Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hiett's Heist

On Flashpoint this morning Jimmy Todd Hiett attempted, once again, to take credit for the effective, smart work of Democrats. He and the other GOP leaders apparently cannot help themselves from helping themselves to the good work done by others.

I warned about his penchant for political thievery last year. Read our press release from June 28, 2005:

For Immediate Release
June 28, 2005

Contact: Lisa Pryor, Chair
Oklahoma Democratic Party

Oklahoma Democratic Party Calls for Speaker Hiett to Stop the Deception, Play Fair with Others

OKLAHOMA CITY – To hear Republicans tell it, just about the only positive things to come out of the 2005 legislative session were Republican ideas. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To be fair, Republicans did push various initiatives that became law, but they always have. And to be truthful, it was Democrats (who still control the majority in the Senate and hold the Governor’s mansion) that wrote and guided to passage most of the legislation that Democratic Governor Brad Henry signed into law. Democratic ideas and bi-partisan compromises were prevalent throughout the 2005 legislative session, but you wouldn’t know it if you listened to the Republican noise machine.

The reality is, Democrats were responsible for much of the best legislation to come out of the Legislature in 2005, while Republicans were busy trying to take the credit. For example:

Higher Education Bond Issue: Governor Henry and House and Senate Democrats proposed the $500M bond issue to improve facilities in Oklahoma colleges and universities from the earliest days of the 2005 legislative session, while Republicans had NO plan for improving higher education. Several weeks into the session, Speaker Hiett cut $25M from the Democratic plan, added a backup revenue source and called the finished product “his” plan.

Medicaid Funding: Democrats proposed a plan to fully fund Medicaid and leverage federal dollars to provide $300 M for healthcare for Oklahoma’s neediest citizens, including children. The plan was supported by the state’s major metropolitan newspapers, hospitals, doctors and various healthcare groups. Speaker Hiett and the Republicans had NO proposal and opposed the Democratic plan. However, after constant pressure from Democrats and the public in the waning days of the session, with two days left before Sine Die adjournment, the Speaker miraculously produced “his” plan to “create sweeping reforms of Oklahoma’s broken Medicaid system.” Interestingly, “the Speaker’s plan” produced the same results in Medicaid funding as the Democratic plan he had previously opposed.

Tax Relief: Pledging to bring tax relief to working Oklahomans, Governor Brad Henry and Democratic leaders in the Senate and House announced a comprehensive plan for tax cuts (HOPE plan) and funding the EDGE research endowment at the beginning of the 2005 session. Again, Speaker Hiett refused to get on board until he forced some of his ideas into the bills. Then, in an editorial commentary published on May 16, he boasted, “This year, the new Republican majority in the State House of Representatives has passed pro-growth, pro-family legislation at a clip not seen before in our state’s history.” Trouble is, the two key measures in the Legislature’s $150 M tax reduction package (SB 435 and HB 1547) were authored in the Senate by Democrat Jay Paul Gumm. And, the bills passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support. One other thing. The Speaker’s hyperbolic habit of exaggeration and carelessness with the facts again got the better of him when he praised the bi-partisan agreement achieved on tax cuts. Said the Speaker, “It’s only right to give relief to Oklahoma taxpayers in year of a billion dollar surplus in state coffers.” In reality, the surplus for the year was only about $463.8 M, so the Speaker was only off-base by about $536 M. Makes one wonder how many other times he’s played fast and loose with the truth.

Pro-Life Legislation: On May 12, 2005, the day the House passed HB 1686 by a vote of 95-3, Speaker Hiett and his Republican colleagues held a press conference to congratulate themselves for enacting “pro-life” legislation. No Democrats were invited to attend. A press release distributed through the House Media Division stated “numerous members of the House Republican caucus are listed as authors.” Speaker Hiett exclaimed, “This is one of the most significant accomplishments for the new Republican majority in the House.” Two days before, Republican Representative Lance Cargill had announced, “In the very first session that Republicans have control of one chamber of the Legislature, we will enact meaningful legislation to protect the unborn, pregnant women, and their families. If anything, Democrats should apologize for their membership in a political party that has boldly supported abortion policies that have hurt so many women, not to mention so many innocent, unborn children.” The trouble with these wildly misleading statements is that the “pro-life” legislation they referred to was actually authored not by Republicans, but by Democratic Senator Daisy Lawler and Democratic Representative Rebecca Hamilton. Said Rep. Hamilton, “There was a genuine bi-partisan effort to pass pro-life legislation in the Senate. Unfortunately, the Republican House leadership refused bi-partisan cooperation. They did not want to allow the bill to come to a vote because it had a Democratic author. They (House Republicans) refused to do so until pro-life Democrats held a press conference publicly exposing what they were doing. The bill was placed on the agenda for a vote a couple of hours after that.” In fact, prior to sending HB 1686 to the floor for a vote, Speaker Hiett tried to strong-arm Representative Hamilton into taking her name off the bill. Representative Hamilton would not give in to the pressure and stood firm in the face of the Speaker’s pressure. Then, after the bills passed, in an editorial column distributed through the House Media Division on May 31, the Speaker had the audacity to take the credit for the Democratic-authored bills: “As the new majority party in the House, Republicans have pushed through the first significant pro-life legislation in Oklahoma in over a quarter of a century…”

Sadly, these are just a few examples of Todd Hiett’s “me first” strategy. Throughout the session he obstructed Democratic legislative proposals until he could turn them into “his” plans and grab the credit. Democrats understand that governing involves the art of compromise, sharing the credit for success and taking responsibility for failure. It’s a lesson Speaker Hiett and his Republican glory-hogs would do well to learn. And it wouldn’t hurt them to learn to tell the truth.

No comments: