Oklahoma lawmakers and teenagers have a lot in common. Both upload embarrassing and regrettable posts on social media. Both are known for having temper tantrums. And neither group likes to be told what to do, despite having a limited ability to make rational decisions. So it’s no wonder our lawmakers are slamming their metaphorical bedroom doors in the face of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.
Oklahoma legislators have declared that what they do once they leave state service is none of a watchdog agency’s business.
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission in February voted unanimously to bar legislators and other elected state officials from becoming lobbyists during their first two years out of office.
On Wednesday, both the House and the Senate rejected those ethics rules on grounds the Ethics Commission had overstepped its bounds.
How can the lawmakers reject the ethics rules? Isn’t it the Commission’s job to regulate the rules for lawmakers to make sure they don’t do anything sketchy? Who gave lawmakers the power to override it? It’s like giving a 13-year-old the power to choose his own punishment whenever he sneaks out of the house. There has to be accountability or else eventually someone in that situation is going to end up in jail or on Maury.
Somebody has to be responsible here…
Agreeing with the decision was Gov. Mary Fallin.
“The commission does not have the authority to write rules that prohibit employment opportunities of Oklahoma’s private citizens, which include state employees and lawmakers when they no longer are employed by the state,” the governor said.
However, said responsible person is not our esteemed governor. Of course she is against the Ethics Commission’s ruling. She hasn’t spent the last 7 years driving our state into the ground for the benefit of our Oil Overlords only to retire next year to a quiet life of posting witty Instagram pics featuring her going to Sunday matinees of John Travolta movies with the gal pals. There’s a reason she struck the rule down. So you know there’s a reason this rule was put in place.
The so-called cooling-off period would have gone into effect immediately after the Legislature adjourned Thursday if no action had been taken…
The Ethics Commission said, “State officials are public servants trusted with carrying out the laws of the state of Oklahoma for the public good. Cooling-off periods seek to avoid conflicts between state officers’ public responsibilities and private economic interests…”
“The commission clearly was fulfilling its role in state government as envisioned by Oklahomans,” Kemp said. “It’s disappointing the Legislature saw fit to reject common-sense rules designed to ensure the actions of the state advance the interests of the state by removing opportunities for self-dealing.”
So basically, this rule was put in place to make it harder for lawmakers to accept a cushy new job from the lobbyists they catered to for the last 2-6 terms immediately after they leave office. Seems rational enough. But as I said earlier, lawmakers don’t always think rationally.
Rep. Johnny Tadlock suggested the cooling-off period was un-American and an unfair restriction on personal freedom.
In a passionate speech, the Idabel Democrat told fellow House members he was sick and tired of people from state agencies and organizations telling them what to do.
“We’re the ones that run this House! We’re the ones!” he said. “Let’s stop it.”
Also as I said earlier, lawmakers are known for tantrums. Look, calling something “un-American” because you don’t like it hasn’t been a useful argument since the Commies controlled Russia. Plus, the separation of power is the backbone of the American democracy. Therefore, I’m fairly certain that arguing against the need for checks and balances in government is more “un-American” than anything. So why are lawmakers so against them?
The rejection of the cooling-off period is the latest example of a rift between the Legislature and the Ethics Commission.
The chairman of the Ethics Commission sharply criticized legislators in April after they decided to give the watchdog agency nothing from the general revenue fund in the coming fiscal year.
The chairman, John C. Hawkins, complained legislators were retaliating against the Ethics Commission because of new restrictions on getting gifts from lobbyists and because of the proposed cooling-off period.
Ah, perhaps it’s not the checks the Ethics Commission put in place that have frustrated lawmakers. Maybe it’s the fact that their job isn’t as lucrative as it once was. You see, back in November the Oklahoma Legislative Compensation Board voted to cut lawmakers’ salaries by 8.8%. At that time, Representative David Perryman tweeted that the cuts would likely make lawmakers more dependent on lobbyists for free meals and other benefits. If that’s the case, then the Ethics Commission’s restrictions on obtaining lobbyist jobs would only further hurt lawmakers’ wallets.
But look on the bright side. This may be a good work ethic learning experience for them. It’s about time lawmakers grow up and understand that not everything in life is handed to them.
Hayley is a salty broad. Follow her on twitter @squirrellygeek