Thursday, February 12, 2009

Legislative Follies - Oklahoma Observer

February 12, 2009


Can we really be this backward?

I’ve long told people the Legislature is more representative of this state than many of us care to admit - but the last two days in the House were astonishing even by Oklahoma’s low standards.

Yesterday, 20 would-be theocrats voted against a routine memorializing of the day’s session-opening prayer in the House Journal - all because the chaplain, Rev. Scott Jones of Oklahoma City’s Cathedral of Hope, is gay and had the temerity to introduce “my loving partner and fiancĂ©, Michael.”

Today, lawmakers spent at least twice as much time debating a non-binding resolution - opposing the transfer of “terrorists” from soon-to-be closed Guantanamo Bay to Oklahoma - as they did the critically-important issue of autism.

OK, I admit, Speaker Pro Tem Kris Steele’s autism measure, HB 2027, is nothing but the thinly-disguised Insurance Industry Profits Protection Act of 2009.

Since legislative Republicans aren’t willing to demand insurers cover the epidemic - in effect choosing profits over children - they had to pass something. So they promoted this bill aimed at increasing the number of health professionals that treat autism.

Question: What good does it do to have more health professionals to treat autism if those with the malady can’t afford the care?

I marveled that Steele - a good man who’s been a regular on The Observer’s annual 10-best legislative performances scorecard - could stand before the House and, with a straight face, argue this is the best the Oklahoma Legislature could do.

So instead of facing up to this tough problem, the wingnuts did what they do best: They demagogued a straw issue - in this case, the transfer of Gitmo detainees to military brigs around the country.

It matters not to these flag-waving, Bible-thumping faux patriots that Oklahoma doesn’t even seem to be on the radar to house the detainees. [ABC News reported in mid-January the military is focused on four sites: Camp Pendleton in California, the Miramar Marine Air Station in California, Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig in South Carolina.]

What matters is whether clueless voters can be scared into thinking that a liberal Democratic president and a liberal Democratic Congress are on the verge of sending “terrorists” into the Heartland.

In the parallel universe contrived by former President George W. Bush, it doesn’t matter that the detainees [or enemy combatants] haven’t been charged with anything and haven’t been tried in a court of law to determine their guilt.

For Oklahoma’s xenophobic, redneck wingnuts, if the former administration identified them as “terrorists” then, by golly, they are. Period. End of discussion. They aren’t about to acknowledge the detainees might be more accurately described as “alleged terrorists.”

The reason: It’s a cheap, easy way to put Democrats in Oklahoma on the defensive. Can’t you just hear the radio and TV ads? Or the whispers: Rep. So-and-So is un-American. He puts the rights of terrorists over the safety of Oklahomans.
Rep. Rex Duncan of Sand Springs all but telegraphed the GOP game-plan, saying he hopes every lawmaker who voted against the resolution gets “term-limited or beat.”

Of course, what the flag-wavers don’t tell you is that they’ve been more than happy to accept all the federal largesse in recent years as Oklahoma military installations benefited from a series of BRAC decisions.

How dare the federal government demand Oklahoma keep some of the detainees under lock-and-key while their status is sorted out?

Twelve legislators had the courage to vote against the phony-baloney resolution - including 11 Democrats. Only Republican no vote was from Rep. Shane Jett of Tecumseh, who argued that in these lean economic times, it doesn’t make sense to tell the Obama Administration that Oklahoma doesn’t want federal dollars expended here.

If you’ve ever wondered why some businesses are queasy about expanding into or relocating to Oklahoma, the last two days are Exhibit A.

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