The party of limited government has wandered off the trail more than once during this legislative session, with Republicans filing bills that require a double-take to make sure there really is an R next to the author’s name instead of a D. One example is a bill by Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, that would require public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day. Presently, reciting the pledge is optional, as it should be. Moore contends doing so daily would "strengthen our culture and the nation’s traditions.” (A Democratic member was quick to join in, filing an amendment last week that would require students to also recite the official salute to Oklahoma’s flag. Don’t ever let it be said our lawmakers aren’t focused on tackling truly important issues.) One Republican senator said he was looking out for science teachers in his district when he filed a bill that he said would allow more latitude when teaching about or discussing such issues as stem cell research. The district superintendent said it was a non-issue. The bill, thank goodness, was killed in committee. There are other examples of trying to stretch the government’s tentacles ever farther, one of the most questionable being a move to give the state Department of Agriculture sole authority over livestock regulations. Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, filed his bill at the request of his former employer, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which is concerned about potential fallout from a California proposition that spells out how some farm animals are confined. Voters approved that troubling and invasive proposition in November. Schulz says he understands the concerns that have been raised about his bill and a similar measure in the House, each of which have passed easily so far. But he says he has worries of his own, namely that cities could annex into rural areas and then dictate "how I’m going to farm my livestock.” Those concerns seem exaggerated. And even if they’re not, squabbles that might result over livestock or other animals are best left for local officials to resolve. Handing that duty over to the Department of Agriculture would be going too far. Ponca City’s mayor called the bill "ridiculous” when it first passed through committee last month. "I can’t believe that any legislator would initiate legislation like this,” he said. Now the idea is cooking right along in the Legislature. The Humane Society has been leading the opposition, concerned in part about the potential for large special interests to dictate ag policy. Our biggest reservation is about the potential erosion of local control, an ideal Republicans should hold in high regard.
Squabbles that might result over livestock or other animals are best left for local officials to resolve.