Monday, February 6, 2017

Oklahoma's Legislature: The Imperious and the Deviant

Here in Oklahoma the 2017 session of the state legislature begins today. Well, sort of. During a week of foreplay leading up to the grand moment there has been some cynical and arrogant preliminary maneuvering and a couple of sordid sex scandals, which, as always, fulfills the local media's sense of self worth.

Last week, "The Oklahoman," reported State Senator, Ralph Shortey, R-OKC has a plan. That plan involves two state questions which appeared on last November's ballot. The proposals were aimed at lowering Oklahoma's staggering rate of incarceration by reducing a number of drug related offenses from felonies, to misdemeanors. At the same time the statutes would provide funding for county rehabilitation programs to aid and educate low level users as opposed to simply chucking them into the slammer. In a fit of unexpected progressiveness--or, more likely--because practically everyone in this state either knows, or is related to a run amok meth head, voters approved both measures.

The Oklahoman's, Dale Denwalt, reported Senator Shortey is busy at work on legislation which will completely undo both state questions, thereby voiding the decisions voters made three months ago. According to Denwalt, Shortey justified his legislative coup d' etat this way: "Because people didn't understand what they were voting for..."

Now there is a double edged sword an Oklahoma republican should probably stay away from. Let's face it, if Oklahomans didn't understand the consequences of what they voted for when it came to criminal justice, as Shortey so imperiously suggests, shouldn't we assume the majority was equally ill-informed when it came to choosing the commander in chief?

Indeed, given the circumstances someone needs to immediately author a bill nullifying the presidential election results. Obviously we should have never allowed the masses near a ballot with Donald John Trump's name on it. To paraphrase a line, as Ralph Shortey might, "Forgive them, for they knew not what they did."

Unfortunately, finding a democrat to support such legislation will be nigh to impossible. Not only are Oklahoma democratic legislators as rare as the Northern White Rhino, one of their ever dwindling number is on the ropes.

The other day a special house committee recommended State Representative, Will Fourkiller, D-Stilwell be kept as far away from capitol pages as possible. The committee is saying that two years ago a female high school age page reported Fourkiller made some questionable remarks to her which caused her to feel uncomfortable. Why they waited until now to investigate is unknown.

The Oklahoman reported Fourkiller refused to testify in front of the committee because of their closed door policy. The full house is set to decide on what to do with him later this week.

Such action won't be necessary when it comes to former State Representative, Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa. He resigned for a second time Saturday after the same committee recommended he be cashiered from the house for some seriously iffy behavior over the years.

In December it was reported the Oklahoma house used public funds to settle a wrongful termination suit brought by former legislative aid, Holly Anne Bishop. Bishop and her lawyer received $44,500 to go away after they signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Ms. Bishop had claimed the house canned her in 2015 because she accused Representative Kirby of sexual harassment. The immediate popular outrage wasn't about Kirby's alleged behavior, or even the house firing a woman because she blew the whistle on a member. Those crimes were minor in the eyes of the volk when compared to using taxpayer money to pay for the court settlement.

The legislator quit late in December because of the scandal. Then, quite possibly after it dawned on him the pay out had to do with the brutish way the house reacted to Bishop's complaint, rather than what she accused him of, he withdrew his resignation.

Kirby's sigh of relief didn't last long. Shortly afterward another legislative aid, Carol Johnson told the committee her boss, the same Dan Kirby had sexually harassed her over a three year period. She claimed he had asked for and accepted topless photos of her in exchange for things like days off and on occasion taken her to strip clubs.

Kirby has continued to deny the accusations made by Bishop. When it comes to Ms. Johnson he told the committee his risqué dalliance was a legal affair between two single, consenting, adults.

The committee didn't see it that way. It not only recommended he be expelled from the legislature, but issued a statement describing his behavior as, "...completely inappropriate and disorderly."

Yesterday, "The Oklahoman," ran with a story saying the representative resigned once again, this time without the option of a mulligan. It also reported Kirby maintains he had enough support to beat the vote to expel him. However he finally gave up because the speaker assured him if he remained in the chamber he would be stripped of all committee positions and not allowed to introduce any legislation. In other words, for the rest of his career he'd have about the same amount of political influence as do the people who vacuum the carpet in the house after everyone else has gone home.

So there we have it. Another legislative year is upon us and suspected deviants are being hunted down and rooted out of the body politic. At the same time look for these right wing yahoos to continue their savage assaults on public health and education as they continue to worship at the feet of the great gods known as big oil and the NRA.

Hey, it is the Oklahoma republican way--the only one they know.

sic vita est


1 comment:

  1. Politics and politicians, just a mess now. It would be funny if the situation was not so serious.