Oklahoma City News, Entertainment & Occasional Humor • Established 2007

Oklahoma lawmaker introduces bill requiring all adults to subscribe to a newspaper…


It looks like Oklahoma Republicans aren’t the only ones who can introduce crazy legislation.

On Tuesday, State Rep. Ben Sherrer, a Democrat from Chouteau and the Minority FLOOR Leader in the Oklahoma House, introduced “The Paper-Informed Public Act.” If passed and signed into law, it will require Oklahoma citizens of voting age to subscribe to a newspaper. Yeah, a newspaper – those folded-up piles of paper your grandparents still have delivered to their home so they can see which of their friends died each morning.

Not surprisingly, the proposed legislation was lauded by the Oklahoma Press Association:

“House Bill 2389, otherwise known as The Paper-Informed Public Act, will make sure that citizens from all corners of Oklahoma will stay informed of local news, issues, and the hottest deals at car dealerships and grocery stores,” said Dayva Spitzer, Vice President of the Oklahoma Press Association and publisher of the Sayre Record & Beckham County Democrat. “For information on how to place a classified ad or other advertising solutions for your business, contact your local newspaper publisher.”

The Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson supported the bill with an open letter to her parents in this morning’s sports page:

Dear Mom and Dad, 

How are things?

I have exciting news from the Second’homa. 

My one sentence paragraphs are about to get loud.

Real loud.

Yesterday, State Rep. Ben Sherrer…

Okay, so I totally made up that stuff from the OPA and Jenni, but not the proposed legislation. It’s 100% real. This isn’t “News You May Have Missed” or “Bold Predictions.” Some lawmaker really wants all Oklahoma adults, a majority of which have 4th grade reading levels and can’t even pay child support payments, to subscribe to a newspaper. That’s just insane. What’s next? Requiring everyone to get a home phone line and keep a typewriter handy?

The full text of the bill is after the jump:

SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 1-3001 of Title 63, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

A. This act shall be known and may be cited as “The Paper Informed Public Act”.

B. The Legislature finds that a well-informed public is the most valuable tool for a healthy, safe and common-sense-possessing

C. Upon the effective date of this act, each citizen of the State of Oklahoma of voting age shall be required to subscribe to a newspaper of general circulation in the citizen’s county of residence. For the purposes of this subsection, a “newspaper of general circulation” shall mean a publication authorized for legal publication under Title 12 of the Oklahoma Statutes.

D. Citizens who are unable to afford a subscription to a newspaper shall be entitled to a free subscription from the newspaper of general circulation of their choice located in their county of residence upon completion of an affidavit on a form to be prepared by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and made available to the public at each newspaper of general circulation.

Oklahoma is facing a $1-billion budget hole. We’re cutting education funding. Our prisons are overcrowded. Earthquakes rattle our soil. Hell, we can’t even properly execute someone… and this guy wants to force everyone to subscribe to a newspaper. Call me sane if you want, but don’t we have more important things to worry about? Is Rep. Sherrer drunk? What local newspaper has pictures of him mud wrestling at The Boom?

Seriously, this has to be some form of blackmail. It’s the dumbest idea in a state that specializes in dumb ideas. Has Sherrer actually read an Oklahoma newspaper? The largest one is essentially the Fox News of the print world. Its reporting is biased and slanted, and virtually all investigative reports and editorial decisions begin with the underlying question of “Does this story protect our friends, hurt our enemies and advance a stodgy conservative agenda? If so, let’s do it.” It’s The fucking Oklahoman! If anything, we want to encourage people not to subscribe to it. It’s the same paper that endorsed Janet Barresi for State School Superintendent!?! Do we really want people to read that?

I guess small town newspapers are okay, but they are exactly that – small town newspapers. They do provide a service to their community, especially if you like advertorials, high school sports and charming police blotters, but how does that lead to a well-informed populace? It doesn’t. I guess I could live with a Tulsa World subscription, but since it’s not in my county I guess it wouldn’t count. Plus, their best journalists left to form a fledgling online publication. That’s probably not a good sign.

Actually, that leads to the biggest problem with the bill. What about those informed people like you, me and 50% of all other Americans who say the Internet is their main news source? Do we still need a newspaper subscription? Can we just count having high-speed internet instead?

Anyway, I seriously doubt this bill will even be heard in a committee, much less come across Mary Fallin’s desk for a signature. If for some reason it does, I hope it includes an amendment that requires businesses to advertise in obscure local social blogs. I’d actually support that. I can’t wait to read about it in the newspaper I’ll be forced to subscribe to.


  1. Maybe the Gazette needs to start selling subscriptions. No way I will subscribe and be forced to read the majority of crap in the Oklahoman, especially their political commentary.

    I’ll keep my New York Times online subscription, thank you!

  2. I subscribe to that unbiased weekly newspaper. By “subscribe” I mean pick up a copy when I’m eating pho, and by”unbiased weekly” I mean The Gayly. Enough said.

  3. How stupid! But, on the other hand, you can force people to pay for anything as long as it’s denominated a “tax.”

  4. “B. The Legislature finds that a well-informed public is the most valuable tool for a healthy, safe and common-sense-possessing
    society.” If this were already the case, most of the legislature wouldn’t have the job they have now.

  5. I’m obviously in the wrong business. I should have been a politician or a newspaper man. This type of legislation ensures failures in Oklahoma future. Whatever happened to being green and paper consumption reduction (and Sherrer is supposedly a Democrat)?

  6. Anyone else scared by the similarities in Oklahoma today and Germany when Hitler was achieving power?

  7. Only in Oklahoma but I DO, however, resent the statement that the majority of Oklahomans have only a 4th grade reading level. Some of us may be silly, but we’re not all stupid…or ignorant.

  8. I think he may have a phobia, when it comes to the internet. His law office website looks thrown together by a seven-year-old with a 99 cent GoDaddy domain and his campaign page probably cost half that. No social media presence either. He could be seeing his only form of information drying up and is trying to rescue it. His legislation? “requiring certain entities to prevent certain weeds from going to seed”; “Prohibiting adult cabaret near certain areas”; and emergency legislation “sales tax exemptions; automobile parts transactions; used personal property sold at consignment auction.” He is coming after weeds and protecting used clothing stores. And don’t you dare think about putting up one of those new-fangled adult cabarets in Choteau!

  9. This should also be brought up “Citizens who are unable to afford a subscription to a newspaper shall be entitled to a free subscription from the newspaper.” Newspapers are businesses and he wants to force businesses to give out free products to the poor? Can we amend this to include auto dealerships and such?

  10. if this passes, I suppose I could start a general circulation newspaper business with the absolute minimum requirements under Title 12 – like the other hundreds of opportunistic entrepreneurs who will do the same and make the law pointless. That’s how you know a politician doesn’t have a clue – when their solutions are beaten by 6th grade logic.

    • I checked with Ben and he said, “Sorry but TLO doesn’t fall into the category of “a healthy, safe and common-sense-possessing society” paper according to the Republicans that will be needed to pass his Bill. He also said that the GOP was going to amend the bill to read; If you can’t beat a puppy with it, it doesn’t count in order to keep TLO from ever being legally acceptable.

  11. Just wanted to let you know this isn’t serious. Since being elected in 2004 one of my local publishers always joked with me about mandating newspaper subscriptions because we mandate auto insurance. He’d say – “a well-read public is surely safer than an insured public.” Over the years he’d gig me about how I was coming along. I decided I’d file the bill my last session – and I did enjoy laying it on his desk.

    I never actually thought anyone would take it seriously and apologize for causing angst among my fellow Oklahomans.

    But thanks to The Lost Ogle for always giving me a good laugh.

    • Well, since it was filed and thus incurred the costs associated with that action, it cost actual money — even if only a tiny amount — when the state is cutting important programs because funds don’t exist for them. There could be better examples set.

    • The TLO didn’t make you laugh nearly as much as you made a laughing stock out of your self.

      Hopefully Patrick will do a lot more research into your time in office, and we can have a big long laugh at your TLO going away party.

    • Because proposing legislation is the appropriate way to test out your tone-deaf brand of satire. Our legislature is enough of a joke already.

    • So if this really is Ben Sherrer, do you think that as a Legislator this is proper conduct when you have been elected to conduct the public business? Many employees have been terminated when they do things like this at their place of business. Makes me wonder what your friend did for you that made you want to do what some would consider an abuse of power to get a smile out of your friend. If you have a strong conviction and put up a bill and I don’t agree with you, I would defend that you have a right to submit the bill. However to submit a bill just as a joke for a friend is really a mockery of our system, and disrespects the people who elected you.

      When I read the bill I thought you were a moron, and if this really is a response from Ben Sherrer my opinion now is you are a jackass. This will be your legacy, the guy that authored a bill to make everyone purchase a subscription to a newspaper.

      Just another example of why term limits are a very good thing, maybe we should make the term limits shorter so we can ourselves of people like this who like to use their elected power to prank their friends.

      • Seriously. If this is how those that have the authority to make decisions on how the citizenry runs its daily life, then it’s no wonder we have found ourselves where we are in this circling-the-toilet bowl state! I love my state, but am sickened by where it’s headed.

  12. Does this mean that if I subscribe to the Oklahoman, I’ll actually *get* a copy??? They’re still sending me late notices and renewal bills for the 3 months I NEVER RECEIVED two years ago.

  13. And if all adults had access to a library, they’d all have access to newspapers. If informing the public is the goal, push library cards!

  14. his heart’s in the right place.
    he’s just trying to fix the typical derplahoman’s ignorance.

  15. I guess this guy was waiting until his final term to do whatever he was supposed to do in his illustrious 12-year career on Lincoln Boulevard. Fortunately for all of us he will be gone in November because of term limits, not because he was voted out.

    There is just so, so much wrong with this bill, but I guess he thought this bill could lead to a cost saving for the Department of Propaganda, as this would be a cheaper way to create such an agency.

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