Sunday, March 26, 2023


 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     This week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court(OSC) ruled the state constitution protects the right to an abortion to a woman in life-threatening situations.   In the 5-4 decision, the OSC determined Senate Bill# 612 was unconstitutional and violated Section 861 of the state constitution. 

     Enacted in April 2022, SB#612 prohibited all abortions except in narrowly defined medical emergencies and made abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine.  The OSC’s concurring and dissenting opinions on the decision can be found at: 

     Governor Kevin Stitt disagreed with the OSC opinion, calling it an ‘activist’ opinion.  Stitt pointed out the majority(concurring) opinions failed to mention the unborn.  “From the moment life begins at conception, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother,” Stitt said.

     In the dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Kane wrote: “This court should adhere to the Constitution given to us, not craft what we believe to be a ‘better’ Constitution.  The power lies with the people.” 

     Justice Yvonne Kauger, 85, wrote the 4,870-word majority/concurring opinion.  The Sermon on the Mount is only 2,000 words!  Kauger, appointed to the OSC in 1984 by Governor George Nigh, lists four feminist arguments why a women should have the right to an abortion.  In her rambling conclusion, Kauger cites several injustices against women in the past and winds up by writing: For some women, the draconian law which allows no exception, in the absence of a medical emergency to preserve the life of the mother, may be a death sentence. In some instances, women may have fewer rights than a convicted murderer on death row.”

     The justices who joined with Kauger in the majority opinion, the governor who appointed them to the high court and the date of their appointment are as follows: Winchester (Keating in 2000), Combs (Henry in 2010 ), Gurich (Henry in 2011), and Edmondson (Henry in 2003).

     Justices who voted No were Kane (Stitt in 2019), Kuehn (Stitt in 2021), Rowe (Stitt in 2020), Darby (Fallin in 2018). Three observations:

     First, the OSC is more unstable than Justine Bieber.  How the OSC will rule is inconsistent and impossible to predict.  The OSC’s pick and choose past rulings on what is ‘log rolling/single subject’ legislation are classic examples.  What they see as constitutional in one ruling will be ruled the exact opposite in another case.  Their rulings are often illogical and legally indefensible.  They have often overturned the will/vote of the people of Oklahoma based on their liberal interpretation of a law.   

     Second, Oklahoma needs judicial reform.  The current retention ballot isn’t working.  Since the Sooner state went to the retention ballot (1972) for the state’s three courts of appeal, no jurist has been voted out.  That is not because they are all doing a bang-up job.  It’s because Oklahoma voters can’t find out anything about the judges on the ballot, so they skip the retention ballot.  Proposals to term-limit judges hasn’t gotten anywhere in the legislature.  Proposed reforms to the nomination process (controlled by the state attorney’s association- OBA) always hit a dead end.  The reason liberals and quasi- conservatives get appointed to the OSC is because the OBA is not conservative.  Having liberals involved in the selection of the justices have put liberals on the court. 

     Third, legislating from the bench is alive and well in Oklahoma.  The OSC has routinely struck down legislation and overturned the vote of the people.  That proves elections have consequences.  It makes a difference who is elected governor. All, but one of the Justices (Winchester), who voted against the unborn were appointed by a Democrat governor.  It is not the job of the OSC to rewrite the constitution.  Their job is to interpret the law, not make it.

     The hyperbole, exaggerated scenarios liberals use to make their case for terminating a child’s life in the womb fail to address the one overriding question: when does life begin?  If it begins at conception, then no one has a right to murder another and any law that allows it is draconian.

Sunday, March 19, 2023


 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) is an authorized quasi state agency.  It was created, by statute, in 1947 to construct, maintain, repair and operate turnpike projects authorized by the state legislature and approved by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (DOT).  The OTA issues revenue bonds for the purpose of paying costs of constructing the turnpikes.  The bonds are paid back solely from the tolls and do not constitute indebtedness to the state.  The OTA has been described as similar to a public utility.

     The OTA board has seven members.  The governor is an ex-officio member.  The other six members, who serve without pay for eight-year terms, are appointed by the governor.  The board members can be removed by the governor at any time, without cause, and replaced. The OTA has around 650 full time employees.  It takes in over $330 million annually in tolls.

     In August 2022, the Council of Bond Oversight approved $500 million in revenue bonds OTA could issue to expand Oklahoma’s toll roads.  The OTA plans to use the money to widen the Kilpatrick, Turner, and the Will Rogers turnpikes.  They also plan to improve the Gilcrease and the Creek. 

     OTA’s 15-year plan is called ‘Access Oklahoma.’  The plan, “identities and addresses on-going highway infrastructure needs to improve access to communities across Oklahoma.”  To view the plan, go to:

     Until last week, the OTA had never been audited by the state auditor’s office.  That is about to change.  On Wednesday, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond requested State Auditor Cindy Byrd conduct an investigative audit of the OTA.  “I have had many conversations over the past few months with legislators, community leaders, private citizens and state employees who have expressed a wide array of concerns with the financials conduct of the OTA.  These concerns include, but are not limited to improper transfers between the OTA and DOT, improper contracting and purchasing practices, and inadequate internal financial controls,” Drummond said. Three observations:

     First, the OTA is a private business controlled by Oklahoma government.  Most Oklahomans don’t realize when they toss their quarters into the basket, the money doesn’t go to the state- it goes to bondholders.  The governor sovereignly controls the OTA.  Not only is the governor on the authority, but they hand select the other members.  There have been a number of failed attempts by legislators through the years to fold the OTA under the DOT, but the bondholders are a powerful lobbying group.  Each attempt is met with resistance and the proposals never come to a vote on the floor.

     Second, Oklahoma has a long history with toll roads.  Oklahoma was the first state west of Pennsylvania to construct a toll road.  The Turner Turnpike, named for Governor Roy Turner, was authorized in 1947 and opened in 1953.  When built, Oklahomans were told once it was ‘paid off,’ the toll booths would come down.  Because the OTA ‘cross pledges’ the turnpikes in the state, no single turnpike is ever paid off. 

     Oklahoma has 10 toll roads comprising over 600 miles.  Fifteen percent of Oklahoma roads are toll roads.  The state ranks only behind Florida in number of miles of toll roads and behind New Hampshire in percentage of total roads vs. toll roads. 

     Third, the audit is long past due.  Tim Gatz, executive director of the OTA, says he welcomes the scrutiny of the audit.  Gatz claims the OTA is well run and managed, but not all of OTA’s expansion is being met with enthusiasm. In December, 150 citizens of Cleveland County, who oppose expansion of turnpikes around Norman, filed suit against the OTA claiming it violated the Open Meeting Act.  Cleveland County Associate District Judge Timothy Olsen agreed with them, saying the OTA intentionally violated the Open Meeting Act by discussing business not on the pre-published agenda. He ruled any business conducted on the items not published is void. The OTA has appealed the ruling.

     Turnpike expansion was a campaign issue in last year’s gubernatorial race.  Governor Stitt’ opponent, Joy Hofmeister, pledged to request an audit of the OTA if she was elected.  Some of Hofmeister’s advisors are now working for Drummond and some believe those staffers are behind the audit request.  Whatever the motivation/reason for Drummond’s request, more sunlight on what is going on at OTA is good for Oklahoma.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Parleying by legislative leadership should be done behind the scenes!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial 


by Steve Fair


     This week, Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) held a news conference and said HB#2775 and HB#1935, two school choice bills passed by the House, cannot be amended by the Oklahoma State Senate.  McCall said the upper chamber must pass them as is.  Any tweaks, modifications, or alterations the senate had could be addressed with a ‘trailer bill,’ McCall declared.

     McCall’s hardline stance on the two bills didn’t set well with Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, (R-OKC).  Treat called McCall’s statements, “asinine.”   “The Senate has a role to play.  These members(senate) are duly elected, and we will play our role,” Treat said.    

     “We expect those (HB#2772 & HB1935) to be heard as is.  We are open to the Senate’s ideas for education.  If they have some priorities, the House is certainly interested in anything that benefits education in the state of Oklahoma,” McCAll responded. Three observations:

     First, Oklahomans lose when the two chambers feud.  Last year, the two chambers were frequently at odds.  Oklahoma taxpayers received no tax relief in 2022 because the House’s tax cut proposals failed to be considered by the Senate.   The leaders of the two chambers don’t appear to collaborate or communicate.  At his news conference, Treat referenced a weekly meeting he and McCall hold where the school choice issue wasn’t brought up.  If that is true- and there is no reason to believe it isn’t- then why is McCall publicly taking a tough, inflexible stand?   McCall’s goal appears to be to get passionate school choice citizens to put pressure on Treat to get his bills a vote in the senate. 

     Oklahoma voters elected legislators to represent their interests and to work together for the good of the state, not grandstand and showboat.  Elected officials need to set aside ego and work together.  Contention and conflict will produce a dead end stalemate.  When that happens, nobody wins.    

     Second, collaboration and negotiation are part of the political process.  McCall’s ‘line in the sand,’ stance is not just a poke in the eye to the senate, but an insult to the Oklahomans who elected the 48 senators.  More collaboration usually results in better legislation, not worse.  The two chambers are there to vet and inspect the work of the other chamber.  Neither should be expected to rubber stamp the other’s proposals.  Treat is right- the senate should do its job.    

     Third, trailer bills in Oklahoma are a myth/fable.  They are an apparition. These so-called bills of correction never come to past.  They are discussed and promised when fishhooks are pointed out in major legislation, but they never materialize.  Fixing the ‘unintended consequences’ in a bill should be done before it is passed, not after it becomes law.    

     In the musical, “Oklahoma,” cowboy Will tells Ado Annie (in song) that he wants total commitment from her.  He croons he expects ‘all ‘er nothing.’ Ole Will gives no quarter to compromise, accommodation or middle ground.  Annie takes umbrage with Will’s demands and takes a hardline stand of her own, resulting in a rift in their relationship.  That appears to be what is being played out in the Oklahoma legislature.  It’s uncertain which chamber- or leader of the chamber- is being unyielding and obstinate (all ‘er nothing).  But for certain the parleying by legislative leadership should be done behind the scenes and not played out in the media. 

Sunday, March 5, 2023


Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     Last week, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond reversed an official opinion by his predecessor John O’Connor.  In December 2022, O’Connor was asked by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board (SVCSB) if Oklahoma taxpayer dollars could be used by religious affiliated private schools.  The Archdiocese of OKC had presented a proposed charter school to SVCSB, that if approved, they described would be unapologetically Catholic.  O’Connor said, ”a state should not be allowed to discriminate against religious affiliated private participants who wish to establish and operate charter schools in accordance with their faith alongside other private participants.”  

     In a letter to the SVCSB, Drummond disagreed and said “religious liberty is one of our most fundamental freedoms.  It allows us to worship according to our faith, and to be free from any duty that may conflict with our faith.  The opinion as issued by my predecessor misuses the concept of religious liberty by employing it as a means to justify state-funded religion.”   

     Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) said the conflicting opinions by the two AGs showed how important passage of the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act (OPCTC) is for Oklahoma parents and students.  The OPCTC would provide tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools, religious or otherwise.  Three observations:

     First, O’Connor’s opinion is consistent with a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court(SCOTUS).  In June 2020, the SCOTUS ruled 5-4 the state of Montana could give tax incentives for people to donate to a scholarship fund that provides money to Christian school for student tuition expenses.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion: “A state need not subsidize private education.  But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

     Second, Drummond admits the issue is unsettled.  In his letter to SVCSB, Drummond wrote that it remains unclear whether charter schools are public schools because they receive tax dollars.  Drummond said he hoped the SCOTUS would take up the issue in their current term.  Drummond wrote that if approval of one faith’s charter school application was done, it could result in the approval of all faith’s charter school.  Drummond contended the result would be taxpayers funding schools teaching theological doctrine they disagreed with.  He urges the SVCSB to be careful in reviewing the Archdiocese’s application, calling approval, ‘a slippery slope.’  Drummond’s opinion was probably a safe opinion, based on the current pending cases before the SCOTUS.

     Third, tax dollars belong to the taxpayers, not the state.  Tax dollars don’t belong to an elected officials, a state agency, a school district,  or the legislature.   Just because taxes are paid into state coffers, they don’t cease to be taxpayer’s money.  But it appears Oklahoma elected officials don’t really believe that.  True school choice bills that would have empowered Oklahoma parents to take ‘their’ tax dollars and use them to pay tuition at a private school were dead on arrival in the state senate. 

     In 1961, the SCOTUS ruled Secular Humanism was a religion and therefore protected under the First Amendment.  Humanists believe man is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without a belief in God.  That means when God is not recognized in the public square, humanism- is being taught by default.   Isn’t giving humanist educators tax dollars also a slippery slope?  Aren’t taxpayers already funding religious teaching they disagree with?