Monday, January 25, 2016
Weekly Opinion Editorial
TERM LIMITS & RECALL
by Steve Fair
Oklahoma State Senator Mike Schulz, (R-Altus), says he will file a Joint Resolution in the upcoming legislative session that would allow most statewide elected officials to serve up to 12 years in office if approved by Oklahoma voters. Schulz says his proposal would not apply to the governor or the corporation commissioners. Currently corporation commissioners can serve two terms of six years or a total of 12 years. The changes would impact the offices of lieutenant governor, state auditor, attorney general, labor commissioner, insurance commissioner, school superintendent and treasurer. Currently those office holders are limited to two terms or eight years. Statewide term limits are the result of the passage of SQ #747, authored by then State Senator Randy Brogdon, (R-Owasso). It was approved in 2010 by 70% of Oklahoma voters.
“Term limits are good public policy, and my proposal would ensure they stay in place, but for most statewide offices a longer term is going to allow for more efficient and effective administration,” said Schulz. “Twelve year term limits have worked for members of the Legislature, and they will be just as effective for statewide offices. A great deal of expertise and knowledge are required to effectively administer these offices, and sensibly extending these terms to up to 12 years is a reform that can produce a better state government.”
A Joint Resolution need only be passed by both chambers to be sent to the vote of the people. It does not require the governor’s signature. Should term limits for statewide be revisited after just six years? Yes, Schulz’s proposal certainly bears looking into for the following reasons:
First, giving statewide 12 years would make Oklahoma term limits consistent. Currently legislators can serve 12 years- corporation commissioners (also statewide officials) 12 years, but the other statewides only 8 years. Oklahomans overwhelmingly support term limits- as they should- but term limits should be reasonable and result in better government. Limiting a statewide official, who is doing a good job, to just two terms results in constant turnover that could lead to bureaucrats gaining control of the agency and bad government.
Second, statewide officials are administrators, not lawmakers. What difference does that make? In a legislative body, seniority matters, longevity matters. Power and influence are directly related to how long a legislator has been in office. That is why in Oklahoma some legislators served 30-40-50 years. That is not necessarily the case with an administrator. A good Attorney General or Treasurer can be evaluated on their body of work as the head of the agency. If they do a bad job, they should be booted out. If they do a good job, give them another term- up to 12 years. That is the beauty of Schulz’s proposal; it doesn’t eliminate term limits- it just increases the number of terms an administrator can serve.
Third, it might slow down or eliminate the ‘musical chairs’ game. It is highly likely some of the current statewides, who are termed out, will run for another of the statewide offices. That might not be the case if they had another term. Under current law, a person can run for each of the ten statewide offices and serve two terms in each. There is no cumulative term limit rule (which perhaps should be considered). If the goal of term limits is to eliminate career politicians, it hasn’t worked. The career pol just runs for another office where term limits don’t apply to their situation.
Fourth, recall should be part of the discussion. The enactment of term limits in Oklahoma has revealed a significant gap. If a termed-out elected official knows they are not going to face the voters again, they can stray off the reservation. Last year, some lame duck legislators bragged they didn’t have to listen to people anymore about the National Popular Vote issue because they were termed-out. If recall were an option, that wouldn’t be the case. Term limits should always include a recall mechanism.As a longtime advocate for term limits for all offices, I believe Schulz is onto something. His proposal to simply give statewides an extra term and cap them at 12, not 8 years would likely result in better state government. That is something every Oklahoman should want. Just add Recall to the proposal.
Monday, January 18, 2016
Weekly Opinion Editorial
SALES TAX IS A BAD IDEA!
by Steve Fair
In November, Oklahoma voters could vote on a proposal to impose a statewide one cent sales tax for common education. Proponents, including OU President David Boren, say the tax would generate over $600 million annually that could be used to increase teacher pay and improve education in the Sooner state. Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, challenged the legality of the initiative petition saying it violated the ‘single subject’ provision in the state constitution. After the 6-3 decision was handed down on Tuesday clearing the way for signature collection, Amber England, with Stand for Children Oklahoma said, “We are delighted that the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of sending the initiative petition forward. Oklahomans deserve the opportunity to solve the state’s education funding crisis by voting to pass this plan. We will begin immediately with the signature collection process and already have the staff and resources in place to get this measure on the ballot.” President Boren said, “The court decision today is a great victory for the schoolchildren and the people of Oklahoma.” OCPA said they plan to work in the coming months to prevent passage of the proposal.
Stand for Children Oklahoma has to collect 123,000 signatures in the next 90 days to get Initiative Petition #403 on the November 2016 ballot. There are 42,000 plus public school teachers in Oklahoma who each would get a $5,000 annual bump in salary should it pass, so that shouldn’t be a big hurdle. There are several reasons why this proposal is a bad idea.
First, Oklahomans already pay enough sales tax. According to taxfoundation.org, Oklahoma ranks #5 in the country in combined sales taxes (local &state) at an 8.66% rate. If this proposal were approved, Oklahoma would have the highest sales tax rate in the nation at 9.66%. Increasing the sales tax rate would hurt Oklahoma retailers near the state borders. Consumers would drive across state lines to buy groceries, drugs and big ticket items in order to save 1%, hurting businesses and costing jobs in the state. Consumers have a choice where they spend their money and in a tight economy, they will drive to save a buck. They don’t have to just pay the toll like some politicos mistakenly believe- they will find a backroad.
Second, there is no guarantee earmarking the one cent to education will improve education. Oklahoma has thrown more and more money at education through the years and yet education test scores haven’t improved. The answer to improving education is always more taxes or some scheme; remember pari-mutuel betting for horse racing? How about liquor by the drink? The statewide lottery? The campaigns to get those issues passed all were couched with the same tagline: ‘Do it for the Children.’ All or a portion of the monies from every one were going to solve the funding issues for education, but they never did. According to statebudgetsolutions.org report, there is no direct correlation between increased funding and improved performance in public education, but that doesn’t stop them from asking for more money.
Third, this same sales tax scheme didn’t work in Arkansas. In 1983, then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton pushed for educational change, calling for teacher competency testing, some school consolidation and a one cent increase in state sales tax to be earmarked for education. The General Assembly approved it, but according to Greg Kaza, an economist with Arkansas Policy Foundation, not much has changed in Arkansas since it passed. Education test scores have remained about the same. There hasn’t been the huge influx of jobs that were promised during the promotion of the tax. In fact, the sales tax hurt grocery retailers so much that Clinton and the legislature removed most of the sales tax burden on food and drugs. The point person for increasing the sales tax was Hillary Clinton. Jonathan Leaf with the Weekly Standard said Hillary was the key to the passage of the failed idea; “Hillary’s role was central. She helped develop the plan and her personal intervention and testimony before the assembly committee that held the bill up is what pushed it through. She campaigned in each of the state’s 75 counties to drum up support for the bill. Later Hillary’s intense personal lobbying would guide the bill through the legislature’s main session, where it passed by one vote.”Oklahoma can ill afford to increase our sales tax rate to the highest in the country. Education needs to start thinking outside the box and come up with some ideas to improve their performance that don’t involve increasing our taxes.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Weekly Opinion Editorial
IT IS STILL GUN CONTROL!
by Steve Fair
On November 22, 1963, President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I was in Mr. Hawthorne’s fifth grade class at Geronimo elementary school. I remember him weeping openly when he heard the news. It was a dark time in America. Never to allow a crisis to go the waste, liberals immediately seized the opportunity to start their campaign to disarm America.
Up until the Kennedy assassination, ‘gun control’ meant a steady aim at a target, but after Dallas that all changed. Liberals began a systematic propaganda campaign taking aim at guns and gun owners as being a threat to a civilized society. In 1966, Carl Bakal wrote a book entitled, “The Right to Bear Arms.” Bakal, a native New Yorker, free-lance writer, and a glamour photographer made the claim that America’s gun laws and in particular the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution contributed to the increased level of violence in society. Bakal also believed that gun ownership bred criminals and criminal activity. His book was widely quoted by liberals.
The first known ‘gun law’ in America was the Sullivan Law, administered in New York State in 1911 and required New Yorkers to have a permit to have a handgun on their own property. It also prohibited the carrying of bombs, brass knuckles, blackjacks and knives. The renowned Bat Matterson, a friend of the bill author, said the law was ‘obnoxious’ and he questioned Sullivan’s mental state of mind over the law. According to Myles Kelleher, a sociologist, murders by gun increased by eighteen percent in New York after the passage of Sullivan’s Law. NYC Mayor Ed Koch when he was pushing for tougher guns laws in the City said, “Nice guys who own guns aren’t nice guys.” The Koch-Carey law failed to reduce the number of guns on NYC streets and did not reduce gun use in rape, robbery, assault or murder.
In 1934, Congress in response to organized crime, passed the National Firearms Act which banned certain weapons such as machine guns (fully automatic), sawed off shotguns and rifles, grenades, and bombs. They placed a very high tax on transferring weapons and created a federal registry. In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively gutted the National Firearms Act when it ruled that it violated the Fifth Amendment in the case of Haynes vs. United States.
Congress immediately rewrote the Act and in October 1968, President Johnson signed into law the Gun Control Act of 1968. It created a federal law regulating the firearms industry by prohibiting interstate commerce in firearms except among licensed manufacturers and dealers.
In 1986, The Firearm Owners Protection Act was passed by Congress. It prohibited felons from owning guns or ammo. It also prohibited the manufacturing, importing or selling of ammo that would penetrate a bulletproof vest.
In 1993, background checks were added when the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, was signed into law. It requires a federal authorized Federal Firearms License dealer to inspect the criminal history of gun purchasers and run a background check.
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a city ordinance in Washington DC banning residents from owning a handgun was unconstitutional.
In his 1976 Master’s thesis, Gary W. Hanson concluded: “Sentiment favoring gun control comes essentially from urban areas which are most remote from America’s frontier heritage, and the common usage of firearms. Sentiment opposing gun control, on the other hand, comes primarily from the West and the South, which are the areas nearest the frontier heritage. The popularity of firearms in the United States is also due in large measure to the pioneer background of this nation.”
Hanson’s conclusion is consistent with the writing of attorney David Kopel who wrote in The Samurai, The Mountie and The Cowboy: “"Foreign style gun control is doomed to failure in America. Foreign gun control comes along with searches and seizures and with many other restrictions on civil liberties too intrusive for America. Foreign gun control...postulates an authoritarian philosophy of government fundamentally at odds with the individualist and egalitarian American ethos.”
Note that liberals never use the term gun control anymore. They understand that a large majority of Americans do not favor gun control and that term is toxic. They use terms like gun safety and gun violence. They recognize that words mean something and their intention is to sell their concept of disarming the public in a palatable way, but no matter how they say it, it’s still gun control.
Monday, January 4, 2016
Weekly Opinion Editorial
WELL ARMED LAMBS!
by Steve Fair
As I write this, President Obama is set to announce on Tuesday that he will sign an Executive Order that will create stricter gun laws in America. He is scheduled to hold a Town Hall on CNN to explain his actions and has announced his action will be ‘entirely consistent with the Second Amendment.” The President met with AG Loretta Lynch on Monday to discuss the gun issue. “This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country. It is not going to prevent every mass shooting. It will potentially save lives in this country and spare families the pain and extraordinary loss they experience when they lose loved ones to gun violence,” he said after the meeting. The plan includes adding background checks for those who purchase at gun shows and online, tightening up restrictions for gun ownership on those who have domestic violence history, adding 230 additional FBI personnel and 200 new ATF agents and some unidentified ‘gun safety technology.’
“The good news is that these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch,” Obama said. “But they're also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe in.”
Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said that Obama’s executive order is, “delusional, dangerous, not to mention unconstitutional.” “The thing the president should be doing on gun control is enforcing the laws that we have. We have long lists of criminals who own guns, who routinely purchase guns. We know who these people are, and we are not prosecuting any of them,” Fiorina said.
Other GOP candidates also weighed in. "We're not changing the Second Amendment," Donald Trump said. "I will veto that. I will un-sign that so fast." Governor Chris Christie said, “I’m sure (the gun executive action) will get stopped by the courts.” Senator Ted Cruz said Obama’s move is unconstitutional. “It’s entirely backwards. We don’t beat the bad guys by taking away our guns. We beat the bad guys by using our guns,” Cruz said. Senator Rand Paul said he would fight the President, ‘tooth and nail’ on the gun control issue. Paul plans to push the Senate GOP caucus to vote on legislation he proposed in December that would reduce executive orders on gun control to ‘advisory only. Senator Marco Rubio said, “I believe that every single American has a Constitution—and therefore God-given right—to defend themselves and their families.” All the Democrat candidates said they supported the president’s executive order action.
The second amendment is a critically important right to Americans. In a democratic republic form of self-government, an armed citizenry serves to prevent tyranny. Without the second amendment, the other tenets of the Bill of Rights would likely be ignored by government. So why did the founding fathers put the second amendment in the constitution? Was it so Americans could own shotguns to duck hunt? It was about insuring the liberty and survival of a country. The founder of the Democrat Party, Thomas Jefferson said; “Those who hammer their guns into plowshares will plow for those who do not.”
It is likely President Obama’s executive order will be overturned by the courts, but rest assured the liberals in America will not rest until they have forced every law abiding citizen in America to give up their guns. They fail to understand the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Guns don’t kill people- people kill people. The root problem of any violent act is a depraved, wicked heart and gun control will not cure that.
George Mason, the co-author of the second amendment, said this: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!” Americans need to be well armed lambs.