Having been in the Oklahoma public school classroom for 16 years, and many of those in the alternative ed classroom, I know that I am always looking for that one good thing that a student has done today. One will do. That’s it. We teachers are just wired that way.
And so it is natural for us to see one good vote from our representative or senator, praise them for it, and give them a pass on 10 bad votes that actually work against public education, especially in funding.
But to allow our legislators to use a one-good-vote approach and get by with it is a disservice to educational efforts in Oklahoma. It is also a disservice to the legislators. How?
Some may actually want to be more balanced in their voting, but in the absence of any other pressure, they are going to vote the way that lobbyists for those corporate interests tell them to vote.
So, the most cynical ones need to know that we are watching, and the earnest ones need to be able to point to our pressure as a way of holding off the corporate lobbyists.
There are several good ways to keep track of voting records when making your decision on how to vote in the upcoming primaries on June 24th.
- Use the tools and general information on the website for the Oklahoma Policy Institute which has a track record of providing hard information on legislative matters.
- The Bill Tracker tool on that website is an extremely good way to keep up with matters in the legislature when it is in session and for research in between.
- Use the Bill Search feature on the web site for the Oklahoma Legislature.
Just using those tools alone will allow you to keep up with how your particular legislator voted in this last session.
One Vote In Full View, Another Gets in Under the Radar
Here is one comparison that is very important to seeing if your legislator is consistent in voting for public education and public services:
Public education and the children, parents, and teachers of Oklahoma achieved a big win on House bill 2625 – 3rd Grade Retention, authored by Republican Representative Katie Henke.
It originally passed 89-6 in the House and 43-1 in the Senate. The override of Gov. Fallin’s veto passed 79-17 in the House and 45-2 in the Senate.
During the debate, Representatives Henke, Casey, and Nolan wrote an opinion piece for the Tulsa World opposing automatic 3rd grade retention for students who did not pass the one-time, one-day test. Great!
But, lurking in the shadow of all that passion of the big win, and sliding in under confusion due to the same numbers being in this bill, there was House bill 2562 – “Gross Production Tax Cut”. Here is information provided by the Oklahoma Policy Institute.
It would make permanent an incentive that had originally been given for horizontal drilling, and was set to expire next year. Now most drillers use that technique as a matter of course. After the expiration, the production tax would have moved back up to its original rate of 7%, which is the same rate used in neighboring states.
That bill, signed into law today by Gov. Fallin, offered a permanent tax break for Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry that is already flush with cash that they liberally spread around during races for the House and the Senate. It also deprives Oklahoma public services, like public education, of necessary funds in a completely manufactured crisis of funding for Oklahoma government.
The bill passed 61-34 in the House, and passed 23-22 in the Senate.
So, how did Henke, Casey, and Nolan vote? Henke was excused from the floor that day and Casey and Nolan voted against the bill. To me that’s a good example of consistency in voting. Way to go!
How did your legislators, representative and senator, vote on these two bills?
First, you can look up who they are here.
3rd Grade Retention Votes
Click this link for the voting list for the individual legislator votes on HB2625 – 3rd Grade Retention.
(There are problems with the Senate publication of the vote on the last reading of the bill and their later override.)
Gross Production Tax Cut Votes
Click this link for the voting list in the House on HB2562 – Gross Production Tax Cut (Look for the vote on the measure itself, not the vote to make it an “Emergency” measure.)
Click this link for the Senate vote on HB2562.
No More Passes for One-time Show Votes
If they voted for the 3rd Grade Retention bill and the override of Fallin’s veto when the heat was on, good for them.
But, if they voted to give a big early Christmas gift to oil and gas donors in a bill passed at the very end of the session, then it’s time for them to hear from you. They voted to deprive public education and other services in Oklahoma of necessary funds in a time when Oklahoma’s economy is booming.
Decide now. No more passes.