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State Senate Reacted Quickly When Allegations Against Shortey Emerged

Mar 20, 2017

 

Leaders in the Oklahoma senate wasted little time to strip state Sen. Ralph Shortey of most of his privileges last Wednesday when allegations emerged that the Oklahoma City Republican had allegedly offered money for sex with a teenage boy.

“Abruptly, late Wednesday morning, the Senate took a recess and the Senate Republicans began caucusing behind closed doors,” eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley told KGOU during his weekly Capitol Insider interview.

When Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schultz, R-Altus, emerged from the meeting, he declined to offer comment to reporters. That afternoon, the Senate passed a resolution that removed nearly all of Shortey’s privileges. He can no longer use his office and his name was scraped off the door. He name was taken off of legislation that was still alive. He can no longer use his parking space.

“This happened rather quickly, less than 24 hours after the initial report of the investigation, and now we have to wait and see what happens next,” Ashley said.

The Cleveland County district attorney later filed three prostitution-related charges against Shortey. He turned himself in to authorities on Thursday and was released on $100,000 bond.

As legislators reconvene today, they will be working under a deadline for bills to be heard on their floor of origin by Thursday. Ashley says there are still several pieces of legislation that have not yet been heard.

Among the bills awaiting hearings:

  • Senate Bill 393, or the Oklahoma Science Education Act, by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Ada, which would allow teachers to insert their personal beliefs into the education curriculum.

  • Brecheen and Sen. Joseph Silk co-authored Senate Bill 197, or “The Oklahoma Right of Conscience Act,” which would allows individuals to deny service or accommodation if providing them would violate their sincerely-held religious belief or conscience regarding “marriage, lifestyle or behavior.”

  • House Bill 1441 by Rep. J.J. Humphries,  R-Lane, which would require a father’s consent in order to perform an abortion.

Interview Highlights

On the latest revenue figures, which were more positive than expected

Back in February, a revenue failure was declared, indicating that revenue collections were going to be less than expected and a nearly $35 million dollar budget cut was implemented. However, collections through the first 8 months of the fiscal year are at 98 percent of the estimate. A revenue failure occurs when revenue collections drop below 95 percent of the estimate. So finance officials must really be anticipating a precipitous decline in revenue collections in these last four months of the fiscal year. It is rather unusual to see numbers this good when a revenue failure has been declared.

On the passage of two bills that would remove the trigger for individual income tax cuts:

There had been some discussion about the automatic individual income tax reductions that would take place when revenues began to recover. One of those bills, by Sen. Roger Thompson, a Republican from Okemah, simply eliminates the trigger altogether so the decline from 5 percent to 4.85 percent would not occur unless lawmakers came back in and passed something new. A second bill by Sen. Marty Quinn, a Republican from Claremore, sets a new calculation. It says revenues would have to be at least $7.5 billion plus the cost of the individual income tax rate reduction, before that could occur, and that would be many years down the road.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Dick Pryor: Shawn, the big capitol news of the last few involves Oklahoma City state Sen. Ralph Shortey. The legislature often acts slowly. But the Senate moved swiftly after news broke that the Moore police were investigating Sen. Shortey.

Shawn Ashley: That’s correct. The activity really began on Wednesday morning when it appeared there were a series of meetings involving a number of different legislators, perhaps related to that issue. Abruptly, late Wednesday morning, the Senate took a recess and the Senate Republicans began caucusing behind closed doors. Sen. Mike Schulz, when he was asked as he came out from that caucus whether he would like to address the issue said, ‘Not at this time.’ Of course, he did later in the day. And then when the Senate reconvened in the afternoon, they fairly quickly took up a resolution which stripped Sen. Shortey of most of his legislative privileges. He can no longer use his office. His name was removed from the various legislation of his which was still alive. He can’t even use his parking space. This happened rather quickly, less than 24 hours after the initial report of the investigation, and now we have to wait and see what happens next.

Pryor: A deadline is looming for a little less than half the bills that are still alive.

Ashley: That’s correct. On Thursday, March 23rd, the deadline for bills to be heard in their chamber of origin will come, and there are a number of pieces of legislation out there that are somewhat controversial that are still awaiting consideration. Sen. Josh Brecheen has his Oklahoma Science Education Act, which would allow teachers to insert their own beliefs into the education curriculum. He and Sen. Joseph Silk also have a couple pieces of legislation which opponents say would further discrimination in the state of Oklahoma. On the House side, we are also waiting to see if Rep. J.J. Humphries’ father notification bill related to abortions is heard.

Pryor: New state revenue numbers are out. Are they as bad as expected?

Ashley: You know, surprisingly they were not. Back in February, a revenue failure was declared, indicating that revenue collections were going to be less than expected and a nearly $35 million dollar budget cut was implemented. However, collection through the first 8 months of the fiscal year are at 98 percent of the estimate. A revenue failure occurs when revenue collections drop below 95 percent of the estimate. So finance officials must really be anticipating a precipitous decline in revenue collections in the last four months of the fiscal year. It is rather unusual to see numbers this good when a revenue failure has been declared.

Pryor: Where would those poor numbers occur?

Ashley: There are a variety of taxes which could be effective. We’ve been hearing good things from the oil patch for example so you would expect to see gross production taxes come up, although there has been a slight dip in prices because of oversupply. That then could affect income tax and sales tax. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

Pryor: Two tax trigger bills have passed.

Ashley: That’s right. As you may recall there had been some discussion about the automatic individual income tax reductions that would take place when revenues began to recover. One of those bills, by Sen. Roger Thompson, a Republican from Okemah, simply eliminates the trigger all together so the decline from 5 percent to 4.85 percent would not occur unless lawmakers came back in and passed something new. A second bill by Sen. Marty Quinn, a Republican from Claremore, sets a new calculation. It says revenues would have to be at least $7.5 billion plus the cost of the individual income tax rate reduction, before that could occur, and that would be many years down the road.

Pryor: What else should we watch for in the days ahead?

Ashley: I think we’ll see a lot of floor activity as we head to that Thursday, March 23 deadline. Bills to continue their path through the legislative session have to be heard on the floor by Thursday, and if not, they fall dormant and cannot be heard again until next year.

Pryor: That’s the capitol insider, eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley. Thank you.

Ashley: You’re very welcome.

Capitol Insider is a collaborative news project between KGOU and eCapitol. As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department. eCapitol is legislative news and bill tracking service. Online content is available via subscription.