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


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


 Weekly Opinion Editorial


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


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


 Weekly Opinion Editorial


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.