Oklahoma Politics: November 2010 Archives

NewsRealBlog has a piece by David Yerushalmi titled "4 Rebuttals to Critics of Oklahoma's Anti-Sharia Law," a defense of the thinking behind the constitutional amendment adopted by an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma voters on November 2 as State Question 755.

Yerushalmi says that SQ 755 was poorly drafted (and explains why in detail), but the purposes of the amendment are legitimate, and he sets out to rebut four claims by critics: (1) that SQ 755 is a response to an irrational fear of something that poses no realistic threat to Oklahomans; (2) that the amendment was "driven only by a fear-mongering anti-Islamic narrative," a "cottage industry of Islamophobia"; (3) that outlawing sharia endangers other religious courts; (4) that "sharia" has no concrete meaning, making a ban meaningless.

Especially valuable is his explanation of the mechanisms by which sharia can become a real threat to American liberties under existing law:

Specifically, there are at least three ways for sharia to find its way into our courts and legal system in ways which would deprive Oklahomans of their federal and state constitutional liberties: comity, choice of law issues, and choice of forum/venue determinations. We will touch upon each of these in brief.

In dealing with comity, Yerushalmi explains why legislative action against sharia matters:

State courts are asked to recognize and enforce foreign judgments and private arbitral awards all of the time. This procedure for recognizing another juridical body's decision as binding is called granting comity to the foreign judgment. For our purposes, a private arbitral award is like a foreign judgment because it does not arise from a state court action.

Granting comity to a foreign judgment is mostly a matter of state law. And, almost all state and federal courts will grant comity unless the recognition of the foreign judgment would violate some important public policy of the state. This doctrine is called the Void As Against Public Policy Rule and has a long and pedigreed history....

Unfortunately, because state legislatures have not been explicit about what their public policy is relative to sharia, the courts and the parties litigating in those courts are left to their own devices to first know what sharia is, and second, to understand that granting a sharia judgment comity is ipso facto offensive to our way of life and the principles underlying our constitutional republic.

And, indeed empirically, we find published judicial opinions which accept comity for sharia-based foreign judgments and arbitral awards. And these published judicial opinions quite obviously only represent the tip of the iceberg since courts render these kinds of judgments all of the time through unpublished orders rather than published opinions.

While there are also published opinions where the courts have rejected the application for comity precisely on the grounds that sharia is offensive to Due Process and Equal Protection, the courts have ended up all over the map precisely because the state legislatures have not taken the time to carefully articulate their respective public policies on the recognition of sharia-based judgments. That the people of Oklahoma have chosen to do so, even if clumsily, is hardly grounds for criticism.

Yerushalmi has drafted a model uniform act called "American Laws for American Courts" and offers a free CLE course (an online, 40-minute, narrated PowerPoint) on the proposal and the problem it seeks to address.

The draft law appears to address the heart of the matter: We don't want the state's police power used to enforce judgments made under any system of law that does not include all the rights, privileges, and liberties guaranteed under our Federal and state constitutions. While waiting for the federal courts to address SQ 755, our Oklahoma legislators should consider passing the American Laws for American Courts act in some form as a substitute if SQ 755 is overturned or a clarification otherwise.

Congratulations to Oklahoma 2nd District Congressman Dan Boren for being named whip of the 54-member Blue Dog Coalition, the congressional caucus for Democrats who claim to hold mainstream values.

Nevertheless, when the new Congress takes its first vote, Boren will, for the fourth time -- which is to say, at every opportunity -- vote for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House and for her far-left cronies to control key House committees.


Thanks to the defeat of many of his colleagues, Boren's vote for Pelosi will be for naught.

My first reaction? Yuck.

Governor-elect Mary Fallin today announced the selection of the two co-chairs of her transition team, Devon Executive Chairman and former Oklahoma State Chamber Chairman Larry Nichols and Senator Glenn Coffee.

I was disappointed to see that both are from Oklahoma City, so talented Tulsans and other Oklahomans are likely to be overlooked for Fallin administration positions. More than that, I was disappointed not to see a Tom Coburn-style limited-government conservative as one of Fallin's picks.

Now, both are accomplished men, Coffee as a leader in the Oklahoma State Senate and Nichols in the oil and gas business, but the message I received from these appointments is that the Fallin administration is going to follow the wheeler-dealer Republican path, as I had feared.

Republican officials tend to divide into wheeler-dealers and square-dealers. Square-dealers are in earnest about reducing the size and scope of government, simplifying the tax code, and reducing red tape. What rules there are should be fair to all and equally applied. The market, not the government, should be picking winners and losers.

Wheeler-dealers pay only lip service to the professed Republican values of limited but effective government. For wheeler-dealers, big, complicated government is good, because it can be used to reward political supporters and to punish political adversaries. It's a modern version of the Jacksonian spoils system, but instead of rewarding their voters with government jobs, the victorious team rewards its campaign contributors with tax and regulatory changes to give them an advantage in the marketplace. In theory, the campaign dollars will continue to flow from these favored contributors and from those hoping for such favor, as they come to understand that you must pay to play.

Wheeler-Dealer Road leads to scandal, corruption, and ejection from office. That's the path that congressional Republicans went down in the mid 2000s (Enron, Jack Abramoff), and the path that former Oklahoma Speaker Lance Cargill and his consultant buddies started us down. The result: Congressional Republicans lost their credibility and their majority in 2006, and the free-market ideals that Republicans professed (but didn't practice) were discredited. But Oklahoma Republicans of the square-dealer variety rejected Cargill's leadership, corrected course, and continued to grow their majority, producing last Tuesday's breathtaking result.

Fortunately, the Oklahoma legislature has a number of stalwart square-dealers who will call their colleagues to account. One of them is State Rep. David Dank, who has a must-read op-ed in the Monday, November 8, 2010, Oklahoman. A few key points:

To deliver what we promised, we must take at least five clear actions.

First, our conduct must be above reproach. Oklahoma has experienced too many sordid scandals throughout its history. Voters are right to demand good character from their elected officials, and anyone who violates that trust should be shunned....

Finally, the new Republican super majority must be worthy custodians of the public's money. It's theirs, not ours, and we must be held accountable for how we spend it. Our model should be Oklahoma's outstanding Sen. Tom Coburn, and that should start with a careful examination of tax credits to assure that only those that actually create jobs are enacted or retained.

I was honored to receive a strong vote of support from my constituents in District 85 on Election Day. But I am also old enough to know that today's approval can become tomorrow's rejection for those who fail to keep their promises.

Republicans have a unique opportunity to remake our state -- but only if we honor that public trust we were handed last week.

MORE: Fallin names economic team: Bob Sullivan, David Rainbolt, Gary Sherrer.

There's an effort in Indiana to "rethink redistricting". Here are the principles they espouse for fair redistricting:

  • Keep communities of interest together
  • Create more compact and geographically uniform districts
  • Reduce voters' confusion about who represents them by following already existing political boundaries such as county and township lines
  • Not use any political data including incumbent addresses for partisan reasons
  • "Nest" two house districts under the existing lines of a senate district

The five principles are similar to ideas I espoused in a Tulsa Tribune "Point of View" piece on redistricting I wrote way back in 1991, "Those Districts Belong to Us." (A Tribune editorial ten days later marks the only time in history that a local daily newspaper editorial has said I "had it right.")

With the new influx and the scarcity of Democrats in the legislature, it ought to be possible to draw sensible new legislative lines. In 2001, Democrats would take a chunk of suburbia and combine it with a vast rural area. The idea was to maximize the number of rural, presumably Democrat voters and to divide up the presumably Republican suburbs and minimize their ability to elect their own. That's no longer necessary. If you have 70 seats, there's no point in drawing crazy lines to get your yield up to 80 or 90. The new districts ought to be more compact and more uniform. No more 60-mile long, 5 mile-wide gerrymanders (or Marymanders, either).

Take a look at this map of State House districts after the 2001 lines were drawn. Notice how many mostly rural districts extend a finger into the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas -- 22, 25, 27, 28, 41, 47, 51, 55, 56, 57; 13,16, 36.

How Republicans in the legislature handle redistricting will be an early indication of their commitment to doing the right thing for the people of Oklahoma. Taking a fair approach to redistricting means preserving the right of voters to fire their representatives. It's a matter of accountability and fairness to the voters; fairness to the minority party is merely a side effect.

What I am NOT advocating is to create intentionally competitive districts. Nor should they be tweaked to maximize GOP seats. Lines ought to be drawn with regard to communities of interest, without regard to the party registration of the inhabitants.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from November 2010.

Oklahoma Politics: October 2010 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: December 2010 is the next archive.

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