Thursday, November 9, 2017

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Votes

I've 'donated' my blog tonight to Crystal Davis, a former student and fellow activist. We sat together Wednesday afternoon during the questions, debate, and vote for HB1054X, which needed 76 yes votes to become law, and save crucial social and medical services for our citizens. It fell short of the required 3/4 margin. Crystal is one of those treasures of my advocacy journey. Seeing her now, a fierce adult, making time to show up and stand witness. And she's a crackerjack analyst. She thinks in numbers and can use words like weapons. I appreciate her questions and her research. Why DID the vote fail?

Crystal, in her own words: "I'm a 4th Generation Oklahoman and a statistician who actively advocates for 7% GPT and the most vulnerable Oklahomans."

I can count on one hand, 1-2-3-4-5, the number of votes needed to save services for the most vulnerable in Oklahoma.  

I can count on one hand, 1-2-3-4-5, the number of votes needed to give teachers and state employees a pay raise.  

I can count on one hand, 1-2-3-4-5, the number of votes needed to pass the ‘Grand Bargain’.

‘The Grand Bargain’ is a bill which includes a tax increase on fuel, tobacco, and low point beer; along with an increase of the gross production tax incentive rate from 2% to 4%.  A previous version of this bill which included all of the above except the gross production tax failed to receive the required 76 votes in the State House . ‘The Grand Bargain’ has the required number of votes needed in the Senate and the Governor’s support, but fell short by 5 votes in the State House on Wednesday.  Many people are asking who is to blame for the failure of 1054X?

The Democrats?  

23 Democrats voted yes, 5 voted no. It would be easy to point a finger to those 5 Democrats and say, “If those 5 Democrats had voted yes, this would of passed.” The Democrats delivered 82.14% of their caucus.  Speaker McCall said in an earlier statement, ‘If the Democrats deliver 75% of their caucus, we’ll deliver 75% of our caucus.’ Last I checked 75% of 28 is 21.  The Democrats delivered 2 extra votes.  With 2 vacant seats in the State House, House District 51 and 76, the Democrats went above and beyond making up for those vacancies.

The Republicans?

There are currently 71 Republicans in the house.  75% of 71 representatives is 53.25.  The Republicans needed to bring 53 votes.  Combined with the 23 Democratic votes, the bill would of passed with the 76 votes needed. Only 48 Republicans supported the ‘Grand Bargain’, 67.6% of their members.

It’s worth taking a closer look at those 22 no votes from the Republicans. Of those 22, 7 voted yes on a previous version of the bill which did not include Gross Production Tax. Those 7 Republican Representatives are:

Bobby Cleveland
Jeff Coody
John Enns
Mark McBride
Lewis Moore
Terry O’Donnell
Michael Rogers

Often times in politics we ask ourselves, what does a politician have to gain by changing their vote? I looked at the campaign contributions, wondering how much Oil and Gas had donated to their campaigns.  According to these numbers provided by Oklahoma Watch, there is Oil and Gas money tied to each of these Republicans, but not enough to justify switching their votes. I started to wonder if we need to ask ourselves, what does a politician have to lose? With a tip and a little researching, I learned in the case of the 7 Republicans who voted no, they have a lot to lose.

Bobby Cleveland - Chair Public Safety
Jeff Coody - Chair Wildlife
John Enns - Chair of Human Services & Long Term Care
Mark McBride - Vice Chair Energy, Assistant Floor Leader
Lewis Moore - Assistant Majority Whip, Chair Insurance
Terry O’Donnell - Majority Whip
Michael Rogers - Assistant Majority Whip, Chair Common Education

That’s a lot of highly coveted positions of power among those 7 Republicans. Among the 22 no votes there are 13 committee chairs and 7 vice chairs.. Makes one wonder why those who hold positions of power voted no. So the question remains, who is to blame? I’ll let you decide for yourself.

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