States are considered laboratories of democracy because state policies can become the basis for future federal policies. Thanks to overwhelming one-party rule in many states, Republican and Democrats now have the chance to test-drive very different policy approaches. Stateline.org notes that 166 million people live in the 25 states where Republicans have full control, while 93 million live in 13 states where Democrats hold sway. In 22 states, including Oklahoma, one party has a veto-proof majority in both chambers. The competition between those states will be instructive. While states like Oklahoma consider tax cuts, states such as Minnesota are looking at tax increases. Blue states are pushing gun control; red states are seeking to expand gun rights. On these and many other issues, states' differing policies will offer a stark contrast, and the results will influence the advancement of conservative or liberal governing philosophies at the federal level.
Picking his battles
State Rep. Josh Cockroft made his point. Cockroft, R-Tecumseh, filed a bill to gradually end state funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council. It had little chance of being approved — that was clear in comments supportive of the arts made by members of House and Senate budget subcommittees. Cockroft recognized that by not making it one of his top priority bills for this session. After the bill was effectively shelved by House leadership this week, he said he didn't file it solely to try to get a bill passed. Instead, “It's to merely point to a bigger conversation which I think we need to be having — which is, can we make sure that every dollar's going where it absolutely needs to go?” It's a good question, one lawmakers should ask regularly as they prepare to spend taxpayer money.
Education challenge not just money
In a “cold day in hell” moment, the House Democratic caucus is enthusiastically backing Republican state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi. Barresi is seeking nearly $300 million more for public schools this year. Last year she sought a $157 million increase that the Legislature ultimately rejected. Democrats have made Barresi's latest budget request part of their 2013 agenda, although they don't explicitly acknowledge it, choosing to call the item “the State Board of Education's request.” That's likely because Democrats have made opposing Barresi and education reform a major emphasis and don't want their base to realize agreement exists. Barresi has rightfully shifted education policy to focus on results — student and school performance — not just appropriations, but she acknowledges the need for funding. If most Democrats emulated Barresi by supporting not only additional spending but also school improvement, Oklahoma students would be better off.
Thanks for your time
Well, that didn't last long. This week President Barack Obama announced he was disbanding his jobs council. Obama formed the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness — a group of businessmen and women from across the country — in January 2011, shortly after Democrats got hammered in midterm congressional elections. The council ostensibly was aimed at coming up with ways to improve the economy. But the president met just four times with the group during its two-year run, and not at all after February of last year. Unemployment was above 9 percent when the council formed. Now it's at 7.9 percent, with more than 12 million still out of work. Administration officials say Obama will continue to seek input from business leaders about how to help the economy. But many have already told him that new and stricter federal regulations are a huge problem. How's that worked out for them?