Periscope: Chamber breakfast starts year with a sizzle

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

by Ted Streuli

The Journal Record

 The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s annual legislative breakfast always feels like the first day of Capitol boot camp. There’s inauguration day, which is sort of like enlistment – lots of promises with little mention of ensuing pain – and there’s the Associated Press’ annual legislative forum in early February at the Capitol, all part of the preseason ritual. But the chamber’s breakfast is often the scene of the first volley.

BancFirst CEO David Rainbolt is the chamber’s chairman this year, which lands him the master of ceremonies job. Rainbolt is a casual, straightforward speaker. His points were pretty clear: The chamber will support pro-business candidates regardless of party affiliation. It is willing to give up unproductive tax credits but is confident the worthwhile incentives will survive scrutiny. It wants the Legislature to find a way to finish the damn museum American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.

And if that wasn’t enough to make you happy, breakfast included bacon, which is the surest way to produce a friendly audience. The chamber knows what it’s doing.

This year’s panelists were state Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa; House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview; and House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City. That wasn’t meant to be out of balance. State Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton, was supposed to attend, but he didn’t show up. That was OK. Inman carried the ball like a Heisman contender, and Bass’ oration skills aren’t exactly I-have-a-dream caliber.

Here’s the whole Q-and-A for the short attention-spanned:

Hickman: Uh-oh. Oil is less than $50 per barrel. We will have to look at tax credits, but we’ll keep the good ones. Students spend too much time taking tests. We don’t really have a Medicaid plan. Please don’t make me talk about that damn museum American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.

Inman: Uh-oh. Oil is less than $50 per barrel, but I told you so. We can’t keep cutting taxes. We’re out of money. Raiding the state agency revolving funds was illegal, Scott Pruitt said so. We need to accept the Medicaid money, which was ours to begin with. We never should have dropped Common Core standards. Kids take too many tests. We don’t care what it takes, finish that damn museum American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.

Bingman: Uh-oh. Oil is less than $50 per barrel. Medicaid is a loan. We should be healthier. Tax credits are good for business. Common Core was bad because the federal government thinks it’s good. Where’s Bass? Is there any more bacon? Can I have his?

OK, Bingman didn’t really ask for Bass’ bacon, but I bet he was thinking about it. I know I was.

The best moment was Hickman’s reply when Rainbolt asked about that damn museum American Indian Cultural Center and Museu. “Uh,” said Hickman, “we executed well.” If you don’t get the joke, well, perhaps you’ve been out of state for a few days. It’s OK. It involves Russell Westbrook and Berry Tramel. Someone will explain it to you.

Setting fun aside for a moment, it is worth considering that the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber supports completion of that damn museum the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, even if it means the state has to issue bonds to get it done. It is also notable that the chamber supports “pursuit of all available funds” to “reduce the costs of uncompensated care,” which I think means they’re OK with taking that Medicaid money. It’s also in favor of local control over things like tobacco use.

The chamber’s agenda makes a lot of sense. A lot more sense than Bingman’s explanation of Medicaid, anyway.

Check out more from The Journal Record. See more columns from The Journal Record Editor Ted Streuli.