Monday, July 6, 2015

Legislators Launch Summer Speaking Tours, Push Initiatives

With a few weeks off for family time, several legislators are diving back into citizen-engagement on several important state issues.

  The task of gaining broad legislative support in next Winter's session of the state legislature often begins with key grassroots dialogue. Many of Oklahoma's lawmakers are focusing on getting their message out, and hearing from citizens about how they have been impacted by the related state policies.
  Sometimes the legislator is seeking solutions, but sometimes he is simply seeking to apply public pressure where a solution has already been presented. Here are a few issues we are watching:
  • Holocaust stolen artworks which the University of Oklahoma has and is refusing to return.
  • Local law enforcement are confiscating millions from citizens without due process.
  • Lack of accountability in statewide high school sports league polices,
  • Supreme Court reforms.
  • Earthquake prevention policies.
  • Violations of the state constitution, by our legislature.
  • Marriage policy, in light of landmark federal rulings.
  • Multistate calls for a Convention of States.
  • Reform ideas in our legislative structure.
  Rep. Paul Wesselhoft is intensifying his efforts to get OU President, David Boren, to give back valuable artwork which was stolen by the Nazis and later given to OU. The Jewish family who claim ownership is suing the university. The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a resolution calling on OU to demonstrate civic leadership by honoring the Jewish family's claim.
  Sen. Kyle Loveless is traveling the state, educating citizens on their constitutional rights regarding assets being seized by local and state law enforcement under controversial federal law. His efforts to bar municipal and county agencies from profiting from the forfeitures is the subject of recent legislation. While our state cannot bar federal agencies from offering to 'split the profits' with the Oklahoma cops, the bill prevents those local agencies from keeping the profits unless a direct conviction of crimes relating to those assets is upheld.
  Rep. Jon Echols has begun the work of forming a response to the Capitol monument ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Numerous ideas have been floated, Those remedy suggestions include:
  • Amending the Oklahoma Constitution
  • Appealing the ruling in federal courts 'equal access' rights.
  • Amending the terms of justices.
  • Impeaching justices.
  • Seeking a review from the court.
  Jon has several cosponsors who are developing legislative language and seeking citizen input regarding the scope of impact that this ruling could have. There are concerns that the isolated clause which the majority opinion focuses upon could be a landmark precedent for removing entire sections of books from all public libraries, many artifacts from public museums, and the entire chaplaincy of our Oklahoma National Guard. 
  Rep Bobby Cleveland wants better accountability regarding the powerful private prep sports league known as the OSSAA. Millions of Oklahoma tax dollars eventually reach the bank account of the OSSAA through schools paying a significant annual membership fee. But the OSSAA is forcing policies which are contrary to federal and state policies on students' rights of collective & personal expression.  Cleveland is concerned that the state could face lawsuits for not taking measures to assure individuals' rights are respected.
  Rep. Jason Murphey is drawing attention to the alarming issue of earthquakes near active oil wells. He expresses dismay at the OU-based Oklahoma Geological Society's hedging regarding the connection to injection wells near some dangerous fault lines. Murphey is staying in contact with the USGS, who seems to be filling a void on this issue. Some Oklahoma geologists are suggesting that massive financial gifts to the OU endowments are coming from powerful oil industry players.  Murphey's constituents are sustaining property damages and the governor recently signed legislation which bans Murphey's home county from taking local action to regulate how injection wells are used. The governor's action is intended to protect Oklahoma's key energy industry.
  Rep Todd Huss is renewing his marriage reform initiative now that the federal courts have refused to regard states rights in a way that our citizens have approved by a recent constitutional amendment.  His 'Marriage Freedom' bill (HB1125) would change the way Oklahoma oversees marriage. Couples would no longer seek a license to marry. Instead, the state would simply certify the recording of legal marriages. An officiant would no longer be mandated if the couple opts to simply declare by affidavit that they are legally entering into this partnership. Marriage Certificates will still be recorded at the same courthouse office and family court matters would be unaffected. This simplification will likely keep the state from any lawsuits regarding conscientious objectors refusing to officiate ceremonies.
  Rep. Gary Banz and Sen. Kyle Loveless are seeking to bring our state legislature back into constitutional compliance with language which requires that the legislature ask our electorate if they'd like to authorize a statewide constitutional convention. The collective legislature has violated this mandate for the past 26 years. Many citizens believe our legislators are hypocrites to be upbraiding the supreme court for ignoring our constitution while the lawmakers have done so for nearly three decades
  State Auditor, Gary Jones is launching an ambitious speaking tour devoted to his 'Government Efficiency' initiative. His idea is to change Oklahoma's legislature to a unicameral structive (one legislative house, instead of two). His number-crunching claims are essentially a savings of tens of millions of dollars..
  Sen. Rob Standridge is renewing his efforts toward citizen involvement in the issue of a Convention of States. The recent SCOTUS rulings have greatly impacted this issue and support for a COS is growing, nationally. Standridge has been working with a national team of advocates, including former senator, Tom Coburn, attorney Michael Farris, radio host Mark Levin, and many others.  There are also organized groups actively opposing the idea as being 'too dangerous' to our society. the John Birch Society is also debating the initiative statewide.
Sooner Politics will continue to report on the developments and each of these lawmakers has their own column in the Sooner Politics online newspaper. They will be posting up info on upcoming speaking engagements, citizen response, and new language being drafted for consideration.

David Van Risseghem

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