(Editor’s Note: Here’s the deal, we have no clue what to call this new series, so for now we’re going to call it something different each week! Should be zany fun!)
Fairy dust, anti-abortionists, homeschoolers, pink hair and Ronald Reagan; yep, the Oklahoma Legislature is back in town.
When the gavel came down with a loud smack opening the second regular session of the 53rd Oklahoma Legislature, immediately there was something different in the chamber, something never seen before. It was pink hair being sported by Gov. Mary Fallin’s married daughter Christina sitting in the gallery. It actually looked nice and contrasted well against Rep. Joe Dorman’s head which shined like a Cadillac fender exiting a car wash.
Most of the action during the first week of a session usually takes place in the rotunda area outside the House and Senate chambers. Various groups from dairy farmers to mothers who support spanking are either protesting or promoting their causes. On Monday the capitol was filled with thousands of the best spellers who probably think Jesus crossed the Delaware River with George Washington, as homeschoolers took over the building. Tuesday was the annual pro-life capitol migration with thousands of red roses to hand out, which is followed by the annual dump-the-rose-filled-trash-cans-out day.
But the highlight of the week’s demonstrators came from the “non-partisan” Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. They sponsored “What would Ronald Reagan Do” day, complete with a board to post comments and two cakes with Reagan’s picture decorating each. It was probably the best opportunity for liberals to finally take a bite at their old nemesis. Here’s a picture of one of the cakes:
Besides the obvious answer to OCPA’s quizzical question of what Reagan would do — nothing because he is dead — it is highly unlikely any of the board posts included some of the things Reagan did do like running-up some of the highest budget deficits in American history, visiting Nazi soldiers’ graves and being oblivious to his administration’s operation of selling guns to Iran and using the money to fund rebels in Nicaragua. It’s doubtful that will be part of the homeschoolers curriculum.
Doubt might also be the word to describe Gov. Fallin’s proposal of slowly eliminating the income tax, one-third of the state budget, and keeping core government services adequately funded. Several attendees and reporters listening to the governor’s State of the State address were using words like “impossible,” “dreaming” and that it would take fairy dust to make the plan work. Fallin’s method of paying for the tax cut takes some serious leaps of faith, family and freedom. One element is “capitalizing on economic growth we expect to see as a result of our pro-jobs, pro-business policies,” the governor calmly explained.
There’s a line from the Blues Brothers song “Rubber Biscuit” which says “A ricochet biscuit is the kind of biscuit that’s supposed to bounce back off the wall in to your mouth. If it don’t bounce back…you go hungry.” That line seemed to resonate after Fallin explained her plan.
The week also reinforced a very important lesson all politicians must learn: never upset the press. State Sen. Jim Wilson, one of the more liberal members of the Legislature, introduced a bill removing the sales tax exemption newspapers and magazines currently enjoy. He knew he was in trouble from the start when the chairman of the committee taking up his bill simply looked at Wilson and said, “Good luck.”
Wilson explained the reason he went after the media’s sales tax exemption was to help pay teachers their bonuses guaranteed by the state for becoming national board certified teachers. It didn’t help that half of the committee room was filled with journalists.
“I know I’m blood in the water with sharks swimming around,” Wilson acknowledged.
Realizing the Borg futile resistance ending he was facing, Wilson tried a new tactic by appealing to the Senate’s moral values. He brought up the fact the bill would also eliminate the sales tax on the sale of magazines like Playboy. It may be the only time in the Legislature the porn card didn’t work.
When the votes were cast, Wilson only received one vote – his own. The power of the press prevails again, if only because the senators viewed the elimination as a tax increase. Hard to believe porn and the press were saved by a potential tax increase.
Scott Cooper, an awarding-winning journalist for enterprise and investigative reporting, is the editor and publisher of The Land Run, a state legal news website.
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