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

TLO-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
society.

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.