Monday, December 30, 2013
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
On December 17th, the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously agreed that HB #2032, a state law that cut income tax and also created a fund for repairing the state Capitol building was unconstitutional. The court’s opinion, written by Justice James Winchester, stated, “We hold the statute unconstitutional as it violates the single subject rule mandated by the Oklahoma Constitution.” What is the ‘single subject’ rule?
Article V Sec. 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution states: Every act of the Legislature shall embrace but one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title, except general appropriation bills, general revenue bills, and bills adopting a code, digest, or revision of statutes. The motive of the writers of the constitution was to attempt to stop the practice of ensuring the passage of a bill by which a legislator is forced to vote for an unfavorable provision in a bill to secure passage of a favorable one. The bill was authored by Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, (R-Lawton) and was a priority of Governor Mary Fallin.
“I am extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision to unravel a plan that would have provided tax relief to Oklahoma families as well as a way of restoring our crumbling Capitol building,” Fallin said.
Speaker Shannon said. “I'm deeply disappointed the Supreme Court has once again ruled against the interests of those families. The good news is, help is on the way. I am prepared to act quickly with legislative leaders and the governor to restore what the Supreme Court has undone.”
Three observations concerning this ruling:
First, the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling on ‘single subject’ has been terribly inconsistent. In June, the court ruled the tort reform laws passed in 2009 were unconstitutional because they violated the ‘single subject’ rule. Then on December 16th, the Supreme Court ruled the new workers comp reform laws WERE constitutional and did not violate the ‘single subject’ rule. Bear in mind, both tort reform and workers comp were written and presented much the same way. If one law violated the ‘single subject’ provision, then it stood to reason that both did. And what about the behemoth HB #1017 passed by Oklahoma voters in 1990? If tort reform violated single subject, then the education bill was certainly a violation. Where was the high court then? Oklahoma citizens should reasonably expect courts to rule with consistency and not legislate from the bench.
Second, Oklahomans must demand judicial reform. Oklahoma has three appellate courts- The Oklahoma Supreme Court, made up of nine(9) justices, the court of Civil Appeals, twelve(12) justices, and the court of Criminal Appeals, five(5) justices. All are appointed by the governor. Of the twenty six (26) justices currently on the three courts, nineteen (19) were appointed by Democrat governors. All of these judges face Oklahoma voters, on a rotating basis, every six (6) years on a ‘retention’ ballot. Voters can either vote to keep them or replace them. Since Oklahoma went to a retention ballot, NO justice has been replaced. It is next to impossible to find out anything about the judges on the ballot. Many voters just leave it blank or vote to retain. This system is not working. Justices should either be term limited or they should run on a partisan ballot like they do in Texas.
Third, the single subject provision needs to go away. Anti-logrolling provisions in state constitutions were very common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While the rule does force the legislature to only deal with one subject at a time, the rule has resulted in overly narrow interruption by the high court. Single subject requires the legislature to pass more bills to accomplish the same thing and is an ineffective mechanism for stopping corruption. It is now being used to circumvent the will of the people by an activist judiciary. It’s time we consider removing it from our state constitution.
This is not the official position of the Oklahoma Republican Party. I am not speaking in an official capacity as National Committeeman. This is only my opinion as John Q. Citizen.
Monday, December 23, 2013
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
On Wednesday, we celebrate the birth of Christ. I think the birth, death and resurrection of Christ are the most important events in human history. It is proper we mark and celebrate these events. I recognize that December 25th was probably not the day Jesus Christ was born, but it is the season when the world is more aware of the incarnation of God as man. The scriptures do not command us to celebrate the birth of Christ, but I believe it presents an amazing opportunity for Christians to present the gospel. Allow me to deviate from my normal political commentary to give you three thoughts on Christmas.
First, Christmas is under attack. For the last several years, Bill O’Reilly has documented a number of circumstances where the celebration of the birth of Christ is under attack in the United States. In Denver, they have banned religious floats in their Christmas parade. Nativity scenes are being removed all over the country because of protests. The greeting, “Merry Christmas,” has been deemed insensitive and replaced with, “Happy Holidays.” As America becomes more secular, any reference to Christ became offensive. That shouldn’t surprise believers because Paul said in 1 Cor. 1:18-25 that Christ was a stumbling block to the world. Americans are not as spiritual as they were just twenty years ago. Church attendance is down. According to a New York Daily Post poll, only 54% of believers who had attended Christmas worship services as a child will attend this year. Why is that? The reason is many mainstream churches have abandoned truth for relevance. While that may result in filling the pews, it doesn’t change hearts. These attacks on the birth of Christ are the fruit of many years of believers not sowing the Word of God. Christians have no one to blame for this deterioration of our society but themselves.
Second, Christmas is too commercial. For years, people have spent more on gifts at Christmas than they could afford. According to a study performed by the American Research Group, Inc., Americans will spend an average of $854 in gifts for friends and loved ones this year. The average gift cost per child is now over $300. One in ten parents will spend over $500 per child. Many of those purchases will go on a credit card and paid out over the year, with interest. The winners are banks, lending institutions and retailers. Everyone agrees that Christmas is too commercial, but they are unwilling to stop buying expensive gifts because they feel pressure from a secular society. Of the 2,000 people polled in the Post poll, only half said they viewed Christmas as a religious holiday, so it is not a surprise when we see Christmas becoming more commercialized.
Third and most importantly, Christ is not still the babe in the manager. The message of the birth of Christ is not just his birth, but his death and resurrection. Many people embrace the picture of a baby Jesus with an angelic halo above his head, who appears to be small and helpless. But scripture says that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God the Father making intercession for believers. Why does He need to make that intercession; because we are dead in trespasses and sin. Not sick, dead. That babe was and is the only hope we have. He is the omniscient and sovereign God who rules in the affairs of men.The hope of America and for each individual American is not in electing more Republicans or getting more conservatives in office. It’s not in getting the economy going. It’s not in making sure everyone has affordable health care . The hope of America is Jesus Christ. He is the hope of all mankind. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Monday, December 16, 2013
Weekly Opinion Editorial
BILL OF RIGHTS CAME FROM GOD!
by Steve Fair
Sunday December 15th was the 222nd anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is the name give to the first ten(10) amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In 1789, twelve amendments were introduced by then Congressman James Madison to the 1st US Congress as a series of legislative articles. They were adopted by Congress in September of 1789 and eventually ten(10) were ratified by three fourths of the states in 1791.
The Bill of Rights enumerates freedoms not explicitly stated in the main body of the Constitution, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, a free press, and free assembly; the right to keep and bear arms; freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, security in personal effects, and freedom from warrants issued without probable cause.
When Madison, who was a Federalist, proposed the Bill of Rights, it was a controversial idea because a majority of the founding fathers had already entertained and rejected the idea of including a Bill of Rights in the original 1787 Constitution. Some of the Federalists(those who wanted a strong national government) also believed the concept bore too much similarity to England’s monarchy. The Magna Carta, written in 1215, was a concession by King John to grant certain rights to his English subjects. The Federalist founders wanted our founding document to present the concept of self-rule. They said the reason was because ‘rights’ were given to man by God.
They also believed the Constitution was the only document that was necessary and called Madison’s amendments, ‘parchment barriers.’ Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper #84: “I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?” Today, it seems almost inconceivable to not have a Bill of Rights, but in the early founding days of our nation, they were a source of controversy.
Why should Americans care about the Bill of Rights?
First, because they enumerate the basic freedoms we have as Americans; rights government can’t take away. The Bill of Rights are like rules to a game. You need to know what the rules are for being a citizen in America. They educate citizens. They serve to help keep government in check. While they are not followed as closely by government as they should be, they do provide an effective deterrent to government expansion into our lives.
Secondly, the Bill of Rights are important today because they define what the founders meant when they said "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." A key phase in the Constitution is ‘unalienable rights.’ The founders were stating our rights, which cannot be taken away by government, originated with God. But if our rights originated with God, as the founders stated, shouldn’t we find out what He said about government? Romans 13:1 says Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
That simply means President Obama didn’t win two presidential elections by accident- he was placed into office by God. Hard to grasp for conservatives, but in fact if we believe that God puts leaders in power, we must understand He also controls and governs them. The most effective lobbying effort a Christian has is not writing and calling his elected officials (which should be done), but when he lobbies God on his knees.
If God puts leaders into power, then we can logically conclude He also ordained the adoption of the Bill of Rights. We should be grateful and thankful for His provision of these ten amendments. They came from the hand of an omniscient, sovereign God who knows what we need better than we do.
Monday, December 9, 2013
by Steve Fair
Last week former Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau passed away. Brenda served as Labor Commissioner from 1995-2007. I met Brenda Reneau in early 1994 when she started campaigning for office. We immediately hit it off. She was smart, candid and didn’t take herself too seriously. When I ran for State Senate in 2000, Brenda was a trusted advisor to my campaign and a close confidant and friend. She keynoted two successful fundraisers for my campaign. I will miss her personally, but Brenda Reneau’s legacy is how she conducted herself in office.
What Brenda accomplished during her tenure as Oklahoma Labor Commissioner was significant. It has saved and continues to save Oklahoma taxpayers millions of dollars. Reneau successfully fought the ‘prevailing wage’ fraud schemes of organized labor in the state. ‘Prevailing wage’ aka the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 was a US Federal law that required public works projects pay the local prevailing wages to laborers and mechanics. Many states, including Oklahoma, mirrored the Davis-Bacon Act and passed local ‘prevailing wage’ laws for their state funded projects. The problem was that organized labor was fraudulently setting the ‘prevailing wage.’ Before Reneau was elected, previous Oklahoma Labor Commissioners just rubber stamped the higher rate and Oklahoma taxpayers paid the bill.Reneau brought suit on behalf of Oklahoma taxpayers challenging prevailing wage. She fought it to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and in October of 1995, the court agreed with her and declared the state’s little Davis-Bacon Act unconstitutional. The ruling reverberated across the country. Other states begin to look at their prevailing wage laws.
In his 2005 book, Freedom in the Workplace, Samuel Cook, called Reneau, ‘one brave and honest government official who exhibited uncommon courage.’ The Wall Street Journal published this editorial in 1996:
“Economists have shown that Davis-Bacon freezes out many lower skilled workers, primarily black or Hispanic, from jobs on these projects. What hasn't been known until now is that many Davis-Bacon prevailing wages appears to have been calculated using fictitious projects, ghost workers and companies set up to pay artificially high wages. Taxpayers may be paying top dollar for construction projects but getting fewer schools prisons and bridges built than they should.
Brenda Reneau, Oklahoma Secretary of Labor, found that many of the wage survey form submitted to the US Department of Labor to calculate federal wage rates in her state were simply wrong. In one instance, records show that an underground storage tank was built using 20 plumbers and pipefitters making $21.05 per hour, however no such project was ever built. In another case several asphalt machine operators were reported to have constructed a parking lot at an IRS building and they had been paid $15 an hour, when in reality no asphalt operators were used to build the concrete lot.
Ms. Reneau said she was thwarted for months in efforts to learn whether union officials or contractors submitted the bogus forms. She notes that federal labor officials completely stonewalled her by claiming much of the information fell into the same category as ‘trade secrets.’ "They publicly denied the fraud and resisted our investigation," she maintains. Back home she's been threatened with physical harm for troubles "I've been told my life is worth about $1000 and my legs could be broken for $500," she says.
Sadly, the editorial in the WSJ went unnoticed to many in Oklahoma, but those who were paying attention understood the significance of Reneau’s courage. Reneau was taking on powerful forces and standing in the gap for taxpayers. Brenda called the Davis-Bacon Act “a welfare program that allowed unions to lie to federal officials and to steal from taxpayers.”
All Oklahomans owe Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau a true debt of gratitude. She had the courage to not only expose fraud, but she had the tenacity and strength to do something about it. She was a rare person. May her legacy be one that is never forgotten by Oklahoma. She was one of a kind. We need more elected officials like Brenda Reneau.