As the sequester neared, Reason magazine editor-in-chief Matt Welch was among those arguing that the looming government budget cuts didn’t go nearly deep enough.
Writing at cnn.com, Welch pointed out that the amount cut would equal “a tiny sliver of the federal budget” and should leave people asking what the country gained from doubling government spending from 2000 to 2010.
“If the bureaucrats can’t produce an explanation for the price increase of government, then they should not expect their budgets to be rubber-stamped by an already suffering public,” Welch said.
Complaints are coming from “a government money machine having difficulty adapting to a political universe that no longer accepts automatic annual increases,” he said, and those will continue until politicians muster the gumption “to align government expenditures within miles of revenue.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
Members of the Oklahoma Legislature earn a base salary of $38,400 per year. For that, taxpayers get these sorts of proposals:
A bill that could leave federal officials facing five years in prison if they’re found to be providing services that comply with President Barack Obama’s health care law. State employees could face a misdemeanor charge for enforcing any part of the law. “When states’ rights have been tread upon, we have a responsibility to speak up, and this is one of those moments,” said Rep. Dan Fisher, R-Yukon, author of the bill. Nice sentiment, but lawmakers also have a responsibility to uphold the law, and Obamacare, like it or not, is the law of the land. (Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, is pushing a measure that would nullify Obamacare.)
A bill by Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, that would direct the Oklahoma Historical Society to hold a contest to name the state’s cowboy song.
A bill by Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, that would not allow the use of foreign law in Oklahoma courts. This is truly a solution in search of a problem, yet the Senate approved it and sent it on to the House.
Voters long ago mandated that legislative sessions run from early February to the end of May. Measures like these make us wonder if even four months is too long.
Democrats are issuing weekly press releases criticizing the State Rights Committee, which Oklahoma House leaders created to push back against perceived federal overreach.
Democrats are certainly right to criticize activity they see as ridiculous, although their releases are light on detail, other than claiming Oklahoma Republicans are somehow anti-gun. (Does that claim even pass the laugh test?) Mostly, the releases tout the Democrats’ supposed superior knowledge and love of the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions.
Yet a quote attributed to Rep. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, said Republicans “refuse to accept the law of the land after our three branches of federal government and the Supreme Court have spoken.”
Last time we checked, the U.S. Supreme Court is part of the three branches of government (judicial) — not a fourth. If Democrats want to portray themselves as constitutional experts, they should avoid mistakes that would get them bounced in a high school civics class.
As chairman of the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Brian Crain refused to hear a bill allowing local control of smoking regulations. Crain, R-Tulsa, has argued lawmakers should either debate a comprehensive statewide ban on smoking or nothing, decrying a piecemeal approach.
Yet he then granted a hearing to a bill to legalize the “medical” use of marijuana. That measure failed, with Crain among the opponents.
Crain said he allowed the vote because of the persistence of the bill’s author, Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City.
But advocates of local control of smoking regulations have been pushing the issue for years; supporters include everyone from the governor to health officials to local mayors. In comparison, Johnson is a legislative gadfly. It’s disturbing that a committee chair appears more receptive to the fringes than to than state leaders and the broad Oklahoma electorate.
“As with all positions that come with a lifetime appointment,” U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Monday, “the deliberations over filling the vacancy can take time.” And how!
Robert Bacharach’s confirmation this week to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ended his 13-month wait and fills a seat that’s been open for two-and-a-half years.
The first few tries at nominating someone were sidelined by Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee. Finally Bacharach’s name surfaced and President Barack Obama nominated him in January 2012. Bacharach, a U.S. magistrate judge in Oklahoma City since 1999, had sterling credentials, was not a controversial choice and sailed through vetting by the Senate Judiciary Committee last June.
Then silly political games got in the way — Senate Republicans hoping for a change in the White House refused to allow votes on circuit court nominees in advance of the election. Coburn and Inhofe, sadly, did nothing to help Bacharach’s cause.
The folly of this gamesmanship is reflected in Monday’s vote on Bacharach by the full Senate’s — 93-0.
A measure approved this week in a state House committee would let Oklahoma voters decide an issue that lawmakers refuse to. It’s only the latest example of legislators punting on their responsibilities.
A joint resolution by Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, would let voters decide whether the state should seek a $200 million bond issue to fix the Capitol and other buildings in the Capitol complex. The Legislature has spiked previous bond issue efforts over concerns about the state incurring additional debt.
An idea similar to Hickman’s was floated during the 2012 session but didn’t materialize. The argument was that the Capitol is “the people’s building” and so they — not the men and women sent to Oklahoma City to represent them — should make the decision.
Last year a legislative task force abruptly stopped studying the idea of letting grocery stores and convenience stores sell wine and high-point beer. Off it went to a potential vote of the people. Lawmakers have shown no appetite for changing state law to allow cities and towns to enact their own smoking-related ordinances. Bills went nowhere last year and again this session. So now Gov. Mary Fallin is leading a petition drive to send the idea to a vote of the people.
Legislators have no problem pandering and passing feel-good bills, but they too often lack the fortitude to make the difficult choices their jobs require.
State Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s tenure has often been marked by controversy. Now lawmakers appear ready to rein him in.
Senate Bill 8, which would prohibit investigators from operating specialized motor vehicles equipped and marked differently than other department vehicles, gained unanimous approval in a state Senate committee this week. State Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, said the legislation was in response to Doak having purchased police vehicles for his anti-fraud unit. Doak may have to sell those vehicles if SB 8 becomes law.
Senators also discussed amending the legislation to prevent Doak’s investigators from carrying firearms because of the precedent it would set for other state agencies.
We were among those who questioned the need for Doak to spend more than $180,000 on everything from shotguns to police-package vehicles for his anti-fraud unit, noting his predecessor got the job done without such extravagance. It appears lawmakers had the same reaction.
The Obama administration this week unveiled a system that’s designed to make it easier for students and parents to compare colleges.
President Obama mentioned the College Scorecard during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, and rolled it out the next day. It lets prospective college students compare such things as graduation rates, average costs and employment prospects upon graduation.
The scorecard doesn’t provide a ranking for schools, only a broad idea of where they fall in various categories. For example, it says the University of Oklahoma’s net price is low to medium compared with peer schools. OSU’s net price is at the low end.
The system isn’t perfect but the idea has merit. The same is true of Oklahoma’s A-F grading system for public schools, which has been heavily criticized by the education establishment. Why no such howling over the president’s plan?
Patience O’Dowd of Placitas, N.M., and Jerilyn Davis of Norman have filed an ethics complaint against state Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow. They claim McNeil would financially benefit from legislation she filed to legalize horse slaughter because her family owns a livestock auction.
Yet McNiel’s bill does not require horses to go to auction before slaughter, and her family’s business is not favored over any other auction site. Furthermore, there’s not much money in horse slaughter.
In California, news reports revealed such horses sold for as little as $50 at auction. That’s hardly a road to riches, and McNiel says the bill is merely designed to prevent the dumping and starvation of old horses.
If attorneys serving in the Oklahoma Legislature can vote on bills impacting lawsuits or workers’ compensation, can’t McNiel file one loosely related to auctions?
This complaint appears a harassment tactic and should be tossed.
The ongoing drought has generated similar proposals in Oklahoma and Texas.
Locally, legislation creating a $10 million Emergency Drought Relief Fund has gained House committee approval. The fund could pay for cleaning or building ponds, water conservation, water for livestock, rural fire suppression, getting rid of Eastern red cedar trees and other drought-relief activities identified by the governor.
In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry has called for tapping the state’s Rainy Day Fund to pay for water conservation projects. His plan may draw opposition from some tea party elements on the political right while also needing Democratic support on the left to get the two-thirds vote required — no sure thing.
So far, the Oklahoma proposal has received unanimous bipartisan support. Here’s hoping Oklahoma discussions remain centered on policy. This proposal should live or die based on merit and careful analysis, not the political version of inside baseball.