Wednesday, February 28, 2007
One of the biggest concerns District 31 residents have communicated to me is the belief that there is a need for reform in human services. I was so impressed by the heartfelt nature of these concerns that I asked to be assigned to the Human Services Committee. In my capacity as a member of that committee, I have had the opportunity to vote on several reform-minded pieces of legislation, ranging from grandparents' rights to requiring a more effective drug testing program.
I have also observed what appears to be a disturbing trend towards regionalized government. I believe this form of governance deprives Oklahomans of the ability to have an effective voice about regulations which govern various aspects of their lives. One effort deals with the interstate placement of foster children. The document that governs such placements is known as the Interstate Child Placement Compact. This compact clearly specifies a number of regulations we have to abide by regarding the placement of Oklahoma foster children into other states or the placement of foster children from other states into Oklahoma.
However, there is an attempt to void the current compact and enact a new one. The new compact does not spell out the regulations that we have agreed to follow but creates an Interstate Commission which will develop their own set of rules. The new compact provides the following description of the Commission's powers. "Rules promulgated by the Interstate Commission shall have the force and effect of statutory law and shall supersede any state law, rule or regulation to the extent of any conflict."
In effect, by approving this new agreement, the legislature is delegating their law-making ability to a super legislative body. This reduces the ability of the average person to have a voice in how the laws are made. Those making the laws will not be elected officials available and accountable to the people, but an unelected board, functioning on a nationwide level.
While this proposal applies specifically to the interstate placement of foster children, it is my concern that similiar types of agreements will become increasingly prevalent when it comes to interstate activities, and thus move us toward regionalized government.
This week marks the fourth week of the legislative session. Already I have had the opportunity to cast more than 250 votes from the floor of the House, taking into consideration the advice and concerns of House District 31 constituents. If you feel strongly about a particular issue or would like to know the status of a specific piece of legislation, please visit www.HouseDistrict31.com or call (405) 557-7350.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Murphey Legislative Update
One of the most important issues before the legislature this year is Governor's Brad Henry's proposal to issue $663,362,000 of new bonded indebtedness.
I feel strongly that state government should avoid long-term debt. I believe it is irresponsible for politicians to saddle citizens with millions of dollars of debt and debt interest and then allow the bill to come due in the future when they are no longer in office. This places debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren. It also makes it difficult to reduce the size of government because government will be forced to keep taxes high in order to pay the debt and interest.
What seems particularly egregious about the Governor's proposal is the fact that in a year when state government will have approximately $250,000,000 new dollars to spend, there is a move to incur millions of new debt.
Of additional concern is that the Governor's proposal attempts to use this debt to fund non-capital items. Traditionally, government bonds are issued for capital projects such as the construction of buildings. However, in his budget proposal, the Governor appears to be seeking the authority to spend a sizable percentage of this debt on non state-owned capital items. This is money that will disappear into government bureaucracy, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for years to come.
It is also important to remember that the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits the government from going into debt. However, years of creative interpretation by the judiciary have made it possible for those who advocate for public debt to open up a Pandora's box of spending.
The decision whether to consolidate schools can literally mean life or death for a rural community. That decision is of greatest consequence to the children and families who depend on rural schools and the quality education they provide. Surely, a decision of such magnitude deserves to be made by the people affected and not by politicians hundreds of miles away.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Legislative Update 2/14/2007
State Representative Jason Murphey
One of the important issues the House will consider this year is immigration reform. A number of reform proposals have been put forth, ranging from making state government responsible for immigration enforcement to holding businesses responsible for due diligence in hiring practices.
One of the most controversial immigration reform proposals is contained in HB 1423, introduced by freshman Representative George Faught. This proposal would make English the official language of the State of Oklahoma and would require that all state business be conducted in English. The bill passed out of committee on a 9-7 vote and can now go before the full House. I support the proposal and intend to vote for it on the House floor.
A second important immigration reform proposal was put forward by freshman State Representative Mark McCullough. McCullough's HB 1413 would empower a task force to enforce immigration laws at the state level. The proposal is important because of inaction by the federal government on the matter. McCullough believes the proposal would help force the federal government to act. Unfortunately, the bill did not make it through the committee process. However, it is still possible that this important language will be included in other immigration reform legislation.
It is noteworthy that these proposals were initiated by freshmen State Representatives. I believe the fact that this legislation was proposed by newly elected representatives indicates that Oklahomans support immigration reform. As a fellow freshman, I can certainly testify to the fact that plenty of voters have made it known that immigration reform is an important issue which must be addressed.
As always, please feel free to contact me at 557-7350 or on the web at www.HouseDistrict31.com with your input on legislation or with requests for assistance.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Millions of dollars in economic activity and sales tax revenue are lost from Oklahoma every year as thousands of our residents cross the border for the sales tax exemption. In addition to the revenue loss our cities, counties and the state endures, Oklahoma’s retailers are at a huge competitive disadvantage that weekend.
Even more heartbreaking, those Oklahoma families who cannot afford to make a trip are stuck paying the full sales tax on back to school clothes. There is no compelling reason to oppose an Oklahoma “Back to School” sales tax holiday.
However, one group continues to fight the proposal: the Oklahoma Municipal League (OML). This organization of city governments, funded with our tax dollars, sends their lobbyists to intimidate legislators with scare tactics and distortions.
They tell the tall tale that a “Back to School” sales tax holiday would destroy the budgets of cities and counties that depend on sales tax revenue. That argument appears compelling, until you look at the facts.
Every state that has passed a “Back to School” sales tax holiday has seen revenues increase, not decrease as the OML warns. The reason is increased economic activity – more people spend more money during the sales tax holiday. That will happen here, too.
Also, millions of dollars that annually flow across the border to Texas – lost forever to our economy – would stay at home if we had a sales tax holiday. The result would be an even stronger sales tax boost for cities and counties.
The second reason cities and counties would not suffer a revenue loss is a provision we have written into the bill. The measure states that should any city or county suffer a revenue loss when compared to the year before, the state would make it up to them.
Given those facts, the only reason the OML would continue to oppose a “Back to School” sales tax holiday is what my mother used to call “pure-D stubborness.” It would be a shame if stubborness stood in the way of this common sense tax cut targeted to help Oklahoma working families and retailers.
As in years past, I have reached across party lines, creating a bipartisan effort to pass this law. A Republican senator and I will co-author the measure in the Senate, while the new House majority leader is our sponsor in the House of Representatives.
While we have a tough road ahead of us, given to the lengths to which OML lobbyists go to kill this bill every year, I will continue to do everything I can to enact this law. I will continue introducing this measure until it becomes the law of the land, or my time in the Senate is over.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Legislative Update for 2/7/2007
On Monday, Governor Brad Henry opened the legislative session with his State of the State address. The Governor is again asking the legislature to expand the size of government. In his presentation, he outlined several major costly proposals. The highlight of these was his plan for the expansion of the education system to three year olds. The Governor also purposes to indebt the taxpayers to more than $666,000,000 of new bonded indebtedness. I do not support the Governor's efforts to expand the size of government or his attempt to place us in more debt. Unfortunately, Governor Henry did not use the occasion of the state of the state to talk about cutting government spending, reducing our tax burden or immigration reform. I do, however, support the Governor's call for the creation of a state government web site which would enable the people to see how government spends our money.
This year, conservatives in the House of Representatives will be charged with helping to stem the onslaught of big government headed our way. Over the past two years, the size of state government has grown by nearly 30%. To put that growth in perspective, had we simply managed to limit government expansion over the past two years, it would almost have been possible to eliminate the state personal income tax. I firmly believe that an important value held by Oklahomans is that of limited government and I intend to represent that value by opposing attempts to increase the size of government.
Much legislative time during the next three weeks will be spent in committee meetings. Because of the change in the house committee structure, a new layer of sub-committees has been added to the path taken by a bill as it proceeds through the house. This means that the author of legislation has to get his or her bill approved by two committees before the bill is heard by the full house.
If you have issues important to you, please feel free to contact me at 557-7350 or on the web at www.HouseDistrict31.com. Prior to the session, I worked to develop a system of constituent advisory committees which can provide input and expertise on issues of importance. Please contact me if you would like to serve in an advisory capacity on any specific issue. I am also happy to help constituents who wish to be informed of the progress of individual legislation as it moves through the process.
I appreciate the honor and opportunity to serve as your State Representative and look forward to assisting residents of House District 31 in any way possible.