Sunday, May 9, 2021

HB # 1569 IS AN EXAMPLE OF OVER LEGISLATING!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

Major on the Majors!

By Steve Fair

     Oklahoma’s Book of Statutes is growing!  Oklahoma has 90 categories/titles of laws ranging alphabetically from agriculture to workers compensation.  Oklahoma has some doozies- for example: (1) whaling is illegal, (2) you can’t eat another person’s hamburger, (3) No spitting on the sidewalk, (4) it’s illegal to sleep with your boots on, (5) you can’t make ‘ugly’ faces at dogs.  Each year, hundreds of laws are added to the books- some necessary, but many added are not essential to the survival of the Sooner state.   

     Oklahoma legislators collectively proposed over 2,200 new laws in 2021.  About 350-400 will make it to the books, many that are unnecessary.  The unjustified ones try to fix problems that don’t exist.  Others fix something that should be a local issue- classic government overreach.  Most of the extraneous ones pass the legislature with near unanimous votes because legislators are trading favors with fellow lawmakers in order to get their legislation supported.  It’s not just in Oklahoma.  Over legislating is rampant across the country.  From Congress to state legislatures, lawmakers believe they must have a bill signed into law to be an effective representative, so they run bills that do little more than clog up the process.  Instead of spending precious time on meaningful legislation and the budget, feel good, heartwarming bills take up time and effort.  Three observations:

     First, Oklahoma legislative leadership should cut back on the number of bills run each year.  Twenty years ago, the Oklahoma legislation had less than 1,000 proposed bills each session.  That number has more than doubled in two decades and the increase has come under Republican leadership.  Instead of majoring on the majors, the budget is often passed in the last days of a legislative session and isn’t afforded the time for scrutiny it deserves. 

     Second, constituents should press their legislators to major on the majors.  If enough voters asked their legislator about the state budget when they interacted with them, legislative leadership would eventually get the message.   Ask your representative or senator where is the budget in the process?  How big is it?  How much will it grow Oklahoma government?  Were cuts made where needed?  Instead of lobbying to pass or kill a meaningless, unnecessary bill, hold your representative and senator accountable for the budget.  Currently in the Oklahoma legislation, a very few select legislators work on the budget and the rest are marginally involved.  The legislative leadership deny such an oligarchy exists in regard to the budget, but any honest legislator will tell you it is the truth.

     Third, individual legislators need to stop running uncalled for legislation.  That takes discipline and may require telling a constitute no, but until they grow some iron rail up the shirt tail, the only party benefiting from Oklahoma’s growing Book of Statutes is the printer.

     HB #1569- the Play to Learn bill- passed both chambers with veto proof margins.  It is now on the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.  Seriously, do we really need a state law on the books allowing Play to Learn in local school districts?  How about one allowing recess in local schools or blackboards in the classroom?  Is the Oklahoma Highway Patrol going to enforce it?  This is a perfect example of majoring on the minors.  Please contact Governor Stitt’s office and ask him to veto HB#1569.  Ask your legislator to vote to not override the veto.  Passing this kind of laws won’t get Oklahoma to a top ten ranking in the nation.  Lawmakers need to refocus on necessary legislation and a state budget that right sizes Oklahoma government, not feel good, heartwarming bills.

    




Sunday, May 2, 2021

Governor should sign HB#1775! Students should be taught CRITICAL, not PASSIVE thinking skills!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


CRT IS PASSIVE THINKING!

by Steve Fair

     Critical race theory (CRT) is an academic movement of civil rights activists who seek to critically examine the law on issues of race.  The advocates of CRT believe social problems are influenced and created by society and culture because racism is inherent in skin color.  Critics of CRT say CRT elevates storytelling over absolute truth, revises history and automatically assumes white supremacy by whites.  CRT dates back to the 1970s when law school professors, activists and attorneys examined why civil rights victories had stalled and in their estimation were eroding.  The ‘hate crime’ legislation that has made its way into law was birthed in the CRT movement. 

    HB #1775, authored by Rep. Kevin West, (R-Moore) and Sen. David Bullard, (R-Durant) prohibits Oklahoma public schools, colleges and universities from incorporating certain messages about sex and race into any course instruction.  The bill would also prohibit requiring mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling in the schools.  HB#1775 passed the House 70-19 and the Senate 38-9.  It is now on the governor’s desk. 

     On Sunday, the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission requested Governor Kevin Stitt veto HB#1775.  "If this bill becomes law it will have serious implications on teaching the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in schools, as well as much of the history of the U.S. which is rife with racism, sexism and discomfort," said Phil Armstrong, project director for the Commission.  Two observations:

     First, racism is not an inherited trait.  There is no evidence there is a racism gene.  Every person is born with an inherit sin nature.  They got it from their father, who got it from his father, all the way back to Adam.  That depravity/wickedness/sin can manifest itself in racism, but not every white person is a racist simply because they are white.  To condemn every person as racist because of the color of their skin is the height of racism.

     Second, HB#1775 does not stop the teaching of history.  Armstrong is being intellectually dishonest with that statement.  The language in HB#1775 doesn’t state or even infer that incidents of race riots and violence be ignored.  The bill specifically states that no teacher, administrator or other employee of a school district, charter school or virtual charter school shall require or make part of a course the following concepts: (a) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex, (2) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, (3) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.

     “This bill will in no way stop the teaching of history or anything currently in our Oklahoma education standards, including curriculum that shows historical examples of racism or genocide. This bill simply says that teachers can’t force a student to answer that they are inherently racist or sexist or that they must feel personally responsible for things perpetrated in the past by people of a similar race or gender,” Rep. West said.  

    HB#1775, if signed by the governor, would go into effect immediately and would require the state Regents and the state Board of Education to implement the changes in the bill. 

       Contact the governor’s office and encourage him to sign HB#1775.  Children should be taught critical thinking skills. CRT is passive thinking and rooted in Marxism.  Oklahoma students shouldn’t be subjected to it.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

ABORTION IS THE SCOURGE OF AMERICA!

Weekly Opinion Editorial 


PRIMUM NON NOCERE

by Steve Fair

     Physicians historically take an oath of ethics, known as the Hippocratic Oath.  It requires new doctors to swear to uphold specific ethical standards.  Those include the principles of medical confidentiality and non-maleficence, which means ‘do no harm.’  The original oath, which was rooted in ancient Greece, stated explicitly the prohibition of abortion and euthanasia.  Many modern oaths have eliminated the ‘do no harm’ clause to excuse physicians who perform abortions.  The healer becomes the  

     The Oklahoma legislation passed two pro-life bills along partisan lines and sent them to the governor for his signature.  HB #2441, authored by Sen. Julie Daniels, (R-Bartlesville) and Rep. Todd Russ, (R-Cordell) would prevent abortions being done on an unborn baby who has a detectable heartbeat.   A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as 5 ½ weeks after conception.  Violators who performed an abortion after a heartbeat was detected could be charged with homicide.

      HB#1102, authored by Sen. Julie Daniels, (R-Bartlesville) and Rep. Jim Olsen, (R-Roland) would classify the performance of an abortion as ‘unprofessional conduct’ by a physician and could result in the loss of their medical license for at least a year.

      Governor Stitt has until Friday to sign or veto the two bills.  If he does nothing, the two bills will automatically become law.  The governor has stated in the past he would sign any pro-life legislation that comes across his desk. Two observations:

     First, abortion is the scourge of America.  Since 1973 when the unconstitutional Roe vs. Wade became law, over 62 million babies have been aborted.  That is over ten times more than those killed in the Holocaust.  More babies are killed in the womb in America (1 ½ million) each year than the number of lives lost in all the wars in our nation’s history.  John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, said "Some nations have given parents the power of life and death over their children. But here in America, we have denied the power of life and death to parents." With President Trump’s recent appointments of literalists to the U.S. Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade may be overturned in the future, but until that happens 3,000 babies are murdered every day in America!

     Second, life begins at conception.  Until the mid-twentieth century, that was a widely accepted truth, but   The American College of Pediatricians concur with the body of scientific evidence and believe life begins when the sperm and egg bind to each other in a process of fusion and a single hybrid cell called a zygote is created.  Dr. Alfred Bongioanni, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania said: “I submit that human life is present from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life.” For Christians, abortion is not a matter of a woman’s right to choose.  It is a matter of the life or death of a human being made in the image of God.  

     King David wrote in Psalm 139 that God the Creator knit him together in his mother’s womb.  In Exodus 21, the penalty for causing the death of a baby in the womb was the same as that of someone who committed murder. 

  Medicine is a wonderful field and doctors have the responsibility to protect life.  Physicians should not play God.  God is responsible for all life and they should not choose to end an innocent life.  These two bills will force abortion providers to think about the consequences of killing a baby in the womb.  Do no harm medicus!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Price Fixing is not Free Market!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


INSULIN & PROFITEERING!

By Steve Fair

     More than 200,000 Oklahoma adults suffer from type 1 diabetes, including my wife.  Diagnosed at age ten, she has lived with the disease for 59 years.  Type 1 diabetics requires daily usage of insulin.  Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Oklahoma.  Oklahoma has the fourth highest age-adjusted diabetes death rate in the nation.  Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, amputation, heart disease, kidney failure and early death. 

     Sen. Frank Simpson, (R-Ardmore) and Rep. Randy Worthen, (R-Lawton) authored House Bill#1019, which passed the Senate last week 32-15.  It passed the House 94-2.  Simpson’s granddaughter lost her life to complications related to Type 1 diabetes and he is passionate about helping diabetics.  The bill now heads to the governor’s desk where it is expected to be signed.  Three observations:

     First, a recent U.S. Senate report found the current convoluted drug pricing system drives price increases.  The report from the offices of Sen. Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden, (D- Ore) found Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, the two largest insulin producers in America, closely monitored each others pricing and matched or topped any increase within hours or days of each other.  In other words- price fixing. 

     The two Senators introduced legislation aimed at capping seniors out of pocket costs for drugs covered by Medicare.  It would also limit price increases on a drug to the rate of inflation.  It did not get a floor vote, because many Republicans oppose it because they feel the bill is too regulatory and goes against a free market. “There is clearly something broken when a product like insulin that has been on the market longer than most people have been alive skyrockets in price,” Grassley said.

     Second, the report blamed pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) as part of the reason for the high prices for insulin.  These middlemen negotiate with drug companies on behalf of insurance plans, large employers and other payers for discounts.  PMB’s decide is a certain drug will be covered by a plan.  Drug makers offering large rebates have a better chance of being covered by a health plan.  PBMs charge fees and paid a percentage of re rebate based on the drug’s ‘list’ price.  Insulin producers are thereby incentivized to increase the price so PBMs can get larger rebates.  “This industry is anything but a free market when PBMs spur drug makers to hike list prices in order to greater rebates and fees,” Grassley said.         

     Third, there is a reason insulin is so expensive?  Here are the main three: (1) Only three companies control 90% of the insulin market worldwide.  In the past 15 years, the price of insulin has tripled and the three producers raise prices together.  We need more insulin producers in the U.S. to bring the price down.  (2) There is no generic insulin.  Insulin is a biologic rather than chemical.  It can’t be produced generic in the same way as other drug.  Creating a generic insulin costs nearly as much as making a new drug.  Because of that cost, the few insulin generics available cost just 10-15% less than the branded product. (3) The ‘evergreening’ of the patents on insulin are loopholes in the patent system.  They allow insulin producers to keep patents longer than the normal 20-year period.  For example, Sanofi, the maker of Lantus has created the potential for a competition free monopoly for 37 years.

     If signed by the governor, HB#1019 will cap the price in Oklahoma for a 30-day supply of insulin to $30 for each covered prescription.  Several other states have passed similar legislation. HB#1019 will not only save many diabetics money, but it could save their life.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

THERE IS ALREADY ENOUGH PLAYING GOING ON AT SCHOOL!

Weekly Opinion Editorial 


HEARTWARMING, BUT UNNECESSARY!

by Steve Fair

     Oklahoma HB# 1569 is known as the Oklahoma Play to Learn Act.  If it becomes law, it will encourage public educators to create play-based learning opportunities, in the realm of dancing, art, music and drama to teach kids in elementary school.  Authored by Rep. Jacob Rosecrant, (D-Norman) and Sen. Adam Pugh, (R-Edmond), the bill passed the House Education committee 14-0.  On March 23rd it passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 76-16.  All 16 nay floor votes were Republicans.  HB#1569 was passed by the Senate Education committee last week 10-2 and now is headed for a floor vote.  If it is passed there, it then moves to the governor’s desk.  Three observations:

     First, play based learning is not a new concept.  It was used in the 1700s.  Back then, educational or instructive toys were simple, but they were used to stimulate learning.  They often simplified or miniaturized objects used by adults.  Most early childhood instructors across the state already use play to learn techniques in their classrooms.   There are no current restrictions on teachers in Oklahoma using dance, music, art or drama to teach young children in school.

     Second, why is this bill necessary?  Is there a looming problem with a local school board in Oklahoma imposing a ‘no play’ at school rule?  It wouldn’t appear so.  So why is a specific bill addressing play to learn necessary?   Some believe HB#1569 and ‘play to learn’ is a conspiracy rooted in UN Agenda 21, the Gates Foundation, UNICEF and the left.  It’s true all of those mentioned advocate ‘play to learn,’ but there is no evidence of those organization’s involvement in the language of HB #1569.

     Third, education is changing.  With the advent of COVID-19, online/distance learning has replaced traditional classroom education.  That is likely going to be permanent.  Education leaders need to be proactive, get ahead of the curve, and embrace change.  In 2019, Bill Gates said textbooks are obsolete and software should replace them.  He also advocated a less structured environment for learning.   Both of those would empower students, pique curiosity and improve interest in learning.  Gates has some liberal far-out ideas, but these aren’t two of them. 

     Why should HB#1569 be killed in the Senate?  It appears innocuous.  Two reasons; (a) it is not needed.  Nothing HB#1569 validates is under threat.  No school board or administration has banned using play to learn in their districts.  At best it’s a feel-good bill.  If there is not a nefarious motive, then the defeat of HB#1569 will mean nothing.  (b) it doesn’t move the needle in education.  Oklahoma still ranks in the bottom 10 in test scores nationally (#43).  Last year, over 50% of the Oklahoma state government budget was spent on education.  Three years ago, historic raises were given to teachers and administrators with no significant improvement in test scores. It appears lots of playing is going on in school now.    

   Oklahoma’s whole structure of secondary education needs to be radically reformed, with the goal to get more money to the classroom, where it really makes a difference.  When that change happens, ‘play to learn’ will flourish without the passing of a law. Contact your state senator and encourage them to vote No on HB#1569.  It’s heartwarming, but unnecessary.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

IGNORANCE OF THE BALLOT IS NO EXCUSE!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


Caveat emptor Voters!

by Steve Fair

     Oklahoma Senate Bill #947, if signed into law, would require initiative petitions to include if the proposal would have a fiscal impact on the state.  It would also require the potential funding source.  SB #947 is authored by Sen. Paul Rosino, (R-OKC) and Rep. Tammy West, (R-OKC).  It was passed by the A&B House committee last week along partisan lines.  “Several of the state questions that have passed in recent years have come at great cost to state taxpayers,” West said. “Voters, of course, would still be allowed to petition for whatever measures they choose, but this would require they state the potential impact to taxpayers and specify the source of such funding. If taxpayers are going to be asked to raise taxes to pay for something added to state law, they should be made aware.”

SB#947 now will faces a floor vote in the House, where it is expected to pass, before it goes to the governor to be signed into law.  Three observations:

     First, this is a much-needed change.  Several recent State Questions have been passed by voters that financially impacted state taxpayers.  For example, SQ# 781, which passed in 2016, directed the state to deposit money into a fund used by county governments to provide substance abuse and mental health services, but it didn’t specify how much or where that money would come from.  Those who signed the petition or those who voted were told just the ‘concept.’ The ‘details’ on how to pay for the concept was left to the legislature.  Full disclosure in the initiative petition process to the citizens who pay the bills is long past due.

     Second, requiring fiscal impact on initiative petitions should not be a partisan issue?  SB#947 has been opposed by legislative Democrats on every vote- in committee and the floor.  Not one Democrat in the state house has supported the bill throughout the process.  Shouldn’t all citizens, no matter their Party affiliation, know beforehand what a proposal is projected to cost?  The partisanship and polarization seen in Washington has seemingly made its way to 23rd and Lincoln. 

     Third, if this becomes law, ballots will be longer.  One of the provisions in #947 is that it increases the number of words on the ballot from 200 to 300.  That will require voters to ‘study’ the ballot and the issue before casting a vote.  Far too many Oklahoma voters pay little attention to the State Questions or the Judicial Retention sections on the ballot.    Many state questions pass and result in consequences, fiscal and otherwise, that voters did not anticipate or intend.  Ignorance of what’s on the ballot is a poor excuse. 

     Caveat emptor is Latin for ‘let the buyer beware.’  In business, it means the buyer purchases at his own risk with no warranty in the contract.  It implies a warning to buyers the goods they are buying are ‘as is’ or subject to defects.  Voters should always be on guide and approach any state question with the same apprehensive and suspicion they do when making a major personal expenditure.   They should exercise the same due diligence in voting as they do in a business transaction.   In business, how much a good or service costs is fundamental to the transaction.  SB#947 simply requires that same information be provided on state questions.  Encourage your state representative to support SB#947.

 

 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

THE FILIBUSTER HAS SERVED AMERICA WELL!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


PIRATE RULE SHOULD STAY!

by Steve Fair

     The Senate tradition of unlimited debate allows for the use of the ‘filibuster.’  Derived from a Dutch word for ‘freebooter’ to describe pirates, the filibuster was a part of the very first Senate session (1789).  Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay said the Virginians in the Senate were trying to ‘talk away the time’ so a bill would not get passed.  Down through the years, the filibuster rule has been effectively used by both Parties to block legislation.  It allows a single Senator or group of Senators to hold the floor for as long as they are able to gain control of the floor.    The actual record for the longest individual speech(filibuster) goes to the late South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who spoke for over 24 hours against the Civil Rights Act of 1957. 

     Prior to 1917, the Senate did not have any rules to end debate and force a vote on a measure.  That year, the Senate adopted Rule #22, which invoked closure of debate with a two thirds (67) majority vote.  In 1975, the Senate reduced the number to three fifths (60).

    At his news conference, last week, President Biden said he agreed with former President Obama, that the filibuster is a throwback from the ‘Jim Crow,’ era and is being abused in a ‘gigantic way.’  He said he might support reducing the closure number to a simple majority (51).  This is a reversal of Biden’s position when he served in the body.   

     Vice President Joe Biden served in the U.S. Senate for six terms (36 years) and once defended the filibuster saying: I’ve been in the Senate for a long time, and there are plenty of times I would have loved to change this rule(filibuster) to pass a bill or to confirm a nominee I felt strongly about. But I didn’t, and it was understood that the option of doing so just wasn’t on the table. You fought political battles; you fought hard; but you fought them within the strictures and requirements of the Senate rules. Despite the short-term pain, that understanding has served both parties well, and provided long-term gain. Two observations:      

     First, the filibuster has protected the political minority from the tyranny of the majority.  The cornerstone of a democratic republic is majority rule, however the founders were mindful of the minority.  President Thomas Jefferson said, “Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect and to violate would be oppression.”  Allowing the minority to have a say is fundamental to our system of government. 

     Second, the attack on the 60-vote filibuster in the Senate is real.  A similar filibuster rule was initially part of the U.S. House, but it was removed in 1888.  Currently, Senate Democrats don’t have enough votes (50) required to reduce the number for closure of debate because many in their own ranks oppose reduction to a simple majority, but it could happen.  It did in the House.  The 60-vote filibuster is not a part of the U.S. Constitution.  It could be changed.  In 2013, Senate Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, used the ‘nuclear option’ to eliminate the three fifths vote rule for executive branch nominations.  They were having difficulty getting President Obama’s nominations approved.  President Trump and Senate Republicans used the change in 2017 to their advantage to end debate on the nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch.   

     President Biden once said; “The abolition of the filibuster is a naked power grab.  To take the ‘nuclear option’ would be catastrophic.  It would destroy America’s sense of fair play.  It would tilt the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field.” Senator Biden was right. The pirate rule should remain.  It has served America well.