February 21, 2013

Demystifying the Legislative Process: The Debate on House Bill 1430

PLEASE NOTE: The House Appropriations and Budget Committee was told that the Art in Public Places program added 5 percent to the end of every building project and increased the price tag to the state's taxpayers; however, the program only requires 1.5 percent of the cost of construction or major renovation of state-owned buildings (approved after September 1, 2004) be allocated for works of art in or near the project with a maximum of $500,000 for any one project.

In addition, Rep. Mike Turner, author of HB 1430 stated that extending the moratorium would save the state $12.5 million, which could be used for other projects. In reality, funds approved for the construction and renovation of state buildings can't be reallocated to other agencies or projects, and thus, the moratorium does not save taxpayers any money.

Daytime/Dreamtime by Jacqueline Iskander | Northeastern Oklahoma A&M | 2011 Oklahoma Art in Public Places project
"No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution." -- Niccolò Michiavelli, Italian Politician and Philosopher

"All theatre is political if it engages you." --Edward Albee, Playwright

Yesterday, in an enterprising move, language was added to House Bill 1430 to extend the moratorium on the amazing Oklahoma Art in Public Places Program until June 20, 2017. This clever action came just two days after we learned the state had an additional $34 million in funds to appropriate this legislative session.

Oklahomans for the Arts began this current legislative session with a commitment to demystify the legislative process for our arts advocates. The following is a transcript of yesterday's debate of House Bill 1430. Earlier today, OFTA issued an action alert to our members regarding this legislation. You can view it here. 

We encourage advocates to review this content and familiarize themselves with the legislative process. The more we understand the twists and turns that can and do take place, the better advocates we can be, and frankly, the more we will understand the need to support Oklahomans for the Arts financially. Your gifts over the past few weeks have been so helpful and are greatly appreciated. If you have not joined yet, please consider doing so now. Click here to join OFTA.

Transcript from the Journal Record
The Chair moved to adopt a committee substitute; it was accepted.

McCullough asked Turner to explain the bill.  Turner explained that the bill was an extension of the Oklahoma Art in Public Places Act, a non-emergency bill that would extend the moratorium on the five-percent funding for renovation, as well as any billouts of any state property over the next three fiscal years.

J. McDaniel asked whether this bill was an amendment, or if it would do anything more than Turner just explained.  Turner said the bill would do exactly what he described.

Morrissette clarified that this bill would extend the moratorium on spending five percent on  construction art-deco projects.  Turner said this was correct.

Sears asked whether this bill would be extended to transportation.  Turner said he was using this bill to go after any capitol projects or safe buildings.

Sears said his understanding was that any construction project in the state had a set amount to fund a project, adding that bridges were included in those projects.

The Chair asked Patterson to testify on this issue. Patterson said arts in public places does not apply to roads and bridges, adding that this bill would not apply to any ODOT projects.

Dorman asked Turner whether this bill should apply to ODOT.  Turner said he felt it should, that it would make a uniform policy across the board.  Dorman said he thought the original example was to save money during a budget shortfall, and now that the state was "booming," he asked whether there was another intent for this bill.  Turner said that, other than saving taxpayer dollars, there was no other intent.  Dorman said that if this was the case, why not eliminate it completely, rather than a three-year moratorium.  Turner asked Dorman if he was open to proposing an amendment to the bill.  Dorman said he would not, but that one of his colleagues would do that.

Osborn asked that, although there is a large surplus this year, whether there were core services that need these dollars more than this project.  Turner agreed with her.  Osborn asked whether these new building projects never have the five percent surplus left over in their budget to fund for art, adding that this bill would add five percent at the end of every building project and increase the price tag to the state's taxpayers.  Turner said she was correct.

Brown asked if it was right, since there is the rule that one legislature cannot bind another legislature in future years with funding of programs, and that they would now be tying the hands of future  legislatures of doing so with this bill.

Turner said, "The state has bonds, does it not?"  Brown said, "I don't agree with those, either," asking whether Turner agreed with the bonds.  Turner said he did not.

Morrissette asked whether it would be best for the builders of projects to decide what the projects look like, and for the Legislature to keep out of that aspect.  Turner said that, as Osborn said previously, the builders would be adding five percent to the estimated cost of the building.

Morrissette asked whether he had Turner and Osborn and others' support of committing the savings from construction projects to the 1 billion dollars' worth of unfunded requirements, like state pay raises and such.  Turner said that while that was honorable and needed, he would not support dedicating five percent of any building project surpluses to any other streams of funding, adding that it was up to the body at large to do so.

Hickman asked what the repealer in his bill was, located on Page 12, Lines 18-19.  Turner said he was dealing with the committee substitute.  Hickman asked if there was a repealer in the substitute.  Turner said no.

The Chair announced there was an amendment submitted by Dorman.  Dorman asked whether his amendment would affect any grants ODOT might receive.  Patterson said it would not.  Dorman then said the amendment was self-explanatory, that it was the author's intent.  The Chair asked Dorman if this would affect projects long-term that are underway currently.  Dorman deferred to Patterson, who said he would imagine it would do so for ongoing projects, adding that it would affect on-the-shelf designs that were projected for two or more years out from now.

The Chair asked Osborn, who initiated this legislation several years ago, the intent of the original bill.  Osborn said it was not intended to affect projects existing at the time, and that they did purposely waive ODOT from the bill, adding that, however, people she talked to liked seeing images of buffalo on highway projects.

Brown asked whether this bill was out of order, because it did not deal with the same subject matter that the original bill dealt with, asking about the germaneness of the amendment.  The Chair ruled that the amendment was indeed germane.

Proctor raised a point of order, saying that the point of the committee process was to get any bills "cleaned up and germane" before they were sent to the floor.  The Chair said that since he ruled it germane the Speaker, when the bill got to the floor of the House, would determine the further germaneness of the bill.

Brown then asked if the practice of the committee was the ability to vote on overruling the germaneness ruling by the Chair, like they do got to the floor. The Chair said the challenge of the Chair was applicable in the committee.

There was a motion to table the amendment, and it was seconded.  There was no debate.  There was no unanimous consent to the amendment, so the Chair enacted a vote to table the amendment.  The amendment was tabled with 20 ayes, 4 nays and one pass.

There was a motion do pass on the original bill, and it was seconded.  There was  debate granted in the amount of one minute to each side.

Dorman debated that the bill passed several years ago, during the times of budget shortfall, but as the budget of the state has grown, he felt the need to invest in the opportunity to provide artwork assistance.  He said that since the beautification project of the capitol building was enacted, the building was much more enjoyable.  He then said that other agencies should be given the same opportunity.

Turner debated that the bill was an extension of current law, that there was a projected 250 million dollars set aside for capitol building improvements and that this bill would save 12.5 million dollars, adding that this money could be spent on other projects.  He said that some artists could inflate the price of their art, that one could not put a price on art, and that numerous private citizens have nice private collections, and that there was nothing that could prevent them from showing their art in public buildings.

The bill passed as substituted, 13-12.

From Emily Summars, eCapitol

Turner said he'd like to make the moratorium permanent because most building projects never have a 5 percent surplus and other core services are in higher need of the funding.

"This is nothing more than extending current law," Turner said. "This is money to be spent on better aspects. I'm not saying ban art. I know several artists and I know some can turn around and manipulate contracts. You can't put a dollar price on art. The intent of this bill is no to shutout art but to make sure the taxpayers' dollars are being used on taxpayer things."

Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said he understands but the original bill was passed during a budget shortfall. "As our funds grow, we need to invest in artwork," Dorman said. "This is a more enjoyable building [the Capitol] for visitors to come through because of the artwork and the initiatives to provide such… We need to respect the investment."

The bill squeezed by with a do pass recommendation with a vote of 13-12.

The Oklahoma Art in Public Places projects are not funded through state appropriations. Learn more about it here or on their Facebook page