Oklahoma Politics: October 2011 Archives

An article by A. Barton Hinkle, on the website of Reason, the magazine of the libertarian Cato Institute, points to Oklahoma's pseudoephedrine restrictions and their impact on the methamphetamine trade, and not in a good way, in a column about proposed legislation in Virginia:

Second, it almost certainly will not impede the meth trade; it will only increase consumption of meth from Mexican narco-labs. This isn't mere speculation. It's exactly what happened in Oklahoma, which imposed restrictions on the sale of cold and allergy medication several years ago to combat meth trafficking there.

Result? "Six and a half pounds of Mexican meth, also known as 'Ice,' has been taken off the street by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics," reported an Oklahoma City TV station last year. "It's the second meth bust in the last week." The story quoted the head of the state narcotics bureau, who said, "The No. 1 threat to the citizens in the state of Oklahoma is the Hispanic sell groups that have infiltrated rural Oklahoma." Oklahoma did not reduce consumption--it outsourced production. Some victory.

Third, the proposal targets the wrong thing. The problem is meth, not meth precursors. Cold and allergy remedies can be used to make meth, but so can soda bottles and coffee filters. Applying the fanatical logic of the nation's drug war, if restricting the sale of allergy medicines does not stop meth use--and it won't--the next step should be to track the sale of 2-liter soda bottles.

The column also compares the logic behind pseudoephedrine restrictions to the thinking behind gun regulation:

That warped reasoning goes like this: Millions of Americans use a lawful product in a lawful manner, but because a minute fraction use it unlawfully, everyone else will have to submit to government monitoring, inconvenience and constraint. Including you, dear citizen. Because while you have given no one any grounds to think you have broken the law, it is theoretically possible that you might do so at some point in the future. You are not to be trusted.

I supported the current pseudoephedrine restrictions when they were first approved, but it seems that the 2004 law only temporarily slowed meth usage for so long as it took addicts and their suppliers to find other sources.

Hinkle's argument does overlook some advantages of imported Mexican meth over local manufacture: Fewer houses blowing up or burning down, fewer kids exposed to the toxic fumes of their parents' meth labs.

Still, someone buying a decongestant for its intended purpose shouldn't have to worry about being eyed with suspicion, and they shouldn't have their medical needs unmet because the state's pseudoephedrine computer tracking system is offline -- or, worse yet, going to jail because they accidentally bought more than their allowed amount:

Consider what happened to Sally Harpold, an Indiana grandmother who was hauled off in handcuffs, booked and embarrassed on the front page of the local paper a couple of years ago. As Reason magazine's Jacob Sullum reported, her crime--if you want to call it that--was "buying a box of Zyrtec-D allergy medicine for her husband, then buying a box of Mucinex-D decongestant for her daughter at another pharmacy less than a week later. That second transaction put Harpold six-tenths of a gram over Indiana's three-gram-per-week limit" for pseudoephedrine.

A RESPONSE (2011/10/15): A reader familiar with Oklahoma's drug situation writes to say that the song and dance you go through to buy Sudafed is worth it, and that Oklahoma's law has been a phenomenal success, eliminating the "horrible boobytrapped biohazard dens" that anyone might encounter -- motel rooms, renthouses, cars. The current pseudoephedrine law has brought that problem to an end, along with the corruption and violence of the meth production industry. No one would wish meth labs on Mexico, but better there than here, and in Mexico meth production is not done in small labs, but in remote, large-scale factories. Pseudoephedrine has been illegal in Mexico since 2008 and has to be smuggled in, adding a layer of expense, complexity, and vulnerability to their operations that law enforcement both inside and outside of Mexico can exploit.

AND A NEW TWIST: Last week the arrest of a man carrying a backpack meth lab in the 81st and Lewis Walmart in Tulsa led to the discovery of a meth lab in a storm sewer nearby:

Roy Teeters who oversees the storm drainage system for the City of Tulsa Public Works Department says there are more than 1,000 miles of storm drains in Tulsa.

Sizes range from a basketball to a dump truck.

The tunnels are large enough to attract a meth cook who used one of those tunnels as his kitchen.

Police say a hundred yards back through the tunnel that drains into Fred Creek they found they found an active meth lab, a discarded bottle used to make meth and meth-making materials....

However, it just wasn't the meth cooks down in the tunnels.

Officers say homeless people were living in the tunnels.

They found a couch, a chair, clothes and stolen property.

In 2011, Tulsa has already passed the number of meth lab busts we had in 2010.

Earlier this week, in my entry about the passing of Twyla Mason Gray, I mentioned the fascinating collection of interviews from 2007 that makes up the OSU Women of the Oklahoma Legislature oral history project.

Cleta Deatherage Mitchell represented Norman in the State House of Representatives as a Democrat from 1976 to 1984, during which time she rose to the chairmanship of the appropriations and budget committee. Nowadays she's a Washington, D. C., attorney, a member of the National Rifle Association board, chairman of the American Conservative Union Foundation, and president of the National Republican Lawyers Association. She began working on national issues with her advocacy and legal defense of term limits. Her law practice focuses on election law and lobbying and ethics laws.

As you can see in the following quotes, Mitchell believes that politics should not be run by a professional class, but by ordinary citizens, taking time out to serve their fellow citizens.

In the interview, Mitchell also explains why smaller districts are a good thing, a timely reminder as some of our legislators are toying with the idea of fewer legislators and as Tulsa voters face a ballot initiative that would add three members elected at-large (citywide) to our City Council. (Emphasis added.)

I recommend everybody run for office. I really think everybody ought to serve. I really think it is a bad thing that we've come to this professionalization of politics because that isn't what this country was founded on. This idea--to have a really representative government, you have to have a system that allows people to take turns and go and spend a tour of duty in a legislative body or a city council or a planning commission or a school board. Those are the people who, in my view, really deserve the credit because those are generally volunteer positions. I decided I didn't want any part of people trying to get me to run for the Norman City Council. I said, "Do I want people calling me in the middle of the night because there's a dead dog in their street? No, I don't think so."

Frankly my remedy for the cost of congressional campaigns is that one of the things we ought to do is to triple the size of the U.S. House of Representatives. It's not written in the Constitution that we have 435. They used to increase them. Cut the district sizes by two-thirds so people can get to know and do those grass roots door-to-door campaigns. I mean, that was such an important part of my learning process to become a legislator was the campaign. I would bring home zinnia seeds and watermelons and people would give me money--twenty bucks and, I mean--"Come back and get some of this squash from my garden," and I talked to people. My, campaign staff, my volunteers would say, "You are the slowest canvasser." Well, that's true because I really talked to people, and I really learned from them and listened to them. It's not easy for candidates to do that, running for Congress or the U.S. Senate now because it's all television. It's fundraising and television and they don't re-draw the state boundaries every ten years so Senators actually do have to maintain the boundaries. But for House members I really think that we've lost something in the retail politics that I think we could get back if we changed the system some.

I think everybody ought to do it, and I think people who think they're not qualified--women always say they're not qualified. That's the first thing they always say. They're not qualified. And I say, "Well, if you don't think you're qualified, then you just need to do what I did. Go sit in the gallery. Go listen. Turn on C-SPAN. You know, watch the local access channel. Watch your city council, and if you think you're not qualified, you are just not paying attention."...

Women always think, "Well, I need to go get another degree or I need to get another course." And I always say, "One more piece of paper is not what you need. You just need to know that you know what you know and you bring what you know to the table. And in a representative government, that's what we're supposed to have....

Listen more than you talk. Take care of the home folks. And work, work, work.

As you'll read in the transcript of the interview, Mitchell was instrumental in the Open Meetings Act, the restoration of the State Capitol building, an end to unrecorded votes in the legislature (the "Committee of the Whole"), the computerization of voter records, the redirection of state sales tax receipts from being earmarked for Lloyd Rader's welfare empire to the general fund under the legislature's control, and "displaced homemaker" training programs at the state's VoTech schools.


Cleta Mitchell in the Daily Caller: Setting the record straight on voter ID laws

Back in February, RedState's Erick Erickson defended Mitchell for her devotion to the conservative cause, contrasted with her detractors' in GOProud and their support for left-wing groups and causes.

Yesterday, Tulsa Congressman John Sullivan's bill to provide regulatory relief to the American cement industry, HR 2681, passed by a vote of 262-161. According to an email from Sullivan, the bill "puts the brakes on a costly, overbearing EPA rule that threatens to shut 20% of the U.S. cement manufacturing industry. This rule, refered to as the 'Cement MACT' rule could end up costing us nearly 20,000 private sector jobs and would drive up the cost of cement and construction projects around the country."

To underscore the significance of the bill, the free-market grassroots group FreedomWorks made it a "key vote," a vote included in its rating of each congressman's commitment to economic liberty. FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe explains the impact of the Cement MACT rule and why Sullivan's bill matters:

The EPA itself admits that current cement regulations would raise the price of the most common type of cement. The agency predicts that cement prices would go up by 5.4 percent. The rules require that the producers of Portland cement invest in expensive new equipment to comply with the new standards. The compliance cost of these new cement regulations over the next four years will total $5.4 billion. Increased compliance costs will ultimately be passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices. We will all be paying higher prices for cement as a result of these needless regulations.

The cement industry estimates that the rule could destroy as many as 4,000 jobs. It could cut domestic cement manufacturing capacities by 20 percent over the next two years. Portland Cement Association President Aris Papadopoulos says that, "shortages and price volatility will become more common" once these regulations are implemented. In addition to destroying jobs in the cement industry, the regulation is expected to cost 12,000 to 19,000 jobs construction jobs due to higher construction costs. We must prohibit the cement MACT rule to save jobs and prevent the increase of cement prices.

Americans for Prosperity issued a letter of support for Sullivan's bill, noting many of the same points (with links to backup material for the numbers cited):

For weeks the President has lectured us that the government needs to help "put people to work rebuilding America" - destroying jobs and hiking up construction costs through poorly-contrived regulation is no way to start. Your bill provides relief from these rules: giving EPA fifteen months to re-propose and finalize more prudent standards, extending compliance deadlines to give cement plants adequate time to adapt once the rules do take effect, and ensuring that EPA chooses the "least burdensome" and most economical regulatory alternative.

Here's Sullivan's speech on the floor of the House during debate on the bill.

Twyla Mason Gray, an Oklahoma County District Judge and former Oklahoma state representative died Monday. She was 56.

In 1980, as a 25-year-old, Twyla Mason filed for and defeated an incumbent to win District 23 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. As a House freshman, she met and married Rep. Charles Gray from southwestern Oklahoma, the only time in state history that two sitting legislators married each other. After two terms in the House, Mason Gray left to raise a family and to attend law school.

In 2007, Twyla Mason Gray was interviewed as part of an oral history project documenting the experiences of Oklahoma's female legislators. In part of the interview, she discussed the birth of the University Center of Tulsa, exploiting a mistake made by the legislative leaders seeking to block the bill and the petty revenge that followed (emphasis added). "Triple-assigned" means that a bill would need the approval of three different committees before reaching the House floor:

One of the things that was the most important to those of us from Tulsa County was the University Center of Tulsa. Sometimes everybody plays a small role, but every role is important, and that's kind of what happened in that bill. Jim Williamson, who was a House member then from Tulsa...my husband taught us both how to roll call a bill, and I did the democrats and Jim did the republicans--and what happened on the bill was that with Cleta Deatherage representing OU [University of Oklahoma] and the Speaker of the House, Dan Draper representing OSU [Oklahoma State University], we couldn't get the bills out of committee. They made a mistake in the appropriation process and they did not move the higher education appropriation bill out of the Appropriations Committee by deadline. The next day I was reading the journal and saw that it had not come out. Bob Hopkins, was the older statesman of the Tulsa delegation, and I went running to Bob on the floor and said, "This bill is still in the committee." Well, I had called to check to see if the bill wasn't out of committee. I had called the chief clerk's house to see if it was a mistake and, of course, they went to the chief clerk, who was Richard Huddleston, and said a mistake had been made. He told Draper, and Deatherage got up to ask for unanimous consent that the bill be moved, and Bob Hopkins objected and then the fight was on because we had taken this roll call to keep the bill in committee until we got the University Center of Tulsa.

We were able to keep that bill from coming out for four days which was a big deal when you're opposed by the Speaker of the House and the Appropriations chair. They can make a lot of promises and people begin to fall off, but eventually we got it--but it was hand-to-hand combat every day. In fact, one of the things that happened because it was close to the end of session was in the leadership meeting there was a big battle because my husband, who was on the leadership, had helped us roll call the bills and had taught us what to do and had coached us about how to talk to different people. There were folks who were really mad at him and they got into a big fight. The leadership didn't meet the rest of the year. Their weekly luncheons were cancelled. It was an exciting time....

In 1982, when I was re-elected, my husband retired and Dan Draper was still Speaker of the House and I got punished for the University Center of Tulsa and so Dan took my office, and there was a variety of things that went on. All of my bills got triple assigned. I had been able to accomplish the split in the leadership, I had Vernon Dunn and Charley Gray helping me against the Speaker, and it was a big deal and so there was a change in the Speaker of the House. Jim Barker was elected, and then everything changed and kind of went back to normal. That first session I had very little to do because I couldn't get anything done, and so I sort of did what I called guerrilla warfare. I didn't have anything to do other than to read their bills and to ask irritating questions, and so that's pretty much what I did. Then when Jim Barker was elected Speaker things leveled out and I worked on legislation and could get my bills out of committee and...

(Draper represented Stillwater, home of Oklahoma State University in the house. College towns strongly opposed Tulsa having a local state college.)

Gray was first elected judge in 1998.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from October 2011.

Oklahoma Politics: September 2011 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: November 2011 is the next archive.

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