Monday, December 5, 2011

Open Government Laws Should Apply To Legislature

Last year, I filed Legislation that would apply Oklahoma’s open meetings and records laws to the Legislature. As you are probably aware, these are the important laws designed to ensure that transparency follows the taxpayer dollar. Whenever the government spends your money, these laws are supposed to provide you with access to the documents and meetings affecting the decision to spend your money. Over the years, these transparency laws have evolved to become an important part of the ethics that govern the actions of government.

However, when the Oklahoma Legislature passed Oklahoma’s open records and meeting laws, they also exempted the Legislature from those laws. In other words, the laws that apply to Oklahoma governments don’t apply to the most important part of Oklahoma government.

I know it is only a matter of time before this law is applied to the Legislature as well. The hypocrisy of the unequal application is too apparent to be defended by even the most determined advocates of the status quo.

This summer, House Speaker Kris Steele approved an interim study of this proposal, and assigned the study to the Government Modernization Committee. The committee heard testimony of the law’s successful application in other states. I appreciated the fact that the Speaker allowed this study to take place. Speaker Steele has made it clear that he desires to continue opening up the legislative process and values the discussion about the law’s potential passage. I believe the time is right to continue advancing the measure, and I look forward to spending time developing and advocating the proposal during the upcoming session.

In the upcoming weeks I plan to write more about this bill and also intend to describe the next generation of government modernization legalization as it is introduced.

One of the most important modernization initiatives will not occur through the implementation of a single bill, but will take place during the appropriations and budget process.

You may recall my description of the millions of dollars set to be saved because of the state’s Information Technology consolidation effort. This is the year when those savings should be realized through the appropriations process. It will be vital for our appropriations officials to understand the many nuances of the consolidation so that agencies truly realize the savings.

The recent appointment of Edmond Senator Clark Jolley to Chair the Senate A&B Committee greatly enhances the chances of the successful realization of the savings. Jolly has been the Senator author of nearly every piece of government modernization, including the multi-million dollar savings from the consolidation of inefficient IT processes. Because of Jolley's knowledge of best practices and due to his role as A&B Chairman, he is in the perfect position to realize the savings on behalf of taxpayers.

I don’t doubt that some agencies will try to get an exemption from the reform by opposing the realization of the savings. Holding the line and realizing the savings will be an important component of the effort to shrink the size of government.

Monday, October 31, 2011

City and County Realizing Savings for Taxpayers

If you have read very many of these updates in the past, you are familiar with the savings to taxpayers due to the modernization of state government processes. However, it is important to note that the commitment of the Legislature and Governor to make state government processes more efficient does not just result in savings in state government. Because of these reforms, the taxpayers are realizing a savings at the local level of government as well.

For example, one of the most important focuses of the efforts to streamline government processes has been the effort to reform the state central purchasing policies. Past legislation has made it possible for state purchasing officials to focus on managing contracts on behalf of the taxpayers and it has given them the ability to renegotiate contracts when taxpayers are no longer getting the best possible service.

Once these contracts are managed, purchasing officials are supposed to analyze the usage of the contract and leverage the buying power of the state to buy in bulk and continue to drive down costs.

Taxpayer savings under this new system is approximately $20M over the life of the managed contracts. It’s important to note that not all of this savings is from state government, however. City and county governments are also eligible to participate in contracts and receive the same pricing structure as state agencies. Sometimes vendors will just provide the product or service to the local government entity at the state contract rate. At other times, local governments will opt in to a state contract.

For instance, Logan County District 2 recently needed to replace three trucks. By using the state’s vehicle contract, District 2 saved approximately $20,000 on the purchase price. To put this in perspective, the $20,000 saved represents approximately one-ninth of the cost of the very important two mile Midwest Road repaving project that is set to commence shortly. Midwest Road is probably the worst road in Logan County and local residents have waited many years for this project.

The City of Guthrie recently opted into the state’s purchase card contract. This contract should allow the city to streamline their purchasing procedures and earn a rebate on each purchase made.

The City of Guthrie has also entered into a managed document service contract with the company that pioneered the state mandatory document service contract model and saved the state thousands of dollars. If the City of Guthrie replicates the state model, I would expect the savings to be considerable.

By taking advantage of or emulating state reforms, local officials are serving their taxpayers well by preventing the needless waste of tax dollars through inefficient processes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Positive Impact of the New Legislators

The Legislature has greatly benefited this year from the influx of a large number of freshmen members elected during the 2010 election cycle. Because they are a product of this important election cycle, they know firsthand how important it is for Oklahoma’s policy makers to cut government spending.

Here is one example:

For years, various attempts have been made in the Legislature to bring some common sense to the way the state allocated benefits to state employees. Believe it or not, with very limited exceptions, state policy mandated that state employees receive a rich health benefit allowance even if the state employee had health coverage with another source. It made absolutely no sense that the taxpayers were forced to pay for a duplicative benefit that was not even needed.

Attempts to allow otherwise covered state employees to opt out of health coverage met with opposition and were always defeated. Advocates of the status quo argued that the removal of these employee from the state’s self insurance PPO would risk prejudicing the makeup of the universe of participants, and they didn’t want to set a trend of allowing certain employees to opt out.

Of course this resulted in an absolute absurdity because taxpayers were forced to spend thousands of dollars providing coverage for those who didn’t even need it.

Legislation to fix this problem was assigned to the Government Modernization Committee where we would always support it and send it on to the rest of the Legislature. But it never made it through the entire Legislature, and eventually died every time.

So this year, when freshmen Representative Dustin Roberts and Senator Josh Brecheen sponsored House Bill 1062, a limited version of the opt out legislation, it looked like all the other past failed attempts. I doubt that many believed the legislation would be successful because after all, similar approaches had always been defeated.

This did not deter the freshmen legislators from not only continuing to advance the proposal, but expanding it to include all state employees. Because of their hard work, the law was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

Now, for the first time, as state employees are signing up for their benefits for next year, they can opt out of the system. Each employee who chooses to opt out saves the taxpayers thousands of dollars.

I believe this success is partially due to the fact that freshmen legislators did not know they were attempting a task that veteran legislators had already failed to accomplish. Their intent was to right an obvious wrong and save the taxpayers money. They did not care about the politics of the issue or the difficulty of the task.

In my view, the legislative freshmen serve as a good example of the importance of term limits and the value that newcomers bring to the legislative environment.

Monday, October 10, 2011

More About the 2011 Modernization Reforms

I wanted to write just one more article describing some of the reform in this year’s successful Government Modernization legislation. These reforms put into place a comprehensive framework to increase the transparency of state government process, lower the cost of government to the taxpayer, and significantly enhance the ability of the citizen to access government documents and records.

Reducing the need for small business owners to interact with the bureaucracy. Oklahoma business owners must navigate through a series of state bureaucracies to obtain licenses and permits. House Bill 1601 builds on Oklahoma’s existing business one-stop web portal to offer the state’s licensing and permitting from one convenient online location. This means that small business owners should spend less time in line at multiple bureaucracies, and more time building their business and strengthening Oklahoma’s economy.

Placing state documents and reports in a single online location. Countless reports and studies are relegated to state archives, never to be seen again. You may remember from my update two weeks ago that I wrote about the effort to centralize access to state government forms. This reform is similar in that it places reports and studies online where they can be indexed and searched by keyword or term. The transparency impact should be significant. For instance, the 2005/2006 IBM study that was key to reforming the state's purchasing system, had received little attention prior to being discovered by a House interim study in 2007. It appears that prior to the House study, the document had already been shelved and was mostly ignored by the bureaucracy. These types of oversights should occur less frequently when the studies are integrated inside the one-stop portal where everyone can see them.

Integrating school district spending data with OpenBooks. During the 2010 legislative session, Oklahoma's local school district transparency data was mandated for online placement. However, the data was placed online through the Department of Education’s site and not co-located with other state spending data. House Bill 1086 co-locates the common education spending data with the state spending data through the OpenBooks web site.

Bringing transparency to state revolving funds. The state maintains a series of revolving funds that are not subject to limitation by fiscal year. The public and state policy officials have limited easy access to the status of these funds. House Bill 1086 mandates the ongoing publication of the fund balances through the web portal. As with all data feeds, this data is to be published in a standardized format.

Allowing the public to see the current condition of state Information Technology projects. State officials have the ability to engage in costly IT related projects with little oversight from the public, the press or policy leaders. House Bill 1086 creates a project management platform that is publicly accessible. Project updates must be publicly posted, allowing the public and policy leaders to quickly ascertain when a project experiences a cost or time overrun, or a deterioration in the projected value of project deliverables.

Ending the practice of incentivizing state travel. State employees have been incentivized to travel on the state’s dime because frequent flyer miles awarded for taxpayer-funded travel could be retained for personal use by the employee. The continued use of state travel expenditures during the economic downturn has been especially disturbing. House Bill 1086 develops a policy similar to policies implemented in other states that stops this practice.

Consolidating payroll services. Past testimony before the Government Modernization Committee has described how state government could save about $2 million each year through the consolidation of the state’s payroll system. House Bill 1086 consolidates the state’s payroll processing system into a single offering.

Over the past three weeks I have been able to talk about many of this year’s government modernization reforms. To see a more detailed listing, visit

Monday, October 3, 2011

Consolidating State Agencies

Last week I wrote about the large number of modernization initiatives that were approved this year by members of the Government Modernization Committee, the Legislature and Governor. In that article I described a small sampling of these initiatives. These efforts were designed to result in cost savings and greater transparency. In this week’s update I have described House Bill 2140 and House Bill 1304. These two modernizations bills are designed to transform Oklahoma state governance and result in millions of dollars of savings to the taxpayer.

Until passage of House Bill 2140, Oklahoma’s central service functions such as procurement, human resources and financial services were divided into seven different agencies. In some cases, these bureaucracies offered competing shared services services. State employees were forced to navigate a gauntlet of central service bureaucracies to obtain services for their agency. HB 2140 consolidated five of these agencies into one and created a central services one-stop shop for state employees. A multi-million dollar savings mandate was attached to the legislation.

This consolidation should allow the state to focus its policy efforts and yield considerable additional savings to the taxpayer. Here is one example of an absurdity created by the fact that so many agencies overlap on policy. State employee benefits policy has historically been divided between two separate state agencies. This year, one of these state agencies subsidized the state employees’ PPO health care premium costs by using income from that agency’s investments. This means that the employees’ cost for their PPO health plan premium did not increase.

A second state agency awarded HMO contracts that reflected an increase in premium. Because the state employee benefit allowance is tied to a formula that accounts for the price of the HMO plans, the employees' benefit allowance is set to increase.

This means the cost of purchasing health insurance will stay the same for many of the employees who use the PPO plan. This is at time when their benefit allowance is increasing. Many employees already have 100% of their benefits paid for, so the excess allowance will be taken in the form of direct monetary compensation. In other words, state agencies must now pay their employees thousands of dollars in benefit allowance that is not needed to purchase benefits. This is a pay increase without a vote of the Legislature or approval of the employees’ agency-level employers.

House Bill 2104 consolidated both of these agencies, and should put an end to these types of absurd outcomes.

House Bill 1304 consolidates much of Oklahoma state government’s information technology processes. Currently, millions of dollars of information technology spending is segregated across countless state agencies. Information technology is not coordinated, strategized or planned on an enterprise-wide basis. A 2011 study found that Oklahoma spends over $40 million more than comparable organizations in IT spend each year. HB 1304 cuts through the bureaucracies and views information technology activities from the perspective of a single entity. Once completely implemented, the legislation is designed to save about $80 million each year.

The Department of Education volunteered for inclusion in the IT consolidation even before the law takes full effect. This one state agency alone is estimated to experience an approximate savings of $600,000 per year because of the consolidation.

This article has just began to scratch the surface of the impact that these bills will have on state policy in the years to come. If properly implemented, the savings and efficiency will be considerable.

Monday, September 26, 2011

23 Modernization Initiatives Going Into Law

This year was by far the most successful year for legislative state government modernization reform proposals. In all, 23 significant government modernization initiatives have been identified. Each of this initiatives was considered by either the House Government Modernization standing or conference committee and all were approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

These changes are comprehensive and will have a far-reaching effect in monetary savings, creating new transparencies and driving down the cost of state government. The first of these new laws has already gone into effect and the state has already started to experience the savings.

A description of five of these initiatives is as follows:

Online Electronic Payments - An estimated 230,000 of the state’s payments are made through traditional paper transactions. Governor Fallin asked the Legislature to approve a component of House Bill 1086 to transitions the state to an e-commerce payment system. The State Office of State Finance has indicated that by using traditional paper conveyances, the state could be spending up to $13.50 per vendor payment. This compares to electronic payments which costs the state approximately 5¢ per transfer. House Bill 1086 creates a mandate to convert the system to electronic payments. This mandate should save state taxpayers millions of dollars each year. House Bill 1086 contained this, and a number of the other modernization initiatives.

Health Savings Accounts - House Bill 1062 put in place a law to drive down state employee and state agency insurance costs through the implementation of health savings accounts. Very few state employees are enrolling in the state’s free market-oriented health savings accounts, partly because the accounts are post-tax. This provides little incentive to the employee to sign up. House Bill 1062 allows pre-tax enrollment and is a step towards the successful Indiana state employee health insurance plan that stabilized the cost of state employee health insurance. If the Oklahoma HSA program follows the Indiana example, the savings will be significant.

Agency Consolidation - Each year, Oklahoma's non-appropriated state agencies take about $900 million out of the Oklahoma economy. These fees punish businesses and disincentivizes new economic growth. Senate Bill 772 empowers a task force to study consolidation opportunities for these agencies. Consolidation could lessen the burden placed on Oklahoma businesses, incentivize economic growth, and allow the state to benefit from new business activity.

Centralized Online Forms - Oklahoma taxpayers are forced to spend time searching through state agency web pages to find the necessary forms to interact with state government. Some of these forms may not even be available online. House Bill 1086 allows citizens to access state government forms from one location. The Web portal should be searchable by keyword, allowing for the speedy retrieval of forms by number or description.

Reducing State Agency Office Footprint - State agencies can enter into contracts for expensive office space without documenting efforts to use innovate approaches such as telework to reduce the amount of office space needed. House Bill 1086 places a check and balance on the ability of agencies to expand their office footprint by requiring them to certify that they cannot reduce the number of square footage needs through the application of innovative telework approaches. I believe this is an important step in the effort to mandate that state government quit financing new buildings with expensive bond issuances. We need to change the focus of state government to where many of the physical assets of the state are liquidated and the state’s capital infrastructure footprint is greatly reduced.

Next week it is my intent to write about the two big Government Modernization state agency and process consolidation initiatives that are taking effect and will be the target of a Government Modernization interim study on November 10.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Too Many Tuition Increases

Later this month, State Representatives Corey Holland, Leslie Osborn and I, in conjunction with the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs (OCPA), will conduct a study of the state’s higher education system.

During the past few weeks, OCPA (, and have written a series of articles detailing the spending practices of Oklahoma’s higher education institutions.

The reports have found that nearly all of these organizations have increased spending even during an economic downturn. At a time when government should be downsizing, almost all of these groups are increasing tuition to finance a type of spending arms race with each other and institutions in other states.

Make no mistake, these increases in tuition and spending don’t exist just at the University of Oklahoma, but appear to be institutionalized across the higher education system. For example, a report by OCPA, released in June, shows that in the time period from 2004 to 2009, inflation-adjusted revenues per full time student increased by 40.5% at UCO, 34.3% at ECU and 29.2% at the OSU main campus.

One of the foremost concerns involves the number of professorships that appear to receive an excessive salary when those employees have very limited in-classroom responsibilities.

For instance, I recently attended a meeting with OSU officials. This year, OSU has implemented yet another tuition increase. They point to a well-meaning and aggressive effort to build the size and scope of the university’s research capabilities. The idea is that if the university can bring in enough money through research revenues (such as patent revenue), perhaps they can keep tuition down.

However, my fear is that unless a clear plan is laid out and institutionalized with a definitive time period to channel this revenue into tuition reduction, the temptation to empire build by using both the additional revenues and the student's tuition will be too strong. Worse yet, the mission of the institution risks becoming varied and unfocused. Is the mission of OSU to hire employees to build a patent library or is it to provide an education at an affordable price?

This systems creates two classes of employees. The first is charged with the important responsibility of the classroom teaching environment, while the second may rarely be required to interact with students.

As is the case with so many government entities, the heavy investment in these high paying government jobs may not result in the desired effect. It may pad the state government payroll at the taxpayer and student’s expense. Unlike businesses in the private sector, state-owned universities do not go out of business when they become inefficient. They simply pass on the cost to the taxpayers and students.

In a recent study, Oklahoma State Professor Vance Fried posited that as part of an effort to reduce the cost of college education to $6,700 per year, universities should separate their research and teaching functions. This would avoid placing the bill for the research on the student and allow the research to receive funding based on its own merit.

At the very least, the ability to set tuition should be returned to the Legislature. This would allow Oklahoma's policy makers to serve as a check and balance on higher education’s temptation to empire build and to veer away from its core mission while sending the bill to Oklahoma’s students.

It is my belief that our study will bring attention to this and other concerns.

Monday, August 29, 2011

How Many State Employees Are Paid More Than the Governor?

There is no question that when properly used, technology provides the public with insight into government as never before. All too often, people will express dissatisfaction with the size of government and state their belief that there is too much waste in government, but fail to provide a concrete example of substantive government waste.

Technology changes this. In my view, new technologies should be quickly deployed to allow the public to see government spending, analyze government performance, and expose wasteful and inefficient processes.

I am a big believer in the fact that government should use technology to push out as much government performance raw data as possible. All too often, when the government simply creates transparency tools without releasing the underlying data, the data used by the tool is filtered in a way that is not user friendly or, worse, is designed to prevent data viewers from being able to gain a complete understanding of what they are seeing.

I have enjoyed being a part of the effort to push out raw data feeds through the portal. I believe that free market-oriented organizations will use this data to develop transparency tools that are far more advanced than those tools internally developed by the government. These new tools will not only provide the public with the means to see government performance, they will also be used by policy makers and government officials to understand the strengths and weakness of government processes (something that legislators do not currently have the ability to do).

The Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs recently provided a fantastic example of this type of service. OCPA requested several raw data sets from state government through Open Records requests. They used this data to develop a transparency website located at The site allows the public to query and see individual state expenditures, tax credit recipients, pension systems and revenue data. The site’s user interface is more user friendly and comprehensive than the state’s Open Books transparency portal. This site is free to use and I would encourage you to visit the site and see just a few of the areas where state government is spending your money.

This new tool is providing journalists with a fantastic method for sourcing new stories about government inefficiencies. For example, last week, on the blog (, writer Patrick McGuigan used the OCPA data as the foundation for an article detailing that 877 state employees earn a higher salary than the Governor’s salary of $147,000 per year. In June, writing on (, writer Paul Monies used the OCPA data to point out that 60 former state employees make more than $100,000 each year from state retirement payments. These are concrete examples of government waste.

I believe that journalists will write many such stories based on queries of the OCPA data, and think this type of tool will be a catalyst for transforming Oklahoma government.

I also believe that the data requested from the state by OCPA should have never needed to come through an Open Records request. It should have already been available through the portal. I plan to continue the effort to place additional and more comprehensive raw data sets to be published online.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Staying Focused

Earlier this year, I wrote about my decision to help bring attention to the need for a federal balanced budget amendment. I enjoyed the opportunity to document the significant amount of support in the Oklahoma Legislature for ratifying the amendment if Congress would just give us the opportunity to do so.

I also mentioned my hesitance to take on new tasks. Over the past few years I have become very focused on finding inefficient government processes and helping write and pass the legislation to transform those processes. It is my belief that this effort could result in massive tax reduction for Oklahoma taxpayers. I think it is immoral for state government to take your money and waste it in unbelievably inefficient and dysfunctional processes.

I firmly believe that these reforms could allow Oklahoma to completely eliminate its state income tax. This is one of the most important reforms that could happen because studies have shown that the absence of an income tax has been a key factor in incentivizing economic growth.

As you might imagine, this work has taken time. One of my biggest challenges has been to stay focused and not take on too many major efforts. This isn’t easy because there are so many areas in state government that need reform. At any moment, I am likely to take on a new major reform effort.

For instance, I am tempted to focus on welfare reform each time I observe someone using an access card (your money) to purchase junk food while using their own money to purchase cigarettes.

Each time higher education institutions raise tuition on students yet again, while their own budgets skyrocket upwards, even during an economic downturn, I feel the temptation to invest my energy in reforming the higher education system. I think the actions of higher education over the past few years have proven that the Legislature should have never turned over the right to raise tuition to higher education. Technology should be driving down the cost of education. The increases do a great disservice to Oklahoma students.

I am tempted to focus my efforts on human services reform whenever I see reports of DHS placing a child in a dangerous environment or see them remove a child from a safe environment. I have a series of ideas for human services reform that I plan to write about in the future.

Of course, common education reform represents one of the greatest areas of need for reform. There are far too many school districts, way too much red tape, and limited freedom of parental choice. The Legislature's refusal to act more proactively over the years on education reform has trapped thousands of students in failing school systems. I have a great distaste for the actions of politicians who grandstand on the education issue while constantly blocking attempts to enact reform.

And, then there is the antiquated system for addressing the state’s road needs. From an antiquated funding formula to a bureaucracy-heavy, top-down approach to paving local roads, too much money is soaked up in costly bureaucratic processes that are feeding a government bureaucracy and taking money away from paving roads. I could commit a great deal of focus on this issue.

These are just a few of the efforts, each of which one could spend their entire time in the Legislature seeking to accomplish. At this time, I am determined to stay focused on the effort to reduce the size of state government. However, I am also subject to taking on one or several of these efforts -- and others I haven't mentioned yet. And of course, I am always prepared to vote in support of my colleagues in the House and Senate who are working to accomplish these and other reforms. I also very much appreciate your continued feedback and suggestions. My views on the need for these reforms have been heavily influenced by the input I have received.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Consideration of Bills in Committee

In last week’s article, I articulated my support for the proposal to change House rules so that all bills receive a hearing in committee. I strongly believe in the principle that each proposal should receive an on-the-record vote so the constituents of each Representative will know where their legislator stands on each issue.

It has been my challenge to reconcile this belief with the fact that as a Government Modernization Committee Chairman, it is my responsibility to filter the good and bad legislation and give the good legislation a hearing in committee.

The Government Modernization Committee is the destination point for legislation that seeks to modernize and streamline government. I enjoy working with bills that seek to accomplish this goal and usually give them a quick hearing and our committee sends them off to the full House with our support.

Legislation that conflicts with previous modernization reforms, however, is also assigned to the committee. Under the current system, it is regarded as my responsibility to stop this bad legislation. Simply denying a hearing to these bills would be the easy way out. Instead of taking this approach, I have attempted to work with the authors of the bills to understand their reasons for their sponsorship of bills. My practice is to work with the author to refine the proposal and potentially use their bill to actually advance new modernization concepts. In fact, earlier this year, a bill that started out as an effort to reverse an important efficiency reform successfully implemented one of the most important pieces of the year’s modernization agenda.

This process is time consuming, but it has allowed me to build stronger relationships with those legislators. Most of the time, the legislators appreciate the fact that their bill was not simply rejected, and they are usually willing to work together to substantively address their concerns without reversing previous modernization and efficiency reforms.

If I were to deny these bills a hearing, I would miss the opportunity to build these relationships and to advance additional reforms.

In my three years as chairman, I can’t recall a single time when a legislator refused to work with me on addressing the issues of concern in their bill. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone whose bill was rejected by our committee who felt there was not an attempt to give the bill life.

I believe there are several committee chairmen who follow this approach. They take their jobs as gatekeeper seriously, but do not reject legislation out of hand.

Of course, there are also chairmen who invest little time and effort into analyzing the true merits of a proposal. All too often they simply take the word of the bureaucracy that would be affected by a proposal and kill the bill based on feedback from the bureaucracy. This kills creative proposals that would inject a new approach. In my opinion, this is the lazy way to chair a committee and is one of the primary reasons why the status quo is maintained.

Thank you for reading this week's update. Next week I plan to provide an update on the recent state and county redistricting processes.

Monday, July 18, 2011

State Officials Making a Difference

During the past three weeks I have used this medium to describe the role Oklahoma’s newly elected officials have played in working toward smaller state government.

I initially envisioned that I would write about this in just one article. However, I have observed so many different attempts by these officials to eliminate wasteful spending, that one article has grown into four.

I enjoyed the opportunity to work with new Labor Commissioner Mark Costello this year. I spent a significant amount of time this year working with Labor Department officials as part of our state agency consolidation processes. Costello has made of point of declaring his opposition to “sacred cows” in state government and has been a strong advocate for reducing the size of government through agency consolidation. I look forward to working with Costello in the future to consolidate unnecessary overhead in state government. Without a doubt, Costello has emerged as one of the state’s leading advocate for government reform.

I am also extremely appreciative of the fact that new Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb is drawing attention to the state’s need for asset management. You may recall in the past that I have described how state assets such as buildings have not even been included in a centralized inventory. Can you image what would happen to a privately owned business that could not even tell you what buildings it owned? A cursory compendium of state assets has recently been curated, and this document should provide us a start in attempting to get a handle on this huge problem.

The Lieutenant Governor’s leadership on this issue will be crucial in finding the millions of dollars of state assets that should be removed from the hands of the government and returned to the free market where they belong.

This fall, the Government Modernization committee will conduct a study led by State Representative TW Shannon to analyze the need for a much more aggressive state asset management solution.

Finally, a most dramatic transformation has occurred in the state Department of Education. You may recall from a previous article how at the end of 2010, the department refused to follow state law that required an assessment of their information technology assets. This was an important study that was necessary to determine the possible money savings from the implementation of an enterprise-wide IT consolidation plan. It was incredible that a state bureaucracy just ignored the law.

Once new Superintendent of Education Janet Barresi took office, all of this changed. The Department of Education transformed into a leader in following the IT consolidation law and actually became the first large state agency to consolidate under the state’s IT consolidation plan. The savings is expected to run as high as $600,000 each year. At a time when too many state agencies are still fighting the IT consolidation, it is very exciting to see this type of transformation occur inside a state bureaucracy. $600,000 is a lot of money and the taxpayers have been well served by this decision.

I believe these actions reflect the fact that many of Oklahoma’s newly elected officials have a real desire to reduce government spending. I am confident that most of them will remain true to this goal and that Oklahoma will be well served in the upcoming years.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Saving Money and Informing the Public

During the recently concluded legislative session, I enjoyed the opportunity to place transparency and openness proposals from newly-elected Oklahoma statewide elected officials into modernization legislation.

Under the leadership of Superintendent Janet Barresi the Department of Education requested legislation to bring transparency to the department’s conference and training processes. In the past the department had conducted conferences and training events with what appears to have been little public purview.

House Bill 1207 created a pilot program to place the expenses associated with these activities online where they can be readily accessed by anyone. The bill allows the training programs to take place in-house without the use of a third-party vendor, and requires the use of e-commerce when conducting the event, plus a report that demonstrates the amount of cost savings due to the reforms.

House Bill 1207 also addressed a request by State Auditor Gary Jones. Each year Oklahoma cities and towns hire a third party auditor to audit cities’ finances. Those audits are sent to the State Auditor where they are filed away and very unlikely to receive any oversight from the public. Jones wants to change this by placing electronic copies of the audits online for everyone to see. House Bill 1207 clears the way for electronic submission of the audits.

State Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office requested the modernization of the process for printing Attorney General opinions. In the past, Oklahoma laws have mandated the physical publication of law books and Attorney General opinions. These publications were sent to the Oklahoma Department of Libraries where they were forwarded to the other 50 states. In exchange, the other states sent their legal publications to the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.

Over the years, this process has become unnecessary as the various states and Oklahoma have placed their legal materials online. However, the law still mandated the transfer of printed information. The cost for printing thousands of pages of unnecessary legal publications was huge.

I have sponsored legislation with Senator Patrick Anderson in the past that eliminated the requirement for Oklahoma to send statute books to other states. This year, House Bill 1086 also removed the requirement to print the Attorney General’s opinion book to send to the other states.

Next week I will write about the efforts of some of Oklahoma’s other statewide elected officials to reform state government.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Modernizing the State Treasurer's Office

This year I enjoyed the opportunity to work with several of Oklahoma's new statewide elected officials in their efforts to modernize state government. I served as the House author for modernization legislation on behalf of State Treasurer Ken Miller, State Auditor Gary Jones, Attorney General Scott Pruitt and State Superintendent Janet Barresi.

When State Treasurer Ken Miller took office, he commissioned his staff with the responsibility of finding inefficiencies and drafting proposed updates of state law when necessary to address those inefficiencies.

Miller’s modernization proposal was sponsored in the form of Senate Bill 571. The bill was authored by Senator Clark Jolley in the Senate and I carried the bill in the House.

Senate Bill 571 targeted several areas. The bill updated procedures for the liquidation of properties deposited into the state’s unclaimed property fund. In the past, state officials had to engage in antiquated and duplicative procedures that added unnecessary cost and had to eventually be paid by those who owned the property. Miller’s bill streamlined those unnecessary process procedures so that the unnecessary cost was not passed on to property owners.

Miller also noted that the state had thousands of dollars remaining in an old account that had been used to pay claims from a 2004-era tax refund program. The fund had not experienced a claim for several years but the funds were tied down awaiting claims that were obviously never going to be filed. SB 571 closed down this unnecessary fund.

SB 571 also put an end to redundant reporting processes that interfered with each other because they used the same data but had to be filed at two different times. SB 571 synchronized the filing process so that the reports could be filed using the same data sets.

These provisions of SB 571 probably won’t receive any attention from the media. Very few citizens realized any of these issues even existed. But that bill will save taxpayer money and resources that otherwise would have been wasted. I especially appreciate Treasurer Miller’s commitment to doing the right thing and modernizing government process even when no one was paying attention. I believe that speaks to his good intent and am happy to have been able to assist Miller and Senator Jolley in doing the right thing for state taxpayers.

Next week I intend to write about some of the other modernization initiatives requested by other state officials.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Refreshing Change of Pace

In past updates I have described how Governor Mary Fallin has played an important role in calling for and ensuring the passage of innovative proposals to cut the size of state government and make it more open and transparent.

In addition to getting the word out about the Governor’s hard work for reform, I feel it is also important to mention the work of other newly elected and appointed statewide officials.

This year I worked with several new officials on various modernization proposals and enjoyed observing and (when possible) assisting them in their efforts to institute reforms.

I have observed many times in state bureaucracy that the executive officer of an agency places a heavy emphasis on the fact that funding has been reduced, the subsequent pressing financial needs of the agency, and an ensuing request for more money. This point is so heavily emphasized that the agency director often leaves little opportunity to focus on innovative ways to remove wasteful spending practices or to apply technology to cut costs.

It is rare and almost unheard of for an agency head to actually request a reduction in funding. This is disappointing as I believe the foremost focus of state government leaders should be to provide better service to taxpayers for less cost.

We all know there are a significant amount of wasteful spending practices in state government. This common belief has been confirmed with just about every independent consultant’s report I have seen since taking office. During this same amount of time, however, I have rarely observed state agency heads admit to wasteful practices taking place within their departments. Worse yet, some agencies actually oppose modernization and efficiency efforts that result in savings.

I have looked froward to the day when a state agency official would actually call for a reduction in appropriations as a way of demonstrating their agency’s commitment to providing a more streamlined, efficient service.

That is why it was so encouraging when newly appointed Secretary of State Glenn Coffee requested a complete elimination of all appropriations for the Secretary of State’s office. Coffee made the request early in the session when speaking to a legislative appropriations oversight committee on which I serve. Coffee’s request sent a strong message that the new administration would not only call for fiscal conservatism within state government, but would also immediately apply those principles to their own offices.

The Legislature accepted Coffee’s request and completely removed all appropriations for his office. The Secretary of State’s office will now be funded by existing fees for service, and I did not observe that any of these fees were increased.

Coffee’s request was a refreshing change of pace to a legislative body that has become so accustomed to demands for more money and traditional excuses as to why agencies cannot innovate and reduce the scope of their budgets.

In my next update I will write about working with several of Oklahoma's other executive branch officials to enhance transparency and cut costs.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Year of the Reprimand

The Oklahoma Constitution contains a clause that says that for any speech or debate in the Legislature, legislators shall not be questioned in any other place. In other words, the speech of Representatives while considering legislation is sacrosanct. The clause mirrors a provision in the US Constitution and places a priority on the ability of legislators without fear of retribution to expose any wrong, debate any idea, and express any point of view, regardless of how unpopular or controversial the viewpoint.

For the past five years as I have served in the Legislature, I have observed plenty of political grandstanding, less-than-accurate demonization of the opposition, and significant amounts of hyperbole. I have also witnessed countless dilatory and unnecessary procedure motions which are designed to throw a monkey wrench into the process. This mostly serves to force the other Representatives into a time crunch to such an extent that they have to dispense with normal debate procedures, and thus the dilatory parliamentary process does little more than take away the opportunity for the debate and counteracts the stated end goal of those who engage in those tactics.

But all of that is part of the process. It is the prerogative of any Representative to be an obnoxious jerk if that is what he thinks he must do to make his point. He will be judged by those he represents and unless he is subject to impeachment, it has not been the place of other Representatives to stand in judgement of his actions.

At least not until this year.

This year we have inexplicably been asked not once, not twice, but three times to vote for a “motion to reprimand” our fellow Representatives. Unbelievably, the last of these motions was made to reprimand a Representative specifically for comments made in debating for passage of a bill.

I have voted against the motion to reprimand each and every time. I know it is not my place to judge an elected Representative from another district and I never want my vote to reprimand another Representative to be used as a political tool against them in their next election. The voters of that district should be the ones who stand in judgement of their Representative’s actions.

These demoralizing motions have greatly reduced the dignity of the House and have created an atmosphere where the House floor feels a bit like a grade school playground. This playground is roamed by a few bullies who are natural political grandstanders and have no problem inflicting pain and humiliation to a colleague in order to advance their own warped vision of a successful political career. The newly discovered “motion to reprimand” could be their perfect tool for inflicting this pain to anyone who dares cause them trouble or who does not fit their view of being politically correct. And make no mistake, it will be deployed in the next campaign season to try to defeat the victims of the reprimands.

I believe this alarming and inappropriate new trend will have a stifling effect on the ability of Representatives to debate issues openly, and I think it is contrary to the spirit of the important Constitutional provision I previously referenced. Every comment and debate, both on and off the House floor, must now be carefully couched to ensure that it cannot be used by the opposition to engage in the latest political correctness witch hunt followed by the now dreaded “motion to reprimand."

I believe these unfortunate actions will cause many to think back on this year as the year when politicians played a series of unprecedented petty games which demeaned the reputation of the House. This is unfortunate because there have been a number of significant policy accomplishments this year.

I certainly hope this was a temporary trend, that Oklahoma legislators will stop the foolishness, and that the year of the reprimand will be never again be repeated.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Modernization Efforts Approved

Three weeks ago I wrote an article in which I described how most our 2011 modernization initiatives were still pending in the legislative process. With only one week left in the session, it was our challenge to win approval for all these initiatives.

I am happy to report that during the last week of session, each of these proposals were approved by the Legislature and all the legislation has been signed by Governor Fallin over the last few days.

The proposals aggressively consolidate a significant number of state government processes and several state agencies. These changes are transformative and if implemented correctly, will result in millions of dollars of yearly savings to the taxpayer.

Additionally, there are a myriad of smaller accompanying proposals designed to utilize technology to provide transparency and process efficiencies that will continue to transform Oklahoma state governance structure into a more open and efficient model.

It is my goal to write about a number of these initiatives in the upcoming weeks. In the past, I provided House District 31 constituents with an end-of-the-year update of modernization efforts over the course of a few updates. However, this year the reforms are so comprehensive and wide ranging, I could write a book describing the changes and the impact I believe they will have.

These changes came about because of the dedicated effort of a number of individuals.

Our House Speaker Kris Steele and our House leadership made a 100% commitment to modernizing state government. They stood by that commitment through the entire session and I cannot recall a single modernization proposal that was stopped by leadership. The members of our House Government Modernization Committee stood by, and sponsored or co-sponsored the modernization efforts and helped elevate the importance of the issues with our House colleagues.

The reforms would never have happened without the work and support of Senate President Pro-Temp Brian Bingman, Senators Clark Jolley, Anthony Sykes and Josh Breechen. These four senators sponsored almost all of the legislative modernization proposals and did a great job vetting the issues with and winning the support of the Senate.

Governor Mary Fallin made all the difference by calling for reforms from the very beginning of session. After her call for change, some of these proposals met with significant resistance; however, the Governor never backed down from her proposals but worked through the opposition. In my view this leadership was very much the reason for why we were able to maintain the necessary support for these far-reaching reforms in the face of opposition.

At some point in the future I also intend to write about the support and input regarding modernization and streamlining of services that we have received from nearly all of the other statewide elected officials.

It has been such a privilege to work with those who are committed to reducing the burden of government on Oklahoma taxpayers while taking to heart the taxpayers’ trust to guard their money.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Big Difference

Last week appears to have been the last time during which the Legislature will meet in 2011. While the Legislature could technically still return this week, it is unlikely we will do so.

The last few days of this legislative year contrasted heavily from the last days of previous sessions. I think this is probably the first year where I did not feel like I had been run over by a truck during the last two days of session.

During the last two days of session in previous years, countless numbers of legislative initiatives were placed on the House of Representatives’ calendar with little notice. These proposals contained any number of suspicious proposals that did not have time to be vetted by public purview. This was possible because House rules at that time did not require bills to wait on the calendar prior to consideration in the last two days.

Legislators were asked to vote on a large number of provisions they had little time to read. You can only imagine how challenging it was to read large bills that had just been posted to the calendar a few minutes before they were put on the floor for a vote. This had to be completed while listening to debate, considering other bills being debated at the same time, and which also had just been placed on the consideration calendar. It was a gargantuan task.

During those last days of session, I used to spend a great deal of time rapidly scanning through page after page of proposed legislation in an attempt to catch any new proposals contrary to the principles on which I base my vote.

I am delighted to report this year that things were much different. The new House rules dictated that legislation must be processed through a public conference committee process, and required the proposals to be placed on a legislative calendar with several hours of notice to lawmakers and the public.

There were several bills that contained new proposals, and in some cases, amendments were attached to bills in the conference committee process which were significantly different from the previously vetted version of the bill. However, it was not difficult to keep up with the legislation because it was placed on the calendar for consideration and the new House conference committee process allowed for the public vetting of many of these new proposals. This made it far less likely that a legislator would vote for a bill only later to realize that it contained a proposal of significant impact which he/she did not support.

There was no significant need for a last-minute rapid scan of the bills shortly before the vote. In addition, the House only had to work late only two nights of the last week. The practice of deliberating policy proposals late into the night hours is a habit that leads to very bad policy making.

I am convinced that the new rules deterred a lot of possible legislative mischief because legislators would surely have hesitated to introduce controversial proposals into the new process. It is my opinion that these latest rule changes are dramatic in scope and have made a substantive positive difference in the legislative process.

Monday, May 16, 2011

One More Week!

Legislative leaders negotiated a budget agreement with the Governor last week and came to terms with proposals for redistricting the House and Senate. With these issues addressed, legislators have been encouraged to move their bills through the conference committee process with the expectation that the group could adjourn for the year as soon as this week.

The House officially approved the redistricting plan I wrote about in last week’s update. The plan experienced little opposition and was adopted by a vote of 93-3. It now heads to the Senate for approval.

The Senate has also announced their redistricting plan. The Senate plan will reduce the number of Senate districts which crisscross House District 31. Four of these districts currently divide up Logan County. Logan County will now be placed into Senate District 20. The new Senator for Logan County will be Senator David Myers from Ponca City. This district will also cover all of Noble, Pawnee, and part of Kingfisher Counties. Logan County accounts for over 50% of the population of the new district.

The change will also affect the Edmond legislative delegation; a third Senator, Senator Rob Johnson, will join the group as the Senator for the west side of Edmond. The Senate will vote on their plan this week, and that vote will be followed by House consideration of the plan.

There are a number of state government modernization issues that are still working their way through the conference committee process. It will be my responsibility this week to ensure that these issues don’t get lost in the process and will hopefully be approved and sent to the Governor.

The outstanding modernization issues include the proposal to consolidate five state government agencies, establish a business-friendly licensing one-stop shop, consolidate the state’s information technology infrastructure, create a series of taxpayer transparency review processes, consolidate the state’s payroll processing infrastructure systems, and enact the Governor's proposal to the save significant taxpayer dollars through the use of an electronic payments system for the state’s vendors.

There are many millions of taxpayer dollars of savings at stake with these bills. I hope to have good news to report next week.

This will also be the last week that the House District 31 constituent survey is available. If you have not had a chance to take the survey and you live in House District 31, please visit and let me know what you think about some of the issues the Legislature has considered this year.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The State Government Transparency Proposals

In last week’s update I wrote about a series of what I believe to be innovative transparency and accessibility enhancing reforms which are part of House Bill 1086 that I authored with state Senator Clark Jolley.

In addition to the reforms that I wrote about in last week’s update, the bill also proposes to make state governance processes open to the public.

For instance, all too often, governments embark on expensive information technology projects only to meet with delayed deadlines and implementation, cost overruns, and deliverables which do not meet the envisioned result. House Bill 1086 creates the web presence through which the public can monitor the progress of these projects. This will allow the public and policy makers to note when projects start to fall behind schedule or cost more than initially projected.

One of the challenges facing state purchasing offices is communicating with potential vendors who are interested on bidding for government business. All too often, unfortunately, a prospective vendor is uncertain about the details in the state’s request for proposal, and purchasing officials understandably do not wish to privately communicate with one particular vendor for fear of being seen prejudicing the bidding process. If the bidder’s concerns are not addressed in a pre-bid conference, he/she may price the uncertainty into the cost of the bid, thus costing state taxpayers more money. House Bill 1086 establishes a public Wiki platform through which this communication could occur in a public discourse at any time, and therefore mitigate this liability.

The bill also allows state agency-level purchasing officers to use a public Wiki platform to report items which are on a mandated state purchasing schedule and which can be found for less money off the shelf at area businesses. This will have the effect of helping centralized purchasing personnel manage state spend contracts to ensure the state’s purchasing power is properly leveraged. It will also bring transparency to the failure of centralized purchasing officers to address these situations when they arise.

While not part of the reforms in House Bill 1086, House Bill 1601 and Senate Bill 772 (authored by Representative Aaron Stiles and Senator Clark Jolley) also use technology to assist the taxpayers with accessing state government by establishing the state’s business licensing one-stop location. This is a result of a request from Governor Mary Fallin and the policy in these bills is designed to enable business owners get their licenses and permits in one convenient location. Previous state government modernization reforms placed state license and permitting processes online. These bills are now seeking to enable users to access real-time processing and a one-stop location for all of their licensing and permitting needs. This will enable business owners to spend less time dealing with the government and more time growing their businesses and creating jobs.

House Bill 1086 and Senate Bill 772 were approved by a Senate committee last week and now go before the full Senate for consideration. We will consider Senate Bill 772 in the Government Modernization Committee later this week.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

HB 1086 - The 2011 Government 2.0 Proposal

During last year’s legislative session, I served as the House author for Senate Bill 1759 which was sponsored in the Senate by state Senator Anthony Sykes. Our goal was to codify what may be the first in the nation’s Government 2.0 legislation to be approved at the state level.

The bill established the web portal. This site is the framework through which all kinds of government data will be pushed out to the public so they can hold government accountable. This includes government expenditures, the state payroll, tax credit transparency, and data which is commonly requested through open records requests. You can currently view these data feeds and much more at this website.

This year, I am sponsoring House Bill 1086 with state Senator Clark Jolley. This bill is designed to build on the Government 2.0 framework and make state government processes easier to review and access.

The bill will establish a web presence at the web address where citizens will be able to review and search government documents. Every year, state agencies, committees and task forces are required to publish publications containing various reports and performance data. They also generate reports showing how taxpayer savings could be realized through the implementation of reforms. These publications are initially circulated among state officials before invariably being sent to the state archives where they sit on library shelves until they are relevant for little more than historical reference. If the elected officials do not respond to these reports, they are at risk of being completely overlooked by the public and the media under this less-than transparent system.

House Bill 1086 mandates that these reports be placed online in a searchable format. This will allow members of the public to search through these reports by keyword. This was an idea initially requested by the group Oklahomans for Responsible Government (OFRG) during the last legislative interim.

Another convenience offered by HB 1086 is a web portal through which citizens can access government forms. There are likely hundreds of forms produced by government agencies, and you have probably experienced the frustration of needing to submit a form, only to embark on the major chore of looking through a labyrinth of agency web pages seeking a specific form. would serve as a one-stop location where the public can search for a form by form number or keyword and find the document they need. This is especially important for business owners who need to focus on their business instead of trying to figure out how to navigate through complicated bureaucratic processes.

The bill also establishes a portal through which citizens can view geo-data on an overlay of the map of their choice. This resource is currently online and you can view it at The current site includes an incredible amount of useful information in one location. For example, political boundaries such as state, county, school and fire districts are denoted so that citizens can quickly learn in which political jurisdiction a property is located. The bill will make the portal the official one-stop shop for state geo-data and enable the state’s geographic information office to push state agency geo-data to the public through this site which will be made available at the web address.

The bill also allows the development of state employee performance metrics for publication on the site -- the publication of public school expenditures, state revolving fund balances, and detailed state expenditure data are all included.

A number of other transparency components are included in this legislation which I plan to write about in future updates.

The bill has been approved by the House of Representatives, a Senate committee and awaits additional consideration in the Senate.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making Progress

Last week presented Oklahoma lawmakers with the second major legislative deadline of this year’s legislative session.

It is at this point that I can start to get a feeling for how well the efforts to reduce the size of government are proceeding. I believe this year’s state government modernization agenda is much more aggressive then ever before with several major multi-million dollar cost saving efforts still proceeding through the legislative system.

This progress is in no small part due to the commitment of legislative leadership and the strong effort by Governor Mary Fallin.

I knew that a special emphasis would be placed on government reform this year when I noticed that Governor Fallin placed a large “Government Modernization” heading and a series of money-saving proposals at the very start of her proposed state budget narrative. I cannot ever recall a time when proposed budgets even contained a narrative titled “Government Modernization”.

Since that time, Governor Fallin’s policy team has been very engaged in helping to develop and advocate for aggressive systematic reforms.

In the past, legislators spent large amounts of time working on reforms only to have to keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best when that proposal was sent to the Governor's office. Many times the Governor supported reform legislation but at other times legislation which would have made a substantial effort towards reforming and reducing the size of state government was vetoed. We just never knew for sure what would happen once our proposals were sent downstairs to the Governor's office.

Now, however, not only is the new Governor involved in helping propose and shape reform policy, she is also providing aggressive advocacy for the proposals -- and is not afraid to write editorials or issue press releases that bring attention to our efforts to save money and streamline state government.

As a result, legislative efforts are still alive which create a one-stop shop for business owners to secure their licenses and permits, require an unprecedented level of transparency for government spend initiatives, and consolidate ten state government agencies which will result in millions of dollars of savings.

Another still viable proposal would establish a state employee health insurance plan containing an emphasis on health savings accounts designed to contain health insurance costs to state agencies, and empower state employees with control over their health care spending. Proposals to eliminate inefficient state agency information technology processes have been repeatedly highlighted by the Governor as her budget seeks to take advantage of 140 million dollars of savings from more efficient technology process in state government.

Also still being considered are multiple proposals which would consolidate inefficient state agency financial services operations.

Keeping this large number of proposals moving forward throughout the session has been due to the commitment from the Governor and House and Senate legislative leaders. As the Chair of the House Government Modernization Committee, it has been a huge honor for me to observe this commitment up close and as a taxpayer, I have a tremendous appreciation for the commitment of these individuals to save some of the millions of taxpayer dollars which are wasted each year due to these inefficiencies.

Monday, March 21, 2011

HD 31 Constituent Survey Update

During the upcoming weeks I will be issuing a survey to House District 31 constituents. The survey serves as a forum for those who live in the district to offer their input about some of the more high-profile issues being considered during the current legislative session. I have benefited from this input in the past and look forward to the feedback from this year’s survey.

I will distribute a link to a web-based version of the survey in a future article. Those who do not have web access should contact my office at 557-7350 to request a mailed copy.

Following is a list of the bills from last year’s survey and an update regarding the disposition of each proposal.

House Bill 2310 was designed to consolidate state administrative service offerings after a study demonstrated that Oklahoma state government employs a much larger number of employees in its agency level financial services divisions than comparable peer groups. The bill was approved by the Legislature but vetoed by the Governor. I have since re-introduced this proposal and it has already been approved by the House. 314 out of 347 House District 31 survey respondents favored this proposal.

In its original form, HJR 1002 would have allowed voters to drop the cap from 5% to 2% on the amount that property tax could be increased each year. The legislation was not approved. A similar proposal is advancing through the legislative process this year. 326 out of 347 respondents favored passage of the proposal.

HJR 1054 gave voters the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution allowing citizens to opt out of provisions of the federal health care mandate. The bill was approved by both the Legislature and the voters. Because of this constitutional amendment, Attorney General Scott Pruitt was able to file a unique legal action against the federal government which is independent of the Florida legal action. 302 out of 347 House District 31 survey respondents favored the proposal.

HR 1065 requested a trial court to hold hearings to consider the impeachment of a Pittsburg County Judge. It was not approved. 258 respondents favored the proposal.

SB 1685 would have exempted from federal regulation firearms manufactured in Oklahoma. It was approved by the Legislature but vetoed by the Governor. 264 survey respondents favored the proposal.

I served as the House author of SB 1759 which mandated that citizens have access to a database of federal stimulus spending in Oklahoma. The bill was approved and signed by the Governor. Visit to access the stimulus transparency website. 332 of the 347 respondents favored the proposal.

Last year’s survey also asked respondents for their position on several issue questions. 85 percent of survey respondents stated they would prefer to see a smaller state government with fewer services.

81 percent of survey takers stated they would support a 10% reduction in the number of state government employment positions.

86 percent of participants want to opt out of the federal health care plan, with 79 percent favoring an opt out even if it meant federal funds were withheld from the state.

Survey takers were divided on how to best address the I-35 off-ramp traffic issues in south Logan County and north Oklahoma County with a slight majority favoring a new off-ramp at Sorghum Mill Road.

I certainly appreciate your input. Please do not hesitate to send your suggestions for this year’s survey to

Friday, March 18, 2011

State Rep. Calls for Legislative Pay Decrease, Makes Donation To Pro-Life Organization

GUTHRIE - State Rep. Jason Murphey continued his mid-March tradition of presenting a yearly donation of $8,241.92 from his legislative salary to officials from Crossroads, An Open Door For Life Choices, Inc., located in Guthrie. Crossroads provides faith-based, pro-life counseling and support services to expectant mothers.

Murphey said that Oklahoma legislators are some of the highest paid part-time legislators in the nation, making more than double the regional average. He is using the donation to demonstrate that legislators in Oklahoma should not be paid so much more than other legislators in the region and to illustrate the importance of pro-life services such as Crossroads.

“In order to reform government, we must cut out wasteful state government spending. I hope most would agree that it is not a good principle to pay legislators more than double the regional average,” said Murphey, R-Guthrie.

Crossroads is a Christian-based non-profit organization focused on supporting the values of the sanctity of human life, pre-marital abstinence, and marital fidelity.

The services provided included limited pregnancy related medical services, options education, client advocacy, support for prenatal care, parenting education, post-abortion peer counseling, and abstinence education.

Crossroads offers abortion-vulnerable women a scan to confirm viable pregnancies. Statistics show that 89 percent of abortion-minded women choose life for their unborn babies after seeing them through ultrasound and receiving truthful information about their options.

The amount donated reflects the difference in legislative pay and the per capita pay in Oklahoma at the time Murphey was elected. During his 2006 campaign for office, Murphey pledged to continue making the yearly pledge until legislative salaries are adjusted. Murphey sponsors legislation to accomplish this goal during each term of the Legislature.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Better Access to Legislative Documents

There have been significant advances this year in the amount of transparency afforded to Oklahoma citizens through the Legislature’s web presence.

In the past, keeping track of legislation online was difficult because users of the Oklahoma House of Representatives website were required to navigate to several different web pages, depending on the status of the bills they were attempting to monitor.

You can only imagine how frustrating it was for the visitor to decipher between the introduced, committee substitute, amended, enrolled, conference committee substitute and engrossed versions of the same bill and then visit separate pages to read each of those versions.

Also, it was not pleasant for legislators who might have media reports of and advocacy calls for or against legislation that had already addressed the concern simply because someone was looking at the wrong version of the bill.

Commencing with the most recent session of the Legislature, the web portals for the House and Senate have been updated to provide access to a one-stop overview of each piece of legislation. Not only can visitors review the most recent version of a bill or resolution online, they can also now access the document summarizing the bill, the complete timeline of legislative action on a bill, previous versions and a breakdown of legislative votes on any given bill.

I have found myself using the public web portal just as often, if not more than, the internal legislative site. I think it is a very good sign when it is as convenient for legislators to use the resources provided to the public than to use the internal tools.

The modernization of the legislative process and easy access to web-based documents is also transforming the way legislators conduct business. Most legislators are no longer dependant on reviewing stacks of paper bills. Even the use of computers for this purpose is now in decline. In fact, this is the first year when I can easily work from the floor of the House using just my smart phone without the need to use a computer at all. Several legislators are now using iPads as the primary method to follow legislation during House Floor action.

I would encourage everyone to take a few minutes to visit the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ web site. By clicking on the “legislation” link and the “basic bill search” sublink, you will be able to test the functionality which I have described in this article.

I suggest that you enter HB 2156 (using the following format: HB2156, with no spaces) as a possible bill to review. This is legislation I will present to the House this week. The bill will continue the progression of internal legislative reforms by allowing the House, Senate, Governor and Secretary of State to participate in an electronic-based chain of custody for legislative documentation. It would allow legislation transmitted between these four entities to also occur by electronic mechanism without the need for paper. This should mean that a bill can be written, amended, voted on, sent to the opposite legislative House, voted on again, sent to the Governor and filed with the Secretary of State without ever being placed on paper.

These process efficiencies can be traced back to 2007 when House Speaker Lance Cargill placed an emphasis on modernizing internal House processes with a strong focus on reducing paper dependency. Since that time the House has saved thousands of dollars because of these reforms and I enjoy the opportunity to participate in the expansion of these money-saving efforts.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cost-Cutting Measure Approved by House

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives has approved legislation designed to transform inefficient state agency financial services systems.
House Bill 2107, by state Rep. Jason Murphey, (R-Guthrie), state Rep. Josh Cockroft, (R-Tecumseh) and state Sen. Anthony Sykes (R-Moore), was proposed following a report by the Hackett Group, which demonstrated massive inefficiencies in the way state agencies conducts financial services.
The report compared Oklahoma agencies’ financial services processes to that of other public and private sector peer organizations of like complexity. The report demonstrated the inefficiencies by stating that it costs Oklahoma taxpayers $20.05 to process one accounts payable invoice while comparable peer groups pay $3.58 for each similar service.
“It is incredible and unacceptable that Oklahoma taxpayers are paying nearly six times the cost of what comparable groups are spending for that same process,” Murphey declared. “This legislation is designed to fix that!”
The study also stated that Oklahoma state government has a significantly higher number of full time employees employed to conduct these operations than peer organizations. Oklahoma processes 2,039 accounts payable occurrences for each employee while peer groups are able to account for 15,693 of these same processes with each employee.
“The legislation will require the most inefficient agencies to enter into a shared service agreement to modernize their financial services,” Sykes explained. “The proposal also incentivizes state agencies that become efficient to avoid the necessity of a shared services arrangement and allows them to preserve autonomy of operation.”
A 2010 version of the legislation was passed by the legislature but vetoed by the then-Governor Brad Henry.
The House approved House Bill 1207 by a vote of 91-3. The legislation now heads to the Senate for additional consideration.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011 Property Tax Reform Proposals

Without a doubt, the issue about which I receive the most passionate constituent feedback is the demand for property tax reform.

We have now reached the first deadline in the legislative session and I am happy to report that there are a series of property tax reforms proposals which have been approved in committee and are still viable for legislative approval during this session.

Last week, I was honored to present House Bill 1293 to the House Revenue and Tax Committee on behalf of the bill’s author State Representative David Derby who could not be present at the hearing.

House Bill 1293 significantly increases the income eligibility ceiling for those who can claim double-homestead exemption and indexes the income ceiling to the rate of inflation. The legislation also increases the upper income eligibility limit for those who are eligible to claim part of their property tax as a refund on their state income tax and indexes that limit to the rate of inflation.

I was excited to have the opportunity to present the bill before the Rev and Tax committee because I had just received a call from a constituent who will be experiencing a property tax increase because her income went up slightly making her ineligible for the double-homestead exemption. This income limit should have been indexed to inflation in the first place as the limit is prohibitive even to those on a small fixed income who can lose the exemption with just a minor cost of living increase that keeps up with inflation.

House Bill 1293 was approved by a unanimous vote of the Revenue and Taxation committee. Representative Derby also won approval for House Bill 1293 from the Appropriations and Budget Committee and it now goes to the House floor for consideration by the entire House of Representatives.

Two other property tax reform proposals, House Joint Resolution 1001 and House Joint Resolution 1003 have won approval from the House Rules Committee and are also now ready to be heard by the House.

House Joint Resolution 1001 would allow the people of Oklahoma to vote on changing the state Constitution to remove the income limits on the ability of those over the age of 65 to freeze their property taxes at their current levels. The proposal is designed to aid those who are on a fixed income and are at risk of being priced out of the houses which they have spent much of their lifetime working to pay off. This is an all to common dilemma faces by seniors who are already trying to cope with the increase in health care costs and inflation.

An especially unfair aspect of the current senior freeze limit is that fact it applies to gross and not net income. This punishes small businessmen and farmers who must count gross income which they may not have realized a very large profit margin on. For instance, a farmer who sells cattle would have to count the entire sell price of the cattle even if he took a loss on the sale.

House Joint Resolution 1002 is by far the most important property tax reform proposal of the three mentioned in this article. This resolution purports to ask the people of Oklahoma to change the state Constitution to limit the increase of billable property taxes to no more than 3% each year or the rate of inflation whichever is less. The means that even if the County Assessor increases the assessment of a property beyond 3% each year that not more than a 3% increase or the rate of inflation can be charged to the home owner.

In order to stay alive, all of these proposals will need to be approved by the House by the next legislative deadline which will occur in two weeks time.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Consolidating State Agencies

This week presents the first deadline of the 2011 legislative session. The deadline provides the first definitive metric by which we can judge if this is going to be a successful session.

This has been by far the busiest I have ever been as a legislator. Much of my time is spent working on Government Modernization initiatives. Because the Government Modernization Committee is now in its third year of existence, there are a number of first-generation modernization projects which are requiring either follow-up legislation or re-submission due to a veto by the previous Governor. This means that the Modernization case load has been much more significant than in previous years. Also adding to the case load is the fact that Governor Mary Fallin has proposed a series of cost-saving reforms upon which we need to take action to implement.

Agency consolidation efforts have been my first focus. These efforts are represented by House Bill 2140 by House Speaker Kris Steele and House Bill 1541 which I am sponsoring.

House Bill 2140 will consolidate several of the state’s central service agencies into one administrative department, resulting in millions of dollars of savings each year. I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with Speaker Steele in developing his proposal and have a strong appreciation for his commitment to cutting costs.

House Bill 1541 contains several of the state agency consolidations as proposed by Governor Mary Fallin. Her consolidation proposals are designed to realize significant costs savings to Oklahoma taxpayers.

Both of these consolidation bill have now been approved in committee and await consideration by the full House.

The consolidation proposals have resulted in numerous contacts between my office and the various agencies and lobbyists. They all have a series of reasons for why they cannot be consolidated. Some of these entities wholeheartedly support agency consolidation with the singular exception of their agency which they vigorously assert is a unique anomaly to the problem of too much administrative overhead which we are desperately trying to rein in.

It has been my job to work through those objections and ensure that the consolidation proposals are feasible. This has resulted in hours of meetings during which I have endeavored to sort through all the usual excuses and red herring arguments and determine the facts. After all, it is my job to defend these proposals when they are under attack from those who wish to defend the status quo, and I don’t want to hurt the credibility of valid consolidation proposals by including proposals which don’t make sense.

Probably one of the most important reforms which our committee has worked on this year has been House Bill 1304 by Representative David Derby. Derby’s legislation is a follow-up proposal to the state’s IT consolidation plan (about which I have written several articles) and if incorporated, it would also save millions of dollars each year. The Governor’s budget counts on 140 million dollars of savings based on the approval of the legislation.

This week, the Government Modernization Committee will also consider a series of proposals by state Representative Lewis Moore from Edmond. Moore has been working hard on a follow-up to our legislation to reform the state employee health insurance program which was vetoed by the previous Governor. Moore’s legislation will place an emphasis on the implementation of a market-based Health Savings Account (HSA) proposal which is designed after a similar process in Indiana that has kept health insurance costs down.

We will also hear a proposal this week by state Representative TW Shannon which would start the process of selling unneeded state assets. You may recall past articles in which I described how state officials have finally compiled a list of state owned buildings. It is incredible that this list was not in existence until recently. Can you imagine what would happen to a private business that did not even keep a list of its assets?

I will ask the committee to approve legislation which would implement a proposal from the Governor to require the state to pay all state vendors by electronic transfer, resulting in several million dollars of savings. The bill will also contain a series of aggressive cost-saving and transparency proposals.

Due to the strong support of our colleagues in the Legislature, legislative leadership and the Governor, all of our Modernization bills are still alive. I intend to keep you updated about these initiatives as the session progresses.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Governor Mary Fallin Comments on House Committee Passage of Government Modernization Bills

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today praised the Oklahoma House Government Modernization Committee for the passage of several initiatives to streamline and modernize government operations.

“I’m pleased the Legislature is moving forward with several government modernization proposals. Streamlining government operations, consolidating agencies and sharing administrative costs are all important ways of addressing the state’s $500 million budget shortfall,” Fallin said. “Each one of these proposals – many of which I put forward in my executive budget - saves taxpayers money while allowing government to continue to pursue its core functions. I am hopeful the House will continue to move these measures forward.”

The House Government Modernization Committee approved HB 1304 by Rep. David Derby that consolidates information technology services of all state agencies under the direction of the Information Services Division of the Office of State Finance.

The committee also approved HB 1541 by Rep. Jason Murphey that consolidates several state entities, including the Human Rights Commission into the Attorney General’s office and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority, Oklahoma Industrial Finance Authority into the Department of Commerce.

Monday, February 21, 2011

HD31 Rural Population Largest in the State

After last week’s article about the census, I received responses asking that I follow up and provide an update about the new census report.

The report stated that House District 31 now has 44,222 residents. This represents an increase of about 10,000 over the last ten years, and it means that House District 31 will be required to give up about 7,000 residents in the upcoming redistricting process in order to meet the necessary requirement of approximately 37,000 per legislative district.

As you are probably aware, an important principle of our representative system of governance is that one person should not have less voting power than a person in another district. The redistricting process is designed to correct the inequities that have occurred over time due to the explosive area growth. Those who live in House District 31 actually have less voting power than those who live in less populated districts.

House District 31 is current the tenth largest district in the state and the eighth fastest growing district.

However, House District 31 is the largest district in terms of unincorporated or rural population. With over 27,000 rural residents, just House District 31’s unincorporated population comes within 5,000 people of surpassing the size of Oklahoma's least populated house districts.

You can only imagine how much demand this places on county government services. In fact, in Logan County District 1 alone, there are approximately 14,000 unincorporated residents. There are nearly 50% more residents in the unincorporated area of this county commission district than there are in the entire city of Guthrie. Logan County District 2 also serves a high rural population with about 10,000 rural residents which is about the same size as Guthrie.

One of the biggest implications of this report is its impact on county-level redistricting. This presents county leaders with the challenge of meeting the requirement to re-district each county commission district so that the population is divided evenly -- while not creating a large disparity in the number of road miles each commissioner must maintain. There is a large disparity in population numbers between Logan County Districts 1 and 3. Logan County District 1 contains over 40% of the population and Logan County District 3 has 27%.

Logan County is one of the top 7 fastest growing counties in the State with over 41,848 residents.

The numbers also show an explosive growth trend in the Oklahoma County part of House District 31. There are now over 3,000 residents of the district who live within the city limits of Edmond, and nearly 1,000 residents live in unincorporated Oklahoma County.

The tremendous number of rural residents demonstrates what local officials have known for several years: the growth in House District 31 is mostly in unincorporated areas and the demands of this growth have been placed on county government.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons which can be taken away from this fact is that people do not need city government in order to receive basic services. In Logan and Oklahoma Counties, over 27,000 people are demonstrating that life is possible without the tax and regulation burdens provided by city governments. There are very few if any other areas in the state with this significant level of rural residents.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

State Agency Consolidation Approved in Committee

OKLAHOMA CITY – A significant consolidation of state government administrative overhead could be set to take place following today’s approval of House Bill 2140 by the House of Representatives Government Modernization Committee.
House Bill 2140 proposes to consolidate seven of Oklahoma’s central service state agencies into one agency.
“We are committed to right sizing state government,” stated House Speaker Kris Steele who serves as the author of the legislation. “Consolidating central services agencies is a great first step toward the goal of making state government more efficient and responsive to the needs of Oklahoma taxpayers.”
Steele authored the legislation after an interim study found that Oklahoma could realize millions of dollars of savings if Oklahoma followed best practices that are occurring in other states.
The legislation is patterned after the central services governance structures used in Montana, Indiana and Utah.
“This vote represents the first time in recent history that a significant consolidation of state agencies has been approved by a standing House committee,” said state Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie and chair of the Government Modernization Committee. “The consolidation of these seven state agencies will save the taxpayers millions of dollars every year.”
Murphey said the bill will also set the stage for future significant consolidations.
“This bill makes the case for consolidating state agencies based on similar mission and subject matter,” he said.
House Bill 2140 was approved by a vote of 11-2 and now heads to the full House for additional consideration.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Local Census Numbers to be Released this Week

Last summer I wrote an article describing the upcoming re-districting process and some of the potential implications of the 2010 census report.

The implications are significant. The north Oklahoma and Logan county areas are exploding in residential growth and the 2010 census should reflect that growth.

Proceeding the 2010 census, Logan County officials were asked to update the census map to show the new residential locations which needed to be counted that were not on the Census Bureau's list of houses. The county took this task very seriously and reported hundreds of new home sites that were not listed in the previous census. This work demonstrated the growth and helped ensure that the new census properly reflects the explosive residential construction.

Impacts include increased local road funding, additional representation in state government and a much stronger demographic base which will serve to attract new business investment.

A Census Bureau report is scheduled to be released this week and will include Oklahoma and four other states. The Census Bureau will first provide the report to the Governor, Speaker of the House, Speaker Pro-Temp of the Senate and Representatives of the minority political party in the House and Senate. After the bureau receives confirmation that these officials are in possession of the data, it will be released to the public.

In last year’s article I stated that the growth in Logan County and north Oklahoma County will require House District 31 to get smaller. Following the 2000 census, Oklahoma House districts were required to include approximately 34,000 people. Because of the growth in the state over the last 10 years, the 2010 redistricting plan will require each House district be drawn to include 37,000 people.

I suspect that the current population of House District 31 now includes more than the 37,000 which will be required by the new re-districting plan. As you might imagine, I am anxious to see the new numbers.

Within the next four months, a legislative redistricting plan will reduce the size of the district. Parts of the current district will potentially be picked up by surrounding rural districts which will be forced to expand to include new residents to meet the 37,000 resident requirement.

I plan to send out the new census numbers for Logan County and House District 31 through my Twitter account @JWMurphey shortly after their release later this week.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Taxpayer Dollars Going to Planned Parenthood?

This is the time of year when the previous year’s legislative initiatives have started to go into law and they are quickly becoming of significant effect.

For instance, in the next few weeks the first State Government 2.0 data feeds, sponsored by Senator Anthony Sykes and myself, are set to go online. These were approved in last year’s Senate Bill 1759. I look forward to providing you with the information about these feeds and their far-reaching implications in enhancing transparency.

Also recently placed online were the Open Books 2.0 state government spending transparency enhancements which were approved in House Bill 3422. This legislation was sponsored by current state Treasurer Ken Miller and state Senator Clark Jolley and requested by the grassroots group Oklahomans for Responsible Government (OFRG). The legislation will enhance your right to see how state government spends your money. State officials are now required to post every single spending transaction in a searchable and exportable format. These new features were placed online at the website within the past few weeks.

I will be the first to admit that the Open Books user interface is a bit clunky and I am not sure that all of the requirements of the legislation have been complied with. For instance, the exportable functionality is almost impossible to find and users must search for the recipients of government spending in all caps. This no doubt discourages usage and must be fixed. But it’s also fair to say that the product still empowers citizens as never before.

For example, last week the issue of whether or not taxpayers dollars should be going to a controversial organization like Planned Parenthood started to be debated in the national news.

It is of course little surprise to realize that federal taxpayer dollars are going to this organization. However, are state taxpayers also funding Planned Parenthood?

Using the Open Books system, with just a few clicks you can see that over $230,000 have been paid by the State Department of Health to Planned Parenthood during the current fiscal year. Without the transparency provided by Open Books, I doubt that very many people would ever know about this spending.

Readers may recall my past articles about the very bad policy of legislative earmarking. For instance, in 2007 I wrote about an earmark for an organization known only as A Pocket Full of Hope. In 2009, I wrote that legislative earmarks were starting to disappear as the state budget was forced to contract because of the economic downturn. However, even though the earmark is gone, according to Open Books, A Pocket Full of Hope is still on the public dole. This raises the disturbing possibility that legislators are still verbally directing agencies behind the scenes on how to spend money. How many other former earmarks are still taking place away from the purview of the public?

Once the user interface is more functional and its usage becomes more widespread, the Open Books platform will transform the way citizens hold government accountable. State government officials will become very cautious when they spend taxpayer dollars because they will understand that you will be reviewing their expenditures.

And now we also have a powerful new tool as legislators to do our job as policy makers to guard taxpayer dollars.