by Steve Fair
One of the more unnecessary bills that will likely be debated is one by Senator Harry Coates, (R-Seminole) for an official country and western song. Oklahoma has an official ‘rock’ song- The Flaming Lips’ ‘Do you Realize?’- after last years’ session. After a contest to determine the winner, one of the ‘Lips’ band members showed up at the State Capitol ceremony dressed in a t-shirt with the logo of communism- the hammer and sickle. Several members of the House objected to the bands’ flippant attitude and defeated the resolution, authored by Representative Joe Dorman, (D-Rush Springs). The Governor then signed an Executive Order making the official state rock song one that less than five percent of the general population had ever heard of. The whole process was a waste of time when the legislature could have been dealing with a substantive issue like worker compensation reform. Hopefully lawmakers won’t waste the people’s time by trying to find the ‘perfect country and western song.’
Senator Anthony Sykes, (R-Moore), has introduced a bill that would reduce government waste and duplication by combining the work of the Corrections Department and the Pardon and Parole Board in the pardon and parole investigative process.
Representative Dennis Johnson, (R-Duncan), has filed a bill that will require students receiving money from the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program to remain in the state for five years after graduation. The Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program provides scholarships equivalent to all or part of tuition expenses for students who complete the program’s requirements while in high school. The scholarships may be used at accredited public and private colleges and for certain programs/courses offered at public career technology centers. Once enrolled, the student must complete a specified core curriculum, achieve a minimum GPA in both the required core, attend school regularly, and refrain from substance abuse and criminal/delinquent acts. This is a good idea and while it may not keep them in the state, it at least allows taxpayers to recover a portion of the investment we made in their education if they decide to leave.
Sykes has authored a bill that would require the Governor to set a special election for all state and federal offices within 30 days from when the vacancy occurs. This would mean the end of appointments by the Governor to file unexpired terms. You will recall that Governor Henry appointed current Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Steve Burrage in July of 2008 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Jeff McMahan after McMahan was found guilty on federal campaign finance charges. This is a necessary piece of legislation that will give voters a voice in replacing those vacanies. The real challenge with our current governor will be getting him to set the date within 30 days.
Sykes is also introducing a bill that would those receiving public welfare to pass a drug test before being approved for benefits. At least six states- Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Virginia- currently require eligibility for some public assistance to drug testing, according to the National Council of State Legislature. Public assistance and drug testing stems from the Congressional overhaul of welfare in the 1990s, which allowed states to implement drug testing as a condition of receiving help. This should be passed simply because it is common sense.
Senator Bryce Marlatt, (R-Woodward), evidently thinks the actions of some of his colleagues in the legislature and the Governor are chemically induced. He has filed a bill that would require drug tests for legislators and the Governor before they take office. Perhaps Marlatt filed the bill after hearing strands of Jimi Hendrix’ Purple Haze coming from the Capitol’s muzak system or he read the transcripts from past legislative sessions. Either way, this bill is a waste of legislative time.
All too often, legislators run bills that are popular and designed to get them media attention, re-elected to office or to endear themselves to their base. Legislation should be geared to making government more efficient, saving the taxpayers money or protecting the general public. It should not avoid the tough issues or simply ‘tell us what we want to hear.’ Edmund Burke said, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”