all existing state boards until the new Governor had the time to reappoint new members who are aligned with her political agenda. These two items may represent the “tip of the iceberg” that is destined to change Oklahoma government as we know it.

Some of the calls for action come from the embarrassing public display of incompetent administrative behavior during the State Board of Education meeting on January 27. The focus by the media and the Republican Party was on statements made by board members concerning Superintendent Barresi’s move to hire staff that did not meet an established legal criteria. There are several problems that exist with the current spin on this event. First according to the Oklahoma Constitution: Article 13, Section 5; the Superintendent is the President of the Board and is responsible for creating the agenda for the meeting and conducting the meeting. As I read the agenda for the meeting, I noted that she failed to call for an executive session to discuss item 5 (e) personnel changes to be followed by voting for this item in open session. There is evidence available that board members had contacted her and requested that this be scheduled as is the practice when considering personnel in accordance with the Open Meetings Act. These requests were denied as were their request for resumes of those the Superintendent had previously hired without Board authorization and were being paid from out of non-state revenue sources while conducting official State Department of Education business. It is frightening to think that our new Governor will consider replacing all of the existing State Board of Education based on the ill-conceived and possibly illegal actions of our new Superintendent of Public Instruction.   

If you wish to contact me please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov , home phone: 918.484.5701, cell: 918.448.5702 or my Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 800.522.8502 or 405.557.7375 and fax 405.962.7657 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com