CONCERNS voiced by Democrats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives about the work being done — or not done — by Republicans shouldn't be dismissed as sour grapes from a party toiling under a GOP supermajority. Democrats have some good reasons to be bothered.
No one in Republican leadership seems to have an interest in using a bond issue to responsibly repair the Capitol building, or build a new medical examiner's office, or take care of other pressing state infrastructure needs. Instead they argue that all debt is bad debt, and that Oklahoma isn't about to travel the same path as politicians in Washington. So bond issues are off the table.
House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, recently wrote that borrowing $200 million would cost the state $80 million in interest over two decades. “Only in government does it make sense to pay $280 million for something that costs $200 million,” he wrote. Apparently GOP lawmakers don't hold mortgages on their homes. If they've found mortgage companies that don't charge interest, we'd like to know who they are.
A bill that would outlaw text-messaging while driving — something 39 other states have found to be worthwhile — can't get off high center in the House. But if you've got a bill that won't add up to a hill of beans but will allow the most conservative GOP members to preen, step right up!
This is how we wind up with a measure like the Freedom Firearms Act, which would exempt guns or ammunition made in Oklahoma from federal regulations so long as those items remain in Oklahoma. Hailed as a sign that we're a gun-friendly state, the bill passed by a 79-12 margin in the House.
It's how we wind up with the House approving, by a 72-20 vote, a bill that would have the Legislature declare that the Affordable Care Act isn't authorized by the U.S. Constitution. The author, Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said Obamacare is an example of federal overreach. He's right. It's an awful law. But it's the law of the land, approved by Congress and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
During the hectic final week for the House to consider bills that originated in that chamber, members found the time to approve a bill barring local governments from adopting or implementing policy recommendations established by the United Nations Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is a nonbinding, voluntarily action plan that deals with sustainable development. The bill also would ban the state from contracting with or exchanging funds with a nongovernmental or intergovernmental group accredited by the U.N.
The vote was 67-17 in favor. Thank goodness that got done!
This session's No. 1 priority is an overhaul of the workers' compensation system. It's a worthwhile objective, because the system is in dire need of repair. Wholesale changes would benefit Oklahoma businesses and workers. But far too much of the business, particularly in the House, has been notable for its triviality.
What we need more of is legislation driven by ideas that might make a difference for Oklahomans. What we need less of are bills driven by ideology that won't make any difference.