Monday, July 29, 2013
Weekly Opinion Editorial
STAND YOUR GROUND UNDER ATTACK!
by Steve Fair
The recent George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin incident has placed a spotlight on so called ‘Stand your Ground” laws in America. A stand-your-ground law is a type of self-defense law that gives individuals the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves. Over half of the states in America have a version of stand-your-ground. Since Martin’s shooting, the issue being debated is whether the concept only applies to defending a home or vehicle, or whether it applies to all lawfully occupied locations.
Oklahoma has a stand-your-ground law that is basically the same as the Florida law. Authored in 2006 by then Representative Kevin Calvey, an OKC Republican, the law says that an Oklahoma citizen has a right to defend themselves. The statute reads, "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felon."
Last week, Oklahoma State Representative Mike Shelton, D- Oklahoma City, issued a press release through the State House media department stating he was conducting an ‘interim study’ on Oklahoma’s stand-your-ground and open carry laws. “This issue has been on my heart for some time,” said Shelton in the press release. “We don’t need to look to Florida or any other state for a tragedy. Oklahoma has its own stories. Now seems like a good time to carefully weigh all sides of the issue and determine whether or not Oklahoma’s version of ‘Stand Your Ground’ and open carry best suits our needs and our situation.”
A couple of observations:
First, Shelton’s interim study is NOT an official interim study. OFFICAL Interim studies are requested by members of the legislation to study an issue or a bill during the period the legislature is not in session. Interim studies are then either approved or disapproved by the legislative leadership. It doesn’t appear Shelton submitted a request to House Speaker T.W. Shannon to conduct an interim study on stand-your-ground and open carry. Shelton just set up this ‘ad hoc’ independent study that has no ‘official’ purpose. He can have as many ‘ad hoc’ meetings as he wants, but he shouldn’t have attempted to convey this was an approved study by House leadership.
Second, most Oklahomans and Americans favor “Stand Your Ground” laws. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll found 45 percent of American adults favor having a stand your ground law in their state. Just 32 percent are opposed. Another Rasmussen Reports poll found just 34 percent of voters think the federal government should be responsible for gun ownership laws. Thirty-six percent believe state governments should have that responsibility; 17 percent feel that local governments should be in charge of gun laws. The findings suggest strong public support for defensive use of guns — not an outcry for stricter federal gun control. Those numbers are significantly higher in Oklahoma. Shelton will not find much sympathy for gun control in Oklahoma, even in his own party.
Perhaps a review of the effect of conceal/carry and stand-your-ground laws on crime rates in Oklahoma would make a good interim study. But Shelton, the most liberal member of the State House, is not the person to conduct it. His ‘ad hoc’ study will approach this issue with a predetermined outcome- that Oklahoma needs to repeal stand-your-ground and disarm law abiding Oklahomans- and that would a step backward in Oklahoma.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Weekly Opinion Editorial
BUSINESSES HAVE VALUES!
by Steve Fair
On Friday, a federal judge in Oklahoma City issued an injunction in favor of Oklahoma City based Hobby Lobby Stores. The injunction means Hobby Lobby won’t have to pay millions of dollars in fines because they will not provide health insurance that covers abortion inducing drugs for their employees.
Hobby Lobby is owned by the Green family. They are Southern Baptist who say their religious convictions prevent them from providing the insurance to their 13,000 employees. Hobby Lobby calls itself a "biblically founded business" and is closed on Sundays. Founded in 1972, the company now operates more than 500 stores in 41 statesBecause the new Affordable Care Act mandates businesses to provide insurance that covers abortion drugs, the Green family decided to bring a suit against the federal government. They lost the first round in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Hobby Lobby then appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
The 10th Circuit opted to hear the case before eight active judges, not the typical three-judge panel, indicating the case's importance. In late June, the upper Court ruled 5-3 in favor of Hobby Lobby. "Sincerely religious persons could find a connection between the exercise of religion and the pursuit of profit," the judges wrote. "Would an incorporated kosher butcher really have no claim to challenge a regulation mandating non-kosher butchering practices?" Hobby Lobby's lawsuit now heads back to U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma for a second argument.
David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby, said in a statement sent to Capitalbeatok.com (http://www.capitalbeatok.com/reports/hobby-lobby-secures-preliminary-injunction-against-abortion-mandate-in-obamacare) that Hobby Lobby has endured “by God’s grace and provision.” Green went on to say, “The conflict for me is that our family is being forced to choose between following the laws of the country that we love, or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful.”
A couple of observations:
First, this tenet of ObamaCare may be the thread that unravels the whole garment. The Alliance for Defending Freedom is representing over sixty(60) other plaintiffs across the country challenging the legality of the government forcing family business owners to conduct business in conflict with their faith. Companies and educational institutions like Geneva College, Seneca Hardwood, and Wheaton College of Illinois are bringing similar lawsuits to Hobby Lobby’s. They don’t want to be a party to killing babies in the womb and have went to court to challenge government’s authority to make them.
Second, businesses are not just secular organizations. They are made up of individuals and groups who hold certain philosophical positions, both conservative and liberal. Should a businessperson be forced by the government to check his values and views at the door? Certainly not! Family owned businesses should not be forced to violate their personal convictions to do business in the marketplace. To make it unlawful to not provide insurance to kill children in the womb seems ridiculous. To expect people of conviction to simply capitulate and submit to a law they know violates the Word of God is naïve on the part of government.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Weekly Opinion Editorial
SPECIAL SESSION LOOMING?
by Steve Fair
Governor Mary Fallin has indicated she may be calling a special session of the Oklahoma legislature to deal with tort reform. "A special session is an option I am looking at," Fallin said at a Tulsa luncheon. "I've talked to the speaker and the pro tem about the possibility of a special session to fix what I consider one of our most important pieces of legislation."
You may recall that last month the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 the tort reform bill passed in 2009 violated the ‘single subject’ rule in the state Constitution. The ‘single subject’ rule was put in place to prevent logrolling, a practice where legislators attached issues unrelated to the bill’s primary purpose in order to hide them. Most legal experts do not believe the tort reform violated the ‘single subject’ rule and the ruling was purely political.
Section 27 of Article V in the Oklahoma state constitution contains the rules for convening special sessions of the Legislature. A special session can be called by either the Governor or two thirds of the members of both chambers. In 1980, Oklahoma voters passed State Question #540 that extended that authority to the legislature itself.
When the Governor calls the special session, the topics to be addressed are restricted only to those matters the Governor specifies in the call. The Governor may amend the call during the special session and add issues as they see fit. A provision also exists for calling just the Senate into special session, presumably for the emergency confirmation of a gubernatorial appointment or to sit as a court of impeachment of a Governor or Justice.
Unlike annual sessions, the state Constitution does not provide any limits on the length of special sessions. However, a special session called during one Legislature cannot extend past the swearing in of the next Legislature. But it is possible for both a regular and special session to occur simultaneously. This happened in 1990 when the special session called in 1989 for educational reform was not concluded until well into the 1990 session. The 1989 special session resulted in HB #1017, bill that dramatically increased educational spending in Oklahoma.
More recently there have been legislative special sessions in 2001 2004, 2005 and 2006, all called by the Governor. The 2006 special session was called to deal with the state’s budget. Republicans had control of the House and were tied in the Senate and no consensus could be reached on the budget during the regular session, so Oklahoma taxpayers had to pay overtime to get the budget finalized.
First, special sessions are expensive. When you call 149 legislators back to work for a special session, it will cost the taxpayers of Oklahoma over $100,000 per day. This is particularly disturbing when you consider a special session was unnecessary. The irresponsible activist ruling from the state’s high court cost YOU money.
Second, Governor Fallin should expand the subjects to be discussed during special session to include judicial term limits. Oklahoma’s current retention ballot system for Justices is clearly not working. We have term limits for our legislators and statewide elected officials. It’s time to limit the judges. When they make rulings that are clearly political, then they should leave the bench. If we ignore their activism we have relinquished our right to be self governed.
Monday, July 8, 2013
Weekly Opinion Editorial
ANOTHER WRONG RULING!
by Steve Fair
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed HB #1970 into law in May of 2011. The law required that abortion providers dispense abortion-inducing drugs only in way tested and approved by the FDA. It would have prevented the ‘off label’ uses of abortion-inducing drugs. At least seven women across the US have died because of ‘off label’ use. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in December 2012 that HB #1970 was unconstitutional because it violated the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the Oklahoma Supreme Court used a flawed interpretation of U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
"The Oklahoma Supreme Court's trend of invalidating state limitations on abortion interferes with the state's constitutional duty to regulate the public health and safety of its citizens. Additionally, the Oklahoma Supreme Court's cursory opinions offer the Oklahoma Legislature with scant guidance as to how they might permissibly regulate in this area," Pruitt said.
Pruitt appealed the Oklahoma higher court ruling to the United States Supreme Court. On Thursday, the high court said they may hear Pruitt’s appeal, but they wanted two questions answered by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. They want to know if the HB # 1970 prohibited the use of misoprostol and methotrexate, two abortion inducing drugs.
State Representative Randy Grau and State Senator Greg Treat, both Republicans from Edmond. were the authors of House Bill 1970. Upon hearing of the nation’s higher court’s ruling, Grau said, “This confirms my concern all along that the Oklahoma Supreme Court sidestepped the specific issues in this case and the purpose of the bill, which is to protect the health and safety of Oklahoma patients.”
First, medical abortions are on the rise in the U.S. An alternative to a surgical abortion, a medical abortion is a type of abortion in which a pharmaceutical drug is given to the pregnant mother to induce abortion. In 2008, about 17% of the abortions in the U.S. were medical abortions; today it is over 25%. There is a significant risk to taking abortion inducing drugs. The Mayo Clinic website lists a number of complications that can result from using this method of ending a pregnancy.
Second, this ruling is another example of the Oklahoma Supreme Court legislating from the bench. As AG Pruitt says, they are misapplying or misinterpreting precedents. It’s hope the US Supreme Court agrees with Pruitt and hears the case. This ruling comes on top of their misapplication of the ‘single subject’ rule in their tort reform ruling. Eight of the nine justices on the state’s high court were appointed by Democrat governors with liberal leanings. They are judicial activists pure and simple.
Third, we must fix our higher court system in Oklahoma. It is time for term limits on justices. We term limit our statewide elected officials. We term limit our legislators. It’s time for term limits on justices.
In 1978, Oklahoma went to a retention ballot for justices. That means every four years, the justice is on the ballot to either ‘retain or to not retain.’ It’s harder to find out information on the judges listed on the Oklahoma retention ballot than it is to find Jimmy Hoffa’s body. Consider this fact: Since Oklahoma went to a retention ballot; we have NEVER kicked out a judge. That means either they are all doing a great job or we have been duped.
By law, Oklahoma judges cannot be listed on the ballot by political party. They are forbidden by law to publicly state their political party affiliation. The truth is they don’t have to. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s recent ruling has clearly exposed their liberal leanings. The fact is there is NO non-partisan race ever! Political affiliation and labels mean something and help voters identify those running. Those who attempt to portray themselves as ‘above politics,’ and ‘non partisan,’ are either naïve or deceitful.
Oklahoma should either go back to directly electing the Justices, term limiting them or both. The system we have now is broken.
Monday, July 1, 2013
Weekly Opinion Editorial
Life, Fortune and Sacred Honor!
by Steve Fair
On Thursday, we celebrate the 237th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. One of the most widely held misconceptions about the Declaration of Independence is that it was ‘signed’ on July 4, 1776, but in fact that is the date Congress approved the final text of the Declaration. It wasn’t actually signed until August 2, 1776.
Independence Day is a national holiday, so most people will be off work. They will spend time with family, eat hot dogs, watch parades, and pop fireworks. The sad part is that many Americans don’t fully understand the importance of the Declaration of Independence in our country’s history. Here are some facts about this founding document you may not be aware of.
When the Declaration was signed, America was a small country. The population of the nation was around 2.5 million- significantly less than the current population of Oklahoma. When the Declaration of Independence was adopted, the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain had been at war for more than a year. After Congress approved the text, they sent a copy to General Washington, who was fighting the redcoats near New York City. Washington had the Declaration read to the troops on July 9. Washington hoped the Declaration would inspire the soldiers, and encourage others to join the army, which it did.
Thomas Jefferson is often called the “author” of the Declaration of Independence, but he wasn’t the only person who contributed. Jefferson was a member of a five-person committee appointed by the Continental Congress to write the Declaration. The committee included Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Interestingly, Livingston never signed it. He believed that it was too soon to declare independence and therefore refused to sign.
Jefferson said that several authors influenced him in the writing of the document. John Locke, an English physician and philosopher, whom Jefferson called one of "the three greatest men that have ever lived" was a major influence. Most scholars trace the phrase, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to Locke's ‘theory of rights.’ There is no doubt the Magna Carta also influenced Jefferson.
Future President John Adams wrote the famous preamble- When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another….
There were fifty six(56) men who signed the Declaration, including two future presidents, three vice presidents, and ten members of the Congress. Nine of those signers died before the American Revolution ended in 1783. The largest and most famous signature is that of John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress. The youngest signer was Edward Rutledge (age 26). Benjamin Franklin (age 70) was the oldest.
Twenty-four of the signers were lawyers and jurists, eleven were merchants and nine were farmers. They signed the Declaration of Independence knowing that the penalty would be death if they were captured. At the time of the signing, the colonists were British subjects and they were rebelling against own government! That may be why our founding fathers had a hatred for standing armies, and included the second amendment in the Constitution to insure private citizens could be armed.
What happened to the fifty six men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the revolutionary war.
The Declaration ends with these words; “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
It’s not certain America today has leaders who are willing to pledge their life, fortune and honor to keep our country free. Thank God for our founders. They truly did give their all for liberty. To read the Declaration, a mere 1,337 words, go to http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html