Monday, May 25, 2020
SINE DIE 2020!
by Steve Fair
The Oklahoma legislature adjourned on Friday, passing about half the number of bills they usually do in a session due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Kevin Stitt vetoed sixteen bills last year, but this year vetoed nineteen- ten of which the legislature overrode. Five of the vetoed bills were authored by House Speaker Charles McCall, (R-Atoka). Those bills passed both chambers with strong bipartisan support. Before the legislature went sine die of Friday, the legislature overrode six of the vetoes. Included in those were two bills dealing with rural broadband, a bill on matching funds for state universities and a bill that revises the process for renewing car tags online. Both the governor and legislative leadership issued statements there were no hard feelings over the vetoes and overrides. Three thoughts:
First, the governor and the legislature need to get on the same page. In Oklahoma, the governor proposes legislature and the legislature deposes it. A lot of taxpayer dollars and time could have been saved if lawmakers and Stitt would have gotten on the same page. Clearly, collaboration needs to improve. In a state governed exclusively by Republicans, it’s not a sign of governing efficiency when the Republican chief executive is vetoing the GOP Speaker of the House bills. Cooperation, communication and collaboration needs to improve.
Second, COVID-19 dramatically impacted this legislative session. The number of bills passed was down. In person committee meetings and personal interactions were non-existent. Couple that with the governor’s attention on the pandemic, and you have a communication breakdown. Some in the legislature believe that is why the communication between the lawmakers and he governor wasn’t as it should have been. That may be true, but if COVID-19 is a long term challenge, all parties better step up their communication game.
Third, the legislature and the governor got the constitutional mandated business done under difficult circumstances. The legislature met less than 40 days in 2020- one third less than normal. COVID-19 disrupted businesses, threatened health, and impacted tax revenue. The state’s rainy day fund was tapped to fill holes, but there wasn’t enough to plug all holes and cuts were necessary.
Sadly, once again, ‘targeted cuts’ to state agencies was not done. It was ‘one size fits all’ cuts to all state agencies again. While across the board cuts are easier, it is not the right way. Comprehensive performance audits of every entity that gets a dime of state tax dollars should be conducted and zero based budgeting should be implemented. Agencies should justify every penny of tax payer dollars they receive. Across the board cuts reward agencies who are bloated and inefficient and penalize agencies who are lean and efficient. With the US economy on hold and a timeline to recovery uncertain, government needs to become more efficient and more streamlined. Retailers are closing stores and moving to a digital online sales model, government should watch and learn.
In these troubling times, stay safe, lean on God’s unchanging hand and pray this pandemic will soon pass.
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
AN ANTI- RED FLAG LAW!
by Steve Fair
Before the Oklahoma legislature adjourned on Friday, they passed Senate Bill #1081, an anti ‘Red Flag’ bill. Authored by Sen. Nathan Dahm, (R-Tulsa) and Rep. Jay Steagall, (R-Yukon), the bill was signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt on Saturday The new law prevents Oklahoma cities and towns from enacting policies that would allow a court or other entity to restrict gun access to people who they deem to be an imminent danger. The bill passed the House 77-14 and the Senate 34-9. “This bill would stop any action from the federal government or even from local or state authorities that would infringe on the Second Amendment rights of our citizens,” Steagall said. The bill is said to be the first of its type in the nation. Critics of the bill said it was unnecessary because Oklahoma municipalities are already prevented from engaging in gun control. Two thoughts:
First, gun control is a fundamental plank in the Democrat platform. Their platform states: We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans' Second Amendment right to own and use firearms. We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation. Their ‘reasonable regulation’ includes banning of assault rifles and more background checks. So much for not infringing. The Republican Party platform states: We believe the 2nd Amendment and all the rights guaranteed by it should enable law-abiding citizens throughout the country to own firearms in their homes for self-defense. Perhaps there is not an issue where the two major Parties differ than on the Second Amendment. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democrat nominee says he would push to have gun manufacturers held accountable when one of their guns is used in a mass shooting. No word on whether he would hold knife manufacturers to the same standard.
Clearly the second amendment is under attack across the country. It is sad to say but in conservative Oklahoma, there are mayors and city councils who would attempt to implement gun control if they could. We have seen several examples of ‘heavy handed’ mayors overstepping their bounds by restricting liberty of their citizens above and beyond the recommended guidelines of the CDC during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Second, many Americans don’t understand the Second Amendment. It wasn’t placed in the U.S. Constitution for hunters. It was placed there to allow the citizens of the United States to own firearms for self-defense and to insure the security of a free state. Some believe only the military should have guns, but the Second amendment specifically intended to allow everyday citizens the ability to protect themselves and their country. We as citizens are guardians of the Second Amendment. No one should be neutral on the Second amendment. It is our duty to uphold it. The Second amendment protects the rest of the Bill of Rights. Younger Americans need to understand the importance of the Second amendment.
Voters need to recognize the importance of the November elections. If Democrats gain control of the Senate and win the White House, ‘Red Flag’ laws will be enacted. The Second amendment will be under attack. The problem with Red Flag laws is who determines who presents imminent danger? Is an imminent danger someone that disagrees with their post on Facebook? Is it someone who goes to church three times a week? What are the red flag triggers? Red Flag laws clearly violate due process, a guaranteed constitutional right. Thanks to Governor Stitt, Senator Dahm, and Representative Steagall for proactively addressing the issue.
Friday, May 8, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
GRADING MY OWN TEST
by Steve Fair
I always loved grading my own tests in school. It always seemed both Johnny(my seatmate) and I got better grades when we graded our own than when the teacher made us exchange tests for grading. The recent ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters that removed the requirement for notarization of voter absentee ballots and allows voters to simply ‘self-notarize reminds me of those days grading my own test.
Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said, “This decision effectively leaves Oklahoma without a means to verify that the person who signs an absentee ballot affidavit is the same person to whom the ballot was issued.”
The Oklahoma legislature got busy this week and quickly passed SB #210. Authored by Senate President Pro Tempe Greg Treat, (R-OKC) and Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka), SB#210 reinstated the notary requirement for the November general election. It also requires absentee voters in the June 30, 2020 primary election to include a photocopy of their photo ID with their ballot. No notary is required. Waiving the notary requirement for the primary due to the pandemic seems unnecessary and could promote voter fraud.Three thoughts:
First, Oklahoma has one of the best election processes in the country. The optical- scan voting machines utilized in the Sooner state provide a voter-verifiable ‘paper trail,’ direct recording electronic machines do not. Voter fraud in Oklahoma is rare, but it does happen. Ten years ago, an Adair county man, known for being a Democrat activist, was charged with two felony counts of false affidavit in voting registration and two felony counts of false notarization of an absentee ballot. He pled nolo contendere and received a three year deferred sentence. He was essentially charged with signing the names of two voters on absentee ballots. If the legislature had not acted as quickly as they did, verification of who is voting by absentee would have been next to impossible and the possibility of voter fraud would have been dramatically increased.
Second, the League of Women Voters is a liberal organization. Originally founded in 1920 to help women gain the right to vote, it has politically moved far from that mission. The League now publicly opposes voter ID laws, supports abortion, universal health care and gun control. Their motivation in opposing notarization of absentee ballots threatens ballot security. Every person who is eligible should be afforded the right to vote, but insuring the identity of the person casting that vote is essential to election integrity.
Third, Democrats in Oklahoma are officially liberal. The vote on SB #210 was along Party lines, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing Oklahoma voters to sign their absentee affidavit in front of a notary. The days of ‘conservative’ Democrats in Oklahoma is gone. The elected Democrats in the Oklahoma legislature are philosophically in line with the national Democrats when they in lock step oppose a common sense bill like SB #210.
Ronald Reagan famously said, “Trust, but Verify.” That is what SB#210 does. It outlines a process in which voters can cast their ballots by absentee and verification the voter did the casting of the ballot. Why would anyone oppose Voter ID? Because they want to grade their own test.
Monday, May 4, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
GOD HAS NO DEFICIT!
by Steve Fair
The Oklahoma legislature faces an estimated $1.3 billion dollar revenue shortfall due to falling oil prices, reduced sales tax and fuel tax collections, and COVID-19. The state will receive an estimated $800 million from the federal government through the COVID-19 stimulus bill, which could help plug some holes, but even with that money it appears budget cuts are looming. House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Jon Echols, (R-OKC), said the state has lost more than 18% of its total revenue and cuts to state agencies could range from 3-10%. The Oklahoma Constitution requires the legislature to pass a balanced budget, so it will be challenging times at 23rd and Lincoln this month.
The federal government is not constrained by a balanced budget amendment, so deficit spending is the norm. With the passage of the stimulus bill, the federal budget deficit this year will be $2 trillion dollars and the national debt will top $25 trillion. With record unemployment and the economy in the tank, deficit spending makes sense in the short term, but spending money you don’t have will have long term impact on future generations.
In 1929, the U.S. stock market collapsed, banks and businesses failed and unemployment was 25%. Demand for goods and services declined and supply was reduced. The Federal Reserve, which has been created in 1912 for the purpose of providing the nation a more stable monetary system, raised interest rates to limit speculation in securities markets. That backfired and caused panic and reduced demand further. President Herbert Hoover tried to keep the federal budget balanced until 1932. He believed in the economic system called Liquidationism, and that no government action should be taken during an economic downturn. Liquidationism holds the ‘temporary pain’ of companies being liquidated is a solution in itself and government should stay out of the way. Eventually Hoover did acquiesce to pressure to provide relief to citizens and agreed to a deficit budget, but he remained firm in not baling out private companies.
In 2020, the Federal Reserve is firmly in control of our economy (good and bad). The interest rate is set by the Fed. Monetary supply (money to be loaned) is controlled by the Fed. Congress and President Trump have already shown they are willing to deficit spend to get through this crisis. There is not the political will or public support to allow the economy to suffer ‘temporary pain.’ This crisis will have an impact on how people live in the future. Here are three predictions of change:
First, the world’s eating habits will change. More food will be consumed at home- less at restaurants. That has been the recent trend. In 2018, Americans ate out 185 times a year, down from a high of 216 in 2000. That’s good news for grocers, not so much for restaurants.
Second, retirement plans will change. With the stock market losing up to 30% of its value during this crisis, some will have to delay retirement or forego it all together. Those who are retired and relying on investment income will have to make adjustments to their lifestyle or go back to work.
Third, the next generation will change. The COVID-19 crisis is a part of their experience. How they will work, play, invest, worship, interact, and vote will be filtered through the experience. That can be good and bad. The good is they will understand that life is fragile and they should cherish it. The bad is they may believe life is so fragile; they live it like a dare-devil.Deficits and shortfalls are all around us, but God is still in control and has no deficit or shortfall. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the wealth in every mine. Stay safe!