42nd Journal of the First Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

November 18th, 2015

              Rep. Kevin Calvey, R, Oklahoma City, recently put together a group of advocates who were united by their commitment to change the manner by which they could bring about judicial reform. This appeared to be an oblique attack on the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) which Rep. Calvey labeled as a “special interest group.”   This seemed driven by recent state Supreme Court decisions which those testifying indicated were driven by interests which runs counter to what the presenters expressed are the best interests of the citizens of the state. 

            It was expressed that the OBA, which is directly involved in the licensing process for all the state’s lawyers, carries an excessive level of influence in the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission’s process.  Perhaps this view originates with the OBA being focused on the issues of the practice of law which would naturally correlate to the role of justices serving as judges and evaluating the degree to which our laws are in compliance with the State or U.S. Constitution.  However, only 6 of the 15 members of the Judicial Nominating Commission are actually lawyers and the other 9 cannot be attorneys or lawyers to insure a level of autonomy in the Commission.

            In listening to the presentations in this full House Interim Study, I got the distinct impression that Rep. Calvey would prefer that judges be selected by elected officials.   I do not believe it is wise to have our body of justices or judges, who are assigned the task of determining the appropriate application of justice in our state based on our Constitution, be appointed based on political affiliation.  I believe that is what our founding fathers intended when they set the Judicial branch as a separate body from the Legislative and Executive branches. 

               It appears that I need to revisit again the 1 cent sales tax proposed by OU President David Boren.  While I recognize this will be a consumption tax increase, I am concerned that a letter to the editor to the Daily Oklahoman by Ethan Thomas of Edmond proclaims that this will be a 22 percent increase for the state’s consumers.  While I am not trying to promote this consumer tax increase, I also do not want someone using “fuzzy math” to attack this attempt to increase funding for education.  Let us try it this way.  Based on the assumption that this proposal becomes law and you go to the store and make a $10 purchase, your sales tax would be increased by 10 cents.  Well, maybe I am using “country-boy math” but that appears that I am paying 1 percent more in sales tax.  The only way you can arrive at a 22 percent increase is if your purchase cost increases by $2.20.  The only way you can arrive at a 22 percent increase is to divide .01 by .045, the rate of the state sales tax, and call that a 22 percent increase.  

            However, the issue of a proposed statewide sales tax increase may not make it to a vote of the people because a conservative group, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), has filed suit against it to be sent to the state Supreme Court based on the fact that its distribution of revenue will be directed to multiple sources.  In constitutional terms this is known as “log-rolling” which means that a law would have more than one specific title language and this may be seen as containing four. If that is determined to be so by the courts, it cannot be submitted to the citizens of the state. 


Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK  74455, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov,   918 448 5702.  Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol.











41th Journal of the First Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

November 12th, 2015

The full House met in early November to conduct a thorough analysis of the important aspects of water policy for the state.  This study focused on several issues including the issue of water supplies and transfer relative to the increased demand resulting from a prolonged drought in western Oklahoma.  In addition, we heard from those whose focus on water comes from the needs of urban areas outside of southeastern portions of the state.  This demand for additional water becomes more complicated when the agenda by some who want to have access to water to market beyond the state’s borders is factored in.

            As we studied the prospects of routing water from water rich eastern Oklahoma to drought impacted western Oklahoma we were made aware of one of the main prohibitions to this taking place was the cost which would range from $2.7 billion to $20 billion in addition to the annual maintenance cost estimated to be in the area of $600 million.  With the legislature looking at the 2014 budget shortfall of $188 million and a deficit of $611 million in 2015 followed by an anticipated revenue decline of over $1 billion in 2016, this high cost project is speculative and futuristic at best.

            The Chickasaw and Choctaw nations have been in litigation against the state to limit its exports of surface water from several southeastern Oklahoma counties to Oklahoma City, which has become a water wholesaler.  Stephen Greetham, the Chickasaw nation’s special counsel on water and natural resources, testified that the Chickasaw and Choctaw have a legal and moral obligation to look out for members of their tribes and the communities in which they live.  He stated that “developing and maintaining a strong economy and a healthy homeland requires smart water management by the tribes.”  As the State Representative of House District 15 which includes a large portion of water reservoirs in Lake Eufaula, Lake Tenkiller, and Kerr Reservoir, I agree with those holding the view that the citizens of this District benefit from a more protective approach to this very important natural resource.

            With the hopes of acquiring water rights from use based on the principle of existing “dependency,” it is recognized that the “water poor” western part of our state desires to maintain their agricultural driven economy with the eastern natural resource of water.  It is also recognized that there are those who are more interested in directing the flow of water into a marketing plan that leads eventually into Texas.  I believe that this will result in the loss of eastern Oklahoma’s autonomy of our own natural resources for the benefit of those outside of our region.

            I would like to conclude this Journal by revisiting my previous Journal’s topic of the proposed state wide one cent sales tax for the state’s education programs.  Several have contacted me to remind me that in 2004 the citizens of the state approved the creation of the state’s lottery system as a means of adequately funding education.  This approach became operational two years later in 2006.  The revenue generated by this approach was soon used to justify the Legislature’s redirecting revenue previously dedicated to public education into other agencies to balance the budget and provide for the services of law enforcement and other supplemental services.  As a result, education continued to be the state’s “redheaded step-child.”  If another source is generated to fund education, should we anticipate that this will also result in another manipulation of funding away from education?


Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK  74455, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov,   918 448 5702.  Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol.




40th Journal of the First Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

November 4th, 2015


                  As indicated in my previous Journal, this journal presents the negative side of the proposal by OU President David Boren to promote a petition to be circulated throughout the state attempting to get an issue placed on the 2016 state ballot.   If passed it would mandate a one cent sales tax to be used to fund a salary increase for state teachers and provide additional funding for Career Tech and higher education.

                   Some of the advocates for this type of revenue generating tax state that Oklahoma has lower than average property taxes and individual and corporate taxes are near the middle to bottom of the national average. It’s argued that this promotes investments in our state’s economy which in turn encourages increased tax revenue from business growth. However, there are many who would also argue that this has been proven wrong in numerous cases and is now seen in our state budget being in a “revenue free-fall” and the Governor predicting a cut of at least 10% this coming year in funding for state agencies. This is based on the belief that our state revenue picture appears to be in for a one-billion-dollar decline. We must also be aware that this was preceded by a $611 million shortfall in the current year’s budget. Some would hold that the low level of revenue generation in these three areas of tax sources primarily benefits the top 20-30% of the state’s income generators while the use of sales tax will disproportionately come from the middle to lower income citizens of the state. This is based on the knowledge that sales tax revenue is a consumption tax and the top percent of the state’s citizens will not be negatively impacted by this tax in that they do not consume at a high enough level to contribute a significant portion of their large incomes each year.

                    The proposed penny sales tax increase for the state’s three areas of education would push Oklahoma to the top of the list of states with the highest combined state and local sales taxes. Those citizens shopping in the Tulsa area would be paying the 3rd highest combined sales taxes in the nation with only Chicago and Seattle exceeding it. That places our northeastern Oklahoma shoppers in the “big spenders” category—relative to the sales tax rates. We are currently ranked as number 6 in the nation prior to such an increase. If OU President Boren’s plan becomes law, the current state sales tax would increase from 4.5% to 5.5% and this would be added to numerous cities’ sales tax rates of about 10 cents raising those rates to a 15.5 cent total for every dollar spent in one’s day to day life.

                     Most economist and public officials consider sales tax as the most regressive kind of tax since the middle to lower income groups would be paying the largest portion of this tax while the top of the economic “food chain” wouldn’t even be aware of this increase to their normal consumption levels. The middle to lower income groups spend a bigger portion of their income at grocery and retail stores. I would conclude this with the suggestion that during a presidential election year (2016) where the voter turnout is larger than normal, this will be given a very good test as to whether the mainstream population will vote to increase funding for education while giving the wealthy elite of the state a free pass through continued income tax reductions.

                    With my legislative district bordered by three community two year colleges: Connors, Carl Albert, and Eastern State, I thought that perhaps this would be a big issue for their funding sources but was told by one of their leaders that after this trickles down through the system, what they would get would be insignificant. This view is based in part on the fact that most of the higher education funding from this would go to four year and university institutions. This is somewhat ironic since these two year colleges serve the most at risk populations as well as serving the largest percentage of students attending colleges in the state while receiving the least amount of funding.


Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, 918 448 5702. Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol.

39th Journal of the First Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

October 28th, 2015

In my last Journal, I addressed the issue of all the school districts in the state being held to a higher standard than Tulsa and Oklahoma City Districts in terms of how teachers are evaluated. This week with the release of A-F rankings of all state school sites, there has been a flurry of press releases stating how this system of school site assessment is flawed. While I agree that it’s difficult to evaluate and assign a letter grade for each elementary, middle, and high school in the state, it’s also reasonable to see if they measure each of these in an equitable manner. In educational statistics, we refer to this as the “normal distribution curve” or “bell curve.” Let’s look at some of the statistics before we reject the data. Using a 100 point scale we see that 12% of our state school sites received A’s while 6.5% of Tulsa School District’s did. On the other end of the scale, we find that 10% of our state school sites received F’s versus 68% of Tulsa School District sites. My concern about all this clamor over Tulsa’s scores while the rest of the state’s scores followed what can be classified as a “normal” distribution is that maybe the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Commission, which tends to act as if all the state’s schools should follow the Tulsa lead, is perhaps following an ill-advised direction.
The issue of adequate funding of our state’s public schools, career tech, and colleges is being raised in the form of an initiative petition. This is being circulated throughout the state and if 123,000 signatures are acquired it can be placed on the 2016 state ballot. If sufficient affirmative votes on this ballot are received, it’s anticipated to raise an estimated $615 million a year for the three areas of education listed above. If this is put on the 2016 state ballot and passes, Common education or public schools would receive approximately $424 million dedicated for increases in the salary formula used by the state. This is directed to attain an annual teacher salary increase of $5,000. This would also be dedicated to increase funding for reforms to increase reading in early grades, boost high school graduation rates and improve college and career readiness. In addition, the State Department of Education would receive $50 million for grants to address early learning opportunities for low income and at risk children. Higher education would get $120 million to address increasing tuition rates and increase college completion rates. To increase the state’s workforce readiness and industry certifications, Career Tech would receive $20 million. What’s not to like about this?
As a former school board member, teacher, and high school principal, this sounds very attractive and seems to be a means of solving several pressing problems in our state’s education which is at or near the bottom of almost any statistical measurement. From the national perspective, Oklahoma government’s approach to funding education, takes on the very clear resemblance of the state’s “red-headed stepchild” syndrome. In fact, since 2008 our state leaders seem to take pride in our being ranked at 49th in the nation relative to per pupil funding and with an anticipated budget cut of close to $1 billion this year, education may slip to the absolute bottom. This will even be made worse by the continual decline in the number of certified teachers who are or will be available to teach in our state. At present, we are experiencing a shortage of 1,000 teachers. There is another side to the issue of using a sales tax as a means of increasing funding our schools and I will address that side of the coin in my next journal.

Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, 918 448 5702. Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol.

38th Journal of the First Legislative Session of the 55th Legislature

October 22nd, 2015

My previous Journal concluded with a projection on the focus of the October TLE Commission meeting and this edition will report on issues addressed in this meeting. One reason for this intensity is that the Commission has a December 1 mandated deadline to make recommendations to the State Board of Education as to what they should formulate into policy concerning the 50% of teacher evaluations based on student academic performance. Unfortunately, we spent most of our time listening to the Tulsa Public School’s presentation on their combining state mandated test results with student surveys without a specific quantifiable assessment on teachers based on student academic performance. This approach is allowed within the language of SB 706 authored by Senator Ford, R-Bartlesville, for school districts with student enrollment in excess of 35,000 (Tulsa and Oklahoma City). The language of this law allows these two districts to have this flexibility in their formulating the policies on this area of teacher evaluations. Many on the Commission would like for the rest of the state’s 500 plus school districts to have this luxury but I’m not sure SB 706 provides that opportunity. In addition, I believe that there’s a strong chance that this flexibility given to Tulsa may not be in compliance with Oklahoma’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind mandates for teacher assessment. Hopefully, we’ll have the answer to this question before the next meeting on November 5th. In the meantime, all the school districts in the state will be under pressure to come up with a means of complying with this bill as it’s in state law and no change is possible since the legislature will not convene until February. Another option would be for the Attorney General to give a formal opinion that this statute is not enforceable due to conflict with federal law.

Confirming the view that SB 706 creates more problems than it solves, we heard a very impressive testimony from Sallisaw’s Superintendent, Scott Farmer, as he described the nightmare of applying the state mandated testing or Value Added Method (VAM) to each individual teacher in a department or school site. He based his report on specific data and then gave personal evidence of the quandary school districts are in, other than Tulsa and Oklahoma City schools, as they attempt to meet the ill-advised legislation that was passed last year at the close of session to prevent any reflection on its impact. We’ll have between now and December 1 to resolve this nightmarish situation for all of the state’s other 500 plus school districts.

Recently I joined Sen. Allen and Rep. Lockhart to give an update to the Leflore County retired teachers group on the pending budget for 2016/17. None of us had good news to share on this topic as the news we’re receiving is that the budget will undergo another year of drastic cuts in revenue for needed services. The retired teachers were very adamant that the legislature not reduce the amount of revenue going into the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System (OTRS) which is based on a designated percent of the state budget. Part of the reason for this extreme protective concern is that with the state looking at over $1 billion cuts in funds of all the state’s agencies may be targeted by our leaders. OTRS’ great concern about this is that this was done to them in the past to the point that the funds for their retirement was in jeopardy. It will be the responsibility of the legislators to not let this happen again, especially when we are continuing with an ill-advised tax cut plan coupled with continued sweetheart tax incentive deals for a select group of insider business interests.

Contact Information: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, 918 448 5702. Legislative Assistant, Connie Riley, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7624 at the Capitol.