Reports indicate that the bill requiring Oklahoma voters to subscribe to a newspaper was filed by Rep. Ben Sherrer (D-Chouteau) as a “joke.” As a result, many people reacting online have chastised the term-limited representative for wasting time with jokes while the state faces a massive revenue failure, a budget shortfall and a teacher shortage.
While it’s clear Sherrer should have known his bill would cause an uproar, and while it’s even clearer that saying he’s filing “joke” legislation would offend the voting public, Sherrer’s actions provide insight into how irrelevant much of the Legislature’s early work ultimately is.
“Turtle nets and abortion: Laws changed while you slept” by William W. Savage III
As of Sunday, more than 3,400 bills are active heading into Oklahoma’s 2016 legislative session. The Legislature convenes for two years at a time, meaning about one-third of those bills are leftover from the 2015 session when they were not heard.
You might recall that we ran a piece about 2015 legislation that took effect Nov. 1, and you might also recall that Sen. David Holt (R-OKC) has been calling for the Legislature’s two-year terms to be broken into parts: one year for only the budget, and the second year only for substantive language changes to state statutes.
Rep. Sherrer’s joke gives credence to those like Holt who believe too much legislative time is spent going through rigamarole surrounding statute-change proposals year after year.
The fact that so much filed legislation is actually duplicative only bolsters Holt’s argument. You might also recall how we wrote about a 2015 proposal that would theoretically encourage retired teachers to jump back into the classroom. That proposal went nowhere (though it remains active for the 2016 session) despite dozens of versions of the bill being filed by legislators on both sides of the aisle.
“Rural coverage gives ominous tinge to ‘newspaper bill’” by William W. Savage III
Additionally, anyone who has worked the Oklahoma Capitol’s fourth-floor rotunda as either a journalist, a politician or a lobbyist likely has heard a consistent rumor at the beginning of each session: Occasionally, contract lobbyists will ask friendly legislators to file bills negatively pertaining to the interests of their clients so as to keep their contracts — and paychecks — “necessary.” These few and nefarious offenders fight like hell to kill a bill they actually created, or so the stories go.
In all, this political theater serves to feed what is more or less a Lawmaking Industry, and efforts like Holt’s to trim the play from three acts to two threaten the status quo.
Efforts like Sherrer’s — unwittingly, perhaps — also fuel the public’s perception that much of what happens at 23rd and Lincoln actually is a “joke.”
While Sherrer can be forgiven for trying to have a little fun at the end of his 12-year career — ended only by specious term limits and not by voters in his district requesting change — the other ineffective practices of the Oklahoma Legislature as a whole deserve ridicule.
Perhaps that is why the official talking points of legislative leaders and the governor’s office continue to promote Oklahoma’s budget problems as a “tremendous opportunity.” Left to the cozy notion of a flat budget, lawmakers will jibber, jabber and joke their way through countless sessions without reforming, say, how off-the-top money is appropriated or how the Legislature spends its time or taxpayers’ money.
If legislators want to exert some of their energy on jokes, they can always submit content to NonDoc’s Sundaze feature.
The public is assuredly eager to bust a gut with laughter.
Things we saw (and heard)
Oklahoma becomes ‘an intake state’ for disposal wells — Enid News & Eagle
Debt dodgers: Meet the Americans who moved to Europe and went AWOL on their student loans — Vice.com
OU fined thousands after federal violations, abuse of animals — KTUL
Hot Mess endorses Dumpster Fire — Slate.com
The case against Bernie Sanders — NYMag.com.
Bill would require South Carolina journalists to register — AP
Customers have little access to Oklahoma Natural Gas information — The Oklahoman
Quotes to note
“I would like to say thank God.”
— Shardayreon Hill, outside the courtroom after Daniel Holtzclaw, 29, was sentenced to 263 consecutive years in prison, as quoted by The AP, 1/21/16
Our philosophy at Flowhub is to get shit done. If it helps our employees get work done, then we don’t care if they consume at work.
— Kyle Sherman, cofounder of Flowhub, a company that provides software for the cannabis industry. Story on KOCO.com via CNN Money,
It is imperative that our state leaders resolve this financial crisis…We cannot let our students suffer because the adults failed to plan properly.
— Broken Arrow School Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall to News on 6, 1/18/15
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
— Woody Guthrie about Fred Christ Trump, Donald Trump’s father, as reported in many publications like Gawker, 12/31/15
Highlights from NonDoc
“Campaigns often use songs by artists who oppose them” by George Lang
“Modern nomads chasing ‘New American Dream’” by Sunny Cooper
“The most important election you aren’t talking about” by Bryan Smith