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The tyranny of the acronyms

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I still vividly recall very wise advice which I received years ago on a hot afternoon in Mulhall, Oklahoma.

State Rep.  Jason Murphey

State Rep. Jason Murphey

As I went door-to-door, seeking support to become State Representative, I encountered a local resident who was taking refuge from the heat under a tree in his front yard. He provided me with the type of wisdom that one can typically find in small-town Oklahoma.

“When you are elected, don’t go to Oklahoma City and sponsor some new government program just to get your name out there!”

The man had obviously observed state politics for many years and had seen the generations of politicians who sought to make a name for themselves by sponsoring new program after new program.

I don’t think I completely realized the extent of this particular wisdom until I became involved in the effort to repeal state laws. Four of us, three Representatives and one Senator, have accepted the challenge to eliminate as many unnecessary laws as possible.

As we have gone through statute, we have encountered unnecessary government program after unnecessary government program. Our function is much like the garbage man: find the government programs which are unnecessary and take out the trash.

As an example, this year I am sponsoring a bill to delete part of Oklahoma’s weather modification program. This law allows county commissioners to propose a property tax increase, the proceeds of which are directed to weather modification companies.

This is a typical example of a program which, for whatever reason, seemed like a good idea to the Legislature at the time but just shouldn’t be in law.

We have just scratched the surface; Oklahoma code is still replete with programs which in the name of “economic development” are either intrusive upon the liberty and property of Oklahomans or provide a very special benefit to the clients of the savvy lobbyists who propose them and the lawyers who understand them. These programs are usually referenced by their acronyms and in the collective they form what I refer to as the “Tyranny of the Acronyms.” The average Oklahoman will on occasion hear a reference to one of these acronyms but likely has no concept of the collective harm which they impose.

While we are making progress in repealing old programs, unfortunately, each legislative year the Legislature considers new proposals to either expand existing programs or create new.

Last Thursday, the House defeated one of these especially aggressive proposals which had disturbingly moved to within just one vote of final passage.

Senate Bill 647 would allow for the creation of Tourism Improvement Districts otherwise to be known as TIDs – not to be confused with TIFs which is an acronym for a different government economic development program.

Here’s how a TID would work. A group of business owners could ask that a vote be held, the eligible voters of which would be cherry-picked from a list of named businesses. If 51% of that list agreed, an assessment would be levied against all of those businesses and that money would be used by the TID for “marketing purposes”.

One can only imagine the plight faced by the business owner who must pay the new tax but does not need a marketing effort; or, his business isn’t properly represented in the marketing materials; the marketing materials are an affront to his deeply-held traditional values; or, perhaps his margins are too low to afford the assessment and he can’t pay the new tax as his competitors use a TID to gang up on him and force him out of business.

Worse, Senate Bill 647 didn’t put a cap on the amount of the tax which could be assessed; therefore, the assessment could completely match and erase the profit margin of the small business owner.

For me, voting against Senate Bill 647 was an instinctive reaction based on principle. Those principles have been defined with the help and advice of wise individuals such as the Mulhall resident who proffered that advice so many years ago. I will always appreciate this input and will continue to work to end the Tyranny of the Acronyms.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

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