Weekly Opinion Editorial
ALL ‘ER NOTHING
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.
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