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.
A big gulp of relief
Let's hear it for Milton Tingling! A justice on the New York Supreme Court, Tingling struck down New York City's proposed ban on large soft drinks. The idea was proposed last year by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and approved by the city's health board. It was to take effect this week, but Tingling said no in his Monday ruling. Among other things, he said the ban on drinks larger than 16 ounces was arbitrary in that it applied only to some sugary drinks and some places that sell them. “The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of this rule,” said Tingling, a Democrat elected to his post in 2001. Bloomberg proposed the ban as a way to cut down on obesity; he vows to appeal. “One of the cases we will make,” he declared, “is that people are dying every day.” And only an expansion of the nanny state can prevent that, it seems.
Expansion of the nanny state is one argument used by those opposed to banning text-messaging while driving. If someone wants to text while driving, they say, it's their business. But when that person swerves into another lane while texting, his business becomes other peoples' business. Scores of studies point up the dangers of texting at the wheel — those who do so are 23 times more likely to get into an accident — but they didn't help to get a proposed ban out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives this session. Speaker T.W. Shannon says distracted driving is already against the law. He also questions whether such a ban would be enforceable. Why not let law enforcement, which supports a ban, deal with that issue? Thirty-nine states have outlawed texting while driving. Oklahoma should join them.
Workers' comp support
Workers' compensation reform is often viewed as an issue important to a sliver of Oklahoma's business community, but a source of indifference for most citizens. A new poll suggests this may no longer be the case. A SoonerPoll.com survey of likely Oklahoma voters showed 72.5 percent felt changes should be made to the current workers' compensation system with two-thirds believing the current system hurts Oklahoma businesses. Only 8.7 percent disagreed with a potential change to an administrative-based system. An outright majority of Democrats surveyed agreed that shifting to an administrative system could be beneficial. Because the poll was commissioned by the State Chamber Research Foundation, some will question its findings. But it's not unreasonable to think most Oklahomans, having lived their entire lives hearing of problems with the current work comp system, have concluded it's time to junk it. Lawmakers should take note.