State Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, filed an amendment authorizing private education vouchers for students at any Oklahoma public schools that allow teachers to carry weapons. The ploy was intended to force Republicans to either antagonize the portion of their base supporting education choice or disappoint supporters of an armed-teacher proposal.
Shelton detests vouchers. He should tread carefully. Such tactics can backfire.
Last year, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback pushed a major income tax cut. His plan included revenue offsets to reduce the fiscal impact. Senate leaders never warmed to the plan. To make a point, they passed the cut without any offsetting changes. The Kansas House called their bluff, sending the bill to Brownback's desk without the offsets. The governor signed it. Now he and lawmakers are grappling with serous budget challenges.
Shelton's gambit came to nothing, as have attempts to belittle serious issues in the past. Last year a Democratic lawmaker filed an amendment to criminalize the wastage of sperm. It was to protest a bill attempting to define when life begins under the law. Former Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, practically made a career of this. In 2011, he tried to abolish the state income tax as a taunting gesture to Republicans who were trying to cut the tax and eventually phase it out.
What happened in Kansas illustrates why it's important for lawmakers to focus debates on the merits of a proposal rather than engage in silly political stunts. School vouchers and school security are separate issues. They should be treated as such. Lawmakers from both political parties should remember the inherent risk of playing political chicken: The other side may not swerve.
As we noted after the sperm wastage amendment kerfuffle, “If we can't count on elected officials to leave the Romper Room, how can we expect children to act responsibly?”