STATE Rep. Randy Grau is floating a plan that, in theory, would give members of the Legislature more time to consider budget and spending issues and ultimately result in fewer laws being passed. We say “in theory” because, while the idea makes sense and is worth a close look, it's a stretch to believe his colleagues will help make it happen.
Grau, R-Edmond, would have the people vote on his plan. But the Legislature must sign off on sending the idea to a vote of the people. Given how much members enjoy telling others what to do, it's unlikely to reach the ballot box. Consider just a few of the bills that have been filed during this session:
•A bill by Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, seeks to straighten out the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, the organization that oversees high school and junior high sports in this state. Cleveland says schools use public funds to become OSSAA members; therefore, the OSSAA is a public body that makes Legislature's crackdown apropos. There's plenty of momentum behind this expansion of government responsibility by the party of smaller government.
•Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville, is author of a measure that prohibits cities and towns from establishing property registries such as the registry for vacant property that was approved unanimously by the Oklahoma City Council in December. The party that touts the merits and importance of local control is thus pushing to tell municipalities how to conduct their affairs.
•The “lawmakers know best” mindset is seen in a bill that would have the Legislature approve the sale of state-owned railroad lines. Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, says his bill would give the Legislature more control of track owned by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Apparently the folks at ODOT need the help.
•A bill by Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, would require attorneys to “attend a seminar on the principles of federalism at least once every two years” for continuing education credit. For good measure, the curriculum for those seminars would be developed by lawmakers sitting on the States' Rights Committee of the Oklahoma House.
Grau's joint resolution proposes that during odd-numbered years, the Legislature only consider appropriations and budget bills. During those years, members would have more time to delve into budget requests and really debate the state budget. In even-numbered years, other bills would be considered.
“We pass far too many bills in the Legislature and devote far too little time to considering how to spend taxpayers' money,” Grau said. “I think we owe our citizens more than that.”
Last year, the House and Senate combined to file more than 2,500 bills and joint resolutions. Of those, more than 400 bills and 20 joint resolutions were signed by the governor. This year's legislative session began with nearly 2,200 bills filed.
Grau pointed out that our system of government was designed to make it difficult to pass laws, because each new law or new administrative regulation that's added to the books eats into citizens' freedom. “Somehow, we have all developed this mindset that the Legislature has to pass a lot of laws every year or we have been 'unproductive',” he said.
Oklahomans would likely argue that, where the Legislature is concerned, the less productivity, the better.