A pointless but popular law is on the cutting room floor today. Solid arguments against its passage in 2010 failed to convince voters that State Question 755 was indefensible.
U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange has voided SQ 755, which was an attempt to circumvent application of Sharia law in Oklahoma. The measure passed with 70 percent of the vote. A legal challenge was filed days after the election. Miles-LaGrange enjoined the law from taking effect until the case was adjudicated.
Thus, SQ 755 never actually became law. From the time it was passed until Thursday's ruling from Miles-LaGrange, here is the number of attempts to apply Sharia law in Oklahoma: zero.
The constitutional questions upon which the challenge to SQ 755 was made didn't relate to Sharia law applications. They related to the constitutional rights of the plaintiff. This will be seen by SQ 755 supporters as judicial activism, a federal judge's move to impose on the people her own dislike of the measure. Not true.
SQ 755 was unconstitutional on its face. It was clear it would be challenged and cost the state precious resources to defend it. Those costs would continue if state officials choose to appeal. We urge them to let it go.
Supporters won't let it go, however. They will lament that a judge overturned the will of the people. But our system allows voters to make laws as long as they stay within consitutional guidelines. This one did not.
Hype over substance
This week state Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, issued a news release breathlessly announcing, “Nearly every state legislator with a prison in their district has signed onto a petition calling for corrections funding to be addressed if a special session is called ...” That's less impressive than it sounds. Only nine senators and 12 House members signed the petition, which is roughly 19 percent of senators and 12 percent of House members. That's hardly a groundswell of support for a special session on corrections. It takes a majority to pass legislation. We've noted before that lawmakers need to take public safety seriously, particularly by funding previously approved corrections reforms. Also, prison workers' pay likely needs adjusting. But those issues should have been dealt with in the regular legislative session. If Blackwell and his allies couldn't build support for addressing the issue then, they've provided little reason to believe things are different now.
President Barack Obama is vacationing this week at tony Martha's Vineyard, as he has each summer of his presidency. His lodging is a $7 million, 5,000-square-foot home rented from one of his Chicago buddies. He played golf Sunday with Wall Street consultant (and Obama campaign fundraiser) Robert Wolf, among others. On Monday his group included Washington insider Vernon Jordan and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. On Wednesday, he golfed with Kirk, Comcast executive Brian Roberts and the president of World Bank, Jim Kim. For someone who has spent much of his presidency demonizing the wealthy and successful in this country, Obama sure hangs out with an awful lot of them.
Following the Newtown, Conn., shooting spree, President Barack Obama promoted new gun control laws. He often used Newtown residents as living props at events, including relatives of the children killed. Today, that agenda item has been derailed; Obama seldom mentions the issue. One reason for gun control's failure is illustrated by the actions of Newtown residents Obama didn't invite to news conferences. The Wall Street Journal reports firearm permits in Newtown significantly exceeded last year's 12-month total by July 24. Statewide gun sales in Connecticut are on pace to surpass last year's total by October, and last year's total was more than double the number sold in 2000. “I think people realize that you can't call the police all the time and expect them to save you,” Newtown resident Bill Stevens told the Journal. “It's sinking in to some folks that ‘I need to take responsibility for keeping my family safe.'”
Merging church and state
Don't tell the ACLU, but public school students in Moore are attending class in a church building this year. Horrors! Hallelujah is more like it. The good people at Emmaus Baptist Church in south Oklahoma City opened their doors to Briarwood Elementary School, which was destroyed in the May 20 tornado. Classes for all grades will be held at Emmaus throughout the 2013-14 school year. The church is charging no rent. Utilities will be paid by the school district. “I think it is going to be a year of healing,” said an officer with Briarwood's Parent Teacher Organization, “so it's really fitting that we're in a church.” Several teachers admitted praying hard as the storm barreled down on Moore this spring — a natural reaction to a life-threatening event. They may now be offering another prayer, this one of thanks, for this most generous gift.
RINO? No! No!
Each year, the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper issues a “conservative index” that rates state legislators based on 10 votes. The rating is then used by other groups. The Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee declares any Republican getting a score of 63 or less to be a “Republican in Name Only” nominee, or RINO. The challenge of accurately gauging conservatism based on just 10 votes out of hundreds cast is obvious. It's not surprising the results sometimes raise eyebrows. For instance, this year's RINO nominees include Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City. That's the same Ralph Shortey who once wanted schools to determine students' residency status to identify the cost of educating illegal immigrants, who filed a bill allowing school personnel to carry a firearm and who sought judicial term limits. Some might look at that record and conclude that Shortey is fairly conservative. But OCPAC says he's a RINO. Who knew?
Stiff breeze of discontent
A city councilman in Piedmont got a painful civics lesson this week. Vernon Woods was tossed out in a recall election driven by residents upset that he met privately with officials from a company wanting to build a wind farm on the north side of town. Woods had won re-election last year with close to 70 percent of the vote. But in the recall, he picked up just 35.7 percent. Woods downplayed the role the proposed wind farm played in his demise, chalking it up instead to “political games” and having made enemies since joining the city council. Perhaps, but wind farms can be a touchy subject. Many like the idea of using renewable, clean wind energy — so long as the large turbines needed to generate that energy aren't in their backyards.
Show Me State showdown