Oklahoma Politics: April 2012 Archives

OKCapitolLampPost.jpgOklahoma Speaker of the House Kris Steele has pulled a pro-life bill from the House calendar, effectively killing it for the year. SB 1433, which establishes the principle that personhood begins at conception, was, figuratively speaking, poisoned and dismembered by Steele, who claimed the support of a secret vote in the Republican House caucus, according to a story last Thursday by Pat McGuigan of CapitolBeatOK.

Expressing deep disappointment, state Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City, a Republican, said in a statement to CapitolBeatOK, "I am pro-life and do not agree with refusing to grant a floor hearing to any pro-life bill that has gained committee approval.

"While I will abide by the caucus' decision, I certainly was not among those opposing the bill. And I will continue fighting for the rights of the unborn."

The legislation would have found that the "life of each human being begins at conception" and asserted the "laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state."...

Speaker of the House Kris Steele informed members of the Capitol press of the GOP House caucus decision Thursday afternoon. He stressed the decision was "not made unilaterally."

There may well be a solid, substantive reason for a pro-life legislator to oppose this bill, even though this is a bill strongly supported by Oklahomans for Life, but that debate and vote should have been held openly, not behind closed doors. If I were in charge of the Oklahomans for Life scorecard, I'd have to give a demerit to every Republican member of the House and assume they voted in secret to kill the bill unless they take active, public steps to override Speaker Steele and allow the bill to be heard on the floor of the House.

Killing bills in secret out of fear for political consequences is the sort of garbage the Democrats used to pull when they had the majority. I expect better from my fellow Oklahoma Republicans, particularly in light of our strong history of passing pro-life legislation. Shame, shame, shame on Speaker Steele and his accomplices.

State Sen. Brian Crain, author of SB 1433, says that there may have been confusion about his bill:

Crain, R-Tulsa, said opponents to his bill became confused with his measure and proposals being advanced by a national group on personhood, which is supporting Oklahoma's initiative petition effort.

"They started mixing up one for the other and thought they were all the same," he said.

"There were some people that knew that this thing was constitutional; they just chose to not be completely open about what they thought this bill truly did."

Crain said the bill is based on a law in Missouri, which was upheld in 1989 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

MORE: State Rep. Paul Wesselhöft pins the blame for stopping the personhood bill on the State Chamber of Commerce. From his April 20, 2012, press release:

State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft said today he is disappointed that the personhood bill will not be given a hearing on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

"When I ran for this office, I promised my constituents that I would be a pro-life voice in the Legislature," Wesselhoft said. "Therefore, my constituents and Republican friends deserve to know that I strongly supported, argued and voted for the Personhood bill to be heard in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

"Unfortunately, a majority of my Republicans colleagues voted not to hear it. That bill could have sent a vital moral message that human life in the womb is not a blob of tissue but a living person created in the Image of God.

"I don't believe SB1433 presented a substantive problem but an image problem for the State Chamber of Commerce."

House leadership announced this week that Senate Bill 1433 would not be given a floor hearing in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The legislation simply declares that the "life of each human being begins at conception" and that the "laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state."

Meanwhile, although Steele claimed the bill would have no substantive effect (if not, then why kill it?), leading pro-abortion lobby group Planned Parenthood is celebrating his decision:

Photo from the okhouse.gov website

parmley-okdem-logo.jpgA blockbuster news item in today's Daily Caller by Matthew Boyle: Jay Parmley, former Oklahoma Democratic Party chairman, who resigned last Sunday as executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party in the midst of allegations that he sexually harassed a male party staffer, has been accused by a long-time former girlfriend of infecting her with HIV.

Rebecca Burgin, a long-time former girlfriend of former North Carolina Democratic Party executive director Jay Parmley, told The Daily Caller that she believes Parmley infected her with HIV.

Parmley resigned on April 15 amid sexual harassment allegations from a former young male staffer.

Burgin, a 29-year-old Oklahoman, has shared her story with TheDC, including the revelation that Parmley's lawyer offered her health coverage, paid for by the Democratic National Committee, to manage her illness. She ultimately declined that offer, fearing it would constitute insurance fraud. Parmley, she said, abandoned her a few months later.

Burgin says that she met Parmley when she was a student in a class he taught at Oklahoma City Community College.

According to Burgin, Parmley's HIV status was discovered after he was taken to the hospital because of a debilitating illness. It was shortly thereafter that he allegedly disclosed this to Burgin, who then was tested and learned that she was HIV-positive. This occurred in 2006, during Parmley's stint as DNC liaison in Mississippi.

According to the Daily Caller story, Burgin identfied Parmley's lawyer, who made the offer of DNC-provided health coverage, as Tulsa union lawyer Jim Frasier, who was then and still is (according to his website) a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee. According to the bio on his law firm's website, Frasier has been Oklahoma's committeeman on the DNC since 1997, and a member of the DNC Executive Committee since 2002. (This 2004 DNC roster shows Frasier as a DNC Executive Committee member for the term 2004-2008.)

"So, I sat down and wrote a letter," Burgin explained. "I laid it all out and then said I want a life insurance policy, and that I want health insurance coverage, basically, for the rest of my life."

"I was not looking for money, I was not looking for some big payoff to keep my mouth shut," Burgin added. "That wasn't my concern. My concern was that my life has gotten completely blown to pieces, and I so needed to kind of figure out how I can move forward and figure this out."

Her attorney sent that letter to Parmley and "took it to a meeting with his [Parmley's] attorney, Jim Frasier."

Frasier, then Parmley's personal attorney, is currently one of 100 delegates to the Democratic National Committee.

"Frasier," Burgin continued, "came back and said, 'what we will provide for her is that she can remain on the DNC's health insurance and the DNC would pay for it' for -- I think that they said -- as long as Jay's employed there."

Keep an eye on the Daily Caller for further developments and the okdemocrat.com message board for further "I told you so"s.

Some Oklahomans leave the state to become famous elsewhere. Others go on to be infamous in other states.

Jay Parmley, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, has resigned in the face of accusations of sexually harassing a male party employee.

The executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party resigned Sunday as calls for his ouster mounted amid questions regarding a secret agreement to pay a former staffer to keep quiet about sexual harassment allegations.

Jay Parmley, who served a year at the helm of the party, denied harassing any employee and blamed right-wing blogs for "spreading a false and misleading story" about the incident.

"Even though I have not done anything wrong, it is clear to me that I need to move on," Parmley wrote in his resignation letter.

A report by the Civitas Review first identified Parmley as the accused party executive mentioned in emails about the harassment settlement. Parmley is the former chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

North Carolina Democratic Party executive director Jay Parmley was accused of sexual harassment by former male staff member Adriadn Ortega. Ortega left the party after the incident. Ortega has not returned calls and has blocked access to his Linkedin Network site. The Daily Caller published quotes from a chain of emails discussing the situation but didn't name the victim. Ortega was well known and well liked within Republican circles because he attended several GOP events for the Democratic Party. Republican officials saw him as a respectful and good person.

As mentioned in the Daily Caller Ortega and the Party reached a financial settlement so Ortega would not pursue an official complaint. The amount has not been disclosed nor has the source of funds for the settlement. Democratic Party Communications Director Walton Robinson also didn't return email or phone contacts with us

parmley-okdem-logo.jpgParmley quit his Oklahoma chairmanship after the 2004 elections, which were disastrous for Oklahoma Democrats -- Republicans took control of the State House of Representatives for the first time in 84 years, President George W. Bush won all 77 counties, and former Congressman Tom Coburn beat his successor Brad Carson for an open U. S. Senate seat. Parmley has been blamed by Oklahoma Democrat activists for the party's massive debt following his tenure. From a "where are they now?" story in the McCarville Report in 2006:

When Parmley left the state party, it had a huge debt it is still trying to pay off; some blame Parmley for that, but his defenders say that's unfair. The debt, right at half a million dollars, came because of Congressman Brad Carson's unsuccessful campaign for the U. S. Senate and the resources the party poured into it trying to beat Republican Tom Coburn. After Parmley left, the party dismissed all of its paid staff and operated with volunteers. It now has paid the debt down by a substantial sum and has a paid staff, even if much of it is funded by the national party and the employees are flaming liberals straight out of the Dean school. As for Parmley, Dean named him to the Democratic National Committee as an at-large member in the fall of 2005.

An interesting side issue in the Daily Caller's story on the scandal: The NC Democratic Party is actively involved in the campaign to defeat an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment. You'd think that leadership of a state Democratic Party in the South would appreciate the need to remain on good terms with socially conservative Democrats who were once the heart of the party, rather than getting actively involved in an issue likely to motivate these social conservatives to turn out and vote for Republicans. Republicans have been able to win over lifelong yellow-dog Democrats simply by contrasting the parties' positions on social issues and pointing out that "this is not your granddaddy's Democratic Party."

It will be interesting to follow the rumor mill at okdemocrat.com as the Parmley story unfolds. I imagine there will be a lot of justifiable "I told you so"s uttered by the regulars there.

Hat tip to Ace of Spades HQ.

MORE: The story has made it into the British press.

Tibbs, Sue.jpgOklahoma State Rep. Sue Tibbs, a Republican who had represented District 23 in east Tulsa since her election in 2000, died Friday, the end of a long battle with ovarian cancer. Because of term limits, this had been her final session.

Services will be held at 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 11, 2012, at Grace Church, 9610 S. Garnett. In lieu of flowers, donations in Sue's memory may be made to Free in Christ Ministries or Family & Children's Services Women in Recovery program.

Sue Tibbs was a gracious lady and a fighter.

I had the honor of seeing that grace and fighting spirit first hand, working with Sue Tibbs on several of her elections, including her second attempt at the seat in 1998, one which would set the stage for her election the next time around. Sometime that spring, I got a call from Sue's campaign manager. They had received a CD from the state GOP headquarters containing a database of voters; Rich Gradel, then the county GOP chairman, had told her I might be able to help turn the database into lists Sue could use for knocking doors, sending postcards, and making phone calls to likely voters.

Sue was trying to unseat the incumbent Democrat, Betty Boyd, a legendary and beloved local television personality. I recall gathering in the Tibbs home with Sue, her husband Homer, and a small but dedicated group of volunteers to plan out the campaign.

Sue worked relentlessly, going door-to-door in the hot summer sun to talk to voters. Although 1998 wasn't a particularly good year for Republicans nationally and despite the handicap of running against a household name and an incumbent with massive financial support from special-interest PACs, Sue lost by only 120 votes. The next time around, in 2000, Sue beat Betty by 417 votes.

She was reelected without opposition in 2002. In 2004, Sue beat a primary challenger, and, in the general election, she handily defeated the son of a prominent attorney who had been parachuted into the district by the Democrats to run against her. She was a Democrat target again in 2006 and 2008, winning by solid margins both times. In her final race in 2010, she took 67% of the vote.

One of Sue Tibbs' signature issues was voter fraud, a cause with its roots in what she witnessed in her 1986 campaign for House 23 against then-incumbent Kevin Easley. Each year she proposed a bill to require voters to show a photo ID, but passage had to wait until 2010, going directly to the voters, who overwhelmingly approved this basic fraud prevention measure and protection for the value of their votes. She lived to see the law in effect and the fear-mongering of its detractors disproved by experience.

Sue Tibbs was also a cosponsor of the constitutional amendment banning the use of sharia law in Oklahoma courts, another measure approved overwhelmingly by the voters, but blocked for now by the courts. She was honored last year by Eagle Forum of Oklahoma for her efforts.

A profile of Sue Tibbs last month by CapitolBeatOK highlights her efforts in the field of corrections reform. One of the bills she authored this year would make it easier for ex-cons to get certain state professional licenses, so that only past offenses relevant to the license sought would block an applicant.

She continued with reflections on priority issues, saying she is intensely focused on "the prison reform area. Being able to recognize that some people have made mistakes and wish to have a second chance, giving them that opportunity and truly seeing these programs work, changing lives for whole generations....

"I truly believe Oklahoma needs to rewrite our criminal code. Kansas compares in population with Oklahoma and, a few years ago, decided they needed to rewrite their code.

"Their prison population dropped, saving Kansas taxpayers an incredible amount of money. This money was then able to spent on other services, or returned to the taxpayers.

"Oklahoma spends about $500 million a year on Corrections funding, believing we were getting smarter on crime, when in fact we weren't. We live in the Bible Belt where we believe in forgiveness and second chances. We must continue to work toward that end, not re-election."

State Rep. Pam Peterson, who shared an apartment with Tibbs for many years during the legislative session, said:

"She is an amazingly loyal person. When she's with you, she's with you.

"When she speaks on the floor, everybody listens. She is greatly respected. She's not flashy. She speaks very intentionally. She has power and influence because of who she is.

"The tenacity of the woman is just incredible. She's not the youngest member but she could run circles around many of the others, including younger members."

Our prayers are with Homer and their daughters and grandchildren for comfort in their loss.


State Rep. Jason Nelson has details of services for Sue Tibbs and his own remembrance.

Daily Oklahoma obituary

CapitolBeatOK obituary

AP story

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from April 2012.

Oklahoma Politics: March 2012 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: May 2012 is the next archive.

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