Monday, May 12, 2008

Three Important Legislative Reforms Killed in State Senate

One of the important traditions maintained by Representative Frank Davis over the years was his issuance of an annual survey to local residents on the key issues facing the Oklahoma Legislature. This is an important tradition that I wish to continue as your State Representative. During the course of this legislative session, I have issued three surveys which can be accessed by visiting The results of the first two surveys have revealed that three of the most important issues overwhelmingly supported by Logan and Oklahoma county residents have been as follows: requiring voter id before voting, placing term limits on statewide officials, and making English the official language of Oklahoma.

I have been pleased to support and advocate for these bills which all passed the House earlier this year. Unfortunately, the Senate took action to effectively kill or render these bills ineffective.

Senate Bill 1150 provided for a list of identification options that could be issued prior to voting, including the state-issued voter ID card, a copy of a utility bill or a driver’s license. It also included language that would have allowed Oklahomans to vote without identification if they signed an affidavit attesting to their identity. The constitutionality of the bill was reinforced by a very recent Supreme Court decision which ruled in favor of an Indiana voter ID law that requires photo identification at the polls, citing the need to reduce voter fraud.

While the Senate's decision to kill the bill is discouraging, I believe that a stronger voter ID law can be passed in the future. Hopefully the next law will require photo ID, as voter identification cards are easily forged and there is little to stop people from voting under different names, especially during low turnout elections.

Senate Bill 1987 would have allowed the people to vote on expanding Oklahoma’s term limits to include statewide elected officials. I have been a strong supporter of this bill. I believe that as a result of the legislative term limits law, the Legislature is very different from just a few years ago. Gone are many of the old guard power bosses who tightly maintained the status quo. These politicians could have stayed in office almost indefinitely but they have been replaced by a group of energetic professionals, many of whom wish to enact pro-growth policies to change Oklahoma for the better. I think this important reform should be applied to all state-elected offices.

Without a doubt, the most egregious action taken by the Senate was the demolition of the effectiveness of the official English bill. This bill proposed to let voters decide on putting language in the Oklahoma Constitution to prevent the taxpayers from having to pay for services such as driver’s license tests in other languages.

The death of these bills will drastically reduce the chance for this legislative session to be seen as productive. However, I cannot help but think that most Oklahoma voters will share the same overwhelming sentiment of support for these bills that my constituents do. Since this is an election year, the voters will have a chance to let their voices be heard and hopefully next year's Legislature will be more reform minded.

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