Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tired of Negative Political Attacks

This is the time of the year where the political candidates who are trailing their opponents in the polls realize that unless they start producing negative campaign pieces then they will probably lose in the upcoming election.

I don’t enjoy watching these commercials, especially when the person being attacked is someone I know and respect and when I know, based on my experience as a Legislator, that the subject matter being used in the attack is very much targeted in a dishonest and deceptive manner.

I have seen my share of inappropriate and disgusting political attacks over the years but one of the most deceptive and disingenuous commercials that I have ever seen have been those targeting State Senator Todd Lamb. Lamb is campaigning for Lieutenant Governor and has been polling ahead of his opponent. I have served with Senator Lamb as a fellow member of Edmond’s legislative delegation and have always been impressed with his character which is a sentiment that I believe is shared by his colleagues of both parties with whom he has worked with in the Legislature.

A few days ago, Lamb’s opponent started running a set of incredibly deceptive commercials that are a direct assault on Lamb’s character. The commercials fault Lamb for his conference committee vote for a bill which put into law a process enabling for the transition of the state Medical Examiner’s office to another location.

A majority of Legislators, including Lamb’s opponent, also voted for the bill because they had no reason to believe that there was anything unusual about the legislation. After the Legislature adjourned there were some questions raised about the individual who might have been placed in charge of the transition. These questions are being looked into by the appropriate authorities but no language designating the identity of the transition coordinator was in the bill and legislators had little way of knowing any of these details at the time of their vote.

Lamb’s opponent has tried to construe Lamb’s vote to make it appear as if Lamb was a participant in trying to do something inappropriate. Lamb’s opponent does not reveal that he also voted for this same bill and he does not tell the public that any impropriety tied to this matter was not in the bill and legislators would have not had any way of knowing of any proposed impropriety.

Also, coming under heavy attack from a desperate opponent is former House District 31 resident Janet Barresi who is campaigning for State Superintendent of Education. Barresi has been a leader in the effort to provide educational opportunities to Oklahoma students and in that role has served as an appointee of the House of Representatives as the Chair of the Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) task force. Based on my familiarity with the issues, I believe the commercials targeting Mrs. Barresi’s efforts to better education have been very unfair.

Probably the most ironic and out-of-touch attack took place just two days after the House Government Modernization Committee heard testimony demonstrating the potential savings to the taxpayers through the implementation of the state’s IT consolidation effort. The opponent of State Representative Jason Nelson mailed a mailer attacking Nelson for supporting the consolidation proposal on the grounds that it “grew government”. The bill actually cuts millions of dollars from the state budget and was one of the rare proposals brought before the legislature which was designed to very much shrink the size of government.

I believe deceptive attacks like these are an admission by the attackers that they have little reason to give the people for voting for them and that they are willing to engage in dirty politics to achieve power.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Study Finds Modernization Reforms On Track

Study Finds Modernization Reforms On Track

Contact: State Rep. Jason Murphey State Rep. David Derby
Capitol: (405) 557-7350 Capitol: (405) 557-7377

OKLAHOMA CITY – State and local governments are set to save $21 million each year due to purchasing reforms enacted in recent years by the Legislature and is on track to achieve further savings through consolidated information technology services and financial shared services, House committee members were told today.
Randy Ross, the deputy director at the Department of Central Services testifying at a legislative study before the House Government Modernization committee today, said the agency is continuing to negotiate new contracts for commodities utilized by state and local agencies. He said state agencies are projected to save approximately $13 million and local entities projected to save nearly $8 million. The agency is expected to document total savings in January.
“Central purchasing reforms have helped provide millions of dollars in relief to state and local government budgets as their revenues decline,” said state Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie and chairman of the committee. “We expect to see further savings from current IT consolidation efforts and financial saved services and were encouraged today to hear that those efforts are being implemented at a breakneck pace.”
The committee also heard testimony that recent legislative reforms are allowing state officials to re-negotiate contracts with vendors who are no longer providing products at a price which is competitive with commonly available peer products.
Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit and a representative of Capgemini told the committee that the data-collection phase of the IT consolidation effort is underway, with surveys sent out to agencies last week and an automated scan of seven agencies already completed. The final report of the IT consolidation plan is scheduled to be completed Feb. 28, 2011. A rough draft will be available by mid-December of this year.
“The CIO has already identified a need for technology standardization among agencies, a problem with document compatibility and a lack of communication between the IT personnel of various agencies,” Murphey said. “I have been very impressed with the speed of this consolidation effort.”
State Rep. David Derby, vice-chairman of the committee, sponsored the IT consolidation initiative as part of House Bill 1170 during the 2009 legislative session and plans to file follow-up legislation during the 2011 to incorporate any additional reforms suggested in the plan.
“The state stands to save millions through the consolidation of services in a massive area of state spending,” Derby, R-Owasso, said. “It is critical that the Legislature implement the plan’s suggestions after they are made available in February.”
The committee also heard from Brenda Bolander with the Office of State Finance, who said 95 agencies, representing 99 percent of travel claims, were using the newly implemented electronic payment system for travel expenses. She also noted that 20 percent of interagency payments were now made electronically. She said that OSF plans to implement an online system for submitting travel claims and grant provisioning. A Hackett Group report showed that Oklahoma needed to make more of its financial processing electronic.
OSF Director of Operations Jim McGoodwin reported that 22 agencies were not yet in compliance with a 2010 law requiring licensing to be available online. The number represents approximately one-third of agencies which must comply with the law.
“While there are some excellent examples of state agency online licensing offerings, it is very disturbing that this many agencies appear to be ignoring the law,” Murphey said.
“The Oklahoma Office of State Finance, Department of Central Services and Chief Information Office are experts in their areas,” Murphey said. “As state agencies increasingly delegate purchasing, information technology and financial services to these support agencies, they will be better able to focus on their own respective missions.”
The study also examined the use of videoconferenceing to reduce travel costs and heard from representatives of Oklahomans for Responsible Government and the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs and received testimony from the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority regarding the possible realization of savings through the implementation of a telework pilot program for state employees.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Consolidation of Oklahoma's State Government IT Systems

This week the House of Representative’s Government Modernization Committee will conduct two interim studies designed to analyze the progress of the ongoing modernization reform initiatives and explore the possibility of implementing a new series of transparency and cost saving reforms.

The savings from the Legislature’s modernization efforts of the past two years are starting to come online at a time when state government will be required to once again greatly reduce the size of the state budget.

Recent state budgets have been propped up by stimulus funds, rainy day fund expenditures, and a crazy accounting gimmick which placed state government in debt to the oil and gas industry.

The time for state government to cut its budget is now as the rainy day funds are starting to become depleted and the federal government will likely start to retreat from its unwise policy of issuing so much new debt.

One of the key modernization reforms taken by the Legislature and the Governor was the enactment of House Bill 1170 in 2009. The proposal was sponsored by Representative David Derby who serves as the Vice-Chair of the Modernization Committee and was designed to cut cost by implementing an enterprise-wide IT strategy for Oklahoma State Government. Each year these technology expenditures account for many millions of dollars of state spending. This spending is all too often fragmented among state agencies which leads to wasteful spending practices, missed saving initiatives, lack of an enterprise-wide long term IT vision and failure to provide for an across-the-board security strategy to protect the taxpayers’ personal information.

House Bill 1170 was approved because of the tremendous commitment of both House Speaker Chris Benge and Senate Speaker Pro-Temp Glen Coffee. The plan was also supported by Governor Henry who courageously signed the bill even though every single member of his party voted against it in the Legislature.

At that time, those of us in the Legislature who supported this cost-cutting effort, pointed to the time when the stimulus funds would be gone and state government would have to cut costs as a reason for why it was important for us to approve the bill as soon as possible.

Now, some of the provisions of this law are starting to go into effect just in time for the government financial shortfall. Early next year, Oklahoma’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) is scheduled to present the IT consolidation plan which is mandated by law to reduce state IT spending by at least 15%.

Our interim study will provide the opportunity to review the ongoing progress of this reform and prepare for additional legislation which may be needed to implement the components of the CIOs plan.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2010 Judicial Retention Ballot

During each general election cycle, voters of Oklahoma are asked to vote on whether or not they wish to retain certain judicial officials.

This year you will be asked to vote on retaining or removing two Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and four Justices of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals.

Each Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice is placed on the ballot for retention every six years. This year Justice Steven Taylor and Justice James Winchester are up for a retention vote. Taylor was appointed by Governor Henry in 2004 and Winchester was appointed by Governor Keating in 2000.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the court’s decision to declare a recent legislative tax increase on health insurance policies to be unconstitutional. Both of these justices voted to stop the unconstitutional tax increase.

Another important decision was rendered by the court earlier this year when it ruled that it is wrong for fees to be levied and used for government funds not related to the fees’ purpose. This was an important decision because it reinforced the principal that taxes should not be levied under the misleading designation of a fee. Taylor supported this decision, and Winchester opposed it on the grounds that he did not feel the Court had original jurisdiction in the case.

Additionally, both Taylor and Winchester have supported recent court rulings against the Legislature’s unconstitutional practice of logrolling appropriations measures, which I have written about on more than one occassion.

The four Justices of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals who are up for the retention vote are Deborah Barnes appointed by Governor Henry in 2008, Doug Gabbard appointed by Governor Henry in 2005, John Fischer appointed by Governor Henry in 2007 and Larry Joplin appointed by Governor Walters in 1994. I am not aware of any high profile cases which these justices have been a party to in the last few months.

Since the retention ballot was developed in 1967, every justice has been retained. Should the voters decide to remove a justice from office, there is a procedure to be followed. Oklahoma’s Judicial Nominating Commission would nominate several applicants for the position and the Governor would choose a new justice from that list of applicants.

You may recall that State Question 752, which will also be on the ballot on November 2, will ask you to vote on enhancing the composition of the Judicial Nominating Commission to include two non-attorney members. Currently, nearly half the Commission is appointed by the Oklahoma Bar Association and the reforms contained in State Question 752 will allow for a more varied representation on the board.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you want additional information about these votes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Practices for Using Twitter as an Elected Official

I very much enjoy the ability to utilize new forms of communication with constituents. This is a unique time in history because these forms of communication are quickly evolving.

I was introduced to the idea of using Twitter by Edmond Senator Clark Jolley who was probably the first Oklahoma legislator to make use of the service. In the summer of 2008, I started using the service and over the course of the past two years, I have observed and attempted to apply what I believe to be a set of best practices.

I have determined that the main focus of my use of Twitter as an elected official will be to provide resources to my constituents.

For example, I have found that one of the greatest strengths provided by Twitter is that of an excellent real-time distribution network for documents which would otherwise remain largely inaccessible to the taxpayers. For instance, prior to a recent local school bond election, I received an e-mail from a constituent. He wanted to know how his local property taxes compared to other school districts in the state. We requested the information from the Oklahoma Tax Commission and subsequently posted a link to the document using Twitter and Google documents (the document is available at

As a result, voters were allowed instance access to data which is probably not available anywhere else on the web (although it should be). Because of Twitter, the link to the document was instantly available to a wide purview and could be forwarded through e-mail and other social media. The potential impact of the proposal on local property taxes compared to the tax of surrounding districts had been an issue of dispute up until that point, but with the publication of this document the voters could see the exact impact of the proposal.

During the last session of the legislature, Twitter provided an avenue for informing constituents of upcoming votes of interest in the House. Voters can now observe the House debating bills online at While it is true that an agenda is posted on the House website, the actual debate and vote on a bill can occur at any time, or not occur at all. Twitter allowed me to alert voters to issues of interest where I was able to attach a link to the live broadcast of the debate.

I have also observed Twitter practices which I have determined to avoid. The foremost practice which I have determined not to emulate is that of using the network as a forum for launching partisan attacks. I view the service as an excellent opportunity to share information that will allow voters to make decisions on their own without editorializing against or demonizing those who have a different point of view. I have found that elected officials can appear especially partisan when they are forced to make a statement in the 140 characters or less allowed by Twitter. It is my intent to use the service as a positive venue and not as a political attack tool.

If you are interested in following my Twitter account, you may do so at