Murphey: The Defeat Of The Special Interests

murphey1 Rep. Jason Murphey

Throughout the past few weeks I have described the successful passage of Senate Bill 630 to stop governments such as cities and school districts from awarding contracts according to tight specifications designed to eliminate competition.

I also detailed the incredibly crafty effort used by the special interests to win conference committee approval for House Bill 1794 which would have reversed the reform and restored the wasteful, and I believe corrupt, status-quo. They successfully convinced six Representatives and four Senators to sign their conference committee report.

They filed the report with just over two days left in the session. In years past, this would have been enough time for them to send the bill to the House and Senate floors for a final vote.

However, this year would be much different.

Speaker Shannon’s Reform


You may recall my past article in which I described Speaker T.W. Shannon’s plan to reform House rules through the creation of a Calendar Committee. This was the first year for the new committee which serves as the guardian of the House floor agenda. Before a bill can go before the House for a vote it must first come before the Calendar Committee.

As a member of the committee, I prepared to enter a motion removing HB 1794 from the proposed agenda. But, I never needed to do so as during the last meeting of the committee, Majority Floor Leader Pam Peterson and Majority Leader Dennis Johnson refused to even place HB 1794 on the slate of eligible bills and no other member of our committee was willing to bring it up for consideration.

This episode highlighted the importance of Shannon’s proposal. In the last days of session the Calendar Committee played an extremely important last line of defense against the late-session trickery and represents one of the most, if not the most, important process reforms that I have seen.

In the past, the decision to place the bill on the agenda would have been made behind closed doors where the public would have no purview. Not so anymore.

For days, Oklahoma’s most powerful lobbyists had gone to war to reverse the reform. Now, with just hours left before the deadline, the pesky Calendar Committee stood in their way. All of their lobbying efforts were ultimately useless: the bill would never get out of Calendar Committee!

Our reform stayed in law and is already having an impact. Do you recall my description of the local school district which issued millions in bonds and was attempting to sole spec certain items? They reversed course and allowed competitive bidding.

It’s likely impossible to quantify the cumulative amount of savings to the taxpayer in the as a result of the reform but I believe it to be substantial.

Also Read

These examples of savings are important as first indications show that the special interests have already started preparing a new assault for the quickly approaching legislative session. This battle will likely re-occur throughout the spring as they again try to reverse the reform.

We are ready for it!

I believe in the integrity of Oklahoma’s lawmakers to once again do the right thing and take a stand against what I feel to be legalized corruption.

I am thankful for all of the encouraging feedback from those who have read these articles. I have especially appreciated the first-hand observations and validation from those in the construction industry who have witnessed the abuse and want it stopped. I think these individuals are heros for reporting what was occurring and they are without a doubt the reason for why the reform was successful.

We are dependent on their continual input as we continue to aggressively defend the reform and ensure the new law prevents the abuse of sole specing.

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  1. Steve Dickson, 30 December, 2013

    Thank you, Rep. Murphey, for this glimpse behind the curtain. Structural roadblocks to limited government were created during the long tenure of democratic dominance in our state’s government. Things like this highlight what needs to be done – a thorough evaluation of how things have “always been done”. Congratulations on the success of this reform, and keep going!

  2. Al Broderick, 30 December, 2013

    I would love to know what special interests were trying to reverse the reform. Obviously some in the construction industry were whistle blowers and supportive, so I’d think their associations wouldn’t be involved. However, it is possible. What about school boards and administrators? We know they’re loathe to any sort of change. Without naming specific names, I’d like to know what interests were/are involved.

  3. Kerry Royce, 30 December, 2013

    I too would like to know what special interests were trying to reverse the reform. I have been affected by Medicare’s rule changes that encourage competitive bidding on my CPAP supplies.
    In some instances it has created a real mess. As suppliers who won the Medicare contracts were, in many cases not prepared to handle the influx of customers. So there is another side to competitive bidding that we need to take into account. Is the low bidder actually prepared to handle the contract?
    I know suppliers and vendors can have a cozy relationship with large clients and agencies and that needs to be stopped. But to write it into law that we have to accept the lowest bid is not always a good idea.
    There should be some way to write it into law that they must accept the BEST bid!


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