To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Wednesday, April 24, 2024


Senate Redefines ‘Conflict Of Interest’


In constitutional language for Oklahoma’s elected officials, one must declare that he/she has a personal conflict of interest on a proposed piece of legislation, then simply not vote on that proposal to avoid even the hint of running afoul of such conflict.

An example: An elected representative or senator who is also in the insurance business should not vote on insurance language changes if that particular elected official would directly or indirectly benefit from the changes should they become law.

Pretty straight forward.

Well, just for fun, I tuned in to the live feed of floor action in the honorable Oklahoma Senate this week and up popped a fellow from Claremore named Sen. Marty Quinn. I knew from former observations of Quinn that he is in the insurance business and while I watched he explained three bills in a row that had significant impact on – guess what? – the insurance business.

Each passed with only one dissenting vote, no debate, a couple of questions that were not fully answered, and then the Senate went on to other business, probably being offered by somebody who makes his living in the same industry he is discussing.

I agree I have been long out of the Oklahoma Senate, but how things have changed as related to the blatant abuse of this particular constitutional restriction when one takes his oath of office.

At least someone should have asked Quinn if any of the three bills impacted his livelihood directly. Nobody did. That would be too embarrassing and, pretty soon, enough questions might be asked of a similar nature that the level of abuse might subside or at least the members wouldn’t be so damn cavalier about ignoring this important part of their oath of office.

Oh, I also checked one other thing. Quinn is still the chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee which means he alone decides which bills to hear and which bills to kill unilaterally.

And I’m sure a guy like Quinn always puts the needs of his constituents ahead of his own when it comes to the Oklahoma insurance code.

Yes, members should be allowed, and encouraged, to have private sector jobs and sometimes a gray line of how serious a conflict of interest is can be hard to precisely define. But members should not get rich carrying bills in their own name that came from a committee that the person chairs, and the end result of the law change benefits, in the case described above, the insurance agent rather than people who buy insurance from him.

Seems like that is just common sense but in doing a bit more research about the Senate committees today I didn’t find one called The Committee on Common Sense and Conflict of Interest.

Maybe one should be created if the President Pro Tempore can find someone who might agree to chair it. My suggestion for chair would be current floor leader Kim David, R-Porter, since only a couple of weeks ago she accused members of the Senate of having “conflicts of interest” if they voted to keep the Oklahoma Health Care Authority in charge of Medicaid expansion rather than turning it over to Blue Cross Blue Shield as Gov. Stitt proposes.

Oops! On second thought maybe David isn’t such a clear thinker on conflict of interest since she, like Stitt, wants an insurance company, The Blues, to decide whether 160,000 low income women and children will get insurance coverage for their ailments.

Hmmm. An insurance company deciding whether that same insurance company should pay claims or not that will reduce their bottom line?

Might as well let Donald Trump decide whether he got more votes and more electors than Joe Biden did. After all, most people in Oklahoma I talk to think the former president is fair and balanced, can add and subtract, should still be the president and did get cheated out of the election. Of course I think The Donald has a bit of a conflict of interest on the topic of who was elected last November and I’m pretty sure Quinn and Co. agrees with him.

Conflict of interest for Quinn and those like him basically boils down to something like: Does he let the insurance lobbyists buy him dinner at Junior’s tonight or maybe the energy czars pick up the tab at The Metro? Solution? Dinner at Junior’s, dessert at The Metro. Keeps everybody happy … especially Chairman Quinn. No conflict there.

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Cal Hobson
Cal Hobson
Cal Hobson, a Lexington Democrat, served in the Oklahoma Legislature from 1978-2006, including one term as Senate President Pro Tempore.
Mark Krawczyk
Mark Krawczyk
March 9, 2023
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Brette Pruitt
Brette Pruitt
September 5, 2022
The Observer carries on the "give 'em hell" tradition of its founder, the late Frosty Troy. I read it from cover to cover. A progressive wouldn't be able to live in a red state without it.