Oklahoma Politics: April 2013 Archives

At some time in the near future, the Oklahoma State Senate may vote on HB1412, a bill that purports to prohibit governmental entities in Oklahoma from implementing any aspect of Agenda 21 or belonging to any United Nations-related organization. After the jump, you can read the full text of the engrossed bill approved on March 13, 2013, by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The bill was assigned to the Senate Energy Committee, where it currently sits.

HB1412 is a feel-good bill, a security blanket that does nothing to protect against real threats to private property rights. Meanwhile, the legislature is ignoring practical, effective steps that they could take to protect against those threats, regardless of the inspiration or motivation behind them.

Photomeme from I Can Has Cheezburger

Here are the main problems with HB1421:

  • Legislation that is specific to Agenda 21 won't protect against the same threats to private property that are traceable to other influences.
  • There are no procedures for identifying and prosecuting violations of the law.
  • There are no penalties for violating the law.
  • No provision is made to maintain a list of "nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations" with which Oklahoma and its political subdivisions may not interact.
  • The misuse of "all" when "any" is meant, and "and" when "or" is meant may allow a court to construe the law as a dead letter.

If a governmental action is abusive, it doesn't matter if that action was inspired by Agenda 21, Heinz 57, or Route 66. Wrong is wrong.

In fact, the bad guys are likely to change the terminology if a label begins to attract negative attention. Activists who track fads in public education are familiar with the cycle: A program comes under negative scrutiny, and there are calls to defund it and forbid its implementation. Supporters of the goals of the program create a new program with the same goals, but with a different name, and different terminology. Opponents have to fight the same battle all over again, trying to convince elected officials that this is the same old garbage in new packaging.

Rather than focus on the label, legislators and activists concerned about Agenda 21 should focus on the effects. What are the dangers against which we're trying to protect Oklahomans? What gaps in the law put Oklahomans at a disadvantage in defending themselves against these impositions? How can the laws be changed to give ordinary Oklahomans a firmer place to stand and more powerful tools to fight against these abuses?

Here are two real-world situations where the legislature could take practical steps to protect Oklahomans against the feared outcomes of Agenda 21 globaloney: Eminent domain and trash policy.

Eminent domain abuses and other impositions on private property rights predate Agenda 21 and occur independently of any connection to Agenda 21 or sustainability. Public trusts and authorities have been known to "lend" their power of eminent domain to benefit politically connected businesses and institutions. (For example, the use of the City of Tulsa's power of eminent domain to facilitate the expansion of the University of Tulsa, a private, sectarian institution.) The Institute for Justice's Castle Coalition tracks this issue nationwide; here's their summary of state constitutional provisions dealing with eminent domain.

Even though our State Constitution requires that eminent domain may only be used to acquire property for public use, not merely public benefit, a property owner confronted with a condemnation threat may not know where to turn for help and may not have the financial means to fight an unconstitutional use of eminent domain.

The legislature could provide that every condemnation would be subject to an early motion to dismiss, with the burden of proof placed on the condemning authority to establish that the proposed use for the condemned property is a public use in accordance with the Oklahoma Constitution and the Muskogee County v. Lowery ruling. If the burden is not met, the condemning authority would have to pay the property owner's legal cost. It's a variation on the highly effective anti-SLAPP statutes in place in California and elsewhere. Here, too, the idea is to shift the financial burden away from the citizen exercising and defending his rights and onto the party seeking to limit or impose upon those rights.

At the same time, the legislature could and should act to tighten up the ridiculouly broad definition of "blight" in the state statutes. Click that link and read what it says. Just about any one's property could be declared blighted. If you're concerned that PLANiTULSA -- the City of Tulsa's recently adopted comprehensive plan -- could be used as a pretext for condemning private property, then remove anything in the law that defines incompatibility with a comprehensive plan as blight.

Many Tulsans are upset about the changes to our trash service. Under the Dewey Bartlett Jr administration, the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy (TARE) lumbered Tulsans with more expensive, less frequent, and less convenient trash service, all for the sake of financing "green" CNG-powered trash trucks that can track our trash and recycling habits. (Why else do you need RFID-identified trash carts?) The TARE board seemed uninterested in the public's wishes, seemed to be imposing this new policy For Our Own Good whether we liked it or not.

Bartlett Jr refused to replace TARE board members with new members who would be more sympathetic and responsive to public wishes. The City Council explored disbanding TARE and bringing the trash service back under city government, but TARE's status as a Title 60 trust made it impossible to disband TARE without TARE's consent.

So let's see the legislature reform Title 60 so that a city's elected officials can reign in and if necessary disband a rogue trust or authority. Provide a way to deal with an authority's outstanding debts, so they can't be used to prevent the sunsetting of an authority that has outlived its purpose, as TARE has done. (TARE was created to finance the construction of the city's trash-to-energy plant, paying back construction bonds with the trash service revenue. The facility is now privately owned.)

Add a provision to allow a city's governing board to appoint new authority members if the mayor refuses to make an appointment when a member's term expires. (Tulsa has a charter amendment that gives the City Council the authority to make appointments when the mayor refuses, but the City Attorney's office has opined that the TARE board is exempt from the requirement because of the way in which the authority was created. The law I'm suggesting could close this loophole.)

It's simple to author a resolution expressing the sense of the Legislature, an opinion on a subject, which is about all that HB1412 is. Writing effective legislation is not simple, and I would urge the legislators and the activists who support HB1412 to dig deeper and to write laws that protect Oklahomans whether or not Agenda 21 and the United Nations are involved. Pass HB1412 if you like, but it won't have any meaningful effect, and indeed it may lull you into a false sense of security.

okgop2013.pngConservative political pundit Fred Barnes will be the keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Republican Party's pre-convention gala dinner, Friday, April 19, 2013. Gov. Mary Fallin and former Gov. Frank Keating will also speak, and Keating will serve as emcee.

Tickets start at $50 per person, with proceeds going to support the ongoing work of the Oklahoma Republican Party. For $125 per person ($225 per couple), you can attend the reception and have a photo-op with Fred Barnes.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard, co-founding the magazine in 1995. He has been a Fox News contributor since 1996. You may have first encountered him along with Mort Kondracke as regular panelists on "The McLaughlin Group" in the 1990s; the two then co-hosted Fox News's "The Beltway Boys."

I predict that Mr. Barnes will be warmly welcomed by Oklahoma Republicans, and not merely as a fellow conservative, but also (for perhaps the majority of us) as a fellow follower of Christ. He lives out his faith in often-hostile territory -- both in the DC metro area and in the realm of mass media. He understands first-hand, in a way that many of his right-of-center media colleagues do not, the aspects of the Christian faith that have motivated so many Oklahoma Christians to be involved politically, but also that one's Christian faith is much, much more than one's political involvement.

Barnes is an evangelical Anglican, a long-time member of The Falls Church, which withdrew from the Episcopal Church USA for the mainline denomination's radical departures from God's Word and which was recently evicted by the mainline denomination and the courts from its historic home. In 2007, Barnes and his wife Barbara left The Falls Church to help launch a new evangelical Anglican church being planted in Alexandria by The Falls Church. Barnes wrote about the experience of being involved in church planting in the Wall Street Journal.

Many thanks to the Oklahoma Republican Party for sponsoring BatesLine.


Fred Barnes archive at The Weekly Standard: His latest column asks why the Republican Party gave up our best issue and stopped talking about growth.

And here's Barnes, along with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and others, speaking in support of Birthmothers, a ministry that connects women in unplanned pregnancies with a supportive friend and the emotional and physical resources they need to bring their children into the world.

In 2008, I encountered Fred Barnes in a St. Paul elevator on the way to hear a talk by Fred Thompson.

Mary_Fallin_somber.jpgHere we are, the reddest state in the nation: Republican governor, overwhelmingly Republican legislature. (36-12 in the Senate, 72-29 in the House.)

But instead of tightening the state's belt, as their constituents have had to do, instead of cutting tax rates significantly so that Oklahomans will be able to keep more of our own money and compensate for Federal tax hikes, and so that Oklahoma can compete with our no-income-tax neighbor to the south and our lower-tax neighbor to the north, our elected officials at the State Capitol are hesitating over a minuscule cut in the top income tax rate. We couldn't get a tax cut last year, and it's looking like we might not get one this year.

OCPA's bold budget plan

There is a bold plan on the table, if our leaders are willing to take it up. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs has proposed a state budget for Oklahoma that reduces appropriations for FY 2014 by $132 million as compared to this year's appropriations. That's an actual cut, not a mere reduction in the growth of government.

The OCPA proposal accomplishes these savings with more efficient health care coverage for state employees, gets government out of businesses that ought to be handled by the private sector, reforms agencies, boards, and commissions, and scrutinizes federal grants that often obligate state and local spending. It cuts our top tax rate by 1/2 percentage point, from 5.25% to 4.75% and still brings in $277 million in surplus funds that can be carried over to FY 2015.

The legislature's timidity; Fallin blames lobbyists

But our legislative leaders aren't boldly moving forward with OCPA's thoroughly researched proposal. On Monday the House revenue and taxation subcommittee turned down a Senate proposal to cut tax rates by 0.5%, but not until calendar year 2015, and offset by eliminating or reducing a number of tax credits. Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman has said he would oppose a tax increase that wasn't "revenue neutral," which would rule out the House's proposed 0.25% tax cut. Even if it passed, the House's proposal would leave us with a higher top tax rate than neighboring Kansas, which cut its top rate to 4.9% last year.

Gov. Fallin blamed last year's failure to agree on a tax cut on lobbyists. But shouldn't an effective governor have more pull with legislators than lobbyists? And if not, why not?

Franklin Center boosts bloggers to hold officials accountable

rocbloggroupwithlogo.jpgSometimes you have to go far from home to learn something about where you're from. A few weeks ago I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the ROCblog retreat for bloggers sponsored by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. ("ROC" stands for raising online community.) The weekend was packed with informative talks and panels, focused on giving bloggers the tools and techniques to hold government officials accountable for their actions. There were bloggers and speakers there from all over the US, but one of the most memorable moments for me involved a mention of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin by Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore.

The Franklin Center came into being to address the decline in the traditional news media's coverage of state and local government. The Franklin Center employs investigative reporters and full-time state capitol reporters -- including Pat McGuigan, who covers the Oklahoma capitol for Watchdog Oklahoma. They also seek to support and encourage the citizen journalists who cover government in their spare time. (Read the Franklin Center's vision here.)

In his words of welcome at the beginning of the retreat, Franklin Center President Jason Stverak told us that he ran the North Dakota Republican Party for seven years and that bloggers (like Rob Port, who covers ND politics on his Say Anything blog) made his life hell. He found that bloggers weren't satisfied with press releases and pat answers. The mainstream capital press corps, on the other hand, often knew of information that might hurt their friends in government, but they wouldn't ask the question that would elicit damaging news. Stverak learned that electing Republicans wasn't enough to have the kind of government he wanted; he said that North Dakota's state government, dominated by the GOP, has cronyism and corruption as bad as anything you'd find in a Democrat-dominated state.

Stverak said there wan't enough money in America to put a reporter in front of every public official, but America came into being with ordinary citizens who took on the most powerful professional army in the world.

So it's our job as citizens and grassroots activists to hold our elected officials accountable for keeping their promises and serving the public interest. That's even true -- especially true -- for those officials who are of the same party and who profess to adhere to the same political philosophy. And that brings us back to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and what Stephen Moore had to say about her.

Red States vs. Blue States: A natural experiment in policy and prosperity

Moore spoke about the growing Red State / Blue State divide, as states pursue vastly different policies on taxation and regulation. Moore has observed in his travels that the United States is divided culturally and politically along regional lines in a way that hasn't been true since the Civil War. While the GOP lost nationally in 2012, it continued to make gains in the South, with Arkansas the latest conquest at the legislative level, a Republican majority for the first time since Reconstruction. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Democrats have 37 out of 40 seats in the State Senate.

Red States pursue low taxes and more economic freedom, while Blue States pursue higher taxes and more regulation, setting up a "natural experiment." We can see which policies are successful by watching where the growth occurs. "If [the Blue State] model works so well, why is California in complete collapse, and why is Texas booming like it's never boomed before?" California has lost 850,000 jobs over the last five years; Texas has gained over 500,000 jobs in the same period. "Did that happen by accident? No, policy matters." California has a 13.3% top state income tax rate and has passed cap-and-trade; Texas has no state income tax and no industry-punishing carbon taxes.

The coming income-tax-free region: Will Oklahoma be included?

Moore told us there are several states that have a good chance of eliminating the state income tax in the near future, including Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, and the possibility of an entire region of the country being income-tax-free. The South will rise again -- economically -- while Blue States raise their taxes and drive economic productivity out of their states for friendlier climes.

Prosperity is like the wind, moving from high pressure to low pressure, and carrying jobs along with it. The problem with an income tax is that it's a tax on productivity, and when you tax something, you get less of it.

Just last week Moore and his fellow economist Arthur Laffer expanded on this theme in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, "The Red-State Path to Prosperity"

Among the 10 fastest-growing metro areas last year were Raleigh, Austin, Las Vegas, Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. All of these are in low-tax, business-friendly red states. Blue-state areas such as Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Providence and Rochester were among the biggest population losers.

This migration isn't accidental. Workers and business owners are responding to clear economic incentives. Red states in the Southeast and Sunbelt are following the Reagan model by reducing tax rates and easing regulations. They also offer right-to-work laws as an enticement for businesses to come and set up shop. Meanwhile, the blue states of the Northeast, joined by California, Minnesota and Illinois, are implementing the Obama model of raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy to fund government "investments" and union power.

The contrast sets up a wonderful natural laboratory to test rival economic ideas.

Oklahoma and Gov. Fallin get a mention in the column. It's one thing to say we could eliminate the state income tax, but should we? Kansas may put us in a position where Oklahoma must move toward income tax elimination in order to attract and retain businesses.

Meanwhile, in the South, watch for a zero-income-tax domino effect. Georgia can hardly sustain a 6% income tax if businesses can skip across the border into neighboring states like Florida, Tennessee or South Carolina. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has told her legislature that the Sooner State will face high economic hurdles in the future if it is an income-tax sandwich between Texas and Kansas.

Fallin lack of fortitude; Chamber-made betrayal

I raised my hand to ask a question, and as soon as I mentioned that I was from Oklahoma, Moore took off with an observation about eliminating the income tax here: "I don't understand why Oklahoma can't get this done. I've been there six times in the last two years, and I like your governor a lot. I just don't know if she has the fortitude.... Oklahoma's a perfect example of a state that could eliminate its state income tax."

That was in fact what I was going to ask about, and in response, I mentioned that the pressure against income-tax elimination was not coming from the Left, but from the chambers of commerce. "Don't even get me started on State Chambers of Commerce! In most states they're a disaster." The problem, Moore said, with chambers of commerce is that they "represent the incumbent business powers.... What's great about capitalism is that capitalism leads to challenges against the incumbent business powers.... They want to protect their own industries."

Moore told of the recent betrayal perpetrated in Virginia: In 2011, Republicans finally gained control of the legislature and the governor's office. The day before his talk to us, the Republican governor and legislature of Virginia passed a billion-dollar tax increase, which Moore called "a total abomination... a total Benedict Arnold," a slap in the face of those who worked so hard over 30 years to elect Republicans. And it was done, Moore said, at the urging of the chambers of commerce, the construction industry, and other industries that stand to benefit from bigger government.

Brownback's charge; Fallin's retreat

Gov. Fallin announced a bold target in her 2012 State of the State address: a proposed top rate of 3.5%, with a 2.25% bracket for most middle income families, and no income tax at all for those making less than $30,000. She didn't make any progress at all toward that goal last year. This year, she meekly requested a top rate of 5%, which applies (like the current top rate) to anyone making more than $8,700.

I didn't expect bold leadership from Mary Fallin. That's why I endorsed and knocked doors for Randy Brogdon in 2010; you can see my concerns in the links below, concerns that seem to have been borne out.

Like Oklahoma, Kansas has Republican supermajorities in both houses of the legislature. Last year, when Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback faced opposition to his tax cut plan from moderate/Chambercrat Republican legislators, Brownback supported their challengers in the primary, defeating nine incumbent state senators.

Time to hire someone new to do the job?

Gov. Fallin could have done the same thing last year. She could have joined forces with grassroots conservatives to punish legislators who were susceptible to the persuasive lobbyists that Fallin blamed for the defeat of her tax cut initiative. The defeat of a few Chambercrats might have put some fear into those that survived.

Conservatives did manage to exert enough pressure to change Fallin's mind on Obamacare implementation. She's under a lot of pressure from the left and the Chambers to cave on that issue, and we need to encourage her to stand firm. At the same time, we need to let her know we expect the same kind of firm resolve to cut tax rates and the size and scope of government here in Oklahoma.

If a Republican governor can't cut taxes and control spending with super-majorities in both houses, it's time to look for a replacement who can.


July 6, 2010: Fallin plans lobbyist meet, skips grassroots event and forums
July 20, 2010: Mary Fallin disparages following the Constitution as "the easy way out!"
July 24, 2010: "Fallin-esque" vs. Brogdon's specific plan

Photo of Gov. Fallin from her official website.

MORE elsewhere:

Rob Port reports that North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple's leadership is missing in the midst of a crisis in that state's higher education system.

IVoted.jpgMunicipalities across Oklahoma are holding city council elections today. Today is also runoff day for school board seats that weren't settled in February. Below are some of the local races. It's encouraging to see that so many of the elections are contested. In Skiatook, every single seat is on the ballot, giving the voters the chance to clean house if they so choose.

As always, polls are open until 7 p.m.

I've heard of some upset in Jenks over whether incumbent councilors should be held accountable for their decision to put a tax on the ballot that was defeated. Defenders of the incumbents say they didn't raise taxes, they just gave the voters a chance to vote. (Sort of like Aaron in Exodus, "I just put the gold in the fire, and out came this calf!") Putting a tax on the ballot is not a neutral act. Elected officials have a responsibility to listen to their constituents before putting something on the ballot. Officials should only propose projects that will have the support of an overwhelming majority of voters. Too often councilors and commissioners listen only to those with a special, vested interest in the outcome (both inside and outside of government), and develop a proposal that pleases those special interests but will require massive campaign funding to persuade a narrow majority of voters.

Ward maps for Tulsa County municipalities


Berryhill school board, Office 3: Sandra Pirtle, Doc Geiger

Glenpool, Ward 1: Timothy Lee Fox (i), David Freeland, Keith Jones

Jenks, Ward 2*: Lonnie Sims(i), Darlene Williams
Jenks, Ward 3: Kevin Rowland(i), Philip Morgans
Jenks, Ward 4: Brian O'Hara, Joshua M. Wedman
Jenks, Ward 6: Greg Bowman(i), Steve Murtha
Jenks, at-large: Paul E. Harris, Kelly Dunkerley(i)

Skiatook, Ward 1: Debbie Cook(I), Connie Clement, Herb Forbes
Skiatook, Ward 2: David Sutherland, Nate Myers, Damon Pace,
Skiatook, Ward 3*: Moe Shoeleh, Joyce Jech (i)
Skiatook, Ward 4*: Skylar Miller, Patrick W. Young
Skiatook, Ward 5: Susan Reed-Hardesty, Richard Barnes, Patty Pippin Ceska, Randy J. Sien (i)
Skiatook, Ward 6*: Steve Kendrick, Shawn Martin, Kevin D. Paslay
Skiatook, at-large*: Leon O'Neal, Eugene Jones, O. L. Bud Ricketts

Sperry, at-large (vote for 2): Marvin Baker, William F. Butler, Robert Morton, Kelly Wensman

An asterisk, *, marks elections to fill an unexpired term.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from April 2013.

Oklahoma Politics: March 2013 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: May 2013 is the next archive.

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