Sunday, March 7, 2021

States need to maintain control of elections & redistricting!

Weekly Opinion Editorial 

HR1 COULD UNRAVEL U.S!

by Steve Fair

     Election integrity is fundamental to a stable Republic.  In the 2020 general election, President Trump maintained ballot fraud occurred in several states.  Because of varying rules on balloting, several states were still counting votes in the presidential election three weeks after polls closed.  That needs to be addressed, but Democrats are pushing for sweeping election reform.

     On Sunday President Biden signed an executive order designed to increase voter access.  It orders federal agencies to expand access to voter registration, provide voting access and education to prisoners in federal custody.  It also orders the feds to examine barriers to citizens with disabilities voting and the process for overseas voters, including active-duty military.  "During this current legislative session, elected officials in 43 states have already introduced over 250 bills to make it harder to vote. We cannot let them succeed,"  Biden said.  Biden also urged the Senate to pass HR1.

     Last week U.S. House Democrats passed HR1, a sweeping election reform bill that if signed into law would put the federal government in charge of elections.  Some troubling provisions in HR1 include: (1) grants Washington DC statehood(2) removing of the notarization or witnesses of a voters signature for mail in voters, (3) nationwide same day registration, (4) automatic registration when you register a car, apply for food stamps or any federal entitlement program, (5) bans requirement to provide identification to vote, (6) allow convicted felons to vote, (7) allows Congress to dictate to states how to do redistricting for U.S. House representation, (8) establishes a ban on knowingly making false or anonymous statements about a candidate in a federal election, (9) pre-registers 16 year olds to vote, (10) eliminates ‘dark money’ in elections, (11) makes ballot harvesting legal.  Three observations about HR1 and election/balloting reform:

     First, individual states should remain in charge of their own elections, not the federal government.  Article I, Section 4, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution says: The times, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations except as to the places of choosing Senators. The provision allowing Congress to ‘alter the regulations’ didn’t mean promoting cheating.  The founders never envisioned the federal government running elections in the states.  HR1 is a clear power grab by the Democrats. 

     Second, HR1 is not about integrity at the ballot box, it’s about staying in power.  By eliminating voter ID and expanding voter eligibility to felons, young people, and illegal immigrants, Democrats virtually guarantee Republicans could not win a future presidential election. For years, Ds have claimed ‘voter suppression’ when Republican controlled state legislatures passed voter ID laws insuring the person voting is actually that person.  That should raise red flags.  How can anyone oppose verifying voter ID unless they want to cheat?   

     Third, HR1 could be the undoing of America.  That is no exaggeration!  If ballot box integrity or probity is compromised, citizens have no voice and the result will be a total lack of respect for authority- anarchy.  All Americans, no matter their Party affiliation should demand elections be run in a fair and honest way.  Pray HR1 does not pass the Senate and is signed into law.  Election reform is needed, but it best done through state legislatures.  That is why 43 states are running 250 bills.  It should not be done by Executive Orders and Congressional involvement.

     

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Oklahomans may need to defend themselves if the legislature doesn't take up Criminal Justice Reform- and SOON!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


CRIMINAL SANCTUARY?

by Steve Fair

     Last week, a triple murder suspect in Chickasha wept at his arraignment and requested the judge not grant bail.  The suspect is accused of killing a neighbor, his uncle, his great niece and attempting to kill his aunt.   He is a repeat felon and was released from prison just three weeks ago after Governor Kevin Stitt commuted his sentence.  He reportedly suffers from mental illness.  He was serving a twenty-year sentence that had been reduced to nine years.  He had served only three years before he was released- all the result of the consequences and ramifications of SQ#780 which was approved by Oklahoma voters in 2016.

     Advanced and promoted by The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM), a 501-c3 nonprofit headed by former Oklahoma Speaker of the House Kris Steele, SQ #780 reclassified some drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.  In 2019, the Oklahoma legislature passed HB# 1269 making the provisions of #780 retroactive and allowing those convicted of crimes that were reclassified the ability to apply to have their sentences commuted by the Pardon and Parole Board.  That appears to be what happened in the triple murder case.  TEEM states their mission is to provide our clients a second chance at success; in essence, a chance to redefine themselves by their gifts, skills, talents and passions, instead of a troubled past.  The mission is noble and all well and good, but three murder victims in Chickasha will not get a second chance to redefine themselves. 

     “This(criminal justice reform) has to be addressed by the legislature, sooner rather than later, because more people are going to get killed.  I really think offenders such as this should not have been able to apply for a commutation,” District Attorney Jason Hicks said.  “There is a four-year old that is no longer with us.  There are members of a family who are never going to see their relative again,” Hicks said.  There was no published statement or comment in the press from Steele, TEEM or the governor regarding the triple murder suspect’s early release. 

     The legislature did advance a bill protecting Second Amendment rights in the Sooner state last week.  The State Senate Public Safety Committee approved SB#631 in a 9-2 vote.  The bill, if passed and signed into law, would preempt any rules or ordinances by federal, state or local governments from infringing on citizens’ Second Amendment rights.  “SB#631 re-affirms our recognition of the self-evident truth that in America, power resides with the people and re-affirms our oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.  It will also serve as a wall of protection around our God-given right and Constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” Sen. Warren Hamilton, (R-McCurtain), author of the measure said.  The House author is Rep. Sean Roberts, (R-Hominy).  The measure is supported by thirteen sheriffs in rural counties across Oklahoma.  The Second Amendment Sanctuary bill now moves to the floor of the Senate for a vote. 

     Oklahoma becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary is great, but if the legislature doesn’t take up criminal justice reform- and soon- Oklahoma will become a sanctuary all right- for criminals. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

OKLAHOMA GOVERNMENT GROWS, BUT WAGES DON'T!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


SOONER GOVERNMENT GROWTH!

by Steve Fair

 

      The Oklahoma Board of Equalization is composed of seven members.  Six members are statewide elected officials and the seventh is the appointed Secretary of Agriculture.  The Board is responsible for certifying the revenue the Oklahoma legislature will have available for appropriation in the coming fiscal year.  On Tuesday, the Board, which is chaired by Governor Stitt, voted to approve $9,640,475,940 in revenue to be appropriated by the legislature for fiscal year 2022.  That is an increase of $1.8 billion over fiscal year 2021.  Three observations:

     First, Oklahoma government’s budget has grown +86% in the past eighteen years.  The state budget in 2004, the first year Republicans gained control of the legislature, was $5.16 billion.  In 2022 it will be $9.6 billion.  That is amazing, unimaginable growth!  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the per capita income in the Sooner state during the same period was flat.  In 2004, the per capita income in the Sooner state was $29,908.  Last year it was $28,422.   An Oklahoman making $50,000 in 2004 would be earning $93,000 doing the same job if their personal income had grown at the rate of Oklahoma’s government budget.  That has not happened in the private sector.  Oklahoma’s government revenue has outpaced taxpayer’s income and taxpayers should ask why.       

     Second, the commitment to right-size, downsize, systemize, and restructure Oklahoma government is not there.  When Republicans were campaigning to take control of the legislature twenty years ago, they stumped on the fact Oklahoma government was the largest employer in the state(still is).  In 2004, Oklahoma had more state employees per capita than any state in the country(still does).  The GOPers promised to make Oklahoma government agencies more efficient and productive if voters would give them control.  Voters gave them that control in 2006, but after nearly two decades of Republican control,  Oklahoma state government revenue continues to climb and the Oklahoma state government footprint is virtually the same.  Taxpayers should ask why.   

     Third, Oklahomans need to be vigilant in holding elected officials accountable.  In the challenging times of COVID-19, crazy weather, and Zoom meetings, in person accessibility to elected officials become difficult.  The first bill the legislature passed and the governor signed was Senate Bill 1031 which temporarily allows modifications to the Open Meeting Act(OMA) allowing for virtual public meetings.  The governor hinted the changes could pave the way for some permanent changes in the OMA.  Citizens need to make sure the OMA is protected and these ‘temporary modifications’ do not result in elected officials ignoring their constituents.  Elected officials should be creative in finding ways to communicate with their constituents during the pandemic.   The governor said virtual meetings had increased the number and amount of participation by Oklahoma citizens in their government.  That may be true, but a virtual meeting is not a substitute for looking an elected official in the eyes and asking them to justify a vote.  When the pandemic has passed, citizens should demand these ‘temporary modifications’ to the OMA be lifted by the legislature.    

     Governor Stitt said he would like to see Oklahoma state government use the increase in revenue to replenish the Rainy-Day Fund and to strategically invest in infrastructure projects to help grow the economy.  Those are good ideas, but its past time to fulfill a two decade promise to reduce the size of Oklahoma government? 

 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Trump is hated by both Ds and Rs- Why? He is OUT of office!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


U.S NEEDS MORE INTERLOPERS!

by Steve Fair

 

      On Saturday, the U.S. Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump.  The vote was 57-43.  Seven Republicans joined all fifty Democrat senators to convict.  It was the most bi-partisan impeachment vote in our nation’s history.  There were a couple of surprises; North Carolina Senator Richard Burr (North Carolina) and Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy voted to convict.  Neither had announced their intent to do so before the vote.  They joined Senators Romney (Utah), Murkowski (Alaska), Collins (Maine), Sasse (Nebraska), and Tomey (Pennsylvania).  Burr and Tomey are retiring from the Senate, so they will not face voters again.   Collins, Sasse and Romney are not up in two years, so only one of the seven will face their constituents in 2022.  Cassidy was reelected in November 2020 with 60% of the vote in conservative Louisiana.  Sasse was also reelected in 2020.  Murkowski is up for reelection in 2022.  Sarah Palin is reportedly considering a primary challenge to Murkowski. 

     Senator Mitch McConnell, in a blistering, searing speech after the acquittal said, “the mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name,” but ultimately, McConnell joined his caucus and voted to acquit because he said the trial to remove was unconstitutional since Trump was already out of office.  Three observations about the second Trump impeachment:

     First, the whole impeachment charade was a farce.    How do you remove someone from office who are already left office?  If someone quits their job, only an unbalanced boss follows them down the street and yells, “You’re Fired!”  The Democrats had no constitutional basis for conducting a trial in the Senate and ‘removing’ a former president, but they forged ahead anyway.  Why do they fear Donald Trump so much?  Are they so offended by his bombastic, verbose behavior they believe they must protect Americans from him?  Are they outraged by his name-calling and insulting of their ranks?  If that’s the case, it would seem that is ‘selective outrage,’ because many Democrat members of Congress are more derogatory, melodramatic and theatrical than the former POTUS.  The real reason the trial was conducted was to permanently damage Trump’s reputation and derail his planned comeback in four years.     

     Second, Trump is not going away.  Immediately after the acquittal, he released a statement stating: "It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree. I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.”  Instead of being ashamed or contrite, he appears to wear the impeachments as a badge of honor.  With a passionate, devout, adoring base, Trump would likely clear a 2024 primary if he enters the race.

     Third, it’s not just Democrats that want Trump to go away.  As evidenced by the trial vote, many Republicans- elected officials and activists- believe the GOP would be better served if the Party moved to the next generation of leaders.  Many of those who want him gone want the baton passed to them. 

     Trump’s real appeal to the American voter was he is an interloper, a trespasser in politics/government.  No other U.S. president was more a political outsider than Donald Trump.  His existence and continued popularity flies in the face of career politicos in both Parties.  The country could use more political interlopers.



     Personal note: In December of 2014, I took a week of my life and knocked hundreds of doors in Shreveport, Louisiana for then Congressman Bill Cassidy who was running against Senator Mary Landrieu.  Cassidy credited the 35 member OKGOP deployment team for his close runoff win.  Disappointing that a Republican from a conservative state would vote for an unconstitutional action and more disappointing that I helped get him elected. 


Sunday, February 7, 2021

CITIZENSHIP IS EVERY AMERICAN'S DUTY!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

WILL THE SWAMP WIN?

by Steve Fair

     Duty is defined as a moral or legal obligation; a responsibility; a task or action someone is required to perform.  The mandatory duties of American citizens include (1) obeying the law(lots of them), (2) paying taxes(federal, state, local), (3) serving on a jury when summoned, and (4) registering with the Selective Service.  A Pew Research poll in 2018 found 91% of Americans thought voting was important.  90% thought it important to follow what was going in government and 89% thought answering the call to jury duty important.  But the totals were much less for those who believed these duties were ‘very important.’ 

Consider the turnout in local school board, municipal and bond elections.  A relatively small percentage of those eligible to vote in the election actually participate, even though the decisions made by those local officials impact citizen’s lives more than the decisions made by Congress.  The founders of America expected citizens to be engaged in their government.  They expected them to educate themselves on issues, pay attention to what their government was doing, and hold elected officials accountable.  Where did we go wrong and how do we get back on track as a country?

     First, as America grew in population and prosperity, citizens got lazy.  Voter turnout in presidential elections steadily declined in the 20th century.  In the last three presidential elections, turnout has been up, but still just 66.7 of the voting eligible population cast a ballot in 2020.  As per capita income increased, interest in government policy became focused solely on how it impacted an individual’s wallet.  Americans voted for the candidate whose policies helped them fiscally.  President Bill Clinton ran his 1992 presidential campaign against George HW Bush on the theme- ‘it’s the economy stupid,’ and won.  Apathy and unconcern by citizens about what elected officials resulted in no accountability, which in turn created ‘the swamp,’ at all levels of government.  Politics became an industry with well-paid career opportunities for elected officials and staffers and bureaucrats.   

     Second, special interests got aggressive.  Seizing the opportunity created by indifference of the general public, buying elected officials became the norm in America.  Large businesses, trade associations and cash rich non-profits financed candidates who would do their bidding once elected.  The result was a huge influx of money into politics.  The average U.S. House member spends 2 million dollars on their campaign.  In 2018, U.S. House candidates that spent the most money won the election.   That is par for the course in all elections.  The consequence is elected officials catering to those special interests and not their entire constituency.   

     Are we past the point of no return in America?  Has ‘the swamp’ won?  Hopefully it is not a hopeless situation and we can recover.  The fundamental problem is older Americans haven’t stayed engaged in their government.  Their laid-back, intermittent involvement in exercising citizenship gave rise to a overreaching, intrusive government.  In turn, younger Americans have little idea about our form of government because their elders have been terrible examples.  Most Americans have never read the Constitution and have no idea elected officials are sworn to protect and defend it, while most ignore it.  Citizenship is every American’s duty.  Until more Americans exercise their moral duty, the swamp wins.



Sunday, January 31, 2021

Stefiel Provided an Excellent Example of Duty and Service!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


Stefiel Understood Duty!

by Steve Fair

     On Friday retired Air Force Chief Sergeant Stefiel Johnson was laid to rest at the Fort Sill National cemetery.  He was one week short of 92 years.  Stefiel spent 30 plus years in active military service.  He served in both the Army and the Air Force.  In the Air Force, he was in charge of tons of munitions(explosives). After retiring, Stefiel and his wife Laura settled back home in Duncan and they became active in the Stephens County Republican Party.  That is where I first met them.  Here are my comments about Stefiel. 

     First, Stefiel was a patriot.  He loved America.  He had dedicated his life to serving and to duty and that went beyond his military service.  In 1994, he agreed to serve when I asked him to serve as the Republican representative on the Stephens County election board.  Our appointed ‘Republican’ representative on the board wouldn’t return phone calls and ignored the local Party.  After discussion, the local Party leadership sought someone who would be our eyes and ears in the election process and was one of us.  Stefiel was that person.  He was faithful, willing to serve and did the job without fanfare.    

     Second, Stefiel was a campaigner.  Once a Republican nominee was determined, Stefiel was all in for the candidate.  He was the ‘Sign King.’ He put up more campaign signs than anyone I have ever seen.  He loved it.  Stefiel worked on winning and losing campaigns and prior to 2004, most Republicans running were not successful.  Winning or losing didn’t seem to matter to Stefiel.  He simply put up more signs.  He worked on local campaigns, as well as legislative and statewide campaigns.  More than once, campaigns had to order more signs because Steifiel had ‘ran them out.’  In his signature overalls, Stefiel put thousands of miles on his truck traveling Stephens county sticking signs in the ground.  When his health prevented him from putting out signs, he and Laura would man the local county GOP HQ.  He stayed engaged.

     Stefiel never sought or held a leadership position in the SCGOP, but he was critical to the growth of Republican Party affiliation in Stephens county.   He and Laura were among the first awarded the Dr. Gerald Beasley Jr. Memorial Award.  The Beasley award is awarded annually to a top volunteer in the Stephens County GOP.  They were well deserving.

     Third, Stefiel was consistent.  That was probably because of his long time dedication to duty.  Stefiel faithfully worked elections for over twenty five years.  Stefiel faithfully attended SCGOP monthly meetings.  He attended dozens of OKGOP[S1]  state conventions.  He sat through hours of self-promoting, boring political speeches.  Stefiel saw beyond the rhetoric and stayed focused on the real goal; better government. 

    Stefiel Johnson didn’t seek glory or recognition during his time on earth.  He did his duty and worked behind the scenes.  That type of unseen work is what makes an organization/community successful.  Stefiel provided an example for Americans everywhere- get involved and stay involved in your government. 


    Precinct meetings and county conventions for the GOP are being held across the state.  Go to okgop.com to find out when your area is holding their meetings.  You have an opportunity to make a difference by being involved.  It is our duty as citizens.  Stefiel understood duty- do you?

Friday, January 22, 2021

You don't get a break, man!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


…and so it begins!

by Steve Fair

     On his first day in office, President Biden signed seventeen (17) Executive Orders.  Most overturned President Trump’s EOs.  With the stroke of a pen, Biden halted funding for the building of the southern border wall, shut down construction of the Keystone pipeline, reversed the travel ban on several Muslim countries associated with terrorism, rejoined the Paris climate treaty, and rejoined the World Health Organization.  He directed the Census Bureau to require ‘non-citizens’ be included in the Census and the factored into the apportionment of congressional representatives.  He signed an EO that allows transgendered children to use whichever bathroom they feel comfortable with.  “All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Biden said.   Biden restored collective bargaining for federal workers and laid the foundation for a $15 federal minimum wage.  Economists agree a hike to the federal minimum wage would kill 3.7 million jobs in the U.S.   In his first week, Biden has signed over thirty EOs.  Three observations.

     First, Biden’s call for unity in his inaugural speech was disingenuous.  Virtually all of his Executive Orders overturned Trump administration policy.  That is not uncommon when presidents from opposite Parties follow one another, but Biden’s call for America to come together lacks authenticity.   His actions don’t mirror his rhetoric.  Elections have consequences and Biden proved that by signing EOs reversing many of Trump’s policies.  Calling for unity while you sow division is the height of condescension, arrogance, and haughtiness.    He shouldn’t be preaching unity.

     Second, the use of Executive Orders should be curtailed.   Trump signed 217 in four years, Obama 276 in eight years, George W , 290 in eight years, Franklin Roosevelt 3,522 in 12 years.  The first fifteen presidents in our nation’s history issued 120 total, but starting with Lincoln, they became more common.  Congress can veto an EO with a 2/3 majority, but they seldom do.  The legislative branch is supposed to be the most powerful of the three branches, but presidents (in both Parties) are using EOs to circumvent the legislature and sovereignly make and enforce law.  It should be stopped and Congress should schedule votes on every EO issued by President Biden(or any president).   

     Third, Biden will reverse, rescind, overturn, and nullify everything Trump did the past four years.  With Democrats in control of both chambers of Congress, he will likely be successful.  America is in for a tough couple of years.  The mid-term elections of 2022 will likely result in a swing back to the right, but until then expect Biden and Harris to push for socialist policies that will hurt America business and trade.  The hope of America is not Donald Trump running in four years.  It is having Trump supporters stay hooked up and work to elect conservatives at the local level(school board, municipal, county).  They need to pay attention all the time, not just on election years.    

     When challenged by a reporter on his trashing of Trump’s response to the coronavirus, President Biden snapped, “Come on- give me a break man!”  Sorry, but the president doesn’t get a ‘break.’  Elected officials, at all levels, should be willing to defend themselves, their policy decisions and their votes.  When American voters force them to defend their actions, they will have recaptured their government.