ScissorTales: Animal issues fire up lawmakers

Published: March 16, 2013
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IN Colorado, the legislature is weighing a bill that would prevent farmers from “docking” — cutting the tails of their cattle. The bill would only let veterinarians perform the procedure, using anesthesia. Debate over the measure raged for hours in a House committee.

Animal-rights groups want to limit docking, arguing among other things that it causes pain and removes cows' built-in fly swatters. The Associated Press reports that the few farmers in Colorado who dock the traditional way insist it isn't cruel.

We're reminded of the flare-up at our Capitol a few years ago over equine dentists, called teeth floaters. A law passed in 2008 included a provision that made teeth floating a felony. The arrest in 2009 of a rodeo cowboy who also worked as a teeth floater got lawmakers' attention, and the next year the law was changed after lengthy and often heated debate.

Horses have been a high-profile issue this year, too, with sharp disagreement over whether to allow slaughtering of those animals to resume in Oklahoma. And of course the state endured a knockdown, drag-out fight several years ago over cockfighting.

Furry or feathered, animals have a way of getting lawmakers fired up.

The people's business

For the first time in decades, the Oklahoma Senate met behind closed doors in executive session. A spokesman claimed the topic of Monday's confab was “decorum and Senate tradition.” Legislators say they were encouraged to reread the chamber's rules and code of conduct. Supposedly, this admonition was prompted because Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, referred to Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, as “Matlock” during floor activity. Another lawmaker referred to a colleague by first name rather than by his title of senator. If the reports are accurate, it hardly seems worthy of a high-profile secret meeting. And given that Matlock reportedly argued 173 cases over nine TV seasons and lost only two (including one successfully retried), is that really an insult? Decorum matters, but legislators should be more mindful of these titles — “boss” and “employee.” Oklahoma voters are the former; legislators are the latter. Senators should keep that in mind before telling their bosses a meeting is “none of your business.”

A worthwhile change

Why should unclassified state employees have to resign in order to run for public office? They shouldn't, and a bill by state Rep. Donnie Condit would change the law that now requires them to do so. House Bill 1238 is headed to the Senate after winning easy approval this week in the House. The current law “is especially hard on candidates who are not elected, but are now out of a job,” said Condit, D-McAlester. He said the fact current law takes effect at the time of filing instead of at the time of election was probably an oversight by a previous Legislature. Perhaps, but it's about time the change is made. Provided state employees who want to run for office don't conduct their campaigns while at work, there is no compelling reason not to change the law.

Letting the sun shine in

Ten public bodies in Oklahoma were applauded this week for the transparency of their websites. A national nonprofit called Sunshine Review included the 10 in doling out its fourth annual Sunny Awards, which honor government entities “that make transparency a priority.” The Sunshine Review looked at more than 1,000 government websites and graded them against a 10-point checklist. In all, 247 received an award. Those in Oklahoma were: the cities of Broken Arrow, Enid, Owasso, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman; Oklahoma, Tulsa and Wagoner counties, and Edmond Public Schools. Congratulations to the winners, and here's hoping they have more company from Oklahoma next year.

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