June Editorial Winner

Legislature needs to grow up

WAYNE TROTTER, The Countywide & Sun

In reviewing the 2014 legislature, The Oklahoman called the session that ended a few weeks ago “one of the weirdest and most disappointing sessions in modern history.”
Pretty strong stuff that, yet there’s little way to deny that this outing was a strange one.
Some things were accomplished and those should be celebrated. But other major items were go-and-stop, as in stopping the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum after millions had already been spent, or stop-and-go-away as in halting the years-old conversion to Common Core education but doing it in a manner that left the real decision up to Gov. Mary Fallin.
The latter was particularly strange given the fact that only a relatively few votes previously, those same legislators were unwilling to trust the governor on the lesser but nevertheless important educational issue of whether another hidey hole should be carved into third-grade reading requirements. They quickly and perhaps a little boisterously overrode her veto on that one.
Go figure. No, go figure? Now we learn that the budget compromise between the governor and legislative leaders contained, well, just a little bit of funny money business when it comes to the question of which fiscal year some spending really should actually be assigned to.
This was evidently done so the lawmakers (and the governor) could say the latest budget is incrementally smaller than the previous one.
In the world of governmental chicanery, that’s pretty minor but it does leave one wondering whether the powers-that-be in Oklahoma City think their constituents are able to add and subtract. The real question is, can they?
So who do you blame for all this? There’s no one to blame but the Republicans. In the wake of the past few elections driven by Oklahoma voters’ disdain for President Obama and his policies, there are not enough Democrats left in state government to point an accusing finger toward. Not only do the Republicans control both houses of the legislature by overwhelming margins, they also hold every other elective position from the governor’s mansion on down. The GOP has to take the responsibility because the GOP sought and was awarded the responsibility.
So when will the Republicans start getting with the program? Soon, we hope.
After wandering in the political wilderness for most of the first hundred years of
Oklahoma’s history, it was hard to blame the Republicans for restating some of their core beliefs when at long last they took control along Lincoln Boulevard. They had earned that. But several years into this electoral revolution, they keep trying to piddle with the symbolic and the result is wasted time. Yet at the end of the session, they adjourn a week early and dump Common Core squarely in the lap of the governor.
Go figure that.
No, things aren’t as bad as they were under the Democrats. Near the end of their century long run, they kept trying to govern Harry Reidstyle by simply ignoring solutions that didn’t exactly fit their own philosophical patterns, no matter how practical and productive those solutions might have been. Tort reforms and workers comp changes are examples that spring quickly to mind. And like the Republicans of today, those Democrats of the recent past had some pretty good people in the administrative offices. It might behoove the current crop of Republicans in the legislature to consider that there are reasons they are in office that have nothing to do with Barack Obama.
The first job of the legislature is to craft policies under which state government can effectively operate. The second job is to find as much money as can legitimately be raised to implement those policies. Governmental philosophy is most effectively expressed by meeting those responsibilities properly. It’s time the Republicans who run the legislature, including those who represent Pottawatomie County, grew up and began learning those lessons.

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