BY AL MCAFFREY
It’s self-evident that actions speak louder than words. What’s also true is that political actions speak louder than campaign promises.
Ambrose Bierce once defined politics as a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. Of note is that the party of “small government” has already in earnest expanded their government offices, with much of the positions being awarded to former Republican legislators who lost elections or left office due to term limits.
Just last week the Oklahoma Insurance Department announced that three former Republican legislators, all of whom lost their respective primary elections in 2010, would now serve as deputy insurance commissioners. Former state senator Randy Brogdon, whose background is in the wholesale air-conditioning distribution business, former state representative Mike Thompson, whose background is in realty, and former state senator Owen Laughlin, whose background is in the banking industry, all received these coveted positions and will now serve as deputy insurance commissioners.
The Oklahoma Insurance Department, led by Republican Insurance Commissioner John Doak, is almost doubling the number of commissioners employed under the last administration, from four commissioners to seven.
Salaries for deputy commissioners range from $67,900 to $92,000, according to records on the state finance office’s website.
In the same statement about reducing administrative costs at the state’s public schools, Gov. Mary Fallin announced a newly created position of Secretary of Education. Former Governor Brad Henry did not see a need for this position given there is already a Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Bierce’s comments about politics ring true as we witness self-serving interests supersede conservative principles touted in campaign elections. Our new Secretary of State, Glenn Coffee, transitioned quickly from his role as Senate President Pro Tempore. This past session he was the Senate principal author of SB738, which created the transition coordinator position for the medical examiner’s office, an effort which is currently under investigation. He was also the Senate principal author of SB 1589 which would have reduced from 23% to 12% the ad valorem tax rates on all new telecommunications property. As the new Secretary of State he has stated he will represent Gov. Fallin in budget negotiations.
All of these appointments skirted the state Constitution prohibition that former legislators cannot work for a state agency within two years of leaving office. A loophole in the law was found and forged with an Attorney General’s opinion that stated that former legislators could be employed within two years if the salary comes from private or federal funds, not from state-appropriated dollars.
Also of note is that currently these former legislators would stand to receive a relatively small state pension if they retired. However, it is the last three years of work prior to retirement that is calculated for benefits, and a salary increase of $60,000 to $90,000 could potentially double their lifetime retirement salary and benefits.
This coming session we will continue to witness the unraveling of conservative principles in the face of political opportunities.
– Al McAffrey, an Oklahoma City Democrat, represents District 88 in the state House of Representatives