Last week we published the 2016 Oklahoma RINO Index with just a cursory description of what the bills covered after the document covering the index was lost close to the deadline of the newsletter. The Index has already been picked up by Project Vote Smart, ensuring the index gets a nationwide audience. The politicians don't like it either as there have been requests for meetings and one complaint which turned out to be valid as we had a vote marked as bad when in fact it was a missed vote. We corrected the error which took the score from 91 to 93 for that individual. A corrected copy is included in this email. If you wish to share the index just right click on the picture, choose "Save As" and treat it like any other jpeg file.
Here are the bills used in this year's index along with an explanation on just why these were bad votes for the majority of Oklahomans.
HB2275 DNA Collection by Rep. Lee Denny and Senator Clark Jolley. No missing these two, Jabba the Hut comes to mind for both. Not sure I'd want to be the ones swabbing inside their mouth for DNA samples. All snarky comments aside this bill is a major set back for privacy and the rule of law. The law lists a long list of misdemeanors along with covering felonies, requiring the taking of DNA samples upon arrest, not conviction, meaning the person is still judged as innocent at that point. This is nothing more than a revenue enhancing bill as it charges $150.00 per arrest with the money going to the State Medical Examiners office, the OSBI, and the local county or municipal government. The purpose other than raising fees to fund government operations is to build a massive data base of DNA that can be shared with other states, the federal government, and even international law enforcement. The cost to the state is around $840,000, arrests for violent crime were 16743 in 2015 x $150.00 = $2,470,800 in income for violent crimes. Arrests for misdemeanors were 109,004 but not all those arrests will be subject to the DNA capture but assuming that only 10% are brings in another 1.6 million dollars. The Sooner Tea Party is not soft on crime but these people are the ones least able to pay and there are many prisoners sitting in jail because they didn't pay the court fines or fees or the cost of their incarceration. Debtors prison is so 1800's….
HB 2531 Internet tax is an attempt to force out of state online retailers to collect Oklahoma sales tax. It expands the ways a company can become liable for sales tax including having a warehouse in the state, obviously targeting Amazon and other larger retailers. The real target of the bill are the 96% of Oklahomans that don't pay use tax on their annual income tax return and the bill will attempt to force out of state businesses to send Oklahomans a bill at the end of the year stating how much sales tax is owed on their tax return. Chad Cauldwell, R., authored the bill and he expects Oklahomans to pay an additional 300 million dollars a year if the process is fully implemented. The bill will also cause the online retailers to cut any associate programs in Oklahoma, basically drop ship programs where another website can advertise your product and get a small percentage of each sale for generating the sale. The straw man argument used to sell this bill is that it "levels the playing field" for brick and mortar stores. Local stores ship in their merchandise using truck lines on pallets, a vastly cheaper way of moving items. Sales tax is dwarfed by shipping and handling charges on products so the local store already has a huge advantage.
HB 2820 Music Therapy Practice Act, a useless law that will force Medicaid, Sooner Care, and your private insurance company to pay for "music therapy". This is also a rent seeking bill, called that because it protects the territory and profits of existing companies by making it difficult to enter the field to compete. I suppose we will soon see a new line item on our medical bills paying for the soothing music in the elevators and waiting rooms. This is nothing less than corporate welfare on steroids. It also creates a new state board and licensing music therapists along with appropriate penalties for those that "endanger patients safety" using music therapy. You can read the ridiculous law here, look under versions and find the enrolled version. Is suppose someone is going to make a killing playing music to retarded people sitting in a room for a few hours and taxpayers and those few who still pay for their health insurance plans get to pick up the tab.
HB 2962 Autism Mandate another insane mandate that guarantees profits for the medical community on the backs of rate payers and tax payers. The bill forces insurance companies to pay for autism therapy and treatment. Now think about this for a minute, autism isn't an illness as much as it is a birth defect. The poor souls are not ill or sick, they are developmentally disabled, an act of God or plain bad luck. The bill also forces Sooner Care and Medicaid programs to pay up to $25,000 per year per patient for treatment and its expected to inflate the state Medicaid budget by 3.6 million dollars each year. Folks, this is a family problem, not a problem that the state is responsible for. Compassion for those afflicted ought not override passion for the rest of society that is struggling to afford health insurance for their own families.
HB 3016 vaccine veto override is the controversial legislation that simply asked for one thing, for the doctor to provide four pages, two sheets of paper printed both sides, of a list of ingredients in the vaccines, a list that is already provided by the CDC. I personally had my kids vaccinated but there is a lot of science out there stating that widespread vaccinations is keeping some diseases alive as there is a transmittal period after you are vaccinated, called shedding, where a child can transfer the disease to others. The point is keeping "herd immunity" high, having enough people vaccinated that the disease is rare so that those few kids that are auto immune compromised aren't exposed to disease. The damage rate from vaccination is high enough that the federal government shields vaccine companies from lawsuit and funds a settlement program for those injured by vaccines. And if you think the drug companies and the federal government can be trusted to do what is right read this old story about Bayer selling tainted products and causing huge numbers of HIV cases. The company continued selling the tainted products overseas long after the products were banned in the U.S. and Europe. Four pages of CDC provided info is hardly a huge hurdle as the vast majority of people will vaccinate their kids.
HB 3098 Open Carry, don't get too excited, this was just another dog and pony show to keep activists off their butts and show they were "doing something" when in fact there was little real effort to get this passed. The language added self defense for the allowable reason to carry a firearm and allowed a unloaded weapon to be carried for self defense in a vehicle if the person was legally permitted to have weapons. While the bill was not a serious effort to restore our Second Amendment rights it did flush a few liberals out of the closet so it was included in the index.
HB 3126 creates a new government agency called the Oklahoma 911 Management Authority, creates a new revolving fund, raises the existing phone line tax by 50% for wireless, landlines, and VOIP services. It is expected to strip around 2.25 million dollars from Oklahoma citizens for cell phone use, another $300,000 from users of VOIP systems, and over 5.1 million dollars from prepaid phone users. Obama phones are of course exempted from this increased tax.
HB 3128 pro life bill would have made giving an abortion a felony. It is settled law that a woman has the right to an abortion but it is not settled law that someone can assist her in that abortion or perform abortions. This law as intended to spark a legal battle and there are nonprofit organizations willing and ready to cover the litigation costs and efforts for free. Mary Fallin earned her new nickname of Bloody Mary by vetoing the bill in a rapid manner. The veto of the bill coincided with a new abortion clinic opening up in Oklahoma City. It is not known if the Kansas abortion company that is expanding to Oklahoma City has donated money to Fallin or if Fallin vetoed the bill to placate the State Chamber of Commerce.
HB 3168 Capitol Bonds is the latest installment in that money pit we call the state Capitol. Like the turnpike bonds and the new highway and bridge construction bonds, the lucrative bonds aren't available to the majority of citizens, only to a handful of wealthy, politically connected individuals. Money is borrowed from the Federal Reserve at very low rates and loaned to the state at very high rates plus a handsome commission to the bond company handling the sale. Not only that but the interest paid to the bond holders is not taxable. Even worse, any profits or commissions from the sale of the bonds are tax free too! But what is even worse is that maintenance and depreciation is considered a normal business expense by general accounting standards and Oklahoma once had an annual maintenance budget where money was set aside to keep the buildings repaired and fresh. Then the politicians started raiding those funds, spending the money on entitlements and tax credits for the rich. In effect we are being taxed twice for the same ordinary business expense of maintaining the Capitol.
HB 3208 $5.00 fee increase is the infamous tag replacement scheme that nets the state $2.95 per tag after deducting the costs of the new tags. The measure was dreamed up to provide 18.5 million dollars in new revenue to help close the billion dollar budget gap, there is no real reason for forcing the replacement of the tags but Senator Clark Jolley knew that a tag increase was out of the question to avoid angering voters in an election year so this scheme was created. The Tax Commission estimates that forcing the reissuance will generate another 4 million dollars in what is called non compliant vehicles. Thank you Clark Jolley, AKA Mr. Jabba the Hut.
HB 3210 Tobacco tax increase failed in the House but it was an attempt to triple the taxes on tobacco and use the money to expand Medicaid. That would have allowed the state to tap into Obama Care funds by throwing 170 thousand pregnant women and dependent kids off the Medicaid roles and into private insurance on the Obama Care Health Insurance Exchange. Now these current recipients cost the state 38% of their benefits but new enrollees on Medicaid only cost the state 5% currently and only 10% by the year 2020. Read the article on Medicaid expansion and Obama Care for more details. The Senate refused to vote on the issue as the House had narrowly defeated the tax increase. The tax would have taken 190 million dollars out of the pockets of the citizens.
HB3217 Fee increase is legislation that allows county tax assessors to use computerized software to rapidly assess higher taxes on homes without an actual site visit. There is a 25% increase in documentary stamp fees for certain transactions that will remove 6.38 million dollars out of the pockets of Oklahomans.
HB 3220 Court Fee increase is another budget closing fee increase designed to generate revenue far in excess of what is required to run the court systems. It is basically a slush fund created for the local District Attorneys to replace the lost income from hot check fees as so few people write checks anymore and the income stream for the local D.A. is suffering. Only in Oklahoma could a decrease in crime mean an increase in taxation. The new law increases dispute resolution service fees by 350%, increases divorce and custody hearing fees by 29%, and increases the cost of court summons by 100%. The total fee increases are expected to cost the taxpayers an additional 11 million dollars per year.
HB 3231 transportation bonds was legislation signed into law that allows the theft of 200 million dollars of fuel tax money. The money will be transferred into the General Fund to pay ongoing expenses for the state government instead of cutting wasteful spending or corporate welfare tax credits. As in the turnpike and Capitol repair bonds, the bonds are sold at insane commission rates and high interest rates to a select group of politically connected people. You and I will not be able to purchase these bonds for an investment.
HB 2929 Equal pay was legislation that opens up a problem for businesses by allowing their salary costs to no longer remain confidential. The state got along for over 100 years without such legislation and there is no real need for it now as it is an unneeded regulation.
SB 1206 Pork Tourism Improvement districts allows the raising of property taxes by the creation of special districts. Tourism ought to be promoted by businesses, not the state. Remember the wasted two hundred million dollars on the American Indian Cultural Center here in Oklahoma City. If a project is feasible then private investment will see that it gets built but the state is a terrible picker of viable projects and this ought not to be a reason to raise an old person's property taxes to enrich a few connected businessmen or investors. Once enough people in these districts want to create a tourism improvement distinct they can raise everyone's taxes in the district to fund their pork project.
SB 1604 EIC bill strips millions of tax deductions from the working class and poor. While we agree that no one ought to receive tax money back when they have paid no tax money in, this was taken from the lower income citizens while the massive tax credits for investments remained protected. Had all classes gotten a haircut it would have been reasonable. This bill strips 28.9 million dollars from the working poor and working class, an average of $147.00 per household. Meanwhile here is a list of direct tax credits available for the wealthy and large corporations:
- Wind industry received 45 million dollars in cash from the state without paying any taxes at all
- Coal industry received 4 million dollars in cash from the state.
- Historic building tax credit, 6 million dollars in cash from the state.
- Energy efficient buildings got 7 million dollars in cash from the state.
- Quality Jobs Program paid out 89 million in cash from the state coffers.
- Investment/new jobs program paid out 57 million in cash from the state coffers.
The total is around $208,000,000.00 in cash plus there is an unknown amount of tax credit bonds out there that haven't been redeemed yet.
SB 1606 state tax deduction removed the ability to deduct what you paid the feds in taxes from your gross income for state taxation purposes. Basically you are double taxed on any money you pay the feds. This was another tax increase ploy to close the budget gap without endangering the massive tax credit schemes for corporations that pay little or no income taxes or real estate taxes. The people pay so the well connected do well. The tax change will strip $97,320,000.00 in cash from Oklahoma tax payers.
SB 1610 Court fee increase is a massive increase in court fines and fees in criminal cases. If you read the current stories about overcrowding in the Oklahoma County Jail you will know that many of the people there are still locked up because they can't afford to pay their fines and fees so they are sent back to jail. This isn't soft on crime, this is a human justice issue, and debtor's prison was outlawed long ago in America. The law doubles court costs in almost all juvenile and misdemeanor cases, a 100% increase in costs. Projected revenue from this increase is 2.2 million dollars.
SB 359 Ticket cameras authorizes a private company to install traffic cameras with the ability to send tickets to drivers. The private company receives the lion's share of the ticket, and the rest of the money goes to the local D.A. office. Tickets will be priced at current court fees for traffic tickets, between $249.00 and $349.00. Legally the person hasn't been convicted of the offense but the state will allow the local D.A. to intimidate drivers with threats of prosecution and higher costs if the "voluntary" tickets are not paid. The system will go live once 95% of the insurance companies in Oklahoma have begun cooperating and sharing licensed car data with the state. In private business, having a 5% failure ratio would put the company out of business but the authorities seem to have little concern for collateral damage for the guaranteed 5% of the cases that will be wrong. The law also creates a "diversion" department where these automated tickets will be diverted from the normal criminal/moving violation court system, indeed if the authorities are correct and one in four cars is being driven without insurance (highly unlikely) then the flood of cases would swamp the court system in days. The D.A. sends a letter to the owner of record of the car demanding the payment of a "diversion fee" equal to the amount of court costs for the crime plus an extra $20.00 that is spit between the D.A. Council, part for processing fees, and the balance into the court retirement fund. The D.A. may contract with any third party company that provides the equipment and software and give them a share of the proceeds and any "profits" are retained by the D.A. office. The amount of money the third party provider receives is not specified but one contract in Lousiana called for 30% of the gross proceeds of the ticket, in excess of $100.00 perhaps, would go to the private contractor providing the cameras and software. That private contractor would have access to the state computer systems and data base.
SJR 45 undercut term limit bill was designed to thwart the will of the people when term limits were passed in the state. It was defeated but it was a really, really bad idea designed to allow one or two officials to continue to run for office.
SJR 4 Con Con is the call for a national Constitutional Convention. This is a dangerous thing for one big reason; current politicians are not nearly as wise as our founding fathers. Past that, if the government ignores the Constitution on a regular basis, how is changing the Constitution going to make things better? Will they not simply ignore the changes as well?