Unprecedented coalition forms, as Labor unions join opposition to S.Q. 744

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 16-Sep-2010

Several prominent labor organizations – including the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – today (Thursday, September 16) joined an unprecedented coalition of Oklahomans united in opposition to State Question 744.

On the pro-744 side, meanwhile, advocates have made a significant television media buy, projected at well beyond $1 million, multiple sources say.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Ed Allen, President of the Oklahoma City AFT said, “If passed, 744 will hurt all of education including our nationally recognized early education programs. The most alarming concern for our teachers is that 744 has zero guarantee any additional money will be spent in the classroom or for teacher pay. To not expressly protect and prioritize the two most vital components of education is simply the wrong way to advance funding,” said Allen.

Jimmy Curry, President of the AFL-CIO said, “State Question 744 is estimated to be a tax increase of about $1,200 for a family of four, which when combined with the anticipated cuts to state services, makes 744 a job killer for our members and the state of Oklahoma as a whole.”

Reno Hammond, with the Southwest Laborers’ Union said, “Oklahoma needs to work together and not divisively.  SQ 744 pits one area of state government against another to the detriment of the entire state.”

In other news from opponents of S.Q. 744, Jeff Wilson of the One Oklahoma Coalition was critical of comments made to media this week by the executive director to the state Ethics Commission. The comments concerned a $1.7 million contribution from an out-of-state PAC to the Yes on 744 campaign, which supports State Question 744.

Jeff Wilson, campaign manager to the One Oklahoma Coalition said, in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, “It is not the role of commission staff to act as a judge in determining when to apply and when not to apply state law.

“The ban on out-of-state PAC-to-PAC contributions to state questions was advocated by the Ethics Commission itself, and passed by the Legislature this year, after the Supreme Court ruled in January on the Citizens United v. Federal Ethics Commission. For the commission director to cite this as the reason for choosing to not enforce the PAC-to-PAC ban is disingenuous. I believe she is also exceeding her authority,” said Wilson.

Wilson continued, “The Citizen’s United ruling occurred prior to Marilyn Hughes enforcing the current ban against the Oklahoma-based OPEA PAC less than two weeks ago. Why now is she hiding behind this issue to protect an out-of-state illegal contribution?”

Wilson said, “We appreciate the stand ethics commissioners took during their last meeting when they upheld the current law. We ask they continue that stance by instructing their staff to enforce uniformly the law and not seek to change the law six weeks out from an election.”
It is not yet clear if the continuing ethics controversy and new wave of anti-744 opposition announcements will erode the initiative’s popularity.

Polling indicates the measure has a lead among voters. An online note circulated today from the “yes on 744 team” assailed opponents.

That email said, concerning the broad anti-744 coalition, “It’s a shame that they are more concerned with protecting their own interests over our children’s interests.”

Today’s pro-744 email asked recipients to forward the email and encourage others “to visit our website and sign up so we can fight the fear and make pre-K through 12th grade education a true priority in our state.”

Commenting on the wave of anti-744 announcements, Wilson said, “The announcement of the addition of these groups to the One Oklahoma Coalition brings an unprecedented level of unity among broad political interests that traditionally have had very differing philosophies.”

Members to the One Oklahoma Coalition (partial listing) now include: Oklahoma Farm Bureau, The State Chamber of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Public Employees Association, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce, Association of Oklahoma General Contractors, T.R.U.S.T. (Transportation Revenues Used Strictly for Transportation),Southwest Laborers District Council, Oklahoma Hospital Association, Americans For Prosperity, Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition, Oklahomans For Responsible Government, Oklahoma Bankers Association, Oklahoma Highway Users Federation, Oklahoma Association of Healthcare Providers, American Farmers and Ranchers, Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce Executives Association, Oklahoma Professional Economic Development Council, Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association, Oklahoma Agribusiness Retailers Association, American Council of Engineering Companies of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Professional Economic Development Council, Oklahoma Pork Council, Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, Oklahoma Asphalt Paving Association, Oklahoma Municipal Contractors Association, and Restoring Oklahoma Public Education.

Also announcing opposition to the controversial ballot initiative are Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Hospital Association, Farm Credit of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Trucking Association, Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council, Inc., American Federation of Government Employees, Local 916, The Northwest Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma Agriculture Aviation Association, The Enid Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, Oklahoma Association of Healthcare Providers, Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association, Oklahoma Aggregates Association, Oklahoma AFL-CIO, and Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309.